Based on regular season success, the two best teams in the NBA this year were the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors.
Well now those two teams get the chance to square off and see who the real Eastern Conference champion is, as they begin the Eastern Conference Finals tonight.
Both of these team are really similar in that they feature one true star player, with a quality group of role players behind them.
Sure the Bucks feature Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, while the Raptors have Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry. But in the end this series is going to come down to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard.
With these two elite players, we are set to get one of those throwback playoff series, where each team’s best player is going at one another on both sides of the court.
While Giannis may win the league’s MVP this season, it is still hard to pick the Bucks in this series, especially after the ridiculous series Kawhi just had against the Sixers. A performance that included a series-clinching buzzer beater in Game 7.
With the way Kawhi is scoring the basketball at every level on the floor, the Raptors are going to be very hard defend against.
On the other hand, Giannis’ inability to shot from long range could play a factor if the Raptors can slow his attacks to the basket.
Prediction: The Milwaukee Bucks should win this series based on everything we have seen in the season up to this point, yet I can’t pick them to win.
I have the Raptors winning this series in seven games, due to Kawhi’s more complete offensive game and his experience as a of former NBA Finals MVP.
Hometown Favorites – Grind Weekend
This past weekend, legends from the Los Angeles basketball community got together at the Cal State Los Angeles gym.
They invited the next generation of LA hoopers and shared their knowledge about the game of basketball, the brotherhood, and life outside of hoops.
Russell Westbrook, Lou Williams, Baron Davis, Nick Young, DeMar DeRozan, Dorell Wright, Trevor Ariza, Bobby Brown, Pooh Jeter, Montrezl Harrell, Chris Copeland, Michael Beasley and others spent their weekend with some of LA’s top basketball talent from middle school to the college level.
Follow the movement on @la.unfd
Ty Lue to Join the Clippers Staff as an Assistant Coach
A few months ago, no one would be surprised to learn that Ty Lue would be coaching in L.A. this season.
They just thought it would be as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Instead, Lue is going to be coaching the Los Angeles Clippers as the top assistant on Doc Rivers staff.
This isn’t the first time that Lue has coached under Rivers, as he was part of his staff with the Boston Celtics from 2011-2013. Then when Rivers was traded to coach the Clippers, Lue followed him to L.A. and coached under him for another season.
Lue would leave Rivers staff to become the associate head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers and would eventually become their head coach.
Lue won a championship in his first season as the head coach, after taking over the position from David Blatt mid-season in 2016. Lue was praised for his work getting the best out of LeBron James, which is why he seemed like an ideal fit for the Lakers.
The Lakers were ultimately too cheap with their offer for Lue, which insulted him and forced him to turn down the job.
Instead they hired Frank Vogel to be the head coach, leaving Lue free to be picked up by Rivers and the Clippers.
There is no way of knowing for sure the impact that Lue will have on the Clippers this season, but it can’t hurt to have a former championship-winning coach on the staff.
PJ Tucker: The Latest to Walk from Team USA
A man known for what sneakers he has on his feet just walked out on Team USA. Following De’Aaron Fox’s subsequent withdrawal, the Red, White, and Blue is down to 13 healthy and able bodies in Las Vegas this summer.
Team USA is spending August preparing for the FIBA World Cup, and thus trying to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Tucker and Fox withdrawing from the Stars and Stripes speaks to a larger issue that Team USA has run into this summer: the number of American born stars that are willing to spend the off season playing this high a level of competitive basketball is small.
The roster itself only features players with a total of five NBA All-Star appearances, the least since the NBA Lockout of 1998 led to a team with no active NBA Players. The ’98 team, however, had a young Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Tim Hardaway, and Chris Webber… and faced little obstacle in winning the FIBA Gold.
Also unlike the ’98 squad, this Team USA is dominated by guard play, which does bode well for international play. Traditionally, international teams have been able to find ways to produce talented big men. But, much like the NCAA tournament, the FIBA tournament is usually dominated by the speed and pace of the ball handlers.
Basketball, however, is shifting to bigs that handle the ball. Giannis Antetokounmpo, for example, already has an international highlight reel of him taking the rebound from one end and forcefully dunking the fast break on the other. Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ seven-footer, runs the Serbian offense and could very well lead the European continent in assists.
The United States fared well in their recent exhibition against Spain. Donovan Mitchell and Khris Middleton led the way by each scoring more than a dozen points in the well-balanced American attack. Coach Greg Popovich used 12 different players in his rotations, and each combination seemed to have no issue finding good shots.
Still, Americans are left wondering where the star power has gone on Team USA. One clear aspect is that the upcoming NBA season has as much uncertainty as any in recent memory, and the typical All-Star caliber player is using this off season to prep for a potential finals run. Depending on the analyst you ask, more than half a dozen teams could realistically win the Larry O’Brien this season. Thus, the stars of those teams want to do everything they can to stay healthy, prepare mentally, and build team chemistry leading to that end. Thus, most of the players on Team USA are either young enough to be able to put more wear and tear on their legs, on teams that have an outside shot at a championship at best, are a role player that will have less usage during the season, or some combination of the three.
That does not mean there won’t be highlights at this year’s FIBA games. Young Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell headlines a group of up and coming names on the American team. Mitchell may be preparing for a breakout third NBA season, and playing a big role in Coach Pop’s offense may be exactly the right jumpstart. Mitchell led the team in minutes in their two exhibition games in Las Vegas, and looks to be a key part of the offensive gameplan.
There are four Boston Celtics on the team: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and recently acquired Kemba Walker. There will undoubtedly be stretches where the four of them, or at least some combination of two or three of them, are on the floor at the same time. Not only does this preview the season in Boston, but the congruence these four get will be important for the success of both Team USA and the Celtics.
Team USA heads to Australia to train down under before playing the Australian national team on August 22nd. Australia features eight NBA players, headlined by Patty Mills and Joe Ingles (Ben Simmons recently withdrew, similar to several American players, to focus on the NBA season). While they are not as highly ranked in FIBA as Spain, the United States may have their hands full trying to match up with so many pro perimeter players.
Tune in at 5:30 AM eastern on August 22nd to watch the USA continue to tune up against Australia. Too early or late for ya? The two rematch on August 24th at 12:00 AM eastern, and the USA wraps up exhibition play against Canada, in Australia, at 5:30 AM on August 26th.
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