We can draw a lot of observations from this year's NBA Finals. Some obvious ones are that the Toronto Raptors behind their plan of short term success beat the Golden State Warriors 4 games to 2, All stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both went down with ACLs, jeopardizing their 2019-2020 seasons, and the Raptors survived a grueling series without any injury problems to Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. But what does this mean? How will it impact the future of the NBA regarding how teams base their moves on, doctors, and strategies to limit the minutes of their stars. Let's go into depth.
Before this year's finals, it was believed that you have to build a team with lots of long term guarantees in order to win a championship. But Toranto thought differently. They went all in, and it started back in May of 2018 when Dwayne Casey who won Coach of the Year after guiding the Raptors to 59 wins, was stunningly dismissed. Nick Nurse who didn't have a lot of NBA experience, was promoted to the job. They didn't stop in July, as they traded their loyal stat Demar DeRozan and backup center Jakob Pöltl for disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and cash. This was a risk because Leonard is going to be a free agent in this year's offseason. Reports have also stated his interest in going to the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers. Nonetheless, Leonard's mind was on one thing and that was winning a championship. It was pretty clear, as by the trade deadline, Leonard was playing some of his best basketball and the Raptors were 39-16. But that however, didn't stop them from trading two of their promising youngsters in Delon Wright Jr., Jonas Valančiūnas as well as CJ Miles and a second round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for their aging, but still formidable center Marc Gasol. Despite being the oldest in the team, the former Defensive Player of the Year winner elevated the Raptors defense from great, to special and it showed as they clinched the #2 seed with a 58-24 record. They suffered a few bumps along the journey to the finals which included a stunning game 1 defeat to the Magic, nearly falling behind 3-1 to the 76ers, and trailing 2 games to none against the Bucks. But every time Toronto fought back and clawed their way to the finals. In the finals, they put on the displays of team performances that makes an N.B.A. fan put on a big smile.
Everyone knows that Kawhi Leonard dominated this season and captured Fianls MVP. But some of you NBA fans may be wondering, How could Leonard play this good without injury problems? The answer, is that Toronto took the process of limiting Kawhi's minutes to a greater degree. Throughout the regular season and players Kawhi's workload was anything but James Harden's workload down in Houston. He played 60 out of 82 games without playing on consecutive days. Alex McKechnie, Toronto's director science put this system which was referred to as "loud management" into play. With all of the positive results from this system, other teams will probably use it so their star players will get injured less. Other contributions from this system included Pascal Siakam who enjoyed a breakout year, and Danny Green who served as a serviceable sharpshooter and defender during the regular season and playoffs. In one year, a system that's not even an x's and o's related, is now going to be popular next year.
However, we also had our negatives for this year's finals. The Golden State Warriors lost their all stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Thompson's injury in game 6 was unfortunate because he was having an amazing performance and it was a freak play. No need to blame the doctors. But for Durant's injury, there's no excuse for Golden State's doctors. Back in game 5 of the semifinals vs the Rockets, Durant injured his calf. He missed the rest of the series, the conference finals, and the first 4 games of the finals. All of the talk of the Warriors being better without Durant wasn't to be heard of, as they fell behind 3 games to 1. They needed Durant. The problem, was that Durant had a unsuccessful practice where he tried to do stuff that he wasn't healthy enough to do. Nonetheless, he was cleared to play for game 5 having only played one practice since his failed one. For the first 21:49 of game 5, everything was going well for Durant who had scored 11 points in 12 minutes. Then disaster struck. Guarded by Serge Ibaka, Durant awkwardly landed and couldn't get up with his own power. Durant was out for the rest of the game, and it was confirmed the next day that he tore his ACL. Despite being able to do most of the basics without any pain, Durant was not clearly ready for all possible scenarios that could've worsen the pain and it showed. Even though the Knicks (my favorite team) still has a great shot at Durant, he'll likely not play all of next season. A devastating blow that easily could've been avoided.
This finals brought a unique mix of takeaways. I don't think we've ever a team succeed on a plan that's made to succeed short term, go great lengths towards limiting the workload of your star player, and a great player likely missing all of next seasons because the doctors allowed him to play when he wasn't ready. All of this equaled an interesting NBA Finals that will go down in NBA history.
Last night already brought a lot of heat to what is going to be an interesting and exciting offseason. All NBA power forward Anthony Davis, who had wanted to be traded since January, finally got his wish and was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ever since Davis wanted to be traded, the Lakers kept offering lots of players to the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis, but the Pelicans kept refusing. Their final offer included Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zuba, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, and two first-round picks. But by (surprisingly) getting the no. 4 pick, it drew enough interest from the Pelicans to accept a trade package of Ball, Ingram, Hart, their pick, a protected top 8 pick in 2021, the right to swap first-round picks with the Lakers in 2023, and an unprotected 2024 first-round pick that New Orleans can defer to 2025. So now that we know what both teams got, let's go over how these players and picks will impact their teams.
For the Lakers, they are getting a superstar talent in Davis, which shows their commitment to winning a championship now. His accomplishments in 7 seasons, include 6 consecutive all star appearances, All NBA 3 times, and made All NBA Defensive First Team and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2018. His career averages are 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. In his 2 playoff appearances, they've gone up to 30.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. His best attributes, are finishing at the rim, blocking shots, and rebounding. However, he has became a much better ball-handler and shooter over the past few years. When he puts on the purple and gold, he and LeBron James will function as well as any duo can function on the court. Free agency will present less of a challenge, as recent reports have indicated an increased interest of Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard wanting to play in L.A. Ever since the season ended, it's been a rough 9 weeks for the Lakers. So by getting Davis, they not only checked off a major priority going into the offseason, but it now puts restored faith in this organization in their road back to glory.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, are investing in their long term future. They have enough assets that can team up with Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle (if the Pelicans resign him), to form a competitive young core for the future. Lonzo Ball is one of the top passers and defenders at the point guard position. If he can maintain his defensive talent after injuring his ankle and become a reliable shooter, the Pelicans have a nice backcourt duo in Ball and Jrue Holiday in the years to come. Their wing players, will be Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram: two players that have been getting more comfortable in this league and should be able to shine on a team that's willing to get better over time. Before the draft lottery, it was crazy to think that New Orleans would even get into the top 5 for this year's draft, for example, but they now have 2 top 5 picks. The first will be Zion Williamson, while De'Andre Hunter would make sense at no. 4. No one really knows what the picks in the next decade will be. For now, maybe it will prove that forming a team designed to steadily progress long term may be better than a team trying to make a big jump towards winning a championship in the short term.
This trade was something that was going to happen for a long time. It feels like it was meant to be. We as NBA fans always expected Los Angeles would eventually get Davis. We knew that Rich Paul, who is the agent of James and Davis, would have a big role in these wild times, Most importantly, now we have a trade that shows both teams' opposite goals based on what they received. One team wants to win now and the other team wants to win over time. Get ready NBA fans. This is only the beginning of what's going to be a compelling offseason.
This year's offseason is arguably the most important offseason in Knicks history. With lots of cap space, a high draft pick, and a GM and coach ready to prove themselves, they are in a position to make lots of moves that could set themselves up for lots of success in the years to come. In what's going an offseason that could bring lots of joy among a fanbase starving for success, lets go over why this summer is big for the franchise .
The first factor, is that the Knicks have a ton of cap space which can set them up to land big time free agents. At the start of this season, they had enough to resign power forward Kristaps Porzingis and a marquee free agent. But it was unlikely that Porzingis wouldn't get the max deal due to his injury and upset with the direction the team was heading in, he demanded a trade and got his wish by being sent to the Dallas Mavericks. The Knicks also unloaded guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee who were given big contracts. This now gives the Knicks the access to sign 2 max free agents. Those players could be Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kemba Walker. Free agents such as Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Demarcus Cousins, Tobias Harris, or Kris Middleton are available. They are also in a good position to get these players. Kemba grew up in the Bronx, Kyrie grew up in Orange County NJ, Kawhi's uncle who's apparently been his top adviser loves New York, and lots of rumors have pointed out that Durant wants to go to New York. New York's best shot is Durant even though he may sit out all of next season with a torn achilles tendon. Irving still has a chance of going to New York even though recent rumors of him going to the Nets. It may not happen but the dream of signing both players, is still in sight.
This is also the first season that coach David Fizdale and general manager Scott Perry can prove themselves as strong recruiters. For Perry, he was hired in the 2017 offseason. He was a part of the front office that drafted Durant. His role in building what is becoming to be a young and talented Sacramento Kings team. With the Knicks, Perry's first draft class was a strong one with scoring forward Kevin Knox, a pogo stick center in Mitchell Robinson, and a fearless point guard in Allonzo Trier who was undrafted. He now has the chance to get forward R.J. Barrett who can't wait to play in New York. When David Fizdale became the Knicks coach, lots of the top NBA players such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade praised him having played for him as an assistant back in Miami. His ties to stars are viewed as valuable and for the Knicks, that's a big positive.
Lastly, for what has become a fanbase waiting for success, this is finally the chance for the majority of these Knicks fans to look forward to a season. Last season marked the 14th time in 18 seasons that the Knicks were not in the playoffs. In some of those years they haven't had a draft pick. Others years saw them show their disappointment on either lottery night or draft night. But now that they have a high draft pick and the good chance to sign to not one, but two max free agents, there's a reason for the older generation to finally relive the glory days of the 1970s and 1990s, and for the younger generation to finally see lots of long term winning.
My personal belief, is that they'll be able to sign Durant, while Irving and Leonard will still remain possibilities. I'm not high on Kemba even though I would be happy with them signing him. It's going to be a very intriguing offseason.
This season, the New York Yankees have been pretty good. Now I know that you readers are probably thinking I'm not surprised. According to your article in March, they were going to win the World Series, so why are you writing another article about how good they are? The reason why I'm writing another article about how good the Yankees are, is because they are playing really good considering that they have a whopping 14 players on the injured list. Yes 14 players. Amongst those players are Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius, and Dellin Betances. And yet they are amongst the elite teams in the American League.
So while they are still waiting on their players to come back, how could they be doing this good?
The answer, is that these players have been waiting for an opportunity to contribute for what they, along with others believe is a championship team. So even though they are a bunch of guys who are prospects playing in the minor leagues or castoffs, they are the main reason why the Yankees are now 34-15 after starting 6-9. Unlikely heroes like Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, D.J. Lemahieu, Cameron Maybin, Thairo Estrada, and Domingo German, have emerged throughout this stretch. Frazier who was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in 2016, showed flashes in 2017, but sat out the conclusion of the season and most of 2018 with injuries. But this year, he is enjoying a healthy season in which his 11 home runs have filled in the void of the injured sluggers on the team. Gio Urshela played sparingly for the Seattle Mariners and Indians before landing with the Yankees last year in August. His slick fielding has made many highlight reels. Maybin has played on 8 teams before getting traded to New York in late April. His key hits and plays in the field may not go in highlight reels, but are essential to this winning stretch. Lemahieu spent most of his career with the Colorado Rockies before being picked up by the Yankees. His clutch hitting has prompted Gary Sanchez to call him "The Machine." Some of the well-known players such as Sanchez along with C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Aroldis Chapman, Luke Voit, and Gleyber Torres, have been playing really good baseball. Aaron Boone's growth has been evident in his sophomore season. Lots of the credit of the success of these little-known players goes to him. The Yankees' highlights include sweeping the Boston Red Sox in their first series since last year's ALDS defeat, beating the Twins who are currently one of the best teams in the A.L., and winning a huge division series against the Rays, and then winning an amazing 9th straight series against Boston. So the question, is how good will the be once their other stars who are out will come back?
The answer is very good.
They not only have a well talented roster of all stars, but a well balanced roster of players who have lots of experience playing for each other. As it is, they've already got some injured players back such as Sanchez and Sabathia who have been playing really good baseball while Aaron Hicks who recently returned, is already beginning to regain his old form. Other players may start out rusty, but will eventually regain their form before it's too late. As it already is, injured players during this stretch like Judge have been making lots of progress in their rehab, so by the time he returns, he'll go back to being the powerful hitter and athletic fielder the he already is. Shortstop Didi Gregorius who returned yesterday, is already playing like the consistent hitter and fielder that he is. Other guys like Severino and Stanton are now expected to be out for longer than expected, so they may be rusty, but their play will likely take a turn for the better once the season comes to an end. Once everyone is back and at full strength, the Yankees will probably be so dominant to the point here they can toy around with their lineups and still keep up the winning pace. But for now, there's a lot of reasons to be excited about this team, especially with Aaron Judge's return looming towards the end of the month.
So as they are right now in arguably their best winning stretch in franchise history, their A team is making great progress as their return off the I.L. is coming closer by the day. The only question would be how to take advantage of their maximum production. Chances are, that with lots of production already happening with their A team and B team stars, it will continue to happen even with the increase of their A team stars coming back. So with the Jets patching up their GM hole and the Knicks and Nets are primed to have big off-seasons, this summer should be fun for New York Sports fans.