The problem with value contracts

Where I’m from, avocados cost about two bucks. During some parts of the year, this might go up to closer to $3; other times they’re $1.50. Aside from the fact that this is the price which allows everyone along the chain of avocado production to make a little bit of coin, it is also the price which ensures avocado supply and demand stays pretty well balanced.

If you know anything about economics, this won’t be anything new to you. If one day the supermarket decided that the avocados should be priced at 20 cents, the first ten people to the supermarket would probably buy 100 each, and the rest of us would be ruing not having anything to put with our poached eggs. In contrast, if the supermarket suddenly upped the price to $50 per avocado, no one would buy them, and after a couple of days all the avocados would get thrown in the bin.

So what does this have to do with basketball, you might ask? NBA players, like avocados, have an inherent value. Of course, this is related to their ability to play the game and make a team better, rather than how much nutritional value they provide you with and what they taste like, but the concept is the same. The salary cap is a system which is roughly based around these inherent values, and is intended to ensure that talent is, at least to an extent, distributed across the league.

Another difference between players and avocados though, is that players have a say in their own worth. They can actively decide to sign a contract which doesn’t truly reflect their value. When they decide that they’re willing to take a pay cut so that their team can, say, sign Kevin Durant, the general consensus seems to be to say, ‘hey, good for them. Putting the future of their team ahead of their own personal needs’. As Draymond Green so pertinently stated after Game 1 of this year’s finals, ‘we’re out here trying to feed our families’, so why shouldn’t we laud them for making a sacrifice? Well, aside from the fact that I can’t imagine Dray’s family is going to bed hungry with the $16 million plus endorsements, appearances etc that he makes a year, it disrupts this concept of talent distribution.

Players shouldn’t necessarily be criticised for signing these kinds of contracts, and there certainly is an element of selflessness to it – though they aren’t exactly Nelson Mandela for doing it. This selflessness, however, is more related to the fact that they value a ring over an extra few million a year, rather than a desire to sacrifice for the greater good. It benefits their teammates, themselves, and their fans, but as for the rest of us? Not so much.

The NBA isn’t the most equitable league on the planet, but it isn’t the English Premier League, and as mentioned, the salary cap is one of a number of systems intended to ensure an element of competitive balance. This cap, as we know, acts to ensure teams can only have a playing group with a certain sum worth on their roster. When a player chooses to sign a contract which doesn’t reflect his true worth, it disrupts this system. The result? The Warriors.

I’m not one to say Golden State have ruined the NBA. They were that close to being beaten by Houston, and if that had’ve happened we would have all lost our opportunity to whinge and moan about them. Having said that – despite how good the Rockets are, the Warriors are clearly – clearly – the best roster in the NBA. If they play near their best, they won’t lose.

Now we have an NBA where other great players are scrambling to find ways to beat this juggernaut. Presumably, LeBron will join a far better team than the one he was on last season in a desperate attempt to challenge Golden State. Maybe that team will be Houston, but even if it isn’t the Rockets will no doubt be looking for that extra piece to their already Championship-quality roster as well. The balance is shifting, and a higher proportion of the best players in the league being on a select few teams is going to be the result. Of course the Warriors aren’t the first great team to get even better in their history, but they are the first 73 win team to sign the second best player in the world.

The Warriors themselves, of course, couldn’t give a single shit about any of this. They’ve been given the chance to be on the greatest team of all time, and seem to be having a hoot of a time while doing it. Good for them. I’d probably do the same. Unfortunately, I have about as much talent as Steph Curry’s little finger so don’t have that opportunity, and am instead forced to watch a league in which one team is clearly better than the rest, and everyone else is scrambling to stay competitive.

Draymond shouldn’t be criticised for taking a smaller contract than he could’ve demanded, nor should Durant. After all, they’re just trying to have a good time, and since so much emphasis is placed on rings, why not secure your place in history as one of the most successful players of all time? At the same time though, they do not deserve praise for earning a completely ridiculous amount of money instead of an even more ridiculous amount of money. Because just like the supermarket manager who decided to sell his avocados for well under their market value, they’ve upset the balance.

What does the bizarre ending to Game 1 mean to Game 2?

Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals was unlike anything people expected.

The spread in Las Vegas before the game favored Golden State over Cleveland by 13 points, the largest odds against LeBron James in a single game in over a decade.

Despite the odds though, Cleveland, backed by James’ NBA Finals career high 51 points, outplayed the Warriors in the majority of the game. The Cavs even led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter.

This was largely due to LeBron’s brilliance as well as the fact that Cleveland was the more physical team. They dominated the boards, especially on the offensive end.

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Photo via @KingJames

But, Golden State did not turn the ball over and shot better from three, which kept them in the game.

Still, in the last minute, the game was Cleveland’s to lose. And three things went horribly wrong for them.

The first was with just 36 seconds left. The officials overturned a very close block/charge call thanks to a fairly new rule that those plays are reviewable. Instead of Cleveland retaining possession up by two, Kevin Durant got to knock down two free throws to tie the game.

The next was with 4.7 seconds left. Cleveland was down by one and James rifled a pass underneath the basket to George Hill, who would have an open layup if he weren’t grabbed by Klay Thompson.

Hill was 81 percent from the line this year. After tying the game with the first free throw, he missed the second, missing the opportunity to go up one and force the Warriors to hit the final shot.

And the final was the blunder heard around the world, where JR Smith grabbed the offensive rebound after Hill’s miss and dribbled the clock out.

According to Cleveland Head Coach Tyrone Lue, he though the Cavs were ahead and was running the clock out.

If one of those three things does not happen, Cleveland probably steals Game 1. Instead, they lost in overtime. Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr said that his team got “Lucky.”

With the wacky ending to the first one, how will both teams come out on Sunday? Did the bizarre fashion that Cleveland lost game one sink them for Game 2? Or could it motivate them?

With that, let’s look at history.

LeBron James teams have won the first game of the Finals once… in 2011. In all of his Champion seasons, he trailed in the Finals from the beginning.

In this year’s playoffs, the Cavaliers lost Game 1 twice, to Indiana and Boston. In 2016, Cleveland’s championship year, the Cavs dropped the first two games. He won all of those series in seven games.

Obviously, this year is different, with James having perhaps his worst Finals supporting cast yet and going against Golden State with Kevin Durant who wasn’t there in 2016. There is more of an uphill climb this year.

Nonetheless, after seeing his opponents in Game 1s, James has scored 43, 46 and 42 in his three Game 2s this year. Especially after Thursday’s loss, a similar performance to those seems very likely.

Andre Iguodala usually guards Cleveland’s superstar when these two met in the past, but he has missed the past few games and has been ruled doubtful for Game 2.

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Without Iguodala’s help, James can continue to take advantage of his matchups, especially when Golden State switches.

What will James get from “the other Cavs” though.

Kevin Love was solid coming back from his concussion, another double-double will be needed from him. Sometimes defensively against the Warriors, Love has gotten exposed on switches. But, offensively and on the boards, he should be able to duplicate his Game 1 efforts.

JR Smith is going to need to make up for his error. The criticisms of him should lead to him being aggressive in Game 2.

If he catches fire, it can give Cleveland a huge tool. But he has shot very poorly this postseason, especially on the road. With that, we could see a lot of bricked threes coming his way.

For Golden State, Kevin Durant was not productive on Thursday. He took a lot of contested mid-range shots and shot a poor 8-22.

Durant was great throughout the playoffs mostly, but he is in a funk right now. He has shot under 40 percent in three of the past four games. If Cleveland defends him well again from the get-go, his rhythm could continue to be thrown off.

Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did their part in opening game, they shot 10-21 from deep.

Heading into the next game however, Thompson has a sprained ankle and bruising. According to Bleacher Report, he plans to play, but the discomfort can limit him defensively and perhaps hurt his shooting rhythm.

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Anything can happen in Game 2 from a gritty Cavs win to a Warrior blowout.

In order for Cleveland to win they will need “The King” to dominate once again. They will need to control the boards and limit their turnovers to create more shots. They will need another productive game from Kevin Love. The will need another role player to step up, whether that is Smith redeeming himself, Korver playing more than 16 minutes and hitting his threes or Jeff Green playing like he did in Game Seven at Boston where he scored 19. They will need Durant or Curry to struggle. And they will need a little luck.

In order for Golden State to win, they just need to play their usual game, with good production from their stars and solid defense on everyone except James since that is close to impossible. If he is the only one hurting the Warriors, then they are in good shape.

The odds are stacked against James’ Cavaliers, but as we saw in Game 1, they can beat Golden State. Just a lot has to go right. And they have to come out with an intensity we have yet to see.

NBA Finals: Who will win?

At various points throughout the season, it seemed nearly impossible that we’d be faced with yet another incarnation of the Warriors vs Cavaliers saga which has engulfed the NBA for almost half a decade. Entering June, however, here we are. The league appears to be stuck in a Groundhog Day-like cycle from which it may never exit, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited for this matchup. Though the two teams are an incredible mismatch on paper, this rivalry has created some incredible moments in the past. It would take a monumental effort from LeBron James and his supporting cast to make a series out of this edition, but this is sport, and stranger things have happened. Many may think that the outcome of this series will depend solely on whether LeBron can defeat four All-Stars single-handedly, and while this is true to an extent, it isn’t the only thing worth discussing in the lead up to the 2018 NBA Finals.

Keys to the NBA Finals

When does Iggy return?

As strange as it seems to talk about Andre Iguodala before any of Curry, Durant, Thompson or Green, the health of the fifth member of the Hampton’s Five will have a huge impact on the series. Iguodala is the ideal final piece of the Warriors starting lineup, particularly against the Cavs. He is a competent enough ball-handler and passer to warrant attention and help to space the floor at the offensive end, and he is comfortably the Warriors’ best option to guard LeBron James.

A report by ESPN highlights just how much impact Iguodala’s defense can have on LeBron’s effectiveness. In last year’s Finals series, James managed only (“only” being by his standards) 31 points per 100 possession on 52.9% effective field goal percentage when Iggy was guarding him. Durant is the Warriors next option to take the King, and these numbers jumped to 42 points and 64.7% with this matchup.

LeBron’s supporting cast

Obviously LeBron himself will be the single most important player for the Cavs by an absurd margin. If the Cavs are to stand any sort of a chance though, he will need some serious help from his teammates. LeBron will perform to an incredible standard, that is a guarantee, but that alone won’t be enough against the juggernaut that is the Warriors.

Love is comfortably the most competent “other” on the Cavs, and his availability as he recovers from concussion will be a huge factor. He shouldn’t miss more than a game though, and his return will be a welcome one for Cleveland. For all of the criticism he cops, Love is a five time All-Star; a legitimate scorer and an excellent rebounder. He may have his flaws, but he is a far better player than he is often given credit for, and he will need to stand up this series.

Guys like Hill, Thompson, Korver and Smith won’t provide consistent offense for Cleveland, but all are capable of having big games and big moments. If the Cavs manage to win any games, they will be accompanied by a box score in which at least a couple of these guys come up big.

The big dogs

Of course, for all the discussion of the Iguodala’s, Love’s and Hill’s of the world, it’s the stars who will have the biggest say in the outcome of the series. Fortunately for the Warriors, of the five such players in this series, four belong to them. LeBron is the number one guy, but Golden State have numbers two, three, four and five. Essentially, what this means is that if they play to anywhere near their best then they will win the series. Certainly not a statement which elicits a whole lot of excitement for the matchup, but a valid one nonetheless.

LeBron has shown a remarkable ability to put a team squarely on his own shoulders and carry them to victory, and to even steal a couple of games in this series, he will need to do something phenomenal. Expect multiple 40+ point games and very few minutes on the bench as he tries to achieve what would probably be his greatest accomplishment yet.

After disappointing performances in Games 2, 3 and 4 against the Rockets, Thompson reminded everyone that he is far from an afterthought on this incredible team, putting up 23 points in Game 5 before exploding for 9 3-pointers and 35 points in Game 6. With Curry also hitting decent form, these kind of performances make it nearly impossible to beat the Warriors. Highlighting this point is the fact that in the past two games of the Rockets series, the Splash Brothers combined for an incredible 24 3-pointers on 60% shooting. With Durant also chugging along for a lazy 30 points a game and a very well-rounded defensive lineup, it’s easy to see why Cleveland are major underdogs.

As unsatisfying as it is to say, at the end of the day the Warriors will win this series in a canter if they play anywhere near their best. Having said that, the Rockets showed that they are not the unbeatable force they are generally purported to be, and even if Houston is a far better all around side than Cleveland, this is enough to at least add a little excitement to this matchup. The Warriors will win this one in five, but I hope I’m wrong and the Cavs can make a series out of it.

NBA Conference Finals: What to Watch For

Well, here we are. The final four. After all that excitement in the west, the jostling for playoff positions, the good teams being eliminated in the first round, there are just two teams remaining, and lo and behold it happens to be Houston and Golden State. In the east, the Conference Final matchup is exactly what people expected 20 games into the season, and probably not at all what people expected 60 games into the season. The Cavs looked like a genuinely bad team for a long time, but LeBron is LeBron and the rest of their team is playing a bit better, and while a look at the Celtics roster doesn’t make for great reading, their team as a whole is very good.

So who will force their way through and fight it out for a ring? Will it AGAIN be the Cavs and the Warriors? Will the Rockets stake their claim as one of the best offensive teams of all time by beating the best offensive team of all time? Will Brad Stevens continue to prove just how much better a coach he is than Dwayne Casey?

Houston Rockets (1) v Golden State Warriors (2)

Sarcasm about how predictable this matchup was aside, this series will be incredible viewing. Two of the most potent offensive sides you could ever hope to see, combined with an inordinate number of elite players on the floor mean this will probably be the most compelling viewing of the season. Houston was seemingly unbeatable throughout the regular season, and while the Warriors were not, they are back to full strength and appear ready to step things up a notch.

Players to watch

There are roughly seven players who are deserving of a mention in here, but for the sake of keeping it brief I’ll chop it down to two. Apologies to Durant, Thompson, Green, Paul and Capela.

James Harden – The probable MVP hasn’t been at his absolute best for much of the playoffs to date, though his 28.5 points and 7.4 assists per game are still solid enough numbers. There’s no doubt he’s been inconsistent though; he started off the postseason with 44 points, and followed that up with just 12 on 2-for-18 shooting. Against the Jazz he scored 41 points in Game 1, and then watched his scoring numbers gradually reduce each and every game for the rest of the series.

He’s only faced the Warriors twice so far this season, and they’ve managed to contain him reasonably well in these games. Having said that, he had 27 points and 11 assists in the first outing against them. In the most recent of these games though, he scored just 22 points, and his 8 assists were accompanied by 6 turnovers. Houston will need a huge series from him if they’re going to get over the line, so he’ll need to improve on these numbers to give them a chance.

Steph Curry – Despite the presence of Durant, Green and Thompson, this guy is probably the single most important player on the Warriors roster. He was solid without being spectacular in the four games he’s played since coming back from injury, but regardless of whether he actually plays well, his presence on the floor is invaluable to Golden State.

Even if he doesn’t get on the scoreboard as much as he likes, he’ll make it that much easier for Durant and Thompson to get good looks, and with all three of these elite shooters on the floor it’s inevitable that at least one of them will get hot during the course of a game. Curry is more than capable of winning a game or two off his own hands, and in what could easily be a six or seven game series, this could be the difference.

Prediction

As impressive as Houston has been all season, I can’t imagine how any sane person could tip against the Warriors. They’re still the same team that people were certain would win the Championship in a canter at the start of the season, and the same team that won 73 games two years ago now WITH Kevin Durant. Houston are really, really good and will probably win at least a couple of games, but beating the Warriors over the course of a seven game series would take some serious doing. Golden State will win this in six.

Boston (2) v Cleveland (4)

At Christmas time, these sides seemed like the two most likely to face off in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were both above .700; the Raptors had yet to establish themselves as anything other than the same good team which would fail to perform in the Playoffs that they had been in previous years, and the Sixers were sitting at 15-18. From there, the Cavs season spiralled dramatically downwards, while the Celtics got progressively worse and eventually lost Irving for the season. Despite all that, they’ve both rallied, made the ECFs, and kicked off the series we all expected many months ago on Sunday afternoon. The early signs weren’t good for the Cavs, with Morris doing a great job on LeBron and the Celts generally spanking their opponent’s asses.

Players to watch

LeBron James – Pretty unsurprisingly, LeBron is the most important player in this series by an alarmingly long way. He played extremely poorly by his standards in Game 1, and Cleveland got belted – who would have guessed!? Of course, the performances of the likes of Kevin Love, Kyle Korver and to a lesser extent JR Smith will also help to shape the series, but from the Cavs perspective, it’s LeBron who will have the biggest say on its outcome.

We all know what he did in the first two rounds of the playoffs, particularly against the Raptors, but can he repeat it against a Celtics side with the most suitable matchup for him he’ll have faced in this postseason, and against arguably the league’s best defensive unit? So far this season, he hasn’t been able to completely dominate Boston like he has some other sides. He didn’t pass 30 points in the three regular season games against them, averaging “just” 24 points to go with 8.3 dimes. He’ll probably need to do more than that to get his Cavs over the line in this series, and expect him to respond in a big way after a slow start in Game 1

Al Horford – Boston are far more a team than a collection of individual’s, but Horford is still arguably their most important player at both ends of the floor. He plays an integral role at the offensive end, contributing significantly to their excellent ball movement and strong off-ball action. Defensively he will play a major role predominantly on Kevin Love, but his switchability fits Stevens’ game style perfectly and will likely see him finish a lot of defensive stands on other players, including LeBron.

Horford isn’t as integral to Boston as LeBron is to Cleveland, and if he doesn’t contribute enormously in a game or two it doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the Cavs. If he can play like he did in Game 1 though, where he scored 20 points on just 10 shots, and dished out 6 assists to go with 0 turnovers, it will go a long way.

Prediction

Betting agencies have this one at even money, and it’s hard to argue with them. The way LeBron has played so far in these playoffs, and the good form of Love and Korver make it hard to go past the Cavs if they play at their best. Whether they can consistently do this, however, is debatable. In contrast, the Celtics probably have a lower ceiling, but their floor is higher than Cleveland’s. So basically, whichever team plays better will win. How’s that for analysis?

It’s virtually a flip of the coin, but with an ability to ramp things up to a higher level than their opponents, it’ll be the Cavs who sneak home with it. They’ll go down 3-2, get things done at home in Game 6, before heading to Boston to break the hearts of Celtics fans in Bean Town.

Both of these series will be compelling viewing. The Eastern Conference Finals will almost certainly come down to the wire, and will be an interesting matchup between a great team not particularly reliant on any one player, and a pretty average team extremely reliant on exactly one player. In the west, the two best teams in the league will fight it out, and the winner will head to the NBA finals as the favorite. In summary: watch these series’ – they’re gonna be good.

2018 NBA Playoffs: The Second Round in Review

The Conference Semifinals are over. I’m very bored because there’s no basketball until Sunday. As a follow-up to my “First Round in Review”, I’m gonna do some more storylines that I liked.

 

  1. This Donovan Mitchell tweet

Social media at its finest. Also, the Jazz won a game against the high-powered Rockets offense and it was very fun to watch! Donovan Mitchell looks like he can lead a team, Joe Ingles did some things, and Ricky Rubio looked very nice on the sidelines in a spiffy-looking blazer/hoodie combo (I don’t care what you say it looks very neat and I will defend that beautiful bearded man-bunned pass-first point guard with my life).

 

  1. Chris Paul’s Game 5

Here’s the full highlights, they speak for themselves. Point God is an appropriate nickname. 41 points and 10 assists with 7 rebounds, shooting 59.1% from the field and 80 PERCENT (!!!) from 3-point territory? Sheesh. If he keeps this up, he could really be a thorn in the side of the Warriors, which I’m hoping is true because I said the Rockets would win in 7 on my bracket.

 

  1. This Joel Embiid Postgame Interview

Ah, Joel. You never disappoint. Given, it is pretty funny to watch 6’2’’ Terry Rozier try and square up with literal giant Joel Embiid, so he has a point. Drawing the ire of Rozier and the Celtics wasn’t exactly a good idea, though, as shown by the result of the series. Are we still Trusting the Process? Is that still happening? They’ll be back next season, maybe just find a replacement for JJ Reddick. Brutal shooting numbers over the course of the 2nd round. And Covington, too. Jeez, the Sixers need some guard help.

 

  1. Brad Stevens and His Out of Timeout Plays

It’s so pretty. Brad Stevens is such an amazing coach. The Celtics might actually challenge LeBron James and his helpful acquaintances (see: SNL sketch and Onion Article), and it would be pretty amazing to see a team without two of their 20 PPG scorers advance through the Eastern Conference into the NBA Finals. Also, Drew Bledsoe showed up to a game in Boston! That’s so weird! He’s literally only important right now because he has the same last name as Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier made an honest mistake!

 

  1. “Hamptons Five” becoming a thing

I’m so glad this nickname is a thing. Why do the Warriors not want it to be a thing? I like it. It’s a nice name. “DEATH LINEUP” is a little much. “Hamptons Five” sounds like a group of nice young men who like to have fun and play basketball. “DEATH LINEUP” does not. For those uninitiated: Steph, Klay, Draymond, and Andre Iguodala all went to the Hamptons to recruit Kevin Durant, thus the lineup with all five of them on the floor at once is the “Hamptons Five,” the lineup that Steve Kerr opted to start for Games 4 and 5. Also, the Hamptons Five just absolutely dominating the Pelicans over the last two games was equal parts fun to watch and very infuriating. I’m tired of the Warriors winning but Steph Curry’s smile is so infectious.

 

  1. Jrue Holiday catching kisses from his daughter

It’s so cute. It’s adorable. Watch it. It’s so cute, really. I’m not even usually one for children or their antics but it’s SO CUTE. Also, the Pelicans stole a game against the mighty Warriors, which was cool. Jrue Holiday wasn’t as nearly as fun to watch as the last series, and it feels like every lob thrown to Anthony Davis was just tossed into the heavens to be recovered by anyone but Anthony Davis. The Pelicans looked very meh. Maybe let the Blazers have a stab at it? But everything went as planned, and the Warriors got the best of the Pels and the Rockets are now waiting in Houston to face them. Fun and exciting basketball ahead!

 

  1. LeBron James

Let me be clear: I have always disliked LeBron James. It’s like hating Kobe Bryant, or Michael Jordan before him. I hate him so so so so so much, but I would love for him to be on my basketball team. Is it too hot for him in Phoenix? Anyways. Game winners, an impromptu clinic on fadeaway jumpers, and ANOTHER conference finals appearance for the King. Is he tired yet? I dunno, probably. But he’s not gonna show it.

 

  1. Drake? Maybe? Nothing.

Toronto really let me down here. I’m not even gonna lie, I’m just so disappointed. Drake yelling at Kendrick Perkins is funny because it’s two men of probably equal basketball skill yelling at each other, and Drake (a fan/Global Ambassador) played as much basketball as Kendrick Perkins (a real life actual NBA basketball player) in that series. Today, the Raptors fired head coach Dwane Casey after constantly being throttled by LeBron. It came out yesterday that LeBron was literally helping Raptors players run their out of bounds plays, so they probably need to find a new playbook. The Raptors are so bad in the playoffs. I should have expected nothing different.

 

Anyways, that’s just my bored ramblings as I go insane waiting for the Conference Finals and the Draft Lottery. Yeah, that’s right. The Suns finally get some good news this week. Can’t wait. I’m actually very excited to get the #4 overall pick and then cry for a while. Go Suns.

Who’s the most important player on the Warriors?

The Warriors are a very good basketball team. We know this, and have known this for a very long time. They were ahead of the curve on offense and have transformed the NBA into the Warriors vs. the People Trying to Beat the Warriors. After a 73-9 (how?) season in 2015-16, they (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) blew a 3-1 series lead to lose in the NBA Finals to LeBron James and his friends. They signed a former MVP/future evil villain in Kevin Durant, and the rest is history. After a Game 3 loss to the Pelicans, they decided to start their “Death Lineup” in Game 4, and any team with a lineup called the “Death Lineup” is not a team you want to play a game of basketball against.

Scary lineup names are all well and good, but let’s get to the point: Who is the most important player on the Warriors? Not the BEST, mind you, but the most important. The best player is Steph Curry. That’s a whole different article.

Is it Zaza Pachulia? No. No, he’s really not. Nope… Nothing easy.

Is it Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Kevon Looney, Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw, or David West? No, sadly. They all know how to play basketball, and they stop the Warriors from having to play all the good guys too many minutes, but no. P.S: Jordan Bell had the best interview quote of all time in December.

Is it Javale McGee and/or Nick Young? My heart tells me yes. I want so badly to say that these two are the most important, but I also like my journalistic credibility and don’t want to lose that.

Is it Shaun Livingston? For what has happened to Livingston injury-wise throughout his whole career, he’s still really really good. For those uninitiated, here’s a very blurry video of Shaun Livingston’s knee literally dying. After that, Livingston was a journeyman who saw the floor a decent amount, but injuries kept him from being a go-to guy. Granted, he’s still not a go-to guy on the Warriors, but he’s actually probably the best post-up player on the team. Most important, though? No. Sorry, Shaun. You rule.

Is it Quinn Cook? The fact that I haven’t grouped him with the other bench players says enough. Cook’s success story makes my heart feel warm, and he’s the closest thing to us normal humans that sees more than garbage time minutes on the Warriors basketball superhero roster. He also played amazing games in place of Steph Curry down the stretch of the regular season, and the Warriors are better off for having him on the roster. He’s not the most important, but he’s a fun success story after signing a guaranteed contract rather than a two-way so he could get some playoff minutes (RIP Omri Casspi).

Is it Andre Iguodola? The 2015 NBA Finals MVP definitely doesn’t get enough credit. He’s one member of the super-scary aptly-named “Death Lineup” because he can score decently, plays good defense, and throws pinpoint passes to the other important guys in the “Death Lineup.” He’s very good, and he’s most likely the fifth best player on the Warriors. When he brings the ball up, the offense isn’t stagnant, and he also does an incredibly job of defending guys like LeBron, especially for his age. Andre, if he was on a team with like two other talented guys instead of four, would probably be top three in most important. But that’s not the case, so he’s not the most important player on the Warriors.

Is it Klay Thompson? Klay Thompson is best known as a guy that doesn’t dribble the basketball at all. I think he knows how to do it, probably, but he doesn’t, because he never has to, because he’s always open when he gets the ball. Always. That’s how he scored 37 points in a quarter. Underrated? Absolutely, yes. I think with a solid, pass-first point guard, he could be a team’s leading scorer in a BIG way. He also plays excellent defense, and has done an incredible job defending LeBron James in three straight Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals (ugh). But on the Warriors, he is not that. He is the third option on an incredibly good basketball team. He’s not the most important, but I love him and he should be highly valued.

Is it Kevin Durant? I’m gonna say no. He plays amazing defense, and he’s a great volume scorer. But, as I sit and watch Game 4 of the Warriors/Pelicans series, I see him brick a lot of midrange jumpers, talk a lot to referees, and generally slow down the Warriors. When Durant is locked in, he’s locked in and could probably score like 150 points if you let him play a whole game, but when he starts to slow down, the entire team slows down with him. You could argue that that would make him the most important player, but I’m not listening to you. I can’t hear you, this is an article. He affects the pace of play, and he monopolizes the offense, but I don’t know if that makes him important or just frustrating to watch (it’s the second one).

If you’ve noticed, there’s only two players left: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Let’s talk about both of these guys. A two-time MVP, or an offensive Swiss Army Knife. A guy that’s confident taking a shot from anywhere on or off the floor, or a guy that’s confident stepping right over LeBron James in an NBA Finals game.

Guys that are on a roster for toughness over talent (i.e. Matt Barnes, Kendrick Perkins, Joakim Noah) usually have little to offer, but Draymond Green is more tough than he his talented, and but he’s still very much both of those things. He’s good for a triple double on any given night, he can defend any position including Unicorn, and he’s absolutely ruthless in his pursuit of victory (just ask Steven Adams and his very hurt groin area).

Most Valuable Players are also very important to teams. Steph Curry monopolizes defenses, wows crowds, and scores basically at will. He’s a great playmaker, but part of that comes from teams deciding to double him so he doesn’t score. He makes up for his lack of size at point guard with quickness and strength, and makes layups that confuse everyone and then make everyone go “wow.” The Warriors also struggled mightily without a guy like Curry, as their entire offense has to change to make up for a lack of pure ridiculousness at the point guard position.

Overall, I’d have to say Steph Curry is the most important player on the Warriors. I know that answer is boring, but Steph is Steph. I’m sorry, I really honestly am. I want it to be Nick Young or Javale McGee, trust me, I do. But it’s just gotta be #30. He’s the shoulder-shimmying, mouth guard-throwing, fun-having king of the Bay Area, and he will be respected as such. Now, I’m going back to watching this Game 4 blowout. Have a good day.

The Conference Semis: What to Watch For

Round 1 of the playoffs saw most things go as expected. LeBron James lifted his game a notch or two, Russell Westbrook took far too many shots, and the Warriors won without breaking stride. All of this was pretty predictable, which just goes to show that the playoffs never lie. Here’s a few other obvious truths you can expect to be laid bare in the Conference Semis.

The Warriors are easily the best team in it

This couldn’t be more clear, but for some reason a narrative seems to have developed throughout the course of the season that they’re vulnerable. Before the playoffs tipped off, betting agencies even had them listed as only $2.20 favorites to win the Championship. For those of you who aren’t familiar with punting, this means that they were apparently more likely not to win the title than to win it, which simply wasn’t, and isn’t, true.

There has justifiably been a lot of excitement about the Pelicans. Their starting five is really, really good, AD is extraordinary, and they absolutely annihilated a Portland team which went 17-7 after the All-Star break. They are a talented unit in excellent form, and in Game 1 the Warriors tore them to pieces – and did so without Steph Curry on the floor. Game 2 was a little closer, but Golden State lifted a gear in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line, which they can do because they have four of the best 15 players in the league on their team.

Houston are an excellent team, and – assuming both they and the Warriors advance – will probably give us an exciting Western Conference Finals series, but the Warriors should still be strong favorites against them in a seven game series. After that, the winner of the east beckons. It goes without saying, that team won’t be expected to win.

The Raptors suck at the playoffs, and LeBron is very good at them

It’s easy to say this after a Game 1 which saw Toronto give up a 14 point second quarter advantage to eventually go down in overtime, but even before that happened, all the evidence pointed in the same direction.

A quick recap on the Raptors recent history: in the past four seasons, they’ve won at least 48 games in the regular season and haven’t finished outside the top 4 in the east. In this time though, they’ve twice been bundled out in Round 1, and haven’t made it past the Conference Finals. Sense a pattern? Lowry and DeRozan are both stars and are the reason for Toronto’s regular season success, but neither of them has been able to consistently step it up to the required level in the playoffs.

LeBron James, in contrast, loves the postseason, and has enjoyed feasting on the Raptors in the last couple of years. Last season, he averaged 36 points in Cleveland’s sweep of Toronto, shooting an outrageous 57.3% from the floor and 48.1% from downtown. The season before he only averaged 26 points and 6.7 assists, but this came when he actually had two other good players in good form on his team, and as a result his usage was way down. He racked these points up on a ridiculous 62.2% shooting, and his 6.7 assists were accompanied by just 2.3 turnovers a game.

For these reasons, Game 1 didn’t bode well for the rest of the series for the Raps. Though James had 26 points, 11 boards and 13 assists, he wasn’t anywhere near his best offensively. He settled on eight 3-point attempts and seven more from mid range, and didn’t hit a whole lot of them. He went 12-for-30 from the floor, something he won’t do again this series, and yet still the Cavs got over the line on the Raptors home floor – despite Toronto having about 11 bites at the cherry to make a game winning layup in the final seconds. He’ll lift, the Raptors won’t, and it will be another early exit for the boys from Canada.

Brad Stevens is a genius

A look at Boston’s current available roster shouldn’t fill Celtics fans with a whole lot of belief, and yet here they are, having warded off a far more talented Bucks outfit, and up 1-0 against a far, far more talented 76ers outfit.

Sure, Al Horford is a terrific player and a major reason for their prowess at both ends of the floor. Terry Rozier isn’t a star, but he’s playing out of his skin. Smart is just about the best hustle player in the league, and Tatum and Brown have a lot of talent. These are all nice pieces, but not Conference Semi-Finals level pieces, and certainly not Conference Finals pieces. And yet here they are.

Most sides would fall to pieces if they lost their two best players, but the Celtics haven’t, because their coach is a genius. To compensate for their relative lack of talent, Stevens’ offense relies on a whole lot of dribble handoffs and off ball action to get the ball moving, and to keep everybody involved. At the other end of the floor, his players know their defensive rotations better than anyone, and with one of the more switchable starting lineups in the league it’s nearly impossible for oppositions to get any sort of mismatch.

On talent alone, the Celts shouldn’t get close to the 76ers. Already though, they’re 1-0 up. Philadelphia are still deserved series favorites, but if Game 1 taught us anything it’s that they won’t have it their own way. Boston will force a tight series at the very least, and for that you can thank Brad Stevens.

 

The playoffs are starting to heat up, and our partners, children, parents – anyone who doesn’t follow the great game – are wondering why they’ve suddenly been forced to play second fiddle to basketball. They better get used to it because we’ve still got well over a month to go, and even if the Warriors are probably going to win, it’s still sure to be compelling viewing.