Sunday
Jun302013

2013 NBA Draft Thoughts

#1 pick....Anthony Bennett?A draft that really didn’t have much to offer talent-wise in comparison to the past year’s crop of talent and next year’s, made up for the lack of talent with a whole lot of entertainment and intrigue. It started from the beginning with the Anthony Bennett pick to the Cavaliers, and continued with supposed consensus No. 1 Nerlens Noel falling to No. 6 and then getting traded. But more on both of those later.

A lot of people seem to love the haul the Portland Trail Blazers pulled in Thursday night, and I’m not sure why. Yes, C.J. McCollum and Allan Crabbe can shoot the heck out of the ball but there’s really nowhere for those guys to fit in behind crowded backcourt that has Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard taking up the lion’s share of minutes in. In the frontcourt, the Blazers picked up Jeff Withey who joins Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard (2012 No. 11 pick) a crowd behind J.J. Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, players like this could be some sort of insurance in the event a player like Aldridge is dealt.

At the top, it also appears few are fans of the Anthony Bennett choice. While there were concerns regarding his weight and injury history, Cleveland made him the No. 1 choice which shocked nearly everyone besides Tim Legler. In all, the pick is not a bad one especially when looking down the line. Bennett can play the three for Cleveland with his shooting ability and athleticism, and is also a nice stretch-four player when necessary. In today’s NBA, that’s not a bad type of player to be with the transition of the game’s focus to the perimeter (see: Jeff Green). In all reality, there were probably one or two players in this draft class that will make an impact in 2013-14. But down the line, a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller will be a formidable one dressed in the Cavaliers’ wine and whatever they call that yellow color.

Speaking of those two players, Ben McLemore and Trey Burke are likely the players to contend for Rookie of the Year. McLemore’s offensive game needs some work but he could conceivably start in Sacramento’s first game. The Kings also picked up Ray McCallum Jr. in the second round, who should see time off the bench just based on his scoring capabilities on his own.

Burke should also slide into Utah’s starting lineup and, surrounded by Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors for the foreseeable future, the Jazz have a solid core.

The team who drafted and traded Burke—the Minnesota Timberwolves—pulled in arguably the draft’s best group of players. In exchange for Burke, Minnesota received the rights to Shabazz Muhammed and Gorgui Dieng, two players who should see some time as rotation guys to complement Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. With the chance that Nikola Pekovic leaves via free agency, the T’Wolves have a quality replacement in the middle with Dieng who should pair well with Love. Plus, Muhammed’s only responsibility playing alongside Rubio and Alexey Shved will be to score. And the less responsibility for a player with the attitude of Muhammed, the better things will probably go with him involved.

In the grand scheme of things, the best move of the night involved Noel, the Sixers, and the Pelicans. New Orleans sent Noel and a 2014 No. 1 pick top-three protected pick to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday. This deal helps the Pelicans right now, and gives the Sixers a possible franchise player who they paired with No. 11 pick Michael Carter-Williams, and the chance to get a cornerstone next year with at least two, maybe three, lottery choices. Namely, Andrew Wiggins. It was something Philadelphia needed to do after spending the last few years in NBA limbo—multiple early-playoff exits and mid-first round lottery picks that had little to no impact on the team. It’s the way to win in today’s NBA, as started by the then-Seattle Sonics who tore it down and restarted through the draft with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

For New Orleans, the acquisition of Holiday gives them the point guard they need while affording the chance to trade Eric Gordon or Greivis Vasquez as Gordon was reported to want to go to Phoenix in free agency last season. In tandem with 2012 No. 1 Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, New Orleans has a nice core moving forward.

Saturday
Jun152013

What We’ve Learned about the NBA Finals

This is the best possible match-up. Without a doubt.

After the majority of series in the series leading up to the Finals ending after four or five games, there’s been no series more hotly-contested than the one that gives the winner the Larry O’Brien Trophy—and rightfully so. Each team has answered the call after being dealt a tough loss and, tied 2-2 through four games, it’s San Antonio’s time to pick up the phone after Miami pulled away from the Spurs late in Game 4 to earn a 103-93 win that tied the series again. Although the level of competition has been very high, so have the scores and margins of victory. Only one game so far has been decided by less than 10 points—San Antonio’s 92-88 Game 1 victory in Miami—with every other game having been won by double-digits, highlighted by San Antonio’s 36-point demolition of Miami in Game 3 followed a 19-point loss to the Heat in Game 2.

It’s all about offense

Seriously. Throw defense out the window. Obviously the team with the higher offensive rating will generally win every game, but the differentials have been massive. Save for Game 1, when San Antonio’s 108.2 ORtg beat Miami’s 103.5 mark. In Game 2, Miami’s ORtg of 124.1 far outstripped the Spurs’ mark of just 101.2 while Game 3 saw the Spurs go insane offensively as evidenced by their 130.3 ORtg which directly correlated to their 36-point win over the Heat and their measly 88.3 ORtg. And in Game 4, Miami dominated the scoring game once again with a 116 ORtg which gave the Heat a clear edge over the Spurs and their ORtg of 99.

As for some of your more traditional numbers, the San Antonio Spurs did an absolutely fantastic job of keeping the Heat’s biggest stars from shining as bright as usual. Dwyane Wade averaged just 14 ppg through Game 3 and LeBron James failed to score more than 20 points in any one of the first three contests. It’s one thing to let LeBron get his and hold his supporting cast down. But when LeBron isn’t scoring while Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller are being relied upon for points, the Heat are going to run into trouble as they did when the Spurs took a 2-1 series lead. Then LeBron scored 33 on 15-for-25 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds while Wade pulled out a vintage Flash performance with 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting with six rebounds and six steals. It also doesn’t hurt that the third member of the Big Three showed up with 20 points and 13 rebounds of his own after San Antonio asserted dominance in the paint for three games.

The Four Factors have been deciding factors

Of the four games so far, the team to hold the advantage when it comes to the Four Factors has won three out of four games. The only outlier comes when the teams tied with advantages in two categories apiece in Game 1, which San Antonio won. For those who don’t know, the Four Factors consist of effective field goal percentage (eFG%), Turnover Rate (TOV%), Offensive Rebound Percentage (ORB%), and Free Throw Factor (FT/FGA). Basically, the Four Factors show what a team does in the four most important components of the game—shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws.

Game 1 saw the Spurs take control of the turnover (4 percent TOV) and free throw (.179 FT/FGA) department, while the Heat held the edge in shooting (49 percent eFG%) and rebounding (23 percent ORB). In the Heat’s 19-point Game 2 victory, Miami controlled the shooting (55 percent eFG%), turnover rates (six percent against San Antonio’s 16 percent rate), and got to the line more with a 13 percent FT/FGA.

In Game 3, the Spurs dominated every aspect of the first game at the AT&T Center. The Spurs outshot the Heat (58 percent against the Heat’s 46 percent eFG%), turnover game (11 percent TOV% opposite Miami’s 17 percent rate), rebounding (41 percent over Miami’s 21 percent ORB%) and got to the line more (13 percent FT/FGA against Miami’s nine percent). It’s no wonder San Antonio won by 36.

Of course, as the Heat have done the dozen or so times they lost a game, Miami responded with a victory. Miami topped San Antonio in the shooting, turnover, and rebounding departments en route to its 10-point Game 4 win. As the series continues, pay attention to how these Four Factors play out for each team as they seem to hold some heavy sway when it comes to who wins each game.

Friday
May312013

NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Reactions

That was fast…

It took just four games for the San Antonio Spurs to oust the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals. About three less games than I expected the two teams to play, and with the Spurs coming out on the other end of this series. Like many other times before, I was wrong. And the advantage the Grizzlies seemed to have on the glass didn’t necessarily pan out in their favor as heavily as I expected. The games were also close for the most part, save for San Antonio’s 22-point Game 1 blowout victory. Beyond that though, Games 2 & 3 each went to overtime and the Spurs won Game 4 by seven points. Tony Parker was the catalyst for San Antonio in about every moment he was on the floor, and he put up just over 24 ppg and 9 apg in the series. No effort better highlighted Parker’s impact in the series than his 37-point performance in Game 4 to push the Spurs into their fifth NBA Finals appearance under head coach Gregg Popovich.

As for that rebounding advantage, the Spurs proved what seemed to be an interior advantage for Memphis into an inconsequential facet of the series. Memphis out-rebounded San Antonio in three of the four games, and posted a 60-46 advantage in Game 2 of the series. But all that landed the Grizzlies was the opportunity to play an extra five minutes of basketball that resulted in another loss. And when it came to the leader of that interior, Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies’ power forward never put up the monster numbers the Grizzlies proved they needed from him to win playoff games. Z-Bo shot just 30 percent from the field in the series, and scored 11 ppg and recorded 12 rpg. Further proving the series was decided more on the perimeter than the interior, Tim Duncan wasn’t overly dominant against Randolph. Duncan shot much better than Randolph at 47 percent in the series but put up just 15 ppg and 9 rpg.

 

Meanwhile…

Looks like we’ve got a series in the Eastern Conference Finals. Or at least had one before last night, as the team who wins Game 5 in a seven-game series wins 83 percent of the time or some crazy number like that.

Through the first four games though, Indiana apparently didn’t get the memo that Miami is the chosen one when it comes to this season’s Eastern Conference representative in the Finals this year, and it’s sure making for some good basketball. The match-ups between these teams have proven to be just about even due to each team’s strength at each position and that’s reflected in the series’ current standing. And to think, the Pacers may very well be up 3-1 in this series if they knew how to defend an inbounds play from going for a lay-up—which ended in LeBron James’ game-winning lay-up in Game 1. And before you ask, Frank Vogel taking Roy Hibbert out of the play had nothing to do with it. If anything, James’ lay-up is on the shoulders of Paul George since, you know, James was George’s assignment on that inbound.

But Game 2 exhibited how perfectly the Pacers’ seemed to have game-planned for this series. James scored 36 points. But the other members of the “Big Three”, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, shot a combined 12-for-28 for 31 points and were an aggregate minus-14 while on the floor. LeBron got his, but the team didn’t get the win. On a related note, all five of Indiana’s starters scored in double figures in that game. James & Co. responded in Game 3 with another one of their “we’re pissed off and we’re going to blow you out” and beat Indiana 114-96 in the first game of the series at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It wasn’t so much of a blowout as what the Heat did to Chicago earlier this postseason, but the Pacers trailed for basically the entire game and the Heat won every quarter. And in true Pacer fashion, Indiana weathered the storm and stayed the course to earn a 99-92 victory to even the series in Game 4. To relate back to one of the “key stats” of the series in the preview in the first four games of the series, here’s a telling one for you—when any team scores over 100 points, the Pacers are 0-2 in this series. When neither team scores 100 or more, the Pacers are 2-0.

Thursday night’s Game 5 then turned those notions on its head. The Heat became the dominant defensive team after facing a 44-40 deficit at halftime, and outscored the Pacers 50-35 in the second half. While the Heat defense locked the Pacers down—primarily by forcing 17 turnovers to offset the solid 45 percent rate the Pacers were making baskets at—LeBron James rampaged to 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in a game that will likely be remembered with his Game 6 performance against Boston in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals and 25-point fourth quarter Game 5 effort against Detroit in 2007’s ECF. None of LeBron’s supporting cast was particularly effective, and his performance played a large role (approximately one-third) in last night’s victory that sets up a potential clincher in Indianapolis this weekend.

While we’re on the subject, let’s not forget about the job Roy Hibbert is doing in this series. His 22-point effort last night was yet another solid offensive performance from a guy no one expected to develop into an offensive threat out of Georgetown, and follows a 23-point, 12-rebound Game 4 and a 20-point, 17-rebound Game 3. To lead Indiana into the win column in the series, Hibbert scored 29 points and pulled in 10 rebounds in Game 2. In the series, the big man averages 23 ppg and 11 rpg while staking his claim in the elite territory of the Association’s centers. Showing this level of production in his fourth year in the league is making the five-year, $65 million deal he signed with Indiana last season look really good on general manager Kevin Pritchard’s behalf.

Tuesday
May212013

Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

Miami finished the regular season with far-and-away the league’s best record at 66-16, and certainly one good enough to take the No. 1 seed in the weak-as-always Eastern Conference after winning the Southwest Division. Indiana finally rose from the depths of being a low-seed and won the Central Division with a 49-32 record (Indiana only played 81 games because a game in Boston was cancelled due to the Boston Marathon bombing) to grab the No. 3 seed. As expected, Indiana was one of the league’s best defensive teams as the Pacers allowed their opposition to score just under 91 ppg—the East’s best mark. On the other hand, Miami finished as one of the league’s best offensive teams in scoring nearly 103 ppg to finish fifth among all ballclubs in that department. Overall, Miami finished with a Simple Rating System score of just over seven to finish second in the league while Indiana’s SRS ended up at just over three, the Association’s ninth-best total.

In the regular season, the teams met just three times and neither won on its home floor. Indiana won the season series, 2-1, winning twice in Miami. On Jan. 8, Indiana took a 87-77 victory home to Indianapolis, and then won again in South Beach Feb. 1, 102-89. When the Heat visited Conseco Fieldhouse, Miami scored a 14-point, 105-91 win to prevent the regular-season sweep.

Obvious match-up: LeBron James v. Paul George

This match-up doesn’t have to do so much with the two players involved themselves, as most would have spectators believe simply because these are the two best players on the court in this series. Rather, the match-up underlies what’s going to really turn the series between the two teams—but more on that later. For the fourth-time in his career, LeBron was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and it will come down to Paul George to stop him. I don’t know how many people believed this, but from my perspective George was the best bet to contain LeBron in these playoffs mirroring my thought process that Indiana was the team best-equipped to defeat Miami in a seven-game series among all Eastern Conference playoff participants. That’s to be put to the test now.

In the Pacers’ two victories, James averaged 25 ppg and shot over 50 % from the field. But in the 85 minutes he played in those two games, he was an aggregate minus-14 on the floor. His match-up played the exact same amount of minutes and finished with a plus-15 while he was on the floor. George’s numbers weren’t spectacular—he put up 22 ppg in those wins with 17 total rebounds in the two games. In the game Miami won, George scored only 10 points while James scored 13 with six rebounds and seven assists. Yet with neither player posting exorbitant stat lines, James finished at plus-23 in 36 minutes and George ended at minus-20 in 41 minutes.

So really, this match-up isn’t much of a match-up at all at least when it comes to what will guide the overall direction of the series. If anything, it says the Heat will have a better chance at winning if James takes more of a Magic Johnson-esque role and facilitates more than forcing the issue. It’s a match-up just because the names are big.

Overlooked match-up that could swing series: Basically everyone else against the other team’s everyone else

This doesn’t ring as true for the Pacers because George’s name doesn’t have as much glitter surrounding it as James’ does—especially after winning his fourth Most Valuable Player award—but the supporting casts surrounding these two players swayed the season’s series more than anything James and George really did. Take a look at the game in March that James scored just 13 points—it was his lowest statistical output of any of the three games played against Indy but he posted his only positive plus-minus rating of the three games in that one and the Heat won by 14. What was the difference? Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers combined to score 73 points. For perspective, the Pacers scored 91 total in that game. For Indiana, the key isn’t so much what the scoring from the other guys will be but the work done on the defensive end and on the glass. For example, James, Wade, and Bosh combined to score 66 points in the January game. The Pacers won that game by 10. No other Heat player scored more than five points, and four finished with zero. In that game, David West score 14 points and pulled in 11 rebounds while Roy Hibbert finished with six points and 14 rebounds. Lance Stephenson chipped in 13 of his own. In February, West led a group of four Pacers in double-digits with 30 points, while Stephenson added 15 George Hill scored 12 to complement George’s 15. Indiana won that game by 13.

Telling stat of the series: Offensive Rating

Each one of these teams finished in the Top 10 in Defensive Rating this season, with Miami at ninth with a DRtg just under 104 while Indiana led the league as the only team to post a DRtg under 100, coming in a few tenths shy. So both teams can play defense. Got it. On to Offensive Rating, the Heat finished second with a ORtg over 112. Indiana’s ORtg meanwhile ended at a few tenths over 104. So how is this going to swing the series? Basically, Indiana will do something along the lines of holding Miami to 44 percent shooting, or something thereabout, as it did in the two wins against Miami this season. Or, Miami will shoot 56 percent like it did in its one win against Indiana and win every game by double-digits. It really just depends on how each team adjusts. The biggest challenge for Indiana may very well be keeping up with the Heat, whose coach Erik Spoelstra likes to deploy a lineup of Chalmers/Wade/Battier/James/Bosh to create a unit that can get up and down the floor faster than just about any other lineup. A strength for Indiana all season was its frontcourt defense anchored by West, Hibbert, and even assisted by incessant pain-in-the-neck Tyler Hansbrough. But if the gargantuan Hibbert and the older West get run off the floor, the Pacers won’t be able to exploit their advantage on the glass as they did in January when they out-rebounded Miami 55-36. Did I mention Miami finished last in rebounds per game this season? It doesn’t look like it mattered too much, seeing as they won more than anyone else. And had that 27-game winning streak…

Prediction: Miami in 7

Sunday
May192013

Western Conference Finals: San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

At 3:30 Sunday, the Western Conference Finals begin with Game 1 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies at the Spurs’ home arena, the AT&T Center. San Antonio finished above Memphis in the Southwest Division this season with a 58-24 record to grab the No. 2 seed in the West—two games better than the Grizzlies’ 56-26 mark. The teams split the season series 2-2, as each team took home victories. Two of the four games went to overtime, with the teams splitting those games 1-1. Three of the games were decided by four points or less, with the outlier being a 103-82 blowout San Antonio victory in January. San Antonio finished third and Memphis finished sixth in the Simple Rating System—taking into account strength of schedule and margin of victory—with the Spurs finished with a SRS near 7 and the Grizzlies just over 4.

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the eight-seeded Grizzlies upset the one-seed Spurs in the first round of the 2011 Playoffs. This time around, the Spurs will face their toughest post-season test to date after sleepwalking through a first round series against a shell of the Los Angeles Lakers and relying on experience to get past the Golden State Warriors in six games. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies enter battle-tested after taking down the dark-horse Finals favorite Clippers in six games, as well as defeating defending Western Conference-champ Oklahoma City in six.

Obvious match-up: Tim Duncan v. Zach Randolph

There are multiple avenues one could go with in this series. Each team has deep play on the perimeter and in the post, there are a number of names to choose from. But just to go with what one would expect to be the series’ big match-up between each team’s most recognizable names, it’s easy to go with Duncan and Z-Bo in this instance. Who knows what Tim Duncan did to have one of his best seasons in the last three years when the last two seasons gave fans every inclination Duncan’s career was on the downslope. But a year removed from a time in which Duncan—or at least those speculating—contemplated the notion of retirement, the Big Fundamental finished his 16th season in the Association averaging nearly a double-double at roughly 18 ppg and 10 rpg. Duncan recorded 36 double-doubles in 2012-13. In addition, he shot over 50% from the field for the first time since his 2009-10 campaign.

Like Duncan, Randolph is experiencing a “bounce-back” year of his own of sorts, after he played in only 28 games last season due to a knee injury. The injury obviously hurt his numbers, as he put up only 12 ppg and 8 rpg after scoring over 20 ppg and pulling in over 10 rpg for the three seasons prior. In his 12th season, Randolph’s scoring didn’t necessarily return to the level it was before—mostly due to the emergence of Marc Gasol—but he got back to his double-double averages, scoring 15 ppg and recording 11 rpg. As a result, Randolph finished fourth in the league—second among all power forwards—with 46 double-doubles.

It’s a match-up that could figure heavily into the procession of the series, as seen in Memphis’ first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Memphis’ win was heavily dependent on the involvement and production of Randolph as he scored only 26 points on 55 percent shooting and recorded just 9 rebounds in the first two games of the series combined, two games the Grizzlies lost. In Game 3, Z-Bo came to play and put up a 27-11 night to start the Griz on a four-game winning streak that propelled them into the next round. In the four wins, Randolph scored over 24 ppg on 57 percent shooting and pulled down 9 rpg. It’s a similar effort the Grizzlies will need to win this series.

Overlooked match-up that could sway series: Perimeter role players

Each team know what it will receive in the battle of trios—Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili vs. Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. What could turn the tide here between the teams would be the match-ups between the Spurs’ Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard against the Grizzlies’ Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince. Both tandems are extremely talented defensively, as a national audience saw especially with the efforts of Allen and Prince against Kevin Durant in Memphis’ Game 6 clincher, which resulted in Durant’s worst shooting performance (5-for-21 FG) of the season. Allen’s defensive worth was proven with his selection the NBA’s Defensive first-team.

While the Spurs have defensive talent in Leonard and Green, the strength of the two resides more on the offensive end. Green hit two huge threes in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-finals that went a long way to prevent the Warriors from stealing one from the Spurs. Green averages 10 ppg this post-season, while Leonard has been a force everywhere by putting up 14 ppg and over 8 rpg.

Telling stat of the series: Points

It may seem obvious, because whoever scores the most points obviously wins. But there are stark differences between these teams in how they score, how they defend, and how they get their points.

Overall, San Antonio finished fourth in the league in scoring at 103 ppg while the Grizzlies finished just above 93 ppg—ranked No. 27 among all teams, by far the lowest of any Western Conference playoff. But here they are in the Western Conference Finals—so how? Sometimes when a team doesn’t score a lot, the way it scores can reveal a lot about the offense through its Offensive Rating, a measure of points scored per 100 possessions. But even here, the Spurs are significantly better than Memphis as the Grizzlies finished with an ORtg of roughly 105 (no. 17) and the Spurs ended seventh at just over 108.

The Grizzlies start with defense, and allowed a league-best 89 ppg this season. Memphis was the only team to hold teams under 90 ppg on a nightly basis. In an era in which the league scoring average creeps closer to 100 every season, that’s impressive. With former Spurs assistant Lionel Hollins leading Memphis, don’t be surprised to see the Grizzlies defense turn the tide. The Grizzlies Defensive Rating was slightly over 100 this season as well, the best in the West. Aiding Memphis’ defense efforts were the rebounding numbers the Grizzlies put up this season. Memphis finished at no. 11 in rpg this season with an average just under 43 rpg. More importantly, Memphis allowed its opponents to record a league-low 39 rpg which would work to the Grizzlies advantage against a Spurs team that was out-rebounded by over a full board on a nightly basis this year.

Prediction: Memphis in 7

Thursday
May162013

NBA Playoffs Round Two Storylines

Not Westbrook 1, Not Westbrook 2Where’s the competition?

I was under the impression the NBA Playoffs were supposed to become tighter and tighter as the rounds progressed—it seems that isn’t the case, at least for the second round. The first round saw six of the eight series go to a Game 6, and the Chicago Bulls needing a Game 7 to get past the Brooklyn Nets. Only Miami and San Antonio—teams that swept the Lakers and Milwaukee, respectively, played less than six. In the second round so far, it looks like NBA fans will be lucky to see more than one Game 6 played aside from Game 6 of the San Antonio-Golden State series which the Spurs lead 3-2. Every other series is being virtually dominated by a team leading 3-1: Indiana leads New York, Memphis leads Oklahoma City, and Miami leads Chicago. Hopefully in the next round the likely match-ups of Indiana-Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals and San Antonio-Memphis offer up a little more drama and intrigue.

Reggie Jackson is not Russell Westbrook

It’s amazing how many people still believed the Thunder to be prohibitive Western Conference favorites to match up with whoever emerges from the East this season—which is likely Indiana or Miami. Anyway, since Westbrook’s injury the Thunder are 3-5 in the eight games played and are scoring just under 97 ppg. If the Thunder offense played at its current scoring clip, it would’ve ranked No. 18 among all NBA teams in the regular season. Bear in mind, Oklahoma City finished third in the Association scoring nearly 106 ppg in the regular season.

The reason for the scoring and winning drop? The absence of Russell Westbrook. Very few in the league could fill the void Westbrook’s injury left the Thunder with—in fact, probably two or three players max could—and none of them play for the Thunder. And there’s only so much Kevin Durant can do on his own. This team needs Russell Westbrook, and its championship hopes are waylaid for another year.

J.R. Smith is not the reason the Knicks are losing—at least, not the only one

After the Knicks’93-82 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semi-final series, Smith offered himself up as the one to blame for the play of a New York team now trailing 3-1 in the series. Rather, New York going down 3-1 to Indiana—a better-coached, better-disciplined team—reveals the issues many forgot about for awhile earlier in the season. Mainly, that the Knicks aren’t able to hang with most teams when a game comes down to defense. Yes, New York was a Top 10 when it came to points allowed per game this season. But really, who is going to be the guy to stop the other team’s best offensive threat? Roy Hibbert is dominating the interior against Tyson Chandler. There is no one to guard David West. If anyone, one would have to pick Iman Shumpert but he’s really the less-valuable equivalent of a diamond in the rough in this situation. And don’t tell me anyone actually expected Carmelo Anthony to play defense…

With the Pacers holding New York to sub-100 points per game in three of the four games played thus far, it’s no wonder the Pacers lead 3-1.

Wednesday
May012013

NBA Playoffs: Overlooked Storylines

Tony Parker is Back

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and happened in the second half of Game 2 in San Antonio’s first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs held a lead over the Lakers for just about the whole game but L.A. continued to scrap and stay close to San Antonio, looking to steal one before the series shifted back to Los Angeles. Tony Parker made sure that didn’t happen. Parker, likely recognizing the lack of any quality perimeter defender on the Laker roster, began attacking the rim with reckless abandon. Even though he finished 9-for-20 from the field, Parker led all scorers with 28 points and got to the free-throw line 10 times. In other words, the Tony Parker many discussed as an MVP candidate showed up and ensured a 102-91 Spurs victory and put the Laker sin a 2-0 hole. Parker followed his Game 2 outburst with 20 points in Game 3 and 23 in the Spurs’ 103-82 sweep-clinching victory in Game 4. The series against L.A. served as the perfect chance for the Spurs to regain their normal steadfast and suffocating consistency after head coach Gregg Popovich said they entered the postseason “discombobulated” as a unit. The veterans took full advantage and none more so than Parker, who put up 22 ppg and 7 apg in the series, and Spurs fans should be grateful for the opportunity the injury-decimated Lakers provided San Antonio and Parker especially. More specifically, because Parker’s services will be required at maximum strength with a match-up against either Denver or Golden State looming in the second round—teams that feature Ty Lawson and Steph Curry at the position Parker matches up with.

 

What is happening in the Indiana-Atlanta series?

I don’t think I’m alone in having expected the Pacers to roll through this series. Despite the New York Knicks holding the No. 2 seed, Indiana is the team many believe hold the best chance at knocking off the Heat in the Eastern Conference. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

The Hawks fell behind 2-0 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis but at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, the Hawks somehow figured out how to not only beat the Pacers but actually destroy them. Game 3 saw Atlanta win 90-69 and Al Horford posted a monster 26-point, 16-rebound game. Really, it all started in the paint as the Hawks outscored Indiana 50-30 in the painted area in Game 3, and held the Pacers to only 27 percent shooting. Indiana shot 81 times, and made just 22 field goals. That’s one of those numbers you look at and think that they had to have tried to shoot that poorly. But more than anything, it really started in the paint with Atlanta’s defense. When the Pacers entered the ball down low, as many as four Hawk defenders swarmed to the ball to make life hell for David West and Roy Hibbert. Atlanta delivered another solid defensive performance in Game 4, holding the Pacers to another subpar shooting performance of 38 percent and using a 35-19 second quarter to push to a series-tying victory. Color me surprised after thinking Indy would walk all over Atlanta, a team that never really performs well in the playoffs to begin with.

 

The Clippers? Out of the playoffs?

Oh yeah. It’s real. Lob City trails the Memphis Grizzlies 3-2 after taking a 2-0 series lead in similar fashion to how Indiana started against Atlanta by winning the first two games of the series at the Staples Center. But when the series headed east to the FedEx Forum in Tennessee, the Grizzlies changed the series’ momentum with a 94-82 Game 3 triumph and then tied the series with a 21-point demolition of L.A. in Game 4, 104-83. And then in Game 5, Memphis came back to Hollywood and scored a 103-93 victory to take control of the series.

The difference? Zach Randolph. Z-Bo scored just 13 ppg in Games 1 & 2 of the series, with just 6 rpg. Vastly below the numbers NBA fans saw him post in postseasons past. That all changed though, when the Griz went home. In Game 3, Randolph decimated the Clippers’ front line with a 27-point, 11-rebound performance that reminded the league who he really is. A 24-point, 9-rebound game pushed the Grizzlies into a tie with the Clips, and the Z-Bo show went on the road with a 24-point, 11-rebound double-double in Game 5.

Now, Lob City is on the verge of elimination with a Game 6 fast approaching in Memphis.

Friday
Apr262013

NBA Playoffs: Reactions through Game 2

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks, Heat lead 2-0

Give the Bucks some credit. They actually hung around with the Heat in Game 2 after taking a 23-point loss in Game 1. Milwaukee actually led for most of the first quarter Tuesday before the Heat scored a quick bunch of points to take a lead into the second quarter. But what this actually means for Milwaukee? Not much at all. The Heat are still going to win this series no matter what happens. With the series shifting to Milwaukee for a pair, the Bucks might steal one on the road if Monta Ellis (19 ppg) and Brandon Jennings (18 ppg) get hot in a game but that’s really it for the Deer to look forward to.

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics, Knicks lead 2-0

This one is really a surprise. If you asked me which one of the top seeds I’d expect to fall from either side of the playoff bracket, this is the team I would’ve put my money on. I didn’t think the Knicks would have the ability to defend well enough to win a playoff series, plus I probably put too much stock in the playoff experience of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics finally look washed up. Players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have looked tired at multiple points in each game, and Avery Bradley and Jeff Green aren’t ready to take up their mantle. The Knicks beat the Celtics at their own game Sunday, winning Game 1 85-78 in a knock-down, drag-out defensive battle. In Game 2, the Knicks turned it on in the third quarter and led by double-digits until the end of a 87-71 win. We’ll see if the Celtics recover in Beantown in a series one would think they’d like…New York is shooting just 41 percent from the field—well below their 45 percent rate from the field in the regular season—but Boston is only at 39 percent. The opportunities have been there for Boston, but New York is the one capitalizing thus far.

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks, Pacers 2-0

It seems this is the least-talked-about playoff series thus far, but there is really isn’t too much to talk about from the side of the Hawks. Indiana won Games 1 & 2 by double-digits, and seem to have control of the series unless something crazy happens in the ATL. Paul George is playing incredible basketball, averaging 25 ppg in the series and putting up a 23-point, 12-assist, 11-rebound triple-double in a 17-point Game 1 victory on Sunday. George then went off again, dropping 27 in a 15-point Game 2 win. One thing that Atlanta does have in its favor? The Hawks have won 11 in a row at home against Indiana.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls, tied 1-1

I really still have no idea what to make of this series. With Joakim Noah back in the lineup, the Bulls have a clear advantage in the post with Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson flanking Noah. Noah’s impact showed as he made a litany of key plays on the glass in the fourth quarter of Game 2 Monday that allowed Chicago to tie the series. Noah’s return couldn’t come soon enough after Brooklyn decimated the Bulls in Game 1, throwing up a 17-point victory. After Deron Williams put 22 points and seven assists in Game 1, the Bulls locked him down in Game 2 as Williams shot 1-for-9 and scored just eight points. We’ll see how he responds in Game 3 in Chicago. And of course, no one knows what the deal with Derrick Rose is. It seems more and more Rose isn’t going to play this season, which is a huge disappointment.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets, Thunder lead 2-0

Game 1 saw the Thunder do exactly what everyone expected them to when OKC destroyed Houston, 120-91. But Houston almost turned the tables in Game 2, coming back from down 15 points in the fourth quarter to take a late four-point lead and put the pressure on the Thunder. OKC responded, as a 10-2 run over the next two minutes put the game back in the Thunder’s possession. James Harden rebounded from a subpar Game 1 (20 points, 6-for-19 shooting) to go off for 36 points mostly on the strength of the 20 free throws he shot and not his 7-for-24 performance from the field. In Houston, expect the Rockets to steal a game with a huge performance from Harden but that should be all they get.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Spurs lead 2-0

The Lakers aren’t getting destroyed this series. More like suffocated. The Spurs, having lost to the Lakers eight out of 11 times in the postseason since the beginning of the 21st-century, are the kings headsmen here and control the death of the Lakers’ season. It seems they’re making it a slow and painful one. In both Game 1 and 2, the Lakers weren’t blown out. Neither game has been a blowout, with the Lakers staying close throughout each. But every time the Lakers make a move on the Spurs, San Antonio seems to have a counter-punch for it. And eventually, the Spurs made one final run in each game that put the dagger in the Lakers each time. In the worst Lakers season in recent memory (literally everyone got hurt at some point or played hurt at some point) Laker fans probably just want this to end, call it a wash, and look toward the future.

Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors, tied 1-1

This may be the most interesting first-round series, after Denver took Game 1 by just two points and Golden State then took a 131-117 victory at the Pepsi Center—where the Nuggets finished the regular season 38-3. Steph Curry rebounded from a sub-par Game 1, going off for 30 points and 13 assists in Game 2 in which Curry seemed to have the entire Denver defense on puppet-strings for the entire game. Many wrote the Dubs off after the loss of David Lee, but losing him allows head coach Mark Jackson to play Carl Landry who can play slightly faster and maybe makes the Warriors better-suited to play with the Nuggets up-tempo style. The Nuggets themselves are missing key pieces, with leading scorer Danilo Gallinari out for the year and Kenneth Faried just returning from injury. Faried notched just four points and two rebounds in 21 minutes Game 2, by far less-effective than his usual output.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies, Clippers lead 2-0

You really have to feel bad for the Grizzlies. Running into the same Clipper team two years in a row that you match up so well against, but just don’t have the same star power that Chris Paul brings to the table. That’s really the deciding factor in the series, and was the deciding factor of the Clippers’ two-point Game 2 victory when CP3 made the game-winner with seconds remaining for a 93-91 victory and a 2-0 series lead. With the series shifting to Memphis, the Griz are going to need a huge game from Zach Randolph to get on the board and start thinking about tying the series. Randolph’s averaged just 13 ppg and 6 rpg so far and speaking of rebounding, the Grizzlies have only registered 61 rebounds in the first two games of the series after averaging almost 43 per game in the regular season. That’s a problem from a frontcourt-oriented team like Memphis.

Monday
Mar042013

Behind the Basket Power Rankings 1.6

King James is currently giving a thumbs down to every other team in the league at the end of their battles.Looking Great

1. Miami Heat (43-14): Without a doubt, the Heat are the league’s best team as Miami currently rides a 14-game winning streak. With the run coming at a time when the schedule turns closer to playoff-time, it certainly helps dispel the notions thrown around off the Heat coasting through the regular season—as well as doubts regarding if LeBron and Co. can flip the proverbial “switch” for the playoffs.

2. San Antonio Spurs (47-14): Quietly as ever, the Spurs keep on keeping on as San Antonio holds the league’s best record. But a storyline to watch throughout March revolves around the health of the Spurs’ most valuable player Tony Parker—leading the team with 21 ppg and roughly 8 apg—who is projected to sit out the entire month after a Grade 2 sprain of his left ankle.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (39-19): Memphis had a shot at setting a franchise-record winning streak of nine straight victories, a streak ended when the Griz ran into the buzzsaw known as the Miami Heat. But Memphis rebounded with an emphatic 26-point win in Orlando and won nine of its last 10 games.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-16): OKC is in something of a relative rough patch for the Thunder, as the league’s second highest-scoring team (105 ppg) is 6-4 in its last 10 contests. Like Memphis, the Thunder lost a close game to Denver at the Pepsi Center but responded with an impressive win at the Staples Center against the Clippers.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (43-19): After a 4-9 stretch from late January to early March, Los Angeles won eight of its last 10. More importantly, the Clips are finally healthy again after battling injuries to Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Chauncey Billups, and Eric Bledsoe.

 

Looking Good

6. Indiana Pacers (38-22): A hot streak for Indiana seeing the Pacers win seven of their last 10 combined with the New York Knicks’ recent ineptitude has resulted in Indiana’s rise into the Eastern Conference’s second-seed. Also playing a heavy role in Indiana’s success is its play at home, owning a 25-6 record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

7. Denver Nuggets (38-22): While Denver’s notched victories over the Thunder, Lakers, and Celtics lately, the Nuggets have also lost head-scratchers to Toronto and Washington. Those losses haven’t hurt Denver too severely though, with the Nuggets staying firmly in the No. 5 slot and still threatening teams above them.

 

Looking Average

8. Atlanta Hawks (33-25): Atlanta’s having a lot of success recently with a lethal high-low attack featuring Josh Smith and Al Horford. Atlanta owns the No. 4 seed as of now, but are tied with Chicago and Brooklyn at 10.5 games back of the conference-leading Heat—meaning the Hawks will need to do better than winning six of every 10 games in March and April.

9. New York Knicks (35-21): New York continues to slide, having lost six of its last 10—a stretch including four consecutive losses coming to the Clippers and Pacers, but also two to Toronto.

10. Chicago Bulls (34-26): Not only does the rehabilitation of Derrick Rose plague the mindset of Chicago Bulls basketball and those associated, the Bulls are also contending with injuries to key contributors in Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, and Rip Hamilton. The Bulls are also under-.500 in their last 10, having lost six of those recent games.

11. Houston Rockets (33-28): Houston appears primed to make a run at a higher playoff seed with Golden State playing poorly and Utah playing in true Jazz-fashion—average. The Association’s highest-scoring team (107 ppg) should burn into the playoffs behind the efforts of James Harden who scores nearly 27 ppg.

12. Brooklyn Nets (34-26): Another team in the glut that sits 10.5 games behind the Heat in the East, Brooklyn has also been relatively average lately. When looking at the offensive talent, the Nets have underachieved this season putting up only 95 ppg but arguably over-achieving defensively, giving up only 95 ppg—the league’s fifth-best mark.

13. Boston Celtics (31-27): Beantown’s ballers have managed to keep their collective head above water even with the injury ending Rajon Rondo’s season. In fact, Boston has played better than its sub-.500 record it had with Rondo in the lineup as the Celtics are 10-4 since Rondo went down.

14. Utah Jazz (32-27): After winning three in a row against OKC, Minnesota, and Golden State in mid-February, the Jazz closed the month with a three-game losing streak as they’ve done just about all season. Utah currently holds the West’s No. 7 seed, but look more and more like the team that could drop out if a certain team manages to rise into the playoffs...

15. Los Angeles Lakers (30-30): On the strength of a 13-5 stretch—a mark bettered by only San Antonio and Miami in that span—the Lakers own an even .500 record for the first time since the beginning of 2013. L.A. will be tested once again, with a massive match-up looming Tuesday against the Thunder—a game that could provide a huge lift to the Lakers’ playoff hopes, or one that could deflate the team’s seemingly-fragile spirit.

16. Golden State Warriors (33-27): Of the top eight teams in the West, Golden St. has been the worst of late losing seven of its last 10. Not even 54 points from Steph Curry at Madison Square Garden last week could prevent the Dubs from losing.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (29-28): The Bucks are the Jazz of the East—a team holding steady at the bottom of the conference but best-described as average. Larry Sanders is making a strong case for the league’s Most Improved Player award, putting up 9 ppg, 9 rpg, and a league-high 3 bpg.

18. Dallas Mavericks (26-33): This season will likely go down as a lost one for Dallas, with the Mavericks unable to make up any ground on those it trails in the playoff race. Such an inability was highlighted with a loss Sunday against the West’s current No. 8 seed, Houston.

 

Looking Bad

19. Washington Wizards (19-39): As crazy as it sounds, Washington has played better than a lot of the teams below it in these rankings. The Wiz are over-.500 in their last 10 (6-4) and the return of John Wall has had a noticeable impact on the team—Washington is 14-11 after Wall recovered from a knee injury.

20. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-39): Another bottom-dweller playing better than its usual level, the Cavs are 5-5 in their last 10 and posted wins over Chicago and Oklahoma City in February. Kyrie Irving—averaging 23 ppg and 5 apg—will likely return against New York Monday a huge boost for a team missing its player who has been the catalyst for the team’s improvement this season.

21. Toronto Raptors (23-37): The trade landing Rudy Gay in Toronto has made the Raptors better than the sub-.500 team they were before the trade, going 7-7 since Gay’s arrival. In a Raptor uniform, Gay leads the team in scoring at 21 ppg while adding 7 rpg and over 2 spg.

22. Phoenix Suns (21-39): The Suns made another mystifying trade at the deadline, acquiring Marcus Morris from Houston to pair with his brother Markieff. Although the Suns have lost six of their last 10, Phoenix is on a three-game win streak—a marginal achievement for most, but something to write home about for Phoenix.

23. New Orleans Hornets (21-39): New Orleans contends with injury woes once again, with Eric Gordon recently managing to return but Anthony Davis out with a bone bruise in his shoulder. Greivis Vasquez is shaping up to be a strong candidate for Most Improved Player, averaging 14 ppg and 9 apg.

 

Looking Terrible

24. Portland Trail Blazers (27-31): Despite holding a record better than many teams in this area of the rankings, Portland’s recent skid has dropped its playoff hopes tremendously. The Blazers are 2-8 in their last 10 and dropped seven in a row that left them four games under-.500.

25. Detroit Pistons (23-29): While Detroit lingers near the bottom of the East, Greg Monroe continues to make his name as one of the league’s best young big men. Monroe averages 16 ppg and 9 rpg, playing a big role in the Pistons ranking in the Top 10 in rebounding at over 43 rpg.

26. Philadelphia 76ers (23-35): Philadelphia’s woes on the court are exacerbated by the off-court drama surrounding the status of Andrew Bynum’s health. Philly struggled through an arduous February, winning only three games and suffering a seven-game losing streak that spanned the final 17 days of the month.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-36): If there was an award for most-unfortunate franchise, Minnesota would win handily. With injuries to Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, and Andrei Kirilenko at simultaneous and different times, a season filled with hope for the T’Wolves devolved into another terrible year in Minnesota.

28. Sacramento Kings (21-40): Maybe there was a clerical error somewhere along the lines, but apparently the Kings never got the message when it comes to playing defense and the necessity to do so. While the young Kings are capable of hanging 119 points on the board one night, they also are prone to giving up 130 as they did to the Spurs Friday. Sacramento gives up a league-worst 105 ppg.

29. Orlando Magic (16-44): Orlando continues to flounder at the bottom of the East, and are 2-20 since the middle of January. On a somewhat positive note, the acquisition of Tobias Harris has proved to be a surprisingly good acquisition for Orlando. Harris is averaging 20 ppg in the 10 games he’s played since being traded from Milwaukee to Orlando, highlighted by a 27-point performance against Houston Friday.

30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-46): Charlotte owns the league’s worst losing streak right now, having lost six straight games. As April draws near, the focus in Charlotte will likely shift from the 2012-13 season to the 2013-14 season.

Monday
Feb252013

NBA Trade Deadline Belated Reactions

J.J. Redick's reaction to the results of the 2013 trade deadline is shared by most fans.Biggest Move: Nothing happened. Seriously. At least, nothing involved any of the names thrown around for the weeks preceding the deadline when every talking head pondered where the likes of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Eric Bledsoe, and Paul Millsap would end up. But every single one stayed in the same uniform they wore the day before the deadline.

As for the other trades….

 

J.J. Redick to the Bucks, More Detritus Drifts to Orlando.

Again, start this one with a “Seriously”. What are the Magic doing? General manager Rob Hennigan dealt away the organization’s two biggest assets since he was handed the reins and Hennigan has returned absolutely nothing to indicate the Magic will get any better any time soon. This Orlando team is going to be really bad for a really long time. Despite it being only J.J. Redick—averaging a career-high 15 ppg—all Hennigan returned in the deal was Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih, and Doron Lamb. Now the Magic have another 30-year old point guard and a couple of young perimeter players who, at best, will end up as decent role players in their respective primes.

As for Milwaukee, the Bucks really ending up committing highway robbery at the expense of Hennigan and the Magic. Gustavo Ayon flashed value last season in New Orleans with some pretty solid numbers on a per-36-minute basis and could contribute in the frontcourt off the bench if he gets the minutes. Redick will do what he does best; shoot the ball. With Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis likely flanking him each time Redick steps on the floor, J.J. will have a lot of space when the ball enters his hands. With the addition of Redick, too, Milwaukee becomes even more dangerous from the perimeter with Redick adding to the proficiency of Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Dunleavy from three.

 

Houston/Sacramento/Phoenix Three-way Deal

To Houston: Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia, Tyler Honeycutt (from Sacramento), 2013 second-round draft pick (from Phoenix)

To Phoenix: Marcus Morris (from Houston)

To Sacramento: Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas, Cole Aldrich (from Houston)

Arguably the biggest deal of anything to go down last week, the rest of the league likely won’t see much of an impact from this trade until later on down the road. Thomas Robinson is a project, but the Rockets got immense value in the No. 5 draft pick from 2012. Garcia and Honeycutt likely won’t see much playing time with Jamers Harden and Jeremy leaving little on the table for any other guard in Houston.

Phoenix made yet another puzzling move, when one minute it seems the Suns want to rebuild around young talent but then turn around and make deals for players like Goran Dragic, Jermaine O’Neal, and Luis Scola. But the deal pairs Marcus with his brother and college teammate Markieff. Marcus so far has proven to be the more valuable of the two, averaging 9 ppg and shooting 38 percent from three while starting 17 games this season for Houston. Markieff’s played in 57 games for Phoenix this season, but his shooting numbers are down from last season although he averages around 7 ppg as he did last year.

If any team benefits immediately from this deal, it’s Sacramento. The Kings now have a legitimate power forward to start next to DeMarcus Cousins in Patterson who put up nearly 12 ppg in Houston, the team’s fourth-leading tally. Although, Jason Thompson will probably still see time on the floor due to his rebounding prowess with Thompson pulling in 7 rpg as opposed to Patterson’s tally under 5 rpg.

 

Guard Shuffle: Jordan Crawford to Boston, Eric Maynor to Portland

Boston basically replaced the injured body of Leandro Barbosa with a younger version of himself. Crawford can fill it up when he’s on the floor with a career average of 13 ppg in 26 mpg. Crawford likely fills a role the Celtics were trying to fill with the losses of Barbosa and Rajon Rondo, and Crawford can play the role of sparkplug a la Nate Robinson in 2010.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, Eric Maynor found himself traded for the third time in his four-year career. This time, to the Trail Blazers for a trade exception and the rights for a person named Georgios Printezis which will most likely ever be the only interesting thing about his NBA career. Maynor hasn’t proven much worth yet, but he also hasn’t had the chance to do so yet. Remember, this is a guy who led a No. 12 seed to a Final Four appearance in 2009 with averages of 22 ppg and 6 apg at Virginia Commonwealth. Maynor only played in nine games last season due to a torn ACL and missed nearly all of what some expected to be a breakout year for him as the team’s back-up point guard. This season, Maynor lost his back-up job to Reggie Jackson which resulted in his trade. In Portland though, Maynor should get his chance with Blazers GM Neil Olshey saying Maynor will be Damian Lillard’s back-up and could even see time on the floor with the starters and Lillard on the floor at the same time. The job is undoubtedly Lillard’s, but Maynor should finally start seeing the minutes needed to prove himself beyond what his career numbers of 4 ppg and 3 apg in 14 mpg say about him. Honestly, Maynor could prove the be the most underrated and most valuable of any acquisition at the deadline depending on how he plays the rest of this season.