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NBA Play Breakdown Playoffs sports Video

Sign Of Things To Come?

In my latest podcast I talked about how the Celtics were a bad matchup for the Bucks.  I also weaseled out of making a prediction since I was torn between both teams.  All season I thought the Bucks were the team that had the best on-court fit in the eastern conference.  A 5-out motion offense built around Giannis with shooting at every position.  Brook Lopez became instrumental with his floor spacing ability and paint protection on defense.  Even with having arguably the best player going in the league, the best record in the league, a top five offensive and defensive efficiency and a great coach, I wasn’t confident picking them over the Celtics.  A Celtics team a lot of people wrote off before the playoffs started, and with some justification of course.  They haven’t been on the same page all season, injuries have taken a toll and players haven’t progressed like they should’ve.  I still like the Celtics because of how they are designed; a pick-and-roll mismatch problem at center, a slashing scoring three point shooting point guard with big switchable wings.  That type of team design is built well for the postseason.

The regular season isn’t the playoffs.  It isn’t about doing one thing great, it’s about versatility.  Yes, the Bucks are a great defensive team but they were built primarily around a contain first pick-and-roll coverage.  In the playoffs you need to be diverse enough to cover pick-and-roll’s every which way.  Brook Lopez is great at one type of pick-and-roll coverage but can he hedge?  Switch?  And cover space in a timely matter?  That was my issue going into this series.  That was why I couldn’t in good faith pick the Bucks over the Celtics.  Game one confirmed my suspicion and if the Bucks don’t make the necessary adjustments they will lose this series.

To start off the game the Celtics had Horford defend Giannis.  They did the same thing to Ben Simmons last postseason.  Although, the difference is the Celtics are playing tighter gap protection on Giannis’ drives.

In the first play you have Jayson Tatum leaving his man along the perimeter to shadow Giannis with the help of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris hugging the lane line to shrink space.  The next play you have Giannis in transition with Horford guarding him, Irving shadowing him, Morris in the middle of the paint and Tatum taking a dig at him from the corner.  The Celtics were keying in on Giannis.

The Celtics would also put Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris on Giannis when Horford was on the bench.  Horford actually did a good job cutting off driving angles and giving help defense time to crash down.  Boston was ok taking an extra step in on Giannis while giving extra space to the Bucks shooters.  Whether that’s because Malcolm Brogdon is hurt and they are giving his replacement Sterling Brown license to drive.

Or they don’t trust players like Pat Connaughton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova to torch them from three and attack closeouts. 

The Celtics were switching on most ball screens and then would revert back to safer matchups on the weak side.  The Bucks did headhunt on occasion looking for better cross matchups like Terry Rozier defending Giannis but rarely did they go to that.  That should be something the Bucks try to exploit more in game two.  Overall game one the Bucks stuck with what they knew best.  They’re going to have to trust their shooters moving forward even if they miss open shots.  Those shooters are paramount for Milwaukee’s floor balance.  I would like to see DJ Wilson get more playing time.  I think his length and athleticism at the forward/center position can help in terms of positional versatility.  Until they get Brogdon back, they will be lacking another creator on offense and players like Pat Connaughton will have to play major minutes even though they’re struggling just to defend Boston’s point of attack offense.  Brook Lopez will have to make open threes while Bledsoe will have to be better off the bounce if they want this to be a competitive series.

Rudy Gobert and Brook Lopez are great drop coverage defenders.  During the regular season you can rely on that to win defensive player of the year and be apart of a top five defense.  Come playoff time it’s about versatility and how well you can cover space.

The Bucks were containing most everything on ball screens and hardly stunted at the shooter left open.  If Horford can make that above the break three consistently the Bucks will have to make adjustments asap.  Lopez, Mirotic and Ilyasova can’t cover ground as fast as they need to versus the Celtics ball screen motion offense.

The Celtics were bending the Bucks defense all game and making them scramble on exploitable matchups.

That’s part of the reason why I think DJ Wilson should play more game two.  He has the lateral movement to stay on switches and good change of direction ability to cover space in a timely matter.  It doesn’t help when, at times, the Bucks were struggling to contain dribble penetration, were slow to matchup and had poor communication.

This was my overall fear coming into this series and it played out terribly for the Bucks.

The Bucks are obviously not out of it yet.  They have to do a better job headhunting on offense, making open threes, stunting at the pick-and-pop shooter and covering space on defense.  Hopefully it’s not a little too late when Malcolm Brogdon comes back, he could be the difference maker the Bucks need to help with continuity.  Until then however Eric Bledsoe will have to step up his role on offense.  I said whoever wins this series will win the eastern conference and I stand by that claim.  Unless the Bucks make the correct adjustments, the Celtics could be that team.

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NBA sports Trade

A Very, Very, Very Random Trade Idea

The Houston Rockets defense stinks.  I think most people thought there would be some kind of regression due to losing Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik.  But so far they are the 4th worst defensive team in the league sporting a defensive rating of 114.7 points per 100 possessions while starting the regular season 1-4.  Ouch.  The Rockets have been without Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight and Nene during the five game stretch and losing Chris Paul to a suspension hasn’t helped their struggling defense either.   Houston has centered their defensive concept  around switching.  When you have the appropriate players to execute a switching scheme it’s arguably the toughest defense to score on since the defenders have less space to recover. Unfortunately as of now the Rockets don’t have the personnel to properly switch most ball screens.  Maybe when Chriss, Nene, Paul and Knight come back the ability to switch will be less of an issue but the amount of blown weak side assignments due to players being out of position or poor communication has handcuffed the Rockets defense so far.  Smart teams have also head hunted the mismatches as a consequence from uneven switching.

The Rockets are in desperate shape.  They recently offered the Timberwolves four 1st round draft picks for Jimmy Butler and coach Mike D’antoni has said “the Rockets awful defense needs a do-over.”  Counting on players like Gerald Green, Eric Gordon, Carmelo Anthony and James Harden for defensive prowess was fool hearted from the beginning to rely on.  A defensive minded coach would have altered the Rockets defensive scheme to more of a hybrid between hedging and drop coverage until the Rockets get more capable players to execute a scheme entirely built off switching.  Maybe the trade for Jimmy Butler goes through and the Rockets get one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA to fit their defensive scheme. However that still won’t be enough to contend with the Warriors and it still seems like coach Tom Thibodeau will sabotage any offer made to not trade Butler.

A Butler trade is shooting for the stars.  It’s a super risky deal to pull off with Butler being a possible free agent this summer and not being able to resign him will be a setback for the Rockets.  So I was thinking of trade idea that would be more risk averse but obviously not as flashy as the Butler trade.  The idea is centered around trading Zhou Qi for Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bucks are off to a hot start with new coach Mike Budenholzer and a revamped 5-out motion offensive system deploying Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez as stretch bigs.  That system is not really the greatest fit for Sterling Brown since playing within a motion offense calls for players to have solid spatial awareness, good decision making and fine tuned skills which isn’t Browns game.  So far Brown has lost minutes to players that fit the system better like Donte Divincenzo and Pat Connaughton.    Both players are newly acquired this season while Brown was a second round pick last year.  I’ve been a fan of Brown since the pre-draft process last year and have followed his progress closely.

Brown shot 35% from three his rookie season last year and had a  +.67 defensive real plus/minus which ranked 13th among shooting guards according to espn.com.  A very solid rookie year for a player that’s 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan trending towards a “3-and-D” wing player in the NBA.  He’s still only 23 years old and clearly needs more time to develop but would be a practical roster move for a team without many options.  The Rockets run a spread pick-and-roll system on offense with a switching concept on defense as previously mentioned.  Sterling Brown would be a great fit within those constructs playing off of Harden/Paul’s play making and Capela’s vertical spacing.  Brown can make open threes, attack a closeout in a straight line and is suitable to play in a switching defense.  Brown also dealt with a horrific ordeal with a local police officer in Milwaukee that if you want to read up on click this (Story).  Brown had to deal with this unfortunate situation for most of his off-season and could use a change of scenery to distance himself from that toxic situation.  

Zhou Qi, the 7’1 center, was a second round pick for the Rockets in the 2016 draft.  Qi has had his offensive moments during summer league being able to step out, shoot long distance and rebound at a high clip.  He’s currently dealing with an injury but has recently returned to practice.  Qi could be a nice project for the Bucks as the stretch big for their future center spot while Brown could be that “3-and-D” wing the Rockets so desperately need at the moment.  Brown has one more year left on his contract after this season at $1.618 million that’s non-guaranteed while Qi has 2 more years left at $1.618 and $1.752 million both of which are non-guaranteed also.

This isn’t a trade idea that’s going to make headlines.  It might not even be on the bottom ticker on ESPN.  But as far as a low risk high reward deal for both teams then this trade idea makes sense to me.