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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

First Impressions of the First Round of the Playoffs

Here are some quick takes on each of the NBA's first round playoff series:

Cleveland 2, Indiana 0

1) The Pacers are who I thought they were: not particularly good on defense, only good on offense sporadically and a mismatched collection of talent that looks better on paper than it performs on the court.
2) I am not sure that I want to go into battle with Paul George; he is the Pacers' best player and should be the leader but he spends a lot of time publicly talking about his perceptions of what everyone else on the team is doing wrong. Why does he have to "take the last shot"? Michael Jordan did not always take the last shot. Kobe Bryant did not always take the last shot. If George thinks that he is so great that only he can take the last shot, then beat the double team, create the last shot--and make it. Jordan and Bryant did that on more than a few occasions. George's body language at the end of game one would be a serious problem for me if I were one of his teammates--and particularly if I were C.J. Miles, who took a quality shot and just happened to miss it.
3) It is not clear what this series tells us about the Cavaliers, because the Cavaliers know that they can beat this team without exerting full effort--and the Cavaliers are quite content to do just that. Do the Cavaliers have another gear? Most certainly they do. Will they shift into that gear when they face tougher competition? I have no idea. LeBron James has quit in big playoff series and he has authored historic performances in playoff series.

Chicago 2, Boston 0

1) Boston is one of the weakest number one seeds ever but I did not expect them to lose two home games to the inconsistent Chicago Bulls.
2) The Bulls have a lot of talent and they also have some championship pedigree with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo but there is no way that this team should be up 2-0 versus the Celtics.
3) Rondo can be a difficult player to coach but he has also repeatedly proven that he can produce at a high level during the playoffs. I would take him on my team any day, with the realization that he has to be dealt with and communicated with in a particular way.

Toronto 1, Milwaukee 1

1) The Bucks are a talented enigma, at least for me. I struggle to figure out how they will perform over the course of a season or a playoff series.
2) The Raptors are a very well constructed team and, even if it takes seven games, I expect them to win this series.

Washington 1, Atlanta 0

1) John Wall is a spectacular all-around player. If the Wizards can advance one or two rounds, he may start to get the recognition he deserves.
2) Scott Brooks is an underrated coach. He almost annually led the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals and, after a rough start to this season, he may very well have the Wizards on a path to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Golden State 1, Portland 0

1) The Blazers are not scared. They look the Warriors dead in the eye and compete. Unfortunately for the Blazers, they just do not have enough talent to win this series.
2) If Kevin Durant misses games or is seriously limited by injury then the door is open for the Blazers to win a game or two--but not the series.

San Antonio 2, Memphis 0

1) Was Memphis Coach Fizdale taking a not so veiled shot at his franchise's "stat gurus" at the end of his rant after game two? His derisive, concluding comment about data did not have anything to do with his complaints about the officiating.
2) Coach Fizdale has a right to be upset with the front office, as the Grizzlies have once again fielded a team that does not have enough shooting prowess or scoring punch to be a serious playoff threat.

Houston 1, Oklahoma City 0

1) The game one blowout confirmed a simple truth: if Russell Westbrook does not play like a basketball superhero then his Oklahoma City Thunder have no chance.
2) Westbrook did not play like a basketball superhero: he shot poorly and he turned the ball over too much. All that being said and acknowledged, even if he had posted 30-10-10 with a good shooting percentage and a reasonable number of turnovers, the Thunder still would have been blown out.
3) Some have suggested that Enes Kanter should be benched. I would give him more minutes and when he is in the game I would post him up every time, forcing a smaller Rocket to guard him. This series is like the 2006 Suns-Lakers series; at that time, the Lakers' Phil Jackson used an "Inside Man" strategy to push the much more talented and deeper Suns to seven games. The Thunder must punish the Rockets in the paint.
4) My gut feeling is that Westbrook has a monster game two leading to a Thunder win but the Rockets take the series in seven.

L.A. Clippers 1, Utah 1

1) The Jazz are missing their best defensive player and the Clippers had to scramble to avoid a 2-0 deficit. I have never understood the sentiment that Chris Paul is a great leader or that he should be mentioned in the same breath with Isiah Thomas just because they are similarly sized. If Paul were a great leader then he would have actually led this very talented team past the second round at some point.
2) The Clippers will probably find a way to win this series but this team just does not have a championship mindset.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:47 PM

15 comments

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15 Comments:

At Wednesday, April 19, 2017 8:27:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

David-

I agree with almost all of that. My (additional or conflicting) thoughts;

* The one thing that should be worrying Cleveland is that Indy is a poor offensive team, perhaps the worst offensive team in the playoffs, and they are scoring at a Warriors-like rate against Cleveland. Indy is also a roughly average defensive team, so Cleveland can not expect to score much better than they are in this series against most other teams. If they can't hold a a clumsy, one-star team like Indiana below 110 points (in Cleveland, no less), how are they going to contain two or three start teams like Toronto/Washington, nevermind a potential eventual run-in with GSW?

* I agree that Toronto is really good and in fact would probably pick them over Cleveland, but I also think Milwaukee's length may be their kryptonite. Toronto got great games from its three best players yesterday and still needed MIL to miss a bunch of open crunch time shots to slink away with a must-win home Game 2. Milwaukee's length is a big problem for the way Toronto prefers to run their offense, and I am not sure they can win a game in Milwaukee without either help from the officials, an injury, or an uncharacteristically buoyant bench performance. It is also likely that some of MIL's no-shows (G2 Brogdon and Mirza Teletovic, specifically) will play better at home.

I think Toronto is the best team in the East, but Milwaukee is a difficult matchup for them and they are in for a dogfight. The series could go either way but assuming no major injuries, I'd currently pick Milwaukee in 6. They have the best player in the series and home-court advantage, which is a difficult combo to overcome.

* I agree with you about John Wall. I have him as right around the sixth or seventh best player in the league right now, and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves. I would not be shocked to see Washington win the East, again assuming health.

* I am not sure Kanter is the answer for OKC; HOU has targeted him relentlessly and gotten great results from it, and I'm not sure he can score at a high enough rate, even against Ryan Anderson, to make up for it, especially if his team is losing the battle of the starters.

* I still think RWB is the best player in the series, but I am not super confident in my pick of OKC to win the series; I assumed Billy Donovan would be able to gameplan against Harden as most other playoff opponents have done, but in Game 1 at least Harden had perhaps the best playoff game of his career. With Beverly on RWB, he is likely to be something less than his regular season self (though I, like you, expect at least one or two monster games), so for OKC to have any hope they're going to need to force Harden to the right and get him shooting over decent contests from the 15-20 foot range. Any game in which Harden outperforms Westbrook is near-definitely a loss, so they need to find a way to make sure it doesn't keep happening.

It would also help if they remembered how to rebound, obviously.

* I hesitate to conclude too much about the Celtics from this series with the Bulls, as the effects of the tragic circumstances surrounding the series are difficult to quantify. I am a very vocal critic of Thomas generally, but obviously it is not his fault that he/his teammates are not quite themselves at the moment. They will likely lose this series, and they have real questions to answer in the offseason, but I don't think it'd be fair or accurate to conclude that they are in general a weaker team than Chicago from this series given the circumstances.

 
At Wednesday, April 19, 2017 11:04:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

My blood is absolutely boiling from that game. Anyone.... I mean anyone who for a second thought that there was a player in the league that was more valuable to his team than Westbrook has absolutely no clue what they're talking about. This team is absolutely horrid. The fact that the narrative will now be used against Westbrook makes me so furious.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 12:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, RW is most valuable to his team than any other player is to his respective team, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the MVP of the entire league. That just means that his cast isn't necessarily great. There's several players who could trade places with RW and be extremely valuable on OKC, moreso than they are on their current teams, though RW should be MVP for the regular season probably but it's close.

RW hasn't been the best player in the series so far, which he absolutely needs to be if OKC has a chance of winning. Shooting .348 on .471 TS% and 4-18 in the 4th of game 2 isn't going to cut it. RW and his cast both stunk in game 1. They both improved in game 2 quite a bit, but where's the defense? OKC was a good defensive team in the regular season, but we haven't seen that so far through 2 games.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 1:21:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Anonymous:

With all due respect, you're wrong in so many ways. I am not one to talk down on people's opinions, but the opinions that some fans and basketball "analysts" have really makw me question if they actually watch games and comprehend what is going on or have ever played a single basketball game themselves.

"Kyle, RW is most valuable to his team than any other player is to his respective team, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the MVP of the entire league."... I fail to understand this logic.

"There's several players who could trade places with RW and be extremely valuable on OKC, moreso than they are on their current teams, though RW should be MVP for the regular season probably but it's close."... There is a grand total of one player in the league whom could realistically have similar impact as Westbrook on this team and his name is LeBron James. One could argue Kevin Durant, but he seems to have trouble staying on the floor these days so that point in moot. I fail to see these players whom could replace Westbrook and even be "more" valuable to OKC than they are to their own teams.

Westbrook had an all-time performance through the first three quarters last night and it got his team a 3 point lead at the end of the 3rd after his bench blew a 12 point lead in a matter of a minute and half as soon as Westbrook hit the bench. Harden was his usual flopping self while Lou Williams and Eric Gordon kept them in the game. Westbrook does not have the luxury of having TWO 20 point scorers off his bench to keep him in the game while he is playing poorly.

Westbrook shot poorly in the fourth, that is undeniable. You, like many other fans and analysts, fail to take into account the human element of basketball. These players are NOT robots. They have real emotions and thoughts while playing. Westbrook was exhausted by the end of the third while playing his heart out and had his team up 12 points. Imagine if you saw some of your greatest work destroyed in a matter of 90 seconds. He was furious. His team is devoid of offensive talent. He was put back in earlier than usual and while running on fumes, tried to win his team the game because him take 18 shots and missing 14, is better than his offensively challenged team building brick houses. Could he have trusted them more? Absolutely. The human element in an ultra competitive player wouldn't allow it and why should he? His team cost them the game. How could you trust your teammates after carrying them all year? If 3 of those 14 shots go down, Westbrook is talked as a hero right now. This 4th quarter wasn't his night. He did not have the energy especially while playing so disappointed in his team.

But of course - Westbrook is not liked and there are people just waiting for him to fail. He is far from the perfect player - far from it. I knew as soon as his team blew the lead that it was over. Westbrook was going to come back in early and try his best take every shot he could.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 2:29:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

That was a weird game. I'd say both of the following statements are pretty inarguably true:

1) Russell Westbrook authored one of the greatest playoff games ever.

2) Russell Westbrook played awful in the fourth quarter.

The fact that 2 is true honestly makes 1 more impressive, in my eyes- he was that good for three quarters that even a historic stinker of a fourth can't taint the overall performance- but it doesn't mean that 2 isn't a problem if OKC wants to start winning some games*. It's rare to see Kenny, Shaq, and Charles, all agree about something (especially since they're more-or-less paid to disagree) but all three of them killed RWB for his play in the fourth quarter, and I'm inclined to agree. For me it's less that he took 18 shot than it is the 18 shots he took, the vast majority of which came on possessions in which he did not even attempt to run plays or get other players involved. He also, predictably, played awful defense (that Beverly 3 came because Russ had just kinda wandered into the paint and wasn't guarding anybody).

*It's also not the biggest problem either way; Oladipo needs to wake up or they're toast no matter was Russ does.

Shot selection is a usually overblown criticism of Westbrook, but it is a fair one in this series. There is absolutely no reason for a guy like him to be shooting 11 (mostly contested and mostly early in the clock) 3s per game (he's made 5 of them so far). There is no reason for him to go 1-on-3 with 15 seconds left on the clock and the lead.

RWB is putting up superhuman numbers and effort, but if he wants to have a real chance to win this series, he needs to combine that energy and effort with a little bit more self-awareness and intelligence. As-is, he's playing into Houston's hands. They'll happily give him 50 a night if it takes him 43 shots to get there and he's too gassed to even imitate defense on the other end.

OKC's first half is probably the recipe for success: they need RWB to be superhuman (22 points), but they also need him to turn his crummy supporting cast into an offensive factor (10 assists). It is totally unfair that Russ probably has to average 38-20 or so for OKC to win this series, but that will give them a much better shot than averaging 48-10.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 3:58:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

One major mistake that people make when looking at this team is thinking that Oladipo is supposed to "step up". I've said it numerous times... he's just not that guy. He is not a player that can be expected to excel in meaningful games when he has a crucial role. His ceiling is a solid 6th/7th man off the bench expected to score somewhere in the teens in 25ish minutes mostly against the opposing team's bench. I have a hard time seeing him as a third best player on a contender.

Taj Gibson is a serviceable rotation player, but there is a reason he was never granted a full-time starting role on any Bulls team except this year at 31 years old - he's not a legit starting power forward. Don't get me started on this bench. Absolutely terrible.

Billy Donavan made some questionable moves last night and he had 82 games to experiment with this roster. Kyle Singler, whom played just 32 games mostly due to injuries with Kanter and Oladipo, saw minutes yesterday that should have been given to Kanter or McDermott. Neither are great defenders, but the players he was putting on the floor could not even stop the Rockets from scoring. At least put players on the floor that can put points on the board.

The Thunder need to spend this off season trying to trade Kanter for players that can create their own shot specifically at the power forward or wing positions. Oladipo needs to be moved to a 6th man role where he can excel.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, I explained my comment to your comment about RW relative to his team. For example, take an average player in the nba and put him with the 14 worst players in the nba. That average player is going to be the most valuable player to his team of any team. His team is going to do much better with him on the court than without him. Obviously, he wouldn't be the MVP of the league though.

If we believe what you and some others say about how bad OKC's cast is, then we should also see a big difference of +/- with any other AS-caliber player who replaces RW. If RW would join GS, we wouldn't see anywhere near the difference of how GS would do with/without RW as we do with OKC. OKC's cast certainly isn't championship caliber, but I don't think it's that bad. They have several nice pieces around RW. What they don't have is secondary playmaker, which makes them look a lot worse when RW sits. If RW stayed under control and played smarter, OKC wins game 2. Being reckless is part of why he's so good, but sometimes it's too much.

Explain to me what you're implying with Harden's flopping. I'm not seeing him flopping. I'm seeing him drawing fouls when his defender sloppingly reaches in. When his defender reaches in, he then often goes up for the shot, that's not flopping. It does seem cheap, but it's very smart. Most of the top players have similar moves, Harden just does it the most and best. As far as flopping goes, RW was the only one who I saw flop, which worked one out of two times for him in the 4th. The first time was absolutely ridiculous, especially with him complaining afterwards when there was no contact. Overall, he had a great game, but an atrocious 4th. His decision making continues to be very puzzling at times. I don't have a problem with him shooting so much, but his shot selection was very poor, especially since he's a poor perimeter shooter.

For the record, RW is my favorite active player and I've repeatedly said he's my MVP. But, OKC is built more of defense, and they seem to have forgotten that. All 5 of their starters are good defenders, they need to be better on that end. If they focus on playing suffocating defense especially against a team like HOU, it will likely work.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 6:26:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Kyle-

I agree with most of what you're saying, but I disagree some about Oladipo. I don't think he needs to be or is capable of being a 25ppg scorer, but even just putting up his season averages of 16 on 44/36 shooting would take some pressure off of RWB. If he wanted to recapture a bit of his ORL form and run a few PnRs while RWB sits (it makes no sense that Billy often sits them both at once, for the record), so much the better.

He's certainly not (at least yet) a viable second banana for a title team, but he ought to be able to get some decent numbers against Houston's very RWB-focused defense. Victor shooting 19% is killing OKC, as it further frees Houston to throw all their guys at RWB.

He's also OKC's second best perimeter defender behind Roberson, but so far has been unable to find his mojo on that end, as well. It is not uncommon for young players to wilt in their first playoff series, but it's certainly bad timing for OKC's hopes of an upset.

I agree with you that OKC should play McDermott more, but at the same time he doesn't do any good if RWB won't pass him the ball. NBA Reddit had a (probably a little overly harsh) ball at Russ' expense last night with him jacking up contested threes while McDermott (shooting 80% from 3 vs Houston so far) was wide open just a single pass away. If your offense is gonna be 100% RWB vs. the world, you probably are better off keeping Oladipo or Roberson in instead as they're better defenders. Whether that's on Donovan or RWB is anybody's guess, but it's how they played down the stretch last night, and definitely not a recipe for long-term success.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 6:29:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Regarding flopping:

Any objective observer ought to be able to see that, at the very least, both Harden and RWB are prone to embellishing existing contact. I don't like it, but it's part of the game, and plenty of other guys do it too, including Lebron. Similarly, any objective observer ought to notice that Harden does it more than almost anybody else in the NBA.

It's something I really don't like, but it isn't a flaw; at a very technical level, it's productive basketball. Until and unless the refs stop falling for it, they are incentivized to keep screaming and flailing whenever someone breathes on them near the rim.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 8:09:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Re: How would X do replacing Westbrook on OKC?

This is such a fun/impossible to answer question. Obviously, yes, Lebron makes any team he plays for a title contender (that's his MVP case, by the way, if you wanted to make it). I think there are a handful of other guys that could probably get OKC into the playoffs in RWB's place, but I don't know that any of them would make the team *better*. Let's look at just the top five candidates (I assume), besides Lebron:

1) Curry

Pros: More efficient, better defensive skillset (though less athletic), creates more room for Oladipo's baby-deer-standing-for-the-first-time driving game and probably makes him look better than he is.

Cons: Nowhere near the rebounder Russ is, nowhere near as durable, doesn't wear out the defense physically in the same way.

Verdict: Curry probably averages something like 30 and 10, but they don't get much if any better, and if he gets hurt having to carry that kinda load (semi-likely) they're toast.

2) Leonard

Pros: Way better defender, more efficient scorer

Cons: Not in RWB's league as a shot-creator or passer. Spurs' offense is one thing, but Kawhi doesn't have the skillset to make chicken salad out of Donovan's chicken bleep offensive playbook this season.

Verdict: OKC reinvents itself as a monster defensive team (presumably playing Oladipo at the 1), but can't score any points, and basically becomes a less fun Memphis Grizzlies. Probably an easy out 8 seed.

3) Wall

Pros: Slightly better shooter and way better defender than RWB.

Cons: Not in his league as a volume scorer or rebounder, a step behind him as a passer. Probably can't carry the offensive load needed to keep OKC much above .500 given their near-total lack of other offensive options (and absent the improved perimeter shooting the other guys offer to open things up for Gibson/Kanter/Adams/etc).

4) Durant

Pros: Better scorer, shooter, and defender than RWB, while still being an above-average (but not RWB level) rebounder and passer.

Cons: Gets hurt. Also, probably doesn't want to run the offense every single play of every single game, given the choice he made this offseason.

Verdict: No way they survive 20 games without him, doesn't matter how good they are with him.

5) Harden

Pros: More efficient shooter, better from the perimeter, gets to the line whenever he feels like it.

Cons: Even worse defender, can't really win if the whistles aren't blowing (though they usually are), not quite RWB's level in boards or passing (I know he averages more assists, but that's a systemic/support issue; the quality of passes RWB throws is better, even if the shooters he throws them to aren't). Iffy at best track record chemistry wise.

Verdict: Harden needs shooters to really be effective. OKC doesn't have them. This is a disaster for everyone involved.


Overall verdict: It's not that RWB is irreplaceable as a scorer or facilitator, but he is irreplaceable as an athlete and a rebounder. Most guys can't play 81 games with a 40% usage rate; it's just not gonna happen. You put an MVP-level guy in his place, you might be ok, but... that's true of everybody in the league, isn't it?

As much as his warts are being exposed a little in this Houston series, RWB is still probably the most impressive athlete in the league, and he did something this season that nobody or almost nobody else could have done. Nobody meant more to their team than he did this year (there's a statistical case for Lebron, but let's ignore that for now), and if that's your criteria for MVP (though it doesn't have to be), he's an easy pick.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 8:12:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Anonymous:

I cannot agree with your comparison for using an average player with 14 worst players because that team would not make the playoffs. How valuable is this average player if he's pretty much stopping you from getting a better lottery pick? This comparison does not translate to an argument for Westbrook not being the MVP. Devin Booker (whom is an above average player) is not more valuable than this year's MVP candidates.

"If we believe what you and some others say about how bad OKC's cast is, then we should also see a big difference of +/- with any other AS-caliber player who replaces RW. If RW would join GS, we wouldn't see anywhere near the difference of how GS would do with/without RW as we do with OKC."... This is a logical fallacy and I can write a whole page about how this logic does not check out. Basketball is an extremely dynamic game and simply plugging and unplugging players on teams does not directly tell you the talent level of a team nor whom is more valuable to which team.

"But, OKC is built more of defense, and they seem to have forgotten that. All 5 of their starters are good defenders, they need to be better on that end. If they focus on playing suffocating defense especially against a team like HOU, it will likely work." ... This is not completely true. The Thunder were built for two All-NBA perimeter players, one of whom could score from anywhere on the floor in Kevin Durant. What is left of the Thunder are players whom have talents that don't necessarily complement each other. However, they are not a great, cohesive defensive team.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 8:39:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Nick:

Trust me on Oladipo. He is not what you think he is. You are being overly optimistic because of his name. There is a reason that the Magic were OK with giving up on him. He is not a player that embraces the moment and is very inconsistent. Do not count on him to give even a consistent, modest 16 points in a starting role. He is barely even a third banana as I've been saying for a long time. Some guys just aren't made for the crunch time moment. I've been watching this game for decades and I know one when I see one. He seems like a very nice guy - he's just not a guy that you can count on to meet his expectations when times are rough.

As for McDermott, whom I was flabbergasted didn't play in game 1 and limited time in game 2, played well. Donovan's decision making was questionable at best and McDermott should have seen more time. I am by no means defending Russell for not passing to an open McDermott on those two plays. I'm sure that if he could rewind those plays he would've passed the ball. My problem is that those plays are being analyzed on a micro level.

Basketball is a very dynamic game. These are human beings with real thoughts and emotions. Things that transpire in the 1st quarter affect the 4th quarter. Westbrook by that point was fed up. Could his decision making have been better? Absolutely. However, Jordan, Kobe, etc.. are probably going to do the exact same thing under those circumstances. He is not a robot that can ignore the context of the game that his teammates are failing him when he is putting up an all-time performance. That is not an excuse, it's a fact. To expect anything different is silly. He is not Chris Paul whom chooses to defer to lesser teammates to a fault when his team needs him most. The other Thunder players did not want to make plays and I'm sorry, but most people cannot relate to being the best at what they do, surrounded by individuals not capable of closing the deal. It's easy to criticize the guy that laid it all out. Most other people are the Oladipo's of the world and are speaking from that perspective. That's just the way that I look at it.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 8:50:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Regarding flopping:

Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, LeBron, and many other great perimeter players get their fair share of calls from the refs. That reality goes back to even the days of Magic where he was always in the refs' ears. I despised how Wade got calls for players looking at him the wrong way. Even Kevin Durant's rip-through move was/is annoying.

My problem with Harden, unlike a lot of other players, is that he looks for the foul. His primary goal on a lot of his plays is to get fouled. Period. That is disgusting basketball and I cannot understand why anyone other than Rocket's fans support it. I do not blame him for it. It's a problem that the league needs to fix. It is undeniable that Harden's game is predicated on getting fouled. Harden is no longer an All-NBA player if he does not get those calls and that is not a truth of a lot of other great players. Comparing that to any other player in the league right now is being willingly blind.

 
At Thursday, April 20, 2017 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Nick F said...

Kyle-

Agree to differ on Oladipo. I do not know if his ceiling is much higher than we saw this season (I think it is, but I don't think this particularly OKC team is the best environment for him to grow in), but I think it's certainly reasonable to expect a player to approximate their regular season production in the postseason (although a modest dip in FG% is standard). Oladipo is underperforming by any metric, and it's a near-certainty that he will rebound at least somewhat playing at home. If he continues to shoot only 19% then OKC can probably expect a sweep, even if RWB throws up cartoon numbers every night.

 
At Friday, April 21, 2017 3:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James doesn't make any team a title contender. Though, we don't really have much evidence to see how he would do with even an averagish cast. His casts have been great for so long now, and the East usually doesn't have any other contenders, and if they do, they're weak contenders. CLE would be a 6th seed in the West this year. I supposed it's possible they could reach the WCF, but I highly doubt they'd be able to get through HOU, SA, and GS to reach the finals.

Kyle, no idea what you're talking about now and how you got into lottery picks. And who among OKC's starters isn't a good defender? RW is their worst starting defender, but he's still an above average defender. Don't trust Nick's evaluation of his defense.

OKC is better defensively than offensively. True or not? Check their O and D ratings. Let RW do his thing, but they need to step it up big time on defensive end. They're not going to be able to put up huge scoring outputs to beat HOU that way likely.

The 2006 1st round series between PHO/LAL is very similar to this series. The games LAL won defensive games. They couldn't outrun or outscore PHO. LAL's offensive gameplan was different than OKC's gameplan vs HOU. Phil wanted Kobe to shoot less and distribute more, and it seemed like a good idea, but PHO was just a much better team, though LAL was one rebound away from winning the series. The LAL squad was a terrible offensive unit and much worse than RW's cast is this season, and they were defensively, too.

 

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