• One Big Thing: The Western Conference playoffs we should’ve had

    You know the story. For a while now, it’s been ‘the East is a much weaker conference; the West is loaded’ and the like. This year the narrative flipped a little bit, with the bottom half of the West looking a lot weaker than we’ve come to expect.

    However, there’s no denying that the West is home to the big guns of the NBA; with four of the top five or six legitimate contenders (I’ll let you decide as to whether the Clippers or Raptors are #5) residing out West.

    At one point we were looking at a team chasing the best season ever and another approaching a perfect home record and it wasn’t even the same team. The West might be top heavy this year, but it definitely has the heavy hitters.

    Claims of the West’s unfairness used to be reserved for runners-up or teams further down the standings who would have seemingly trampled their way through the East or, at the very least, punched their playoff ticket. In a lot of ways, that’s still true. I’d be hard pressed to pick Cleveland or Toronto over any of the Warriors, Spurs or Thunder.

    Even at the playoff fringes, I’d take Utah over Detroit and Indiana in a heartbeat (we won’t talk about what that might imply for my beloved Raptors). Maybe even a properly coached Sacramento team or the Nuggets if they catch some breaks, but that’s a different story for a different time.

    In the past it’s been easy to look at teams who get bounced from the Western Conference playoffs and think about the alternate timelines where different groups get to the finals. From KG’s Timberwolves to the run and gun Suns to Carmelo’s Nuggets and the Deron Williams-led Jazz, there’s a bevy of interesting units that could’ve given the Finals a fresh face.

    Every year these ‘would-be’ teams would fall to the Lakers, Mavericks or Spurs — the same bullies taking everybody’s lunch money each and every year.

    The Thunder have been a jacked-up version of a ‘would-be’ squad, even making a brief appearance on top before the Spurs and Warriors starting chipping their logos into the Mt. Rushmore of great NBA teams.

    With all due respect to the lower seeds, Round 1 was always just the appetizer. The West’s final four would be our main course.  Two historic teams, one squad with a superhuman duo and the almost-contending All Stars we all love to hate.

    This year it isn’t the quality and depth of the West that’s unfair. It’s that life isn’t fair, nor predictable.

    It’s just assumed that guys can go through thousands of minutes of basketball without a scratch — that they can play through minor bumps and bruises and still perform. Think about every collision; every hard screen, every contested rebound, every dive for a loose ball.

    Now extrapolate that over the course of one season. Of two. Keep going, but add international competitions. Add college, high school, and AAU. Add casual pickup basketball too. Maybe they got hurt during those, maybe they didn’t. But they got hurt now. All that to set up what’s looking like hoops nirvana and it’s gone in a flash. A wet spot on the court that somehow dodges those giant mops.

    A swipe at the ball and that’s it — a swipe at the ball! That’s when the body fails you. During the innocuous. Right now, of all times. We were ready for the ultimate basketball show and with a snap of the fingers half of it disappears.

    We’ve heard it so much it’s cliche — life isn’t fair. Usually the weight of that statement falls on some poor team that was almost good enough to get over the top.

    The two- and three-seed matchup between Oklahoma City and San Antonio has thankfully been spared from any series-shifting news. The Thunder are probably lucky to get past Dallas in five games, as the amount of chippy and borderline dirty play would’ve only increased moving forward.

    Maybe San Antonio could have used a more competitive warmup series, but I doubt rust comes into play. I have the utmost confidence in this matchup being great. Both of these teams are a delight to watch and it’s going to be a big time duel. Let’s keep those guys in bubble wrap until the series starts because right now it’s the clear main event on the card.

Fantasy News

  • Juancho Hernangomez
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Juan Hernangomez was back in action on Friday after undergoing core surgery in May.

    Hernangomez did not do much in his 20 minutes of action in Spain's exhibition against the US on Friday but at least he has recovered from his surgery. He is entering a contract year but it will be difficult for him to get much playing time with the Nuggets at full health. He played only 8.4 minutes per game over the last two months of last season.

    Source: Nick Kosmider on Twitter

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum's intent is to increase his scoring this season according to Keith Smith.

    Tatum has been working on being stronger with the ball, drawing fouls and finishing through contact which should result in an increase in free throws, points and efficiency. He was already a top-60 player in only his second year in the league by providing a little bit of everything from a fantasy perspective and should only continue to grow going into his third season.

    Source: Keith Smith on Twitter

  • Daulton Hommes
    SF, San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs have signed rookie Daulton Hommes.

    This is likely a camp deal for Hommes as the Spurs already have 15 guaranteed contracts on their roster. The NABC Division II Player of the Year averaged 8.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.4 triples and 1.0 threes in in 17.7 minutes for the Bucks in summer league action. He is unlikely to play in the NBA this season.

    Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    In the NBATV broadcast on Friday night, Marcus Smart said he is "100% confident" that his health won't be an issue to start the World Cup.

    With the news of PJ Tucker having to drop out due to an ankle injury, it's good to see Smart won't have to do the same. His presence will be a key factor on defense for Team USA.

    Source: Jay King on Twitter

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills scored 20 points along with three rebounds, four assists and four treys in 24 minutes in Australia's 70-90 loss to Canada in Friday's World Cup exhibition game.

    Mills lead Australia in scoring in their first World Cup exhibition game. With Dejounte Murray returning this coming season from injury and Derrick White's rise, Mills is only a deep-league player at best in 2019-20. Fellow countryman Joe Ingles scored 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.

    Source: FIBA

  • Jaylen Adams
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Bucks are signing Jaylen Adams to compete in training camp.

    Adams has his work cut out for him to make the roster as Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and Frank Mason are already securely ahead of him. He is likely to return to the G-League and is not a fantasy target this coming season.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jarell Martin
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Jarell Martin has signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Cavs.

    Martin only played 7.8 minutes per game with the Magic last season in 42 games. If he can manage to stick on the roster, he can stretch the floor, as he averaged 35.1 percent from three last season. Martin is only a streaming option at best if their frontcourt is decimated by injuries, especially if Kevin Love has another injury-plagued season.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • PJ Tucker
    SF, Houston Rockets

    P.J. Tucker has withdrawn from consideration for Team USA's Wold Cup roster due to a minor left ankle issue.

    Tucker has twisted his ankle twice in the last several days and he is taking a side of caution to let it completely heal before going into training camp with the Rockets next month. Tucker is one of the most durable players in the league as he has played at least 78 games in the past seven NBA seasons. You can expect more of the same from Tucker next season, as he averaged 7.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.5 blocks last season.

    Source: ESPN

  • Guerschon Yabusele
    PF, International

    Guerschon Yabusele has signed with Nanjing Tongxi of the CBA according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportsnado.

    Yabusele will return to China where he last played for the Shanghai Sharks. He failed to prove much during his short stint with the Celtics after being taken 16th overall in 2016. It will take a big season and leap in development for him to regain interest from NBA teams.

    Source: Sportando

  • Shabazz Muhammad
    F, International

    Shabazz Muhammad has locked in a deal to play for Chinese CBA club, the Shenzen Leopards.

    Muhammad was initially linked to the Shanxi Brave Dragons, but ultimately inked a deal with the Leopards. He has a shot at making a splash in the Chinese League as a high-volume scorer for his team.

    Source: Sportando on Twitter