’95 Hakeem or ’03 Duncan – Who Had The Greater Playoff Run?

The year is 1995. Hakeem Olajuwon just followed up one of the greatest individual seasons in ‘94 with an equally as great postseason run the following year. The Rockets plowed through the best the West had to offer. From the high-powered offense of the Utah Jazz led by Stockton and Malone, to Barkley’s ‘93 runner up champions, the Phoenix Suns, league MVP David Robinson’s hungry San Antonio Spurs, and eventually crushed the young tandem of Shaq and Penny in the finals, all while Hakeem dominated the box score series after series. Truly, one of the all-time great runs in NBA history.

But fast-forward 8 years later and another giant out West is giving teams all they can handle. Tim Duncan played like a man possessed in 2003. He went head-to-head with some of the games top talent at the time. Squaring off against a young, athletic frontcourt in Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion in Phoenix. Had his hands full with a behemoth in Los Angeles, Shaquille O’Neal, who was accompanied by his trusty sidekick, Kobe Bryant. He dueled with the master of the fadeaway jumper Dirk Nowitzki down in Texas, and finally, annihilated J.Kidd’s Nets in the finals while putting up some of the most remarkable numbers in finals history.

So who had the greater the playoff run?

Was it Hakeem for defeating FIVE 50+ win teams and dragging the 6th seeded Rockets to their second straight championship? Or was it The Big Fundamental who took a young Tony Parker (20 years old) and an on-the-way-out David Robinson (37 years old) to the promise land and did it with no teammate averaging more than 15 points throughout the entire playoffs?

Well, we’re going to have to dig deeper. Starting with each players first round, working our way through the semi and conference finals, and all the way to the championship round.

So let’s begin.

Round 1:

48cmy9DS

Duncan: 18.7 PPG, 16.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 BPG, 50% FG

Though the Suns might not have had any All-NBA or All-Defensive selections, they did have a Rookie of The Year winner in Amare Stoudemire, and two All-Stars in Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion. Behind those three, the Suns finished 44-39 for an 8th place finish in the Western Conference.

The Spurs won the series in 6 games though it probably should’ve been over sooner if Suns didn’t steal the first matchup in San Antonio on a game-winning heave from Marbury.

Duncan had two monstrous performances coming at the most critical time of the series.

Game 5: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks in an 92-84 win.

Game 6: 15 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 4 blocks in an 87-85 win to closeout the series.

Duncan’s 20 defensive rebounds in game six were the most defensive rebounds in a single playoff game. He also finished the series with 21 total blocks. To put that into perspective, the Suns as a team had 35 blocks. It was just a dominating performance on both ends of the floor.

 

b2yT4upS

Hakeem: 35.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.6 BPG, 57% FG 

As mentioned earlier, the Rockets finished the season as the 6th seed, so right out the gate the odds were stacked against them.

They found themselves facing a tough and scrappy 60-win Jazz team that was equally good defensively (8th in defensive rating) as they were offensively (4th in offensive rating). John Stockton and Karl Malone – both members of the All-NBA first team that season – had the high pick-and-roll down to a science. Getting past them in the opening round would be a battle.  

Hakeem did everything you could ask for on the offensive end and more.

He had two 40-point performances and two more 30-point games. And after going down 2-1 in the first three games, he helped Houston fight off elimination in the two biggest games of the series by averaging 36.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists while converting 12.0 field-goals on 19.0 attempts (63%).

This would be the first of three MVP candidates Hakeem would conquer throughout the playoffs.

 

Semi-finals:

Y2BcssQG.jpg-large

Duncan: 28.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 53% FG.

After getting bounced in the semi-finals by the Lakers the previous season, Duncan and the Spurs would have their revenge the following year.

The Lakers finished the season 50-32 and posted the 4th best offensive rating in the league. Going up against the defending champs and one of, if not the, best duos of all-time would certainly be a handful. And dealing with the massive giant known as Shaq down low would be no less difficult.

Duncan was otherworldly in this one. He played a brilliant offensive game, giving L.A. buckets in a variety of ways, held his own against Shaq on the defensive end, and led the team minutes, points, rebounds, and assists.

As expected, his two best games of the series came in the final two games:

Game 5: 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 50% shooting.

Game 6: 37 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 64% shooting.

If you have the chance, you should definitely get on Youtube and watch both of those games. Tim Duncan at his absolute best.

Also worth mentioning, the Spurs won this series with no other player on the team besides Duncan averaging more than 14 points.

 

qliDDlZF.jpg-large

Hakeem: 29.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.3 BPG, 50% FG.

Another series and another offensive juggernaut standing in front of Houston.

The Phoenix Suns finished 3rd in offensive rating, second in pace and had two all-stars in Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle. The offensive trio of Majerle, point guard Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley – member of the All-NBA second team – led the franchise to its third straight 55+ win season and the third overall best record in the NBA. This was a team that was determined to get back to the finals and redeem their ‘93 loss to the Bulls.

After going down 3-1 in the series, the Suns smelt blood and this one looked all but over.

Finding themselves facing adversity and on the brink of elimination yet again, Hakeem played out of his mind in the final three games, extending the series to a deciding game 7 on the road.

His averages during that stretch: 30.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.0 steals on 50% shooting.

Olajuwon closed out game 7 with a 29-11-4 (pts,rebs,asts) and the Rockets won 115-114 on a Mario Elie game-winning three-pointer, also known as “The Kiss of Death.”

The Houston Rockets became just the fifth team in NBA history at the time to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win the series.

 

Conference Finals:

31iiCcen.jpg-large

Duncan: 28.0 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 3.0 BPG, 56% FG.

Led by the All-Star tandem of Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki – who were also apart of the All-NBA teams (Dirk second, Nash third) – the Dallas Mavericks had an offense that was built to outshoot opposing teams and run up the scoreboard.

As a team, they finished first in the following categories: offensive rating, points, free throw percentage, and turnovers. They also finished third in three-point percentage at 38%.

A good ‘ol fashioned defense vs offense matchup down in Texas. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Tim Duncan played for San Antonio, not Dallas.  

The Big Fundamental had multiple “holy s***, he had how much?” performances in this showdown. From a 40-15-7 with one block and one steal in game one – a game that San Antonio lost – to a 32-15-5 with three blocks in the following matchup, and then followed that up with a ludicrous 34-24-6 with six blocks and two steals in the third game.

Yes, you read that right. Tim Duncan had 34 points, 24 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 blocks and 2 steals in game freaking three. Wilt Chamberlain, who?

But hold on, we’re not done.

In those three games, he shot 37-for-60 from the floor for a field goal percentage of sixty-one percent! Spurs went 2-1 in that stretch and eventually found themselves up 3-1 in the series after Duncan delivered a 21-20-7 with 4 blocks performance in game four.

His dominance “calmed down” in games five (23-15-6) and six (18-11-4). The Spurs ended the series in six games after Dirk Nowitzki suffered a knee injury in game three and was sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs.

Duncan ended the series with 100 total rebounds. The next closest? Michael Finley with 38. If that’s not enough then how about this: Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki and starting center Raef LaFrentz combined for 99 total rebounds.

Timothy Theodore Duncan, ladies and gentlemen.

 

uILFw1tx.jpg-large

Hakeem: 35.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 4.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 56% FG.

No one expected the Rockets to get this far, but if any team was equipped to tame Hakeem and crush Houston’s spirit, it was the San Antonio Spurs.

Not only did they have the league MVP, David Robinson, but his frontcourt teammate, Dennis Rodman, made All-Defensive first team that year. Oh, David Robinson was also apart of that same defensive team.

On the season, San Antonio finished top 5 in both defensive rating and offensive rating, and had the league’s best overall record at 62-20. It was obvious Hakeem would be in for a long series… or so we thought.

Hakeem downright embarrassed Robinson. He gave it to him inside and outside, showing him every move in his arsenal and putting on an offensive clinic. And it didn’t stop there. Hakeem went down on the other side and held Robinson well below his season averages. This was the MVP of the National Basketball Association and Hakeem made him look completely insignificant.

To say Hakeem had Robinson’s number would be an understatement. Hakeem had Robinson’s entire soul, and if you don’t believe me then maybe you’ll believe his teammate, Dennis Rodman.  

“Before those games, he looked so f***ing scared in the locker room, he couldn’t stop shaking.” That was a direct quote from Rodman himself from his book Bad As I Wanna Be.

I mean, just look how demoralized David Robinson is in this photo.

Image result for david robinson hakeem

Olajuwon had three 40-point games in the series. He led his team in nearly every category – points, rebounds, blocks, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and minutes. He ended up with a whopping 212 points and had as many blocks (25) as the Spurs did as a team.

He put the finishing touches on the series and David by averaging 40.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 5.0 blocks on 63% in games five and six to put the Spurs away and send the Rockets to their second straight finals appearance.

Robinson still hasn’t fully recovered from that beat-down.

 

The Finals:

g0AfYkU9.jpg-large

Duncan: 24.2 PPG, 17.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 5.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 49% FG.

Tim Duncan would save his best for last.

The New Jersey Nets were the best defensive team in the NBA. Ran by their All-Star floor general, Jason Kidd, the Nets had reached the finals just a season ago but were swept by the Lakers. If the Nets thought going up against Duncan and the Spurs would be any less difficult than dealing with Shaq and Kobe, then they were about to be in for a rude awakening.

Duncan did a lot in this series, and I mean A LOT.

After six games, he tallied 145 total points, 102 rebounds and 32 blocks – the most blocks in a 6-game series in playoff history. The Nets as a team only had six more blocks than Duncan did.

Timmy had himself another 30-20 performance in game 1. He dropped 29-17-4-4 in game 5. In game 6 he was screwed out of two blocks, so what should’ve been a quadruple-double ended up being a 21-20-10-8. Still ridiculous, I know, but why couldn’t they just give him the damn quadruple-double!? It’s all on footage, you can’t sit here and tell me those two blocks don’t count. Watch it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Anyways, the Spurs sent the Nets packing in six games. Duncan led both teams in points, rebounds and blocks, he played an enormous role in effectively shutting down New Jersey – the Nets shot 37% from the floor as a team – and he was awarded with his second finals MVP.

It’s just a shame they robbed him of a quadruple-double.

 

2nWDeLHt.jpg-large

Hakeem: 32.8 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 49% FG.

Though Hakeem didn’t lead his team in nearly every statistical category like Duncan did against New Jersey, he did closeout the deadliest offensive team in the league and the only team to beat the Bulls from ‘91 to ‘98 in just four games.

After outplaying the league’s MVP in the previous matchup, Hakeem would now have to do the same against the runner-up, Shaquille O’Neal.

He did. In every game.

Olajuwon became 1 of 6 players in history to score at least 30 points in every game of a playoff series. And scoring wasn’t all he did. Take a look at his stat lines in each game.

Game 1: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals.

Game 2: 34 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, and 1 steal.

Game 3: 31 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals.

Game 4: 35 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals.

Hakeem also scored 56 field goals, giving him the record for most made field goals in a 4-game series.

Oh, and he also had one of the most forgotten game-winners in NBA history in game 1.

Olajuwon and the Rockets did it. He was an NBA Champion once again and captured his second straight Finals MVP trophy. The Rockets became the lowest seeded team to ever win it all.

As head coach Rudy Tomjanovich shouted after game four, “don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”

You’re damn right, Rudy.  

0AR3_UX8.jpg-large

In the end, both Hakeem and Duncan ran through an entire conference without a single All-Star teammate, came away with the Larry O’Brien trophy, and gave us two of the greatest individual playoff performances in the process.

Olajuwon – and the Rockets – defeated 7 members from the All-NBA team (4 first team, 2 second team, 1 third team), 4 All-Defensive representatives (2 first, 2 second), the top 3 MVP candidates (Robinson, Malone, Shaq) and ended up with the third most points ever scored (725) in a single playoff run.

We can’t knock Duncan for playing lower seeded teams or only going up against one MVP candidate, because after all, HE was the MVP that year and HIS team lost the least amount of games. But, Duncan – and the Spurs – did win every series comfortably, never requiring a game 7 and without having any other player average more than 15 points throughout the run.

So I ask you, who’s playoff run was better?

 

Recent Articles:

Which Brooklyn Nets newcomer will make the greatest impact?

The most untouchable player for every Western Conference team

Advertisements

Which Brooklyn Nets newcomer will make the biggest impact?

Dzanan Musa

The Brooklyn Nets are going to look a lot different next season than they did last season. But you probably won’t notice the difference until the starters take a seat and the bench gets involved.

General manager Sean Marks has executed a role-player overhaul this summer, adding six new players to the roster and subtracting a handful more to hopefully bring something resembling stability to a team that suited up 22 men last season.

It is unlikely, however, that any of the Nets’ newcomers will be in the starting five on 2018-19’s opening night.

Brooklyn’s offseason haul include 2018 draft picks Dzanan Musa and Rodion Kurucs; free agents Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis; and trade acquisitions Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley, whom the Nets landed via trades with the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns, respectively.

The Nets also traded for future Hall of Fame center Dwight Howard, but promptly bought him out. (He then signed with the Washington Wizards.) Darrell Arthur, who came to Brooklyn in the Faried trade, didn’t even get fitted for a Nets uniform before the team sent him to Phoenix in the Dudley deal.

Brooklyn also acquired the draft rights to 21-year-old French guard Isaia Cordinier in the Jeremy Lin trade, but Cordinier is recovering from double knee surgery and is viewed as a draft-and-stash prospect. He may never make an NBA appearance – at least not this upcoming season.

None of the Nets’ newcomers are expected to supplant returners D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen — the team’s projected starting five.

But they can make a difference and help Brooklyn take the small steps necessary toward returning to the playoffs … or at least crack the 30-win barrier for the first time since 2015.

Which Nets newcomer will make the biggest impact?

Looking at the roster and the resumes, Faried would look like the one with the greatest potential to contribute right away.

The 28-year-old big man fell out of the rotation in Denver, but he’s not too far removed from the days when he was good enough to be on the U.S. national team at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. That same year, the Nuggets inked “The Manimal” to a four-year, $50 million contract extension and appeared ready to make him the face of the franchise.

Faried was good for about 13 points and nine rebounds per game at the time. With his high-energy, high-flying, power-dunking style, he was a fan favorite and was starting to pop up in some of the NBA’s national marketing campaigns.

But Faried never made that leap to the next level of stardom. Then after the Nuggets hired Mike Malone as their head coach in 2015, Faried’s role decreased gradually, as his skill set just didn’t fit with Malone’s system. Last season, Faried saw action in only 32 games, and played just 14 minutes per night when he did make it off the bench.

In Brooklyn, Faried is penciled in as a backup to starting center Jarrett Allen, who is only 20 years old and still has a lot of developing to do. He’ll have to compete with Davis for time, but Faried is a natural power forward, so there can be minutes for him at that position as well. There should be an opportunities for Faried to become a productive player in the league again.

Napier is also a strong candidate to be the Nets’ biggest impact newcomer.

He had some standout moments last season as the backup to All-Star point guard Damian Lillard with the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 8.7 points and 2.0 assists in 20 minutes per game. In the 10 games Napier started, he averaged 15.0 points and 4.2 assists in 33 minutes per game.

But on the Nets’ depth chart, Napier is slotted at No. 3 behind D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie at point guard. Russell and Dinwiddie also happen to be arguably Brooklyn’s two best players; Russell led the team in scoring last season (15.5 ppg) while Dinwiddie led the team in assists (6.6 apg).

Unless one of them gets injured, or Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson plans to run a lot of small-ball and guard-heavy lineups, Napier may not get as much playing time as you’d expect for a player who left a playoff team to join a lottery team.

Among the Nets’ new additions, I think the one who will make the biggest impact next season is rookie Dzanan Musa.

Listed at 6-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Musa is a 19-year-old from Bosnia & Herzegovina who will most likely play shooting guard and/or small forward, but also played some point guard with his Croatian League team and could even be a power forward in a small lineup.

Musa averaged 12.3 points per game last season for the Croatian club Cedevita, hitting 47 percent of his field goals and 31 percent of his three-pointers. He won the EuroCup’s Rising Star Trophy, as well as the ABA League’s Top Prospect honor and was named to the All-ABA League team.

The Nets landed Musa with the 29th pick in the first round, but his talent and potential had him projected by a lot of draft experts to go earlier.

Musa will have some veterans ahead of him on the depth chart going into training camp — including Crabbe, Carroll, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris — but his versatility and ability to play more than two positions could buy him court time wherever the Nets may be lacking depth at a given time.

Musa’s game reminds me a lot of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who averaged 11.8 points as a rookie for the Sacramento Kings last season. Bogdanovic may have been the best pure shooter in the 2017-18 rookie class. Musa has a similar ability to shoot with range and create his own offense, plus he’s three inches taller than Bogdanovic.

Of course there are weaknesses and areas in Musa’s game where he’ll struggle, and that will cost him playing time. He’ll almost certainly be pressed to add some muscle to his slender frame, which could impact how much Atkinson uses him until he gets stronger; especially as his strength (or lack thereof) will play a factor into how he’s able to defend on the NBA level.

In Europe, Musa played with the confidence of Stephen Curry on a hot streak and appeared to have a green light to do pretty much whatever he wanted. How will he respond when he doesn’t get as much freedom and room to take risks on an NBA court?

Musa has a lot of upside and the look of a player who can be very good in a few years. But I think he will be better than a lot of people expect this year.

More than a long-term project, Musa could be a short-term solution and Brooklyn’s most valuable newcomer.

 

Recent Articles:

The most untouchable player for every Western Conference team

Can Zach LaVine live up to his price tag?

Top 25 Players in the NBA

The most untouchable player for every Western Conference team

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry

Well, the doldrums of the NBA offseason did not last too long. The NBA world was rocked as Kawhi Leonard got shipped to Toronto. Conversely, DeMar DeRozan is now headed to San Antonio. Still, we must strive forward and continue on with the untouchables list.

If you missed the Eastern Conference list, then click here.

 

1. Dallas Mavericks – Luka Doncic

This is a no brainer. The Mavs just surrendered a future pick for the Slovenian point-forward. Doncic has the potential to be a transcendent NBA player. This pick and roll maestro will enter the league as one of its premier passers. If you need a reminder on just how good Doncic is, I dug up his ProCity Hoops profile for you.

 

2. Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic

What gave this one away? Jokic just signed a 5 yr/$147 million deal. The center finished last season with a better field goal percentage that Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins. Plus, he is one of the best passers in the game, regardless of position. Jokic finished 15th in assists per game last year, and 12th for total assists. Wow. This kid isn’t going anywhere.

 

3. Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry

Let’s get this out of the way. No one on this roster is getting traded anytime soon. This team has a few more finals appearances on the horizon, despite any players that LeBron guy lands in LA. While I do not expect a trade, I still chose Steph here. Trading him would be detrimental to the team’s fan base. You simply cannot throw away a home grown kid like Steph and expect everything to be okay.

 

4. Houston Rockets – James Harden

Did you expect anyone else? Here is a clip of every stepback J Harden hit last season.

5. Los Angeles Clippers – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Although it is merely summer league, this rookie has looked awesome. His octopus tentacles doubles as arms nowadays, and he used them for stealing basketballs. Offensively, he has the potential to play both guard positions. Jerry West has a steal on his hands.

Jerome Robinson was considered but, he does not have SGA’s ceiling. Tobias Harris was also in competition here, but his trade value is high enough to warrant being available. Check out SGA’s scouting report.

 

6. Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James

Moving on.

 

7. Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson Jr.

This was an easy selection. Triple J has looked like he will immediately be an elite rim protector in this league. On the other side of the ball he has shown promise by draining 8 thress during his first summer league game. His full report is here.

More importantly, however, it seems as though Memphis is looking to make the playoffs. They added Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple this offseason and drafted NBA ready Jevon Carter. In a loaded Western Conference, is this feasible? Memphis should be looking to unload Conley and Gasol instead of making the postseason.

 

8. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns

Kat is my most underrated player in this league. He put up statistics last year that have never been done before. Not one player in league history has put up a stat line of 54 percent FG%, 42 percent 3P% on at least 14 field goal attempts and 3.5 three-point attempts.

Offensively, he is the best scoring center in the league and it is not even as close as we think. Check out how his numbers from last season rank against the premier offensive centers in the league last year.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FTA FT% TRB AST PF PTS
1 DeMarcus Cousins 2017-18 48 8.5 18.0 .470 2.2 6.1 .354 6.3 11.9 .530 .530 8.2 .746 12.9 5.4 3.8 25.2
2 Joel Embiid 2017-18 63 8.1 16.8 .483 1.0 3.4 .308 7.0 13.4 .527 .514 7.4 .769 11.0 3.2 3.3 22.9
3 Al Horford 2017-18 72 5.1 10.5 .489 1.3 3.1 .429 3.8 7.3 .514 .553 1.7 .783 7.4 4.7 1.9 12.9
4 Nikola Jokic 2017-18 75 6.7 13.5 .499 1.5 3.7 .396 5.2 9.7 .538 .554 4.2 .850 10.7 6.1 2.8 18.5
5 Karl-Anthony Towns 2017-18 82 7.8 14.3 .545 1.5 3.5 .421 6.3 10.8 .585 .596 4.9 .858 12.3 2.4 3.5 21.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2018.
If you considered Andrew Wiggins for this list, seek help. Take a “me” day. With Jimmy Butler a free agent flight risk, KAT is the selection to go with.

9. New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis

The Brow is the future of the NBA. A 6’11” power forward (who should be playing center) who can shoot from all three levels and has DPOY potential? Sign me up. Davis was only 22-years-old when he led the NBA in both blocks and PER. He has an MVP season in him somewhere, hopefully the Pelicans can unlock it for him.

 

10. Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook

I debated Paul George here for a second. Why? A big name free agent signing like that in OKC will be rare going forward. What message would it send to the league if OKC just shipped him off? Despite this, Westbrook gets the nod. Not only is he an MVP player, but he is the heart and soul of Oklahoma basketball.

 

11. Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker

Because, duh. Devin Only two players have put up 24 point per game, 4 assists per game on 38 percent 3P shooting during their first 5 seasons in the league. One of them is Devin Booker. The other…Steph Curry.

DeAndre Ayton was never seriously considered here. He is a heck of a talent but, it is easier to find a rim protecting, three point shooting big than it is someone with Booker’s talent and ceiling. Josh Jackson was never truly in consideration.

 

12. Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard

I struggled with this pick. Half of me thinks that Portland should just blow it up. The West has gotten even harder and they look to be a team with a second round ceiling. Why pursue the same result every year, if that result is not winning a title?

The other half of me thinks that Portland may have just enough assets to acquire a third star. Zach Collins still has a ton of potential and Portland is very high on him. Anfernee Simons balled out during summer league and turned the heads of many executives. Gm Neil Oshey should certainly consider bringing Kevin Love back to his home state. Send a package of prospects and picks over to Cleveland. Buddy up Love with McCollum and Dame, go all in.

 

13. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox

This selection was harder than it looked. Marvin Bagley is the Kings new toy. The 2nd overall pick in last year’s draft was not ranked as the #2 overall prospect by many scouts. Yet, the Kings loved Bagley and his desire to actually want to play in NoCal. I had Bagley ranked behind duke teammate Wendell Carter, and through summer league is appeared that I was right to do so.

Fox is a different story. He will help rebuild a culture in Sac’Town. Fox may possibly be the quickest end to end player in the league, and he has a developing jumper. Having already shown leadership and clutchness, I would be willing to trade Bagley before Fox.

De'Aaron Fox
USA Today Sports

14. San Antonio Spurs – DeMar DeRozan

Aw. So sad, DeMar.

Yesterday I wrote that no one on the Raptors should be untouchable, and apparently GM Masai Ujiri agreed with me. San Antonio clearly wants to take advantage of the remaining years that they have with Pop (bad decision.) So, they went out and traded Kawhi for DeMar. Shipping him off now would only would blow my mind, literally. GM R.C Buford had made brilliant moves for the Spurs for almost two decades now, but this move was horrendous.

 

15. Utah Jazz – Donovan Mitchell

Spida Mitchell made a bunch of GMs look dumb last year. He looks like a modern day D Wade. Mitchell has an All-NBA ceiling and I cannot wait to watch him develop. Gobert was never truly in contention here. In fact, I would consider trading the big man at his peak value.

During last year’s playoffs, we saw how stretch bigs can draw rim protectors away from, well, the rim. Ask Joel Embiid to explain what Al Horford did to him. Gobert will be less and less effective in the playoffs as teams play smaller. For now though, rejoice in having one of the most exciting players in the game back in Utah.

 

Recent Articles:

The most untouchable player for every Eastern Conference team

Can Zach LaVine live up to his price tag?

Busts of the NBA: Michael Carter-Williams

Can Zach LaVine live up to his price tag?

Zach LaVine

Let me take you back to 2016. The then 21-year-old Zach LaVine was averaging over 18 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, throwing down highlight dunks and splashing triples at a reliable level. A future maximum salary contract seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Fast forward to the present day. LaVine is now a Chicago Bull, he has suffered and overcome an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear, and his 4-year, $78 million contract (far less than the max) is surrounded by a plethora of question marks.

The 23-year-old has heard the noise, too. He explains how he uses it as motivation when he spoke to ESPN after the signing.

“There’s nothing that any of you guys can say to me that I [don’t] take harder upon myself. I go back and critique my game every year. I’m used to people sleeping on me, and I’m also used to waking them up as well. I’m happy that I have this contract, and I’m happy that I have a little extra motivation to go out there and prove it to some people that don’t believe in me.” he said.

After putting up 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3 assists and shooting a shoddy 38.3 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from long distance, LaVine better have a full tank of that motivational fuel. While he was still prone to destructive scoring outbursts, they came less frequently than before, and his defense – which has never been a strong suit – was reminiscent of a traffic cone.

However, after 11 months on the sidelines, this form slump could be a wash. After all, the substandard numbers came in a small, 24-game sample size. With his feet under him for a full pre-season, LaVine could go back to the high-flying, shot-stroking ball of potential that hoop heads had come to love next season. For near on $20 million a year, Chicago has blown on their dice and are ready to take a massive gamble that he does return to that level – and reach a new one defensively.

If he doesn’t, there is going to be a whole lot of points given up in the Windy City.  When the human pogo stick was joined on the floor by other franchise centerpieces Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls registered a ghoulish 119.2 defensive rating. Now the front office brass decided to throw Jabari Parker into the mix, another injury prone player who happened to rank 464th in defensive real plus/minus in 2017-18.

If their freshly paid man can’t find a way to put it all together, Chicago might come to seriously regret shelling out for the wiry wing. However, when discussing the deal with ESPN, head coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t seem too stressed about that possibility.

“Listen, Zach’s a great kid. He’s a great teammate,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to move forward with the direction with this young group of guys that Zach’s a huge part of, obviously. We feel with his skill set, he fits with how we want to play. I can’t stress it enough, having a full summer, having a full offseason, a full training camp will benefit him greatly.” he said.

Next season will be the most meaningful in LaVine’s career, there is no doubt about that. At just 23-years-old, he can easily reach and outgun the play that made him such a popular talent back in Minnesota. But the large, scary shadow that is his injury and defensive woes will need to be eliminated first.

Strap yourself in Bulls fans, this is going to be fun.

 

Previous Articles:

Cleveland Cavaliers Trade Options

The Most Untouchable Player on every Eastern Conference Team

Michael Beasley Signs with the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers continue to fill out their roster by signing Michael Beasley. It will be a one-year, $3.5M deal for the former member of the Knicks. After signing LeBron James on the first day of free agency, Magic Johnson made it known the team wanted to add playmakers around LBJ.

Averaging 13.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG, Beasley was able to create his own shot in New York last season. Shooting 50.7% from the field and 39.5% from three, Beasley should play a big role with the Lakers off the bench.

Busts of the NBA: Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams

The definition of a “bust” when it comes to an NBA player is someone who doesn’t meet the expectations given to them when they come out of the NBA draft. It’s a common occurrence for players to be highly touted coming out of college securing them to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft, and then turning out to be an underwhelming NBA player. Michael Carter-Williams has found himself to be one of those players.

 

Rookie of the Year

The terms “Rookie of the Year,” and “Bust,” aren’t typically used to describe the same NBA player, but in this case they are. In the 2013 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Michael Carter-Williams with the eleventh pick. During the 2013-14 season MCW averaged 16.7 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.9 steals per game. This stat line proved to be the best among the rookie class of 2013 as MCW won the Rookie of the Year award for that season. MCW also had one of the best rookie debuts in NBA history where he tallied 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals. That steal total is the most ever by a rookie in a debut game. To someone unfamiliar with Michael Carter-Williams they would be questioning how a player with this stat line is a bust. Well, MCW’s rookie season is where he peaked. His stats and usage would only go down from the 2013-14 season to now.

 

MCW’s second season was also a solid season. Prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 season MCW underwent a shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the beginning of the season. He would come back on November 13th, and make his season debut against the Mavericks. In that game he tallied nineteen points, eight rebounds, and five assists. By the end of MCW’s second season he was averaging 14.6 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also racked up two triple-doubles in his second season, giving him five career triple-doubles in his first two seasons.

 

The Beginning of the End

On February 19, 2015 Michael Carter-Williams found himself in a position that most NBA players dread being in. MCW was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. In the 2015-16 season MCW  found himself missing five of the first nine games of the season due to an ankle injury. After returning to play on November 14th, MCW continued to start for the Bucks but was soon moved to the bench on November 29th. Jerryd Bayless would take his spot after MCW began to show he wasn’t good enough to be the starting point guard spot. On March 7, MCW was ruled out for the rest of the 2015-16 season with a torn labrum in his left hip. He finished the 2015-16 season averaging 11.5 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 5.1 rebounds per game.

 

Traded Again

On October 17, 2016 Michael Carter Williams was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Tony Snell. MCW’s debut for the Bulls consisted of five points, six rebounds, and three assists coming off the bench. Later that season on November 1, 2016, MCW was ruled out to miss four to six weeks of game time due to a bone bruise on his knee and a wrist sprain. MCW finished the 2016-17 season with measly averages per game. MCW averaged 6.6 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 3.4 rebounds per game. These totals aren’t even the worst of his career. In just his next season his totals went down even more.

Michael Carter-Williams Bulls
The Runner Sports

A New Team, Once Again

Michael Carter Williams’ tenure with the Bulls only lasted one season. After the 2016-17 season MCW thought a change of scenery would be best for his career and signed with the Charlotte Hornets for the 2017-18 NBA season. MCW hoped to find that spark he had with Philly in his rookie season in Charlotte but unfortunately for him, he never did. MCW performed poorly the whole season and on March 9, 2018, MCW found himself ruled out for the rest of the season with ANOTHER injury. This time the injury was a labral tear in his left shoulder. He finished the season with insanely mediocre stats per game. At the end of the 2017-18 season MCW averaged 4.6 points per game, 2.2 assists per game, and 2.7 rebounds per game. MCW averaged these stats while playing in only 52 games on the season.

 

New Beginnings

For some busts the cause of death for their basketball career is health. That seems to be the case for MCW as he can’t seem to get away from the injury bug. In hopes to revive his once solid NBA career MCW signed with the Houston Rockets on July 6, 2018,  for the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season. MCW has shown once before that he has the talent to be a solid player in the league, and with him still being a young player, there is time for him to turn his career around if he can stay healthy. Let’s just hope for MCW’s sake, playing for a good team under a good coach allows him to have a breakout season and hopefully bring the title of, “Bust” off of his name.

Cleveland Cavaliers Trade Options

Kevin Love

Now that LeBron James is a Los Angeles Laker, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a long term rebuilding process ahead of them. The quickest way to turn the franchise around is to turn their older proven players into young players and draft picks. While the Cavaliers have a lot of players on the roster with negative trade value, the two players they have with plus trade value is Kevin Love and Kyle Korver.

 

Trade One

Kevin Love to Pacers for Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, future first-round pick.

When many expected the Pacers to be tanking for the number one draft pick last season, they surprised everyone and finished with the number five seed in the playoffs with a 48-34 record, while pushing the Cavaliers in a seven game series. Victor Oladipo made his first all star appearance and the team played well around him. However, the Cavaliers took him out in their playoff match up and forced the roles players to try and beat them. Adding Love would give the Pacers a second scoring option and a dangerous pick and pop game with Oladipo.

Ideally the Cavaliers would like to avoid any bad long term contracts but still bring in veterans that can help the team. Both Young and Collison are in the final year of their respective deals and can help the team this season. Any trade involving Love should return the Cavaliers a first round pick. Like many expect, if the Cavaliers are clearly out of the playoff picture by the trade deadline, they could unload both Young and Collison to playoff contenders or teams looking to remove bad contracts in exchange for more draft picks.

 

Trade Two

Kyle Korver to the 76ers for Jerryd Bayless, future second-round pick.

After having a successful season last year, the 76ers are determined to build off of that and make a run at the finals. After losing Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova in free agency they need to add shooters to space the floor for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Korver is former 76er who could easily fill Belinelli’s role in the rotation, no problem. Bayless is out of the rotation and the 76ers have plenty of future second round picks they can afford to give up to add an excellent shooter.

Like Korver, Bayless is on an expiring contract and the Cavaliers could look to buy him out. Korver has value around the league but he has limited value for the Cavaliers. The minutes Korver would be playing could go to younger players. Unlike any trade for Love, the Cavaliers won’t get back much draft capital for Korver but a future second round pick for a team that lacks youth and draft picks is a solid return for a 37 year old player.

 

Trade Three

Kyle Korver to the Wizards for Jason Smith, Jodie Meeks, future second-round pick.

Much like the 76ers, a large part of the Wizards offense is based on spacing the floor with three point shooting. Otto Porter and Bradley Beal are two of the better three point shooters in the league but with John Wall, the Wizards can never have enough shooters. Meeks was suppose to help provide shooting but last year he had a down season and is suspended for the first 19 games of the 2018-2019 season. Like a lot of teams in the eastern conference, the Wizards view the conference wide open and are pushing all the chips in. Adding Korver at the cost of a second round pick and two players out of the rotation is a steal for the Wizards.

For the Cavaliers this deal is similar to the one with the 76ers in terms of return value. Both Meeks and Smith are in the last year of their respective deals and would be buyout candidates. Their combined salary is a tad less than Bayless’ contract so the Cavaliers might favor this deal over the 76ers one in order to save some money. Korver should fetch the Cavaliers a second round pick and getting back expiring contracts makes the deal all the better.

Kyle Korver
Getty Images

Trade Four

Kevin Love to Thunder for Carmelo Anthony, Terrance Ferguson, two future second-round picks.

Obviously this would be a huge shocker if it happens. Anthony has a no trade clause he would have to waive in order to be traded but if the Cavaliers promise to buy him out he will waive it. The Thunder have a payroll with the luxury tax penalty of over $300 million dollars. If they can trade Anthony for nothing, they could save about $100 million dollars. However, if the Thunder want to add a third star player, using Anthony’s contract is the best way to do so. The Thunder don’t have a first round pick they can trade till 2022 so they would have to get creative in their negotiations.

In any Love trade, the Cavaliers would want back a future first round pick. However, with the Thunder’s limited future draft picks the Cavaliers could accept last year’s first round pick, Ferguson and a pair of second round picks. While it’s not an ideal package, moving Love to the western conference would be preferred. The Cavaliers could give Ferguson the minutes he needs to develop that he isn’t getting in Oklahoma City. Swallowing Anthony’s almost $28 million dollar salary is tough but the Cavaliers are better offer doing that and getting back assets verse keeping Love on a rebuilding team.

 

Trade Five

J.R. Smith to the Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca, Emeka Okafor, Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins.

The truth is no one wants Smith, well maybe that’s not true. The Pelicans have gone under a major transformation this offseason with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo in free agency while adding Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. However, the Pelicans have yet to add some scoring along the wing. While Smith is a headache at times, he can score and shoot. While Smith is owed $15.7 million dollars next season, the Pelicans can save about $11.8 million dollars if they waive him before June 29th.

The Cavaliers would love to move on from Smith at the cost of the nothing. All four players the Pelicans would send back in the trade are either entering a contract year (Ajinca and Miller) or have non-guaranteed contracts (Okafor and Liggins). The Cavaliers can waive the non-guaranteed contracts of Okafor and Liggins immediately, while they could try to buy out Ajinca. Keeping Miller would be a solid addition for the Cavaliers. Miller is a good wing defender and shot a career high 41% from three last season. For the Cavaliers to dump Smith without taking back any long term salary is a perfect trade for them.

 

In the end, with James moving on to Los Angeles the Cavaliers are facing a long rebuilding process. Any player on the roster other than Collin Sexton is reportedly available for trade and the Cavaliers should move anyone else for young players and draft picks in order to jump start the rebuilding process.