Mamba Mentality: Donovan Mitchell

Kobe Bryant famously said, “If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear. That’s Mamba Mentality.”

That is an astonishing quote seeing that is how Kobe viewed every single game, he wasn’t out there for his team to win, he was out there to try to embarrass the guy guarding him for the whole entire game. He took personal pleasure in dribbling at a double team hard then clutching the ball fast and falling into a sweet fadeaway. He didn’t care he was 24 feet from the basket or if he was going against a 7 footer. Just when you had the fader figured out he would fake up, plant his foot and drive to the rim as if it was the last safe spot on Earth. Time after time he came through. But that’s all in the past now, Kobe has since retired and the game has moved forward without a Mamba. But there might just be a snake in Utah, in the form of Donovan Mitchell. The 21 year old out of Louisville, who averaged 20/4/4 as a rookie and helped lead the Jazz into the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs. But he is so willing to get a bucket at any time which reminds me of Kobe so much, he just wants the ball at all times. So I looked at some analytics to see what we may be having the pleasure to watch in the future. If the Player Efficiency goes up there is an honest comparison…

Kobe Bryant 05’-06’ 28.11 PER  .559 TS% 35.3 Usage

      Mitchell 17’-18’ 16.74 PER  .541 TS% 27.9 Usage

Still a skeptic then just look up what he did vs the Thunder in Game 6… 38 Points! With 22 in the Third Quarter. He is a future NBA scoring leader, he is that good. He is the next Mamba.

New Era of Big 3

Get ready, we are about to have a major power shift in the NBA and the King is going to decide who is going to be playing for next year’s championship.

Before we get to the Free Agency that has the opportunity to be wild this summer, let’s look at the definites of next season for the NBA landscape. There are three major headlines going into next season. We know the first one, the Warriors are going to bring back another team that can win a championship next season with Kevin Durant definitely returning this summer. He is getting into elite status as he became just the 6th player in NBA history to win back to back Finals MVPs. We know what the Warriors are going to be like and we know that they are going to coast until it matters, but can a team truly compete with them when it matters.

That leads into our second headline which is where will the other Core three or four form, the Western or Eastern Conference. This all comes down to the Free Agency of Lebron James, Paul George and Chris Paul. There is potential that Lebron goes to Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles or the longshot in Oklahoma City. Let’s view each of those potential landing spots starting with the one that he is currently in. Lebron can opt out of his contract with the Cavs and then sign a monster 1+1 deal to go right back to Cleveland. Why would he do this? Well he makes the most money that way, he remains the hero in Cleveland and Chris Paul would most likely join forces with him. So suddenly Cleveland is back to their big three status that they had with Kyrie. Cleveland can finally right one of their wrongs and trade away Kevin Love for draft picks or bench players, then having the cap space to also acquire Paul George. Cleveland Big three of CP3, Lebron and PG13.

The next option is Philly, the city of brotherly love and the potential ending of the process if King James comes to town. Philadelphia has the cap space to go after a max deal with Lebron that would offer the perk of playing with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and potentially Markelle Fultz if he ever figures his offensive game back out. Philly just like Cleveland can make a depth filling trade if they decide to dump Fultz to a team that is willing to wait out his potential. Either way it is an enticing option for Lebron. Another enticing part is if Philly can convince JJ Redick to come back on a 4 million dollar contract, after he made a 23 million this season, it wouldn’t be such a bad deal as he could view it as a 2 year 27 million dollar contract if you combine the two. That is good stuff if he can win a championship with Philly next season, he averaged 18 Points during this years Postseason and would be the best pure shooter Lebron has played with since Ray Allen. Philadelphia Core Four of Simmons, Lebron, Redick and Embiid.

There isn’t much to analyze when it comes to the potential destinations of Los Angeles or Oklahoma City because they are long shots but could be options if Lebron wants to join forces with either Lonzo Ball or Russell Westbrook. This would see Lebron going to a Western Conference that will see both the Rockets and Warriors at full strength which doesn’t make much sense for him if he wants a title. Either way Paul George and Carmelo will be there. LA Core Four of Ball, Lebron, George and Carmelo… OKC core four of Westbrook, Lebron, George and Carmelo.

Houston is the favorite in my mind to get his services if he decides to leave the Land and it is clear that he would be the piece that puts them over the edge to beat the Warriors. Just imagine how elite the Rockets would be with Lebron, Harden and Paul coming down the stretch of playoff games. It would be the most enticing competition the league has seen in several years. With Capela at center they are already built for the current NBA and Lebron would love the opportunity to play with that much shooting and vertical spacing. Houston Big Three of CP3, Harden and Lebron.

The third headline is how good a healthy Celtics team is going to be next season, they will have the same talent that Golden State will have next season with a future MVP in Jayson Tatum teaming with all stars Kyrie, Hayward and Horford. The Green Machine is going to be a force to be reckoned with and something that Lebron will have to weigh if he goes back to the Eastern Conference.

Oh yeah Kawhi Leonard is potentially on the trade market… This offseason is going to be wild.

Game Three Off Guard

Why the national media is allowing the Cavs to get away with this and just blaming it on playoff experience is bizarre. Why is JR Smith getting countless opportunities to be terrible and playing massive minutes continuously for a Cavs team that is two losses away from their 3rd finals loss in their 4th straight appearance. It is the most bizzare thing I have ever seen, it is almost accepting defeat at a whole entire position.

I understand that not a single player the Cavs throw out there at the off guard is going to be able to compete with Klay Thompson. He is honestly a top five NBA player who is stuck on such a talented team that it makes him go under the radar at times. Thompson is the best two guard in the whole entire league, just look at that Western Conference Finals. He shot 49% from deep on a whopping 55 attempts, that’s amazing. Harden shot 24% from deep. Try telling me Thompson isn’t the difference in that series, try telling me head to head that Harden is a better player, Thompson just doesn’t get the opportunities that Harden gets every game.

Back to the Cavs strategy at the off guard, the most important position off of Lebron. The Cavs need to be able to hit three pointers and currently Korver and Smith have combined for a depressing 19 points in games one and two. Smith has a plus/minus of -31, meaning the Cavs have been outscored by 31 points when he is on the court. Why is he playing if he can’t hit a shot? It is the most bizarre thing right now. The Cavs seem reluctant to admit they have two promising 25 year olds buried on the bench right now, the Cavs need to try something new. Jordan Clarkson averaged 13 points during the regular season and Rodney Hood averaged 11 points, and for a while they were playing ahead of Smith and having success. But as soon as the lights got brighter the two players shied away and lost their confidence. The Cavs gave up on them playing and they are a shell of what they were only a month and a half ago. If I was the Cavs I would spend the next 48 hours just focusing on the two 25 year olds, try to get them confident and try something new. Give them the narrative that they could be heroes in Cleveland if they both hit just three 3-pointers each. The Cavs seem content to just go down with the sinking ship, it doesn’t make sense. I need to see two new off guards in game 3 or I know the game will already be over.

Rockets win game 5

In both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals “Swing games” the home teams held serve and their home court advantage. The most enticing game of the whole season was the game in Houston though, as a 98-94 nail biter was won by the Rockets. The Rockets being the only team who has been able to win two straight playoff games vs the Warriors since they got Kevin Durant. To put that into context the Warriors have only lost back to back games six times in the past two regular seasons. Only one of those six times was with the Warriors at full strength. Meaning that at the biggest of stages, probably the game that is going to decide this year’s NBA champion, the Houston Rockets were able to force the Warriors to do something they have only done once in two years. That is amazing. That is the challenge that was needed to be overcome just to put the Rockets into the driver’s seat.

 

Game Notes:

Chris Paul had an amazing 2nd half, Making 4 three pointers, as James Harden continues to struggle… the performance by Paul was needed to win

CP3 did hurt his hamstring with under a minute to go and it is questionable if he can play full strength in Game 6, you know he is going to try though

Harden missed all 11 of his attempted three pointers (Tying John Starks for most misses without a single make)

The Warriors only got 8 points from players not named Durant, Steph, Thompson, Draymond

Rockets had 33 bench points, Warriors had 4

AGONY

Agony, the most painful emotion and one that is felt so often in these playoffs, but for the Toronto Raptors the agony they felt last night was a different one.

They had 5 opportunities to win that game vs the Cavs. Five! A Fred Vanvleet three pointer which bricked, a Demar Derozan fading 10 footer that went in and out twice, a CJ Miles short armed lefty layup, a Jonas Valanciunas missed tip in. End of regulation. Then another bricked three pointer by Vanvleet at the end of overtime. All five of those shots would be made during the normal action of a basketball game, but this is the playoffs, their heart rates are increased because an entire cities hopes rest on their shoulders. Especially as those last seconds are coming of the clock. Last night the Raptors were victims of the enhanced moment, they lost their focus and their heart rate took over for their minds. Lebron might just have the upper hand as the Cavs looked different last night, like they were playing like underdogs, they had to give extra effort to be in the game. You only get so many chances to beat Lebron and his squad; and the Raptors missed five.  

~ Brandon Ladd ~

Terry Rozier Tape Study

I had to study the guy who is sparking the Celtics this postseason, so I dove right into the Terry Rozier tape and this is what I found….

First play of Game 1 vs the 76ers for the Celtics the ball is poked away towards half court and then Rozier goes out to retrieve it. He takes a couple dribbles, then takes almost a leaping dribble, it propels him forward towards the three point line. He then goes straight vertical into his shot, no pause at all. That is a hitch in his three point game which makes him unique, if you give him that “bunny-hop” into his three pointer he is deadly. He just doesn’t miss because he uses his momentum going towards the hoop to allow for the perfect dynamics on his three point shot. For somebody his size it makes sense because it propels him above the defender without taking any strength out of his legs because he is also moving forward. Just watch him play and he will make more three pointers of that leap than he does of a set catch and release. If you want to bring down his astronomical home three point shooting, then you have to attack that leap dribble and force him to go by you.

Which even if you do run him off the three point line, he has a deadly and smooth floater from 14 and in, which is so pure most of the time. He is able to get it over any defender and he is able to make it going in any direction. It is great. Plain and simple. He just has the type of game where he feels more comfortable with his momentum going towards the basket. Again, if you want to stop that you have to attack his dribble and try to mess up his timing. But it is so hard to do that with someone who has a great center of balance and has enough style to his dribble to make a reaching defender look silly.

So you say he can shoot the ball fairly well, so how does he do in the pick and roll game? How does he get his teammates involved in the action? Well he is pretty good in the pick and roll and is able to be a willing passer out of it. It seems that if you slow him down he is going to go side to side with his dribble to set up a pass. Well that doesn’t work very well nowadays in the NBA because you have to be able to make teams pay by going North and South off the screen. But most of the time he is able to make a positive play out of it. He throws a nice lob pass to the bigs and understands when to search for his shots and when to move it to the next guy on the perimeter out of it. So basically there isn’t any holes in his offensive game. He rebounds the ball very well in traffic, maybe the best of anybody his size. He just is so solid and he is sparking the Celtics to a deep postseason run.

Comparison between OKC and C’s

It is quite obvious that the Oklahoma City Thunder had more talent than the Celtics when they entered this postseason. The Celtics without their best two players were taken from maybe being the top NBA team to a team that would have to scrap and piece wins together to survive. While OKC had their big 3, who by all accounts had the firepower to steam roll a team like Utah Jazz. But for some reason the Celtics were able to accomplish their goal and used the Celtic’s faithful to their advantage to drag out a game 7 win over an ultra competitive Buck’s team. Yet the Thunder lost in 6 games to a rookie led Utah Jazz team, who are very skilled at their pace and what they do but still they shouldn’t have been able to beat the combination of George, Westbrook, and Carmelo. So what happened? Well Westbrook came back, the old Westbrook, the Westbrook of last year who can’t find a way to move the ball. Taking 43 shots in game 6, are you MJ or are you Iverson. I have to believe that Westbrook isn’t these guys, because they would have won the game taking that many shots. Westbrook hasn’t proven that he can win in the postseason without Kevin Durant. As he has been unable to make it to May the past two seasons, that is very mediocre, that is worse than even the Clippers star era, with Griffin and Paul, and those Clippers were consider a dissapointment.

So while the Celtics use their offense to their advantage, rotating the ball around the three point line and picking their spots in transition. It is good 3 and D basketball, they control the other team’s three point line and are able to rebound well enough to reap the awards of it. It is all about effort and the ability to make open shots, it is the Celtics way. They don’t have the firepower going to the rack other than Tatum at the moment but that doesn’t stop them. It seems as if no obstacle can stop this team, it is amazing and a true feat of grit. They are able to understand their role and they maximize it. Coach Stevens understands how to make up for a talent deficit and that is by instilling confidence in whoever is playing. His standards are still high even if it Rozier running the point instead of Kyrie Irving. The 76ers learned that any person on the Mean Green Roster can strike and do damage and they won’t stop until you are in the ground. Why isn’t OKC taking notes, why aren’t they inspiring their lesser players into being great at what they do. Is it the coaching? Or is it the culture? Westbrook needs to learn that the teams that understand everything that they are doing is working towards a specific goal is what creates greatness. It is what they do. It is the Spurs model and Coach Steven’s has just developed it into his own. The Celtics way over the Westbrook way.