NBA Sitrep – Nightmare for Timberwolves, Warriors strike back against Thunder and is Kawhi’s season over?

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Down, but not out.

As Jimmy Butler lay writhing in pain with his hands clasped around his knee, the Timberwolves season hung delicately in the balance.

With the possibility of a season-ending ACL injury looming, the diagnosis of a torn right meniscus was surprisingly good news.

Butler will undergo surgery and is expected to be available to return in the next four to six weeks, which sees him in a race against time to suit up for the Timberwolves first playoff appearance in 13 seasons.

Butler has been the stoic captain for the Timberwolves all season, guiding the budding stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins along Minnesota’s return to relevance.

Butler is averaging 22.2 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.9 steals per game, but his impact on the Timberwolves is far greater than his impressive stat line.

The Timberwolves currently sit fourth in the West with a 37-26 record, only one game behind the Spurs on the losses ledger.

Mystery surrounds Spurs and Kawhi.

What is going on with Kawhi Leonard?

We have seen the Spurs superstar for all of nine games this season, with a strained quad tendon hampering him for the entire campaign.

After attempting to make a brief return through December and January, Kawhi was shut down indefinitely by the Spurs and last week Popovich conceded the worst.

https://twitter.com/SportsQuotient/status/966453002373599233

There have been un-Spurs-like rumours about tension between Kawhi and the organisation, possibly misdiagnosis about the injury and the underlying truth that Leonard has actually been medically cleared to play.

Whatever the case, it seems unlikely that the Kawhi will take the court for the Spurs again this season, which is a massive blow for the playoff aspirations of Popovich and his men.

Warriors revenge on OKC.

The Warriors were blown off the court by the Thunder in their first two meetings of the season.

They lost the first contest back in November by 17-points and the second clash went from bad to worse as they were handed a 20-point loss by Westbrook and co.

The pair squared off for the third time on Sunday and the result was decidedly different.

After leading by just seven points at half-time, the Warriors buried the Thunder in a third-quarter scoring avalanche and ran out victors by 32-points.

Kevin Durant dropped 28 points on his former squad, while Curry chimed in with 21 of his own.

Westbrook and Paul George combined for 5-29 shooting, while the Thunder shot just 33% from the floor and 26% from beyond the arc.

The Warriors found their electric ball-movement once again.

And when Nick Young is doing this, you officially can’t beat the Warriors.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 7Photo credit: ESPN 

Riser

Houston, we do not have a problem! The Rocket are rolling, Harden is the front-runner for the MVP, Chris Paul is wearing rodeo outfits to games, and Houston has won 12 contests in a row and sit with the best record in the entire league. All is well in Texas.

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The Miami Heat are barely clinging to their playoff spot after winning just 2 of their last ten contests. Over their last ten, the Heat have lost to the Cavs by 2, Sixers by ironically 6, Pistons by 4, Magic by 2, Rockets by 8, Raptors by 3, Sixers by 2 and Pelicans by 1 in overtime. They need a go-to clutch scorer down the stretch, because that kind of record in close games usually doesn’t belong to a playoff-bound franchise.

Heat Check

LaMarcus Aldridge

vs. Nuggets – 38 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

vs. Cavaliers – 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block

After logging just 4 minutes and 0 points in the All-Star game last week, Aldridge was well and truly rested to begin the home-stretch of the regular season. He may not be the flashiest of players, but Aldridge deserves credit for the season he is piecing together. He has almost returned to his Portland form, averaging just under 23 points and 8 rebounds per game, becoming the staple of the Spurs offense with Kawhi on the bench.

Dejounte Murray certainly appreciates what Aldridge brings to the team.

Highlights

Bam Adebayo is making a habit of hurting rims feelings.

First Dame did this…

Then he reminded us what time it was.

Westbrook called game.

https://twitter.com/All_SportNews/status/966968508289515520

Steph called range.

https://twitter.com/JaeAzizi/status/966887503356547075

Whoopsie Watch

Has Blake lost his superpowers since leaving LA?

Kelly Oubre just went all school-yard petty on Rodney Hood

https://twitter.com/MusikFan4Life/status/966928210096046080

The Kelly Oubre appreciation show continues…

NBA Sitrep – The All-Star game is back! Donovan’s dunking delight and the red-hot Utah Jazz

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Defense in the All-Star game?

This was the final play of the 2018 All-Star game.

For the first time in recent memory, the All-Star game was decided by defense.

Curry was locked up by LeBron and then Durant, leading to a desperation shot from DeRozen that was released after the buzzer.

Team LeBron defeated Team Stephen 148-145, while LeBron secured his third All-Star MVP with a 29 point, 10 rebound and 8 assist master-class.

Let’s get this straight, there were still stretches of the game where defense was minimal and the offense consisted of open dunks and deep three balls.

But overall, the defense was much better, the players seemed to slightly care and the result was a genuinely entertaining game of pick-up basketball between the world’s best.

The game wasn’t short on highlights either.

This Embiid and Westbrook rivalry is the gift that keeps on giving.

He couldn’t finish the move, but this was just sick by Kyrie.

Next year televise the draft, don’t let Fergie sing the national anthem and just scrap the ridiculous pre-show snore fest.

But other than that, give us more of the same.

The All-Star game is officially back!

Donovan the Dunk King

The All-Star game may have returned to former glory, but the Dunk Contest left much to be desired.

Donovan Mitchell took out the Dunk Champ crown, which was judged by basketball legends such as Mark Wahlberg and Chris Rock.

The only thing stupider than that would be to get DJ Khaled to judge as well.

Oh wait, they did.

There were a few decent dunks here and there, but overall it was another forgettable Dunk Contest.

Dennis Smith Jr. had the best dunk of the night in my non-qualified opinion. So basically, I should be a judge as well.

Larry Nance Jr. tried to spice things up with this double-tap throw down.

Donovan’s final dunk, which according to our esteemed judges handed him the win.

Booker takes out Three-Point crown

Devin Booker took out the three-point contest, which gave the Dunk Contest a run for its money on the disappointment scale.

Booker finished with a record 28 points in the final, eclipsing the previous record of 27 held by the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.

The most interesting point of note from the event.

The LA rims don’t seem to love Paul George as much as he loves the city.

Spencer Dinwiddie took out the Skills Challenge, becoming the first Nets player to win something in a very long time.

Joel Embiid was knocked out before the final, but not before he bent every rule to stay alive in the competition.

https://twitter.com/barstoolsports/status/965035868154224641

Technically after three attempts at the chest pass, you are free to advance, regardless of a miss or make.

Embiid is the first contestant in the history of the Skills Challenge to actually read the rules.

He also forgot to take the tag off his shorts.

Earlier in the weekend, the World Team rolled to an easy 155-124 victory over Team USA.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was named the MVP of the game, dropping 26 points along with seven triples off the bench.

Sweet, sweet music for Jazz

Back to the real basketball, where the Jazz have rolled off eleven straight wins to race into playoff contention.

After entering January five games below .500, the Jazz have knocked over the likes of the Warriors, Raptors, Trailblazers and Spurs on the way to their current 30-28 record.

Donovan Mitchell has upped his already incredible level of play, Rudy Gobert has anchored the defense superbly and the Jazz’s role players have provided the perfect complement to Mitchell’s instant offense.

In the Jazz’s comeback win over the Spurs last week, it was the relatively unknown Royce O’Neale who shut down Kyle Anderson and then Manu Ginobili to seal the win.

Moments earlier, Derrick Favors had blocked Manu Ginobili and saved the ball to give the Jazz possession.

It’s plays and efforts like these which have pushed the Jazz back up the standings and only one and a half games out of the eighth seed.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 6

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Utah Jazz may own the league’s largest current win streak, but Houston is right behind them with their own ten game win streak. Led by CP3 and Harden, the Rockets have leapt above the Warriors and currently hold the number one seed in the West. They have also set themselves up for the second half of the season by signing free agents, Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright to their roster.

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The Nets have lost seven straight games, and are just one from their last ten contests. Only one game currently separates the Nets from the likes of the Magic, Hawks, Kings and Mavericks in the win column, which will have the Cavaliers front office excited about the prospect of a high lottery pick (The Cavs will receive the Nets first-round pick, which was acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal).

Heat Check

Anthony Davis

vs. Pistons – 38 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks

vs. Lakers – 42 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks, 3 steals

A huge week for the Brow, who led the Pelicans to their third straight win and helped them cling to their playoff spot in the eighth seed. If New Orleans is to hold off the Clippers and Jazz down the stretch, Davis will need to continue to stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

Highlights

The pass was nice and the finish was just nasty.

Westbrook wasn’t coasting into the All-Star break.

Back-to-back huge blocks by Jimmy Butler.

https://twitter.com/barstoolsports/status/964353142505771008

Eric Bledsoe finishing with authority.

Jabari Parker putting two Hawks on a poster.

Whoopsie Watch

Dwight Howard – 0 / Orlando Rim – 1

Okafor with the thirteen-second violation!

Steve Kerr is so bored that he is now letting the players do his job.

https://twitter.com/Devin_Walker5/status/963267527643148290

NBA Sitrep – Fresh faces for Cavs, the fall of Porzingis and every other non-Cleveland trade

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Cavs hit Control-Alt-Delete

The 2018 trade deadline was seemingly quiet, so Koby Altman dialed up the phone and decided to spice things up a little.

What followed was an avalanche of trades resulting in a complete roster rebuild in the middle of February.

Only six other teams in the last ten years have dealt away six players in the same month as the trading deadline.

Cleveland became number seven and has given LeBron the pieces for what could possibly be his last title run with the Cavs.

Clarkson, Nance, Hood and Hill all made their Cavs debut against Boston today and the immediate results were promising.

The Cavs trounced the Celtics 121-99, but more impressive was the enthusiasm and energy displayed throughout the game.

George Hill had 12 points, Nance provided a spark off the bench, Hood dropped 15 and Clarkson left LeBron in raptures on the bench with his entertaining 17-point outing.

LeBron sat for the entire fourth quarter for the first time since late November in a clash against Miami.

Yes, it was only one game. But for a franchise that was limping towards the All-Star break broken and bruised, it was a much-needed dose of hope.

The after-thought trades

The Cavaliers held a monopoly over trade deadline talks, but there were numerous other deals that slipped through the cracks before the Thursday deadline.

Elfrid Payton and his hair made their way to the Suns for a 2018 second-round pick. The former first-round pick made his Phoenix debut on Sunday and finished with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a loss to the Nuggets.

Emmanuel Mudiay joined Payton as another first-round point guard to find a new home before the trade deadline. Mudiay made his debut for his new club today, scoring 14 points and dishing out 10 assists for the Knicks.

https://twitter.com/theknicksblog/status/961679601238986755

Jameer Nelson joined the Pistons, who also secured James Ennis from the Grizzlies. Former Clippers Brice Johnson and Willie Reed both departed Detroit, Johnson to Memphis and Reed to the Bulls.

Dante Cunningham joined the Nets, Noah Vonleh was shipped to Chicago and Sheldon Mac joined the Hawks as we start scraping the bottom of the trade deadline barrel.

Isaiah Thomas impressed in his debut game for the Lakers, scoring 22 points, dropping six assists and four three-balls along the way.

Thomas’ former teammate, Dwayne Wade received a standing ovation from the Miami faithful as he returned to his former playground.

Who shot Bambi?

You could almost hear a pin drop inside Madison Square Garden as Porzingis lay in agony, slamming his fist into the hardwood.

https://twitter.com/TheRenderNBA/status/961048066622197761

An MRI confirmed the worst, Porzingis has torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

He was having a career year, averaging 22.7 points and an NBA-high 2.4 blocks per game for the Knicks faithful.

With their captain fallen, the Knicks slight playoff dreams seem crushed along with the hearts of their loyal fans.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 5

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Utah Jazz are flying up the standings behind a nine-game winning streak that has seen them knock off contender after contender. The Pistons, Raptors, Spurs, Pelicans and Trailblazers have all fallen to the Jazz, who also just happened to hand the Warriors a 30-point thumping. The Jazz have the second best defensive rating in the league over their nine-game winning streak and are using their defensive calling card to make a genuine late push for the playoffs.

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The New York Knicks are 0-2 without Porzingis and are have slumped into a six-game losing streak. Unfortunately, the Knicks are likely to struggle for the remainder of the season with Porzingis looking on from the sidelines. It’s time to hand the keys to Frank Ntilikina and attempt to unearth another young talent to play alongside Kristaps when he returns next season.

Heat Check

Paul George

vs. Warriors – 38 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 three-pointers made

vs. Lakers – 29 points, 9 rebounds, 5 three-pointers made

vs. Grizzlies – 33 points, 8 assist, 3 steals, 5 three-pointers made

Is Paul George the best two-way player in the NBA right now?

It’s a contentious question, but George’s recent stretch has seen him dominate teams on both ends of the floor with a ‘Kawhi’ like tenacity. Westbrook may be the OKC’s Batman, but George is the perfect Robin to challenge the Warriors in the playoffs. The Thunder have handled the Warriors comfortably in both their regular season matchups, which is largely due to George’s ability to guard every Warrior on the floor. The Thunder may still be having a roller-coaster season, but George has certainly found his groove after struggling early days.

Highlights

Dunk of the Year. Giannis is just absurd.

He actually just jumped clean over a 6-foot-6 Hardaway.

It’s been a big week for Zach LaVine, who not only led the Bulls to a win over his former team, but also did this to Jakarr Sampson.

Moments after blocking Jimmy Butlers game-winning attempt, LeBron showed him how it was done with this step-back dagger.

Now would be the time to look away Julius Randle.

Here comes the Bam!

Whoopsie Watch

Cedi Osman with the wide open …

Someone is getting the dreaded call to Mark Cubans office this week.

No chair is safe around an angry Robin Lopez.

NBA Sitrep – Blake to Detroit, injuries savage the East and a thriller in the Mile-High City

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Welcome to Detroit

Just months ago, the Clippers went all out to re-sign Blake Griffin as the face of their franchise.

Last week they shipped him and his $171 million dollar contract off to the Detroit Pistons and in doing so, signaled the end of Lob City.

Blake recorded a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds) in his first game with the Pistons, before dropping 16 points and 9 boards in his second game for the team.

The Pistons are 2-0 with Griffin in the line-up and have climbed to just half a game out of the playoff seeding in the East.

The Clippers are 1-1 since the departure of their superstar, with Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley both impressing in their debut game for LA (Harris had 24 points, Bradley tallied 8).

Nikola Mirotic was dealt to the Pelicans in a deal that saw Omer Asik (and his unattractive contract), Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson and a first-round pick join the Bulls.

Mirotic has been a spark-plug for the Bulls this season, averaging 16.8 points per contest and striking from beyond the arc at an impressive 43%. In his debut game, he put up 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Pelicans loss to Minnesota.

Team LeBron curse?

First DeMarcus Cousins and now Kevin Love and John Wall.

Team LeBron has been decimated by injuries, however the Pelicans, Cavs and Wizards have been left to deal with the real headaches.

Kevin Love suffered a fracture in his left hand that will see him miss six to eight weeks.

Love doesn’t require surgery, but will be racing the clock to return and re-integrate into the Cavs disheartened line-up before play-off action begins.

Fellow All-Star John Wall will also miss six to eight weeks after undergoing an arthroscopic cleanup of his left knee.

Wall banged knees with Dennis Smith Jnr in early November and has been bothered by the niggling injury ever since.

The Wizards are 4-0 since Wall’s surgery, which has put John and his teams ‘supposedly’ strained relationship back into the spotlight.

The Bucks will be without Malcolm Brogdon for six to eight weeks after he suffered a left quadricep tendon injury against the Timberwolves.

It’s been an up-and-down week for the Bucks, who saw Jabari Parker play his first game since February 2017, but then saw Giannis Antetokounmpo leave the court early after an ankle injury against the Nets today.

Giannis is expected to be available for selection in the Bucks next game.

Unleash the Beard

With Chris Paul and Eric Gordon on the sideline, James Harden had the spotlight all to himself as the Magic came to town.

60 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists later and the NBA had its first ever 60-point triple-double.

Throw in four steals and a block and you have one of the most complete single game performances of all time.

It was the most points ever scored by a Rocket, the most by any player in the NBA this season and the ninth-time Harden has topped the 50-point barrier in his career.

Game of the Year?

There have been plenty of classics this season, but the Nuggets vs Thunder clash deserves its place amongst the top echelon of 2017-18 contests.

The Nuggets threw the first swing, posting an incredible 40-point first quarter that led them to a commanding 72-57 half time lead.

Jamal Murray was on fire, dropping 33 points and Steven Adams with this vicious step-back three.

https://twitter.com/ComedyWorIdStar/status/960320827941154816

Nikola Jokic played the role of Robin to perfection, working seamlessly with Murray and tallied his third triple double of the season (29 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists).

Enter Paul George.

George took over the game, dropping 43 points on ridiculous 73% shooting, culminating in a nasty step-back three to tie the game with mere seconds remaining.

Then come the finale, and what a finish it was.

Harris called game, Jokic called Westbrook out for falling asleep on the final play and Russell retaliated by shoving an overly eager fan.

https://twitter.com/jtylerconway/status/959306032282349569

What a game.

Sliders/Risers

standings - week 4

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

No Wall, no worries.

The Wizards have knocked off the Hawks, Thunder, Raptors and Magic without their All-Star point guard and currently sit in the fourth seed in the East. Rumours of a rift between ‘Wall and Beal’ and ‘Wall and the entire Wizards team’ have been rife this season, which hasn’t been helped by the team’s success without their point guard. Despite Wall averaging 9.3 assists per game, the Wizards lead the league in assists since Wall’s absence began and the results speak for themselves.

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The Miami Heat were always going to hit adversity at some point. For a team led by consistent, all-around effort and devoid of superstars, this slump was just par for the course. After falling to the Cavaliers by two points, consecutive losses to the 76ers and Pistons have seen the Heat slump from the fourth seed to the seventh seed. They are 4-6 over their last ten and will likely need to fend off the Griffin led Pistons if they want to hold onto their playoff spot.

Heat Check

CJ McCollum

vs. Clippers – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals

vs. Bulls – 50 points, 5 rebounds, 6 three-pointers made

vs. Raptors – 21 points, 2 assists, 1 block

vs. Celtics – 22 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists

CJ McCollum had an average week, until you glance at his box score against the Chicago Bulls. He became the first player to reach 50 points in under 30 minutes since Klay Thompson scorched the Pacers for 60 in 29 minutes back in 2016. McCollum had 28 points in the first quarter, setting up his first career 50-point game and leading the Trailblazers to an easy win over Chicago.

Highlights

Mike Muscala, welcome to your Kodak moment.

Dwight making his second appearance for all the wrong reasons.

The Greek Freak added to his collection of game-winners with this dagger against the Knicks.

Al Horford called game with one of the rare highlights for Boston on Super Bowl Sunday.

As if he hasn’t made it obvious enough, Jaylen Brown is angry he isn’t an All-Star.

Whoopsie Watch

Nobody loves Lance more than Lance.

Except maybe for Nikola Jokic. This was Lance’esque.

This man is just living all our dreams.

 

Boban > Blake

Blake Griffin is gone.

After just coming to terms with losing Chris Paul, Clippers fans now have to face the harsh reality of life without Blake.

This means life without State Farm and Kia commercials, life without never ending injuries, life without first-round playoff exits, life without whinging like babies and life without Kendall Jenner.

It’s a cold, bleak future for the baby brother of LA.

Except, there is a beacon of hope in the distance.

The Clippers have acquired Tobias Harris, who is averaging an impressive 18.1 points this season, in addition to Avery Bradley, one of the leagues premier defensive guards.

Neither of them are the shining light the Clippers desperately need though.

Just when all hope seemed lost, Stan Van Gundy relented and handed the Clippers the keys to their future.

Introducing Boban Marjanovic.

Casual NBA fans may have never heard of his name, let alone witnessed his incredible abilities, but Boban is the future of the Clippers next championship roster.

He is the hero that the Clippers don’t deserve, but the one they so desperately need.

Here are ten reasons why Boban will become the first Clipper to have his jersey raised up amongst the rafters.

To share the honour with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Taylor Swift.

10. Boban is an actual giant

Boban stands at 7-foot-3 tall, with a standing reach of 9-foot-7! To put that into perspective, thats a higher standing reach than Yao Ming and Wilt Chamberlain.

This means that he can basically put the ball into the basket without even leaving his feet.

9. Boban has big feet, big ears and even bigger hands

Boban has size 19 shoes, which is dwarfed only by the size of his ears, which is once again dwarfed only by the size of his hands.

Honestly, look at them!

8. Boban is already ready for those Blake Kia commercials

boban

Someone give this man an Oscar already!

7. Boban can dance

No words, just no words.

6. Boban is the most efficient scorer in NBA history

No, I’m not making this up.

Screenshot 2018-01-31 11.27.22

No player in the history of the entire NBA has been able to match Boban in points per shot attempts.

Nobody.

5. Boban can break a rim.

Alright, so it’s not as dramatic as a Shaq ring break, but it still counts.

4. Boban can make grown men wet their pants.

3. Boban is a three-time MVP

Boban won three straight Serbian League MVP awards between 2013-15.

Has Blake won an MVP award. No, didn’t think so.

Boban > Blake.

2. Pain is no barrier to Boban

Jordan may have had his flu game, but it pales into insignificance when compared to Bobans heroics.

boban.0.0.jpg

Boban had a broken foot, but still played for the Red Stars in the 2015 Serbian Championship and led his team to its first title since the 1997-98 season.

1. Get you a man who can do both

Boban is a man of many talents.

He can put in the work and finish with strength.

Or he can dazzle you with his skills and craftiness.

The dawn of the Boban era has just begun.

Remember the name.

Bye, Bye Blake

It was looking bleak as the clock ticked towards the February 8 deadline, but the silence has been broken on the trade-deadline watch.

Blake Griffin has been traded to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjonovic, a 2018 first-round and 2019 second-round draft pick.

The Pistons 2018 first-round pick is protected, while the Clippers are including Brice Johnson and Willie Reed in the trade.

Griffin had spent his entire eight-year career in LA and just signed a five-year contract to stay with the Clippers as the face of the franchise.

Blake is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists through his 33 games this season.

Detroit will be hoping the pairing of Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson can push them into contention in an open Eastern Conference.

The ‘Big 3’ will have to wait though, as Reggie Jackson is still recovering from an ankle injury and isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.

The Pistons currently sit in the ninth seed in the East, largely behind an eight-game losing streak that has seen them plummet down the standings.

While the Clippers and Pistons both sit in the ninth seed in their respective conferences, the two teams have taken different approaches to their immediate and long-term future.

Despite currently sitting just one game behind the eight seeded Nuggets, the Clippers have clearly taken the rebuild option.

DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams have both been linked to possible trade rumours, which will surely now be thoroughly explored by the Clippers front office.

In the space of one season the Clippers have blown up their entire roster, with DeAndre Jordan the only remaining starter from last season’s starting line-up.

Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute are now both in Houston, J.J. Redick is casting up three balls for The Process and Blake Griffin will be hoping Kendell Jenner likes Detroit.

Not to mention that Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Mareese Speights, Brandon Bass, Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, Diamond Stone and Brice Johnson are no longer on the roster.

DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson are the only Clippers from last season’s roster remaining.

DeAndre will likely find himself at a new home in the coming weeks, while Rivers is currently doing his best work from the sideline in a moon boot.

With Chris Paul at the helm and Brake Griffin as his sidekick, the Clippers had won over 50 games in its previous five seasons.

Before those five seasons, they had never passed the 50-win count in their franchise history.

How quickly things change.

Stephen Curry – Addition through Subtraction

Steph Curry steadied into a rhythm dribble as a nervous hush fell over Chesapeake Arena. The clock ticked down on an overtime thriller between two of the NBA’s best, but Curry was about to add another chapter to the masterpiece. A mere handful of steps over the half-court line, Curry flung an incredible dagger into the Oklahoma sky as the ball ripped the nylon and Thunder hearts. Curry was left in sheer jubilation as commentators searched for the words to do justice to the incredible feat.

It was simply another highlight on the crazy ride that was Curry’s 2015/16 unanimous MVP campaign. In arguably the greatest shooting season of all time, Curry put up absurd percentages from all over the court. However, it was his long-range shooting ability that became his trademark.

Time and time again Curry would unleash a three-point barrage from uncharted territory on a basketball court. He stretched defenses to breaking point with his unmatched gravity and left entire stadiums in silence with his breathtaking shooting displays.

It’s almost two years since Curry’s signature game-winner against the Thunder and while Steph is still Steph, there is a noticeable difference to the now two-time MVP.

Familiarity has become Curry’s main nemesis.

The shock and awe of Curry’s exploits have become expected. He has set the bar so high that even incredible performances can pale into a shrugged shoulder and ‘yeah that’s Steph for you’ tagline.

After a slight drop in his numbers last year, largely due to the acclimatisation of Kevin Durant, Curry is producing another MVP caliber season.

Curry’s game and success is still predominantly based around his three-point wizardry. He leads the league in three-pointers made per game, while connecting on over 43% of his attempts. Since his return from the scary ankle injury that saw him sidelined for 11 games, Curry has connected on over 50% of his attempts from beyond the arc.

He is still the same lethal gun-slinger, but Curry has added a new weapon to his arsenal. Or to be more specific, he has added another layer to his game, by taking away one of his trademark moves.

Curry spent most of his unanimous MVP season re-writing the definition of bad shot selection. The lasers that Curry would fire from unguardable distances were terrible shots for every other player in the NBA.

On attempts from 30 feet and beyond, Curry shot 21-of-45 or just under 47%. That same season (2015-16) the rest of the league combined to make just 13% of those shots, even after you subtract the desperation heaves from outside of 35 feet. Nobody else in the league made more than three shots from 30 feet or beyond that season.

Not only was he lethal when he was set from beyond the arc, but Curry made over 50% of his pull-up triples in transition. He connected on 39-of-73 of the head-scratching threes that generally put the final touches on a devastating Warriors run.

Enter Stephen Curry – 2.0.

After a humbling campaign from beyond 30 feet last season, shooting just 13 of 54 (24%) on such attempts, Curry has almost entirely cut out the long-range bomb from his seemingly endless shot wheelhouse.

This season he is on pace to finish with roughly a third as many attempts from 30 feet or beyond than in his unanimous MVP campaign. More than twenty players sit above Curry when it comes to 30 plus footers attempted, in fact, Curry made more of the outrageous shots in three separate games in 2015/16 than in the entire season so far.

The steady diet of pull-up threes has also waned off, as Curry is on pace to take just 30 triples on the fast-break, compared to 73 two seasons ago.

The result of this shot selection shift has been profound. Curry has managed to use the unparalleled magnetism he still possesses to create opportunities in the mid-range and around the basket.

Put simply, Curry has become less breathtaking, but more efficient.

Curry leads the league in true shooting percentage (67.2%), which is ridiculous for a point-guard who takes over ten threes per game.

He is having a career year from inside the arc, tied with Karl Anthony Towns in seventh spot for two-point percentage in the league. The six players above him combine for an average height of 6-foot-10, while Curry is challenging the leagues tall-timber at 6-foot-3.

Curry is shooting 91% from the line and is getting to the charity stripe at a career-high rate. Prior to this season, Curry was averaging one free-throw for every 4.3 shot attempts. This season that number has nose-dived to one free-throw for every 2.6 shot attempts.

All of this and Curry is shooting 49% from the field (second highest mark of career), averaging 6.5 assists, grabbing 1.7 steals per contest and is putting up 28.1 points per game as he leads the Warriors to the best record in the NBA.

Curry is still legitimately in the MVP discussion, which considering he has missed 14 games this season through injury, highlights the magnitude of the campaign he is piecing together.

Curry is still the same dynamic scorer who can break a team’s back with a pull-up triple from the locker-room.

But he has refined his game and maximised his output through the threat of his shooting prowess.

Curry has used his unanimous MVP season to evolve into the player he is now.

In a scary proposition for the league, this may be the best version of Curry we have ever witnessed.

The version that is just as deadly from 10 feet as from 30. The one who might not dominate the highlight reel on a nightly basis, but is steering his team towards a fourth straight Finals appearance.

Less breathtaking, but more complete.

Addition through subtraction.

NBA Sitrep – Rockets swing-and-miss vs LA, knock over Warriors instead as Curry & LeBron lead All-Star teams

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Seven-game series anyone?

The best of the West squared off yesterday in their last regular season clash, in what loomed as a preview of the Western Conference Final.

The game didn’t disappoint as the Rockets showed the league that they can hang with the defending Champions.

Harden found his groove in his second game back from a hamstring injury, dropping 22 points on the Warriors and leaving Curry with Kyrie Irving flashbacks with this step-back dagger to ice the game.

Harden then played defense. No, not a typo. He blocked Curry’s last-gasp three ball attempt and the Rockets sunk the Warriors 116-108.

Chris Paul was up to his usual antics, connecting from downtown six times for his 33 points, 7 dimes, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Bring on a seven-game series between these two.

Only in LA

Welcome to Hollywood’s newest Soap Opera – NBA edition.

The script started innocently enough. The Clippers played a heart-felt video tribute to their former captain, Chris Paul, before he received a standing ovation from the Staples Centre crowd.

Then it got interesting.

What followed was must-watch reality television.

First, Blake tried to take Gordons head off.

Then Mike D’Antoni got a little grumpy after Blake ‘accidently’ knocked into him.

And Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverly were their usual annoying selves.

The end result of all this drama. Griffin and Ariza were ejected and the Clippers upset the Rockets 113-102.

Oh, and after the game Chris Paul led James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green down a secret passageway that joins the teams dressing rooms to confront Austin Rivers.

Clint Capela tried to storm the Clippers locker room from the front entrance, but he had the door slammed on him by a Clippers staff member.

Ariza and Green were both suspended for two games and the Rockets – Clippers rivalry was officially born.

Just another day in LA.

Best of the Best

Steph Curry and LeBron James have been named as the 2018 All-Star captains, finishing atop the vote in their respective conferences.

Curry led the West starting line-up consisting of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

LeBron was joined by former teammate Kyrie Irving, as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar Derozen and first-timer Joel Embiid.

Curry and LeBron will now select their starting line-ups from the pool of both conferences in traditional school-yard style. They will also get to select from a number of All-Star reserves, which will be announced by the coaches in the coming days.

The quirkiest surprise of this year’s voting belongs to Manu Ginobili, who somehow managed to poll more votes than Harden and Westbrook in the fan-vote.

The ageless Spur didn’t fare so well in the media and player votes, rightly handing over his starting spot to MVP candidate James Harden.

Injury curse strikes again

The clock is ticking on Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs season as their superstar faces a race against time to be healthy for playoffs.

Leonard’s lingering quad injury has sidelined him for all but nine games this campaign, with a worrying pattern of injury riddled seasons threatening to mar his career.

The Spurs have managed to hold onto the fourth seed (30-18 record) without Leonard, but face little hope of contending without him come playoffs.

Sliders and Risers

standings - 2

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

After falling out of the playoff seeding in December, the Philadelphia 76ers have leapfrogged back into the seventh seed on the back of a host of impressive victories. ‘The Process’ is currently sitting on a three-game win streak, having won eight of their last ten contests. Since the New Year the 76ers have knocked over the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, Pistons and Spurs. If they can hang onto a playoff seed they will feature in post-season action for the first time since 2012.

Slider

In correlation with the 76ers rise, the Detroit Pistons have slid down the standings and currently sit just outside of the playoff race. They have dropped eight of their last ten contests and are currently holding the second longest losing streak in the league (five games, bested only by the Kings with seven).  It has been a dramatic fall for the Pistons, who started the season with a 14-6 record and held a top four seed for much of November.

Heat Check

Damian Lillard

vs. Phoenix Suns – 31 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

vs. Indiana Pacers – 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds

vs. Dallas Mavericks – 31 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 7 three-pointers

It has been the Lillard show for Portland over the last week as their superstar has led them on a three-game win-streak that sees the Trailblazers sitting in the sixth seed in the West.

Highlights

Spencer Dinwiddie laid the nail into the Pistons coffin with this tough finish.

Wiggins you are cleared for takeoff. Jakob Poetel what are you doing?

Wade up top to LeBron. Just like the good old days.

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/954832217716510721

LeBron returns the favour to his former Miami teammate. Behind-the-back and through-the-legs if you don’t mind.

Speaking of assists, is there anything the Greek Freak can’t do!

Whoopsie Watch

CP3 with an Oscar winning performance.

Rodney Hood vs Phone. Fairly predictable ending.

‘The Process’ in action.

Class of 2017 Stand Up

The class of 2017 doesn’t exactly bolt out of the gates.

We saw the number one pick for all of four games before a mysterious shoulder injury, that apparently isn’t a shoulder injury but rather a scapular muscle imbalance, which according to his coach was caused by his trainer’s decision to tweak the shot, which according to his trainer is not true. As if it wasn’t mysterious enough, Fultz’s agent claimed that he had “fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder” and then weeks later changed his story completely and said, “fluid was put into his shoulder – not taken out.”

The result of this backstory worthy of an ESPN 30 for 30 is alarming to say the least.

https://twitter.com/TheRenderNBA/status/922658154999140352

Insert the painful reminder that The Process has now drafted Michael Carter Williams (#11 overall), Evan Turner (#2 overall), Nerlens Noel (#6 overall after trade with Pelicans), Jahlil Okafor (#3 overall) and now Markelle Fultz.

As for when we will see Fultz on the court again, 76ers coach Brett Brown didn’t sound overly optimistic.

The number two pick entered the NBA with more fanfare than even Lakers fans are accustomed too. And unlike Fultz he didn’t need a scapular muscle imbalance to ruin his shot, Lonzo managed that all by himself.

With the top two picks in a heated battle for ‘who can terrify their coaching staff and fan base more’, we are left with the rest of the rookie class to fall back on.

And at the midway point of the season, it’s fair to say that there passing with flying colours.

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Donovan Mitchell
Utah Jazz

18.9 points per game, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals, 44% FG, 35% from 3

Donovan Mitchell is the dux of the class of 2017.

He leads all rookies in scoring, leads the Jazz in scoring and has showcased footwork, nous and a repertoire of moves that are simply uncanny for a 21-year old rookie. Mitchell has taken it upon himself to fill the void left by Gordon Hayward and is commanding possession of the ball and the Jazz offense. Mitchell has the 20th highest usage rate in the entire league, and is hoisting up 16 shots a game, which is uncharted territory for a rookie.

But stats and numbers can become boring and monotonous in today’s game, so here are five reasons why Donovan Mitchell is the steal of the draft at pick 13.

Exhibit A – Donovan Mitchell likes embarrassing people.

Exhibit B – Donovan Mitchell has handles.

Exhibit C – Donovan Mitchell has already scored forty points in a single game.

It took Westbrook and Harden three seasons to post their first 40-point performance.

Exhibit D – Donovan Mitchell can fly.

Exhibit E – Don’t box out Donovan Mitchell at your own peril.


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Jayson Tatum
Boston Celtics

13.9 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, 1 steal, 50% FG, 46% from 3

Jayson Tatum is an enigma when it comes to conventional stand out rookie seasons. He has put together a superb Rookie of the Year resume, all while playing on the Eastern Conference’s top seeded team. Usually rookies on contending teams, such as the Celtics, are devoid of opportunity and are generally unearthed in the leaner years to come.

Not Tatum though. He has exploded onto the scene, cementing himself as an integral piece to the Celtics championship push. Tatum is an incredible defender for his age, with his size and wingspan allowing him to compete with the NBA’s elite wing players. Add to that his shooting percentages, which are simply off the charts, and you have one of the most complete rookies to enter the league in a long time.

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Kyle Kuzma
Los Angeles Lakers

16.8 points per game, 6.4 rebounds, 46% FG, 37% from 3

Kyle Kuzma, wrongly or rightly, entered the NBA as an afterthought to many within the league. Taken with the 27th pick by Brooklyn, he found himself in LA as part of the D’Angelo Russell fiasco, the deal sweetener thrown into the trade to make the bookkeeper happy.

At the halfway point of his rookie campaign, Kuzma is no longer an afterthought, in fact he has taken centre stage in the Lakers rebuild. While the Ball family may still hold a monopoly on the LA spotlight, Kuzma is letting his game do the talking. With his 6-foot-9 frame and athleticism to match, he can score from anywhere on the court, nearly anytime he wants.

While he is carrying the Lakers scoring load (leading scorer on LA’s roster), Kuzma needs to develop his defensive game if he wants to fulfill his All-Star potential. He ranks in the bottom 30 players in the league for defensive real plus/minus stats, which in plain English means he is not a very good defender. He has the length and physical ability to have an impact on the other side of the court, so this is simply an area of his game he will need to develop.

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Lauri Markkanen
Chicago Bulls

15.5 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, 43% FG, 37% from 3

Lauri Markkanen is part of the new wave of NBA seven-foot unicorns. No longer does the big man sit in the paint and attack the rim all game, now they display handles the envy of many a guard and knock down threes from Steph Curry range.

Markkanen is averaging 2.5 made threes per contest. No rookie in the history of the NBA has made that many threes per game, regardless of their position or size. Markkanen just cracked the 100 mark for his career three-point tally in just 41 games. Again, nobody in the history of the league has even come close to that mark.

Let’s compare two players and their rookie seasons to put Markkanen into perspective.

Player A – 14.3 PPG, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 made 3’s per game, 42% FG, 33% from 3

Player B – 15.5 PPG, 7.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.5 made 3’s per game, 43% FG, 37% from 3

Player B is Markkanen and Player A is Kristaps Porzingis. Enough said.

Enes Kanter also learnt the hard way that Markkanen can do more than just shoot.

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Dennis Smith Jr.
Dallas Mavericks

14.3 points per game, 4.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 39% FG, 33% from 3

Dennis Smith Jr has played in 36 games so far this season, and has been a starter in all 36 of them. While this says a lot about the Mavericks current struggles, it also highlights the level of talent within Smith. While the shooting numbers leave room for improvement, Smith has been handed the keys of an NBA offense as a rookie and should be expected to struggle with efficiency early on.

What Smith hasn’t struggled with is dunking. The one-man highlight reel is constantly looking to add to his already impressive poster collection.

Smart move Durant, very smart move.

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John Collins
Atlanta Hawks

10.7 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 58% FG

Hidden away on the barren wasteland that in the Atlanta Hawks 2017-18 season, Collins often isn’t featured in the Rookie of the Year conversation. While he may not possess the scoring capabilities of other rookies, Collins has developed into a rim-rolling nightmare who can shoot the mid-range and lock down on the defensive end. Through his first 37 games he has also shown a knack for offensive rebounding, pulling down 2.8 offensive boards per contest (11th best in NBA).

Did I mention that he likes to dunk?

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Lonzo Ball
Los Angeles Lakers

10.2 points per game, 7.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 35% FG, 30% from 3, 48% FT

Lonzo Ball has more All-Star votes than Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and Bradley Beal. If you need more convincing the All-Star voting is just a popularity contest, look no further. Also, don’t look at Lonzo’s shooting percentages. Just don’t.

In all seriousness, Lonzo came into the league with completely unrealistic expectations. Through no fault of his own he was put on a pedestal that he simply isn’t ready for yet, which is why there has been such heated debate about his performances.

In defense of Lonzo, he is actually piecing together a decent season. He is top 10 in rebounds, steals, assists and blocks amongst point guards in the NBA. The Lakers are 0-7 when he doesn’t play and the ugly shooting percentages are slowly creeping back up to respectable.

Lonzo is not the immediate savior the Lakers thought they were getting, but he still has the potential to be an elite player in years to come.

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Honourable mentions

Jordan Bell – 5.2 PPG, 4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 66% FG

De’Aaron Fox – 10.3 PPG, 4.3 assists, 1 steal, 40% FG, 30% from 3

Josh Jackson – 9.7 PPG, 1.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 39% FG

OG Anunoby – 6.4 PPG, 2.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 46% FG, 37% from 3

I have not included Simmons in the class of 2017 as although he is a rookie this year, he is still technically part of the class of 2016.

NBA Sitrep – Cavs slumping, KD passes 20,000 plateau and the NBA hits London

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

The Cavs lost all three games last week in ugly fashion, while they have now lost seven of their last ten.

It was the first time in LeBron’s career that his team has lost by 25 or more points in back-to-back games as the Timberwolves (127-99) and Raptors (133-99) piled on the pain for Ty Lue and his men. Safe to say that LeBron wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s effort.

LeBron then missed a game-tying layup, and stepped out of bounds, as the Cavs fell to the Pacers 95-97.

The Cavs will look to halt their skid against the Warriors tomorrow in the Finals rematch.

Kevin Durant became just the second youngest player (behind LeBron) to break the 20,000-career points barrier.

With Curry out injured (ankle) and Thompson resting, Durant took just one half to tally the 25 points required to reach the milestone against the Clippers.

However, KD’s night was spoiled as the Clippers beat the Warriors for the first time since 2014 behind Lou Williams 50-point outburst.

The Bulls and Knicks played out an expected Double Overtime thriller at Madison Square Garden, with Lauri Markkanen dropping 33 points and Porzingis countering with 24 and a huge dunk to send the game into double OT.

The Bulls eventually walked away with a 122-119 win in the arguably the unlikeliest classic of the season so far.

The Celtics overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the 76ers in the eighth NBA game played in England.

Led by Kyrie Irving (20 points) & Jaylen Brown (21 points), the Celtics romped home to stun the 76ers 114-103 and notch their seventh straight win.

J.J Redick was the leading scorer for the 76ers, while Embiid shot just 6-17 from the field. Simmons major highlight was his hip and shoulder on Marcus Morris.

Sliders and Risers

standings

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Lakers have won four games in a row. I repeat, four games in a row! They have now crept up to 12th in the West and the lid is officially off. According to most Lakers fans a late playoff push is still on the cards, Lonzo Ball is charging up the Rookie of the Year ladder and LeBron spent another weekend checking out schools in LA.

To bring reality back into the situation, three of the four wins did come against the Hawks, Kings and Mavericks.

Slider

The New York Knicks faint playoff hopes are fading away after losing their last three games and eight of their last ten. This week they lost to the Bulls in double OT, to Minnesota by 10 points and to New Orleans by 5.

Heat Check

Anthony Davis

vs. Detroit – 30 points, 10 boards, 1 block

vs. Portland – 36 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks

vs. Knicks – 48 points, 17 boards, 3 blocks

The numbers speak for themselves. Even while he missed the game vs Memphis with an ankle sprain, his three performances were incredible even by his lofty standards.

Honorable mention: Lou Williams – averaged 35 points over his four games last week. Read more about his case for an All-Star appearance here.

Highlights

There were a plethora of clutch shots and game winners across the league last week.

Richardson put the Heat on the high-side against the Jazz in one of their seven wins on the trot.

CJ Williams (Who?) sunk the game winning three against the Hawks. Pretty much sums up the entire season for Atlanta.

One week, two game winners for the resurging Heat who currently sit in the 4th seed in the East.

Please put Larry Nance in the dunk contest.

LeBron said no siree to Tyus Jones.

But Tyus Jones took no chances the second time around. It was just the second dunk of his career. Fair to say its probably his favourite.

The battle of the seven-foot freaks didn’t end well for Giannis.

Whoopsie Watch

Durant may have cracked the 20,000 career points mark last week, but these weren’t two of them.

Caris LeVert with the laser pass to the third row.

At this point, I no longer have the words to describe Lance Stephenson.