Thoughts on the Lottery, and the 1st Round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs So Far
August 21st, 2020
by Alan Lu
Congrats to the Minnesota Timberwolves for getting the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft! They have an exciting future ahead of them, as they have a present core that consists of All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, one-time All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell, and they will get another key player to add to their mix. That guy could be Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, or someone else, or they could decide to trade down altogether. Many exciting possibilities lays ahead of them, and Timberwolves Nation has to be thrilled about what is in store for them in the future.
I feel for the New York Knicks’ fans who were hoping that they would get a top 3 pick, and instead they ended up getting just the 8th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. They mainly struck out in free agency, as they lost out on the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sweepstakes to Brooklyn, and Kawhi Leonard opted to have Paul George join him for them to go to the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason prior to the 2019-20 season. It hasn’t been a very good era for Knicks’ fans. The very fun, but brief Linsanity era where Jeremy Lin starred as their point guard lasted throughout the 2011-12 season, but they let him go to Houston via free agency afterwards. Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis brought some entertaining years for them, but they traded Porzingis to Dallas last season in a lopsided trade in favor of the Mavericks, in which Dallas ended up largely reaping the benefits by reaching the playoffs this season.
Speaking of the 2020 NBA playoffs, it’s been very fun to watch various teams battle each other. Dallas has given the LA Clippers a good run for their money. They have split the first two games, decisively won the 2nd game, and they easily could’ve been up 2-0 had Kristaps not been wrongfully ejected. For the Clippers, it was absolutely baffling that Patrick Beverley did not play more in the fourth quarter, as they could have used his tenacious defense, and it seemed as if Reggie Jackson was intent on chucking his team out of the second game of their series.
Orlando had upset Milwaukee in the first game, and Portland stunned the LA Lakers in Game 1 of their series, and the immediate gut instincts were for people to experience over-reaction central. But sure enough, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Lakers regained control to win their Game 2s handily. They ran out on the break more, made sure their best players were aggressive in taking the ball to the rim, and they locked down defensively. It’s probably safe to say that Milwaukee and the Lakers probably will win their series, if things go as expected, though I do expect Portland to put up a decent fight, given that they have played very well in the bubble this year.
What is decidedly not an overreaction is Philadelphia and Oklahoma City stumbling out of the gates in the first round, as both of those teams are down 2-0 to Boston and Houston, respectively, and both the 76ers and the Thunder have looked very bad so far in this postseason.
The Philadelphia 76ers cannot find a way to muster any offense, and they’ve had lots of trouble in trying to throw the ball into the post, as they haven’t gotten Joel Embiid enough touches.
But another issue is that, it has become increasingly more difficult for NBA teams to easily throw the ball into the post, because the NBA now allows zone defenses, point guards now have to be scorers to be effective, so there are fewer pass-first point guards that look to feed the post first, and will instead look for their own shot. In addition, trying to run things into the post will eat up a lot of seconds in the shot clock, because the big man has to first establish the position in order for the guard to successfully get their pass to him. Even then, the offensive team is at risk for committing turnovers, because there isn’t a guarantee that the players’ passes will get through. Therefore, the 76ers will either need a primary scorer that can shoot jumpers, or Embiid will have to significantly improve his ability to shoot jumpers.
They haven’t gotten enough shooting out of their perimeter players, and problems lie ahead, because it’s a questionable fit at best in terms of how Embiid, Ben Simmons (who is currently injured), and Al Horford would play together next season. Also, the other players on the 76ers’ team do not move much at all on offense, and there is very little motion in their offense, which makes their team easier to guard. Regardless, Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics blew the 76ers out of the water by winning handily in Game 2, and Philadelphia fans seem to be on edge right now, as 76ers’ head coach Brett Brown is on the hot seat with his team looking in bad shape so early in the playoffs.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have not been able to hit their stride at all in the playoffs, as they also struggled there last season. Head coach Billy Donovan is a traditional coach that plays people by positions, but the Rockets have chosen to play without a center, and Houston has been quite successful so far. The Thunder have relied on playing traditional big men such as Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel. However, the Rockets don’t play a traditional center, and so Adams and Noel have looked lost on defense, and they don’t really have anyone they can guard. They have tended to sag way too often on one-dimensional, spot-up shooters, so they have allowed Houston’s role players such as P.J. Tucker to score on wide-open jumpers. Both big men are very limited on offense, and they have been unable to defend out on the perimeter. Houston will actively take lots of jumpers in games and they will sometimes have very good shooting nights, but Oklahoma City has made it considerably easier for the Rockets by giving them wide open threes to allow them to score at will. Also, Donovan has refused to go small, and their roster is also poorly constructed because they don’t have enough shooting.
Also, the Thunder have struggled to muster up much offense, and players such as Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley, and Abdel Nader have not really been able to space the floor that well or score in this series, and they have been non-scorers who haven’t asserted themselves at all on the offensive end. It’s also bad when Billy Donovan doesn’t respond in the moment to understand that Lu Dort is the only player on their team that can capably guard James Harden, and he’s off the floor for critical stretches because they insist on playing Steven Adams. More importantly though, the Thunder needs shooters and scorers that can put the ball in the hoop, and also understand and deploy their personnel better. If things continue to go this way, Houston may likely make short work of Oklahoma City, and the Rockets could end up winning their series quicker than expected.