Minnesota held with the Warriors for most of the game, but the Warriors made their typical fourth quarter run to put Minnesota away. However, the Timberwolves’ play up until the halfway mark in the fourth was encouraging.
Minnesota was not shy from the three-point line. The Wolves attempted 45 threes in the game, but they connected on just 13 of the tries. In contrast, the Warriors made just as many threes, but it took Golden State 11 less attempts.
Jimmy Butler was ice cold from three. After a great display of three-point shooting in the win over the Lakers on Monday, Butler was 0-8 from three tonight. Butler forced a number of shots throughout the game, especially in the fourth quarter when Minnesota needed a bucket.
The Timberwolves move the ball with Tyus Jones. The Wolves’ ball movement with and without Jones in the game is a completely different story. Jones recorded eight assists tonight, and when he was on the bench, the Wolves lost all ball movement.
The Timberwolves only turned the ball over five times, yet they still lost by double-digits. Against the Warriors, Minnesota needed to play a perfect game to come out with the victory, and in terms of turnovers, they did just that.
When Golden State gets DeMarcus Cousins healthy, this team will quite literally be unbeatable. Teams currently have a chance to play a perfect game to beat Golden State. However, when the Warriors add another all-star into their lineup, teams might as well not even show up to the arena.
Steph Curry makes basketball look so easy. Curry barely broke a sweat tonight, yet he managed 28 points on 11-24 shooting from the field. In what seemed like a “quiet” performance for Curry, games like this could help boost Curry into another MVP-type season.
Golden State dominated the glass. The Warriors controlled the boards on both sides of the ball, gathering 61 total rebounds, compared to Minnesota’s 39 rebounds. The Warriors kept Minnesota off the offensive glass, something the Timberwolves have been very good at this season.
No matter how much you like or dislike the Warriors, they are super fun to watch. The Warriors move the ball like no other team in the NBA. When the Warriors are having fun and flying the ball around the court, there isn’t quite anything that compares in terms of pure ball movement.
Same reaction, different game, right? Four games in, the Wizards own the worst rebounding differential in the NBA. Tonight, Washington had neither Dwight Howard or Ian Mahimi to start at center, technically giving Jason Smith the “start”, although he only saw 11 minutes. Maybe it’s Thomas Bryant time? I mean this team BADLY (and I repeat, BADLY) needs a defensive presence under the rim, or will continue to find themselves on the losing end of both the rebounding stats and the box score. Jeff Green, Markeiff Morris, and Jason Smith simply aren’t getting the job done, understandably.
The starters played low minutes tonight, a good call by head coach Scott Brooks after a long game in Portland and what is only the second game of a five game West Coast trip. Washington seemed to resist throwing in the towel until late in the third when Steph Curry caught fire. (Again) John Wall only played 27 minutes, and no other starter played more than that. While this may be an L, and a foreseeable one at that, one positive is that hopefully this gives the Wizards an extra edge for their next couple of games.
It felt helpless for this team tonight, didn’t it? Washington went into halftime with 71 points and STILL was down nine. It seemed like althroughout the first half the game went almost bucket for bucket. No real runs by this offense, just a bucket or two to keep them sitting eight or so points away. That was, until the third quarter- an entirely different story. This Wizards team kept the pace, with almost 100 points midway through the third, but man… Steph Curry. That’s all I have to say. It’s tough to be on pace to smash your highest scoring game this season and STILL be down considerably.
Play of the Game: See below in the Warriors’ Play of the Game.
Golden State Warriors:
As a Wizards fan, my basketball fandom heart hurts a little everytime they play the Warriors. Similarly to when they played Toronto with Kahwi Leonard the other night, I think “*insert player Washington passed in the draft* could have been on this team.” But, instead we draft the likes of- well, I don’t even want to get into it. The pain is only a google search away. ANYWAYS, the Warriors deserve credit (which they get) for building such a juggernaut of a roster. Key players have stayed for years and the team focuses immensely on player development and chemistry. Some feel like they have to get to know new bench players every year for the team too, which is also true, but is another display of the roster brilliance. It just always works, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were fantastic this evening. Steph was *this* close to beating his career high. Oracle doesn’t take much to get loud for in the first place, so you can imagine the atmosphere when Steph came within two of breaking the all-time threes record. (That he broke himself previously, twice) He even played efficiently driving to the basket, and it was absolutely his night. Durant made his presence known all over the court, with a couple of slams that got the crowd and the team going, as well as some beautiful fadeaway midrange shots against some flawless defense. The Warriors took advantage of some great switches and mismatches in the first half, but just simply heated up in the second half.
Draymond Green took a role that was both surprising and incredibly unselfish tonight. He played the role of facilitator, with 12 assists and only 5 points. With Steph and Klay both having the hot hand, Draymond took it upon himself to find a role best for the team tonight as opposed to finding his own shot and risk taking away the incredible flow the offense carried. This brand of unselfish basketball shows Golden State’s true potential, as sometimes individual performances seem to be prioritized, but that was not the case in this one.
Play of the Game: I’m gonna lay it to you straight, I don’t have one- for either team. This was the kind of game that if you’re a Warrior fan you LOVE (understandably) and if you’re a Wizards fan, you shake your head at. There seemed to be so many shots taken and so many makes that it’s hard to pick one. You could take ANY of Steph’s threes or Durant’s midrange beauties. For the Wizards- there were a few Bradley Beal makes that were sweet? Maybe a Keef 3 pointer or two? Regardless, this style of throw-it-up, defenseless basketball is tough to keep up with. That doesn’t make it a less entertaining game, but truly analyzing a game like this is harder. Although, maybe that’s because I’m on the East Coast- and tired.
The NBA landscape is always changing. There was clear evidence of that once again this summer. LeBron headed to the Lakers, Cousins joined Golden State, and Anthony Tolliver returned to Minnesota. This trend seems to be picking up steam in the NBA, rather than losing momentum. Next offseason will provide more changes in the NBA, but it could be a historic amount of star players swapping teams. Here’s five NBA stars that won’t be on the same team next year.
What a rollercoaster ride it is being a Timberwolves fan. That’s right, I’m a Wolves fan. Possibly the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made, but I love it. The Timberwolves just ended a decade-plus playoff drought last season. Now, it looks like they could be in for another long run. While Minnesota is positioned to make the playoffs in the West with a healthy Jimmy Butler, if the team doesn’t advance past the first round come April, things will get even uglier than they already are.
It’s no secret that Jimmy Butler is a free agent next summer. It seems he’s made it known himself. This summer has been full of storylines about the Timberwolves with Butler not being happy with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler is seemingly unhappy with the young guns’ work ethic. So, now the entire Wolves fanbase is panicking about whether Butler will leave after just two years with the team. While the issues with the Wolves can be worked out with a solid season, it appears Jimmy Buckets is headed to the exit doors.
Surprise, surprise. Kevin Durant isn’t going to finish his career in Golden State. Sure, he could be taking one-year deals with the team to maximize his future earnings, but Durant is also keeping the door open to leaving the team he’s won two rings with. Durant seems to be taking a LeBron-like path in his career. He left a team that he never won a championship with to join a championship-caliber team. Now that he has two rings, maybe three after this season, Durant could look to try and win elsewhere, much like LeBron did returning to Cleveland.
Maybe next summer is too soon for Durant to bolt the Bay Area, but with the reported tension in the Warriors’ locker room last season, I think Durant will be in a different uniform come next season.
Poor Kemba Walker. As one of the top-tier point guards in the NBA, Walker has made the playoffs just twice in his seven-year career. Walker hasn’t been surrounded by great talent in Charlotte and it’s time for him to leave next summer. Kemba is an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019, and he needs to go someplace with a better supporting cast. Walker has the talent to lead a team to the postseason and do some damage, but it’s not happening in Charlotte.
Kevin Love just signed a huge contract to supposedly stay in Cleveland with the Cavaliers. Love signed the contract because he got a great financial deal. What we aren’t sure of is why the Cavs offered Love the contract. Is it because Cleveland views him as an important piece of their future? Is it because Love would be easier to trade on a long-term contract? We won’t get a true answer until the next two-three years play out. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a guess.
If I was a betting man, I think Kevin Love was signed in Cleveland to be traded. The Cavaliers have the potential to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but they aren’t contending for a title anytime soon. The Cavs are bound to go into a rebuild and that would mean unloading Love for future assets. That is exactly what I think will happen next summer in Cleveland.
If the Blazers don’t do any damage in the playoffs this season, it’s time to get some scenery changes underway. The Blazers are stuck in the middle of the pack in the West and can’t seem to perform in the playoffs. If similar happenings occur this season, the Blazers will shift their attention to a different gameplan. Switching that gameplan would involve trading Lillard or McCollum. I can’t see the Blazers trading Lillard, so McCollum would be the option.
McCollum is a high-tier shooting guard that is a very valuable player in the NBA. However, with Lillard and McCollum paired together, the Blazers haven’t been able to do much damage in the postseason. It will be time for the Blazers to make a change and trading McCollum is the gut-wrenching move that they will need to make.
When I was a freshman in college I played soccer for the Suffolk University men’s team. I was a goalkeeper, and somehow found my way into the starting lineup halfway through the season.
We were picked to finish 7th in our conference. Next thing I know, we’re playing for the conference title against one of the best D3 teams in the country. In my home state. 15 minutes from my hometown. In front of a 2,000 people. Friends. Family.
We won the title and I felt elated. I had won sports championships before, but this was different. I had beat the best competition that I had personally ever faced. I had never felt more like a champion.
So how does Kevin Durant fit into all of this? Stick with me, you’ll find out.
Two elite shooters, a podcast, and a twitter beef walk into a bar
Have you heard this one before? During an appearance on C.J. McCollum’s podcast, Kevin Durant and his host discussed the former MVP’s move to Golden State. In short, McCollum lightheartedly expressed his disdain for the move, and even more so the addition of DeMarcus Cousins.
KD fired back by saying that Portland doesn’t have a shot at the title anyways, inferring that even if the Trail Blazers landed Cousins in free agency, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Then this ensued.
So,I would get into a gang fight, lose, plot on my brother for 2 months in our home and then go get the gang we lost to and beat him up? U think that low of me CJ? I just did your fuckin podcast. Snakes in the grass boy I tell ya 🤣
Quick summary: C.J. McCollum called KD “soft” for joining a team who had A) just had the best regular season of all time and B) came back from a 1-3 deficit to beat Durant and his Thunder during the postseason. KD has historically taken offense to these barbs.
Is this the first time NBA players have expressed their feelings towards KD’s infamous free agency choice? No. I am positive players have talked privately about how Durant has made the league less competitive, or lowered a players’ chance of getting to the finals.
Nonetheless, Durant is a Finals MVP and two time world champion of the best professional basketball league in the world. Naturally, it is time for a specific question to unfold itself once again…
Are Kevin Durant’s titles worth less than other championships?
Principle 1 – the 100 yard dash
Imagine you are in high school again. You compete in the 100 yard sprint and have qualified for your State Finals. There you are, on the track and waiting for the gun to go off. You can win this thing.
And you do! Congratulations, you are the fastest sprinter in your state, a true champion of your event!
Now, imagine during that same summer, you are watching the Olympics. Usain Bolt is lining up to run the 100 yard dash. The gun goes off and he sprints. As majestic as he is powerful, Bolt wins the race and earns the title of fastest man in the world.
He is literally the best person in the world at running 100 yards.
Here we have it. Two champions. One champion won their State title race. The other won a World title race.
Imagine one more thing for me. You are at a restaurant. You tell a guy sitting next to you that you won your State title for the 100 yard dash. You look up and see Usain Bolt on TV, getting his gold medal for winning his respective 100 yard dash. You ask the guy sitting next to you: Who is the real 100 yard champion? Me, or Usain Bolt?
His response: Usain Bolt, of course. Now shut up and let me eat my chicken piccata.
What do we have? Two champions, but one champion. What? Let me rephrase it. Two champions of the same sport, but only one of them can call themselves the world’s best sprinter.
What’s my point? It’s simple.
Championships are weighted according to the talent in the tournament.
Principle 2 – Trivia night with The Office
Remember that episode on The Office where the gang goes out and crashes Oscar’s trivia night? For those who aren’t addicted to the show, here’s what happens.
The boss, Andy, is a thousand bucks or so short of hitting a company goal for the quarter. He decided to go to Oscar’s trivia night contest and see if he can win the money there. The whole office divides into teams, as to increase their odds of winning. There is a smart team, a backup smart team, and a team of dummies who simply want to drink and have fun. Long story short, the dummies end up winning trivia night!
So what the hell does this have to do with Kevin Durant, the Warriors, and winning NBA championships? I am glad you asked.
Oscar’s trivia league was socially reserved for the best and brightest. The league is a serious one, and at least a working knowledge of transcendentalist painters, French film noir, and the classic fideism versus hypercriticism debate, are all a must-have. In essence, the talent level in this league is elite.
Yet, the dummies were eligible to play. And they won. Now, pretend they were in a fictional, TV character trivia league. Our dummies from The Office play against Peter Griffin and his gang, Homer Simpson and his family, Will Smith and his Fresh Prince crew, and lastly, Walter White and the rest of the Breaking Bad cast.
But at the last second, right before trivia night starts, genius Walter White, child prodigy Lisa Simpson, and nerd Carlton Banks decide to join the dummies from The Office. Woah. That team just became stacked. The talent level in the trivia league didn’t change but, the talent dispersal did.
Before this change, there was no clear favorite to win the trivia night championship. Now, however, there is a sure favorite – the loaded Fresh Prince team. The league is still as talented as ever, but on the whole the teams are worse. Hmmm.
Back to Kevin Durant.
The year before KD went to Golden State, his Thunder met the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. They were up 3-1 in that series. They had the Warriors on the ropes during game 6 in Oklahoma, tied 101-101 with 2:00 minutes remaining. What happened? Klay Thompson had an historic shooting performance, going 11-18 from deep for the game while hitting 7 threes in the second half and 5 of them in the 4th quarter. It was a new postseason record for threes in a game.
In order to beat the Thunder, Klay Thompson had to literally rewrite the history books.
Fast forward a year. Durant is now on the Warriors. In fact, the Warriors start 4 All-stars, 3 total MVP awards, and by 2018 what will become 16 total All-NBA selections. They possess 2 of the top 3 shooters of all time, and one of the top 5 pure scorers of all time. In addition, the have a 6’5″ forward with a legitimate shot as going down as the best defender ever. Oh, and their bench is stacked, including a coach who played with Jordan, and 2x MVP Steve Nash doing consulting work for them.
Without question, the Warriors from 2016-now are the most talented team to ever exist. And I didn’t even mention Boogie…
Yet, the NBA has more talent within its league than ever. So, if Durant wins a title today, doesn’t it abide by principle 1 and actually help Durant’s legacy?
Let’s check back in and see how our TV character trivia night is going. The intellectually dominant Fresh Prince crew is winning by a ton. In fact, it looks like they just won the tite. Wow. Congrats. Yet, they do not look ecstatic. Happy, but not the sense of blissful, everything-is-perfect, pure joy that comes usually comes with winning a ‘ship. The losers aren’t too down either. In fact, they’re more mad, if anything. Not mad that they lost, but mad that they never had a chance. Mad that there was no competition.
Despite a league with high-end talent, Walter White, Lisa Simpson, Carlton Banks and co. didn’t beat the best. They were the best. How can the best beat the best when they are the best? Confusing, but not not so confusing, if you know what I mean.
Okay Espo, what’s the principle here?
There is a difference between the talent you compete against, and the talent in the league. If the best talent in the league is on your team, then who are you truly competing against? This principle sounds very close to principle 1, but they are as important as they are different.
Championships are weighted according to the talent you directly compete against.
Principle 3 – Curt Schilling and the ’04 Sox
Before he became an extreme right TV personality, Curt Schilling was a member of the drought-ending 2004 Boston Red Sox. He coined the team’s phrase, “Why not us.” Now allow me to explain why their series win over the Yankees (not even a title-winning series, but the ALCS) is the one of the greatest moments in sports history.
The season before, the Red Sox had a chance of going to the World Series and therefore ending a title drought that spanned over 8 decades. Yet, Aaron Boone decided to hit a series winning walk off homerun against Tim Wakefield (who I met in Martha’s Vineyard, really nice dude.) The next year, the Yankees stole A-Rod away from the Sox and went into the season with 8 potential Hall of Fame players. Yikes.
To make matters worse, Pedro Martinez famously called the Yankees his “daddy.” Oh no.
Flash forward to game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. It is the bottom of the 9th inning in Fenway Park. The whole ballpark knows Dave Roberts is going to try and steal second base against Jorge Posada. He does it anyways and is safe. Bill Mueller knocks in Roberts to tie the game. David Ortiz hits a walk off homer in extra innings and the greatest comeback in the history of sports began.
The Red Sox go onto win this series, and the World Series, and a bunch of idiots becomes one of the most beloved teams in sports while ending an 86 year title drought. Nuff said.
Alright Mr. Durant, what is the lesson here?
Timing matters. History matters. Context matters.
Indulge me by reading another hypothetical situation. Pretend you are LeBron James and you have to remove two of your three titles from history. Totally obliviated. No one remembers them, they only remember the one of your choosing. Which one do you pick?
Does LeBron go with title number one? Maybe. He beat an OKC team that was still too young to really win it all. But, it is his first title. I still say no, though. What about title number two? With the help of Ray Allen (UConn shoutout) LeBron beats a two-decade old Spurs dynasty and one of the best coaches to ever do it? Maybe, but I am not sold.
The obvious choice is that LeBron would keep the 2016 trophy. The title he won by being the first ever team to come back from a 1-3 deficit and win it all. The first title in Cleveland in over 50 years. Beating a team which had just won an NBA record 73 games and possessed a 2x MVP who was also the first unanimous MVP in NBA history, a team which had beat them the year before.
Yeah, he’s picking that one.
But LeBron isn’t just picking this title because it has sentimental value to him and his home state. He’s picking it because it was the toughest feat he has ever accomplished. This was his Mt. Everest. His Ivan Drago.
In others words, the 2016 title is worth more because it has more value.
Woah. Reread that. I’ll give you a second…
…Okay, are you back? Good to go?
Titles can change in value, although that does not mean LeBron now has 3.5 titles. Numeric value doesn’t change, but legacy-value changes. LeBron truthers can always say: Did Jordan ever come back 1-3 to beat a 73 win team with an MVP and bring the first title to his home state in 52 years?
That means something, right? Context matters. What is KD’s context?
In the most factual and objective way possible, Durant left a team that just blew a 3-1 lead in the WCF. Furthermore, he left a team loaded with talent, including a future MVP. He left his team to go to what may already be the most dominant dynasty in all of 21st Century American sport. He left his team to go to a team who were already title favorite the past two seasons and will be for the foreseeable future.
I’ll be even more blunt.
Kevin Durant joined an uber-talented, title winning team who many were fans were already starting to hate.
The rule here, Espo?
Championships are weighted by cultural habitat during the time of the title
So, how do I really feel?
We now know that while a championship never has a numerical value of more than one, it can still have a legacy-value of more than one. Paul Pierce only has one ring. Yet, he will be remembered as a better Celtic than Kevin McHale, who has three rings and beat their rival Lakers! Don’t be fooled, either. It is strictly Pierce’s ring which allows him to be in the top three greatest Celtics discussion.
What’s more impressive? Completing the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history to bring a title to your birth state, or joining an historically talented, record breaking team and beating Cleveland in the finals?
If you like to observe truth, then clearly LeBron’s title is more impressive. Oh, and what does impressive mean? Quite literally, it means “to evoke admiration.” And if we admire one title more than the other, shouldn’t it reflect in a player’s all-time legacy?
So here it all is. The three principles for establishing legacy through championships.
#1. Championships are weighted according to the talent in the tournament.
#2. Championships are weighted according to the talent you directly compete against.
#3. Championships are weighted by cultural habitat during the time of the title.
As of right now, people are torn about how to weight KD’s titles towards his legacy? Should we hate KD? Should we ease up a bit? My twitter poll doesn’t know what to do either.
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
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.
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.
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.
Before we get into the “Top 25 Players in the NBA,” I need to preface by saying this is if everyone is healthy in the league. For example, I did not lower Kawhi Leonard’s rank because he barely played last season. So, here it is, my “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#25: Ben Simmons
I have already prepared myself for the reactions to the 25th ranked player in my “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. People are going to say that Simmons is already a top-20, or even top-15 player in the NBA. However, why? I am not saying that Simmons is not going to be a top-10 player in the league one day, but I do not understand how people already have him ranked so high.
Simmons had a very good rookie year in the NBA. Averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game, Simmons ran away with the Rookie of the Year. What makes Simmons’ stats even more impressive is the fact that he did not make a single three last season. With the way the modern NBA is trending, having a non-shooting ball-handler is uncommon.
While Simmons did not make any threes last season, that did not slow him down. Take a look at the GIF below.
It never seemed to matter how far off Simmons’ defender played him last season. Simmons would always find a way to get to the basket and finish at a high clip. Converting on 69.8% of his shots at the rim, Simmons was well-above the 63.1% league average. Just because Simmons is currently ranked 25th in my rankings, it will not be long before he slides into the top-15, and the top-10 in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#24: LaMarcus Aldridge
NBA fans often forget how dominant LaMarcus Aldridge really is. Remember his days in Portland? The dude was a walking double-double. Then, he gets out of the spotlight in San Antonio and people forget about him. Aldridge is still one of the most dominating big men in the NBA.
Averaging 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, it is time to acknowledge how talented Aldridge is. LMA led a Kawhi-less Spurs team to the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference. Yes, Gregg Popovich is a mastermind, but teams do not make the playoffs in the West without talent on the court.
Aldridge’s 29.1% usage rating last season was the highest it has been in his career with San Antonio. Aldridge made it work too. Developing his game to continue to fit the modern NBA, Aldridge posted the highest offensive rating of his career. Fans often forget about how good Aldridge is, it is time to continue to acknowledge that fact.
#23: Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic is one of my favorite players to watch in the entire NBA. His skill set for a center is wildly unheard of, but wildly productive. I mean, come on, how many NBA centers can make this pass?
Jokic’s basketball IQ and passing ability alone make him one of the top centers in the NBA. However, there is so much more to his game. With averages of 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game, Jokic brings it all to the table.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in his game last season was his three-point shooting. The Joker attempted a total of 280 threes last season, connecting on 39.6% of the attempts. Jokic has made it a point of emphasis to continue to adjust his game to stay up-to-date with the modern NBA.
Last season, 27.7% of Jokic’s attempted field goals were from three-point territory. The season before, just 16.3% of his shots were from three. This is a good sign for the Nuggets and their big man. Jokic has been able to adapt and stay productive while the league changes. This is why Jokic is in my top-25 and why Denver just inked him to a max contract.
#22: DeMar DeRozan
Another season has gone by and another season has ended for DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors at the hands of “The King.” After going into the playoffs as the top seed in the East, the Raptors did not even manage to win one game against Cleveland in the second round. However, this does not alter DeRozan’s playing ability.
Last season marked the fifth straight year that DeRozan posted at least 20 points per game. Recording 23 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game, DeRozan solidified himself as one of the game’s top two guards. Having his usage rate drop from 34.3% in the 2016-17 season to 29.6% in the 2017-18 season, DeRozan remained effective attempting the most threes in his career, and connecting at the second-highest clip on those shots in his career.
In addition, DeRozan posted a 9.6 win share stat, making him one of the most valuable players in win shares in the league. Most of the stats speak for themself. DeRozan gets to his spots on offense, and he takes advantage of his matchup. There was little debate in my mind when deciding if DeRozan belonged in the “Top-25 Players in the NBA” list.
#21: Rudy Gobert
Mark Rudy Gobert down as one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Gobert is not a flashy player by any means, which is why he is seldomly mentioned in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” conversation. Just because Gobert is not a three-point shooting five does not mean he is not one of the best centers in the league.
Gobert does most of his damage on the defensive side of the ball. Averaging 2.3 blocks per game last season, Gobert solidified himself as one of the best paint-protectors in the league. However, there is more to his game than his defense. Gobert recorded 13.5 points per game last season while shooting 62.2% from the field, a career-high. Yes, most of these points came on dunks or lobs from the “Spanish Unicorn,” but that is where Gobert does his damage.
It is mind boggling why Gobert is not talked about more often. His stellar 122 offensive rating and 99 defensive rating should put him in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” with few questions asked.
#20: Victor Oladipo
Who would have thought that one year ago at this time that we would have Victor Oladipo in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA”? What a year it was for Oladipo with the Indiana Pacers. Oladipo silenced all his haters averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Vic led the Pacers, who were a projected lottery team, to the fifth seed in the East and took LBJ and the Cavs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
I had trouble finding a spot for Oladipo in the rankings because of how unexpected last season was. But, when you look at all the numbers as a whole, he definitely deserves to be in the top-20. In addition to his gaudy offensive numbers, Oladipo averaged 2.4 steals per game, ranking him first in the NBA last season. The winner of the Most Improved Player is bound for another successful 2018-19 season. His determination to win was on full display right after the game seven loss to the Cavs. The first thing he did after the game was text his trainer asking him when the work started up again.
#19: Paul George
Well, Thunder fans, PG13 is there to stay. Congratulations. One year after you traded for a “rental,” the team has convinced a top-20 player in the NBA to stay in Oklahoma City. Now, Thunder fans may be wondering why George ranks lower than others have him in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. Averaging 21.9 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, PG13 had an interesting season adjusting to the OK3.
In my opinion, George hasn’t been the same since his gruesome injury with Team USA. He has not been as explosive and does not show the same burst he showed in those playoff battles against LeBron and the Heat. This was to be expected based on the injury, but that is the biggest reason he is 19th in the rankings. In addition, George has never been a great clutch player, often underperforming in crucial situations.
This season, George shot 42.2% from the field in the fourth quarter. In addition, he shot 38.3% from three in the fourth quarter. Now, do not get me wrong, 38% from three is not a bad number, but it is lower than his 40.1% from three throughout the season. Finally, who can forget game six of the playoffs last season against the Utah Jazz. In an elimination game, George juiced just five points. Paul George is a great player, I am not trying to say he is not, but for me 19 is where PG13 belonged on the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” list.
#18: Karl-Anthony Towns
The Big KAT had a terrific third season in the NBA, and now he is going to get paid. Karl-Anthony Towns is reportedly in negotiations with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a five-year, max contract. Towns made his first all-star appearance last season and he is not looking back.
Documenting 21.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game, Towns was one of the most versatile offensive bigs in the NBA. Notice how I said offensive, because his defense is a whole different discussion. Towns shot 42.1% from three-point range last season, the highest percentage of any Wolves player. Ranking 14th in the NBA in percentage from downtown, Towns has adjusted his game with the modern NBA.
Helping lead the Wolves to their first playoff series in over a decade, Towns had a disappointing playoff series. Averaging just 15.4 points per game and shooting under 50% from the field and under 30% from three, Towns had a less than pleasing first playoff series of his career. However, in games three, four, and five of the series against the Rockets, Towns was back to averaging 21 points a night. He struggled mightily in the first two games, but seemed to overcome his struggles and put it past him.
As one of the most versatile bigs in the NBA, Towns already ranks in the top-20. But, it will not be long before he is in the conversation for the top-10 in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#17: Klay Thompson
Mark me down as a firm Klay Thompson believer. What he does every night for the Golden State Warriors is invaluable. Thompson is one of, if not the best, shooter in the NBA. Averaging 20 points per game last season on 44% shooting from three-point range, Klay solidified himself as the best third option in the NBA. Imagine what Klay could be doing as the first option on a team? He is a free agent in 2019, could we see him as a first option?
Getting past his future with the Warriors, when we look at Klay Thompson’s game, it is nothing but good things. We all know about his stellar shooting and his ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the court, but what some people do not know about is his defensive ability. Watch below as Klay Thompson absolutely locks down Paul George as the shot clock expires. Not many people can hang with a top-level offensive player like PG13, but Klay Thompson can.
#16: Joel Embiid
Trust the Process. Well, the process is working. It will not be long before Joel Embiid is a top-10 player in the NBA. Playing in 63 games last season, the Kansas big man averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds per game. Embiid did work in every facet of the game shooting over 48% from the field and recording 1.8 blocks per game. However, there is still work to do if Embiid wants to be a top-10 or top-5 player in the NBA.
The first thing is development from three. In his “rookie” season in the NBA, Embiid shot 36.7% from three, a very respectable percentage for a big man. However, last season, that percentage dropped to 30.8%. There is potential for Embiid to have his downtown shooting percentage climb, and he will need it to climb to take the next step.
In addition, speaking in general terms, Joel Embiid has the mindset and attitude of a top-level NBA player. Embiid cares about one thing and one thing only: winning. Whether you like it or not, Embiid’s trash talking on the court helps him gain an edge and it causes problems for opponents. Joel Embiid is on his way. Even though I do not have him ranked as my top center, it should not be long before “The Process” claims that spot in “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
I already know it is coming. People are going to think I am crazy for putting Cousins ahead of Embiid. Since these rankings are not taking injuries into the picture, Cousins still ranks as my top center. People forget of how dominant Cousins is. Players feed the ball down low and Boogie gets a bucket, it is usually as simple as that.
Cousins was having a career-year before going down with injury last season. Posting 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game, Cousins looked primed to appear in his first playoff series. Unfortunately, the NBA Gods had different ideas. But, the injury does not take away from the player Cousins is. DeMarcus Cousins is, plain and simple, dominant. His footwork on the low-post and his continued development from three make him the most effective center in the NBA and 15th in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings.
#14: Draymond Green
There are fans of the NBA who cannot stand Draymond Green, and I am in the same boat. However, I respect him as a player and the energy that he brings to the game. It hurt me to put him 14th in these rankings, but it was what he deserved. Green affects the game in so many ways that the Warriors would not be the same without him. He does it on offense, defense, leadership, and of course, in trash talking.
There is not a player in the NBA that I can think of who plays with more energy than Draymond Green. Green is pure heart and effort every time the ball goes up in the air. Yes, his passion for the game can get him in trouble from time to time, but his passion is usually used positively. Green averaged 11 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game last season. However, it is what does not show up in the box score that makes Green a difference maker. Green’s 105 defensive rating and 6.1 defensive win shares make him one of the top defenders in the NBA.
Another part of Green’s game that makes him so good is his ability to play the five. The Warriors made the small-ball lineup a thing, using Green at the five. This death lineup is what makes the Warriors so good. Teams can try to put Green in a pick-and-roll when he is at the five, but Green has the ability to switch onto guards and shut them down. It is unfair at times and part of the reason he ranks 14th in my “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#13: Damian Lillard
“Dame Dollar.” “Big Game Dame.” Whatever you want to call him, Damian Lillard is a special talent. While he has never found much success in the postseason, Lillard is one of the best guards in the NBA. His shiftiness and sudden explosion make him a must-watch. Filling it up with 26.9 points and 6.6 assists per game last season, Lillard had arguably his best season in his career.
Lillard made 227 threes last season, just two less than his career-high, which he posted in 2015-16. Dame kept defenders guessing last season. If the defense came up and pressed Lillard, he would explode past them and finish at the rim. If the defense laid off, Lillard would pull up from Mars and drain a long three in your face. Don’t believe me? Check out his game-winner against the Lakers below and think again. There’s no reason that Lillard should not be in the top-15 of any “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings.
#12: John Wall
Why is everyone starting to hate on John Wall? He gets hurt for one season and everyone is starting to act like he is falling off. No way. Not a chance. John Wall is still one of the most dominant and explosive points guards in the association. Even after injury last season, Wall managed to post 19.4 points and 9.6 assists per game. No, he was not his normal self, but that is expected coming off an injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
No matter what anyone says, there shall be no John Wall slander. Wall is one of the toughest covers in the entire league, and when he brings out the gang signs, it is over. The speedster has never been a great three-point shooter or defender, and he might never be. However, the way he attacks the rim and creates for his teammates, Wall deserves to be 12th in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#11: Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Buckets. All kinds of rumors are surrounding Butler and the Timberwolves this summer. There have been recents reports that Butler will not re-sign with the Wolves. There has been reports that he is unhappy with the effort shown by Karl Towns and others. If you need a refresher on the whole situation, I broke it down in an article. Anyways, on to Butler as the player. Butler is the second-best two-way player in the NBA (behind Kawhi.) There are no words to describe his value to the Timberwolves last season. Without him, the Wolves would have been in the lottery and nowhere near a playoff team.
To further prove that point, Butler missed 23 games last season. The Timberwolves were 10-13 without Butler last season. With him, the Wolves were 37-22. Butler was one of just a handful of Timberwolf players that decided to play defense last season. Butler’s defense was so good that the Wolves held opponents to 7.2 points lower in offensive rating when Jimmy was on the floor. Jimmy, along with other veterans like Taj Gibson, was the main reason the Wolves did not allow 150 points per game.
In addition, Jimmy got his buckets. His 22.2 points per game led the Timberwolves. Furthermore, Butler was who the Wolves went to when the team was in dire need of a basket. Butler was the go-to man down the stretch and led the Timberwolves to the playoffs.
#10: Chris Paul
What could have been. That will be the question in NBA and Rockets fans head for the months leading up to the 2018-19 season. The Rockets were one game away from defeating the “undefeatable” Golden State Warriors. Then, Chris Paul went down with an injury at the end of game five that kept him out of game six and seven. Paul’s value to the Rockets was much more than scoring, finding teammates, and defending. Paul was a leader on and off the court for Houston.
Multiple times throughout the season, the Rockets looked like they would fall apart during a game; however, they held on. Why? Chris Paul. Paul kept the team together in games that were spiraling out of control. Paul got the team buckets when they needed them most, and he controlled the game like a true floor general. While CP3 posted his second-lowest assist total of his career, the ball was out of his hands a lot. People wondered how he and James Harden would co-exist. And to put it lightly, I think they did just fine.
Chris Paul seems to fit in nicely with whoever he plays next to. He is the true definition of a great leader and a great teammate. The only thing preventing CP3 from being ranked higher than 10 is the other unearthly players sitting higher in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#9: Kyrie Irving
Another great “what if” story from the NBA last season. The Boston Celtics took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics did so without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. So, Boston fans everywhere are dreaming over what could have been for the team last season if even Irving stayed healthy. In his first season post-LeBron, Irving averaged 24.4 points and 5.1 assists per game. His handles and offensive wizardry continued to dazzle in Beantown.
I have Irving ranked as my third best point guard, behind Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry. However, at just 26-years-old, Irving is bound to soon be the top point guard in the league. It is amazing what Irving is doing at such a young age. If injuries stay out of his way, top-5 is on the way for the former Duke guard in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#8: Giannis Antetokounmpo
For the longest time, the Greek Freak was on his way. Well, it is official, he has arrived. Now the best player in the East with LeBron gone, Antetokounmpo is just what his nickname says “a freak.” Giannis recorded 26.9 points and 10 rebounds per game last season. Every season that he has been in the NBA, Antetokounmpo has made a jump in PPG from the previous season. If that continues, it will not be long before Giannis is averaging 30 PPG.
In addition to his ridiculous scoring numbers, Giannis is a terrific passer and defender. Averaging 4.8 assists per game last season, Giannis made defenses pay when they doubled him. On defense, he recorded 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. His length and athleticism makes him a top-five two-way player in the NBA. Before you start debating whether Giannis should be ranked as the top player in the Eastern Conference without LeBron, chew on this:
#7: Russell Westbrook
For the second season in a row, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double. I do not care what you think of stat-padding or anything of that nature, averaging a triple-double is impressive. The amount of energy Westbrook puts forth every night is next to none. Westbrook plays with a similar intensity as Draymond Green. Ever since Kevin Durant left the Thunder, it seems like that energy has doubled. Westbrook is out to prove something, and he wants to prove it with a championship.
Ranked as my number two point guard on the list, it is Westbrook’s explosiveness and offensive abilities that get the job done. Averaging 25.4 points per game last season, Russ shot 44.9% from the field. His 5.5 offensive win shares makes you realize just how great Russ is on that side of the ball. If Westbrook could develop a 36-40% three-point shot he would be virtually unstoppable. The only chance teams have of stopping Russ is letting him shoot and hoping he misses. Because once he gets to the rim or on the fastbreak, it is game over.
#6: Kawhi Leonard
The summer of LeBron was quickly flooded by the summer of Kawhi. After requesting a trade out of San Antonio, fans have been on the edge of their seats waiting to find out where Leonard will land. Leonard has been on the record saying he wants to be in Los Angeles, but there might not be a deal that makes sense for the Spurs/Clippers/Lakers. Wherever Leonard lands, the team will be getting the top two-way player in the game.
After basically sitting out an entire season, it is easy to forget just how good Kawhi is. He is nicknamed “The Klaw” for a reason. Kawhi absolutely shuts down the opposing team’s best player each and every night. He has made a living on the defensive side of the ball. His defense is what got him into the NBA. Kawhi was never a great offensive player coming into the league, but his defense was enough to get him a spot.
Since he has been in the league, Kawhi has developed his offense. Kawhi is now one of the biggest offensive threats in the NBA. His ability to knock down shots and over power people on the way to the rim make him such a scary matchup. If Kawhi Leonard played last season, and we were able to see his further improvement, he very well could have made the top-5 in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#5: James Harden
Yes, your eyes are not lying. I have the MVP ranked fifth in my “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. James Harden is great, that is not a question, but there are just players that do more than Harden. Harden makes his living on the offensive side of the ball, and in particular, at the free-throw line. Harden attempted over 10 free-throws per game last season. His 8.7 points per game that come from the stripe accounted for 28.6% of his total points.
There is no doubt there is a skill in getting to the free-throw line, but sometimes the way Harden gets to the line is hard to watch. His flopping and wild body movements draw the refs into a ton of whistles when there is really no contact. This, along with his sub-par defense, which is recently improved, made Harden land in the five hole in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#4: Steph Curry
The former two-time MVP and unanimous MVP has a great story. The sharpshooter was labeled as “too small” coming into the draft. People thought that he was just a cinderella story that went to Davidson, and they predicted Curry would fall off the map. Well, Golden State took a chance on Steph, and boy has it paid off. Curry takes the most threes out of anyone in the NBA. Curry attempted 501 threes last season in just 51 games, that is almost 10 threes a game. And, while he attempts those 10 threes a game, he connects on 42.3% of them.
Hats off to Steph Curry. The NBA has arguably changed because of guys like Curry who attempt threes in bunches. Curry has no problem pulling up and shooting from anywhere on the court. He is one of the deadliest offensive players the NBA has ever seen. Widely regarded as one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA, there was little doubt to put Curry in the four spot in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings.
#3: Anthony Davis
When DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury last season, most thought the Pelicans playoff hopes were over. Anthony Davis had different ideas. Davis averaged 28.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game last season. He continued to develop his game to fit the modern NBA, shooting 34% from three. In addition to the offensive work he put in, Davis showed his worth on defense too. Recording 2.6 blocks per game, Davis made any player think twice before testing him in the paint.
Davis has the potential to be one of the all-time greats. Yes, I said it. At just 25-years-old, Davis is showing how good he can be. If Davis can continue to develop his three-pointer and start winning more playoff games, he will be first on the list before too long.
#2: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is great. There is no other way to put it. What KD does on a nightly basis is unheard of. The two-time champ is the best pure scorer the game has ever seen. Durant fills it up in so many different ways. He will take you off the dribble and finish at the cup. Durant will explode by you just to stop and pop from mid-range. Or, he will not worry about dribbling at all and just take a 30-foot bomb that he knocks down with ease.
There are so few words as to how one would describe Kevin Durant and the way he can score. So, I am going to leave it as that. As the best pure scorer the NBA has ever seen, KD will go down as an all-time great.
#1: LeBron James
LeBron James tops off my “Top 25 Players in the NBA” list. When I said it was hard to describe Kevin Durant? It is even harder to describe LeBron James. What LBJ did this past season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading the team back to their fourth straight finals appearance is only supposed to be possible in movies. LeBron James single-handedly dragged the Cavs to the finals, and that is an understatement. And if it was not for J.R. and his foolishness in game one of the NBA Finals, who knows how that series plays out.
LeBron James is simply great. Perhaps the greatest to ever play the game. Now, in Los Angeles, LABron will continue to cement his legacy as the best player in the NBA.
Thanks for checking out the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. Share the article and let me know what you think in the comments below!
Oblivious is the word I would use to describe someone who does not already know which two teams will be competing against each other for a championship ring. If you are that oblivious, well, read the title again. The absolutely loaded Golden State Warriors will have minimal interference once again to reach the finals for a 5th consecutive year, especially after signing DeMarcus Cousins to a 1-year/$5.3 million dollar contract that absolutely stunned the basketball world. Representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals will be the star-studded, young-gunning, electric Boston Celtics. The Boston Celtics just came off a successful year just barely missing the finals after having four players out due to injury including Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Shane Larkin, and Daniel Theis. Permitting injury, the Boston Celtics will sail across smooth waters to the finals with the return of their all-stars and the absence of LeBron in the East along with the Philadelphia 76ers having a non-impactful offseason.
Shall we get into some analytical data now? I know data is either loved or hated, but in this instance since the two teams only play each other twice a year and also will not meet in the playoffs until the finals, it is important to have data to use to measure the two teams side by side.
Listed above are a few stats to compare side by side defensively and offensively. As you can see from the data it’s a story of two tales: One team being the best in the league defensively versus a team that is the best offensive team in the league. Now let’s take a look at last year’s season series against one another.
The series split 1-1 with notably Boston missing a key piece in Gordon Hayward in both games. Game one, the Boston Celtics held the Golden State Warriors to 88 points. 88 points. 88 points. Do you get it yet? 88 points. Game 2 Boston did lose but within a 4-point game and also holding GSW under their average rating of 113.6. Now let take a look at individual matchups.
Looking into the series we can only assume we will have a gritty matchup that can potentially go seven games deep which I believe any fan of the game would enjoy. If you are still oblivious, then you have not realized that I obviously believe the Boston Celtics have the potential to handle the back-to-back champs Golden State Warriors.
Kyrie Irving will absolutely give Steph Curry the works. If you believe the small statured Steph Curry can play defense against a more athletic and shifty PG then you are oblivious. Unlike Steph, Kyrie has the ability to share the ball more frequently and even have an opportunity of grabbing a rebound. Kyrie Irving can cook anyone in the league and most definitely Curry. Kyrie can shoot from wherever on the floor and has the ability to drive to the hoop without getting the ball smacked into the stands which is usually the outcome when Curry decides to take one to the hole.
Quick note on DeMarcus Cousins. Everyone is freaking out about Boogie signing with GSW, but according to multiple reports and Cousins, he will not be available to play due to his Achilles injury until possibly January or February which is right before the playoffs. Who is to say Cousins will even be the same or an impact at all. Having possibly one month to gel with a team that is already molded will be tougher than most fans tend to believe. I have all the respect for Boogie but, realistically thinking you have to take in the fact that one month into a season and then playoff time will be hard work for Steve Kerr to get Cousins worked into or even at worst Boogie will not be physically in shape to handle the pace of GSW after being out for over a year.
Kevin Durant is great. That is all I will say since he needs no introduction or analysis. KD is great.
Jayson Tatum on the other hand is molding into some monster that no one ever saw coming. During his rookie year, he showed to be one of the most clutch, poised, 19 year old man I’ve ever seen play. I honestly believe, and these aren’t just my heads talking, that Jayson Tatum will be a top 10 player to ever play the game. The guy is mixed with the blood of Kobe, the body of LeBron, (without the extra weight which according to reports has been putting on along with a significant increase in strength gained) and the mind of Albert Einstein, yeah, the one who created the theory of relativity. Jayson Tatum is a player to marvel at, and within the moment will play above all the greats including Kevin Durant. He dunked over 12 people this past season, and I can only see that increasing with notable players being on his poster including Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and The King which Tatum has dethroned, LeBron James. Jayson Tatum will be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA Finals with the possibility of being a 30+ Pts a night type of player.
Genius is the word that comes to mind when you think of Brad Stevens who was just snubbed the COTY award after leading his team of rookies and kids a few minutes away of the NBA Finals after missing two all-stars and two role players. Brad Stevens in the Finals will be equivalent to Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. The man is brilliant including his style of play with entrusting his team to morph into a defensive unit of soldiers who will score on every single ATO.
All in all I believe that the teams have not changed much from the previous year after the signing of DeMarcus Cousins because I believe he will not be as much of a factor as he was in New Orleans. Boston was well suited to match-up with the Warriors and with players returning to full health the Boston Celtics have the jump on everyone besides Kevin Durant. The Boston Celtics defensively will rattle the Golden State Warriors defensively and players like Irving, Tatum, and Hayward will score 25+ points in each of these Finals games.
Just wait, the 2019 NBA Finals Matchup between Boston and Golden State will result with a game seven victory for Boston, adding another banner to TD Garden which already holds the single most banners held by any team in the history of NBA.
When I found out that the Warriors were picking up DeMarcus Cousins, I freaked. Plain and simple. My friends texted me asking how I was holding up. Others texted telling me they weren’t even going to watch basketball next year. Oh, and even SportsCenter put this tweet up:
This tweet got me thinking about the Warriors even more. Surely enough, I found myself digging through Google to check out some future Warrior’s salaries.
Klay Thompson – FA in 2019/2020
Steph Curry – FA in Never
Kevin Durant – FA in 2020/2010 (Player Option)
Draymond Green – FA in 2020/2021
Andre Iguodala – FA in 2020/2021
Shaun Livingston – FA in 2020/2021
Demarcus Cousins – FA in 2019/2020
In the not-so-distant future, this team could face a crossroads. Klay will command a max contract, yet he has stated in the past that he could consider taking a discount. Draymond, however, has been rumored to hold out for a max contract. KD is on the books for a couple more years, and most likely will opt out next summer because he qualifies for a 5 year/200 M+ deal. Iggy and Livingston, two key rotation pieces, will be around a little longer. Cousins is looking to make good on his prove it contract. Oh, and when Steph leaves Golden State it will be in a casket.
In other words, the Warriors’ mainstay players have done nothing but state their desire to play with Golden State. Yet, they will be buried in the tax if they decide to pay each of their core guys (Green, Klay, KD, Steph) the max. There may be some financial decisions to make going forward, from both the team and player perspective.
After looking at these figures, I got even more mad. This team is going to destroy NBA parity for the next year or two. Then I got an idea. Why not engage in a little offseason hypothetical?
Imagine all of the four core Warrior players were free agents RIGHT NOW. Every team in the NBA who doesn’t have cap space, has declared that they would use the amnesty rule or work a trade to gain the space. Which Warrior would you take off of this team to create more parity in the League?
Who would it be, and where would you send them?
Some quick notes on your options:
A 28-year-old, 6’7″ sniper who is an elite defender and underrated playmaker, Thompson has been the eye of NBA imaginists for a while now. We love to picture him playing in Madison Square Garden, being the focal point of a team who needs one more star.
What does Thompson do for the Warriors? Dude takes a little less than 50% of his shots from behind the arc, providing the floor spacing which allows for KD, Chef, and Draymond to find those vintage backdoor cuts. Take a glance at his career 3P attempt rate.
Everybody knows that Draymond is the catalyst of this offense. He routinely leads the Dubs in assists despite not having even the 2nd highest usage rate. What’s more, Green is the leader in the clubhouse. Oh, and let’s not forget he is arguably the best defensive player in the League right now and one of the greatest defenders in history as well.
If you take Draymond off of this team, can it find a way to keep its offensive motor running as smoothly? Who would be their defensive quarterback?
A former MVP and scoring machine, KD has worked on his defense as well. When the game slows down in the Finals, and your team needs a bucket, KD will go and get you one. Ask Cleveland how that felt during Game 3 in last year’s Finals. He is a constant threat for the 50/40/90 club.
The Warriors won a ring without Durant but, they were also down 2-1 in that 2014-2015 Finals, and had to face Kyrie for a single game. Durant assures them rings, even though they could probably win one without him.
A basketball sensation who will pull up from anywhere, the two-time MVP has not lost a step. He shoots just about 10 threes per game and defenders must stick to him wherever he is on the court. Steph has even more gravity than Klay Thompson, if that is even possible.
What would happen if you took Curry off of this team and replace him with an average point guard? Maybe a Jeff Teague type of player. Do they still reach the Finals? Probably. And that is a testament to how good the Dubs personnel is beyond Steph Curry.
What would I do?
I don’t have the heart to take SC and remove him from the town he once revived. Curry is the most responsible for this dynasty, and perhaps Golden State’s most beloved son.
Kevin Durant has only been in town for a couple of years. Let the man live. Plus, amongst Jalen Rose whispers on Bill Simmons podcasts, KD may be destined to shine somewhere else in the future anyways.
I would love to see Klay be the man somewhere else. Imagine him in New York? MSG would go nuts every night for this man. Yet, I can’t break up the Splash Brothers. Just can’t do it.
Draymond, however, is someone I could envision departing the Warriors. Why? Green does so much for this club on both sides of the ball. If he leaves, we truly get to see how smart of a coach Steve Kerr is. Can he adjust both the defense and offense accordingly? Can the remaining Warriors step their games up? Where would I put Draymond. New Orleans. It works from an Xs and Os and karma perspective. AD, Jrue, Randle, Moore and Green is an awesome starting lineup who could give teams matchup problems during the Western Conference playoffs.
Two years ago today Kevin Durant decided to pull one of the weakest moves of any NBA superstar ever. He grabbed a knife and plunged it right into the heart of the state of Oklahoma by deciding to sign with the team that had just beaten him in the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors. Two years ago today is also the anniversary of the famous cupcake photo that Russell Westbrook posted on social media. That picture foreshadowed KD’s future nickname, “Cupcake.” Much time has passed since those events, but how has Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City affected both the Thunder and Warriors for the past two seasons?
For the Warriors, they have began to rival the Detroit “Bad Boy’’ Pistons of the old days for the title of, “Most Hated NBA Team Ever.” They definitely haven’t declined in terms of how good they are. Adding Kevin Durant just added to the insane amount of talent already on their roster and NBA fans will be talking about the insane super team the Warriors were able to put together for years to come. The Warriors have found themselves as back to back champions since they have added Durant and with the signing of DeMarcus Cousins this offseason they are looking to win the championship for a third year straight in 2019. Kevin Durant has also found himself with more hardware than the two rings he’s won so far. KD won the NBA Finals MVP trophy in both the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals.
As far as draft picks and free agency goes the Warriors have done very well. As previously stated, the Warriors were able to sign DeMarcus Cousins this offseason. They have also made moves to acquire players like Nick “Swaggy P” Young. Draft-wise the only player who is notable for the Warriors is Jordan Bell. While Jordan Bell didn’t have a stellar season during his rookie year, he was able to put up some impressive numbers playing for a stacked team like the Warriors. In 57 games played, Bell averaged 1.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.6 points per game to go along with his 62.7% shooting from the field. It hasn’t been perfect for the Warriors though, they have lost a few good pieces on their roster in the past two seasons. In order to make space for Kevin Durant in 2016, Harrison Barnes found his way to Dallas and during this offseason, the Warriors lost JaVale McGee to the now LeBron-lead Lakers. The good is better than the bad has been for Dub Nation for the past two seasons and their future is looking brighter than ever.
For the Thunder, things haven’t been particularly pretty. In 2016 Sam Presti was able to trade Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis prior to KD’s departure. These would have been valuable pieces to go along with a roster lead by KD and Russ but unfortunately KD was bitten by the, “If you can’t beat em’ join em” bug and he decided to join the Warriors. This left a gaping hole in the Thunder’s roster. The Thunder fought tooth and nail all throughout the 2016-17 NBA season, eventually ending with a historic Westbrook season of 42 triple-doubles and an MVP trophy, a 47-35 record, and the sixth seed. In the playoffs the Thunder found themselves knocked out of the first round in five short games at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
In the 2017 offseason Sam Presti was THE man. Sam stunned the NBA with a blockbuster move that brought Paul George from Indiana to OKC in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. But that wasn’t the only move that Presti made, he also traded Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott for Carmelo Anthony, another good move. Or was it? The attempt of the OK3, as the trio of Melo, PG, and Russ would eventually be called turned out to be a huge flop. Melo had statistically the worst season of his career as his playstyle and ego didn’t fit in the Thunder’s system. In 78 games played Melo averaged 16.2 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game, all while shooting only 40% from the field and 35% from the three-point line. The Thunder ended the 17-18 NBA season the same way as the 16-17 season ended. Oklahoma City found themselves knocked out of the first-round of the playoffs but this time around it was at the hands of a young Donovan Mitchell-lead Utah Jazz team. There were a few factors that played into their first-round knockout, most notably the injury of Andre Roberson, as well as the poor play of the OK3.
Things have begun to turn around for the Thunder in the 2018 offseason with Paul George making a huge decision to stay in OKC and chase rings with Russell Westbrook rather than going to play with LeBron in L.A. Things aren’t all good for the Thunder this offseason though. Melo accepted his player option with the Thunder for $27.9 million (Though most expect him to soon find his way off of the Thunder Roster.) And with the addition of Nerlens Noel and the recent re-signing of Raymond Felton, the Thunder, as of the time this article was written have found themselves over $300 million in luxury tax. A historic moment in the NBA but definitely not a good one. Despite the misfortunes of the Thunder, they have seemed to be making a good comeback from the KD departure.
KD and Russ
Kevin Durant’s return to OKC included cupcake posters, boos, and slanderous signs all throughout Chesapeake Arena. It seems that every matchup including OKC and Golden State is a heated one, but are Russ and KD cool now? During the 2018 All-Star Break, KD and Russ were sighted cracking jokes with each other numerous times. Does this mean that Russ and KD are cool now or is it all a publicity stunt to get the media to quiet down on the Russ and KD rivalry? NBA fans might never truly know the answer to that question. One thing that NBA fans do know however is that Kevin Durant and the fabulous Golden State Warriors ruined basketball.
A look at some of the performances from this years top prospects:
Sacramento Kings (98) vs Los Angeles Lakers (93):
While De’Aaron Fox might’ve been the best player on the floor and posted the prettier statline for the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, it was Marvin Bagley who was the games main attraction. Bagley had himself an impressive debut. He poured in an efficient 18 points along with 6 rebounds and a game-high 3 blocks in 24 minutes of action. Oh, and he also had a filthy poster in the first quarter.
The Kings first-round pick from the 2017 Draft also made his Kings debut yesterday after missing his entire first year with a knee injury. He played 25 minutes and finished with 13 points and 3 rebounds on a 6-10 shooting night.
Like Fox for the Kings, Josh Hart was another returning player in this game who had himself a big game, but we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here for the rookies, specifically, Moe Wagner. First-round pick Moe Wagner gave his team 23 points and 7 rebounds, but struggled shooting the ball (6-18 from the floor, 2-9 from three). He did go 9-10 from the line however and had a team-high 2 steals and 1 block in 27 minutes.
Atlanta Hawks (88) vs Memphis Grizzlies (103):
Jaren Jackson Jr:
Jackson showed out Monday night. He gave Memphis fans a glimpse of what’s in store for the regular season and even amazed fans with his tribute to Steph Curry, burying 8 threes on 13 attempts and even sinking a hail mary half-court buzzer beater to end the 2nd quarter. It was the complete opposite of Trae Young’s performance. Jackson finished the contest with 29 points (9-15 FG), 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 23 minutes.
Young had a less than spectacular start to his NBA career. He started off the game by air-balling his first two three-point attempts, then ended the first quarter with an 0-6 shooting performance before ending the game 4-20 from the floor and 1-11 from three with 16 points. His playmaking didn’t make up for his woeful shooting either, dishing out just 3 assists and turning the ball over twice in the process. The good news is Trae Young will have a chance to bounce back from that performance later today when his Hawks take on the Spurs.
Miami Heat (68) vs Golden State Warriors (79):
No rookies to watch out for in this one, but Derrick Jones Jr. (24 points, 11 rebounds on 4-5 from three) and Bam Adebayo (14 points and 14 rebounds) had themselves big games that Heat fans can get excited about.
San Antonio Spurs (76) vs Utah Jazz (92):
Allen was the crowd favorite Monday, and despite not shooting the ball well (4-16 FG, 2-6 3PT), he did contribute in other ways. He had 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 steal in just 16 minutes. Allen’s court vision was on full display in this game and his gritty hustle should please Jazz fans as his game has the makings to be a perfect fit in Utah’s system.
Like Young and Allen, the Spurs 18th pick just couldn’t find a rhythm. He played 24 minutes and recorded 7 points, shooting 3-16 and had the worst plus-minus among all players in the game with a -20. Walker didn’t do much to get himself high percentage looks in this game and that was the result.
Summer League schedule for Tuesday, July 3rd:
San Antonio Spurs vs Atlanta Hawks at 7:00pm ET
Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers at 9:00pm ET
Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz at 9:00pm ET
Golden State Warriors vs Sacramento Kings at 11:00pm ET