Tag Archives: Golden State Warriors

NBA Trade talk trumps the Draft

jimmybutllerpodcast

Last week, the NBA world went a little unhinged. Not only did the loaded 2017 draft take place but in the days before, during the show and after, there has been some crazy trade talks as teams do all they can to hunt down the seemingly-untouchable Golden State Warriors.

In all honesty, I felt for the draftees that night that were upstaged by those already in the league. It’s like getting a big birthday cake that your older brother has already taken a huge slice of.

Regardless, with so much news to wade through, here’s a look at what the big talking points in terms of deals done or being discussed could do to the franchises involved.

 

Jimmy Butler heads to Minnesota

Really, Chicago? You couldn’t eek a little more out for a three-time All Star?

On draft night, the Bulls moved their best player in Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In return, the windy city gained a quality starter in Zach LaVine, a prospect in Kris Dunn and they swapped the sixteenth choice for the seventh pick of the draft which became Lauri Markkanen.

The first of those is coming off a torn ACL, the second had a below-par rookie season and the third was essentially a jump up nine steps to get a real boom or bust project. Some fans have already started a petition against the front office and no wonder, the team are now in full rebuild mode but took less of a deal than they were offered last year by the same team.

As for Butler, he goes to a growing team and into a quality coach he already knows in Tom Thibodeau. Alongside the duo of Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, plus a great distributor in Ricky Rubio, the 27-year-old can become the emotional leader on a young squad that could be even pushing for contention in a few years’ time.

 

Lakers dump DeAngelo Russell

Money makes the NBA world go around and for it to finally spin in the Los Angeles Lakers’ direction, they needed to burn some dead cash.

They did so by sending Timofey Mozgov’s massive contract to the Brooklyn Nets, with DeAngelo Russell tagging along in order to make room for new recruit Lonzo Ball. In return, the gold and purple gained Brook Lopez and the 27th pick of the draft, Kyle Kuzma.

A quality first move from the new management team of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, creating cap space for next year in order to chase the likes of Paul George or even LeBron James. It also gives away a player they weren’t developing for one of the better centres in the league, who has expanded his range impressively last season and could even be enticed to stay on and be part of a contender in Lopez.

Brooklyn has to feel decent as well, giving them a potential project in Russell. The former second overall pick will be less under the spotlight at the Barclays Centre and if he can discover his level, the Nets might finally have some kind of piece to build a future around, eventually.

 

Is Phil Jackson trading Kristaps Porzingis?

Someone check on Phil Jackson and make sure he’s not a New York Knicks hating degenerate in disguise.

After skipping an end of season meeting due to frustration, Porzingis is now at least shoppable in the eyes of the former Zen Master. Jackson reportedly was active in finding what deals would be available to ship the Latvian because the 11-time NBA championship winning coach wants to play dictator and all his peons must follow suit.

The kid genuinely wants to play for the Knicks, he loves New York and is a real quality player, yet here we are. The way they’ve treated Carmelo Anthony recently has soured enough people on having Madison Square Garden as their free agent destination and things like this will only exacerbate that fact.

Seriously, if he’s hurting your image because of your ineptitude yet all other 29 teams in the league give you a call to see what you wanted as per The Vertical, then it’s not him that’s in the wrong. The only thing Jackson has done right in the Big Apple is the Unicorn and if he gives him up, the Knicks should throw him out.

 

Could Paul George be a Cavalier?

The great thing about the NBA is that sometimes, something absolutely bonkers happens.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in discussions with the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets that would see Paul George match up with Lebron and Kevin Love head to Colorado.

It didn’t go through and the talks were tentative, but this is the insanity that reigns now that the Warriors are all powerful. Other teams are still pining for George, the Lakers and the Houston Rockets being suitors, but there’s still a nervousness knowing he might only be a one-and-done player for anyone outside of LA.

Does he really make the Cleveland Cavaliers that much better, especially if they lose Love? That’s a hypothetical that may never be answered. At least it looks like someone might help ease the pain on the Pacers that 24 will not be theirs for much longer.

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Russell Westbrook should be starting the All-Star game

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Westbrook is an All-Star starter in all but actually being one.  Source: Bleacher Report

Two players are currently the front-runners for the league’s Most Valuable Player trophy at the end of the season. However, only one of them will be starting the All-Star game, showcasing the NBA’s best talent, in November.

Russell Westbrook has been on a tear this season. With the departure of Kevin Durant weighing heavily on his shoulders, it’s pretty much his outstanding form alone that’s kept the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoff race.

He leads the league in points per game, averaging 30.6 a night and is currently the only player averaging a triple double, which is insanity. There has only ever been one player to maintain it throughout an entire season, the great Oscar Robinson, which just highlights how monumental that feat is.

Voting ended with the weighed rankings leaving him, James Harden and Steph Curry neck-and-neck. The fans ranked Curry ahead of Harden then Westbrook, while the player’s and media votes put number zero up top, Harden second and the reigning MVP third.

With that, Curry goes in ahead of Westbrook. Is that fair?

No. Curry’s role with the Golden State Warriors has unsurprisingly diminished this season with the introduction of Durant. He’s no longer the top scorer on the team, he’s not the leading assist maker and he’s barely the best three-point shooter ahead of Klay Thompson.

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Curry is a great player but this year, he should not be an All-Star starter. Source: nbabayarea.com

While he’s not putting up awful numbers, quite the contrary he’s still an exceptional player, he’s not killing it night in and night out like Westbrook. All of his averages are down this season, he’s not the key to the Warriors any more but he’s still a once-in-a-generation talent.

That still doesn’t mean he deserves to start over Westbrook. He’s pulling his team out of the mire on a nightly basis, bringing everything he has to get them in a position to win and even when he does go off, sometimes they don’t win.

The fan voting and popularity of Curry got him in over the body of work over the course of the current season. That’s not what these games are meant for, a reward for those who have earned it rather than a tool for fans to see an exhibition.

Some may dismiss it as that but at the end of the day, people still rank players on their All-Star appearances. Those that maybe only made one Finals or failed to get a ring are then weighed up on MVP wins and then All-Star appearances, so it can’t be said that it simply doesn’t matter.

There was a re-jig in the voting system this year after Zaza Pachulia got a ridiculous number of votes last year but it hasn’t worked. It still pulled the wrong names out of the hat and gave those deserving a cold shoulder.

Isaiah Thomas has been on a tear scoring this season and is another big miss but this one on paper is the more blatant. Westbrook has proven he’s a sensational talent and deserved the nod more than pretty much anyone.

Credit to him for saying he didn’t care, which is not surprising, but it will just add fuel to the fire. Fuel to win another All-Star MVP, fuel to push himself to being out alone to win the overall MVP and quite possibly push him to crush as many as he can take with him come playoff time.

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Oklahoma City Thunder will benefit from a Russell Westbrook scorned

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Westbrook can carry this team and he looks ready for the challenge. Source: newsok.com

In a terrific piece by Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical, Russell Westbrook did not dither or waste any moment worrying about a future without Kevin Durant. All he cared about was what would be next.

What looked like coming was a trade away from the Oklahoma City Thunder, with a number of clubs willing to take his services. The team needed an answer now, not content with losing another superstar for nothing next summer and if Westbrook gave them the indication, they would find him another basketball franchise.

Instead, Westbrook did what many did not expect him to do, including myself. He took Durant’s want away attitude personally, dusted off the news and showed his loyalty to the team that had crafted him into a special point guard.

On Thursday, he signed a three-year deal that includes a player option in that final season, potentially worth $85.7m if he completes the contract. It does inflate his pocket but at the same time, Westbrook has taken the baton to be the heart and soul of this team and he is planning to run away with it.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks

This will be an interesting meeting, which reportedly will take place in November. Source: nesn.com

It’s the kind of loyalty we rarely see, especially in smaller market teams, but Westbrook has a sense of belonging in OKC. He doesn’t have a great number of friends on other teams, he feels responsible for those around him in the team and it’s clear that he does not want to let them down the same way he feels Durant has.

To say he hit another level without the small forward back in 2015 may be putting a bit lightly. He bumped his average points per game to 28.1, posting career-best averages in both rebounds and assists and while it wasn’t quite enough to get him team into the playoffs, it made everyone stand up to take notice.

This season he continued that form, except from his points average took a dip along with his shots per game with Durant back in the starting five. However, he was a triple-double machine that even improved on last year’s averages in rebounds and assists, reaching double figures in the latter for the first time.

It really showed his evolution as a player and he excelled in the post-season as well, almost lifting OKC to the NBA Finals. A humbling fightback from the Golden State Warriors halted that run but that will just be another burn that will fire up Westbrook to go one stage further.

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Still the greatest Halloween costume, which just highlights his loyalty to his teammates. Source: CBS Sports

With the additions his team has made, it’s hard to see the Thunder as contenders but whenever you have someone of that quality, you always have a chance. Almost like a saiyan in Dragonball Z, Westbrook grows in strength with every heavy blow he’s faced and his desire to succeed will frighten many teams to death this upcoming season.

The NBA should be wary of a Westbrook scorned. Already at an elite level, this could be the extra motivation to push himself to be the best of what he can be and could elevate him to an MVP he feels he deserves.

Step in front of this runaway freight train if you dare.

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Kevin Durant makes the Golden State Warriors a sporting powerhouse

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs

Durant is in the top three best players in the league and he’s joining one of the other two, it’s that big. Source: slamonline.com

Two days ago, the internet shook as Kevin Durant revealed his destination for his NBA future.

He chose the Golden State Warriors.

In a move that makes the beaten NBA finalists look more like the Monstars from Space Jam, the whole NBA stood with their mouths open to the news. Why would Durant do this? How will they all get the shots they need? But more importantly, who can stop them?

The first question is pretty simple, KD is determined to win. Some will take a chop at him for joining another bunch of superstars, which he has every right to do and some will call it “weak sauce” that he joined a team that beat his Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.

That series was really the only chance that OKC could convince him to stick around long term and even then, with Russell Westbrook’s future up in the air with or without the small forward, it was a difficult sell. The Warriors can win now, have a good-to-great-to-MVP player in every starting position and adding him almost guarantees a ring somewhere down the line.

The second question is absurd, as they all know the real key in basketball is to get everyone involved. The benefit they have now is that they have at least four excellent players that can take over the game in a pinch should they find themselves on an off night.

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These three will be delighted to add a fourth big name to their roster. Source: nbabayarea.com

Steph Curry, the reigning two-time MVP, can rain threes as can his splash brother Klay Thompson. As seen in the playoffs, Draymond Green can get it going as well so to add a player that averages over 27.4 points in his career can only be a good thing, even if on some nights he doesn’t put up 25 shots.

The biggest question is that final one and it’s a tough one to answer as there isn’t a clear way to stop them. They have so much range with a smaller unit, able to shoot from absolutely anywhere and with a number of very good options that can all score heavily even when contested.

Someone would have to come up with a stellar defensive performance for four quarters that at least kills some of their three-point threat and then emulate the Cleveland Cavaliers and crush them in the paint where they struggle the most with the smaller line-up. Even saying that, it would have to be a superhuman effort to deny them when they are all locked in and even if one or two aren’t, they have at least another two to lean on.

Adding a player of Durant’s calibre to any team would be a shot in the arm. He was the top average scorer in the playoffs with 28.4 points per game, was third in scoring in the regular season and the 2014 MVP has really bounced back with a vengeance from his injury-ravaged 2014-15 campaign.

When you put him in the mix with a championship-chasing team that could feasibly win it without him, that creates a scary prospect. This is a team no one will look forward to facing next season and should they go on to win it all, this could be a dynasty that could dominate the basketball world for years to come.

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Damian Lillard comes out swinging after All-Star snub

This man is on a real tear.  Source: SB Nation

This man is on a real tear. Source: SB Nation

The message has been sent, loud and clear. Do not snub Portland Trail Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard, he will come back to haunt you.

The young point guard was passed over for the All-Star game in Toronto, admittedly amid a tough crowd of guards, but he has been exceptional. Averaging a career-high 25.1 points per game and 7.2 assists after being handed the face of the franchise since LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure is no mean feat.

In fact, comparing him to some other superstars shows you how well he’s doing. His three-point percentage (37.2%) is better than the likes of James Harden and DeMar DeRozan, while he also has more assists per game (7.2) than the best player in the NBA at this moment in time, Stephen Curry.

Lillard is solid from the free-throw line (86.2%), his turnover ratio is similar to other All-Star talent on similar minutes too. The main attribute he’s behind on is steals, his average of 1.1, is way below the likes of Curry, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul, who all average at least 2.

Not many put Curry on skates.  Source: YouTube

Not many put Curry on skates. Source: YouTube

However, Portland fans are starting to chant MVP since his snub and for good reason, the former Rookie of the Year has been on a tear.

In his last five games, Lillard has averaged 35.8 points per contest, which is already ridiculous. Combine that with the fact he’s shooting at a 49.5% clip and you have a real monster that’s slowly helping the Trail Blazers rise up in the Western Conference rankings.

What’s really impressive is that through this spell, he’s earning himself easy baskets. The 25-year-old is 23/32 on shots from within 10 feet of the basket, meaning that he’s picking his drives at the right time and making sure he’s finding an easier show when his team needs points on the board.

The real statement came against possibly the best opponent in the Golden State Warriors. Facing the best in the game, Lillard put up a career-high 51 points, shooting at 64.3% from the field , hitting 9/12 three-point shots while adding seven assists and six steal.

McCollum has helped make an incredibly exciting backcourt in Portland.  Source: USA Today

McCollum has helped make an incredibly exciting backcourt in Portland. Source: USA Today

What a barnstormer of a performance that is.

Admittedly, C.J McCollum’s rise has helped too, with the absolutely nailed-on Most Improved Player averaging 21.1 points per game. He notched 31 to Lillard’s 30 against  Utah Jazz and equalled his point guard’s 34 points against the Brooklyn Nets, highlighting how good these two young guards are.

In many eyes, only the Splash Brothers at the Warriors are better. While some could argue that DeRozan and Lowry should have something to say about it, there’s no doubt that Portland have a backcourt they can really excited about for the next eight to ten years.

And as for Lillard, it’s almost a certainty that if he keeps playing like this, he will not be ignored for long. Him and McCollum are both lifting the Blazers way above where most would think he would be and his on-the-court leadership, showing everyone how it’s done, has simply been exemplary.

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Do not sleep on the San Antonio Spurs

LaMarcus Aldridge is a great addition that will only help them improve more, which is scary.  Source: Bleacher Report

LaMarcus Aldridge is a great addition that will only help them improve more, which is scary. Source: Bleacher Report

With the entire NBA’s gaze focused on the magnificent unbeaten start by the Golden State Warriors, and rightly so, but when you look elsewhere in the league, the San Antonio Spurs are quietly playing great basketball yet again.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Gregg Popovic’s men have started in superb form with their 18-5 record, backed up mainly by their league-leading defence. Through 21 games, the Spurs have allowed an average of 88.7 points per game, 4.9 points better than the next-best team in the Miami Heat.

It’s an outstanding stat, weighed slightly by their 119-68 thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers, but that isn’t the only thing that jumps out at you. They have a plus-11.2 points differential in games, meaning they can put up plenty of offence too and their wins aren’t even close.

It does also help when you have one of the greatest coaches of all time in Pop.  Source: sportingnews.com

It does also help when you have one of the greatest coaches of all time in Pop. Source: sportingnews.com

They are second in rebounding differential, averaging 5.6 more boards than their opponents and are owning their defensive glass, with 36.6 rebounds per game which is only bettered by the Chicago Bulls.

The team are sixth in blocks but most impressively, they have allowed the least amount of three-points in the entire league. In fact, they have even faced the least amount of three-pointers full stop.

That’s a glaring stat, given the rise of the shooting teams that go for it from beyond the arc and the fact that they aren’t just defending it well but are actively deterring teams from even attempting it is a feat on it’s own that surely has helped teams score much fewer points against them.

They are third in assists, which isn’t too much of a surprise given the Spurs’ tendency to share the basketball, has always helped keep their offence fresh. This team, especially with others in the Western Conference struggling for consistency in the first quarter of the season, will be a real contender come April again.

Leonard is getting better and better and better.  Source: Rolling Stone

Leonard is getting better and better and better. Source: Rolling Stone

Their real standout, yet again, has been Kawhi Leonard and consider him an MVP candidate. He’s averaging 21 points a game, 4.5 more than his career-best last season and that’s mainly down to improving his length by adding a consistent three-pointer to his game.

He is .500 from beyond the arc so far, nailing 42 three’s in 21 games after scoring 67 all of last season. That’s a vast improvement for a player that’s already good at driving and a solid jumper, it just makes him such a threat on that end of the floor.

We already know how good of a defender he is, with quality blocking and steals numbers again, and there should no longer be any argument on how good he is. Leonard is likely the best two-way player in the league, he is certainly the second best player in the league at this moment in time and at 24, it’s scary to think that he could yet get better.

Combining that with free agent signing LaMarcus Aldridge finding his place with the team and they have one of the best starting fives in the league. That’s even without talking about the veteran leadership they have in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. That’s also not talking about some of the terrific contributors on the bench like Manu, Boris Diaw, David West or the returning Patty Mills.

With the quality and consistency they have in the bench, the Spurs are probably the most likely to stop the Warriors in the West. And for good reason, this is a very good basketball team.

They could just be Golden State’s kryptonite, it’s just a shame that we have to wait until next team before they even meet in the regular season.

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Iguodala reminding us that defence is king

These three helped them in the regular season, but Iguodala's defence helped them win it all.  Source: resetsanfrancisco.org

These three helped them in the regular season, but Iguodala’s defence helped them win it all.
Source: resetsanfrancisco.org

Defence wins championships. It’s a sentence that’s repeated in American Football regularly and it’s shown to be the case on almost every occasion. That also translates well to the NBA and despite the Golden State Warriors’ shoot-happy offence, it’s their defence that won them the Larry O’Brien trophy.

The Warriors offensive prowess is very hard to ignore and took centre stage throughout the entire regular season. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Splash Brothers as they are affectionately known, are deadly from three-point range and can top 40 points on any night if given the chance.

Curry wasn’t just voted as the league’s MVP simply because he’s dead-eye from beyond the arc, he has probably the best handle of the basketball in the NBA and create assists that boggle the mind even whilst watching replays. He’s a true superstar, adding Thompson and the vastly improved Draymond Green to that mix, the Warriors are a potent threat.

However, they stalled against a under-powered Cleveland Cavaliers who lost two of their best three players. Granted, they still possessed the best player in the world but they also missed another key contributor in Anderson Varejao.

Iggy sacrificed his starting role for the better of the team but that didn't stop him from being a key component.  Source: pac12.com

Iggy sacrificed his starting role for the better of the team but that didn’t stop him from being a key component. Source: pac12.com

Many saw the Finals as a cake-walk as soon as Kyrie Irving limped out of Game 1 but LeBron James went up another gear. Role players like Matthew Dellavadova and Timofey Mosgov gave everything and it surprised the Warrior, who lost Game 2 at home and then tumbled 2-1 behind. It was a riddle that Golden State were struggling to overcome.

Then, Steve Kerr made a bold move. Out came Andrew Bogut from the starting line-up, in slotted Andre Iguodala to stop the freight train that was becoming LeBron James. It would have old-school fans turning in their graves, a smaller line-up would have been scariligious to some but oddly enough, it absolutely worked.

It didn’t completely stop LeBron, he still racked up plenty of points but more often than not, Iguodala made him think for a moment longer than before. It cause Cavs coach David Blatt to try and find an answer, like removing Mosgov almost entirely from Game 5 and it failed.

LeBron was special but not enough and was very gracious in defeat.  Source: Sky Sports

LeBron was special but not enough and was very gracious in defeat. Source: Sky Sports

Not only that, Iggy brought a bit of offence to a team that was stagnating and breaking them out of that funk got them the win. Daring to change something, especially to have more of a focus on defence, was absolutely vital and it was even evident in last year’s Finals when Kawai Leonard won the Finals MVP by stopping LeBron and producing on the other end.

There’s certainly a case that had the Cavaliers been fully fit, this would have been a different series. They could have even combated the Warriors small line-up with a huge line-up of LeBron, Kevin Love, Tristain Thompson, Varejao and Mosgov, which would have been an insane match-up.

However, the realisation that defence is key is clear in the NBA once again and a lot of the credit should go to Coach Kerr. No matter how dangerous the Warriors are on offence, it’s their defence that pulled them through the mire and got them their championship.

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