Here we go:
Antetokounmpo can practically cover literally half of the court:
In this moment, Antetokounmpo is actually a threat to block Jimmy Butler‘s shooter and divert some pass to Ben Simmons at the corner — or at least apparate there to frighten Simmons to the grab. He’s effectively in two places at the same time.
Simmons cuts baseline, and Antetokounmpo casually bats out the pass of this atmosphere. He hardly has to jump.
A couple speedy, giant centres — for example Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert — pay this much space. D Raymond Green is actually really a genius that moves almost before the ball, however he also can not fit Antetokounmpo’s speed, leaping ability or length. Ditto for Paul George. Antetokounmpo is the only one amongst them who are able to credibly shield every player in the NBA.
He is (again) averaging almost 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per match — rare territory. Opponents are shooting 53 percent at the rim together with Antetokounmpo nearby, among the lowest marks in the group, each NBA.com. They have scored a ridiculous 0.68 points per ownership once they isolate against him — the eighth-stingiest figure among 177 guys who have faced at 100 one on one attacks, per Secondly Spectrum. Nobody bothers attempting to post him up; he frees one play each 100 possessions, via 2nd Spectrum. He smothers either side of a pick-and-roll.
Antetokounmpo can end the entire year as preferred for the two MVP and Defensive Player of the Season. Yikes.
2. A Sixers rotation wrinkle worth tracking
As Brett Brown micro-waves this strange, promising chemistry experimentation, he has lately tried attaching Simmons to the sacrosanct Embiid/J.J. Redick minutes. That is a large shift; for a couple of years, the Sixers have largely escalated Embiid and Simmons.
They didn’t have Butler and Tobias Harris for all the moment. Brown feels comfortable with those two conduct the series whenever the Simmons/Embiid/Redick crew rests. That doubles as a technique to having Butler his touches.
That all makes sense, and Brown may not hold fast to some rotation. One outcome worth tracking: This blueprint includes T.J. McConnell, Simmons and Embiid playing together more, and making for a crowded lane if Embiid holds hours.
Philly has typically struggled when McConnell and Simmons play together. (clearly, the Sixers perked up against Boston in last season’s playoffs once they opened McConnell. Match ups and smallish samples dominate the afternoon in April and May. Simmons and Redick will also be developing their own funky two man game.) He didn’t play the McConnell/Simmons/Embiid trio at all at Philly’s streak-buster over Boston on Wednesday, maybe suggesting that experiment-within-an-experiment was scrapped.
Every crucial player has to sacrifice in order for this to work. In big matches — including landmark wins this week over Milwaukee and Boston — Philly has performed nicely sorting it out on the fly, even if it means Harris goes too long without touching the ball or even Embiid spends an excessive amount of time for his liking at the corner.
Butler has become the defacto crunch time point protector. In previous segments together with all the starters, he has to keep to search out clippers such as this:
Butler is a smart, physiological cutter. He draws fouls on cuts before having the ball, that will be rare. He could stumble into 12 random things like this game, which will be part of the intermittent insistence on commandeering more of the crime — quieter lately — may frustrate.
Sexton is rather beginning to occur. His 3-point shooting — up to 42 percent — was a slow-burn shocker. It began with Sexton canning open 3-pointers if defenders ignored him, or ducked 10 feet below displays. He had the time to confirm the wind. Skeptics shrugged.
He kept hitting people , even as defenders at the least waved in him. Now, he is trickling in to 3s if defenders chase him over screens. He’s daring the intermittent step-back, also he murdered both Detroit and Milwaukee this week with daggers.
He’s also showing some nascent feel on the pick-and-roll. He’s already good at faking toward choices, becoming defenders leaning this way, then jetting the other direction. He’s learning to slow down, pin defenders on his rear, and provide his big man time to roll up into an open passing lane. If no other alternative seems, Sexton slides right to a tender floater:
In case down Shifting reveals a driving lane — if, say, it tricks a help guardian in to anticipating a pass — Sexton engages turbo gear:
Sexton remains a trainwreck on defense. He isn’t creating enough to others, leaving the Cavs somewhat bemused over what sort of perimeter players they want along side him long haul. However, this change-of-pace guile is promising just because it really is Sexton prodding much enough to create passing lanes rather than settling for 20-foot bricks that create none. The next steps are expecting those passing lanes, and harnessing them.
Beyond this, there’s nothing to enjoy about Sexton. He’s fearless, and also the best form of cocky. I sat courtside at Philly last Friday as an Under-manned Cleveland team battled the Sixers to the final buzzer. Philly was visibly disinterested. That bloated and emboldened the Cavs, especially Sexton. They desired to punish the Sixers for their own insecurities.
Sexton scored 26 in that match, and he needed the ball on every crunch time possession. He actually didn’t think any Sixer could stop him. He plays a ferocious opportunism a little Similar to Russell Westbrook:
That is practically the reverse of a Kobe Assist — a basket most point guards would not think to seek out. Sexton gets got the form of soul a team can rally around, given he improves his departure.
Sexton is a very long way from being average for his position. However, his first hand trajectory was reassuring.
Collins is catchy and athletic enough to turn into something Across the rim — also a useful ability at the end of the clock:
Collins is shooting 74 percent at the restricted space, plus it sometimes looks as if he has flinging stuff up blind from awkward angles. He has great fun to see.
Young and Collins have a nice chemistry, and it needs to emphasise as Collins grows more comfortable pick-and-popping for 3s; he is shooting 36 percent from heavy, and just about one-fifth of his efforts have come from the corners — a crazy transformation from last season, when he established almost exclusively from that point.
The Hawks are almost dead for the summer season with Collins on to the ground, remarkable considering they are minus-447 overall. They have outscored competitors when Collins plays without Young, mostly as a result of unsustainable defense. (Those touting Young for Rookie of the Year should not appear Atlanta’s stats at the opposite scenario.)
Collins may get a little hungry for things. As he improves his departure, he’s going to be an absolute stud on offense. The other end will determine his ceiling.
5. Washington’s Frontline defense
The misfit post-trade-deadline Wiz have been a blast, but going forward, they must set a defensive identity. That on average starts along front line, and also their current group doesn’t appear equipped to it.
Opponents are shooting a huge 71 percent at the rim together with Bobby Portis nearby, third-worst one of 98 players that struggle three or more such shots per match, according to NBA.com. (Both below him are guards.) Portis is fast and also a voracious rebounder, but helter-skelter on the fundamentals of placement — with a habit of flying out of scheme. Thomas Bryant, his backup, meanders at a permanent haze. Washington is more prone to fatal miscommunication if Bryant is involved at a pick-and-roll; he sometimes literally loses track of the ball. You can spot him swiveling his mind to locate it:
He’s bulldozing to the rim, also throwing more smart moves. Unfortunately, he stays a lien on the other ending — incapable to track his man and the ball at exactly the same moment.
Parker disintegrates in the post if he doesn’t feel as though working difficult:
On bad defensive nights, then you wonder whether Parker would be playable at a difficult postseason show unless he’s scorching on crime. (Hypothesis: Parker and D Raymond Green will be the most opposite of almost any two players of about the same size and standing.)
They face a ton of questions, and also those surrounding their high-wattage guards draw the most examination — beginning with the potential for Bradley Beal‘s Super Max eligibility this summer. But they have no long-term certainty in either big man area, and also decent team defense fans out from there.
6. Royce O’Neale, off the capture
Back in July 2017, this dude showed up in Salt Lake City as an unsigned practice player with Utah’s summer league team, captured his teeth knocked out during a scrimmage, moved to a medical facility, also returned that night for yet another practice. That’s how dire O’Neale was for an NBA job.
Now he is a rotation fixture for playoff team, mostly because of plays like this:
If you are likely to make it like a low-usage wing, you’ve got to attack off the guards off the catch without reluctance — and also have the smarts to make the next play in traffic, moving at full speed. O’Neale sees Luol Deng leaning far from him to bother Joe Ingles, also knows he has a street that will close fast.
He does not pause. He does precisely exactly the opposite of tripping. He’s already running toward the rim before Ingles’ pass strikes his hands, to the purpose that he risks leaving the ball supporting. O’Neale is indeed decisive, and shifts into high gear so fast, it’s almost alarming. You stress he is going to wreck into the basket stanchion, or only lose control of his own body and collapse over.
However, O’Neale knows the way the defense will soon rotate once he defeats Deng, when Derrick Favors might come open. Snuff which, also O’Neale toggles to another alternative; he’s the flooring mapped in his mind:
That is just a monster pass. Washington clogs the two easiest options — the dropoff to Rudy Gobert, and also the kick to Jae Crowder in the corner — so O’Neale, under the rim and also into midair, mind you, throws a fastball to Donovan Mitchell.
O’Neale knows he isn’t going to play 30 minutes or take a bunch of shots, therefore he moves allout on defense. He’s feisty, and frequently shields the finest opposing scorer. He’s very strong. Oh, he is also shooting 40 percent from heavy.
7. Devin Booker‘s defense, still not Wonderful
Anyone who has read this space or paid attention to the low e Post podcast knows I am a Booker optimist. He can score, and his shooting will sing when Phoenix surrounds him with more playmaking. He’s a smart passer having a dynamite left hand. He is the one thing dividing Phoenix’s crime from G League-level manufacturing . (Deandre Ayton has ever been Phoenix’s second-best offensive player for the complete season, and the Suns have puked up only 92.8 points per 100 possessions when he plays without Booker, per NBA.com. That is 12 points below ny’s league-worst offense.)
I am even optimistic Booker will make himself into an average-ish defender. He has solid footwork and time; when he strives hard, he also holds his own. However, when he calms, it becomes nasty.
You see this pattern too frequently: Booker is late becoming a posture, and chemicals that by carrying a terrible course around Jahlil Okafor‘s screen. Booker doesn’t always have the wingspan to eliminate overdue competitions contrary to good shooters.
He also has a tendency to drift out of plays once he falls behind:
Other high-volume ball handlers — Westbrook and John Wall spring to mind — form of vanish into the ether such as this, too. No body carrying Booker’s load on crime will exert summit energy on every defensive ownership. However, since the Suns build the roster, Booker will have to do better.
Smart brings small pieces of magic on defense that happen only when rare athleticism matches even sexier IQ. He might be the Finest in the league in regaining along diagonals:
That isn’t easy. Brogdon thinks he’s one. (Brogdon is an elite catch-and-go driver. It may be his very best skill, and also the one Milwaukee will have the toughest time repeating within his absence.) However, Smart shifts back to Brogdon in concert Middleton’s pass, cuts him off along that tricky diagonal, and carries the ball.
What is this close out?
Boston is known around the league for teaching innovative close out tactics, however I am not sure this really is one of them.
Was he about to collide together Carter? Wait, was actually sliding in to the passing lane between Carter and Trae Young? Imagine trying to suss out that on to the ground, with Smart sneering and flying right in you. He seems like he is somehow moving in three directions at the same time. It’s enough to freak Carter in to hesitating before bricking this corner .
I am still not buying LaVine as a Most Improved Player candidate, or even future alpha of the NBA contender. He also turns the ball over too much, jacks at three dreadful shots a match, also gives back therefore much of his offensive production with clueless defense.
However, LaVine doesn’t need to be Harden. He simply must be improved, and he’s shown glimpses. He opened the summer season to the rim, and that’s sustained. He’s well above the league average from profound on a daily diet of contested, off-the-dribble efforts.
And over the past two weeks, there’s been growing elegance to his departure:
LaVine has leveled through to this sling-shot to the weakside corner. He whips it off the rebound, using a one-handed gather that works to disguise the fold until it is airborne. He releases it with the essential help defender — Josh Jackson — still sinking in to the paint, away from Lauri Markkanen.
LaVine’s passing amounts have reached career-high levels. February may have been his best departure month ever: 5-8 dimes contrary to 2-4 turnovers.
He has a very long way to go. He has dishing 4.7 dimes per match — perhaps not quite John Stockton territory. His assist-to-turnover ratio is roughly even again in March. He gets caught in Audiences, threads moves which are not there, and kicks to shooters who’ve already cut someplace else.
However, all advancement is healthy, also LaVine indicates meaningful advancement.
Chicago’s bold blue-on-black unis
Speaking of the Bulls, let us give a very long overdue nod to their town variant jerseys — one of the year’s greatest fresh pajamas:
That’s a gamble. Four colors — black, blue, red, white and black — could be noisy, however the gloomy is serene and the black reasons everything. The Bulls and Sixers (with their Rocky-themed uniforms) introduced two of the only real jerseys in NBA history featuring no lettering at all on the front. That’s here, too; the four stars — taken from Chicago’s city flag — are a very recognizable neighborhood referent.
My favorite part: the blue-on-black decoration of each player’s name on the back. Gorgeous. Blue on black is a winner; it has ever been so for its Orlando Magic. In addition, I enjoy this the Bulls maintained the decoration plain, without any boundary. It’s really a fresh appearance.