The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
1. “The Toronto Raptors are Damn Near Impossible to Figure Out” – Eric Koreen of VICE Sports
If you’ve watched the Raptors at all in their first-round series, you know that they haven’t looked like a 56-win team for much of it. They have a 3-2 lead on the Pacers, but have lost by double digits at home and looked dreadful in a 100-83 loss on the road against Indiana, an average squad. Toronto was on the verge of an ugly loss in Game 5 at home before a frantic fourth-quarter comeback, spurred by a lockdown defensive effort.
For such a successful regular-season team, you’d think the rotations would be a little bit more firmed up now, but they aren’t. Dwane Casey is still tinkering, finding things that work and don’t work.
Koreen looks into all the unpredictable things that have happened so far. If these first five games of the postseason are any indication, we should be expecting the unexpected with this Raptors team.
2. “NBA AM: Is Cousins the Kings’ Problem or Solution?” – Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders
Speaking of confusion, how about DeMarcus Cousins? The Kings star big man is a polarizing figure around the league because of his prodigious talents combined with an uneven demeanor and an inability to lead his team to respectability.
Greene dives head-on at the enigma that is Cousins, looking at what he’s shown that makes him a worthy franchise player and what he’s shown that makes him unworthy of that distinction. He doesn’t come to a total conclusion, but he notes the importance of the Sacramento franchise being able to come to its own conclusion on him this summer.
3. “A New Look for a New NBA” – Daniel Chin of Sports Quotient
The NBA changes all the time, and it recently announced another change. The league will be allowing 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch advertisements to be displayed on uniforms, which is bound to get people riled up.
If you’re one of those people, I recommend that you channel that anger into a worthier cause. I mean, tiny little logo patches in the uniforms on jerseys? I don’t know about you, but I don’t tune into NBA games mostly to admire the beautiful craftsmanship displayed on the ad-less jerseys. I watch for the great basketball, which won’t be affected by the ads.
Chin reminds us that the addition of logos is just another business move by the NBA that’ll be forgotten as time passes.
Before the Thunder beat the Mavericks in Game 5 of their first-round series on Monday, Mark Cuban made a statement about there only being one superstar on the Thunder: Kevin Durant. He referred to Westbrook as “an All-Star but not a superstar” because Oklahoma City didn’t make the postseason last season when Durant was out most of the year.
Now, definitions of superstar vary, but it must be a very fine line if Durant qualifies and Westbrook doesn’t. You can definitely debate which one is the better player, but there’s no doubt that both are (at worst) in the top six or seven guys in the league, and probably in the top five.
HoopsHype reminds us of some of the statistics that make Russ a superstar, making Cuban look silly.
5. “The Domino Effect of Chris Paul’s Injury is Staggering” – Matt Zemek of Crossover Chronicles
Zemek’s piece was written prior to the news of Blake Griffin missing the postseason, but his premise is still valid: the Clippers’ terrible injury luck causes a lot of different dominoes to fall in the Western Conference postseason.
The biggest winner, ultimately, is the Stephen Curry-less Warriors, who first benefit from the Clippers-Blazers series going longer because of the injuries. After that, though, they should rightfully be considered favorites against either the inexperienced Blazers or the badly injured Clippers. Because of that, they probably don’t have to rush Curry back as quickly, so he can be fresher for a potential trip to the conference finals.
There are other things to think about here, and Zemek covers them well.