A handful of things we know about this NBA season. The Lakers will be good. The Celtics will lose three straight and some columnist in Boston will write them off seemingly forgetting last season. Cleveland will struggle.
But it is the surprises that make the season fun. The unexpected. Like the guys who surprise the public and have a breakout year.
Sporting News’ Sean Deveny talked to an NBA scout about who was poised for a breakout season and got five names:
Jrue Holiday of the Sixers, Darren Collison of the Pacers, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves, DJ Augustin of the Bobcats, and JJ Hickson of the Cavaliers.
Some of those seem a great fit. We here at PBT are fully on board with the Love train — run the dang triangle this season like you said you would Rambis. Then get Love the ball in the high post and watch the offense sing. Let the man play.
Collison we think is a great fit in Indiana, he is perfect for an up-tempo offense. The scout has concerns because the Indiana offense is a bit unorthodox, but we see a very good fit for a young player. Jrue Holiday gets Evan Turner as his backcourt mate and should take the next steps. JJ Hickson deserved a lot more touches last season, this season he’ll get them and look good doing it.
DJ Augustin? That is a little tougher to see. He has ball-handling skills and can knock down the long ball, for sure. But Larry Brown can be hard on point guards and especially ones that break out of the offense to over-penetrate. He drives but lacks the patience of a Steve Nash to see what is developing, he’ll even leave his feet having not committed to the shot or the pass. The offense lacked flow with him, and Brown let him hear it, not helping Augustin’s confidence.
Maybe I’m wrong, because Augustin can score and he could start really using that skill. But he’s not a PG we see with a breakout season — his numbers will go up because his minutes go up, but is he the guy who can really lead the Bobcats back to the playoffs? Not sold on that here.
Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.
This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.
The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.
Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.
Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.
Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”
You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.
Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.
The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.
And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:
Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.
That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.
Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.
ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.
After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:
- Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
- Westbrook: “Nah.”
- Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
- Westbrook: “What exchange?”
- Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
- Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”
This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.
That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.
I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.