In this series, I plan on covering some of the things that I find most intriguing/exciting/disappointing in the league from the past week of play. It’s coming a little late today, but you can expect Schindler’s L1st every Monday at 9am EST (My last name is Schindler, just like the list, there’s a 1 instead of an I so it’s not a direct rip).
This was a short week, so the it’ll be a slightly shorter post. I plan on hitting at least 2 or 3 different teams every week, so don’t worry, I’ll be getting to your team! If I haven’t covered them on here, chances are I have on my podcast as I do league wide coverage.
Let me know what you think in the comments, like the post, subscribe to the website, and Retweet this on Twitter!
Milwaukee Running Roughshod
The Bucks continue to run other teams off the court, demolishing both Detroit and Philadelphia after the all-star break.
If you doubt the Bucks legitimacy as a title contender, I doubt your viability as a viewer. This team is legit. They come ready to play every game (cough cough Sixers cough). Coming out the gates motivated to blow the doors off of Detroit is much more difficult than being locked in for a prime time game against Philadelphia on a Saturday night.
The Bucks spread the floor and Giannis runs wild on offense, euro-stepping his way into 30 point games routinely. The amount of action that comes off of a Giannis drive is incredible. Giannis’ finishing is what makes him good, his ability to create off of his drives is what contributes to him being great. he routinely draws in two defenders on rim runs, and kicks out to open shooters in the corner.
But, what makes the Bucks special is the continuity in their offense. They will routinely make 7 or 8 passes before getting a shot off with every player in motion constantly engaged, cutting, and moving to create the best team shot. It’s a nightmare for opposing defenses.
What makes this team truly frightening is their defense.
They employ lineups of three to four (it’s up for debate) players all worthy of All-Defense consideration; Giannis is a top candidate for DPOY. Brook Lopez is having the best defensive season of his career, ranking in top 5 in the league in blocks (2.5bpg), and has crafted himself into one of the best defensive bigs in drop pick and roll. Eric Bledsoe routinely hounds opposing guards and smaller wings. This team is long, tall, and strong, and when they go to the bench there is a minimal drop off in defensive output.
However, what really cements this team as a contender is the growth of Khris Middleton. According to Basketball Reference, since the start of 2020 Khris Middleton has posted 23ppg/7.1rpg/4.8apg on incredible efficiency (53.1% from the field, 49.2% from 3, 91.6% at the line).
Middleton was solid before an injury early in the season that kept him sidelined for a few weeks, but he has ratcheted himself up to another level throughout this season. The doubters will not be quieted until the Bucks have a successful postseason run, but Middleton is showing that he is more than worthy of the max deal he received in the summer.
With Middleton playing so well, it’s hard to envision the Larry O’Brien spending the offseason anywhere other than Wisconsin.
Knicks Stay on Brand
After a rare winning streak in early February, the Knicks have now dropped three straight. Dennis Smith Jr. continues to struggle and looks like a shell of the payer he was last year.
This team continues to frustrate. The playoffs have been out of sight for months, and yet, Taj Gibson and Reggie Bullock are still starting. I’ve talked about this on my podcast countless times. I don’t care that Mitchell Robinson fouls a lot; the Knicks need to start him and give him the leeway to play through his mistakes.
Kevin Knox continues to receive inconsistent minutes. Has he been good? No, not really.
But, if you are a rebuilding team, you NEED to play and develop the players you draft. Kevin Knox was a first round lottery pick (9th), and has played under 15 minutes per game since mid-January. This is a total failure by the front office and the coaching staff. If you’re going to be bad, focus on the players who will be here when you are better and that you invested in.
Julius Randle is not winning the Knicks any ball games, so give Knox some quality fucking playing time. Ditto for Damyean Dotson who has seen a reduced role this year. He’s a free agent this offseason and he’s a young player with defensive ability that can make shots. If the Knicks don’t give him a reason to stay, I’d be shocked if he isn’t signing in another city during the free agency period.
This season has been an outright failure for the Knicks. The fans of New York deserve better. Will things actually be different once a new Team President is hired? The playoffs can’t come soon enough for this organization to make some much needed infrastructural change.
John Beilein is out. It was a confusing hire to begin with and certainly a marred tenure. It can only go up from here right?
Good Things: Darius Garland has quietly had a solid February, posting 12.6ppg/5.3apg with 2.4 Turnovers on decent efficiency (43.2% fg/38.2% 3pg). Rookie Guards struggle and Garland did to the tenth degree to start the season. He may finally be turning a corner. However, he continues to shy away from drives to the rim. He’s converting 40% of his takes at the rim, for reference, that is in the bottom three percent for all guards in the league. He’s taken three free throws across 7 games in February.
Part of that is his lack of experience, as I mentioned, most rookies struggle, but this is a bad sign. Through watching Garland, he seems to lack the burst/first step necessary to become a plus finisher at the rim. For a small guard with his profile, that’s a tough sell. Hopefully a full offseason working with Cleveland’s training staff sets him up better for next year.
This is not a Garland rip column, I think long term he’ll be solid, but there are definitely some glaring spots on his resume (I’m not going to mention the defense).
Collin Sexton has been playing the best basketball of his young career in that same span of games (21.9ppg/4.7apg on 44.9% fg/45.9% 3fg with 2.3 TO’s). He’s getting more comfortable with his passing and has been scoring extremely well. He was rightfully added to the Rising Stars game and is continuing to prove that he belongs.
Sexton is a noted extremely hard worker, and I think culturally he’s great for this team. His game has started to round out more, but he does tend to get tunnel vision. He’s been attributed as a ballhog at times, but I find that assessment unfair. This Cavs team is BAD. Watching Sexton play is very similar to watching Russ post KD; he’s trying to do everything to impact the game, which can have an inverse effect.
Once he starts to settle down and play within himself instead of overextending, I feel pretty damn confident that Sexton will be a plus guy in the league for a long time. His defense is still not good and has provided some great clips
But, he’s busting his ass. Videos like this make the rounds and Sexton gets dogged, but the fact that he’s trying speaks volumes to his game. Shipping in a passing effort is a Cavalier staple in the post LeBron era. Effort is a part of the game that is not easily inherited over time.
I don’t know how, or if these two fit together long term, but there is collective promise.
Bad Things: Andre Drummond has not looked good in a Cavs uniform thus far; The Cavs offense is 7.6 points worse per 100 possessions and the defense is currently allowing about 26 points per 100 possessions more with him on the floor. Yes, you read that right. It’s only been 4 games, but I’ve been outright with my dislike of this trade.
Hopefully JB Bickerstaff’s first week is a sign of a brighter future for the Cavs.
Nuggets Thriving in Minneapolis
The Timberwolves acquired Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez from Denver as part of the massive 4-team deal that took place prior to the deadline.
They have immediately responded, injecting some much needed shooting and energy into the starting lineup.
Hernangomez has stepped in to start at the 4 and has provided excellent floor spacing this team has lacked much of the year (47.8% from 3 on nearly 5 attempts per game), while competing on defense and the glass. He has definitely performed at a level higher than I expected and I hope to see that continue.
However, what he’s been doing has largely been overshadowed by the stellar play of Malik Beasley.
Beasley is raining hell from beyond the arc, shooting 43.5% on over 9 attempts per game. He’s finally been given the green light and by god he is running with it.
In his five games with the Wolves, he’s already taken nearly a third of the three point shots he did over 40 games in Denver this season. He’s been feisty on defense, bringing a competitive edge that this team has sorely lacked since the KAT v. Embiid fight early in the season. Catch Beasley running off of screens and gunning from three the rest of this season. It’ll be incredibly interesting to see how he plays alongside D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony Townes (once he returns).
Minnesota has quickly gone from a team lacking credible spacing to having an offense capable of running a five out pick and roll scheme centered around Russell and Towns with above average shooters around them. This team has already seen a massive increase in offensive efficiency post trade deadline, improving from a paltry 106.9 Offensive Rating to a 116 Offensive Rating since February 8th, the first game with both newly acquired players.
How Ryan Saunders works out this defense will be key; other than Beasley, none of the projected starting five really project as a plus defender. Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver are solid wing prospects, but both have their weaknesses that could limit the offense as neither are remotely close to being league average shooters.
Regardless, this team made a move that is already paying dividends. Given Gary Harris’ recent offensive decline (https://premiumhoops.org/2020/01/18/whats-going-on-with-gary-harris-shooting/), the Nuggets may come to regret not giving Beasley more run.
Someone Save Zach Lavine
In case you’ve been out of the loop of the Bulls, this is the norm.
Jim Boylen calling a timeout when the game is already decided and Lavine having a negative reaction to it.
Boylen has totally lost this team and it’s been apparent since before the new year. Yes this team has been ravaged by injuries, but Boylen’s odd timeouts and mismanagement of lineups has been a disaster.
The Bulls nearly stumbled their way into a 9 game losing streak, pulling out a win against the Wizards last night. They already were a longshot to make the playoffs and are pretty much locks to be on the outside looking in now.
Lavine is a good player, do I think he’s a number one option on a championship contender? No, but this roster has the players to be solid, make the playoffs, and continue developing. But, we’ve seen Lauri Markkanen take a step back and minimal growth from the young players on this roster and I would attribute quite a bit of that to coaching. If a coach can come in and have a real cohesive plan and structure while gaining the trust of Lavine, and Lavine in turn buying in to show some sort of defensive effort, this team has the bones of a playoff team. With Boylen, they’ll remain fossils.
For now, that’s all for Schindler’s L1st.