By Kent Jackson, Respect My Blog
Welcome back to my video series called the NBA rundown where I discuss the ins, the outs, the up and downs in the Association. In the 8th episode, I will discuss OKC’s new secret weapon, Who is the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ best player, the Raptors’ new style of play and could the Lakers end up helping the Celtics add a top 5 pick?
Jimmy is the Best Player on the Twolves?
If you asked going into the season, who is the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ best player, Karl Anthony Towns would have been the answer without a doubt. After two months of play, Jimmy Butler has settled in and has been the catalyst for this young team. After starting the season slow just averaging around 16, 17 point per game in October and November, Butler really took over and asserted himself as the best player on the team. In December, he averaged around 27 point per game and has brought a swagger and a attitude, that this young team lacked to a certain degree. His 39 point game against the Nuggets was the sixth time he’s scored 30 point or more in December. And some of that attitude he has brought was on display against Jamal Murray in crunch time. Butler has been unstoppable in crunch time and he has helped the Timberwolves get off to best start in a long time. Proving that he is one of the best two way players in the league. Some people looked at Jimmy Butler as the third option on the team. – clip – For the team to go far this season, Jimmy Butler will have to be the best player, maybe Towns or Wiggins can eventually grow into that role later on, but for this season, this is Jimmy Butler’s team.
Are the Raptors legit contenders?
Over the last couple of years, the Toronto Raptors have won a lot of games and has been one of the best teams in the East over that time. It’s looks like they are on their way to another 48 plus win season, but something is different with this Raptors team. This season, Toronto is outscoring opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions, third best in the league and by far their best ever as a franchise. Shooting and spacing has not been part of the Raptors offense in previous seasons. They are playing much more faster and they have taken the sixth most 3 pointers in the league and hitting 35 percent of them. Raptors’ best player DeMar DeRozan has been known for his midrange game and has never committed to improving his 3 point shooting in the past. This season he is shooting around 3 3pointers per game on 34 percent shooting. Both are career highs. Everybody has pointed out that the best steals in this past draft are Kyle Kuzma and Donovan Mitchell. Add O.G. Anunoby on that list. I said in my NBA Draft Grades and Analysis video that the Raptors benefited from the knee injury suffered during his last season at Indiana which was the reason he fell in the 20s. Before the injury, I felt he had a chance to be drafted in the lottery. Anunoby has been in the starting lineup for a while and is successfully settled in to his 3 and D role quicker than anybody could have imagine. He is shooting 44 percent for 3 point land. Toronto is at its best, when he is on the court. He emegences has allowed to bench unit to be more lethal by having 3 point marksman C.J. Miles come off the bench alone with Norman Powell, Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright. Whether this Raptors is one piece away or not, this team has adapted to the new style and looks like its paying dividends.
Kawhi got his groove back?
After missing all of preseason and the first month of the regular season, Kawhi Leonard finally is back in the Spurs lineup. Spurs were still able to be one of the best teams in the West without him which shouldn’t come as a surprise. If there’s a team in the league who can manage without their best player, its the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard started off on a minute restriction coming off a thigh injury that held him out longer than expected. Slowly but surely he is regaining his old form. Leonard got to start in the game against the Knicks and finished with a season high 25 points in 30 minutes, looking like his old self. I believe the Spurs proved at the beginning of the season that they might have enough to challenge the Golden State Warriors, especially if LaMarcus Aldridge play like he is capable of playing. But it all comes back to Kawhi, he is the center piece and with him, Spurs are just a good as any team in the league.
OKC’s secret weapon?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have to been trying to work out their chemistry throughout the early parts of the season, mainly of offense. The three stars have been trying to find a way to compliment each other. The Thunder have been finding their groove lately and have looked the team that everyone though they could be. But on Wednesday, the Thunder maybe have found a young stud they could be key for their chances to seriously compete in the Western Conference. With players like Andre Roberson and Alex Albrines out due to injury, and an opportunity open up for rookie Terrance Ferguson to show the coach he could contribute this year. Before that game, he had just played 155 minutes in 22 games showing signs that he might not be ready in his rookie year. But he got the start on Wednesday, and even thought the big 3 had a good showing, the talk of the game was Terrance Ferguson. He had a breakout game scoring 24 points on 9-12 shooting. He hit 6 three pointers which is huge playing on a team with Melo,Westbrook and George who will draw so much attention. And he had the Staples Center buzzing after his two impressive dunks, even if he traveled on one of them. Just having a guy off the bench to bring a scoring punch is crucial for this Thunder. As much as Roberson gives you on defense, he is the complete opposite on offense, and Terrance Ferguson could be the secret weapon that OKC needs for a chance to get to the NBA Finals.
Lakers could make Celtics even more stronger
The Boston Celtics remain currently in first place in the East and look like a true championship contender despite their second best player Gordon Hayward going down in the 1st game. Jayson Tatum has been spectular in his rookie year and he can only get better from here. Celtics still would love to pursue a superstar player to the team like Anthony Davis. But they could be in line to have another top 5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Right now, the Lakers have the second worst record in the league and that pick has an 80 percent chance to land between 2 and 5 which would end going to the Celtics. After so much hype and optimisim at the beginning of the season with Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Lonzo, they Lakers have crashed and burned to an 11-26 start and have lost eight in a row. Close and competitive losses gets old after a while. This team needs to start winning now. And if they continue to play losing basketball, Celtics or the 76ers will benefit from it. This Celtics team who is on the verge of taking over the Eastern Conference could add a top level prospect in the draft. With players like Tatum, Hayward and Brown on the wings and a franchise point in Kyrie, the Celtics are probably gonna be looking for a big man. And there are 3 worthy candidates that would be a perfect fit. Marvin Bagley, DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba. Having another big time prospect join this team would simple unfair. They can compete for a championship while players like Brown, Tatum and that 2018 draft prospect continue to learn and mature. Its a win-win situation, and the rest of the league, should be worried.
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