Tag: Kawhi Leonard

Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Warriors have options to guard LeBron James, but he’ll make them work


source:  As much as anyone has the ability to slow down LeBron James, the Warriors have the ability to slow down LeBron James. They have the personnel and the scheme to counter whatever lineups Cleveland throws at them. The question, and maybe the key to the series, is whether the Warriors’ variety of weapons is enough to overcome the sheer will and power of James, whose presence alone can neutralize teams that, on paper, seem to have enough to stop him.

Golden State doesn’t have that singularly brilliant perimeter stopper that has allowed other teams to successfully limit James, the way Jimmy Butler was in the second round or Kawhi Leonard was in last year’s Finals. There’s no marquee matchup on the defensive end for James, no single nemesis. But the Warriors have such a well-rounded defensive attack that there are at least four different players in their rotation who can more than hold their own.

Harrison Barnes will likely get the first crack at defending James, with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala getting some time on him as well. If Golden State can get away with keeping Barnes on James for stretches, that gives Green the opportunity to battle with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov in the paint. Having that versatility is going to be crucial for the Warriors, given Thompson’s dominance on the glass. Green is the player most suited to defending James, but the Warriors have other players they can at least throw at him, so Steve Kerr will probably avoid using him as long as he can, to use him elsewhere.

The problem with defending James is that there are no shots you want to give him. He hasn’t been shooting well at all in the playoffs so far, so theoretically, the Warriors will want to give him plenty of open jumpers if it means not letting him get to the rim. The problem with this is that giving LeBron James open shots of any kind is just asking him to make you pay, no matter how he’s shooting at the moment, because of who he is.

The Warriors’ best-case scenario is that James’ jumper continues to be off. Even then, it hasn’t stopped him from dominating throughout the playoffs. He’s still been able to overpower defenders both with his own offense and with his still-elite playmaking skills. If the jumper starts falling again, that just makes him even harder to defend.

When the Cavs go small, with James at power forward and Tristan Thompson at center, Green will see the bulk of the time on him. Green’s success guarding James could be the deciding factor in the series — he has the smarts and the instincts, but James can overpower him. If Green sees extended time on James, especially if he plays him one-on-one, James will look to get him in foul trouble, and taking Green out of the game for an extended stretch would be bad news for the Warriors.

Another advantage the Warriors have is the ability to tire James out on the defensive end. Beyond him and Iman Shumpert, Cleveland’s defensive personnel is shaky, especially on the perimeter. James will see some time on Stephen Curry, since he always guards the other team’s best player. If Curry can make James chase him around the three-point line, it will go a long way. Klay Thompson can do the same thing if James gets switched onto him. There are no weak links in the Warriors’ offense, so no matter who James is guarding, they’re going to make him work. If they can get him in foul trouble, so much the better.

For the last five-plus years, James has been an unsolvable riddle for most of his opponents. The Spurs managed to neutralize him last season with Leonard’s otherworldly coverage and a smart team defensive scheme. Golden State has a similarly sound system and plenty of personnel to stop him. The question as always with James is, will it matter?

Stephen Curry, LeBron James unanimous choices, lead All-NBA First Team

Stephen Curry

This is bigger than the All-Star Game for a lot of players. Because it’s more exclusive.

Only six guards, six forwards and three centers get to make the All-NBA team, it is the cream that has risen to the top of the NBA.

No shock, LeBron James and freshly-minted MVP Stephen Curry were unanimous choices to make the first team — if you put together a ballot and they’re not on it you’re doing it wrong. This is also the first First Team vote for Anthony Davis, who earned this spot based on his historic season and carrying the Pelicans to the playoffs.

No Hawks made the list — the team ball concepts can hurt come time for individual awards. Fair or not.

Here is the full list. The two forwards are listed first, followed by the center, then the two guards. After the players team is the number of first team votes (in parenthesis) and total points.


LeBron James, Cleveland (129) 645
Anthony Davis, New Orleans (119) 625
Marc Gasol, Memphis (65) 453
Stephen Curry, Golden State (129) 645
James Harden, Houston (125) 637


LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland (13) 390
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento (18) 220
Pau Gasol, Chicago (15) 242
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (10) 397
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers (1) 335


Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (2) 189
Tim Duncan, San Antonio (6) 167
DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers (12) 175
Klay Thompson, Golden State 122
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland 112

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 155; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 70; Al Horford, Atlanta, 64 (1); John Wall, Washington, 50; Jimmy Butler, Chicago, 32; Damian Lillard, Portland, 22; Draymond Green, Golden State, 9; Zach Randolph, Memphis, 7; Jeff Teague, Atlanta, 7; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 6; Nikola Vucevic, Orlando, 6; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 3; Rudy Gay, Sacramento, 3; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 2; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 2; Kyle Korver, Atlanta, 2; Joakim Noah, Chicago, 2; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 2; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2; Carmelo Anthony, New York, 1; Tyson Chandler, Dallas, 1; Mike Conley, Memphis, 1; Brook Lopez, Brooklyn, 1; Kevin Love, Cleveland, 1; Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 1; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee, 1.

2015 NBA All-Defensive teams announced

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks

The NBA announced its All-Defensive teams on Wednesday, and three players — Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan — made their simultaneous debuts on the first team this season.


None of us got the first team entirely correct when turning in our unofficial ballots; we all had Andrew Bogut or Rudy Gobert at the center spots, and DeAndre Jordan was omitted completely. But our picks weren’t meant to guess who would actually win, it was who we thought were the players most deserving. And the way it ended up breaking down was honestly a fine choice by the voters.

Two other points of interest here:

One, Bogut gets a nice payday as a result of his second-team selection.

But perhaps more importantly?

Tony Allen was right.

Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge finally has expected thumb surgery, out eight weeks

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

Back in late January, LaMarcus Aldridge injured his thumb and needed surgery, something that would sideline him at least eight weeks. Aldridge considered his thumb pain, considered where the Trail Blazers were (they were a dark horse title contender until Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles) and decided to play through it.

Now that the Blazers’ season was over (they were eliminated in the first round by Memphis) it was time for the surgery, which Aldridge had Monday, the team announced. From the official press release:

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge underwent successful surgery today to repair the injured radial collateral ligament of his left thumb. Dr. Thomas J. Graham performed the procedure at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Aldridge is expected to be out eight weeks, which would have him back in time for training camp.

This is in no way going to slow the free agent recruitment of Aldridge.

He is one of the handful of best power forwards in the game and will get a max offer from Portland, but can also expect calls from the Spurs, Mavericks, Knicks, Lakers and others. There are rumors he might consider a return to his native Texas — if Gregg Popovich calls and says, “How would you like to play for me, next to Kawhi Leonard and contend for four years?” you have to listen.

Does Aldridge want to go down as one of the great Blazers of all time, someone loyal to the franchise, or does he think his best shot at a ring is elsewhere? The only thing we know for sure is that this surgery will not impact that decision.

With Grizzlies out of playoffs Marc Gasol’s free agency starts. But he’s not going anywhere. Probably.

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

He’s one of the two biggest names on the free agent market this summer.

Marc Gasol’s free agency doesn’t officially begin until July 1. Unofficially, the speculation was bound to start to ramp up the second the Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs Friday night.

Few around the league think Gasol is leaving Memphis — this is the city where he went to high school (he and his parents moved there when his brother Pau Gasol went there), he’s on a borderline contender that fits his style, and the Grizzlies can offer more money than any other team.

That’s the feeling in Memphis. Well, sort of, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

The Spurs are the wild card that should make fans in Memphis and Portland nervous. There are a lot of things that would need to fall in line — basically Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have to retire — but if they do they are going to be a very attractive offer.

Think of it this way: Your Duncan/Aldridge and on July 1 your phone rings, you pick it up and hear “This is Gregg Popovich, how would you like to come play for me, next to Kawhi Leonard, in our system on a max deal, and you can contend for a title for the next four years.”

Tempting. It’s the only real temptation people around the league think can sway Gasol, who is not going to consider the Knicks or Lakers in a serious way, or any other rebuilding project.

But most likely Gasol is suiting up next season next to Zach Randolph, playing the grit and grind, forcing a league that increasingly wants to go small to pay the price against a powerful front line.