Is LeBron James Going to Win His 5th MVP Award?

He Just Leads the Path For Us": Giannis Antetokounmpo Sees LeBron ...
(Image/Essentially Sports)

This season, as always, the superstars and titans of the league have been battling to earn the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award. Two of the main contenders are the Los Angeles Lakers superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.  

The King of Los Angeles, LeBron James is like a fine wine that gets better with age. At the age of 35, he has led the purple and gold to the top spot in the Western Conference with an impressive record of 49 wins and 14 losses.  

James is the facilitator and is constantly talking and shouting out plays. His passing this year has been exceptional and that along with his basketball IQ makes him one of the best playmakers in the league. This season James is averaging 10.6 assists per game. This is the highest in the league with the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young in second, with 9.3 per game. Alongside his playmaking skills, James’ scoring has been dominant, averaging an impressive 25.7 points per game. Most of these points come from his unprecedented ability to get to the rim with 14 drives per game which equates to 57% of his points.  

He has been a threat from deep by being just below a league-average 3-point shooter and has increased his efficiency from last year (from .339% to .349%). This efficiency along with his great mid-range game and rim finishing equates to an effective field goal percentage of .555%. Which combined with 19.6 field-goals attempted per game is a hugely impressive feat.  

Defensively James has been solid and the infamous chase down block has been on display many times in the city of angels. He has been grabbing a lot of rebounds with 7.9 per game, of which 6.9 are defensive. His insane athleticism along with his strength allows him to guard anyone if needed, and when players do get past him, he has the speed to recover and defend the rim. 

When looking at Jacob Goldstein’s Player Impact Plus-Minus (PIPM) metric, LeBron James comes out as third in the league with a hugely impressive 6.10. Looking at the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) metric James has a rating of 26.0, which is in the top 10 in the league. 

The 35-year-old superstar has been the focal point for this exceptional Lakers team. He has led the team to the top in a very competitive conference and has had some huge performances against other championship-contending sides. In the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 6, James had a sublime 37 points in 36 minutes. The game after that was against the Los Angeles Clippers in a great derby win where he had 28 points in 34 minutes. Both teams are very strong contenders and favourites to win the championship. James showed them what they should expect and fear in the playoffs.  

LeBron James have proven this season that he is an extremely strong candidate for the MVP award. At the age of 35 there’s still no sign of him slowing down. 

Navigate through the other MVP candidates via the link below.

NEXT: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Rebirth of the Big Man: How the Lakers and Bucks Are Bringing Back the Big

(Image/Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

After years of ascending small-ball, the Association’s best are winning with size.

The last 20 years of NBA basketball can be seen broadly as a process of reorienting the focus of play from the low post to the perimeter – specifically to the three-point line. The NBA in the 1990s was a brutal place, where “freedom of movement” did not really exist and intimidating defensive bigs took sadistic glee in physically punishing anyone who dared attack their baskets.

The most common strategy NBA teams employed to deal with those bigs was isolation offense. The two general options featured either a countering big large and skilled enough to take the punishment and score anyway (Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson), or a smaller player who could operate in space while the bigs manipulated the illegal defense rules to clear the paint (Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller).

Beginning in the early 2000s the league decided to actively discourage isolation ball, particularly from the post. Anxious to prop up viewership after Jordan’s second retirement and faced with a seemingly unstoppable post player in O’Neal, the league reasoned that loosening up the ball and refocusing play toward the perimeter would make the game more exciting for fans.

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First to go was the illegal defense, changes to which permitted partial help positions that fell short of a double team, effectively legalizing zone defense for the first time in the NBA. The variety of additional defensive coverages this rule change allowed made scoring in isolation from the post significantly harder. Then came the outlawing of hand checks and the freedom of movement rules, both designed to give perimeter players the room to run freewheeling motion offenses.

The collection of new defensive rules made post-ups with bulky centers a less attractive and less efficient option on offense, even in the presence of a mismatch. The consequence was that when elite teams – eg the LeBron James-era Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors – chose to go small and space the floor with a bevy of strong wings rather than play traditional bigs, teams who did play those bigs were exposed on defense and unable to compensate offensively.

The center position became smaller, quicker, and emphasized switchability over rim protection on the defensive end. On offense, former back-to-the-basket bigs found themselves required to stand in the corner or the “dunker spot” as floor spacers while their ball-handlers attacked the rim. Those who were unable to space effectively found they had little left to contribute.

Collectively, these changes paved the way for the brand of maximally spaced, three-point gunning, wing-dominant basketball we have seen in the association for most of the last decade. In the process, they banished the kind of slow, bruising defensive big so popular in the 90s and 00s. Guys like Roy Hibbert and Timofey Mozgov, once important pieces on contending teams, found the market for their services wither and die in the space of two years.

Offense

As mentioned above, the necessary thing for a modern big to provide on offense is spacing. Spacing in the new NBA generally comes with the connotation of three-point shooting, but that need not be the case. Non-shooting lob threats such as Javale McGee and Jarrett Allen have leveraged their length and athleticism to space the floor in the third, vertical dimension rather than laterally toward the three-point line.

There is a simple reason why a pure lob threat can be impactful in the NBA today in a way that a more skilled back-to-the-basket scorer who lacks athleticism cannot; offenses no longer begin in the post. Initiating the offense from the post position allows 20 years’ worth of rule changes to work against it.

It is much more efficient to penetrate from the perimeter, where the rules are friendlier to the offensive player, and then allow the big to read the defensive help and act as a finisher. Regardless, a plausible big on a successful NBA team must be able to either step out to the three-point line or be a lob threat and elite finisher from the screen and roll.

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The Lakers have gone all-in on the latter approach, sacrificing more shooting from the 5 positions in exchange for athletically gifted finishers. They are able to do so because both McGee and Dwight Howard are significant lob threats and skilled finishers around the basket from the bounce pass. The offense rarely runs through them, but they make themselves essential by expanding the variety as well as the location of passes a ball-handler can make.

Anthony Davis provides yet another degree of complexity as he is a finishing threat from the pocket pass, lob, or three-point line. LeBron James, with the potential to shoot or drive from all three levels, finds that he regularly has several shooters and a lob threat/finisher from which to select his preferred assist. Regardless of who provides the help, he is always one pass from a good shot.

The Bucks, alternatively, have focused on the shooting big approach with players like Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. Uniquely in their case, Giannis Antetokounmpo is properly classified (for now) as a non-shooting big but is also their primary ball-handler. As a result, the Bucks have found it convenient to play a 5-out offense. They trust Antetokounmpo’s superior physical gifts to break down the defense and give him an array of three-point shooters to choose from based on the source of the help defense.

Defense

The defensive end of the floor is the most important for bigs. As analytics gurus since Dean Oliver have pointed out, even in the days of the illegal defense, it was never necessary for a successful offensive team to have a dominant big. Elite perimeter players can score just as well.

On the contrary, almost every great historical defense has been anchored by an intimidating big. The reason is obvious; the two most efficient shots in the game are layups/dunks and foul shots, and a skilled defensive big significantly reduces the number of such shots an offense can produce.

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The problem, as illustrated, is that with the increased efficiency of the three-point shot in the last ten years such a player must be able to reasonably contest the three-point line as well as rim protect. If the big cannot do both, the defense has to find some way to compensate on the perimeter in order to keep him from being played off the floor.

The Bucks are able to play a slower-footed big like Lopez on defense in a way most teams would not be. They can do so because of the absurd length and athleticism across the remainder of their lineup. Their array of wings can cover the necessary space on the perimeter to allow Lopez to use his talents and timing as a rim protector without being taken advantage of by perimeter players with too much regularity. The fact that they can make their rotations more quickly means they either don’t have to switch quite so frequently or are able to recover faster.

The Lakers, by contrast, have been blessed with three proper bigs who have the combination of quickness and length needed to contain ball-handlers in Davis, Howard, and McGee. In important game situations throughout the season, the Lakers have trusted those three in 1v1 situations against smaller players and found that the switch is not systematically exploitable.

The Formula

The scarcity of the true big in recent years is largely due to the rapidly changing nature of the position. It is hard enough to last 5 or 10 years in the grueling climate of the NBA, but to be asked to do so from a position the demands of which are shifting in ways many players are unable to accommodate seem downright cruel. Teams have found it easier to play small and diversify skill-sets than to have to pick their poison with players who are more physically gifted but less versatile.

The Lakers and Bucks have taken two distinct but related approaches to solving these problems which deliver a solid collective blueprint for how to play with real size in the modern NBA.

(Image/Natheniel Butler/Getty Images)

The Bucks use their shooting bigs to provide maximum space for Antetokounmpo on offense while covering for their perimeter defensive deficiencies with the combination of elite size and athleticism at the other positions. The Lakers, meanwhile, have chosen to employ multiple switchable rim-protectors for maximum defensive versatility, while compensating for their lack of shooting bigs with several elite lob threats who provide vertical spacing.

Both choices have benefits and drawbacks. The Bucks are far and away from the best in the NBA at defending the rim, in part because they always have their primary rim protector somewhere in the vicinity. The Lakers conversely allow fewer three-pointers than the Bucks because their switchable bigs are able to deter otherwise-good shots.

For all their stylistic differences, the essential commonality is that these two teams have found a way to play big without being overextended by jump-shooting, wing-heavy lineups of the sort that have been the most successful in recent years. The fact that the two teams doing this most effectively are the two best teams in the league by every commonly used metric is suggestive.

There are a number of cogent arguments to be made that the NBA ought to consider rule changes to revive some of the skilled big play lost in the last 20 years. Even in the absence of those changes, though, it seems that perhaps – like many dinosaurs – the NBA center is not dying out so much as simply evolving. As more bigs are brought into the league to specifically fill the strategic niches exposed by teams like the Lakers and Bucks, playing larger may well find itself in vogue once again.


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Looking at Anthony Davis’ Injury History

(Image/Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

With a minor thumb injury in pre-season and recent shoulder troubles, is Anthony Davis’ injury history a concern?

It could have been so much worse. During the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 2nd pre-season game against the Brooklyn Nets on October 12, Anthony Davis went to reach for the ball, a routine defensive play, however, in doing so his thumb was forced in an unnatural position causing Davis to grimace with pain. Luckily the injury was minor, and he returned after a few days.

In the Lakers’ recent regular season game against the Memphis Grizzlies on October 30, Davis left the game with an apparent shoulder issue, much to the worries of fans. But returned to drop a historic, record-breaking 40 point and 20 rebound performance, in a blowout victory.

However, with both short-lived debacles, it has left many fans of the purple and gold wondering about Anthony Davis’ previous injury history.

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(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Is Anthony Davis injury prone?

Upon looking at Anthony Davis’s injury history since he entered the league as the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, it is easy to jump to the conclusion and label him as injury prone.

Without a shadow of a doubt, you can look at the laundry list of injuries he has picked up during his time in the NBA. However, you only need to look at the roster in which Davis had around him to understand how he was able to pick up a multitude of injuries,

During his time with the New Orleans Pelicans, the best players Davis had at his disposal were Jrue Holiday and for one single season, DeMarcus Cousins. While both of these players are former All-Stars, the vast majority of possession went through Davis’ hands, an unusual request to ask of a big man.

With the ball being in Davis’ hands and so much being asked of him so young, Davis was asked to play a ridiculous amount of minutes since he entered the league. 

Each year he ranks in the top percentile of minutes played in the NBA which can lead to a higher probability of picking up an injury. He joins the likes of current teammate, LeBron James, on this list.

With James previously having Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland, and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami, it took a lot of the pressure off of his body, leading him to do his best work.

With a lighter load, a deep roster, and players like Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James, you are going to see Anthony Davis play with a lot less stress and strain on his body, you will see a player with a lot more energy and we will see a potential MVP caliber season from the 26-year-old superstar.

Another caveat to add is the hiring of Dr. Judy Seto to the Lakers staff. Dr. Seto is world-renowned in her field and was responsible for keeping Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on the floor during his illustrious career.

Having Dr. Seto available, as well as the Lakers being closely linked to UCLA medical center, gives the franchise some of the best resources to keep each player in top physical shape throughout the season.

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(Image/Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports)

Will Anthony Davis ever complete a full NBA season?

As NBA fans, we expect superstars to play every single game, we want to switch on the game and see LeBron James and Anthony Davis for 82 regular-season games putting opposing teams to the sword. While this would be amazing to see, it just isn’t that realistic in this day and age.

In 2019, playing a superstar every game is more counterproductive than you think. All basketball fans should want one thing for their franchises and that is playoff basketball, and competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Look no further than the 2015/16, 73-9 Golden State Warriors. A truly historic team that redefined excellence in the regular season.

Having beaten Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls’ regular-season record, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that this team would go on to complete their historic season by lifting the NBA Championship trophy, capping off an unforgettable campaign. However, LeBron James and Co. had different ideas. The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Warriors in 7 games. 

The likes of Draymond Green and Steph Curry lamented that the strain of the regular season, and trying to break the regular-season record left them fatigued during their playoff run. Understandably so.

As long as Anthony Davis is a Laker, we shouldn’t want to see him play 82 games in a season. With the strength in depth the Lakers have in the forward positions, him or James should sit for back-to-back games. They both shouldn’t play significant minutes against lottery teams, and they certainly shouldn’t be playing every night of a long road trip.

The Lakers have enough depth across the roster to get to the playoffs without much exertion. The ideal scenario is having a fully healthy, and refreshed, LeBron James and Anthony Davis going into the postseason. Who can then give it everything to bring the purple and gold another championship banner. We don’t hang divisional banners.

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(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Is Anthony Davis the player the Los Angeles Lakers should build their future around?

Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the entire NBA, a top-tier superstar, one of the greatest defensive players the NBA has seen in a long long time, and an absolute monster on the offensive end, so….  absolutely he is the player the Los Angeles Lakers should build their future around post-LeBron James.

However, the purple and gold never rest on their laurels. You can bet that the day LeBron James is no longer a Laker is the day in which the purple and gold will be gunning hard for that 2nd superstar to join Anthony Davis. 

Early bets indicate that current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the Laker’s top target to join Davis. There wouldn’t be a better duo. 

With Davis and Antetokounmpo, you get two of the best two-way players in the entire NBA, you get two of the most physically gifted players to enter the NBA since LeBron James, you get two unstoppable forces who can destroy you any way they see fit and you get two players whose games suit each other perfectly.

In Antetokounmpo, you get the ball handler who at nearly 7-foot tall can see over every defense and who drops dimes at an elite level. You get an unstoppable freight train in transition and you get a player who has that mean streak in him that will stomp on your throat and keep you down there.

In Davis, you get the most well-rounded power forward/center the NBA has seen since Tim Duncan. The brilliance of Davis is his ability to beat you from anywhere.

If you disrespect his game from beyond the arc, he will pull up in your face and drain the 3-ball. If you give him an inch on the perimeter, he will use his elite handles for a big man to embarrass and blow by with his speed en route to a monstrous dunk.

Now try and contain him in the paint. If you put one man on him, he is going to pick them apart with his vast array of advanced post moves, he can also pull this off with double-teams all over him. But for arguments sake, let’s say the double-team stops him from getting off his shot, he has the elite vision to pick out a player anywhere on the court for a wide-open shot.

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(Image/Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s not get started on Davis’ ability to finish in the pick-and-roll.

With all the hyperbole about Davis’ offensive capabilities, you might think that is his strong suit. Oh no-no-no. 

Where Davis is truly the elite of the elite, is on the defensive end. 

He is one of the best rim protectors in NBA history. You get a player who can lock down every single big man in the NBA and who is more than capable of locking down some of the best small forwards in the NBA also. 

Any player who brings the ball into the paint against Anthony Davis will have their shot swatted away, their shot altered, or will walk away from the encounter in considerable more pain than when they started.

Banging down low in the paint with Anthony Davis is like backing into a brick wall that won’t give. With his otherworldly length, Davis will alter every shot you take in his vicinity.

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If you think a LeBron James and Anthony Davis combination is going to be incredible. Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a pairing for the ages as two players in the height of their powers coming together to decimate the rest of the NBA. For any Laker fans out there, pray that this comes true.

With Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers have a secure and prosperous future. The purple and gold have a player who when it is all said and done will be mentioned in the same breath as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and Wilt Chamberlain. That’s rarified air. 

Here is hoping that Davis can bring a Championship to Laker land like the greats of old did before him.

By Jonathan Kiernan (@KiernanJonathan)


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Have the Lakers Built a Competent Roster?

(Image/USA Today Sports)

Following Kawhi Leonard‘s decision to snub the Los Angeles Lakers to join cross-city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, Rob Pelinka and Co. moved fast to form a competitive roster in an alternative manner.

The Lakers signed the likes of Danny Green, Quinn Cook, DeMarcus Cousins, Avery Bradley, Troy Daniels, and Jared Dudley, whilst also retaining the talents of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and Alex Caruso. All construct a deep, experienced roster that is expected to challenge at the very top of the NBA in the upcoming season.

Many are praising the Lakers’ front office for the moves made so far. The atmosphere surrounding the franchise is a lot more positive than it was just a few months ago. It’s debatable whether the Lakers will be favourites to win the 2019/20 NBA title, but they should be there or thereabouts, depending on health.

We have brought some UK fans on board to give their views on a variety of topics, including; Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers’ off-season moves so far, the last roster spot, expectations moving forward, and more. Please welcome Mark, Jonathan, Ryan, and Timi.

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Q: On July 10, Kawhi Leonard opted to sign for the Los Angeles Clippers over the Lakers and Raptors, what were your thoughts on his decision?

Mark: “Initially I was gutted. The prospective fit of Kawhi alongside AD and LeBron was so tantalising. In the end though he chose the Clippers, so I can only pity him.”

Jonathan: “My first reaction to Kawhi signing with the Clippers was like a gut punch. I think most Laker fans bought into the reports linking him to the Lakers because numerous high profile reporters who seemed to be in the know leaned heavily towards the Purple and Gold. After the initial shock wore off and the Lakers landed some very solid pieces who fit in within the team dynamic and direction the gut punch turned into optimism for the coming season.”

Ryan: “I was annoyed with the length of time it had taken for the decision. I did feel like it had been one big game and that he probably had no intention of coming here in the first place. At the same time I wasn’t all too disappointed as it allowed us to go out and gather players to build a better team with depth.”

Timi: “Honestly at first I was disappointed but then I started to think about all these great duos in the league, and how exciting the NBA is going to be! I’m a Lakers fan first but I care about the whole league. Plus, the Lakers did well to build a solid team that I think can go up against anybody. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of competition.”

Q: Following Leonard’s decision, the Lakers took an alternative route and built a deep roster. We’ll get into specific players soon, but was this a good route for the franchise to take? Is it better throughout an 82-game regular season, plus playoffs, than Kawhi?

Mark: “I would take Kawhi over the alternatives any day of the week and twice on Sunday. You can have all the depth you like, good luck beating Kawhi, AD and LeBron.”

Jonathan: “I definitely think that the Lakers made the right decision in going for depth rather than adding another max player. Maybe if they were given the choice they might have chosen another max guy but with Kawhi taking so long most of the top players came off the board. I am firmly of the belief that Kawhi was the only player worthy of the Lakers giving up all of their cap space.”

Ryan: “Kawhi can’t play all season, he was having more nights off than anyone else this past season and missed a full season through injury not that long ago. I’m glad we’ve been able to add depth with quality players who can perform well instead of hedging our bets on a big 3, where we weren’t guaranteed to have all 3, all season.”

Timi: “I think that time will tell, but let’s not forget that Kawhi himself needs load management. Having a deep team around 2 superstars, and a couple guys who could have star seasons in Kuz and a healthy Boogie, is nothing to complain about. If Kawhi is on the table you go for him, but given what the Warriors went through, perhaps the alternative is better.”

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(Image/ Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Q: The Lakers’ first signing after the news was Danny Green, who was the last premier “3 and D” player left on the market. In the guard category overall, the purple and gold secured KCP, Cook, Rondo, Caruso, Bradley, and Daniels. What are your views on each signing? Is that enough shooting around LeBron and AD?

Mark: “Signing Green felt like a small victory and an important one. The other signings are OK – Rondo aside. I just don’t get re-signing Rondo. For the likes of KCP, Cook and Bradley, there is potential value there, but they all need to have bounce-back seasons. Fortunately, that is made a lot easier when you’re playing with 2 superstars.”

Jonathan: “I am hopeful that the likes of Danny Green and Avery Bradley can add the defense and 3-point shooting we need and I feel the likes of Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels can give us extra shooting off the bench. I think the Lakers added the perfect amount of fire power and defense to the roster to compliment LeBron and AD. One more solid Small Forward would round out the roster nicely.”

Ryan: “I feel like we are still lacking one player, ideally it’s Iggy as I feel his playoff and big game experience could be key in the last few months of the season. I wasn’t overly happy with the idea of KCP coming back as I’m not too sure what he adds at all. Rondo could be a great addition if he understands he’s for use in the second unit. Cook I really like and can be a great asset in the long run as can Caruso.”

Timi: “I think there’s plenty of shooting to go around. Danny Green is one of the best in the league, Cook and Caruso are also snipers (more than 40% from deep). But then you’ve got guys like Bradley, KCP, Kuz who can all put up shooting numbers above league average. Let’s not forget that Rondo shot 36% last year, although at very low frequency. At the very least, he’ll be able to knock down the open shot, which I think is all we’ll need from him.”

Q: DeMarcus Cousins has joined the party too, on a cheap deal. Was this a good move for the Lakers? With JaVale McGee re-signing, who do you think should start at center?

Mark: “Signing Cousins was a great move. The upside could be phenomenal. I would try and ease Boogie into the starting lineup. One thing we learned last year is that JaVale can contribute, but he cannot play starters minutes.”

Jonathan: “If the Lakers value floor spacing then signing Cousins was essential. While Davis can shoot from the 3-point line, he seems to do most of his damage in the paint. Having JaVale start would lead to a clogged lane and would affect the floor spacing. I firmly believe Cousins should be the starter and hopefully he can return to the beast we saw in Sacramento and New Orleans.”

Ryan: “I’d start AD at 5 but he’s said he doesn’t want to play there. I think it’ll be difficult to play AD, Bron, and Boogie as they’re all going to operate in the same areas. If you can’t convince AD to play the 5 then I’d play JaVale and have a duo of Boogie and Rondo leading the second group.”

Timi: “I think Cousins could be the most underrated signing of the off-season. If he’s healthy there’s no debate: he starts. When last healthy he averaged 26/12/5, and was the best big man in the league. People are acting like he’s still hurt, but he’s not only healthy but has lost weight! I can’t wait to see him out on the court in October.”

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Q: Alongside Zach Norvell Jr, the Lakers signed Kostas Antetokounmpo on a two-way contract. This means that Giannis is going to be a Laker in 2021, right? In all seriousness, what do you think of the Kostas Antetokounmpo signing?

Mark: “You could argue that getting Kostas Antetokounmpo is a little like signing KCP a few years ago. We had the roster and cap space back then and it gave us a channel to LeBron. Let’s see if he gets a workout with Kobe? (Or tacos with LeBron?).”

Jonathan: “Kostas Antetokounmpo is all potential at this moment in time. He is a low risk, high reward signing. I don’t think he will ever be Giannis but he has the physical tools that usually translate well in the NBA. The main reason the Lakers signed Kostas however is to have a line to Giannis for free agency in the future. Hopefully Kostas can develop nicely with the help of Phil Handy and become a good player but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Ryan: “I think he’s a project and a good long-term project who could be a huge asset to the team in a few years, and naively I do believe it’s being used as part of a long term plan for Giannis at the same time.”

Timi: “Haha tampering alert!! No but seriously I hope it works out for him. I question how much time he’ll get for the Lakers, but if he shines for South Bay who knows. One thing that could help is being around guys like Caruso and Cook, who will know what he’s going through. And hey, if he gets a KCP deal in before the 2020/21 season, then we know what’s about to go down!”

Q: There is 1 roster spot available, who do you think the Lakers should fill it with?

Mark: “The Lakers should keep the roster spot open for Iggy, for as long as that is possible.”

Jonathan: “If he gets bought out, Andre Iguodala would be the perfect signing to back up LeBron. He would be a crucial piece in the playoffs. I wouldn’t be against the Lakers getting Carmelo Anthony providing he accepts a lesser role off the bench. If Melo can shave off the pounds like Boogie Cousins has and plays a role then he can possibly help the Lakers. If he refuses then I’d go after someone like Vince Carter. I’d love to see a motivated Vinsanity chasing a ring in his last season.”

Ryan: “Wait for the Iggy buyout and if it doesn’t come then make a play for Livingston, simply because of what he can bring in terms of experience for the latter part of the season.”

Timi: “If he becomes available, it has to be Iggy. A veterans veteran, who can play top defense, comes alive in the Playoffs, can shoot an open jumper, and is crazy clutch! I understand Memphis trying to trade for him, but I hope they do allow him to move on if they can’t get a good deal, which seems unlikely.”

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(Image/NBA.com)

Q: Now we know the makeup of the roster going into the 2019/20 campaign, how many wins are you expecting? What is your minimum expectation for next season?

Mark: “I would hope this team gets above 45 wins. My minimum expectation is to beat the Clippers. If that means getting to the NBA Finals, all the better. No good setting expectations low. We probably have 2 years left of LeBron, our expectations should be 2 Finals appearances and 1 Championship.”

Jonathan: “I think if the Lakers stay injury free they can get 55+ wins. They need to make sure not to run AD or LeBron into the ground but I can see them being a very good regular season team. Anything short of the Western Conference Finals would be a big let down. This team is built to win.”

Ryan: “55 if AD and Bron can remain healthy, maybe more if the second unit can do what they couldn’t last season and contribute to whatever the first unit lay out. If all parts contribute and we find the right system and if LeBron playing the point can work defensively then I think 55 is a good target.”

Timi: “I think 53 wins in the regular season. There will be some trials early on, but we’ll head into the postseason behind Houston, Utah, and Denver, who I think are more equipped for the regular season, and take the 4th seed. The minimum expectation is the WCFs, barring catastrophic injury. I think we’ll get the 4th seed, but the postseason? Well, that’s a different story entirely..”


By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)

The Lakers Sign Antetokounmpo

(Image/USA Today Sports)

On July 21, Shams Charania of The Athletic dropped the huge news that the Los Angeles Lakers are set to sign Antetokounmpo. Kostas Antetokounmpo that is. Brother of current MVP, Giannis. The Lakers confirmed the acquisition on July 22.

The 21-year-old forward was claimed off waivers, following his release from the Dallas Mavericks. Antetokounmpo will sign a two-way deal with the purple and gold, splitting his time between the NBA and the G-League, with the South Bay Lakers.

He will be the Lakers’ second player signed to a two-way contract, along with Zach Norvell Jr. Players on such contracts can be called up to the NBA for up to 45 days during the season.

Kostas Antetokounmpo was born on November 20, 1997, in Athens, Greece. He is the younger brother of Giannis and Thanasis, who both play in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. Growing up, Antetokounmpo was developed by the youth teams of the Greek professional basketball club, EFAO Zografou, formally known as Filathlitikos.

Upon his older brother, Giannis, getting drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, Antetokounmpo moved to Milwaukee with his parents and younger brother, Alexis. He played high school basketball during his junior and senior years at Dominican High School in Wisconsin. As a senior, he won a state championship.

From here, he committed to play college basketball at the University of Dayton. In his first season (2016/17), he was red-shirted due to being ruled a “partial qualifier”. This was because he spent his first two years of high school in Greece.

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(Image/Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire)

Eventually making his debut in the 2017/18 season, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 21 minutes for the Dayton Flyers.

On March 22, 2018, Antetokounmpo declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, where he was selected with the final pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks instantly. He later signed a two-way contract with the Mavericks, however he only went onto feature in two NBA games in the 2018/19 season.

Instead, he spent the majority of his time in the NBA G-League for the Texas Legends. Antetokounmpo played in 40 games throughout the 2018/19 campaign, averaging 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1.3 blocks, on .522% shooting. He did feature for the Mavericks’ 2019 Summer League team, posting averages of 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds, in 13 minutes. Following Summer League, he was waived by the team. Which led to the Lakers claiming him off waivers.

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(Image/The Undefeated)

Profile:

Standing at 6-foot-10, Kostas Antetokounmpo is a long, athletic forward who’s main strength is getting to and finishing at the rim. With an incredible 7-foot-2 wingspan, his length makes it difficult for his opponents to contest in the paint. Even more so if he can add muscle to his 195-pound frame.

He is a solid rebounder that can cause havoc when crashing the offensive glass. Additionally, he can operate effectively off-the-ball cutting to the rim. Antetokounmpo does possess the ability to be a versatile threat, as he can operate as a ball handler on the perimeter also.

Much like his brother Giannis, Kostas does not provide much of a threat from an outside shooting standpoint. In college, he shot at a dismal .133% from beyond the arc. This improved in the G-League last season, but he still converted at a considerably poor .244% rate.

He does impact the defensive end positively, where he is considered a prolific shot blocker. When he is quick off his feet, not much gets past him in the around the rim. His impressive footwork makes him a competent defender on the perimeter too. However, with his slim frame, Antetokounmpo does struggle on the receiving end of a post up.

Overall, Kostas Antetokounmpo is a raw talent, and whilst he is far from the finished product, his potential is intriguing. If he can grow into and control his frame, his height and length will make him difficult to deal with on both ends of the ball. There is certainly long-term potential to be had.

From the Lakers’ perspective, what’s the harm in giving a 21-year-old with high-upside a chance on a two-way deal? There’s no harm at all. Plus, it starts to create a relationship with the Antetokounmpo family ahead of 2021, when Giannis hits free agency.

By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)