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KSR Exclusive: I’ve learned the six finalists for Drew Franklin’s NBA fandom

KSR Exclusive: I’ve learned the six finalists for Drew Franklin’s NBA fandom

 

If you’ve been following Drew Franklin on Twitter (and if you’re not, why?) then you know he’s contemplating a lifelong and serious decision: which NBA team should receive his allegiance?

No, this isn’t just a “be a fan of this team for the season.” The Madisonville native (now residing in Lexington) is looking for his “forever” NBA team and has been mulling over this decision over for weeks.

Yesterday Franklin gave us an update, and the update was that he was having a tough time finalizing his final list of five NBA teams.

But Woj and Shams can sit this one out, because Franklin’s coworkers have the scoop.

A source close to Drew Franklin has told KSR that the 6-foot-2, 210-pound (just spitballing on the height and size) blogger is down to these six teams:

Phoenix Suns

Minnesota Timberwolves

Indiana Pacers

Boston Celtics

Philadelphia 76ers

New York Knicks

I reached out to those close to Drew to get more insight on his decision.

“I want to say he hates the Celtics but I’m not positive,” KSR Editor-in-Chief Tyler Thompson said. “Gotta do the Warriors for Boogie.”

Thompson was unaware that the Warriors had already been cut by the 33-year-old former Tennis Channel employee. DeMarcus Cousins, one of Franklin’s favorite players, signed a one-year, $5.3 million dollar contract with the Warriors in July.

Coworker Jack Pilgrim is a lifelong fan of Boston sports teams, so he’s hoping Franklin shocks the world and picks the Celtics.

“Stability, stars, up-and-coming talent,” Pilgrim said to KSR. “Coaching, history, everything you could possibly look for in a franchise is there. When the Golden State Warriors breakup this offseason, Boston’s 10-year dynasty will begin. Jump on the bandwagon while you can, applications are accepted for a limited time only.”

Pilgrim never sent KSR actual Celtics’ applications because we’re pretty sure they don’t really exist.

Football beat writer Nick Roush is proud of his fellow football podcaster on narrowing down his list to six.

“It’s been a long process filled with plenty of ups and downs,” Roush said. “But throughout it all I remained confident that Drew could reach this point. As he cuts his list I couldn’t be more proud. Regardless of where he chooses the KSR Football Podcast will always be his No. 1 fans.”

Roush then went into a long rant about how UK football fans’ frustrations are shortsighted, but I had to hang up on him because my goodness that kid is long-winded.

My source on the matter didn’t mention Franklin’s favorite, as he’s supposedly torn between the teams listed above, but a final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

The Crystal Ball currently has the Timberwolves as the favorite and Franklin’s sentimental birthday post to Karl-Anthony Towns had picks flooding in last night. But watch out for the Knicks as a sleeper team. Franklin loves New York City, pizza and Kevin Knox.

Drew, sorry your own cut was scooped. Maybe you’ll be able to make your final decision on your own time. Jokes really on me because this ended up taking about an hour.

 


(Photo via Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE - Getty Images)

BBNBA: Rondo Out 4-5 Weeks, Murray Benched

(Photo via Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE – Getty Images)

Good morning, folks. Rajon Rondo is going to miss 4-5 weeks after undergoing surgery on his right hand. Let’s talk NBA.

RECAP

It was a slow night in the NBA on Thursday with only three games in action. But within those three games, we have four different former Wildcats to discuss.

  • Starting with the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Atlanta Hawks by 45, the fourth-largest margin of victory in franchise history. Jamal Murray came off the bench for the first time this season in favor of second-year guard Monte Morris. It wasn’t revealed until after the game that Murray was relegated to the bench because of a “small violation” regarding the team’s rules. He’s expected to be back in the starting lineup for their game on Saturday against the Pelicans (which will be must-watch television). Regardless, Murray still played well in the backup role, scoring 14 points on 4-10 shooting (3-6 from three). Some of the Nuggets media/fans I follow on Twitter have suggested that Murray actually plays better with the secondary lineup since he can be the primary creator and just run around ball screens until his little legs tire out. So that’s something I’m going to continue to monitor as the season progresses.
  • Trey Lyles added 14 points for himself on 5-7 shooting (1-1 from three) and eight rebounds.

  • Lyles also helped out his community before the game.

  • Alex Poythress had one of the most impressive outings of his career, posting 11 points on 5-8 shooting to go along with four rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes.

  • And finally, the late game featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who continues to make me wish I had picked him for my Rookie of the Year (FWIW: I picked Luka Doncic to win this award and he’s in the lead so far, but if SGA progresses over the season much like he did at Kentucky, he could very well be in the running). SGA had nine points and five rebounds, starting – and closing – his fifth straight game for the Clippers.

  • If you’ve watched SGA at all this year, you know that whenever he gets to his favorite spot – the elbows around the paint – that pull-up jumper is money every single time.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Jamal Murray (DEN)138-93 W vs. ATL144-10 (3-6)45011+1823
Trey Lyles (DEN)138-93 W vs. ATL145-7 (1-1)84005+1327
Alex Poythress (ATL)93-138 L @ DEN115-8 (0-3)44101-1123
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)116-111 W vs. SAS94-9 (0-2)50002+327
Brandon Knight (HOU)107-86 W vs. GSWDNP-Knee----------------
DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)86-107 L @ HOUDNP-Achilles----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)138-93 W vs. ATLDNP-Foot----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

7:00 (ESPN): Raptors @ Celtics

7:00: Heat (Adebayo) @ Pacers

7:00: Jazz @ 76ers

7:00: Nets @ Wizards (Wall)

8:00: Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Labissiere) @ Grizzlies

8:00: Trail Blazers @ Timberwolves (Towns)

8:00: Knicks (Kanter, Knox) @ Pelicans (Davis, Miller, Randle)

9:30 (ESPN): Bulls @ Bucks (Bledsoe, Meeks-suspended)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Ron Turenne - NBAE/Getty)

BBNBA: Casey Gets Revenge on Toronto, KAT and AD Go Head-to-Head

(Photo via Ron Turenne – NBAE/Getty)

Good afternoon, folks. Dwane Casey got his revenge on the Toronto Raptors in the most satisfying fashion possible. Let’s talk NBA.

RECAP

Cavaliers – 95 @ Wizards – 119

  • Andrew Harrison must have heard what I said about his second-straight subpar performance on Tuesday night because he kicked things into gear on the second night of a back-to-back for the Cavaliers. Harrison scored 10 points in 18 minutes on 3-5 shooting including four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
  • In their win, the Washington Wizards have now won three straight games. It’s a miracle! Hallelujiah! Those three wins have also come against the Miami Heat (6-8), Orlando Magic (7-8), and now the Cavs (2-12). The Wizards are definitely playing better, but don’t let a three-game win streak against sub-.500 teams fool you into thinking this team has done a 180.
  • John Wall had a season-low of eight points on 3-10 shooting, but his teammates picked up the slack across the board. Especially Bradley Beal, who led the Wiz with 20 points and also became the youngest NBA player ever to hit 900 three-pointers.

Pelicans – 100 @ Timberwolves – 107

  • Ah finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the first game of the new-look Wolves. The return players in the Jimmy Butler trade – Dario Saric and Robert Covington – suited up for Minny for the first time and both put up respectable numbers. Karl-Anthony Towns poured in a team-high 25 points on 9-17 shooting (2-4 from three) and 16 rebounds.
  • Anthony Davis struggled from the field, shooting 9-25, but still managed to add 29 points for the Pelicans (and it wasn’t even the team-high. E’Twaun Moore had another 30-point game, his second straight).
  • Julius Randle could only muster up three points in 14 minutes as Nikola Mirotic returned from injury and moved Randle back to sixth man role. Darius Miller was 0-1 in 18 minutes.
  • Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch this game live, but it’s the first thing I’m going to do once I finish babbling on here. It’s basically a brand new team in Minnesota.
  • There was some rather intense KAT-on-Cat crime in this one, too.

Knicks – 103 @ Thunder – 128

  • Kevin Knox started his first NBA game for the Knicks on Wednesday night, scoring 15 points on 5-16 shooting plus five rebounds. Enes Kanter added 19 points of his own on an efficient 8-11 shooting in 22 minutes.

  • Patrick Patterson had another quiet game for the Thunder, bringing in only five points and two rebounds. Nerlens Noel played only 13 minutes but stuffed the stat sheet per usual. Noel posted two points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. Hamidou Diallo was the big “story” of this game, but not because he dunked on someone so hard they began to cry and question their existance. Quite the opposite, actually. Diallo had a fastbreak opportunity with the game decided and elected for what would have been a top-10 dunk of the year. Instead, we got this gem…

  • Missed it by *this* much.

Other notes

  • Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey visited the Toronto Raptors for the first time since being fired after he won Coach of the Year. The Pistons erased a 19-point deficit to win the game on a Reggie Bullock game-winning shot against the now 12-3 Raptors.

  • Casey’s reaction is even better. This is the face of a man who knows he’s a badass.

  • Pistons forward Blake Griffin had this to say: ”He would never say it, but anytime you come back to a place you spent so much time at, had so much success and obviously the fans love him here, to win Coach of the Year and switch jobs in the same year is tough,” Griffin said of Casey. ”I think it meant a lot to him. I was just proud of the way we came back and responded.”
  • Griffin continued to back his new coach while also throwing some shade at the Raptors front office. Casey, who has faced some criticism in the past regarding how he draws up plays, beat the Raptors on a perfectly-executed out-of-bounds play. ”It isn’t like we just discovered this for the first time today,” Griffin said, talking about Casey’s ability to draw up late-game plays. ”Maybe to Toronto fans or certainly their GM, maybe it was a surprise, but not to us.”
  • I love it. All of it.
  • Rajon Rondo broke his right hand while attempting to make a steal in the fourth quarter. He’s expected to miss a few weeks. Also in the Lakers win over the Portland Trail Blazers, LeBron James passed Wilt Chamberlain for fifth most on the NBA’s all-time leading scorers list.
  • Devin Booker didn’t have a great shooting night (13 points on 5-14 shooting), but he did register a career-high 12 assists in the Suns surprising 116-96 drumming of the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Eric Bledsoe brought in 15 points, six rebounds, and seven assists for the Milwaukee Bucks while Bam Adebayo went a perfect 6-6 from the field for 12 points for the Miami Heat.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Anthony Davis (NOP)100-107 L @ MIN299-25 (2-3)112240+640
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)107-100 W vs. NOP259-17 (2-4)163025+934
Enes Kanter (NYK)103-128 L @ OKC198-11 (1-1)51002-1022
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)113-116 L vs. MEM156-11 (1-3)67201+1629
Kevin Knox (NYK)103-128 L @ OKC155-16 (2-7)51103-1429
Devin Booker (PHX)116-96 W vs. SAS135-14 (2-6)412207+2037
Bam Adebayo (MIA)120-107 W @ BKN126-6 (0-0)31010+310
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)128-103 W vs. NYK115-11 (1-1)40200+419
Andrew Harrison (CLE)95-119 L @ WAS103-5 (1-2)42211-1118
John Wall (WAS)119-95 W vs. CLE83-10 (1-2)59213+421
Patrick Patterson (OKC)128-103 W vs. NYK52-4 (0-0)21101+2218
Julius Randle (NOP)100-107 L @ MIN30-4 (0-1)30005-714
Nerlens Noel (OKC)128-103 W vs. NYK21-2 (0-0)52121-413
Darius Miller (NOP)100-107 L @ MIN00-1 (0-1)11101-1618
Rajon Rondo (LAL)126-117 W vs. POR00-4 (0-1)23201+215
Isaiah Briscoe (ORL)111-106 W vs. PHIDNP-CD----------------
Jodie Meeks (MIL)113-116 L vs. MEMDNP-Suspended----------------
Tyler Ulis (CHI)82-111 L @ BOSDNP-G League----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

8:00 (TNT): Warriors (Cousin-out) @ Rockets (Knight-out)

9:00: Hawks (Poythress) @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt-out)

10:30 (TNT): Spurs @ Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

BBNBA: Kanter and Knox outscore all Knicks starters, still lose by 26

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Recap:

  • Enes Kanter’s 16 points and Kevin Knox’s 17 points, both off the bench yesterday, outpaced the New York Knicks starters by a total of 33 to 20. The Knicks seem to have moved into full-on tank mode early this year, as they didn’t have a single starter score double-figures in the 115-89 loss to Orlando.
  • Conversely, Eric Bledsoe was the only Milwaukee Bucks starter to not score 20 or more points in their win over the Denver Nuggets yesterday. Bledsoe’s 12 points and 8 rebounds were enough to help lead the Bucks to victory. In the loss, Jamal Murray scored 14, and Trey Lyles had 16 off the bench.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went down early during the Hornets 113-103 win over the Pistons yesterday. MKG played just 5 minutes before suffering what Charlotte is calling a right ankle sprain. He was seen in a walking boot after the game, but there is no timeline for his return as of right now. Malik Monk also went down hard after a cheap shot from Blake Griffin. Griffin was ejected for the play and Monk was able to return to the game (you can see the play below).

Stats:

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Enes Kanter115-89 loss to Magic167-15 (0-1)151001-2026
Kevin Knox115-89 loss to Magic174-11 (2-6)30002-1326
Isaiah Briscoe115-89 win over Knicks00-0 (0-000000+0DNP - Coach's Decision
Eric Bledsoe121-114 win over Nuggets124-10 (1-3)83311+1430
Trey Lyles121-114 loss to Bucks167-11 (2-5)50000+720
Jamal Murray121-114 loss to Bucks147-16 (0-1)52203-434
Malik Monk113-103 win over Pistons40-5 (0-3)52001+718
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist113-103 win over Pistons52-3 (0-1)00020-35
Rajon Rondo107-106 win over Hawks21-4 (0-1)65001-1716
Alex Poythress107-106 loss to Lakers00-1 (0-1)00000-93

 

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Orlando Magic (Isaiah Briscoe) at Washington Wizards (John Wall), 7pm ET
  • Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat (Bam Adebayo), 7:30pm ET
  • New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis, Darius Miller, Julius Randle) at Toronto Raptors, 7:30pm ET
  • Brooklynn Nets at Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns), 8pm ET
  • Dallas Mavericks at Chicago Bulls, 8pm ET
  • Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies, 8pm ET
  • Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker) at Oklahoma City Thunder (Patrick Patterson, Nerlens Noel, Hamidou Diallo), 8pm ET
  • San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings (Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, De’Aaron Fox), 10pm ET
  • Golden State Warriors (DeMarcus Cousins) at Los Angeles Clippers (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), 10:30pm ET

@BrettBibbinsKSR


(Photo via Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images North America)

BBNBA: Early Season Award Race Updates

(Photo via Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images North America)

Even though we aren’t even one month into the 2018-19 NBA season, there has still been enough action, drama, and storylines for an entire year’s worth of news. We have a big *enough* sample size of roughly 13-14 games from each team that we can put together some ideas of which player stands where in an early look at the award races.

There are three players in particular who have shown out in the early stages of the season and earned the right to hear their name mentioned in the following categories.

Anthony Davis for Most Valuable Player, Willie Cauley-Stein for Most Improved Player, and Julius Randle for Sixth Man of the Year.

Let’s start with Anthony Davis.

Despite missing three games to a nagging shoulder injury, Davis is still in the early MVP conversation. He’s not a top-3 candidate at the moment. Steph Curry, Giannis Anteokounmpo, and Joel Embiid have quickly separated themselves from the pack, but Davis is right behind them.

So far this season, Davis is averaging 24.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.1 blocks per game. If not for the three games he missed and another other two in which he played through the injury, these numbers could be even more impressive.

But Davis has still been a monster this season, despite not being fully healthy.

He was my preseason pick for MVP and I continue to stand by it. The Pelicans got off to a hot 4-0 start before Davis’ injury aided in them losing six straight, but a quick bounce back and two straight wins have helped get them back on track.

If the shoulder pain subsides completely, we won’t see nearly as many 17-18 point games on sub-40 percent shooting from him as we have over the previous weeks. 32 points against the Chicago Bulls followed by 26 points against the Phoenix Suns is a terrific way to get both himself and the team back on track. He’s going to force himself into the MVP conversation all season, the wins column is where he’s going to have to separate himself – an enormously difficult task in the Western Conference.


Now for Willie Cauley-Stein, who has been as impressive as any former Kentucky player this season.

WCS struggled with constant inconsistency last season, especially with his overall effort.

This season has been the complete opposite.

Cauley-Stein has bumped up his overall numbers in nearly every statistic and looks like a player who wants to go out and dominate every second he’s on the court. Along with De’Aaron Fox, the two former Cats have sparked a surprising start to the Sacramento Kings season.

WCS is averaging 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 57.9 percent from the field. He’s added multiple post moves and appears much more confident at attacking the rim even if a larger defender is placed in front of him.

He made it a point in the offseason that he’s looking to get paid this summer. He had shown little in his first three seasons that proved he was worth it, now we’re wondering just how much the Kings might be willing to offer him.

There have been some excellent candidates for MIP so far this season. Caris LeVert looks like a budding star in Brooklyn. Tobias Harris is excelling as the go-to scorer for the Los Angeles Clippers. This is going to be one of the more interesting and exciting award races of the season. There are a ton of players who have taken their game to the next level this season and WCS is right there at the top.


And lastly, Julius Randle.

He’s the third piece to the Pelicans three-headed frontcourt monster that features himself, Davis, and Nikola Mirotic. One of those three had to come off the bench and it’s been Randle for most of the season. In this role, he’s playing the best basketball of his career and loving every second of it.

Randle was the Los Angeles Lakers best player last season before they let him walk in favor of Rajon Rondo and the rest of the current Meme Team in LA. I would imagine that front office is kicking themselves right now, considering Randle’s success and how little money he accepted to take on this current role.

He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 55.6 percent shooting from the field.

He’s known for his bully-ball style of play and he’s been punishing defenses all season with that mantra. Of the three players featured in this article, Randle might be the one who is leading their respective race.

There isn’t any shot Randle won’t take – and make – when he’s within five feet of the basket. There are maybe a handful of players in the entire league who can push him back when he lowers his shoulder and goes up for a shot – and none of them can keep up with his quick feet if he decides to pump fake and slip around them.

We’re seeing a fully optimized version of Randle. He’s shooting 33 percent from three. His playmaking as a forward has been unmatched. It’s impossible to stop him when he brings the ball up the court with a head of steam coupled with that vicious spin move. This award is already his to lose. The only thing preventing him from expanding on his early lead is the health of the man who starts in front of him, Mirotic, who missed the Pelicans previous game with an ankle injury.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Tim Warner/Getty Images North America)

What the Jimmy Butler Trade Means For Karl-Anthony Towns

(Photo via Tim Warner/Getty Images North America)

Jimmy Butler has finally been traded out of Minnesota. Hours after an article published by The Atheltic detailed Butler’s ongoing disdain with the Timberwolves organization, the saga finally came to an end as the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Butler and Justin Patton in a deal that sent Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a second-round pick packing to Minnesota.

The Timberwolves lost to the rising Sacramento Kings on Friday – their fifth straight loss – as they were completely outplayed by the younger and faster group. That was apparently the final straw for head coach and General Manager Tom Thibodeau, as he believed he could no longer let this continue and eventually decided on a deal with Philly.

He was only about two months too late to the party.

So now we have a rebranded edition of the 2018-19 Timberwolves. One that features Karl-Anthony Towns as the franchise centerpiece – again.

Dissecting this trade a bit more in-depth, it’s a great short-term deal for both teams. The Sixers now have the most talented trio of players in the Eastern Conference and are probably the number two favorite behind only the Toronto Raptors and their incredibly deep bench.

Minnesota accomplished two things. They sent Butler to the East, ensuring they won’t have to deal with him nearly as much in future matchups. The second one is they kept themselves competitive. Covington was a First Team All-Defensive player last season and has made a meteoric rise from the D-League to a deadly two-way player. Saric is a stretch-four who had taken a leap last season as a pace-and-space threat. He shot 39.3 percent on his threes last season at over five attempts per game but has regressed a bit this season. Bayless was more of a throw-in player on this deal to make the money work and won’t be a significant factor in this trade when we reflect on it in the future.

Adding Covington and Saric in place of Butler doesn’t make the Wolves a better team talent-wise, but it removes the cancer that was destroying this team’s chemistry. Minnesota’s 4-9 start to the season had much less to do with their talent level and everything to do with their lack of involvement and attention.

Towns has been disinterested throughout the majority of the season. Butler was taking games off to rest, which didn’t help the continuity of the roster, and when he did play, Towns was reluctant to be his normal self.

I’ve harped on how Towns has been settling for jump shots at a much higher rate than usual this season and the numbers back that up.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Towns has attempted nine percent more threes than last season, five percent more shots from midrange, and fourteen percent fewer shots at the rim. Only 29 percent of Towns shots have come at the rim this season, that ranks him in the 15th percentile amongst all centers. That is an inexcusable stat for someone with a uniquely versatile offensive skillset such as Towns, a skillset that relies heavily on an advanced post game. He has a legitimate shot at being one of the most creative and effective offensive players of all-time, but that opportunity had been wasted for the first 13 games of the season.

When Butler was in Minnesota, he was still their best overall player. His numbers were similar to what he put up last season, the only thing that wasn’t the same was the number in the win column. Now Towns regains that title.

We should see a brand new version of Towns now. A reinvigorated Towns, one who once again has a purpose to play and a voice in his own locker room. Butler wasn’t the reason that Towns made his first All-Star team last season. Now he gets to prove why.

In the three games that Butler sat out for Minnesota, Towns posted stat lines of 31 points on 9-16 shooting, 28 points and 16 rebounds on 9-17 shooting, and 23 points on 7-13 shooting. Those first two games – against Dallas and Utah, respectively – were arguably his two best performances of the season.

While I can’t say for sure what version of Towns will show up when they play their first game of the post-Butler era against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, I can say you won’t see the same KAT who was sulking around the court or pulling himself out of games after air-balling a three.

The Wolves are back to being his team. They now go as far as he takes them. Saric should fit beautifully next to Towns, spreading the floor more effectively than Taj Gibson can – although Gibson has added the three to his repertoire this season. Covington brings them that defensive intensity they lost from Butler. The team got worse talent-wise but is going to gain so much more in chemistry and attitude that we should see that 4-9 record come up to .500 before the new year arrives.

This team with Butler was never going to make the playoffs. The ripple effects of Butler’s words and the circus being ran was never going to survive or thrive. Thank goodness Thibodeau finally realized it. This trade may damn near save the franchise. But Saric and Covington may not be enough to help them sneak into the bottom half of the playoffs.

There are 11 – maybe 12 – teams in the Western Conference that have a shot at making the playoffs, and that doesn’t include the Wolves. I’d be shocked if this team mustered up enough victories to compete for 45 wins. Andrew Wiggins is going to have to break out of his shell and Towns is going to have to play even better than I already imagine he will.

Jimmy Butler brought Minnesota it’s first playoff appearance since 2004 and then burned it all to the ground. Now it’s Towns’ job to build them back up.

Don’t be surprised if KAT goes for 40-points and 20-rebounds on Monday night. The Wolves might just be fun to watch again.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images)

De’Aaron and Willie: The New Era of Kings Basketball

(Photo via Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images)

The Sacramento Kings haven’t been to the NBA playoffs since 2006. They were riding eight consecutive playoff appearances before sulking into their current 12-year drought. They’ve often been associated with turmoil, an unreasonable front office, and everything they did wrong to DeMarcus Cousins (although that went both ways).

De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein are ushering in a new era of Kings basketball. One filled with at least a single shred of hopefulness, something that has been absent from this organization for over a decade. The two former Kentucky Wildcats have shot out of the gates on fire this season, set out to prove they are the new wave of basketball excellence in Sactown.

The Kings’ current success through 13 games this season is unprecedented. They’re abusing the uptick in pace that is consuming the league, running teams with better talent than them off the court entirely. They’re beating playoff teams. They’re scoring over 115 points per game. One-hundred and fifteen points per basketball game. You’d have to go all the way back to 1987 to find another Kings team that scored at least 110 points per game throughout an entire season. You’d have to go all the way back to the 1960-70s and the era of Oscar Robertson – when the franchise rested in Cincinnati – to find a year they averaged over 115 points per game.

It isn’t just the two former Wildcats that have aided in this success. Buddy Hield is shooting 43.1 percent from three on over five attempts per game (which might be sustainable for him, considering he hit 43.1 percent on 5.1 three-point attempts last season), he’s an unbelievable shooter. Their *prized* offseason addition, Nemanja Bjelica, has unlocked a spread offense. At six-foot-10, he’s shooting 47.9 percent on his threes on 3.7 attempts per game (that percentage will likely decrease a bit) and is forcing opposing big men to leave the paint and guard him (presenting Fox with plenty of real estate in the middle of the court). They bring the No. 2 overall pick from last season’s draft, Marvin Bagley III, off the bench. Their best overall player from last season, Bogdan Bogdanovic, is just now getting back to full health. The backup guard rotation of Frank Mason and Yogi Ferrell is reliable…enough… with Fox on the bench. So the Kings aren’t just Fox and WCS – they go much deeper than that – but you can’t talk about the team’s overall success without those two at the forefront.

So, let’s talk about them, starting with Fox.

Here are his numbers from last season compared to this season.

Per Game Table
Season Age Tm Lg Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2017-18 20 SAC NBA PG 73 60 27.8 4.5 10.9 .412 0.6 2.1 .307 3.8 8.8 .436 .441 1.9 2.7 .723 0.5 2.3 2.8 4.4 1.0 0.3 2.4 2.2 11.6
2018-19 21 SAC NBA PG 13 13 32.8 6.5 13.2 .494 1.2 3.0 .410 5.3 10.2 .519 .541 4.4 6.4 .687 0.7 3.8 4.5 7.1 1.2 0.5 3.2 2.5 18.7
Career NBA 86 73 28.5 4.8 11.3 .426 0.7 2.2 .328 4.1 9.0 .450 .459 2.3 3.2 .712 0.5 2.6 3.1 4.8 1.0 0.3 2.5 2.3 12.6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/11/2018.

One of my biggest gripes about Fox from last season was how he needed the ball in his hands to be effective – as most point guards do – but more so that he appeared to care more about playing for himself rather than his teammates. There were some possessions where he was determined to score no matter what and others where he was always set on passing. Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely not a good one.

This season, Fox has calmed down, letting the game come to him instead of him trying to force it himself. It’s why his assists numbers have skyrocketed. He’s up to 7.1 per game this season – 11th highest in the NBA – compared to only 4.4 last year. While his overall turnovers have spiked as a result, his turnover percentage has stayed about the same.

He’s now allowed to run every time he touches the ball. Any time Fox spies an opportunity to jet up the floor, he acts on it. It’s part of the reason why he covers, on average, 2.54 miles per game, which is one of the top marks in the league. The Kings have emphasized the pace and space era as a team and Fox is the leading force behind that.

Besides the 2015-16 season, when the Kings went the entire season with a pace of 100.0, you would have to travel all the way back to the 1992-93 season to find another Kings team with a pace of at least 100. This current squad is second in the NBA in pace at 106.0 (pace is the number of possessions a team has each game). That incredible pace is wearing teams out.

It’s how they were able to beat the Memphis Grizzlies in one of the only two games only this season in which Sacramento failed to score 100 points. The Grizzlies had the better team, but they also had the older team. The Kings are going to win games in January and February solely because they ran a tired team into the ground.

But Fox just isn’t running harder and more often, he’s running with a purpose. Last season he was allergic to contact. Now he initiates it.

Fox’s free throw attempts are up from 2.7 last season to a blistering 6.4 attempts this season (14th highest amongst all players). Currently, he’s one – if not the best – player in the entire league at getting to the line. He doesn’t have the same type of savvy, foul-inducing moves such as veterans James Harden or Blake Griffin, but Fox has been elite at drawing fouls on his shot attempts when attacking the rim.

He currently ranks in the 100th percentile amongst point guards in drawing fouls. 18.5 percent of the time that Fox takes a shot, he gets fouled. That number rivals All-Stars such as Giannis Anteotkounmpo (18.5 percent), Joel Embiid (17.9), and Anthony Davis (17.4). Unfortunately, Fox is making these freebies at a worse rate than he was last season. His free throw percentage is down from 72.3 percent last season to 68.7 percent this year.

This newfound confidence when attacking the rim hasn’t only resulted in more free throws, but more made shots around the basket. We haven’t seen nearly as many fadeaway leaners from 10-feet out after he gets an initial bump. Now he’s going to bump the defender and jump into them. When they don’t foul him, he’s getting off cleaner looks at the rim. He’s shooting 11 percentage points better at the rim this season plus a much-needed 14 percent improvement from shots within the 4-14 feet range.

This isn’t just the result of a small sample size, Fox knows where his favorite spots are and gets to them (he likes the elbows). He’s too quick to keep at bay and has gained enough muscle in the offseason that he can get there even with resistance.

I’ll end on Fox with a couple of stats. When he’s on the court for Sacramento, the Kings score 14.9 more points per 100 possessions compared to when he sits. On defense, the team allows 15.2 fewer points per 100 possessions compared to when he sits. That’s a net total of plus-30.1, which ranks Fox in the 100th percentile amongst ALL NBA players. When Fox is in, the Kings are a playoff caliber team. Last season was quite the opposite, as he murdered their on/off numbers. Now, it’s those nearly 16 minutes per game when he’s on the bench that cost the Kings the most. Fox’s hot start to the season isn’t a fluke. This is an All-Star in the making happening before our very eyes.

Now for Cauley-Stein, the more interesting of the two.

Here are his stats from last season compared to this season.

Per Game Table
Season Age Tm Lg Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2017-18 24 SAC NBA C 73 58 28.0 5.3 10.6 .502 0.0 0.2 .250 5.3 10.4 .506 .504 2.1 3.4 .619 1.8 5.2 7.0 2.4 1.1 0.9 1.5 2.5 12.8
2018-19 25 SAC NBA C 13 13 28.7 7.3 12.6 .579 0.1 0.1 1.000 7.2 12.5 .577 .582 2.1 3.9 .529 2.5 5.8 8.2 2.1 1.1 0.5 1.5 3.2 16.8
Career NBA 227 131 23.1 4.1 7.7 .529 0.0 0.1 .235 4.1 7.7 .532 .530 1.6 2.5 .631 1.7 4.1 5.8 1.4 0.8 0.8 1.1 2.3 9.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/11/2018.

WCS went through spurts last season where he was the Kings best player. He would run the floor, make hustle plays, work in the post. Then, randomly, that player would disappear.

So I’m still a bit skeptical about whether or not WCS can keep up his current play all season. Fox has to do for the Kings to maintain their success. WCS has to if he wants the money he so desires.

But WCS never played this well last season.

He’s added multiple post moves. He wants to attack slower defenders off the dribble. He’s always pushing the pace.

Similar to Fox, Cauley-Stein covers all areas of the court. Among centers, Cauley-Stein averages the 13th most miles per game at 2.10.

The high pace has been infectious to not just the team, but to the players themselves, as well. Fox and WCS are two of three players for the Kings who average over two miles per game – the other being Hield.

But it’s Cauley-Stein’s shot selection this season that makes me believe he’s truly making a change to his game. He’s eliminating the mid-range jumper from his offensive arsenal. He tried to incorporate it last season to make himself a threat on the perimeter but hit only 35 percent of his mid-range shots. Instead of taking 16 percent of his shots from outside of 14 feet like he did last season, he’s dropped that number to nine percent. He tried that shot last season and it didn’t work. Instead of forcing it, he’s decided to utilize his speed and quick feet to blow by those defenders who don’t respect his shot. He’s quicker and more nimble than the majority of big men in the NBA.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to take that shot. In the Kings most recent matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cauley-Stein pulled-up for a non-hesitation three that hit nothing but net. It was his first three-point attempt of the season.

And, as you might expect, taking less efficient shots and turning them into more efficient ones has bumped his shooting percentages. His Effective Field Goal percentage has jumped to 58.2 percent this season compared to 50.4 last season – well-above the current league average of 51.9 percent.

There was a clip from one of my recent BBNBA Recaps that I’m going to bring up again that might seem like a minor detail, but it really paints a better picture as to how WCS is transforming his game.

Last season, he takes that mid-range jumper 10 times out of 10. This season, he pump faked and blew right by Serge Ibaka, who is playing impressive defense so far this year at center for the Raptors.  It’s simple, but it’s a serious indicator that he wants to be an improved offensive player. His defense has never been anything too special in the NBA (but he definitely isn’t a slouch in that area) and that hasn’t changed much this season, but developing a legitimate offensive game is what’s going to make him that money.

Cauley-Stein is playing nearly the same amount of minutes as last season, but taking – and making – more shots. He’s an early candidate for Most Improved Player.

Together, Fox and WCS create the best duo the Kings can put on the court. There is no 7-6 start without these two. More specifically, there is no 7-6 start without these two creating the excellent chemistry they now have between each other. Of the nine Kings’ lineups that boast a positive point per 100 possessions differential, Fox and WCS are featured in all but one of them.

Go ahead and buy your ticket to hop on the Sacramento hype train, the seats are filling fast.

(Statistics via Cleaning the Glass, NBA.com, and Basketball-Reference)

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

BBNBA: KAT is Free and the Wizards Win A Game

(Photo via Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

Good afternoon, folks. Karl-Anthony Towns has finally been extricated from Jimmy Butler’s clutches. Let’s celebrate and talk NBA.

RECAP

Bucks – 126 @ Clippers – 128 (OT)

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had himself a hell of a game in his third straight NBA start. After putting up a career-high 19 points in the Clippers most recent game against the Portland Trail Blazers, SGA followed it up with an even better performance. He put up 16 points on 5-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 39 minutes – the most he’s played this season. It may only be 12 games into the season but it’s already become clear that Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has complete trust in his rookie point guard. SGA is still prone to make silly mistakes, but the coaching staff is letting him learn through it all. His directing of the offense has been impressive and his length on defense is swallowing defenders whole. He’s always one of the smartest players on the court and was slicing through the Bucks defense on Saturday. It was an incredible display of basketball from SGA. He’s a star in the making.
  • Gilgeous-Alexander hit a big three in the middle of overtime and then had the game-deciding block on Eric Bledsoe with under 20 seconds left out on the clock. That block led to a Lou Williams game-winning shot with less than a second remaining.

  • Speaking of Bledsoe, he also had himself a good game, scoring 15 points in addition to five rebounds and five assists. He also hit a huge three with time running low in regulation that would eventually send the game to overtime.
  • Before the game, there was a moment of silence in remembrance of the 12 victims that were killed in the shooting that took place in Thousand Oaks. Both teams wore shirts before the game with “Enough” written on the front and the name of the victims written on the back.

Suns – 99 @ Pelicans – 119

  • Jrue Holiday had Devin Booker’s number in this one. Book struggled to get any good looks, going 4-12 for 12 points but also contributed seven assists. The Suns were straight up outmatched in this game and there was nothing Booker could do about it. He did hit this halfcourt shot, however.

  • Even with Nikola Mirotic missing the game for New Orleans due to a sprained ankle – which allowed Julius Randle to start his second game of the season – the Pellies were simply too much. It was good timing for NOLA, too, as they were coming off six straight losses before beating the Suns on Saturday and the horrendous Bulls on Wednesday. New Orleans is now back to .500 at 6-6.
  • Anthony Davis had himself a 26-point, 13-rebound double-double and also dished out six assists. He’s starting to get back into the groove, which is a good sign because they face the 12-1 Toronto Raptors on Monday.
  • Randle had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans while Darius Miller continues his hot shooting from last season, going 3-5 from deep for nine points. Miller is now 13-25 (52 percent) from deep this season.

Wizards – 116 @ Heat – 110

  • Well, would ya look at that, the Washington Wizards finally pulled out a win. Thanks to John Wall’s 28 points – the most of any BBNBA player on Saturday – and nine assists the Wizards were able to put one of those dot sized band-aids on their never-ending stream of bloody gashes. Wall scored 10 of his 28 in the fourth quarter and the Wiz opened that quarter on a 32-10 run to blow the whole thing open. He just decided he was going to win this game if no one else was going to help him. He’s good enough to do that, you know?

  • Bam Adebayo brought in eight points and five rebounds in 13 solid minutes for the Miami Heat.

Lakers – 101 @ Kings – 86

  • Turns out the Kings are mortal, after all. After playing in an overtime the game the night before, the Kings looked gassed for the majority of the game during their second night of a back-to-back. De’Aaron Fox did his best to build up some runs in the second and third quarter, but LeBron James and the Lakers wouldn’t let up.
  • Fox finished with another impressive stat line of 21 points on 8-17 shooting (3-6 from deep) and seven rebounds. There were times during the fourth quarter when Fox was pressing himself too much and trying to force the issue and it hardly yielded any positive results. He can read live action more acutely than last season but he isn’t nearly as effective when he rushes.

  • Willie Cauley-Stein added 12 points and 12 rebounds and a dunk that saw him soar through the air like an eagle attacking its prey.

  • For the Lakers, Rajon Rondo struggled with six points on 2-9 shooting but did add four rebounds and seven assists.

Other notes

  • This is the big one. Jimmy Butler was finally traded out of Minnesota and to the Philadelphia 76ers. Karl-Anthony Towns is finally free. Prepare yourselves for a brand new – hopefully reenergized – KAT. I’ll have more on this later in the day.
  • The three former Wildcats in Oklahoma City didn’t contribute much to the team’s blowout loss against the Dallas Mavericks. Patrick Patterson had five points and three rebounds on 2-6 shooting. Nerlens Noel added only two points (but also six rebounds) while Hamidou Diallo was 0-3 from the field with zero points.
  • Andrew Harrison made his Cleveland Cavaliers debut and it…. did not go well. Harrison was 0-4 from the field with three turnovers and was a deer in headlights the entire game. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the Cavaliers are in a constant state of setting themselves on fire. My hope is he’ll eventually work his way into whatever chemistry this Cavs team has and find some rhythm sooner rather than later. That’s my hope.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
John Wall (WAS)116-110 W @ MIA289-20 (3-5)29112+340
Anthony Davis (NOP)119-99 W vs. PHX267-18 (0-2)136121+2636
Julius Randle (NOP)119-99 W vs. PHX229-19 (1-4)153025+2537
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)86-101 L vs. LAL218-17 (3-6)72214-1338
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)128-126 OT W vs. MIL165-13 (2-3)64132+639
Enes Kanter (NYK)112-128 L @ TOR155-14 (0-0)152002-2119
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)126-128 OT L @ LAC156-16 (2-7)55213034
Kevin Knox (NYK)112-128 L @ TOR124-11 (2-4)21010-624
Devin Booker (PHX)99-119 L @ NOP124-12 (2-5)17204-1034
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)86-101 L vs. LAL126-14 (0-0)120114-725
Darius Miller (NOP)119-99 W vs. PHX93-5 (3-5)01200+821
Bam Adebayo (MIA)110-116 L vs. WAS83-4 (0-0)50000+613
Rajon Rondo (LAL)101-86 W @ SAC62-9 (1-3)47202+1728
Patrick Patterson (OKC)96-111 L @ DAL52-6 (1-4)30001-1715
Nerlens Noel (OKC)96-111 L @ DAL21-2 (0-0)60113-1311
Andrew Harrison (CLE)98-99 L @ CHI00-4 (0-1)30003+613
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)96-111 L @ DAL00-3 (0-0)21000-137
Skal Labissiere (SAC)86-101 L vs. LALDNP-CD----------------
DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)116-100 W vs. BKNDNP-Achilles----------------
Brandon Knight (HOU)89-96 L @ SASDNP-Knee----------------
Wenyen Gabriel (SAC)86-101 L vs. LALDNP-G League----------------
Tyler Ulis (CHI)99-98 W vs. CLEDNP-G League----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

3:30: Hornets (Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk) @ Pistons

7:00: Pacers @ Rockets (Knight-out)

7:30: Magic (Briscoe) @ Knicks (Kanter, Knox)

8:00: Bucks (Bledsoe, Meeks-suspended) @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt-out)

9:00: Celtics @ Trail Blazers

9:30: Hawks (Poythress) @ Lakers (Rondo)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

BBNBA: Kings Win Again, Wolves Drop Fifth Straight

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Good morning, folks. The Minnesota Timberwolves players may or may not still be in the most awkward situation ever. Let’s talk NBA.

RECAP

Hornets – 132 @ 76ers – 133 (OT)

  • The Charlotte Hornets were down by 21 at one point but came all the way the back to take the lead with just over a minute left. Unfortunately, Joel Embiid was wayyyy too much for the Hornets (he poured in 42..), but it was a thriller down the stretch. Malik Monk had a huge and-one in overtime. He also shot 19 times and only connected on four of them *shrugging emoji*. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 12 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

Nets – 112 @ Nuggets – 110

  • Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles couldn’t muster up enough offense late in the game to pull this one out for Denver. It was an expectedly exhilarating game from start to finish and ended with a Caris LeVert game-winner, but the Nuggets now get knocked to 9-3 on the season. Murray had 16 points (5-14 from the field) and five assists while Lyles brought in 10 points of his own, shooting 3-7 and executing this fantastic reverse layup.

  • Also, the fan who caught Murray’s ball when Kyrie Irving launched it into oblivion after being definitely not mad about Murray going for 50 points the other night, brought the ball back.

Timberwolves – 110 @ Kings – 121

  • De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein did the damn thing again. This time taking down those poor, poor Timberpups. Fox was outstanding. Outside of a couple rushed plays in the fourth quarter, he played an excellent game. He contributed 16 points, 10 assists, and two impressive blocks on Derrick Rose.
  • WCS was hitting from everywhere. He hit a pull-up three with zero hesitation that surprised the hell out of everyone in the arena, including me. If he wanted to get to the rim, he had no issue doing so. His defense against Towns was spotty, but Cauley-Stein’s 25 points on 11-16 shooting plus – and most importantly – the win, is something he’ll live with.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns woke up for this game – and Jimmy Butler even played, too! Towns went for 39 points on 15-27 shooting to go along with 19 rebounds. He was attacking the paint, receiving the ball in the post, he didn’t settle for nearly as many jumpers, and just looked generally interested in everything that was happening around him. His efforts fell short, though, and the Wolves have now dropped five straight. Who’s that guy they should trade again?
  • Skal Labissiere has been completely wiped out of the Kings’ rotation. He’s appeared in only five games so far and has yet to register more than 10 minutes. His DNP against the Wolves was his second straight and with a rough schedule ahead of them, he might not see the court unless the Kings are down 20-plus (which is still a possibility).

Other notes

  • John Wall had 19 points, seven rebounds, and 12 assists. His Wizards also lost to the Orlando Magic and it wasn’t particularly close until the closing minutes of the game. Whatever is happening in D.C. is tragic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team with as much talent as the Wizards play so poorly. I’m tired of talking about it at this point. Just move the franchise to the Dakotas or something so I don’t have to hear about it anymore. But, since it’s John Wall, we still get beautiful moves such as this one.

  • Bam Adebayo played in only seven minutes against the Indiana Pacers. Adebayo is fighting for minutes against Hassan Whiteside/Kelly Olynyk and he’s currently losing. Luckily, it’s a long season.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)110-121 L @ SAC2915-27 (2-5)191014-539
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)121-110 W vs. MIN2511-16 (1-1)51001028
John Wall (WAS)108-117 L @ ORL199-21 (0-3)712213+342
Jamal Murray (DEN)110-112 L vs. BKN165-14 (0-1)25102-640
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)121-110 W vs. MIN163-7 (1-1)410120+1333
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA)132-133 OT L @ PHI123-8 (0-0)122000+526
Malik Monk (CHA)132-133 OT L @ PHI124-19 (2-10)34000+127
Trey Lyles (DEN)110-112 L vs. BKN103-7 (0-0)32010-121
Alex Poythress (ATL)109-124 L vs. DET31-3 (1-2)20000+610
Bam Adebayo (MIA)102-110 L vs. IND31-1 (0-0)10001+27
Skal Labissiere (SAC)121-110 W vs. MINDNP-CD----------------
Isaiah Briscoe (ORL)117-108 W vs. WASDNP-CD----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)110-112 L vs. BKNDNP-Foot----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

3:00: Knicks (Kanter, Knox) @ Raptors

3:30: Bucks (Bledsoe, Meeks-suspended) @ Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander)

7:00: Suns (Booker) @ Pelicans (Davis, Miller, Randle)

8:00: Wizards (Wall) @ Heat (Adebayo)

8:00: Cavaliers (An. Harrison) @ Bulls

8:00: 76ers @ Grizzlies

8:30 (NBATV): Rockets (Knight-out) @ Spurs

8:30: Nets @ Warriors (Cousins-out)

9:00: Thunder (Diallo, Noel, Patterson) @ Mavericks

10:00 Lakers (Rondo) @ Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Labissiere)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


BBNBA: Booker’s 38 Can’t Stop Celtics Comeback

BBNBA: Booker’s 38 Can’t Stop Celtics Comeback

(Photo via Getty Images/Barry Gossage)

Good morning, folks. Devin Booker is amazing. His team is not. Let’s talk NBA.

RECAP

Rockets – 80 @ Thunder – 98

  • Nerlens Noel and Patrick Patterson flew under the radar in this game for good reason. Patterson put up only three points on 1-3 shooting while Noel contributed just two points. However, Noel had another three-block game – his second of the season. Noel is currently averaging 1.4 blocks per game playing only 14.2 minutes per game. Stretch that out across 36 minutes and it averages out to 3.5 blocks per game. Not too shabby.
  • Hamidou Diallo had himself another solid game with Russell Westbrook out. Diallo brought in five points on 2-4 shooting including four rebounds and this unorthodox up-and-under move.

  • The Rockets look… Not great. Chris Paul sure is starting to look his age a bit…

Bucks – 134 @ Warriors – 111

  • Well, this was quite unexpected. The Milwaukee Bucks flat out beat the brakes off of the defending NBA champs. Leading the way was none other than Eric Bledsoe, who had easily his best outing of this still young season. Bledsoe led all scorers with 26 points, which he attained by making 10 of his 12 field goal attempts (and shooting 2-3 from three). He also added four rebounds and six assists.

  • I’m not entirely sure how to explain this beatdown, because the Bucks dominated the Warriors for basically the last three-quarters of the game. It’s not like it was ever close. Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t even have that great of a game and it still wasn’t close. My only guess is the Warriors came in either too cocky or too lazy, which was something they had issues with during the middle of last season, where they would come out flat and disinterested (I guess winning does get boring after a while). But the Bucks match up with the Warriors perfectly with their length and shooting. They may be one of the few teams in the league that could actually challenge the Warriors (although not beat them) in a seven-game series.
  • Bledsoe truly was fantastic in this game, though. And at the same time, I was annoyed by his performance. He was so aggressive, so tactical in his defensive approach, that it pissed me off to see him finally play the way he obviously can. You’ll rarely see this version of Bledsoe against a team such as the Orlando Magic, but he sure does like get up for big games.
  • Side note: I wanted to share this Steph Curry stat I saw in an article by Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports:

  • This may not be true now after Curry went 0-4 from three against the Bucks. But, my goodness. A Curry three-point attempt is a more efficient shot than a DUNK. How is that fair?

Other notes

  • Devin Booker dropped 38 points on the Boston Celtics AND held a 20-point lead in the second quarter. The Suns had a 16-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter. The Suns still lost in overtime! Kyrie Irving went full Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring 18 of his own 39 points. Booker shot 15-30 from the field to go along with nine assists (point Booker honestly isn’t that bad, honestly. He definitely turns it over more than he should – six of them Thursday night – but he’s making cross-court left-handed passes look easy. But they still need a point guard). The Suns are now 2-8. They are awful. Their front office is awful. They might as well tank for Zion at this point.

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had the best performance of his 11-game NBA career against the Portland Trail Blazers, putting up 19 points on 7-12 shooting after starting his second consecutive game. The Clippers couldn’t shrink the Blazers lead in the fourth quarter to under five points, but SGA showed some poise and played an overall great game.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Devin Booker (PHX)109-116 OT L vs. BOS3815-30 (4-13)39306-242
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)134-111 W @ GSW2610-12 (2-3)46103+3026
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)105-116 L @ POR197-12 (2-2)32011-1635
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)98-80 W vs. HOU52-4 (0-1)40001-1511
Patrick Patterson (OKC)98-80 W vs. HOU31-3 (1-3)20001-412
Nerlens Noel (OKC)98-80 W vs. HOU20-1 (0-0)50030-415
DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)111-134 L vs. MILDNP-Achilles----------------
Brandon Knight (HOU)80-98 L @ OKCDNP-Knee----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

7:00: Wizards (Wall) @ Magic (Briscoe)

7:00 (NBATV): Hornets (Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk) @ 76ers

7:30: Pistons @ Hawks (Poythress)

8:00: Pacers @ Heat (Adebayo)

9:00: Nets @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt-out)

9:30 (ESPN): Celtics @ Jazz

10:00: Timberwolves (Towns) @ Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Labissiere)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan