Let’s go around the league, shall we?
The big national story this past week is the Golden State Warriors and the drama surrounding the defending champs. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got into it when Green turned the ball over late in a loss to the Clippers instead of passing Durant the ball. Ultimately, the team suspended Green for a game and now is out with an apparent toe injury.
The entire league assumes Durant is gone in free agency this summer, but the question is whether they can hold it together enough to get their third straight title before he departs.
Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony’s stint with the Rockets ended after ten difficult games, and it will be interesting to see if he plays in the NBA again.
Zach Lowe has an always interesting 10 Things.
Who is Hot?
Los Angeles Lakers: Won four straight (and six of seven) heading into Saturday night’s tilt with the Orlando Magic. Of course they are being led by LeBron James, but out of nowhere...is that Javale McGee’s Music????? 14-7 and 3 blocks per in under 27 minutes a game. Rajon Rondo is now out for a few weeks with a hand injury, but the Lakers are playing fast, getting to the rim, and haven’t been held under 100 yet this season.
Los Angeles Clippers: Winners of three straight (impressively Bucks, Warriors, Spurs,) and five of six. Upper half of the league both offensively and defensively. They have been relatively healthy, a bugaboo for them in the past, and Tobias Harris is playing like a star. They get to the line more than anyone, make their threes, and somehow have the best opponent’s eFG% in the league despite the lack of a real rim protector.
Oklahoma City Thunder: After losing four straight to start the season, the Thunder have gone 9-1 in their last ten games. They are doing it with the second rated defense in the league, an offense that doesn’t shoot well but survives by getting extra possessions on the glass and limiting turnovers, and surprisingly no Russell Westbrook for half their games. Paul George is a star, and they are getting surprising contributions from guys like Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant.
Who is Not
San Antonio Spurs: Losers of three straight and five of six. They play very slow, lack three point threats, and struggle to get good shots in the half court. They are 28th in eFG percentage, and only minimizing turnovers is keeping their offense afloat. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a terrible shooting year at 41 percent, and the one-two punch of Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan doesn’t seem enough to propel them beyond average.
New York Knicks: This is obviously a lost year for the Knicks, who are without Kristaps Porzingis. Losers of four straight and 4-12 on the season, not a lot has gone right for them. Rookie Kevin Knox is barely playing (though he’s extremely young,) 2nd year guard Frank Ntilikina is still having a terrible time shooting the ball, and they are the worst shooting team (by eFG percentage) in the league, while giving up the third highest eFG% to opponents. Other than that, everything’s great!
Miami Heat: Losers of four out of their last five, the Heat are well coached and play defense, but lack the offensive juice to be much more than average. Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson, while fine players, are probably not suited to be the usage leaders of a good offense. Whether a Butler trade would have moved the needle for them or not, they are looking at huge payrolls for apparent mediocrity for the next couple of years.
Thought I’d highlight a couple of under-the-radar rooks this week.
When you’re terrible, like the Knicks, one of the silver linings is you sometimes uncover guys who you never would have given minutes to if you were competing.
Mitchell Robinson was an odd story—he never played college ball after withdrawing from Western Kentucky University and spending a year without competitive basketball. As a result, he fell to the second round of the draft where the Knicks grabbed him. He’s started 11 games at center for them, and while the numbers aren’t huge, he’s been terrific blocking shots and grabbing offensive boards, and has been very efficient with his opportunities.
Alonzo Trier is a 6’5” wing who was undrafted out of Arizona. He stuck with the Knicks and has emerged as a rotation guy, averaging 25 minutes a night, scoring 11 per on 38 percent from three. He was known for his defense in college, and is starting his pro career off like a valuable three-and-D prospect.
What’s caught your eye around the league?