This season the Golden State Warriors were better than the year before.
They have won 35 games this season, it was 26 last season. Their offensive production remained identical — 108.1 points per 100 possessions both seasons — but their defense got a little better (110.7 points per 100 possessions this season compared to 111.7 last season). They also stopped playing at a reckless pace.
In looking at what the Warriors need to do take the next step — from this season’s finish to playoff contention, CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz says the responsibility falls to Stephen Curry to lead them there.
More important from a basketball standpoint, though, is Curry is the least finished product on the Warriors right now. That’s what I’m getting at. If the Warriors are going to take their next jump — from mid-30s to mid-40s in victories, Curry most likely is going to have the most to do with it.
The bottom line is he has the ability to do more improving than any other player on the roster, and it just so happens he plays a position where personal improvement dovetails perfectly with team improvement.
But in order for Curry to impact the team in the biggest possible way, he’s going to have to do two things: First, he’s got to get stronger and improve as much as he possible can; and, second, he’s got to become the leader of the team.
This season, it was Monta Ellis’ team. Ellis is one of the most dynamic and entertaining scorers in the league (24.3 PPG, eighth best in the NBA). The question is, can Ellis play with a stronger willed Curry who takes a more active leadership role?
You get the feeling that in a couple of years either Ellis or Curry will be playing somewhere else. Can Ellis and Curry be solid enough defensively as a backcourt to lead the Warriors to the postseason? But if they figure it out, that could be one dynamic combination.
LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.
Except maybe it was explicable.
Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio
I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.
When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.
Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.
I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.
LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.
If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.
The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.
Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.
But this is where their paths diverge.
University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.
University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.
Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.
At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.
But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.
Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.
After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.
Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.
Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.
In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.
North Carolina hasn’t had a one-and-done player in eight years.
Since Brandan Wright declared for the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, the Tar Heels have emphasized player development over multiple years. That practice has yielded two national titles, including this year’s, in that span.
It also limited freshman center Tony Bradley’s playing time this season, as he was stuck behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.
But Bradley shined enough in 15 minutes per game to follow Wright as one-and-done from Chapel Hill.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN:
Bradley is a borderline first-round pick, though this late decision when many expected him to return to school indicates he believes he’ll go in the first round. There’s certainly logic in turning pro before scouts pick apart his game over a larger sample.
Bradley is huge – 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan – but he’s not explosive. The hope is someone in the Rudy Gobert mold.
Whomever drafts Bradley will hope his elite offensive rebounding is a harbinger. But why is his defensive rebounding and rim protection so forgettable?
He moves and passes fairly well for his size, but considering he’s so big, those aren’t necessarily skills for him to hang his hat on. If a teammate sets him up, he uses his size to finish well at the rim.
Beyond his size and offensive rebounding, Bradley doesn’t set himself apart one way or the other. Whether that’s good or bad depends how deep in the draft it is.