Tag Archives: Kevin Durant

Triple Zeros: Smooth Jazz Clips Los Angeles in Utah

Triple Zeros

Smooth Jazz Clips Los Angeles in Utah

In this episode of Triple Zeros, Josh talks NBA Playoffs and Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks chances now that they got a game against Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. He also talks Utah Jazz dynamo Donovan Mitchell‘s dominance over Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers then sets the stage for Friday’s Hawks-76ers and Nuggets-Suns tilts.

Things switch over to the NFL as the preseason schedule was released, Aaron Rodgers remains steadfast in no longer playing for the Green Bay Packers, and Russell Wilson proves a previous talking point right. All that and much more!

Anchor | Apple

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Triple Zeros: Easy Money Sniper on the Roof

Triple Zeros

Easy Money Sniper on the Roof

In this episode of Triple Zeros, Josh talks about Kevin Durant leaving Russell Westbrook off his list of his top-five teammates in favor of Serge Ibaka and reminds everyone of his warning about Nikola Jokic and the NBA MVP with Stephen Curry hot on his trail. Then things switch over to the NFL as Alex Smith walks away from the game on his own terms, Patrick Mahomes tells Tom Brady the G.O.A.T. discussion isn’t settled, and so much more!

Chicago Bulls Aggressiveness, Ball Movement Return in Wins

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Anchor | Apple

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Triple Zeros: Super Bowl Sunday and the NBA MVP Race

Triple Zeros

Super Bowl Sunday and the NBA MVP Race

Josh starts by getting into the storylines of Super Bowl Sunday outside of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. He then refutes Tedy Bruschi‘s assertion that Matthew Stafford “isn’t tough”. He also takes an early look at Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and the chances of others in the NBA MVP race and takes a quick victory stroll over his Tyrese Haliburton hype. All that and much more in this episode of Triple Zeros!

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Looking at the NBA MVP Race and Its Many Faces

There are many faces, old and new, vying to take home the NBA MVP award this season. Whether or not they will win is a matter of perception just as much as it is on their performances. Whoever gets it will have earned it because the caveat of it being “in the bubble” is no longer an issue. The return of fans has brought some atmosphere back to games; just ask the Lakers.

Last year’s (and the year prior, for that matter) winner, Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t likely to make it three-straight. His numbers are down almost across the board, most notably from deep and at the free-throw line. Both were areas of concern he was making strides in.

So Clocker Sports is taking a look at the top candidates for NBA MVP so far. We’ll go into the case being made in their favor, and take a look into why voters might hesitate to select them.

The Many Faces of the 2021 NBA MVP Race

1. Kevin Durant

Just a couple of months ago this space was used to make a case for Kevin Durant to win the defunct ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ award. Based solely on off-season workouts and pick-up game footage, it was clear Durant would be returning at least close to the level of play he enjoyed pre-Achilles injury. Just 17 games into the season and Durant is putting up numbers close to his MVP-winning 2013-14 campaign.

Durant has the Brooklyn Nets as the current three-seed in the East despite starting 5-5 to begin the season. His 30.8 PPG is second in the NBA and the second-best mark of his career. He’s shooting better than 53 percent from the floor, again the second-best mark of his career, and hitting a career-high 45 percent of his triples. Durant’s averaging 32.2 points, 7.8 boards, and 5.4 assists per contest in his last 11 games.

The only argument one could make against him is his supporting cast in James Harden and Kyrie Irving is second to none. We’ve seen in the past how having a stellar teammate or two can detract from your efforts in the eyes of voters and fans. But consider Irving’s flakiness or Harden’s defensive issues and ask yourself if Brooklyn, who was the seventh seed last year, would be in the position they’re in without Durant.

2. LeBron James

You’ve heard all the narratives. 36-years old, washed, etc. All have been used to describe LeBron James in recent years just to have him go out and show why those assessments were misguided. Last season he helped bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and their first championship since 2010.

We thought James would ease into the season considering, well, his reaction to the quick turnaround and the sentiments of teammates. While he isn’t leading the league in assists, he’s still leading his team in that category, scoring, and is second on the Lakers (third place in the West) in rebounds. Not bad for an over-the-hill, washed, superstar, huh? Only the foolhardy bought into that narrative.

James got dinged in the MVP race last year and voiced his displeasure. He’ll likely have to do so again because, while Anthony Davis isn’t having the MVP-type season we predicted early on, he’s still a perennial All-NBAer and arguably top-five in the Association. Perhaps the dip in Davis’ numbers can actually be used to boost the argument for James as MVP.

3. Joel Embiid

The best player on the best team in the East, Joel Embiid is having his best season since the 2018-19 campaign, of not his career. Averaging a personal-best 28.6 points and 1.2 steals per game, he’s also knocking down shots at career-best clips slashing .549/.423/.843 and a .588 eFG%. He and Tobias Harris have enjoyed Doc Rivers’ arrival on an individual level the most.

It’s a continuation of last year’s playoffs when Embiid put up 30.0 PPG (a career-high) and 12.3 RPG. Over his last eight games, Embiid is putting up 33.3 PPG and 10.5 RPG. More importantly, the Philadelphia 76ers are 8-0 in those games and 1-2 without him in that span. Philly lost the other two games he’s missed this season as well; not so uncertain evidence.

As always with The Process, it could come down to health. Embiid missed all of his first two seasons as a pro and has yet to appear in more than 64 games, though to be fair, that was his mark in 2019, and the pandemic shut down the season last year. If Embiid can stay on the floor, he has a legitimate shot at being the first center to win the MVP since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

4. Nikola Jokic

The Joker is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Maurice Podoloff trophy, thanks in part to his 47-point outburst against the Utah Jazz the other night. Nikola Jokic, much like Embiid before him is experiencing a banner year. He’s sitting with career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. This, unlike Embiid, is an improvement upon last year’s playoff performance.

Jokic has scored fewer than 20 points just four times this season, and in two of those outings, he had 19 points. He’s only failed to grab double-digit boards four times as well. In three of those performances, he had nine rebounds while he had eight in the other. No player has more 19-plus point, 10-plus board double-doubles than Jokic this season. We haven’t even addressed his passing of which he has nine games with double-figure dishes.  He also has five triple-doubles; tied with Luka Doncic for the lead.

Of course, we can’t let it all be rainbows and puppies. Some of the issues that may come up in the discussion in regards to Joker must be addressed. We cannot ignore that his career scoring year comes with a career-high in usage and shot attempts. Denver was also the three-seed last year and sits at fourth currently. That’s is the smallest of regressions but it must be noted. The Nuggets are getting better production from non-Jokic and Jamal Murray pieces, too. Will that hurt him when the vote comes?

5. The Field

The rest of the list gets kind of cluttered with some decent cases, but not many strong ones. Giannis’ case is the strongest. The reigning back-to-back winner is having a down year, yes. But we know how he goes, so go the Milwaukee Bucks. And for all the picking apart of his game, he still has the Bucks sitting second in the East. Not bad for a guy who can only run and jump.

Paul George has gotten a lot of love for his “redemption” season. Many will overlook his numbers simply because it’s happening in the regular season. ‘Playoff P’ is the guy we all want to see. But he has a bigger problem: Kawhi Leonard. Not only is Leonard ahead of George in PPG, but he’s also ahead in FG% while only slightly trailing in 3P%, rebounds, and assists. This isn’t saying George isn’t having a great year. Just remember who he plays with.

You’ll get calls for Davis to get consideration but, ya know, LeBron. Damian Lillard’s Trail Blazers are 11-9 right now. That ain’t getting it done. Doncic was a preseason favorite but Dallas is 9-13 and he has struggled from deep this season. Still, he has as good of a shot as anyone listed at getting back into the thick of the race. That’ll require some more wins and the Mavericks are fresh off a six-game slide.

Triple Zeros: The King, the Sniper, and the MVP Award

Triple Zeros: The King, the Sniper, and the MVP Award

Josh flips the script and leads with some NBA talk on MVP frontrunners, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Then he gets into the NFL and the latest on Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, and other quarterbacks expected to be on the move. That and so much more in this episode of Triple Zeros.

Anchor | Apple

Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshGBuck and follow the pod on Twitter and Facebook @3ZerosPod.

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2021 NBA Awards Predictions: From AD to KD

The 2021 NBA season tipped off on Tuesday with a pair of intriguing matchups. With the rest of the league having tipped off Wednesday, it gives us a chance to make some predictions about who will win the NBA awards in 2021.

The Brooklyn Nets took the Golden State Warriors to the woodshed in the first game and the Los Angeles Clippers repeated their performance from last season’s opener and downed the Los Angeles Lakers who were receiving their championship rings.

Of course, we won’t have any idea how the season will play out. But having a little more vested interest never hurt anyone. And we’re going to cover them all. MVP, DPOY, Comeback Player, they’re all here.

Predicting 2021 NBA Award Winners

Most Valuable Player

Anthony Davis – PF – Los Angeles Lakers

Starting with a bang, it will admittedly be tough for Anthony Davis to win the most prestigious of individual NBA awards with one LeBron James as a teammate. After all, James finished second in the voting himself last season. Is there a path to Davis not only usurping him but also Giannis Antetokounmpo and any other contender? Put simply, yes.

Davis, who had 18/7/2 in the opener, came in sixth in MVP voting last season. He was sixth in scoring, fourth in rebounds, fifth in steals, and first in blocks all on a per-game basis. We saw him continue his strong play in the finals, ranking third in scoring, second in boards, third in steals, and again leading the way in blocks. Most of those stats trailed James.

The quick turnaround, in combination with James being another year older (and some media hype), could lead to such a changing of the guard. James played just 28 minutes in the opener; Davis 31. They were basically even last season, so the slide for LeBron could be Davis’ gain. Adding to the difficulty is the incredible efficiency of James. But, with the new league rules on resting, James could sit when L.A. faces teams against whom he could pad his stats. That’s where Davis swoops in.

Defensive Player of the Year

Bam Adebayo – C/F – Miami Heat

Part of a player winning one of the NBA awards is them getting on the radar of voters in advance, often in the previous season. Bam Adebayo fits this to a T. He saw his points per game output nearly double, going from 8.9 to 15.9 PPG. He also saw increases in his rebounding, assist, and blocking stats all coinciding with his increase in minutes from the previous campaign.

Adebayo, who has been dubbed a “point-center”, was 11th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, per ESPN, but he was second among power forwards. That’s ahead of everyone who finished ahead of him in DPOY voting except for Giannis. Among the finalists for DPOY last season, he ranked sixth in steals and fifth in blocks. But his presence on the floor dropped opponents’ offensive rating two full points.

Antetoukounmpo, the reigning DPOY, is the biggest threat to Adebayo’s triumph. But the year we’re predicting for Davis will have him in this discussion as well. The thought here is Adebayo took advantage of the added attention of the bubble and is on enough short-lists to be a finalist. Another leap in production like he had last season will go a long way to making this happen.

Rookie of the Year

LaMelo Ball – G – Charlotte Hornets

We’re not going to overthink this. Yes, Anthony Edwards was the first-overall pick. And yes, James Wiseman did land in one of the best situations in the NBA. But it’s LaMelo Ball, despite the poor opener, who has the best chance at winning Rookie of the Year. This is a marriage of a player being high-profile and having a clear path to the kind of opportunity that makes this Ball’s award to lose.

The last four ROTY winners have either been point guards by trade or functioned as the primary ball-handler for their club. Going back to 2010, only three non-point guard or primary facilitators have won the award. So the path lies in the job description. Edwards will still have to contend with the 2015-16 ROTY, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell for shots. Wiseman, in addition to playing a position that has won the award just twice since 1990.

Terry Rozier and especially Devonte Graham won’t just go away so Melo will have some competition for stats. But as the undisputed face of the franchise, he should be given every opportunity to be “the guy”. Barring an implosion the likes of which only his staunchest detractors will have foreseen, Ball will prove his mettle as the best Ball brother and Rookie of the Year.

Most Improved Player

Michael Porter Jr – F – Denver Nuggets

Talent-wise, this shouldn’t even be a possibility. Michael Porter Jr. is one of those genetic freaks teams covet in today’s NBA: a wing player with big size and guard skills. Porter was forced to miss what would have been his rookie season in 2018 with a back injury that had many wondering about his longevity. Critics even went so far as to bring up his family medical history.

Porter appeared in 55 games, starting eight, in 2019. He averaged a crisp 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in just over 16 minutes per game while slashing .509/.422/.833 from the field. He got a bump in playing time in the postseason and saw his output rise accordingly. Porter averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 boards in just over 23 minutes per.

Another year under his belt, along with assuming a starting role in the lineup, have Porter poised to deliver on all the promise he showed in high school (he was injured in college too). The previous three winners saw jumps in their scoring output of around five or six points. That’s just one part of the puzzle for Porter, but it’s one he’s good at and a leap he’s capable of making.

Sixth Man of the Year

Derrick Rose – G – Detroit Pistons

After Los Angeles Clippers won Sixth Man of the Year in back to back years, it’s a rumored Clippers target that could walk away with the hardware this coming season. Derrick Rose has seen his career go through the full gambit of NBA awards. From Rookie of the Year to youngest MVP in league history and now, possibly, the top reserve. Rose averaged 18-plus points per game for the third time in four years coming off the bench for the Detroit Pistons last year.

He came in seventh in the 6MOTY voting last season, but there were plenty of shakeups that make a jump from seventh to first more plausible. First, Dennis Schroder and Christian Wood, two players that finished ahead of Rose in voting last season, are moving into starting roles this season. Montrezl Harrell moves to a slightly lesser role with the Lakers who also have a better bench situation, making his path tougher.

If those things stand, Rose is competing with Williams, George Hill, and Goran Dragic for the honor. He was already fourth among the finalists in scoring while tying for the lead in assists and steals last season. At this point, a move to the Clippers might be the only thing that can help make this a reality because there isn’t much more he can do for a bad Detroit Pistons team.

Comeback Player of the Year

Kevin Durant – F – Brooklyn Nets

The NBA hasn’t handed out this comeback player awards in quite some time; 1985-86 to be exact (shouts to Marques Johnson). But were they to reinstate it this year, Kevin Durant would have to top their list. He missed all of 2019-20 recovering from a torn Achilles suffered in the 2018-19 NBA Finals. But if what we witnessed in the opener is just a precursor then KD is back.

In his first NBA game action in 18 months, Durant had 22 points on 43 percent shooting and 50 percent from deep. He also had five boards, three assets, three steals, and a block. 13 players averaged at least 22/5/3 last year but not one of them averaged more than 1.8 steals per game. It’s highly unlikely, but if KD keeps it up he will be the first player since Alvin Robertson in 1990-91 to average three takeaways per contest.

If you want to harp on the overall efficiency, fine. But again, 18 months away. Durant could make a case for MVP this season if he keeps up the defensive efforts. We could also see a Finals run for the Nets in an Eastern Conference where last year’s champ was a fifth-seed. At the very least, he will remind everyone just why they call him the Easy Money Sniper.

Coach of the Year

Monty Williams – HC – Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns were just 34-39 last season, their first under Monty Williams. But that marked a 15-game improvement in the win column. They also went undefeated in the bubble but missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. Phoenix was first in field goal percentage, first in free throw percentage, third in points per game, and fifth three-point percentage.

Nick Nurse was the 2019-20 Coach of the Year largely on the strength of losing a top-five player in the NBA and still guiding the Toronto Raptors to a two-seed and going seven games with Boston in the second round. Phoenix will probably need to make the playoffs to avoid this conversation going the other direction but several factors are playing into Williams’ hands.

The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t going to be the fifth-seed this time around and likely won’t make the playoffs. That’s one less team for Phoenix to contend with, though the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans will surely have something to say about it. As are the Houston Rockets (pending any James Harden trade) and possibly the San Antonio Spurs. But Williams will have Chris Paul on the floor. If he is able to do what he did for OKC last season, this will be an award for him just as much as it will be Williams

In the Bubble, Not All Sweeps Are Created Equal

Sunday saw two teams eliminated from the postseason as Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics put Joel Embiid and what was left of the Philadelphia 76ers out of their misery. Later on, the Toronto Raptors looked very much like an apex predator in their drubbing of the “other guys” Brooklyn Nets.

It was the same fate for both teams; an unceremoniously early exit from what has otherwise been an exciting playoffs in the bubble. But make no mistake about it, it doesn’t mean the same thing for both teams.

Nets, 76ers Face Different Futures After Suffering Same Fate

Brooklyn’s Breakout Blocked

Ironically, it is the Nets, who allowed at least 34 points in every quarter, that have a brighter future.

They can at least hang their hat on the fact that next year Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be on the floor and possibly challenging for an Eastern Conference Finals berth. Sure, they don’t have a head coach at the moment and the two aforementioned stars reportedly want to trade for a third star, but neither task is too tall.

Finding the right compliment on the floor is probably the tougher task. Not only for actual basketball reasons, but also the financial situation around the NBA after COVID…well, you know.

It may come as a surprise after seeing some of the playoff performances from the likes of Caris Levert (15.3 PTS/10.7 AST/6.0 REB) and Joe Harris (16.5 PTS/10.0 REB), that they feel the need to look outside for help. Don’t forget, they also have Spencer Dinwiddie who opted out of the restart.

If it made sense, Kenny Atkinson would likely still be the head coach.

Brooklyn is in a great position to make noise next year and beyond. This does make a couple of assumptions though.

For one, that Durant and Irving will work on the floor. But to be honest, that concern is probably minimal. While Irving can be a ball stopper, Durant’s insane efficiency should offset it. Even this is assuming Durant comes back as the same guy he was before his Achilles injury and that Irving can stay healthy.

Chemistry and health make this one of the most volatile situations in the NBA. The risk seems well worth the reward, though.

Considering the Nets lost each game by an average of more than 20 points (a number salvaged by only losing by five points in Game 2), adding Durant (29.1/7.7/4.0 in the playoffs) and Irving (23.5 PPG and 5.0 APG) should allay any fears the fanbase might have after this postseason.

Philly’s Process to be 86ed?

The Philadelphia 76er embarked on one of the most blatant tanking plans ever back in 2013. Seven years and three playoff appearances later, it may all be coming to an end. Getting swept by the Celtics is but a small part of the story. After all, when one of the two prized pieces from that years-long process, Ben Simmons, went out with knee injury, so did Philly’s title hopes.

This may have just accelerated the inevitable. Questions have lingered all year about the clunky offense, money wasted on Tobias Harris and Al Horford, and the fate of head coach Brett Brown.

Let’s start with Harris (15.8/9.5/4.0) and Horford (7.0/7.3/2.3), the prized free-agent duds. Harris’ numbers seem ok, but in addition to being paid like a 20 PPG guy, he shot 38.3% from the floor and 13.3% from deep. Horford was miscast and perhaps has lost a step.

They were overpaid (bet they miss Jimmy Butler) and misused by Brown.

But the greatest crime committed has been not getting the most out of the Simmons-Embiid combo to the point where breaking them up seems more likely than keeping them together any longer.

It isn’t just one of the stars either. Both Simmons and Embiid have been subject to trade rumors, largely due to there not being a consensus as to who is the more valuable piece.

Personally, the thought is that Embiid is probably the better talent but Simmons is the part needed to make it work. That is to say, no one is as dominant as Embiid when he’s right, justifying the comparisons to Shaq. But, in a guard league, Simmons is probably the more important piece when building a team.

That isn’t to say one can’t work without the other. Most solid point guards could utilize Embiid and pick and pop big would be successful next to Simmons.

On the contrary, it might point to how much they need each other, and Philly’s need to figure things out around them. There was too much effort put in to break these two up after they have had even a modicum of success. The better plan is for the 76ers to fee themselves of Harris and Horford.

But those contracts are albatrosses. Neither will return value and may even have to go at a severe discount. Does that improve Philly’s outlook moving forward? Probably not. That shifted the focus to where it’s been, Brown, who has now been fired.

They Say It’s the Same But It’s Not the Same

Yes, these teams faced the same fate but their futures are going in vastly different directions. Both will have someone new at head coach. But whereas the Nets will be adding two bonafide star players to a group that showed a little fight this postseason, the 76ers are trying to avoid de-processing. That’s tough.

All eyes on you, Indiana Pacers…

Triple Zeros: Nuk the Competition

NBA: Return Date Uncertain | Dinwiddie: KD Greatest Scorer
NFL: Clowney Declines Browns | Nuk: “I know I’m the best.”
+More!

Code-19: Living in a No Sports Zone

March 11th, 2020 will forever be known as the day the world stood still, the day that sports stopped. It’s been a little under 3 weeks (21 loooooong days) since the NBA shut down amid the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, aka code-19 pandemic. I know this has put one big thing in perspective, what the world looks like without sports, and I don’t like it one bit.

Living in a No Sports Zone with COVID-19

Baby, Come Back!

This is showing us how important sports are to our lives. You know how you’ve got that empty, pit drop in your stomach feeling after losing your first love? That’s how it felt hearing the announcement NBA was suspended indefinitely after Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert tested positive for that ‘Rona.

Since that discovery, the COVID-19 pandemic has made its rounds in the sports world getting to several well-known athletes and even our favorite announcers. Reaching the likes of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and ESPN’s beloved NBA analyst Doris Burke. So, this thing is real!

I’ve been watching sports since the tender age of eight, (I’m 43 now), when my father introduced me to football. It was Super Bowl XX Sunday when the Chicago Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46-10. Like for everyone, in those 30-plus years since we’ve never seen anything like this. So, what does one do when you’re quarantined and stuck in the “No Sports Zone?” (For those that remember, that’s an ode to the Twilight Zone intro).

Finding an Alternative

Well if you’re like me, you get familiar with that lady in the house. Oh, that’s my wife, and it turns out she’s very interesting. I also finally have time to catch up with all those Netflix shows and movies I promised myself I would watch. My personal fave is The Ozarks with Jason Bateman, I’m already ready for season four! Another one to check out is the documentary, Tiger King, all I can say is whoa!

How about some personal gains, I have a language self-learning disc set I’ve had for the last five years. I think it’s time to crack that open. Hopefully, when we come out of this quarantine I’ll be a new, Spanish-speaking me (I wonder what my Vegas odds are). But this is a sports column so let’s get back to the business at hand.

Not All In

You know who else is going on as business as usual? The NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell said let’s keep the party going, starting with one of the most exciting free agents periods in recent memory. Maybe it’s sports being halted and what we’re going through that added to the excitement but none the less it is.

By the way, the 2020 NFL Draft is still going as scheduled, April 23rd-25th. This was truly a free agent frenzy. We wondered what the Bears were going to do, after 20 years of dominance in the AFC East Tom Brady left New England, Drew Brees coming back to the big easy & more.

Obviously, the biggest signing was Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but this is Chicago, so let’s look at our hometown Bears. In my opinion there free agent moves were, meh, we’ll delve into particulars at a later time, for now here are the key signings. EDGE Robert Quinn, (an upgrade from former first-round pick Leonard Floyd), tight end Jimmy Graham, bringing back linebacker Danny Trevathan, and trading for Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.

Hang In There

Though we’re in a “No Sports Zone” now, we can use our time to reset and come out refreshed on the other side. One good thing that came of this is the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, is being released early so, yay! Now if the NFL season becomes in jeopardy of being canceled, then some panic may set in. Until then, let’s be safe and keep the positive vibes.