What an epic two game 7’s we had, a game that went down to the final dying moments to decide!
For the Portland Trailblazers, they did the unthinkable. After losing Nurkic right before the playoffs started, they’ve beaten the much more favored Denver Nuggets at Denver to secure their Western Conference finals berth.
For the Toronto Raptors, the basketball gods blessed them with a lucky roll to secure their Eastern Conference finals berth. It was a hard-fought game right till the very end, and things looked like it was going to over-time for sure. Unluckily for the Philadelphia 76ers, the ball went in the hoop to secure the win at the buzzer from an off-balance two-point attempt by Kawhi Leonard that bounced for what seemed like an eternity on the rim.
Both the Nuggets and the Sixers had bigger ambitions from the way they finished the season with the trades they made and the games they tanked. With the 2019/2020 NBA season looking to be one of the biggest seasons with possible player movements due to the abundance of free agents this summer, the Nuggets and the Sixers will need to address the two issues that were made abundantly clear in the playoffs this season to make the bigger leap next year.
Will Jamal Murray Take The Next Leap?
At the start of the season no one expected them to end up as the 2 seed, and the Denver Nuggets star-center Nikola Jokic took his stellar play from the season before to an MVP caliber type of season this year. He averaged a near triple double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Jamal Murray the now consensus 2nd best player, needs to be the second all-star that Jokic needs to take the Nuggets to the next pantheon.
Murray has taken on the point guard role this season but still is not aggressive enough in driving to the hoop to get space for both Jokic and the other shooters on his team. His Free Throw Attempt Per Game (FTA) has dropped from the previous season of 3.6 to 3.3. Compare this to Damian Lillard, the Blazers Murray counter-part, he averaged 6.4 FTA this season (and even that is a drop from his 7.4 and 7.3 the previous seasons)
This simply indicates that Murray does not drive to the hoop enough and rather has been settling for jumpers. He needs to average at-least 6 FTA next season and at-least 5.5 Assists to help Jokic out with the play making and scoring from free throws with increased aggressiveness.
At the end of the day, Murray is still a promising prospect being only 22 years old. Both we at SportsTips.com and Nuggets head coach Mike Malone had nothing but praise for the leaps Murray had in the playoffs.
Going 4-18 in the Game 7 will fuel Murray’s dedication to take the next leap and help his team achieve better things. Though it’s not a guarantee as it won’t be an easy task for young Murray, we’d like to think the percentages of him doing so are better than not.
Will Paul Millsap Become Less Effective At 34 Years Of Age?
Paul Millsap played a large factor in both the Denver Nuggets regular season series run and playoff run. He averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds per game in the regular season and stepped it up in the playoffs with 15 points and 7 rebounds per game.
A large chunk of the Nuggets offense gets the ball into Jokic’s and Millsap’s hands to either facilitate the screen runner or to go down to work down low in the post. He also covers a lot of Jokic’s defensive liability as well providing great help defense to the lanky big man.
Millsap will turn 35 this year and be in the final year of his contract, to put it in context Tyson Chandler is 35 and Dwayne Wade turned 36 this year. Millsap will not have the legs nor stamina to be as large of a factor for the Denver Nuggets like he once was. We can definitely expect his contributions and minutes to go down severely.
At this point, the Nuggets will need to look towards their young power forward Trey Lyles. He’s 23 years of age and averaged 8.5 points and 4 rebounds in this years regular season. Like Jamal Murray, he will need to step up his game mostly on the defensive end to provide the Nuggets a defensive factor that they lack sorely.
There’s still the question of 2018 Draft Pick Michael Porter Jr.
Picked up late in the draft due to his injury concern, we’re unsure as of this point whether he’ll be able to provide some meaningful minutes to the Nuggets at the power forward position.
This is another question that the Denver Nuggets will need to answer this off-season to take the next big step towards their NBA Championship.
Do You Keep Both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris?
The Philadelphia 76ers made massive trades this season in hopes of reaching the NBA finals, and if the ball rolled another way, they possibly could of. In the midst of all this, what we need to remember is that the Sixers GM Elton Brand, made trades that signaled a win now period and today he’s got 2 big questions on whether he should keep the two free agent mid-season trades he made or use that money elsewhere
Early in the season, the Sixers traded Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless for Jimmy Butler. This quite significant as Covington was a sixers process player who has signed for cheap while Saric was a great power forward that could spread the floor with his great shooting. Jimmy Butler is 29 years old and at this point of his career he’s looking for nothing but the max contract.
Despite a disappointing Game 7, Butler became the heart and soul of the sixers with his clutch plays and his energy and play on defense. It should be a no question that the Sixers should do everything in their power to keep him right?
Both Simmons and Butler are effective on-ball players. By shining a light on one of the players, the other usually suffers.
While Simmons, who’s 6 ft 10 tall is usually moved to the Power Forward role, there’s a question to be asked whether they are utilizing his full talent.
This is the guy we touted to be the next LeBron, dominant and excellent vision to make plays.
While you can argue that moving him to the 4 to the sort of Draymond role is invaluable to a team competing for championships as we’re seeing more and more of bigs who can push the ball, the Sixers system will have a massive glaring weakness at the half court with the lack of capable shooters they have.
The 76ers made another significant trade, this time for up and coming small forward Tobias Harris. With ¾ of an amazing season behind him, the Sixers thought it was good enough to gamble to see whether he had the superstar potential for the 76ers team.
The Sixers gave up Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and their most important young asset at the time, Landry Shamet. Shamet is JJ Reddick junior, he’s great on the catch and shoot and the kind of guy who can get hot quick. With only one year now under his belt, he’s showing great potential and could be something that the Sixers will rue in the upcoming future if they fail to compete for a championship.
What we do know about Harris though is that he’s not an amazing three-point shooter. Adding another player to the caveat of Sixers players who are great down low in the post. He’s the 3 or 4 position that Ben Simmons would love to have once Harris starts spreading the floor more often. What’s a shame about it is that he’ll also be looking for a max contract, meaning the Sixers will have to give up their financial flexibility and live with whatever player Harris becomes.
The Sixers can sign both players at this point in time, and Sixers fan are arguing that this starting team has barely had time to gel and a good off-season will help build chemistry to make the team better. Is that a gamble that Elton Brand is willing to make? We’re still unsure on how the east will look like next year but the time is running out. Ben Simmons last year of the rookie contract is next year, with the qualifying offer (which will most likely be trumped with max contract offers) coming in the year after.
Is This Embiid’s Team or Simmon’s Team?
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons stardom has risen exponentially and both players show extreme potential. There’s still two big questions for both players though on whether they can fulfill it, for Simmons it’s his jump shot and for Embiid it’s his health.
When you’re the 76ers do you roll the dice and try and keep both players on your run to a championship or do you build on one?
Fixing a jump shot isn’t easy, Giannis who’s only just now taken threes is still hitting them at a 25.6% rate. It took Jason Kidd several years in the league and only in his later years to develop a proper jump shot.
Simmons and Embiid both thrive under the post and it clogs up the floor when they both want to get to their spots. Currently Embiid is the more dominant player at the post but he’s still got questions asked of him too.
Embiid’s health has been the question on everyone’s mind since he’s been drafted. He’s only just played his first full regular season last year and yet again fell into injuries this playoff series against the Raptors.
The Sixers have the capability to trade Ben Simmons, and many pundits are suggesting them to do so. He’s on a rookie contract and putting in trade fillers can net you a good player in return that fits Embiid’s play style more.
Do you really want to trade a player like Simmons though? He’s a generational player and will only be in his 3rd season.
For as high as the Sixers empire can rise, as low as it can crumble. You could be looking at a never fully healthy Embiid and a Simmons who never fulfils his potential. Simply questions that Elton Brand and the Sixers need to answer and roll their dice on.
Written by Evan Elphanus for SportsTips.com