To say that the Cleveland Cavaliers are loaded with talent is an understatement. They have a collection of basketball talent that is only topped by the Golden State Warriors. No team outside of Oakland can boast a squad that rivals Cleveland's mixture of star power and depth.
Somewhere deep in Tyronn Lue's treasure chest of basketball playing chess pieces are two of the NBA's most fascinating players, that nobody outside of Summer League and preseason watching nerds like me have ever heard of.
Those two players are Kay Felder, a 5'9'' rookie point guard and Jordan McRae, a former 10-day contract hunter. Both have taken incredibly difficult, unique routes to the NBA and both have had to work their asses off to get to this point in their respective careers.
At just 5'9'', Felder was completely overlooked by high-major colleges. Despite his ridiculous feats of athleticism and wide ranging skillset, high-major schools avoided him, purely because of his height. Felder's situation wasn't a rare occurrence, great basketball players get passed up every year because of their stature, this isn't new. But unlike many who would've been in a similar situation to Felder in the past, he didn't give up. Rather than just admitting that the NBA is a long shot if he's not playing in a noteworthy conference, he didn't lie down. He accepted the Oakland Grizzlies' scholarship offer and even though he was only playing in the Horizon League, Felder made waves across the country.
Over the course of his three years playing for Oakland, Felder played with a chip on his shoulder. He knew that he deserved a scholarship offer from a big school and he was ready to show it, just watch his 37 point, 9 assist performance against #1 ranked Michigan State as evidence. He trained and worked harder than any other player in the country to make sure he game was refined enough to make up for his height. When he got out on the court, he played with an undeniable touch of ferocity. Every time he led the lowly Grizzlies out on to the court, he was ready to send a message. A message that everyone received.
Felder defied all expectations during his college days. It became pretty clear early on that all of those colleges who passed on Felder, were dead wrong. During his three years, Felder gave Oakland the spark and leadership they needed. He dominated offensively, he scored 24.4 points per game in his final season, while tacking on 9.3 assists in the same year, the highest such mark throughout the entire country. In fact the distribution side to his game was so good that he broke the Horizon League record for career assists despite forgoing his final year of eligibility. If he had stayed for his senior year, he was on track to break the all-time NCAA Division 1 record. Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, Felder more than held his ground, with a smart, pesky defensive side to his game that makes him incredibly difficult to get by.
And now, the guy that every high-major college didn't want is playing for the reigning NBA champions. Quite a journey, huh.
Then there's Jordan McRae, the second half of Cleveland's newfound backcourt duo, who has an equally impressive road to the NBA.
After four years of reasonably impressive basketball at Tennessee, in which he showed flashes of being a great player, McRae was drafted 58th by the San Antonio Spurs back in 2014, before his rights were dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers. In a lot of players' careers, this is where their journey to the NBA would've ended. For most, getting drafted is the completion of a lifelong ambition. But for McRae, all getting drafted meant was more uncertainty. After he was acquired by the Sixers, he played his first Summer League stint, before he was stashed overseas in Australia, because Philadelphia simply had no use for him.
McRae played for Melbourne United in the Australian National Basketball League, a league that I am very familiar with. One that I watch almost as frequently as the NBA, considering that I live in New Zealand (who have a team entered in the league). Back during the 2014-15 season, I remember being excited by the prospect of seeing an NBA draft pick up close and personal. But back then, McRae was one of my least favorite players to watch.
He was probably the most talented player in the entire league, but McRae's streaky, inefficient, inconsistent scoring got on my nerves. Back then, it seemed like he didn't put his heart or mind into every game. He never showed me that he was expelling much effort out on the court, but merely just trying to fill up his own stat line as much as possible. You could tell that the talent was there for McRae, but the desire, basketball IQ and maturity was yet to be seen on a regular basis.
After McRae finished off his year abroad in Australia, he attempted to jump back into the NBA world. He played a bit in the D-League, had a second summer League appearance and participated in the Sixers' 2015-16 preseason, right up until he got released. After being drafted, experiencing one of the happiest days in his life, having to play a year in Australia and coming back to try and secure a spot on the Sixers, McRae was waived by the team who drafted him, after he didn't play a single game for them.
This might have been the best thing to ever happen to McRae. It seemed to light a fire under him, that he used as motivation. From that point forwards, the passion and desire I believed was missing from McRae's game, was suddenly there. He was willing to work and train harder than anyone to make sure his next NBA shot was permanent. He showed his improvement off in the D-League, where he was able to break the single game scoring record, by dropping 61 points for the Delaware 87ers. That improvement was enough for the Phoenix Suns to give McRae a pair of 10-day contracts, during which he didn't quite show enough to garner a full-time deal. All this did was give McRae further motivation to take his game to the next level, something that landed him a multi-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers just seven months ago.
After lacking the smarts, effort and maturity to make the NBA's worst team, McRae found the motivation he needed and is now the proud owner of a championship ring. That right there is commitment.
Now, both Felder and McRae are together. Two players with pretty remarkable journeys to the NBA have landed on the same team and even if you haven't noticed it, they have formed quite a backcourt combination. I don't care if the only times they've played on the same team have been during the Summer League and preseason, these two guys can flat out play. Better yet, they can flat out play together.
During Summer League and preseason action, McRae and Felder have looked like a real life version of the 'Orange Juice' duo from NBA 2K17's MyCareer. They both have undeniable talent, but when they thrive is when they team up on the court together. Their games mesh together seamlessly.
Where McRae hasn't mastered the defensive side of the ball, Felder's pesky harassment of opposition ball-handlers makes up for it. Felder's piercing passing ability and vision, fit in well with McRae's high-volume of shot attempts. Both are streaky shooters, but together, they both provide just enough of a threat from deep so that the Cavs' spacing can stay in tact. Either can play on or off-ball with relative ease, with both possessing great ball-handling abilities and off-ball movement. As a pair, they just work.
The Felder-McRae duo is miles off being a LeBron-Wade, a Stockton-Malone or a Westbrook-Durant. I mean, both are unlikely to see much of the court at all this season. Hell, it's unlikely that they'll see much of the court in the next three seasons, being on such a talented roster. But if there were a benchwarming equivalent to those hall of fame combos, Jordan McRae and Kay Felder would be exactly that.
I'm usually the first to say that Summer League and preseason performances are evidence for nothing. But, the Felder-McRae duo has convinced me otherwise. They dominated Summer League, averaging a combined 40 points per game, while shooting around 40% from the field. And in preseason recently, they have been fantastic against real NBA opposition.
Felder has averaged 11 points over the course of three preseason appearances, while shooting 44% from the field. Scouts feared that he wouldn't be able to score effectively against larger defenders at the NBA level, but so far, he has looked unfazed. His athleticism allows him to do stuff like this:
His creativity means that he doesn't get blocked as much as you'd think:
And his livewire, lightning quick drives get him to the rim with ease:
Meanwhile, McRae has been stuffing the stat-sheet with anything he can find. His savvy, slithering drives to the rim draw him fouls on command, shown off by him averaging nearly 9 free throw attempts per game over the course of three preseason games. Just watch on this play, how he catches the ball in stride, examines the floor and then attacks the rim with all his might:
And remember how I said that back in Australia, he didn't have the basketball smarts to make it in the NBA? Well, check out how he reads Fournier's defense perfectly on this play and makes a quick cut to the basket for an easy slam:
From what I've seen so far, both Kay Felder and Jordan McRae have very long careers ahead of them. Hopefully, we'll not only see more of them on the court as individuals, but as a pairing.
It seems unfair that the NBA champions were able to find these two diamonds in the rough. They are both incredibly good basketball players and even though they'll spend more time waving towels from the bench than scoring like they have during the offseason, none of you should ever forget about this remarkable backcourt. A tandem that are only in the NBA due to their commitment and work ethic.
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Nobody outside of Kevin Durant's camp will ever truly know what happened in the Hamptons over that fourth of July weekend. All we know is that Tom Brady showed up, Pat Riley used his jedi mind tricks and Durant decided to screw over the entire NBA by picking the Golden State Warriors.
Yep, in case you thought you were dreaming, the 73 win Golden State Warriors picked up Kevin freaking Durant, one of the best five players in the association. They have created a superteam to end all superteams, by somehow improving the greatest regular season team of all-time, by signing a former league MVP away from one of their title rivals that fits seamlessly on both sides of the ball. The rest of the NBA is doomed.
Actually, I should say the rest of the NBA apart from the Boston Celtics. I don't care if I sound like a biased Celtics fan, because this Celtics team is the one squad in the league that has the pieces to take care of the Dubs. Cases can be made for the Cavs and Spurs, but neither have Boston's mix of defensive tenacity, wing depth and speed that will be able to go toe-to-toe with Golden State's assortment of death lineups.
Last season, the Celtics showed that they could handle the Warriors even without their recent offseason improvements. In their pair of contests against the Warriors, the Celtics played as well as any team did against the Dubs. In game one, the C's came ridiculously close to ending Golden State's perfect start to the season, taking the game to double overtime before Steph Curry took over to close the game out after Avery Bradley fouled out. In their second meeting the two teams were engaged in another fierce battle, but this time Brad Stevens' team prevailed by three points, ending the Warriors' record breaking home winning streak of 54 games, with the Celtics somehow finding a way to combat a 21 point Curry outburst in the third quarter.
Golden State were near unbeatable during the 2015-16 regular season, yet Brad Stevens found a working formula that almost beat them both times they matched up. It's pretty safe to say that the Celtics were a great matchup last season for the Dubs. In those two games, the Celtics were successful mainly because of their stout defense.
By the end of the season, most teams were switching everything defensively against the Warriors, a strategy that was first employed by Gregg Popovich's Spurs. It is a tactic that is risky, as it provides mismatches for the Warriors to exploit, but it limits space for Golden State's shooters, something that is key to stopping the likes of Curry and Klay Thompson from getting the sliver of room they need to launch a triple. That defensive game plan was proven to be so effective that both Oklahoma City and Cleveland used in during the playoffs, with both able to take the Warriors to a seventh game.
However, the Celtics didn't do this in their meetings. Fearing that the likes of 5'9'' Isaiah Thomas and the larger than life Jared Sullinger would be absolutely destroyed on switches, the Celtics decided against it. Instead, they used their incredible individual defensive stalwarts to lockdown the Warriors' stars, hoping that Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder could all defend their perimeter assignments one-on-one, without needing any switches.
This strategy worked in both encounters. Avery Bradley rarely allowed Curry any breathing room, staying chest-to-chest with him for the entire length of the court. Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder did this well too (although Smart was injured for the first game, while Crowder was out for the second) against whoever they were marking, Amir Johnson had the foot speed necessary to be effective against Draymond and they hid their defensive liabilities wherever they could (mainly on Iguodala, Barnes and Bogut).
The Warriors tried to attack their non-switching strategy by going with a heavy diet of high pick and roll offensively. Up until the C's played them, no team had found a way other than switching to defend the Warriors' pick and rolls with Curry effectively. Brad Stevens got his team to 'blitz' Curry up top by sending the screener's man to double him. The problem with this plan is that Curry can usually just slip an easy pass to the roll man who now has a 4-on-3 to attack, which is why the Warriors invited this pick and roll defense last season. But this wasn't a problem when the Celtics played them because of the perfect help defense and excellent rotations on display in both of their meetings. All five players on the court were always on a string, which stifled the Warriors in these 4-on-3 situations. Just skip ahead to around the 4:25 mark on the BBALLBREAKDOWN video below to see an example of what I'm talking about.
On offense, the Celtics found just enough juice both times to challenge Golden State. The C's attacked the Warriors' lack of size inside, they made Curry work on defense and had hot patches in both games that swung momentum. But the real reason why the Brad Stevens' Celtics were successful against the Warriors was because of their defensive prowess.
With their key offseason additions of Al Horford and Jaylen Brown, their ability to get stops against the Warriors is sure to improve, even with the signing of Kevin Durant.
By replacing Sullinger with Horford, the C's have become a lot more switchable. Instead of having a guy that struggles to get up and down the court, they now have someone who is comfortable switching on to guards and someone that can do it better than just about every big in the entire league. If the Celtics were to surround the mobile Horford with quality perimeter defenders like Crowder, Smart, Bradley and Jaylen Brown, all of whom can guard multiple positions on the perimeter extremely well (Avery is only 6'1'', but he is feisty and long enough with his 6'7'' wingspan to guard larger dudes), the Celtics could have the perfect group of players to carry out a high pressure defensive switching system that could stifle the Warriors. With a host of other quick, versatile players on the team like Amir Johnson, Terry Rozier and Jonas Jerebko (who showed he can switch on to point guards in the playoffs last season), the Celtics could go deep into their rotation without missing a beat.
The Celts would struggle with this strategy when Isaiah is in the ball game, as the Dubs would be able to post him up on any switch, but there are ways of hiding a guy like this. Tony Parker and Kyrie Irving have been on the court during long stretches of both their respective teams' efforts to switch against the Dubs. All it took on their part not to get demolished by a larger, more imposing offensive player was to pick their switches carefully, making sure that they didn't get stuck with someone that could exploit their lack of size. If this did happen, then Parker and Irving would switch off as soon as they could.
The great thing about this Celtics defense against the Warriors is that they could use this switching tactic that I have explained -- which was highly successful during the playoffs for the Thunder and Cavs -- with their new acquisitions, or alternatively, they could revert to their previous system that I detailed earlier in the article that worked like a charm last season. Either way works perfectly.
On offense the Horford signing has given the Celtics a new dimension on offense too. When the Dubs go to their death lineup (that now includes a guy that made 104 more threes than Harrison Barnes last season), they always love to switch everything, much like teams do against them. With their sheer length and athleticism, they're able to remain a stout defensive group even with their lack of height. But if the Warriors begin to switch against the Celtics, Al Horford can punish any smaller defender that switches on to him down in the low post. This is Horford's true value shining through here, having a big that can protect the rim, defend guards out on the perimeter, while still being able to dominate down in the post is invaluable.
That extra element to their offense is added along with an improved arsenal of shooters. Al Horford brings another stretch big to the party, Jonas Jerebko will get more minutes after his performance in the playoffs, Kelly Olynyk is deadly from deep, Gerald Green has been added who is another threat from downtown, Marcus Smart has worked tirelessly on his jumper all offseason long (as shown in their green vs white scrimmage) and Isaiah, Bradley and Crowder are all reliable options too.
Add all of this improvement up on both sides of the ball and you have a team that is seemingly custom-built to defeat the Warriors. And while I would still probably pick Golden State to beat my beloved Celtics on any given night, the gap between these two franchises is far smaller than one would first assume.
If Golden State think that they have already won the title, they are sadly mistaken.
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The NBA season is a long, arduous trek that lasts for around two thirds of the year. With games on just about every day throughout the course of the regular season, it's hard to know which contests to watch when you're being flooded with choices on League Pass.
Just how you can choose your games to watch is up to you. But I've figured out that every NBA fan on the face of the planet is in one of four categories during this process. Category one belongs to people that know practically nothing about basketball and only witness teams and players they've heard of. In other words, these are the people that would willingly sit through a Knicks game.
Group two is the homer category. If the Cavs are playing the Warriors, but instead you choose to watch your favorite squad take on the Nets, this is the category where you belong. Category three is home to every fan who thinks they are an NBA expert, but really knows absolutely nothing. These are the fans that claim they know everything about the NBA but only ever observe Cavs fixtures. Basically, if you've ever Tweeted anything like this, you're a category three person:
That leaves the rest of us as category four members. Category four NBA fans all pick either the most exciting/tight/interesting game to watch while they're flipping through League Pass, or they pick the most enjoyable matchup in terms of the type of basketball on display. That level of enjoyment can be determined in a number of ways. Every year the great Zach Lowe (and formerly Bill Simmons) creates his 'League Pass rankings', in which he ranks every team in the NBA from 30-1 in terms of watchability, as his way of determining which contests to check out on League Pass.
My way -- which you're about to read -- is by figuring out which players in the league provide the most excitement during my viewing experience. This article is an All-Star team I have created of the players around the league that I find the most fun to watch. This is my little guide to all of you, which will hopefully help you to determine which players you want to check out during your late night League Pass sessions.
The players on this fictional team I have created are all players that I just love watching. Some are dazzling dunkers, some are smooth Europeans, others might be three-point bombers. A couple I have selected based on pure entertainment alone, with their basketball performance not really influencing my decision.
I've tried to make this team as diverse and as unique as possible, which is why you won't see any actual All-Stars on the team. Flooding the team with the Currys, Westbrooks and LeBrons of the world doesn't help anyone figure out which games they want to watch every night. We already know they are exciting.
So without further ado, here are my 12 League Pass All-Stars, players you should all be keeping an eye on this season to enhance your League Pass experience.
G - Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
If the NBA had an award for the player that spends the most amount of time on the floor of the court, Marcus Smart would win it in a landslide every single year. Whether he's diving on a loose ball, throwing himself out of bounds to save the rock, or even putting his body on the line to pull off the most masterful flop you've ever seen, Marcus Smart is never not hustling his ass off.
He is the perfect example of why you don't have to be a big scorer or a high flyer to be entertaining in basketball. Sheer guts and determination are more than enough to make a basketball game enjoyable. No matter what type of NBA fan you are, you have to appreciate a guy that gives 100% for 48 minutes every single night. You have to enjoy watching a guy that would quite literally do anything to win a basketball game.
Smart isn't only watchable because of his hustle. His defense is also incredibly satisfying to check out. Despite being 6'4'', Marcus Smart has been assigned to Kristaps Porzingis and Paul Millsap by Brad Stevens in the past. Surprisingly, he has done a brilliant job on both of them, even though he is at a clear size disadvantage. Smart uses his guts and determination to summon every ounce of himself defensively. He never takes his eyes off the ball, is always locked in and hustles to make any play he can. He is a truly terrifying defender for any player in the league to match up against.
I don't care if he can't shoot. I don't care if watching him run a pick and roll gives me and every other Celtics fan on the planet a heart attack. If he continues to give his all night in and night out, he'll stay on this team.
G - Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
Will Barton is pretty close to the opposite of what makes Smart such a great player to watch. While Smart's defense and tenacity makes him watchable, Barton's a more conventional entertaining player. Barton isn't a pretty poor defensive player and isn't always focused during a ball game like Smart, but he more than makes up for it with microwave scoring and high-flying slams.
Barton is right there with Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon in the 'holy crap, can this guy actually fly?!?' club. His athleticism is something to be truly admired. If he gets an inch of open court, he's going to try and jump over anyone or anything to slam one down. The best part of his athleticism though is that unlike a guy like LaVine, Barton has the Russell Westbrook gene of having a explosive side to his athleticism. Instead of gliding up seemingly effortlessly and throwing a dunk down with finesse, Barton will take a couple of assertive power dribbles, take off with two thunderous steps and try to snap the rim in half when he dunks it.
Outside of his dunking ability, Barton has got an inconsistent jump shot that he has improved throughout the years, but it only adds to his entertainment value. There are nights where he can't make anything, but then Barton gets one tightly contested triple to go down and suddenly, he's in heat check mode. He's also got an excellent handle for a wing, something that he uses to try and break a few ankles on every single possession.
F - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
This one's obvious. Anyone that is 6'11'' with a 7'3'' wingspan and spends a good chunk of his time at point guard is going to be as watchable as just about any other player in the league. I mean how can you not love a guy that can pass like Rajon Rondo:
Send back any shot with his go-go-gadget arms:
And do this on a regular basis:
F - Larry Nance Jr., Los Angeles Lakers
Larry Nance Jr. played a heck of a lot for a guy that was picked 27th overall in the 2015 NBA draft. The reason why he played so much is not only because he was incredibly exciting to watch, but also because he was absolutely superb for a struggling Lakers team. Playing at the small ball four, he was brilliant. He used his athleticism to scoot past slower power forwards and throw down some viscous slams on offense, all while being effective defensively. He was solid when he was needed to switch on to guards, poked the ball loose from larger bigs and was able to come up with some impressive rejections.
His outstanding athleticism for a big man and impressive dunking ability probably would've been enough to land him a spot on this team, but during Summer League a couple of months ago, he showed off some Draymond Green-type potential. Back in July he looked a much more complete basketball player. His defensive positioning and instincts had clearly improved, his jumpshot looked a dozen times better than it was and showed the ability to be a playmaking four, with his ball skills getting to a new level. During Summer League, he was given the green light to be one of the chief offensive playmakers on the Lakers. Here's a great clip of him showing all of us why I just compared him to Draymond:
With an expanded repertoire that is eerily reminiscent of Green, Nance makes it on this team without a doubt. With an improved jumper and playmaking ability added on to an already dazzling game, Larry Nance Jr. is going to provide some unmissable basketball this season.
C - Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (Captain)
Nikola Jokic is no longer a hidden gem. He is no longer a player to keep an eye on. He is a full fledged NBA star. Sure, he only averaged 10 points last season, but some of the stuff this guy can do on the basketball court quite literally makes my jaw drop. If you are somehow still unfamiliar with Jokic after his impeccable rookie season (he plays in Denver, I don't blame you), let me introduce you to him.
Simply put it, Nikola Jokic is a joy to watch. There's not a thing this guy can't do offensively. If you want him to bang down in the low post, he'll body up anybody down low, hit them with a silky post move that will remind you of Pau Gasol and end it with a smooth finish. If you need him to stretch the floor, he can pop out to any part of the court, including three-point range, where he is more than capable of hitting from. If you want him to be a pick and roll man, he'll give his point guard a solid screen and roll to the basket hard. If you need a big to be an extra playmaker, Jokic is more than capable of that role too. Just stick him at the elbow, give him the ball and watch the big man throw perfect no-look pass after perfect no-look pass, every single time.
Nobody can say that isn't fun to watch.
Jokic isn't a very good defensive player, but he's smart and tough enough to still make a difference on that end. But his defensive play doesn't really matter when you just let him go to work on offense.
Sub - Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic (6th Man)
If Scott Skiles actually trusted Hezonja last season, he's be a starter on the League Pass All-Stars, but alas, he sits here.
He wasn't able to show it in his debut NBA season, but Hezonja is one helluva basketball player. Like many of the players on this team, he doesn't play much defense, but his offensive game speaks for itself. Hezonja is a great athlete, with a killer stroke from downtown. He only made 34.9% of his attempts from downtown last season, but his work in Europe prior to the draft tells me that he'll raise his efficiency eventually.
To be honest, his talent isn't what gets him on this team. If he were just a great athlete with a good three-point shot, that wouldn't be enough to crack the prestigious League Pass All-Stars at all. He'd be about as watchable as Ben McLemore if that was the case. What gets him here is his personality and confidence on the court. Back in his Euro League days, just by watching the tape, you could tell that Hezonja thought he was the love child of Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili. He dribbled up the court with the swagger of a man who thinks he belongs in the hall of fame and his shot selection was on par with a 40 PPG scorer.
I mean the guy thinks he's as good as Jordan. He even wears the number 23 to prove it.
With that confidence he'll take any shot that he thinks is within his range, try the most audacious dunk possible and throw a no-look pass, not because it will fool the opposition, but because he feels like it. It gets to a point where Hezonja's confidence not only borders on cockiness, but is cockiness. There is no better way to describe his personality than with this GIF:
Yup, that's Hezonja shooting a contested three with 5 seconds left when his team was up 12, for no other reason than because he's Mario Hezonja. Not only does he drain the three, but he then dapped up the opposing coach because he's the freaking man.
The NBA world needs to see Mario Hezonja light it up. He could be the most entertaining player the league has ever seen.
Sub - Ish Smith, Detroit Pistons
He won't be as fun to watch this year with limited playing time behind Reggie Jackson on the Pistons, but Ish Smith managed to win 9 of his 50 games in Philadelphia, which is a feat so hard to achieve that he should've won the MVP. Not only did he manage to win games with the 76ers, but he somehow found a way to make Sixers' basketball enjoyable, which is harder than winning a championship in my eyes.
Smith's blinding pace, fearless drives to the rim and utter disregard for taking care of the ball made him fun to watch last season. On the fastbreak he was deadly, flying past everyone in sight, while in a half-court setting he ran an endless amount of high pick and rolls. Those pick and rolls were incredibly easy to defend as the Sixers have yet to grasp the concept of floor spacing, but Smith's dynamic playmaking made them at least semi-effective.
He can't really shoot and forces the issue a little bit too much (2.6 turnovers per game last season), but the weak areas of his game don't detract from the overall level of excitement I get from watching Ish Smith tear down the court at Usain Bolt speed on every single possession.
Sub - Matt Barnes, Sacramento Kings
There's always entertainment value in a good NBA fight.
Sub - Boban Marjanovic, Detroit Pistons
If you think that watching a 7'3'' Serbian dude that weighs 290 lbs absolutely dominate garbage time with his gigantic hands isn't enjoyable, there's something wrong with you. Boban can snag offensive rebounds without jumping, block shots despite not being in defensive position, ferociously dunk on any big man in the league (if he doesn't first puncture the ball with his otherworldly hands) and post the third highest PER in the league even if he only plays in garbage time.
I can't wait to see what he does in Stan Van Gundy's four-out system.
Sub - Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs
If Patty Mills were to dye his hair blue, he would be the living embodiment of Sonic the Hedgehog. Mills is never not maneuvering his way around the court at full pace. Despite this, Mills never seems to lose any energy whatsoever.
What makes Mills such a joy to watch is that energy. He's about as energetic as an NBA player comes. On offense, he's always in motion. Whether weaving his way around pin-downs when he's away from the ball to launch a quick trey or slicing his way to the rim when he's handling the ball with a series of sharp, precise moves. When he is away from the ball, his movement is arguably the best in the NBA. He is an expert at spotting the perfect time to make a pacey cut to catch his defender of guard and once he does that, he runs perfectly around his off-ball screeners, scraping them as he passes by, so that his trailing defender has no chance of ever reaching him.
On defense, his energy is welcomed by Gregg Popovich. He harasses opposition ball-handlers with his pesky nature and makes the Spurs' tradition lockdown defenders' -- Kawhi and Danny Green -- a lot easier when he's in the game.
Sub - Marco Belinelli, Charlotte Hornets
Remember how I was talking about Mario Hezonja's shot selection? Well, let's just say that Marco Belinelli's is about 10 times as bad.
I genuinely think that Marco Belinelli believes he is better than Steph Curry. There were times throughout Kings games last season where Belinelli would take the ball up the court, the defense wouldn't be set and instead of feeding it inside to DeMarcus Cousins, Marco would pull up from 30 feet. It's not like this happened every once in a while or when he was catching fire, this was ALL THE TIME. It got to the point where every time Belinelli would touch the ball, he'd launch one, not worrying at all about where he was on the court.
The worst part is that there is no justification for these shots. Belinelli can always point to the fact that he won the three-point contest in 2014, but last season he was absolutely awful, shooting 38.6% from the field and 30.6% from long range. Despite his horrific percentages, he was still jacking up nearly 10 shots per contest.
Regardless of how frustrating he might be, it's incredibly funny to watch Beli throw up these atrocious shots every game. Add in some crafty Italian playmaking and you've got a player that is fun to watch.
Sub - Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Yeah...he can do this:
I think it's pretty safe to say he's exciting.
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