The NBA mid season point is near and here comes the All-Star Weekend and its ancillary activities. Though a new format has been adopted to get players in the keenly awaited All Star Game with players getting the chance to cast their vote same way fans have done for many years.
Media personnel also get to sink their teeth into yet another award scheme of some sort aside the block’s votes on end of regular season awards.
In the Western Conference, Golden State Warriors somewhat sluggish first half of the season is likely not to affect voting for Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Draymond Green.
As a matter of fact, the Warriors can do no wrong since grounded Center Zaza Pachulia has a top five spot among frontcourt players.
In the Eastern Conference, an impressive group of players sans LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have come into their own this season with a glut of Guards dominating the group.
DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, John Wall and Jimmy Butler deserve spots in the starting lineup more than Dwayne Wade to be honest. Boston Celtics Isaiah Thomas is a member of the aforementioned group leading Boston Celtics to third place on the crowded log.
Coach Brad Stevens has been responsible for getting the Celtics in the thick of playoff basketball, is a worthy candidate to lead the Conference’s side in New Orleans particularly when Cavaliers Coach Tyronne Lue isn’t eligible for selection.
Speaking of All-Star Weekend, did Boston Celtics 106-114 loss to Toronto Raptors stave off any chance of topping Canada’s team to the conference’s second seed? Probably yes but far more pressing issues have to be dealt with immediately. What General Manager Danny Ainge has been able to do without a major franchise corner stone is remarkable and in true Boston style, the side is looking to go deeper in the postseason. Should matters remain same however, that dream cannot be realized.
Rebounding-on both ends of the court- can be the Achilles heel of Boston’s playoff aspirations aside the need for more shooting and ball handlers behind Thomas. No team in the NBA-with the exception of Los Angeles Lakers 2000-2001 team- has won the Championship with a defensive rating outside the top ten and while Boston’s rating is 18th and gradually picking up after a horrendous start, rebounding is a key facet in the department that needs to be addressed.
Prior to the matchup against Toronto, ESPN.com ranked Boston 28th in rebounding in the league just a place ahead of Sacramento Kings and bottom ranked Dallas Mavericks. The mind boggling Kings organization can thank the jumbled disappointing Western Conference for a ninth spot in the standings despite its pitiful numbers on the boards. The team can also thank DeMarcus Cousins for his “Best big man in the league” play for its spot behind Portland Trailblazers in the hunt for a playoff spot. Dallas’ position on the standings is the perfect reflection on teams who don’t rebound well and have no All Star talent on offense to save its blushes.
A closer look at the game showed something that isn’t news actually; Boston sucks at rebounding balls. Toronto mauled them on the boards 50-33 with offensive grabs alone accounting for the overall difference in the department. Strangely the side notorious for being a wildcat in the trade season has failed (somewhat temporarily at least) to nab one of the best rebounders in the game on the cheap I might add. A few miles south, Brooklyn Nets has become the latest club to waive 2013 Draft overall number one pick Anthony Bennett replacing him with Quincy Acy.
Offering Acy a 10 day contract does not necessarily spell doom to get him to Boston and help fix its rebounding woes but having missed out getting him the first time, the chances of grabbing the board crashing phenom dwindles. One just needs to look at the numbers (though they may be misleading) to get an idea why the former Baylor University Forward’s strengths come in handy. In 36 minutes of action, he averages 8.4 rebounds per game according to Basketballreference.com. The physical intangibles aid in gobbling up second chance balls as a 7 feet, 2.75 inches wingspan and a 37 inch vertical leap does the trick.
Plus his athletic build makes him a preferable candidate to jostle for position under the basket than fellow Forwards Jonas Jerebko, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson. One can understand why Ainge might be reluctant to pull the trigger on this deal seeing how 6 foot 7 inches Acy is undersized for his position coupled with the fact that Boston is the shortest team in the NBA. The silver lining with his build is the chance to play a small ball lineup with Thomas, Avery Bradley/ Marcus Smart, Crowder and Al Horford lining up next to him. Such a lineup can run opponents off the floor and choke them with stranglehold defense just the way a Bradley/Smart, Crowder and Acy combo would.
Though getting Acy further implodes the side stature wise and offensive wise since Acy is almost a nonfactor on the offensive end, it allows Stevens more options to tweak his lineup and maximize the chances of winning. Boston got to its present position by getting guys of Acy’s ilk in situations for them to perform best and not by hunting for a superstar. Only a few, like the Warriors tend to be successful seeing what they did with Durant. As such letting specialists like Acy slip to other teams can be a worry come playoff time.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah