2018-19 NBA Thread

Westbrook can afford to have his terrible games in an 82-game season while still having enough good games (playing bad teams helps) to get his team into the playoffs. Shorten that to a 7-game series vs a playoff team and the problems just magnify themselves. Presti really messed up keeping him out of everyone they had.

Still, he was actually fun to watch and root for during his MVP season. Since then he's been annoying as hell to watch.
All the Seattle fans had a collective orgasm as Dame sunk that three and waved goodbye to the overrated garbage that is the Westbrook led Thunder. Lillard feels like Kobe's spiritual successor in the league with his ability to pull up from anywhere and put his team on his back in big moments. It takes real mamba mentality to learn from last season's failure and come back a better player. AND he's most likely a blazer lifer
At one point it looked like the Warriors were gonna disprove Lawler's Law in what would've been his last game, but now the Clippers live another day for a shot at completing the biggest upset in NBA history if they manage to take it to 7 and win in what would be the last game at the Oracle.
(2) Toronto Raptors versus (3) Philadelphia 76ers

What a fascinating match-up. This series has the potential to have like, multiple cross-matches maybe even in one possession. It’ll be a hassle to predict which wings guard who and which wings have an advantage or disadvantage.

Let’s start with the overall structure of their rosters. Toronto undoubtedly has more depth than Philadelphia. This gives them more versatility and ways to attack just like in their previous series with Orlando. Philadelphia is a bigger team, but their length isn’t as imposing.

Both teams have relatively new rosters, but Philadelphia’s is even more new. Embiid’s health is still a question mark. Three-point shooting is also sketch. I simply have a lot of questions for this roster as far as how they plan to be effective against a team that shoots better, isolates better, and runs better.

Let’s start with the guarantee match-up of Embiid and Gasol. Embiid’s career numbers against Gasol are very underwhelming and it doesn’t help that Gasol can shoot threes as well as Ibaka. Toronto having a center who can stretch the floor for a full 48 minutes is going to be very advantageous for them because Boban and Embiid will be drawn away from the basket, and it gives Toronto an avenue to attack mismatches and play through Kawhi which are very solid forms of offense from them. Redick and Harris will likely be the primary targets. Gasol will also be effective in the fact that, like Horford, is an excellent passer. Suddenly, the basket opens up for cuts and off-ball movement. Toronto certainly has an advantage in having so many ways they can attack and get easier shots.

Okay, so what can Philadelphia hang their hat on?

Not much to be honest. I’ve been trying to conceptualize a way for Philadelphia to win this series and it’s quite hard to convince myself. I suppose we can start with Kyle Lowry who seems to be Toronto’s weakest individual defender. My guess is that he’s likely to be on Redick or Butler; however, I’m not so sure Philadelphia gets by with a large dosage of Butler post-ups with a team as defensively talented as Toronto in guarding post-ups. If Lowry’s on Redick, I suppose that’s a win for Philadelphia, but if they match-up on the other end, it’s also a win for Toronto since Redick is a point of attack from like, everybody. Lowry isn’t half bad on off-ball defense but if Philadelphia can’t find a way to make Lowry some sort of defensive liability, I’m not sure where else they find mismatches outside of Butler.

Toronto just has too many talented two-way players. Philadelphia with all its lack of depth will have to heavily depend more on Butler, Harris, and Redick to find any kind of scoring because I simply can’t trust Simmons if he’s being guarded by Kawhi. The career numbers suggest that’s a win for Kawhi.

Hm. Maybe this match-up isn’t as fascinating once we just examine the depth difference.

Toronto wins if: Kawhi shuts down Simmons, Redick is a defensive liability, Gasol gets the better of the Embiid match-up on both ends, and Toronto’s overall versatility and depth overwhelm Philadelphia.

Philadelphia wins if
: Embiid dominates his match-up, Gasol and Ibaka struggle to score or contribute offensively, Simmons busts through Kawhi’s wall of hands, and Redick stays on the floor and shoots hot

Toronto in six.

(1) Milwaukee Bucks versus (4) Boston Celtics

Hot take time?

I understand Milwaukee to be favored in this match-up, and it makes sense for people to favor them over a team that had slumps during the regular season. It may be a mistake to think this match-up is a foregone conclusion in favor of Milwaukee, though.

Looking over the overall statistical rankings of both teams, Boston is especially suited to match-up quite well with Milwaukee. Milwaukee was #1 overall in defensive efficiency during the regular season. Their scheme was predicated on protecting the paint and the rim at all costs; even at the cost of allowing the most three-point attempts of all teams. So, what they essentially do is only allow you to shoot threes from your less-than-stellar shooters in less-than-stellar spots.

This plays out perfectly for Boston because they’re a team that ranks very low in rim shots and paint points. Boston takes a lot of threes and long-jump shots in general.

I know it’s weird to say that it’s a positive to take longer jumpshots but when it comes to deciding which team to favor, one of the key things you want to look for between playoff teams is this: who can stay closer to their style of play and normal shot distribution? From the get-go, it’s more likely Boston’s offense is largely unaffected by the defense of Milwaukee lest they make significant changes in their defensive schemes.

Milwaukee’s defense concedes many threes because Lopez is not a mobile center and prefers to lay back inside the paint. The problem arises when he’s forced to be matched up with a center who can shoot threes like Horford. In addition to Horford’s ability to stretch the floor, Kyrie and Hayward are exceptional shooters off-the-dribble. Milwaukee’s wings will have to do their best to force them to drive closer to Lopez.

It doesn’t help that Lopez’s regular season numbers against Boston are bad. If he gets played off the floor, we’ll see a different version of Milwaukee be it Giannis at the center or DJ Wilson. Either way, we don’t know how those line-ups perform over a long period of time because all we’ve seen was Lopez. Lopez, in general, is integral to their offense because he’s their most prolific three-point shooter in makes. The match-up between Lopez and Boston’s frontline is probably the most important.

I personally find this series to be less Giannis and Kyrie focused than most people may think. Giannis is certainly a force to reckon with, but he’s as much part of the overall scheme of Milwaukee as he is individually great. He can singlehandley win you a game or two, but he still is one guy. Stevens can plan around one guy and he has before. Giannis is on a whole new level of domination compared to last year of course, but if Stevens can find a plan in which Giannis is working for his own points and everyone stays home on shooters, they’ll be solid. Boston has the personnel and 3-point defensive metrics to make this plan a reality. It will be up to Milwaukee’s role guys to find ways to score outside that three-point line if we expect them to advance.

Both teams depend a lot on their three-point shooting, and with Lopez’s shaky defensive scheme and Brogdon’s injury, I’m not so sure Milwaukee has better overall three-point shooters. Both teams are about even in that category, and since both teams attempt plenty, allow me to refer you to the adage of whoever makes their shots wins which essentially makes this a scheme series to me.

A scheme series to me is that these teams are almost perfectly even and wins and losses may really come down to whose coach has better plans and adjustments. There’s no real way to tell who will make their shots or who will have the gameplan to make more shots other than intuition.

I’m somewhat sketchy on Milwaukee’s overall scheme, and my reasoning for giving Boston a serious shot in winning this series is less being impressed with Boston and more wondering if Milwaukee’s schemes are legit. I do not question the dominance of Giannis. I do not question their amazing shot distribution and overall defensive metrics. I just want to know if this team is flexible. I know they’re good, but are they flexible when one or two line-ups are not working? Are they so dependent on Giannis and shooters that there never really was a plan B worth talking about? We certainly will find out this series.

Milwaukee wins if: The role players contribute in their own ways, shoot better than Boston’s shooters, Lopez finds a way to stay on the floor and at least plays even with Boston’s frontline, their defensive scheme works or there’s a plan B that works I did not foresee.

Boston wins if: Lopez is played off the floor, Steven’s defensive plan exposes Milwaukee’s lack of depth and overall creativity without Giannis, Boston … makes their shots.

Boston in six.
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(1) GSW vs (4) HOU

Don't really have much time to talk or find something in the stats much for this one. The upset is super tempting though. I'd take it if only because GSW feels extremely off defensively. If HOU wins, it's because they gameplanned way better in something for a game or two. GSW still has way more talent, but their system may have finally been figured out. HOU wins if Draymond and Iguo are being forced to shoot more. The effectiveness of Curry is absolutely crucial. I can't reliably predict anything to happen in this series because... Anything can happen. Maybe just apply what I wrote almost a year ago?

Houston.... In six.
(2) Denver Nuggets versus (3) Portland Trailblazers

So, Denver’s for real. Or at least real in the sense that they could conceivably make it to the western conference finals.
I know I said the lack of Nurkic would have made a big difference in the Oklahoma City series, but we may have to seriously consider it even more in this series knowing Jokic is far more imposing than Adams.

Denver may not necessarily be more imposing with their frontline defensively, but their three-point percentage defense at least over the course of the regular season is enough to consider that they could limit Portland’s three-point shooting, and whenever Portland loses much of that, their chances of winning a game drop significantly.

Portland can get through this whole ordeal if their role-players can make shots, and if it is to be expected that Denver is a better defensive team on the perimeter, it stands to reason that Portland’s looks will be a bit worse and ball movement will be a bit more key.

I want to say it feels like this series comes down to the stars more than you would think if only because they are decent barometers. Lillard and McCollum must play well. That’s just it, and you could say the same for Jokic. Which team’s star players will have a more consistent impact on their teams? Jokic, at least for his match-ups, has far fewer imposing players to stop him (Kanter, Leonard, Collins). Craig, Harris, and Morris are certainly far more intimidating relative to their position. To me, this is already a plus for Denver.

I said rebounding would be key in the Oklahoma City series, and Portland did a decent job. Denver is even better in that department, and I have a gut feeling Jokic and Millsap could feast inside. They did do this at times against San Antonio, a good defensive rebounding team, and you still must account for the loss of Nurkic.

I only have two concerning questions for Denver: One, if Portland spreads you out, can Jokic be counted on to be effective in a spread pick and roll offensive with someone as lethal as Lillard? Two, who will Murray guard? McCollum? Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Harkless/Aminu? Another disaster waiting to happen.

The central themes of this series to me are basically this: the backcourt scoring of Portland versus Denver’s interior scoring, rebounding, and shot-making from their tertiary options. Who do you trust more in these areas?

Denver wins if: Jokic is feasting, not abused in a spread pick and roll as much through Lillard, and Denver’s backcourt prove to be decent defensive stoppers

Portland wins if: Lillard spread pick and roll is unbelievably explosive offensively, destroying one of the best three-point defenses percentage wise, his role players make their shots through this defense, and they keep up in rebounding. Kanter becomes a starter-caliber player in a small line-up in 2019.

Denver in six.
Popping back in for the first time in forever about the Sixers.

Regular season: I'm happy we're trying to make moves. I'll forever miss RoCo and Saric but I love the play to bring in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris (both of which I LOVE on the team). Mailed it in during the latter part of the regular season though IMO which sucks but hey we secured the 3 seed. Wish Embiid was a little more healthy but hey we've been saying it for years now lol.

Nets series: Man fuck this mediocre team. I can't believe Jared Dudley of all people was being an instigator and that everyone was being so whiny about the refs (though this seems to be a common theme of the playoffs lol). Wasn't necessarily thrilled with our play overall but I think we did a great job dominating game 5 and was feeling confident going into the Raptors series.

Raptors series (though 2 games): I was panicking after Game 1. Seemed like we were completely overmatched. However, I'm very happy with how we bounced back in Game 2 on the road. Played pretty good defense and managed to make it 1-1 even without Embiid playing well thank the lord. I'm cautiously optimistic, but we gotta figure something out with Siakam. I was expecting Leonard to get his and that's fine, but I feel like Siakam is playing out of his damn mind.
Still expect Toronto to win, but Houston is looking like a silly pick right now if only because of the constant whining to the refs and well, they simply lack depth and the ability to beat Golden State when they're truly locked in on defense with small guys.

Isolation won't work and I don't think there's much adjustments you can really do here.
Nuggets got a lot of praise (and rightfully so) for team play during the regular season, but Jokic has been hard carrying vs the Blazers. Played 65 of the 68 minutes, including the entire second half plus 4 OTs. Dude was GASSED but Malone didn’t have a choice, other guys have to step up, jeez.
I'm really worried about Rockets. Game 3 win, but at OT by a little margin and with terrible game by Steph and Klay. They won't score 20- forever.
i mean game 1 and 2 was shit for both and rockets could have stole one of those also.

Warriors are definitely superior imo.. but its been pretty sloppy for both sides. Rockets just delaying the inevitable unfortunately.. feels like they arent even better than last year.
Giannis figured out the Celtic defense, man. His spin moves are killin' 'em.

I was clearly wrong about how good this team could be defensively even if they do give up a ton of threes.

Also, George Hill.. just suddenly plays like a stud? What is it with Cleveland and making everybody worse... then when they leave they become studs. Rodney Hood too.


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Giannis figured out the Celtic defense, man. His spin moves are killin' 'em.

I was clearly wrong about how good this team could be defensively even if they do give up a ton of threes.

Also, George Hill.. just suddenly plays like a stud? What is it with Cleveland and making everybody worse... then when they leave they become studs. Rodney Hood too.
LeBron effect.

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