Welcome to our weekly feature: This Week In Hoops. Every Monday morning we’ll take a quick look back at what we learned from the last week of games and a look forward at this week’s slate.
Don’t shy away from that subtitle. You don’t see wordplay that good everyday and that header image is as fine a “photoshop” (read: MS Paint) out there.
What We Learned Last Week
- TRADES! TRADES! TRADES! TRADES! Possibly the wildest trade deadline ever. There was a solid hour when we didn’t know who several important guys played for. When the dust settled, 8% of all NBA players switched teams. Here now is my take on what some of the most important teams did:
- Heat: Goran Dragic was a steal, but losing Chris Bosh to such a serious ailment is scary. Like everyone else, I hope he’s OK.
- Thunder: Re-solidified themselves as contenders, if Kevin Durant is healthy.
- Sixers: Why trade KJ McDaniels? I actually like the return more than most people (Isaiah Canaan is a nice prospect and that second round pick will be in the top 40), but why not see more of KJ? Beyond that, they did very nicely. The Javale McGee trade was a thing of beauty. (I already shared a lot more about the MCW trade last Friday.)
- Bucks: I don’t think I understand what Milwaukee is doing. The young trio of Jabari Parker, MCW, and GIANNIS is interesting but potentially nothing more than that.
- Suns: The moves they made feel like what one of your buddies would do in fantasy sports. Unsure if they’ll make the playoffs, let’s just shake things up! But they are no better off and gave up that Lakers pick, possibly their most valuable asset.
- Blazers: I am curious what role Aaron Afflalo will play for Portland. At the end of the day, in the Western Conference, no matter what roles they play, having more competent players will help.
- Houston: The possibilities of a Beverly-Harden-McDaniels-Smith-Howard lineup are tantalizing. KJ McDaniels could be the perfect guy to give 10 minutes to in every playoff game and just wait for him to make a play.
- Raptors: Possibly the oddest move of the deadline was Toronto sitting at home and saying, “Nah, we’re good.”
- Timberwolves: Reacquiring Kevin Garnett was…cute? At least until the reports surfaced that they want him for more than just this year. Not a bad idea if they want him as a coach or mascot. As a player? That’s absurd.
- Celtics: For a team in a rebuild, I don’t think Isaiah Thomas is worth a future first-round pick, even with the stockpile of picks Boston has.
- The biggest college basketball game of the week, as it almost always is, was Duke-Carolina (Quick side note: Did it seem to anyone else that ESPN’s Rivalry Week was really only this game? I kept waiting for some of the other big rivalries to be promoted but the only others I saw were Gonzaga-St. Mary’s and Cincinnati-Xavier). People immediately began praising this as a great game, but the last five minutes and overtime were a sloppy mess. Roy Williams can gameplan and develop talent with the best of them, but when his team’s need to hold a lead and grind out a win in the halfcourt, he is always overmatched. His crucial mistake was trying to have Brice Johnson (18 points and 12 rebounds) play the final NINE minutes of the game with four fouls (the final four minutes of regulation and all of overtime). As soon as Johnson fouled out, the Carolina offense jumped into the toilet, especially on their final possession.
- The second biggest game of the week, in my eyes, was Gonzaga’s performance at St. Mary’s. Looking at the toughest game remaining on their schedule, at their heated rival, on their opponent’s Senior Night, with half of the San Antonio Spurs on hand to see Patty Mills have his number retired, in a very difficult place to play, it looked like the Zags were going to lay an egg. They went down as much as 17 in the first half, only to battle back and win a tough one. Everything that could have gone against the Bulldogs seemed to crop up: missed layups, wild shots from the Gaels, Kyle Wiltjer no-showing the first 32 minutes. Depth, persistence, and the power of Kevin Pangos’ #HockeyHair showed why this Zags team is one of the best Mark Few has ever had.
The Week Ahead
In The NBA
Monday, Celtics @ Suns
The long-awaited return of Suns legend Isaiah Thomas.
Tuesday, Warriors @ Wizards
Wednesday, Spurs @ Blazers
Thursday, Warriors @ Cavs
If the Cavs really have turned it on, this is the kind of game that they win.
Thursday, Thunder @ Suns
Friday, Thunder @ Trailblazers
The Thunder’s quest to hold a playoff spot continues to be the most interesting subplot of the NBA season and these two games will be big for OKC, especially against Phoenix.
In College Hoops
Tuesday, #5 Wisconsin @ #17 Maryland
Really nice measuring stick for both teams. Is Maryland capable of a Final Four run? How afraid of Wisconsin should everyone be? We’ll have better answers after this one.
Wednesday, Davidson @ Rhode Island
Wednesday, Illinois @ Iowa
Wednesday, Georgia @ Ole Miss
BUBBLE NIGHT! None of these teams will clinch a tourney spot in these games, but losing will make things an uphill battle.
Wednesday, #20 Baylor @ #14 Iowa State
Saturday, #11 Northern Iowa @ #13 Wichita State
The Panthers spanked the Shockers at home. Let’s see what Northern Iowa is made of on the road and with ESPN’s College Gameday in town.
Saturday, #15 UNC @ Miami
Saturday, #6 Villanova @ Xavier
Saturday, #23 West Virginia @ #20 Baylor
Saturday, BYU @ #3 Gonzaga
Saturday, #18 Arkansas @ #1 Kentucky
The only home game people thought Kentucky might have trouble with. The Hogs are the best team left on Kentucky’s schedule, but I can’t see them dropping one at Rupp.
Saturday, #7 Arizona @ #9 Utah
Because of the way the bracketing process works, these two teams, if they were to both be top three seeds (which they will), can not be in the same region. That means one stays out West while the other heads to Houston or Cleveland. A head-to-head win would be a nice leg-up in the eyes of the committee.
Enjoy the games, everybody!
(Note: Every edition of This Week in Hoops will end with a song. I’ve compiled all of these songs into a playlist that you can find here.)
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.