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An Insider’s Look at Kostas Antetokounmpo

Spencer Davies looks at the prospects of Kostas Antetokounmpo at the next level through the eyes of a staffer who once worked with him.

Spencer Davies

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The last name “Antetokounmpo” is an attention grabber.

When you hear it, you immediately think of the most impressive athletic specimen in all of basketball, and maybe even sports, period. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ All-Star forward and literal “Greek Freak,” has opened the world’s eyes since coming into the NBA and making his presence felt.

However, he’s not the only one in the family that has the chops to play the game.

His oldest brother, Thanasis, is currently overseas after spending a brief time in the New York Knicks organization a couple of seasons ago.

His youngest brother, Alexis, is making a big name for himself at Dominican High School in Milwaukee and is rapidly growing with each year—in size and in skill.

And then there’s the fourth brother in the family, Kostas, who is out to prove that he has a whole lot to offer at the professional level despite those doubting him.

“I feel that a lot of people think that I’m less talented than I am,” Antetokounmpo said at the NBA Combine in Chicago. “I feel like I’m more talented. I haven’t really gotten the chance to really show it yet, but I feel like when the chance comes, everybody’s gonna be surprised.”

Aiming For The Pros

In two years at The University of Dayton, Antetokounmpo did not see all that much playing time, at least consistently. He played just one season in college, with only seven games where he was on the floor for over 20 minutes.

Then-Flyers head coach Archie Miller recruited Antetokounmpo and redshirted him as soon as he arrived due to being ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA.

According to a former Dayton staffer when he was a freshman, Antetokounmpo had his sights solely set on reaching the professional ranks from the jump.

“Obviously had his eyes on getting to the next level as quick as possible,” the staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Basketball Insiders of redshirting Antetokounmpo.

“I know he was not thinking long-term college. I think he was thinking two and done. That was kinda our plan with him with the redshirt year, so you’re looking at three years. And that was kinda like the timetable we gave him. If things went super well for him and he had a chance to make it, we were certainly gonna push him out the door.”

There were plenty of things that stood out to the staff at Dayton when Antetokounmpo first joined the team. They weren’t things you’d typically expect skill-wise, but it was rather more about his measurables and wingspan that truly wowed them.

“Just his length,” the staffer said. “Like he’s just able to cover so much ground so quickly. Whether that’s coming over help side in the lane, to block a shot on the weak side or it’s a shot fake, one-dribble from the NBA three-point line to the basket and he dunks on you. I think just his overall length was kinda like, ‘Woah, he can cover a lot of ground.’ He can be disruptive on defense. That type of stuff.

“It wasn’t necessarily like, ‘This guy could shoot the ball, he can dribble.’ It was like, ‘This dude’s super raw, his potential is sky-high and he is super long.’”

A Change Of Pace

While he was redshirting, Antetokounmpo put a ton of time into getting better as a shooter, something he still needs to prove he can consistently do. On top of that, his stability was not the best. Posting on the block or coming off ball screens, when others players would make contact with Antetokounmpo, he’d be thrown off balance.

The objective in mind for the Flyers program was to help bring Antetokounmpo along over time, but it didn’t happen exactly as he thought it would. Fresh off yet another successful season and a regular season conference championship, Miller took an opportunity to coach at Indiana University.

Former Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama University head coach Anthony Grant was hired as Miller’s replacement. It not only changed the direction at Dayton, but it also altered the development and comfortability of Antetokounmpo.

“It’s very difficult,” the staffer said of playing for different coaches. “It was a tough situation for him because we had a detailed plan of how we were gonna get him better and all that type of stuff and then coach took a different job.

“There’s a lot of trust that goes into coming to a program and knowing the coaching staff. When somebody leaves and somebody new comes in. You have a lot of questions. You have a lot of uncertainties. So there’s a lot of different variables that can go into it.”

Admittedly, the staffer thought that Antetokounmpo would have seen the floor more last year if Miller was still at the helm.

“I’m sure we would’ve tried to utilize him more than they did,” the staffer said. “Nonetheless, it is what it is. What happened, happened. I know last year was kinda a struggle with him with coach Grant and how they used him. I’m not exactly sure what happened there. Two different stories from both sides.”

Family Values And Persistence

Regardless of whatever difficulties come his way, Antetokounmpo’s work ethic is top-notch. From staying in the gym late at night with a manager to constantly working on his body and sticking to a strict diet plan, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals and improve.

It’s a quality that reflects a real influence from Giannis, who has constantly mentored his brothers with advice since their childhood – so him being there to support Kostas at the combine meant a lot to his little brother.

“It was really important,” Antetokounmpo said of Giannis attending. ‘Him just being there and just seeing him—I haven’t seen him in a while, so it just made me feel real good.

“He just told me play as hard as you can. You’re not gonna make every shot, but just play as hard as you can. You can get knocked down, but get up and play as hard as you can.”

As mentioned before, the family name is recognizable across the world by now due to the superstardom of Giannis. Of course, with that will come comparisons between the two, and probably Alexis, down the road.

But Kostas knew right away the talk would surface and that he’d be a bullseye for competition.

“I feel like you can’t get caught up in that stuff, you feel me?” Antetokounmpo said. “Like, any player that’s coming up now—like every player—they’re gonna compare you to somebody. At the end of the day, you just gotta be yourself, just play your game and just show the people what you can do.

“Most of the times I got a target on my back, but you can’t do nothing. Any way you go, it’s gonna be the same thing. I tell my younger brother [Alexis] the same thing. In high school everybody’s coming for you. They’ll maybe try to foul you, talk to you, talk trash and stuff, but just keep playing. Just zone out and keep playing.”

Brothers, But Different Players

While Kostas and Giannis share the same last name, they do not share the same game. Their repertoire and style of play do not match on another. In fact, putting the two in the same breath is unheard of for where the 20-year-old is at compared to a near-MVP in his older brother.

“Anybody who thinks he’s the next Greek Freak 2.0 is mistaken because he’s not,” the staffer said. “It’s unfair to him because he has the pressure on his shoulders, but he’s just not at the stage to even be in the same conversation as his brother.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ever compare the two. They’re just two completely different people and different players.”

It’s pretty easy to support this argument. Giannis had much more of an audience that was captivated by his time overseas. Between experiences with professional ball club Filathlitikos and experience in the under-20 championships in FIBA for his native country of Greece, he was a projected first-round pick.

While Kostas also briefly played for the same professional team in Greece under the junior program, he didn’t have the opportunity to garner the same experience as his older brother did. So instead, when the family moved to Milwaukee, he played high school ball and was recruited by Miller.

With that said, it is fair to liken their respective physical frames to one another. As an 18-year-old going into the 2013 NBA Draft, Giannis was 6-foot-9 and 196 pounds. Two years older than what his brother was entering the field, Kostas measured in at 6-foot-10-and-a-half inches in height and weighed in at about 195 pounds.

“His body is a little underdeveloped still,” the staffer said. “He’s probably still growing into it. You talk to professionals and big time strength program coaches, they kinda look at his body as a blank canvas that can go a lot of different ways just given his genetics and seeing how his brother’s really filled out.

“But I think the more that, [once] he’s able to grow and get stronger and put on a little more weight, I just think his game will continue to develop and overall mature his game.”

Draft Prospects?

If you look at most mock drafts that are out there, not many of them have Antetokounmpo on the list. There may be some you come across that predict he gets taken at the tail end of the second round, but many people seem to believe he’ll go undrafted.

The staffer told Basketball Insiders that if a team does take a chance on Antetokounmpo with a pick, it will be “a little bit of a risk” due to the minuscule sample size there is with his game. Though, he can see a scenario where he’s selected in the fifties or signs a two-way contract that allows him to develop in the G-League.

“It’s easier to make a decision on somebody when you have 30 games to watch, how they compete and play against other pros whereas Kostas was playing 12-15 minutes in the Atlantic-10 not playing against too many other pros,” he said.

By the same token, there’s a probability that the organization that brings Antetokounmpo in will be happy with his self-starting attitude. Between how he approaches his day-to-day routine and how close he is with his family, who he is as a person is what truly separates him.

“I just think he has a lot of internal motivators that will drive him,” the staffer said. “I’m really curious to see what happens. I’m really excited to see how things will pan out for him.”

Antetokounmpo believes that his strongest suit he can bring to the floor is his athleticism, being a floor runner and establishing a reputation as a shot blocker.

The staffer agreed with his notion that he’s better than what he did in one season at Dayton.

“I think some people—whoever will take him—people may question like you’re taking a guy who’s not really proven or didn’t too much in college, but I think his potential is the most intriguing part,” the staffer said. “You can see the confidence he has in himself. I think it’s gonna take the right system and the right coach and the right people around him to get out the best in him.”

He might not have gotten the opportunity to prove himself much on the college stage, but it certainly sounds like Antetokounmpo will be able to rectify that at the professional level.

And if he ever gets to share the same floor as his siblings, his fantasy will have become a reality.

“Playing against all my brothers,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s our dream, just playing against each other or even playing on the same team.”

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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NBA Daily: How Toronto Is Getting Past Its Playoff Demons

Even if they’re not facing the toughest opponent, multiple factors have helped the Raptors get over their playoff woes and dominate a playoff series, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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Being up 3-1 is usually child’s play for a No. 2 seed. For Toronto, it means so much more.

Since the Raptors’ rise to prominence in 2013, this is how every single playoff series for them has turned out.

2014: Lost to the fourth-seeded Nets team in seven games
2015: Lost to the fifth-seeded Wizards in four games
2016: Beat the seventh-seeded Pacers in seven games, beat the third-seeded HEAT in seven games, lost to the first-seeded Cavaliers in six games
2017: Beat the seventh-seeded Bucks in seven games, lost to the third-seeded Cavaliers in four games
2018: Beat the eighth-seeded Wizards in six games, lost to the fourth-seeded Cavaliers in four games

For the past half-decade, Toronto would either struggle to beat an opponent or get flat out embarrassed by it. In so doing, the franchise has developed a reputation for not being able to step up its game when the postseason comes around.

When the Magic stole Game 1 from the Raptors last week, fears of history of repeating itself surfaced. In the past, the Raptors have not responded well to obstacles. They may have been able to defeat an inferior opponent who showed some fight, but when the Raptors got over the hump, they made it harder on themselves than it had to be.

In the three games following Game 1, Toronto has bested Orlando three consecutive times, and they’ve done so relatively easily. The Raptors have beaten the Magic by an average of 18.67 points per game.

Beating the Magic, a team that hadn’t sniffed the playoffs in six years with a roster full of playoff virgins, is not what should be catching people’s eye. It’s that after several years of promising that things change for the better only to fail every time, Toronto has finally put its money where its mouth is.

Trading DeMar DeRozan – who had very well-documented struggles in the postseason – for Kawhi Leonard – the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 NBA Finals MVP – probably had something to do with that, but that was expected and more importantly, it hasn’t been just that.

Toronto’s success so far in the playoffs has not stemmed from Kawhi being a one-man show. In fact, there are multiple reasons as to how the Raptors have been able to make their playoff struggles a thing of the past.

The Continuing Rise of Pascal Siakam

There doesn’t need to be much explained about the third-year player because you’ve probably heard all about him. The New Mexico State alum has risen above the ranks to become one of the finer young players in the league and is one of the frontrunners for Most Improved Player. The refinement in his all-around game vaulted him to perhaps the second best player in Toronto.

The only question in hand was whether Siakam could keep up his impressive play in the postseason. This wasn’t out of lack of trust in him. It was because Toronto’s previous All-Stars like DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (more on him later) showed time and time again that they could not be trusted in a playoff series.

Pascal has put all those worries to bed. At least for the time being. Siakam has been nothing short of dominant in the four games that he’s gone up against Orlando, averaging 22.3 points on 53.8 percent shooting from the field as well as nine rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

The highlight of his performance was his Game 3 stat line in which Siakam put up 30 points on 65/75/100 splits as well as 11 rebounds and four assists. Compared to DeRozan and Lowry, who sometimes had good playoff performances but just not consistently good performances. Pascal Siakam’s dependability should make the Raptors feel good about their chances as the postseason continues.

As it stands now, he has shown he is not afraid of the moment. Only time will tell if it stays that way for him.

Marc Gasol’s Presence

If trading for Kawhi was the evidence that Toronto wasn’t messing around with its window of opportunity, then trading for Gasol was the evidence that it would do everything in its power to reach its ceiling.

The Raptors pounced on the rare opportunity to acquire the former Defensive Player of the Year for pennies on the dollar, and Gasol’s acquisition has paid off big time since his arrival. Gasol not only provides them with a rim protector down low. He also brings a pretty advanced playoff pedigree.

Adding defense wasn’t necessarily a must for Toronto at the deadline, but an upgrade was definitely welcome. It didn’t take long for Gasol to take the starting center position from Serge Ibaka, and when he did, it got results.

The Raptors had the fifth-lowest defensive rating overall this season, allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions. Gasol definitely made his own mark on the defense, as the Raptors actually had the third-lowest defensive rating – allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions – after they had acquired him.

This postseason, Gasol’s impact on the floor couldn’t be more valuable. Coming into the series, Gasol’s task was to stop Orlando’s main source of offense, Nikola Vucevic. Vooch had his best season as a pro, averaging 21/12 on 52/36/79 splits, which earned him an All-Star nod.

Since the series started, Gasol has made life miserable for Nik, as Vucevic as averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds on 37/27/78 splits. According to NBA.com, Vucevic’s offensive rating is 98 when Gasol is on the court and 118 when he is off the court. Overall, both Vooch’s and the Magic’s net rating when he and Gasol share the court together is -19.8.

The Magic were plus-17 offensively with Vucevic on the court during the regular season, so if he’s not scoring, they are in trouble. Gasol has clearly made a ton of trouble for Orlando alone because of how he’s neutralized Vucevic.

If Gasol can stop one of the league’s most offensively talented bigs in Vucevic, that has to make the Raptors feel good about how he does against the center on their next most likely opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Lessening Kyle Lowry’s Role

Outside of that abominable performance he had in Game 1, Lowry hasn’t been that bad since the playoffs began. Lowry’s averaging 14.3 points on 48/40/78 splits in Games 2 through 4. Those aren’t world-beater type numbers, but they are solid for a starting point guard.

That doesn’t change that Lowry’s numbers have declined in this year’s playoffs. Even though he’s averaging the same number of minutes he usually does, Lowry is averaging the lowest field goal attempts he’s ever had in the playoffs on average (9.5) as well as his lowest usage rate at 17.2 percent.

This is because the Raptors have relied more heavily on Kawhi and Pascal to shoulder the scoring load, which has done wonders for them offensively. Lowry is not a bad offensive option by any means. Leonard and Siakam have just proven to better at the moment.

Strangely enough, by decreasing his role offensively on the team, it somehow made him more effective overall as a player. Toronto is somehow a plus-50.7 when Lowry is on the floor, as the team has been dominant on both ends of the floor when he’s playing. Because his role isn’t as substantial as it had been in previous seasons, Lowry may just be playing in a role that was better suited for him. Some players do better when there isn’t nearly as much pressure on them.

Again, we expected that Toronto would do better after the personnel moves they made this summer. What we didn’t expect were these other subplots that made them more dynamic and much more of a threat in the postseason.

The road ahead only gets tougher for the Raptors, but if they can keep this up, then they might be the ones representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals – which could be enough success to make a pitch for re-signing Kawhi Leonard this summer.

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NBA Daily: An Elite Generation Takes Aim At The Postseason Greats

Even without LeBron James in the playoffs, there are plenty of historical narratives worth keeping an eye on — from steals to blocks, there’s plenty up for grabs.

Ben Nadeau

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When LeBron James missed out on the postseason for the first time in 14 years, he left a massively large hole in the proceedings. After all, James had dragged his squad to the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons, dating back to his inaugural season alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh down in Miami.

Without James, in a way, the playoffs seem just a little bit emptier.

But it goes past his hulking status as a legend or his ability to dominate the headlines throughout the work week — literally, his box score is a standstill, collecting dust for once. James already owns more postseason points than anybody in NBA history with 6,911. That’s more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, more than Kobe Bryant and more than Michael Jordan — all by the age of 32.

Unsurprisingly, James is also the active leader in nearly every other category as well — games, minutes, field goals, rebounds, assists and steals.

The absence of James and a few notable other leaves the 2018-19 playoffs in an intriguing position in terms of the historical ladder. But since James cannot extend his absurd statistical bounties this spring, here are the players worth watching into the second round and beyond.

Of note, without James, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Dirk Nowitzki on the floor this postseason, Pau Gasol (136) is highest-ranking active games leader. Trailed by Kyle Korver at 133, it’s a small testament to their sticking power in an ever-changing NBA landscape.

Not far behind that pair is Kevin Durant, who will presumably pass Kevin Garnett, James Worthy and Reggie Miller for 37th all-time in postseason minutes at some point in their series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Durant’s name, naturally, will be popping up far more than just that.

Field Goals — Kevin Durant
1,265, 20th all-time

1. LeBron James, 2,457
10. Tony Parker, 1,613
14. Dwyane Wade, 1,450

44. Russell Westbrook, 834
48. Stephen Curry, 815

Regardless of how Durant’s championships in Golden State resonates person-to-person, there’s no denying that the 6-foot-9 finisher is a crash course with history. At 30, Durant just continues to rise up the ranks and his free agency decision this summer suddenly looms large. Just as the rest of the categories reflect, these year-after-year deep Warriors runs can do wonders for your postseason standings — but Durant seems willing to give that all up. Still, outside of his first playoff berth in 2009-10, Durant has only failed to splash more than 140 field goals in just one other season.

During the Warriors’ championship-winning run in 2018-19, Durant dropped an absurd 212 buckets on 48.7 percent from the floor. Should he just tally a more human total in this current postseason pace, he’ll be knocking on the door of the top ten. Hell, even if Durant leaves Golden State come July in free agency and his field goals per playoffs revert to a more sustainable number of around 150, it’ll only take another three seasons before he’s challenging the likes of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

Durant is destined for greatness, the only question now is how high he’ll go.

Three-Pointers — Stephen Curry
395, 1st all-time


3. LeBron James, 370
6. Klay Thompson, 308
11. Kevin Durant, 273
14. James Harden, 240
15. Kyle Korver, 237
20. Danny Green, 194

Yeah, so, Curry owns the three-point line already — that’s well-established.

Just last week, Curry became the NBA’s all-time postseason leader in made three-pointers by passing Ray Allen during Game 1 against the Clippers.

Also, relevantly, Stephen Curry is only 31 years-old.

At this rate, his record has a legitimate chance to become untouchable by the time Curry retires. Saying that Curry is a fire-flinging marksman almost states nothing at this point — but what he’s done in the span of four years would’ve been borderline unimaginable 10 years ago. Along with three championships, Curry has tallied 98, 80, 72 and 64 made three-pointers over the previous four postseason runs.

For comparison’s sake, neither Ray Allen nor Reggie Miller ever passed 60 made threes in a single postseason during their Hall of Fame-worthy careers.

Needless to say, the gulf between No. 1 and No. 2 could be unfathomably deep in a few years’ time — if not for the efforts of Klay Thompson, his co-Splash Brother.

Over those same four seasons, Thompson has been nearly as prolific as Curry has been. Knocking down 57, 98, 41 and 67 made three-point totals, Thompson has flown to No. 6 on the charts in no time. Of course, Curry and Thompson benefit from playing close to 20 games each postseason — just as James has for the last decade — but these are prime sharpshooters simply showing off.

Even if Thompson makes a modest 40 three-pointers per postseason this year and next, he’d swiftly pass Allen and James for second on the ladder. Unless proceedings take a surprising twist this summer, Thompson and Curry may have another half-decade of elite play left in Golden State’s backcourt.

Which is to say, basically: Say goodbye to any and all three-point records — both in the regular and postseason — as these two are going to smash them all to pieces — if they haven’t already.

Total Rebounds — Pau Gasol
1,246, 37th all-time

6. LeBron James, 2,122
23. Dirk Nowitzki, 1,446
29. Dwight Howard, 1,315

53. Kevin Durant, 1,025
61. Draymond Green, 942

Gasol has slowed down as of late, but he’s still near the top of the rebounding ladder for now. The Spaniard has been dealing with an ankle injury since he joined the Milwaukee Bucks in March, but he likely won’t feature all that much once he returns either. With Brook Lopez handling most of the center minutes, it’s unlikely that Gasol does too much damage here. He’s on the backend of his career and hasn’t played meaningful postseason minutes since 2016-17, where he tallied 75 rebounds over 365 minutes and 16 games for San Antonio.

Unless there’s an injury, Gasol can reasonably snag a few spot-minute rebounds here and there to pass Kevin McHale (1,253) and Dan Issel (1,255) for 35th all-time. If the Bucks reach the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s certainly a chance Gasol could pass Artis Gilmore this postseason, but don’t expect much fanfare in either case.

Elsewhere, much like Thompson, the Warriors’ length four-year chases have sent Draymond Green skyrocketing up the standings too. Green has put up 166, 190, 135 and 180 tallies over that interval, so another run like that would place him around Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan in the low 40s for the most all-time postseason rebounds. For a second-round selection, Green’s contributions have already left an indelible dent in NBA history with no foreseeable end in sight.

Assists — Chris Paul
815, 25th all-time

3. LeBron James, 1,687
5. Tony Parker, 1,143
13. Rajon Rondo, 981
20. Dwyane Wade, 870

31. Russell Westbrook, 746
41. James Harden, 597
42. Draymond Green, 593
43. Stephen Curry, 592
51. Kevin Durant, 518

This list is popping with recent activity, full of vibrant playmakers and game-changing court visionaries. James, Parker, Rondo and Wade decorate the top of the ladder, however, the next generation is approaching fast.

Paul, who deserves to be in the conversation for the best point guard of all-time, sports a career playoff average of 8.8 assists over 93 games. Of course, his numbers have taken a slight hit since he joined up with the ball-dominant James Harden but Paul can leapfrog a bevy of legends this postseason alone.

If the Houston Rockets play in 15 games again and Paul averages five or so assists in that stretch, he’d finish on par with Clyde Drexler at No. 19 all-time. In matching Drexler, Paul would pass John Havlicek, Manu Ginobili, Chauncey Billups, Julius Erving and Dwyane Wade — so, obviously, that’s not bad company to keep at all.

Paul’s ability to reach even higher will depend on his health and role next to Harden, but his Hall of Fame legacy is already cemented without question.

Steals — Chris Paul
201, 24th all-time

1. LeBron James, 419
14. Dwyane Wade, 273
24-T. Rajon Rondo, 201

30. James Harden, 181
31. Russell Westbrook, 180
35. Andre Iguodala, 174
40. Draymond Green, 169
45. Stephen Curry, 160
48. Kawhi Leonard, 149

Paul’s aforementioned legacy is furthered thanks to his long-time ball-swiping prowesses — today, the 33-year-old finds himself on the verge of joining another elite group. During the Rockets’ Western Conference Finals run in 2017-18, Paul snagged 30 steals. If Paul were able to replicate those totals for the remainder of this postseason and all of the next, he’d have enough to pass Karl Malone for No. 16 all-time in postseason thefts. Again, Paul’s recent injury history makes it a tough area to predict — but as long as he’s playing, his team has a chance to win.

The presence of Andre Iguodala is an exemplification of his impressive career too, particularly so given his recent multi-round trips as a member of the Warriors. Iguodala, 35, has only missed the postseason once since 2007 — albeit playing in just one series clips typically — but he’s been a springtime staple this era. Over Golden State’s historic four-year journey, Iguodala has snatched away totals of 25, 29, 14 and 21 steals, respectively.

If he were to manage another 20 or so this postseason, he’d rank close to the top 25 in postseason steals — all in all, a fantastic achievement for the well-liked veteran.

Blocks — Serge Ibaka
255, 10th all-time


14. Dwight Howard, 234
15. Pau Gasol, 233
16. LeBron James, 232
25. Dwyane Wade, 175
35. Kevin Durant, 156
37. Draymond Green, 152
44. Al Horford, 138

Saving the best for last is Serge Ibaka, the NBA’s active leader in postseason blocks. That’s right: Not James, not Gasol, not Howard — Serge Ibaka. The 6-foot-10 brick wall has slowed down from his elite days in Oklahoma City, but he’s still consistently climbing the historical ladder. Ibaka hasn’t missed the playoffs since his rookie year in 2008 and he’s featured in 10-plus games in every postseason since 2009. Back in the Thunder’s heyday, Ibaka swatted away a whopping 52, 59, 33 and 42 shots over a four-year period.

North of the border, Ibaka’s postseason tallies have been far more muted — still, he’s got plenty of gas left in the tank. With Toronto looking like an Eastern Conference Finals contender, Ibaka has a real chance of reaching 20 blocks this time around. Should Ibaka do so, he’d be right on the tail of Kevin McHale and Julius Erving for ninth and eighth all-time in playoff blocks. Although Ibaka is extremely unlikely to reach the Hall of Fame himself, his place as one of basketball’s best shot blockers is practically set in stone.

James’ departure — along with the massive holes left by Nowitzki and Wade — have given this postseason a completely different feel. But even if onlookers can’t watch LeBron further many of his categorical leads, there are plenty of other narratives worth paying attention to. Given Curry and Thompson’s elite long-distance shooting, Paul’s high-ranking steals and assists totals and Durant’s overall dominance, that means that every game — whether in the first round or the Finals — has historical implications.

Which NBA legend will be passed next? Kobe Bryant? Michael Jordan? With this group of stat-stuffing future Hall of Famers, almost nothing is off the table.

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NBA Daily: Is Now the Time for the Houston Rockets?

Houston pushed the Golden State Warriors to the brink last year. Shane Rhodes analyzes whether the Rockets are now ready to advance to the NBA Finals.

Shane Rhodes

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In what may be the best eventual series of the postseason, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are expected to go head-to-head in the second round.

Both teams are almost certainly looking forward to their postseason rematch — to show which team is truly dominant over the other. Both the Rockets and Warriors, for the most part, have made easy work of their first-round adversaries; while the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively, may play hard, neither have the personnel to contend with the NBA’s most talented teams. Meanwhile, both Houston and Golden State have subjected the NBA to a season-long offensive clinic, and their postseason performance thus far has shown that neither team has lost much, if any steam.

But, over the last few seasons, the Rockets have had one goal (beyond the obvious Larry O’Brien Trophy), one obsession: unseating the Warriors dynasty.

“It’s the only thing we think about,” General Manager Daryl Morey said last season. They were meticulously built to defeat the beast that Golden State has become in recent years.

And now, Houston may have its best chance to topple a giant.

While some may argue otherwise, the Rockets are a better team than they were a season ago. Not only are they healthy — Chris Paul was lost to injury in the midst of their Conference Finals series last season — but their defense is better. Even James Harden, voted Most Valuable Player a season ago and in line for another this season, has significantly improved, both as an offensive weapon and as a defender.

Houston went through multiple regular season stretches that were rife with injuries. Paul missed 17 straight games midseason, while Clint Capela missed 15 of his own around the same time. But now, there are no major injuries, and the Rockets are actively trying to avoid them: P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon, amid two blowouts, have seen their time on the court dip from a season ago, while Paul is on pace to finish with a career low in postseason minutes player per game (30).

A dose of early season adversity seems to have hardened the Rockets mindset quite a bit as well; while they were somewhat carried by Harden’s historic offensive effort, it put the roster in a position where they needed to grind out some ugly wins on the defensive end and it has made them better in the long run. Tucker, an already versatile defensive weapon, has proved even more capable this season while Capela and Paul are their usual stout selves.

As for Harden, who has looked to be in the best shape of his career, he has become even more valuable for the Rockets than he was a season ago. He has proven a stout defender, both on the perimeter and in the post, en route to career-high two steals per game (good for second in the NBA this season).

Offensively, his shot volume has increased dramatically, but he has remained surprisingly efficient, shooting 36.8% and 44.2% from three and the field, respectively, on 13.2 threes (a career high) and 24.5 shots per game (also a career high). But he has developed more than his three-point stroke. While Harden has made art of the stepback three, he has improved on his ability to draw fouls; Harden was the first since Allen Iverson in the 2005-06 regular season to average at least nine free throws made and 11 free throw attempts per game (again, both career highs for Harden). While he is often criticized for his style of play, he has used it to put the Rockets in a position to win big games time and time again.

What may be the best news for Houston, however, is that, through two games, Harden has averaged his lowest postseason minutes played since he was in Oklahoma City. Harden, as have the Rockets in recent years, has tended to run out of gas come postseason time — an entire season playing as physical as he does would leave anyone drained. So, the quicker the Jazz are dealt with, and the more rest the Rockets are afforded, the better.

It could certainly prove a fool’s errand to predict the Warriors demise, but there are causes for concern this postseason.

DeMarcus Cousins, who played a major role with the team upon his return this season, is likely out for the postseason after he tore a quad muscle. Not only does his absence remove one of the Warriors’ biggest chess pieces, but it gives other teams a matchup they can exploit. Even hobbled, Cousins would have been a superior option to Andrew Bogut, Kevon Looney or Jordan Bell.

The team recently sustained a historically bad loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, who overcame a 31-point deficit to steal a game at Oracle Arena, as well. While Golden State punched back — and punched back hard — in the next game, it goes to show that any team, even the Warriors, are prone to take their foot off the gas when they feel comfortable.

And, perhaps the biggest distraction this Warriors group has faced, the future of Kevin Durant has hung like a dark cloud over the team for much of the season.

Now don’t take this the wrong way — short of Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green calling it quits after the Clippers series, the Warriors will be far from a pushover. But, they appear to be vulnerable, for the first time in a long time.

The Rockets already had them on the ropes last season. If they can take advantage now, Houston may very well find themselves in the NBA Finals come June.

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