1. John Wall setting the pace
The Atlanta Hawks are a Top 4 defensive team in the NBA and they’ve had some ability to slow Wall this season. During the middle part of the year, Wall had games in which he was solid from 3-point range, shot well from the field, and demonstrated his superior passing ability. But in their last matchup he was spotty, and that’s saying something considering how well Wall finished the season during the last 15 games or so.
The Wizards are a better team than Atlanta, but there’s some real speed bumps to be had for Washington. Wall playing smooth, and to the level we saw him elevate to this year as a top passer in the NBA should help steady Wizards fans. It’s Washington — and it’s the playoffs — so smooth would be nice.
2. The Hawks defense
As mentioned above, it may surprise some folks that the Hawks are the fourth-best defense in the NBA in terms of defensive rating. While Washington has a Top 10 offense, things get weird in the playoffs. Things slow down. They speed up. Gameplans are exceedingly in-depth, and then change quickly from game-to-game.
Atlanta’s only chance of making this a series is to stun Washington’s attack. The Hawks are one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA, so providing space for themselves to operate carefully on that end of the floor is going to come through their defensive effort first and foremost.
3. Paul Millsap vs. Washington’s offensive rebounders
The Wizards are a middling offensive rebounding team, and Paul Millsap is one of the best players in this series at pulling down contested rebounds. Then again, so is Marcin Gortat, so watching Millsap tackle him, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris down low should be critical.
Ian Mahnimi is out to start the series with a calf strain, and offensive chances will be important for a team like Atlanta who already is prone to struggle scoring. Dwight Howard taking up space and battling down low should be a factor here as well, obviously. Look for rebounds to help set the tone for leads here.
LeBron James is one of those guys who seems like he can do it all. He’s been league champion, league MVP, and Finals MVP. He’s an international marketing icon. He’s the best basketball player of a generation.
Apparently, he can also save people from the water like a dang superhero.
The recent article published on Vogue about James and his wife Savannah, the author shared a story told to him by Gabrielle Union, actress and wife of Dwyane Wade.
As Union tells the story, during a snorkeling trip in the Bahamas, Lebron noticed one person wasn’t back in the boat at the end of the session.
He then leapt in to bring them back.
As I prepare to say goodbye, I am reminded of a story Gabrielle Union told me about LeBron. Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, with other friends and athletes, were out snorkeling in the Bahamas a few years back. Some, including Wade, were ocean-shy, city-born and not as strong at swimming as LeBron. (“LeBron, it turns out, is Aquaman!” Union says.) Eventually, the group got out in the water, though at the end of the swim, when everyone was back in the boat, LeBron took a count and noticed a man missing, immediately diving back in. “He literally brings our friend back, like something out of an episode of Baywatch,” Union says. “Because he’s that guy, and when you see that, you know he is not going to leave these at-risk kids behind or an NBA player snorkeling. He’s that guy who dives in.”
Lebron James: that dude.
This upcoming season will be a huge test for Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins.
After a couple years of steady improvement, it appeared that Wiggins started to level off in his third season. Yes, he increased his 3-point shooting percentage but dips in his free-throw rate and VORP were a tad disappointing considering his usage even as he contributed more points per-game. Many in Minnesota expected him to be a superstar, and now it’s possible he ends up simply as a perennial rotation guy.
Still, the new season for the Timberwolves should be pretty interesting as they have added new pieces to the roster, including former Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler.
The video above includes 10 of Wiggins’s best plays from the 2016-17 NBA season. Hopefully Wiggins will be able to build on this type of play as the roster around him and gets better and expectations rise.
Doc Rivers no longer has the hammer on trades and player moves in Los Angeles, that has been wisely handed over to Lawrence Frank, the team’s new president of basketball operations. He has Jerry West as a consultant — who will have the owner’s ear — working with him.
Frank now has a new right-hand guy, one of the better respected, up-and-coming front office people in the league, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The LA Clippers have offered Oklahoma City Thunder executive Michael Winger its general manager’s job, league sources told ESPN. A deal could be finalized soon, league sources said…
Winger, 37, has spent the past seven years with Oklahoma City, working closely with Executive Vice President and GM Sam Presti.
ESPN’s Thunder reporter Royce Young chipped in with this.
This is a good hire by the Clippers, bringing a smart young executive from a well-respected organization into the fold to help energize their front office.
This past summer the Clippers lost Chris Paul (traded to Houston, because he was leaving as a free agent otherwise), locked up Blake Griffin long-term, and now have to decide on a future direction. DeAndre Jordan has a player option next summer, do the Clippers want to max him out or move another direction? The Clippers need to inject some younger, more athletic players into their roster and move out of the win-now, trade youth for vets mode Rivers had them in. The Clippers have done a poor job developing young talent and using that to supplement their stars (something teams like the Warriors and Spurs have done well over the years).
Winger should help change that dynamic.
I’m not sure it’s possible to argue that LeBron James is not the most important player in the NBA, even in 2016-17.
Yes, others have won the MVP award in years past, but each and every postseason you understand just how important LeBron is to every roster he is on. NBA players even voted him as the player they would most secretly want on their team.
That’s why it’s pretty easy to galvanize that opinion when you watch a 20-minute highlight video of LeBron’s best plays from each game of the past season.
Summer is upon us and even preseason seems like a long way off. Thankfully, we will be able to get to see plays like this here in what feels like the near future.