By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Brooklyn have been one of the talking points of the NBA this season. Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images
The NBA is just about a quarter of the way through the season so what better time to delve into All-NBA teams and award winners through this point of the year. It’s a tough gig, I have to say.
At the time of writing 36 players are averaging 20 points or more. Go back to the 2010-11 season and only 19 players did that. In 2010-11 the league leader in three-point attempts per game, Dorell Wright, put up 6.3 a game. That would rank him 41st in the current NBA. There are four players putting up double-digit threes per game and 24 players putting up at least seven.
In short, the league is booming offensively. There are so many guys playing at a high level, meaning there have been some tough calls made below.
LeBron has been his dominant best in season 2020-21. Photo: Mario Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
JOEL EMBIID - PHILADELPHIA 76ers
Literally splitting hairs at this point. Embiid, Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, I mean take your pick. I’ve gone with Embiid for his stats and impact; 32 minutes, 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks on 54/40/84 shooting splits. I’ve also taken him because the 76ers currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The new additions seem to be gelling well under new coach Doc Rivers and Ben Simmons and Embiid are back to their dynamic best together.
NIKOLA JOKIC - DENVER NUGGETS
He is as complete of a player as you could ask for right now. In my opinion a ‘Most Valuable Player’ needs to be someone who does more than just score, they need to be strong across the floor. If you look at Nikola Jokic he is doing just that. He is currently averaging 25.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 8.7 assists, and just under two steals per game. He has always been an all-round player who is multi-skilled, however he has taken his game to another level in the early part of this season.
Joel Embiid has helped the Sixers to the top record in the Eastern Conference. Photo: USATSI
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
ANTHONY DAVIS - LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Hasn’t been setting the world on fire on the offensive end compared to his lofty standards but has led the way defensively for the Lakers. They’re the number one defence at time of writing and Davis is a big reason for it. Called out his team for poor defence against San Antonio and they have answered, winning seven of their next eight games, allowing just 103 points and with an average winning margin of 14.4.
Ollie and Liam
Anthony Davis is leading the best defence in the league. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:
JORDAN CLARKSON - UTAH JAZZ
Could start in this league without a doubt, however he provides a significant impact off the bench and plays the role perfectly. An offensive weapon that can step onto the floor and put up big numbers. I have loved Chris Boucher’s start to the season, however Clarkson takes home the bacon for now.
Ollie and Liam
Clarkson has re-paid Utah's faith in him with great play off the bench. Photo: Ashley Landis/Associated Press
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
CHRISTIAN WOOD - HOUSTON ROCKETS
Has been one of the best storylines of the 2020-21 season, has re-paid Houston’s faith and made Detroit look incompetent. Putting up 23.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks with 54/36/67 shooting splits, while keeping the Rockets somewhat relevant in the Western Conference.
JERAMI GRANT - DETROIT PISTONS
If there have been any positives for the Pistons in the early part of this season it is Jerami Grant. With Detroit sitting at the bottom of the Eastern conference the rise of Grant has been a big positive. In the past he has played primarily at the power forward position. However, the shift to the small forward spot has worked wonders as he has gone on to average 23.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and just under three assists per game across the first 19 games this season. There’s still a long way to go but right now Jerami Grant sits at the top of my leaderboard in this seasons race for the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Jerami Grant has proved the NBA world wrong with his great play for Detroit this season. Photo: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
TYRESE HALIBURTON - SACRAMENTO KINGS
Tough pick for this award, but I have Tyrese Haliburton edging out LaMelo Ball, just. Scoring is the same and while Ball is putting up more assists and rebounds (one and three respectively), Haliburton is shooting the ball at a great clip. 48/43/83 splits and one of the top fourth quarter scorers in the league. A great pick by the Kings way down at number 12.
LAMELO BALL - CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Much like Nikola Jokic, LaMelo Ball is filling out the stat sheet, and as a rookie that is only 19 years old he has been impressive. He seems right at home in this league and looks as though he has a long successful career ahead of him. Currently averaging 12.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game I expect throughout the season his numbers will likely simmer, with it all depending on court time. The only thing stopping him at the moment is the number of turnovers he is committing; however, I expect these numbers to drop as he begins to find his feet and feel more comfortable in the NBA. If he can limit his turnovers and keeps up this level of form I expect him to take home the chocolates.
Tyrese Haliburton has been a welcomed first-round pick for the Kings. Photo: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
Cover Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports
By Ollie Nash
The rumoured top three picks were proven correct. Photo: CBS Sports
The 2020 NBA Draft is not considered to be one that will produce superstars like the 2003 Draft did with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It has however, provided some great role players that will be able to contribute straight away and in the future on very good playoff teams. This is what I did and didn't like from the 2020 NBA Draft.
Cole Anthony was one guy who showed how much being drafted meant to him. Photo: Cole Anthony Instagram
THINGS I LIKED
Emotion shown by the players and families
Being drafted is always an emotional time. Every player and family has been through their own separate battles and hardships to get to this point and to see it pay-off is undoubtedly an amazing feeling. It felt like more players than ever cried after hearing their name in the 2020 draft though, representative I think of the tough year the world has endured. COVID has flipped everyone’s world upside down; the NCAA Tournament was cancelled, as was any form of organised or pick-up basketball and players didn’t get to enjoy the usual pathway to the draft. To finally be through that experience and be on an NBA team is no doubt a thrill and it showed on Thursday.
Obi Toppin to New York at pick eight
There’s mixed feelings on this pick, especially from Knicks fans, but I love it. New York have been a basket-case for over 20 years now. They’ve attracted one superstar, Carmelo Anthony, during that time, missing out on guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Their culture is non-existent. What they are getting in Obi Toppin is a New York native, a Knicks fan, someone who loves the franchise and the city and is going to go all-out to put them back in contention. They just drafted their culture for the next 10 to 15 years. Were there guards they could have taken that may fit their team needs more? Probably. However, culture is everything in sports and the key to success. Toppin provides this, now the Knicks can build a team around him and R.J. Barret and give their fans some hope for the future.
Isaac Okoro will be a welcomed defensive presence in Cleveland. Photo: John Reed/USA TODAY Sports
Isaac Okoro to Cleveland at pick five
A great pick for the Cavaliers but probably one of the places Isaac Okoro least wanted to go. Immediately he becomes the best defender on Cleveland’s roster, with that comes the pressure and fun of having to guard the oppositions best player every night. He can guard multiple positions and is a great character guy for a mostly young and inexperienced Cavs roster. Like a lot of players in the draft, given the weakness of it, there are some significant areas for improvement. His comes on the offensive end, shooting 29 percent from the three-point line and 67 percent on free throws this season at Auburn. However, if you were an NBA team and had to pick an area for your draftee to be good at out of either end of the floor, it would be defence coupled with competitive mindset. Okoro has that in spades. Shooting and offence is something that can be improved easier once in the league, but it’s hard to teach toughness and defensive instinct.
Tyrell Terry to Dallas at pick 31
My housemate Will nearly had a brain aneurism when Tyrell Terry dropped out of the first-round, so I had to give him a shout-out once his man finally landed in Dallas at pick 31. Kevin O’Connor believes Terry is the steal of the draft and had him at eight on his big board for The Ringer. He shot nearly 41 percent from deep this past season and moves well off the ball, which is so valuable in the Mavericks system with Luka Doncic. Dallas traded Seth Curry to Philadelphia for Josh Richardson, seemingly opening up that spot in the rotation for Terry. Potentially a Tyler Herro type who will play a significant role right away in helping Dallas advance further in the playoffs.
Landry Shamet will fit nicely alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Photo: Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Landry Shamet to the Nets
In a three team trade, Landry Shamet and pick 57 (Reggie Perry) went to Brooklyn, Luke Kennard and pick 55 (Jay Scrubb) to the Clippers and Detroit received Rodney McGruder and pick 19 (Saddiq Bey). Lots has been made of the Clippers win in getting Kennard and I agree, but Shamet to Brooklyn is a huge win for the Nets. If they manage to bring back Joe Harris, they now have two elite spot up shooters who can also hit from deep at pace off screens. With the ball dominance of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, these are the players that become so valuable. Don’t need a lot of the ball but can be impactful when given the opportunity. Big win for Steve Nash and the Nets.
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE
LaMelo Ball’s kit
LaMelo Ball is a high-roller and has been in the limelight since he was 12, I know that. But seriously the kit he rolled with on draft night was one of the all-time worst. Diamon-studded shoes, black-suit pants and jacket with his personalised Puma logo stitched onto the back, a chain with his logo on it also and a rich-man’s version of speed dealers. I’m a Ball family fan and can’t wait to see him play, but c’mon man, do better.
Anthony Edward’s comments
I love Anthony Edwards and entering the draft he was my obvious number one pick. Has that clear drive and intensity to be effective straight away and made enough big shots for Georgia that I am confident he will make it work in the NBA. However, he literally said he’d rather play NFL and would drop basketball if an NFL team offered him a deal. I feel like it’s been glossed over as a comment, but that is something that would be worrying for me if I am Minnesota. Now, as long as that offer from an NFL team doesn’t come, I think he’ll give everything to the franchise, but the whole sequence was a bit fishy for me.
Suns skipping on Tyrese Haliburton
This is not a hate party on Jalen Smith who Phoenix took at pick 10, he’s a player that can fit into their system right away. However, the Suns missed out on Tyrese Haliburton, a really talented combo guard who would have come on in leaps and bounds learning from Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The guard spots are where the Suns need to add depth too, currently with Cam Payne and Jevon Carter backing-up the superstar starting duo. The pick would have made sense in the short-term and the long-term for the post Chris Paul era. A potential big miss for Phoenix.
The NBA needs guys like Klay Thompson playing, a star. Photo: AP Photo/Steve Dykes
Klay Thompson Achilles tear
It’s not specifically draft related but it happened on draft day so I’m counting it. This f****** sucks. Like a lot. An ACL and now an Achilles, they are two of the toughest injuries to endure. It means we are going to miss out on the Warriors fighting their way back to the top of the Western Conference and we are going to miss out seeing Klay Thompson do miraculous Klay Thompson things for a second straight season. One of the best characters in the NBA and one of the best two-way guards we’ve ever seen, let’s hope for a big comeback in 2021-22.
That’s all folks
I was going to have five things I liked and five I didn’t like, but I couldn’t really think of a fifth, so instead of being a sad-sack, I’m going to leave it at four. Positive vibes everyone, enjoy your weekend.
Cover Photo: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Liam Melrose
Jeremy Lin is amongst a number of NBA players who experienced a breakout in form only to fall away over time. Photo: Chris Chambers/Getty Images
In Part One of our NBA One Season Wonders series Liam Melrose looks at ten players from ten different NBA franchises who had breakout seasons only to drop off the radar in the following years.
NEW YORK KNICKS - JEREMY LIN (2011-2012):
Every basketball fan around the world remembers the season when ‘Linsanity’ took the NBA by storm. The American born former Harvard student burst onto the scene in the 2011-2012 season. The Knicks were actually contemplating waiving Lin, before a number of injuries to multiple point guards on the roster forced New York to give the young guard an opportunity. He didn’t let them down. Following Lin’s promotion to the starting-five, New York went on a seven-game winning streak, with the guard securing the Eastern Conference Player of the Week averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 assists and two steals across four games. This included a career high 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. While Lin continued on to have a consistent career, he never got back to the heights he reached during that 2011-2012 season in New York.
'Linsanity' took over the basketball world in early 2012. Photo: Reuters/Adam Hunger
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – JONNY FLYNN (2009-2010):
Flynn put together an impressive rookie season averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game earning him a place on the 2010 NBA All-Rookie 2nd team. However, his numbers declined the following season. There was speculation hip surgery he underwent in the summer of 2010 was hampering his output during the 2010-11 season, with Flynn only managing 5.3 points and 3.4 assists per game.
Jonny Flynn's numbers rapidly declined following his rookie season. Photo: Getty Images
MILWAUKEE BUCKS – BRANDON JENNINGS (2011-2012):
Jennings was touted as a future superstar of the league after his first three seasons. He put up a 55 point performance in his rookie season, as well as starting in every game with averages of 15.5 points and 5.7 assists per game, earning him a place in the All-Rookie First team. His best season to date came in 2011-2012 where he averaged 19.1 points and 5.5 assists per game. While he continued to average double figure scoring for the next three seasons, he never took that next step to become one of the premier point guards of the league as was expected at the end of the 2011-12 season, with his numbers slowly dropping each year.
Brandon Jennings was touted as a future premier point guard of the NBA, however after a great start to his career he never took the next step to become a superstar of the league. Photo: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – MICHAEL CARTER WILLIAMS (2013-2014):
After winning the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, Carter Williams’ numbers have gone backwards. In his first year in the NBA he averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. While the point guard remained consistent for the next few seasons his numbers slowly declined, and injuries began to take their toll. He has spent the past few seasons as a role player off the bench for a number of teams around the league.
Michael Carter-Williams with former coach Brett Brown after being awarded the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year. Photo: Matt Slocum/Associated Press
LOS ANGELES LAKERS – ANDREW BYNUM (2011-2012)
Looked to be the next big thing at the centre position, averaging five straight seasons of at least double digit scoring, while securing at least eight rebounds or more. He was a member of the Lakers back-to-back title run in 2009 and 2010. His breakout year came in 2011-12 where he was an All-Star, averaging 18.7 points and almost 12 rebounds per game. However, following that season he fell victim to a number of knee injuries and never fully recovered. He missed the whole 2012-13 season before signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, however the move was short lived, Bynum only managed 24 games with the Cavs before being traded.
Andrew Bynum looked to be the next big thing at the centre position before a number of injuries took their toll on the two-time NBA Champion. Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
SACRAMENTO KINGS – TYREKE EVANS (2009-2010)
While Evans has had a solid career to date, his first season was his best by a long way. He was awarded Rookie of the Year in the 2009-10 season on the back of 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. These were incredible numbers for a rookie. He was just the fourth rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds per game. The other three players to also achieve these numbers in their debut season were Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. However, unfortunately for Evans he was unable to replicate his magnificant rookie season and grow into an NBA superstar as many fans and experts predicted.
Tyreke Evans was awarded the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year after averaging similar numbers to LeBron James and Michael Jordan in his first season in the league. Photo: USA TODAY Sports
DALLAS MAVERICKS – JOSH HOWARD (2007-2008)
Josh Howard started in all 76 games he played in the 2007-08 season averaging just under 20 points per game and seven rebounds. However, the following season Howard’s numbers slowly declined as injuries took their toll on the dynamic small-forward. His numbers were increasing in the years leading up to his career-best season, and he likely would’ve continued to improve those or continue to put up around 20 points per game if it wasn’t for a number of knee injuries de-railing his career.
Josh Howard at his best was one of the better small-forwards in the NBA. Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
HOUSTON ROCKETS – AARON BROOKS (2009-2010)
Brooks averaged just under 20 points per game and just over five assists in the 2009-2010 season in what was just his third season in the league. He started in all 82 games and was awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. However, he never averaged more than 12 points again which mainly came down to lack of opportunity. He eventually went on to play in China in 2011-12 before coming back to the NBA, where he bounced around the league as a solid reserve, before finishing his professional career in the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks.
Aaron Brooks won the NBA's Most Improved Player award in 2010. He was traded the following season as his career began to spiral. Photo: USA TODAY Sports
TORONTO RAPTORS – MIKE JAMES (2005-2006)
Mike James only played one season in Toronto and it was the best of his career by a considerable margin. James started in all 79 games he played during the regular season for the Raptors in the 05-06 season, averaging just over 20 points and just under six assists per game at the point guard position. James also became the first Raptor in franchise history to score more than 30 points in four consecutive games. He signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the end of that season, but with considerably less minutes James was unable to perform at the level he did in Toronto. The Timberwolves eventually traded him, spending the remainder of his career with a number of different teams coming off the bench.
Mike James's time in Toronto didn't last long despite his very strong 2005-06 season. Photo: Robert Seale/Sporting News via Getty Images
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – O.J. MAYO (2008-09)
Mayo began his career in the NBA on fire. He started in all 82 games of his rookie year, and averaged 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists at the shooting guard position. This earnt him a selection into the All-Rookie First Team. His sophomore year was much the same averaging 38 minutes per game and putting up similar scoring numbers. However, his numbers slowly deteriorated after his sophomore season. He showed signs he had re-ignited his career in the 2012-13 season with Dallas, where he started in all 82 games, averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. However, he only spent one season with the Mavericks and his numbers once again dropped off with the Milwaukee Bucks, before he was eventually banned from the league due to drug violations in 2016. He went on to play in China and he remains there today.
O.J. Mayo was once one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Cover Photo: Noah K. Murray/ The Star-Ledger
By Ollie Nash
The 2006 NBA Draft Class. Photo: NBA
Let's be honest, the 2006 NBA Draft isn't a great one in terms of stars, but it's provided some really effective role players that have had a big part to play in playoff and championship runs. Almost more impressively, there are multiple players in this draft that have rolled with the changes of the NBA style of play and have kept themselves relevant, a tough ask in any career.
PICK 1: TORONTO RAPTORS – KYLE LOWRY (ORIGINALLY PICK 24 – MEMPHIS)
ORIGINAL PICK – ANDREA BARGNANI
It was a tough decision for the first pick of this re-draft, but Kyle Lowry’s 2019 NBA Championship just gets him over the line. After some tough initial years with Memphis and Houston, he blossomed into the leader and flat-out baller that we know today at Toronto during the 2012-13 season and beyond. Is now a six-time All-Star, NBA champ and was voted to the All-NBA Third team in 2015-16.
Kyle Lowry was a key cog of Toronto's championship run in 2019. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getty Images
PICK 2: CHICAGO BULLS (TRADED TO PORTLAND) – LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE (ORIGINALLY PICK TWO – CHICAGO)
Original pick – LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge would have every right to feel hard done by not being pick one. Pick two isn’t a bad consolation prize though. Aldridge was one of the premiere power forwards of the mid 2000s to early 2010s. He was the franchise player in Portland for the best part of eight years and has continued to put up numbers in San Antonio, despite losing a step or two in his older age. Seven-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA member and one of the nicest mid-range jump shots the league has ever seen.
PICK 3: CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – PAUL MILLSAP (ORIGINALLY PICK 47 – UTAH)
ORIGINAL PICK – ADAM MORRISON
He’s not the guy you can rely on to carry a team but he’s the guy you can never neglect on the defensive end either. Paul Millsap has shown over the years he can be a key cog of a strong playoff team, playing on both ends of the floor. He has made the playoffs in 11 of his 14 seasons and even in 2020 at the ripe old age of 34, was the spark that Denver needed in Game 5 against the Clippers to ignite their comeback from 3-1 down.
Paul Millsap has been a four-time All-Star with three teams. Photo: Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
PICK 4: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (TRADED TO CHICAGO) – RAJON RONDO (ORIGINALLY PICK 21 TO PHEONIX, TRADED TO BOSTON)
ORIGINAL PICK – TYRUS THOMAS
If you asked me three or four years ago, Rondo might have been lower on this list, but his resurgence back into an NBA effective player with the Pelicans and Lakers has bumped him back up to fourth. A star in Boston, averaging a double-double in two seasons and going extremely close to doing it a further two times. Had issues as he bounced around with Dallas, Sacramento and Chicago, but has found his place again with this Lakers team and was a vital contributor in multiple Finals games in 2020. Without Rondo, the series may very well have gone to seven games.
PICK 5: ATLANTA HAWKS – J.J. REDICK (ORIGINALLY PICK 11 – ORLANDO)
ORIGINAL PICK – SHELDEN WILLIAMS
With the way the NBA game is moving, J.J. Redick could play until he is 43. A lights-out three-point shooter, going at 41.6 percent over his career, with the ability to hit them off screens at speed. Hasn’t averaged below double digit scoring since 2009-10 and has put up 15 points or more per game every season since 2012-13. A great veteran now that provides a lot of leadership while still being effective out on the floor.
JJ Redick missed the playoffs for the first time in 2020. Photo: Matt York/Associated Press
PICK 6: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (TRADED TO PORTLAND) – RUDY GAY (ORIGINALLY PICK EIGHT – HOUSTON, TRADED TO MEMPHIS)
ORIGINAL PICK – BRANDON ROY
One of the most consistent stat padders of the late 2000s and early 2010s, but never quite the impact of others at his position during the same stretch. Was a regular 18 to 20 points per game scorer for 10 years from 2007-08 to 2016-17, but poor efficiency was an area he was criticised for. Has found a nice little role to end his career with San Antonio, still showing glimpses of some of his best form that we saw earlier in his career.
PICK 7: BOSTON CELTICS (TRADED TO MINNESOTA) – BRANDON ROY (ORIGINALLY PICK SIX – MINNESOTA, TRADED TO PORTLAND)
Original pick – Randy Foye
One of the biggest “what could have been” stories in NBA history. Could only manage five seasons with Portland before being struck down by injury for good, but in those years managed three All-Star appearances, two All-NBA selections and a Rookie of the Year Award. Averaged 18.8 points, four rebounds and nearly five assists in his 326 games while providing some unbelievable highlights. A career cut too short, but someone I’d be taking at seven, even if it was for just those five crazy years.
Brandon Roy was a five-year highlight reel in Portland. Photo: Getty Images
PICK 8: HOUSTON ROCKETS (TRADED TO MEMPHIS) – P.J. TUCKER (ORIGINALLY PICK 35 – TORONTO)
ORIGINAL PICK – RUDY GAY
P.J. Tucker is a great story of perseverance and in an era where the NBA style of play changed so drastically, he moved with the times well. After his rookie season where he only played 17 games, Tucker spent five seasons overseas. Since returning to the league in 2013-13 with Phoenix, he’s become a more than serviceable player on both ends of the floor. He has increased his three-point shooting over the years, much of this thanks to Houston, but it has proven vital for him to stay relevant in the league.
PICK 9: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – THABO SEFOLOSHA (ORIGINALLY PICK 13 – PHILADELPHIA, TRADED TO CHICAGO)
ORIGINAL PICK – PATRICK O’BRYANT
Thabo Sefolosha was one of the OG three and D guys in the NBA. After finding his way to Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Sefolosha became a big part of the team on the defensive end, while increasing his three-point attempts to between two and three per game. Has bounced around the league since leaving the Thunder and is now a good veteran locker room presence, but certainly a career to be proud of.
Thabo Sefolosha has been an NBA journeyman in his 14-year NBA career. Photo: Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports
PICK 10: SEATTLE SUPERSONICS – ANDREA BARGNANI (ORIGINALLY PICK ONE – TORONTO)
ORIGINAL PICK – MOUHAMED SENE
The original number one pick of the draft slides his way into pick 10, just making the cut. While the expectations of a number one pick weren’t met by Andrea Bargnani, he still enjoyed a very solid career. 10 seasons, nine of those averaging double digit scoring and a nice four year stretch in the middle where he put up 15 to 20 points per game. Was ahead of his time as a stretch four or five, putting up three shots from behind the arc per game for his career and shooting 35 percent.
Cover Photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
By Liam Melrose
Australia's Andrew Bogut was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
A draft class that includes a Hall of Fame point guard, forgotten names that were once stars of the league in their prime, as well as one season wonders. Liam Melrose looks back at the 2005 NBA Draft and re-selects his new top 10.
PICK 1: MILWAUKEE BUCKS – CHRIS PAUL (ORIGINALLY PICK 4 - NEW ORLEANS HORNETS)
ORGINAL PICK: ANDREW BOGUT
Paul will finish his career as one of the greatest point guards of all time. One of the best passers the game has ever seen, his ability to find open looks for his teammates but also score the ball himself has made him so difficult to defend. The ‘lob city’ era in Los Angeles with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan showed how dangerous Paul’s passing and pick and roll game is with the right pieces around him. Has averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 assists per game across his 14-year NBA career, as well as two steals per game. A 10-time NBA All-Star as well as a four-time All-NBA First Team member. Even at 35 years of age Paul is still performing at an elite level. He averaged 17.6 points and just under seven assists per game in the 2019-20 season for the Oklahoma City Thunder which included an unexpected playoff berth.
Chris Paul is one of the greatest on court generals the NBA has ever seen. Photo: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
PICK 2: ATLANTA HAWKS - DERON WILLIAMS (ORIGINALLY PICK 3 – UTAH JAZZ)
ORIGINAL PICK: MARVIN WILLIAMS
Williams played his best basketball in Utah as well as a couple of seasons in New Jersey/Brooklyn. However, the first half of his career was considerably better than his second, with his numbers falling away after the 2012-13 season. This was likely due to a number of injuries, he was originally an explosive point guard that could attack the rim as well as pass the ball extremely well. Unfortunately, the injuries took away the athleticism we saw during the first part of his career. Finishing his tenure as a perimeter shooter, Williams averaged just over 16 points per game as well as eight assists across 14 seasons in the league, to go with three All-Star selections, and was also a two time All-NBA Second Team member.
Deron Williams enjoyed a consistent beginning to his career before he was hampered by injuries. Photo: Michael Ehrmann/Getty Images
PICK 3: UTAH JAZZ – LOUIS WILLIAMS (ORIGINALLY PICK 45 – PHILADELPHIA 76ERS)
ORIGINAL PICK: DERON WILLIAMS
Williams has improved with age and flourished as the best sixth man in the league. A three time recipient of the Sixth Man of the Year award (2015, 2018 and 2019) as well as averaging 18.2 points per game for the 2019-20 season off the bench once again. One of the most consistent performers in this draft, he has averaged double figure scoring numbers every season since 2007. Williams has also improved his passing as his career has gone on, averaging at least five assists per game off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers in each of the past three seasons.
Lou Williams has aged like a fine wine with the Los Angeles Clippers. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
PICK 4: NEW ORLEANS HORNETS - MONTA ELLIS (ORIGINALLY PICK 40 – GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS)
ORIGINAL PICK: CHRIS PAUL
An explosive scorer at the two-guard position, Ellis put together a consistent career with his best seasons being at the Golden State Warriors between 2007 and 2012. The flashy guard averaged 25.5 points per game in the 2009-10 season along with just over five assists per game as Golden State’s starting shooting guard. Ellis teamed up with Baron Davis for a majority of those years, and later on a young Stephen Curry to form a formidable backcourt.
Monta Ellis with the Indiana Pacers in 2017. Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images
PICK 5: CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – DANNY GRANGER (ORIGINALLY PICK 17 INDIANA PACERS)
ORIGINAL PICK: RAYMOND FELTON
Another unfortunate case of injuries cutting a career short. A breakout season came in 2008-09 with the small forward averaging 25.8 points, five rebounds and just under three assists per game earning him an All-Star selection and the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. A wing that in his prime could do it all on both ends of the floor, his 2008-09 season proved that where he averaged both a block and a steal per game as well as his large scoring output.
Danny Granger was once an NBA All-Star who averaged nearly 26 points per game. Photo: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
PICK 6: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS – DAVID LEE (ORIGINALLY PICK 30 – NEW YORK KNICKS)
ORIGINAL PICK: MARTELL WEBSTER
A two-time All-Star, Lee had a solid career averaging 13.5 points and just under nine rebounds per game across 13 seasons in the league. He was an offensive weapon with a lethal left-handed hook shot in his earlier years at the New York Knicks, as well as a majority of his time at the Golden State Warriors. His best season came in 2009-10 with the Knicks, where Lee averaged just over 20 points per game and just under 12 rebounds before becoming a role player off the bench for the Warriors, and eventually finishing his career with the San Antonio Spurs. Was a member of the 2015 Golden State Warriors championship team.
David Lee Finished his career with the San Antonio Spurs. Photo: SooBum Im-USA TODAY Sports
PICK 7: TORONTO RAPTORS – ANDREW BOGUT (ORGINALLY PICK 1 – MILWAUKEE BUCKS)
ORIGINAL PICK: CHARLIE VILLANUEVA
While it’s unlikely if Bogut stayed healthy he would’ve remained the number one pick in this draft, he easily could have remained in the top three. A young Andrew Bogut could perform at both ends of the floor, averaging double-double numbers with the Milwaukee Bucks from 2007 to 2011. His best season came in 2009-10, where the center averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds per game along with two and a half blocks, showing us when he was healthy how prolific he could be at both ends of the court. Bogut left Milwaukee after seven seasons and joined the Golden State Warriors where he was an NBA champion in 2015 playing a vital role as a defensive anchor.
The number one pick of the 2005 NBA Draft slides to pick seven in our redraft. Photo: NBA Getty Images
PICK 8: NEW YORK KNICKS – ANDREW BYNUM (ORIGINALLY PICK 10 – LOS ANGELES LAKERS)
ORIGINAL PICK: CHANNING FRYE
Similar to Bogut, if injuries didn’t cut Bynum’s career short the sky was the limit. A serious case of a breakout season only to vanish the following year. Bynum had a career best season averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2011-12 which earned him an All-Star selection. However, following his career best season, he fell victim to a number of knee injuries and never fully recovered. Due to issues with his knees he sat out the entire 2012-13 season before signing a two-year deal with Cleveland ahead of the 2013-14 season, however he only managed 24 games with the Cavaliers before being traded.
Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers is closely guarded by Amare Stoudamire of the Phoenix Suns. Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
PICK 9: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – MARVIN WILLIAMS (ORIGINALLY PICK 2 – ATLANTA HAWKS)
ORIGINAL PICK: IKE DIOGU
Williams has put together a solid career where has been both a starter and role player depending on who his teammates are. Can start if you need him to, but can also play a crucial role off the bench. Extremely efficient offensively, has averaged at least 40 percent shooting throughout his career to date. Can also shoot the three ball very well with a career best coming in the 2017-18 season, where Williams was just over 41 percent from behind the arc over 78 games, starting in all of them.
Marvin Williams with the Charlotte Hornets. Photo: Kent Smith/NBAE Getty Images
PICK 10: LOS ANGELES LAKERS – RAYMOND FELTON (ORIGINALLY PICK 5 – CHARLOTTE BOBCATS)
ORIGINAL PICK: ANDREW BYNUM
A tale of two halves. The first half of Felton’s career was promising with his best season coming in 2010-11 where the point guard averaged 17.1 points along with nine assists per game for New York. He returned to the Knicks for two years between 2011-2013 putting together two more solid seasons, however injuries de-railed his career in the end, limiting his ability to consistently start for his respective teams. Fortunately he was still able to play a role off the bench as a strong backup at the point guard position.
Raymond Felton with the New York Knicks, he averaged just over 17 points per game in the 2010-11 season. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Cover Photo: Cato Cataldo/Getty Images
By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
LeBron James was again superb, winning his fourth title and Finals MVP. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Strong defense and energy is the strongest key to winning games of basketball
For anyone that follows basketball closely or has played a lot of basketball you’ll often hear analysts and coaches say, “strong defense translates into strong offense and defense wins you games of basketball.” In Game 6 the Lakers did just that.
The energy Los Angeles brought, particularly in the first half was paramount in them taking such a huge lead into halftime. They made it really tough for Miami to so much offensively, with an intimidating level of energy which brought strong defensive possessions translating into effective offensive play as they stamped their authority from the opening tip.
This led to them finishing the game 13-point winners and taking the franchises 17th Larry O’Brien trophy home to LA.
Role players help roll Lakers over the line
Every title winning team has strong role players who stand up when it matters most and Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did just that in Game 6. Both were at their best in tonight’s game and a crucial reason why Los Angeles clinched their 17th championship
The experienced Rondo finished with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes of game time. Caldwell-Pope finished with 17 points, with 15 of those coming in the first half to help the Lakers go into half-time with a 28-point lead.c
Despite a painful foot injury, Goran Dragic toughed it out to return in Game 6. Photo: David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images/AFP
Goran Dragic toughness
I discussed Bam Adebayo’s toughness in returning from his neck injury in Game 4 of these Finals, so I can’t forget about Goran Dragic after his return in Game 6.
The point guard hadn’t played since Game 1, when he tore his plantar fascia. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski the injury could not get worse if he played, his return just depended on if he could deal with the pain. It had been extreme, specifically when he warmed up to try and play in Games 4 and 5.
Despite this, and clearly hampered, Dragic bit his tongue to be able to play nearly 19 minutes and record five points, five rebounds and two assists. The Finals requires toughness both physically and mentally, which Dragic displayed in spades in getting back on the court.
Frank Vogel appreciation post
It’s a tough job coaching LeBron James. The pressure, publicity and expectation on Frank Vogel is something that only James’s former coaches would know about.
He has taken it in his stride though and had a superb year in his first season as Lakers head coach. Vogel’s playoff performance has been outstanding. He moved Dwight Howard to the starting line-up in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals and it had an immediate impact, winning the next two games to close out the series.
For Game 6 of the Finals he moved Caruso to the starting line-up, replacing Howard, and it had an immediate impact again. The Lakers jumped out to an eight point lead at quarter time and a 28-point lead at half-time, setting them up to win the 2020 title. Head home and crack open a cold one Frank, you can relax now.
Cover Photo: NBA Instagram
By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Jimmy Butler finished with another impressive triple-double as the Heat force a Game 6. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Jimmy Butler puts Miami on his back again
The result of the game decided who was the Player Of The Game between LeBron James and Jimmy Butler. A Miami clutch win means Butler is the man at the top of the list. 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, five steals with 58/33/100 shooting splits. An amazing showing in an elimination game, forcing the series into a sixth game. Nothing else to say.
King James does what a King does
Deciding who was stronger out of Butler and LeBron James is clutching at straws, all I know is they were both crazy in this game. LeBron did everything to end the series today, 40 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals on 71/67/67 shooting splits. With a fourth title in sight, I think we can expect another showing like this from LeBron, and Jimmy for that matter.
Jimmy Butler was a force in stopping the Lakers clinch the NBA title. Photo: Mark J Terrill/Associated Press
Undrafted Duncan stands up on the biggest stage
For a player that has been up and down throughout the playoffs, Duncan Robinson stood up on the biggest stage. It was win or go home for the Heat, and Robinson finished with 26 points on the back of seven threes. Hitting a number of big shots when the Lakers were knocking on the door threatening to steal the championship. If Robinson can keep up this shooting form in Game 6, the Heat may very well force a Game 7.
KCP ‘bail-out’ option nearly helps Lakers over the line
The Lakers offense is centered around Anthony Davis and LeBron James, however with two powerful superstars like the pair of Davis and James, there’s always going to be room for spot-up shooters like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With Danny Green struggling, KCP was huge for the Lakers adding 16 points giving the Heat defense something else to worry about. Like Duncan Robinson if Caldwell-Pope can keep up that level of form in Game 6, it will go a long way in helping Los Angeles clinch their 18th NBA title.
Cover Photo: USA TODAY SPORTS/Kim Klement
By Ollie Nash
Anthony Davis and the Lakers bought a better intensity to Game 4. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Lakers energy back up = a win
In Game 3 the Lakers came out of the blocks looking lethargic, unenergized and sloppy on the offensive end. In Game 4 they did a full 180 and bought the intensity, specifically on the defensive end, that has made them so good all season.
It was led by the role players, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo specifically, and it gave them some easier transition looks by getting some stops.
The Lakers biggest task is to match Miami’s grit and grind mentality, because when they do, they have the talent in LeBron James and Anthony Davis to take them over the edge. This is what they did tonight and was the biggest reason they are now up 3-1.
The deficit is not ideal, but Miami is still alive
The one thing that Miami have done this postseason is make every game close. Win or lose, they rarely get blown out or blow out teams. After the first two games of this series where they looked out of place, they have found their mojo and are back to the form that got them this far.
Being down 3-1, while not ideal, is now not such a steep climb, especially with Bam Adebayo back. This game wasn’t decided until the final minute, as a lot of Miami’s games have been during the playoffs. I can nearly guarantee this will be repeated in Game 5 and Game 6 or 7 if necessary.
With no crowd in the bubble and no home court advantage, Denver proved coming back from 3-1 is doable and if any team was going to repeat the feat, it would be Miami. I don’t think it will happen; the Lakers have LeBron James for goodness sake. However, 2020 has been weird, so can we really 100 percent count it out as a possibility?
Bam Adebayo proved his toughness in returning in Game 4 despite his injury. Photo: ESPN
Huge props to Bam Adebayo
In a bubble, away from home and family for over two months now and you get injured. For Bam Adebayo, it’s a tough situation to be in mentally and physically, so to see him back fighting it out is inspiring.
I don’t think we can underestimate the toll being in this bubble would have on these players. Yes, they are well looked after, but there’s nothing like being able to spend a night in your own bed and being around your family. Add a severe injury to that and it just brings you down another peg. Adebayo has been able to fight his way out of it and helped put Miami in a position to win Game 4.
His 15 points and seven rebounds were important, especially the points he scored early in the first quarter attacking the basket. A tough showing from one of every NBA fans favourite players.
If the Lakers win the title, the Finals MVP is decided
Through the first two games of this series, all the talk was centred around “if the Lakers end up winning the title, has Anthony Davis earned the Finals MVP?” The answer two games later is a resounding no.
Game 3 he went missing, early turnovers leading to foul trouble and an all-around bad game. The man who hasn’t gone missing is LeBron James. Like most of the Lakers team, he wasn’t great in Game 3. But he was back to a version of his dominant self, without being out of this world in Game 4. Oh, but he still put up 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists on 8-16 shooting from the field, 2-5 from three and 10-12 from the free throw line. An easy pick now if LA win the championship.
Cover Photo: The Canadian Press
By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Jimmy Butler had an all-time great performance in Game 3. Photo: NBA
Butler brings the heat to lift Miami over LA
Jimmy Butler put up an historic NBA Finals performance to lift the Miami Heat out of the gutter and drag them back into the series. Without fellow starters Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo it was up to Butler to deliver if the Heat were going to be any chance of putting one finger on the Larry O’Brien trophy.
He finished with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in what was arguably the greatest performance of his career to date with the basketball world watching on. He was also great on the defensive end, finishing with two steals and two blocks.
After his impressive performance, Butler becomes just the third player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple double in the NBA Finals joining LeBron James and Jerry West. However, he was the first player to do so in a win.
Lakers lack of curveballs
Jimmy Butler was amazing in Game 3 and made some tough shots over some good Laker defence. However, he was allowed to continually have a one-on-one match-up, attack it in any way he liked and either score or get fouled. The Lakers never threw a double or any different defensive scheme. The old analogy applies here, how many times will you let someone punch you in the face before you throw something back or get out of the way?
In all sports around the world, if what you are doing is not working, do something different. The Lakers are experienced enough that they can change on the fly. For me, I would be doubling Jimmy more often and making Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk beat you. They’re all good three-point shooters and there’s a chance they make you pay, but at least it’s throwing something back at the haymakers Butler was delivering. Except for Olynyk who shot it well from behind the arc, Robinson was 3-10 from three, Herro 2-7 and Crowder 2-8, so it wasn’t as if they were catching fire. Make them beat you.
LeBron and the Lakers didn't have any answers in the end. Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Lack of energy from LA
The one aspect of the Game 2 that stood out to me the most was the Lakers energy, particularly Anthony Davis. He had eight offensive rebounds, half of LA’s 16 as a team. In Game 3, Davis had just two and the Lakers had 11 as a team.
Their lack of energy was clear as day to start the game and it just started a domino effect. 10 first quarter turnovers for 11 Miami points ensued, Davis was immediately in foul trouble and they fell into a deficit. It’s hard to build energy mid-game when you are losing and have come out so flat. This meant the Lakers was playing catch-up and that’s a hard game to play against this Heat team, as they have shown throughout the playoffs.
A lack of energy should never be a problem in an NBA Finals game and I would be extremely worried if the Lakers had the same issue in Game 4.
Olynyk steps up when the Heat need him most
For a role player that averaged 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds during the regular season, you can’t expect too much of an output in the playoffs regardless of how many minutes you play. However, over the past two games with star Heat center Bam Adebayo injured, Kelly Olynyk has taken his opportunity with both hands.
In Game 2 he became the first player to come off the bench and score 24 points and pull in at least nine rebounds in NBA Finals history. In Game 3 with Adebayo out he backed it up again, playing over 30 minutes and finishing with 17 points and seven rebounds. Way to step up when your team needs you most Kelly.
Cover Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 59 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
The force of LBJ and AD too strong for the Heat
LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 59 points, 22 rebounds and 14 assists in Game 1 with the pair both shooting the ball at over 50 percent from the field. With Davis arguably playing the best basketball of his career to date, it’s hard to see how Miami can handle Davis and put time into LeBron, who we all know becomes an absolute beast in the Finals.
With Miami anchor Bam Adebayo leaving Game 1 with an apparent left shoulder injury, it’s set to be a serious test for the Heat to see if they can contain the pair of Davis and LeBron for the remainder of the series. Miami have been great all post-season, however the presence of AD and LBJ may prove to be too much to handle as the series progresses.
Injuries are never good for a team in any sport at any time. They’re especially untimely during the NBA Finals. With games every second day, a shoulder injury to Bam Adebayo, twisted ankle for Jimmy Butler and foot injury to Goran Dragic won’t help Miami’s campaign.
Reports are that Dragic could be out for the series. If Adebayo and Butler are able to play the remaining games, they won’t be fully healthy and with the rough and tough nature of the NBA Finals, it will make life even harder. Fingers crossed for quick recoveries, because the 2020 season deserves a tight contest to finish the year.
Injuries to Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler could not have come at a worse time. Photos: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images and The Associated Press
Lakers three-point shooting
After a slow start being down as many as 13 in the first quarter, it was the Lakers shooting from behind the arc that got them back in the game. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the way hitting two threes in the first term and the team followed.
The Lakers went 15-38 from the three point line, 11 of those makes coming in the first half to help them to a 17-point lead at half time, one they never relinquished. Shooting nearly 40 percent from three isn’t going to happen every game, but doing so in Game 1 no doubt instils confidence in the Lakers role players especially.
Duncan Robinson needs to lift
Like all shooters, Duncan Robinson can be streaky. You are you can’t afford to go scoreless in an NBA Finals game though. Even more remarkably Robinson took just three shots in 27 minutes and failed to register an assist. With injuries to two fellow starters in Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic in Game 1, Robinson needs to lift. Often this post-season we have seen him have either 12-20 points or struggle to have an impact at all.
With the Heat struggling in Game 1 a spark from Robinson will be needed in Game 2.
Cover Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images