Should the Suns trade the First Pick for Karl Anthony-Towns?

A first overall pick who has the ability to pass on the low block, who can stretch the floor, and who can play a good low post game, but who needs some (a lot of) work on defense has recently said he’s unsatisfied with his situation in Minnesota and wants to be somewhere else. This player also happened to go to college with Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, and his name is Karl-Anthony Towns.

The obvious issue for Towns is that he isn’t being used enough. If you’re KAT, you watched your usage percentage dip this season from 27.4% to 22.9% and watched a few of your more important stats dip with it. Tom Thibodeau has his “guys” come from his Chicago days and you see your playing time eaten up by Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng. Thibodeau has been running the legs off guys and seemingly stopping their NBA careers short by overplaying them, so yeah, you’re gonna want out, and you’re gonna openly talk about it.

Now, obviously, Towns isn’t going to be dealt by Minnesota for anything less than the #1 overall pick if you’re Phoenix. The pieces you would prefer to give away (lower picks, Warren, Chriss, Bender) can’t make this trade work, and the pieces you would prefer to keep (Jackson, Booker, #1 pick) are the ones Minnesota would look for. Now, Towns is a former #1 pick and won Rookie of the Year unanimously in 2016. That’s incredibly impressive, and what’s more impressive is that he’s seemingly developed his game and gotten better since his rookie campaign, despite his numbers not reflecting it this year. As previously mentioned, a dip in usage will cause a dip in production.

I, personally, really like KAT. I think Booker likes him too, if Twitter is any indication. I also really like DeAndre Ayton but not as much as KAT, and (as of recently), do not really like Luka Dončić. Let’s flesh out all these opinions.

Why don’t I like Dončić at #1? There’s a few reasons. First of all, he said he wasn’t even set on coming to the NBA, and recently received the Euroleague MVP. If he’s not sold on the team, then don’t even bother coming here. Pass. No thank you. Second of all, he doesn’t have an explosive first step. Strength alone might get you by in the Euroleague, but not having that quickness will KILL a guard like that in the NBA. Third of all, Arizona sports radio personality John “Gambo” Gambadoro has recently brought up a potential “attitude” problem of Dončić’s.

“Yeah. Shooting. Immaturity. Funny how we cut so much slack to Dončić for pouting but want to ship out another 19 year old for the same reason”, of course, referring to Marquese Chriss. I think Dončić is high-risk, high-reward, but not the kind of risk a rebuilding team should take at #1.

Why do I like KAT more than Ayton? I believe that KAT is basically Ayton’s ceiling. Any fan would HOPE that Ayton would be as good as Towns. Every scout says Ayton’s defensive instincts aren’t great, and his quickness on that side of the ball definitely needs some work. Ayton would also be more effective with a pass-first point guard, something the Suns really don’t have right now unless Elfrid Payton and his new haircut come back next season, or if they draft a guard at #16. KAT doesn’t need that past-first guy, as he can create his own opportunities as well as create opportunities for others with his passing and good offensive game sense. He’s a proven NBA guy, and Ayton isn’t (yet). That being said, I certainly wouldn’t mind DeAndre Ayton on my team. I really wouldn’t complain. If the Suns don’t trade the pick, I would not be upset. I like Ayton, just not as much as KAT.

In conclusion, I think the Suns should trade the pick for KAT. Booker wants him, and I like that man being happy. But, if Ayton gets his wish to play in Phoenix, more power to him. I enjoy his game too, and him and Booker would be something else on the offensive end (and ONLY on the offensive end). The lesson to be learned here is: no Dončić. Please. Just a big man at #1. Find a Collin Sexton (if he drops somehow) or an Aaron Holiday at 16 and address that need for a ball-handler, but just stick with a sure thing at #1, whether it be KAT or Ayton. Don’t screw this up. I’m begging you. I need a 30 win season very badly.

Advertisements

Suns Win the #1 Overall Pick in the NBA Draft

Yup. It’s happening. After an arduous 21-61 season, the Suns get what they wanted all along. The Suns will be the final #1 pick in the “traditional” tanking era, as, starting next year, the bottom 3 teams all have an equal chance to draft at #1.

Anyway, wow. This is the first time in franchise history the Suns will pick #1 overall, and the last time they came close, they missed out on Kareem. Who will they pick? Ayton? Dončić? Those are really the only two options in most people’s opinion, and now there’s no question that they have the opportunity to draft the best player available.

I did an entire write-up on Ayton, who backed up his statements about wanting to play in Phoenix via interview and tweet. Ayton is just a hulk of a center and could be the next (and first, depending on who you ask) great center in Suns history. He’s confident, smooth, strong, and a hometown player from the University of Arizona. But, Luka Dončić.

Dončić, a favorite of new head coach Igor Kokoškov, is a 6’8’’ point guard from Slovenia. Slovenia has had success in the NBA in the form of Goran Dragic, but his athleticism comes into question coming over from Europe. He’s being touted as the best European prospect ever, and he’s certainly the most hyped prospect from across the Atlantic. Drafting Dončić would also add a lot of height-having a 6’8’’ point guard next to a 6’6’’ shooting guard and 6’8’’ small forward would lead to a lot of defensive versatility, if Dončić can gain the agility to stay in front of guys.

Anyway, that’s a month from now. Let’s all celebrate! This is big! Suns fans have earned this after an abysmal season, and hopefully more good news from the Phoenix front comes soon.

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.

Suns welcome (back) coach Igor Kokoškov

For the purpose of not having to copy/paste his name every time, I’m just gonna call him Igor? Got it? Got it.

First things first, how did this happen? According to Arizona Talk Radio Legend John Gambadoro, GM Ryan McDonough and VP James Jones flew to Houston between games 1 and 2 of the Jazz/Rockets series on Monday to meet with Igor, currently a Jazz assistant coach. That night, the Suns organization came to a unanimous decision to hire him. That’s big.

Second, what has he done to warrant the hiring? Let’s look at his coaching history. He’s been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2000, with stints coaching the Clippers (97-194 over three seasons), Pistons (284-126 over five seasons with an NBA championship in 2003), Suns (198-196 over five seasons with one lockout season), Cavs (33-49 over one LeBron-less season), and Jazz (139-107 over three seasons, including this year). He was also the head coach of Slovenia’s Eurobasket team this summer, which included draft prospect Luka Dončić. Igor’s Slovenia won the Eurobasket championship.

He’s got a great track record. One looming question remains: after coaching Dončić, whom he deemed a “future NBA superstar,” what changes will that make to the draft game plan this summer. While it seemed like Ayton and Dončić were jockeying for position, is Luka now a lock to be drafted to Phoenix?

With the Draft Lottery on May 15th, the Suns are looking to obtain the first overall pick for the first time in franchise history. I wrote an article on the history of the modern draft lottery, which you can read here, that breaks down the chances that the Suns get a coveted top pick.

McDonough’s first goal of the offseason is now complete. He said he wanted a head coach before the draft lottery, and he’s done what he set out to do.

Jazz coach Quinn Snyder gave Igor his endorsement in late April, saying that he’s told Igor for years that he’s a head coach in the NBA. Hopefully, Snyder’s intuition is right. The Suns offseason odyssey begins now.

 

 

2018 NBA Playoffs: The First Round in Review

After Indiana’s loss at the hands of LeBron James and Tristan Thompson exclusively, the first round is over (RIP my surrogate playoff team, the Indiana Pacers). After last year’s playoffs left a bad taste in the mouths of NBA fans, what made this first round so much better? Here’s a storyline from each series that I loved.

 

  1. Manu Ginobili

GINOBILI! GINOBILI! GI-NO-BI-LI! Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the Spurs winning 1 game out of 5 was good enough for me. Manu had a very Manu game in San Antonio to avoid a sweep, scoring 10 points in the 4th quarter and doing a lot of fun Manu things. In what could have been Manu’s last game in San Antonio, he played the hero. Even as tragedy, the passing of Gregg Popovich’s wife, hung over San Antonio as a whole, Manu brought passion and excitement to the floor. He’s so amazing, and if he doesn’t continue to play, he will sorely be missed (even by a lifelong Suns fan with a Spurs grudge).

 

  1. Joel Embeef (I’m sorry I typed that)

If we all take a look back to this year’s preseason, which seems like a lifetime ago, we may remember a pivotal Embiid moment. Hassan Whiteside picks up three quick fouls, and Joel Embiid says the only thing you would expect Joel Embiid to say. “Go to the bench, you can’t guard me.” Harsh, but true. Twitter beef ensues, Joel puts up the best social media post of all time, and everyone moves on. Fast forward to this year’s 3-6 matchup, and we see Embiid back it up: Whiteside cannot guard him. Whiteside couldn’t do much of anything in that series, and did a lot of talking about it. But this isn’t about Hassan. It’s about Joel. And Joel is good, and Hassan is not.

 

  1. Donovan Mitchell is very good at basketball

Let me paint a picture. A super team assembles in OKC. Last year’s MVP, an aging superstar spurned by New York City, and a man destined to leave Indiana for further greatness all get together to hunt for a ring. They then lose in the first round to the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Ricky Rubio, and a French guy. But mostly the draft pick. Jeez. Donovan Mitchell’s 38 points in game 6, headlined by 22(!) in the 3rd quarter, came on 14-of-26(!) shooting. That guy is a rookie, and he singlehandedly topped the 4 seed in the West. The Rockets are clearly going to be a better challenge, as perennial All-NBA Defender Chris Paul will be tasked with guarding Mitchell, and Ricky Rubio (RIP) will be sitting out for at least 4 games. But, even if the Jazz don’t win, fans of the NBA win, because we get to keep watching Donovan Mitchell.

 

  1. The Celtics have 0 bad players

None! Absolutely none! Except maybe Aaron Baynes, but he was good during stretches of the year so I’m gonna say none! Brad Stevens even manages to make GREG MONROE look good! How? After Semi Ojeleye (I had to look up how to spell that like 3 times) made a eurostep layup in the second quarter, I was sold. The Celtics are so good. Are they good enough to beat the Sixers without one of the NBA’s best point guards and Gordon Hayward? Probably not. But, their depth is astounding. And Brad Stevens is a basketball wizard, and I will always enjoy watching Stevens-coached teams play amazing defense and pass the ball extremely well.

 

  1. I Love the Indiana Pacers

I love them. So so much. And I am so sad they don’t get to keep playing. That series was absolutely the best series, partially because of LeBron being Basketball God, and partially because I didn’t expect it to happen at all. After game 1, I was hooked on Pacers basketball. The gritty defense, their ability to dig themselves out of 15 and 20 point holes, Victor Oladipo just in general, it all just had me enraptured with this team. Everyone counted them out from the first game of the season, and they proved everyone wrong and I love it. Domontas Sabonis, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner were fantastic at different times down the stretch of the series, and the entire city of Cleveland now has a hatred of Lance Stevenson only rivaled by the city of Miami. I love the Pacers. Bring them back. Make the series 9 games. I don’t care. I want more.

 

  1. Anthony Davis doesn’t get the memo

Hey, Anthony, your second best player is out. Your team isn’t supposed to upset the 3 seed in a sweep. You’re not supposed to just shut down Jusuf Nurkic like that. Jrue Holiday doesn’t seem to realize that you’re not supposed to outscore Damian Lillard. Nobody on the Pelicans is listening to common sense, and nobody on the Blazers is doing anything to stop them. What a series, what a sweep, what a triumph for one of the NBA’s top 10, maybe even top 5 players in Anthony Davis. One can only hope DeMarcus Cousins returns strong and ready to play, but New Orleans is clearly in competent hands with or without him. The second round is obviously a big test for Davis, and Draymond is ready to play, but that first round series will always be fun to look back on as time goes by.

 

  1. The Raptors did it this time!

After securing the #1 seed, everyone said what everyone was thinking. The Raptors choke every. single. time. So, why should anyone care? They’re clearly different from the last few years, yeah, but their two superstars are the same, and they can’t just rely on their bench, can they? Can they? In game 6, they did. The bench unit rode out the fourth quarter and secured a 102-92 win, and a second round birth for the Raptors. They also won game 1 of their opening series. For the first time, like, ever. That’s pretty big. Good for Toronto. They’ll face Cleveland (yikes) in round 2, so let’s hope some of that bench magic can kick in. Also, second round Fred VanVleet! Excellent.

 

  1. Karl Anthony-Towns watching James Harden’s airball sail out of bounds

Yep. There’s not much else to say about that. Congrats to the Wolves for making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, and also not getting swept. Here’s hoping for next year.

 

There are plenty of fantastic things about the NBA playoffs. Player-celeb beefs like Wade and Kevin Hart, the cheesy playoff shirts that teams give out to fans attending the games, and the refs choking on their whistles to give a more intense feel to the games. Even though last year’s playoffs kind of sucked unless your name was the Warriors, this year promises to deliver even more exciting action. In conclusion, bring back Pacers basketball. That is all. Watch basketball, you guys. It’s really great.

Is “Clutch” real, or just something we made up?

Close your eyes. Think of the most “clutch” guys in the NBA, the guys you want taking that shot. Dame, Paul George, LeBron. Maybe Bradley Beal, D’Angelo Russel, or Victor Oladipo. Giannis? DBook? McCollum? Now, ask yourself: does that last shot always go in for any of those guys?

Let’s first ask ourselves, what qualifies as clutch? Well, if you’re thinking numbers-wise, the definition is: shots taken with less than five minutes left with a margin of five or less points. That makes sense. Big shots in close games. Using those stats, we can deconstruct the idea of a “clutch” player pretty easily.

Paul George averages 2.1 points per clutch scenario, a scenario he saw 42 times over the course of this season. He shot 38.2% in clutch situations, which really isn’t that good. And, after tonight’s playoff loss, he’s 1 for 26 shooting 3s with the “game on the line”, the situation that he really wanted the ball in after last year’s Game 1 loss to Cleveland in the first round. Playoff P? Not clutch.

Now, let’s take a look at our wristwatches and talk about Dame Time. I love Dame, but his watch broke during the playoffs. He was in 3 clutch situations during a 4 game sweep, and he averaged 1.3 points over the course of those 15 minutes of clutch time! That’s just awful! During the regular season, he only averaged 3.3 points over 39 clutch situations. Granted, that’s still 18th in the league, but those numbers really don’t show much. 3 points over the course of a 5-minute span is not dominating a game.

The one thing that clutch stats support is a nice 3-pointer. Guys that average one or more 3-pointers in clutch situations: Stephen Curry, Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Victor Oladipo, Russel Westbrook, LeBron James, Kristaps Porzingis, you get the picture. Those are definitely guys you give the ball to.

The thing that convinces me that clutch isn’t really real is: the guys considered “clutch” are really just the guys taking the most shots in clutch time. Guys who averaged more than 3 shots per clutch appearance? Russ, Donovan Mitchell, Kristaps, Jimmy Butler, Cardiac Kemba, Kyrie, Demar DeRozan, LeBron, Bradley Beal, again, you get the picture. It’s hard to tell if it’s that those guys take the most shots in clutch, and thus are considered clutch, or the other way around.

Now, you might have noticed something about a lot of those names I’ve listed. They’re just top talents in the NBA. I’ve always loved to say “Devin Booker is clutch” but when it comes down to it, he’s really the only person I feel comfortable giving the ball to for those shots in Phoenix. And LeBron, Dame, Kristaps, Bulter, Mitchell, they’re all the best players on the team and the best players for the clutch job.

We, as a basketball society, have given ourselves the illusion of clutch, when in reality, it’s just general talent. That being said, I’m looking forward to more of Damian Lillard pointing at his wristwatch, D’Angelo Russell signaling that all the blood in his veins was replaced by frozen water, and Russell Westbrook dramatically banking in threes to the excitement of the fans in OKC.

Verdict: Clutch isn’t real. That’s all there is to it.

Man to Man Podcast: 4-23-18

 

In honor of the release of Marvel’s Infinity War this week, Jeff, Jacob and Josh give super hero comps to all 16 (yes even the Trail Blazers) NBA playoff teams. The Trio the discuss the playoffs as a whole and who would represent each playoff team in a boxing style fight.

Marvel: 00:0010:00

Pelicans vs. Trail Blazers: 10:3014:30

Thunder vs. Jazz: 14:4017:45

Timberwolves vs. Rockets: 18:0019:15

Warriors vs. Pelicans second round preview: 19:4525:20 Western Conference wrap up: 25:3026:10

Bucks vs. Celtics: 26:4032:20

Pacers vs. Cavs: 32:2537:48

Raptors vs. Wizards: 37:5041:00

76ers vs. Heat: 41:4547:00

NBA Fight Club: 47:1053:00

Wrap up/ Kevin Durant on Social Media: 53:0554:51

Super Hero Comparisons:

West:

Rockets: Guardians of the Galaxy

Warriors: Hawkeye

Trail Blazers: Black Widow

Thunder: Captain America

Jazz: Spiderman

Pelicans: Dr. Strange

Spurs: Nick Fury

Timberwolves: Scarlet Witch

East

Raptors: Winter Soldier

Celtics: Iron Man

76ers: Vision

Cavs: Hulk

Pacers: Black Panther

Heat: Ant-Man Bucks: Thor

Wizards: Falcon

 

No Coach Bud: Who’s Next?

Alright, so that sucks. Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching consideration, and is looking at the New York Knicks. Now, if you’re the Suns, you dust yourself off, and you try again so you don’t have to settle. Find the right coach for your prospects, for your developing team, and for your future as a franchise.

So, now the question arises: who do the Suns sign? I wrote an article on this subject earlier this month, so now it’s time for an update.

  1. Dave Fizdale

Play it again: Take that for data! With young talent, some good old-fashioned grit and grind, and a decent defensive draft, the Suns could potentially show some promise with Fizdale at the helm. He has playoff experience, which is something Triano can’t say. As I previously mentioned, he was an assistant coach on LeBron’s Heat teams, and is generally very good with press. Lots of advantages with this one.

  1. Steve Clifford/Frank Vogel

I’m grouping them together because they’re two guys that got the axe at the end of the year on teams that didn’t make playoffs. Vogel has had great runs in Indiana (around the same time Fizdale was coaching the Heat), and Clifford has experience coaching Kemba Walker, which is a name on the Suns list of potential trades in the offseason. Two potentially good, more defensive-oriented coaches. Good candidates.

  1. Kevin McHale

This one is unexpected. His offense is amazing; his defense is suspect: a good way to describe the entire history of the Phoenix Suns franchise. He had a lot of success coaching the Rockets led by James Harden, and his name in the coaching position brings dignity to a franchise and garners respect from any NBA guy who knows his history.

  1. Igor Kokoškov

Igor has been an assistant coach on five different teams, including Phoenix from 2008-2013. His current stint is in Utah, where Quin Snyder has given him high praise. He also coaches the Slovenian national team, to some success, but that would matter more of Goran Dragic still had residence in Phoenix. His name has been floating around the last few days, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to take a chance on a guy with 18 years of NBA experience. That’s a lot of experience.

5. David Blatt

This one is a stretch. I’m not sure of Blatt’s coaching ability, as it’s clear LeBron James coaches the teams he plays for. This one is a reach, but the Suns need a coach with a winning record and playoff experience, something Blatt has both of. If he bites, I’d take it. I feel like the Suns are on the lookout for anyone but Triano.

 

Vegas, WNBA Betting Big on A’ja Wilson

The WNBA is a league that has consistently struggled to recruit and retain viewers since its inaugural season in 1997.  League and network officials have adopted many strategies to increase viewership, but one of their their biggest assets includes the characters and storylines that develop.

We may think we watch movies for drama, and sports just for good competition. However, a look at some of our favorite sports moments proves this does not always hold true.  What makes Tiger so electrifying? He is a fresh breath of diversity, and is a hero in the throws of a dramatic story that mirrors a Greek tragedy.  The NFL has resolute champs that defy natural laws to consistently win (Tom Brady), balanced with explosive, attention-demanding characters who always have something to say. (Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski).  The MLB is currently making a comeback with a batch of fresh exciting faces. The sandlot features Trout vs. Harper, the emergence of a dominant Goliath in Aaron Judge, and mystery, intrigue, and international presence from Shohei Ohtani.  And of course, the NBA has King James, with a throne that is threatened by the young, west coast juggernaut of Golden State.

These character, heroes, and villains are the reason for a following.  College athletics are popular for displaying incredible talent, but not as popular as professional sports.  Their star players have drastically higher turnover rates, and therefore have less time to develop characters and storylines that captivate even casual sports fans.  Tom Brady is a household name. Even for someone who’s never touched a football. Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, not so much.

Therefore, it is imperative that the WNBA recognize and cultivate these characters and storylines.  This is not to say they should manipulate competition or drama, like Vince McMahon tried (and failed) with the XFL.  Rather, the WNBA must aggressively market the faces and plots that will grab currently uninterested fans. This is where we turn our attention to Las Vegas and the latest South Carolina women’s hoops superstar.

Enter A’ja Wilson, a six foot five inch forward with remarkable athleticism.  She plays with a comfortable finesse that is uncommon for her size. She exits the premier Gamecocks program with impressive career numbers.  She averaged 17.3 PPG, and 8.7 rebounds per game. Her senior season was hot, in which she averaged a double-double (22.6 PPG and 11.9 RPG). Defensively she commanded respect, swatting 2.6 shots a game.  Her career scoring (2,389 points) and blocks (363) are both school records. Long story short: she will be missed

The 2018 number one draft pick is also entering the league with a habit of winning.  She helped South Carolina capture four straight SEC conference tournament championships. Each of those four wins was in double digits, and the last three were at the expense of the mighty Mississippi State.  Wilson also enjoyed incredible success in the national tournament, with trips to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and winning a national title (in her junior year).

One difference between the NBA and the WNBA is the balance of talent between guards and low post players.  The last low post player to win the NBA MVP was Mavericks franchise player Dirk Nowitzki in 2008. In that span, the WNBA has had four low post MVPs, including two centers (Lauren Jackson, 2010/ Sylvia Fowles, 2017).  The last true center to take home the NBA MVP? Someone named Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

This means that a strong low post player is that much more important to win in the WNBA, and that A’ja Wilson is a huge building block for the newly arrived Aces.  The Aces will have three meetings each with the Lynx and the Sparks. This means basketball fans get to see the most talented recent addition to the WNBA square off against former MVPs six times this summer.  These are the big-time battles on which the WNBA needs to double down.

While the former Gamecocks ace enters her professional career as a beacon of hope for the league, she also lands at the beaches as a hero for her city.  Las Vegas is in the midst of an exciting time for sports fans. They are set to welcome the historical and colorful Raiders franchise in the next few years.  The expansion NHL team, the Golden Knights, beat the odds by making the playoffs in their inaugural season, the first NHL team to do so since 1980. They have since shocked the world (and Sideline Intel’s own expert Josh Zaklis) by sweeping the LA Kings last week.  

Now Wilson joins the young guns like Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum as the franchise moves out of San Antonio, looking to add to the incoming success of the Golden Knights.  Wilson and the Aces represent youth and excitement that could challenge the status quo of powerhouses in the WNBA, and are another chapter in the exciting story of Las Vegas’ rapid development as a significant sports hub on the professional level.

This summer, in addition to the unfailing curiosity and excitement of the NBA summer league, Las Vegas will be the stage for one of the hottest storylines in the WNBA.  Any fan of good basketball and competition should keep an eye on what A’ja Wilson and the Aces are able to accomplish.