Posts tagged national basketball association
What's the matter with Andre Iguodala?
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images North America

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images North America

It might just stem from that historic play from game seven of the 2016 Finals and the shockwaves that LeBron's block sent around the world, but Andre Iguodala hasn't seemed to have shaken it off. Since that play the number of layups that Andre passes up is cringe worthy, and may become detrimental come playoff time.

Don’t get it wrong, Andre still is an elite passer. He has eyes in the back of his head, as he showed in the game against the Clippers, getting Zaza Pachulia on a fast break dunk (that he made!). He shows the same high IQ on defense too, using his memory bank to remember how to defend a variety of different players, having been tasked to guard Curry, KD, and LeBron throughout his playoff career.

Part of what has taken Andre out of an offensive rhythm has been his role on the team. The past three seasons, all of which he’s come off the bench, have been his lowest scoring years yet. In fact, this year he’s hit career low numbers in points per game (5.6), field goal percentage (42.7%) and three point shooting (23.1%).

It’s hard to tell which of those stats is responsible for the others though. Does the number of points Iguodala is expected to score affect his ability to catch a shooting flow, or does his lack of shooting flow keep him from scoring efficiently? That’s something we’ll probably never know as ambiguous as Iguodala can be, just look at some of his thoughts on his slump from Wednesday's practice before facing the Clippers.

It may just be that his free throw numbers are at a below average 63.1%, and defenders are often looking to foul him at the rim. An Iguodala dunk often feels as special as a Curry 25-footer, and the fans have expected that aggressiveness since he signed with the team in 2014. Ironically, Andre often gets so open on dunks because defenders expect him to pass the rock. Patrick McCaw, on the other hand, has come out the last few games with explosive and aggressive takes to the rim that he’s started not to overthink.

Where all of these offensive woes could end up hurting the team is come playoff time. While the pace rarely slows down when the Dubs play, opponents will play harder on defense, and smarter as they come more accustomed to playing the Warriors. One of the ways teams could end up guarding Golden State is to double off of shooters, and when Iguodala and Draymond are on the floor together, teams will have two players to help off of from the perimeter. What the Warriors' hope (and belief) is, is that Andre will lock in towards the end of the year. It seems to be a yearly tradition at this point, as he’ll put up 15 and 8 in a few of the last games of the season.

Though even I would say Iguodala regressing to unplayable in big minutes is unlikely, his contract could come into play when the team determines their future. After days of negotiation, and a free agent meeting with the Kings, Andre was able to secure the bag with a 3 year, $48 million deal. With prospects like McCaw and Bell coming up the pike with short deals (being second round picks) the Warriors may want to explore their options with Iguodala’s contract.

While I doubt that Andre will be moved come the trade deadline, things may get interesting in the summer. But come April and June, it should become a lot more clear whether Andre can still contribute when it counts the most for this team, and it may just determine his fate.

Confessions of a Steph Curry hater
(Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

(Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

Hi, my name is Robert Christie. And I hate Steph Curry.

No not the man of God, family man and all-around nice guy Steph appears to be. The cocky, shimmying, pull up from 50, cold-blooded assassin Steph. That. guy. I hate that guy.

For a while that hate made me minimize Steph’s accomplishments, characterizing him as “just a shooter” and not acknowledging the many things he does well on the court.

But then Steph went on a tear since coming back from his injury Dec. 30 (he’s averaging 35 points per game on 57% shooting and 53% shooting from three in the last five games), then Pavy gave possibly the worst basketball take of the year and we’re only in January - it was time for things to change.

It’s unfortunately time for me to confess - Wardell “Stephen” Curry is already one of the greatest players of all time.

So why did it take me so long?

Good question. I mean Steph has been averaging at least 20 points per game since 2012, was the first-ever unanimous MVP, missing just three games that season when the Warriors won a record 73 games.

The thing is, hating Steph became very easy during the past few years.

Warriors fans have never been honest about Steph. During his MVP season there were so many stories about the humble kid from Davidson who was beating the odds and playing the right way. Those same fans seemed to ignore the fact Steph was the first player in NBA history to shimmy after every five possessions and the first player in league history to run back on defense BEFORE HIS THREE POINTER WENT THROUGH THE FREAKIN’ NET!!!!

Do you guys remember when people said that Steph had become the best player in the league? That was funny. There were people who legimitately thought during the 2015-2016 season that Steph was better than LeBron.

Yes, Steph had the greatest offensive season in NBA history, but people seemed to forget LeBron doesn’t try during the regular season, and he’s in the conversation for greatest offensive and defensive player of all time.

Then there’s the fact Steph plays for the Warriors, something Steph lovers also seem to forget.

The Warriors are the sexier version of the San Antonio Spurs and New England Patriots. Each of these teams has a system designed to maximize the potential in every player.

Steph Curry was an all-star before Steve Kerr took over in Golden State. Mark Jackson apparently had no idea how to utilize Steph, playing him too many minutes and often times causing the future MVP to tire out at the end of games.

When Kerr arrived and instilled an offense that included various types of basket cuts, more ball movement and an encouragement for more three point shots, life became easier for Steph. The Warriors won a championship in 2015 and Steph averaged 30 ppg on 50 percent shooting the next season.

Steph is commonly compared to guys like Harden and LeBron, two dudes who are constantly in MVP discussions. But there is a major difference between him and those other two guys. The Warriors offense revolves around Steph Curry. LeBron and Harden are the Cavaliers’ and Rockets’ offenses.

According to Basketball Reference, Harden’s usage rate is at 36.1% and Steph’s is at 31.3%. LeBron’s is at 30.7 but that number will rise much higher in the playoffs when he is asked to make a majority of the offensive - and, quite frankly, the defensive - decisions. (Yes, I am aware usage rate has nothing to do with defense but again you Steph lovers seem to forget how good LeBron is.)

I say all this to ask, how good would Steph be if he wasn’t on a team with three future hall-of-famers and had to carry the Cavs’ and Rockets’ (pre-Chris Paul) offenses?

I’ll admit Steph is the reason the Warriors’ offense has reached historic levels but the Warriors are equally the reason he’s been able to reach historic levels of his own.

 

Steph’s Greatness

Regardless of everything I said, I guess I should get to the part where I’ve realized how great Steph is.

It’s pretty obvious Steph is the greatest shooter of all time. He’s already eighth on the all-time three pointers made list and he’s only 29. Even with all the threes he takes he ranks fourth all time in three-point percentage at 43.6 percent.

Oh, then there was this play on Feb. 27, 2016 which pretty much cemented Steph’s place in shooting history.

The three point shooting is what keeps everyone entertained. But Steph is an elite scorer at each level of the floor.

According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Steph is shooting 67% at the rim - which is better than some big men - and 52% from midrange.

For context, Russell Westbrook is shooting 59% at the rim and 35% from midrange. Kyrie Irving? 64% at the rim and 45% from midrange.

Then there’s Steph’s passing, He’s averaging 6.4 APG this year, 6.8 APG for his career. But as I said before, he plays for a team similar to the Spurs - the amount of ball movement will not allow one person to compile a large amount of assists.

Then there’s the type of assists where Steph never touches the ball. If you spend time around Warrior’s twitter, you’ve heard people talk about Steph’s “gravity," referring to the attention Steph gets which allows open scoring opportunities for other teammates.

If you watch here, you’ll see Gary Harris is so scared of Steph’s shooting ability he lets Andre Iguodala run right by him for a layup.

Finally, there’s Steph’s defense. Yes, it’s the weakest parts of his game but he’s not a bad defender.

Steph does an excellent job moving his feet and staying in front of defenders. His quick hands also help him pester ball handlers and play passing lanes which has helped him average close to two steals per game for his career.

Look, if you’re like me and Steph Curry’s behavior on the court gets under your skin that’s fine. That’s basketball. But don’t let that hate take away from acknowledging just how great Steph is.

The price is right: why the Bulls need to move Nikola Mirotic
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Hello Bulls fans,

There have been several reports that surfaced saying Nikola Mirotic will be traded sooner than later. After his fight with Bobby Portis before the start of the season there was no possible way these two can coexist on the same team right? Well after Bobby returned from his suspension and once Nikola fully recovered from being punched in the face, the two gave the Bulls a boost out of the Eastern Conference cellar.

It’s abundantly clear the Chicago Bulls are in full rebuild mode and are trying to secure a high draft assets in teh future. This upcoming draft is being compared to the 2003 draft class that had the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chis Bosh picked in the top 5. If the hype is real then it would be wise to try and be in a position to secure a top 5 pick in 2018. Mirotic has been playing very well since coming back from injury; in fact some would say he’s playing like how the franchise envisioned he would play when they brought him from overseas a few years ago.

During the 2011 NBA Draft the Bulls took guard Norris Cole at No. 28, but traded him and the No. 43 pick (UCLA guard Malcolm Lee) to Minnesota for the rights to Mirotic, whom Houston took at No. 23 and had dealt to the Timberwolves. It's ironic that we finessed Minnesota on draft night on more than one occasion. Bulls general manager Gar Forman said the organization would have no problem keeping a player in Europe for a few years to develop before bringing him over to play with the organization.

Mirotic started off slow when he began with the Bulls in 2014, but he ended up having a pretty good debut year,  finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Andrew Wiggins. He averaged a mere 10 points a game that season but led the NBA in scoring in the 4th quarter during the month of March. He also averaged 20 points a game that month.

His 2015 and 2016 seasons were both inconsistent to say the least, and those inconsistencies have followed him throughout his Bulls career. The Bulls were in need of a dynamic scoring option at the power forward position to keep up with new style of play in the NBA, but Mirotic never blossomed into a reliable scoring option.

It would be very wise for the Bulls to move on from him now while he’s actually on a hot streak. Yes the team is playing well with him and it’s exciting to watch, but history tends to repeat itself. The Utah Jazz are reportedly very interested in making a deal for Nikola Mirotic, so are the Pistons according to NY Times writer Marc Stein. and this might be a great way to get some good value for a player who is playing at a peak level currently. This is also a good way to ensure the tank continues for one of the top 5 picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Lakers must now look ahead towards the summer of 2018
Kyusung Gong/ AP    

Kyusung Gong/AP

 

While many Lakers fans were hopeful this current team could fight for the 8th seed in the West, inevitably reality sank in for the Los Angeles Lakers. Standing 7.5 games out of a playoff spot at 12-27, it's time for the Lakers to plan ahead for this summer. The only untouchables on the squad are Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Everyone else is available for trade at the deadline to clear up cap space and acquire more assets. Let’s take a look at some possible trade outcomes.


Lakers Receive: DeMarcus Cousins

Pelicans Receive: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and 2020 First Round Pick

This trade should only be explored if DeMarcus is 100% certain he doesn’t want to extend with New Orleans and is 100% committed to signing with the Lakers long term. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pelicans are not listening to trade offers at the moment. Yet if the Pelicans remain around .500 and are still in the playoff hunt around the trade deadline, it would make sense for them to explore options.

The Lakers would be getting a max free agent early, and would get to see how Cousins fits with Lonzo, Kuzma and Ingram for 2 months. The Pelicans get Clarkson who can put up points in a hurry, as well as a potential double-double guy in Randle. The Pelicans would covet another asset in the future first-rounder. They may believe they can re-sign Cousins in the summer, but it would leave them without nearly any cap space with money already owed to Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Solomon Hill. It makes sense to move on and not let Cousins walk for nothing in the summer.


Lakers Receive: Nerlens Noel and Devin Harris

Mavericks Receive: Julius Randle, Luol Deng and 2020 First Round Pick

This is a salary dump the Lakers would be hoping to put on the Dallas Mavericks, while also giving them some assets to work with. Randle would give the Mavs a young talent with restricted free agent status looming while they continue the rebuild, plus a 2020 draft asset. The Lakers would be free up cap space for the summer of 2018 while also giving Nerlens Noel a chance to earn some playing time since he isn’t receiving much in Dallas.
 

Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could also be moved to teams that hope to add some talent for their playoff run, but their contracts make them harder to move. If Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are able to move either one for a late 2018 first rounder, that would be a huge success for the Lakers.

One thing Lakers fans can count on is the front office will be active at the deadline with Magic and Pelinka work to get this franchise back on track. The Lakers and their front office will be judged heavily off of what they can do to prepare for an insane summer in free agency.

Why Steph Curry's injury hasn't removed him from MVP consideration

With 2:55 left in the 3rd Quarter, it looked as though Stephen Curry’s night was over. He had dropped 35 points and hit nine threes to give the Warriors a 103-87 lead. In unanimous MVP fashion, Curry did this all in 22 minutes of play. But their lead diminished in the fourth quarter, and with five minutes to go, Curry checked back in, gets Marc Gasol on an island and goes to work.

Cross, cross, snatch-tween, splash, filayyyy! Steph leaves Gasol at the nail and stomps it into the coffin.

After missing eleven games due to an ankle sprain, Curry's return was emblematic of what he means to the Warriors. Without him, they were still able to win 9 of 11 games behind Kevin Durant, but their change in play was evident. The Warriors pace dropped from 103.94 down to 98.94 without Steph. This is largely due to the Warriors sticking to a slower offense, consisting of post-entries that lead to off ball cutting. With Steph in the lineup, there’s more room for improvisation, and it’s encouraged as well. The shots he puts up from three not only keep the defense guessing, but they have a 40% chance of going in, and the byproduct is easier shots for everybody else.

There was a silver lining to Curry’s injury. Before his absence, the Dubs led the league in both offensive rating (114.6), and net rating (12.9). Without Steph at point, Steve Kerr plugged in lengthier guards like Patrick McCaw and Shaun Livingston. The Warriors ORTG dropped to 17th in the league, at 105.9, but their DRTG became the best in the league at 98.7. This isn’t all due to Curry being out though. Zaza Pachulia injured his shoulder in the same game that Steph hurt his ankle - he returned two games before Steph. This left significant minutes on the table for rookie Jordan Bell, who got to show off his defensive potential, even starting in their Christmas matchup against the Cavs.

The Warriors, and Curry, hope to see the defense continue to dominate, and if it does, Curry should see more MVP consideration. Steph is still the team' leading scorer at 26.8 ppg, and leads the team and the league in plus/minus at +288 - even more impressive considering the games he missed and the fact that he’s playing the least amount of minutes per game of his career. (not counting 2010-2011 when he had ankle surgery after 26 games). After a month of rest and a hot start to the new year, Steph should be able to explode offensively while the defense gives him opportunities to push the break, and continue to do so at a high efficiency.

The Bulls aren’t tanking - and that may not be a bad thing
(Winslow Townson/AP)

(Winslow Townson/AP)

Let’s face it... the Chicago Bulls are too good. Yes I’m aware that’s a weird thing to read but it’s true. Despite the Bulls’ 13-24 record, they’ve won 10 of their last 14 games and have one of the best records in the NBA since Dec. 8.

Our hopes of #SecuringtheBagley or #LosingforLuka have gone down the drain. The Bulls will likely pick between 7 and 14.

But don’t worry Bulls fans - there are a few reasons this may not be a bad thing.

 

Draft Picks

Look, it’s no secret a top 5 pick helps you win an NBA championship. The best player on 11 of the last 15 NBA champions was taken within the first five picks of their respective drafts.

The other four? Steph Curry, the best player for the 2015 Warriors, landed at No. 7 in the 2009 NBA draft. Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on the 2011 Mavericks, was taken with the No. 9 pick in 1998. Kobe Bryant, the best player on the 2009 and 2010 Lakers, went 13th overall to Charlotte in 1996.

See, it’s possible to get a franchise changing player outside of the top 5.

According to a 2018 NBA mock draft by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, he projects the Bulls to take Texas' Mohamed Bamba with the No. 6 pick. At 6’11 - with an 8' wingspan!!! -  225 pounds, the 19-year-old from Harlem is averaging 11.7 PPG, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game in his freshman season.

The latest projection from NBADraft.net has Chicago drafting another emerging freshman in Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. with the No. 7 pick. Jackson is averaging 10.5 points, 7.1 board and 3.3 blocks per game. He’s also shooting 37 percent from the three-point line while averaging just under three attempts per game.

Both players are long, athletic big men who could fit nicely next to Lauri Markkanen. They're currently the seventh-worst team in the league. But if they keep winning, Bulls fans would be wise to turn their attention to prospects further down mock draft boards.

One of them is Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker, a 6'4" athletic wing with a 6’101/2” wingspan who could fit right into the uptempo, pace-and-space style head coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play, averaging 8.5 PPG in just 21 minutes a game.

(credit: ACC Digital Network)

In this video, you’ll see some highlights of Walker’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket and some of his three-point range.

According to ESPN Insider Jonathan Givony, Walker is projected to be selected with the 15th pick.

The steal of the draft could be Villanova junior forward Mikal Bridges.

Bridges is playing like an All-American for the No. 1 ranked Villanova Wildcats. He’s averaging 17.8 PPG on 52 percent shooting from the field and 45 percent shooting from the three-point line. But it’s his play on the other side of the ball that makes Bridges one of the most complete players in this draft.

Bridges is a 6’7” wing with a 7’11/2” wingspan and he puts all that length to good use. He’s averaging 2 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game.

Imagine a defensive lineup with Dunn, Nwaba and Bridges - each with the ability to guard multiple positions and give ball handlers problems.

Fortunately for the Bulls, Bridges is 21-years old and will be 22 when the NBA draft comes around in June. His age could turn away some teams who may be looking for a young star - leaving a rebuilding Chicago Bulls with the chance to select a hidden gem in this year's draft.

 

Player Development 

 

The thing about winning in a tanking season is the wins usually mean your young players are developing faster than you expected. The Bulls are no different.

Fans are understandably excited about the growth of Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, two of the three pieces in the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players’ performance this season – and the hope budding star Zach LaVine will return to his star form from prior to his ACL tear - have some already naming the Bulls winners of the draft day trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Markkanen is averaging close to 15 PPG and has proven to be a willing rebounder, averaging just over 7 boards on the season.

The Finland native is also showing he is a capable defender, something no one could have predicted when he came out of Arizona. Check out the defense here on New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. (Credit: @_MarcusD2_/NBC Sports Chicago)

Dunn is in the running for the Most Improved Player award. He’s up nine points per game, to 13.2 ppg this year from 3.8 ppg from his rookie season with the Timberwolves.

His shooting has gotten slightly better with increased playing time. According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Dunn is shooting 55 percent at the rim, 40 percent from mid-range and 32 percent from three.

Last year he shot, 50 percent at the rim, 36 percent from midrange and 28 percent from three.

His 2017-2018 shooting numbers show his offensive game still needs work but with more time those numbers could continue to rise.

Dunn has more than doubled his assist numbers as well, averaging six per game as opposed to the 2.4 last season.

Dunn and Markkanen aren’t the only one’s getting better. Young role players like Denzel Valentine and David Nwaba have also improved.

Nwaba can’t really shoot the ball but he’s shown the ability to attack on the catch and push the ball on fast breaks. (Credit/Chicago Bulls Twitter)

In addition, the Bulls get exponentially better with him on defense as opposing teams have a 105.6 offensive rating when he’s on the floor and a 111.4 offensive rating when he’s on the bench.

As for Valentine, for a while he seemed to be nothing more than a floor spacer. However he’s taken major steps forward in his game this season.

Last year, according to NBA.com, 79 percent of Valentine’s threes were assisted. This year, that number is down to 61 percent, meaning he’s taking more pull-up threes.

In addition, Valentine is taking more shots inside the arc, averaging 26.1 percent of his points in the paint (as opposed to 13.7 in 2016-2017) and 12.8 percent of his points on midrange jumpshots (as opposed to 6.2 in 2016-2017).

Even Bobby Portis, who struggled to maintain any consistency last season, has been a positive for the Bulls, averaging nearly 13 PPG on 53 percent shooting and 39 percent from the three-point line over the last 14 games.

 

Free Agency

 

There’s a certain sense of pride when your “own guys” help you win a championship. But the draft isn’t the only way to get good players. The Houston Rockets are 26-9 and the only draft pick in their starting lineup is Clint Capela.

The Bulls have loads of cap space and some good players will test their luck in free agency in the next two years. And since they have been winning recently without any all-star talent, they are now a more attractive destination than if they were 5-31 and playing an atrocious brand of basketball.

The 2018 Free Agency class includes names such as Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George.

In 2019, the list gets even more interesting with players like restricted free agents Devin Booker and Karl Anthony Towns, and Kyrie Irving.

You read those names and think they are unrealistic for the Bulls. To be fair, their biggest free agent signing in the last 15 years is a 34-year old Pau Gasol.

(Editors note: I find it baffling he disregarded Bulls legend Eddie Robinson like that.)

However, this Bulls team feels different. They are a young team that’s playing basketball the right way with pace, three point shooting and intense defense.

Maybe it’s not so unthinkable that a major star would want to lead a team that seems to be headed in the right direction.