The Golden State Warriors have had an amazing start to NBA free agency after winning the 2017 NBA Finals. The team just signed forward Omri Casspi to the veteran minimum and former Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young to a one-year, $5.2 million contract.
This comes after the Warriors were able to keep an integral piece of their team, forward Andre Iguodala.
The offseason has been so impressive, Oakland Raiders wide receiver K.J. Brent had to tweet to express his excitement.
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Warriors coming out next season like…. and no there probably isn't some "secret stuff" water bottle for the rest of the league. pic.twitter.com/terRpAfu5v
Like other NBA fans, Brent doesn’t see how any team will be able to compete with Golden State. Their greatest competitor, the Cleveland Cavaliers, haven’t made a move to get better and will be one year older with an already aging team.
On the other hand, the Warriors have kept the core intact and have already brought in two impact players for relatively cheap with Young and Casspi.
Hopefully, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has taken notes on how the Warriors are run, for Oakland has a similar situation with an incredible core of young talent that could be dominant for years to come.
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The last time we saw Stephen Curry in the NBA Finals, he had a bad performance, to say the least. The unanimous MVP didn’t lead his team to the promise land.
He did not by any means have a bad series, but he had a bad series based on the fact he was the first unanimous MVP in NBA history.
He averaged 22.6 points per game, along with 3.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. The assists were lower than Curry would have liked and he shot just 40.3 percent from the field.
After the Warriors lead was up to 3-1, Stephen Curry shot a combined 22-60 from the field (36.7 percent). In Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, he shot just 4-14 from 3-point range, he had four turnovers and one crucial one, where he attempted a behind-the-back pass to Klay Thompson with the Warriors leading the Cavaliers 85-83 with 5:16 to play in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Curry wasn’t 100 percent healthy in the 2016 Finals, for he had injured his knee in the first round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets that kept him out four games. He also had a large bruise on his shooting elbow that he suffered in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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I’m of the opinion, if you’re out there, you’re playing with whatever you have. There are no excuses to be made, and to his credit, Stephen Curry didn’t ever complain.
He had a tough 2016 NBA Finals against one of the greatest players of all-time in LeBron James. He didn’t perform the way he wanted to or the way he thought he should.
However, there is a pretty big misconception about Stephen Curry that he’s struggled in the Finals in both of the Warriors appearances in 2015 and 2016.
Prior to the 2017 Finals, there had been a lot of talk about if Curry would for the first time, not struggle in the NBA Finals.
Yes, he did struggle last year and that will always be true. But we must remember, in the 2015 NBA Finals, Curry averaged 26.0 points, 6.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.
He averaged more points in the 2015 Finals (26 per game) than he did during the regular season, when he won MVP averaging 23.8 points per game. Yes, he wasn’t the Finals MVP but he played a crucial role in the Warriors capturing their first title in 40 years.
Rachel Nichols was asked the other day by anchor Kerry Chow on SportsCenter if Stephen Curry was rewriting his Finals legacy and she reminded him that in 2015 the Warriors won the championship. Curry didn’t struggle at all and he had a great series.
She stressed the point that the Warriors won and Curry’s stats were exceptional.
This year, Stephen Curry did exactly what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told him to do at halftime of Game 2, play with passion and joy.
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Curry had a superb 2017 NBA Finals to cap off an excellent postseason in which he averaged 28.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game.
Curry was a part of history as the Warriors became the first Bay Area team since the A’s in 1974 to win a championship at home.
In Game 5, Curry’s three point shot simply wasn’t on. He wasn’t making difficult looks that spectators usually see him knock down. Instead of kind of bowing down and just fading away in the game, Curry took to the rim which allowed him to get to the free throw line where he made 12 of 15 free throws.
Curry showed in the elimination game that he’s much more than a mere three-point shooter. Despite shooting 2-9 from deep, he finished with 34 points.
In addition, he had 10 assists and 6 rebounds. He also made an impact defensively with two steals in Game 4 and three in Game 5.
Critics of Curry will point to his lackluster three-point shooting in the final two games of the series with the Cavaliers. Curry shot just 4-18 in those two combined games. But with his shooting struggles, he contributed in other ways as he had 10 assists in each games and a combined 11 rebounds in the two.
Curry’s critics will always talk about his arrogance, the fact that some think he’s just a three-point shooter, the fact that he’s only great because he has great players around him, but Curry doesn’t mind.
He just had the best NBA Finals of his life. 26.8 points, 9.4 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals per game.
He helped Kevin Durant get the title that long alluded him and he did it with a smile on his face.
“The stuff you hear about Steph as far as sacrificing and being selfless and caring about his teammates, caring about other people is real,” Durant said after game five. “It’s not a facade. He doesn’t put on this mask or suit every single day. He really is like that. And it’s amazing to see a superstar who sacrifices, who doesn’t care about anything but the group.”
It’s amazing to hear from one of the game’s greatest superstars that he’s never seen a superstar like Curry. He said he’s never seen a superstar want to sacrifice for his teammates the way Curry does.
Yes, Curry didn’t win Finals MVP and he hasn’t in either of his two Finals victories, but that doesn’t mean what he did in these finals wasn’t amazing.
So Curry had a good but not great Finals in 2015. He had a bad one in 2016. In 2017, he had a spectacular Finals. Argue that all you want, but his numbers (26.8 points, 9.4 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals per game) are absolutely undeniable.
Everybody has seen it, LeBron James positioned twenty feet from the basket on a wing isolation performing a series of feigned pump fakes and jab-steps as he evaluates the help-side defense.
Lebron has become incomparably adept at surveying and timing the help defense’s obligation to get in and out of the paint as he prepares to attack the basket, swing the ball cross court in a manner that only he can, or rise up for the jump shot. The defense has formed a human barrier around LeBron in a zone formation where there are two players “guarding” a post player on the block.
One player is defending LeBron, another player is legitimately guarding the post player, yet another is circumventing the defensive three-second rule by touching the same post player while standing in the paint, while the remaining two defenders are pinched in waiting to react to the King’s looming decision.
This scenario is one that Michael Jordan and his contemporaries never had to confront during their NBA heyday. Before the 2000-2001 NBA season, the NBA did not allow zone defense. NCAA basketball primarily features the 2-3 zone, 3-2 zone and the 1-3-1 zone; while this game-altering rule change would allow these types of zones to be played, the aforementioned zones have not been consistently implemented by NBA defenses.
So how exactly did the installment of zone manifest itself within the defenses of the NBA?
On the NBA’s official website the rules changes for the 2000-2001 season regarding zone defense read:
on the strongside, any defense is legal
on the weakside, defenders must remain on the weakside outside the paint unless they are double-teaming the ball, picking up a free cutter or closely guarding an offensive player
Before the rule change, defending players were required to guard their respective men at all times. Granted, if a player who was not a proficient long-distance shooter encroached upon the perimeter, the defender did not have to hug them completely, but they were not allowed to drop below foul-line extended. This made stopping star players increasingly difficult.
The only way to attempt to neutralize a star player in the 90’s was to launch hard double-teams that placed the remainder of the defense in precarious situations which is certainly not a reliable tactic to consistently defend professional players.
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While the rule change stated that a team can only double team a player with the ball, the NBA rules treat every player in the paint as a cutter, and thus a simple touch to the nearest post player resets a single player’s defense three-second clock, potentially granting a player unlimited time in the paint.
Below are a couple of examples of how zone defenses were prohibited before the 2000-2001 rule change:
Here, Michael Jordan is isolated on the left mid-post and as he is getting into his move a Knicks player guarding the player at the top of the key comes down to offer help. This was illegal, called a technical foul, and Jordan was rewarded with a free throw and the ball:
In this next clip, Jordan is in the right corner preparing to use a ball screen that would send him to the middle of the court. In preparation for a shot or a drive, two Portland Trailblazers are “guarding” a post player who does not have the ball as they anticipate Jordan’s next move. This defensive alignment was illegal and was always called, take a look at a hysterical Scottie Pippen pleading with the refs to make the illegal defense call:
During this possession, lilliputian Mugsy Bogues finds himself matched up with the much larger Jordan on the perimeter. Anticipating the imminent doom, 7-foot-2 Robert Parish abandons his man and prepares to come to Bogues’ aid. Parish ends up staying in the paint for around three seconds, which would be illegal by today’s NBA rules, but by the 90’s rules, he was illegal the very moment he elected not to guard a player in the paint.
As definitively illustrated by the video clips above, 90’s rules made defending superstar players extremely difficult. A simple isolation call could strand a defender on an “island,” and with rules that prohibited pre-rotation or pre-help defense, it was often too late to stop a slashing player that beat his initial defender.
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Not surprisingly, many star players were not too fond of the rule changes that occurred in the 2000-2001 season. In an interview with KICKS Magazine shortly after the rule change, superstars Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Tracy Mcgrady offered their opinions on zone defense:
KICKS: “If you guys could change one rule in the League, what would it be?”
Kevin Garnett: “No zone.”
Tim Duncan: “Yeah, the zone.”
Tracy Mcgrady: “That shit is stupid.”
KICKS: “Because it didn’t do what they (The NBA) thought it would do?”
Kevin Garnett: “I think it puts players that are really good at a disadvantage… I remember Phoenix sat somebody literally right there (in the lane).”
Tracy Mcgrady: “It makes it hard for a guy like me-
Kevin Garnett: “Who penetrates.”
Tim Duncan: “It makes it hard for all of us.”
Tracy Mcgrady: ” It’s tough on all of us, it really is. When you’re trying to make a move, and you got another guy sittin’ right there on the same side just waitin.”
Kevin Garnett: “He ain’t even playin’ his man.”
Tracy Mcgrady: “Nah, not at all. “
Kevin Garnett: “That’s where teammates are really, really important. Not only is there pressure on you to get them the ball, but the pressure’s on them to be productive and draw the defense.”
Each of these players played before and after the implementation of zone defenses in the NBA, establishing their experience both before and after the change.
Even Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player ever, was troubled by the zone defense. In a postgame interview in 2001 after a loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan is quoted as saying, ” I never liked zones, I felt like that’s a lazy way to play defense and with them, you can eliminate a lot of the stars making things happen,” via USA Today’s Jenna Fryer.
As these three superstar players explained, the rule change had a profound impact on the way the game was played as it put a premium on shooting and demanded that star players trust their teammates if they wanted to succeed.
Below are a few NBA clips after the implementation of zone defenses:
In this clip, James catches the ball in the left corner and prepares to use a Dwyane Wade ball-screen that will send him to the middle of the court. As this unfolds, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are below foul-line extended, and thus would have been considered illegal before 2001. All four players pinch in and shrink the floor forcing James into a low percentage, contested mid-range pull-up:
In this next example, Wade has the ball at the top of the key as the clock is winding down in the fourth quarter. This clip illustrates one of the biggest differences in the NBA post-rule-change.
In years prior, a superstar player could get an isolation play whenever he wanted and he could be sure that it was a “true” ISO. However, after the rule change, situations like those in the video above became possible.
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In the clip, Shaquille O’Neal, who is on the right block, is being “covered” by two Sixers players. One player is legitimately guarding Shaq while standing outside of the paint, and another Sixers player sets up shop in the paint for six seconds, touching Shaq every three seconds to reset the count. Wade, seeing a defender literally sitting in the middle of the paint, is forced to take a tough outside shot:
Lastly, this clip illustrates exactly what McGrady was alluding to in his interview with KICKS when he referenced the defending team being allowed to station players behind their man, lying in wait.
Here, James catches the ball on the right wing and prepares his move on Jimmy Butler. As LeBron is getting into his move the Bulls defense shifts its position. Before LeBron can even put the ball on the floor, Taj Gibson maneuvers right behind Butler, frantically jumping up and down. While this is happening, Joakim Noah drops down to take Gibson’s man and Nate Robinson drops below foul-line extended to provide additional support, forcing LeBron into a poor shot.
After providing all of this evidence to the nostalgic NBA fan who believes that the 90’s were the more challenging era in which to play hoops, the desperate fan will condescendingly point to hand-checking. For those who are not aware, hand-checking has been one of the most frequent talking points for fans who passionately argue that the 90’s was the more difficult epoch for top-flight players to truly strut their stuff.
Unfortunately for this line of thinking, hand-checking was abolished in 1979:
“Clarification added to prohibit hand-checking through “rigid enforcement” of rule allowing a defensive player to retain contact with his opponent so long as he does not impede his opponent’s progress”- NBA.com- NBA Rules History.
The myth that hand checking was refereed any differently than it is in 2017 is simply that: a myth.
Below are videos from the 1980’s and 1990’s where hand checking is clearly called as a foul:
In this first video in 1988, Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson performs a left-to-right crossover on the Sixers player, and the defender uses his hand to stop him from going to the basket. The referee calls the foul and gestures with his arms that it is a hand checking foul. The ignorant crowd boos in response, but none of the players argue or gesticulate in any way because it is a routine call:
This next video is a collection of three separate instances that Jordan’s defender puts minimal hand contact on Jordan and a foul is called immediately as Jordan dribbles the ball:
Lastly, hand-checking still occurs in today’s NBA. Yes, they call it today, as they called it in the 1990’s as well. That being said, here is a collection of some plays where hand-checking is not called in the contemporary NBA:
So, what does all of this mean?
Well, it’s fairly blatant that the two different eras of basketball cannot be compared because of the differences in rules. When was it more difficult to play NBA basketball, the 1990’s? Or the 2000’s? “Harder for whom?” are the questions that demand to be asked and answered.
There is overwhelming evidence pointing towards the 1990’s being a significantly easier era in which to battle as a superstar player because zone defenses were not allowed. Having said that, I believe that role players, especially shooters and off the ball players, are currently experiencing their most exciting moment to date. The zone defenses allow teams to load up on superstars, which in turn puts a premium on players that can space the floor.
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Overall, this rule change in the 2000-2001 NBA season has had a positive impact on basketball. In the 1990’s, children grew up watching stagnant “ISO ball” that only existed in the NBA.
At every other level, teams were allowed to play zone and I believe that this made young athletes who idolized certain players develop bad habits. Without zone defenses in the league, the NBA was able to more efficiently market the premier players as stars, making it easier for them to score. It has now been close to two decades since zone has been allowed in the NBA and star players still shine, the only difference is that defenses can be more complex and unpredictable which forces the stars to get others involved.
LeBron James’ The Decision is coming up on its seven-year anniversary. On July 8, 2010, James changed the landscape of the NBA. He went on to win two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat, but that decision to head to South Beach might cost him any realistic chance of winning the 2017 NBA Finals or any in the future.
Ever since his move, super teams have become the norm. Despite what people might say, the 2010-11 Heat team was the first super team of this era. The Boston Celtics team in 2008 doesn’t count because each player was well past their prime. In Miami, Bosh and James were entering their prime. Wade would have been in the same boat, but had some unfortunate injuries to quicken the aging process.
Since James’ move, we have seen the Los Angeles Lakers try to build a super team, but the only thing super about Dwight Howard and those Lakers was Howards’ Superman nickname.
The Lakers team did not work out, however, it was another team following in James’ footsteps and perpetuating the new precedent set by James.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Clippers set out to trade for New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul. To this point their super team has not worked, yet, it still maintained the new norm.
In 2016, Golden State blew their 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers en route to the city of Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years. This loss gave the Warriors an excuse to build a super team. The following offseason, they replaced forward Harrison Barnes with MVP forward Kevin Durant.
Thus, building what might go down as the greatest NBA team in history (pending the conclusion of the 2017 NBA Finals).
Currently, there are just two teams in the NBA who have any realistic shot of winning a title, maybe just one after watching the first two final games. Consequently, the NBA might possess four super teams in 2018 instead of the two this season.
The Boston Celtics are looking into acquiring Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward to reunite with his former college coach Brad Stevens. Jimmy Butler and even Paul George have been thrown around, for Boston knows it is imperative to sign another star to just have the smallest chance at piercing James’ thrown in the east.
In the west, the San Antonio Spurs are interested in Chris Paul. His addition would make the Spurs into another super team further toppling any dream of parity in the league.
It is unclear on whether those alleged rumors will become true, but it speaks to where the NBA is heading. The trend is to tank until a super team can be assembled. Thanks to The Decision, it is widely accepted.
This new era will stunt James from ever winning another title. The Warriors look like they will be playing in the finals until 2020 and seem to be much better than the Cleveland team now. If James tries to improve the roster, he could go after George to add talent, however, it is unclear how much that move would actually close the gap between the two teams.
In addition, other teams in the eastern conference are going to start building their own super teams. It is to be seen whether or not one could be built before father time beats James, even so, it is hard seeing James beating Golden State unless the drastic occurs.
The eastern conference is only going to get harder to make it thru with James aging, super teams on the come-up, and it just can’t be any worse than it is now.
James had an incredible run and legacy, but it seems The Decision that helped him finally win his first title is going to stop him from progressing his legacy. One can never say never, but another LeBron title seems unlikely at this point.
Guess the NBA gods can now call it even after James ditched Cleveland for the super team in South Beach.
First off, let’s think about this in a basketball perspective.
If Durant allows for the Warriors to potentially resign the 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, this superteam has the ability to remain one for a long time.
Warriors all-star guard Stephen Curry is only 29. After the NBA Finals conclude, Curry will sign a five-year “ultra-max” contract and will be locked into Golden State’s plans for another five years at least.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are just 27 years old. Thompson is under contract until 2019 when he will become an unrestricted free agent. Green is under contract until 2020 when he will also become an unrestricted free agent.
Green is in his prime now but will be able to play this high-level basketball where he gets his team involved and rattles opponents for many years to come. Thompson can get even better at some aspects of his game, for he can become more consistent shooting and play with the competitiveness on defense that lets him be a lockdown defender whenever he sets his mind to it.
You can bet that GM Bob Myers and the entire Warriors front office is going to do whatever it takes to keep these stars together for at the very least the next five years
Think about that, if these four players remain together for the next five years, this team will contend for Larry O’Brien trophies each year.
Outside of the Big Four, the Warriors of the last three years have gotten so much out of backup point guard Shaun Livingston and the leader of the second unit, Andre Iguodala.
The importance of these players cannot be undervalued.
Iguodala, a former all-star and NBA Finals MVP in 2015 can do anything the Warriors ask of him. He has not only shown that he will do whatever it takes on the court to win, he even listened to coach Steve Kerr when Kerr was hired in 2015 and decided to take Iguodala out of the starting lineup and bring him in off the bench.
Iguodala is a very smart player. He can shoot the three, drive to the rim and throw down a monstrous dunk, but more importantly he can be the most important defender the Warriors have.
In the past three years, Andre Iguodala has had one huge task to accomplish in the Finals with all others paling in comparison. That task: Shutting down the greatest player that plays today, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.
When the Warriors captured their first title in 40 years in 2015, Iguodala won Finals MVP because he came into the starting lineup and not only scored, he shut down James.
In that 2015 series when James was guarded by Iguodala, he shot just 33 percent from the field. In addition, Iguodala contested 85 percent of James shots and when he was contesting James, the King shot 11-46 to accumulate a percentage of 24 from the field.
In 2016, James was too unstoppable for even Iguodala to do more than hinder his amazing stats which finished at 29.7 points per game, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists. To quote Rihanna “the King is the King.”
Okay, we get that. James is in the conversation of the greatest player to ever play basketball. No player is going to be able to completely stop him. But Iguodala does as well as anybody in the league.
Last night, LeBron James had pretty great stats but he didn’t have a great game. He finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists but it didn’t matter. He turned the ball over seven times. Seven. That’s three more than the Warriors entire team.
Iguodala looked so comfortable guarding James last night. He is so well-versed in what the King is going to do when he starts to isolate. James will back down until he gets at the rim and either throw up a tough-contested layup or try to make some amazing pass that leads to an open shot. Iguodala knows this.
For the Warriors to be able to contend with LeBron James for the next five years, they will need a defender like Iguodala who can make James work as hard as he possibly can for every single basket.
Shaun Livingston is a 6’7” backup point guard and a key member of the Warriors second unit. Livingston has the size and strength to back down any other backup point guard and shoot a fadeaway jump shot right over the top of whoever is defending him.
He doesn’t just shoot those shots, he makes them. He shot 54.9 percent from the field this year and with his height plays good, physical defense. He is a smart player and he has been a clear key to the Warriors success coming off the bench in the past three seasons.
There has been talk this season about the fact that this Warriors team will almost definitely lose out on at least one of these players after this season because they need to re-sign Durant and Curry to max contracts.
The Warriors would not be able to re-sign both Livingston and Iguodala without Durant or Curry accepting less than their maximum salary.
But then the report came out that Kevin Durant may accept less money to keep both players with the team. This should scare everyone not named the Golden State Warriors. If Shelbourne and Hayne’s report is correct and Durant is going to allow for Myers to keep the core of this team together for years, this team could easily win a handful of championships.
Let’s look at this from a human perspective though.
If Durant does decide to do this, it will be the first time a superstar decides to take less money to not gain another superstar but to retain the bench.
We saw Wade take less money to bring LeBron and Bosh to Miami but the NBA has never seen a player of Durant’s level decide that the players on his team are just as important to him as money.
Kevin Durant is one of the best basketball players in the NBA and will go down as an all-time great. A seven-footer who can score, rebound and run the floor the way he can is a sight in itself, but what’s more remarkable at this moment is his selflessness.
With this move, Durant would be acknowledging that the Warriors not only need Iguodala and Livingston but that he cares enough to make it happen.
Kevin Durant is absolutely thriving in the NBA Finals and, after Game 1, is the most likely player to be the 2017 Finals MVP if the Warriors win their second championship in three years.
Durant made the right decision joining the Warriors and now he’s going to get to smile and hold the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time.
But I challenge basketball fans to not only admire his basketball talent but to look toward his unselfishness and the way he has fun with his team. He looks like a 10-year-old who just realized his favorite thing to do was play basketball.
He wants to keep playing with his friends and alongside another amazingly unselfish superstar, Steph Curry.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is getting ready to play in the 2017 NBA Finals as we speak. This is his third straight NBA Finals and he has become a transcendent figure in the NBA and in basketball.
Interestingly enough, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr seems to be headed down a similar path as his fellow Bay Area star in Curry, but beyond career arcs, there are many ways these two terrific athletes are similar.
As such, there are four more reasons why Curry and Carr are more similar than you think.
No. 4, Not expected to be great pro players
Both Curry and Carr were great college players who had jaw-dropping statistics and performances but were from less notable division one programs resulting in their draft stock to drop.
For example, Carr played in a spread and air raid offense at Fresno State. He never took the ball from under center and passed the majority of plays against inferior competition from the Mountain West Conference.
Many people thought his stats were inflated due to the style of offense and the second-tier college competition. In addition, people were scared to draft him because of his older brother, former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr (Curry also has a brother in the NBA, Seth Curry).
In regards to Curry, he was a great college player who led his small college, the Davidson Wildcats, to a shocking March Madness run in 2008. Curry even averaged 25.9 and 28.6 points per game in his last two seasons in college, yet was disrespected by NBA scouts.
Many of those scouts saw him as a tweener. He was considered too small to play shooting guard and didn’t have the skillset to be a true point guard. People loved his shooting ability, but thought his lack of athleticism would hinder his NBA career.
Just like Carr, Curry proved all the scouts wrong and has since won two league MVPs and has led his team to three straight NBA Finals whereas Carr has only been in the league three seasons but he is close to winning an MVP and will have his team in a Super Bowl sooner rather than later.
The 2017 NBA Finals tip-off tonight at 6 PM (PT). It will be the beginning of the third leg of this great rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As everyone knows, Golden State took the first NBA Finals meeting in 2015, but blew the infamous 3-1 lead to Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals.
This year, the finals will have a greater impact than any other in recent memory. For example, the winner gets all the glory as they will be considered the better team during this era by winning two out of three finals.
Warriors forward Kevin Durant needs to win to vindicate his move to the Bay Area. However, a loss will be very harmful for his legacy as everyone will wonder how he couldn’t win with Curry, Green, and Thompson by his side.
Lastly, LeBron James has the opportunity to put himself in a conversation with legendary Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan with a series victory. A loss will probably end any conversation revolving Jordan and James, yet a win will keep him on pace to contend with Jordan as the best ever. Doesn’t mean he will get there, but 10 straight finals appearances and six titles would put him close to Jordan.
Below is our prediction of the 2017 NBA Finals which will answer how each great’s legacy will be altered after the next few weeks.
Game 1: Golden State
With the long layoff before the game, the advantage lies with the veteran Cavaliers team. In addition, the Warriors have shown to lose their focus through stretches and there is a worry that a long layoff could further the lackadaisical approach. However, Golden State’s loss from last year will keep them highly motivated. Warriors forward Draymond Green will not let his team lapse focus for any period of time, for this series is personal to Green after he was suspended for Game 5 of last year’s NBA Finals.
The Warriors are at home and have more talent than Cleveland, with four great players versus the Cavaliers’ three. The only way Cleveland can snatch one away from their home court is with a legendary performance from James or Irving.
Nonetheless, Golden State will come out with a fiery motivation, shoot well from the field early, and close out a late victory.
Game 2: Cleveland
After losing Game 1, LeBron understands the gravity of the second game. A loss, most likely, will result in another finals’ series loss for James. Nonetheless, he has learned to have a killer instinct and will have a monster Game 2 carrying the team to victory. He will score close to 40 points with a triple-double and his side-kick Irving will hit clutch shots late to seal the deal.
Written by Ethan Feldman
Photo via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America
“Ten-toes to the rim! Square your shoulders! Don’t bring the ball down! Keep it high, Straight Up, Straight Down! Release it at the top of your jump!” are a few of the erroneous mantras repeated ad nauseum by ill-informed youth basketball coaches around the world.
Additionally, one common instruction that cannot be condensed into a pithy aphorism is the technique of two-motion as opposed to one-motion shooting. Traditionally, the two-motion shot has been taught to players while the one-motion shot has been delegitimized (but we’ll get to this later).
As a result, many young hoopers experience periods of cognitive dissonance wherein they follow the directions set forth by their coaches, while simultaneously witnessing exceptional high school, college and NBA players disobeying all the tenets of traditional basketball wisdom.
So why is this the case? Why do basketball coaches perpetuate antiquated techniques that have been proven time and again to be ineffective? There is no legitimate reason for this other than the fact that there is a vestigial belief that the aforementioned instructions somehow lead to more successful shooting.
MYTH #1: Ten Toes To The Rim!
In theory, pointing one’s toes to the rim sounds like a good idea that would be conducive to accurate shooting, but in three-dimensional reality, on the court, it is not an effective tactic.
For example, if a player is a right-handed shooter and is directly square to the basket, the ball will be on the player’s right side and not directly aligned with the hoop. However, if a right-handed player compensates by angling his or her feet to the left, the ball is now in the middle of the player’s body which will most likely lead to a more accurate shot.
Of the top 10 NBA players in three-point field goals made per game, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are the only ones who do not definitively shoot while angled to the side (even though they aren’t precisely straight either).
MYTH #2: Don’t Bring The Ball Down
“Don’t bring the ball down” wins the trophy for most asinine instruction that a basketball coach can deliver. Every player in the top ten in 3-point field goals made during the 2016-2017 season dips the ball before they shoot. Klay Thompson is the only player in the NBA that I was able to locate footage of not bringing the ball down on occasion.
This being said, Klay employs this technique sparingly and tends to shoot this way after he has gotten “hot”. Yes, you can point to a couple of big men like Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge who don’t bring the ball down every time they shoot, but in general, there are very few players who do this and there are certainly no guards that do not dip the ball.
MYTH #3: Straight Up Straight Down! Land Where You Started!
The concept of landing where you began your jump shot viscerally seems to make sense; however, many of the NBA’s best shooters do no such thing.
Most notably, Stephen Curry, the best shooter of all time, has the most mercurial landings in the NBA. Depending on the situation, Curry will land with his feet close together, feet apart or one in front of the other.
James Harden and Eric Gordon are the only players ranking in the top ten in three-point field goals this year who keep their feet in generally the same location in which they began their respective shots–and this is the case for stationary shots only. When movement comes into play, i.e a shooter coming off of a curl or a pin-down, there is almost indubitably a turn and a player’s feet land forty-five degrees away from the basket.
MYTH #4: Two-Motion Shot
While it is true that there is no correct way to shoot, many coaches teach the two-motion shot to boys as they are growing up. Conversely, if I were to offer a young player a tutorial, I would advise them to develop a one-motion shot as opposed to a two-motion shot. As a point of reference, here are players that have two-motion shots:
These players were greats no doubt, but I believe that youth basketball players should not replicate their form. Generally, a two-motion shot is an effective method for shooting shots from ten to twenty feet from the basket. Guys like Shaun Livingston, DeMar Derozan and Evan Turner thrive in the mid-range, but struggle as they near the three-point line.
I believe that they struggle from distance because the two-motion shot requires high and pronounced elevation that expends a lot of energy. When a player reaches the apex of a high jump, they are left with only the strength of their arms to shoot the basketball.
On the other hand, one-motion shooters like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Paul George do not deal with this problem. You have probably heard these player’s names come up when “smooth” or “effortless” jump shots are the topic of discussion; this is because they shoot with one-motion shots (and also because they dip the ball, and are turned sideways when they shoot).
One-motion shooting is the future of the NBA. One-motion shooters tend to have quicker releases than two-motion shooters, and they actually utilize power from their lower body to shoot the ball from long distances.
I believe this is the reason why Curry made by far the most three-pointers this season, and Harden and Thompson were both in the top four for three- pointers made. Additionally, George boasted the most three-pointers for a small forward this season, and was second for both small forwards and power forwards, trailing only Anderson.
The one-motion shooter can get his or her shot from deeper without having to expend a lot of energy. Also, this is the reason why Curry, George, Harden and Lillard are exceptional at shooting off of the dribble from long distances. With one motion shooting, a player can turn a dribble into a shot in one concise, fluid motion in the blink of an eye.
Throughout its history, the WNBA has received tons of criticism for its relatively un-athletic style of play compared to the NBA. Men are generally stronger and more explosive than women, so obviously the WNBA features a much slower and less high-flying brand of basketball.
Within the basketball community, women have long been derided for their technique in shooting jump shots.
Traditionally, women push the ball with a one-motion shot because they typically don’t have the strength to shoot a two-motion shot over their head. While it is true that some female players push the ball in such a way that would place a male player in a precarious situation and liable to get blocked, male players would be well-served to study players like Dianna Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne, to name a few. Both Taurasi and Delle Donne exhibit an angled base to their shots, a quick dip and a smooth one-motion push.
If male players, for the most part naturally stronger and more explosive than their female counterparts, would adopt this fluid one-motion push style that many WNBA players wield, it would open the floodgates for NBA players to shoot effortlessly and accurately from thirty plus feet…Oh wait, we do know of one…that’s Stephen Curry.
On December 8th, 2011, NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed a multi-team trade between the L.A Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Hornets that would have dispatched Chris Paul to Los Angeles, sent Pau Gasol to Houston and delivered Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Louis Scola and a first-round pick to New Orleans.
As a result of Stern’s unprecedented intervention, on December 14th, 2011, The Los Angeles Clippers and the New Orleans Hornets agreed upon a trade that sent Chris Paul and two first round picks to Los Angeles while simultaneously sending Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a future draft pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to the New Orleans.
Clippers fans relished the arrival of a bonafide superstar, as well the complete overhaul of a rag-tag group of perennial losers, which fostered an optimistic aura that surrounded the team. The organization had recently experienced a fortuitous draft that saw them acquire two burgeoning high-flyers in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Chris Paul’s virtuosic ability to cast lobs into the air, coupled with the prodigious explosiveness of Griffin and Jordan led to the coinage of “Lob City.”
It didn’t take long for the newly formed trinity to monopolize NBA highlights as the power forward and center combination feasted on a myriad of bounce, no-look and lob passes courtesy of Cliff Paul’s twin brother.
However, if we fast-forward five seasons to the Clippers’ game 7 loss to the Utah Jazz in the second round, this Clippers team has yet to reach the conference finals and has been universally deemed a failure.
Some critics point to Chris Paul who has yet to reach the Western Conference Finals, others point to Blake Griffin and question his leadership abilities as well his toughness and durability. However, both of these players are elite at their respective positions as Paul and Griffin have both been in the top 20 for Box Plus Minus since the 2011-2012 season and Chris Paul ranks third all-time in Box Plus Minus second to only Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
This individual success of the Clippers’ two all-stars begs the question: Why have the Clippers failed to make the Western Conference Finals?
Since the inception of their “Big 3”, the two most glaring liabilities for the Clippers have been their lack of an offensively talented small forward and the lack of a formidable bench.
Since the Paul trade, the Clippers have deployed an elderly Caron Butler, a geriatric Paul Pierce, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Wesley Johnson and Luc Mbah A Moute as their veritable revolving door of small forwards. While some these players provided a level of toughness, only Dudley and Butler were reliable shooter’s and both players struggled to create their own shots.
Although the instability at the small-forward position has been troublesome for the Clippers, the most glaring problem for the clippers has been their abysmal bench. Spearheaded by Jamal Crawford, an inefficient ISO player who is incapable of playing defense, the Clips’ bench has annually underperformed. J-Crossover joined the ‘Clips’ the year after the Chris Paul trade, and ever since his arrival it seems as though the ostentatious sixth man is more interested in accruing four-point-plays than contributing to winning basketball.
This bench conundrum has persisted since Chris Paul arrived, but was notoriously concerning this year. During the 2016-2017, the Clipper’s starting unit of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan ranked second in Points Minus Opponents Points, trailing only the Golden State Warriors’ star-studded five. Additionally, the trio of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul are the only set of teammates that rank in the top 35 in John Hollinger’s Value Added statistic.
However, before we examine the Clippers bench this past season, it’s imperative that we understand what decisions the Clippers front office has made over the past several seasons.
Trading for J.J. Redick
Trading for Austin Rivers, a young lottery pick who did not fit well in New Orleans.
Re-signing Chris Paul
Re-signing Blake Griffin
Re-signing DeAndre Jordan
Signing Luc Mbah a Moute to a multi-year contract
Orchestrating a trade would send future 20 PPG scorer Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Jared Dudley
Signing C Byron Mullens to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year.)
Signing Glen Davis to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA following Davis’ second year with the Clippers)
Signing Danny Granger to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year)
Signing Jordan Farmar to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year)
Signing, and then giving up on SF Joe Ingles who would go on to be an above average player.
Signing C Spencer Hawes to the mid-level exception only to trade him the following year
Signing Paul Pierce to a multi-year contract
Signing Austin Rivers to a three-year 35 million dollar contract
Re-signing Jamal Crawford to a multi-year contract
Opting not to protect their future 2011 lottery pick in the trade that sent Baron Davis to Cleveland ( The Cavs’ ended up drafting Kyrie Irving).
Signing Marreese Speights to a multi-year contract
The aforementioned “good” signings secured a fantastic nucleus for the Clippers, but the “bad” signings contributed to years of post-season failure and have led to a perpetually poor bench.
This Clippers team did not have a good bench going into the 2016-2017 season, but this season was thought to be the year where that all would change. With the continued growth of Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson, the addition of a proven point guard in Raymond Felton, instant offense in Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass who was coming off of the most efficient year of career with the Lakers, the Clippers bench appeared to be poised to be serviceable.
Unfortunately, The bench has not lived up to its expectations. The Clippers tended to play four guys off of the bench and none of their bench players provided a positive impact on their team, barring Marreese Speights who was only marginally a plus.
Box Plus Minus’ For The Clippers Bench:
Austin Rivers: -1.6
Raymond Felton: -0.9
Wesley Johnson: -1.8
Marreese Speights: 0.7
Brandon Bass: -0.7
Paul Pierce: -4.4
Alan Andersen: -4.9
Five of The Most Used Four-Man Bench Units For The Clippers Bench:
Bass, Crawford, Felton, Speights: -11.4 points per 48 minutes
Crawford, Rivers, Speights Felton: -3.2 points per 48 minutes
Felton, Johnson, Rivers, Speights: -2.9 points per 48 minutes
Crawford, Felton, Johnson,Rivers: -2.8 points per 48 minutes
Bass, Crawford, Rivers, Speights: -1.6 points per 48 minutes
This is not a formula for a deep postseason run. Paul, Griffin and Jordan routinely perform at an elite level, but it takes more than a prolific starting five to go far in the NBA playoffs.
Overall, when healthy, the starting five for the Los Angeles Clippers shows up, but is indubitably hindered by a lackluster bench. The narrative that Griffin and CP3 are “chokers” is as far from the truth as possible. Paul’s playoff PPG(18.7 vs. 21.2) and BPM(7.6 vs. 8.5) are higher in the playoffs than they are in the regular season and Griffin’s PPG (21.5 vs. 21.0) and BPM(4.1 vs. 3.7) are almost identical to his regular season statistics.
The Clippers front office must keep the “Big 3” intact this summer, while also beginning to construct a formidable bench if they want to have any legitimate chance at postseason success.
There has been a steady dose of complaining about the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Many are saying the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are making the playoffs too predictable.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith along with many fans and sports reporters have complained that the success of Golden State and Cleveland have made it a forgone conclusion that those two teams are headed to the NBA Finals for the third season in a row making the playoffs less exciting.
However, that is false.
The Warriors and Cavaliers are making the Playoffs more exciting, not less. The idea that two amazingly well-built teams with some of the NBA’s best players could meet for a third straight year on basketball’s biggest stage should have everyone salivating in excitement.
First off, there were some great series in the Playoffs starting in the first round.
The two biggest MVP candidates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook squared off in a thrilling series in which the Beard took the glory, helping the Rockets beat down the Thunder in five games.
The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers met up in the first round and had a hard-fought series that went to a full seven games. The Jazz led by Gordon Hayward won a game seven on the road stunning Los Angeles.
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs slugged it out in a series that featured fantastic defense by Tony Allen and Kawhi Leonard. It also produced exciting front court matchups with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol battling against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
In the East, the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls played a physical first-round series that resulted in the Celtics winning four straight games after losing the first two.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors series was highly-competitive with Toronto winning in six games.
The Atlanta Hawks gave John Wall and the Wizards a tough first test in the first round.
Even the Pacers gave LeBron James a few tough games as the seven seed in Round 1 of the Playoffs.
The first round of the Playoffs was exciting series by series.
The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards just wrapped up a fantastic seven-game series that looked like it could go either way.
Within the series fans saw two of the NBA’s best point guards face off as John Wall and Isaiah Thomas played some great basketball in the seven-game series.
John Wall saved the Wizards from elimination in Game 6 with a clutch go-ahead three-pointer to give his team a chance to win a Game 7 in Boston at the TD Garden.
Game 7 was a thriller coming down to the final minutes as Kelly Olynyk was the hero for the Celtics scoring 12 points in a three and a half-minute period of the fourth quarter to finish with 26 overall in the game.
While the Rockets and James Harden looked horrible in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, the series was competitive with the Rockets forcing the Spurs to play some great basketball to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs and Warriors will be an entertaining matchup as long as Greg Popovich is the head coach of San Antonio because he has had the Warriors number over the majority of his career.
Yes, losing Kawhi in Game 1 over a questionable foul by Zaza Pachulia is not what the NBA fans wanted, but the highly intelligent and defensive-minded Spurs against the offensive juggernaut that is the Warriors should entertain any NBA fan.
The Celtics and the Cavs will be exciting. Watching Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics use the grit that has gotten them to this point will at least force LeBron James and the rest of Cavaliers to play a very high level of basketball.
So, yes, it looks like it will most likely be Golden State and Cleveland facing off with a chance to win the Larry O’Brien trophy for the third time in as many years, but what’s wrong with that?
NBA fans are saying that there is no point of watching the other series when it’s so obvious that the Dubs and Cavs are on a collision-course that will see them meet in a third straight NBA Finals.
What is possibly boring about seeing a trilogy of two all-time great teams battling for a second title in three seasons?
NBA fans should want to see history unfold in the shape of two all-time great teams battling yet again, driving this rivalry further.
The discussion about if LeBron James is the greatest player in the history of the NBA is rising and rising and if he could take down a superteam like Golden State, it seems that many people would crown the King and say he has passed Michael Jordan as the greatest of all-time.
Stephen Curry and Co. are looking for redemption after failing to win last year’s championship after having the greatest regular season in NBA history.
Kevin Durant would get to face off against the King! KD, who it seems like everyone called out for trying to chase a ring and hopping on the Golden State bandwagon, would get to try to win the title that has long eluded him.
Kyrie against Steph another time would be about as exciting a point guard matchup as any in the NBA today.
Listen to Fox Sport’s Colin Cowherd talk about why the Warriors and Cavs would not be bad for the NBA at all, but rather very good.
If the Warriors and Cavaliers meet in the NBA Finals for a third straight year, it will be history.
NBA fans shouldn’t be unhappy or be complaining about the predictable NBA Finals matchup. It will be the most exciting and anticipated basketball played this whole season and there isn’t anyone who should be complaining that it will be the Warriors and Cavs once again.