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Rowan’s Rankings | NBA Week 2

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The NBA is officially back in action, and what a first week it was. Countless players have put up monster stat lines early on. Whether it be the usual suspects like Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, or young guys like Myles Turner, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Nikola Jokic. We’re still in the land of small sample sizes and players averaging 40 points per game, but nevertheless, there’s still some takeaways from week one and teams to rank. So let’s get into it.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
    Last week (2)

The defending champs didn’t show too much of a championship hangover in week one. They thoroughly dismantled the New York Knicks, found a way to win an ugly game on the road in Toronto and held off a late push from a young Magic team. While they didn’t win the off-season, they’re still the best team in the league until proven otherwise. The ball movement is improved, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are looking better and they still have the man they call “The King”.

  1. San Antonio Spurs
    Last week (5)

Blowing out the Golden State Warriors in Oakland to highlight their three road wins in week one, the Spurs added a home win against the Pelicans for good measure. The team is making a statement early on that while Duncan may be gone, the defense is not. Oh yeah, and Kawhi Leonard is averaging 28 points per game through four games. Not a bad start for the team in silver and black.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
    Last week (3)

In case you forgot, this team is very good. The Clippers only played twice in week one, but came away with convincing wins over the Trail Blazers and Jazz. Paul and Griffin is still one of the best 1-2 punches in the league and Doc Rivers is finally starting to stagger their minutes more to maximize their abilities as playmakers. They still are thin at small forward, but are getting good bench contributions from Maurice Speights, Austin Rivers, and Jamal Crawford early on.

  1. Golden State Warriors
    Last week (1)

The Warriors bounced back from their opening night evisceration with unremarkable wins against the Pelicans and Suns. The team will need time to figure it out, but some concerning trends are emerging from this roster. The lack of rim protection and rebounding is real. It won’t hurt them too much in the regular season, but may help teams hang around longer than they should throughout the year.

  1. Toronto Raptors
    Last week (6)

DeMar DeRozan looks to have built upon his career best 2015-2016 campaign. He’s playing with more control than ever and that’s good news for the Raptors. The team handled Detroit easily on opening night and went down to the wire against the Cavs before Kyrie Irving hit a game-winning three. A good win and a good loss is not a bad week for Toronto.

  1. Atlanta Hawks
    Last week (13)

The Hawks are undefeated to start the season and currently have the best defensive efficiency in the association. Dwight Howard hasn’t been a huge piece of the offense early on, but is still bringing it defensively and on the boards. Last year the Hawks finished 28th in rebound rate, they are currently 5th.

  1. Boston Celtics
    Last week (5)

The Boston Celtics don’t look great early on. They have struggled to secure rebounds, which puts their defense in a severely compromised position. They nearly blew it against the Nets in their first game and had a bad loss to Chicago. Their road win against a good Hornets team showed what this team is capable of, there’s just some adjusting left to do.

  1. Charlotte Hornets
    Last week (9)

The Hornets lone setback came against the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back. The defense hasn’t been as good as Steve Clifford would like, but Kemba Walker appears to be building off his career best season last year.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
    Last week (14)

While the wins haven’t been impressive for the Thunder, they are one of six teams still undefeated left in the NBA. They beat the bottom-feeding Sixers and Suns by a combined nine points before blowing out the Lakers. Russell Westbrook is averaging nearly a 39-point triple-double. So things have gone according to plan in the first week of the Westbrook era.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers
    Last week (15)

While the Blazers have their flaws, the duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum overcome several of them with their dynamic scoring. They got a solid win against the Jazz and managed to take advantage of Denver’s mistakes and win in overtime. They aren’t the same tier as the Warriors, Spurs, or Clippers, but they’re hoping their dynamic duo can power them to the top of the third tier in the West.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies
    Last week (8)

The Grizzlies were able to hold off the young Timberwolves and Wizards in week one. Although their road loss to the Knicks was a disappointing one, Memphis is a veteran team that knows how to get it done in the regular season. As long as they stay healthy they’ll be fine.

  1. Detroit Pistons
    Last week (10)

The Pistons have survived the Reggie Jackson injury well to start the season. The loss to the Raptors was to be expected, and they handled the Magic and Bucks with ease. Drummond looks as dominant as ever, averaging nearly 18 points and 13 rebounds a game.

  1. Chicago Bulls
    Last week (not ranked)

The Bulls rode hot shooting from Wade, Rondo, and Butler to a win over the Celtics and also managed to take down the new look Pacers. While I don’t expect their hot start to last long, maybe there’s something to be said for having so many veterans while other teams are still figuring it out.

  1. Houston Rockets
    Last week (11)

The defense is as bad as advertised in Houston and contributed to their loss to the Lakers. The experiment with Harden at point guard has been a success though, as surrounding him with shooters and playing up tempo has resulted in him putting up incredible numbers early on.

  1. Utah Jazz
    Last week (7)

The Jazz are once again struggling with injuries. Derrick Favors missed opening night and Gordon Hayward is yet to play a game. Being shorthanded against the Blazers on opening night hurt, as both teams will be competing to be top of the division throughout the year.

  1. Sacramento Kings
    Last week (not ranked)

The Kings had a strong 2-1 week to kick off the season. They managed to stay within ten of the Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back and came backfrom an early deficit todefeat the Wolves. Things typically don’t look good in Sacramento for long, but this is as good of a start as they couldhope for.

  1. Denver Nuggets
    Last week (17)

Despite blowing a very winnable game to the Blazers, the Nuggets are still in pretty good shape. They are going to make mistakes along the way as their youth figures it out, but Nikola Jokic is an absolute monster for them inside. They now head on a five-game road trip that will truly test what this team is made of.

  1. Indiana Pacers
    Last week (11)

The reputation of Paul George is the only thing keeping the Pacers on the list at this point. Myles Turner has been putting up impressive offensive numbers in his second season, but their defense has been very poor early on. An uninspiring overtime win against the Mavericks, followed by bad losses to the Nets and Bulls is not what this Pacers team had in mind.

  1. New York Knicks
    Last week (20)

Throttled by King James on opening night, the Knicks managed to bounce back against the Grizzlies in their home opener. Derrick Rose hasn’t seemed to play within the flow of the offense, but that was predictable. Carmelo Anthony is still one of the most dangerous offensive options on the planet and Kristaps Porzingis is a unicorn, so at least Knicks fans have that to look forward to.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
    Last week (not ranked)

The Bucks lost to the Hornets and Pistons in their first week, which is to be expected. But they have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker looking great early on and beat the Nets at the buzzer. With the Timberwolves going winless in week one, the Bucks claim the last spot and the title of young-but-not-good-yet team of the week.

From the heart of continent, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Justin is a life-long hoops head with a love of the team from Northeast Ohio. He’s written for Fear the Sword as well as Hoops Habit. And he’s never blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. "It's kind of boring when you take open shots." - J.R. Smith. Checkout Justin’s weekly NBA Power Play called Rowan’s Rankings.

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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers

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Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?

Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.  

Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.   

Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.  

Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting. 

These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA: 

  • 14.6 Points
  • 7.6 Assists
  • 6.0  Rebounds
  • 1.8 Steals
  • 0.8 Blocks
  • 55.1 FG%
  • 41.2 3P%

He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.  

Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.  

He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.

Year Nat. Player Pos. Team
2012 Damian Lillard (co-MVPs) PG Portland Trail Blazers
Josh Selby (co-MVPs) PG Memphis Grizzlies
2013 Jonas Valančiūnas C Toronto Raptors
2014 Glen Rice Jr. SG Washington Wizards
2015 Kyle Anderson SF San Antonio Spurs
2016 Tyus Jones PG Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 Lonzo Ball PG Los Angeles Lakers

With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.  

The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.  

Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.  

If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.

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MELO-dy Cool

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Carmelo Anthony has been traded away from the New York Knickerbockers to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

You probably knew this before you laid eyes on these words.

It honestly doesn’t matter much who the Thunder traded away for “Melo” and who the Knicks received, because they weren’t anywhere near Melo’s overall value. But, it matters that Melo himself is gone and away from New York City, and for all his accolades, he honestly had a major part to play in his exodus.

Melo altogether is a player that both outplayed and underplayed his own potential. No one that saw him at Oak Hill Academy as a high schooler could for-sure say that he’d be a superstar, and everyone that saw him at Syracuse University might say he was a can’t-miss by then.

And he didn’t miss on most of what he’s teased, he’s delivered in a lot of ways; but, the reason why he didn’t work out in New York was because he was selfish to a fault in the key places that required compromise.

Do you remember how he got to Kings County in the first place? He forced a trade to the Knicks from his then-Denver Nuggets, a team that was teasing with talent abundant, but not unlike today, stuck in the mighty Western Conference. With title contenders like the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers at that time of the NBA, the 2010–2011 season, the Nuggets just weren’t going to make the noise they wanted to make. Melo was a free agent-to-be at the completion of that season, and it was likely that he’d leave. His time with the Nuggets, a very successful time, had run its course. The change was coming, and he was catalyst to the change he wanted to see in his world. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem was that Melo didn’t want to wait for New York. He wanted New York then and there, and it didn’t matter how it was going to happen.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks weren’t in a position to compete for a title during that season, something he long wanted to bring to New York upon his eventual arrival.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks would have to gut their team’s best assets in a trade for the Brooklyn-born, Baltimore-raised native. It didn’t matter that if he waited until the season was over, he could be playing with a young and promising Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov (a revelation upon his arrival to the States from Russia), amongst others.

It didn’t matter that the Knicks would have to sacrifice draft picks for him, instead of keeping them upon signing later.

It didn’t matter to Melo.

And so, when he arrived in New York, in early 2011, he received the adulation and praise of a prodigal son. Sure, the team lost some valuable talent and depth, but surely Melo would will the Knicks into wild success — just like he did in Denver, right?

And sure enough, after he rebuked the Linsanity of 2012 when Jeremy Lin became an overnight NBA superstar and balked at the prospect of Lin’s resigning, he gained some success.

The 2012–2013 season saw Melo as the closest thing to being an MVP candidate that anyone had ever seen from him as a professional in an 82-game season, but not before being totally indifferent to former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s wishes for him to play more at power forward to stretch the offensive side of the ball for the Knicks and the defenses of the opposing league teams. D’Antoni quit before the end of the 2011–2012 season, because of Melo’s loathsome resistance to D’Antoni and the coach’s embrace of Lin.

A big aspect of Melo’s failure to bring glory to Manhattan was his resistance to doing what has made him a legend in USA Basketball. Having won multiple gold medals as a stretch-four shooter, that he refused to embrace that positioning as an NBA pro limited the ability of his teams to win.

As a four, Melo, who had gained grown-man weight from natural maturity and strength and conditioning, didn’t have to be the cavity in his team’s defense as he struggled as a man-to-man defender. Moving from his formerly-natural small forward slot could allow him to defend more ably and allow someone more fleet of foot to stop the dominant wings that Melo often matched up against. Becoming something different and better in a new place would’ve allowed him the opportunity to be greater than anyone had known him to be in an NBA uniform.

But, he refused and rebuked such a change.

And one last thing: Injuries and front office politics aside, Melo was loyal to the Knicks organization through and through. But, he had a choice to go.

So, to recap, Melo forced a trade to New York that gutted the talent of the roster, and then he refused to change to a position that would behoove him and the team in the journey to championship gain.

Well, he also had a chance to leave for greener pastures and become a Chicago Bull, where he could experience more success with a front office committed to his development and surrounding talent. He didn’t want to do that, and that’s fair. New York was home, but if he was going to win in New York, seeing as to how being the way that he’d always been wasn’t helping — that is shoot-first, ask questions and defend later — why return to The Big Apple if you aren’t going to change?

He saw what being a score-only wing was giving his teams — it gave his teams very little success for the vast majority of 14 years. Sure, his Nuggets and Knicks made the playoffs (not so much New York) much of the time, but he said he wasn’t playing for that.

In the end, Melo and the Knicks not working out could be seen before he even became a Knick, when Melo stomped his way out of Denver to play immediately for New York when it would’ve behooved him to stay put for two more months.

Championship or bust, they say.

He couldn’t really compromise too well for the chip, it appears.

In the end, Carmelo Anthony — despite years of league-leading jersey sales, runway appearances, and bright lights on the New York City streets with LaLa — was a big, fat, shining, New York bust.

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Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101

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Hey there, and welcome to episode 101 of the Timeout with Ti podcast. If you’ve been following the NBA pretty closely this summer, you probably know that some teams are having weird offseasons.

One of those teams is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz were briefly hinted at on episode 100 of Timeout with Ti, but now I’ve brought Keith Parish of Fastbreak Breakfast in to really break down their summer.

Keith is fantastic, as is his podcast—go check it out after you’re done listening to this one! Anyway, we started off by talking about Tony Allen leaving Memphis for the New Orleans Pelicans.

That really launched into a fun part of the podcast where Keith and I talked about the odd difference between the really good parts of Memphis’ roster—Mike Conley and Marc Gasol—and the rest of it. There are a lot of young, unproven, unheralded players here. How will they fare this year?

Follow Keith on Twitter (@FastbreakBreak), and feel free to give both me (@TiWindisch) and the podcast (@TimeoutwithTi) a follow as well. It’s always appreciated!

Also remember that Timeout with Ti and Press Basketball are found on Facebook, and all 101 (!!) episodes of the podcast are located on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher in addition to the show’s home on Soundcloud and here on the fantastic Press Basketball website. Please subscribe, rate, review, share and print TWT posters to put up all over your workplace or school.

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