June 17, 2016, 9:14 pm
As a quick note, this marks our last edition of One Big Thing while the NBA is in action. I’ll be around finding Big Things to write about in the offseason, including free agency, the draft, Summer League and the Olympics to tide us over into next season. It’s been a pleasure to join the Hoop Ball team this year, and I safely speak for everyone involved in saying that we’re glad to have you fine folks along for the ride going forward.
Hoop Ball, at least to me, is a place to celebrate and learn about basketball. For you, that could involve a variety of things: scanning the news wire, picking up a new fantasy strategy, perusing prospect and draft coverage, or reading opinion columns that cover large scope issues (*cough cough*). We’re all here because we love the game, and I assume the same goes for you too.
With that said, best way to learn about anything is to engage in a conversation. I’m of the belief that any interaction affords you an opportunity to learn something new, so I’m going to open the floor up because I want to know what you want to talk about. Leave a comment, tweet at me @Mike_Pandador or us @HoopBallTweets, hashtag #OneBigThing and I’ll try my best to get to it. Writing shouldn’t be an isolationist gig so let me know if there’s a topic or idea you’d like to read about.
Anyway, One Big Thing.
I like to play chess. I’d venture to say that I love chess, but I’m actually both a mediocre chess player and afraid of commitment. Chess is great for teaching you to think ahead and prepare for multiple outcomes, which seems like a fine lesson to carry over to many things, basketball included.
When you start a fresh game, one of the first things you want to do is develop your pieces. The basic tenets of development are getting your pieces towards the center of the board to control game flow and getting your pieces to advantageous squares. ‘Advantageous’ holds different meanings for each piece, but basically you want to get them into spots with lots of options. Once there are multiple avenues of attack, they become far more dangerous to your opponent.
Take, for example, the knight. The horse, for newcomers. From a corner square a knight can only be moved to two squares. If you choose to develop your knight, i.e. get it out towards the center of the board, it can attack up to eight different squares. In the wrong spot, it’s entirely useless. In the right spot, you present up to eight choices for your opponent to think about. Having someone juggle eight different outcomes hinging on just one piece is a good way to tilt the scales in your favor.
It’s also important to know what each piece can do for you. A knight, while moving in nifty little ‘L’ shapes, can attack eight strangely-arranged squares. It can get to just about anywhere on the board, but it’s not going to get from end to end quickly.
Harrison Barnes is a knight. It’s pretty hard to get beaten by a knight on its own, but as a complementary piece a knight can be pretty dangerous. The Cavs have been giving Barnes the Tony Allen treatment as of late, all but ignoring him on the perimeter and daring him to shoot. Barnes has done his part to make the strategy work with a series of truly awful shooting nights. If you can take out an opponent’s queen and rooks, you’re probably going to win. That’s easier said than done, but we’ve seen Cleveland do a pretty good job of keeping Golden State’s best players from going truly bananas.
A bishop is a more valuable piece than the knight. Despite only being able to attack half the squares on the board, a bishop can travel end to end with relative ease. Context matters, of course, but in most games you’d rather sacrifice a knight than a bishop.
Kevin Love is a bishop. He’s an accomplished scorer and rebounder. His defensive warts have been discussed at length, but he’s still a guy that you should want on your team in most scenarios. For reasons beyond my comprehension, Cleveland insists on turning him into a knight. Shoving Love in the corner and making him a catch and shoot guy is a disservice to everyone involved. They’re handicapping him by not putting him in a spot where he can attack in multiple ways.
Love is a tremendous threat as a pick and pop guy and can work over smaller players in the post. While Tristan Thompson’s presence clogs the paint in exchange for valuable rebounding, there are still opportunities to get Love the ball while backing down a smaller player. That’s not even to say that he’s a bad catch and shoot guy, he’s just having the tools taken out of his toolbox. If he’s in the corner, he’s going to rise and fire or pass again. Unless someone gets burned by a pump fake, he’s not going to drive into the paint.
Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that the Cavs have been using Love above the break at the start of games only to completely move away from it as the game goes on. I’m not sure what persuades Ty Lue to whittle down Love’s participation, but it’s curious that Love’s activity is a first quarter phenomenon. Love fell victim to foul trouble in Game 6 and maybe the Cavs didn’t want to move away from what was working by the time he returned to the floor. Maybe Lue wanted his best group of defenders out there to avoid any surge from the Warriors in the game’s final quarter. Both are reasonable but don’t really excuse the rest of the series.
Whatever the cause, Love’s value has dropped tremendously this postseason. His next team would be wise to play him to his strengths.
April 23, 2019, 12:10 amReggie Jackson - G - Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson scored a team-high 26 points (9-of-20 FGs, 5-of-9 threes, 3-of-3 FTs) with seven dimes, three boards and a steal in Monday's Game 4 loss to the Bucks.
Jackson looked great tonight while keeping the Pistons in front for the majority of the game. However, the Bucks went on a big run in the 3rd and 4th quarters to complete the sweep. Jackson, at age 29, doesn't have a whole lot of upside left, but he's certainly capable of putting together games like this once or twice a month to swing a head-to-head matchup.
April 22, 2019, 11:53 pmAndre Drummond - C - Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond double-doubled with 15 points and 12 rebounds in addition to three assists and one steal in Monday's series finale vs. the Bucks.
Drummond made just 7-of-16 field goals as he was blocked at the rim multiple times and struggled to drop it in even when he wasn't. Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't make it easy on him tonight, but Drummond did have a strong season that shouldn't be forgotten as next season's fantasy drafts roll around.
April 22, 2019, 11:45 pmLuke Kennard - G - Detroit Pistons
Luke Kennard came off the bench on Monday night and scored just 11 points with one triple in 32 minutes.
Kennard had a pair of four-trey games to start the series, but he was mostly invisible in this one. There's still reason for optimism when Kennard enters his third season with the Pistons, especially if he can secure a consistant starting role.
April 22, 2019, 11:32 pmLangston Galloway - G - Detroit Pistons
Langston Galloway was very active as he compiled 10 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and two threes in 32 minutes off the bench on Monday, but it wasn't enough to keep the Pistons alive.
Galloway's spark helped the Pistons hold the lead for majority of the game, but the Bucks eventually outplayed them to complete the series sweep. He'll be back with the Pistons and likely won't be much more than an occasional threes streamer in standard leagues once again.
April 22, 2019, 11:23 pmGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo went for a playoff career-high 41 (12-for-23 FGs, 15-for-20 FTs) points vs. the Pistons in Monday's 127-104 Game 4 victory.
Giannis was everywhere tonight as the Bucks completed the Round 1 sweep. He blocked four shots, had nine boards, dished out three assists, had a steal and hit two triples in his 32 minutes to go with the big scoring total. The Pistons had the lead for the majority of the game, but Antetokounmpo and company's superior talent, shooting and aggressiveness won out down the stretch.
April 22, 2019, 11:14 pmKhris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Khris Middleton had 18 points (5-of-11 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), four rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes as the Bucks completed their sweep of the Pistons on Monday night.
Middleton had a good series, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 threes. The Bucks will likely need him to keep it up as the competition heats up in Round 2 vs. the Celtics.
April 22, 2019, 11:08 pmSterling Brown - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Sterling Brown grabbed a game-high 13 boards to go with nine points, six assists and a steal in 27 minutes in Monday's win over the Pistons.
Brown didn't put up the flashiest stat lines in this series, but this was a great one. Malcolm Brogdon (right foot plantar fascia) is likely to return at some point in the next series against the Celtics, so Brown is probably headed back to the bench shortly.
April 22, 2019, 11:02 pmEric Bledsoe - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Eric Bledsoe had a well-rounded line with 16 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block and one three in 28 minutes in Monday's Game 4 win over the Pistons.
Bledsoe shot 7-of-12 in this closeout game while providing a steady veteran presence. For the series, he averaged over 19 points, four rebounds, five assists and exactly two steals. Bledsoe's defense will be tested in Round 2 against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.
April 22, 2019, 10:54 pmNikola Mirotic - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Nikola Mirotic sank three triples on his way to scoring 12 points for the second game in a row in Monday's Game 4 against the Pistons.
Mirotic is still rounding into form and he's not doing much beyond hitting threes, but he should be able to contribute more in the next series as he gets his wind back.
April 22, 2019, 10:48 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
Brook Lopez (back) briefly went to the locker room before re-entering the game in the second half of Monday night's Game 4 vs. the Pistons.
Lopez ended up with five big blocks, seven points, five rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes in the closeout game. His numbers in the series were similar to his regular season stats, but he increased his blocks to 3.5 per game. He'll have another tough challenge in Round 2 when Al Horford comes to town.
Source: Matt Velazquez on Twitter