NBA: Ranking the best performers in the playoffs so far

Laith Malhas 17/05/2017
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The NBA postseason gives the league’s very best players the platform to take both themselves and their teams to the next level and this year we’ve been blessed with a variety of standout performers.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James has been in staggering form as has kept his team undefeated through eight playoff games while Kawhi Leonard has been a phenom to lead the San Antonio Spurs to the Western Conference Finals.

Of course, there’s also the Golden State duo of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green who have helped guide the Warriors to an undefeated postseason so far with the Boston Celtics reaching their peak thanks to their star point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Here we take a look at the candidates for the postseason MVP award:

1) LEBRON JAMES – CAVALIERS

PLAYOFF STATS: 34.4 PPG / 9.0 RPG / 7.1 APG

The king of Akron has been the king of the playoffs so far having produced a ridiculous stat line as he led his Cavaliers to an undefeated record after two series in these playoffs. The 32-year-old has been on fire from beyond the arc shooting 46.8 percent on 5.9 attempts per game and James is also shooting 55.7 percent from the floor while getting the rest of the Cavaliers good shots on offense.

Cleveland have struggled on defense as a team, but James has offset some of those deficiencies by averaging 2.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The defending champions will face the Celtics in a series they are heavily favoured to win despite not having home court advantage.

The series could be tougher than the tests Cleveland experienced in the first two rounds but right now, James is performing on a different level and has positioned his team to make a run to the Finals once again.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors - Game Four

2) KAWHI LEONARD – SPURS

PLAYOFF STATS: 27.7 PPG / 7.8 RPG / 4.6 APG

Due to the stiffer competition out West, the towering forward has played four more games than James in these playoffs. However, that has not kept Leonard from playing at an MVP level throughout this playoff stretch although the Spur’s star was injured in game one of the Western Conference Finals after an ankle injury and is questionable for game two.

Prior to this setback, Leonard was having a 50/40/90 postseason (52.5 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three and 93.1 percent from the free-throw line) and is the Spurs best defender on the court. If he manages to get healthy by game three, San Antonio might have a chance to contend with the Warriors at home.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One

3) STEPHEN CURRY – WARRIORS

PLAYOFF STATS: 28.6 PPG / 5.7 APG / 41.5 3P%

The Warriors are a super team so any one of their starting five could make this list but Curry remains the driving force and igniter of the offense.

Golden State are still undefeated through nine games, the Spurs offered a challenge in game one of the Western Conference Finals only to have Curry answer the bell, his performance was key to the comeback win as he sealed the game with a mid-range jumper to put the Spurs away.

Curry leads all players with 39 three-pointers made and is shooting 47.9 percent from inside the arc as well, his numbers might drop slightly due to the intense defense that the Spurs play on the perimeter. But the Warriors are expected to win this series especially with the lingering injury issues that have plagued Leonard so far. The Golden State squad will need Curry to continue his tremendous form if they want to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning another championship.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One

4) DRAYMOND GREEN – WARRIORS

PLAYOFF STATS: 14.9 PPG / 8.9 RPG / 7.2 APG

As important as Curry is to the offense of the Warriors, Green is just as vital for the defense. Green is a menace on the boards, a disruptive player who can block shots and get rebounds during crunch time. The animated power forward can also score when the team needs it as he’s been shooting 50 percent from the field and from three-point territory.

His contributions will be crucial in the Spurs series as the Warriors need the scrappy forward to establish himself in the post and keep plays alive with his offensive rebounding. His seven or more assists per game have helped the Warriors get open shots for Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One

5) ISAIAH THOMAS – CELTICS

PLAYOFF STATS: 25.4 PPG / 6.5 APG / 44.1 FG%

Isaiah Thomas has the “IT” factor in the playoffs, the undersized point guard has been able to lead his Celtics to an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Thomas runs the offense for Boston and facilitates shots for his teammates, he also can run in transition and make shots under pressure.

The Celtics will have their hands full against the Cavaliers but Thomas must be clicking on all cylinders if they want to compete. He’s only shooting 34.3 percent from three-point range but that could improve against Kyrie Erving who is not a great defender for Cleveland, which will allow him to establish more separation and get his shot off with ease. The Celtics might be too dependent on Thomas to create at times but he is their best player and chief facilitator when the team performs at a high level.

GettyImages-683505724

Who is your MVP of the playoffs? share your thoughts using #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook.

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NBA: Six teams that will have sponsorship patches on their jerseys next season

Laith Malhas 16/05/2017

Some NBA jerseys will have a different look next season as a number of teams prepare to add a sponsorship patch to their apparel.

The league is entering uncharted territory as it will allow corporations to pay for advertisements on their jerseys for the first time.

Basketball purists feel these advertisements will degrade the classic look of the NBA uniform, however, commissioner Adam Silver and team owners see tremendous upside to the venture.

Companies are willing to pay colossal amounts for the wearable logo and so far six teams have agreed to try out the new look. The patches will be 2.5 square inches or less and all deals will be structured as three-year trials. The good news for the fans is that these sponsorship patches will not be embedded on jerseys sold at the NBA merchandise store. Give us your thoughts on the new jerseys using #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook. 1) PHILADELPHIA 76ERS  The Sixers were the first team in the NBA to ink a deal back in May of 2016 with the online ticket giant StubHub. The upcoming season will see the 76ers wearing the patched up jerseys for home and road games. 2) SACRAMENTO KINGS  The Kings were the second team to ink a deal back in October of 2016, they partnered up with an almond products supplier called Blue Diamond Growers that are based in their home state of California. 3) BOSTON CELTICS The most successful NBA franchise in history also entered the fray as they signed a deal with General Electric in January of this year, the conglomerate corporation is also headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. 4) BROOKLYN NETS  The Nets inked a deal with a software company called Infor, the patch looks a bit disruptive to the team's jersey colors, however, the logo can be overlooked as the deal will bring a new stream of income to the Brooklyn-based side. 5) UTAH JAZZ The Jazz signed a deal with software firm Qualtrics, the alliance will also promote the Qualtrics 5 For The Fight charity which is an initiative to fight cancer through donations and spreading awareness. 6) CLEVELAND CAVALIERS The defending champions have signed a deal with Goodyear, the tyre and rubber company that was founded in Akron, Ohio. The Goodyear 'Wingfoot' logo will be on the Cavaliers jersey in support of the hometown company. It is inevitable that the rest of the NBA will follow this blueprint of jersey sponsorships sooner rather than later. The revenue is always an upside for the owners and some business partnerships could be used to promote a worthy cause as well. Give us your thoughts on the new jerseys using #360fans on Twitter or on Instagram or getting in touch via Facebook.

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Celtics down Wizards to set up Cavs showdown

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Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points from the bench as the Boston Celtics outmuscled the Washington Wizards 115-105 to clinch their Eastern Conference semi-final series on Monday.

Olynyk produced a superb display of shooting from distance as Boston pulled clear of the Wizards in the late stages of the game to take the series 4-3 and set up a Conference final clash with Cleveland.

Isaiah Thomas topscored for the Celtics with 29 points and weighed in with 12 assists while Al Horford (15), Jae Crowder (14) and Marcus Smart (13) also made double figures.

But it was Olynyk’s remarkable display off the bench that proved decisive as the Celtics clinched their first Eastern Conference finals berth since 2012.

“A friend called me and said ‘Be at your best when your best is needed’ and my best was needed tonight,” Olynyk said after the win.

“Everybody gave it their best and it turned out for us tonight,” added the 26-year-old Canadian power forward.

Olynyk described the series win as a “a team effort.”

“It was hard work, that was a tough seven-game series. Both teams played tough — we just kind of outlasted them at the end there. We’re lucky to move on,” Olynyk said.

Boston now host NBA champions Cleveland on Wednesday. “We’ve just gotta keep playing our brand of basketball and we’ll see what happens,” Olynyk said.

The defeat marked another frustrating end for Washington however.

Bradley Beal exploded for 38 points but it was not enough to overcome the Celtics rugged defense. Otto Porter Jr added 20 points while John Wall and Markieff Morris scored 18 each.

No other Washington player made double figures, highlighting the team’s threadbare relative lack of options off the bench. Wall meanwhile made only one of eight attempted three-pointers.

  • From AFP 

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