April 30, 2018, 4:07 pm
The first round is finally done after a pair of Game 7s and the second round has already kicked off out west.
In the West, we’ve got two heavy favorites against two surprise teams being lifted by superstar efforts. In the East, there are two highly anticipated matchups featuring what could be the greatest player of all-time playing at the peak of his powers having just eked out a series victory taking on a familiar foe and a couple of young guns looking to make a splash in their first playoff experience against an undermanned but tough-as-nails squad with a winning pedigree.
This could be four very entertaining series all transpiring at once. Let’s have some fun:
Eastern Conference – Celtics vs. Sixers
This week’s schedule:
Monday: Game 1 in Boston
Thursday: Game 2 in Boston
Saturday: Game 3 in Philadelphia
The Celtics survived one of the NBA’s many unicorns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Bucks with an easy Game 7 win in Boston on Saturday. Their reward? A matchup with a pair of unicorns. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid dispatched the Heat in five games and are now 20-1 since March 13. Boston has homecourt advantage for the series, which certainly came in handy in the first round, winning each of their four games. But Philly is a different animal, having won every road game they’ve played since March 8. The Sixers have a clear talent edge with two of the best youngins the league has seen in quite some time. The key to this series is how much of a chess match Brad Stevens can turn it into. Can he come up with a scheme that forces Ben Simmons into jumpshots, almost eliminating him offensively? That could be the only way that the Celtics take four of these seven games.
Eastern Conference – Raptors vs. Cavs
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday: Game 1 in Toronto
Thursday: Game 2 in Toronto
Saturday: Game 3 in Cleveland
This is the moment all of Canada has been waiting for. The Raptors earned the 1-seed in the East with what could be their best team in franchise history. Awaiting them in round two is the team that sent them packing the last two seasons. But this isn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers of previous seasons. This, much like a decade ago, feels like a one-man team. How hard could it be to beat one guy? Toronto should ask the Pacers who saw LeBron James drop 34.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks with 55/35/82 shooting splits over seven games. You have to wonder if the existence and threat of LeBron is enough to get in the heads of the Raptors after he averaged 36 points per game in last year’s second round sweep of Toronto. That said, it honestly could be the Raptors best strategy to let James have whatever he wants and make absolutely sure that nobody else contributes. If Toronto can limit the Cavs’ shooters, especially when they have their LeBron plus four shooters lineups, the Raptors can position themselves well. At that point, with Toronto’s efficient offense, stingy defense and strong depth, LeBron may need to average 50 per game to get the job done. The scary part is – if anybody can do it, it’s him.
Western Conference – Warriors vs. Pelicans (GS leads 1-0)
This week’s schedule:
Tuesday: Game 2 in Oakland
Friday: Game 3 in New Orleans
Sunday: Game 4 in New Orleans
This became a hot matchup to talk about after the Pelicans’ impressive first round showing where they demolished the Blazers in a sweep. Helped by the fact that the Warriors didn’t exactly look like the Warriors in their five-game first round win over the Spurs, people began to whisper about what Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo could do to the defending champs. We’re only one game in but those whispers already feel like an overreaction. The Warriors used their offensive avalanche to dismantle New Orleans in Game 1 and that was without Stephen Curry who could be back as soon as Tuesday night for Game 2. If Curry isn’t quite healthy, the Pels shouldn’t be counted out just yet. It was the typical perfect Golden State storm as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 53 points while Draymond Green tossed up a triple-double. The biggest key though – Green’s defense on Davis and Durant taking defensive duties on Holiday. The Pelicans need to get Durant switched off of Jrue as often as possible in these next few games and Holiday showed a versatile offensive attack in the Portland series that can be a major help in this one. If Curry’s side-to-side quickness isn’t quite up to snuff yet, that’s who the Pelicans need to get Jrue in front of. While there are strategies that exist that favor New Orleans, if Steph is 100 percent and good to go, none of it really matters. We saw the Warriors flip the switch on Saturday. If the Pels can’t find a way to turn the switch off, this series could be over before week’s end.
Western Conference – Rockets vs. Jazz (HOU leads 1-0)
This week’s schedule:
Wednesday: Game 2 in Houston
Friday: Game 3 in Salt Lake City
Sunday: Game 4 in Salt Lake City
It may not be fair to judge the Jazz for their 110-96 loss in Sunday’s Game 1 against Houston. They were less than 48 hours removed from a highly-emotional series clincher at home against the Thunder and the Rockets are one of the two most difficult teams to prepare for in the NBA. Luckily for Utah, they have some time to get ready for Wednesday’s Game 2 but that still may not be enough time to come up with a way to stop James Harden who poured in an easy 41 points in Game 1. Utah’s defense is strong but one of their strong suits is forcing guys to take deep 3-pointers. The Rockets are the worst possible team to take that approach against. If the Jazz force Houston to drive to the rim where the best defensive player in the league, Rudy Gobert, awaits, Harden and his crew are salivating at the thought of getting the Stifle Tower in foul trouble. This Jazz team is feisty and among the toughest in the league and that comes from head coach Quin Snyder. But Snyder is looking at his toughest task yet. This series has the makings of a long story but Houston’s versatility and all-around math problem could make life miserable for Snyder’s Jazz.
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) is doubtful for tonight’s Game 1 tilt with the Sixers. Brown did tell Brad Stevens that he felt better this morning and Stevens said, “He’ll go through whatever he can in shootaround and then, if he can play, he’ll play,” so Brown shouldn’t be fully ruled out for this one.
Stephen Curry (knee) is expected to play in tomorrow night’s Game 2 against the Pelicans.
Ricky Rubio (hamstring) missed Game 1 of the series with the Rockets and is likely to miss Game 2. The original report suggested that Rubio could miss10 days or more with this injury.
June 18, 2019, 10:44 pmKevin Love - F/C - Cleveland Cavaliers
According to Brian Windhorst, Kevin Love has been in some trade talks and the chances that he's on the Cavs next season are 50/50.
Windhorst mentioned that it's hard to find the right deal for Love, who is set to start a 4-year $120 million contract this fall, but that's a much bigger chance of him leaving than had been recently reported. The Cavs likely have some summer deals to make, but as it sits now, the fantasy values of Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic would be on the rise with a Love departure.
Source: Aaron Goldhammer on Twitter
June 18, 2019, 10:01 pmBobby Portis - F - Washington Wizards
Bobby Portis, who will likely become a restricted free agent after the Wizards extend a qualifying offer, is expected to be pursued by at least 5-10 teams once free agency begins.
Among the teams that are reportedly interested in Portis are the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and the Knicks among others. If the Wizards extend the $3.6 million qualifying offer to Portis, they will have the chance to match any contract offer Portis receives from another team.
Source: NBC Sports
June 18, 2019, 8:55 pmKyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics
Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting that the Nets believe they are the favorites to land Kyrie Irving in free agency.
Irving to the Nets has been on overdrive the past few weeks, and it's looking almost certain that Irving will be on the Nets, Lakers or Knicks come July 1st. D'Angelo Russell may be playing elsewhere next season if the Nets acquire Irving in free agency. Stay tuned.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
June 18, 2019, 8:20 pmRob Pelinka - Team - Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Lakers are aggressively pursuing the purchase of second-round picks in Thursday’s draft.
In addition to trying to unload additional bench players, the Lakers would like to acquire a few second-round picks to round out their roster with minimum salary players. If the Lakers can get any late picks, it will give the team even more breathing room in free agency. The Lakers’ master plan after signing LeBron James last offseason is starting to shift into high gear.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 18, 2019, 8:13 pmAnthony Davis - F/C - Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Lakers are trying to expand the Anthony Davis trade to open up a max salary slot on July 6, by offering up Mo Wagner, Jemerrio Jones and Isaac Bonga to additional teams.
The Lakers got their guy in AD, but they also want more wiggle room for another max guy and role players to fill out their roster. It seems that the team will do whatever it takes to get that third max player spot, aside from moving Kyle Kuzma. It seems very likely that another team will join in on the deal.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 18, 2019, 7:56 pmKyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, since the season ended, Kyrie Irving has been communicating forthrightly with Celtics' officials both privately and publicly signaling that he will leave the team in free agency.
It has been widely expected that Irving would leave the Celtics for a bit now, with the Nets being the team most analysts are pegging Irving end up with. With the news that Al Horford is going elsewhere, there is little reason to believe that Irving would stick around. We should have an official update on Irving's intentions soon enough.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 18, 2019, 7:35 pmAl Horford - F/C - Boston Celtics
Sources close to Al Horford have told Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that his camp is no longer discussing a new contract with the Celtics and he is expected to sign a 4-year deal elsewhere.
A few short months ago the Celtics were pegged as the favorites to land Anthony Davis, and forming a new big three of there own. Flash forward to now, and Davis is on the Lakers, and it looks like both Horford and Kyrie Irving are set to leave. The Celtics couldn't have foreseen a worse start to the offseason.
Source: Steve Bulpett on Twitter
June 18, 2019, 7:03 pmJames Jones - Team - Phoenix Suns
First-year GM James Jones said that there are more than six good players in the draft and that the Suns are comfortable staying put at number six.
Jones has a point, and if the team believes that they don’t need to move up to get the difference-maker that they’re targeting then staying put is the logical choice. If the Suns stand pat, they’ll be looking at drafting one of Darius Garland, Coby White, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Jarrett Culver. Garland or White would fill the most glaring team need at PG if they’re still available.
Source: AZ Central
June 18, 2019, 6:52 pmDavid Griffin - Team - New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are considering trading the 4th overall selection to acquire more picks.
One team that comes directly to mind is the Hawks, who have been rumored to be offering a trade package including the 8th and 10th selections to move up in the draft. The Hawks also have the 17th pick in the draft. Another team with multiple first rounders is the Celtics, who hold the 14th, 20th and 22nd picks. The Pelicans have also been rumored to be trying to move up to the 2nd pick in the Draft. We'll have to wait and see if there is any fire to all of this smoke.
Source: Yahoo! Sports
June 18, 2019, 6:39 pmTed Leonsis - Team - Washington Wizards
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis denied the team's reported interest in Raptors GM Masai Ujiri saying, "Any reports that we have interest in Masai Ujiri as a candidate are simply not true, and we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process.”
Ujiri is a former Executive of the year, and his Raptors just won the NBA Championship thanks in large part to the bold moves he executed in the past year. It is hard to believe that a team like the Wizards wouldn't want to make a pitch to the man who is at or near the top of his profession, but that is silly season for you. As for Ujiri, he'll have no shortage of pursuers should the Raptors grant teams permission to speak to him.
Source: Washington Post