Russell Westbrook: Most overrated player in the NBA

The Oklahoma City Thunder could very well come back and win their first round series with the Portland Trailblazers but after two games of the series its clear to anyone that is watching the best point guard on the floor is not Mr. Triple Double Russell Westbrook.  In fact, he may not even be the second-best guard on the floor with the way that CJ McCollum has been playing.  It’s time for the world to realize that Westbrook is not a franchise player he is a loser that knows how to fill a stat sheet. 

Westbrook entered the league as the #4 pick out of UCLA.  He was paired along-side the previous year’s #2 pick Kevin Durant, the soon to be Oklahoma City Thunder thought they had their dynamic duo that could lead them to a championship.  What they really had was two talented players that were destined for an eventual clash.  Durant and Westbrook were young enough and talented enough to get past their differences to carry them to the NBA Finals in 2011-12.  After they made their run the Thunder disintegrated into a split personality.  Westbrook did what he does, he took over despite what was best for the team.  He was unable to understand what was going to take them to the next level.  Westbrook inability to mesh with Kevin Durant has to be blamed on his own personality.  Durant was able to assimilate himself into the star studded Warriors with minimal clashing. 

With Durant gone Westbrook was signed long term to be the official face of the franchise and he has run with it.  There is no argument that he is a future hall of fame player that can do almost anything athletically on a basketball court.  When it comes time to make a big play do your really see Russell Westbrook making the big shots?  Do you see him closing out games in the biggest moments.  He has the personality of a great player and the ego of one but lacks that ability mentally to be “the guy”. 

As I watched game two last night I kept wondering where this all-time great player was, this franchise cornerstone that made it acceptable for Kevin Durant and James Harden to leave. Since Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder are 3-10 in the playoffs while its “star” has been anything but.  Russell Westbrook has shot just 38% from the field and 28% from 3 during those 13 games and last night a true leader showed what it takes mentally to be great.  The Blazers team would do anything for Damion Lillard, they play with him and for him.  The Thunder had the momentum early getting out to a nine point lead, but as the lead began to crumble Westbrook began to crumble along with it.  When his team needed him most he disappeared.  Westbrook final stat numbers are always going to be strong.  He will get some points, rebounds, assists but he lacks the traits that make a player the best.  Russell is now 30 years old, he convinced Paul George to stay in OKC, he has time to turn it around but right now he is a stat player rather than a winning player.  Russell has a way to make you believe his is one of the best in the game, that is a mirage hidden behind a stat line. 

Oh and his personality really sucks. 

Beasts of the East: Preview of Eastern Conference First Round

#1 Milwaukee Bucks versus #8 Detroit Pistons- Season Series 4-0 Bucks

Detroit took care of business on the final game of the season locking in their matchup with the East’s best Milwaukee Bucks. Detroit will make their first playoff appearance since the 2015-16 season, only the second time in the last ten seasons. 

This matchup will be tough for the Pistons as it showed in the regular season with Milwaukee sweeping the series.  Brook Lopez is a tough matchup for Andre Drummond because to his developed 3-point shooting.  Lopez will draw Drummond away from the basket on the defensive end which will open up offensive boards for Giannis and Khris Middleton.

To sum it up Giannis and company are a matchup nightmare across the board for the Pistons with a banged up Blake Griffin.  If Detroit is able to pull out a single game it should be considered a victory.

Prediction: Bucks in 4

#2 Toronto Raptors versus #7 Orlando Magic- Season Series 2-2

The Orlando Magic make their return to the playoffs for the first time in six years.  They will get a matchup with the Toronto Raptors and Kawhi Leonard.  The Magic are one of just seven teams that beat the Raptors twice this season.  Both Magic victories had small asteris’s next to them as Kawhi Leonard was out for a game and Kyle Lowry also missed one game.

Orlando and Toronto are both defensive minded teams that have premier players that lead the way.  Toronto’s mid-season acquisition of Marc Gasol could play a big factor in defending Magic Center Nikola Vucevic who has owned the Raptors this season 20.0 points (55% shooting, 45.5 % 3-point shooting), 15.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists.

The Magic have a punchers chance due to their defensive ability but they lack the guard play to win a major series, Terrance Ross has been their most consistent guard throughout the season but if he goes on one of his classic cold streak it will be too much offensive from the Raptors for Orlando to keep up.  Orlando will make it tough but Raptors have Kawhi Leonard this year and that means a win in the series.

Prediction: Raptors in 5

#3 Philadelphia 76ers versus #6 Brooklyn Nets- Season Series 2-2

When Philadelphia picked up Tobias Harris from the Clippers it seemed like the final piece that was needed to finish the puzzle.  That puzzle would be the Eastern Conference Championship.  Unfortunately for the 76ers their proposed “super team” starting lineup of Reddick-Embiid-Harris-Simmons- Butler has only played a total of ten games together this season. Heading into this series there are questions about the health of Embiid which could be disastrous for a team that has very high ambitions. 

The 76ers will have a tough series ahead of them facing a young Nets team that has nothing to lose, they have already exceeding most expectations up to this point.  D’Angelo Russell has shown the NBA why he was the #2 pick of the Lakers back in 2015.   The Nets are a tough team to figure out, they are the only team in the entire NBA with a winning record and a negative point differential.  The Nets are ahead of schedule but they still tend to be lazy on the defensive end and if Embiid is healthy they will have no answer for the big man.  Anyone in the DFS community knows what bigs can do to the Nets. 

The key though will be Jimmy Butler most likely matching up against D’Angelo Russell.  Butler will be able to handle the size Russell brings from the point and at the very least will slow down their offense.  The Nets will make games close because of their superior second unit lead buy Spencer Dinwiddie.  I will be watching this series to see some fireworks from both ends but if Embiid can play 76ers will take the series. 

Prediction: 76ers in 6 (If Embiid can’t play Nets in 6)

#4 Boston Celtics versus #5 Indiana Pacers- Season Series 3-1

The Celtics had an underwhelming 2018-19 regular season.  The clear favorite in the East seemed to go into funks every other week.  A change to the starting lineup has seemed to spark the Celtics though as Aaron Baynes replaced Marcus Morris providing more punch off the bench and more size in the starting lineup. 

The Pacers have been overachievers all year especially since the injury to Victor Oladipo. They have survived due to their defensive efforts allowing 108.0 points allowed per 100 possessions.  Indiana has also feasted on the lower level teams going 11-1 against non -playoff teams since the Oladipo Injury. 

The Pacer have played at a high level despite the loss of their star and team leader Oladipo.  They enter the playoffs with a lot of talented role players similar to the Celtics team of the previous season. Boston will come out to a 2-0 lead a home and ultimately win this series.  I would go with a sweep but the Pacers are good enough at home to feed off the crowd.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

3 Reason why its Lebron’s fault If the Lakers don’t make playoffs.

The Lakers pulled off a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans behind Lebron James and Brandon Ingram.  The playoffs are still a long shot for the historic franchise.  If they do not make it to one of the top eight teams in the West the blame should lie on the supposed “GOAT”.  Here is why.

Lebron’s a destructive locker room presence.

It’s really not a great idea to openly tell the world that you don’t think your team is good enough.  It’s even worse to basically tell them you hope they are traded.  James has always manipulated management based on his needs but the Lakers front office has allowed him to unwillingly be their mouthpiece. 

The Lakers are a young core that have spent most of their young lives watching Lebron James dominate the league.  They strived to be Lebron, they played him on video games, wore his jersey, pretended to be him when playing pickup games in the park.  When you get the once in a lifetime chance to be on his team you hope that it is everything you dreamed.  Instead you are told you are not good enough and openly disrespected.  While he is the one that takes the criticism in the media they are the ones that the blamed is cast upon. 

Lebron and Luke Walton were never going to work.

Luke Walton was a hot commodity when he was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers.  The fill in for Steve Kerr for a handful of games in 2015 impressing may around the league leading the Warriors to a historic 39-4 start.  Walton had a team that was built around multiple players that were willing to work hard as a unite.  All they needed was a string leader to set the course and they would execute to the highest level. 

Lebron James is not the type of player that wants to be lead.  He is the type of player that wants you to fall in line, that is the same with his coach.  To many times we have seen Lebron run a coach out of town.  David Blatt made it to the finals and was fired the next year because of Lebron. It’s his way or the highway.  Luke Walton is young enough and bold enough to step up to Lebron, which is not a good thing for his career.

Lebron is more worried about the summer then the team.

I love the set-up of the All-Star game over the last two years.  This year especially showed why it can be very interesting.  If you checked the roster of team Lebron it featured Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.  There is no coincidence that the core of his roster was comprised of potential running mates for next season.  Lebron knows that his team his not good enough to beat the Warriors right now so why should he give max effort, he can just wait until the summer so that the excuse can be that he needs help.  Lebron always needs help.  If Lebron loses it’s because the players around were not good enough. 

Telling the world “playoff” Lebron is kicking hasn’t seemed to help his effort on the defensive end.  What about “playoff” Lakers?  Shouldn’t that be what he is focused on.  The King is the greatest player of my generation.  I was never able to watch Jordan in his prime while I was old enough to appreciate it, so sadly I am stuck with Lebron, a selfish player that thinks about excuses rather than taking ownership.  It’s cool though this summer the Lakers will probably sign someone to play alongside him and become the new scape goat.

Jayson Tatum- Make Basketball Great Again in the STL

The last time the city of St. Louis had a professional basketball team was in 1976.  The ABA’s St. Louis Spirits did not make it into the NBA when the two leagues merged.  As the Spirits left so did the spirit of professional basketball in the Gateway City.  It is time for the city to recapture its passion for the sport by watching one of its native sons emerge on the grandest stage professional basketball has to show.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a controversial move when he traded away the #1 overall pick to the 76ers. Washinton’s Markelle Fultz was looked at as the can’t miss star of the draft.  His length and athleticism was thought to be elite on all levels.  Ainge took the gamble moving down to draft Duke Freshman  and St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Jayson Tatum has emerged as an underrated rookie star for the Boston Celtics. If you are not sure who Jayson Tatum is, he is the guy  from the Imo’s commercials.

While flashier rookies  like Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell have been getting the headlines Tatum has quietly brought his team to the verge of the the Eastern Conference finals. Tatum, a graduate of Chaminade Preparatory School in Creve Coeur, Missouri, has given St. Louis sports fans a reason to watch the NBA playoffs.  With key stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward going do with season ending injuries Tatum was forced to take a more prominent role on a team that finished  with the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. His scoring and defense have transitioned perfectly into the professional level.  Unlike most lottery draft picks Tatum has not been forced to be the savior of the organization.  Instead he was put in a position that allowed him to play a role, he was able to develop throughout rather then burden himself with the weight of the organization.  The regular season went well for Tatum averaging 13.9 PPG, 5 RB, shooting 43% from three and an astounding 53% shooting overall.  Tatum’s production has been taken to the next level for the Celtics in the playoffs.

In Game 1 of the second round series against the third seed Philadelphia 76ers, Tatum had a career-high 28 points in a 117–101 win, becoming the first Celtics rookie to score 25 or more points in a playoff game since Larry Bird (Maybe you have heard of him) during the 1980 NBA Playoffs, also against the 76ers. Tatum continued his strong play in Game 2 of the series scoring 21 points, those points would be the fourth game in a row Tatum reached the 20 point mark, making him the youngest player ever to accomplish that surpassing a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant (Maybe you have heard of him).  Brad Stevens has been called the best coach in the NBA for his ability to develop players, having them exceed expectations by putting them in a place the helps them excel.  The best example of the Stevens approach has been the production of Jayson Tatum.

St. Louis has had its fair share of NBA talent over the last few years.  Players like Larry Hughes, Darius Miles, and Bradley Beal have made an impact at the NBA level but Tatum is showing that he may end up being the best of the bunch.  He goes about his business quietly and professionally.  He plays in a major market and will be put in the spotlight as he develops and he will develop under the leadership of Brad Stevens.  Next season the Celtics may be the favorite in the Eastern Conference when their injured stars return but for now Tatum is the guy leading the charge of the dynamic Boston offense.  Tatum is the star that the St. Louis fan base needs, giving the fanbase a player and a team to follow.

Tatum is becoming the face of St. Louis basketball.

 

 

Warriors vs. Pelicans Preview and Pick

The first matchup of the Western Conference Semifinals has one team that is supposed to be there and one that seemed to mature over night.  The Pelicans were two losses aways from potentially not making the playoffs. It felt like New Orleans might be left for dead when DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season ending rupture of achilles tendon, but the Pelicans persevered and found a new identity over the season’s final two-plus months. They have adjusted to their personal, finding success with their upbeat fast style.

The Pelicans were able to jump out on the Blazers each game of the first round, immediately taking control of each game allowing them to dictate the pace.  The Blazers did not possess the depth of scoring that could overcome early deficits.  That will not be the case with the Warriors, even without Steph Curry they have more then one asset that can carry the load of the scoring.  Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant carried the load in the first round averaging 22.6 PPG and 28 PPG in the first round versus a tough but undermanned San Antonio Spurs team.

Jrue Holiday will be a key for the Pelicans without Steph Curry, he will likely be forced to handle Kay Thompson.  If Holiday can continue to defend the opposing teams best guard as well as keep up his offensive production from the first round then the Pelicans will have a great chance to make this a series.  Holiday was sensational in the first round averaging 27.8 point and 6.5 assists per game during the entire series. The difference in this series will be Klay Thompson.  Thompson will be tasked with handling the dynamic Pelican guard. Holiday stands 6’4″, but it will be the 6’7″ Thompson with the height and length advantage in the series ahead. If Thompson can shoot the ball effectively while using his length to force Holiday into disadvantageous positions, it could significantly hamper New Orleans’ ability to score.

Anthony Davis is going to get his numbers, he will give the Pelicans a chance to win a few games in this series.  I worry that he Zaza Pachulia effect may become a factor in this series, he could be the Warriors version of Lance Stephenson.  If he can annoy and effect Davis getting under his skin enough to disrupt him at any point during the series it will cost the young Pelicans any chance to pull off the upset.  Kevin Durant will be a problem for the Pelicans.  Durant played 3 of 4 games vs the Pelicans in 2018, averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game, shooting over 50% against them. The Pelicans have now answer for Durant.  Their roster s not equipped to handle the length and ability that Durant brings to the table. Etwan Moore is to small and Nikola Mirotic is not fast enough to handle Durant. The Pelicans may try and take away other Warrior stars similar to the way the Utah Jazz handled the OKC Thunder, shutting down Paul George an Carmelo Antony.

The Pelicans, along with the Warriors, were the only teams in the league to rank in the top three in both points scored and assists per game during the regular season, but that’s not the only tie that binds them. Former Golden State associate head coach Alvin Gentry is now in his third season as Head Coach of the Pelicans, and this upcoming series will offer the first chance for he and Steve Kerr to go head-to-head in that time. The in season series was won by the Warriors 3-1 but the three Warrior wins came before Christmas when Boogie Cousins was still a part of the Pelican rotation.  The Pelicans have become a different team since that injury.  Alvin Gentry will have his team ready to compete but right now the young Pel’s do not have the depth to handled the high powered an experienced Warriors. These games are going to be full of offense and fun to watch but I just think that the Warriors will be to much especially if Steph Curry is able to play at any point during this series.  New Orleans is very close to be a real contender in the West and they have already proved me wrong once.  I won’t be wrong about them twice.

Warriors in 5

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