Author: Brett Pollakoff

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks

PBT Second-Round Playoff Preview: Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks



Washington Wizards: 46-36

Atlanta Hawks: 60-22



OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possessions)

Washington Wizards: Offense 101.8 (19th in NBA), Defense 100.0 (5th in NBA)

Atlanta Hawks: Offense 106.2 (6th in NBA), Defense 100.7 (7th in NBA)


1. Which Wizards? During the regular season, Washington couldn’t beat the Hawks, and dropped all three meetings where both teams were at full strength. Both teams have looked markedly different in the first round of the postseason, however, especially the Wizards.

Washington is the number one team in offensive efficiency after one round of the playoffs, outpacing even the mighty Golden State Warriors by scoring at a rate of 112.5 points per 100 possessions. And, the Wizards are second in defensive efficiency in the postseason behind only the Chicago Bulls, who faced an anemic Bucks team that was near the bottom of the league offensively during the regular season.

The playoff Wizards are very different than the team we saw for the bulk of the regular season, and if we see that version in round two, things could be very difficult for the top-seeded Hawks.

2. Are the Hawks back? For five-and-a-half of the six games Atlanta needed to eliminate the Nets in the first round, the Hawks rarely displayed the kind of offensive prowess that allowed them to win 60 games during the regular season. Atlanta finally regained its edge in Game 6, with the starting unit rolling offensively in both the first and third quarters, and finally looking like the club that won 40 of its first 48 games of the season.

The problem with Atlanta was its reserve unit, which the Nets were able to exploit consistently throughout the series. Dennis Schröder was largely awful in trying to run the team when Jeff Teague needed to rest, Kent Bazemore couldn’t shoot, and Mike Scott and Pero Antic weren’t great defensively. The Hawks will need strong, cohesive performances from their starters in this series (like the one they put together in closing out the Nets) in order to stay with what’s become a very good Wizards team.

3. Kyle Korver: It’s no secret that Korver is a devastating threat for the Hawks offensively. He shoots the ball at an extremely high percentage, and can run a defense ragged in trying to account for him on every possession. Washington needs to stay home defending Korver, and never (never!) help off of him, because Atlanta finds him seemingly every time he’s left open for even a second.

Washington’s ability to slow the Hawks starts with shutting down Jeff Teague at the point of attack, which John Wall should be capable of doing at times. But once the ball gets moving and the cutters start diving to the basket, the rest of Washington’s team defense needs to account for everyone, while Korver’s man stays glued to him at all times.


I’m not convinced Atlanta can consistently carve up Washington the way they did the Nets, and I’m choosing to believe that the playoff Wizards will return for at least one more round.

Wizards in 6.

Jared Dudley can become a free agent, but says 80 or 90 percent chance he’ll return to Bucks

Chicago Bulls v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Four

The Clippers could sure use a veteran presence like Jared Dudley on their bench this postseason, but Doc Rivers traded him to the Bucks last summer. And to hear Dudley’s explanation of his final season in Los Angeles, it seemed as though the decision by Rivers was somewhat personal.

“Here’s the thing with the Clippers,” Dudley said. “When I hurt my back in Vegas, I show up there in September trying to get with the training staff, and sometimes when you have an injury it leads to another injury, so basically I was nursing what I thought was tendinitis at the time in my knee, basically I really couldn’t bend my knee 90 degrees so I had to deal with that for the first month or so. I basically went to Doc Rivers and said, ‘Hey, I’ve never had to deal with this, I can’t bend my knee, all my shots are short, I can’t move laterally, I need to sit out.’ At that time Matt Barnes was out with a calf injury and J.J. Redick was out with a herniated disk and he said, ‘Hey, I need you to give me 10-15 games and when those guys come back, I’ll give you a rest.’

“Well, during that time I just couldn’t guard anyone. I couldn’t make a shot, all my shots were short and then confidence happened. By midseason, I get my X-ray and I had a little fracture in my knee so I knew what I was feeling was more than tendinitis. By midseason, [Rivers] brings in [Danny] Granger and I was sent to the pine. The trade [to Milwaukee] was the best thing for my career, where I got with a training staff that got me healthy and when I’m healthy, I’m the player you see now and the player you saw in Phoenix.”

“I talked to Doc maybe a week and a half before I got traded,” Dudley told Zach Lowe on his Lowe Post podcast on Grantland. “That was in August. He was basically like, ‘Hey, you’re young. I don’t know what happened this season.’ I basically told him, ‘You know what happened. I wasn’t right and I thought I would be able to come back.’ “

That seems like a bridge burned by Rivers, but Dudley has found a home in his first season in Milwaukee. And though he has a player option for next season, even if he chooses to become an unrestricted free agent, Dudley feels as though the odds favor a return to the Bucks next season.

From Charles Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:

“All signs you would think are for me to come back here,” Dudley said, “even if I did opt out. I think my value is at my biggest high here. Even though as a vet I could play for a contending team, I think this has been my most gratifying season.

“Taking a team that was 15 wins to 41 wins, I was here for the beginning of it. I was here to help it. I think it’s hard for Milwaukee to find vets that want to come here, that want to be a role guy. …

Dudley, acquired in an off-season trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that also netted the Bucks a protected 2017 first-round pick, said he thought there was an 80 or 90% chance he would return next season.

“I don’t think it should be a problem,” he said. “I don’t think I’m someone who is overly greedy.”

Dudley’s player option is for $4.25 million for next season. It seems as though he wants to stay with the Bucks, but if he chooses to take the early termination option on his deal, he could realistically end up on a longer-term deal playing for someone else.

Dudley averaged 7.2 points on 46.8 percent shooting, while playing 23.8 minutes per contest in 72 regular season appearances for the Bucks this season.

Brandon Jennings: Winner of Clippers-Spurs series ‘will be playing the Cavs in the Finals’

Detroit Pistons v Milwaukee Bucks

Brandon Jennings is not only a more-than-solid NBA point guard, but after suffering an Achilles injury that cost him half of his 2015 season, he’s spent plenty of time watching basketball, and giving his opinions on what he sees from an insider perspective.

As the Clippers and the Spurs get set for what’s expected to be an epic Game 7 battle — one that definitely shouldn’t be taking place in the first round of the playoffs — Jennings proclaimed that the winner will go on to face the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

The problem with this, of course, is that the Golden State Warriors — winners of 67 games during the regular season, and a team that looked like world-beaters in the process — would stand in the way of the Clippers or the Spurs two rounds from now.

I believe that the Spurs have what it takes to beat the Warriors in a seven-game series, but I’m not sure about the Clippers. While L.A.’s starting unit is as good as it gets, things get sketchy once the reserves check in, and I think Golden State’s league-best defense would cause the Clippers plenty of problems.

As for the Cavaliers, we don’t yet know what to expect after Kevin Love was lost for the rest of the postseason due to injury, and another starter in J.R. Smith was lost due to suspension for the first two games of the series against the Bulls. And then there are the Hawks, who finally looked like the Hawks during a Game 6 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets.

Jennings’ opinion should be highly-regarded, because he’s played against these teams and knows first-hand the problems that they can present. But discounting the Warriors (and the Bulls, and the Hawks) at this early stage is a bold statement nonetheless.

Blazers’ GM non-committal on attempting to re-sign free agent Wesley Matthews

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers had their eyes set on the Western Conference crown earlier in the season, and were capable of hanging with the league’s elite with a fully-healthy squad.

But once Wesley Matthews was lost for the year with a torn Achilles, the wheels fell off, and a first-round playoff elimination at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies was the season’s final, disappointing result.

The Blazers have a lot of uncertainty to deal with as free agency approaches this summer. LaMarcus Aldridge is the biggest name expected to test the market, and teams like the Spurs and the Mavericks will make compelling pitches in case he’s interested in a change of scenery. Robin Lopez is coming off of a stellar season, especially on the defensive end of the floor, and he, too is an unrestricted free agent.

But what Portland decides to do where Matthews is concerned might be among their most difficult decisions.

From Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:

“As evidenced by our 11-15 record (actually 11-16) without Wesley and a first-round playoff exit for a team we thought had chance to compete for the Western Conference title, we know how important he is,” Olshey says. “We know his value to us; we also know he’s going to have market value around the league.”

Former Blazers coach P.J. Carlesimo — who served as ESPN television analyst for the third game of the Portland-Memphis series — says the loss of Matthews cost the Blazers a legitimate shot to beat the Grizzlies.

“He’s a fourth-quarter scorer like Damian Lillard,” Carlesimo says. “He’s an excellent 3-point shooter, especially in the fourth quarter. He makes the difference defensively. “He was also a spiritual leader. He’s as much or more than anybody the heart and soul of the team. It would be hard to exaggerate how important he was, how important his presence was. He was missed in so many ways.”

If what Carlesimo says has some merit, then Portland would be foolish to let Matthews go. The production of Damian Lillard was diminished once Matthews was sidelined, and defensively, the Blazers were unable to stop opposing teams’ guards from scoring at will with Matthews out of the lineup.

Jimmy Butler and Monta Ellis are in that two-guard group of free agents that Matthews will be a part of, though Butler is expected to re-up in Chicago, and Ellis’ moodiness in Dallas could make him a less-desirable prospect. That means teams may come hard after Matthews, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Portland is ready to step up in the very same way.

Joe Johnson on Nets future: ‘I don’t see us coming back as the same team’

brook lopez joe johnson kg

The Nets were eliminated from the postseason by the top-seeded Hawks on Friday, and though it took longer than expected thanks to Brooklyn finding away to stay competitive for most of the series, the reality is that the Nets need to undergo a serious set of changes to the roster in order to be more competitive next season.

Joe Johnson, the team’s highest-paid player, knows this perhaps better than anyone else.

From Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

“I have no idea. Something’s going to happen. I don’t know what. I don’t see us coming back as the same team. This is my third year here. I could see if we were getting better each year, but it’s kind of been the opposite. So to not even be a .500 ball club in the East. It’s disheartening and I don’t know. I think everyone in that locker room is unsure of the future here. So we’ll see what happens going into the summer.”

In a word: Yep.

Changes most certainly are coming, but exactly what they’ll be remains unclear.

Brook Lopez has a player option for next season, but even if he chooses to become an unrestricted free agent, the Nets seem to be extremely likely to re-sign him. Thaddeus Young is likely to be back, because his player option of $10.2 million is worth taking, especially when considering it will set him up to become an unrestricted free agent just as the salary cap is set to spike in advance of the 2016-17 season. Alan Anderson, who provided a much-needed offensive spark off the bench at times during the postseason, said he’ll be opting out of the final year of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he may or may not be back depending on what the market decides.

Where it gets much murkier is with Johnson and Deron Williams — both of whom are vastly overpaid, and neither of whom are capable of being franchise players any longer. The Nets would love to move one or both of them to get some players who are on more reasonable contracts, or ones that could more readily contribute to a more consistent level of success.

Johnson is the more likely to be moved, because he only has one year remaining on his contract for $24.8 million, while Williams has two at $21 and $22 million respectively. But it won’t be easy to find any takers.

All we know right now is that changes to the Nets’ roster are, at this point, an inevitability. And Johnson knows it, as well.