The 2017-2018 NBA season is winding down and this is the best time to be an NBA fan. We still don’t know when the Sonics will return so until then I will be here each and every week to get the NBA conversation started.
Best Games to Watch in Week 23
Monday March 19: Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs. The injury-riddled Warriors against a Spurs team fighting to make the playoffs. Should be a great way to begin the week!!
Tuesday March 20: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers. Two of the best teams in the West on a Tuesday night? Oh, I am there for this one.
Wednesday March 21: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers. This one is a possible playoff preview and always must-see TV!
Thursday March 22: Memphis Grizzlies at Charlotte Hornets. Two teams without playoff hopes and the best of an interesting Thursday night schedule.
Friday March 23: Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs. Two teams hoping to reach the playoffs in what should be a slow paced, grind it out, playoff atmosphere.
Saturday March 24: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets. Anthony Davis and James Harden mixing it up on an NBA version of Saturday Night Fights!!
Sunday March 25: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder. A possible first-round playoff preview to end the week? Thanks, NBA!!
NBA Coach of the Year Candidates
Last week we talked about NBA Coaches on the Hot Seat; this week let’s look at some NBA Head Coaches who should be in the running for NBA Head Coach of the Year. In no particular order;
Nate McMillan: The Indiana Pacers traded away the face of the franchise All-Star Paul George, lost Jeff Teague in Free Agency and were predicted to win only 31 games. As of March 18, 2018, the Pacers have won 40 games in no small part to newcomers Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic and Cory Joseph In spite of what the Portland Trail Blazers fan base thinks this season is proof positive that McMillan can coach in the NBA.
Dwane Casey: The Toronto Raptors are having a tremendous season and their current 52-17 record is a far cry from the 43.4 wins the pundits predicted for them this pre-season. With 13 games left to their regular season, the Raptors should wind up crushing their previous 56-26 franchise record 2015-2016 season. Toronto also boasts top five numbers in both offensive and defensive efficiency and if you are wise you should thank Casey for this.
Brad Stevens: The pre-season pundits heavily favored the Celtics; then five minutes into the season newly signed savior Gordon Hayward went down for the season with a gruesome injury. The Celtics were projected to win 47.5 with Hayward; the Celtics are currently 47-22 without Hayward and essentially a brand new team. The Celtics have also boasted the top-ranked defense for most of the season and Stevens deserves all the credit in the world for the job he has done this season.
Terry Stotts: Over the past couple of seasons the Portland Trail Blazers were better known for their dazzling offensive backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum; this season the more dazzling aspect has been the defense. The Trail Blazers jumped from #21 in the NBA to #7 in defensive efficiency with essentially the same personnel. The pre-season pundits had them missing the playoffs entirely and if anyone deserves any credit it is Terry Stotts.
The Surprising Los Angeles Clippers
I write off the Los Angeles Clippers every season and they fail to disappoint me. I wrote them off prior to this season and while they probably won’t win a Championship with this team they might make the playoffs.
Wait; you mean the Clippers, the team that went out this past offseason and resigned face of the franchise Blake Griffin then preceded to trade him one week before the deadline to the Detroit Pistons might make the playoffs?
Wait; you mean the team with the big mouth point guard who more than likely would be out of the League if not for the fact his father went out and traded for him? The big mouth point guard is Austin Rivers and his father being Head Coach and former President of Basketball Operations Glenn “Doc” Rivers”.
Wait; You mean the team with the 13-year veteran journeyman having the best season of his career? That veteran being Louis Williams and to say he has been anything less than fantastic would be an understatement. The Clippers wisely extended his contract midseason and he will be around until 2020-2021.
I could go on but I suppose the real question on everyone’s mind is “can they reach the playoffs”?
The Griffin to Detroit thing hasn’t exactly worked out for the Pistons it’s been extremely good for the Clippers. With Griffin the Clippers were 10th in offense and 17th in defense; without Griffin, the Clippers have moved up to eighth in the NBA in offense and 13th in defense. Tobias Harris and Blake Griffin have posted up nearly identical stats; Harris seems to thrive in the Rivers pick and roll offense and has one season left under his present contract. If Harris continues to play like this 14 million will be a steal while ridding themselves of a huge contract for a player the Clippers were a better ball club with off of the floor.
DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson and Milos Teodosic each have players options for 2018-2019; of the four they could potentially lose Jordan but I see him opting in for his final season. If he does remain this team could be formidable in the coming seasons.
Third-year power forward Montrezl Harrell has played a huge role since the Griffin trade and will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Clippers would be wise to match any reasonable offer this offseason.
And Rivers? I don’t think anyone will hold it against him if the Clippers miss the playoffs. Especially considering they are a completely different team now than in 2017 AND missing All-Stars Chris Paul and Griffin. At least the Clippers didn’t allow them to walk away without compensation.
Just last week I said “sorry Clips fans, it ain’t happening” in regards to a playoff berth. At the time of this writing, the Clippers are 1.5 games out of the eighth seed. They have also lost two in a row. Their next six games are against playoff teams including the Portland Trail Blazers (Sunday 03-18) and Toronto (Sunday 03-25).
See ya next season Clippers.
The Hate to Be Jusuf Nurkic
I’ve seen plenty of dunks in my lifetime but I must say this dunk by LeBron James over Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic has to be one of the nastiest I have seen in quite some time; it even shut up the mouthy Trail Blazers fans. The technical folks in the Moda Center didn’t even show the replay of this monster.
You can say what you want about Nurkic but he hung in there and took this smashing like a man.
Enjoy the NBA this week!!!