Picks 21-25 for Daily Shootout

This is my part of the Mock NBA Draft for The Daily Shootout. I was assigned with picks #21-25. To be honest, I think most of these 5 players will be drafted before #21, but no one took them in the first 20 picks.

Head over to http://www.dailyshootout.com to check out the full Mock 1st round!

Hope you enjoy. Let me know any thoughts…

 

#21 (Boston Celtics): Meyers Leonard

I doubt Leonard would slip this far, but if he did, he’d be a wonderful fit with the Celtics. They are a team in desperate need of a true Center (many teams are) with KG having to suffice playing out of position in the playoffs this past year. Although Garnett played quite well, there are speculations that he could be retiring. Regardless, Leonard could provide much needed size in the paint with the Celtics.

By no means will Leonard be a dominating force, but at 7’1″ he will provide a team with a solid presence down low and certainly a good protector of the lane on defense. He’s more athletic and coordinated than some give him credit for and shoots a decent percentage at the free throw line (73%). I can see him contributing right away as a Tiago Splitter type of player with slightly more finesse but less intangibles. A great plus, however, is that he’s just 20 years old. I see him contributing early and establishing himself as a very formidable Center throughout his career.

#22 (Boston Celtics): John Henson

Henson slipping into the 20s could be a long shot just like Leonard. But if he does make it this far, I can see the Celtics snagging him. Again, they need size. They also need a 2 guard with Ray Allen most likely leaving, but I’m not sure they would be able to pass on the raw talent that Henson possesses. His ridiculous wingspan and athleticism alone will be huge assets to whoever gets him. I don’t see him providing a ton of offensive help right away, but he clearly is a very capable defender and rebounder at the professional level. Hopefully he can add some muscle to his extremely lanky frame as well. No big man will look forward to having to face him and his shot blocking ability.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Celtics do with these back to back picks at 21 and 22. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them were traded. If they keep the picks, I would imagine one would be used on a big man and a one on a 2 guard unless these two prospects are still on the board. Look for the Celtics to be active, though. Danny Ainge knows he has to do something fairly drastic to remain a legitimate contender in the East.

#23 (Atlanta Hawks): Moe Harkless

The Hawks are a very solid team. They have decent depth at every position, but still don’t have anyone that can take the game over. With their pick at #23, they can’t expect to find a game changer. However, they can add another piece to the puzzle. Moe Harkless is a very talented 19 year old out of St. John’s University that stands 6’9″ with a great motor. He is still very raw so you can expect him to take a few years to develop. He’s a great rebounder and defender and can play the 2-4 positions. I see him a lot like Marvin Williams actually, but at just 19 years old, he has a lot of potential.

Atlanta is looking to move out of the “solid team” description to an elite contender in the East. This could be the year they do it. With Danny Ferry moving in as the new GM, big changes could be under way. Whether they keep this pick or not is still up in the air. Harkless can be a great role player, but he won’t lead them to the promise land quite yet. Whoever he lands to will certainly receive plenty of potential. Whether he taps into that potential is yet to be determined.

#24 (Cleveland Cavaliers): Royce White 

In my mind, Royce White is the biggest X-Factor in the entire draft. He clearly has the skill to be a lottery pick and his body is possibly the most NBA ready of anyone (Okay, Thomas Robinson too). So how come he could slip this far down? Well, Royce has had a difficult past in Minnesota and has had documented psychological issues. It seems like he was able to address these issues pretty dang well last year, though, at Iowa State as he led his team in virtually every statistical category. The questions still remain as well as the question of what position he’ll play. In Royce’s case, I think the position question is a very good thing. It shows how truly versatile he is. He can play anywhere from a 1-4. He clearly can’t be a true point guard, but he’s skilled enough to play “point forward.”

The Cavs still obviously need some help to get back into serious contention in the East. Kyrie is a wonderful building block and they have a few more pieces as well. Royce White would provide this team with a fantastic skill set and immediate NBA-ready help. As I say this, he still is a big risk; there’s no escaping it. But, with that great risk could potentially bring great reward. Keep an eye on Royce White wherever he goes. He’s got one of the most NBA-ready bodies of any 21 year olds you’ll see.

#25 (Memphis Grizzlies): Tony Wroten Jr.

I like to think of the Grizzlies as the Western Conference Atlanta Hawks. A very solid team, but not quite to the elite level. They have a lot of solid players: Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol. But, as we saw in the 1st round of the playoffs, they don’t have enough fire-power to advance. At #25, they are in the same predicament as the Hawks as well. It’s unlikely they draft an immediate game-changer but they can add a solid piece to their puzzle.

Anyways, Tony Wroten Jr. could be a great fit. He’s young, raw, athletic, and has the versatility to play either of the guard positions. I realize this is a bit (maybe more) of a stretch, but he reminds me of Tyreke Evans. He’s 6’6″, can play point guard, is explosive, but doesn’t have much of a consistent jumper. By no means do I think he’ll end up being a Rookie of the Year or have the impact of Evans, but I think he could definitely increase the depth in the backcourt in Memphis with his athleticism and versatility. The Grizz could be looking to shake things up so we’ll see what they do with this pick. I’ve heard grumblings of them trying to pair the Gasol brothers together by bringing Pau back to Memphis. We’ll see if this pick has something to do with that or any other type of trade.

Side note: I think it’s crazy that there haven’t been any legitimate international prospects up to this point. Typically there are a few in the lottery and many teams take risks in the 20s by snagging some foreign players. Not entirely sure what’s going on this year, but it seems like all the legitimate 1st round prospects went to college in the United States. We’ll see how it all plays out on Thursday!

 

 

Oh How The Tables Turn…

Lebron James Dunk on Boston Celtics in Game 6

I heard it all yesterday. What happens if the Heat lose Game 6 and the series to the Celtics? Who is to blame? Which one of the Big 3 needs to go? Will it be Eric Spoelstra’s last game? Will Kevin Durant be considered better than LeBron James because of it?

I mean how could the Heat come back after losing 3 straight to the Celtics by winning Game 6 at Boston? Everyone figured this was it for Miami (admittedly I was very skeptical as well). The Celtics have the more complete team. No one can handle KG in the post. The veteran savvyness is too much for the Heat. Miami doesn’t play like a team. The Big 3 just can’t be successful together. Blah, blah, blah.

Then LeBron made a statement. I could go on and on about the spectacular performance and the ridiculous degree of difficulty of what he did, but I think we all understand that. It’s the implications of this game that are hilarious.

Now all of the sudden the Celtics are too old again. Their old, tired legs finally caught up to themselves. They don’t have the firepower to stick with the younger, more athletic Heat. Their run is over. This is their last hurrah. There’s no way they win Game 7 in Miami. Blah, blah, blah.

Can anyone just admit that the playoffs are played on a game to game basis rather than based on momentum and that no one can accurately depict exactly what is going to happen? Who knew LeBron would go off for 45-15-5? Who knew the Celtics would go 1-14 on three pointers and miss all the same key shots that they were hitting in Game 5? Who knew Paul Pierce would shoot horrendously? No one.

So before we throw Spoelstra under the bus, disband the Big 3, or accuse LeBron of not being clutch enough to lead, let’s take a step back and watch the beauty of the game and the series unfold. That’s why it’s a best of 7 series instead of a best of 5.

Same thing goes for the Celtics now. Just because they lost Game 6 doesn’t mean it’s all over for them. There is nothing more they could have done to stop King James. They also just missed shots they’ve been hitting in the past 3 games. It happens. It doesn’t mean Spoelstra went from being a complete idiot to a genius from Game 5 to 6. The Heat (mostly LeBron) just hit shots and Boston didn’t.

Let’s stop over-analyzing each game and appreciate the series for what it represents as a whole. Sure mistakes are being made and there are specific things each team is doing well and poorly. But it’s really come down to who is going to get open looks and who is going to knock them down. It seems overly simple, but that’s what it is at the end of the day.

Miami fans are hoping LeBron carries his Game 6 performance into Game 7. Boston fans are hoping KG plays like he did in Games 3-5 and that Pierce rebounds from his awful Game 6. Which, if any or all, of these scenarios happen in Game 7 is a toss-up.

Let’s just enjoy the series and the extremely high-level of basketball while we can. There’s no need to break up the Big 3 of either team just yet. There’s no need to fire any coach or restructure either team.

There’s just a need to be happy that we’re so fortunate to see such contrasting teams fight it out in Miami on Saturday in a Game 7. I can’t wait.

celtics-vs-heat

Time For Tony Parker To Be Considered Elite

Tony Parker

I figured this would be a great time to bring up the fact that Tony Parker is one of the best point guards in the NBA. Why now you might ask? The Spurs just lost their first game in the playoffs after winning 20 straight overall and Parker struggled to get anything going at all in Game 3 against the Thunder.

Well, let’s remind ourselves how much of a rarity this is. Even in this “terrible” game for Parker he still managed 16 pts on 50% shooting. However, the Spurs were finally outplayed in the postseason and a big reason it took so long has been the steady play of Tony Parker throughout the entire season.

I’ve always loved Parker’s game throughout his career (I always wondered why he was rated so low in all of the 2K games!) and always thought he was right up there with the other elite point guards in the league. After this year and his total performance in the playoffs, it’s time for him to be considered as a top PG in the NBA.

His stats might not be as eye-popping as other top point guards, but it’s his ability to command the most efficient and complete team in the league that is most impressive. I truly believe he’s been the most underrated player in the NBA for the last couple years.

Thankfully MVP voters finally gave him some love as he finished 5th in the voting and was the 2nd PG behind CP3.

He might not dunk like Westbrook or Rose, be able to put up 57 points like D-Will, or be a constant triple-double threat like Rondo, but he did lead the best team in the West in scoring and assists. That is a pretty impressive stat in its own and he deserves more credit than is being given.

His overall stats aren’t typically the most gaudy because of the Spurs’ style of play. The emphasis is much more team-focused than a specific individual-focused style. He also doesn’t get the overall minutes that most starting PGs receive because of Coach Pop’s coaching style. The fact that Parker has been able to embrace this role his entire career should really solidify his greatness on the court.

You can list every elite point guard in the league and I can give you an argument of why Tony Parker is right at their level or even better. He is an extremely consistent point guard with 3 championships. How can that not be considered elite especially after his stellar play this season?

When you think of top point guards you must include Tony Parker with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rando, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Steve Nash. He has been an exceptional floor leader for the clearly most consistent franchise throughout the NBA in the past decade. Oh and let’s keep in mind he has more championships than all of the rest of those PGs combined!

I’m not saying he’s absolutely the best point guard out there, but it sure is debatable. One thing is definite: It’s time for Tony Parker to get the star-respect he deserves!

Tony Parker

All he does is win!

Where do the Lakers go from here?

Update: Funny how ignorant I was when I wrote this. I really thought that this was it for the Lakers. Now they’ve added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to Kobe and Pau. This has really inspired me to start studying the new CBA and salary cap management because I’m shocked that they were able to pull this off with the Luxury Tax implications. Still, it’s a pretty comical article to read now.

The Big 3 of L.A.

Everyone knows and talks about the “Big 3″ of Miami, but what about the “Big 3″ of the Lakers? Think about it: Kobe is a top 2 SG, Pau is a top 5 PF, and Bynum is a top 2 C in the league. Put that all together and you’d think you’d have a Championship contender, right? A lethal scorer surrounded by what could be the most skilled starting frontcourt in the league? Unfortunately for L.A. that’s not enough in the Wild West as they were taken care of quite easily by the OKC Thunder in 5 games.

Obviously, Pau and Bynum have not played like top 5 big men in playoffs the last couple years. So what now? One thing is for sure: change needs to happen.

Mitch Kupchak Lakers

****ing basketball reasons…

You can blame Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers front office for not making a move earlier or surrounding the team with better assets, but we all know “basketball reasons” spurned their first attempt. I’m not here to dwell on that because the Lakers need to adapt to the situation and try and fix this mess. The problem is that it’s not going to be easy at all. They’ve dug themselves into financial trouble and the value of their two big men plummeted after this year’s playoffs.

Kobe

This year proved that Kobe is still Kobe. He continues to play and score at a very high rate regardless of his age (33). He’s still got a couple more years for the Lakers to build around him, but they need to find teammates that he can trust.

Interesting stat: In the last 5 games the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs, Kobe has averaged 0.8 assists a game. That’s 4 assists in those 5 games combined! Yikes! Clearly he can’t do it all by himself. He needs to be able to trust his teammates in these situations. For a guy to have the ball as much as him and average that little of assists is absurd.

That being said, he’s still the cornerstone of the franchise and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But there’s no question he needs to be more of a facilitator. In order to do that, understandably, he needs teammates that are going to be more aggressive and effective.

Pau

Gasol has been criticized on and off for being soft his entire career. Well he sure put that debate to rest during this postseason. And I don’t mean that in a good way. He’s soft! Although he rebounded decently, he didn’t establish himself in the post at all and was physically outmatched by Serge Ibaka. It was frustrating to watch him be so unassertive.

No doubt Pau is very talented, but has he reached his peak? He is 31 years old and has been in the league for quite some time. I’d say it’s definitely time to part ways with the Lakers, but who wants that $19 million a year contract? Hopefully the Rockets still want him, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to give Kyle Lowry up for him (only player worth serious value to the Lakers). Otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Timberwolves tried teaming Rubio and Gasol up even though they already have Kevin Love.

The best move for the Lakers…brace yourself…might be to amnesty clause Pau. I know it’s radical, but clearly there needs to be a change. They probably won’t even consider this, but it would clear up cap space to build around Kobe and Bynum and would allow for more flexibility with all of their luxury tax issues. If they can’t find a reasonable suitor for a trade, then setting Pau and his massive contract free could be a decent option.

Bynum

During the regular season, I was seriously beginning to think that Bynum had overtaken Dwight Howard as the best center in the league. I was very impressed with his low-post moves and how he was able to utilize his exceptional size and touch around the basket. Although he is more skilled, I realize that his was a bit overzealous and that he’s not quite as enforcing as Dwight. But, I really though he’d taken the next step to helping the Lakers get back to prominence in the Western Conference.

Then, his attitude started kicking in. I understand that he’s just 24, but he’s been in the league for 7 years now! He’s not that 17 year old kid who was the youngest player ever drafted anymore. He needs to grow up. The Lakers need to find someone to mentor him and his ego. The guy is a tremendous talent and the best center in the West. If they can get his attitude and demeanor under control, he could become a dominant force in the NBA.

The playoffs was the same story. A very inconsistent effort culminated with an embarrassing 10 pt, 4 reb. performance in Game 5 capped off Bynum’s 2012 playoffs. His attitude problems looked to be on display again when things were going poorly. I don’t think it’s something to panic about because there is no better option in the West, but it’s something that the Lakers must address thoroughly in the off-season.

It’s definitely not time to let him go unless they can somehow swap him with Dwight Howard. After this postseason, however, that isn’t going to be anything the Magic are going to be looking at very seriously. For now, the Lakers need to continue to work with Bynum to get him to reach his full potential. At just 24 years old, there still is time. But it’s running out, especially with Kobe not getting any younger.

The Point Guards

I definitely felt like picking up Ramon Sessions was a very solid move by the Lakers and thought he’d be a perfect fit with the team. But he’s never been a consistent starting point guard in the NBA and it showed once he joined the Lakers. He’s solid and provides good scoring on occasion, but he really isn’t that much of an upgrade from Derek Fisher. If anything, I figured Steve Blake would be the one to go instead of the Lakers leader in Fisher.

Clearly Sessions wasn’t the answer as Russell Westbrook continued to expose the lack of a solid point guard on the Lakers. Once again, I’m sure Kupchak and the rest of the front office are shaking their heads and cursing “basketball reasons” knowing that Chris Paul could be on their team.

As of now, the Lakers are going to have to continue to roll with Sessions at the point unless he decides to opt out and become a free agent. He’s a decent temporary fix, but he’s far from the elite point guard CP3 would have been for the Lakers or a PG that can lead them over the Thunder or Spurs in the West.

Metta/Bench

Metta World Peace is a very good defender and can be a surprisingly streaky shooter at times, but he’s really not a very efficient player overall. I don’t think I need to get into his emotional problems, too.

After that, the Lakers have arguably a worse bench than the Miami Heat (believe it or not). A total of 5 points from the bench in the elimination Game 5 against the Thunder is simply not going to cut it. There is just no depth whatsoever on this team. The Lakers have to find more productive and formidable role players that can contribute off the bench.

No Draft Picks

Just a quick reminder that the Lakers also don’t have a 1st round draft pick this year or next. This is just adding insult to injury with the financial problems they have along with lack of depth. Draft picks are a great way to either pick up solid young talent or leverage in a trade. Unfortunately neither is an option for the Lakers at this point.

Grim Future?

Well now what? As this season has drawn to a close, what is there to look forward to for the Lakers? Somehow they need to dig themselves out of the giant luxury tax hole they’ve already dug (yeah that doesn’t make a lot of sense). Free agency is out of the question until they can figure out their financial situation.

  • They need to trade Pau Gasol. If they can’t find a trade partner, then amnesty him.
  • Continue to develop Bynum, emotionally more than anything.
  • Ask Kobe if he’ll take less money to open up flexibility ;)
  • Somehow develop some depth/better define roles
  • Pray

It’s not looking good for the Lakers is what I’ve concluded because of none other than…sigh…damn basketball reasons…

Kobe Bryant Lakers

Let me know what you think the Lakers should do!

It Should Have Been LeBron’s 5th MVP

LeBron James MVP

Well-Deserved

Congratulations to LeBron James on his 3rd MVP in 4 years. Why it’s not his 5th straight MVP is still ridiculous to me (yes he should have won it in 07-08 over Kobe as well as last year). I don’t care who he plays for or what kind of shenanigans he pulls in the off-season, no one plays a more efficient game than him. And really, no one is even all that close. He has been the best regular season player year in and year out for the past 5 years. Yes, let’s put the emphasis on “regular season”, but isn’t that the basis for the MVP vote anyways?

Why not last year?

I think it will forever haunt me that the voters in 2011 honestly thought that Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard were more valuable than LeBron. Or did they? I think we all know that regardless of how he played or what kind of numbers he put up, he “eliminated” himself from contention because he decided to take his talents to South Beach. Whatever the circumstance, whoever voted for Derrick Rose or Dwight Howard over LeBron should be ashamed of themselves. He still led his 2nd place in the Eastern Conference Miami Heat in virtually every statistical category. How does that eliminate him from anything?

D-Rose: 25.0 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.1 RPG, 44.5% FG, 23.34 PER

LeBron: 26.7 PPG, 7.0 APG, 7.5 RPG, 51.0% FG, 27.34 PER

Wait, D-Rose won over LeBron in 2010-2011? What? Believe it or not, he was a full 4 points better than D-Rose in Player Efficiency Rating. Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

2007-2008? That’s a Long Time Ago.

Even though it seems like ages ago, take a look at the stats from 2007-2008 and try to tell me LeBron shouldn’t have won over Kobe:

Kobe: 28.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.4 APG, 45.9% FG 1.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG 24.09 PER

Lebron: 30.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.2 APG, 48.4% FG, 1.8 SPG 1.1 BPG 29.15 PER

Yup, better than Kobe in every statistical category in 07-08. The most glaring though is the Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Over 5 points more than Kobe?! Wow. Maybe it was five years ago, but I want a recount.

Stats Always Back Him Up

Since the 07-08 season (5 seasons in a row), LeBron has been the most efficient player every year according to John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER). I realize that this shouldn’t necessarily be the only metric to consider when looking at the MVP, but it’s basically backing up the fact that he’s putting up ridiculous numbers while be extremely efficient at the same time. Sounds like MVP type of material to me…

If you take a look at almost every advanced metric it will back up LeBron’s case. He consistently leads the league in plus-minus and estimated wins added. I just find it funny that voters decided to overlook these measures in 07-08 and, of course, last year.

How Many Can He Win?

I honestly don’t see why LeBron can’t win 6+ MVPs in his career. He is just 27 years old with 3 MVPs already. He is clearly the most dominant player in the NBA right now and has at least 5 more years in his prime. If he continues to play at this level for those next five years, he will certainly reach Kareem’s record of 6 and even look to surpass beyond that.

It’ll be fun to see him and Kevin Durant battle for MVP in the coming years. Durant is a lethal scorer, but isn’t quite the complete player or facilitator that LeBron is. We’ll see how he continues to develop. Other than KD35, I don’t see any other clear threats for MVP in the coming seasons. Watch out for Kevin Love, though. Derrick Rose and Chris Paul certainly have a chance as well. But no one is on LeBron’s level right now. I don’t see how that’s changing any time soon.

It Should be a No-Brainer

Going on national television to announce your free agency decision shouldn’t eliminate anyone from the MVP consideration. Being hated nationwide for teaming up with two other All-Stars definitely shouldn’t impact the MVP race. Call me or any LeBron lover biased, but at least we have numbers to point to. How can you argue against that?

Feel free to try and tell me why I’m wrong!

When the Stars Align in Crunch Time

Chris Paul Clippers

Whether it’s through facilitating, scoring, disappearing, or forcing, it’s always up to the stars when crunch time rolls around in the NBA Playoffs. We put so much emphasis on who takes that last shot, who is the most clutch, who is going to carry his team tonight down the stretch. I understand the ball should be in your best players hands, but is it really necessary they take the last shot every time? In the last few Game 4′s, I found it interesting how different each team and star handled the situation. Let’s dive into that.

Miami vs. New York, Game 4:

Hell of an ending. Was there a question who was going to take over at the end for the Knicks? Hello Carmelo. Also, gotta appreciate Bibby’s 3 with a minute and a half left even though it was eventually negated by LeBron’s own 3 at the other end.

Then, it was the Melo show (not that it wasn’t the entire game already). He hits a cold-blooded three right in the grill of Shane Battier with 54.5 seconds left to go up 87-84. Why Battier is guarding him while LeBron is on Mike Bibby is still beyond me.

Then Melo tries for another one after an empty possession by the Heat and gets “fouled” by Battier and goes to the line shooting three. And misses the first. And the second. Thankfully gets the third to go up 88-84. It also baffles me how many missed free throws there always seems to be at the end of games. I guess pros still get nervous, too.

Then LeBron makes a video game move and finish while absorbing the contact from Chandler for an And-1. Game is now 88-87 Knicks. Heat end up fouling Amare who also manages to miss a free throw. 89-87 Knicks. Heat ball. 13 seconds to go.

Now, LeBron just made a 3 not two minutes ago and just took the ball coast to coast for an And-1 just ten seconds ago in the game. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Give him the ball. Not only that, but he’s the leading scorer on the team as well as the leading facilitator! Yes he’s had trouble in the past finishing games, but are you kidding?! It’s a new season, and did you see what just happened?

Sure enough, they give the ball to D-Wade who manages to boot the ball around and misses an extremely tough 3 pointer to lose the game. D-Wade is certainly not a bad option, but c’mon man! LeBron is the MVP!

Between Battier guarding Melo instead of LeBron and Wade taking the last shot while LeBron was just standing in the corner, the Heat should have lost that game.

Even though Melo missed two free throws, the Knicks went to their go-to guy. The Heat decided to stick their star in the corner and watch the final possession. Get out of here, Spoelstra. Unbelievable. Advantage New York Knicks and the series continues…

LeBron James Heat

Give him the ball!

Lakers-Nuggets, Game 4

A slightly different approach here. Denver really doesn’t have a star or a go-to player. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but when it gets down to crunch time there seems to be a bit of hesitance throughout teams without a go-to guy. Gallinari did a great job hitting the open shot with just over a minute to go, however.

Mainly I want to focus on Kobe and the Lakers. Tie game and less than a minute to go. Kobe has to take the shot, right? No! And he didn’t! Granted Gallinari was laying on the ground, but it was a great read by Kobe to find Gasol at the free throw line. Gasol then finds a wide open Sessions for 3. Got it. Lakers up 89-86.

Denver is unable to score and it’s Kobe with the ball again with 20 seconds left. He has to shoot it this time, though right? No! A great job penetrating and kicking to a wide open Steve Blake. Bang. 92-86 Lakers. Game over, just like that.

I love the unselfishness of Kobe. I know, did I really just say that? In crunch time, it was certainly time for him to take over. That doesn’t always mean he needs to take every shot no matter how tough it is. He was able to find the open guy in each situation and help develop a couple of very quality 3 pointers for his teammates. Nothing wrong with that. Having the trust in your teammates to make plays down the stretch when you put them in those situations is huge.

Clippers-Grizzlies, Game 4

Give Rudy Gay credit. He was not having a great game at all, but with the game on the line he showed no hesitation and was able to will the Grizzlies into overtime. I wasn’t very impressed with his shots heading into the 4th, but he picked it up just in time to give his team a chance to win.

Then, Chris Paul happened. Give Blake Griffin credit for being very efficient throughout the game (he can always make more free throws, though), but after he fouled out there was no doubt who was going to entirely run the show.

On a night which the Clipps were struggling to find productivity from the bench or really anyone not named Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, Paul took the game into his own hands in overtime.

Granted, he did make a terrible play out of the last possession in regulation. He waited way too long to attack, was collapsed on, and had nowhere to pass. But, you want the ball in your best player’s hands though, right?

He sure made up for it in overtime. Instead of setting up his teammates for buckets, Paul was able to read the situation and create quality shots for himself. There was no way he was letting Rudy Gay and the Grizzlies out-play and out-score him in overtime.

I loved the flair he played with in crunch time, and the poise he showcased while creating his own offense.

Originally I picked Memphis because I thought they had a deeper team and better cohesiveness. I really didn’t factor in the star power and the crunch time abilities of Chris Paul. That’s what won them the game last night. You have to appreciate that man’s game, and his understanding of when it’s his time to score even though he’s a point guard.

It’s interesting when you look at the stars and how they all approached Game 4 crunch time:

  • Melo just stuck to his bread and butter as a pure scorer in crunch time to lead the Knicks over the crunch time handicapped Heat.
  • LeBron seemed content to defer to D-Wade even though Bron was clearly on a roll.
  • Kobe showed his facilitative power and allowed a pair of point guards a chance to knock down crucial wide open 3 pointers in the final minute for the win.
  • And Chris Paul decided to screw being a pass first point guard and created his own shots down the stretch to overcome the Grizzlies in overtime.

Interesting how there wasn’t one effective way to deal with crunch time situations in these three Game 4′s. It’s about reading the situation and understanding how the defense is playing you. The best player doesn’t have to always take those important shots, or the last second shots. It’s their job to create them, however, regardless if it’s for them or a teammate. You just have to make sure the ball is in the right hands…

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Rose-less, Noah-less Bulls Don’t Deserve to Advance

Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose Hurt

After Derrick Rose went down with an ACL tear in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, it was pretty widely accepted that the Bulls lost their chance at an NBA Championship. There was no way they’d be able to overcome his injury and remain a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference, let alone the Championship.

However, Chicago played much of the regular season without D-Rose and were quite successful going 18-9 in his absence. Obviously, he is the reigning MVP and the catalyst for the Bulls. But, heading into the playoffs, it seemed that Chicago was at least disciplined enough and understood how to win without Rose if he wouldn’t be available.

Apparently the playoffs are an entirely different situation. After today’s game, they are now 0-3 without Rose in the playoffs and the Philadelphia 76ers lead them 3-1 in the first round series.

I don’t think anyone expected the Bulls to be actual contenders in the playoffs after Rose’s injury, but I was pretty sure they’d at least take down the offensively-challenged 76ers regardless. Guess I was wrong.

After a disgraceful 3rd quarter in Game 2, I figured the Bulls would be able to bounce back. Game 3 then showed how offensively-challenged the Bulls were without Rose. And today’s game featured ineptitude of role players trying to fill both Rose and Noah’s absence. Just like that, the Bulls are on the brink of elimination in the 1st round.

There has been no identity to this Bulls team since Rose went down in Game 1. Game 2 was especially eye-opening. Regardless of Rose playing or not, Chicago is known for their defensive intensity and out-working opponents on a nightly basis.

Then came the dreadful 3rd quarter where the 76ers outscored the Bulls 36-14. That has to be the most points the Bulls have allowed all year in a single quarter. The lack of energy, emotion, and enthusiasm was very apparent when watching the Bulls “defend” in the 2nd half. It was very uncharacteristic of that team, but it was a wake-up call that they just might not believe in themselves without their star player in the playoffs.

Quite honestly, I figured Thibodeau would be able galvanize the team in adversity and the Bulls would regain their identity as they headed to Philly for Game 3 with the series tied.

Although their defense was improved, they looked very handicapped offensively, especially down the stretch in Game 3. The Bulls were not able to find a go-to scorer or play-maker in the 4th quarter as the only managed 14 points.

Maybe more importantly, though, was their defense in crunch time in Game 3. While being very effective in the first three quarters, the Bulls gave up 28 points in the 4th. Just by watching, it was very evident the Bulls were not playing with any sense of urgency or much confidence at all down the stretch. This led to a 79-74 defeat to go down 2-1.

Give the 76ers credit, but it’s pretty well-known they are not an offensively powered team. Without Rose, the Bulls are sure making them look like it.

Today’s game was just more of the same. The Bulls were unable to get into any sort of rhythm without Rose or Noah. Philly was able to use their balanced attack and fed off the crowd to take complete control over this series.

No doubt the Bulls missed Joakim Noah today as Omer Asik provided no productivity, and the Bulls allowed Spencer Hawes to have a very efficient game.

Injury is very unfortunate and can certainly explain lack of production in many situations. It’s part of the the game, though, and it shouldn’t allow a team to entirely lose their identity.

The Bulls have been known as a defensive force all year, with or without Rose. If they want to continue in the playoffs, they need to pick up their energy and enthusiasm and establish a balanced attack on the offensive end.

I’m a little disappointed Coach Thibodeau hasn’t dealt with this situation better. I have a ton of respect for him, but I don’t think he’s done a very good job keeping his team confident and tactically coming up with ways to be successful without Rose.

Once again, give Doug Collins and his 76ers credit, but the Bulls simply don’t deserve to advance. Not because their lack of talent without Rose, but because of their lack of enthusiasm, confidence, and adaptability to the situation.

Prediction: The Bulls won’t let the 76ers take 4 games in row and eliminate them at home. Bulls will win Game 5, but will lose Game 6 back in Philly. The 76ers have willed their way to win the last three games and will use their superior energy and sense of urgency to win Game 6 and this series.

Thanks for reading!