NBA Buy or Sell: Rockets’ small ball will work in playoffs; being the Greek Freak ‘takes no skill at all’

The trade deadline is over, the All-Star break has come and gone and buyout season is wrapping up. All of which means it’s officially the home stretch of the regular season in the NBA. There’s less than two months now until the playoffs begin, and while there are still a few things to sort out, it’s also time to start looking ahead. 

That means thinking about awards and how the postseason will play out, both of which we’ll do right here in the latest edition of Buy or Sell:

Buy or Sell: LeBron mentoring young players is good for the league

Following his incredible showdown with Zion Williamson on Sunday night, LeBron James shared a few words with the No. 1 pick on the court. He declined to go into detail about what was said, but during his postgame interview, he shared his thoughts about why he wanted to speak with the youngster.

“It’s my obligation, it’s my job to continue to pass on the game to the guys that’s coming in after me,” James said. “That’s just my responsibility. No one told me to do that, I just feel like it’s my responsibility to leave the game in a better place than when I had it.” 

He also had a few words for anyone who didn’t like his actions:

“And anybody that says, ‘LeBron, why would he do that while he’s playing? It’s a sign of weakness, you know, it’s buddy-buddy with the guys he’s going against.’ Tell them to kiss my ass, all right?'”

Much like his #WashedKing routine, it’s not clear who was criticizing LeBron for being friendly with young players, though the idea of players in this era being too friendly is, in general, shared around some basketball circles. One thing that is clear, however, is that LeBron is doing the right thing by trying to pass on his knowledge and wisdom to the next generation of stars. He’s had an incredible career both on and off the court, and if he can make it easier for guys like Zion to follow in his footsteps, that should be commended. 

Verdict: Buy

Buy or Sell: The Rockets’ small-ball attack will work in the playoffs

Since the trade deadline, when they shipped Clint Capela to the Hawks in a monster four-team trade, the Rockets have pivoted to extreme small ball. No one in their starting lineup is taller than 6-7, P.J. Tucker is playing “center” and they’re launching nearly 50 3s per game. 

The tactic itself isn’t completely new, it’s just the extent to which they’ve leaned into it that’s making waves. They looked at what they were good at, and just decided to do it all the time. So far, it’s hard to argue with the success. They’ve won six in a row, and are 7-2 since the deadline, with wins over the Lakers, Celtics (twice) and Jazz. They’re playing fast, Russell Westbrook looks electric and the offense is reaching new heights. Now, the question becomes, can it work in the playoffs? 

Well the answer to that is really another question: How far do they have to get to claim it worked? With James Harden and Westbrook leading the way, and considering the success they’ve had playing small so far, it seems reasonable that they could get to the conference finals if things break their way. But beyond that, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where they get past both Los Angeles teams and make the Finals. 

So if they make the WCF and lose to a deeper, more talented team, is that proof small ball worked? Or proof it didn’t work? You never really know how the discourse is going to turn. In any case, yes, their new style should work to some extent, but it won’t be enough to overcome the talent deficit they face against the truly elite teams. 

Verdict: Buy and Sell

Buy or Sell: Harden is right; being the Greek Freak ‘takes no skill at all’

Look, this whole “feud” between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden is boring and manufactured, but it’s a “thing” now, so it should be discussed. In case you missed the latest incident, Harden told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview, “I wish I could be 7 feet, run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all.”

He didn’t mention any names, but it was clear he was talking about the reigning MVP, who a few weeks ago joked during the All-Star Draft that he wanted Kemba Walker over Harden because he wanted someone who would pass. The Rockets guard obviously didn’t think that was funny, and shot back with a comment that took the dispute to a different level.

It’s also demonstrably false. Obviously being as big and athletic as he is gives Giannis some advantages that other players don’t have. But the idea that he’s not skillful is just silly. It’s honestly not even really worth refuting in all that great of detail because it’s clear as day when you watch him on the court. You don’t average 29.9 points, 13.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists without skill.

Verdict: Sell

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