Meet Milos Teodosic: Europe’s White Chocolate

The mysterious international prospect from Serbia, Milos Teodosic, first gained NBA buzz after recording 26 points and 9 assists on the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 2013 exhibition game when he was a part of a Russian pro basketball club known as PBC CSKA Moscow. That same year, ESPN’s Marc Stein, confirmed that the Memphis Grizzlies had tried to sign Teodosic for $5M but failed. And, during the 2016 Rio Olympics, Teodosic created more buzz for himself after leading Serbia to a near-victory versus Team USA, they lost 94-91. Now, the Los Angeles Clippers are giving the Serbian an opportunity to test his abilities in the NBA, and he will not deny another NBA offer this time around.

Teodosic signed a two-year deal worth $12.3M with the LA Clippers. The 6-foot-5-inch Serbian guard can be a key difference maker for the Clippers: for better or for worse.

In the history of the league (dating back to the 1946-47 season), there have only been 24 Serbian NBA players. Of those 24 players, 3 played the point guard position. Those 3 Serbian guards never played 1 full NBA season (Igor Rakocevic played 42 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, in 2001, before being waived). So, Serbia is not known for producing NBA-level point guards. Will Teodosic defy those odds and avoid being a bust?

To add, Teodosic is 30-years old which puts him in the “oldest rookies” category. Either he can just be an “old rookie” who went on to be an epic failure like 30-year old Barry Stevens who only played 2 games for the Warriors in 1992-93. Or, be an “old rookie” who makes the most of his opportunities like 31-year old Arvydas Sabonis who, in 73 games with the 1995-96 Portland Trail Blazers, averaged 14 points per game and 8 rebounds per game. In today’s NBA, the game is very fast-paced with teams trying to perfect the “small ball” system. Assuming that Teodosic plays a big role on the Clippers, durability and endurance are two things that are concerning when assessing what kind of impact he can make at his age.

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Now, positively, Teodosic has the potential to be a perfect point guard replacement for the Clippers. At 6’5″, with his playmaking ability and his soft shooting touch, Teodosic will be able to play the point and shooting guard positions which is very important in today’s NBA. Also, at his height, Teodosic will be able to see overtop of many of his point guard matchups. And, to add, Teodosic is also a very intelligent pick-and-roll player who is able to make the right basketball play. So, don’t be surprised if Teodosic continues to keep Lob City alive and Danilo Gallinari’s career gets revitalized due to plenty of open shot attempts Teodosic creates from pick-and-roll scenarios.

Teodosic has been getting the NBA’s attention for nearly half a decade now. Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski calls him “as good of a player, and as good of a guard, as there is in Europe.” Now, the Serbian-native will get his chance to showcase his playmaking skills on the grandest stage of them all.

 

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Count the Cavs Out After Game 1

  • Game 1: “The game players get their feet wet”

Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, and the rest of the supporting cast (excluding the starters) were getting a taste of what was and will be the enormous task at hand in these NBA Finals against, arguably, the greatest team ever assembled. No one really seemed comfortable and as a unit, Cleveland looked unfocused. As the players have been preaching in postgame interviews, it’s impossible to simulate opponents as well as the gametime atmosphere in practice; so Game 1 puts everything into perspective. Game 1’s tale was a combination of Cleveland being a bit awe/star struck and the Warriors unleashing their anguish on the bitter events that took place in last year’s NBA Finals. LeBron and his Cavs are now 0-3 versus the Warriors in Game 1’s, but I doubt that discourages Cleveland. I expect LeBron and Kyrie to gather their troops and recalibrate their focus so they can execute a lot better in Game 2.

  • Cavs Dominated the Boards

The Warriors did gain a lot of its initial momentum and took advantage of Cleveland lethargic behavior through second chance points. Warriors ended with 18 second chance points while Cavs had 13. With that being said, Cleveland still won the rebounding battle in totality, 67-60. Kevin Love led the pack with 21 rebounds. LeBron James added 15 rebounds. But Tristan Thompson, one of the league’s premier rebounders, only had 4 rebounds. I don’t expect Thompson to have another lackluster performance, on the glass, for the remainder of the series. And, I expect Cleveland to continue dominating the glass as well as converting more efficiently on the additional scoring opportunities they receive from their rebounding efforts for the rest of the NBA Finals.

  • LeBron James

He was the only player, outside of Kyrie Irving, who was actually challenging the Warriors. James posted 28 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 blocks. But what about the 8 turnovers? Yes, he did commit 8 turnovers (Cavs committed a grand total of 20 turnovers which GSW converted into 21 points) but most of his turnovers were unforced errors and can easily be avoided with James’ unique ability to analyze and break down film and gameplans. Additionally, with no one on the Cavs shooting the ball well (team shot only 35% from the field) the Warriors could apply even more pressure on James making life even more difficult. Also, with the terrible shooting performance the Cavs’ supporting cast displayed, excluding Irving, the Cavs offense was conducted through LeBron-James-isolation situations where James had to create offense all by his lonesome throughout the entirety of the game (Cavs only had 15 assists as a team versus GSW who had 31 assists as a team). With this being the only offense the Cavs could conduct, the Warriors’ defense barely rotated, only had to pay close attention to James, and treated everyone else as a nonscoring threat.

At the end of the day, James has been to 8 NBA Finals (7 NBA Finals in a row), so this isn’t his first rodeo. I expect him as well as his supporting cast to adjust exponentially. As a competitor, when you get beat that bad, the only solution is to prepare the mind and body 110% harder to avoid that feeling of defeat yet again. Game 2 is a pivotal game for Cleveland, so don’t be surprised if James puts on a historic performance.

3 Time’s a Charm

The time has come. On June 1st at 9 PM, the Cleveland Cavaliers will travel west to face off against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are heavily favored to win the title but the Cavs could be the opponent to spoil their anticipated champagne showers. Why do the Cavs have the best chance to defeat the most talented team ever assembled? Here are the reasons:

  • New Acquisitions

Over the course of the season, the Cavs acquired Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, and Kyle Korver (Andrew Bogut was also a major addition but his season was ended in literally 2 minutes so I guess it wasn’t meant to be). I doubt that Derrick Williams will play major minutes in the Finals, but if the Cavs should play him, he is a versatile, athletic forward who has the ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor. Now, Kyle Korver will be a major component for the Cavs. Since he will most likely be a liability to Cleveland on defense, Korver will have to sink just about every single three-point shot he attempts. If Korver is able to consistently be a threat from the perimeter, he will force the Warrior’s defense to stay at home which will help Kyrie and LeBron do what they do best. Deron Williams is obviously the other primary ballhandler which will help take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron. With Deron, he will need to be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself (like he was vs. BOS in Game 5) and not defer immediately to LeBron or Kyrie; it will make the Cavs’ offensive attack not solely based on isolation play which can become oversaturated and predictable.

  • Cleveland vs. The World

The core of this 73-win Warriors team still remains intact with the addition of the league’s second-best player, Kevin Durant. Logically, if the Warriors team, prior to KD, was up 3-1 in a series they eventually lost, then surely this year’s Warriors superteam will be destined to win now with KD coming to save the day. However, the beautiful thing about sports is the unpredictability and drastic shift of momentum from game-to-game. Right now, everyone is counting the Cavs out and giving them no chance. Surely, the players are aware of this and will be intrigued to silence all the doubters. During interviews with the media, LeBron and the Cavs are innately-trained to be humble, acknowledge and praise the extraordinary talents of the Warriors. But, from a competitor’s standpoint behind closed doors, the Cavs don’t find the Warriors intimidating at all. At the end of the day, the Warriors have home-court advantage but the Cavs are the defending champs.

  • Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving

He’s already deemed the best ballhandler to ever play this game. And, without question, he has proven that he is the go-to guy during critical moments in the game (“The Shot” in game 7 vs. Warriors during 2016 Finals, the 42-point performance in game 4 vs. Celtics during 2017 ECF). Since game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals and the entirety of last year’s NBA Finals, Kyrie has proven to be a far better asset and leader to his team than Steph Curry. In last year’s finals, Kyrie averaged 28 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. On the other hand, Curry averaged only 22 points per game while shooting only 42 percent from the field. With Kyrie on the floor, the Warriors have to worry about an explosive-scoring guard who is very capable of taking and making any shot, anywhere, at any time. LeBron put it best when he stated: “He [Kyrie] was born to perform and make big plays during key moments in the game.”

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  • LeBron “The King” James

LeBron is the best player in the game. He just passed The G.O.A.T, Michael Jordan, to become the leading scorer in NBA playoff history. Just to add, LeBron needs to make only 2 three’s to pass Reggie Miller and become the second-leading three-point scorer in NBA playoff history. And, I almost forgot! This finals appearance in 2017 will be LeBron’s 7th in a row! So, LeBron is used to this stage. However, this will be LeBron’s biggest challenge thus far in his career. KD is licking his chops, in the west, waiting to carry out his revenge after getting swept by LeBron in the 2012 NBA Finals. KD is obviously one of the best/unique scorers this league has ever seen. LeBron and the Cavs will have to try and contain KD and the Warriors’ high-octane offense to the best of their ability. If everyone plays their role and remains fundamentally-sound defensively to create more offensive possessions, then there’s no doubt that LeBron can and will find gaps in the defense in order to exploit the Warriors from the inside-out.

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Without a doubt, this will be one of the most anticipated matchups in the history of sports. The series between these two juggernauts is tied 1-1 and this third meeting at the grand stage could potentially be the conclusion to an amazing rivalry. Players on both sides are healthy so the matchups are very promising ensuring an ultra-competitive series. Like ESPN analyst, Stephen A. Smith, declared: “THERE ARE NO EXCUSES!” Players’ legacies will be on the line. Who will rise to the top and be the cream of the crop?

2017 NBA Draftees

The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery Show was last night. Headlining as the top 3 teams in the draft were the: Boston Celtics (#1 pick), LA Lakers (#2), and Philadelphia 76ers (#3). The draftees of the 2017 NBA Draft is overshadowed by the top-pick dispute between University of Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz and UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball. With that being said, there are some talented prospects who I am interested in seeing how they develop during their NBA careers. It’s only right for me to give my assessment on these prospects.

Markelle Fultz (Projection: #1):

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In my eyes, Fultz is, arguably the most offensively talented prospect in this draft. He can score on all three levels. He has a tight handle with the basketball and can almost get into the lane at will. And once Fultz is in the paint, he is able to contort his body to finish around bigger, more physically-imposing defenders or he can finish strong through smaller defenders. Fultz also is a phenomenal pick-and-roll ball handler. Since he’s a threat from everywhere on the floor, a willing passer, and ultra-creative with the basketball, Fultz can dictate a lot of pick-and-roll situations and usually makes the right read. To add, Fultz is also the type of guard who “plays at his own pace” which is a testament to how mature his game is compared to other prospects in this draft.

Lonzo Ball (Projection: #2):

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The mass majority can all agree that Ball is the best passer in the draft. The phrase: “He makes his teammates around him better,” may very well be valid when speaking about Lonzo Ball’s presence on the court. To put it into perspective, if you play with a teammate that has a “pass-first” mentality, then guys will work harder to put themselves in a position to score the basketball. And usually, when guys score, they’re happy and will make a lot more hustle plays and be more locked in defensively. Also, Ball has exceptional length which gives him an edge on the glass. And, when a guard can rebound then it usually leads to a bunch of fastbreak opportunities… which is DEADLY! Ball has a lot of expectations to fulfill, due to the big mouth of his father Lavar Ball. Will Ball live up to these expectations?

D’Aaron Fox (Projection: #5):

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Without a doubt, University of Kentucky freshman guard D’Aaron Fox is the most electrifying player amongst all the prospects. I hate making comparisons, but Fox’s game resembles John Wall’s style of play. I haven’t seen a player move as fast with the basketball from basket to basket and finish at will since Wall. I actually believe that Fox has more potential (it’s not by a landslide though!) than John Wall because I feel as though he will develop a better long-range game. Despite all the stats proving that Fox was a subpar shooter in college, his shooting form is not broken. I think Fox just has to adjust to his own speed so that he can find that rhythm to make his jumper more consistent. Once Fox figures that out, he will be a BIG problem in the NBA!

Malik Monk (Projection: #6):

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University of Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk is the second-best offensive player slightly trailing behind Fultz. If you watch the Kentucky games this past college season, Monk was usually the most lethal on the offensive end of the floor. He is the best ISO prospect in this draft. His ability to create space, off the dribble and impeccable shot preparation/technique makes Monk a matchup nightmare. Monk is also gifted at catching-and-shooting while coming off screens. Monk, overall, is a very composed shooter. He has great balance and elevation and also has a shot release he gets off in milliseconds making it damn near impossible to block. Monk is great offensively because not only can he shoot but he is also uber-athletic and can penetrate. So if a defender bites on the pump fake, he can blow by him and then dunk on the team’s rim-protector. Monk will be instant offense for whatever NBA team who decides to pick him.

Dennis Smith Jr. (Projection: #9)

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Like Fox, North Carolina State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. is a very electrifying draft prospect. He has the athleticism to help establish himself on an NBA roster. I think he is also an advanced pick-and-roll player; he knows what reads to make and he is capable of taking and making the outside shot if the defender doesn’t hedge hard enough on the screen. Despite him being a streaky shooter, I think, over time, he will be able to fine-tune his jumper and make it more consistent. Right now, don’t really see Smith Jr. making an immediate impact on an NBA team, as a rookie like the guys I mentioned in my list previously, but I do see him developing into an explosive, reliable playmaker for some NBA team in the future who will be fun to watch.

Lauri Markkanen (Projection: #10):

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University of Arizona freshman center Lauri Markkanen is the most talented big-man prospect in this year’s guard-dominated draft. With the way the NBA has put such a huge focal point on three-point shooting, Markkanen is an ideal pickup. Markanen’s 7-foot 255-pound stature may hinder him from adjusting to the speed of the NBA, on the other hand, it will provide an NBA team with rebounding and rim protection. Plus, his ability to have a soft touch and great footwork in the post and marksmanship and efficiency from outside will allow that NBA team to spread the floor for guards to run pick-and-pop plays, create mismatch situations, and open up the lane for drive and kick opportunities. Markkanen will indeed have to adjust to the speed of the NBA but, without a doubt, I think he will be an instant contributor to an NBA team.

TJ Leaf (Projection: #18):

at Pauley Pavilion on November 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

UCLA freshman power forward TJ Leaf is the most skilled big man prospect in the NBA draft. Just based off the games I saw this past college season, Leaf has a great feel for the game. He played alongside Lonzo Ball and, at times, outplayed Ball by showcasing how complete his game was against elite-level competition. Leaf is a stretch big who is able to score on all three levels. And he even showed glimpses that he has decent ball-handling skills and high-level passing vision and ability. Leaf is accustomed to playing at an erratic pace (*hint* helps when you play with Lonzo Ball) so I’m not too worried about him adjusting to the speed and tempo of the NBA. The NBA team who gets Leaf will be getting a high-IQ player. I don’t expect Leaf to be a standout rookie, but I do see Leaf playing for a team where he provides vital contributions such as scoring and energy off the bench.

Rocket Malfunction

Box Score

Last night, the third-seeded Houston Rockets were demolished by a handicapped Spurs squad. Without the aid of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs defeated the Rockets 114-75. How does this much-improved, offensive juggernaut Rockets squad get beat this bad, on their home court, in a must-win game? Well, I’m not really sure but I have some theories that may justify the confusion plaguing the masses that witnessed such a lop-sided affair.

  • Taking Ryan Anderson out the starting lineup

Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets coaching staff made a game-time decision to swap out 6’10” stretch-four, Ryan Anderson, for 6’4″ sharpshooter, Eric Gordon. The rotation change was obviously adjusted so the Rockets could quicken the tempo of the game while also putting on a 3-point barrage to bury the Spurs early. But that plan failed miserably. The Rockets shot only 13-40 (32.5%) from the 3-point line. The height-dominating Spurs won the rebounding battle 60-37 and took advantage of the mismatches where James Harden, who fouled out, was forced to guard LeMarcus Aldridge in the post. Aldridge bulldozed Harden all night and recorded a game-high 34 points and added 12 rebounds; a stat which hadn’t been recorded since Tim Duncan and the Spurs faced off against the Phoenix Suns in 2008 (ESPN). Two other Spurs (Dejounte Murray, Pau Gasol) recorded double-doubles via points and rebounds.

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  • James Harden struggling under pressure

All night James Harden looked bent out of shape and lost. He shot just 2-11 from the field and had 6 unforced turnovers. He failed to score in the first quarter. And he could never help the Rockets recover the momentum and energy they needed in order to put themselves in a greater position to win. Only 3 Rockets players scored in double-figures; Rockets starting small forward, Trevor Ariza, had a team-high 20 points. On the contrary, the Spurs had 6 players score in double figures. It was like in Space Jam where the aliens stripped the talent from the NBA players so they could beat Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes. In theory, maybe some ambitious-seeking aliens stripped away James Harden’s talent. To add, Coach D’Antoni reported that Harden was also battling “a common cold.” Either way, something was bothering Harden last night which led to his abysmal performance.

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  • Popovich continuing to solidify his legendary legacy

ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon made the perfect tweet: “If LeBron should be MVP every year then Pop should be Coach of the Year every year.” With a game-time decision to bench Leonard (who could have played), due to sprained knee injury, and be without Tony Parker for remainder of playoffs, due to a ruptured quadricep tendon, Popovich still managed to work with what was remaining of the Spurs to not only win the game but win convincingly by a margin of 39 points! However, don’t be surprised about the Spurs winning without Leonard. During the 2016-17 regular season, the Spurs recorded a 7-1 record without Leonard active. No matter who Popovich has on his team, he always finds a gameplan that will be perfectly executed and that can beat any team on any given night. James Harden and the Rockets definitely learned this the hard way!

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

Flipping The Switch

LeBron James has had to prove doubters wrong all his life. When he and his teen-aged mom were struggling to find a stable living, James eventually found a safe-haven in Akron, OH at St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School where he eventually became a prodigy and an NBA prospect at the age of 18. When James went to Miami and lost to the Mavs in 2011, no one expected James bounce back and win two championships in a row. When James and the Cavaliers were down 3-1 in last year’s finals versus Golden State, James took it upon himself to lead his team to victory over, arguably, the best regular-season team ever.

It’s funny how Cavs superstar forward, LeBron James, continues to have his legacy questioned by being deemed one of the worst shooters in NBA playoff history. In James’ playoff career, he is only successful on 34.2% of his shots from beyond the arc (FOX Sports).

But just when people try to convince themselves that James has reached his basketball pinnacle and his reign of NBA dominance is coming to its inevitable end, he always proves the critics wrong and showcases another facet of his game validating his extraordinary versatility, undeniable greatness, and bizarre durability.

In these 2017 NBA playoffs,  James is shooting a career-best from three-point range as well as from the field.  As of right now, James is shooting 56.6% from the field and 48.6% from beyond the arc (FOX Sports). James’ unprecedented efficiency correlates greatly with the fact that he is also the second-leading scorer in the playoffs behind “Mr. Triple-Double,” Russell Westbrook (who is obviously not in the playoffs anymore).

Raptor’s all-star point guard Kyle Lowry best summed up LeBron’s greatness when he admitted: “They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him. I don’t know when his prime is going to stop. I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. I think he’ll be able to continue what he’s doing for a long time.”

The Greatest Starting Five of All Time

Many basketball players have come and gone through the NBA. However, few NBA players have come into the league and have left their mark in the record books.

The five players that I will announce are the five best players that are unbeatable due to their natural talents, physicality, and unrelenting will to win.

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  1. Allen Iverson/ Point Guard- A.I. is one of the toughest players that has ever played in the league while only standing at 6 feet and only weighing 160 pounds. Despite his under average NBA stature, he managed to  be one of the most prolific scorers to ever touch a basketball; he also single-handedly turned the whole Philadelphia 76ers franchise around.
  2. Kobe Bryant/ Shooting Guard- Bryant also well known as “The Black Mamba” is arguably the best scorer in the modern era of basketball. On January 22, 2006, Bryant posted the second-best scoring performance ever by scoring 81 points while also shooting 60 percent from the field. Oh yeah and Kobe also scored 60 points in his final NBA game against the Jazz as well. Kobe not only was a scorer but a winner; he won 5 NBA titles in his career.
  3. Michael Jordan/ Small Forward- Michael “Air” Jordan is the best player to ever in the NBA hands down. His will to win was second to none. His fierce competitiveness struck fear into all his opponents. His clutch factor was unmatched; in his whole NBA Finals tenure, he never allowed an opposing team to force a game 7.
  4. LeBron James/ Power Forward- Arguably the best small forward to ever play in the NBA. At 6 foot 9 inches, he is a walking freight train with the skills and athleticism which poses a match-up nightmare for opposing players. He also has a resumé that has him destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Just recently, he became the youngest player to score 27,000 points.
  5. Kareem Abdul Jabbar/ Center- He is one of the most dominating big men to ever play the game. He revolutionized the game by introducing the sky-hook which is literally unguardable. To prove this claim true, Kareem is the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.

There is my starting five of all-time greats. Post your starting five of all-time greats in the comments and see if you can pose any threat to my lineup.