Author: Kurt Helin

Stephen Curry

PBT Extra: Clash of styles favors Warriors over Grizzlies

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The simplistic way to frame this series is as the grind-it-out, slow-it-down Grizzlies will try to suck the small-ball, running Warriors into their game. And this second round playoff series certainly is a clash of preferred styles.

But as I discuss with Jenna Corrado, the Grizzlies have a few problems beyond the pace. First off, the holes in Memphis’ defense — not stopping transition well, being average defending the arc, not stopping the ball handler in a pick-and-roll — line right up with Golden State’s strengths.

Beyond that, Golden State can grind better than people think. They can get sucked into Memphis’ style and be fine for a stretch. Memphis can’t do the reverse. It’s a bad matchup for the Griz.

Report: Arron Afflalo expected to opt out, test free agent market

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers
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When the Blazers traded for Arron Afflalo it seemed like a smart move — he’s a quality two-way wing player who could hit threes and provide them some depth. Portland was looking at a deep playoff run, so it seemed worth their 2016 first-round pick.

However, thanks to the combination of a shoulder injury plus Afflalo being forced into the starting lineup with Wes Matthews out it all went sideways. While he scored a little more than 10 points a game (and shot 40 percent from three) Afflalo had a PER of 8.2. That’s “send him to the D-League” level. He was not efficient.

And he’s moving on, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Arron Afflalo, I’m told, intends to go ahead with plans to opt out this summer even though a right shoulder injury obviously prevented him from making the post-trade deadline smash in Portland that he’d hoped.

Portland is not going to shed a tear here. First, they would rather give C.J. McCollum those minutes anyway. Plus, Portland would rather use that money on someone else.

Afflalo was set to make $7.9 million next season and likely will have to take a pay cut in the short term. However, he likely lands a multi-year deal and there are playoff teams, even contending teams, will be interested. Afflalo will have options.

 

PBT Extra: Bulls have shot to upset Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
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It took longer than expected, but the Bulls have made it to the second round, and they get what they wanted — the Cleveland Cavaliers. A banged up Cavaliers without Kevin Love all series and no J.R. Smith the first two games (because he can’t control his fists).

Do the Bulls have a chance in this series? Yes. A legitimate one.

But they are going to have to defend better and play more consistently than we have seen from them at any point this season (including against the Bucks).

Report: Mike Conley to travel with Grizzlies, not expected to play in Game 1

Mike Conley
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In a series where your team has to defend Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, you need all your elite perimeter defenders on hand.

Which is why the following is bad news for the Grizzlies heading into Game 1 on the road, via Gary Parish of CBSSports.com.

That is not a definitive no, but it isn’t likely he goes in Game 1 Sunday.

Conley suffered three facial fractures from an inadvertent elbow from C.J. McCollum in the last round, and on Monday had surgery to put two steel plates in his face to secure the bones. So, you can forgive him for missing some games. He was at the closeout Game 5 but his face was still very swollen. The rumor has been the Grizzlies hoped to have him back by Game 3 of this series, but there is no timetable. Less Conley means more Beno Udrih, Courtney Lee, and Nick Calathes.

This is a tough matchup for the Grizzlies in the best of circumstances. They have an elite defense but they struggle to defend in transition, they are average at running teams off the three-point line, and they are not great at stopping the ball handler coming off the pick-and-roll. Three things that are the core tenets of the Warriors game plan. It’s just a tough matchup for Memphis.

Conley would be a significant boost for Memphis, but his health must be the priority.

Kevin Durant backs hiring of Donovan, “It should be a good relationship”

Kevin Durant
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Kevin Durant wasn’t involved in the process — he did not pick his own coach.

But that coach is very much at the center of whether Kevin Durant will be a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder beyond next season.

The Thunder announced the hiring of Billy Donovan Thursday, he will be formally introduced on Friday. Donovan has won two national titles and produced a lot of NBA players in his 19 years at Florida. He also runs the kind of ball-screen, motion heavy, space-the-floor offense that GM Sam Presti wanted to see in OKC.

But in the end it’s all about keeping Durant — and Durant is good with the hire. Here is what he told Royce Young of ESPN.

“I wouldn’t say it matters,” Durant said of Donovan’s perceived lack of experience. “If you know how to coach a team, that’s all that matters. He’s been at one of the highest levels of basketball and won a title. That’s tough to do. So you can’t just downplay what he’s done in the college ranks and just automatically say he’s not going to be great in the pros. He produced a lot of pros, and they all love him….

“I reached out to Chandler Parsons and Mike Miller, and they just told me great things,” Durant said. “Mike told me that he’s real detailed and prepared. Every day is just another day for him to get better. And he’s always looking to learn. I was excited when I heard that because that’s the type of player I am, and I’m looking forward to learning from somebody else. It should be a good relationship. Like I said, I want to get a feel for him myself and for him to get a feel for me and just work from there….

“But I know he’s going to do a good job because from what I’ve heard he works extremely hard, his attention to detail is one of the best and everybody’s been telling me he’s an NBA coach coaching in college. So I’m excited. I’m very excited to learn from him and get better from him and try my best to do whatever he tells me to do. I can’t wait to get started.”

Durant was close to Scott Brooks, the coach the Thunder let go looking for an upgrade. Brooks put together good teams but ones that never got over the hump — the past few years due to injuries, including a Jones fracture to the foot of Durant that had him out most of the season. Durant should be back and healthy next season.

It was smart of Durant to stay out of the coaching search. More than just that not being his job, he didn’t want any “we brought this coach in because you wanted him” stuff coming up if — really, when — he explores free agency next summer.

Durant is saying all the right things, and more than that you can be sure he will do all the right things. He will put in the work, he will buy into the system — he wants to win more than anything else. Same with Russell Westbrook. If Donovan can be the guy to take them over the top, and if those two stars can sense it, then this relationship will start smoothly.

The blueprint for Donovan to succeed has been laid out. All that’s left is a ton of work.