Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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Last Tuesday, the NBA had its draft lottery. Although every team wishes they could draft the second coming of Michael Jordan or LeBron James, they at least try to find a franchise cornerstone.

The top five picks will go to Detroit, Houston, Cleveland, Toronto and Orlando. Three interesting observations come from this:

First, there are rumors that the Pistons could trade out of the top spot. Likely number one overall pick Cade Cunningham is only meeting with Detroit — a team that needs a franchise player badly. What do they have up their sleeve?

Second, Toronto had a down year this season. If they can get a decent rookie, look for them to make noise in the fall.

Finally, the Warriors have the seventh AND 14th picks. Klay Thompson’s return, James Wiseman’s second season, and two draft picks? I’m happy for Thompson, but is this dynasty seriously going to start again? Sigh…

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: Currently, the Bucks are tied 2-2 with the Hawks. The past two games were in Atlanta, and Game 5 is going back to Milwaukee. In these shocking playoffs [I say shocking because the usual suspects have already been eliminated], we’ve noticed two trends so far: the 0-2 Clippers and the Game 1 Hawks. Let me explain.

In their first two series, the Clippers have lost the first two matchups, only to come back and advance to the next round. For Atlanta, they have started on the road in each round, however, they have always won the first game.

Against the Bucks in Game 1, Trae Young dropped 48 points. Those 48 points are an NBA record for most points scored by a player in his Conference Finals debut. In Game 4, Young was ruled out with a bone bruise, which didn’t stop the Hawks from crushing the Bucks at home.

In terms of injuries, Milwaukee may have gotten the shorter straw. Giannis Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee, and it is feared to be a severe ACL tear! This series has been entertaining so far, but not for the injuries. Since Antetokounmpo’s season may be finished — and if Young continues to be held out — one of these teams will have to make the Finals without their star. Oh, boy.

Lowlight: Los Angeles has its back against the wall. They are down 3-2 in their series against the Phoenix Suns, with Game 6 in the City of Angels.

As I mentioned last week, the Clippers finally got over the obstacle of choking in the second round, and Paul George was looking to rid himself of the nicknames such as “PG13%.” He might not be done avoiding them, though. In Games 2 and 4, George missed costly free throws at the end of regulation. Before you think I’m a “George hater,” I’ll clear this up.

He’s been doing a great job of taking a heavier workload in Kawhi Leonard’s absence. But, you have to hit those free throws. [There’s a reason why the word FREE is in the name]!

Speaking of Leonard, he still hasn’t played in this Phoenix series. Some are even concerned about where he’s been sitting at the games. Instead of sitting on the bench with his teammates, Leonard has been with his family in the upper-level suites at the arena. Although I don’t think that means anything too bad, it definitely raises questions.

For the Suns, Chris Paul is one win away from making his first NBA Finals appearance. Ironically, he was part of those Clippers days when they couldn’t get past the second round. What a storyline this is for him!

Random Stat: DeAndre Ayton was the first overall pick back in 2018. That draft class is being viewed as one to keep an eye on for the future, since it consists of stars such as the aforementioned Young, Luka Dončić, and Ayton.

By shooting 70% on field goals in this year’s playoffs, the Suns center is certainly showing why he was coveted a few years back. That percentage is an NBA record for highest field goal percentage in a single postseason [minimum 150 attempts]! The next highest is Hall-of-Famer James Worthy, who shot 62.2% in 1985.

Ayton may not be a good shooter from beyond the arc, but he makes up for it by grabbing plenty of rebounds and playing solid defense. On top of that, he scored the game-winning buzzer-beater alley-oop in Game 2 from Jae Crowder. Whether it’s finishing alley-oops or terrorizing opponents in the paint, Ayton knows how to make his city proud.

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