NBA Playoff Discussion; The Bulls Are Doing It, Bucks Could Create an Upset, MVP Battle Taking Place

The NBA Playoffs are well underway, and we are truly being treated to some great series’. LeBron James is back to being his playoff dominant self, but the Pacers are still fighting hard, led by Paul George. The Jazz are trying to figure out a new strategy against the Clippers now that Rudy Gobert is down indefinitely. Even the Blazers are fighting against the heavy firepower squad in Golden State, fuelled by their incredible back-court, who are an incredible scoring night in Game 1. But there’s a few playoff series which carry more weight than the rest. The 8th seed Bulls have something to prove with their experienced backcourt, and the Celtics are out to show they deserve that 1st seed place. The young Bucks squad are trying to show that they are not to be messed with, while Kyle Lowry returns to fuel DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors. And the MVP battle continues as Russell Westbrook and James Harden duel it out, trying to prove they both deserve that MVP award by progressing to the second round.

The Chicago Bulls are putting in work in the post-season, despite their 8th seed place in the regular season, and are showing the 1st seed Celtics that placement doesn’t mean a thing when you’ve got players like Jimmy Butler on your squad. And what’s funny is,¬†a lot of people predicted this upset when the match-ups were set, because the Bulls have the ability to beat most teams in the league, although their regular season record shows otherwise. If I had to bet on an upset at the beginning of the playoffs, I would have put my money on Chicago taking down Boston, and for many reasons. Al Horford is pretty much diminished by Robin Lopez, Isaiah Thomas is slowed down relatively by Jimmy Butler, while he puts up anywhere between 20-40 points at the other end. Rajon Rondo is showing up for the first time this season, being just 1 rebound off a triple double, and tying the Bulls record for most assists inn a playoff game. For the first time, we’ve seen the Bulls’ “Big Three” show some chemistry and work together, which is why they’ve got a 2-0 lead heading back to Chicago. I’ve got to give a ton of credit to Isaiah Thomas for playing those first two games, despite the tragic loss of his sister Chyna in a car accident just a few days previous. It’s probably one of the hardest things a player will ever have to do – playing through grief, so respect to IT for showing up. And there’s a lot of people of Twitter saying it’s due to Thomas’ grief that the Celtics are unable to win, but I don’t think that’s the case. I mean, it’s awful what happened to Chyna, and if Isaiah was to play poorly, it would be understandable. But IT is still playing fantastic, I mean, he put up 33 in Game 1, only a day after Chyna’s death, so the blame cannot fall in Isaiah’s hands by any means. If you want to play the blame game, throw it at Al Horford and the rest of the Boston squad. Horford’s on a $110 million contract, yet he’s practically invisible while on the court, and is having little to no impact in the paint with the presence of Bulls mascot bully, Robin Lopez. So, despite the tragedy and grief he’s obviously playing with, IT is still showing up with a desire to win, but the rest of the Celtics are playing like a real 8th seed team, and not the kings of the East, and that’s why they’re heading to the Chicago 2-0 down, with a big mountain to climb. The way I see it, the Bulls could quite easily sweep the struggling Celtics, if they’re stars and supporting cast continue to play as they have been. A repeat of last night’s performance from Rajon Rondo, combined with another 20+ point game for Flash, and a typical night from Jimmy Buckets, could mean a swift exit from the playoffs for Boston, crushing Isaiah Thomas’ season-long effort.

I’m just going to say it now; Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak in the playoffs. I mean, obviously he’s a freak all season long, hence the nickname – “The Greek Freak” – but he’s even more incredible when games truly matter. The Bucks, led by this freak of nature, are tied with the Toronto Raptors after last night’s narrow loss, thanks to huge games from Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. But they are tied, and heading to Milwaukee for Game 3, and Giannis is showing no signs of slowing down. He genuinely does everything on the court, hence why he led the Bucks¬†in every major statistic during the regular season. But despite his incredible performance, the Bucks fell just short of a 2-0 lead heading home, as Ibaka and Lowry led the Raptors to this narrow victory, with Kyle hitting a clutch game winning two to seal the deal, and Serge hitting some important threes and defending the paint against an eager Bucks’ squad. Ibaka even swatted one of the Greek Freak’s attempts to get to the basket, which just seemed to drive him more, to be quite honest. The Bucks have surprised many watchers, including myself, who believed the Raptors would steamroll to a 4-1/ 4-2 victory over the inexperienced squad. But I’ve changed my mind, following their performance in Game 1 and 2, and am starting to think the Bucks could advance to the second round, or at the very least, force a Game 7. It’s probably the closest match up, second maybe to the Clippers – Jazz without Rudy Gobert, and is proving to be one of the most exciting to watch. I mean, they’ve held the Raptors to¬†one loss and a very, very narrow win, a set of circumstances which I would never have forseen, even with my love for the game of Giannis. Maybe they can force an upset here, if Middleton and¬†Thon Maker step up for some big performances.¬†But, in saying that, the Raptors could easily throw the Bucks to the curb, if these big games from Lowry, DeRozan, and last night’s Serge Ibaka continue for the rest of the series, especially DeRozan has one of his many 40 point games. Ibaka defended the paint extremely well last night, even forcing Antetokounmpo to hesitate, and even avoid the paint, while he stood there, ready to swat anything that came nearby. It’s quite a pity that Jabari Parker is struggling with that knee injury, as adding an extra slasher to the mix would make this playoff series even more exciting than it already is. One thing’s for sure, though; if this series carries on the way it has for the initial two games, we’re in for the one of the closest first round matchups in recent history, fuelled by huge performances from the respective stars of each squad.

Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or Patrick Beverley. Who is the most important player in that series? Obviously, Pat Bev shouldn’t be in that conversation, by any means, but my God, he locked down Russ so bad. Going into that Game 1, I was expecting a 50 – 15 – 15 game from Brodie, and anything less hadn’t even crossed my mind. Then I remembered that rivalry that started between Pat and Russ that instigated two years ago when Westbrook and Beverley clashed knees, forcing Russ to sit for the rest of the series. I also remembered that Pat is one of the toughest defenders in the league. But I had never imagined that he’d agitate Westbrook so much, holding him to less than 25, and preventing a triple double (it’s odd how I expect a triple double from Russ, I realise), which has gotten my hopes up for a better performance from the other MVP candidate, that lad, James Harden.¬†A poor first-half shooting performance was made unapparent by continuous drives to the basket and superb passing, as well as cooking up Enes Kanter that one time, leading to an outstanding 37 point outburst. And as important as The Beard will be throughout this playoff series, Pat Beverley will be equally as important in locking down Russell Westbrook, preventing those amazing 40/50 point triple doubles we’ve almost become accustomed to seeing from the Brodie. He antagonised Westbrook to an extreme extent in Game 1, and will prove to be a vital tool in stopping the league’s most explosive player. It’s hard not to see that Beverley’s tough, almost illegally aggressive, defense is getting to Westbrook, as that screen which completely levelled Pat, from Steven Adams was clearly a shot in retaliation for Beverly locking down and getting into the head of Russ on several occasions. His defense aside, Pat had a breakout game in terms of shooting, putting up a great 22 points on 4 buckets from downtown, proving that he can be a force on both ends when he’s feeling it. Coming from¬†a Houston fan, this probably sounds biased, but after that thirty point blowout in Game 1, I’m starting to believe Di’Antoni’s Rockets can blowout the Thunder, but their performance in Game 2 tonight will be important in finalising my thoughts on the match up.

TheBloggingLeprechaun NBA Awards – Defensive Player of the Year

Defense is the name of the game, and these three players shine at it like no other. Even without a list, anyone who watches the NBA even as little as once a week will probably already know who’s in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The last two years have been dominated by Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard, but he is no longer the only defensive monster in the league, and is accompanied by two other players who scare people with their defense, rather than their ability to put the ball in the basket. Defense is what they’re paid to do, and they do it so well they’ve even been given an award for it. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

3. Kawhi Leonard

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The Klaw, The Silent Assassin, The Man who Doesn’t Smile. Call him what you will, there’s no human alive who can poke flaws out of Kawhi Leonard’s defense, to be honest, it’s quite difficult to poke flaws out of any aspect of this freak’s game – he’s just so well rounded as a player, in both defensive and offensive aspects. His incredibly large hands give him the nickname “The Klaw,” and is probably the main reason why he steals the ball from any rim attacker unlucky enough to cross Kawhi’s path. He’s probably the best defensive player in the league, which is why he has dominated this award for the past two seasons, in fact, they should probably just rename this award in his name, like Jamal Crawford and the Sixth Man. Kawhi’s defense is good, that opposing teams draw up plays which remove the man he’s marking from the offense, as to prevent him from stripping the ball from any player on the court, which is the main reason he isn’t running away with this award yet again. It’s hard to play solid defense when your man is too afraid to attack the basket or even shoot the ball. It’s a token to Kawhi’s incredible defense, and if he were treated as a normal player on the defense end, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be leading this list. As a Houston fan, I get nightmares every time I see this man, as flashbacks to that crazy block he had on James Harden to carry the Spurs over the finish line and win against the Rockets earlier this season.¬†The Klaw is basically the anti-Westbrook and Harden, or any player who is the only star on their team, as he forces the coaches to pull their stars from the offense to prevent Kawhi from just shutting them down completely. The only player in the league I’ve seen who’s been able to play decent offense at the mercy of Kawhi Leonard, is Kyrie Irving, but, to be fair, Kyrie could smoke any player in the NBA when he’s feeling it, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It feels weird having Kawhi outside the top 2 defensive players in the league, but he could¬†win MVP,¬†so congratulations to The Klaw, none the less!

2. Draymond Green

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First off, I have to say that I despise Draymond, not because he’s a Warrior, but because he’s just so dirty as a player, sneaky in fact. His kicking antics are some of the most despicable actions of a player I’ve seen, and the fact that he’s notorious for them makes it all the worse. But even I, for as much as I hate him, can’t hate on Draymond’s defense. His defense is so good, in fact, that he’s managed to lock down LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard, all MVP candidates, when the Warriors have played their respective teams. There’s not many players in the NBA who can say they’ve held down LeBron James on defense. He became the first player to get a triple double, without points being an aspect of the trip dub, and instead opted for an incredible 10 steals! So, while he won’t get you 20 PPG, he’ll certainly lock down any player looking to cross him up, and if he can’t lock them down, he’ll straight up kick them in the balls. So, you know, he’s efficient on defense. Draymond creates a huge plus/minus differential when he’s on the court for Golden State, preventing an extra 6 points scored on the Warriors when he’s on the floor. If you need more stats, the Warriors are +626 in Green’s 1,970 minutes this season (via Basketball-Reference), so you know he makes a huge impact on the defensive end for the Warriors, and with offensive superstars like Steph, Klay and KD on the squad, Draymond’s only goal is to play defense, and boy does he play it well. And Draymond may be a dirty, despicable, sneaky player, but he does play some outstanding defense when he isn’t kicking players in the balls, so congratulations to Draymond Green for finally bypassing Kawhi to crack the second place spot on the list!

1. Rudy Gobert

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Step aside Kawhi and Draymond, there’s a new kid on the block. French giant Rudy Gobert is by far one of the biggest and most intimidating defensive players in NBA history. The French Rejection measures out at a staggering 7 ft 1, and I’m convinced he could touch the ceiling of an arena¬†just by outstretching his freakishly long arms. He holds opposing big men to an incredible 42% when matched up with them, which is huge for players like Dwight Howard and other traditional big men, who usually shoot a high percentage due to¬†tendencies to sit in the paint and just throw down¬†dunks and layups. It’s rare that his opponents get more than 15 points against the Stifel Tower, which is a token to his fantastic defense, and proves that Gobert is the winner of this award. Gobert is averaging a huge 13 rebounds per game, combined with¬†a league leading 2.7 blocks, which just shows how long Rudy actually is, and how effective he is at cleaning up any mess that gets into the paint. Not only can he smack almost any shot out of the air, he’ll also pull it down and heave an outlet pass to a Jazz teammate. His net rating¬†knocks Draymond’s out of the park, with a¬†total net rating of +8.5 point differential when he’s on the floor. When Gobert is off the court, the Jazz’s net rating drops to an awful -3.7¬†differential, for a total of +10.8 point differential when Gobert is on/off the court. And if that stat alone doesn’t convince you that Rudy Gobert is the Defensive Player of the Year, you are quite blind. TheBloggingLeprechaun’s DPOY award goes to Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz!

Let me know who you felt deserves the Defensive Player of the Year down below, and follow my blog for more awards and NBA Discussions. Also, check out my Twitter for updates on the blog, and just my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!

 

NBA Discussion; Beastbrook.

I had planned to give my award to the Defensive Player of the Year this evening, but Russell Westbrook has just completely changed my schedule after doing the one thing that would truly set him aside from the other MVP candidates (I’m still voting for James Harden, however) – he has finally joined Oscar Robertson to become the second person in NBA history to average a triple double for an entire season. Not only that, but he is currently tied with the Big O’s NBA record of 41 triple doubles in a single season, and with 3 games to go, I’m extremely confident that Brodie will hold that record come April 12th. It’s just too hard to believe that he’d go five games without a triple double, which has sort of locked in my belief that he will become the true triple double king at the end of the season.

Like I said, James Harden is still getting my vote for MVP, but, being a Rockets fan, that’s understandable. But the hate Westbrook is getting on social media, on the NBA’s official page and off-brand meme pages and such, is just ridiculous. I’m not a Thunder fan by any means, but it’s hard not to like Westbrook, both as a player and as a personality. He’s such a happy and fun person to watch, I mean, it’s difficult not to smile, or even laugh, when you watch Brodie do his pre-game dances, laughing and joking around with his teammates, particularly Cameron Payne. I watched a video of his pre-game dance while sitting on a chair before the Suns game last night, and I couldn’t help but laugh as he danced around and lip-synced to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble.’ It’s really what sets him and Harden apart from the likes of Kawhi and LeBron – they relate to the fans, and genuinely look like they’re having fun while they’re doing what they’re paid to do, which is why you see them dancing and celebrating when they hit tough shots. You just don’t see Kawhi doing that, and it’s rare to see LeBron doing it, and when he does celebrate, it’s generally his signature angry face and shoulder brush. So the hate Westbrook’s getting, I really don’t understand it. From the perspective of a basketball fan and a person, I think people should just praise Westbrook for his amazing accomplishments this season, rather than finding ways to put him down while they talk up other players.

What Westbrook has done, and is doing still, this season, is absolutely phenomenal, to the extent that no other player has come close to matching up to him in terms of out-of-this-world achievements. Whether you’re voting for Harden, LeBron of Kawhi, if you can’t appreciate the things Brodie is doing this season, you’re not a true fan of the NBA. Aside from carrying the Thunder to a playoff seed, virtually all by himself, he’s breaking near-impossible records while he’s doing it. He became the only player to join Oscar Robertson triple double average club, and has done it with the weight of an awfully atrocious Thunder squad on his shoulders, which hasn’t seemed to slow him down. And while this stat would be amazing for any player with the ability to achieve, it’s much better that we see it coming from Westbrook. He was abandoned by superstar teammate¬†Kevin¬†Durant at the start of the season, left all alone to carry a poor team, against an 11-12th place projection by most fans. But he’s showed everyone that he wasn’t ready to give up like KD was, and has brought the Thunder to the playoffs, and at full speed as always, I might add. He could potentially be the first MVP, that isn’t¬†part of a¬†top 3 seeded team, in¬†over 20. So if you needed another argument for Westbrook’s MVP case, there you go. And look, I’m completely for Harden winning MVP this season, but I certainly won’t be mad if it’s given to Westbrook, because he is just as deserving of the award as The Beard.

Just a quick word on how close this season’s MVP race is – it’s recently come to light that the regular season MVP won’t be announced until after the Finals, in an “Award Show,” likely to give the league a chance to total up their results from social media votes and such. But I have a theory; what if the league are holding off handing out the award until the end of the playoffs, because they still don’t know who’s more deserving between Harden and Westbrook, and are going to use the playoffs as a further measure of each player’s ability and value to their team? I know the MVP award is based on regular season performances, but doesn’t it make sense? Anyway, it’s just a thought I had while trying to think of ways Harden can outshine Westbrook’s beast of a season. Congratulations to Beastbrook on officially averaging a triple double for the season, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about holding the record for most single season triple doubles in a few days.

Let me know what you think of Russ’ amazing season so far down below, and follow my blog for more NBA Discussions and to see me complete my end of season awards. The DPOY award will be handed out tomorrow evening, apologies again for the delay, but I couldn’t not talk about Westbrook after what he’s done. Check out my Twitter¬†for updates on the blog and just my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!

TheBloggingLeprechaun NBA Awards; Rookie of the Year

There’s no soft way to put it, but the race for Rookie of the Year for the 2016-2017 NBA season was as underwhelming as the Dunk Contest, with no rookie truly shining at the level of Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis in their respective rookie seasons. Rookies such as Brandon Ingram, who was expected to make a huge impact in his first season with the LA Lakers, as underperformed to a horrible extent, to a point where a 16 point game was¬†considered a turning point in the forward’s career, while his teammate D’Angelo Russell put up 40 points against the Cavaliers. This has been the trend for the majority of rookies this season, and even some of the players on the top nominees list don’t truly deserve to be there. With that being said, though, let’s get into it!

3. Buddy Hield

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I really like Buddy Hield, I liked him coming into the draft at the beginning of the season, and had really hoped he would go to a team where he could be used to his full potential, but no, he gets drafted to the Pelicans. While in a Pelicans uniform, Buddy averaged 8 PPG, confirming my suspicions that he would be misused, and destroying my dreams of him turning into a future star. But then a wonderful thing happened – Boogie Cousins gets traded to the Pelicans in a 3-player package which included Buddy Hield, so he could finally use his talents on a team that are now lacking a scorer, and since the trade, he’s improved dramatically as he fits in well to a team that have actually been playing some pretty good basketball since trading their superstar away. Since the trade, Buddy has averaged 17 PPG on 48% shooting, which is actually great for a rookie scoring guard. I, for one, am so happy that Buddy got traded, as now we can finally see his true potential as a scoring guard, and, if he can improve his defensive rating, Hield can definitely be an all-star in future years. In other years, however, I understand that Buddy wouldn’t get into the top 3 for ROTY, but I guess he should consider himself lucky to be drafted into such an awfully boring group of players. In any case though, I truly believe that Buddy has a very high ceiling, and I’m praying that whatever god may exist out there, that he’ll transform into a star scorer. Who would’ve thought being involved in a trade for DeMarcus Cousins would release this kid’s potential? Anyway, congratulations to Buddy for cracking the 3rd spot on the ROTY list!

2. Malcolm Brogdon

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For those of you who never heard of Malcolm Brogdon, remember that rookie who dunked on LeBron and Kyrie in the same game? Yeah, that was Malcolm Brogdon. I genuinely feel that Brogdon deserves to be a Rookie of the Year, and while he just missed out this season for me, I’m sure there’s plenty of people, probably Bucks fans, who will have him down as their number one. Since the start of 2017, when Brogdon began to receive decent minutes as a guard, he’s brought his points per game up by 2, is shooting 88% from the foul line, and averages 4 APG, so he’s pretty all-rounded in terms of what he does on the court. Nobody had really heard of Brogdon until he put both LeBron and Kyrie on a poster, and since then, he’s been popping up all the time as a true contender for the ROTY award. In March, he brought his FT% up to an incredible 95%, an extremely rare achievement for a rookie. He’s also become more confident as a shooter, averaging a couple of more attempts per game alongside my MIP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Brogdon is, as well as Antetokounmpo, one of the bright spots for the Milwaukee Bucks, and plays better defense than most of the rookies this year. His 10 PPG average is sure to improve as he continues to grow as a player and receive more minutes for the Bucks and, potentially, develop into a star, which could be a scary development when paired with Giannis. And hey, if you dunk on two of the best players in the league in your rookie season, you’re obviously destined for great things in the NBA, right? In any case, congratulations to Malcolm Brogdon on placing 2nd in my ROTY list.

1. Joel Embiid

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It’s a testament to the performances of the rest of the rookies in the 2016-2017 season when a rookie who was injured back in February, is still leading the way for Rookie of the Year now in April. A torn meniscus coming at the end of the February meant more surgery for ‘The Process,’ who was drafted back in 2014 but only played his debut game in the NBA this season. Before the injury, Embiid had a truly outstanding season on a truly awful 76ers team, and was the team’s one bright spot considering Ben Simmons’ injury which put him out for the season before he even got to play. Despite only playing 25 minutes per game due to injury concerns and minute restrictions, Embiid averaged 20 PPG, combined with 8 RPG, to lead the way for Rookie of the Year, and, to be quite honest, just throw every other rookie out of his path as he steamrolled to stardom in his first few games. While it took the rest of the season’s newbies a couple of months to settle into the NBA, Embiid took off almost immediately, and was relied on early on by the Sixers to play well down the stretch of close games, despite being a rookie. Embiid is a perfect example of what the league is looking for in centres, with the NBA’s recent transition to a shooting league, as the Sixers big man has the ability to stretch out to the 3-point line in order to knock some down, and is quite capable, with a respectable 3PT% of 37%. As well as that, The Process plays outstanding defense, and is in a class of his in that respect, averaging an incredible 2.5 BPG in his rookie season, putting him miles ahead of his rookies peers in every aspect of the game. While this injury strikes yet another concern for Sixers fans, as they’ve become accustomed to big injuries from the rookie star, there’s no doubt in my mind that, combined with the passing ability of likely ROTY next season, Ben Simmons, Embiid and the Sixers have an extremely high chance to make the playoffs, especially if they make some more magic in the draft like they have been the last few years, only this time, hopefully without the injuries they’ve faced from their rookies. To conclude this post, TheBloggingLeprechaun’s Rookie of the Year award goes to 76ers centre Joel Embiid!

Let me know who you felt deserved Rookie of the Year down below, and follow my blog for more awards and NBA Discussions. Check out my blog on Friday evening for my Defensive Player of the Year award, which is likely to cause huge controversy. Have a peek at my Twitter for updates on the blog, and just my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!

 

 

 

 

 

TheBloggingLeprechaun NBA Awards; Most Improved Player

In the case of youth players in almost every sport, at least in Ireland anyway,¬†the most improved player award is considered to be more an insult than an acknowledgment of improvement, highlighting the player’s previous lack of ability which has improved just enough for them to be considered applicable to the line-up. I feel, personally, that this is not the case in any sport, particularly in a league as tough as the NBA. The Most Improved Player (MIP) award is a genuine acknowledgment of a player’s hard work and dedication to improve their game in the off-season, and is, without a doubt, an extremely prestigious award, which plays a major role in motivating rookies and newer players to work hard. In the case of these 3 players, their improvement has caught my eye to the point where I find myself watching their games closely, whereas if it weren’t for their new and improved game, I would certainly not flick to the games on a regular basis. So let’s get into it!

3. Seth Curry

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Seth Curry, the hairband-wearing Steph, has been flat out balling since the All-Star break, and even sparked some conversation regarding MVP. This, obviously, is a ludicrous statement, and, to be quite honest, is completely delusional, but you get the sense that Seth has improved dramatically over the course of the season. Naturally, Seth flies under the radar for most NBA fans, overshadowed by his brother Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. He is basically a poor man’s Steph, and, trust me, that’s not a bad thing. He’ll give you sharpshooting consistently, excellent ball handling, and a clutch game which most would argue is lacking in Steph’s game. He’s a beast in 2K, with his shooting ability being matched to his brother’s, so that’s quite a plus for those who don’t want to fork out 200K on a sharpshooter. This season alone, Seth’s had 10 20+ point games, as well as a fantastic 31 point performance against the Timberwolves, in a game they still LOST, which is a great set of stats considering Seth only cracked the starting line-up since the return from the All-Star break. The fact that he didn’t start for the majority¬†of the season, makes up for his mediocre 13 PPG, which is proven by his 18 PPG average since February. I genuinely feel bad for Seth, putting in solid work on a team surrounded by an old-age Dirk Nowitski and inconsistent Harrison Barnes, with a coach who refuses to allow the struggling team to tank in order to gain some help in the draft. If Seth was to be traded to a team where he actually had some help, I personally feel he could average 20+ PPG. What makes Seth’s season so special, is that he has basically been unheard of by casual NBA fans, despite having a great stretch of games. His almost-limitless range is quite close to his brother’s, and he’s got that cold blood, which allows him to shoot daggers when needed. You want to know a fun fact about Seth? He was more sought after in college than Steph. Yeah, bet you didn’t know that one. But he’s finally showing people that he’s sick of chilling in his brother’s shadow, and is ready to ball out for a team that will just let him play. I should probably clarify that Seth just beat out Jabari Parker for the 3rd place award for Most Improved Player, but huge credit to him anyway for the hard work he’s put in to get to where he is this season. Congratulations to Seth!

2. Nikola Jokic

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A big man making the Most Improved list? This is almost unheard of in the NBA! But almost every NBA fan will have ‘The Joker’ on their list of candidates for MIP this season. Jokic passes the ball like a guard, dishing is out from the post on a consistent basis, allowing him to finish just behind Kristaps Porzingis in the Skills Challenge. The Denver Nuggets big man is basically a young Kevin Love, only with much more potential to become a superstar in the coming years. Jokic is shooting 58% from the field, which probably seems low for a centre, but is actually quite high for a big that can shoot the three ball, making a third of his shots from behind the line. The Joker has improved dramatically in points per game, bringing himself up to 16.5 PPG, assists, averaging a nice 5 APG, as well as rebounds, marking out at just 10 with 9.6 RPG, which is no joke, haha I’m hilarious! Sorry about that. What I find most impressive about Jokic’s improvement this season is, though, how exciting he¬†has become¬†to watch. It’s difficult to go a game without seeing a LeBron-esque pass coming for 22 year old machine, and with at least another 10 years of NBA time in him, he’s only going to get better. I feel he has the ceiling of a Dirk Nowitski, but will almost definitely be a better playmaker. No, I’m not saying he will be better than Dirk, but doesn’t he have that potential? If this season is anything to go by, I believe so. It’s hard to believe, looking at him this season, that 6’10 passing big man like Jokic was drafted late in the second round, and has now become one of the best young players in the league. In January alone, he averaged 24 PPG, as well as over 11 RBG, and has been well over the 6 APG mark of most GUARDS over the last three months, which is just incredible. Jokic is 6’10 for God sake, yet he runs the floor and dishes the rock like a 6’3 guard. This kid is definitely one to watch, so keep an eye out for him. Jokic takes the runner-up award for MIP!

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Was there even any doubt that the ‘Greek Freak’ was going to top this list? I would be extremely surprised if Antetokounmpo didn’t win the official MIP award, equal to the point if Harden or Westbrook don’t win MVP. When your nickname is the Greek Freak, you have to live up to a name like that, and this season, Giannis is more than living up to the name, and showing everyone around the league that he is to be feared. Every time he walks up the court, there’s a strong chance he’s going to put someone on a poster *cough, Curry, cough,* and let’s face it, Giannis is just a scary dude. He’s a 6’11 guard, 6 FREAKING 11. Imagine you’re an opposing point guard, and you’re forced to defend this guy, hell no man I’m getting out of the way of this dude. And I know, he’s fitted into the point forward role this season, and has usually been guarding and guarded by other small forwards, but on rare occasions, we have seen him taking point guards, which is just ridiculous. Giannis was the youngest player to take part in the All-Star game this season, and was just throwing out highlights left and right, including a crazy putback poster over Steph Curry, despite him dodging it earlier in the game. His selection to the All-Star game this year was a token to his dramatic improvement, having better stats in every statistical category this season. The Greek Freak is averaging 23 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, as well as a 52% shooting record, which are all huge improvements in his stats. Antetokounmpo is probably the most fun player to watch in the NBA this year. When he walks up the court, towering over just about every player daring to match up to him, you just wonder who he’s putting on a poster this time. He requires so much attention from opposing teams, which is why he’s raised his assists by 2 per game, and is why he’s topping the MIP list for me. His defence is absolutely incredible for such a young player, but isn’t much of a surprise considering his 6’11 size. What’s even scarier though, is that, despite being KD sized, he’s amazingly quick, and seems to fly up and down the court, allowing him to glide through the air. I remember this one play from earlier in the season, where Giannis did this insane windmill dunk, and it looked as though his arm had stretched out as far as the free-throw line! And despite having such a fecking hard name to spell, I’m certain Antetokounmpo is going to take the Most Improved Player award by a country mile. So the winner of TheBloggingLeprechaun Most Improved Player is: Giannis Antetokounmpo!

Let me know who you felt deserved the MIP award down below, and follow my blog for more NBA Discussions and awards! Check out my Twitter for updates on the blog and just general shite posting. Keep an eye out for the Rookie of the Year post Wednesday evening. Enjoy your day!

ANNOUNCEMENT; End of Season Awards, Plans for the Playoffs

The regular season of the 2016-2017 NBA season is coming to a close in less than two weeks, 13 days, to be exact. Before the playoffs begin and each team begins to steamroll the talent they’ve been building for the duration into the season, into winning the all-glorious NBA Title, very certain players will be awarded with various individual acknowledgements for their hard work for the year. These awards include Most Valuable Player (MVP), Most Improved Player (MIP), the Jamal Crawford Award (Sixth Man of the Year), and Defensive Player of the Year (DOPY). For the end of the regular season, I’ll be acknowledging who I feel deserves these awards, as well as a few other various awards, such as Coach of the Year, Most Surprising Team, Biggest Tanking Team of the Year, and the Teams Who Should’ve Tanked. These will be taking place over the duration of the next two weeks, bringing us up until the end of the¬†regular season¬†and the official awards handed out by the league. So keep an eye out for those!

Also, when the playoffs begin, I plan to give a decent amount of game reviews. These will mainly consist of close games, series comebacks, huge individual performances and series that reach Game 7. So watch out for those two!

NBA Discussion; Harden or Westbrook? – 30th March 2017

This years MVP¬†race has been one of the closest in NBA history, at least in recent history anyway. Players like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and even Isaiah Thomas are in the conversation for the greatest individual award this season, and are creating their own campaigns for why they deserve the award through their outstanding play in the league. LeBron is, well LeBron, Kawhi is one of the greatest two way players in the league currently, and Isaiah is proving his doubters wrong with his spectacular performances in the 4th quarter of tight games. But there’s really only two true competitors for the 2016-2017 MVP award, and I shouldn’t even have to say who are they, but I will anyway. Russell Westbook and James Harden are the clear contenders for MVP this season, with both point guards basically carrying their entire teams on their shoulders, racing to playoff spots despite the doubts both teams received at the beginning of the season. But who deserves the MVP award, Harden or Westbrook?

*Before I begin I should clarify that my decision on this years MVP is my personal opinion, and should not be taken as an experts thoughts in any way. I don’t wish to aggravate any fans of either player, please don’t kill me.*

Both Harden and Westbrook are phenomenal players, their ability to carry what would otherwise be extremely weak teams, which were both predicted to be lottery teams, is unmatched by almost any other player in the league, and is certainly not comparable at the level of sheer amazement they display on a nightly basis. Harden is currently leading votes for the award, according to the #KIAMVPRace on the NBA Facebook page, with an astonishing 40% of the votes over his peers. But with still 9 games to go before the end of the season, and¬†Westbrook being only 5 triple doubles away from beating Oscar Robinson’s¬†NBA record of 41, The Beard’s MVP campaign is¬†definitely not a done deal.

Westbrook is having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history, averaging 31 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 10.4 APG,¬†that being a triple double, which obviously is the main argument for Russ’ MVP case.¬†This sensational feat has only been achieved once before, when Oscar Robinson did so back in 1962. But The Big O also lost out on the MVP award that season, despite averaging a triple double, when he finished third behind Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged over 50 points and 25 rebounds, and Bill Russell, the winner of the award and NBA title of that season. His ability to carry an otherwise extremely awful OKC Thunder is what puts him in this top two front-runner for MVP. What he lacks in defence, he more than makes up for it with his explosive offensive capabilities. Despite being criticised for being a ‘ballhog,’ as stated by almost every nobody on Twitter, Westbrook actually has pretty phenomenal vision, I mean, did you see his crazy half-court pass to Oladipo that went through the defender’s legs? You can’t be a poor passer and manage to pull a pass like that off in-game. And maybe he does force his stats a little, particularly in the rebounding front when you see the likes of Adams and Kanter just allow him to rebound the ball over them, but wouldn’t you if you had the chance to break a 55 year-old, nearly impossible record? Of course you would. Westbrook has this weird knack for making everything he does look extremely difficult, what with the crazy layups and pull-up threes from stupidly deep range. He seems to always be in full charge mode, for example, Sports Illustrated journalist Ben Golliver made a great point about the difference between Harden and Westbrook, basically saying that Harden makes everything he does seem so easy, gliding up and down the court, while Westbrook just looks freakishly athletic with this ability to do the impossible, which is why most casual NBA fans would choose Westbrook over Harden. This obviously makes a lot of sense, these, what are they called, ‘highlight watchers,’ only watch out for spectacular plays as their motive for choosing an MVP, and when you look at Russell Westbrook’s highlights, they seem a hell of a lot more impressive than Harden’s.

But let’s look at his flaws. Obviously, Russ is the Thunder’s go-to-guy down the stretch of close games, so naturally, his usage rate skies when this is the case. And let’s be completely honest, he hits some incredible shots in clutch time, last night, for example, he hit that crazy pull-up three off the glass from about 10 or 11 feet behind the line to send the game to overtime against the Mavs, and then continued to take over and secure the W for the second close Thunder game this week. But he is heavily flawed in failing to trust his team mates in close moments, settling for a contested three to seal the deal, rather than passing the ball to another Thunder player¬†who is, in most cases, in a better position. He doesn’t necessarily make his team mates better like a LeBron¬†or James Harden, which is probably why he wasn’t heavily¬†voted for by players in the All Star¬†voting, because,¬†as sad as it is to say, he just isn’t a great team mate. No doubt, Westbrook is when of the most passionately driven players in NBA history, and his desire to win is second only to playoff LeBron James, and as an individual, he’s extremely good at taking over games when it matters. But he’s not like James Harden, he can’t take¬†less than average team mates and turn them into a second or third seed team.¬†Yes, he makes¬†the Thunder better, but only by his individual performances night in and night out, which is why his team are now¬†looking at the bottom end of the playoff picture, while his peers are sitting¬†comfortably with clinched playoff spots. His inability to make his team mates better players is why he has to do everything himself, unlike Harden’s ability to do so with an otherwise equally bad team, and is why, for me, Westbrook just is not the MVP this season. You can talk about his turnovers and missed shots when criticising¬†Westbrook, but the two leading MVP vote getters are also the highest ranked in TOPG, mainly because of their huge¬†usage rates, so for me, the main argument against Russ’ MVP campaign is that, his team are sitting in the 6th seed in the West, which obviously isn’t the worse place they could be considering their projections at the start of the season, but his inability to improve the play of his team, as a team,¬†is why they won’t move from that sixth seed, and why Harden is my choice, as both a fan of the Houston Rockets and of the NBA in general, for the MVP for this season.

I’ll probably take some backlash for my choice of Harden as MVP, because, like I said, I am a¬†Rockets fan, which probably makes me slightly biased, but he is¬†receiving 40% of fan votes for the award, so I’m definitely not the only one considering him the clear winner.¬†The Beard is averaging 29.3 PPG, 8 RPG, combined the¬†assist leader with 11.4 per game,¬†which is, while obviously not as good statistically as Westbrook’s triple double average, is still off the charts. I mean, Harden could probably get those extra 2 rebounds a game if¬†Clint Capela did what Adams and Kanter do with Westbrook, and just allowed Harden to grab¬†a couple of extra boards each game, but I doubt those rebounds are as important to Harden as winning is, which he and the Rockets are doing at a fairly better rate the Westbrook’s Thunder, being 9 games ahead of them in the standings. This has gotten them to the 3rd seed in¬†a tough Western Conference, and clinched¬†them a playoff spot over two weeks ago. When watching a Rockets game, it’s almost instantly clear that Harden has this unique ability to connect with the players around, an ability seen in LeBron and Chris Paul, which is pretty special considering he doesn’t even have a¬†years experience as a point guard. He¬†makes his team mates better, and despite him being a scorer at heart, he’s adapted that¬†dimer vision,¬†which allows him to¬†find¬†his team mates even, when driving to the board, which is why he’s became so skilled at the pass and kick tendency we saw so often from him. He and the Rockets are leading the season series¬†against the Thunder 2-1,¬†which automatically gives him a¬†standing point over Westbrook.¬†Like I¬†said¬†earlier, Harden has this crazy ability to make everything he does seem so easy, which is why he’s overlooked as the¬†MVP, because, when you look at Westbrook’s highlights, Harden’s almost don’t seem like highlights as he just glides around the court, sliding off pick and rolls and throwing effortless lobs to Clint Capela, or firing¬†a bullet to a corner shooter like Ariza or Anderson. For this reason alone, I believe Harden could be, no, should be, MVP. And yes, he’s turnover prone, but as is Westbrook, so that argument is kind of invalid here. And the argument that ‘James Harden plays no defence,’ also can’t be used¬†this year, because, for the first time I’ve seen in a season, Harden is actually playing decent defence, and while it not be better than Westbrook’s, it certainly isn’t worse. And¬†I know, the MVP award is based on regular season performance, but if you had to take the Thunder or the Rockets for the NBA Finals come April, who would you take?¬†For me, the choice of that battle, and the battle for MVP, is quite clearly¬†the Rockets and James Harden.

I’ve made my¬†case for why I believe¬†Harden is more deserving for¬†MVP this year, but, to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be mad if either of these players won the award, because,¬†quite frankly, they’re both extremely deserving. Like NBA legend Kobe Byrant said, we could have co-MVP’s this season.¬†Let me know who you think should be the MVP down below, and why.¬†Follow my blog for more NBA Discussions, and check out my Twitter¬†for¬†my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!

This years MVP race has been one of the closest in NBA history, at least in recent history anyway. Players like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and even Isaiah Thomas are in the conversation for the greatest individual award this season, and are creating their own campaigns for why they deserve the award through their outstanding play in the league. LeBron is, well LeBron, Kawhi is one of the greatest two way players in the league currently, and Isaiah is proving his doubters wrong with his spectacular performances in the 4th quarter of tight games. But there’s really only two true competitors for the 2016-2017 MVP award, and I shouldn’t even have to say who are they, but I will anyway. Russell Westbook and James Harden are the clear contenders for MVP this season, with both point guards basically carrying their entire teams on their shoulders, racing to playoff spots despite the doubts both teams received at the beginning of the season. But who deserves the MVP award, Harden or Westbrook?

*Before I begin I should clarify that my decision on this years MVP is my personal opinion, and should not be taken as an experts thoughts in any way. I don’t wish to aggravate any fans of either player, please don’t kill me.*

Both Harden and Westbrook are phenomenal players, their ability to carry what would otherwise be extremely weak teams, which were both predicted to be lottery teams, is unmatched by almost any other player in the league, and is certainly not comparable at the level of sheer amazement they display on a nightly basis. Harden is currently leading votes for the award, according to the #KIAMVPRace on the NBA Facebook page, with an astonishing 40% of the votes over his peers. But with still 9 games to go before the end of the season, and Westbrook being only 5 triple doubles away from beating Oscar Robinson’s NBA record of 41, The Beard’s MVP campaign is definitely not a done deal.

Westbrook is having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history, averaging 31 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 10.4 APG, that being a triple double, which obviously is the main argument for Russ’ MVP case. This sensational feat has only been achieved once before, when Oscar Robinson did so back in 1962. But The Big O also lost out on the MVP award that season, despite averaging a triple double, when he finished third behind Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged over 50 points and 25 rebounds, and Bill Russell, the winner of the award and NBA title of that season. His ability to carry an otherwise extremely awful OKC Thunder is what puts him in this top two front-runner for MVP. What he lacks in defence, he more than makes up for it with his explosive offensive capabilities. Despite being criticised for being a ‘ballhog,’ as stated by almost every nobody on Twitter, Westbrook actually has pretty phenomenal vision, I mean, did you see his crazy half-court pass to Oladipo that went through the defender’s legs? You can’t be a poor passer and manage to pull a pass like that off in-game. And maybe he does force his stats a little, particularly in the rebounding front when you see the likes of Adams and Kanter just allow him to rebound the ball over them, but wouldn’t you if you had the chance to break a 55 year-old, nearly impossible record? Of course you would. Westbrook has this weird knack for making everything he does look extremely difficult, what with the crazy layups and pull-up threes from stupidly deep range. He seems to always be in full charge mode, for example, Sports Illustrated journalist Ben Golliver made a great point about the difference between Harden and Westbrook, basically saying that Harden makes everything he does seem so easy, gliding up and down the court, while Westbrook just looks freakishly athletic with this ability to do the impossible, which is why most casual NBA fans would choose Westbrook over Harden. This obviously makes a lot of sense, these, what are they called, ‘highlight watchers,’ only watch out for spectacular plays as their motive for choosing an MVP, and when you look at Russell Westbrook’s highlights, they seem a hell of a lot more impressive than Harden’s.

But let’s look at his flaws. Obviously, Russ is the Thunder’s go-to-guy down the stretch of close games, so naturally, his usage rate skies when this is the case. And let’s be completely honest, he hits some incredible shots in clutch time, last night, for example, he hit that crazy pull-up three off the glass from about 10 or 11 feet behind the line to send the game to overtime against the Mavs, and then continued to take over and secure the W for the second close Thunder game this week. But he is heavily flawed in failing to trust his team mates in close moments, settling for a contested three to seal the deal, rather than passing the ball to another Thunder player who is, in most cases, in a better position. He doesn’t necessarily make his team mates better like a LeBron or James Harden, which is probably why he wasn’t heavily voted for by players in the All Star voting, because, as sad as it is to say, he just isn’t a great team mate. No doubt, Westbrook is when of the most passionately driven players in NBA history, and his desire to win is second only to playoff LeBron James, and as an individual, he’s extremely good at taking over games when it matters. But he’s not like James Harden, he can’t take less than average team mates and turn them into a second or third seed team. Yes, he makes the Thunder better, but only by his individual performances night in and night out, which is why his team are now looking at the bottom end of the playoff picture, while his peers are sitting comfortably with clinched playoff spots. His inability to make his team mates better players is why he has to do everything himself, unlike Harden’s ability to do so with an otherwise equally bad team, and is why, for me, Westbrook just is not the MVP this season. You can talk about his turnovers and missed shots when criticising Westbrook, but the two leading MVP vote getters are also the highest ranked in TOPG, mainly because of their huge usage rates, so for me, the main argument against Russ’ MVP campaign is that, his team are sitting in the 6th seed in the West, which obviously isn’t the worse place they could be considering their projections at the start of the season, but his inability to improve the play of his team, as a team, is why they won’t move from that sixth seed, and why Harden is my choice, as both a fan of the Houston Rockets and of the NBA in general, for the MVP for this season.

I’ll probably take some backlash for my choice of Harden as MVP, because, like I said, I am a Rockets fan, which probably makes me slightly biased, but he is receiving 40% of fan votes for the award, so I’m definitely not the only one considering him the clear winner. The Beard is averaging 29.3 PPG, 8 RPG, combined the assist leader with 11.4 per game, which is, while obviously not as good statistically as Westbrook’s triple double average, is still off the charts. I mean, Harden could probably get those extra 2 rebounds a game if Clint Capela did what Adams and Kanter do with Westbrook, and just allowed Harden to grab a couple of extra boards each game, but I doubt those rebounds are as important to Harden as winning is, which he and the Rockets are doing at a fairly better rate the Westbrook’s Thunder, being 9 games ahead of them in the standings. This has gotten them to the 3rd seed in a tough Western Conference, and clinched them a playoff spot over two weeks ago. When watching a Rockets game, it’s almost instantly clear that Harden has this unique ability to connect with the players around, an ability seen in LeBron and Chris Paul, which is pretty special considering he doesn’t even have a years experience as a point guard. He makes his team mates better, and despite him being a scorer at heart, he’s adapted that dimer vision, which allows him to find his team mates even, when driving to the board, which is why he’s became so skilled at the pass and kick tendency we saw so often from him. He and the Rockets are leading the season series against the Thunder 2-1, which automatically gives him a standing point over Westbrook. Like I said earlier, Harden has this crazy ability to make everything he does seem so easy, which is why he’s overlooked as the MVP, because, when you look at Westbrook’s highlights, Harden’s almost don’t seem like highlights as he just glides around the court, sliding off pick and rolls and throwing effortless lobs to Clint Capela, or firing a bullet to a corner shooter like Ariza or Anderson. For this reason alone, I believe Harden could be, no, should be, MVP. And yes, he’s turnover prone, but as is Westbrook, so that argument is kind of invalid here. And the argument that ‘James Harden plays no defence,’ also can’t be used this year, because, for the first time I’ve seen in a season, Harden is actually playing decent defence, and while it not be better than Westbrook’s, it certainly isn’t worse. And I know, the MVP award is based on regular season performance, but if you had to take the Thunder or the Rockets for the NBA Finals come April, who would you take? For me, the choice of that battle, and the battle for MVP, is quite clearly the Rockets and James Harden.

I’ve made my case for why I believe Harden is more deserving for MVP this year, but, to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be mad if either of these players won the award, because, quite frankly, they’re both extremely deserving. Like NBA legend Kobe Byrant said, we could have co-MVP’s this season. Let me know who you think should be the MVP down below, and why. Follow my blog for more NBA Discussions, and check out my Twitter for my general shite posting. Enjoy your day!