NBA

NBA Swing: Everything’s Bigger in Sexland/Harden’s Charity Stripe Woes

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Kyrie Irving asked for a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 after buzz circulated back to the former first overall pick about a front office meeting pondering what they could get back in return for Irving. Ultimately, it was the final blow to what we anticipated the closing of a chapter in Cleveland. A year later, after another triumph trip to the NBA Finals, the expected departure of LeBron James to free agency became reality. The Cavaliers have failed to make the postseason in each of the past four seasons since and have selected four first-round lottery picks in the same span. Two of those lottery picks; PG Collin Sexton and PF Evan Mobley have been key contributions to the Cavs’ recent brief three-game winning streak. During that period they’ve held the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Atlanta Hawks to under 100 points. Those are potent offenses that feature some of the NBA’s best scorers in Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr, Paul George, and Trae Young. 

Last January the Cavaliers acquired former Nets big man Jarett Allen in last year’s three-team blockbuster James Harden trade. Allen would go on to average a career-high in points per game (13.2) in 40 games started, thriving alongside Cleveland’s talented young backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. “Darius Garland, Darius Garland, he (Steph Curry) loves Darius Garland a lot, a lot, a lot. He thinks that kid is gonna be a flat-out star.” Ex- ESPN reporter but prominent journalist Jackie Mac Mullan stated on the Bill Simmons podcast how much the two-time MVP loves Garland’s game. Last year wasn’t only a career year for Sexton but also for Garland. The former Vanderbilt star was the only player other than Kyrie Irving to average at least 17 points, six assists, and one steal with 45/39/80 shooting splits. Garland’s skill set is what your ideal prototype NBA point guard in this current generation possesses. Even at his 6’1″ listed height, Garland has an assortment of dribbles when attacking his defender. A surplus of misdirection, head fakes, and hesitation crossover dribbles make him a nightmare to stay in front of because of how nifty he is. Garland’s quick first step makes him even more impossible to stay in front of in the pick and roll as well. You have to go over because he’ll make you pay from the three-point line if you dare him. Sexton was the first to take that necessary leap last year for the Cavs last year and got some dark horse All-Star love pouring in a career-high 24 points a night. His motor, competitiveness, and relentlessness have rubbed off on his teammates and he and Garland will be one of the more fun backcourts to watch, especially, flourishing around all these different big men. 

The most prized piece of the Cavs future and early NBA Rookie of the Year is power forward Evan Mobley. The third overall pick from this past year’s draft has been leaving people’s jaws dropped showcasing his versatility, fluidity, and ability to adapt to the NBA game in such a quick fashion. Mobley posted 23 points, six boards, and three assists in last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Mobley’s 7’0″ but is the perfect two-way forward for this NBA climate. A big that can guard one through five and also open the floor up with his scoring and playmaking ability. The Cavaliers have the luxury of having such lineup flexibility on both sides of the court with Mobley. The Cavs have already begun running their offense through the former Trojan around the top of the key/elbow.  On numerous occasions, Mobley’s displayed his vision and willingness to distribute the basketball, finding open cutters and slashers. Mobley’s also very comfortable on the catch in the pick and pop and won’t hesitate to let it fly from anywhere on the perimeter. On defense, Mobley is a Swiss-army knife that can switch on to any position on the court and is a pogo stick that contests all shots. (Currently averaging 2.0 blocks per game). Concluding the Lakers 113-101 home win vs the Cavs, LeBron James stamped his approval of the Cavaliers future star big man. “He’s [Mobley] going to be a damn good basketball player in this league. It’s so crazy because he was just playing against my son a couple of years ago”. The sooner the Cavs realize that Evan Mobley is their best player the better off they’ll be.

Finnish big Lauri Markkanen was also dealt to Cleveland in a three-team swap this past summer. A 40% percent shooter from deep last year he adds to this big men versatility being able to stretch the floor similar to now teammate Kevin Love. Ricky Rubio is one of the more responsible floor generals the league has to offer and he’s their sixth man. “I think Isaac did a phenomenal job on him,” “He took 25 shots to get his 33. Isaac made it extremely tough on him. A lot of his 3s were challenged. I think he made some late in the third and the fourth, but at the half, he was 0-for-7 from 3. He’s going to find a way, even on tough nights. He has that ability.” That was Cavs head coach J.B Bickerstaff applauding Isaac Okoro’s defensive efforts on his assignment of Steph Curry during a regular-season matchup last year. Okoro is currently out with a hamstring but will only help enhance Cavs’ perimeter defense once he steps back onto the court. Bickerstaff has done a solid job thus far making sure these players are staying competitive and playing as a cohesive unit. If Mobley continues to transcend into the star he’s destined to become as well as that young backcourt, the Cavs may be knocking on playoff doors sooner than later.  

After an endless amount of trolling and questioning of James Harden’s level of play, the three-time MVP runner-up broke through for his finest game of the season last night against the Indiana Pacers. The Beard scored 29 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists including going 16/19 from the free-throw line (72nd career game w/ 15+ FTA in a game). Prior to the beginning of the season, the NBA deemed rule changes that would help the overall flow of the game. The most famous foul calls of the past such as the legs stuck out for drawing contact causing an improper landing, the leaning in for contact on jump shots, and the stop and go with a defender trailing have all for the most part not been called. Such acts have been labeled overt, abrupt, and or abnormal non-basketball moves.

 The most victimized of this new rule change is Brooklyn Nets point guard James Harden. Harden who’s been basically head above shoulders over the rest of the league in all volume free throw categories for the past decade has struggled to adapt to the new changes. Forget the new changes, Harden is still trying to get his legs under him dating back to the hamstring injury that held him back exceedingly in last year’s NBA playoffs. “As much as I want to get back to 30s and 40s points, I can’t do that. As much as I want to, as much as I would love to, I didn’t have any opportunities to play pickup. It was all rehab” Harden stated after a tough home loss to the Miami Heat the night prior. The Harden hooking calls should only get called if the defender’s forearms or hands are in his space as he’s going up in a natural shooting motion. If he blatantly seeks his opponent’s arm that’s when you need to call that. But at the end of the day, the offensive player’s space has to be respected. You can’t tell the offensive player when and how to angle their shot when the defensive player has all the freedom to hand check. The new rule is certainly helping the game as long as it’s not taking away from it.

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