Featured

Draft Notes: First Round

The 2020 NBA Draft was as eventful as ever, and keeping track of the moves is tough, but don’t worry, I’ve decided to share with you some notable news from the first round of the draft.

LaMelo Ball

The first three selections in the draft went as planned, and LaMelo Ball going 3rd overall to the Charlotte Hornets was no surprise. I love the fit as it gives LaMelo the perfect situation to step right into an impact role, with even more opportunity for growth depending on what Charlotte does with Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham at the guard spots.

Hornets Select LaMelo Ball with 3rd Overall Pick in 2020 NBA Draft |  Charlotte Hornets

As he sends another son to the NBA as a top-three pick, Lavar Ball reminded us all that his unorthodox and often criticized methods paid off with his choice of hat for the evening.

Image
“I Told You So!”

Deni Avdija

At the ninth overall selection, the Washington Wizards stuck to a draft philosophy as old as time itself—Take the most talented guy remaining on your draft board. As a result, 19-year-old Deni Avdija will take his talents to Washington, D.C

Avdija is the youngest MVP in Israeli League history, and even though his selection might have surprised Wizards fans at nine, they made a pick that represented value based on his pre-draft projections.

Avdija was ranked within the top six by The Athletic and The Ringer, and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard stated he had scouted him since he was 16-years-old, so it’s reasonable to see how once Onyeka Okongwu was off the board, Avdija was the ideal selection.

If you’re unfamiliar with his game, please take the time to check his highlights below and keep in mind to analyze how he moves, creates space, and scores.

Most people watch highlights and just focus on the ball going in the basket, but you can notice plenty about a players ability if you take note of just how surgical they are with their movement in the way they score.

Footwork and technique always show up on tape.

Ricky Rubio Returns to Minnesota

Ricky Rubio returning to the Wolves is a big note of my draft night because of what the move signals. Bringing Rubio back is an indicator to me that the Timberwolves made a trade to give their young team a leader and a proven winner.

Yes, I said what I said. Rubio knows how to win games better than most rotation point guards in the league, and his presence increases the ceiling of every player on the roster.

Rubio is a great veteran guard and will find minutes in the rotation due to his playmaking ability. Lineups Involving Rubio will allow scorers to work off the ball and focus on doing what they do best—put the damn thing in the bucket

After Selecting Anthony Edwards 1st overall and adding other young playmakers in the draft, the Wolves are turning in a direction that takes them a step closer to the playoffs.

Next, Minnesota must make the right moves in free agency to help maximize Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell’s impact in the upcoming season.

Minnesota Timberwolves trade PG Ricky Rubio to Utah Jazz for protected  first-round pick

Celtics Take Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard

Sharpshooting, every team needs it, and the Boston Celtics made spacing the floor a priority on draft night.

For a team planning to be in the thick of the eastern conference, the selections of Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard are picks that can help space the floor on day one.

Celtics select Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard in 1st round
Nesmith (left) Pritchard (right)

Pritchard was one of the most competitive guards in the country at Oregon. He never backed down from a challenge and has an impressive skillset that propelled him to lead the Pac-12 in both scoring and assists a year ago. I project him to be effective off the bench and eventually develop to a point where he can command the Celtics second unit as soon as this season.

Joining up with Pritchard is Vanderbilt product Aaron Nesmith.

Nesmith is a lights-out shooter, and the combination of these players in the first round will help the Celtics lessen the blow of potentially losing Gordon Hayward this offseason.

The chart speaks for itself as the Vanderbilt product is one of the, if not the best catch-and-shoot rookies in the class. His value fills a much-needed hole in the Celtics offensive attack by adding another off-ball shooter to the rotation.

Haliburton Slips

Tyrese Haliburton is one of the most talented mismatches in this class due to his size at the point guard position. He’s also skill-wise everything you want in a playmaking guard, so it was confusing to see him fall to Sacramento with the 12th pick.

The Kings should feel great with the selection, but as a fan, I’m worried that he may not be able to maximize his potential in Sacramento.

Sixers

The 76ers were active during the first draft under new GM Daryl Morey. The Sixers may have one of the steals of the draft with Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey’s selection at 21st overall.

Acquiring Maxey raises the talent level of the roster, and Morey’s trades rid the Sixers of Al Horford’s bloated contract and brought shooting to the team in the form of Danny Green and Seth Curry.

Klay Thompson’s Injury

Without a doubt Klay Thompson Tearing his Achilles is the most impactful story that occurred on draft night. The Warriors potentially lose one of the biggest pieces of their organization as they were primed to make a twilight run in the western conference.

The injury did not result in a change of plans for the team on draft night as they selected the most talented player on their draft board, Memphis big James Wiseman, 2nd overall.

Final Thoughts

The first round of the draft mirrored the unpredictability of the world around us as we saw many surprises one can attribute to the stoppages of sports last spring.

The first round was absent a few all-conference and conference player of the year candidates, so we may see a few gems in this class from late in the draft.

I’ll share my thoughts on some moves from the 2nd round— including undrafted free agents—in my follow up post.

Featured

NBA Draft 2020: Part 1

The 2020 edition of the NBA Draft takes place this Wednesday, and I’m leaving the mock drafts for my second post and focusing today on the atmosphere surrounding such a unique draft, along with answering some draft questions I received from a few readers.

A Unique Player Evaluation Period

Due to the rampaging pandemic, the traditional pre-draft process is different than what we’re used to seeing, and one question that comes to mind is if this the most difficult year to evaluate talent.

The short answer to that in recent memory is yes, but enough information has been compiled on the highest-profile picks so, we should firmly know if their current value is accurate. (Ex. Mid-First, Lottery, Undrafted, etc are generally accurate labels, but the exact position is harder to pinpoint)

Many players primed for selection in the lottery are mocked accurately.

However, a lack of traditional workout periods coinciding with an abrupt end to the NCAA season could be the difference that may massively overrate or underrate a prospect with several question marks headed into the draft.

According to a Bleacher Report article from 2014, a phenomenal NCAA tournament performance increases the draft stock of a high performing player.

For teams, a lack of a traditional evaluation schedule could be the difference in drafting a franchise star or a bust.

For players, it can be the difference between finding the right fit and blossoming into their potential or being out of the league in a few years.

For the 2020 draft, finding the right fit is crucial due to the class having talent but lacking in star quality.

In my opinion—for the NCAA prospects, the lack of the tournament is a big loss. I’m forever a big believer that the tournament shows how the best prospects react to a high-intensity win-or-go home environment. You see how their game looks when everything is in control, you see their body language when they are fighting a deficit, and most importantly, who executes against the best when the clock dwindles into winning time.

Mason Jones

I have plenty of players I wanted to finish their campaigns, but if I had to pick one guy I wish we saw more of, I would select Arkansas guard Mason Jones.

Jones is a player that will go lower than his talent suggests because he is leaving for the draft as a Junior. Without a potential SEC tournament run to improve his stock, (Arkansas beat Vanderbilt in the first round) I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams take younger guys with a higher theoretical ceiling—something I find insane because his numbers are some of the best in the class.

Example:

Player A- 22/5/3 on 45% shooting

Player B- 19/5/2 on 40% shooting

So, I loaded that comparison, but keep in mind that Player B is the likely number one overall selection in the draft, Anthony Edwards. (Assuming the Timberwolves make the pick instead of trading it or deciding to take LaMelo #1)

Edwards has a higher ceiling, but they both played in the same conference against similar competition, and arguably, Jones still has room to grow at the NBA level. However, an abrupt ending to the season didn’t allow us to see the best that Jones might have put forward to increase his stock.

I’ll have to stop here as I work on some more content between now and the draft, but stay locked in as I bring you more content before the picks.

“I’m Back”

Like the NBA this past summer — I have decided to terminate my hiatus and rededicate myself to producing the best content I can deliver during these trying times, but this time, at a more consistent rate.

Before I dive into basketball content, make sure you follow @BucketsDistrict on Twitter for real-time updates on happenings within the world of basketball and districtofbuckets on Instagram for a more freely-expressed love and appreciation of the game.

And just like that, time to get back to basketball.

The NBA’s 2020-2021 Return

Buried under draft talk, trade rumors, and everything going wrong with the Houston Rockets, many fans are forgetting that the NBA and NBPA agreed to place the start of the 2020-2021 season on December 22, 2020.

At first glance, I get a feeling of pure joy, knowing the NBA will be the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season. At second glance, a thought of why the league should make starting around or on Christmas Day the norm comes to mind.

NBA Christmas Day games are always electric, the stars put on a show, and a decision to start the season on that day permanently adds significance for the day — as it relates to basketball — for new fans.

Along with an exciting atmosphere for fans, the league can show off some of the best alternate jerseys on players riding a wave of optimism that can only exist when records are 0-0.

On the schedule front, the league will stay away from the TV rating disaster of playing at the same time as the MLB playoffs, thus placing the Finals back in its rightful place in a competition with the NHL during the dead part of the baseball season.

Looking forward to the return this holiday season.

Who I’m Taking #1 Overall

The 2020 NBA Draft takes place on November 18th, and the basketball world has eyes firmly planted on the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first selection.

I’ve seen reports that say the Wolves are taking Anthony Edwards, and as of the last few weeks, reports saying that they are either planning to take LaMelo Ball or possibly trade back in the draft.

The correct move will show itself in time, but at this moment, if you hold the number one overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, you take one guy.

Anthony Edwards

Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Edwards reacts to Michael Jordan | Charlotte  Observer

I’ll keep this brief. (More DoB draft content coming this weekend)

Anthony Edwards should be the number one pick in the draft.

Time will tell if he will have the best career, but in this current moment, Edwards is the most NBA ready guy you could select at the top of the draft.

He’s a combination of elite physicality and shot-making at the guard spot. You need both to compete every night in the NBA, and with proper coaching and development, Edwards could blossom into a superstar.

Watching Edwards play at Georgia was astounding. When he is feeling it, and the shots are falling, you see the guy who dropped 33 in the second half against Michigan State in Maui last season.

If he maximizes his talent, there is reason to think the Maui style performance can make an appearance in the league on a regular basis.

The Upcoming Week In Buckets

Shoutout to everyone who made it to the end.

I’m working on becoming more consistent with my content, so I wanted to let you know about some of the things I have planned for the next week.

Nov. 15- 2020 NBA Draft Special

This weekend I am releasing my thoughts on the upcoming draft. Everything from the players and the potential implications that draft success can have on teams looking to improve in 2021.

Nov. 18– Walking Buckets

Highlighting a few scorers fans should be excited to score more of.

Nov. 22– Players returning from injury in the 2020-2021 NBA season

A focus on how injured players from the previous season might perform this year.

Can’t wait to get to work.

Nets Set On Nash

Featured

The Brooklyn Nets ended their search for a head coach with the hiring announcement of former Phoenix Suns Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash.

Steve Nash was reportedly 'struck by Durant's despondency' - SFGate

The hiring has seen mixed reviews among the NBA fan community, and today I wanted to take the time to analyze some of the potential pros and cons that could make this hire boom or bust.

Pros: Steve Nash

The Brooklyn Nets’ main benefit from this hire is the acquisition of one of the most accomplished and brilliant basketball minds to ever play the game.

Steve Nash showed a willingness to improve players around him during his playing days, and his mentality should carry over to coaching. Mixing his basketball knowledge and his good relationship with Kevin Durant — evidenced by his days as a Golden State Warriors consultant — is a recipe that could yield success in the big apple.

Nash can mesh the high octane talent on the Nets roster, and more specifically, can handle the task of meshing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to create a title-contending product.

Nash’s expertise will also help the rest of Brooklyn’s rotation, and I am looking forward to how he impacts the guards on the team.

Cons: NBA Head Coaching Experience

Steve Nash accepted this job with a lack of NBA coaching experience. The concerns here are real because lack of experience is what makes a move like this a risk. There are so many moving parts in an NBA organization, so it can be hard to trust an individual without experience on the coaching side of the game.

However, Nash recently held a consultant role with the Golden State Warriors and was able to be close to an organization and view the game from the lens from a non-player.

To sum up the move, I’d say it’s worth the risk because you don’t have doubts about Nash’s basketball mind when it comes to X’s and O’s, and hiring him appeases the superstars. One of the most overlooked parts of the head coach position in the NBA is the management of talent and egos, and I can’t think of a better way to manage all of the personalities on an NBA roster by adding a former MVP.

Featured

District of Buckets All-NBA Bubble Team

The NBA bubble games have lived up to the hype.

Every team in the bubble is playing hard, and the level of basketball has mimicked the first week of the regular season as many players have fresh legs and a rejuvenated hunger to compete among the world’s best.

With the final seeding games approaching, and the official NBA all-bubble team announcement this upcoming Saturday, I decided to put a team together consisting of some of the most impressive players in the NBA restart.

Without further ado, here is the District of Buckets All-NBA Bubble Team.

PG: Damian Lillard

Before basketball stopped, Dame was on one of the hottest stretches of scoring we’ve ever seen from a guard, and his return to basketball has continued his run of high-powered scoring.

Dame Lillard Erupts for 51 as Sixers Fall Short to Blazers

In the last two games, Lillard went off for a combined 112 points against the Mavs and Sixers, and his level of play has Portland sitting in the 8th playoff spot in the western conference.

Lillard told the media that he “Packed for the whole three months” and backed that statement up with his play — The Blazers can clinch their spot as the team to beat in the play-in game with a win in their next matchup.

Per game stats: 37.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.3 assists

Shooting %: 48% field goal, 41.4% 3pt, 88.7% ft

Record: 5-2

+/- : 2.7

Fun Fact: Ever since Patrick Beverly clowned Dame for missing two go-ahead free throws, Lillard has shot 33-of-34 from the line. Dame is also the only Blazer with back-to-back 50-point games.

SG: Devin Booker

Devin Booker’s scoring is no surprise, but the 7-0 bubble winning streak for the Phoenix Suns is one of the biggest surprises in the NBA.

Booker earns his spot here in my lineup over both Harden and Luka Dončić for the one reason he’s often snubbed out of critical acclaim for his scoring abilities in the past — winning — yes, winning. The Suns 7-0 record in the bubble validates that his scoring ability translates to wins in a “win or go home” environment, and places him ahead of two guards that are performing at a similar level.

The Suns are tied with the Blazers and Grizzlies and need to win their next game to clinch a berth in the play-in series.

Per game stats: 31.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists

Shooting %: 49.7% field goal, 34.9% 3pt, 93.5% ft

Record: 7-0

+/- : 8.0

Fun Fact: Devin Booker has scored exactly 35 points in three straight games.

SF: T.J. Warren

T.J. Warren was averaging 19.8 points per game heading into the bubble, but nobody expected him to put on an offensive clinic in Orlando.

NBA: T.J. Warren scores 53 points in Pacers win over Sixers

T.J. Warren has always been a good scorer, but his willingness to fire more from deep, and his ability to hit at a high clip has taken his game from solid to show-stopping.

After Domantas Sabonis’ injury early in the restart, Warren has established his place in the lineup even further and is a driving force for any continuing success Indiana might find in the bubble.

Based on his play for the Pacers, it is safe to say they got a monster return in a trade that only saw them give up cash considerations.

Per game stats: 31.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists

Shooting %: 57.8% field goal, 52.4% 3pt, 88.9% ft

Record: 4-2

+/- : 11.7

Fun Fact: On August 1st, Warren put up 53 points on 69 percent shooting — Nice— against the 76ers.

PF: Kristaps Porzingis

I’m gonna be upfront and say that Kristaps’ place on this team is purely about putting the ball in the bucket. Porizngis is the only player on this list who holds a negative plus-minus and a sub .500 bubble record. However, he has been individually impressive and is the bubble player that I would want at the 4 in a lineup.

Porzingis scores at a high rate and his production will be desperately needed when the Mavs take on Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

Per game stats: 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists

Shooting %: 47.6% field goal, 38.1% 3pt, 89.1% ft

Record: 2-4

+/- : -4.7

Fun Fact: On July 31st, Kristaps had 39 points and 16 Rebounds against the Houston Rockets.

C: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has been playing great ball for the Sixers in the bubble. Embiid looks to be the main driving force for Philly in the playoffs, as they will be without Ben Simmons for the foreseeable future. Despite injuring his ankle and missing a game, Embiid’s play thus far has been enough for him to secure the center spot in my All-Bubble Team lineup.

Per game stats: 24.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists

Shooting %: 51.2 field goal, 76% ft

Record: 3-2 in games played

+/- : 3.6

Fun Fact: In the Sixers’ loss to the Pacers in the bubble, Embiid put up 41 points and 21 rebounds.



Featured

TBT 2020 Recap

TBT 2020 lived up to the hype and served as an oasis in the middle of the sports desert during a tumultuous year. The tournament showed us that with a strict quarantine bubble and vigorous testing, sports can still take place even during a pandemic.

It was a pleasure to be granted media access to The TBT, and I am forever grateful for being able to get a close look at how sports media works. (Mostly via Zoom)

This post is a quick shoutout to the two teams who made the deep run to the title match, and a short video of some of the action that took place late in the tournament.

The Champs

The tournament delivered high-quality play and compelling storylines that captivated the attention of the basketball world for a “March Madness” like atmosphere in the middle of July.

Rising out of the madness were the Marquette Golden Eagles Alumni, who, behind Tournament MVP Darius Johnson-Odom, downed Sideline Cancer 78-73 in the title game and won the $1,000,000 prize.

The Golden Eagles Alumni (pic by Ben Solomon)

The Golden Eagles boasted four players with NBA experience. (Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Travis Diener, and Jamil Wilson)

Experience at the highest level of basketball is what proved to be the difference as they remained cool, calm, and collective down the stretch.

The Golden Eagles also did a phenomenal job of holding Sideline Cancer’s leading scorer Marcus Keene to only 6 points on the night, a reward that validates the aggressive defensive scheme that was stressed the whole game.

We witnessed a great run from the Golden Eagles, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they will defend their title in TBT 2021.

Sideline Cancer

The TBT 2020 runner-up is first in the hearts of many.

Sideline Cancer represents the Greg and Kathy Griffith Family Foundation, a foundation dedicated to eradicating pancreatic cancer.

This incredibly talented team played for a great cause, and for their late teammate Jermaine Marshall.

You could notice their extra motivation, the backstory of the team struck an emotional cord as they delivered a magical run to the title game.

Marcus Keene, Mo Creek, and Remy Abell hit huge shots the whole tournament, and the team looked resilient after losing former Maryland big man Diamond Stone in the first game.

Through all the ups and downs, this team clawed and fought every single time they stepped on the floor.

I look to see them making noise yet again deep into TBT 2021.

TBT Highlight Mix

Walking Bucket: Isaiah Thomas

Basketball—at its core—is a simple game.

You can analyze it in a million different ways, but at the end of the day, if you want to stand atop the NBA’s best offensively, the ball has to go in the bucket.

This week, I wanted to show my appreciation for one of my favorite players to watch, a player who is the personification of the term Walking Bucket.

Isaiah Thomas has been scoring at a high level for as long as I can remember, I was first introduced to his game when I watched his Washington Huskies in the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament. (Now the Pac-12)

Thomas’ moment of the tournament occurred in the championship game versus the Arizona Wildcats.

In overtime, tied 75-75, I watched as Thomas—who by the way, had 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting—slowly walked the ball up the floor, shook his opponent with a right-to-left cross that he turned into a stepback fadeaway jumper that sailed through the basket as time expired.

“SHAKE, CROSSOVER, STEPBAAAACK!!!!”- Gus Johnson

That shot is the type of moment all players and fans live for.

Pure magic.

The level of execution displayed on that play developed into a nightly experience in the NBA, and during the 2016-2017 season with the Boston Celtics, Thomas took his talents to a new level.

I decided to highlight the ’16-’17 season because even though I.T has shown elite scoring his whole career, this year, he was seemingly unstoppable.

In the 2016-2017 season, Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game (3rd in NBA) on 46.3 percent shooting from the field, 37.9 percent from three, and 90.9 percent from the foul line.

Thomas willed the Celtics to the 1-Seed in the Eastern Conference (53-29 record) amid a season that saw him record his 2nd consecutive All-Star appearance and a place on the All-NBA 2nd team.

It was awesome to see how high he raised his game, but it was even more impressive once you understand the obstacles that he overcame that year. He also played so well in clutch moments he earned the nickname “The King in the 4th”.

Thomas played through grief, a hip injury, and losing his front tooth in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Even while dealing with all of that, he still rose to the occasion. Watching his 53-point game in honor of his late sister’s birthday is forever one of my favorite basketball memories—despite it coming at the expense of a win for my Wizards.

I could keep talking about the play of Isaiah Thomas, but the best way to understand how special the ’16-’17 season was, is to witness some of it for yourself.

Featured

Black Lives Matter: The Importance of Black Activism and A Shoutout To Stephen Jackson

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, we’ve witnessed iconic images of the United States that will define this time in history.

We’ve seen everything from the ugliness of police brutality, to images of citizens uniting across the country, expressing their first amendment rights.

In a changing world, and amidst a potential return to play, the NBA is finding itself at the center of the social issues currently captivating the Nation’s attention.

Boston Celtic Jaylen Brown protesting in Atlanta

The political mobilization of Black athletes in the U.S impacts the young generation of African-Americans. An impact I’ve witnessed firsthand through experiences with my father.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the world’s stage at the Olympics in 1968, along with Muhammad Ali making his stance against the Vietnam war were both images of Black pride that occurred during my father’s youth.

I could always tell these moments carried weight for him, and I firmly believe the images of athlete activism that we see today will hold the same weight for the youth going forward.

The importance of seeing the most visible athletes take stands for what they believe in will forever lie in the beauty of children seeing their superheroes fight for them.

black power salute – Good Black News

Some recent examples of this include a moment in 2012, a brief moment when the Miami Heat posed with their hoodies up to show solidarity after the killing of Trayvon Martin.

In the time following their message, we’ve seen NBA players wear “I can’t breathe” warm-up shirts and slowly increase the use of their platform to speak about the need for social change.

We should not always look to athletes when we have societal issues, but due to the clout they hold in our society, their voices and actions matter, and can amplify the words echoing in the streets.

LeBron James' and other athletes' protest over Trayvon Martin ...
The Miami Heat Showing Solidarity With Trayvon Martin

Black athlete demonstration is also important because it combats the destructive idea of Black Exceptionalism, or in layman’s terms, the idea that being seen as exceptional is enough to omit an individual from many issues plaguing the community at large.

Unifying with the people shows that it is impossible for us to “Talented Tenth” our way to progress, it’s going to take as many bodies as we can get to push for change.

Stephen Jackson

Stephen Jackson and Karl-Anthony Towns

NBA Champion Stephen Jackson is the man in the middle of it all.

He’s the closest big name in sports connected to George Floyd, and as a result, he has decided to use his platform to pressure the nation to improve.

Jackson has marched in the streets, taken interviews across the country, and mobilized NBA players to fight alongside him.

Recently, Jackson expressed his opinion on the NBA returning. He mentioned a return to play could steal focus from what is going on in the streets.

Jackson was the type of player who brought an edge to every team he played for.

Every game, his opponents would feel his presence, and he brings the same energy to the sports media world on his show “All The Smoke” and to his role in the fight for social justice in the United States.

In honoring his friend George Floyd, Jackson is doing whatever he can to make the world a better place.

I’m with him, I hope you are too.

Derrick Rose of Chicago Bulls wears 'I Can't Breathe' shirt in reference to  Eric Garner

District of Buckets 2K20 Challenge: ’96 Bulls Vs. ’13 Heat (Games 1 & 2)

Featured

In the 70 plus days since the NBA shut down operations, the same old conversations comparing basketball eras have been recycled incessantly. I decided I was tired of it and started lining up hypothetical matchups between NBA greats on NBA2K20.

NBA 2k20 is a cool tool to visualize how in-game matchups might work. For all the negativity I talk about the game 2K does an adequate job of programming tendencies and abilities to get an accurate view of play styles, and the way players work within their teams.

Naturally, I created a poll on twitter to decide which matchup to try first.

The 72-Win Chicago Bulls and the Big-3 Miami Heat are both impressive teams in their own right, and a matchup between these teams allows for us to also look at how a matchup between Prime LeBron James and Michael Jordan might play out.

Rules and Notes:

The Bulls have home-court advantage due to having a better regular season record (72-10)

I am playing as the home team in every game and making adjustments as the games continue, as would happen in an actual playoff series.

9-min quarters due to the increased speed of 2K in comparison to an actual game.

Game 1: Bulls 104-92 Heat (Bulls Lead 1-0)

Matchup Notes:

I started the game with Rodman on LeBron, didn’t go well. I then Switched Pippen on LeBron, Pippen could bother him on the perimeter with his combination of size, quickness, and strength. Rodman helping on the drive proved to be effective. I strayed away from putting Jordan on LeBron defensively because I needed him to use more energy on offense.

Despite LeBron’s injury at the start of the 3rd, Wade and Bosh were able to hold their own, but without LeBron, Jordan’s offensive output was too much to match.

A Mario Chalmers/Ron Harper matchup at the PG spot is intriguing. Harper was an incredible defender, but Chalmers is more than capable of taking advantage of his opportunities when teams have to focus on stopping the Big 3.

The Heat threw Shane Battier and Mike Miller at Pippen, Battier is the better defender of the two, but Guarding Pippen is a whole other level. Even though Battier is a solid defender, Pippen can exploit any mistakes on the defensive end better than most.

Wade v. Jordan: Wade will still get his points, but dealing with Jordan for the majority of the game tired him out and limited his offensive scoring output. Wade put up a great fight and carried the Heat offensively after LeBron got hurt, but eventually, he runs out of steam having to deal with the G.O.A.T.

Chicago Bulls Luc Longley and Bill Wennington are looking at a LONG SERIES of dealing with the slashing of James and Wade, along with the skill of Chris Bosh. Despite being outmatched, these two get a boost for having Rodman crash the boards with them. This combination allows Chicago to clean the glass, and as a result, they have won the rebound battle through two games.

Notable Stats: (Bulls)

Jordan: 51/4/5 (20pts in the 4th)

Pippen: 19/4/2 (7-14), (2-4) from three

Rodman:15/14/2 (7-9)

Luc Longley:9/15/5/1 (4-5)

48-34 Rebounds, Trailed by 17 before LeBron left game.

(Heat)

LeBron: 27/6/5 (Left in 3rd) +17 +/-

Wade: 25/2/1 (11-21) from the field

Bosh 10/15/3 and 1 block

Udonis Haslem +13 +/-

Game 2: Heat 117-110 Bulls

The main differences between Game 2 and Game 1:

  • LeBron played the whole game and caught fire in the 1st with 24 points
  • Pippen was cold (6-15) from the field

Matchup notes: Pippen was not holding his own against LeBron early and it took me switching MJ on him to slow his production down. LeBron still dropped buckets on buckets en route to a 60-point game.

Miami ends game on 27-13 run.

Chi- 12 turnovers

Mia- 20 points off turnovers

Scroll to 2nd tweet for game 2 highlights.

Notable stats: (Bulls)

Jordan: 44/6/4/1/3 (18-31), (1-4) from three

Pippen: 16pts on (6-15), (2-3) from three (-21) +/-

Longley: 12/5/1/3/1

Kerr: (0-4) from three

Kukoč: 6/7/6

(Heat)

LeBron: 60/9/4/2/1 (22-44), (2-4) from three (10-12) from the line

Wade: 22/8/5 (10-18)

Bosh: 16/11/1/2 (6-9)

Mario Chalmers: 8 assists, (+23) +/- (Highest on team)

After two the series heads to Miami all tied up. 1-1.

I’ll be bringing you the rest of the series with detailed analysis in the coming days and more DoB content every week on this site, twitter, and Instagram.

Featured

Like Mike: Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant dead at 41: Michael Jordan pays tribute

Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” gave us a look at the public image of Michael Jordan. The highlight of his marketability, in the public eye, was without a doubt his “Like Mike” Gatorade commercial.

The importance of this ad is the way it lifts Jordan on the highest pedestal for athletes. Reaching this pedestal is a seemingly unmatchable goal, but one kid born in Philly did everything in his power to be like Mike.

In the short amount of screen time we saw Kobe last night, we witnessed the basketball connection he had with Michael Jordan. We saw a young Kobe picking Jordan’s brain during the 1998 All-Star game and the reaction the latter had to a young player with a “Killer instinct” much like his own.

The importance of those small moments of recognition were the building blocks of a relationship that helped build up the next player to inspire a generation of hoopers to pick the ball up and start playing.

“I don’t get 5 championships without him” – Kobe Bryant on Michael Jordan

Kobe’s game emulated Jordan in ways we may never see again.

The main similarity on offense is the fadeaway jumper. On defense, a calculating mind, tenacity, and pride in defending the basket linked MJ and Kobe.

The biggest takeaway for me from the limited screen time in episode 5 for Kobe is the instant recognition of the dedication to the game MJ recognized in him.

Mamba Forever.