Cavs vs. Warriors: The backstory
DeRozan has a long way to go defensively, but it hard not to see him evolving in that area, mainly because of how good the Spurs staff and process has been with other sub-par defenders. There is no question the Spurs are a different team, but as the league trends more to offense, the Spurs may be better equipped to compete in a loaded Western Conference. Boy, that sounds weird to say remembering where the man was a year ago. After his numbers took a slight, albeit noticeable hit in his first two years with the Spurs, Aldridge appeared ready to move on from San Antonio.
After meeting with Popovich to work out all the kinks, Aldridge changed his mind, got a nice extension and had himself quite the resurgence last season.
At 33, there will be questions as to how much time LaMarcus has left as an elite offensive option. His 6-foot-5 inch height combined with his absurd 6-foot wingspan made him an all-around menace on the defensive end last season. His efforts showed themselves through advanced metrics. Keep in mind that players who usually are at the top of Defensive Real Plus-Minus are mostly bigs and occasionally wings. Murray is the only point guard in the top ten, and the next point guard after him is Tyus Jones, who was No.
His role is bound to expand even more for the Spurs this season. Tony Parker led the Spurs in assists per game with 3. This is a good thing. Maybe somebody will eventually stand out, but for now, the team itself is the top playmaker.
DeRozan has a track record for hitting clutch shots in the regular season. Seriously, last season he won a game off a buzzer-beating dunk.
In 41 games that featured clutch-time minutes, DeRozan averaged 4. The truth is, when teams are playing in crunchtime against DeRozan, they strategize to stop him primarily.
Expectations for Gay were quite low, especially since he was coming off of a devastating Achilles injury. Gay was by no means spectacular. His averages of The man is only 32 years old! Also, when you take into account all that the Spurs lost, Gay should expect a more prominent role on the team. Add in his year of experience playing under Pop, and this should be a good year for Rudy Gay.
Their offensive rating of As evidenced by their diverse playmaking, the Spurs hope to implement DeMar in their pass-heavy offense. Luckily for them, DeRozan made great strides in his passing game last season.
Even without Kawhi, the Spurs managed to win 47 games and snag a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference. The man is simply a basketball guru. As long as he runs the plays, his team will always be in the conversation no matter what he has to work with. People can doubt the Spurs. The man deserves league-wide respect. Even at 37, the future Hall-of-Famer is still chugging away. In his eighteenth year in the NBA, Pau averaged a solid Most impressive of all, Gasol has proven himself to be a positive contributor on defense despite his reputation as a defensive liability.
He should be expected to decline more this season, but Pau Gasol should be revered for both his perseverance and his adaptability. A shout-out needs to be made for the now longest-tenured Spur on the team. In other words, he was doing exactly what a backup point guard should do. On a team that lost a good chunk of its identity this summer, Mills is one of the few remaining remnants from the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili days.
As Pop figures out who deserve minutes, he still has a dependable option in Mills. Plenty have said it already and it needs to be repeated: Jakob Poeltl was a sneaky good acquisition by San Antonio. Pau Gasol will do what he can, but his further decline is inevitable. Should his impact continue to dwindle, Poeltl can pick up the slack. The Spurs could have waited out the situation hoping Leonard would change his mind or they could have started a rebuild.
Instead, they went for the best player offered to them so they could try and continue competing in the Western Conference playoff race. DeMar DeRozan by himself was an impressive haul all things considered. With him on board, the Spurs will still be in the playoff conversation. Hats off to Spurs management for making the best of a serious predicament. Their key ingredient to their success has been and still is Pop. In them, San Antonio has two guys who they can go to when the going gets tough and who should make the offense more dynamic.
Also, an underrated strength the Spurs have is their youth. Anderson and Green played big roles for the Spurs, producing their third-best defensive rating last season at Losing them could spell disaster for San Antonio on the defensive end.
Again, the Spurs did a fantastic job in how they handled their fallout with Kawhi. Getting someone as good as DeRozan for a disgruntled player that was leaving one way or another is impressive, epecially when you consider that Kawhi may leave Toronto after this season. The Denver Nuggets might be the deepest team in the NBA, but in a division in which every team might make the post-season, are the Nuggets good enough to be more than first-round fodder?
Despite missing out on the latest installment of the NBA playoffs, there is almost too much to like about this Denver squad. Throw in the fact that they are one of the younger teams in the league and it becomes clear why so many people are high on their potential.
An important thing to note with this Nuggets squad: Obviously, the Nuggets lost, missed out on the postseason and found themselves yet again in the lottery. But the future for this young core has never been brighter. Assuming players like Paul Millsap can avoid the injury bug as well, Denver should be considered a playoff contender as we approach opening night.
However, while I like the talent on this team and think their offense will be a matcup problem for most opponents, their defense will likely be an Achilles heel.
Players like Jokic and Murray are not impact players on defense and are often targeted by opponents. If Denver can put together a league average defense, I think they have a good shot of making the playoffs.
After missing the playoffs by just a game last year, the Nuggets will bring back much of the same crew — only with hopes for a full season of health from Paul Millsap, a potential small boost from signee Isaiah Thomas, and most importantly, some solid development from young pieces like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Oh, what this team could do! One of the strongest young cores in basketball resides in the Mile High City. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris Jr. Nikola Jokic heads into his fourth year with plenty of hype surrounding him. The Nuggets fell one game short of making the NBA playoffs last season.
The division is that good. For Denver specifically, how can you not like their roster? The West is going to be brutally tough, so its not a given for anyone, but one this is as close to a lock as they come, the Nuggets look like a formidable cover every night. Sure, there are multiple guards on this roster that could claim this spot. But Jokic not only averaged the most points per game He led the team in both three-point percentage He also led the team in assists, assist percentage, and usage.
Did we mention he plays center? But make no mistake, this guy can play basketball. He just got inked to a nice, big contract. If there is one thing Denver has struggled with, it is their defense.
Paul Millsap has been one of the better defenders on this roster. Standing at 6-foot-8, his elite wingspan at 7-foot-2 allows him to guard players taller than him, yet his quickness helps him stick with more athletic guards on switches. He boasts the second highest block percentage on the roster at Another thing to note, when Millsap is on the floor, the team boasts their lowest defensive rating of When off, it goes up to This was an easy choice.
Although he plays the five, the offense essentially runs through Jokic. Like I mentioned previously, he leads the team in assists per game at 6. He had mild success playing alongside Jusuf Nurkic a few seasons ago, but we really saw his playmaking abilities flourish as soon as he was placed next to a true stretch four in Paul Millsap.
He remained on the floor thanks in part to his veteran presence. He averaged the most clutch points, had the second highest field goal percentage and the highest plus-minus out of anyone who played in more than 10 clutch games. No player on this roster has quietly improved his game the way Gary Harris has. He finished last season with a deadly clip of He turned in 1. On a team that is so explosive offensively, yet lacking on the defensive end of the court, Harris is a player that stands out.
Not only is he a main contributor on the offensive end, he does plenty on defense as well. The Nuggets have a positive 3. There is not a single player in the NBA that has had a rougher go than Isaiah Thomas in the last few years.
He played highly admirable basketball in Boston, got dealt to Cleveland while he was trying to overcome an injury, and ultimately ended up with the Lakers after another string of trades. His final year with Boston, he averaged It was clear the Nuggets viewed him as the point guard moving forward after dealing Emmanuel Mudiay to the Knicks.
In just his second year in the league, he started in all but two games and played in all but one, averaging He has incredible range from beyond the arc, and is a superb free throw shooter, finishing last season at Once considered the top high school prospect in the country, a back injury caused him to miss almost his entire college season.
He still entered the draft, and luckily for the Nuggets slid all the way to No. Boasting a combination of elite size, skill, and athleticism, Porter Jr. Much can be and already has been said about this big man.
An interesting rhetoric that surrounds this team is whether or not the Nuggets can actually win a championship with Jokic at the five. When he is on the court, this team is better. Add more favorite teams from the list below based on your geolocation. The most trusted voice in sports delivered straight to your inbox.
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Thank you for signing up! Please check your inbox to confirm your email address and start receiving newsletters. Quickly Will the Warriors and Cavs run it back for a fourth straight year? Will the sun come up tomorrow? Does a forest have trees? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Warriors over Cavs in 6. Warriors over Cavs in 5. Warriors over Cavs in 4. Isaiah Thomas is out to prove the Celtics made a mistake by giving up on him.
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