Wake up Jabari and Ebled, it’s game 3 and no one has felt your presence

Boston eeked out the first game and handily won the second in this best of seven series. Flat out, they have been the more fundamentally sound team. For instance, 22 second-chance points is the reason why the Bucks shot nearly 60 percent from the field, yet still lost by 14 in Game 2; that’s just unacceptable from the outside looking in.

Bucks series

Jabari Parker (Photo by slamonline.com)

The Bucks need to go small, play Jabari Parker more, but he must prove his worth on defense. Many times it seems like he wants no part of it, not even a little contact. A player like Parker requires minutes and more than 10. In game two he was a ghost, no points, two rebounds and that is not going to get it done against Boston, real talk. Can Prunty get Parker involved early in game 3?

Another big area of concern for Milwaukee is Eric Bledsoe being outplayed handily by Terry Rozier. Rozier is a backup point guard, but a solid player. Ebled has struggled mightily in this series. He is shooting 9-25 and has only dished out eight total assists. If we look at Rozier’s play, he’s shooting 15-32 from the field and has 11 assists. He makes the right decisions, isn’t forcing anything and has been an excellent facilitator in place of Kyrie. This has been the difference up to this point in the series.

Let’s be honest. Bledsoe plays fast and is exciting. But when you drive in the lane quick, you must drive with a purpose. He isn’t doing the best at that, constantly up in the air with very few passing options. The Boston team defense salivates when he does this. This type of basketball in the playoffs will never get the job done.

Let’s hope the Bucks commit to team defense. Watching them play, as opposed to watching the Philadelphia/Miami series is like comparing apples to oranges. Milwaukee, simply put, isn’t on that level. In the playoffs, winning doesn’t involve just offense, you must make your opponent work for their baskets.

If these key players continue to fail to show up, and their defense doesn’t tighten the noose, you are possibly looking at a sweep. Giannis needs more than just his own efforts to get W’s and I believe things will turn around for Milwaukee in game 3. If it doesn’t, this series will be finished soon.

 

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Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

It appears the Milwaukee Bucks like their chances against the ailing Boston Celtics. They got smoked against Philly–riding a 16 game win streak, in their last game of the year. This is an intriguing matchup, Boston without its star Kyrie Irving, while the Bucks are at full health and with a star of its own in Giannis Antetokounmpo. It will be a high contested closely matched series the entire way through.

Regular season summary

Boston Celtics

Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

Jayson Tatum (Photo by bostonherald.com)

Given all of the injuries Boston had to deal with, they faired very well in 2017-18. They were in first place for a good portion of the season, but with a few key injuries and the stellar play of Toronto, dropped to the number two seed. Gordon Hayward went down in the first game of the season, and we recently found out that Irving would miss the remainder of the season.

Jason Tatum would shine in his rookie season and Jaylen Brown has developed nicely. It will be interesting to see how Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin fill in for Kyrie. Al Horford will definitely have a favorable matchup against the underweight John Henson. Marcus Morris has been playing lights out the tail end of the year and with the coaching of Brad Stevens we are in for a competitive series. Boston will remain in games because of their team defense, which was the fourth best in the league.

Milwaukee Bucks

Celtics vs. Bucks series preview

Giannis Antentokounmpo (Photo by thecomplex.com)

The Bucks have proven all season that are capable of beating any team, but at the same time can lose to any organization as well. Issues that plague Milwaukee are overall defense and a big man to go up against other big men.

Giannis is constantly improving and Khris Middleton is the best mid-range shooter in the league. Eric Bledsoe has come on strong towards the end of the year and had a stellar overall year. Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova are returning from injuries that have hurt them towards the end of the year. Jabari Parker coming off the bench and staying healthy is a huge piece of their equation; he must play well for the Bucks. The offense has been there all season for Milwaukee, but will their defense show up in the playoffs? Time will tell.

Prediction

The Bucks will end up prevailing in five games. They will split the first two games in Boston, which will set them up for a finishing game in Boston. A missing Kyrie Irving greatly impacts the outcome in this one, otherwise, Boston would take the series in five. It’s impossible to replace a team player of his greatness and with Hayward out as well, it’s extremely impressive they remained the number two seed. How much game do Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have in them?

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Giannis 0-2 in game-winning/tying opportunities since the break

There have been game winning or tying opportunities in the last 2 games and with 2 missed shots the Bucks have 2 losses. Once again, the Bucks had the quarter that killed them; this time it was the first, where they were outscored 40-22 by Washington. The defense will need to tighten the noose if Milwaukee has deep playoff aspirations.

Washington Wizards v Milwaukee Bucks

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Bucks were playing catch up from the opening quarter and they were able to eventually catch up with the Wizards. When push came to shove that game-leading basket wouldn’t drop last night. Said Antetokounmpo, ” We were getting open shots, we were getting good looks, but the ball didnt fall.  I think we just did a great job playing through it.”

Giannis was asked if missing back to back game-winning shots hurts and he replied, ” It hurts.  But I’m going to keep doing it.  I’m not going to stop, I’m going to keep working on it.  That’s what the teammates want.”  Antetokounmpo got to a very good spot on the court for his final attempt, backing his defender in the post. But as he gave a shoulder fake, he briefly lost his footing and that threw his shot rhythm off, as he was fading away.  Even he recognized he lost his balance slightly.

Milwaukee fans are used to this.  Used to their team faltering down the stretch, used to sheer disappointment, hell there are many people in the state of Wisconsin that don’t even know how good this group is because of decades of mediocrity.  Known to never keep key pieces to the entire puzzle by trading away top stock, its going to take some consistency to build the people’s trust.  It is completely and solely up to them to get hot, to not have that bad quarter, because everything matters as we near to the final 20 games of the regular season.

Lets look at the bright side.  Jabari Parker had 16 points at half time.  For the Wizard, it was Brad Beal with 21 pts, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Otto Porter Jr. added 21 points for Washington.  Antetokounmpo’s final stat line reads 23 pts, 13 reb, 8 assists, 6 blocks, and 3 steals; that is literally stuffing the stat line and damn impressive. Also, the Bucks came back from a 20 point deficit and made the game competitive.  Against the top tier teams, you must remain consistent for 48 minutes, otherwise you can kiss you chances goodbye.

Hopefully Giannis and the Bucks start embracing this challenge and start delivering. Part of making the game winning shot constantly is in knowing how it feels when it doesn’t drop, the disappointment of a player, a team, a city, hell the entire state.  This is what drives the best to greatness and we all believe this resides in Antetokounmpo.

Duke Basketball

This Duke team is scary good

I know what you’re going to say. How can you judge a prestigious team like Duke when they play schools like Elon and Utah Valley? Of course they are supposed to blow them out because they are the Duke Blue Devils with one of the best coaches in the history of the sport and a top recruiting class year after year.

However, with just two games under their belt, this team looks poised for a National Championship.

How are these Blue Devils different from last year’s team?

Although Duke became the first ACC team to win four games in four days on their way to winning the ACC Tournament, the season was a disappointment, as they fell to South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Duke basketball

As talented as the 2016-17 Duke team was, the season was a disappointment (Photo from News and Observer)

Going into the year, according to ESPN.com, Duke had the No. 2 recruiting class, highlighted by players like Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson, who were all drafted in this past NBA Draft. They also returned Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson.

Despite these big names, injuries and lack of consistency haunted this Duke team throughout the season. Allen was constantly in the headlines for tripping people, and Harry Giles was never able to be a real factor.

Fast forward to this season and in walks a fresh new breed of elite talent. Because of the one-and-done era, the best players attend a school for one season before departing to the NBA. If you watched the first two games, make sure to not fall in love with some of the players because a few of their names will be called in next year’s NBA Draft.

 

Big Men on Campus

According to ESPN’s Top 100, a list that complies the top 100 incoming freshmen for this season, Duke owns the first, fifth, sixth and eighth ranked players. The No. 1 ranked player, Marvin Bagley III, is a 6-foot-11, athletic freak. Bagley, who is originally from Phoenix, reclassified this August so that he could graduate high school and attend Duke this fall.

Duke basketball

The possible first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Marvin Bagley III (Zagsblog)

This past season for Sierra Canyon High School, Bagley averaged 24.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. This kid can do it all, and NBA stars like Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, and Lamar Odom had a front-row seat to his dominance, as they all attended Sierra Canyon games while Bagley was playing.

Over the summer, Bagley spent time in the Drew League, competing against players like DeMar DeRozan, JaVale McGee, Julius Randle and Baron Davis. In a game against a team led by DeRozan, Bagley erupted for 32 points and 11 boards. He also participated in the league’s All-Star game, knocking down 18 points and corralled 20 rebounds.

In his first two collegiate games, Bagley has been nothing short of impressive. His 49 points are tied with Jabari Parker for most points by a freshman over the first two games of their Duke career. He is also averaging 10 rebounds a game. Bagley has a real shot to be the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Another big man, Wendell Carter Jr., the fifth ranked player in his recruiting class, is projected to be a top-10 pick in the draft. Because of Bagley, Carter’s talent may be swept under the rug in the public eye, but Duke knows the 6-foot-10, 260 pound freshman is a stud. Carter is a mobile big man, who can score with both hands in traffic and has no problem going hard to draw fouls. He is an exceptional rebounder, as he has tallied up 13 boards in his two games.

Exceptional Guard Play

The other two big names in this recruiting class, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval, have both found immediate success at the collegiate level. Trent Jr. is the son of former NBA player, Gary Trent. He appears to be lights out from deep, as he has started the season 7-for-13 from three. Through two games, Trent Jr. is averaging 17 points per game.

Duke basketball

Tricky Tre! (Photo from KSL.com)

The reason for Duke’s struggles last season was mostly due to the fact that they were without a true ball handler. If you think back to their past two championships, both teams had a dominant ball handler. They had Nolan Smith in 2010 and Tyus Jones in 2015. Insert “Tricky” Trevon Duval.

Duval, a super athletic point guard, has exceptional handles and is as quick as they come. “Tricky” looks like a a combination of John Wall and Russell Westbrook, as he flies around the floor and has already shown his freakish athleticism. Duval does not shy away from contact, and defends well. His 20 assists in his first two games is the new Duke freshman record, eclipsing Chris Duhon’s 12 from the 2001 season. Duval has also only turned the ball over just one time.

The four freshman scored 58 of Duke’s 97 points against Elon. In their last matchup against Utah Valley, Duke’s first 40 points were scored by freshmen, as well as every single point during their 27-8 run in the middle of the first half.

 

What about the rest?

Somehow, we have managed to go this far into an article without mentioning the great Grayson Allen. Allen, who had somewhat of a down season last year, is determined to put up big numbers in his senior year. In the home opener, Allen lit it up, scoring 22 points, including 6-for-9 from deep. He kept the momentum going against Utah Valley, scoring 18 on 7-for-11 shooting.

In 2009-10, seniors Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas all played crucial parts in the championship run. In 2014-15, we saw Quinn Cook show exceptional leadership, as he kept the team focused on their way to the title. Allen, who played a pivotal part in the 2015 National Championship, is ready to lead this young group of stars.

This team reminds me a lot of the 2014-15 team. That team, led by the three exceptional freshmen, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, was a young, talented team like this year’s squad. Based off the first two games, this Duke freshman class could be the best we have ever seen.

Players like Javin DeLaurier, Alex O’Connell, Marques Bolden and Jordan Goldwire will all play vital roles in helping this team accomplish their goals.

Tonight, Duke will square off against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago in the Champions Classic.

 

Featured image by Naples Herald

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NBA Draft picks by school

Which school is really putting out the most NBA talent?

This new draft class is full of high expectations and has been called the most stacked class since 2003. It is full of exciting players like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox. Most of these top picks all came from dominating schools with the exception of Fultz, who won just nine games at Washington last season.

Tatum is from Duke. Fox is from Kentucky. These schools have been putting out a lot of draft picks the last several drafts. Kentucky has had 26 players drafted since 2011. Duke has had 19. These schools put out a lot of prospects, but how are those prospects doing? Let’s take a closer look at how the players drafted from 2011-15 are doing.

I decided not to include the 2016 draft because those players have just experienced one season and still have a lot of work to do and potential to grow. The 2017 draft hasn’t played an NBA game yet. I started back in 2011 because those guys have all played six years and it creates a nice-sized pool of players to look at. Here is what I found.

Kentucky

Out of the 26 players drafted from 2011-15, only three of them have been successful. Those players are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker.

NBA Draft picks by school

Anthony Davis is dominating the NBA, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t exactly panned out as the No. 2 pick in the draft. (Photo from BoomsBeat)

Davis and Towns were both first overall picks while Booker was a 13th pick. Davis is known as one of the top players in the league today. In his five seasons with New Orleans, he has been selected to four All-Star games, two All-NBA teams and two All-Defensive teams. He has also averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game over that stretch.

Towns has had a hot start to his career. The 2016 Rookie of the Year has averaged 21.7 points 11.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his first two seasons with the Timberwolves. Booker’s future is also looking bright as he averaged 22.1 points per game in his second season.

Players that just did not live up to the hype include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Julius Randle and James Young. For the amount of players they put in the draft and that one-and-done culture, you’d expect Kentucky to have more stars in the NBA.

Duke

Duke really only has Kyrie Irving and possibly Jabari Parker if it weren’t for his injuries. Irving was a No. 1 pick and Parker was a second pick.

Irving got to work right away in Cleveland, winning Rookie of the Year and hitting the game-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals to help the Cavs beat Golden State. He also has been named to four All-Star games and one All-NBA team while averaging 21.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

Parker played just 25 games during his rookie season, but bounced back his sophomore season with 76. He then only played in 51 games this past year. Injuries have bothered the 22-year-old forward.

When he has played, he has averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He just finished his best season statistically with 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Hopefully for the Bucks, Parker does not become an injury prone and can help Giannis Antetokounmpo take the Bucks to a deep postseason run.

Notable Duke flops include Austin Rivers, Miles and Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler.

Kansas

Kansas always been a good basketball program and has put out two stars in the 2014 draft with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.

NBA Draft picks by school

Andrew Wiggins has proven he can score in the NBA, but Joel Embiid is still trying to prove he can stay healthy. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Wiggins is developing into a good scorer with the Timberwolves. He won 2015 Rookie of the Year and has also averaged 20.4 points per game over three seasons.

Embiid played great in the 31 games he was able to this past season. He didn’t get to play until this past year due to injuries and was again halted by an injury. If he can ever stay healthy, look out for this man.

Kansas has had other stars in the past like Thomas Robinson and Ben McLemore that did not pan out, but Kansas is not known as an NBA factory like Kentucky and Duke either.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels dominate college hoops, but haven’t put out a star in the NBA in years. Harrison Barnes is the best player they have put out between 2011-15. Barnes still has an empty NBA resume with the exception of his title he won with Golden State. However, this past season as a top offensive option in Dallas, he averaged 19.1 points and five rebounds per game.

Tony Bradley Jr. is the first one-and-done player the Tar Heels have put out in over a decade. Brandon Wright was the last player before Bradley and his NBA career was below average. Hopefully for the Jazz, Bradley’s career is more eventful than Wright’s.

Summary

Other stars from this draft period include Kemba Walker from UConn, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Jimmy Butler from Marquette and Isaiah Thomas from Washington. And that was just from 2011.

The point is just because all these schools like Duke and Kentucky are making noise with their recruiting doesn’t mean that will translate to NBA stardom. NBA talent comes from everywhere. Stars can come from little schools or big schools.

This statement may seem obvious, but the media can really make it look like Kentucky and Duke are the NCAA’s NBA factories. By the amount of draft picks, it surely looks like they should be. But when it comes to NBA talent, that is a different story.

 

Featured Image by Getty Images

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Milwaukee Bucks 2017 NBA Draft Profile

On day 16 of NBA Draftmas, the Milwaukee Bucks’ draft needs and targets will be analyzed.

SUMMARY

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by: NBA.com)

The Bucks made a big step for a young team and qualified for the 2017 NBA Playoffs. They ended up getting the sixth seed and took the Raptors to six games. This was an impressive showing for the Bucks, as they had to deal with a lot of injuries this season, most notably Jabari Parker, who tore his ACL and missed the latter part of the season. Khris Middleton was injured for the first part of the season and came on strong when he came back healthy. Staying healthy is a huge key for Milwaukee going forward.

Milwaukee ranks 20th in points per game, but they are the 10th best defense in the NBA. The Bucks did have the 10th best three point shooting team in the league and could see improvements if Middleton and Parker stay healthy.

The most encouraging thing for the Bucks is the continual progression of their young players. Giannis Antetokounmpo has blossomed into a star who averaged 23.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Putting him alongside a healthy Jabari Parker, who averaged 20.1 points per game this season, makes the Bucks a dangerous team in the next few seasons. Another intriguing player is Thon Maker. Maker didn’t play too impressively during the regular season, but showed some real flashes of development during the playoffs. Malcolm Brogden also surprised with a good rookie year. The improvement of these players are what the franchise will be built on.

The Bucks will hope to add some key pieces to their strong young core in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Milwaukee Bucks DRAFT PICKS & NEEDS

Milwaukee has one pick in each round of the 2017 NBA Draft. 

First Round: No. 17

Second Round: No. 48

A big need for the Bucks is someone who can rebound. They ranked second last in the NBA in rebounds per game and can benefit from selecting a player who can go get the ball. Antetokounmpo led the team in rebounds last season and will need some more help.

The Bucks may also want to consider going after a true point guard. Antetokounmpo and others have played the position, but Matthew Dellavadova is the only true point guard that got significant minutes last season and that needs to change.

TARGETS

Pick #17: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

T.J. Leaf NBA

T.J. Leaf (Photo by: latimes.com)

While the Bucks have a lot of players that transcend a traditional position, they need a player who knows his role and position very clearly. That player is T.J. Leaf. He may have been forgotten about with Lonzo Ball on the same team at UCLA, but Leaf is an intriguing prospect himself.

Leaf put up 21.7 points and 11 rebounds per 40 minutes last season. His offensive rebounding in the regular season matchup against Kentucky was a huge boost to get the Bruins the win. He will come in and rebound from day one, but also has a nice offensive skill set. His post moves are good for his age and he can stretch his range out to the three point line as he shot 46.6% from deep.

At pick 17, Leaf would provide tremendous value because he could start his career from the bench and be a high energy rebounder. If he develops he could become a starter, but if not he will at least be able to rebound and stretch a defense as a substitute for years to come.

Pick #48: Edmond Sumner, PG, Xavier

Edmond Sumner NBA

Edmond Sumner (Photo by: si.com)

Sumner tore his ACL last season, which effectively ended his college career. He will be rehabbing to get back on the hardwood, but if healthy, he has the potential to improve and become a solid player.

He fits the mold of what the Bucks like: an athletic, tall player for his position. Sumner is a 6’5″ point guard who excels at driving to the basket. He has good quickness for his size and lanky arms, which are tools he could use to become a good defender at the NBA level.

As with any player taken in the second round, Sumner has some weaknesses. He does have a history of injuries that need to be checked out, including that ACL tear. Sumner also isn’t very proficient shooting from deep. His three point shooting percentage was an abysmal 28% for his career.

Sumner provides a high risk-high reward option for a team who takes him, but that will be welcomed in the second round of the NBA Draft, as second round picks rarely work out.

CONCLUSION

The Bucks need to use this draft to get some support for their young players. Players that they select in this draft won’t likely change a franchise, but can be role players for some very good Bucks teams in the next couple of years. Selecting a true point guard, even if it is just a back up, and a rebounder will help this team a lot heading into the next season. 

Thanks for checking out the Milwaukee Bucks 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 17 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Indiana Pacers are going to do.

Day 15: Chicago Bulls

Day 14: Portland Trail Blazers

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