Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching… actually you should have been watching the NBA all day. There were great performances — such as Anthony Davis with 27 points and 10 rebounds, or Dwight Howard with 24 points and 12 boards — that don’t even make the cut here. The Association was the best entertainment going on Martin Luther King day.
Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets. Houston GM Daryl Morey said he thought the Rockets had the first two pieces of a title contender in James Harden and Dwight Howard, but they still needed piece No. 3. The next game, Parsons comes out drops 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting and had 10 rebounds and seven assists … message being sent? Parsons had 10 points in the first quarter when Houston went on a 21-6 run to take a lead they never gave up, and he was there with big shots to help stop Portland runs all night. Whether or not he’s this team’s No. 3, he is big for them.
Miami Heat defense. You can say it is because they are tired, or because they are bored, or it’s because of injuries — the bottom line is Miami is playing terrible defense of late. They allowed the Hawks to shoot 51.9 percent on Monday and score 122.4 points per 100 possessions. In their last 10 games the Heat are allowing 107.6 points per 100, 5.2 higher than their season average and 23rd in the NBA in that stretch. Miami’s defense is different than most, rather than having a shot-blocking center in the paint to erase mistakes; they play a pressure defense that counts on energy and athleticism. Take your foot off the gas with that kind of defense and you get exposed. The Heat’s lack of energy shows on defense, and it shows on the scoreboard.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers. MCW looked like the stud from the first month of the season Monday — 31 points on 22 shots, plus he had 5 assists. What seemed different was the frequency and determinations of his drives to the basket, he was aggressive and attacking again. Not that it was enough, the Sixers still lost to the Wizards. Still, good to see this Carter-Williams again.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. He put up monster numbers that need to be mentioned here — 27 points and 20 rebounds. He wasn’t efficient (11-of-26 shooting) and he was part of some spotty Portland defense on the day (they gave up 126 points to the Rockets) still you have to give Aldridge credit for his numbers. He made some fantasy owners happy.
D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls. Augustin — who was let go by the Pacers last season and waived by the Raptors this season — has played the best basketball of his career in the 19 games since joining the Bulls, and he was key in this one. Augustin had 11 points in the fourth quarter, then five in overtime to help give the Bulls a win over the Lakers (a win that pulls Chicago up to .500. Augustin finished the game with 27 points. Not bad for a cast off.
Duke guard Frank Jackson declared for the 2017 NBA draft with an outside shot of going in the first round and a likelihood of getting picked in the second-round.
This won’t help his stock.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Duke’s Frank Jackson, a well-regarded point guard in the 2017 NBA draft class, underwent right foot surgery and is expected to be fully recovered sometime in July.
When Jackson recovers will determine whether he plays in summer league, and that can affect transition to the pros as a rookie.
The bigger questions: Will this hinder his athleticism long-term? Does this put him at greater injury risk?
Jackson, a 6-foot-4 scoring guard, relies on a strong first step to attack the basket and high elevation on his jumper.
If there’s consensus on the top prospects in the 2017 NBA draft, it’s:
1. Markelle Fultz
2. Lonzo Ball
3. Josh Jackson
That squares nicely with the Celtics picking Fultz No. 1 and the Lakers taking Ball No. 2.
But what about the 76ers, who pick No. 3? They already have a playmaking forward with a shaky jumper in Ben Simmons. Jackson isn’t the cleanest fit. Even if they plan to deploy Simmons at point guard, they could still use a traditional point guard for support/insurance.
Enter De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
The 76ers could also get a workout with Ball. There will be point guard options.
I’m just unsure any of them, assuming Ball is off the board, trump Jackson.
Philadelphia’s starting small forward is Robert Covington – a nice player, but not someone who should influence draft decisions. We can lightly pencil Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons into the 76ers’ starting lineup the next time the team gets good, but the rest of the lineup is open. Pondering Jackson’s fit into a half-blank canvass is overthinking. Embiid is an excellent outside shooter for a center, and Philadelphia’s eventual guards (or shooting guard and power forward if Simmons plays point guard) could be good shooters.
The 76ers’ should draft the best prospect available. If that’s Jackson, so be it. They should consider Fox’s and Smith’s fit only if those point guards are in the same tier as Jackson.
That said, don’t rule out the possibility of Fox and Smith working their way into that level. They’re intriguing players.
When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.
That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:
I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.
Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.
It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.
But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.
Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):
I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.
We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.
The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.
The big question: What does Toronto do about that?
It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.
The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.
Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.