The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!
We finally got an update on Giannis, the Suns are heading to the Finals and Rick Carlisle made his first comments as head coach of the Pacers. Let’s Dose!
The Latest on Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee fans feared the worst after Game 4 when Giannis didn’t return with a left-knee hyper-extension. An MRI taken on Wednesday gave the Bucks some hope though, as it didn’t reveal any structural damage and confirmed the initial diagnosis of a hyper-extension. The Bucks have already listed him as doubtful for Game 5, though coach Mike Budenholzer was a bit more optimistic. “Giannis is going to do everything he can to be available but we are going to work together to make good decisions for his health.”
David Chao, one of the most respected injury analysts out there, is still of the opinion that Giannis’ postseason run is over though. “At a minimum, he has an articular cartilage/bone bruise and capsular sprain. He may even have a partial PCL and/or LCL injury. Even if he avoids surgery, his season and chance to play in the Finals is done.”
We’ll have to see what happens, but I’m going to side with Chao on this one and don’t expect to see Giannis return for the remainder of the playoffs. And that’s yet another blow to the NBA who have seen countless players suffer the consequences of a condensed schedule. The series is far from over though, as the Bucks still have plenty of firepower to give the Hawks problems. Just take a look at how lethal Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have been with Giannis off the court this season:
Jrue per 36 without Giannis: 25.3 points, 8.1 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.5 triples on 51% shooting.
Middleton per 36 without Giannis: 28.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.7 triples on 48% shooting.
And for those of you seeking a value play, don’t sleep on Bobby Portis. I’m expecting him to start and clear 30+ minutes, and he fared well in that role during the regular season. Across seven starts, Portis averaged 14.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.1 triples in 29 minutes.
Takeaways from Rick Carlisle’s media day
As you know, Rick Carlisle was named the head coach of the Pacers and signed a lucrative 4-year, $29M deal. He dropped a lot of fantasy nuggets in his press conference, but I’ll highlight the biggest takeaways below:
-The Pacers will not rebuild and are in “win-now” mode. You might be thinking otherwise after a dreadful 34-38 season, though it’s important to note that the Pacers dealt with countless injuries and were without bubble breakout T.J. Warren.
-The roster will look mostly the same next season with the core of Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren all returning, and both Carlisle and GM Kevin Pritchard made it clear that re-signing free agents Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell will be a priority.
-The Turner-Sabonis combo up front is here to stay. Carlisle understands that he needs to strike a “balance” between the post game and spacing game, and seemed to indicate that he’d stagger them for stretches as well. Last season, that combo had a -2.3 net rating, but Carlisle said he’s looking forward to the challenge of making it work.
-The Goga Bitadze breakout will have to wait. The logjam up front will continue to bury Goga on the depth chart unless the Pacers ultimately decide to move Turner in a trade. It’s worth nothing that Pritchard refers to Bitadze as a franchise building block, so he could become a stash at some point in 2021-22 if we get wind of a Turner trade -- the Hornets and Wolves are said to be strongly pursuing Turner.
-Carlisle is going to be careful with Warren’s minutes. He even cited how he treated Dirk Nowitzki at the end of his career, playing him in three short stints in each half to keep him fresh. If that keeps Warren on the floor, then so be it. The dude is a stat stuffer and should be a bargain at his ADP.
Suns advance to the NBA Finals
I can’t tell you how weird it felt to write that, but here we are. Not only are the Suns in the finals, but they should be heavily favored to win it all too with the Giannis injury rocking Milwaukee. But hats off to this team, from top to bottom. Chris Paul has never looked better and could be on the verge of his first championship, scoring 41(!) points with eight assists, four rebounds, three steals and seven triples.
Devin Booker didn’t have the best line on the stat sheet, but I’ve never seen him so intense. His emphatic jam in the third quarter (link) completely demoralized the Clippers, finishing with 22 points on 10-of-26 shooting.
Deandre Ayton (16 points, 17 rebounds) has looked like a completely different player in the playoffs and continues to shine, and the Suns will be thrilled that Jae Crowder (19 points, five triples) finally found his touch after averaging 6.2 points on 27% shooting in Games 1-5.
As for the Clippers, you’ve got to hand it to them for how hard they competed this postseason and pulling off 0-2 comebacks vs. the Jazz and Mavericks was no easy task. They are facing an uneasy offseason though, as they return pretty much their entire core outside of Kawhi Leonard who has a $36M player option.
I don’t know if I buy the “reports” that Kawhi was unhappy with the training staff considering the source, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he wasn’t happy with the franchise in general and I truly have no idea where his head is at entering the offseason. And as for his health, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said that Kawhi wouldn’t have played in Game 7 had the Clippers made it that far, but did say that Kawhi didn’t close the door on a possible return if his team made the finals. That certainly gives me hope that his knee sprain is not as severe.
And lastly, shoutout to Paul George. He got so much heat from the media after the bubble and was nicknamed “Wayoff P,” but he absolutely redeemed himself -- he became the 6th player with 500 points, 150 rebounds and 100 assists in a single postseason, joining LeBron James (8x), Larry Bird (3x), Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Tim Duncan according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Trae Young and Clint Capela are Questionable
Nothing has changed for Trae Young who remains questionable for Game 5, and it’s likely that he ends up being a game-time call. “Young exhausted every avenue to try and find a way to return to play [in Game 4], but a severe lack of mobility and significant degree of pain made it impossible,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said. Lou Williams will once again be asked to step up if Trae is a no go, and he did that and more in Game 4 with 21 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two triples.
As for Capela, I’m not quite as concerned. The Hawks are usually quite generous with the questionable tag in these cases, and most beat writers believe he’s closer to probable as he’s only dealing with some minor right eye inflammation.