JJ Redick

Does the East have a better chance of winning the Finals with crowded, deep West?

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The Golden State Warriors will be hampered without Klay Thompson to start the season. The sharpshooting guard is a crucial part of what the Warriors bring to the table sans Kevin Durant, who is now with the Brooklyn Nets. Even with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers, many have considered the Western Conference to be more open for the taking this season. It’s been thought that this makes it more likely the Eastern Conference can field a second consecutive NBA champion.

Leonard’s decampment from the Toronto Raptors has made way for the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks to ascend into the Finals to take on the Western Conference’s best. All of these teams have tried to add pieces with this idea of a wide-open NBA table in mind: The Sixers now have Al Horford, the Celtics Kemba Walker, and Milwaukee a cavalcade of veteran talent including Kyle Korver.

And indeed, the more proven championship-caliber teams are out east. Philadelphia, for all its growing pains and issues arising around Joel Embiid‘s conditioning, added the one player in Horford who was able to put a stop to them. Well, save for Leonard, who put in a bouncing jumper to end the Sixers’ season last year.

That again, Philadelphia is missing two key pieces from last year that we don’t know how they will make up for. JJ Redick is now with the New Orleans Pelicans, and his shooting presence will be missed. Redick made 240 threes last year for the Sixers. Landry Shamet was second on the team with 99. Jimmy Butler is now with the Miami Heat, and his dynamism on the wing will be difficult to replace.

The Celtics and the Bucks have similar issues when looking at their championship resumes. Boston has a glut of wings, although it’s not clear how good any of them are outside of Marcus Smart. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are dueling for future contract extensions. Gordon Hayward didn’t look great last season, and although there is hope he will be his old self this year, we’ll have to wait and actually see it to feel comfortable. That’s before mentioning that Horford is no longer anchoring the paint for the Celtics.

Milwaukee found a hard stop last year when it came to its playoff readiness. The Bucks were not particularly steady in the postseason, and teams were able to plan around Giannis Antetokounmpo and his lack of 3-point shooting. Last season’s MVP has said that his goal is to get better from beyond the arc, and any improvement in 2019-20 would be acceptable. Even despite the team adding Kyle Korver, they will be relying on Wesley Matthews, George Hill, and Pat Connaughton to flesh out the wing. Gone is Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers, perhaps their most reliable player in the playoffs.

Put together, all three championship contenders in the Eastern Conference have their issues. But so to do the newly-minted challengers out west. There’s a thought that both of the Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers — who now have Anthony Davis — will show some weakness to start the year. The Clippers will need to use load management on both Leonard and George, the latter of which is still recovering from double shoulder surgery. And although the Clippers were one of the best teams in terms of depth last season, how adding two new stars changes that dynamic is not yet known.

On the other side of the hallway in Los Angeles stands the Lakers, who outside of Davis, LeBron, and Danny Green don’t have much to show for all the bluster around their title hopes. The Lakers roster is flat-out bad, and despite tons of optimism around media types, I’m just not buying that they are a championship-level squad yet. The Lakers have real injury concerns, and until they make it all the way through to the Western Conference Finals, those will always be top-of-mind.

The second-tier in the west is plucky, but not necessarily ready for overt dominance. The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs will all be in the running for the middle of the pack next year. Do any have championship rosters? Some of these teams are top-heavy, including Houston with James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Others, like the Nuggets and Jazz, will rely on their depth. Harden and Nikola Jokic could be legitimate MVP candidates, and that’s a problem in a league where it’s difficult to make it to the Finals without one.

That puts us in a difficult position in terms of “counting out” the Warriors. Thompson has said that he is going to take his time coming back from his ACL injury, but he should be a part of a Warriors playoff run in the spring of 2020. Without Durant, both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will be extra motivated to prove themselves as the core pieces to the team that dominated the NBA long before Durant came to the Bay Area.

Health will be another concern for Golden State, particularly with Curry and his ankles. Weight, if you can call it a health concern in context of the NBA, is what most will be raising questions about when it comes to Green. He entered the season last year a bit slower, and burned off 20 pounds at the All-Star break to make a playoff run. They will need the former Defensive Player of the Year to come into the preseason already able to do what he did last year: Disrupt opposing offenses and pressure the defense with his pace-pushing offensive style.

For now, at the precipice of the season, it seems clear that the Eastern Conference is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champions. At least, as a group. This isn’t a Tiger vs. the field situation for the Clippers. They just aren’t that strong, and in this case the safer bet would be on one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses instead of just L.A. It’s possible that the Clippers are will be as dominant as projected. In that case, it would be a bitter irony for the East to be subjected to yet another super team on the West Coast just as one appears to have a chink in its armor.

New teams coming together — particularly super teams — have not always had the best track record. Will the Clippers be LeBron James with the Miami Heat in 2008? Or will they be Durant with the Warriors in 2017? Consistency and familiarity cannot be ruled out as a function of success in the NBA. It would be smart for teams in the East to continue to build on their core as long as the teams out west are starting to form theirs. They may only have a short window with which to strike before the Warriors, Clippers, or some other team takes control of the league.

Watch Ben Simmons hit his first ever NBA 3-pointer (VIDEO)

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Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has taken a total of 19 NBA 3-pointers during the course of his career. Per NBA.com, Simmons has combined to shoot fewer than 20 shots from beyond the arc in all of his preseason, regular season, and postseason appearances thus far.

But now Simmons is a career 1-of-20 from three.

During Tuesday night’s preseason game against the Guangzhou Long-Lions, Simmons ended the first half by giving the fans exactly what they want — a 3-pointer, the first of his career.

It was an ecstatic moment for Sixers fans waiting for Simmons to finally make the leap and become some kind of shooting threat outside of the painted area. Philadelphia really needs Simmons to come into his own and at least develop a jumper at the free-throw line if they want their offense to have some kind of spacing in the absence of JJ Redick.

Is this the first of many Simmons threes to come? Better cross your fingers.

Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick go head-to-head in 3-point shooting contest

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We have all seen that New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball has a new shooting form. It’s more conventional than in years past, and no doubt the Pelicans are hoping that it means a more consistent 3-point shot from Ball.

The team got to put that to the test this week when Ball took on legendary NBA sharpshooter and teammate JJ Redick. In a shooting contest, Ball and Redick went head-to-head with each other and the result was…

Well, just watch this video from the team:

That’s sort of a hard outcome given how good things looked for Ball. But he shouldn’t have too much pain in losing to Redick, who is an all-time great.

New Orleans should be an interesting team as a playoff hopeful contender, and they have a bunch of likable guys on their roster. If Ball can become a better 3-point shooter — he shot just 32 percent last season — it could mean a big difference for how teams defend the Pelicans this year.

Report: Sixers to re-sign Mike Scott to two-year deal

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The Philadelphia 76ers are going to need shooting next season, particularly with JJ Redick now playing for the New Orleans Pelicans.

On Sunday as free agency got underway, Philly re-signed Mike Scott to a two-year deal worth $9.8 million.

Scott played 27 games last season for the 76ers and shot 41 percent from 3-point range.

Via Twitter:

Scott was an excellent spot-up shooter, participating as a gunner in 41.7 percent of his possessions last season, according to Synergy. Scott shot a great percentage in that role, and he’ll be needed next year as the Sixers try to make up for the lost shooting Redick would have provided.

Meanwhile, Philly will probably have one of the tallest starting fives in the NBA next year now that Al Horford has signed on to play power forward.

The East is going to be wild.

Report: Pelicans sign JJ Redick to two-year, $26.5 million deal

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Free agency — actual free agency — has started. Reports trickled in on Sunday various players signing with teams once 6 p.m. EST deadline passed. But when the time came, some signings were announced that didn’t get leaked.

To that end, former Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Redick adds some much-needed shooting to a New Orleans squad that is looking to be an immediate threat in the Western Conference.

Via Twitter:

Redick had previously taken a series of one-year deals to play with the 76ers at an exorbitantly high rate. With this two-year contract, the Pelicans get him at a slight discount from seasons past.

This could be a serious problem for the competition in the conference. New Orleans still has coach Alvin Gentry, who can push the pace and get offenses down the floor. Adding shooting to the combination of players already at their disposal will make the Pelicans formidable in transition.

With Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram in play, along with all-star-caliber guard Jrue Holiday, New Orleans is looking to contend in the Western Conference. Now that the Golden State Warriors don’t have Kevin Durant — who is heading to the Brooklyn Nets — things are wide open out west.