After a long season, we’re down to the NBA Finals and we’re left with chalk. The Spurs had an extremely tough road after handling the Mavericks, Blazers and Thunder, while Miami went 12-3 on their postseason run. Yes, the Eastern Conference had one of the worst showings, so Miami will have its hands full in what is by far their toughest challenge yet.
Both teams are going to enter the series with a relatively healthy roster. Tony Parker’s sore left ankle won’t keep him from playing in Game 1 and Chris Andersen’s thigh injury shouldn’t affect him much. Besides that, everyone should be close to 100 percent after getting at least four days off.
The key things to watch will be how both teams keep the opposition out of the paint, the battle for 3-point shooting, and keeping turnovers down. Yes, I know that’s cliché. Although, the Spurs and Heat were the top two in the following categories among the 16 playoff teams: field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and field goal percentage in the paint. They are both also in the top four for points off turnovers per game and turnover differentials.
I think we’re in for a wild ride and I have the Spurs in 7. Also make sure you check out Doctor A's Finals Preview for his thoughts.
Here are some other non-playoff notes from this week. Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for other NBA and fantasy info.
All-NBA Teams named
The NBA announced its All-NBA teams on Wednesday. Here they are listed with points from voting (first-team votes):
Of course, there are some omissions that will get attention, but the media did a solid job. Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis come to mind here as the three most deserving guys, but who would they replace?
Of the 15 players on the three teams, Goran Dragic was the only one who didn’t make the All-Star Team. Dragic definitely deserves his spot on the third team. He ranked second among all qualifying guards in field goal percentage and 15th in the NBA for total assists. The Dragon carried the Suns all season and they fell just short of making the playoffs despite being projected as one of the worst teams in the league. Considering Westbrook played in just 46 games during the season, Dragic and fellow guard Damian Lillard deserve their spots.
The same can be said for Melo. While he ranked second in the NBA in points per game, the All-Star really didn’t do much else. He shot just 45.2 percent from the field while leading the NBA in field goal attempts per game. The Knicks didn’t even make the playoffs in the lowly Eastern Conference with their 37-45 record, so it's hard to reward that result.
On the other hand, Anthony Davis should be on one of these teams. He led the NBA in blocks per game, ranked fourth in the NBA for player efficiency rating and 14th in scoring. Davis also got hot as the year went along, posting 24.4 points per game in March. The Pelicans went 10-3 in the last 13 March games while Davis was on the court with big wins over the Heat, Nets, Clippers and Hawks over that span. I think Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge were fantastic this year, but Davis should have made the team over either of them.
Action for Jackson
Reggie Jackson really stepped up in the postseason and he said in his exit interview that he would like to take over as the starter. There’s little doubt that Thabo Sefolosha, who started in all 61 games in which he played, is on his way out of OKC. Sefolosha became nearly obsolete in the postseason and played just 34 minutes in the six-game series vs. San Antonio due to his inept offensive output.
Jackson took over as the starter in the last four games of the series and he was very effective in his time out there. Excluding the one games in which he sprained his ankle, RJ averaged 15.7 points, 3.3 assists and 1.3 treys on 48.7 percent from the field in 38.7 minutes per game.
During the regular season, Jackson doubled his playing time from 14.2 minutes per game in 2012-13 to 28.5 last season. While he did play more as a starter with Russell Westbrook down, he still played 26.2 minutes per game off the bench in 44 outings during the regular season.
Jackson did most of his damage on the stat sheet while carrying the second unit. In fact, he had just a 11.8 usage rate in the regular season while Kevin Durant and Westbrook were on the court with him. Conversely, he had a ridiculous 33.3 usage while KD and Westy were on the bench -- a number that would have matched Westbrook's league-leading 33.3.
Durant and Westbrook are going to be putting up huge usage rates again after ranking as the top two in the league, so Jackson’s ceiling isn’t going to be too high. That said, his style translates very well to fantasy leagues and the team may ask him to work on his 3-point shot to help their spacing. He’s shaping up to a late-middle round pick.
All-Defense Teams named
Every time the NBA has a vote, there are always some voters who make some horrific selections. That was definitely the case when James Harden, David Lee and Danny Granger received votes for the All-Defensive Team.
Obviously, Harden receiving two votes was an egregious offense. There may not be a worse perimeter defender in the NBA. There’s no reason to even go into this in stats since he was making a lazy play seemingly every night.
If a picture says a thousand words, then this 11:31 video of Harden’s poor defense from last season is a series of novels. Check it out:
More like James Haren, amirite?
If you love something, let it go show it a good time in Boston
Had enough of the Summer of Love yet? Well, last weekend was one of the lowlights of the episode as Love spent the weekend in Boston. He met some New England Patriots, had some beer while watching the Red Sox at Fenway Park, enjoyed the restaurants and nightlife, and also met with Rajon Rondo. The point guard said he met with Love for “39 seconds” which is a classic Rondo answer. He put his ACL recovery time in terms of seconds, which adds a little extra appreciation to the eccentric point guard.
Shifting back to Love, a report on Wednesday from Yahoo! said the Wolves are looking to deal Love after they get their new coach hired. Additionally, the All-NBA second-team player “wants out” of Minnesota.
Obviously, there are a number of teams looking to get Love. Teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Rockets, Kings, Warriors, Knicks, Cavs and probably a dozen other teams are in the mix. Since none of the serious contenders moved up in the lottery, I think the Rockets may be considered as the favorites. They could pull a sign-and-trade with Chandler Parsons and have a lot of assets. Sacramento also has a leg up since they don't care if he signs an extension.
More of Anthony Davis to love?
We usually don’t get the “put on 15 pounds of muscle” story until September, but one of the league’s most improved players is already getting that treatment. Anthony Davis is already up 17 pounds from his listed weight to start last season, showing up to offseason training at 237 pounds.
Davis picked up a lot of credit as a defender with his league-leading 2.8 blocks per game. What’s more, he only allowed 3.2 opponent field goal makes at the rim last year. By comparison, Serge Ibaka allowed 4.2, DeAndre Jordan allowed 5.1 and Roy Hibbert allowed 4.1. In fact, Davis’ 3.2 was the lowest among players with more than 26 minutes per game while blocking at least 1.5 shots per game. Looking at the Synergy stats, Davis did rank 100th in field goal percentage allowed in post-ups, but he was better than average everywhere else.
He obviously broke out last year and adding some extra muscle could help him on the post-ups on the offensive end. The big man was dominant around the rim, but it was mostly due to his ability to use his feet.
Additionally, he is expected to add some corner 3s to his arsenal. This was a move made popular by Serge Ibaka a couple years back and it paid off. Two seasons ago, Ibaka shot 35.1 percent from deep and he actually increased it to 38.3 percent last season. While Ibaka did shoot a pristine 54.4 percent from the field last year, his 38.3 percent from 3 equates to 57.5 effective field goal percentage — because treys are worth 150 percent as much as twos.
It’s certainly not a stretch to think Davis can hit treys at a similar efficiency as Ibaka. In fact, he shot 56.3 percent on shots greater than 20 feet last season. Although, he only attempted 16 of those on the entire season, so it's not a strong indicator due to small sample size.
Wrapping this all up, Davis building some muscle could also help his durability, which is really the chief concern of anyone looking to draft him. The extra potential output in triples also gives him a bigger upside. He has the potential to unseat Kevin Durant for fantasy’s best player and it’ll cost you a top-five pick to get him in the fall. Personally, I have him ranked fourth as of right now.
Draymond Green light?
Coach Steve Kerr said Draymond Green is “an interesting player” to be a starer at power forward, but he is probably best suited as a super reserve. As much as the pro-Green group wants him to start, he will still have some nice value off the bench.
The Warriors have a tougher time staying healthy than almost any other team. In fact, their most commonly used lineup was on the court for just 44 games last season. Andrew Bogut enters the offseason with his cracked rib and had a laundry list of injuries and Andre Iguodala is dealing with tendinitis in his knees, which has been an issue for him in previous seasons. Plus, David Lee has a few injuries on his medical chart.
Green’s versatility should be able to get him in the lineup in almost any of the front three spots. His postseason averages of 11.9 points, 8.3 boards, 5.0 boards, 2.9 assists, 1.7steals, 1.7 steals and 1.1 triples are enough to make him a late target. If someone goes down to injury, Green could easily be a top-60 guy.
The Hornets are still working on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot. Assistant coach Mark Price is spending his second straight season on working out the massive kinks in MKG's release. It’s a pointless battle for the team and he might as well just focus on being able to beat guys off the dribble. There’s almost no reason to even talk about this since he isn’t worth drafting in almost any fantasy format.
Vegas, Baby! Vegas!
Lastly, I just wanted to endorse Las Vegas Summer League from July 11-21. I went there for the first time last year and it was one of my favorite experiences. It’s held at UNLV and it’s just a four-minute drive from the strip. The games are played at COX Pavilion and Thomas and Mack Center, which are connected by a hallway — roughly a two-minute walk. It’s pretty cool to jump to different courts to watch the players you want to see.
The game action itself is pretty entertaining. There isn’t much defense and it’s mostly isolation plays, so there were a lot of guards last year who really showed off their skills to beat opponents off the dribble. Some guys that comes to mind are Kent Bazemore, C.J. McCollum, Reggie Bullock, Jordan Hamilton and Will Barton.
There were also a few players who made a name for themselves at the event. Draymond Green, Markieff Morris, Mike Scott, Terrence Ross, Ray McCallum, P.J. Tucker, John Henson, Tim Hardaway and Nate Wolters all looked pretty good out there. Meanwhile, guys like Ben McLemore and Shabazz Muhammad had their struggles carry over into the regular season.
It’s also a great atmosphere. There are a lot of players showing up to summer league just to take part in some practices and building rapport with their new teammates. For example, Anthony Davis was just hanging out in the crowd — wearing some really sweet Foamposites — and Tim Hardaway Jr. and his dad were sitting in the front row just watching games. Plus, just about every general manager and head coach shows up.
If you can set up a long weekend, it’s totally worth it. I’ll be there from July 11-18, so hit me up on Twitter if you’re gonna head out there. You’ll probably catch me at the poker tables at night, too.
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