Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t turn 23 until early December, but that hasn’t stopped some from mentioning him as a fringe MVP candidate. Guest Sekou Smith thinks it could happen (Erik Drost/Creative Commons).
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A number of stars, including Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap, no longer play in the East, potentially leaving the conference with ample playoff spots available for the taking. In addition, the reigning Eastern Conference finalists recently swapped star point guards, adding a special flavor to their existing rivalry. Meanwhile, teams like the Raptors, Bucks and Wizards hope their various brands of continuity can vault them to an elite class. To help us sort through it all, Sekou Smith, NBA.com writer and host of the Hang Time podcast, appears for a can’t-miss episode. By all means…sample some Sekou snippets:
4:59-5:35: “[Dwyane Wade]’s been a starter basically his entire career. I think in his career, he’s maybe come off the bench 10, 11 times. To ask him to come in and play a role as a bench guy right now, [considering] the fact that he’s not a great 3-point shooter, that would have been asking a lot for him to come in cold and be effective and make an impact on that team. I think, as a starter, you give him a chance to not only do what he’s always done as a scorer… but you give him an opportunity to get in a rhythm… and to play off of LeBron at a high level, which you know he can do.”
10:00-10:14: “The team that I like, that’s kind of my wild-card team in the East, is Milwaukee. I think they do have a depth of talent that could put them in a position to challenge for one of those top two or three spots if a bunch of things go right for them.” Continue reading
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With NBA All-Star Weekend upon us and her dad, Craig, slated to be inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame Friday, Kacy Sager joins the podcast. In addition to sharing some special anecdotes about her legendary father, a man who adored the annual All-Star festivities, Kacy describes her love for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s game, gives her pick for league MVP and provides insight into the wild Eastern Conference landscape and Atlanta’s handling of Paul Millsap, among other topics. Kacy, who serves as a contributor for Basketball Breakdown and a member of Turner Sports’ stat team, is honest and entertaining as ever. Here’s a select sample of what she has to say:
5:01-6:35: Kacy’s all-time favorite NBA player is a precocious 22-year-old named Giannis Antetokounmpo:
“As much as I’ve always known that he was going to end up being a really, really big player, I didn’t even expect it to happen this year. I thought it was going to happen next year. So it’s really cool to see him already taking that big of a leap, and he still has so much potential. He’s doing things out there that shouldn’t physically be possible… Some of it is so mundane at this point, which I feel horrible saying. I feel like we’re going to start taking him for granted at some point. It was fun to watch him during the shootaround before the game though, just shimmying and dancing out there. He always has the hugest grin on his face, and it’s so cool to know that he just so frickin’ excited to be an All-Star. And I’m so excited for him. I cried. I legitimately shed a tear.”
The Hawks earned a 13-spot demotion by struggling mightily after storming out of the gates with a 9-2 start (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Due to stellar play from the Rockets, Jazz, Thunder and Celtics, the red-hot Grizzlies actually dropped a couple slots. The panel was indeed impressed by Memphis’ ability to win five of its last six games without Mike Conley Jr. on the court; it’s just those other teams were deemed to be even better. On the other side of the coin, the Hawks have been dreadful for nearly three weeks now and are paying for it by falling precipitously in this edition. Their 13-place drop on our list may be awfully difficult for teams to “beat” in future rankings.
Biggest Jumps: Milwaukee Bucks (+8), Orlando Magic (+7), Oklahoma City Thunder (+6)
Biggest Drops: Atlanta Hawks (-13), Chicago Bulls (-10), Denver Nuggets (-9), New Orleans Pelicans (-7), Los Angeles Lakers (-7)
After missing much of his rookie season with a foot injury, Jabari Parker is establishing himself in his second season as a core part of Milwaukee’s future. (Keith Allison/Flickr)
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Although the Milwaukee Bucks fell well short of expectations this season, Frank Madden, founder and managing editor of SB Nation’s Brew Hoop, explains why the team essentially got what it was looking for with the development of young bucks/Bucks Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Frank provides more insight into the Greek Freak’s “weird athleticism,” Parker’s post-All-Star-break emergence and Greg Monroe’s tenuous fit on the roster. Head coach Jason Kidd’s second season at the helm is also discussed, among other topics. Highlights can be found below:
4:27-4:57 on Antetokounmpo’s recent dominance:
“In spite of the fact that the last month in many ways has been one of his worst shooting months, it hasn’t mattered. He’s playing at a (high) level and with so much confidence in his ability to get to the rim and make plays for other people and get out in transition and use his size and length and weird athleticism. It’s just so overwhelming to most NBA defenders that it doesn’t matter if you play off him a little bit.”
12:55-13:22 on his overall assessment of the season:
“With the turnaround of Jabari and Giannis,you probably have gotten more or less what you wanted from a development standpoint, which I would argue is the most important thing from this season. But with the expectations coming from last year, there was a lot of hope that this team could certainly at least be a playoff team and maybe be better than that. And obviously for a lot of reasons – I think a lot of it dating to youth and maybe some of the pieces not fitting as well as you’d like.”