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The NBA Conference Finals are here, the NBA Draft is coming up, and I’m your man for both.
Western Conference Finals Dallas v Golden State
Do not sleep on the Warriors. I know the Warriors have only two truly consistent scorers. I know the Warriors’ shot selection is only slightly better than that of a Sunday morning pickup game at the local Boys Club. I know the only difference between Ben Simmons and Draymond Green offensively is that Green talks more.
That said, the Warriors are not ready to give up the West because of one reason and one reason only: The Mavs just aren’t that good.
The Mavs are a nice team with a great player, but it takes a great team to defeat a multi-championship team still in its prime. Michael and Scottie finally beat the Pistons. Pistons had to get through Bird and Jordan. You just don’t show up with an OK team and take out a team with a championship pedigree.
Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith et al are nice pieces to good teams, but no, nope no way do they beat the Warriors four times in two weeks.
Think of it in terms of Hall of Famers.
Pistons: Isiah, Dumars, Rodman
Bulls: MJ, Pippen, Kukoc, Rodman
Celtics: Bird, McHale, Parrish, DJ
Ladies and gentlemen, it takes Hall of Famers to beat a team like the Warriors.
Dallas has Doncic and a bunch of guys — good guys, good players — but this is a Warriors team that, unlike the last few years, is healthy. A healthy Warriors team can be taken out only by Hall of Famers, and Dallas ain’t got but one.
The Eastern Conference Finals are throwback city.
Celtics and Heat — great cultures, fantastic coaches, no real post players, emerging superstars and role players who know who they are.
The Heat are up 1-0 after Tuesday night, but that was fatigue and relatively meaningless. I said it on my show Don’t @ Me on OutKick: Celtics had no shot, with or without Smart or Horford. Beat Milwaukee in 7, then pack and head to Miami = NO SHOT.
I’m riding with the Heat, but not by much. Horford doubtful for Game 2 after missing Game 1 is problematic as he’s the true adult in the room for the Celtics and he’s proven he has a ton left. No Horford = no series win for the Celtics.
Something to watch: Celtics took the early lead by scoring 40 of their first 55 points in the paint. Turnovers and garbage shot selection from 3 sealed their fate in the 2nd half.
Points in the paint doesn’t mean post-ups with a big’s back to the basket. It’s penetrating the lane, getting to mid-range and driving or finding and lobbing to Robert Williams. If Celtics make that their focal point, then the 3 will be wide open.
The NBA Draft
First things first. NBA front offices are filled with incredibly smart folks — and incredibly dumb folks. Why do you think some franchises stay awful? Because they draft Marvin freaking Bagley instead of Luca Doncic.
This year’s Marvin freaking Bagley are two guys: Jabari Smith from Auburn and Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga. The morons in basketball say, “The modern way to play is 6’10 guys who can shoot the 3.” Name me one 6’10 guy on the last four NBA teams who impacts winning shooting 3s. I’ll wait.
Orlando is one of those perpetually awful squads, so my guess is they’ll draft either Holmgren or Smith.
The only true “big” difference maker in this draft is Paulo Banchero of Duke, and Banchero isn’t even a “big.” He’s a 6’10, do-it-all, non-positional player. Smith and Holmgren are nice players who will make some money, but will end up being JAGs — Just Another Guy. Book it.
The guy with the most potential and the one you should hope your team drafts is Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. He has huge hands and explosive athletic ability and is a creative finisher. See where I’m going with this? Ja Morant. That’s right, I said it. Ja freaking Morant.
Others I like are Johnny Davis of Wisconsin, Keagan Murray of Iowa and Bennedict Mathurin of Arizona.