Deconstructing DeMar DeRozan

Photo via AP Images

Widely regarded as one of the top-two shooting guards in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors enigma, DeMar DeRozan, experienced a breakout season this year as he increased his scoring average from 23.5 PPG to 27.3 PPG.

DeRozan has captured the hearts of older NBA fans everywhere as they revel in the nostalgic inefficiency of his mid-range game. During the course of any given Raptors game, fans around the world can experience DeRozan’s newly controversial style of play.

The smooth 6’7 wing, receiving the ball at the inviolable arc, proceeding to bastardize Daryl Morey’s sacred ideology as he employs a series of deliberate and calculated through-the-legs and half spin moves while we await the inevitable: an off-balance mid-range jump shot.

As basketball traditionalists decry the popularization of the Three-Pointer in the modern NBA, “The Lone-Mid-Ranger” has come to their aid to remind everyone that the mid-range is still an effective source of offense.

But is it?

Before advanced stats and efficiency-laden rhetoric pervaded efficiency NBA analysis, there was a time, as recently as the early 2000’s, when a plethora of teams relied on wing players who lacked comfortable range out to the 3-point line.

Of course, this is no longer the case as most of the best wings in the NBA today boast range out to three, and it feels as though every role-playing wing has garnered the highly coveted reputation of a “three and D player.” Derozan breaks this mold, as he finds the majority of his offense from isolations and Iverson cuts that lead to mid-range jumpers.

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DeRozan takes his patented mid-range jumper (Photo via Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Here is a look at DeRozan’s shooting percentages and shot distribution this year:

DeMar DeRozan’s Shooting Percentages During The 2016-2017 Season: 46.7 FG%, 26.9 3FG%, 84.2 FT%

DeMar DeRozan’s Shot Distribution during the 2016-2017 Season: 15.8% of DeRozan’s shots were from 0-3 feet where he shot 67%, 21.6% of his shots were from 3-10 feet where he shot 48%, 23.6% of his shots were from 10-16 feet where he shot 49%, 30.9% of his shots were from 16 feet-3 point line where he shot 38.5% and finally, 8% of his shots were from behind the 3-point-line where he shot 26.9%.

These statistics are significant because they illuminate Derozan’s truly unique shot chart. The NBA has branded DeRozan as a high-flying slasher, but he takes a smaller percentage of his shots from 0-3 feet than sharpshooters like Stephen Curry, Bradley Beal and C.J. McCollum. What’s more, is that he attempted approximately 7% fewer shots from 0-3 feet than he did in 2016 which is a troubling trend.

If we compare DeRozan’s shooting tendencies to his elite wing contemporaries, the results are startling. For the sake of argument, the elite wings in the NBA are: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Klay Thompson.

Of these stand-outs, the only ones who take a smaller percentage of shots from 0-3 feet are Paul George and Klay Thompson. It is worth noting however, that before PG13’s injury with USA basketball, he took a larger percentage of his shots around the hoop than DeRozan. On the other hand, Klay Thompson is a three-point shooter who only takes 0.2% less shots from that distance, while also 47% of his shots from three and making them at an elite volume and percentage.

When compared to his peers who excel at getting to the rim, DeRozan’s measly 15.8% of his shots from 0-3 feet is overshadowed by LeBron James’ 43%, Jimmy Butler’s 28% and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s nearly 50%.

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DeRozan dunks during the 2016 All-Star Game (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)

DeRozan’s dearth of escapades to the rim, coupled with his lack of three-point shooting, make it incredibly hard for DeRozan to be a truly efficient NBA star. Of the 24 NBA All-Stars this year, DeRozan was fourth worst in True Shooting Percentage as he was only ahead of Paul Millsap, John Wall and Carmelo Anthony (Millsap having made the team for his defensive ability and Anthony being an injury replacement).

During the past seven NBA seasons, there have only been three NBA All-Stars with a negative BPM (Box Plus Minus) for their careers: Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and DeMar DeRozan.

Since 1994, there have only been two players with negative BPM’s that started in an NBA All-Star Game: B.J Armstrong and DeMar DeRozan.

While these aforementioned players were solid in their own right, they did not come close to the supposed greatness of DeMar DeRozan. Don’t get me wrong, DeRozan is a very talented player and is spectacular at what he specializes in. Unfortunately for Demar, his specialty is better served as a useful bailout mechanism for when the shot clock is winding down, not as a primary source of offense.

So, how can DeRozan improve his game and become a more significant contributor? DeRozan possesses the physical tools and the ball-handling ability that should allow him to get to the rim more often than he currently manages to. He is too talented with the ball and too athletic to not attempt a higher percentage of shots from 0-3 feet.

Furthermore, Derozan has no excuse to not be a “plus” defender with his athleticism and 7’0 wingspan. Derozan must also improve his three-point percentage and take more than 1.7 three- pointers per game. In fact, if DeRozan were to replace all of his mid-range shots with three-point shots and then proceed to shoot 29% from the three, his efficiency would not change.

According to Hoopminer.com, this season DeRozan attempted more shots per game from 10-16 feet than the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks did during the 2012-2013 NBA season and this eye-opening trend has only continued during the subsequent years. This being said, I do not expect Derozan to change as he is one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA and has achieved enormous individual success with his current style of play.

However, as we saw in this year’s playoffs, DeRozan struggles playing off the ball and has a tough time creating for others, which is something he desperately needs to improve upon in order to ascend to the next level in the pantheon of the NBA’s best players.

Overall, DeRozan is far from a complete player, let alone a complete scorer, and has his work cut out for him should he want to enter the category of the truly elite NBA players.

 

 

ESPN choosing brand over star power will lead to inevitable decline

Photo via Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images

ESPN, the beloved and family oriented sports network that took a major risk to run the first all-day sports channel, will never be the same.

As everyone knows, they have cut over 100 on-air personalities. This isn’t a major shock for people in the sports business, for it was a long time coming. ESPN appears to have been on the decline for a while and this is just the confirmation.

Most of these cuts are people who America consistently sees on television. The notable layoffs include Ed Werder, Andy Katz, Trent Dilfer, Jay Crawford, Paul Kuharsky, and more.

It was not too long ago that we saw ESPN fail to renew the contracts of Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, Mike Tirico, Keith Olberman, and Bill Simmons, all notable ESPN personalities that they would not pony up the money to keep.

However, it didn’t take the former employees much time to find a job that paid them more money at a different company.

Bayless and Cowherd left to Fox Sports for a higher salary and the ability to speak their mind freely.

Cowherd often criticizes his former employer on Fox Sports and he knew the end was coming while he was still an employee of ESPN.

“I told my producers, ‘Fellas, it’ll never be the same here,’” he told CBS’ “Bull & Fox” show. “You cannot pay four times for the house [more] than what you paid for the house last year. And I said this company will never be the same. It was at that point I started looking, and this is not going to end today. They have really cost-prohibitive contracts, combined with cord-cutting.”

ESPN has made many mistakes that are costing them now.

They bet on their brand instead of the stars in the business. In addition, they signed enormous TV deals that they could never afford, according to Deadspin’s Kevin Draper.

“They paid $2.25 billion to broadcast SEC games. They paid $480 million to broadcast Wimbledon. They paid $15 billion to broadcast Monday Night Football. They paid $1.5 billion to broadcast the Pac-12. They paid $5.6 billion to broadcast MLB. They paid $3.6 billion to broadcast the ACC. They paid $770 million to broadcast the U.S. Open. They paid $5.6 billion to broadcast the College Football Playoffs. They paid $12.6 billion to broadcast the NBA.”

They believed that no matter who they put behind the camera, business will boom.

As a matter of fact, Ed Werder told The Doomsday Podcast, “these cuts were going to be made and the quality of work was not going to be a consideration.”

Consequently, their viewership numbers have been plummeting; they have lost 10.8 million subscribers since Fox launched their new channel FS1, per Sports Business Daily. 

A major reason for the decline is the high price ESPN charges the cable companies to show their network (four times greater than the next highest fee). Now, those cable companies are making skinny bundles that are much cheaper and don’t include ESPN.

It is to be seen whether or not the loss of subscribers includes a huge number of sports fans. If it does, ESPN could be in further trouble.

Many anchors and other employees took major pay cuts with hopes of staying with the company and continuing their dreams. According to Sports Business Daily, ESPN approached one employee asking them to cut their salary by a preposterous 60%.

Instead, an ESPN employee could leave for the rival companies that pay a higher salary, provide an opportunity to live in Los Angeles rather than Bristol, Connecticut, and will let their on-air personalities speak with fewer restrictions.

Today, the only bargaining chip ESPN has is providing the opportunity for a young up and comer to fulfill their dream of being on ESPN.

Saying Goodbye To An All-Time Great

 

Photo via Charles Krupa/AP Photo

Yesterday, the career of an NBA great came to a close when forward Paul Pierce and the Los Angeles Clippers lost Game 7, 104-91 to the Utah Jazz.

However, what Pierce will be remembered for is his time spent wearing green. The Kansas product was selected No. 10 overall in 1998 by the Boston Celtics and would go on to play 15 seasons in Boston.

Aside from a 2002 playoff run, Pierce was surrounded by marginal talent for much of the first half of his career. 10 years into his career Pierce was a perennial All-Star, however, being a member of the winningest franchise in the NBA, Pierce was viewed through a different lense. Being quartered in a city renown for athletic success, Pierce was seen as perhaps the best Celtic without a ring.

At this point in his career, Pierce had noticeably less bounce, more weight, and less quickness. However, Pierce still withheld deceptive speed and enjoyed an arsenal of potent old-man scoring moves. Every step Pierce took was calculated; using his strength and wits to get to where he needed to on the floor. 

On the other end of the floor, Pierce was quick enough to guard shooting guards like Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant and also strong enough to cover small forwards like LeBron James.

Pierce was never considered one of the top 3 individual players in the league, but, he was consistently a top-10 player. One of Pierce’s defining features was his ability to take over in big games. It was visible when Pierce was on his game, it was all in his body, as after a made basket he would leisurely bound down the court, his head slightly tilted upwards and a half grin shining across his face.

When he had it going, Pierce’s success seemed to bother his defenders an exceptional amount. Pierce’s game and swagger will forever cement him as one of the NBA’s most unique talents.

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Photo via the NBA’s official website

Fortunately, in the summer of 2007, general manager Danny Ainge engineered a number of moves to lure superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston.

Pierce and the “Big 3” were coupled with a young pass-first point guard, Rajon Rondo, along with defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins. Off the bench, the 2008 Celtics featured a high sock wearing spark plug-in Eddie House, lockdown defender Tony Allen and reliable, modest forward, Leon Powe.

Unlike many teams experiencing significant roster turnover, the Celtics suffered no “growing pains” and cruised to the number 1 seed, winning 66 games along the way.

Nonetheless, one thing was apparent, this was Pierce’s team. When they desperately needed a bucket, the ball went to Pierce, when the game was on the line, the ball went to Pierce and when they finally won the championship, Pierce was the first to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Winning the championship was a defining moment for both Pierce and the city of Boston. For many of the younger Celtics fans, Pierce was the “Larry Bird” of our generation. His win solidified him as a Celtic great and united him with all of the Celtics who won a championship in green before him.

Time for the Clippers to blow it up

Photo via Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Clippers have blown a series lead in five straight NBA playoffs. Their most recent, today’s loss against the Utah Jazz in Game 7 at Staples Center.

For whatever reason, the Clippers can’t get over the hump. It isn’t the championship hump, but a hump to just win enough playoff series to make at least to the Western Conference Finals.

Nonetheless, it is time for this team to be broken up. They are a good team, who will win 50 plus games in the regular season, but they won’t ever win an NBA championship.

They can’t get by teams in the first few rounds, so there is no chance they would ever get by a San Antonio or a Golden State.

Los Angeles would forever be stuck in purgatory. Not good enough to win a championship, but not bad enough to get a meaningful draft pick.

The Clippers should immediately re-sign guard Chris Paul. He is the identity and the makeup of the team. He provides immense toughness and is still one of the best players in all of the NBA. There is not much of a question here.

In addition, they should keep DeAndre Jordan. He is a game-changing center with immense talent on the defensive end. There are still many issues on offense, like free throws, but he and CP3 have great chemistry that shouldn’t be broken up.

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Photo via USA Today Sports Images

Nevertheless, they should look to get rid of forward Blake Griffin. Yes, he improved this year shooting the basketball and had better assist numbers, but the man has not helped them win basketball games. Whenever he gets hurt the team doesn’t lose any more games, but the same can’t be said for when Paul gets hurt.

They shouldn’t let him walk in free agency, but they should look to trade him. Trade him for some high draft picks and then use the money that would have gone to Griffin to attract another free agent.

The team would get better by using Griffin’s max contract on someone else. In 2018, there are many big name free agents. Therefore, they should re-sign Griffin, but look to trade him over next season to then cash in big time on the 2018 free agent class.

Maybe, things will work out next season and magically get better. If they do, then keep Griffin, but if they don’t, as expected, it will be time to trade Griffin.

With the trade, they can bring in a talented draft pick and another max player. The team will automatically be better. If the draft pick becomes a star, then they can compete with the Warriors and Spurs come June.

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Photo via USA Today Sports Images

In addition, coach Doc Rivers has to be on his last legs. If not this season, but definitely by next season, it will be time to move on from Rivers. He was overrated during his time in Boston because he got lucky to coach three future Hall of Famers.

Now with the talent of the Clippers, he can’t even get by the Utah Jazz.

Los Angeles should also take a look at getting rid of guard Jamal Crawford. He provides a nice spark on offense, but his defensive production is lacking, which shows itself during the playoffs.

As far as guard JJ Reddick is concerned, LAC should look to keep him. He fills a nice role for the Clippers and is a solid player. Every team needs their knock down three-point shooter to advance in the playoffs.

Ultimately, it is time for the Clippers to think hard about Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin. It might not be the time to get rid of them, yet, but the window is closing. Remember, the Warriors seemed to make a crazy move to fire Mark Jackson and hire Steve Kerr, but look at them now.

The well-calculated risk can not be overlooked.

Historic debate continues: To foul or not to foul

Photo via Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review

For any basketball fan, it’s the type of nail-biting, game-deciding situation that leaves you screaming at your TV. Your favorite team just scored a big basket to put them up by three, 10 seconds left. What should the defense do? Defend the play, and run the risk of a game-tying three? Or should they foul, forcing free throws and a maximum of two points?

These are the age-old questions that have polarized some of basketball’s greatest minds. There’s Team Rihanna and Team Beyonce, Team Edward and Team Jacob and now, there’s Team Defend and Team Foul.

The most prominent display of a defend or foul dilemma (maybe of the last decade) occurred on the basketball’s biggest stage in the Final Four matchup between powerhouse Gonzaga Bulldogs and cinderella South Carolina Gamecocks with the Zags up 75-72.

After the Gamecocks managed to cross the mid-court line, Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins gave the strategic foul with 3.5 seconds left, sending Thornwell to the line for two shots.

Thornwell stepped up and nailed the first free throw. With very little time left on the clock, Thornwell had no choice but to intentionally miss the second, in hopes for a fellow Gamecock to grab the rebound and put it back in for two points to send the game to overtime. However, Gonzaga freshmen center Killian Tillie grabbed the board and was fouled. Tillie would go on to hit two throws, giving Gonzaga a four-point lead, effectively ending the game.

Gonzaga’s defensive sequence was a defend or foul situation executed to perfection.

Perkins picked the right moment to give the foul. There was not enough time left (3.5 seconds) for South Carolina to have a chance to gain another possession and Thornwell was handling the ball about two feet outside the three point line, which made him unlikely to begin a shooting motion and draw a three-shot foul.

However, in the heat of the moment, there was a divide in the Zags huddle about the play call, as many players were uneasy about Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s call to foul. “I was screaming at my teammates to foul because I saw they weren’t fouling,” said Gonzaga starting point guard Nigel Williams-Goss in an interview.

Although Few has been one of very few coaches to be a proponent of fouling, he too was torn by the decision at hand.

Few pointed out, choosing to foul leads a team to run the risk of not obtaining the rebound off the intentionally missed second free throw, giving the opposing team another possession to either tie the game or win the game with a three. This is the nightmare scenario that often scares coaches away from fouling and instead electing to play out the final defensive possession.

However, a player knocking down a clutch three-pointer is much more likely than the team grabbing an offensive board off an intentional miss after a foul.

So is fouling the right move?

“I would pressure the ball and slow them [the offensive team down by three] down and foul after they get over half court,” said Vassar basketball player Steve Palecki. “Limits them from tying the game with a three but necessary to rebound on the free throws for this plan to work.”

One does not have to look at the numbers to recognize that defending often turns sour for the defensive team more often than fouling.

Recall the 2008 NCAA national championship game, where Memphis choose to defend, resulting in Kansas knocking down a clutch three-pointer to tie and send the game to overtime.

Kansas would eventually go on to win. But can anyone recall any game in which fouling under six seconds actually resulted in an overtime?

Evidence goes to show, when in doubt, just foul.


The article can also be found on the Miscellany News!

Forget Harden, Westbrook deserves 2017 NBA MVP

Photo via Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

“What he has done has been historic in nature,” NBA legend Oscar Robertson told a crowd before the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season finale about guard Russell Westbrook. “He’s played with passion and pride and it’s really outstanding what he has done and the way he did it.”

Back in the 1961-62 season, Robertson became the first player to average a triple-double with 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. Outside of center Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game, Robertson’s season was fabled in basketball lore as the NBA’s most untouchable record.

Flash forward 55 years. Mr. Triple-Double has been reincarnated, now only bigger, faster, and stronger. Get to appreciate Westbrook. He is not only the NBA’s MVP, but he is history writing itself.

One can easily start with his impressive stat line: 31.6 points per game, 10.4 assists per game and 10.7 rebounds per game.

In the modern game of basketball, where the superstars aren’t as elevated from the rest of the league’s players by leaps and bounds, Westbrook did the unimaginable. He made breaking Robertson’s single season triple-double record of 41 look routine.

When another NBA player gets a triple-double, it’s a headline. When Russ does, it is expected.

And don’t forget the backdrop in which Russ is dominating competition night in night out. Given no elite teammates, going against elite defense, and competing in one of the strongest Western Conference seasons in league history, Westbrook gets it done with scary efficiency.

Westbrook is averaging a triple-double while only averaging 35 minutes per night. Back when The Big O did it in ’62, he averaged over 10 more minutes per game. Over the course of an entire season, that’s hundreds of fewer minutes Westbrook needed to put up similar numbers.

Although Westbrook’s true shooting percentage of .555 and field goal percentage of .476 is not great, it is expected when his team relies on him to have the ball in his hands every possession and generate most of their offense.

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Photo via Getty Images

Despite Russell’s success, analysts have continued to discredit his season as too good to be true. Many present Houston Rocket’s star guard James Harden (29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG, 8.1 RPG) as an alternative MVP.

“It is clearly a very close race between Westbrook and Harden,” said Vassar basketball player Tony Caletti. “I don’t think either of those are a wrong answer but I’d lean towards Harden over Westbrook, even though I think Westbrook will win it. Harden has elevated the level of play of his teammates, beyond just his gaudy assist totals, and has helped rehabilitate the careers of aging journeymen while shattering preseason expectations. These rockets missed the playoffs last year and lost Dwight Howard, replacing him with injury prone players who had never reached their potential.”

Even though Harden’s successful season should not go unnoticed, and in another year he would be a sure-fire MVP, Westbrook has just been that more impressive.

Although Westbrook’s ball dominance has resulted in his teammate’s usage rates decreasing, he has also been able to elevate the play of those around him. Give it the eye test, and you’ll come to appreciate just how great of passer Westbrook really is.

This season he has become a guy who always makes the right reads, always picking the right spots to pull up, drive, or pass it off. Russ has been able to dump the ball off under the basket for big men Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, resulting in wide open dunks and easy finishes. It’s no surprise that Kanter and Adams are both shooting almost 60 percent from the field.

Others knock Westbrook for his team’s record. Oklahoma City finished 47-35 this regular season, only resulting in a six seed in the western conference.

“I thought winning was what this is about,” James Harden said about the MVP race. “I’m not going to get into depths, but I thought winning is the most important thing.”

Arguments like these gravely underestimate the success Oklahoma City has had this season. In the most talented conference in league history, Westbrook has almost single-handily willed the Thunder to a playoff berth with only a handful of wins less than the Rockets.

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Westbrook and Durant at 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend (Photo via Sports Illustrated)

In addition, Westbrook has done it without Golden State Warriors star forward Kevin Durant, and with arguably less talent around him than Harden is working with. As far as overall value that Westbrook adds to a team, no one else comes close this season.

All this is not bad for the kid from Long Beach, Calif. who not too long ago didn’t even make his high school varsity team until his junior year.

Sounds eerily reminiscent of that guy who used to play for Chicago.


The article can also be found on The Miscellany News!

Play the scenario: Lakers lose top 3 pick

Photo via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers lose the pick

The Los Angeles Lakers losing the pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, which is more likely when strictly speaking numbers, is a road that still holds optimism, but is certainly built on an idealized sequence of events.

The Lakers would then have no choice but to stand pat with the young talent they have and look to the free agent market.

The Baby Lakers are already a talented bunch and should have no problem reaching the playoffs in a few years; however, there is no guarantee they can compete down the road with what they have.

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and forward Brandon Ingram still have star talent. Forward Julius Randle could very well be a fringe All-Star, but that seems unlikely to be enough to compete with the top squads in the Western Conference.

For example, the Golden State Warriors probably will still have four of the best players in the league, the Timberwolves squad features the brightest young star in basketball, center Karl-Anthony Towns and that still leaves the perennial contenders, San Antonio Spurs, led by superstar guard Kawhi Leonard.

As a result, the Lakers must go free-agent hunting.

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Photo via Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images

There have been reports of Indiana Pacers guard Paul George plotting to become a Laker during in the summer of 2018. If they are able to land George, everything will be just fine, but a few things need to happen in order for this to truly be plausible.

Russell, Ingram, and Randle must make huge strides towards becoming dominant players in their own rights and Los Angeles would need to make the playoffs in the 2017-2018 season.

How likely is that going to happen? Who knows.

But it’s not hard to see that the future of the Lakers without a top pick seems incredibly cloudy. They will need to rely on the development of their young guns and the luster of their palm tree city to have any hopes of returning to the NBA’s elite.


Part three of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason:

DESPITE THE RECENT STRUGGLES, LAKERS’ FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

PLAY THE SCENARIO: LAKERS WIN TOP-3 PICK

Play the scenario: Lakers win top-3 pick

Photo via Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers keep the pick

Should the Lakers be fortunate enough to keep their pick, there is little doubt as to what direction they would go with their selection, regardless of position.

Whatever pick they possess, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will say the same line: “The Los Angeles Lakers select… Lonzo Ball out of UCLA.” It’s hard to imagine the Lakers doing anything other than choosing Ball, as both sides have expressed interest with zero subtlety.

Lonzo showed his interest when asked whether he’d prefer to be drafted with the Number 1 pick or be drafted by the Lakers, “I’m going to go with the Lakers. I’m a family dude. All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me,” via ESPN.

His infamous father, LaVar Ball had a take on it as well.

“I’m going to speak it into existence,” Ball told ESPN. “I want him to be a Laker.”

It’s pretty obvious Lonzo would love to see the Lakers’ jerseys with Ball printed on the back.

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Magic Johnson in attendance to watch G Lonzo Ball (Photo via Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

On top of the Ball family’s expressed interest, Magic Johnson, the new President of the Lakers, has indicated that the feeling is mutual. Johnson has scouted one college game all year, and that one game was UCLA vs Oregon, which happened to feature Lonzo Ball.

Magic received questions about Lonzo while he was watching the game and offered nothing but praise to Ball and the rest of the Pac-12.

If the Lakers select Ball, they will have taken a major leap forward in their rebuilding process. Ball is the ideal player to bring the yet-to-be-discovered talents out of each individual on the Lakers’ young roster, for Ball has a unique talent to see plays develop a couple steps ahead of everyone else on the floor.

The pairing of Russell and Ball could end up being a match made in Heaven, with Russell being a score-first combo guard. Therefore, Russell would thrive on spot-up 3-point attempts being created by Ball and his isolation sets would be opened up by the deep threat Lonzo has proved to be.

Russell wouldn’t be the only Laker to benefit greatly from Ball’s presence, as Ingram has the capability to truly maximize the UCLA standout’s vision. Ingram can cover the floor in a small number of steps with his length and would be the beneficiary of many long outlet passes or dump offs from running the floor alongside Ball.

Lonzo’s knack for finding passing angles that seem only visible to him, would serve as a catalyst for the development of the entire roster and could be the factor that pushes them to new heights. Randle could become a dominant pick and roll finisher, Nance and Clarkson could be the ideal fast-breaking mates when the Lakers decide to push.

Everything would finally look up for the Lakers and the playoffs would certainly be within reach in the near future, as the Lakers would have a young squad who is as dangerous a rebuilding group as you can find around the league.


Part two of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason:

DESPITE THE RECENT STRUGGLES, LAKERS’ FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

PLAY THE SCENARIO: LAKERS LOSE TOP-3 PICK

Despite the recent struggles, Lakers’ future looks bright

Photo via Harry How/Getty Images

One of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers, has fallen into an era of darkness plagued by uncharacteristic losing.

The Lakers began a move to the future on April 12, 2013, a day in which the entire sports world would witness the conclusion of retired legendary guard Kobe Bryant’s dominance.

Bryant tore his Achilles’ tendon at the age of 34 making a return to his former self impossible. The Lakers would also lose recently acquired, star center Dwight Howard in free agency following the 2012-2013 season.

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The exact moment G Kobe Bryant knew he tore his Achilles’ tendon (Photo via Mark J. Terrill/ AP Images)

The Lakers were forced to start anew in 2014 as it appeared eminently, that without their beloved superstar guard, the team would not compete for a playoff spot. They began the year with nine losses in their first 10 outings.

The purple and gold would ultimately finish the 2014 season with a record of 27-55, miles out of the eight seed in the Western Conference. This would force the Lakers to turn their attention to the 2014 NBA Draft, in which they were slotted to select no. 7 overall. This pick would become Julius Randle, the freshman power forward from Kentucky who had turned heads with his physically imposing style of play.

Lakers fans felt rejoiced and believed Randle had the talent to become a worthy predecessor to Kobe. However, this enthusiasm was short-lived, as seven minutes into his NBA debut, Randle would suffer a broken leg that would sideline him for the entirety of his rookie campaign.

Soon after, Kobe was once again placed on the inactive list for the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff. With a mediocre roster to begin with, Los Angeles lost their two integral pieces and were headed to the lottery for the second straight season.

The Lakers saw the ping-pong balls bounce their way, as they jumped two spots and wound up with the no. 2 overall pick. The 2015 NBA Draft featured two big men, Duke star Jahlil Okafor, and Kentucky standout Karl-Anthony Towns, who were touted as the gems of the draft. Los Angeles would venture in another direction and decide to draft Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, who was considered to have immense star-potential in today’s pace-and-space NBA.

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D’Angelo Russell being drafted by the LA Lakers (Photo via USA Today Sports Images)

At an all-time-high state of delusion, the Lakers truly believed that with the offseason additions of D’Angelo Russell, an 18-year-old who had yet to learn the nuances of playing in the NBA, Roy Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 280 pound disappointment, and Lou Williams, a high-volume scoring guard who can’t spell defense, they would punch a ticket to the 2016 playoffs.

Yet again, Laker Nation’s optimism would be stomped on by reality in flamboyant fashion. With Kobe’s Farewell Tour supplanting D’Angelo’s development as the main focus of the season, and former coach, Byron Scott, implementing no offensive philosophy and going out of his away to berate the Lakers’ future building blocks in Russell and Randle, the Lakers stunk it up on their way to a franchise-low 17-win season.

Los Angeles would receive the no. 2 overall pick once more, and with Bryant having lived out his NBA career and calling it quits, they felt they needed a star wing with the tools necessary to thrive in Bryant’s old role.

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LA Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (Photo via Harry How/ Getty Images)

Enter former Duke Blue Devil Brandon Ingram. He was a prospect who seemed to have it all; he had the length (7-foot-3 wingspan), size (6-foot-9), a jump-shot (41 percent from three-point range in college), and a gym-rat work ethic.

However, it was clear from his first moments in the NBA Summer League, that Ingram was still a kid who had not grown into his body. At 190 pounds, Ingram became a long-term project, who was clearly not physically strong enough to compete with supreme talent or support the load of a struggling franchise.

In the 2016-2017 season, the Lakers encountered success for the first time in years. They hired a coach who fits perfectly with the young core, in Luke Walton, and they fired the ever-failing President, Jim Buss. They brought in new management in the form of showtime icon Magic Johnson and saw steady improvement from both of their two young stars, as well as the other pieces of their rebuild. While they finished with the third-worst record in the league, the Lakers’ future seems bright.

Ingram struggled early but began to acclimate himself to the NBA game evidenced in his major improvements in scoring and efficiency after the all-star break (pre-all-star: 8.0ppg on 36.4FG%, post-all-star: 13.2ppg on 47.5FG%).

Russell who was dealing with an ailing knee after a promising start to his sophomore tilt looked rejuvenated following the all-star break; he averaged an impressive 18.5 points per game along with five assists per game.

The rest of the “Baby Lakers”, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr., also took considerable steps forward.

Along with the noticeable development in their already solid young core, Los Angeles has almost a 50 percent chance of adding another top 3 prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft. Whether the lottery ball Gods smile upon prized franchise of Tinsel Town will determine what the Lakers offseason will hold.


Part one of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason:

PLAY THE SCENARIO: LAKERS WIN TOP-3 PICK

PLAY THE SCENARIO: LAKERS LOSE TOP-3 PICK

Your Favorite Athletes Who Are Probably Celebrating 4/20

Every year millions of people celebrate America’s unofficial marijuana holiday, 4/20. In honor of today’s special day, here are four athletes who love the mary-jane.

C Bill Walton

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Photo via Ron Chenoy, USA Today Sports

Type of Stoner:

Everyone knows a guy like former Portland Trailblazer Bill Walton; he’s always wearing tie-dye, he probably likes to play ultimate frisbee and is still complaining about Bernie Sanders not getting the Democratic nomination.

Athletic Accomplishment:

If it weren’t for chronic foot problems, Walton very well might be regarded as one of the top ten players of all time.

Most NBA players are known for one elite skill; Kawhi Leonard can defend anyone, Michael Jordan could score at will, and Rajon Rondo can find an open man against any defense. However, Walton could do it all; his elite shot-blocking, passing and rebounding subsequently elevated the play of his teammates.

There is no greater testament to Walton’s prevailing impact on his teammates than winning the 1976-77 MVP and his championship campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers. Walton became the first, one of only two all-time, to win the MVP with less than 60 games played.

Portland’s deficiencies without Walton were transparent. They limped to a 5-12 record in the games in which Walton missed.

Injury-free once the playoffs came around, Walton shined. Most notably, he averaged 18.5 points, 19 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.7 blocks leading the Blazers to a 4-2 series win over Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. Walton was the only Hall-of-Famer on his own team.

What Walton could have accomplished with an injury-free career is unknown, however, it is clear that his transcendent skill-set is something that might never be seen from a seven-footer again.

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