NBA Free Agency: Five Major Questions Heading Into The Season

Montrezl Harrell nba free agency

NBA Free Agency is like the wild west. Teams sign and trade players with reckless abandon. For teams like the Lakers, the rich get richer. For struggling teams like the Pistons, it’s a field day for NBA Twitter. After the dust has settled on the first week, here are the five biggest questions heading into the season.

To Win The NBA Championship, Would You Take The Lakers Or The Field?

Heading into the 2020-2021 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were the favorite to repeat as champions because they still had LeBron James and Anthony Davis. (Anthony Davis is a free agent, but will resign with the Lakers. It’s only a matter of time.) After one week of free agency, the Lakers are now the heavy favorite to repeat as NBA champions.

The Lakers not only restocked players, but upgraded at certain positions. Here’s how the Lakers improved in free agency.

  • Traded for Dennis Schröder, who led the league in points off the bench with 18.9 points per game.
  • Signed Montrezl Harrell, the Sixth Man of the Year last season and second in points off the bench behind Schröder with 18.6 points per game.
  • Signed Wesley Matthews, who shot 36% from behind the arc a season ago.
  • Signed Marc Gasol, a former Defensive Player of the Year and one of the best defensive players in the league.
  • Resigned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris.

The Lakers did lose Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee through free agency and trades. However, Schröder, Harrell, Matthews, and Gasol is a stronger foursome.

A lot of contenders in the West like the Nuggets and Clippers lost key players from their lineups. The Lakers significantly upgraded, which means barring injuries, the Lakers will be the clear-cut favorite to win the title. Right now, counting on the Lakers to repeat is a better bet than the field.

Did The Bucks Do Enough To Convince Giannis To Stay?

The biggest question of free agency has still yet to be answered. The landscape of the entire NBA rests in the hands of the Greek Freak. Will Giannis Antetokounmpo sign the supermax with the Bucks? Milwaukee knew they had to bring in new players to try and entice Giannis to stay. Enter Jrue Holiday, one of the best two-way guards in the NBA.

The Bucks traded a lot for Jrue Holiday, but if Giannis resigns, it’s all worth it. Had the Bucks completed the sign and trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic, I would have said the Bucks did their part to sway Giannis. However, the Milwaukee front office royally screwed up, leading to Bogdan singing with the Hawks.

If I had to put a percentage on Giannis resigning, I’d go with 80%. The longer Giannis waits, the less confident I will become.

Are The Pistons Drunk Or Wasted?

Respectfully, can anyone explain to me what the Pistons are doing? New GM Troy Weaver has a plan, but I’m confused as to what that plan is. Here are the notable moves from Weaver.

  • Signed Jerami Grant for three years, $60 million
  • Signed Mason Plumlee for three years, $25 million
  • Signed Jahlil Okafor for two years, $3.85 million
  • Signed Josh Jackson
  • Traded Luke Kennard and Christian Wood
  • Drafted Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee.

I’m at a loss for words. Are they creating a stable of big men? The Plumlee signing and Wood trade are baffling. It’s important to remember that Blake Griffin is still on the team. If the Pistons can’t flip Griffin for a guard like John Wall, then who brings the ball up? Good luck, Detroit.

Who Is The Second Best Team In The West?

The aforementioned Lakers are the best team in the West. Who is the second best team?

A few weeks ago, the Warriors would have been my selection as the second-best team in the West. Unfortunately, Klay tragically tore his Achilles and will miss the entire season once again. James Wiseman will help in the frontcourt and Steph will do his thing, but the biggest question mark is Andrew Wiggins. Can he become a 20 point scorer again?

Conventional wisdom would say the Clippers will look to challenge the Lakers. After a disappointing exit, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be on a mission to prove that their pairing can lead to a title. Losing Harrell was a huge loss, but the addition of Serge Ibaka may have been an upgrade down low.

The Nuggets will only take the next step if and only if Michael Porter Jr. becomes a true third option. The Blazers have a loaded bench, but their stars must remain healthy in order to advance in the playoffs.

Gun to my head, I’ll pick the Clippers to challenge the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

Can Chris Paul Lead The Suns To The Playoffs?

Time to take an “L.” I did not think Chris Paul had this much left in the tank. Not only did he prove me wrong, but he proved the entire league wrong when he led the rebuilding Thunder to the playoffs.

Now, Paul will have another chance to expedite a rebuild in Phoenix. The Suns will look to build off the momentum gained inside the bubble, where they went a perfect 8-0. Devon Booker will be a popular pick to make an All-NBA and Deandre Ayton is finally showing his true potential. Add Paul and Jae Crowder to the lineup and Phoenix will try to make the playoffs in over a decade.

The Suns are not a contender, but they should take a huge step in the right direction.

What is your biggest NBA free agency storyline? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

New York Knicks: Solid Draft Night Leads To Unpredictable Offseason

Obi Toppin of Dayton / New York Knicks

As a fan of the New York Knicks, there are a few things that I’ve grown accustomed to when it comes to this organization. First and foremost, the Knicks will always make the wrong move, and it will surprise no one. Hiring Isaiah Thomas, trading for Eddy Curry, hiring Derek Fisher, drafting Jordan Hill, and empowering Phil Jackson only represent a small percentage of a laundry list of poor offseason moves in the last 20 years.

Since the 21st century, the Knicks are Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Besides a brief stint from 2010-2013 that included Melo, Amare, and Linsanity, it’s been a dark time as a Knicks fan, which is why what I’m about to say is foreign territory for most of us.

The Knicks had a solid draft night.

In other words, they didn’t mess up, which is the next best thing.

With the 8th pick, the Knicks selected Obi Toppin, the National Player of the Year out of Dayton. Toppin had a stellar season for the Flyers, averaging 20 PPG and 7.5 RPG. Toppin is a 6’9″, 220 pound highlight reel with a great motor and spectacular ability to finish at the rim.

The Knicks are desperate for a playmaker at guard, which is why many believed the team would select Tyrese Haliburton with the 8th pick. I would’ve picked either guy, but it appears Tom Thibodeau and Leon Rose wanted Toppin all the way.

I understand fans who wanted a guard, but I’m at a loss for words with the Toppin slander. His defense and footwork must improve or he will become a liability on the defensive side. However, Toppin is a high-character, hardworking player that went from a 6’1″ high school prospect to a 6’9″ lottery pick. Work ethic will not be a problem. I’m tired of seeing players shy away from the bright lights of MSG. Toppin is a New York native who WANTS to be a Knick. You can’t put a price on that passion. This kid is going to shine as soon as he steps foot into the building.

After the Toppin selection, the Knicks then made a few head-scratching decisions. They traded up to pick 23 but then traded back to get pick 25 and pick 33. At 25, the Knicks selected Immanuel Quickley. The sharpshooter won SEC Player of the Year and will look to light it up behind the arc. However, the Knicks need a distributor, and Quickley only averaged 1.9 APG last season. Quickley does support the theory that the Knicks are becoming the “Kentucky Pipeline.”

I would’ve loved to take a chance on RJ Hampton at pick 23 and I’m disappointed it didn’t happen. I can defend the Quickley pick, but I’m speechless with the Daniel Oturu trade. I thought Oturu, a walking double-double in college, was a good value pick, which is why trading him for a 2023 second round pick makes no sense.

Overall, the Knicks drafted two guys that should play right away. Now, the attention turns to free agency. Cue up the theme song from Jaws because Leon Rose is set to make a move.

First, he cleaned house. Rose created $40 million in cap space by waiving and declining a number of guys like Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis.

Rose was not done.

The Knicks have roughly $35 million in cap space. “Leon, the Launderer” is accumulating ammo for his next move. How big will it be? It appears he has his eyes on a few targets.

If I’m being honest, I’m not crazy about trading for Westbrook. The 40m+ cap hit over the next 3 years is unappetizing. I wouldn’t overpay for Hayward, who’s been a shell of himself since the major injury. I’m not convinced Fred VanVleet can be “the guy.” I like Malik Beasley and would try to make that trade work.

Despite all of my doubts, am I really in a place where I can be picky? Have you watched the Knicks since 2013? Maybe it’s time to say, “Fuck it,” throw it all on red, and let it ride.

Trading for Westbrook and signing Hayward to a long deal may be foolish, but what is the alternative? Every Knicks fan is quick to say what the team shouldn’t do but slow to offer a viable solution. They won’t accumulate picks like Sam Presti. They don’t draft well like Bob Myers. Masai Ujiri is not walking through the door.

I’m tired of watching the Knicks tank and strike out in the offseason. Is a starting lineup of Russ, RJ, Hayward, Obi, and Mitch a bad thing? That could be a potential playoff team. I’d kill to watch basketball that matters. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I’m just tired of the same old shit. Perhaps I should embrace the idea of taking chances on expensive players.

There’s no right answer, but for the first time since 2016, the Knicks have my full and undivided attention.

What should the Knicks do in the offseason? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Kobe Bryant: His Mamba Mentality meant much more than his NBA career

Kobe Bryant killed Helicopter crash Gianna Gigi Bryant

Kobe Bryant. Gone too soon.

Kobe Bryant’s death hurt.

Yesterday was heavy. Just burdened with sorrow and grief. Sleep was far and few between. I found myself completely heartbroken for a man that I only met a couple of times. If Kobe Bryan’s death hurt me this much, I can’t imagine what each family is going through.

To the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser, Chester and Zobayan families, we are all so sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you in this horrible time.

Why did Kobe’s death hit so hard?

Is the loss of Kobe Bryant limited to basketball fans? Of course not! Yes, Kobe had the rings, the MVPs and all of the highlights. Watching him play on the court was something else. But, his legend surpasses his five rings and 81-point game.

His impact on the game of basketball, a city, and the world is now just being fully realized. It’s not the dunks, and-ones or championships that I remember most. Because I gained more from his interviews and wisdom in his later years than I did from watching him play. Kobe’s game was brilliant, but his mentality was everything.

It’s that Mamba Mentality

A phrase synonymous with Kobe, meaning unwavering commitment and dedication. Attacking your goals with relentless passion, the Mamba Mentality was beyond what most of us believe capable. He took what Michael Jordan did and took it to the next level. Showing us what greatness is on the court is one thing. However, Kobe Bryant taught us how to achieve it. In his Oscar-winning, animated short “Dear Basketball”, we learned that his mentality was fueled by love.

Although some criticized Kobe Bryant for his attitude towards teammates and their effort, hindsight shows us that was love. Tough love, yes. But love nonetheless. Kobe wanted everyone to dedicate themselves to the game like he did. Because he loved basketball with everything that he was. He left everything on the court, regardless of practice or game. And he couldn’t imagine that anyone else didn’t have that love.

But he also loved his teammates, his friends, his rivals. Living by example, Kobe showed players how to do it. Through his mentality, they learned to continue to strive, push, learn, grow and struggle to greatness. He pushed good players to be great and great players to be legends.

He did everything to the best of his ability. We know this because the stats, the accolades and the accomplishments show that. Kobe put himself in the discussion as the best basketball player of all time. Ultimately, his basketball life impacted the world. He was the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

Yet somehow, he will be remembered for so much more. His life as a father and husband defined his life more than 20 years in the NBA.

Kobe Bryant the father and husband

Like in basketball, Kobe Bryant led by example as a father. His love and tenderness warmed out heart. We all saw it with the way he acted with his family. He completely dedicated himself to them. The wisdom he imparted to us fathers was well beyond his years.

Recall that we were ready for Kobe Bryant the basketball player to show up as the father. We were ready for toughness, grit, and pain. Expecting him to be hard, demanding, and grinding on his kids, he surprised us. Instead, he encouraged curiosity and tried to pique his child’s interests. Again, just like in basketball, he went further than being great because he helped us be great. Kobe modeled hard work, dedication and an ever-growing understanding of children’s needs.

The Black Mamba was fierce, deadly, but also loving

During his legendary career, we only knew Kobe Bryant as the Black Mamba. Deadly. Fierce. He could break opponents’ wills at any moment and strike with venom. Every player feared the Mamba.

But, underneath the deadliest snake in the world’s skin was a giant heart of gold. Hidden beyond the leathery exterior, we know his heart and soul were filled with love and compassion.

Kobe Bryant’s massive impact on my life

There have been three athletes in my lifetime that impacted my life in major ways:

  • Michael Jordan,
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Steph Curry

However, none was biggest than Kobe Bean Bryant. 

MJ made me love basketball and believe I could fly and do superhuman things. Steph Curry helped me articulate my redefinition of manhood and how much character and personal boundaries impact success.

But Kobe, he made me change my allegiance. I grew up a Michael Jordan and Bulls fan. It was MJ all the way. No Lakers, all Bulls. Then, the team broke up and my basketball heart was broken. Later, in college, I watched the episode of Beyond the Glory about Kobe Bryant. Instantly, I related to his story and his life. Both Kobe and the Lakers stole my heart. And it hasn’t wavered since. I even wrote an open letter to Kobe when he retired.

My only regrets in life are when I didn’t live with the Mamba Mentality.

  • Giving everything you have until the task is done
  • Extreme dedication to the things you say, you love and want the most
  • Enjoying the hard and arduous process of building greatness
  • All the while, striving to be cultured, educated, and thoughtful about things outside your love to learn new ways to love your love

It’s hard. That level of dedication and love is unreal. And only a few have it within them to outwork everyone, every day. But now, with Kobe’s example before us, we can strive for that Mamba Mentality. Let’s get to work. 

The greatest gifts I can give my kids are:

  • Love of God
  • Love and Dedication to them
  • My example as a husband/father
  • The Mamba Mentality.

He left us abruptly but left us with so much. I’ll miss you and your teachings, Kobe Bean Bryant.

NBA Bubble Week 3 Recap And Storylines: Playoffs? I Just Hope We Can Win A Game

Carmelo Anthony

In my best Jim Mora voice, “playoffs?” Yes, Jim, playoffs. After two weeks of the regular season, the playoffs are in full swing inside the NBA Bubble. To be quite honest, they’ve been better than advertised. The top seeds have struggled while the middle teams have dominated. That’s the bubble, for you.

Top Story: Offense, Offense, And More Offense

Is it cliche to say that offense wins games and defense wins championships? In the NBA Bubble, the offense flies while the defense dies. According to Cleaning the Glass, the 22 bubble teams averaged 113.17 points per 100 possessions, which is up almost two points since March. There are a lot of factors into why teams are scoring at will. Playing in a smaller gym with no fans makes it easier for guys to get their depth perception without distractions. Refs have also called more fouls early on with teams combining for nearly 11 more fouls per game.

On the flip side, teams that are defensive rebounding at a high rate while limiting points off turnovers and second-chance points are dominating their matchups. It’s not rocket science. Limit the other’s team opportunities to score and your team is set up to win. The Celtics, Rockets, and Raptors have surrendered the least points off of turnovers and the Heat, Raptors, and Celtics are given up the least second-chance points. All four teams lead their respective series two games to none. Moral of the story: play defense and rebound.

LA Thoughts: Dominate Or Forget How To Play

I’ll start with the Lakers. In Game 1, LeBron James went 23-17-16, which was 24th postseason triple-double and first 20-15-15 in NBA postseason history. Anthony Davis had 28 points and 11 rebounds but shot 8-24 from the field. However, the team shot an abysmal 5-32 from 3 and let Damian Lillard scored 34 points as the Blazers won 100-93. In Game 2, David dominated from start to finish with 32 and 11, LeBron went 10-7-6, and the team shot 36.8% from 3 in a 111-88 blowout victory. The Lakers will win the NBA title if they play as they did in Game 2. However, let’s see if the supporting cast shoots as well in Game 3 as they did in Game 2.

I’d be more worried about the other Los Angeles team right now. The Clippers could very well be down 0-2 in the series had Porzingis not been ejected in Game 1, which was the softest ejection in NBA history. Two main things stick out for the Clippers. The first being their inability to stop Luka Doncic, who is an absolute stud. The rest of the NBA should be terrified knowing that Luka, a 21-year-old, is imposing his will on the team many picked to win it all. The second thing we have to talk about is Playoff P, or Pandemic P. In Game 1, Paul George was Playoff P with 27 points on 10-22 shooting. In Game 2, Pandemic P scored 14 points on an abysmal 4-17 shooting. Stopping Doncic is priority number one, but George has to end the disappearing act every third or fourth game. He needs to bring it every night in order for the Clppers to advance.

“Don’t Forget About Us” Thought Of The Week: The Second Tier Is Coming

Going into the playoffs, the three favorites to win the title were the Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks. It’s fair to say that most brackets had either the Lakers vs. Bucks or Clippers vs. Bucks in the NBA Finals. As Lee Corso always says, “Not so fast my friend.” The second tier of contenders has dominated their matchups so far. As I type this sentence, the Raptors are about to take a 3-0 series lead against the Nets. The Celtics are imposing their will against the Sixers as Tatum looks like a future 1st Team All NBA player. The Heat may be the most balanced team in the East led by a guy who I would want leading my squad in the playoffs, Jimmy Butler. The Rockets, a team known for shooting 3s at an alarming rate, have brought it on the defensive end, stifling the Thunder’s offense in both games. All four teams are 2-0 and it would not surprise me if all four teams sweep their series’ opponents, if not win 4-1. Los Angeles and Milwaukee, watch your backs.

Week 3 MVP: The Rockets Supporting Cast

Who needs Russell Westbrook and James Harden when you have Jeff Green? I’m kidding, but the Rockets supporting cast is playing out of their mind right now. Without Westbrook, the players not named Harden have stepped up in ways I didn’t know were possible. Harden was great in Game 1 with 37 points but struggled for his standards in Game 2 with an atrocious 2-11 performance behind the arc. Late in the 3rd quarter of Game 2, a struggling Harden went to the bench, and early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets went down 80-77. Fast forward six minutes and the Rockets complete a 17-0 run with Harden on the bench for most of it. Green is flourishing with a two-game average of 18.5 points. Eric Gordon, Danuel House, and P.J. Tucker are all contributing, but it’s their defense that has stood out after two games, holding OKC to 103 ppg, which is 7 points below their season average.

Week 3 LVP: Oklahoma City Thunder

I thought the Thunder matched up well with Houston especially with Westbrook on the shelf. I was wrong. The Thunder were outplayed by the Rockets in Game 1, but they had the lead in the 4th quarter of Game 2 before the Rockets made a huge run. The young Thunder have gotten little support from their bench. The Thunder have been outscored by the Rockets bench, 74-47. The Thunder have the talent to make this a series, but if they let Jeff Green and the Rockets supporting cast do whatever they want on offense, it will be a sweep.

Storyline For Week 4: Second Round Preparation

By this time next week, most of the first round matchups will have concluded. Which teams will get a few extra days of rest and which teams will have to spend the extra energy to put a team away? Tune in next time for more action from the NBA Bubble! *television announcer voice*

What are your top storylines from Week 3 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 2 Recap And Storylines: It’s Playoff Time

Kawhi Leonard Luka Doncic nba bubble

The restart in the NBA bubble has been fantastic. Damian Lillard scores 100 points every night, the Rockets take 200 three-pointers, and the Suns refuse to lose games. However, it’s time to get down to brass tacks aka the playoffs. I apologize to Ja Morant, who I love and appreciate, but I’m rooting for the Blazers to win on Saturday so all the playoff matchups will be official.

Before we focus on the playoffs, let’s relieve Week 2 of the NBA bubble.

Top Story: Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard Sr.

Damian Lillard portland
Damian Lillard

Win or lose, we will never forget what Damian Lillard did these past two weeks. Entering the bubble, the Blazers needed to make up serious ground in order to at least get into the Play-In as the 9-seed. Not only did the Blazers go 6-2 to qualify for the Play-In, but they secured the 8-seed, which means they only need to win one game against the Grizzlies to advance. Lillard averaged an astounding 37.6 points (bubble leader) and 9.6 assists per game and let me tell you, they needed every single on one of those points. With his season on the line, this is what Dame did over the last three games.

I love Dame. He’s one of the easiest guys to root for in the NBA. In a league full of stars that switch teams almost every year, Dame hasn’t asked to leave Portland once. He puts his head down and goes to work each and every night. He defies the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wouldn’t even blame Dame if he wanted out of Portland, but that’s not the guy he is. I hope the Blazers make the playoffs because I, along with NBA fans, want to see if he can scare the Lakers. It’s Dame Time.

Top Story If Lillard Didn’t Exist: Suns Go 8-0

I constantly change my opinion on moral victories. Can you actually win something if you lost? For the Suns, they missed the playoffs, but they never lost a game so I’m giving them a moral victory. The young kids of the Suns grew up in the bubble and matured beyond belief. Devon Booker is a stud who finally showcased his talents to a national audience. NBA fans knew Booker was good, but the question always revolved around his ability to lead and make others around him better. Booker silenced those critics with averages of 30.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game in the bubble. No one gave the Suns a chance when the NBA decided they were going to invite them to the restart. After going 8-0, the future is bright for the Suns.

Concerning Thought Of The Week: The Injury Bug Has Arrived

Injuries were bound to happen, but these two injuries, in particular, suck. Both Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook will miss some time in the playoffs. However, it looks like Simmons is done for the season while Westbrook may only miss a few games. Still, you hate to see star players with injuries. The Sixers and Rockets play the Celtics and Thunder, respectively, which would have been difficult matchups even at full strength. Now, the advantage lies with The Celtics and Thunder. On the bright side, we could see historic numbers from both Joel Embiid and James Harden. Embiid might average 30 points and 15 rebounds while Harden could put up 40 points and 10 assists. Let’s hope that most of the star players can stay healthy.

Follow Up Thought Of The Week: Are The 1-Seeds In Trouble?

This was my top basketball story in my Week 1 recap: “The Lakers And Bucks Are Good, But Should They Be Worried?” One week later and I’m still concerned. Frankly, the Lakers and Bucks looked far from spectacular during the restart. If you solely looked at the numbers from LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, you might think both the Lakers and Bucks are firing on all cylinders. However, both teams end the restart with 3-5 records before heading into the postseason. A lack of motivation could have played a part in their under .500 records since both teams locked up the 1-seeds early into the restart. Once again, the Lakers and Bucks are good teams and both teams should make their respective conference finals. However, if players not named LeBron, AD, or Giannis fail to provide support, the Lakers and Bucks won’t be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in October.

Week 2 MVP: Damian Lillard

See above.

Week 2 LVP: Pelicans

For the second straight week inside the NBA bubble, the LVP goes to the Pelicans. The NBA *allegedly* gifted the Pelicans with the easiest schedule upon the restart. How did they respond? The Pelicans went 2-6 and missed the playoffs. Now, the story is all about Zion and his health. I love Zion, but he looked out of shape and lost on defense. Zion is wise beyond his years. I truly believe that he will get into better basketball shape this offseason. However, you can’t help but think “what if” when it comes to a Lakers vs. Pelicans first-round matchup.

Storyline For Week 3: Playoff Time

Finally, it’s playoff time. Credit to the NBA for scheduling quadruple headers every single day of the first round. I can’t wait. See you next week.

What are your top storylines from Week 2 inside the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Bubble Week 1 Recap: This Is Working

Damian Lillard portland

Has the NBA bubble been a success or what? If you love basketball, the bubble has been heaven for fans. Nonstop action for 10 hours each day is music to my ears. It’s clear that the bubble is working.

Where do I even begin with storylines? The Lakers and Bucks are in cruise control, but they have glaring deficiencies. The Blazers could do damage if they make the playoffs. TJ Warren is now Michael Jordan? Here is a recap of Week 1.

Note: This blog was posted at 6:30 PM EDT on August 6.

Top Story: The Bubble Is Working

I was optimistic that the bubble would work. However, no one predicted that the bubble would be a resounding success. The television presentation has been seamless. No fans? No problem. I thought virtual fans would be corny. It surprisingly hasn’t been a distraction at all. Without the bad teams to beat up on (still love you, Knicks), 85% of the games are competitive. With games from 1 PM-1130 PM every day, the bubble is an NBA version of March Madness, Most importantly, COVID is under control. Things can change in the blink of an eye but for now, the bubble is working.

Top Basketball Story: The Lakers And Bucks Are Good, But Should They Be Worried?

Both the Lakers and Bucks will be the top seeds and should be the favorites to represent their respective conferences. However, both have major flaws. Right now, the Lakers are allergic to the offense. The offense hasn’t been bad; it’s been atrocious. After Wednesday night’s loss to the Thunder, the Lakers rank last in offensive rating at 96.6 points per 100 possesions. The Lakers won’t win any games if they shoot 5-for-37 from 3 as they did against the Thunder. LeBron and AD will be fine, but there are a lot of questions surrounding their supporting cast especially at the guard position.

As I write this blog, the Bucks are down 20 points to the Heat. This past Tuesday, the Bucks lost to the Nets as 19 point favorites, which is the biggest favorite to lose in an NBA regular-season game. Just like the Lakers, I also have questions about the Bucks’ secondary players around Giannis and Middleton.

Let’s not forget the Lakers and Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. They have the two best players in the game right now in LeBron and Giannis. I’m not writing them off whatsoever. However, I would be worried if their supporting casts are nonexistent in the playoffs.

Suprise Of The Bubble: Blazers

One could argue that the potential play-in game was put into place because of Zion. However, the team that’s benefitting the most from this new format is the Blazers. Despite making the Conference Finals a year ago, the Blazers are a better team now than they were a year ago. One word: health. The Blazers were decimated with injuries to two of their top big men, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, which explained their 28-37 record pre-bubble. With Nurkic and Collins, the Blazers are a different team. They can get production down low and guard bigger teams thanks to Nurkic, Collins, and Hasaan Whiteside. Plus, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a top-5 duo in the NBA. If they secure the 8-seed, can the Blazers beat the Lakers in a 7-game series? Probably not. Can the Blazers give the Lakers trouble and push the series to six or seven games? Absolutely.

MVP So Far: TJ Warren

His name is now TJ “Michael Jordan” Warren. Who knew Warren could get buckets like MJ? More importantly, the Pacers are 3-0 and could be a tough out in the East.

LVP So Far: Pelicans

As previously mentioned, many including myself believe this play-in series was made for the Pelicans. However, after a 1-2 start, the Pelicans will need to step it up in order to get to the 9-seed. If the NBA wants Zion in the playoffs, New Orleans will need to let the big dog eat.

Storyline For Week 2: Effort

We’ve been blessed with competitive games for the first week. As more teams clinch playoff spots and the seeding falls into place, will teams continue to give max effort before the playoffs? Why play LeBron or Giannis if they’ve already clinched the 1-seed? I’m expecting a lot more lopsided scores in Week 2.

If you’re in the bubble, stay safe. Basketball in August has been a blessing. Let’s keep it that way.

What are your top storylines in the NBA bubble? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

New York Knicks Coaching Search: Take The Layup And Hire Kenny Atkinson

Kenny Atkinson

For years, basketball historians have said that the free throw is the easiest shot in basketball. Obviously, these historians never watched Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dwight Howard on the free-throw line. Because of its close proximity to the basket, the layup should be considered the easiest shot. It’s almost automatic especially if uncontested. When it comes to coaching searches, the New York Knicks have their version of a layup in Kenny Atkinson.

When Atkinson took the Brooklyn Nets job in 2016, it was nothing short of an uphill battle. With inexperienced players and little draft capital, walking on water seemed easier than rebuilding the Nets. However, not only did Atkinson achieve some success, he overachieved. In three full seasons with Atkinson, the Nets won 20, 28, and 42 games, with the latter resulting in a playoff appearance. More importantly, Atkinson turned D’Angelo Russell into an all-star and developed Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen into integral players.

I have a love/hate relationship with the word,” culture.” What does it even mean to establish a successful and winning culture? Winning teams can have a bunch of assholes and degenerates like the 1986 New York Mets or star players at odds with its owner like the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. Does that mean they have the best culture? Regardless of your feelings, Atkinson successfully created a culture with the Nets, where young players flourished and grew as professionals.

The Nets’ improvement is why Atkinson’s firing, or forced resignation, this past March was surprising. Some of the players reportedly wanted Atkinson gone. Once the Nets signed Kevin Durant, it became clear that whatever Durant and Irving wanted, they would get including their coach of choice. Although both Durant and Irving had kind words to say about Atkinson, let’s call a spade a spade. If Kyrie and KD backed Atkinson, he would still be the coach.

The Nets’ loss could be another team’s gain as Atkinson will certainly be a top target for teams without a head coach including the Knicks. Atkinson is exactly what the Knicks need right now. The Knicks must hire a coach who can develop young stars like RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson and revitalize the careers of underappreciated talents such as Julius Randle. Atkinson is familiar with MSG thanks to his tenure as a Knicks assistant coach from 2008-2012. Plus, Atkinson’s emphasis on quality threes & layups, guard dominance, and team defense is a system that works in today’s NBA. For a franchise with seven straight losing seasons, adapting to today’s playing style might be the way to go, just saying.

With the NBA season set to restart its season on July 31, the Knicks coaching search has officially begun since they were not one of the 22 teams invited to Orlando. Although Atkinson is a target, he’s not at the top of the list for the Knicks. According to Shams Charania, Tom Thibodeau is the leader in the clubhouse for the head coaching position. Thibs has ties to the Knicks, having served as an assistant coach from 1996-2004. In his eight seasons as a head coach for the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, Thibs accumulated over 350 wins and only missed the playoffs twice.

Thibs is a smart coach with an elite defensive strategy who can win basketball games. There’s no denying that. That being said, his coaching style only works for a specific set of players. It has worked with players like Jimmy Butler. Specifically, Thibs has a tendency to overwork players in brutal practices followed by top guys logging a high amount of minutes. Thibs probably vomits in his mouth every time he hears the term, “load management.” That worked for players like Jimmy Butler. It didn’t work for young stars like Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Knicks need tough love. This is a franchise that’s won only one playoff series since 2000. Maybe Thibodeau is exactly what the Knicks need. Priority number one as the Knicks head coach will be to develop young talent. No star will ever come to New York if the coach can’t build winning players. Instead of taking a risk on a coach who mishandled a roster and hasn’t adapted to how the game’s played in 2020, choose the coach that grew a culture from the ground up and created the blueprint for how to attract stars to an organization. Take the layup and hire Kenny Atkinson.

Who would you hire as the next head coach of the Knicks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

LeBron James Impact Review 2018-2019: The Cleveland Cavaliers Fallout and the Los Angeles Lakers Future

LeBron James Impact Review 2018-2019: The Cleveland Cavaliers Fallout and the Los Angeles Lakers Future

With LeBron James, Four Straight NBA Finals. Without LeBron James, Nothing

The fallout from LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland is massive. After advancing to the NBA Finals four years in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers are at the bottom of the league. It is no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been in turmoil without James. After his departure, their 2018-2019 season has been nothing short of a disappointment. The 2018-2019 Cavaliers lowlights include:

A question remains: Just how different are the Cleveland Cavaliers with and without LeBron?

Strictly Looking at Wins and Losses

After compiling win/loss records from the last 20 seasons, there is a stark difference between the Cavaliers with and without LeBron James. The following two tables illustrate this chasm. In the first table, the Cleveland Cavaliers season are split into different eras to depict LeBron’s impact historically. Then, the second table looks strictly at the overall record of the Cavaliers during James’ NBA career, in seasons with and without him.

RecordWin Percentage
Pre-LeBron (1999-2002)108-22033%
First LeBron (2003-2009)349-22561%
Post LeBron (2010-2013)97-21531%
Second-Coming (2014-2017)211-11764%
Post LeBron II (2018)19-6323%
RecordWin Percentage
w/o LeBron (2003-2018) 116-27829%
w/ LeBron (2003-2018 )560-34262%

Following a look at those records, LeBron’s effect on the Cavalier’s is even larger than expected. In seasons with James on the roster, their win-percentage more than doubled. What other star’s departure can be seen in such a resounding way? Then, looking past regular season records illuminates LeBron’s Hand of Midas in playoff pushes. In 11 seasons with the Cavaliers, he led them to 9 playoff appearances, 5 NBA Finals and 1 NBA title over the prolific Golden State Warriors. With LeBron, the Cavaliers were a team of legend. Without him, they have been nothing but bottom-feeders.

Did the Los Angeles Lakers see the same LeBron bump?

Well, no. Here’s why:

Lack of an Efficient Supporting Cast

However, there are a few reasons to explain this. First off, the players surrounding LeBron James in Los Angeles did not have an efficient season. According to numberFire’s nERD Score, which measures a player’s efficiency and contribution to team wins, only LeBron James and JaVale McGee ranked in the top-100. The next closest was Johnathan Williams, who ranked 144th. The team around him needs further development and building.

LeBron is, in Fact, Human

Granted, LeBron has taken seemingly-untalented teams to the playoffs before. But this year was different. LeBron was plagued with injuries. Perhaps it was all of his extra playoff minutes that caused him to break down. In terms of playoffs, LeBron played the most minutes of any player in the NBA since 2010. Recently, in his four Cavalier seasons from 2014-2018, James played a total of 81 playoff games. He basically played an additional season. To top it all off, he averaged 41.1 minutes per game in those appearances. All of those extra minutes had to contribute to this poor outing.

Because of the nagging groin injury, James played just 55 games. Late in the season, the Lakers and LeBron reached an agreement to limit his minutes, with no more back to back games. Then, when playoff chances were infinitesimal, the team decided to sit James out the final six games of the season. This first year with LeBron was not pretty.

Hope for Lakers Fans To Cling To

Nonetheless, there still is hope of the Los Angeles Lakers return to glory. Obviously, the Lakers still have LeBron James, one of the greatest players of all time. That definitely helps. Even in his injury-riddled season, he still averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. Additionally, the Lakers record with James in the lineup was actually 28-27. Therefore, James still has yet to experience a losing record since his rookie season.

Furthermore, the disappointing season of the Lakers has a few benefits. The first comes with a lottery chance. Their overall record gives them a 2-percent chance to win the first pick and a 9.4-percent chance to win a top-four pick. The lowest spot the Lakers can pick in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft is spot 14. They have a chance to reload the roster with some young, fresh talent. The 27 games sans-LeBron also gave the other players on the Lakers a chance to develop more. Without LeBron being the focal point of the offense, the rest of the cast could gain vital experience. Magic Johnson also stepped down as team president. His tenure with the Lakers has been a failed dream for a Lakers legend. But, stepping down was the right thing to do and allows a genuine executive to step forth. Last, LeBron’s 2018-2019 campaign gave him rest. In the playoffs, his off-season is essentially extended. 2019-2020 LeBron James can start the season revived.

Rebuilding LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers

At the end of their seasons, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers are in need of a better team. Fortunately for the Lakers, they have LeBron James for at least three more seasons. Their losing record also granted them a higher chance to hit in the 2019 NBA Draft. Lakers fans can have high hopes for playoffs next season.

On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers are far behind. According to an article early in the NBA season by Scott Davis of Business Insider, the Cavaliers have severe, systemic issues.

“Issues within the organization were only thinly veiled in recent years, even with James on the roster. The Cavs went all-in to build around him, and the aftermath was always going to be ugly. But at least in recent years, the winning masked some issues.”

Building a team around LeBron with big contracts and again veterans was highly criticized. “GM LeBron” was a nickname offered up by many and both the Cavaliers and James were given negative reviews on cap spending. It worked well and didn’t matter as much when LeBron was on the team. Advancing a team to the NBA Finals four years in a row offset the penalties. But, those problems became maximized the second James left. As Davis put it, “Salary-cap relief could finally come in 2020, but that would essentially be the start of the rebuild”.

Last, we all need to reflect on the rarity of this LeBron James/Cavaliers relationship. It is absolutely incredible that one player can impact an entire franchise so significantly. The sudden quick uplifts and sudden drop-offs the Cavaliers experienced were very easy to see. How much credit/blame goes to LeBron or the Cavaliers organization is up for debate. Regardless, this story has been remarkable to witness. From NBA fanatic to a fan of mild interest, LeBron James made the Cleveland Cavaliers interesting. Let’s just hope that we can see an equally compelling storyline in the next two decades.