Tag: Kevin Durant

Mike Budenholzer, Thabo Sefolosha

PBT’s weekly NBA Power Rankings: If you’re not taking the Hawks seriously, you should


For a while we kept saying “sure the Hawks are winning, but they need to beat some quality teams before we fully buy in.” Well, they are beating quality teams so we are buying in and they move to the top of the power rankings this week (although I’d still take the No. 2 team in a seven game series).

source:  1. Hawks (25-8, Last Week No. 6). Who is the No. 1 seed in the East now? That’s right. They have won 18-of-20 and are 7-2 against the West. My coach of the year at the 1/3 mark of the season: Mike Budenholzer. Let’s hope whoever is announced to buy this team (very possibly in the next couple weeks) doesn’t come in and start changing things around on the basketball side.

source:  2. Warriors (26-5, LW 3). They have won three in a row to start off a stretch of seven-of-eight at home (and only 3 of seven are over .500). Their defense has slipped some without Andrew Bogut but is still ninth in the league in the team’s last 10 games.

source:  3. Bulls (24-10, LW 2). It wasn’t always pretty, but they still won three of four last week. Tom Thibodeau is doing a good job of keeping Derrick Rose’s minutes under control, but Pau Gasol is playing more than 35 a night and Joakim Noah more than 31 — take your foot off the gas a little Thibs and get your bigs some rest as we get into the new year.

source:  4. Trail Blazers (26-8. Last Week No. 1). They’re still without Robin Lopez in the paint, so Terry Stotts had been starting Joel Freeland but now he is injured as well. Which will mean the Meyers Leonard show for a little while.

source:  5. Mavericks (25-10, LW 7). Winners of five in a row. Since Rajon Rondo arrived the Dallas defense has improved by more than three points per 100 possessions, plus Rondo is showing some real chemistry with Tyson Chandler, while the Rondo/Dirk Nowitzki +/- numbers are amazing. And Rick Carlisle still has more than half a season to fit all the pieces together properly.

source:  6. Grizzlies (24-9, LW 8). They had won three in a row including a nice win over the Spurs (again) until a schedule maker’s loss in Denver. That said they are still 3-4 without Zach Randolph in the lineup. Interesting test Wednesday on the road against Atlanta, a team that has been dismissing the best of the West lately.

source:  7. Clippers (23-11, LW 9). The Clipper’s starting five — Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan — is +15.5 points per 100 possessions. Sub Jamal Crawford in for Barnes and the defense struggles but that lineup is still +9.9 per 100. But getting solid play out of the bench is a nightly adventure.

source:  8. Spurs (21-14, LW 11). San Antonio was 8-10 in December, which is just the third losing month in all of Tim Duncan’s career. That’s ridiculous. They remain without Kawhi Leonard but have won three of their last four, with some winnable games ahead.

source:  9. Rockets (23-10, LW 4). They had their most lopsided loss and most lopsided win of the season on the next night. So I wouldn’t really use the word consistent with the Rockets. Maybe they get a little more with Josh Smith coming off the bench, it took him all of five games to lose his starting spot, but he is helping their defense.

source:  10. Raptors (24-10, LW 5). They have dropped 4-of-6 on a tough road swing, falling to Chicago, Portland, Golden State and Phoenix. The Suns and Warriors really exposed the Raptors’ 21st-ranked defense — as good as Toronto’s offense is they are not getting out of the East without more consistent defense.

source:  11. Thunder (17-17, LW 13). Rust? They don’t know of rust in OKC where Kevin Durant missed six games then came back and dropped 78 in his first two back on the court. They are just two games back of Phoenix at the eight seed, but the Thunder have 10 of their next 13 on the road so the charge to the playoffs will be a bit uphill for a while.

source:  12. Wizards (22-11, LW 12). They have gone 1-3 on the road against some of the top of the West, including losing three in a row. Things don’t get easier for John Wall and company with the Pelicans, Bulls and Hawks all on the schedule this week.

source:  13. Suns (20-16, LW 10). If the NBA just took the top 16 teams for the playoffs regardless of conference the Suns would be a relatively comfortable 13 seed with a 2.5 game cushion on falling out of the playoffs. Instead they are the eight seed in the West and if they look over their shoulder they will see a healthy Thunder team closing fast.

source:  14. Pelicans (17-16, LW 15). This team has some tough late losses, but none more painful than Omer Asik’s accidental tip to send the game vs. the Spurs to OT (which San Antonio eventually won). That said, why Tyreke Evans and the Pelicans guards go away from Anthony Davis in crunch time remains a mystery. Feed the man the ball.

source:  15. Bucks (18-17, LW 16). They have won four games on the road and, as the current sixth seed in the East, are a comfortable five games up on the nine seed (Indiana). These Bucks are headed to the playoffs this season, which is going to get Jason Kidd some COY votes.

source:  16. Cavaliers (19-15 LW 14). No LeBron James for more than a week, and while teams with strong systems in place survive those kinds of losses short term (think Spurs or Bulls when guys are out) the Cavaliers are not that. What they are getting is Minnesota Kevin Love — he scores and rebounds like a beast, but is nonexistent on the other end of the court.

source:  17. Heat (15-20, LW 17). They had lost four in a row until a win Sunday against Brooklyn, and with that have fallen to the eight seed (and they are just ?? ahead of the Pacers). We’ll see if they can hold that playoff spot in a rough five-game road trip out West.

source:  18. Nets (16-17, LW 19). They are 12-3 against teams below .500, which pads their not-that-impressive record and makes it look better than it is. Good news that Deron Williams sore side from Sunday night is not something going to keep him out long term.

source:  19. Jazz (12-22, LW 22). They have won six of nine and even in their losses they are a very tough out. Add me to the chorus of people who wants to see more Rudy Gobert on the court, with him out there the Jazz defense will win them some games.

source:  20. Pacers (13-22, LW 25). They are within two games of the eight seed in the East, and the are doing it with defense — they have allowed 97.2 points per 100 possessions their last 10 games, second best in the NBA.

source:  21. Pistons (10-23, LW 24). . They have won five in a row since waiving Josh Smith, and in those games the Piston’s offense is 13.7 points per 100 possessions better and their defense is 11.7 per 100 better. This is not all about the Smith trade, they have had a soft schedule the last five, but the timing of the improvement also is not a coincidence.

source:  22. Kings (14-20, LW 18). Since the firing of Mike Malone we have seen some of the old DeMarcus Cousins — sloppy, lazy defensive moments, and he got ejected from one game for throwing Avery Bradley to the ground. The Sacramento defense is falling apart of late, which also may be Malone related.

source:  23. Nuggets (14-20, LW 20). Still tough to get a feel for this team as we start to approach the midway point of the season, and if the team doesn’t have a personality that usually means trouble for the coach. The question though is really what kind of team does management really want to build? That’s not clear, either.

source:  24. Magic (13-24, LW 21). There have started to be playoff dreams in Orlando, they are just three games out of the eight seed, but after dropping three in a row before heading out this week for four tough ones on the road they need to just rack up some wins.

source:  25. Hornets (11-24, LW 23). They have lost Al Jefferson for a month, which essentially kills the “they can still turn this around and make the playoffs” vibe in Charlotte. Expect a lot of Lance Stephenson trade rumors for the next six weeks as they try to move him.

source:  26. Lakers (11-23, LW 27). The Lakers have played the toughest schedule in the NBA so far. It’s a tribute to Kobe that mid-season he can switch his mentality and the way he plays (even if he denies anything is different, it is, he is showing trust in his teammates).

source:  27. Celtics (11-20, LW 26). Rajon Rondo returned to Boston last week, showed that he can still play some defense and can still score plenty (he dropped 29), which are both things Celtics fans hadn’t seen from the point guard in a while.

source:  28. 76ers (4-28, LW 28). Great news for the Sixers — they are back home for five of the next seven. Er… maybe not such great news as the Sixers are 0-14 on their home court. They have to win one eventually, right?

source:  29. Timberwolves (5-27, LW 29). Ricky Rubio should be back in the next couple of weeks, he’s showing improvement in practice. In the short term, read Dan Feldman’s great story about how a stint in the D-League inspired Shabazz Muhammad’s great run of play recently.

source:  30. Knicks (5-31, LW 30). Carmelo Anthony is on track to be voted in an All-Star Game starter by the fans, a game at Madison Square Garden, but his knee is clearly an issue. Will he fight through and play in that game then shut it down?

Top 10 circus shots of 2014 (VIDEO)

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings

It may be 2015 now, but our head is still in 2014. Heck, we’ll probably write that date on some checks for the first three months of this year.

Since our head is still there let’s go back and relive the best circus shots of 2014. Of course there’s some Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green, but personally I would have had Kevin Durant’s shot in the playoffs as he is fouled by Marc Gasol at the top of the list.

Thanks to the people at NBA.com for compiling this.


Ty Lawson says he has talked with Kevin Durant about going home to Washington DC

Phoenix Suns v Oklahoma City Thunder

While the Wizards brain trust was making smart off-season moves — re-signing Marcin Gortat, bringing in Paul Pierce —all the talk among fans was on one topic:

Would Kevin Durant come home in 2016?

LeBron James choosing to return to Cleveland sparked a lot of hope in the DC faithful, and it will be a topic again tonight as the Wizards are on the road against the Thunder.

Ty Lawson is another District area native and Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com asked if the two had spoken about playing at home.

“I’ve talked to him about it, but I probably can’t tell you what he said,” Lawson laughingly told CSNwashington.com when the Nuggets visited last month….

“We talked about it. Everybody going home and playing for their respective cities,” Lawson said. “It would be cool, especially playing with the people you grew up with. I grew up with KD. It would be fun to play with them on one team.”

Lawson is not likely bound for the Wizards when his contract is up in two years, Washington is pretty set at point guard with John Wall.

Wizards fans who are Comcast Sportsnet Washington subscribers, you can watch a live stream of the Washington vs. Oklahoma City game Friday night by following this link.

Durant, on the other hand, would fit in very well. Of course, he’d fit well on 29 other NBA teams as well. Should Durant decide to really test the waters come the summer of 2016 teams from Los Angeles to New York and every stop in between would try to court him.

After seeing him answer questions about 2016 when he was with Team USA this summer in Las Vegas (before he dropped out of the World Championships) I don’t believe Durant has any idea yet what he will do in two summers. I would bet that Oklahoma City has the best chance of retaining his services.

After that, the Wizards would certainly be in the mix. But two summers is two lifetimes in the NBA and what Durant will want to do remains unpredictable.

LeBron James holds edge over Stephen Curry in All-Star voting, Pau Gasol passes Carmelo Anthony

Pau Gasol

The NBA has released its latest leaderboard for All-Star voting (see the first here):

Eastern Conference


1. John Wall (Was) 439,395

2. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 396,757

3. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 308,727

4. Kyle Lowry (Tor) 274,741

5. Jimmy Butler (Chi) 174,250

6. Derrick Rose (Chi) 168,281

7. DeMar DeRozan (Tor) 72,204

8. Louis Williams (Tor) 25,596

9. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Mil) 24,898

10. Bradley Beal (Was) 20,526


1. LeBron James (Cle) 775,810

2. Pau Gasol (Chi) 372,109

3. Carmelo Anthony (NY) 365,449

4. Chris Bosh (Mia) 283,899

5. Kevin Love (Cle) 219,139

6. Joakim Noah (Chi) 103,644

7. Marcin Gortat (Was) 103,478

8. Jonas Valanciunas (Tor) 83,642

9. Kevin Garnett (Bkn) 62,584

10. Al Jefferson (Cha) 62,436

11. Nikola Vucevic (Orl) 48,667

12. Paul Pierce (Was) 46,422

13. Paul Millsap (Atl) 34,751

14. Al Horford (Atl) 33,421

15. Nikola Mirotic (Chi) 27,723

Western Conference


1. Stephen Curry (GS) 755,486

2. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 694,665

3. James Harden (Hou) 516,514

4. Chris Paul (LAC) 334,544

5. Damian Lillard (Por) 147,955

6. Rajon Rondo (Dal) 137,974

7. Klay Thompson (GS) 128,542

8. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 122,134

9. Jeremy Lin (LAL) 114,286

10. Tony Parker (SA) 67,362


1. Anthony Davis (NO) 732,154

2. Blake Griffin (LAC) 403,415

3. Marc Gasol (Mem) 343,587

4. Tim Duncan (SA) 288,235

5. Kevin Durant (OKC) 254,448

6. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 234,290

7. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 165,456

8. Dwight Howard (Hou) 161,295

9. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 139,967

10. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 101,651

11. Rudy Gay (Sac) 75,827

12. DeAndre Jordan (LAC) 58,200

13. Tyson Chandler (Dal) 48,191

14. Nick Young (LAL) 46,323

15. Zach Randolph (Mem) 43,897

A few observations:

  • LeBron James might have more votes than Stephen Curry, but Curry is competing in a much tougher category. The Warriors guard is close enough that I wonder whether he’d win a head-to-head matchup with LeBron.
  • The projected starters remain the same, the only movement in order up top being Pau Gasol passing Carmelo Anthony for second among Eastern Conference frontcourt players.
  • Jimmy Butler passed Derrick Rose. As it should be with the Bulls guards.
  • Speaking of Chicago, Nikola Mirotic is the only rookie on the leaderboard.
  • James Harden remains in striking distance of Kobe Bryant. If Harden can somehow pass Kobe, that’d open a spot at a crowded position for a more-deserving player to make the team.
  • Damian Lillard, who said he wouldn’t campaign, was the big riser, anyway. He moved from eighth to fifth among Western Conference guards. He’s still far from starting, but he’s at least moving in the right direction.
  • Kyrie Irving remains third among Eastern Conference guards, one spot from triggering the Derrick Rose Rule. There’s a lot of money at stake here.

PBT’s Top 10 Stories of 2014, No. 2: Tanking

Hollis Thompson, Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams, Henry Sims

I do a fair amount of sports talk radio interviews across the nation, and through most of 2014, no matter what corner of the nation the station was located in, two topics almost inevitably came up. One was LeBron James and the drama that surrounded him in both Miami and Cleveland.

The other was tanking.

It has become part of the national conversation about the NBA — and the part that is an embarrassment to the league. The perception that a franchise would intentionally try to lose as many games as it could — even if the strategy made sense long term — was offensive to the American sports psyche. As the NBA moved through a fantastic playoffs in 2014 tanking was an ongoing parallel conversation. It was a PR nightmare for the league. It got to the point that the owners almost voted this summer to radically change the NBA Draft Lottery system to thwart the most egregious tanking. However, the owners backed away from that ledge at the last minute.

Let me be clear: No coach nor any player intentionally tried to lose a game. There is no evidence of this. Nobody is throwing games in a 1919 Black Sox sense.

Rather some organizations are intentionally putting a product on the court that is not going to win many games. There is logic to the plan. First, keep your draft picks and stockpile others in trades as you send out your veteran players. Next, be bad so your draft pick is as high as possible (the luck of the lottery will determine just how high). Play those young draft picks and inevitably be bad again — they learn on the job and you get more draft picks. Eventually you have a nice core of young talent for the future.

It sounds good on paper, you can sell that. But it’s ugly to watch in person.

Let’s be honest here — we’re primarily talking about the Philadelphia 76ers. Other teams have gone this route, but not like the Sixers.

Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has become the poster child of tanking. Back in June 2013 Hinkie traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a draft pick, which they used on the inured Nerlens Noel, who didn’t play a game in the 2013-14 season. Hinkie traded Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for guys that were not going to help then win games, plus some picks. This past draft the Sixers took Joel Embiid, a promising center but one not expected to play this season. Meaning the Sixers would be bad in the 2014-15 season — and they have been, they are 4-26 and again on their way to a top pick.

There are other teams, both in the past and currently, that have tried to be bad to get good. But nobody has tried to be this bad and been this naked about there intentions.

If you put a bad product out on the court people are going to complain.

It should be noted there was far more of an outcry outside Philadelphia than in it. Sure, there are some unhappy season ticket holders, but that’s not the norm. We talked with Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com for the PBT Podcast and she said that the first year fans were fully on board with the plan. Now the fans that are showing up to the arena are supportive of the players, but there is a growing exhaustion in the city with this much losing. They get what is going on, but the hope with this team seems very far off.

To be fair, in 2018 we’ll be saying Hinkie was a genius or a fool with this strategy, but it’s hard to know how it will pan out before then.

The question is how will the tanking perception and talk alter the NBA landscape going forward. There is always going to be a little of this — you need star players to really win in the NBA and the only way for middle to small markets to really land those elite players is through the draft. If they can be bad and increase their odds, they will. The Bucks did this in 2013-14 — they entered the season thinking they could be a playoff team, but when things went sideways they embraced being bad and got Jabari Parker for it. But this season the improving Bucks are a playoff team.

The Sixers are an ongoing conversation. And the question is in response will the owners change the lottery system to discourage that level of tanking in the future? And would that even work?