The Atlanta Hawks managed to bother Derrick Rose in the first two games of this series by using their bigs to clog the middle of the floor on Chicago’s screen-and-rolls, but Rose seemed to have an epiphany of sorts in Game 3; rather than play conservatively in an attempt to exploit the Atlanta defense with a perfect pass to the open man through the stilted defense, Rose attacked that floating coverage and forced the Hawks to convert deterrence into actual defense. It didn’t quite add up for the Hawks, and the lightning-fast Rose kept his head up and his dribble alive in order to shift all the pressure on Atlanta’s passive defensive front. Once he established a rhythm on floaters, the rest of Rose’s game came easily; 44 points from the MVP later, the Bulls walked off the court with an easy 99-82 win, and a 2-1 series advantage.
The Bulls didn’t shoot extremely well from the field overall (46.8 percent from the field) considering their level of offensive success (Chicago scored at a rate of 125.3 points per 100 possessions), but Rose’s incredible efficiency, the team’s accuracy from three-point range, and another strong offensive rebounding performance provided the Bulls with all they needed to thump the Hawks. Atlanta isn’t quite reeling, but they’re going to have to revive their inexplicable rebounding prowess from Game 1, or tweak their strategy to keep Rose under wraps, or do something drastic to shift the balance of this series. As the better team, Chicago had the opportunity to stay the course; their defense was going to come around, as was Rose. But after two losses, Atlanta has lost merely by being who they are.
We know the characters and sadly, the plot of this series, barring a rewrite. The Bulls are a team defined by their diligence, and the Hawks a team defined by their vices. Rose will go to work against the Hawks defense, Joakim Noah will scrap his way to every offensive board in sight. Chicago’s defense will grind and grind and grind, and the Hawks’ offense will settle and settle and settle. Josh Smith will keep taking long jumpers to a chorus of boos from his home fans. Joe Johnson will stop the ball. Atlanta will work away from everything that works, and even when they get a productive night from Jeff Teague or a more balanced scoring effort than they’re accustomed, a team in Atlanta’s position is forever left wanting more. They’re not without hope, but as an outmatched team facing an elite club with a truly amazing player (the best in the league, according to MVP voters), they’re also without a foundation for victory should all things remain constant.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get all the headlines as the big Clippers’ big free agents, but there is another Clipper going to get paid this summer:
One of the best snipers in the NBA, he shot 42.9 percent from three last year. However, he’s become much more than just a shooter. No player works harder off the ball to get open than Redick, he’s got enough game to put the ball on the floor and create if he gets closed out on, and he’s a solid team defender. He has remade his body and his game since his days at Duke, and now he’s going to get paid.
Maybe by Brooklyn or Philadephia, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.
Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to expect the Sixers and Nets to make a hard push at Redick. Were he to go to either of those teams, Redick could receive an opportunity unlike anything he’s had before. He is one of the greatest 3-point shooters in league history, and is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high six 3-point attempts per game. That’s a lot of triples, but it’s not enough. Even Sixers swingman Robert Covington averaged more last season, at 6.1 per game, and he shot only 33.3 percent. A gunslinger of Redick’s caliber should be averaging about 8.5 treys, in the same range as Klay Thompson or Eric Gordon. Had Redick taken 8.5 3s last season and posted the same 42.9 percent clip, he would’ve averaged 18.2 points per game. Redick could receive those chances with the Sixers or Nets, all while living within close proximity to his home in Brooklyn.
Redick will have options, the question is what does he want? Does he want to be close to home in Brooklyn? Does he want to both help on the court and mentor off it the up-and-coming Sixers? Would he take a little less money, and a couple fewer shots, to chase a ring? Does he want to stay a Clipper?
Redick has earned the right to have options, his skill set could help any team. He may be flying under fans’ radar, but not front office executives. They see Redick’s value. Which is why he will have options come July 1.
Denver likes its young core. As it should. Nikola Jokic looks like a franchise cornerstone piece at center. Young guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are clearly part of the future. Emmanuel Mudiay and Juan Hernangomez may be as well.
What Denver needs most is an upgrade at the four — someone who can defend, rebound, and space the floor. It’s a top off-season priority (and why they came up as a third team in the Kevin Love/Paul George trade talks, but that appears dead now).
Instead, expect the Nuggets to be aggressive on the free agent market. Via Marc Stein and Chris Haynes at ESPN.
Denver, according to sources, hopes to crash the list of suitors for Los Angeles Clippers unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and Atlanta Hawks unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap.
Denver’s interest in Millsap is no secret and they will likely come in with a big offer, and it’s known he’s likely to leave Atlanta this summer. He’d be the perfect fit with his ability to defend other fours (he almost made the NBA All-Defensive Team), he is strong on the glass, and he shot 31.3 percent from three last season (you have to respect him out there). Griffin is more athletic and a better passer than Millsap, but he’s not the same level of defender, and he comes with more injury concerns. He also could stay with the Clippers.
Denver has positioned itself to be a player, a team going after one more big star to position itself not just in the playoffs in the West but as a team fast on the rise. Whether the Nuggets can out-recruit teams for elite players, remains to be seen. Millsap, Griffin and players of that level have options and a lot of teams chasing them.
However, Denver is one confident organization right now.
Isaiah Thomas is deservedly an All-NBA player and likely finished fifth in MVP balloting after a monster season. Damian Lillard is an All-Star level player who averaged 27 points a game for Portland last season.
Neither of them are good defenders. At all.
Both got one NBA All-Defensive second team vote.
There are no great defensive metrics, but the best snapshot one out there is ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, which weighs a lot of factors into how a player and team defends. Thomas finished 86th out of 86 potential point guards, and second to last in the entire NBA (to answer your question, Doug McDermott was worse). Lillard finished 65th among point guards, in the range of Brandon Jennings and J.J. Barea. One stat certainly should not be a deciding factor for voters, but Twitter was rightfully confused how either of them got an All-Defense vote.
Isaiah Thomas chimed in, but he wasn’t defending himself.
On Tuesday the NBA will release a full breakdown of which media members voted and who they voted for on all the awards. (For the record, I had a vote, and I didn’t vote for either of them here). The NBA’s voting system can be a challenge because it’s pulldown menus with a lot of players, it could just be an error, but you can bet Twitter will be ready to ask.
Hype is high in Philadelphia.
They have two NBA All-Rookie players on the roster already — Joel Embiid and Dario Saric — and next year they add to the roster the last two No. 1 picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. If I were a Sixers’ fan, I’d be Rocky climbing the stairs pumped — this team has real potential. So much so there’s already a nickname.
Kevin Durant and the Warriors were out taking batting practice at the A’s Stadium — that’s what you get to do when you’re NBA champs — and KD thought the Sixers may want to slow their roll and actually play a game together first.
Personally, I like the nickname. Now, will all four of them be on the Sixers in three years? Odds are at least one is gone, this is a cruel business. This was jumping the gun, but so what? Sixers fans deserve to be able to crow about something after the past couple of years.