Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: Biggest takeaway from Spurs-Warriors?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Takeaway from Spurs-Warriors? | Thoughts on Griffin incident? |
Four players who should be All-Star reserves?



VIDEORelive the showdown between the Warriors and Spurs

> Biggest takeaway from the Warriors’ 120-90 victory over the Spurs on Monday?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: That even Kawhi Leonard can be, at least for a night, neutralized as a shutdown defender by Golden State’s amalgam of ballhandling, passing and shooting. Lost in their shot-making brilliance is the fact that the Warriors are as good as a whole passing the ball as any team I’ve ever seen. Ever. In all of their lineup iterations they have multiple people who are outstanding passers. That’s the only way to beat a team defense as good as the Spurs and an individual defender as great as Leonard. Scary.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m going to give Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford and LaMarcus Aldridge the benefit of the doubt, as far as Aldridge being a more helpful and strategic piece for the Spurs in a seven-game series against Golden State than he was Monday. But if that’s not my takeaway, then this is and it likely isn’t any more reassuring to San Antonio fans: The Warriors are in a different league this season from every other team, whether No. 2 or No. 30. Their crowd, their confidence, their chemistry and (to ride the alliteration) their Curry appear unbeatable. And their versatility ain’t bad either.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comFirst, coming on the heels of previous 30-point wins over Chicago and Cleveland, whipping the Spurs was the definitive statement that the defending champs are flying at a much higher altitude than everyone else and clearly are the team to beat. What has struck me all season about the Warriors is their clear sense of identity and purpose. There is no figuring things out. They like playing with each other. There are no external distractions. Second, it is January.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThat LaMarcus Aldridge needs to step up more in these kinds of games. A lot more. Really, though, I don’t assign a great amount of importance to one game in January. The Warriors are really good, which we already knew, and the Spurs are really good, even if that didn’t come through. Nothing from Monday in Oakland will follow the teams into a possible playoff matchup, for example. Another lopsided win or two by Golden State and then maybe you’ve got some big takeaway. But not now.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Without a doubt, Draymond Green’s defense on LaMarcus Aldridge. OK, sure, Stephen Curry went ballistic (although you knew that was coming). Fine. But the Spurs added the most valuable free agent on the market last summer in order to give themselves an edge, and Aldridge was totally freaked out by Green’s defense. Green guarded him tightly, knowing that Aldridge is actually a very poor athlete (very little quickness and lateral movement) and therefore couldn’t shake free. If I’m the Spurs, I’m worried about Aldridge, who has never played a big game in his life but will be asked to bring it in the playoffs and against the Warriors in the very likely event they meet again.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Primarily it was that the Warriors thrashed a team that had been playing a level of defense that we’ve never seen before and had outscored its last 26 opponents by an average of 18.3 points. But the other thing that was apparent after just one quarter was that they played at the Warriors pace. Even when the Spurs weren’t turning the ball over, they couldn’t keep the game under control. And the Warriors thrive in a fast-paced, haphazard environment.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: My biggest takeaway from the Warriors’ third straight 30-point smashing of a team that’s supposed to slow them down on their way to a second straight NBA title is believe the hype. It’s time for everyone to abandon all of these theories about the Warriors’ good fortune from last season and give it up. They are machine. And they are playing with a cosmic flow we haven’t seen from a team in quite some time. Stephen Curry (Mr. 37-points-in-three-quarters-against-the-best-defensive-crew-on-earth) is on another planet right now, but he’s far from the only Warrior operating at the next level. I think about a guy like Shaun Livingston, who shredded the Spurs in his limited early action. One virtuoso effort every now and then is one thing, but to do it basically every night for an entire seasons … believe the hype!

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comNo one is close to the Warriors. They are the most talented, most efficient and by far the hungriest contender midway through their title defense. The Warriors know exactly who they are, while the Spurs, relative to Golden State’s high standard, are still working their way through the transition around LaMarcus Aldridge. One thing we know for sure about the Spurs is that they’ll absorb this loss in a constructive way. It is more likely to inspire than demoralize them.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: That the Warriors are unbeatable. OK, perhaps not totally unbeatable, but to beat the Warriors when they are playing well, you have to play a near-perfect game. Can that happen? Sure, some opponents will occasionally have a game where they are able to keep possession of the ball without turning it over a dozen or more times, and they hit fifty percent of their threes, and maybe they catch Steph Curry on an off night. But here’s the thing I can’t figure out: How will any team do that four times in seven games during the postseason?

Blogtable: Thoughts on Griffin’s punching incident?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Takeaway from Spurs-Warriors? | Thoughts on Griffin incident? |
Four players who should be All-Star reserves?



VIDEODan Woike explains the impact of Griffin’s incident

> Blake Griffin has missed the last 14 games and will be sidelined four to six weeks after injuring his hand in an altercation with an equipment manager. Is this a big thing, a little thing, or much ado about nothing?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Oh, very much a big, big thing. This is the face of your franchise, who is not a kid anymore, making a series of increasingly stupid decisions (drinking, drinking in public, arguing, hitting someone, continuing to hit someone until you break your hand) that leave his team in a lurch after it had stoically excelled for a month without him. Not to mention that the Clips gave Josh Smith back to Houston anticipating Griffin’s return in the next few days. Bad, bad form. Gonna take a good long while for Griffin to earn back trust from his teammates and from Doc Rivers.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Little thing. Oh, it’s a big thing right now, in the dog days of the NBA season. And it will bubble up a little bit over All-Star Weekend – because of his absence and all the chatter there – and again when Griffin returns to the court for the Clippers. But this is a manageable “crisis” in that Griffin and the equipment manager are otherwise friends (presumably still), sizable checks can get stroked and there aren’t formal charges. As I see it, it’s a symptom of that team’s overall immaturity and unsuitability to seriously contend for a title. But nothing causal unto itself.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Of course, it’s a big deal. Regardless of the Clippers’ recent record without him, Blake Griffin is one of the top two players on the team and talent usually wins out. However, it also furthers the narrative that the Clippers underachieve each season in the playoffs because they are a loose collection of knuckleheads that won’t ever win a championship because they lack focus and professionalism. Breaking your hand on an equipment manager? Why not run head-first into a wall? At least that might knock some sense into him.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Big thing. Blake Griffin put his team’s season at risk, just when the Clippers had reason for optimism after a bad start. They were winning, they were about to get Griffin back from injury. And now this. Who knows how the hand will heal — or not heal. Who knows how many games this will cost L.A. in the standings and injure chances for homecourt advantage in a series. But his actions open up a lot of bad possibilities for the Clips.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I say it’s a big thing, because this is a franchise hauling a history of being Clipper-like, a stigma that was supposed to disappear once Doc Rivers took control. However, the Clippers got ambushed by a Rockets’ comeback in the playoffs last year and so far have nothing special to show for having Rivers, Chris Paul and Blake together. This team has plenty to prove and Blake’s silly and unnecessary “incident” doesn’t help matters at all.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Big thing. With how good the three teams ahead of them are, the Clippers’ margin for error is small. And though they’ve played well without him, his injury obviously hurts them with their need to build something toward the playoffs. It also feels like this is another step toward a summer-of-2016 break-up of the Clippers’ core, which has been very good, but not good enough, over the last few years.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It’s a huge thing and a potentially season-altering blunder by Griffin that not only shatters any defense of him as anything other than a fake tough-guy. In the absence of any concrete details as to why the dustup with the equipment staffer started, it’s fair to crush Griffin for exhibiting the some of the poorest judgment possible. He’s already missed 14 games with the torn quad tendon and now he’s going to tack on another 4-6 weeks with the fractured hand. Just brutal.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: This is a big thing. The Clippers want to contend ultimately for the NBA Finals. This latest self-inflicted torment won’t necessarily knock them out, because Griffin may still have close to two months before the playoffs to regroup with his teammates. Will this be one of those events that convinces him and his teammates to refocus with greater urgency? Or are they going to enable another year to slip away?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe injury should be a little thing — as it turns out, the Clippers have been able to endure without Blake this season. So, being without Griffin for another 4-6 weeks during the regular season should be something they can endure with some relative ease. This could turn into a big thing, however, when you consider the circumstances of the injury, or at least what has been reported as the circumstances thus far.

Blogtable: East, West players who need to be named All-Stars?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Takeaway from Spurs-Warriors? | Thoughts on Griffin incident? |
Four players who should be All-Star reserves?



VIDEOTNT’s crew reveals their East All-Star reserve picks

> Give me two players in the East and two players in the West who absolutely, positively need to be named All-Stars Thursday night.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler in the East, and Chris Paul and Draymond Green in the West. All have been sensational all season for their respective teams.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: In the East, Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond have to be All-Stars and in the West, it’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins who need to join the party in Toronto. Butler has taken his game to yet another level from his All-Star work in 2015 and the coaches surely respect his two-way excellence. Drummond puts up some monster numbers, is a fresh young face for the NBA and can’t be excluded by the Pistons’ record for a change. If Steph Curry is the motor of the Warriors’ dominance, Green is the transmission and it’s showing in is all-around impact. Finally, Cousins is the best center in the game and that still is a legit position in this league, regardless of “frontcourt” labeling in All-Star voting. One request: If Drummond and Cousins both go, please leave the typical All-Star cool-and-casualness to others and let’s see those bigs go at each other in the low post — hard — in a nod to a dying style and old-school fans.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond. During this tumultuous start to the season, Butler has firmly taken over the role as the Bulls’ alpha dog with career-best numbers of 22.3 points and 4.2 assists to go with 5.3 rebounds an 1.7 steals per game while also being a All-Defensive team player. Drummond is having a career year averaging 17.1 points and 15.2 rebounds. He’d be only the fourth player since 1982-83 season to hit those marks for a full season.

In the West, it’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Green should get the spot denied him by sentimentality toward Kobe Bryant by acclamation of the coaches. While Steph Curry is the heart of the Warriors attack, Green is their relentless, unforgiving soul. I don’t want to hear any more excuses about the Kings’ bad record. Cousins has been nothing short of a monster putting up All-Star numbers by any standards.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and Andre Drummond. Butler is the best shooting guard in the conference, an elite player on both sides of the ball, while Drummond is a force inside, so much of a force that he is an automatic even playing for a team scrambling to hold on to a playoff spot. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and Chris Paul. Green would be (or should be) getting MVP votes if ballots went out today, though not for first or second place, so, yeah, he is the definition of “absolutely, positively need to be named” an All-Star. Paul clearly remains among the elite, particularly with his play that continues to give the Clippers a puncher’s chance in the West during Blake Griffin’s absence.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: In the West, it’s DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green. Cousins has finally shut his mouth and opened his game and the results have been nuclear — he’s the best center in basketball. Green proves his value to the best team in basketball on a nightly basis and is a most unlikely star. In the East, it’s DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler, a pair of shooting guards. Butler should be a starter instead of Dwyane Wade. Meanwhile, DeRozan will be a worthy addition to the game hosted by Toronto — the hottest team in the East.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. Butler has been critical on both ends of the floor for the Bulls, while DeRozan has carried a huge load (and scored more efficiently) for the league’s sixth best offense. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and Chris Paul. Green has been a defensive anchor and the league’s best playmaking power forward. Paul hasn’t been as good as he was the last couple of seasons, but is still the best player on a top-four team and has helped the Clippers go 12-3 in the absence of Blake Griffin.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: In the East, it’s Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. Butler’s performance this season for a Bulls team in disarray deserved a starter’s nod, so there is no doubt he better be on that seven-man list Thursday night. DeRozan has made a similar case for himself in Toronto and should enjoy the spoils of playing host during All-Star Weekend. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Both are, in a sense, locks. Green’s credential are found in the pile of highlights he’s amassed this season and Cousins has been spectacular (more often than not) for a Kings team poised to make a playoff push the second half of the season.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: In the East, it’s DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler. DeRozan is the leading scorer of the No. 2 Raptors and the All-Star Game will be played on his homecourt – that ought to suffice. Butler, who leads No. 4 Chicago with 22.3 points after scoring 53 a couple of weeks ago, is another must-select. In the West, it’s Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Both have been indispensable to the NBA’s far-and-away best team. They join Steph Curry as the most deserving All-Stars this season.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: In the East, it’s Paul Millsap and Kyrie Irving. I’ve been all-in on Millsap all season, so why stop now? He’s the best player on the Hawks and is averaging career highs across the board. And I know he’s been injured for most of the season, and probably won’t get named by coaches, but I’d love to see Irving in the All-Star Game. He’s the type of player that the All-Star Game is made for, with the ability to pull off crazy dribbling tricks and throw wild alley-oops. In the West, it’s DeMarcus Cousins and Will Barton. Cousins has simply been great all season and, in the spirit of Kyrie, Denver’s exciting scoring machine (Barton) is kind of made for this all-out scoring stage.


VIDEOTNT’s crew reveals their West All-Star reserve picks

Canada faces tough road to Rio

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — FIBA held the draw for its three Olympic qualifying tournaments on Tuesday, putting Canada in a tough spot in its quest for an Olympic berth.

Nine teams have already qualified for Rio 2016. They are the United States (2014 World Cup champ), Brazil (host), and seven teams who finished first or second at their regional events last summer.

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The other three spots in the field will go to the winners of the three qualifying tournaments that will take place July 4-10. The Philippines, Italy and Serbia will host those tournaments, which will include 15 teams that qualified last summer and three wildcards awarded last week.

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Canada was placed in the Manila tournament. If it gets through group play against Turkey and Senegal, it will likely have to face France – the best team that didn’t qualify last summer – for the Olympic berth.

Both Canada and France looked like the best teams at their 2015 tournaments … until the semifinals. Then Canada blew a seven-point lead with three minutes to go against Venezuela, losing on a free throw with less than a second to go. Six days later, France blew a nine-point lead with six minutes to go against Spain, losing in overtime.

They each have a second chance at earning a trip to Brazil, but only one of the two countries will ease its pain in Manila in July. With young talent like Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph, Trey Lyles, Kelly Olynyk and Tristan Thompson, Canada looks like it will contend for medals at the Olympics and World Cup for the next 10 years. But if it can’t get past France, it will have to wait at least another three (the next World Cup is in 2019) before it can make a splash on the international scene.

Host Serbia is the clear favorite to win the Belgrade group, while the Turin group could come down to Greece and host Italy.

The Olympics take place in Rio from Aug. 6-21. Last week, the United States announced a 30-player pool from which it will select a 12-man roster for the tournament. The U.S. has won the last four major international tournaments and 45 straight games under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will step down after the Olympics.

Spurs-Warriors, a historically good matchup by the numbers


VIDEO: Brent Barry looks ahead Monday night’s match-up between the Spurs and Warriors.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It’s the matchup we’ve been waiting three months for.

The San Antonio Spurs visit the Golden State Warriors on Monday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV), the first meeting between what have been the league’s two best teams by a wide margin.

The Warriors are on pace for the best record in NBA history, while the Spurs are on pace for the best point differential in NBA history. And they’re each on pace to make history on one end of the floor or the other.

It’s hard to argue that this isn’t the biggest regular season matchup we’ve seen in our lifetimes. In fact, it’s the first time in NBA history that two teams with winning percentages better than .850 have played each other this late in the season.

There are several staggering numbers to digest when it comes to these two teams. Here’s a look at some of them.

Historically good offense

The league started counting turnovers in 1977. Since then, the league’s five best offenses, comparing team efficiency to the league average, have been run by Steve Nash. Now Nash’s current team (he’s a consultant for the Warriors) is on pace to eclipse any mark that his teams registered in Dallas or Phoenix.

Through their first 44 games, the Warriors have scored 10.0 points per 100 possessions above the league average, making them the best offense of the last 39 years.

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The Warriors are a below-average team in regard to turnover rate and free throw rate. They rank 10th in offensive rebounding percentage, but their offensive success is almost entirely about how well they’ve shot the ball.

The champs’ effective field goal percentage of 56.0 percent is the highest mark in NBA history. Their 3-point percentage is the second-highest in NBA history, and they also rank in the top five in field goal percentage from both the restricted area and mid-range.

San Antonio isn’t too bad offensively either. In fact, the Spurs have led the league in offensive efficiency since Dec. 1. They lead the league in field goal percentage in the restricted area and are the only team other than the Warriors that has shot better than 40 percent from outside the paint.

Historically good defense

The Spurs are doing on defense what the Warriors are doing on offense. They’ve allowed 9.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average, the best mark since the league started counting turnovers in 1977.

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San Antonio leads the league in opponent effective field goal percentage. They’ve been the best in the league at defending the restricted area and forcing mid-range shots, the least efficient shots on the floor. They also lead the league in defensive rebounding percentage (with the highest mark since the league starting counting offensive and defensive rebounds separately in 1973) and rank third in opponent free throw rate, allowing less than 24 free throws per 100 shots from the field.

The Warriors can play some defense too. They led the league in defensive efficiency last season and rank third this season, ranking in the top 10 in opponent field goal percentage in the paint, from mid-range and from 3-point range. They’ve allowed the fewest corner 3-point attempts.

A league of their own

Put elite offense and elite defense together and you’ll do more than just win games. You’ll rack up a strong point differential as well. And on a per-possession basis, these two teams have the best point differentials of the last 29 years.

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Six of the other eight teams on the list above won the championship.

15 is the magic number

You do not want to fall into a deep hole against the Warriors, who have won the last 91 games that they’ve led by 15 points or more, a streak that goes back to April of 2014. On their way to a championship last season, they went 47-0 in the regular season and 12-0 in the playoffs when leading by at least 15 points. This season, they’re 29-0, though they’ve had a couple of close calls.

Other teams have had longer such streaks, but none of them led by 15 or more in more than half their games during those streaks. The Warriors have led by 15-plus in an amazing 58 percent of their games since the streak started more than 21 months ago.

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The champs still have a long way to go to match the mark set by the Spurs, who have been putting together another run of their own. San Antonio has won the last 58 games it has led by 15 or more points, a streak that goes back to last Jan. 10. And they’ve led by 15-plus in 60 percent of their games over the streak.

This season, the Spurs are 30-0 in games in which they’ve had a lead of at least 15 points. They’ve already set a franchise record with 12 wins by 25 points or more.

Our house

No team in NBA history has ever gone undefeated at home, but both of these teams are about halfway there. The Spurs are 24-0 at the AT&T Center and have won 33 straight regular-season home games, dating back to March 12, 2015.

The Warriors are 20-0 at Oracle Arena this season. If they beat the Spurs on Monday, it will have been a full year since they last lost a regular season home game. And over the course of their 38-game home winning streak, they’ve outscored their opponents by 15.9 points per 100 possessions.

The Warriors have a better road record than the Spurs, but San Antonio has the league’s best road NetRtg, having outscored its opponents by 13.0 points per 100 possessions in their 20 road games.

Numbers like Thompson over Mozgov when Cavaliers play big

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers’ longest winning streak of the season – eight games from Dec. 28 to Jan. 12 – coincided with a lineup change, Tristan Thompson replacing Timofey Mozgov at center.

The winning streak came to an end in San Antonio last Thursday and Thompson went back the bench for the last three games. Matchups had something to do with it. The Cavs’ last three games have been against big centers (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut and Brook Lopez), and Cavs coach David Blatt acknowledged that size is the reason Mozgov has started those three games.

So Thompson could be back in the starting lineup again soon. It probably won’t happen on Thursday, when the Cavs host DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers (8 p.m. ET, TNT), but the Cavs’ numbers suggest that Thompson is the better choice.

The Cavs have played almost 1,000 minutes with LeBron James and Kevin Love at the forward positions, and about an equal number with Mozgov and Thompson at center. And Cleveland has been much better, especially offensively with Thompson at the five.

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Those minutes account for 71 percent of James’ total minutes. He’s also played 78 minutes with Thompson at the four and either Mozgov or Anderson Varejao at the five. He’s played only 8.1 minutes per game of small ball this season.

Interestingly, the Cavs’ numbers have been similar whether James is playing with one big or two.

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Thompson has been the center for most (192) of those one-big minutes, but the Cavs are a minus-26 with a James/Thompson frontline (in part because they’ve used it for more defensive than offensive possessions). They’ve been better (plus-63 in 86 minutes) with a James/Love frontline and three guards/wings, a configuration they could go to more often now that they have their full complement of guards available.

Lineups didn’t matter when the Cavs got smoked by the Warriors on Monday, but Blatt will continue to have interesting choices from game to game and minute to minute.

Gordon injury could mark end of Pelicans’ little-used big five

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The New Orleans’ Pelicans announced Wednesday afternoon that Eric Gordon is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fracture in his right ring finger.

The injury is the latest of many for the Pelicans, who have already been without Tyreke Evans for 19 games, Norris Cole for 17, Jrue Holiday for six, Anthony Davis for five, Ryan Anderson for two, and Quincy Pondexter for the whole season.

In his first season in New Orleans, coach Alvin Gentry hasn’t had all his tools at his disposal. But he also hasn’t used his best tools together very often.

Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis have all been available in 17 games this season. And in those 17 games, that group of five players has been on the floor together for less than 33 minutes.

In those (less than) 33 minutes together, that unit has outscored its opponents by a score of 99-56, with an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent.

One reason that they’ve outscored their opponents by so much is that they’ve been on the floor for a lot more offensive possessions than defensive possessions. Gentry has used his big five mostly in the fourth quarter (22 of the 33 minutes), when his team needs a basket or when the opponent is looking to foul. In their time on the floor, they’ve racked up 61 shots and 33 free throw attempts, while their opponents have totaled just 52 and 10.

And of course, there are defensive concerns with that unit. But it’s so potent offensively that the Pelicans have always outscored their opponents with it.

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Even with his team near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, Gentry never took much of a chance on what is clearly his most talented lineup. Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis have played more than five minutes together in just two games.

In one of the only games it was given extended run, the lineup turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead (and, eventually, a five-point win) in Denver on Dec. 20, scoring 19 points in 5:33.

Remember that game-winning alley-oop Davis threw down last week against Charlotte? Davis and Holiday had space to run their pick-and-roll, because there was *shooting at the other three positions to space the floor. But that was only the second offensive possession in the month of January in which Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis were all on the floor together.

*Yes, even Evans (29-for-76 from 3-point range in just 22 games) can be called a shooter now.

There was hope that extended health would compel Gentry to use his best players together more often. But Gordon’s injury has the big five stuck on plus-43 in 33 minutes, with the possibility of Anderson being traded before Gordon returns.

Blogtable: Rookie you enjoy watching watching (and why)?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEOKarl-Anthony Towns had a December to remember

> Through 41 games, it looks like we have a talented, versatile rookie class. Which rookie do you enjoy watching most, and why?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: I want to cop out and say it’s a tie between Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, because they’re both really talented and impact the game. But, if you’re making me pick one, how can you not like “The ‘Zinger?” A 7-foot-2 kid with that kind of range, but who also has hops and will rebound and block shots? Plus, he doesn’t seem intimidated in the league playing in a city that has been known to inhale and spit out a lot of talented guys.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I enjoy watching a number of these newbies: Karl-Anthony Towns for how preternaturally developed he is (and critical to Minnesota’s future), Kristaps Porzingis for his extreme size and marvelous demeanor in winning over salty Knicks fans, and Stanley Johnson to monitor the boost he gets in Detroit from his boundless confidence. But the rookie I watch for sheer fun is Chicago’s Bobby Portis, who plays with the attitude of a grumpy old man, gives himself third-person pep talks on the floor (“Gotta get that rebound, B.P.!”) and isn’t shy about pointing and gesturing to rouse folks in the United Center stands. He’s a 20-year-old excitedly taking his NBA baby steps.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns. Watching the best is always fun. I would have guessed at the start of the season that my answer would be Mario Hezonja, but he’s not getting big minutes, and part of me thought about saying Emmanuel Mudiay, except that’s more the good theater of “anything can happen.” Towns is smooth. He scores inside and steps outside to shoot with range. He defends. He rebounds. A lot of teams thought he would need a transition period, but no rookie has made the jump better.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Kristaps Porzingis, because someone his height isn’t supposed to do what he does, or at least not this quickly. Not only is Porzingis’ development interesting, but so is the fuss being made of him in New York, which shows you how starved that city is for a young savior and a potential future star. You must go back to the mid-1980s and Patrick Ewing or Mark Jackson to find the last Knicks rookie who felt this much local love.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns. What I like most about these rookies is that there are several of them (Willie Cauley-Stein, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Justise Winslow) that like to play defense. Towns still has a lot to learn on that end of the floor, but he has the right teacher and is definitely a two-way player. Offensively, he’s incredibly polished for a 20 year old, with the skills to play inside and out.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is a hometown pick for me, what with Suns rookie Devin Booker hailing from the great city of Grand Rapids and state of Michigan. He’s been one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreadful start for a Phoenix team that has struggled to play anywhere close to expectations. His 3-point shooting has been as good as advertised, but his underrated all-around game is what’s been pleasantly surprising. I’ve seen talented rookies tainted by their surroundings and I don’t want to see that happen to Booker, so here’s to a much better second half in the Valley of the Sun.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I like seeing Kristaps Porzingis playing with such intensity and desire. He’s performing in the biggest market for what has long been a disheartening franchise. And here he is, in his first year in America, just going for it and creating hope that hasn’t existed in New York for some time.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, let me first say that I think Karl-Anthony Towns is the best all-around member of the rookie class. But the rookie I enjoy watching the most? PORZINGIS! First of all, he looks like a character from a Tim Burton movie, elongated and stretched out, in desperate need of some meat on his bones. But when he gets the ball, he’s literally capable of anything — a 3-pointer from halfcourt, a Dream Shake, a powerful dunk over a defender. He’s been fantastic, and with the Knicks seemingly destined for the postseason, he might get to show off his game on the biggest stage.

Blogtable: Thoughts on Cavaliers at season’s halfway point?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEORelive the Warriors-Cavs matchup

> They lead the East, but in a five-day span they lost a close one to the Spurs on the road, then got blown out by the Warriors at home. What do you make of these Cleveland Cavaliers halfway through the season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Something’s amiss in the Land. It’s a combination of things, I think, but at the base the issue is how to be the defensive-based team that blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring and dismantled a 60-win Atlanta team in the conference finals while integrating the offense-first Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into the mix. The Cavs played championship-level defense in the postseason, but couldn’t score enough, as evidenced by the load LeBron James had to carry in The Finals. They’re going to be very good offensively once Irving is back at full speed, but can he and Love defend their positions well enough to beat elite teams? Not putting Monday’s beatdown by the Warriors all on those two, but clearly, Cleveland had no concept as a team of how to stop Golden State. Who does Irving guard? Stephen Curry? Nope. Klay Thompson? Maybe David Blatt puts him on Andrew Bogut, and I’m not kidding. But it’s going to be a question against the best teams, and those are the teams the Cavs have struggled to beat this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com The Cavaliers are good enough and not good enough. They’re good enough to get past any rough patches, good enough to essentially control the East and good enough to get back to the Finals without too much angst or sweat. But they’re not good enough to beat Golden State or San Antonio in seven games, not yet, not as currently constituted. J.R. Smith is too erratic on and off the court to be relied upon to the degree Cleveland does, they need more outside shooting as it is and they’re almost starting over in cracking the LeBron JamesKyrie IrvingKevin Love code. They have lots on their plates for the final three months.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: They’re fine. Not perfect. Not the team to beat. But the Cavaliers are still the favorite in the East and, if you want the real perspective, in much better shape than a year ago as doubt flew in every direction and coach David Blatt was supposedly on the hot seat. You know, before they got to The Finals and then to a Game 6 without two of their best players for most or all of the series.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI think the Cavs are fortunate to play in the East, and that all they need to do is win the conference, which last I checked doesn’t go through Oakland or San Antonio. Unless my math is wrong, that puts them in The Finals, right? Look, past history has proven that whatever happens in the regular season (losses to certain teams) often carries little weight in the post-season. Cleveland is fine, in the big picture. There’s a lot of basketball left to find a groove and seek answers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com They’ve improved defensively and rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor, which is where they need to be. But yeah, that top-10 defense obviously didn’t hold up against the league’s best offense (Golden State), and their offense struggled against the league’s best defense (San Antonio). The Cavs could probably win the East in their sleep, but the Warriors and Spurs are playing like two of the best teams of all-time. The Cavs could wait to flip the switch in the postseason, but now would be a good time to play with some urgency, not let bad teams hang around through three quarters, and see if they can’t match the Spurs’ and Warriors’ point differential for a few weeks.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: They strike me as a team that is well aware that they are ill-equipped to handle either the Spurs or Warriors in a seven-game series right now. That narrative about a healthy Cavaliers team surely being able to finish what they started in The Finals against the Warriors seems a bit hollow to me now. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would have made a huge difference, but I don’t know that they would have been the difference between winning and losing. And the Spurs and Warriors have taken it up a few notches since last season while the Cavaliers clearly have not. I think it’s a good thing, actually, because now the Cavaliers can assess exactly what they are and make whatever adjustments, tweaks and or trades necessary.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Let’s acknowledge that they’ve been without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert for most of this season. But let’s also not dismiss the impression that they entered this year behaving as if they were de facto champs – as if convinced they would have won the NBA Finals if not for their injuries. If so, then they are learning is that it’s going to require more than talent and depth and potential. Instead of seeing them express the arrogance and indiscipline that led to their blowout loss to the real champions, maybe we’ll see the Cavs approach the second half of the year with humility – which is their only hope.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m not sure what to make of them. Sure, they’re 28-11 and own the best record in the Eastern Conference. But LeBron’s wavering 3-point shooting numbers are at least mildly troubling to me, and while I know one game out of 82 can be viewed as an aberration, getting blown out at home by the Warriors is not ideal. I know the Cavs went all-in financially on this group of players, but I think they could still use an athletic 2/3 type who can hit 3-pointers and play defense. Things aren’t perfect right now, and the good news is that right now, they don’t have to be perfect. The question is whether things will get right by the time the playoffs roll around.

Blogtable: Biggest surprise at season’s halfway point is _____?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?



VIDEOWhich team is the best at this point in the season?

> Biggest surprise to you at the halfway mark of this season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: The rapid improvement of the East versus the West. You don’t hear much talk from the media about re-seeding the playoffs because of the dreadful East any more, do you? Not to sprain my wrist patting myself on the back, but some of us argued — and continued to argue –that there’s no magic potion or league-mandated jerry rigging that’s going to make the East better. If you hire good coaches (Brad Stevens, Steve Clifford, Stan Van Gundy), draft the right players (John Wall, Jimmy Butler, Andre Drummond, Kristaps Porzingis), make smart trades (Goran Dragic, Nicola Vucevic, Marcin Gortat) and sign the right free agents for the right amount of money (Pau Gasol, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap), it’s amazing how quickly you can make your team better. I am surprised, though, that Houston and Phoenix and New Orleans have fallen off so quickly this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: In the team category, I’m most surprised by Dallas. No way did I expect the Mavericks to be in the middle of things out West. I underestimated the contributions they’d get from Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Powell, didn’t fully account for the value in shedding Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis and took for granted Rick Carlisle‘s coaching. As for individual surprises, C.J. McCollum has been something of a revelation. Sure, he’s getting more opportunity – he already has played more minutes than in his first two seasons combined – but he still had to be capable of responding to it. The slender shooting guard hasn’t just scored more, he has spruced up his mid-range game and doubled his assist percentage. He’s a big Most Improved candidate in my view.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Mavericks. I was like everyone else. I thought it was going to be tough several months. Through no fault of their own, but still. I thought losing DeAndre Jordan with little chance to find a replacement center, while also relying on Wesley Matthews coming off a serious injury and 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, was a near-certain invitation to the lottery. Instead, Dallas is tracking to the playoffs and 2015-16 is becoming another affirmation of the skill of coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs knew it all along, signing him to an extension before this latest proving ground, and a lot of people around the league knew it, but the success should be the ultimate sign of Carlisle and the atmosphere around the entire organization.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Pelicans. I thought by adding a decent coach and getting healthy and benefitting from one of the top-10 players in basketball would place them in the middle of the pack in the West (which isn’t that good this year). But they’re an awful team with major questions and, to be honest, Davis hasn’t improved a lick nor shown that he can transform a team (which is what superstars do).

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Kristaps Porzingis. The rookie was supposed to be a couple of years away from really contributing, but he’s helped the Knicks on both ends of the floor. He’s obviously big and skilled, but he’s also got a fantastic attitude, seems very comfortable living in a new country and in the league’s biggest market, and he even has Carmelo Anthony trying to play distributor every once in a while.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The biggest surprise for me is just how big a gap there is between the top teams in the league (Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and, perhaps, the Clippers on a good day) and the rest of the field. Like most people, I didn’t see the record start coming from the Warriors. And the fact that the Spurs are hot on the trail is truly an amazing feat, given just how all-time great the Warriors have been. Even with the significant improvement from top to bottom in the Eastern Conference, there is still a wide space between the true contenders and everyone else.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Warriors and Spurs are separating themselves fundamentally from the rest of the league. There is a long way to go, and things can change dramatically, but right now no other team is in the same league as Golden State and San Antonio.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Washington Wizards. For a team that pushed the Atlanta Hawks so hard in the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals, they definitely seem to have regressed. Now, I know they’ve had injuries, and they’re trying to play more small ball, but they just can’t seem to turn the corner and escape this neighborhood of being a perpetual .500 team.