NBA Playoffs Hot Take 4-28–18
Before I start my second round predictions, here are a few questions to ponder based on what we saw in the first round:
#1: Is the Westbrook effect a real thing?
Oladipo was awful last year in OKC, and this year he’s an All-Star. Meanwhile Paul George went from being an All-Star and all-Defensive player to looking like a zombie (and not in a good, San Antonio white walker soulless basketball machine as seen on the brilliant Game of Zones). He seemed to have lost all confidence, refusing to shoot, waiting too long to make the right pass, and looking like he had no desire to be on court.
#2: Did Paul George just cost himself $100 million dollars without getting injured?
For all the joy Lakers fans are feeling about the chances of signing Paul George in free agency, I think a lot of them (including me) are now worried it might be a mistake to sign him to a max contract.
#3: Is Lebron James now officially done with Cleveland?
This question is valid regardless of whether the Cavs advance. Everyone else on the team is either horrible, regressing to the mean, or choking under the pressure of the playoffs.
When the Lakers were a bottom 3 team last year, I was enraged to see Jose Calderon even getting on the floor during the regular season. That’s how bad he was on defense. In Cleveland, he’s starting games.
But the worst thing is, he may be the best option available to the Cavs.
George Hill has been as cold as a White Walker on offense to go along with his porous defense. After all, he once played for the Spurs. (Edit: Hill came in after being injured this series, and made 9 out of 11 free throws, while missing two shots and getting one tip-in. How in the world he got to the line that much is beyond me.)
#4: Is the Kardashian curse no longer a real thing?
Tristan Thompson just played his first good half of basketball since the 2016 Finals. He’s an active defender and a big reason why Cleveland got off to an early double digit lead. Is he still with Khloe or not? I did a quick search for “Tristan Thompson still married” and here are the top four headlines:
Feb. 28, 2018
Apr. 12, 2018
Apr. 13, 2018
Apr. 17, 2018
Now, let’s look at Thompson’s performance after these headlines came out:
3/1: 22 min, 6 pts, (2 for 6 ), 11 reb, 1 steal
4/15: 2 minutes, 1 rebound
4/22: 7 min, 0 pts (0 for 1),1 reb, 1ast, 1 to,
4/27: 14 min, 3pts (1 for 2), 4 reb, 1 ast, 1 to
4/29: 35 min., 15 pts (4 for 4), 10 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk
(BTW, that block came with the game on the line.) Whether it’s the end of their relationship, or the infusion of outside booty, the results are shocking. You be the judge.
#5: Are Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka smarter than we realize?
After watching how little Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance have contributed in their first playoff series, maybe the Lakers front office recognized their basketball ceilings better than any of the fans. In Game 7, Clarkson missed three shots he made all season with the Lakers (a floater, short jump shot and a layup), plus a contested 3-pointer. Nance has proven to be a less than adequate on-ball defender on switches, as he got beat to the basket easily by Indiana’s guards.
The Lakers basically dumped Clarkson’s big contract and got a 1st round draft pick, and it now looks like the Lakers got a steal in this trade. Which leads me to the following trade-deadline related questions:
#6: Is Chicago more dysfunctional than the Knicks?
Remember when Nicola Mirotic charged into Bobby Portis’ fist, and got a broken face and a concussion? The Bulls’ teammates chose Portis, and the front office obliged by engineering a trade.
#7: Is the Mirotic trade the biggest heist since Kyrie Irving went to the Celtics?
New Orleans was desperate for help after Cousins went down with an achilles injury. Since Mirotic joined the Pelicans, they went 20–10 in the regular season and swept Portland. In the playoffs, he’s averaging 16.4 points by shooting 43% from beyond the arc to go along with 9.2 rebounds, all career highs.
What did the Bulls get? The corpses of Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen and Omer Asik. Nelson played 0 minutes in two games with the Bulls before being traded. Allen played 0 minutes in two games with the Bulls and got waived. Asik played 0 minutes for 27 straight games before the Bulls went into total tank mode to assure they wouldn’t win any of their last four games. But his $10.5 million contract will go on long after he’s gone (two more years for $23.2 million).
But they got a draft pick, right? As it turns out, the Pelicans pick will be the 19th overall selection. The Bulls’ second round pick could be as high as the 31st overall, but will probably be around 35–38. The Bulls basically paid about $28 million and gave up one of their best players for a chance to move up 20 places and get a mid-first round pick.
And I thought the Lakers stole the Clarkson-Nance trade.
#8: Is Quinn Snyder as good a coach as Brad Stevens?
Okay, you’re wondering where that came from, but think about it. Jae Crowder was a key piece in the Kyrie Irving trade. People thought he was an elite defender and streaky 3-point shooter throughout his career.
He went to Cleveland and was a disaster.
Then he got traded to Utah and scored 27 points in a critical game 5 win at OKC, making 4 of 5 3-pointers to start that game, playing very physical defense against Westbrook, George and Anthony. How is this possible for a player to go from being a key part of Boston’s 2016–2017 playoff run to being unplayable in Cleveland to winning a key playoff game this year? It has to be the system.
#9: Are the Celtics better with Terry Rozier?
Who needs Mr. Flat Earth, when you’ve got Terry Rozier hitting game winning 3-pointers left and right? Rozier is a much better defender, and…
Okay, that was just a gag.
But there are delusional Celtic fans arguing this point on Boston sports radio talk shows at this very minute.
#10: Which playoff coach will get fired this off season?
We’ve got a lot of candidates. Tom Thibodeau (sorry, Brandon), Scotty Brooks, Joe Prunty, Terry Stotts, and Billy Donovan have all underwhelmed in their jobs. They are all old school coaches, which is to say their teams might be better off if the players stopped listening. Wait, doesn’t that apply to Washington and OKC already?
Only Indiana and Miami have played way above what their talent level merits. Spolestras a good coach who embraced the modern system when Lebron played point forward for the Heat. And Nate McMillan at least gets his players to hustle and play defense, even if they have no offensive system other than guard iso and pray they make every shot.