Besides the playoff field being narrowed down to just four, we didn’t have a very active week in the world of NBA. Although, the Twittersphere had one of the best tweets in a very long time. When a Clippers fan threw a water bottle at referee Ed Malloy, it prompted Metta World Peace to tweet this gem:
I thought the ref was going to run in the stands. Whewww. Close call— mettaworldpeace.com (@MettaWorldPeace) May 16, 2014
Good luck beating that tweet, Internet. Anyway, here’s what’s happening in the NBA these days:
Heat even series on Tuesday
Let’s not bury the lede here and start off with today’s news of Paul George being diagnosed with a concussion. George suffered the blow to the head from Dwyane Wade with seven minutes left in the game, so there was absolutely no way he should have gone back into the game. He denied having symptoms and now it looks bad for the team because he admitted to blacking out and dealing with blurred vision. Although, the NBA said the Pacers did nothing wrong, which means this is all on George not fully disclosing what’s wrong with him.
Moving on, George will have to go through several steps to get back on the court. He’ll have to stay symptom free for each of these steps: riding a stationary bike, jogging, agility work and non-contact practice. Obviously the big step here will get his first clearance of being symptom free. If that happens later than Thursday, there’s almost no chance he’ll be back in time for Game 3. The Pacers would basically be toast without him and Lance Stephenson would have to step up in a big way. Not to mention the frontcourt production would have to be a huge part of their scheme. That might be even tougher without George hanging around the 3-point line.
To the surprise of nobody, the Pacers fell off from their Game 1 win, losing Tuesday’s Game 2 to the Heat. Game 1 was just a complete anomaly with their starting five each scoring at least 15 points, which was the first time they’ve ever done that in franchise history. Let’s take a look at their shot charts from the two games:
While they didn’t shoot the ball well around the rim in Game 1, those shots accounted for 35.3 percent of their total — well below the 29.1 percent from after the break. Indiana made just 13 shots at the rim in Game 2, but the glaring issue was in the mid-range. That’s been Paul George’s bread and butter all season, ranking third among small forwards in mid-range attempts all regular season. Also the 14 mid-range shots as a team in Game 1 is extremely low at just 20.6 percent of their shot total — that number was at 30.9 percent after the break in the regular season.
Basically, Indiana’s offense in Game 1 was nothing like we’ve seen in quite some time. Their 107 points were the most points they scored in a non-overtime game since Feb. 25 vs. the Lakers, so the smart money is on them unlikely to even flirt with 100 points again during this series.
Although, they’re not going to need 100 to get a win. Miami averaged 90.8 points per game in their six games vs. Indiana. The Heat should still be able to win this series and that seems almost like a lock should Paul George miss time beyond Game 3.
OKC looks to bounce back in Game 2
When you allow 66 points in the paint, you’re not going to win many games. That’s what the Thunder did in their 122-105 Game 1 loss on Monday. The Spurs made 33-of-49 in the paint, so it was more about volume than total domination. Clearly, coach Gregg Popovich was licking his chops to attack the paint despite how the Thunder were great in that area this season. OKC had the 10th-fewest points in the paint per game allowed at 38.8 during the regular season and allowed the second-lowest field goal percentage on shots in the paint at 46.2 percent. It’s pretty obvious why the Thunder were crushed in that department and his name is Serge Ibaka. He blocked 16 shots in OKC’s four games vs. the Spurs during the regular season while being a massive presence in the paint. The location of those blocks is even more amazing with all 16 coming from within five feet. Plus, a good portion of them came on the weak side while he stopped dribble penetration. On top of the blocks, Ibaka alternated a ton of shots, so the stats can’t even completely tell the story. The Thunder are in deep trouble here with the way Tony Parker can break down their defense and set up his teammates for easy shots at the rim.
On the other side of the ball, OKC wasn’t really that bad. They had a solid effective field goal percentage of 53.8 while posting an offensive efficiency rating of 108.1. As reference points, Miami led the NBA in effective field goal percentage at 55.4 while the Clippers ranked first in offensive efficiency at 109.4. They should be able to score the ball with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook handling the ball. They'll need to get more fast-break points and control the tempo, which should help them.
The other interesting part here is that coach Scott Brooks used 11 different lineups in Game 1 and all of them accounted for at least 1.4 minutes of action. Some of the best ones include:
Fisher, Reggie Jackson, Lamb, Caron Butler and Adams for 3.0 minutes.
Fisher, Russell Westbrook, Jackson, Butler and Kevin Durant for 7.1 minutes — their second most-used lineup.
Westbrook played 36 minutes in Game 1 and almost 35 minutes came on the court with Durant. It might not be a bad idea to shake things up and play KD and Westy in separate lineups. Ibaka is not coming back and the Thunder probably won't be able to match San Antonio's marvelous efficiency on offense. Plus, I'm not sure Brooks is going to be able to out-fox Popovich.
Steve Kerr ready to take over as GSW head coach
The Warriors officially announced this week that they signed Steve Kerr to a five-year, $25 million deal to be their new head coach. It’s the second time in a row the Warriors have named a head coach with no previous experience and they paid Kerr a boatload of money to do so. In fact, only Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich and newly-signed Stan Van Gundy make more money than Kerr per year as their team's head coach.
So what does this mean for the Warriors and how their offense will be constructed? Well, it shouldn’t be much. Their offense is going to live off Stephen Curry and the threat he poses on the outside. Curry actually attempted more 3-pointers than he did in his record-breaking 2012-13 season. His 615 attempts last season were the most attempts for a season in the history of the league, but his percentages from downtown dropped. Part of that eye-popping total was due to Curry shooting a ridiculous 5.2 pull-up triples per game, which led the NBA by a whopping 2.6 per — Brandon Jennings attempted 3.6. His ability to get his own shot this year made the Warriors a tougher team to defend. That shouldn’t change at all and Curry will have a chance to break his record for 3-pointers in a season.
The three ball is nothing new for Kerr and his teams. Obviously, he’s one of the best shooters in the history of the game, but he constructed some three-happy teams in his three years with the Suns from 2007-10 as a general manager. In that three-year span, his Suns ranked third, fourth and 13th in made 3-pointers per game. He didn’t have players like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson either. Of course, he did have Steve Nash, but the famous Mike D’Antoni system was only in place for one year.
In more recent news, Kerr did say he’s possibly going to use a stretch four, which turned out to be mostly talk with Mark Jackson. During last summer, Harrison Barnes was expected to play a lot of stretch four due to a spectacular postseason in 2013, but that didn’t happen after he had a massive sophomore slump. On top of Barnes getting another chance, that could mean Andre Iguodala may get some extra run at power forward, which opens up some minutes on the wing for guys like Jordan Crawford or Steve Blake. Of course, that’s still not enough reason to draft them in standard fantasy leagues.
If the Warriors do use a stretch four, that also suggests they’ll be pushing the tempo a bit more. The extra possessions could help everyone and there’s really nobody who loses value with the coaching change. Draymond Green still remains the wild card after his magnificent series vs. the Clippers. He filled the stat sheet so much that he’s worth a gamble late in drafts to see if he has a fan in Kerr.
Kevin Love trade rumors swirling
Not a year goes by when we don’t get the lovely privilege to talk about a big-name player possibly getting traded. As much as we all can’t stand the talk leading up to an eventual deal, it makes a lot of sense for the Wolves to deal Love. He admitted he’ll be looking to bolt when his contract expires after next season. The Wolves will want to deal him before the 2015 trade deadline so they’re able to get something back.
Looking at previous cases, the Jazz were able to unload Deron Williams in 2011 for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks. However, they just let Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk last season when the probably could have traded them back in February 2013. While Favors hasn’t flourished just yet and the Jazz did have to sign him to a four-year, $49 million extension last fall, he’s certainly better than nothing.
The fun part of all this will be the rumors of specific “offers” for Love. One that has come up is Love being dealt for Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler and draft picks. Yeah, OK. The Rockets are also in the mix and could offer guys like Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones and either Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik, which is a step up. Boston and the Lakers are in the mix, but not landing a top-five pick in the draft certainly hurt their chances.
The Wolves owner Glen Taylor said his team won’t be dealing Love before the NBA Draft and that seems more likely than not. As it stands right now, it would look like Houston has the best chance.
Cavs win the lottery… again
The NBA had its draft lottery last night and the results were a bit shocking. The Cavs won for the third time in the past four years and have four top picks since they grabbed LeBron back in 2003. Plus, they also have two No. 4 picks in that four-year span, but they're still one of the worst teams in the league. While there is always a ton of fanfare for the top pick, it hasn’t really translated to championships. In fact, only David Robinson and Tim Duncan were drafted number one and won a championship with the team that drafted them in the past 29 years.
The Cavs squandered their top pick last year and were rewarded with another chance in a much better draft class. Whoever they take will undoubtedly be better than Anthony Bennett after the medical issues continue to grow for the UNLV product.
Ed Isaacson put out his NBA Mock Draft today, so definitely check that out. Despite how I didn’t watch much NCAA while covering the NBA, I’d still want to get in on the fun and make a mini-mock. Here’s how I have the top 10 right now with a quick explanation:
1. Cavs - Andrew Wiggins: The high upside is just too good to pass up while he has arguably the highest floor, as well.
2. Bucks - Jabari Parker: The Bucks would have loved to land Wiggins since their offense was horrendous. At least this year’s offseason won’t be as bad as last year.
3. Sixers - Joel Embiid: The back problems are scary, but this would be an easy pick here.
4. Magic - Dante Exum: Victor Oladipo can’t play point guard and Jameer Nelson will likely be dealt this year.
5. Jazz - Noah Vonleh: He’s a freak and the Jazz could use some defense around the rim. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors do not work together.
6. Celtics - Aaron Gordon: An uptempo power forward sounds like it could be a nice fit for the Celtics.
7. Lakers - Julius Randle: The Lakers need a lot of help, but a big man to go with Kobe makes sense.
8. Kings - Doug McDermott: The Kings really need some perimeter help on offense and McD would be a nice complement to DMC.
9. Hornets - Marcus Smart: He’s the best available and he would be in a nice spot with the second unit right off the bat. Yes, I know he's probably too low, but the picks 5-8 need a forward.
10. Sixers - Gary Harris: The Sixers would definitely go with a wing here and this allows them to play Thaddeus Young at the three.