Throughout his 17 seasons, Carmelo Anthony has been one of the NBA's top scorers. Using some of the most the most basic moves, he's regarded as one of the best players of his generation as well as of the best scorers in the league.
Until the pandemic, Melo was enjoying a comeback season with the Portland Trail Blazers. I think that if there was a Comeback Player of the Year award in basketball, it would be given to him. He started his career with the Denver Nuggets in 2013 where he enjoyed seven successful seasons, including an appearance in the Western Conference Finals. But heading into the 2010-11 season, Melo had a change of heart, and wanted to be traded to the New York Knicks. He was traded in February, 2011, and he took them to the playoffs for three straight seasons. The 2012-13 season was arguably his best, as he won the scoring title and took the Knicks beyond the first playoff round since 2000. Melo continued to ball out, but the Knicks missed the playoffs in his final four seasons, before he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since getting traded by the Knicks, he's been on four teams, only playing for two of them. Melo was out of the league for one year before signing with the Trail Blazers. He's been a great fit for them, averaging 15 points per game and making every executive think twice about not signing him.
So how is Melo still the great scorer that he is, even after a year out of the NBA?
Anthony's scoring isn't complicated. He can score using 12 simple moves. From the perimeter, he can attack the basket using a rip and go, dribble hesitation, pump fake, or spin move in the post. His jumpshot can come from a pull up off the dribble, hesitation outside or inside the three point arc, pump fake, turnaround, or in transition. Perhaps his most devastating move is his jab step, which I'll explain through a simulation of three possessions.
On the first possession, Anthony gives you a jab step. It has you thinking about whether he'll shoot it or drive. He then drives to the basket with ease and scores.
On the second possession, Anthony gives you a jab step. You immediately think that he's going to drive to the basket and you move with him towards the basket. The only problem, is that he's still in the same spot with the ball and you can only watch him make another basket.
On the third possession, Anthony gives one jab step. You're not hesitant at all. He gives you another jab step. You back up. A third jab step now makes you think that he's going to shoot. Then with a simple pump fake, you go flying by and then it's just a matter of whether he scores on a jump shot or at the basket.
With those moves, Melo has a scoring average of 24 points in the regular season and playoffs, a scoring title, and over 25,000 points in his Hall of Fame career.
It's a shock that Melo was out of the league for such a long time. His defense is questionable, but he can score at ease in a way that's rarely seen. Even after being out of the league, his scoring ways still makes him one of the best scorers in the game.
The NBA's season may be on hold, but there are rising stars who have a bright future ahead. There are a lot of top tier players who, despite having played in the NBA for around 5 years, are still very young. Unlike established players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis, who are mostly in their mid to late 20s, I'm instead going to talk about the best players who are currently in their rookie or sophomore season. So here we go:
1. Luka Dončić
This one was an obvious choice. Though Luka Dončić recently turned 21 years old, he's playing like a veteran. From his rookie season, he bursted into the spotlight averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists while leading the Dallas Mavericks to statement wins over teams like the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics, and Thunder. After the season, he was awarded the Rookie of Year. But what he did last year feels like an afterthought compared to this year. His averages have all gone up to 28, 9, and 8, he is number 1 in the league with 14 triple doubles as well as in franchise history with 22, and he has the Dallas Mavericks in position to make their first playoff appearance in 4 years. They actually might not have to clinch if the NBA chooses to start the playoffs as soon as their coronavirus hiatus is over. Getting back to the subject of Luka, his unique ball handling and passing at 6'7 allows him to be one of the craftiest guards despite his lack of athleticism. By the way, his clutch performances aren't too bad either. Don't be surprised if he wins an M.V.P. award in the future.
2. Ja Morant
Though this guy was picked at no. 2 by the Memphis Grizzlies, he was definitely playing like the no. 1 pick during the time that Zion was out. His stats of 17 points, 7 assists, and a shooting percentage that hovers around 50 are good; his highlight reels are even better. Morant's name continues to pop up on basketball highlights all over the internet and for the right reason. Take for instance his putback dunk over the Rockets' P.J. Tucker, beating Sun's Aron Baynes to the hoop to seal a win in Phoenix, or his stare down after breaking the ankles of the Clippers' Jermey Robinson before knocking down a 3 pointer. When he's not making highlight plays, he's earning praise from peers like LeBron James who labeled him "Super special" earlier this month. Most importantly perhaps, is how in one season Morant has transformed Grizzlies into a playoff team (unless the NBA choses to resume the season and they end up collapsing). No matter how the season ends, he has established himself as the face of this franchise.
3. Zion Williamson
If it wasn't for an injury that kept him out until late January, Williamson would've probably been ranked higher than Morant. But unfortunately, the unexpected happens, and that was the case with Williamson. When he came back, though, he didn't just ease back into basketball. He came with a purpose. He debuted with a 17 point 4th quarter outing and didn't look back. Pretty quickly, he regained all of the strength and athleticism that he displayed in college. Williamson's successful recovery is impressive considering he's 6'6" and 284 lbs. He may have only played 19 games this season, but 19 games was enough for him to dominate, bring a vibe, and show leadership. He may not be going to the playoffs like Luka and Ja, but he'll have Pelicans' fans going into the offseason very optimistic about their future.
4. Trae Young
It's kind of hard to believe that a guy who is so scrawny, plays so well. That's the case for Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. In just 2 seasons, he's already one of the best shooters, ball-handlers, and passers in the NBA. His defense needs work, but those three other abilities I just mentioned make other NBA players look like they're still in high school. Young's impact didn't happen immediately, as he went through a bumpy first half of his rookie season. In the second half, however, he went on a tear and although he didn't win Rookie of the Year, it didn't stop him from carrying his momentum into this season. His averages of 29 points and 9 assists per game, which include 11 40-point and 1 50-point night, shows his massive leap. Unfortunately most of those 40-point games have tended to be a losing effort throughout his young career. Hopefully the Hawks will build around him this offseason so his performances can finally result in more wins.
5. R.J. Barrett
Though the New York Knicks failed to win the lottery for Zion, it allowed them to take a good consolation prize in R.J. Barrett. He hasn't posted the stats or made as many highlight reel plays as the previous four players, but he deserves credit for handling New York's spotlight while playing for a franchise that's earned the reputation as a laughingstock. After some impressive performances to start the season, Barrett started to show growing pains, which can be expected from a 19 year old. However, his play and confidence has improved throughout the season. The game that stands out was against the Houston Rockets, where he dropped 27 points as well as a tough layup in the closing moments that stretched out the Knicks' lead en route to an upset win. The improvement of Barrett's stats and confidence gives Knicks fans something to be hopeful about during a very rough stretch. These are the first steps Barrett has taken toward becoming the face of this franchise.
These players were all drafted with high expectations despite the fact that their average age is only 20 years old. Guys like Luka have taken massive strides while others like R.J. have shown some signs of progression. Nonetheless, it's very impressive to see another group of young players make a name for themselves while playing against grown men with experience. It's unfortunate that we don't know when we'll see these players in action again, but we do know that as long as the players I've talked about keep improving, the NBA will be in good hands for the future.
Kobe Bryant, an NBA legend, family man, and advisor to younger athletes, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna and 7 other people a few weeks ago. This news predictably stunned every one in the sports world. Lots of people made tributes for the man who they called the Black Mamba. So the question is, why did he get so many tributes and how could he have had such a big impact on millions?
The first reason why so many idolize Bryant, is because he's one of the greatest basketball players of all time. For 20 seasons with only the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was unstoppable. Coming into the league, he was just a kid out of high school. But he slowly blossomed into one of the league's youngest and most entertaining stars. In addition, he quickly formed a duo with their dominant big man Shaquille O'Neal that was one of the most exciting in the league. His partnership with Shaq became a generational duo and the Lakers won 3 straight NBA Finals. Though Shaq won Finals MVP in all of those appearances, Bryant could've retired after winning in 2002 and made the Hall of Fame. Their seasons as a duo would only last for 2 more before they traded O'Neal.
But that didn't stop Kobe from putting up some of the greatest scoring performances ever for the next 3 years after. Some of those outings included outscoring the entire Mavericks team through 3 quarters, the second highest scoring game of all time with 81 points, and 4 straight 50 point games. However, the Lakers never made it past the first round of the playoffs. Fortunately, with a refurbished supporting cast, the 2007-08 season was one that saw Bryant add to his mountain of accomplishments by winning his first MVP award as well as an appearance to the Finals for the first time without Shaq. But the year bitterly ended with loss to the hated Boston Celtics in the Finals. So what was Bryant's response to the pressure that was starting to build up about his ability to lead a championship team? He won back to back championships in grueling, yet satisfying fashion. His final championship is arguably his sweetest, as he not only beat the Celtics in the Finals for the first time in his career, but helped the Lakers win their first ever game 7 against the Celtics after 4 previous failures in their history. The next 6 years saw the team rapidly decline, but Kobe refused to lie down. In his final game, he rallied the Lakers from 10 down while dropping an unforgettable 60 points. On the court, Kobe will forever be remembered as a top 10 player of all time.
After basketball, Kobe was also succeeding at other things in his life. He mentored a lot of basketball players such as Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard. In addition, he supported women's basketball, whether it was the WNBA or college. Kobe sometimes showed his support by talking to teams like UConn and Oregon, or going to WNBA games with Gigi. Along with that, Kobe encouraged people to recognize the abilities of some of these female athletes by mentioning their names in anyway he could. Other athletes like Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, and Alex Rodriguez talked about the influence Kobe had on them.
A week after the sudden crash, I watched Kobe Bryant's Oscar-winning animated documentary, Dear Basketball, and was amazed by how he beautifully described basketball. He portrayed it as a sport that gave him all of his dreams and he responded by playing with the passion and competitiveness that allowed him to give back to the game what it give to him. When he retired, he was at peace with his decision to say goodbye, and knew that having given one another everything they had, he and the sport will savor every moment. Now and forever.
Since I started to watch the NBA back in the 2010-2011 season, it seems like there's always stars on the map that are making a name for themselves this decade. Players that have entered this decade and are still adding to their legacy include LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. There are also players who were in the league earlier this decade, but they were good not great. However guys like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard have changed that narrative. Recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis, are players who are quickly making a case for their spot on the all decade team. So with all talk aside, lets look at the roster.
Sorry, but as much as all of us Knicks fans want to see owner James Dolan sell the team, it's unlikely to happen. All of the Knicks problems have came from Dolan. Since trading their Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing, they've missed the playoffs in all but five seasons and have won only one playoff series. In the other fourteen seasons, they continue to show their incompetence in the most impossible ways. While some of their problems aren't directly on Dolan, all of their problems stem from him, whether it's come to bad acquisitions or his management decisions. If the Knicks don't want to remain an embarrassment, they must make three more changes.
Before Dec. 6, they needed to make four changes, but they already made the first major change with the firing of head coach David Fitzdale. He was recommended by star players such as LeBron James and Dywane Wade to be a head coach so that definitely brought up some good feelings for the Knicks and their fans. However, he wasn't hired to develop a roster of young players. He was hired to manage star players that the Knicks were planning to get in the next free agency class such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving among other players. They even traded their promising, but injured big man Kristaps Porzingis, along with other high priced players midway in the season to create more cap space for free agency. There was one problem: they didn't get the best free agents. Yet they still assembled a roster that seemed like a playoff caliber team. Rookie guard/forward R.J. Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson look like building blocks for the team in the future. But Fitzdale wasn't making the best out of a roster of young players.
That was only one out of four changes that need to happen.
President of Operations Steve Mills has varied his approach season by season with the Knicks and it hasn't been helping at all. His latest bad move was hiring Fitadale. It wasn't about Fitzdale being a good or bad coach. What made the hiring so bad, was that Mills was so sold on the Knicks getting free agents, that he wanted a guy who could successfully deal with those star players in Fitzdale. Even with an injury to their best player Kristaps Porzingis that would keep him out for all of 2018-2019, they still had a roster that was worth developing. Yet, he really didn't want to go with a coach that could develop some of their players such as Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, or Mike Budenholzer. They did produce a solid 2018 draft class in Kevin Knox, Robinson, and Alonzo Trier who all showed promise during different phases of last season, but instead of developing them, they were more focused on getting a high pick that would complement their star free agents. But in the end, all of the losing hurt them from getting a free agent. Look at the Los Angeles Lakers before they got LeBron James; they didn't make the playoffs but they showed enough development in their players to help lure him. But since the Knicks put their young players in a bad situation, they lost a lot of games and it turned off free agents from joining them. In comparison the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets focused on developing their players. Their reward was a playoff appearance, which appealed to Irving and Durant. Therefore, Mills deserves to get fired without question this off-season.
After they clean house this off-season, they should replace Mills with the president of the Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri. Ujiri, constructed a Raptors team that went from being a contender for four years, to a champion last year. While people think of him as the guy who made lots of high risk, high reward moves such as trading for Kawhi Leonard, he also deserves lots of credit for drafting players that have greatly progressed over time such as Pascal Siakam. Despite losing Leonard in the off-season to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Raptors are still one of the top teams of the East. His best move however, may have been hiring a coach that could really get the best out of his players in Nick Nurse. If the Knicks can hire Ujiri, he should do a lot to hire current ESPN analyst Mark Jackson. Besides his city roots and the fact that he was a point guard for the Knicks early in his career, he's praised for his work with the Golden State Warriors from 2011-2014. He didn't win a championship, but he reached the playoffs with them twice, where he won his first and only playoff series. His most impressive work is that he developed the Warriors championship core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. He has previously expressed interest of taking the head coaching job. It's definitely realistic that hiring Ujiru and Jackson will help develop the Knicks young core and lead them to lots of success. But for all of that to happen, they must put both of them in a good situation to succeed.
It's not only the final season of the 2010s, but a new landscape in the NBA. Lots of teams in the east and west have made massive changes to their rosters through trades, the draft, and free agency. So without further ado, lets check out this year's NBA playoff predictions.
1. 76ers 4
8. Wizards 1
1. 76ers 4
5. Raptors 1
4. Celtics 3
5. Raptors 4
2. Bucks 4
1. 76ers 3
2. Bucks 4
7. Heat 0
2. Bucks 4
3. Nets 2
3. Nets 4
6. Pacers 3
1. Lakers 4
2. Bucks 2
1. Lakers 4
8. Spurs 3
1. Lakers 4
5. Trail Blazers 1
4. Warriors 3
5. Trail Blazers 4
1. Lakers 4
2. Clippers 3
2. Clippers 4
7. Jazz 2
2. Clippers 7
3. Rockets 3
3. Rockets 4
6. Nuggets 3
As most of you already know, I am a huge Knicks fan that wrote 2 articles about their offseason. The first one came after they traded Kristaps Porzingis along with some other players who they previously signed to big contracts, to clear up cap space for what would be a loaded free agency class. It also put them in a spot to get the no. 1 draft pick. (https://www.bbbstraighttalksports.com/blog/the-knicks-future-bright). But after the Brooklyn Nets started to emerge as a rival to the Knicks for free agents and when they ended up with the 3rd pick in the draft lottery, I then concentrated on how important free agency will be for them (https://www.bbbstraighttalksports.com/blog/how-important-is-the-knicks-offseason-very-important). But then on June 30th, the Nets not only stole their 2 prime targets in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but have now emerged as the focus of New York basketball. The Knicks have now hit rock bottom, but the road back to the top may not take as long as some people may expect.
While they still missed out on the no. 1 pick Zion Williamson, they landed R.J. Barrett with the 3rd pick. Barrett who wanted to be a Knick, is arguably the most complete player in the draft and has the ability to flourish as a leader of this team for about a decade. He joins a group of players from last year's draft class that showed potential throughout last season. First rounder Kevin Knox has shown the ability to score in bunches and can be a lethal wingman in the future. Mitchell Robinson is a strong finisher and rebounder, but his shot blocking is his best skill as he may already be one of the best shot blockers in the game. Point/Shooting guard Alonzo Trier went from an undrafted player, to a potential 6th man off the bench. If this year's class of Barrett and fellow draftee Ignas Brazdeikis can succeed, New York will be enjoying lots of long term depth in the future. Another player who was a lottery pick even though he wasn't drafted by the team, is Dennis Smith Jr., who came in the trade for Porzingis. His athleticism is the centerpiece of his game, but his passing will be essential for the production of Robinson and Julius Randle, who was one of their biggest free agent signings.
Speaking of Randle, why don't we go into the Knicks' free agency. Overall, they didn't reach their goal of getting a marquee free agent, but that doesn't mean it was all bad. They were able to get Randle who has fully recovered from breaking his right tibia in his rookie season, and last season averaged a career high 21 points, while playing a career high 30 minutes. With his production improving, there's a strong possibility that Randle will enjoy his best years in New York. Along with Randle, comes a group of big men in Marcus Morris Sr., Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis. They aren't the flashiest, but they're hard workers who are reliable players who can consistently put up double-doubles. They also signed Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock who bring three point shooting to the lineup. So there you go; a free agency that didn't go as planned, but one in which they brought in players who can excel on the court and at mentoring the younger players.
Many Knicks fans probably view this offseason as one of the most unsuccessful off seasons for any team in any sport. They have a right to think that, as they waited a long time for the draft lottery and free agency to happen, and they didn't get what they wanted. But that doesn't mean they didn't do any good things as well. They drafted a player in Barrett who has the ability to excel at being the no. 1 option in the future even if it may not be this year. Their free agency class featured a bunch of hard working players who will definitely help them win some games. This is really a team that can very much excel next season.
It's crazy to think that a franchise that's maybe one of basketball's most notable franchises, could still be arguably the most cursed franchise in all of sports. And yet the Knicks might've established themselves as that franchise after their major flop in free agency.
Before I even go into depth on why they're cursed, lets go over why they've historically been one of the best franchises in basketball.
New York has made the playoffs a solid 40 times in their 72 year history. That includes a number of deep playoff runs. Eight times they made it to the finals and 2 times, they won it all. They've had great coaches in Joe Lapchick, Red Holzman, and Pat Riley. Some of their Hall of Famers are Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bernard King, and many more. From 1967-1968 to 1973-1974, they had one of the greatest winning spans in N.B.A. history. With Holzman at the helm along with Reed, Frazier, DeBusschere, and Bill Bradley, they won 60 games and their first championship in 1969-1970 against the Los Angeles Lakers when Willis Reed famously limped onto the court in game 7 to inspire the Knicks to a 14 point victory with Frazier racking up 36 points and 19 assists. Two years later, they added two more future Hall of Famers in Jerry Lucas and Earl Monroe. It payed off as they beat the Lakers again in 1972-1973. The next years had some bright moments like Bernard King transforming the Knicks back into a playoff team in the early to mid 1980s with outrageous scoring performances, but they were overall inconsistent. That changed in 1985 when they drafted Patrick Ewing. He was not only a guarantee for points, rebounds, and blocks, but for being the reason why the Knicks made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons. None were more evident than in the mid 1990s in which behind his leadership under Riley, the Knicks were one of the most physical teams in the NBA. This earned them a Finals appearance in 1994. Five years later, the Knicks became the first 8th seed team to make the Finals even with Ewing tearing his ACL in the Conference Finals. About a full decade later, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire gave some long awaited playoff seasons from 2010-2013.
Those are all of the pros, so let's now go to the cons.
New York made the Finals 3 straight times in the early 1950s, but lost all of them. Two of them went to a game 7 and both were when Hall of Fame guard Carl Braun was in the military. Had he been available, they might've one at least one championship. They then began to decline and it showed until the late 1960s. For about the next decade there was happiness, but all good things must come to an end.
That's what happened at the end of the 1970s and early into the 1980s until King made them relevant for 2 years. Then 1984-1985 came. After nearly eliminating the eventual champion Boston Celtics the previous season, hopes were high for the upcoming season for King's Knicks. King lived up to the hype as he won the scoring title with 32 points a game, but the Knicks didn't. In March, they were barely in the playoff hype when they were playing the Kansas City Kings. King went up to block a shot in that game and with one snap of the knee, his season as well as next season, and the majority of 1986-1987, were done. He did show that he still had his scoring touch in the final 6 games that he played in his last season in a Knicks uniform, but it wasn't enough to save his time in New York. He was shipped off to the Washington Bullets where he regained his scoring touch. Yes, the Knicks' 14 year playoff streak started next season after King, but Ewing, who was there for the first 13 (he was a Seattle Supersonic in 2000-2001) never got to play with him. If they did, lots of championships would've come to the Garden.
The heartbreak that comes to the minds of Knicks fans takes place in the 1990s when they were at their best, in the Ewing era. In 1993, Ewing helped the Knicks win 60 games. In the playoffs, they breezed to the Conference Finals where they went up 2 games to none against Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The Bulls took the next 2 games which set up an important game 5 at the Garden. Down one in the final seconds, a falling Ewing gave the ball to Charles Smith who was blocked at the rim not one, not two, but three times. The Bulls took game 5 as well as the next game to reach the Finals. Next season brought even more optimism with Jordan entering his first retirement. The Knicks lived up to it, as they overthrew the Bulls in the semifinals which set up a matchup against the Indiana Pacers. They trailed 3 games to 2, but won game 6 in Indy, and then game 7 thanks to Ewing's put back dunk with under 30 seconds left. This put them in the Finals for the first time in 21 years where they faced the Houston Rockets. In what was a hype matchup between two future Hall of Fame centers in Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, the Knicks were able to take a 3-2 series lead. One game away from a long awaited championship. In the final seconds, they were down by 2 and all star guard John Starks had the ball. Starks, a fan favorite was hot in the game and used an Ewing screen to try and free himself up. But a pursuing Olajuwon was able to block Starks and the Knicks championship dreams as he outplayed Ewing in game 7 to win the championship. As devastated as the team was, they still won 55 games next season which set up a rematch with the Pacers. Only things were different this time. In game 1, Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds to overcome a 6 point deficit. The Knicks fell behind 3 games to 1, but clutch performances by Ewing in the next 2 games forced a game 7. The Knicks trailed big, but battled back and they had the ball with a chance to tie it. But Ewing missed a finger roll at the buzzer.
The buzzer not only eliminated the Knicks, but ended the tenure of hall of fame coach Pat Riley, who established himself as one of the best coaches in Knicks history despite not bring a title. He forced his way into Miami to coach the Heat, joining Jordan and Miller as New York's public enemies. He later said that he felt very sorry for it during his Hall of Fame speech, but at the time, it was a major punch in the gut for Knicks fans.
This didn't stop the team from competing however. They made the semifinals the next season and with a big offseason, they won 57 games in 1996-1997 which earned them a chance to stick it to Riley's Heat who had won 61 games. They were up 3 games to 1, but a fight in what was already going to be a game 5 lost, led to lots of suspensions for Knicks players. However, lots of key players who committed minor actions were also suspended. The Knicks lost the next 2 games which added to heartbreak. Even when they wrote one of the greatest underdog stories by becoming the first 8th seed team to make the Finals two years later, the ending was disappointing as they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in 5 games. After losing to the Pacers in the 2000 Conference Finals, they traded Ewing and even though they still made the playoffs the year without him, the next years were horrifying for fans.
At the center, was James Dolan who made terrible hires in guys like Isiah Thomas and Phil Jackson. Thomas made one bad move after another as a coach, GM, and person, giving tabloids a field day. After firing him, the Knicks slowly rebuild back into a playoff team thanks to the acquisitions of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. But as they then began to struggle, Dolan tried to right the ship with the hiring of Phil Jackson. Instead he made things worse as Jackson unsuccessfully tried to employ his famed, yet outdated triangle offense. He also made Anthony's final months with the team rough. Overall, Dolan just doesn't know the meaning of what an owner should do. That's because he is too sensitive about the criticism he received from others. It was bad to the point that he banned Charles Oakley from coming to the Garden for insults that he directed at Dolan, as well as a fan for telling him to sell the team, and threatened to sue the Daily News for negative reports on the team.
But this offseason was supposed to be different. They were going to draft Zion Williamson at #1 and sign free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Then the lottery happened. The Knicks got the 3rd pick, which they used to get R.J. Barrett who may be a more complete player than Zion actually. But they flopped in free agency. Of course Dolan made almost no effort to get Irving and Durant. Even worse, is that they went to the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets therefore making them the #1 team in New York. And the reason why, is Dolan. While Durant and Irving both have questionable personalities, Dolan's lack of effort as well as preparation, is just another example of his incompetence.
At this point, the Knicks do have a young core along with the free agent signing of Julius Randle who has been getting better every year since the knee injury he suffered in his rookie year. With R.J. and Randle likely being the leader amongst other promising players like Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and Kevin Knox, they can definitely compete for a playoff spot.
But then it's just a fact that instead of being a possible contender for a championship, they are now only a playoff contender. Overall, the Knicks took a big blow in free agency. The reasoning is simple, this organization hasn't been ran well for almost 2 decades. If they want to rebound next offseason, they must acknowledge that players will only come to them if they are a good team with promise. If they don't take that into account, they'll remain far away from a championship because as it stands, they are one of the most cursed franchises in sports.
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.