Review of the NBA


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Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors to the 2019 finals.

Joe Flynn, The Delphi Writer

Now that the NBA season is halfway over, it’s time to look at the teams who are adapting to the new way of playing, and teams that are still playing old school. Who will prevail old or new? And a deep dive of each contending team in the NBA.

This year has been great so far, especially for fans who remember the dynasty that the Lakers had in the 2000s. Those fans are starting to feel that special feeling again this year. However, for long time struggling teams like the Pacers, Bucks, Jazz, Grizzlies, and Nuggets they have also been enjoying success. Fans can make the argument that the Bucks haven’t been a bad team since Giannis Antetokounmpo became a MVP. The Jazz and the Nuggets have also had recent success, but all of these successful teams have one thing in common: they were all awful teams in the mid 2010s and even the 2000s.

Some teams have implemented new ways to win, like the Rockets who have begun using a new system called “Small Ball,” where four out of five of their starters are three-point shooters, and the team has no real Center or rebounders. For fans of the 2000s NBA, the Suns may have a nostalgic feeling surrounding the team because they implemented a new system called “the Seven-Second Offense,” both of these systems were invented by Mike D’Antoni, former coach of the Suns and current coach of the Rockets. Small Ball is a perfect example of the direction the NBA is moving in, as teams are shooting more threes. In the 2003-2004 season, teams averaged 14.9 three-point attempts per game, but now each team shoots an average of 33.7 threes a game.

Some lifelong fans can argue that three pointers ruin the game and that they are making the game more boring, but newer fans may argue that the games in the 1990s and the 2000s were played at a slower pace and didn’t shoot that many threes and are boring compared to today’s gameplay.

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Michael Jordan, debatably the best player ever, is an inspiration to today’s athletes.

The basketball played during the 1990s and 2000s wasn’t as entertaining to watch except in the playoffs. Basketball was slower mainly because it was a “Center-dominated” era, with players like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and many more leading their teams down in the paint. Even Michael Jordan, who was a shooting guard and arguably the best player in NBA history, only averaged 1.7 threes per game in his career.

Back in the late 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, Reggie Miller would have been considered the “Steph Curry” of that era. He averaged 4.7 threes-per-game in his career, and at his peak, he averaged 6.6 threes-per-game, which was unheard of at the time. Some entire teams wouldn’t shoot 6 threes in a game. Miller was a superstar and saved basketball in Indiana. Miller is one of the game’s greats, and he should be seen as a revolutionary in basketball.

Back to the present, basketball has been great so far, and the eastern conference is finally good and the western conference is being dominated by the Lakers again. Superstars are emerging like Jayson Tatum, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Jamal Murray, and Ben Simmons.

Speaking of Ben Simmons, the 76ers are a mess. They don’t have a deep lineup, and their team features an inconsistent Joel Embiid and an inconsistent Tobias Harris. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid don’t work together well; Simmons is a guy who runs best in a transition offense with a fast pace, and Embiid plays best in a slower paced offense. I think that for a team to win a championship, it should have 7 or 8 players who should be able to show up on any night.

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Joel Embiid will need to lead the 76ers’ roster in 2020.

The 76ers’ offense is decent at best, their offensive efficiency rating is ranked at 19 and their defensive efficiency rating is ranked 5th. Ben Simmons is averaging two steals, Joel Embiid has been decent on defense, and even Al Horford has been okay on defense despite his lack of offensive abilities. Al Horford got a 4 year, 109 million dollar deal this summer, which is the biggest blunder the 76ers recently made other than not pulling out all the stops to keep Jimmy Butler. Horford has been a liability on offense, and has been playing so badly that they have been benching him. The Heat will beat the 76ers in 6 games, and Embiid will leave the team within 5 years.

Other teams have held up well, including the Pacers. The Celtics have shocked the NBA with their stability, and the Nuggets are somehow holding up even though they have been hit with injury after injury.

The Nuggets have continued their success from last year and are on their way to becoming a legitimate threat. Nikola Jokic has been great, averaging a double double, and is the best passing center in the NBA right now. Jamal Murray is posting identical numbers to last year and has either been on fire or been mediocre from game to game. Paul Millsap, though, is not the veteran presence the Nuggets want him to be. Michael Porter Jr. has been misused by Michael Malone. I think Porter can be great and a perennial all-star, but for some reason, Mike Malone won’t put him in the game. The Nuggets will lose in the Western Conference semi-finals.

The Clippers will always be the “second team” in Los Angeles. The Clippers are overrated, but their record doesn’t show it. Many say that their roster is deeper than the Lakers,’ but I don’t see it. They added Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. I wish the Clippers luck in handling those two guys.

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Every team’s goal is to make the NBA finals.

First, it is best to feature Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Leonard is having a great season and is the reason that the Clippers have the record they do, but Paul George has been injured all year. When he is on the court, he is a ball stopper who has not paired well with Leonard, which is ironic because Leonard signed with the Clippers so he could play with George. Patrick Beverly has been injured, and when he’s on the court he has been an offensive liability. However, he has been great on defense. Montrezl Harrell is having a great season and is carrying the Clippers Center position. Lou Williams is arguably the greatest shooting sixth man of all time and is carrying the Clippers second unit.

New players to the Clippers are also struggling. Reggie Jackson is shooting 38% from the field and is having a down season. Marcus Morris is not a passer and is not going to be the defensive presence they hoped he would be. For the first half of the season, Morris was on the Knicks and averaged 19 points, but only 1 assist. The Clippers will lose to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals unless the Rockets defeat them in any of the previous rounds.

The Miami Heat: what a Cinderella story? The Heat are a frustrating team; Jimmy Butler is a lock for putting up 22 points on any given day, and Bam Adebayo is a monster in the paint. Then why are they in purgatory. They’re in fourth place in the eastern conference and barely have a better record than the 76ers. Like the 76ers, the Heat are unstoppable at home with a 23-4 record, but they have a 13-18 record on the road. There’s no doubt that if the Heat stay healthy, this season could be a repeat of the late 90s and early 2000s Heat team, when they were cursed by having a great conference stop them no matter how good they were. In the 90s, it was Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, and John Starks standing in the way. Now its Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kemba Walker, Ben Simmons, and Jayson Tatum. The Heat have rising stars like Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and three point sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, and they also have battle tested guys like Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem.

Miami is coming off the “Big Three” era when LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh led the team. James left after 2014, Bosh retired due of injuries in 2016, and Wade retired last year. In the four-year era, the Heat made the finals four straight years, winning the title twice. Today’s Heat team will not be in the finals any time soon unless the Heat figure out how to stop Antetokounmpo the way the Raptors did last year. The Heat will lose in the eastern conference semi-finals to the Bucks.

While I’m not a fan of the Celtics, I will admit that they are a great team. Kemba Walker is being his usual self, a superstar, Jayson Tatum has finally blossomed into the player fans have wanted for the past three years, an unsuspecting player in Daniel Theis has been great on defense, Jaylen Brown has been phenomenal on defense and on offense and Marcus Smart is contining his greatness on defense. Tatum stopped taking useless two pointers from 17 feet and started utilizing his height, while developing a deadly fade away that some say Kobe Bryant taught Tatum in the offseason.

The Celtics stopped the curse of not landing free agents in the offseason by signing Kemba Walker and got off the hook of Jaylen Brown’s contract. Gordon Hayward’s season started off strong, but as of late it seems like he loses confidence in himself when he misses a couple of shots. The Celtics will remain a three seed and lose in the eastern conference finals to the Bucks.

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The Knicks look to compete with the leagues frontrunners when the season gets back on track.

The Knicks have talent like Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and they had a talent in Dennis Smith Jr. until the management killed his confidence. Even non NBA fans know the story of the Knicks players being terrible, but many don’t know about the management of the team, which has been disgraceful.

Starting with the team’s owner, James Dolan, who has been disappointing Knicks fans for over 20 years, yet he won’t consider selling the team. He is notorious for throwing out legendary players when they criticize Dolan and for kicking out fans when they have signs like “sell the team.” He makes terrible move after terrible move, like hiring Isiah Thomas to be their GM, letting Phil Jackson run Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony out of town, and hiring incompetent coaches and GM’s along the way. The Knicks haven’t had a winning season since the 2012-2013 season and won’t have a winning season anytime soon with the current coach and roster.

The top team in the NBA, the Bucks, have had a great season so far, posting 50 wins in 58 games and making the Giannis Antetokounmpo a MVP along the way. The organization has surrounded him with a great defender and phenomenal scorers in Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews and Donte DiVincenzo. Along with coach of the year Mike Budenholzer, there’s no reason the Bucks shouldn’t win the finals this year, but they still might not take home the trophey. Antetokounmpo isn’t a clutch player and won’t be for a long time, reminding me of LeBron James, who wasn’t a clutch player until 2012.

They’ll make it to the finals but lose to the Lakers. Antetokounmpo will, without a doubt, be a menace in the league for years to come, winning multiple MVP awards, and within the next eight years he will win an NBA finals. However, he first needs to learn to shoot three’s, block out haters during the playoffs and how to guard LeBron James before the team will take home a championship title.

Keith Allison
Giannis Antetokounmpo is quickly establishing himself as a league MVP.

Antetokounmpo has great help, but they need one more player to push the Milwaukee Bucks over the hump. Maybe a selfless point guard who can play defense, pass and shoot, and a shooting guard who does nothing but make the occasional three and play great defense would complete this team. Then the Bucks will be champions.

The Bucks will have competition in the playoffs from teams like the Celtics and the Raptors. Last year in the playoffs, the Raptors figured out Antetokounmpo and defeated the Bucks in six games, but something is different this year; the Raptors don’t have two time finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to slow Antetokounmpo down at half court. The Raptors still have Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to stop him in the paint, but can stop  Siakam stop him at half court? Siakam is a lanky guy who can play, but it was clear the Siakam is no match for Antetokounmpo when they played earlier this year. Pascal wouldn’t even drive on Antetokounmpo, and he could hardly stop him from getting rebounds.

The Raptors are having a great year with guys like Kyle Lowry carrying that old mentality of “hard ball,” and with new stars like Pascal Siakam, Fred Vanvleet, and experienced veterans Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol leading the team. Unless Nick Nurse, the Raptors coach, has more tricks up his sleeve, the Raptors aren’t winning in the NBA Finals anytime soon. The Raptors will lose in the eastern conference semi-finals.

In the Western Conference, there are teams like the Jazz, Mavericks, Thunder and Grizzlies who are all in line to make the playoffs. The Jazz, Grizzlies and Mavericks won’t make it past the first round. The Jazz have a superstar in the making with Donovan Mitchell, the Mavericks have superstars Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic and the Thunder have future Hall of Famer Chris Paul, pick and roll master Steven Adams, underrated star Dennis Schroder and even star-in-the-making Shai Gilgeous- Alexander, but they won’t make it past the second round.  The Grizzlies only have rookie of the year front runner Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas. To make matters even worse, it looks like they will have to face the Lakers in the first round.

The Lakers have future Hall of Famer LeBron James, superstar Anthony Davis, and not much else. Like many people in sports, I have my doubts that the Lakers will win the NBA finals because of their lack of depth. Their bench is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, which is a pretty unreliable bench. Pope is a good shooter with weak defense, Kuzma hasn’t been able to adapt to his new role, Rondo hasn’t been good since his stint in Boston and Bradley is the perfect definition of an average player.

When James and Davis are in the game, the Lakers have a commanding lead, but when they sit on the bench, their lead dwindles. The Lakers will win the NBA Finals this year, but I find their lack of bench players disturbing. In the playoffs Frank Vogel will have to play James and Davis a lot. If the Lakers win the NBA Finals, James would once again show that he’s “the king.”

Ultimately, the Lakers will win the NBA Finals vs. the Bucks and LeBron James will build his case for being the G.O.A.T. By the end of the season, dynasties will be made and dynasties will end, so appreciate them while they’re here.