The Weekly Roundup (11 April – 29 April 2019)

I write a lot of articles for several different websites and realize that keeping up with all of them is difficult, especially for those who don’t spend all of their time on Twitter, where I post all of my articles but also throw in a ton of other stuff – mostly live notes from games I’m watching or way-too-in-depth thoughts on Game of Thrones. Going forward, I’m going to have a weekly roundup piece here on Early Bird Rights to both make it easier to find my pieces written elsewhere and build a portfolio of sorts that’s all in one place.

This edition will cover a bit more ground, as I want to date back to the end of the regular season to capture all of my end-of-season and playoff thoughts.

In the non-playoff world, I wrote four season reviews on Peachtree Hoops:

  • Alex Poythress, who is one of my favorite underrated players in the league and someone whom I thought deserved more of a chance with the Hawks before he got hurt.
  • Dewayne Dedmon, who has quietly developed into a fantastic 3-and-D center in his two years in Atlanta.
  • DeAndre’ Bembry, who was finally able to stay healthy and played all 82 games this season for the Hawks as one of the only defense-first players on the team.
  • Kent Bazemore, who was having a career year before he got hurt in December and fell off a cliff for the remainder of the season. He was posting some historic defensive numbers in the first third of the season despite how downright awful the Hawks were on that end of the floor.

My best piece I wrote on Peachtree Hoops in the last three weeks covered Taurean Prince, his value as a shooter, and what that means for a potential trade this summer as he comes up on the fourth year of his rookie scale contract. Standing 6’8 and hitting 38% of your threes is usually a recipe for success in the NBA, but Prince takes so much else off the table with his turnover-prone selfish play offensively and his downright disappearance on the other end of the floor that he’s really beginning to test the theory of his archetype. You can read my thoughts on Prince in more depth here.

We’ve begun our draft series at Peachtree Hoops as well, where we’ll break down more than 70 prospects in advance of June’s draft. The series home page is here, and you can read my first report on John Konchar here.

The rest of my writing over the last few weeks has been entirely centered on the playoffs.

For The Basketball Writers, I broke down the Los Angeles Clippers’ pick-and-roll attack in Game 1 and specifically how they targeted DeMarcus Cousins with quick-hitting rolls to the basket using Lou Williams’ pocket passing and Montrezl Harrell’s shot-out-of-a-cannon quickness to wreak havoc on the Warriors’ defense.

Unfortunately, Cousins went down with a quad injury in the opening minutes of Game 2 of that series, which threw his future into serious question. I wrote about his future and how this latest injury will affect his 2019 free agency for Forbes.

After the opening weekend of Game 1s in the first round, I noticed that the overwhelming trend from defenses was to pack the paint, stay close to good shooters, and let the bad shooters take as many shots as they like from outside. In particular, I focused on Joel Embiid’s outside shooting in Game 1 against Brooklyn and Cousins’ outside shooting in Game 1 against the Clippers. Embiid adjusted very well in that series; after taking five threes and missing all of them in Game 1, he took just eight more across the next three games in which he played, including none in Game 2, a 22-point win for the Sixers.

In the wake of the pair of five-gamers that was Philadelphia-Brooklyn and Toronto-Orlando, I took a look at whether D’Angelo Russell and Nikola Vucevic have the requisite skills to be high-end playoff players. Those two disappointed in their first real forays into the postseason and are going into free agency this summer with many questions about how well their games will hold up in future playoff settings.

Speaking of playoff disappointments, the Indiana Pacers flopped to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, though the series was very closely contested throughout. Indiana’s defense was the real deal against this Boston team, but they just could not put the ball in the basket consistently. Part of that had to do with their offensive spacing, which I wrote about for The Basketball Writers after Game 3. Myles Turner is the focus of that piece, as he either was unwilling to stand in the corner or the coaching staff instructed him to clog things up under the rim. Either way, Indiana suffered greatly as a result.

Houston and Utah completed their series in five games, but that was an endlessly fascinating series. In particular, Utah’s defensive strategy was immensely interesting; they essentially played behind James Harden to force him toward the rim and away from his stepback three-pointer, which is one of the most dangerous shots in basketball right now. Rudy Gobert was waiting for Harden at the rim and help was flying all over the place to rotate to the various shooters and dunkers Houston had on the floor. Well, that was the theory, anyway, because Utah’s execution was quite poor through the early part of the series and they didn’t have the juice to make a comeback once they were already down. I wrote here on EBR about the defensive scheme I would have liked to see from the Jazz, some of which we saw later on and some of which we didn’t.

My favorite first-round series was the five-gamer between Portland and Oklahoma City, which featured just about everything you could want from a playoff series, even though it only lasted five games. I wrote three articles about this series and could have written three more without covering half of what needed to be said about it. After Game 1, I broke down how Oklahoma City used Steven Adams’ floaters to attack Enes Kanter. After a second consecutive Portland victory, I wrote about how the Trail Blazers were attacking Adams on the other end of the floor, using the Thunder’s aggressiveness against them. After the shot heard ’round the world from Damian Lillard, I dove deep into every possession of the last 3:28 of Portland’s series-clinching victory. That one was particularly fun, I always enjoy going possession-by-possession through a close game and giving my thoughts on how and why things happened that decided the game. I did the same thing earlier in the year after a particularly interesting Philadelphia-Atlanta game.

As we move forward into the next round of the playoffs, I’ve already written a preview of the Golden State-Houston series, which will feature a different defensive strategy against Harden. We’ve already seen Game 1 of that series and while the conversation surrounding it has centered on the referees, there was plenty to take away from that game that had nothing to do with the three guys with the whistles. I’m sure I’ll have more on that series in the next couple weeks.

Every entry won’t be nearly this long, I just wanted to get everything up from the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. It will be a weekly series from here on out, which should bring about fewer articles to be linked than there were here, though once my free agency work kicks up in mid-May in addition to everything related to the playoffs, each weekly post will extend a bit.