Tag Archives: Chicago Bulls

2017 NBA Draft: Celtics take Tatum, Ojeleye, and another Bird

The Boston Celtics spent the last week driving the NBA internet nuts. Perhaps Mike Zarren has found a way to garner bitcoin off of search engine traffic related to Boston. The last week was full of peak-speculation and one actual trade that involved the top pick. This doesn’t happen. But it happened. And it will be okay, Celtics fans. Fultz does seem like a special talent…but remember that its easy to dream on 19 and 20 year-olds and convince yourself that your dreams of their success will soon become reality. After reading through Jonathan Abrams’ fantastic Boys Among Men, it will become clear just how uncertain the process of drafting young men one or two years out of high school with the hopes that they become world-class professional hoops magicians by age 23 or 24…how uncertain that process really is. By the way, read the book. Abrams is one of the better sportswriters working today, going deep with his profiles, unearthing deeper truths.

Still, despite the uncertainty, we read enough about a player and we believe. We love the player before he dons the uniform of our tribe…and then we regularly scorn the player for actually making his own choice about where to work. Free-agency was hard-won in all professional sports, but as fans, most of us remain focused on what we want out of the athlete, not on what the athlete wants for his or herself. Some make the argument that having a deeper level of sympathy or compassion for a man making $100 million over four years is too much to ask. Kind of like how the question of reparations for slavery is too much for many to even consider. Here we have a situation, the NBA Draft, where we obsess about potential, the future, and “assets.” The perfect cocktail for the internet age, where trade rumors spread like California wildfires and nothing ever makes any sense. And yet…there were a few impacting trades made this year, as we led up to the draft.

Boston Celtics

First GM Danny Ainge trades the top pick to Philadelphia for the 3rd pick, plus the 2018 Lakers pick if LA’s pick lands in the 2–5 spot next June. But if that Lakers pick doesn’t hit the high lottery sweet spot, Philadelphia will instead send a 2019 first-rounder to Boston that it acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the infamous Sauce Castillo (Nik Stauskas) swindle. The Kings will gradually improve with DeAaron Fox and Justin Jackson helping, but they’ll have a tough time winning 45 games in the crowded west by April of 2019. Watching Fox, I was amazed. Normally, I can’t watch NCAA Tournament for too long without getting annoyed by all the TV timeouts and the stagnant offense, but DeAaron Fox is really fast. John Wall-Isaiah type fast. He got wherever he wanted on the floor with his wiry frame. He’ll be fun.

So, this Celtics pick via Philly will either be great (Lakers, 2018) or possibly great (mid-to-late lottery, Kings 2019).

Why did Danny do it?

A half-dozen possible reasons:

  • Fultz and Isaiah wouldn’t be the most-ideal fit together.
  • Tatum can score in isolation and from the post. His body is more developed than the lanky Fultz. He’s 6’8″ and will be able to give the Celtics options in figuring out who will be the better long-term fit, Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Boston’s bench scoring needed a lift. They get it cheaply so they can attempt a free-agent run at Hayward/Griffin
  • The Lakers 2018 pick was too good a possibility to pass up. Not only could it be a top five pick…it was the rival Lakers pick we’d be stealing. Speaking of the Lakers, they got out from under what would have been a prickly situation with Ball coming in and reducing D’Angelo Russell to an afterthought. Instead, Russell may become an afterthought in Brooklyn (hope not, he doesn’t deserve to be given up on just yet). Clearing out Mozgov’s contract allows the Lakers fans to clear the red carpet for LeBron. Aging LeBron on 50-win Lakers in three years seems like a kind of minor tragedy.
  • They just really like Tatum and weren’t 100% in on Fultz becoming a once-every-five-years type of talent. Who knows?
  • They saved just over $1 million based on draft pick slot (3rd instead of 1st), which gives them a bit more to offer Hayward/Griffin.

From Chris Forsberg (ESPN Boston):

Ainge said the Celtics would have picked Tatum with the first pick if they had stayed in that spot before moving down to №3 in a trade earlier this week with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ainge gushed about both Tatum’s scoring potential and his versatility on the defensive end.

“We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting. [His] Intelligence [and] character,” Ainge said. “There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”

Asked about trade rumors, including whispers that the Celtics were pursuing New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis, Ainge said, “I don’t comment on trade rumors. I will say this: It was a little blown out of proportion but I’ll just leave it at that. A lot more talk by [the media].”

Jayson Tatum: Let’s Take Him

From everything I’ve read, Jayson Tatum will be a very good isolation scorer…perhaps even soon…like within two years.

A link to a Tatum story from 2015, via STL Today. Tatum is from St. Louis.

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-hochman/hochman-like-godfather-like-godson-jayson-tatum-is-on-track/article_9599b815-ebc5-5a6a-8743-1cd389e3b0a7.html

Tatum’s Draft Express Profile: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jayson-Tatum-7249/

Fortunately the Celtics have a 53-win team that will probably add a high-level free-agent (Hayward still seems like the most likely possibility), and that will likely be it. No fireworks! None! Just a clear blue sky with a bright fucking future. Can we handle that?

Part of the issue is the culture of fandom is obsessed with stars. But sometimes the guys that become stars are unheralded. Sometimes they are picked 35th, sometimes they’re picked last (Isaiah). Sometimes, they’re not picked at all (Jonathan Simmons! Remember how good he was against Houston a month ago?)

Second Round Celtics Pick: Semi Ojeleye (SMU)

SI profile of Ojeleye from February:

https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/02/28/semi-ojeleye-smu-mustangs

From The Ringer:

There aren’t many sure-bets for the 3-and-D role in this year’s draft. Reed stands out as a good one — so does Villanova wing Josh Hart and the SMU duo of Sterling Brown and Semi Ojeleye. They’re all hiding in plain sight: Brown could go undrafted, and Ojeleye is likely a late-first-rounder at best. Ojeleye in particular, with his chiseled, Wreck-It Ralph body, has remarkable potential. There’s little doubt he will be able to effectively defend multiple positions. He also plays with intensity, which manifests in chase-down blocks.

Jabari Bird, 56th pick from Cal.

The Celtics had a chance to pick Bird again. So they did.

Wolves Howling

Anyway, the Timberwolves have some happy fans right now. They got the star. Jimmy Butler doesn’t have to move far to relocate from Chicago to Minneapolis. He’s headed for more snow this December. And Wolves fans are ecstatic. A core of Dieng-Towns-Butler-Wiggins-Rubio will battle for home court in the west, while the Clippers descend into mediocrity when Chris Paul and Griffin bolt, and the Jazz and Grizzlies try to hold firm to 48+ wins. Utah is balancing treacherously on the what-if-we-lose-Hayward?-waterslide. I’m happy for Thibs. I’m happy for Towns. I’m happy for Rubio. They need one more shooter…

Lingering Questions for Boston

Gordon Hayward?

Blake Griffin?

More trade speculation around Paul George, who probably needs a new public relations team. George has made it perfectly clear he’d like to stop playing basketball until he can move back to southern California.

Official signing date for free agents: July 9.

***

I wrote a basketball-themed memoir. It’s a collection of personal essays and reflections on the game of basketball, fandom, and identity. From childhood memories of growing up with the Boston Celtics, to playing the sport as a means of coping with adolescence, this is about basketball as a means of connection. Whether playing, watching, reading and writing about the NBA, or absorbing the intensity of being in the arena, the game has me firmly in its grasp. The book is my way of appreciating basketball and fandom.

http://www.blurb.com/b/8005459-the-dusty-jumper

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Brief 2017 NBA Playoff Recaps: Volume 1 (Opening Weekend)

Four games in each day, to launch the 2017 NBA Playoffs. One paragraph per game, that’s all time will allow.

Saturday, April 15

Cleveland Cavs 109, Indiana Pacers 108 (Miles To Go Before I Sleep…)

(CLE leads, 1–0)

LeBron very good, rest of Cavs looked rusty…Kyrie 1 of 9 from deep…Cleveland dodges bullet when C.J. Miles misses fade-away at buzzer. Paul George is mad at C.J. Miles for taking a good look. Too bad Sir Lance couldn’t steal one for Indiana, that would’ve made things dramatic. (Lance is bringing it back to 2013, by the way)…Kevin Seraphin got 16 playoff minutes! Don’t wake the monster…

Milwaukee Bucks 97, Toronto Raptors 83 (Sir Brogdon At Your Service…)

(MIL leads 1–0)

Giannis in attack mode, such a beautiful sight. Half court to the rim in 3 strides. 28 on 18 shots…President Malcolm Brogdon ain’t a rookie, he’s a savvy vet! What do you need? I got your defense, your timely shooting, your smart passing. Just tell me what you need…Khris Middleton is the only human on the planet who can shoot 4 of 15 and finish +27 on the night. Three blocks by Maker made me squeal with delight. Lowry 2 of 11 and 0 of 6 from deep. Wrist rust be a problem. Casey needs to get Valanciunas more than 5 shots. This is going 7.

Dwayne Casey needs to figure some things out before Game 2

 

San Antonio Spurs 111, Memphis Grizzlies 82 (Kawhi Can’t This be a Forfeit?)

(SA leads 1–0….soon to be 4–0)

When we heard Tony Allen was out for the series, we stopped holding out any hope that this would be competitive. The Spurs were ordered by Adam Silver to wait until the 2nd quarter to annihilate the Grizzlies, so they cooperated, ending the first with a 5 point deficit. Then San Antonio won the next three quarters by 34. When you want to watch every series, it helps to have one like this.

Utah Jazz 97, Los Angeles Clippers 95 (Win One for the Gobert!)

(UTAH leads 1–0)

17 seconds after tip and The Gentle Giant, Gobert the Great, was on the ground, crawling and shaking his head. It was a painful, deflating sight. Anyone who was rooting for the Jazz felt hollow inside. Quin Snyder’s expression was more than concerned. Not exactly panicked, though. He held himself together, and the Jazz held themselves together. Players like Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, George Hill, and Derrick Favors…pulled this one out. What a wonderful game. The Clippers have all the talent and the Jazz have all the grit. The Clippers are an empty vessel, with a ferocious point guard at the helm. They are less than the sum of their parts, while the Jazz are more than just a couple of Joes. What sweet music, Game One brought us. Joe Johnson has been reborn. Joe Ingles is the best YMCA gym rat in the NBA.

Slow-Motion Joe Goes With the Flow

 

Sunday, April 16

Golden St Warriors 121, Portland Trail Blazers 109 (McCollum Merely One Man…)

(GS leads 1–0)

C.J. McCollum was Golden State’s Gollum, they were never sure which way he’d go. Dropping 41 points on 28 shots, McCollum and his pal Lillard kept the Blazers afloat until the 15–2 Warrior avalanche began the 4th. Defensive Draymond opened the gates and the unassuming Ian Clark chipped in 7 of those 15. The first 36 minutes of the series may be the closest, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Blazers backcourt pull one out in the Rose Quarter.

Washington Wizards 114, Atlanta Hawks 107 (Chief Markieff Offers Relief)

(WAS leads 1–0)

The Wizards are probably the better team, and certainly the more interesting one of the two, but with time slipping away at the end of the half, the Hawks led, 48–42, and Washington’s Markieff Morris missed a contested corner three. The ensuing review showed that Morris had been fouled as time expired on the shot. Three free-throws and the lead was cut to 3, as they strolled toward the locker rooms. After the half, Morris opened up by hitting a 3, and the game was tied. Sometimes a game swings when you least expect it. The Hawks have little margin for error. The Wizards bench came up completely empty (except for Mr. Oubre). A few Tim Hardaway threes (0 of 6) and the Hawks might have pulled it out. Instead, Washington still holds home court for now.

Chicago Bulls 106, Boston Celtics 102 (Tragic Turn for Cs but Baby Please…)

(CHI leads 1–0)

What an awful turn of events for Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics. A tragedy clouded what should have been an exuberant first round home game in Boston. Despite it all, Isaiah showed up and did what he always does: scored. 33 points on 18 shots, 10 of 12 from the line, and 3 from deep. Isaiah finished with a +12. So did Bobby Portis, the Bulls 22 year-old who came off the bench with a fury. Those ten minutes without Isaiah belonged to Portis, who scored 19 on 8 of 10, grabbing 9 boards, dishing 3 assists and blocking 2 shots. After the Bulls sent Gibson and McDermott packing, Portis has seen his minutes grow. Once he started knocking down threes at the end of the regular season, his confidence apparently grew as well. Boston’s 53-wins and home court advantage are in the rear-view now, as they fight off Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis, looking to even things on Tuesday night. Bradley and Horford did their parts, along with Isaiah. Crowder, Smart, Olynyk, and Jaylen have to give more.

Houston Rockets 118, OKC Thunder 87 (Roll the Thunder, Hear Their Cry)

(HOU leads 1–0)

No more debates, no more MVP concerns, just throw the ball up and play. The better team won. The better team has Patrick Beverley, whose offensive contributions (21 points on 13 shots) pale in comparison to the impact of his Westbrook-hounding. Russell can rampage all over the regular season, but he won’t rampage all over Mr. Beverley, who has never known the concept of fear or intimidation. Westbrook’s 6 of 23 line, and 9 turnovers were a big part of the problem. His sidekick, Victor Oladipo, was a dreadful 1 of 12 from the field, misfiring on all 6 three-pointers. OKC’s only hope is to contain Houston’s relentless attack, in which James Harden dissects their defense and makes life simple and breezy for Clint Capela and Nene, who shot a combined 14 of 17, feasting on lay-ups and dunks. Either redirect Harden away from the paint, or Westbrook has to play three times as well as he did tonight and Oladipo needs to wake up. This could be over in 5.

***

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Will update on a weekly basis.

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End of Season NBA Predictions: Eastern Conference Stretch Run

With 25 games left in the NBA’s overly-long 82-game season, we’re back in action after the restful All-Star Break. The trade deadline proved about as exciting as a Nets-Suns match-up. Tobias Harris will be a useful addition over time in Detroit, but he won’t impact Detroit’s possible series with Cleveland (1 vs 8).

Meanwhile, no the Boston Celtics did not make a splashy trade at the deadline. As a Celtics fan, I’m relieved they didn’t trade the Brooklyn pick for a short-term upgrade and a better shot at Toronto/Cleveland this year. Realistically, the Celtics need to win one playoff series with this new young core before they think about short-term improvements. If they have a chance to land Blake Griffin or Kevin Love, that would change the equation. Even if the Brooklyn pick turns into the 2nd or 3rd overall selection, the Celtics could certainly build around Simmons, Ingram, or Bender, each of whom could play power forward. If it ends up 4th or 5th (Damn you, Suns!), Ainge may be more likely to package that pick with other 1st rounders and other young Celtics. We shall see. The prospect of drafting three more rookies (they will have Dallas’ pick as well as their own and Brooklyn’s) would seem to make for an extra crowded training camp, and a very young team.

Eastern Conference

The Cleveland Cavs will coast into the playoffs, incorporating Channing Frye’s shooting off the bench. Kyrie and Love will allow LeBron to sit most of the final week of the regular season, with the top seed wrapped up.

Cleveland Prediction: 60 wins, 1st in East.

Raptor-Mania will ensue when the Toronto Raptors win their first playoff series in too many years. DeMarre Carroll will return from arthroscopic knee surgery by the end of March, in order to get up to speed by playoff time. Last year’s Raptors started 22-5, before crumbling in the 2nd half, but that won’t happen this year. Lowry’s conditioning and core strength are hugely improved, and DeMar DeRozan’s improvement has been well documented. Perhaps most importantly, the depth and defensive intensity of the Raptors bench will keep them ahead of the pack.

Toronto Prediction: 53 wins, 2nd in East.

The progress of these Boston Celtics has been rapid and consistent since acquiring PG Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix last February. After beating up on a weaker Eastern Conference to finish last season 24-12, Boston is now 33-24, on pace for 47 wins and home court in a first round series. Thanks to Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and addition Amir Johnson, the Celtics are one of the more physical defensive teams in the Association. Their cohesion and intensity has led to the league’s 4th best eFG% against (48.1%) and they force the 3rd-most turnovers per game. Boston still struggles with the rare traditional post-up big man, which could become an issue if they face Valanciunas and Toronto in the 2nd round. If the Celtics hold on to the third seed, who will they face in the first round remains to be seen, as seven teams have a legit chance to finish 4th-8th, and they may all finish within three games of each other.

Boston Prediction: 48 wins, 3rd in East.

The Indiana Pacers will catch fire as their schedule softens during the stretch run. Most forget the Pacers started 12-5, with Paul George shooting the lights out in November. As the season wore on, Indiana wore down, and their December schedule snuffed out that early start. Fast forward to Friday night in Oklahoma City: Paul George’s fresh legs, Monta Ellis’ scoring, and rookie Myles Turner’s 6 blocks and timely outside shooting (stretch 5!) led to a statement win for the young Pacers. Considering where they were a year ago, the progress and future-positivity is a testament to Larry Bird’s vision, Frank Vogel’s coaching acumen, and a host of shooters surrounding the potent Paul George. Myles Turner’s energy and versatility will become obvious, but he may hit the rookie wall by April. The Pacers are an enigmatic young bunch, but can they win close playoff games?

Indiana Prediction: 47 wins, 4th in East.

The Chicago Bulls are injured. “We’ve heard that song before!” you shout. Yes, they need a new song, I agree. Jimmy Butler is out for another few weeks with a sprained knee. Mike Dunleavy has a creaky back, and has been missed on the perimeter. Derrick Rose can’t absorb contact anymore, so he avoids it, and is limited defensively. Still…Pau Gasol is Pau Gasol. Butler has become capable of lifting the Bulls all by himself (see Philadelphia game, 53 points on 26 free-throws). Derrick Rose can still score, and Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic can both shoot. There is enough here to keep the Bulls afloat, even if floating is not at all what they’d hoped for in November.

Chicago Prediction: 45 wins, 5th in East.

Chris Bosh’s uncertain health status, the up-and-down Goran Dragic, and the aging Dwyane Wade will make it tough for the Miami Heat to make a real run, despite their light last 15 games. Miami will land somewhere between 5th and 7th in the East. If Bosh is able to play at full strength, and Dragic gets his confidence and health back, the Heat could put a first round scare into Toronto or Boston, and would make life extra difficult for the Pacers.

Miami Prediction: 44 wins, 6th in East.

The Atlanta Hawks will fail to regain their swagger from last year as the lost season continues even after the trade rumors die down. Atlanta has the 3rd-toughest schedule remaining in the NBA. The Hawks will fall to 7th or 8th in the East in what will be an insanely-packed end of season battle between Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, and Washington for two spots. DeMarre Carroll’s absence and Jeff Teague’s struggles come into focus by season’s end. I wish things got better for Horford, Millsap, and Korver. What a great story they were last year.

Atlanta Prediction: 43 wins, 7th in East.

The Detroit Pistons are taking the shape of Stan Van Gundy. Let’s rephrase that. Stan Van Gundy, who has a round, slightly oblong shape, is a wise coach, and as GM, he is shaping his roster around his uber-talented center, Andre Drummond, and his very skillful point guard, Reggie Jackson. Detroit needed shooting. They traded for Marcus Morris to play 3/4. Morris is having a solid year. They had Jodie Meeks for balance off the bench. Injured for most of the year. They hoped Anthony Tolliver’s range would provide help. Not so much. So….Stan traded for Tobias Harris and Donatas Motiejunas. Motiejunas, whose back has been cranky all season in Houston, shot 37% from deep in 2014-15, and has an array of offensive moves. Harris is only 23, and is on a solid contract, which will look better as the cap imitates the ocean, and rises. Detroit needs to make the playoffs to prove to its fans that there is progress. The city needs it. The team needs it. It will happen.

Detroit Prediction: 43 wins, 8th in East.

***

Left out of the Playoffs in this mad dash for the final three seeds: Charlotte and Washington.

Within going into much detail, both Charlotte and Washington will finish within three games of the 7th/8th bunch. Washington is the big disappointment here, as the Wizards hoped to finish with 48+ wins after some impressive playoff performances last year. Bradley Beal’s youthful knee issues and Nene’s old-fella knee issues have forced the Wizards into extreme small-ball lineups that haven’t worked out as well as planned. The addition of Markieff Morris from Phoenix can’t hurt, but they’ll need some time to build chemistry.

 

 

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