In the NBA, there exists a way to score seven points in one possession. You must make a three-pointer and have the defender flagrantly foul you for standing in your landing zone. This kind of foul awards the player one foul shot and possession of the ball. If you shoot another three, that’s seven points. That may technically be three shots, but it was one possession. The Warriors did it against the Celtics last year in the finals. I know fun stuff like that because I like talking about basketball, but I also don’t have the time to write about it all day. So, I’m going to try to do it by scoring seven points real quick in one possession. Here are some thoughts on last night’s games from a guy who spends too much time in the Notes app.
Joel Embiid and the 76ers beat the Bulls so badly last night that Zach LaVine told NBC Sports he thought the Philly center, “has it wrapped up this year in my opinion. He’s that good.” The MVP race is one of the silliest things in the NBA. Forget the fact that there’s a championship to decide who the best team is—and a separate Finals MVP trophy to decide who the best player was. As I wrote the other day, it’s weird how the MVP award follows nearly the exact same voting procedure and subjective issues as the Oscars and the Grammy’s when we could actually just set up a criteria of advanced stats that tells us who, theoretically, was the best. Some combo of +/-, WS/48, WAR, RAPTOR, etc.—whatever you want to do. We won’t do that, though, and we’ll keep voting, yelling about our personal criteria, and escalating it to a conversation about race for some reason on national television. Exhausting.
“One of the things that’s silly about ESPN at times, they do this silly debate every year about the MVP, going back even when I played,” Charles Barkley said on Altitude Sports Radio in Denver on Tuesday. “It’s a regular season award. It ain’t who the best player is, it’s who had the best regular season. But every year ESPN gets these fools on radio and TV talking about who’s the best player. I always talk about ESPN disease. A lot of these guys when they get on TV, they’re like, ‘Well, I’m on ESPN, I’ve got to say something provocative… That’s the thing that bothers me.”
Austin Reaves went undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft. He averaged 8.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game in his senior season at Oklahoma, earning him a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Lakers’ G League affiliate in South Bay, CA. A little over a month later, he was upgraded to a standard NBA contract. Then, in a game against the Mavericks, he hit 5 three-pointers (one of them a game-winner). He earned the nickname “Hillbilly Kobe” from Lakers fans, and now he’s one of the only players in LA keeping them in play-in contention this year.
Last night against the Suns, he scored 25 points, 11 assists, and 12-3 free throws. The game before, he notched a career-high 35 points. “[Reaves] was huge for us, and he’s been huge for us all year,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told reporters. “He’s in a great space right now, feeling his game and locked into what we’re trying to accomplish.” In a push for Anthony Davis to get to the line more, Reaves has stepped in to fill that hole. As ESPN noted, “Lakers fans serenaded Reaves with chants of ‘M-V-P! M-V-P’ as he repeatedly earned trips to the line in the fourth quarter.” It’s quite remarkable to see—as he joins a growing list of Lakers, alongside James Vanderbilt, that somehow still make this team interesting to watch.
The Pacers picked Andrew Nembhard with the 31st pick in the 2022 NBA Draft this year. Last night, he led the team with 25 points, 10 assists, and 3-5 three-pointers for a win against the Raptors. Led. The. Team. I don’t care what happened in that Mavericks vs. Warriors game and I’ll never understand the massive communications errors that occurred there. I’m also not going to talk about Karl-Anthony Towns or Ja Morant returning. Instead, I want to talk about how the Pacers—a team that could still very well secure the final play-in spot this year—may have walked away with one of the best rookies in the draft. Here’s a highlight reel above via NBA of his 31-point game against the Warriors this past December. Keep your eye on this man. He’s a second-round pick and he’s starting every night in Indiana.
If Lauri Markkanen doesn’t win 2022-2023’s Most Improved Player, then I don’t even know what we have awards for anymore. He scored 40 points, 12 rebounds, and made four three-pointers last night despite Utah’s loss to the Trail Blazers. He’s averaging 25.7 points per game this year, was voted an NBA All-Star, and has become the new franchise face of the Jazz. Let’s just break down how crazy this is for a second. At the start of this season, he was traded by the Cavaliers to the Jazz among two other players and first-round picks for Donovan Mitchell. Collin Sexton, one of the other players in the trade, even had a higher contract over Markkanen. He was averaging just 14.8 points per game this time last year and many people thought Utah would become the worst team in the league. Lauri is proving them wrong. Insane.