NOT LIVE FROM THE BUBBLE PART 1
The NBA season returned to the court Thursday July 30th and it could not have been a better opening weekend. The television product has been really good and the play has been even better. Besides the fact that the Pelicans have Zion on a very strange minutes restriction, I have little to complain about. Players are in shape, focused, and we are gearing toward a strange, yet entertaining playoff run. The NBA is back and I just feel the need to get some shit off my chest so bare with me.
Is anyone worried about the Lakers? Me? No. I do have some concerns, though. Right now, they hold a 5.5 game lead over the Clippers for the number one spot in the Western Conference. They only have 6 games remaining before the playoffs so safe to say they have locked up the number one seed. What concerns me is what seems to always concern me with a Lebron led team. Now, you can argue that Anthony Davis is the sidekick Lebron has ever played with, but who else do you really trust on this roster? If you ask some people, they don't truly trust AD in a big moment. Can you name the biggest game of AD's basketball career? It might be the 2012 NCAA National Championship. Danny Green has been in a ton of big games and I think I can trust him, but he tends to have games where he can hit a wide open three. I pretty much know what I'm getting from Bron in the playoffs. He just needs the *others* (cue Shaq) to rise up in big spots.
Have you noticed the teams that give the Lakers the most trouble? Teams with elite guard play. With Avery Bradley opting out of the bubble, you can see teams taking advantage on the perimeter. If Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who I think are tremendous players, are getting to their spots on the court with little resistance, what do you think the guards in the west are going to do? Again, I'm not worried, but remember this when they playoffs roll around and it looks like Lebron vs. everybody while an opposing backcourt accounts for 75 points.
On the flip side, I've been wildly impressed with how the Rockets have come out in the two games they've played. I've been supporters of both James and Russ for years, but I also am critical of them because of how great I think they are and the heights they can reach. One of the biggest critiques I've had over the years is their fatigue down the stretch. Both players when they were the number one option on Houston and Oklahoma City, folded down the stretch. It's like their legs gave out in big moments. Well guess what? They both justhad 4 1/2 months of just REST and based off the return it has helped immensely. This shotgun seeding format will benefit the Rockets the most in my opinion. They have 2 top 10 players that happen to be guards that can get to wherever they want on the court *cc Lakers*. If you match that with the Rockets unique small ball, three point centric lineup, they're gonna give teams a ton of problems in a seven game series with no home court. I strangely think they matchup better with the Lakers than they do the Clippers, but I'm excited to see where they're seeded at the end of the regular season.
Speaking of the three ball, the Heat are my sleeper pick to win the Eastern Conference. They, like Houston, love to shoot the three, and they might have the best three point shooterin the bubble, Duncan Robinson. To have him as maybe your third option is a really nice chess piece and may be a formula to upset Milwaukee. Jimmy Butler is a certified dog and the emergence of Bam Adebayo has set this teams ceiling higher than expected. They also have a great coach with championship pedigree which has to help in the bubble. You may think I'm crazy, but keep an eye out on them.
The race for 8 is heating up, but let's pray the Spurs do not make the playoffs. Nothing against the Spurs, but the NBA is driven by star players. The Spurs have none, in my eyes. As I write this, the Grizzlies have a 2 game lead over the Spurs for the eight seed in the west. A cool wrinkle the NBA added to the bubble is if the nine seed is within four games of the eight seed, they will essentially play a play-in game. Somehow, someway the NBA community needs that eight seed to go to Memphis (Ja Morant), Portland (Dame Lillard), or New Orleans (Zion Williamson). Lord knows I do not want to watch the Spurs in a seven game series vs. the Lakers.
All-Bubble Team Part 1
PG - Russell Westbrook 31 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 8 APG (Blazers 1-1)
SG - Paul George 29 PPG, 3 SPG, 63.6 3P% (Clippers 1-1)
SF - TJ Warren 53 PPG, 4 RPG, 75 3P% (Pacers 1-0)
PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo 36 PPG, 16.5 RPG, 7.5 APG (Bucks 1-1)
C - Joel Embiid 41 PPG, 21 RPG, 3 BPG (Sixers 0-1)