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Stay In Your Lane: How LaMelo Ball Has Taken The NBA By Storm by Gavriel Wilkins

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Despite being considered by most basketball experts as the top overall player in last year’s NBA draft class, LaMelo Ball was viewed by many as one of the most polarizing young talents coming into the NBA since LeBron James.

The 6’6 guard attracted national attention before playing a high school game, faced countless criticism from the league for his defense, decision-making, and shot selection. LaMelo has been prematurely labeled as a locker room cancer, leading many to wonder if the 19-year-old phenom was fit to serve as the lead guard in an offense without the system built around him at the next level.

Now, LaMelo has successfully made his disparagers look silly the last few months, as the kid who took the less-traveled path to get to the NBA has helped make the Charlotte Hornets the league’s most exciting young team to watch on NBA League Pass. Each night LaMelo is showcasing his stardom in a way that would make his father, Michael Jordan, and Larry Johnson proud.

Can you fault LaMelo for seeking to play with an edge every night after all the comments about his game before stepping foot on a 94×50 court?

LaMelo leads all NBA rookies in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He is on pace to join Luka Dončić as the only first-year player in basketball history to average at least 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists while converting on at least 1.5 three-point shots in a single season.

LaMelo has demonstrated that he can direct any system he’s in after being inserted into the Hornets’ starting lineup following Devonte’ Graham’s knee injury last month. Since entering Charlotte’s starting five, LaMelo has averaged 20.6 points, 6.6 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game on 46.4 percent shooting from the field over a 15-game stretch. In addition to helping the Hornets stay within the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture setting up Gordon Hayward, Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, and Terry Rozier among a bevy of others with his wizard-like passing ability.

LaMelo is utilizing his handle and flair to create opportunities for his teammates out of pick-and-roll sets. Even within the half-court, LaMelo has proven to be one of the game’s most intuitive and fun point guards to play besides unlike the Prima donna tumor he was labeled to be.

Yet while LaMelo’s scintillating talent as a passer was always highly regarded, dating back to his time at the prep level, his shooting from the perimeter would draw mixed reviews. However, like all other questions, LaMelo has put most of the scout’s restlessness of past to bed.

Over the last ten games, LaMelo has shot 41 percent from deep and is averaging 6.1 attempts per game from downtown. Per basketball reference.

Playing beside Hayward and Rozier allows for LaMelo to be the primary beneficiary of quality spot-up looks into one of his signature stats when not seeking to attack the rim. As a result, this has led to opposing teams adjusting how they seek to defend LaMelo. Defenders have gone under screens, and it’s costly for defenders seeking to utilize the strategy in one-on-one situations against the Rookie of the Year frontrunner. When defenders go under screens, they’re liable to get burned more than not, and should you try to send a big on a switch to guard him, good luck.

Despite being halfway through the NBA season, LaMelo appears to be showcasing signs of being the young, valuable centerpiece in Charlotte that the rest of the other 29 teams desperately covet. LaMelo is going to continue improving by the day and as the son of the boisterous man that once told you to stay in your lane. Thus far LaVar Ball has made him look like the brightest one in the room after taking the league by storm.

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Is The Brooklyn Nets’ Offense The New High Powered defense? by Chris Allen

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They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, but there’s a new Brooklyn Nets roster that might change this ancient philosophy in sports. The Nets are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.

I’ve been watching the revitalized Nets with James Harden’s addition in one of the biggest blockbuster trades this season. With the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now Harden, the Brooklyn Nets arguably have three of the top 7 most unguardable players in the league. This causes a nightmare for defenses. After all, you can’t double-team anybody because you’re going to leave another prolific scorer open. Blake Griffin’s addition to the roster will make it challenging for defenses to have a scheme other than one on one. 

With their lineup’s construction, no one would be surprised if they got a bucket on every offensive possession. It must be demoralizing from a defensive standpoint to try to do your best to contest a layup from Irving as he can put your best defender on skates. Or try and put an undersized defender on 7’0 Durant because your bigs don’t have the quickness and agility to stay with him. Last but not least, you have to try not to foul Harden, who recently hacked the officiating rule perfecting his step-back three. 

With the focus on those three, how are the rest of your team not subject to being a poster prop for the year’s dunk with DeAndre Jordan and Griffin. 

From a sport psychology standpoint, you can’t go an entire fourth quarter in a close competitive game when every possession they do some lack of a better term “2K Hall of Fame Shit” without losing your competitive edge. Essentially their offense is so good that it puts pressure on the opposition to defend them on the defensive side and attempt to keep up with them on the offensive side, adding more stress to each player on the opposite team to make a play to stay in the game. This allows the Nets to be essentially mediocre on defense, and if they get a stop or create turnovers, you not only lost possession, but you put the ball back into their hands which is what you don’t want to do late in the 4th quarter. 

At this point, the only thing that can stop the Nets is a COVID protocol or injury. If the Nets stay healthy and work together as a team, it’ll be a tough challenge for anybody in the West, let alone in the East, to take down such an offense of powerhouse. With Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines just inflating the offense, even more, this team is dangerous. 

Irving can drop 40 on any night; Harden can get as many four-point plays as he wants, and Durant receives the green light whenever he touches the ball. Even if they miss their shots, they still have pretty solid rebounders in Nicolas Claxton, Jordan, and Griffin to reset the offense. 

Let’s not forget that they still have one of the best three-point shooters in the league, Joe Harris, waiting on defenders to make a mistake the man almost can’t miss. If the Nets make it to the NBA finals, they could threaten the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of repeating. Then again, I guess there’s only one way to determine if the offense can win you a championship. 

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Five Players In The NBA That Can Finish Their Careers With Greater On-Court Legacies Than LeBron James by @ReelTPJ

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Five players in the league can finish their careers with more extraordinary court legacies than LeBron James. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Zion Williamson, Luka Dončić, Ja Morant, and LaMelo Ball. Here’s why:

GOAT for GOAT LeBron can challenge any GOAT from Bill Russell, a pioneer amongst pioneers and leaders amongst leaders. To a GOAT such as Wilt Chamberlain, who stacked the numbers so high, not even James Harden iso’s in a Mike D’Antoni system could catch. To a GOAT such as Michael Jordan, the GOAT OF MY GOATS GOATS. It’s Mike. I’m from Chicago.

Off-the-court legacy, LeBron is tied with Jordan. Jordan is 50+ doing all this. LeBron is still in his 30s. LeBron’s done so much that I think it would be unfair to compare legacies. Michael Jordan is the precursor. So it’s hard to say LeBron can ever be better than him to those that love Mike. LeBron loves Mike.— That futuristic artificial intelligence Virtual Reality game of LeBron vs. MJ will be WILD in 2030.

LeBron’s current challengers, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, can’t catch him. Period. They’re old. They teamed up to beat bro. PLUS health. — Steph is my guy. He’s the only unanimous MVP and probably will be until Zion wins his first ring in 2025.

After Steph, THERE IS nobody good enough heading into their prime to challenge Bron’s legacy ON THE COURT. This era, 2015-2035, will also be the age of technology and the “stat” era. 50 years from now, Bron will be the first of a new generation of GOATS. He’ll be top 5 in every statistical category. Before the True Shooting percentage nerds took over the game, LeBron accumulated a large part of those numbers before the stat era began.

Also, this is the dawn of a new century. Basketball has been around for 130 years at this point. Really in its most proper form since 1970.
So let’s get to why these guys can challenge LeBron’s legacy.

GIANNIS

Giannis is a 2X MVP and a DPOY through 8 seasons in the NBA. His numbers are still on par with last year’s. He continues to shine. BIGGEST QUESTION IS…… CAN HE WIN? I’m not sure. I hope he can. I think Giannis can win 5-7 rings if paired with the right guard. Imagine Ja and GIANNIS! OMG OMG OMG! One can dream, right? Still, Giannis has GOAT potential. He has everything you want in a player; he’s young, built like a horse (I’ve talked to him in person postgame), and he’s building his game out.
He’s a better player than LeBron was at this age. His offensive bag isn’t as big as LeBron, but LeBron isn’t 6’11 and built like Giannis.

ZION WILLIAMSON

ATHLETIC FREAK OF NATURE. LOOK AT THESE STATS OVER THE LAST 9 GAMES!

THIS MAN IS 20 YEARS OLD. This man’s numbers vs. LeBron’s are INSANE! Look at this:

These numbers are insane. Yes, this is an offensive generation, but who’s bodying Zion? Who’s FIGHTING ZION? In what era? WHO?

He made Tristan Thompson look like a child. SMH. And Thompson is a BIG dude who I’ve very rarely seen get abused like that. His play is Shaq-like. Plus, he’s averaging 26 points on 16 shots per game—less than Anthony Edwards. Edwards is averaging 16.8, and Zion’s played 21 games MORE than Anthony. TWENTY-ONE GAMES MORE!

LUKA Dončić

He’s MY SON. LUKKKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAA! If he can win 3-4 rings, I think he can challenge LeBron’s legacy. He’ll have so many stats behind him. Currently, I think he has to develop his defensive game and learn to shoot and finish games better.

JA MORANT

Ja is the biggest X-Factor in the NBA. BUT he won’t be if he stays with the Memphis Grizzlies. Request a trade and LEAVE JA. LEAVE! No one wants to play for the Grizzlies.

LAMELO BALL

I told all of you, LeBron, and Kobe all in one. He’s only 19 years old! I think he has considerable potential and age for age. It’s a conversation, statistically!

LOOK:

So that’s the list! All legit arguments.

MY BAD: And I know I use to say Ben Simmons could challenge LeBron; he doesn’t have an offensive skillset when it comes to scoring. You have to do everything Bron does plus score to challenge him.

ALL STATS FROM BASKETBALL REFERENCE.

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The Bulls Got Better by Pavy

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Suppose you follow me on Twitter; the war against the Chicago Bulls Twitter is well documented. Yes, I’m from Chicago, but I enjoy being right more than supporting my hometown teams. My main riff started in the Jim Boylen era when Bulls fans told me he was a God-awful coach. My whole point was that even though he wasn’t the best coach, he wasn’t as bad as people think. The talent on the roster just wasn’t up to where it should’ve been, and it didn’t matter who was coaching. That team wasn’t that good.

This season there has been a slight improvement. Primarily because of the play of Zach LaVine. He’s averaging 28.1 points this season, but what is most impressive is his percentages. He’s shooting 52% from the field while shooting 43% from a distance. Hitting the shots that he shoots, which usually have a substantial degree of difficulty, is INSANE efficiency. But then the trade deadline happened, and the Bulls did something that we rarely as an organization see them do. MAKE TRADES.

When I woke up Thursday morning, the group chat was already in shambles. It was at least 20 messages, and I was confused. Then I logged on Twitter to find out Nikola Vučević and Daniel Theis were the Bulls’ newest members. Both players make this team much better than when I laid my head down for some sleep. For one, they have two legitimate All-Stars. Something the Bulls haven’t had since I was 21. For context, I’ll be 30 in less than two months. Also, it shows the team, and most importantly, the fan base, they’re dedicated to winning. No, this move probably won’t put them in the Finals. They still might be a first-round exit, but at least it’s something to be excited about.

It’s been a long road for Bulls fans throughout the Gar Forman and John Paxson era. I honestly believe Derrick Rose getting hurt was the worst thing that could’ve happened, not precisely the roster decision they made. But regardless, it looks like the new regime has a vision, and they aren’t scared to take shots. The Bulls historically don’t trade that often. Especially not mid-season. The most significant mid-season acquisitions I can remember is probably Jalen Rose. All in all, I’m excited about Bulls fans and the city of Chicago to watch actual competitive basketball again.

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