John Wall called the Wizards’ bench their “downfall” in the playoffs – a fair assessment. Washington’s starters outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions and its bench got outscored by 15.5 points per 100 possessions – the biggest disparity this side of Oklahoma City.
I made this chart to illustrate the point:
Even more glaring than the Thunder, look at the Cavaliers and Warriors in the top right corner. The NBA Finalists had – by far – the best and second-best starters AND benches (as defined by NBA.com) in the 2017 playoffs.
Golden State’s starters are +21.9 per 100 possessions and its bench is +7.8. Cleveland (+19.4, +8.6) has also excelled with both starters and reserves.
The Warriors boast a Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala) and two-time All-Star (David West) off their bench. The Cavs often have LeBron James run sweet-shooting reserve-heavy units (that include Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson and Channning Frye).
After a lousy postseason so far, maybe these teams will provide 48 minutes of thrilling action each game of the Finals.
This is just the third matchup in the last 21 years (as far back as NBA.com records go) where the top two starters and benches through the first three rounds of the playoffs met in the Finals, joining Heat-Spurs in 2013 and 2014.
Here’s every Finals matchup in that span with starters rank, bench rank by net rating among the 16 playoff teams:
- 2017: Golden State Warriors (1, 2) | Cleveland Cavaliers (2, 1)
- 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers (1, 1) | Golden State Warriors (2, 3)
- 2015: Golden State Warriors (2, 4) | Cleveland Cavaliers (1, 2)
- 2014: San Antonio Spurs (1, 2) | Miami Heat (2, 1)
- 2013: Miami Heat (1, 2) | San Antonio Spurs (2, 1)
- 2012: Miami Heat (2, 1) | Oklahoma City Thunder (3, 2)
- 2011: Dallas Mavericks (2, 2) | Miami Heat (4, 1)
- 2010: Los Angeles Lakers (3, 5) | Boston Celtics (2, 6)
- 2009: Los Angeles Lakers (3, 3) | Orlando Magic (4, 2)
- 2008: Boston Celtics (1, 10) | Los Angeles Lakers (2, 5)
- 2007: San Antonio Spurs (2, 4) | Cleveland Cavaliers (7, 1)
- 2006: Miami Heat (2, 1) | Dallas Mavericks (1, 3)
- 2005: San Antonio Spurs (4, 1) | Detroit Pistons (2, 5)
- 2004: Detroit Pistons (1, 6) | Los Angeles Lakers (2, 4)
- 2003: San Antonio Spurs (2, 1) | New Jersey Nets (1, 5)
- 2002: Los Angeles Lakers (4, 7) | New Jersey Nets (5, 8)
- 2001: Los Angeles Lakers (1, 1) | Philadelphia 76ers (8, 3)
- 2000: Los Angeles Lakers (2, 3) | Indiana Pacers (7, 2)
- 1999: San Antonio Spurs (1, 3) | New York Knicks (2, 1)
- 1998: Chicago Bulls (1, 2) | Utah Jazz (5, 1)
- 1997: Chicago Bulls (1, 5) | Utah Jazz (2, 11)
The Wizards look like they solved their backup-point-guard problems with Tim Frazier.
But they also looked like they solved their backup-point-guard problems with Trey Burke and then Brandon Jennings last year – and look how that turned out.
So, even after trading for Frazier, Washington is still trying to increase stability behind John Wall.
The Wizards added some depth to their backcourt on Thursday by signing veteran guard Donald Sloan to a one-year deal, CSN’s Chris Miller confirmed on Thursday night.
The 29-year-old Sloan has played for the Hawks, New Orleans Hornets, Cavaliers, Pacers and Nets in a five-year NBA career. He spent last season in China.
Sloan isn’t much of a scorer, and he’s only a decent distributor. But he makes up for it with all-around adequacy, highlighted by his rebounding for his position.
The veteran will compete with second-year Sheldon Mac, whose salary is just $50,000 guaranteed, to be Washington’s third point guard.
Nigel Hayes became a cult hero at Wisconsin for bringing a “BROKE COLLEGE ATHLETE ANYTHING HELPS” sign to GameDay and soliciting Venmo donations, challenging the stenographer in a press conference and “accidentally” calling a stenographer beautiful in front of a hot mic.
After going undrafted, Hayes and his colorful personality are headed to New York, where Knicks fans are starving for fun.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Could Hayes stick into the regular season? The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one more spot for a player on an standard contract. Chasson Randle has an unguaranteed salary that becomes partially guaranteed around the time training camp opens. The Knicks could also sign other players, though they’re down to just minimum exceptions.
Hayes – a 6-foot-8 forward – has a chance, but he’s most likely ticketed to New York’s minor-league affiliate after being waived by the parent club.
The Rookie of the Year race is wide open heading into next season.
It’s that way every year — if you had predicted Malcolm Brogdon was going to win a year ago, you would have been laughed out of the building — but this coming season has a lot of talent at the top of the board who could win. Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum all have a real shot — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Who is the better favorite? Depends on where you do your betting.
The William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook (which works with a number of Las Vegas casinos, such as the SLS), has this (hat tip ESPN):
Lonzo Ball 9-5
Ben Simmons 5-2
Dennis Smith Jr. 4-1
Markelle Fultz 13-2
De'Aaron Fox 8-1
Jayson Tatum 8-1
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has Simmons as the betting line favorite at 9-4
The online betting site Bovda.lv has this line
Lonzo Ball 9-4
Dennis Smith 3-1
Ben Simmons 5-1
Jayson Tatum 5-1
Markelle Fultz 8-1
Traditionally, Rookie of the Year goes to a guy who has the ball in his hands, is aggressive, and puts up raw numbers. It celebrates scorers.
This year a whole lot of guys can fit that bill, more than are mentioned here. It’s going to be a wild ride.
The NBA season is coming… and that means NBA 2K18 also coming.
To whet the appetite of you gamers out there, check out the first trailer for the upcoming game, with music by Mobb Deep.
You can pre-order the game now.