Simple answers to simple questions. From Rv Oliver III:
Are the Cavs that good? Or is the East that bad?
Look, Cleveland’s not 44 points better than Boston. The Cavaliers are locked in to a level I haven’t seen from a team, collectively, probably since the San Antonio Spurs eviscerated the Miami Heat in The 2014 Finals. The ball is moving like it’s being launched by centrifugal force; Cleveland’s defense is five guys moving together as if tied together with string, and the Cavs are beasting Boston in the paint. I suspect that, Bradley Beal’s opinion to the contrary, Cleveland would be whupping Washington if the Wizards had made the conference finals, too. But as I’ve written about several times in recent weeks, including today, Cleveland’s insane dominance in the last three years of Eastern Conference playoffs -- 34-5 after Sunday’s second-half meltdown to the Celtics, making the Cavs 10-1 so far this postseason -- forces every other team in the East to really think about whether going “all in” to build a team the next few years is really worth it.
One is the loneliest number. From Srdjan Komadina:
Since the lottery results have been published, and since the Celtics got the No. 1 pick, many have said that they should get yet another guard, Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz, some have even suggested that they should go after Josh Jackson, some said even that they should trade the pick for Paul George, or even Jimmy Butler.
But I don’t think doing any of that is going to solve their main problem if they want to try to dethrone the Cavs in the next year or two, and that is interior defense and rebounding. Having in mind Gordon Hayward’s connection with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, the cap space that Boston has, and, of course, all the assets from the previous (as well as future) drafts, shouldn’t the Celtics try to address their main problems with the No. 1 pick instead of stockpiling young, talented, but -- let's face it -- not-bringing-you-over-the-hump guards and wings?
Therefore, may I suggest to you this idea. The Celtics should try and trade the No. 1 pick, but neither for Butler nor George. I believe that they should try and get a center to their team. And, yes, I know that they already have Al Horford locked in for that position, but I have always felt that he was best suited at the 4. And I think that he even prefers playing the 4. And we all saw in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals that once LeBron decides to get to the paint, there is nothing Boston can do. So, moving Horford to PF, or even trading him, would open up a space in the middle for a big man, a rim protector and a rebounder.
Two names come to mind: Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond. I feel that those two would be the easiest to acquire. All that, of course, is if the Celtics manage to sign Hayward (who I like over Butler as well as George) in free agency this summer. Combine that with excellent perimeter defense the Celtics can play and maybe, just maybe, you have a recipe to dethrone the King.
Hate to burst your bubble, Srdjan, but there’s no way Miami is moving Whiteside, and while I don’t think Drummond is ungettable in certain circumstances, I don’t think Danny Ainge a) wants him, and b) is going to trade the first pick overall to get him, even if he did. Plus, the whole point of getting Horford was to play him at the five, where his ability to step out and shoot, as well as facilitate from the elbows, gives him advantages over most centers. At the four, those advantages would evaporate, and he’d also have to go out in space and try and guard the bevy of stretch fours leaguewide. No, thank you.
One of these things is not like the other. From Daniel Sher:
Can you tell me why the NBA isn't consistent with centers? They're not included in All Star ballots, but are included in All-NBA ballots.
The simple answer is the league views them as completely different things. One is an opportunity for fans to see the game’s best players. The other is viewed as an opportunity to select the players at each position, including center. And there hasn’t been much groundswell among owners or executives to change the current all-NBA format.
Send your questions, comments and stories of other benchwarmers who completely sell out for the good of the team firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
POSTSEASON MVP WATCH
(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (26.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 6.7 apg, .545 FG, .667 FT): At the top of his powers -- and got named to his 11th straight all-NBA first team -- at just the right time for the Cavaliers, who have looked impregnable for almost a month of (sporadic) games.
2) Kevin Durant (24.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.5 apg, .586 FG, .833 FT): Just when you thought he wasn’t going to be a significant factor Saturday -- boom, 16 straight points in the third quarter, leading to the backbreaking Game 3 win and an easy chip and putt to the Finals.
3) Kawhi Leonard: DNP (ankle).
4) John Wall (18 ppg, 7 rpg, 11 apg, .348 FG, .500 FT): Ran out of gas in fourth quarter of Game 7 in Boston, which a few online idiots have used to try and denigrate his season. Also: HE JUMPED ON A TABLE AFTER GAME SIX!! This is what qualifies as “analysis” in our insipid hot take world.
5) James Harden: Season complete. And, see John Wall. A bad ending in the playoffs does not flip the script on an incredible season for the Beard.
BY THE NUMBERS
6 -- NBA teams that will have corporate logos on their jerseys starting next season, after the Cavs announced a deal last week with Goodyear to put the company’s “Wingfoot” logo on their uniforms. Cleveland joins Boston (General Electric), the 76ers (Stubhub), Sacramento (Blue Diamond Almonds), Brooklyn (Infor) and Utah (Qualtrics) as teams that have struck deals for corporate patches on their uniforms.
24 -- NBA teams that will participate in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July, the most ever in the history of the event. Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Golden State, Houston, the Lakers, the Clippers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto, Utah and Washington will have teams in Vegas; only Orlando (hosting its own, smaller, league the week before), Charlotte, Detroit, Indiana, New York and Oklahoma City won’t have teams at the Thomas and Mack Center and Cox Pavillion.
41 -- Margin of Cavaliers’ halftime lead over Boston -- 70-29 -- in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, the largest halftime margin in a playoff game in NBA history. (The previous record was set on April 26, 1987, when Detroit led Washington 76-36 at halftime of Game 2 of that first-round series; my buddy Charlie Slowes, the [then] Bullets’ radio play-by-play man -- he now does play by play for the Washington Nationals -- jokes that he was not deterred, telling listeners that night, ‘don’t go anywhere! Exciting second-half action coming your way, right after these messages!’)
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) The Finals begin June 1. Just a few days more and we’ll all get what we’ve been expecting since July 4 of last year.
4) As I recall, mine was not nearly as creative or as potentially bone-breaking.
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) I think I’ve made my feelings about Gregg Popovich clear over the years: he is, to me, not only the best coach walking in the NBA, but one of its best people. Having said that, comparing any on-court behavior of anyone, including Zaza Pachulia, to manslaughter is ridiculous and shouldn’t be done.
2) It is so easy, now, to castigate voters who didn’t have LeBron James among their top three MVP choices this season. As always, I ask in return: who would you take off to put LeBron on? Russell Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double this season, the first player to do that in 55 years? James Harden, the first player in NBA history to total 2,000 points, 900 assists, and 600 rebounds in one season, and the first player in NBA history to score 2,000 points and assist on 2,000 points in one season? Or Kawhi Leonard, the best two-way player in the league, and whose team had a better regular season record than Cleveland’s? Who do you take off to put on James -- whose team went 21-20 the second half of the regular season, and who decried his team’s lack of focus and intensity throughout that second half of the season? Harden? Westbrook? Leonard? Who? Those problems and that record aren’t James’s fault and I’m not saying they are. But it doesn’t absolve him from those problems and that record, either.
3) Sorry to hear that former Pistons GM Jack McCloskey, who built the Bad Boys, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. While McCloskey was fortunate to have Isiah Thomas to build around, he still put a championship team around him that perfectly fit Zeke’s skill set.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41), Tuesday, 2:09 p.m., expressing some doubt that the Mavericks would leap into the top three of the Draft before last week’s Lottery drawing. And, he was right; Dallas stayed exactly where it was slotted to be and will pick ninth in the first round.
THEY SAID IT
“Guys, it’s the same questions we got asked about DeMar last year. Go back and check it. Go back and check the radio shows, go back and check everything. It’s the exact same thing … It’s the same thing that sources said DeMar wants to go to the Lakers, DeMar wants to do this, he wants to do that. Every year, same old Kyle stuff, from 2-3 years ago, it’s the same old thing. It’s our job to make this work, that’s all I can say.”
-- Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri, in a radio interview with 1050 Sports in Toronto, on a Bleacher Report story quoting an anonymous GM from another team saying free agent-to-be Kyle Lowry is unhappy in Toronto and wants to leave.
“I think it’s in my best interest, Mike, to leave it at that.”
-- ESPN’s Doris Burke, whom I now plan to marry (I hope my current wife understands), ending her first-quarter interview with Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich. Burke had asked Popovich what he saw after San Antonio fell behind the Warriors 33-16 in the period. Popovich, as is his wont, was short in response, saying “well, we didn’t score.”
“It’s hard to believe but he’s better, a lot better than when I got into the league.”
-- Celtics coach Brad Stevens, after LeBron James eviscerated his team in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday.
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