Ben Simmons

How did Twitter react to reported trade of Jimmy Butler to 76ers?


How did Twitter react to reported trade of Jimmy Butler to 76ers?

Jimmy Butler's wish for the Timberwolves to trade him was finally granted on Sunday, with Minnesota agreeing to send the All-Star guard to the 76ers.

The deal concludes what has been a turbulent chapter in the Timberwolves' season. Between the trade request itself, head coach Tom Thibodeau's reluctancy to trade Butler and Butler going nuclear at Timberwolves practice, Minnesota's 2018-19 season has gotten off to a...unique...start.

Naturally, Twitter had a field-day when reports on the trade happening came out. First, the reports themselves from The Athletic and ESPN:

But then, the fun started. 

For reference regarding the next two tweets, Butler reportedly targeted Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins during his profanity-filled practice tirade in early October.

And then there are the tweets that come at the expense of the 76ers.

Butler and Timberwolves third-stringers reportedly beat the team's starters in the same practice as his tirade.

Simmons, the 76ers' 6-foot-10 point guard, has not attempted a three-point shot this season. Fultz (30.8 percent) has not shot the three at a successful rate and missed much of last season with "the yips."

It looks like Butler has some competition for the face of Philadelphia professional sports, too.

In the end, though, the Warriors are still 10-2 and hold one of the best rosters in the NBA, even with the Butler trade.

Twitter never seems to disappoint, huh?

Antonio Blakeney reminds everyone of the chip on his shoulder        


Antonio Blakeney reminds everyone of the chip on his shoulder        

Antonio Blakeney has been one of the more exciting developments in what has already been an intriguing Bulls season, despite the losses piling up. He has come a long way and seems to be finiding his groove as a combo guard with the Bulls.

In Blakeney’s freshman year at LSU, he played well as a secondary scoring option but did not do enough to distinguish himself from similar score-first players like Tim Quarterman and Craig Victor. That season Blakeney also played with (then) fellow freshman Ben Simmons, whose potential once-in-a-generation skill set makes it hard to properly evaluate the other guys on his team.

Determined to prove he could a leading man, Blakeney came back for his sophomore season and improved considerably. He led the team with 17 points per game on a solid 55 percent true shooting percentage but struggled mightily trying to take over the playmaking duties.

All of this led to him acquiring the dreaded “gunner” label from scouts--used to categorize inefficient, high-volume scorers--and going unselected in the 2017 NBA Draft. But he didn’t let that shut down his NBA hopes.

While still possessing some of the same flaws, things have (mostly) changed for the better for Blakeney in the pro ranks. He  has been absolutely “sniping it” from 3-point range, hitting an astonishing 45.9 percent of his 3-pointers. It is astonishing not because Blakeney is a bad shooter but because of the sheer difficulty of some his field goal attempts.

Overall his scoring profile has shown enough to prove that his hot start to the season is much more than a flash in a pan. Perimeter shooting numbers can be volatile, so the fact that he went from under 30 percent to over 40 percent as a 3-point shooter definitely should be taken with a grain of salt. Some regression is expected in this area. But despite shooting so well from 3-point range, Blakeney is actually taking less of his shots from deep. The biggest reason for the improvement of his offensive efficiency has been his finishing around the basket.

Blakeney converted a paltry 17 percent of his shots between 3-to-10 feet from the basket in 2017-18. So far in the 2018-19 season, he is converting on 75 percent of his shots in the 3--to-10 foot range. The dramatic 58 percent improvement in field goal percentage on these short range shots are a reflection of all the work that Blakeney put in over the summer.

Going into every game, Blakeney stated that “no matter how good I do the game before or how bad. I gotta prove myself every time.” And if he keeps that chip on his shoulder throughout the season, he will definitely get to prove himself more often.

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

1. Provide help defense on Joel Embiid early and often. Embiid's high usage rate means he is going to score regardless, and he has even added moves to his repertoire, like a step-back jumper that he can go to comfortably from 15-feet. But if you make him see multiple defenders and force him to be unsettled, you can harass him into poor shooting nights like Boston did (Embiid shot 9-for-21 on Tuesday night). There were plays where as soon as Embiid took one or two dribbles, a help defender—even a guard—was flying in to go for block shot opportunities.

Wendell Carter Jr. earned the starting center job with his ahead-of-his-age defensive IQ, but no matter how ahead of the curve he is, stopping Embiid will take a group effort. He can become enamored with the 3-point shot, so the Bulls will have to work together to coax Embiid into taking poor shot attempts. Boston did a great job of denying him deep post position om Tuesday night, cutting off the Sixers' easiest source of offensive production.

Wendell Carter Jr. will get his first big defensive test on Thursday night, as he will have to use his lower body strength to prevent Embiid's low post dominance. We have seen Carter struggle with bigger low post scorers in the preseason, and if the Bulls don't provide help fast, Carter will be in trouble.

If Carter does what many young players do, and tries to use his hands to stop Embiid from gaining ground, the referees will call a foul quickly, especially since he is a rookie learning the ropes. Helpside defense will be the difference in this game for the Bulls.

2. Get back quickly and build a wall on transition defense. Below is the combined shot chart of Embiid and Ben Simmons from Tuesday night against the Celtics. Notice where the attempts are mostly concentrated. 

Ben Simmons and Embiid like to put pressure on the opposing defense by putting pressure on the front of the basket, and with good reason. They are both dominant finishers in the paint and questionable outside shooters.

In 207-18 Embiid shot 57 percent when 0-3 feet from the basket, Simmons shot a staggering 83 percent in the 0-3 foot range, which is even more impressive when you consider that defenses are gameplanning for his drives. We all know that Simmons will likely never be an even average 3-point shooter, and Embiid shot a dreadful 25 percent from the 3-point line last season despite a career-high 214 attempts. But the above the break 3-point shot is a major part of the Philadelphia offense, with Embiid shooting a much better 30.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers. 

Chicago would be wise to let the Sixers get these shots. 

In transition Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) will run the break with Embiid trailing directly behind them, either looking for a straight-line drive to the basket or an above the break 3-pointer after their forward momentum has been stopped. 

If the Bulls can summon the words of former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and form a wall around the restricted area, they can wall off aggressive drives from the Sixers young, dynamic duo. The Bulls need to force this game to be about turnovers and free throw makes, areas in which the Sixers have struggled last season (dead-last in the league in turnovers and 23rd in FT percentage).

3. Force the defense to move side-to-side. Philadelphia had a top-five defensive rating last season, and a big reason for that was that while the Sixers would often switch one through four, they wouldn't switch the five, meaning Embiid was often dropping back on pick-and-roll D and stationing himself near the basket. Staying as close as possibe to the rim is obviously beneficial to Embiid, who has averaged 2 blocks per game for his career. But when you get Philly's aggressive defense to shift, they try to jump passing lanes to ignite their fastbreak, which can lead to plays like this:

The above play contains the exact type of ball-movement and cutting principles that Fred Hoiberg has stressed throughout the preseason.

Zach LaVine is the type of quick, explosive guard that the Sixers can have trouble containing with their personnel, more so that they are depending on Fultz so much. But if the Bulls get bogged down into a bunch of one-on-one play, it will allow Embiid to sit back and be a huge deterrent at the rim.

Carter's ability to stretch the floor—along with Bobby Portis' shooting—should be enough of a threat to keep Embiid occupied, but if not he will not respect their shots, and simply clog up driving lanes.

Handoff plays contained some of Carter's best moments this preseason, so we should expect to see Hoiberg call for lots of plays that get a Bulls guard or wing attacking a backpedaling big.