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#pounditWednesday, August 17, 2022

Stories by Jack Reining:

Three best developments from the NBA’s seeding games

Damian Lillard

Some of the greatest joys from the NBA’s return to action have been the storylines that emerged to captivate the attention of the bubble. In a league that delivers drama and intensity on a nightly basis, here are three of the most memorable storylines from the NBA’s seeding games.

Damian Lillard’s dazzling run in Disney

Michael Jordan made it abundantly clear during “The Last Dance” that great players are continually searching for a reason to get angry and subsequently raise their game. Damian Lillard is a great player who is officially ticked off. You don’t need to be an accomplished lip reader to see that Lillard has no qualms about letting that passion and anger show.

Lillard capped off what has been one of the most impressive stretches of basketball in recent history with a 42-point performance in Portland’s victory over the Brooklyn Nets. In a game in which a win meant securing a spot in the play-in game, and a loss meant packing their bags and leaving the NBA’s bubble, Lillard delivered when the stakes were at their highest. The Nets desperately tried to force the ball out of Lillard’s hands through double teams and matchup zone defenses, but Lillard was prepared. It’s impossible to double someone when they pull-up from the center court logo.

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Why the road to the NBA Finals in the West goes through Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis

Regardless of how you feel about LeBron James as a basketball player, there is no denying the impact he has had on the NBA. Even off the court, James is always thinking multiple moves ahead of his opponents. When James’ 13-year playoff streak was broken last season during his first campaign with the Lakers, it surprised no one to learn that the King had concocted a new plan.

That plan was appeasing Anthony Davis’ trade request by acquiring the seven-time All-Star from the New Orleans Pelicans.

With “The Brow” donning purple and gold, James took on a new challenge in his 17th season, making the transition to being the Lakers’ primary point guard. James passed this new test with flying colors, as he sits poised to capture his first assist title, while also leading the Lakers to the top record in the Western Conference. When the postseason begins, the Lakers can rest assured that James will continue to deliver his Hall of Fame-level contributions on a nightly basis. Still, it will be Davis, who will ultimately determine their fate.

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Why Lakers vs. Trail Blazers would make for a surprisingly intriguing playoff series

Damian Lillard

This season the Los Angeles Lakers hold a 17-2 record against the six teams competing in Orlando for the right to inevitably lose to them in the first round of the playoffs. It remains no secret that the basketball world yearns to see LeBron James and Zion Williamson square off in a ceremonious battle of the present versus the future this coming postseason. Guidelines weren’t explicitly put in place to ensure a Williamson versus James matchup, but it seems highly coincidental that the ninth seed must finish within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in game for the final playoff spot, as the Pelicans currently sit 3.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Memphis. Also sitting 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies are both the Sacramento Kings and the Portland Trail Blazers.

While the Kings have continued to improve since their underwhelming 15-29 start to the season, the Trail Blazers remain the most intriguing matchup for the Lakers on account of one player alone: Damian Lillard.

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Four players who could swing the NBA playoffs

Paul George

The NBA playoffs have the uncanny ability to render a player’s body of work throughout the season meaningless, as players are often solely evaluated on their performances from when the stakes are at their highest. Certain players have the ability to bounce back from underwhelming regular seasons and silence their doubters in the postseason.

These are the players primed with the ability to overcome slow starts to their seasons and potentially alter this year’s championship race.

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5 NBA players with the most to prove in Orlando

Zion Williamson

An evaluation of an NBA player’s legacy is one of the most volatile aspects of the league, as in some cases, all it takes is a single game or shot to define an entire career. Every NBA player is looking to prove themselves whenever they step foot on the hardwood. However, there comes the point for specific players, where proving themselves becomes a necessity.

From former number one overall picks to potential league MVPs, here are the five players with the most to prove headed into Orlando.

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Most crucial questions facing Western Conference’s elite

Anthony Davis Lakers

The NBA is gearing up for a return next month, and the expectation is that we will have playoff basketball. As the Western Conference’s elite teams prepare for the return of the season, we take a look at the most critical question that will define each team’s chances at contending for a championship.

(You can find the biggest questions facing the Eastern Conference’s top teams here)

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Biggest questions facing Eastern Conference’s best teams

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The NBA is set to return to action at the end of July, and numerous questions pertaining to the logistics of the league’s plan remain. While we are learning the answers to those questions gradually, NBA teams must now question how they will perform when the season does return.

With playoff basketball on the horizon, here are the most critical questions surrounding the championship contenders in the Eastern Conference.

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The Next Dance: NBA documentaries that should be made

James harden

Sports fans were able to satisfy their desperate hunger for competition while the NBA remains on hiatus by watching ESPN’s 10-part documentary, “The Last Dance.” Iconic NBA documentaries can function almost as a time machine, guiding the viewer through a notable part of the league’s history, while still providing a similar thrill to the one felt when experiencing games live.

“The Last Dance” was compelling at every turn. It seems fitting that ESPN created arguably the greatest NBA documentary of all time while telling the story of the greatest NBA player of all time. While there may never be a story that parallels Michael Jordan’s ascension to basketball supremacy, the last decade of NBA action has produced a magnitude of engrossing stories. These stories have a profound impact on the current framework of the NBA and may also be worthy of their own documentary one day.

Here are some subjects we would love to see covered in-depth in a future documentary.

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From LeBron James to Kawhi Leonard: the front court players most deserving of All-NBA

LeBron James

The selections for All-NBA forwards and centers present an interesting dilemma, as they strictly adhere to a two forward, one center format. In today’s position-less pace-and-space era of the NBA, it seems antiquated to require one center per All-NBA team. With the game speeding up and a premium being placed on spacing, there is a significant decrease in demand for traditional centers. Teams like the Houston Rockets don’t even believe in playing a center.

The NBA recognized this shift in basketball ideology by removing positions from the frontcourt of the All-Star ballot and allowing for three frontcourt players of any position to be named a starter. While this was a step in the right direction, no changes have been made to the format of the All-NBA teams, resulting in less deserving players on the All-NBA teams simply due to their position.

With that caveat in mind, here are my selections for the All-NBA forwards and centers. (You can see my 2020 All-NBA guards here)

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From Luka Doncic to Chris Paul: Which guards deserve to make All-NBA

Luka Doncic

Little is known about when the NBA will make its highly-anticipated return. With close to three-fourths of the regular season in the books, the leaders for end-of-season awards have distinguished themselves from the pack. All-NBA selections are meant to represent the best players at their respective positions. Quantifying what it means to be the best at one’s position is as divisive of a debate as the Michael Jordan/LeBron James G.O.A.T. argument. Selection as an All-NBA player is about not only putting up impressive statistics, but also embodying winning with play on the court.

Without further ado, here are my selections for the All-NBA guards based on this shortened season’s body of work.

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