Tag Archives: Philadelphia 76ers

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

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NBA Thoughts, Vol. 83 (Isaiah is an All-Star)

Celtics Thoughts

  • Isaiah Thomas is clearly deserving of an All-Star spot. And so is Jae Crowder…except defense is never equally valued and is still very tough to quantify, despite RPM, on-off numbers, and all the Synergy sports numbers you can find. Regardless of who makes the team, Celtics fans should appreciate both Isaiah and Jae. It’s fun to have the shortest All-Star in the NBA on the team I love.
  • Thomas takes 6.4 free-throws per game (and makes 5.7, 89%). As a team, the Celtics take 22.5 (t-16th). When Isaiah is out of the game, it becomes obvious how tough it is for Boston to create in the half-court.
  • Chris Forsberg (ESPN Boston) wrote a short piece about how casual Boston sports fans should enjoy the next few months of Celtics basketball. These types of articles annoy the shit out of me. I understand that promoting the local sports team is important, but the people need to be cajoled into caring about the team are the same ones who will boo when the team doesn’t play well in the first half of a playoff game. Having to beg non-hoops fans to enjoy the final three months of the regular season, instead of the last couple of weeks in April, heading into the playoffs feels cheap and ugly.
  • The Celtics are one of seven teams who will likely be fighting for The 5th through 8th playoff spots in the East. The other six: Miami, Detroit, Indiana, Washington, New York and Charlotte. It’s certainly possible Orlando could turn things back around, which would make it 8 teams for those 4 spots, but it doesn’t seem likely.
  • Marcus Smart‘s knee injury (out from 11/20-12/27) not only kept him off the court, but affected his conditioning. As one would expect when dealing with a somewhat serious knee injury, Smart was not in basketball shape upon returning. Watching him in late December and early January, as Stevens gradually increased his minutes, you could see the energy was there, but the crisp movement wasn’t. You could also see it in his shooting. Three-pointers were short, and his rhythm wasn’t there. As shooting coaches will tell you, it’s all in the footwork and the legs. After going 1 of 12 in his first five games back, it didn’t get much better in the following six games he was 4 of 22. During the recent snow day (the Sixers game was postponed on Saturday due to Weezer’s song “My Name is Jonas”), Smart said he planned on shooting threes in the gym all afternoon. In the two games since, he has made 5 of 11 from deep. Celtics fans hope that continues.
  • Kelly Olynyk (thanks, Eric) has been on a tear from deep since December. He’s up to 43.4% for the season. Olynyk provides much needed bench-scoring. In 44 games, Olynyk’s splits are noticeable.
    • 23 wins: 12.1 pts, 5.1 reb, 1.9 ast, 49.8 FG%, 45.3 3-PT%.
    • 21 losses: 7.8 pts, 3.6 reb, 1.2 ast, 41% FG, 41% 3-PT%
  • Olynyk‘s three-point percentages by month:
    • October 20%
    • November 35.6%
    • December 46.3%
    • January 51.1%
  • After experimenting with David Lee as a bench-unit facilitator early in the season, Stevens has given Jonas Jerebko and recently, Tyler Zeller, some minutes. In the last couple of weeks, Jerebko has found a groove (it seems like 15 minutes per game allows for getting into a flow, whereas 8-12 minutes per game doesn’t). Zeller, who shot 55% from the field last year, has made 10 of his last 16 shots.

 

Around the Association

  • Injuries continue to mount and the 82-game season is rarely mentioned lately. It’s obvious that the season should be shortened. We’d take 76, even though 70 or 66 makes more sense.
  • Tim Duncan not playing tonight in Oakland (sore knee that has been sore for all 44 games so far this year) is in keeping with Pop’s sourpuss, always-keep-your-hand-hidden philosophy of the regular season. Regardless of the outcome, Gregg Popovich can’t lose. If the Warriors win, the Spurs have an excuse. If the Spurs win, the Warriors have no excuse. In addition, the 7’3″ Serbian giant Boban Marjanovic and the well-rested David West get ample opportunities to audition.
  • The Toronto Raptors might not appear much different on the surface. DeMarre Carroll in (before he went out with a knee injury, probably connected to last May’s knee injury in the playoffs), Amir Johnson out, some bench help added in Biyombo, Scola, and Joseph. They may not appear entirely different, but their core has improved individually.
    • DeMar DeRozan is a scoring machine impersonating McGrady with his in-between game and attacking the rim;
    • Kyle Lowry‘s conditioning and patience on the court have improved.
    • Despite averaging only 14.8 assists (27th), the Raptors have an Offensive rating of 105.2 (tied with Cleveland for 5th overall, and best in East).
    • With Jonas Valanciunas healthy and scoring at will in the paint, the Raptors have gone 18-9.
  • Toronto has won 8 in a row, though they’ve had the luxury of mostly avoiding the top teams in that stretch (Celtics, Clippers without Griffin). If Toronto has truly taken a leap, they’ll need to show it against Chicago and Cleveland, who they face at the end of February.

Listen: The Vertical, new podcast with Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Woj).

No Defense for this Defenselessness

  • The bottom half of the Western Conference can’t play any defense. Of the NBA’s worst 9 defenses, 7 come from the West. Here they are, in order from completely awful to bad:
    • Lakers (108.4 rating): We knew going in that Kobe should have retired. We know going in they were full of rookies. We knew going in that Lou Williams and Nick Young haven’t heard of defense. We knew going in that Byron Scott was the coach.
    • Pelicans & Suns (106.2 rating): The Pelicans were not supposed to be this awful defensively. Omer Asik’s early retirement (while still playing a few ugly minutes each game) has contributed. Injuries certainly contributed. The Suns were supposed to run up and down the court really fast and then Tyson Chandler was supposed to save them. Tyson can’t play defense for the other four guys with Suns jerseys, can’t run like that, and probably isn’t exactly fired up. Then Eric Bledsoe got hurt and the Suns went up in flames.
    • Nuggets & Blazers (105.9, 105.6 rating). Emmanual Mudiay hasn’t exactly gotten off to a tantalizing start. More Muddy than anything. The Nuggets have offense-first players (Gallinari, Faried, and the surprisingly lithe Will Barton). Sadly, defense hasn’t come second. The Blazers are terribly young, and C.J. McCollum, though he seems like a nice young gentleman, should probably be sparking the bench, rather than trying to defend taller shooting guards.
    • Rockets & Kings (105.5, 104.9). Both teams are too busy trying to score points to worry about defense. Kevin McHale is probably still wondering what happened. George Karl is afraid of getting his hopes up…he’s been around too long for that. But don’t look now, the Kings have won 8 of 11, and DeMarcus Cousins is the hottest big man in the game in January, averaging 32.5, 13.7 rebounds while shooting 50% overall and 47% from deep (!).
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Halfway There: A Stroll Through the Bottom Third of the NBA at 41 Games

We have arrived…sort of. Welcome to the halfway mark of the NBA season. 41 games. All 30 teams have played between 38 and 43 games, so we’re as close to the midpoint as we’ll get. The All-Star Break is a few weeks away. As always at this time of year teams are dealing with multiple injuries and only three (Golden State, San Antonio, and Cleveland) have anything resembling a firm grasp of their playoff situation. That leaves 27 teams jockeying for 13 other playoff spots. In reality, more like 20 teams for 13 spots, which is a few more than usual this year.

This stretch of the season (six weeks between New Year’s and the All-Star break) is by far the most grueling. In an ideal NBA-schedule-world (70-game season), these six weeks would include 3 games per week maximum; 18 total). Instead, many teams will play 22 and 23 games in this stretch. Not only is the product on the court worse, injury-risk becomes magnified. Players are usually battling through injuries at this time of year as is. Back-to-backs and 4-games-in-6 days stretches compound things. As the NBA moves fully into a faster-paced, ball-movement-focused game, and as coaches look toward maintaining the health of their stars and restricting playing time to 32-34 minutes per game, the mid-year January stretch becomes a test in endurance, depth and the luck of health.

Making this time of year even more difficult to examine is the parity that exists throughout the NBA. As of January 17th, 10 teams—1/3 of the Association—are within four games of the .500 mark. Seven of those 10 teams are in the East. With few teams in obvious selling position as the trade deadline nears, questions abound. We have one month for teams to figure out how likely they are to make the playoffs (and, in the East, how likely they are to make the top 7 in order to avoid Cleveland in the first round).

It’s time to take a stroll through the Association. We’ll go from the bottom to the top, splitting this into three parts. Here’s the bottom third, by current win-pace.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers-Gypsies (pace: 10 wins)

We can only hope that the 76ers actually lose 76 games. Since entering the NBA in 2010, point guard Ishmael Larry Smith (17 ppg, 7.8 apg, 3.4 rpg after trade to PHI) has now played on 9 teams. We can only hope Ish will add four more teams to his resume, and set the NBA record with 13 before retiring.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (pace: 18 wins)

The Lakers have won 4 of 10, but as the season progresses, they have to ensure they finish with a bottom 3-record in order to keep their top-3 protected lottery pick from the Sixers. The Lakers will be sure to sit any of their useful veterans (Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, and possibly create fake-injuries for Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle in order to ensure those losses. What a wonderful way to go out, Kobe…in a tank.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (pace: 22 wins)

Fire everyone! That usually solves all your problems. Celtics fans remain eternally grateful, sending pickled Russian delicacies every holiday to Brooklyn’s infamously wealthy Russian owner. The lingering question: Will Brook Lopez and/or Thaddeus Young be traded in the hopes of acquiring a pick in this June’s draft?

  1. Phoenix Suns (pace: 26 wins)

The Suns may actually threaten the Lakers for the bottom 3. They play Los Angeles twice in late March in what will certainly be fiercely contested games to see which can score fewer points. Eric Bledsoe’s knee injury means he gets to sit out the rest of this tortured season in Arizona. Perhaps Jeff Hornacek regrets that fact that misguided owner Robert Sarver (damn millennials!) didn’t fire him last month when Hornacek’s assistants were let go.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves (26 wins)

Karl-Anthony Towns has a lock on rookie of the year, thanks in part to the tutelage of a certain Mr. Garnett. In a fascinating Q&A between coach Sam Mitchell and NBA writer Britt Robson you begin to understand why the Wolves shoot the most long two-pointers and fewest threes in the NBA right now. There’s no denying Towns’ polished game at the moment. Meanwhile, the rest of the young Wolves core (Wiggins, LaVine, Rubio, and Mohammed) need a year of pure shooting instruction (and leg lifting) before Minnesota has a chance to fully arrive. One more top-seven pick seems like a prize, but with such a young team, the Wolves might be wise to dangle the pick and a role player for a true stretch four like Ryan Anderson.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans (pace: 27 wins)

Sadness comes in many shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of disguises. Meet the 2015-16 New Orleans Pelicans, the only team in the NBA that wishes the season were 90 games long. Instead, Ryan Anderson will be discussed until February 18th in nearly every trade rumor. A truly injury-riddled November doomed the spring for Alvin Gentry, Anthony Davis and friends.

  1. Denver Nuggets (pace: 30 wins)

Two and a half years after firing George Karl despite a 57-win regular season, the Nuggets appear firmly entrenched in the bottom of the Western Conference. The time since has taught us: a) the overall value of Andre Iguodala; b) the effect of alcoholism on Ty Lawson’s career; c) Andre Miller will always be a wise and steadying influence on a roster.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks (pace: 34 wins)

Pundits often talk about the most difficult step a team can make in the NBA is going from good (50+ wins) to being a legit contender. But what about going from decent (35-44 wins) to good (47-52)? With increased parity, that step is becoming increasingly tricky. The young Bucks (average age: 25) have struggled to incorporate post-presence Greg Monroe and compensate for the loss of bench depth (Dudley, Zaza). But here’s something more alarming: They won 41 games last year, despite finishing 8-18 after trading for Michael Carter-Williams. The future of the Bucks (Giannis, Parker, MCW) and the Wolves will both hinge on long-range shooting.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers (pace: 34 wins)

The post-Aldridge/Batum/Mathews Blazers have held things together with remarkable poise for such a young group. Allen Crabbe’s rise has helped the Blazers survive until now, but the team’s youth will make their modest success hard to sustain. Like the Kings, the Blazers have multiple offensive options, but struggle to play enough defense to win close games against the league’s better half. Unlike the Kings, the Blazers aren’t supposed to be winning 30+ games this year.

  1. Sacramento Kings (pace: 35 wins)

Vivek, Vlade and DeMarcus are praying for an 8th seed. The honor of being decapitated by the Warriors is too alluring for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 and is about to wake up from their Sleep Train Arena slumber and move into the Golden 1 Center in November. Finishing 8th is a possibility if these things happen: a) Derrick Favors remains somewhat injured (backs are tricky) in Utah; b) Sacramento can win at least 2 of their 3 remaining games with Portland; c) Rondo and Cousins find a channel to their best selves for the 2nd half of the year…they did last night by ending the undermanned Clippers’ 9-game winning streak at Staples Center.

***

Next up: Teams 11-20 (Most of the Eastern Conference).

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: