Last night, the Bucks succeeded where they couldn’t in Game 5, finishing strong to secure a third victory in the series. Khris Middleton was magnificent, and Giannis did more than enough to overcome a poor offensive effort from much of Milwaukee’s supporting cast. The Nets looked out of sorts all night, and now we’ll have a Game 7 tomorrow. Tonight, we have two more Game 6s – the Hawks and Clippers are looking to knock out the two top seeds with home wins while the Sixers and Jazz try to keep their seasons alive. With more coaching news and player drama emerging over the last two days, let’s talk 3 Things.
1. Chaos in Dallas
Rick Carlisle made the decision to leave after more than a decade. Donnie Nelson is out after roughly a quarter century in the front office. Mark Cuban remains – and there’s still no real indication that Doncic wants to leave Dallas – but there are undoubtedly a whole lot of moving pieces at play right now. For a franchise seeking to take that next playoff step with their young star, that’s not exactly ideal. More decisions means far more opportunity for error, and there isn’t much room for messing up when the goal is a title.
Some key questions –
- What do you do with Kristpas Porzingis? As a stretch big in Dallas’s system, he’s been nowhere near good enough to be the #2 option on a title team. I don’t know that the trade value for a big upgrade is there, which means the Mavs might need to get creative. One option that might become available this summer that I love in Dallas – Ben Simmons.
- How much is too much for Tim Hardaway Jr? He’s a key scorer on a team that really lacks individual creation outside of Doncic. The Mavs are going to be in for even more off-season work if he walks. Finding those additional playmakers and scorers will be more difficult. But there has to be a limit to how much they’re willing to spend on a guy who’s best suited as a third option. If someone else swoops in with a monster offer, what does Dallas do?
- Who’s the next coach? I think it’s very difficult to predict how individual coaches will fare in specific settings, but it’s clear that Dallas can’t swing and miss on this hire. You can’t waste more of Luka’s early years with a coach who’s not yet up to the task like Nate Bjorkgren in Indiana. In Carlisle, the Mavs had a steady hand. They need to find another one this summer. Whoever that is will need to combine with the new front office to find ways to diversify the offense beyond Luka while strengthening the defense.
- Where does Carlisle go from here? There’s a lot of smoke surrounding the Bucks should they fire Mike Budenholzer. There’s a Celtics connection to look to as well. Carlisle is going to be a very interesting name this summer. Last year, respected coaches in Mike D’Antoni and Kenny Atkinson were not immediately rehired and instead had to spend this season (and potentially more) as assistant coaches. Will Carlisle suffer the same fate? He’s a coach with a great reputation – and very little to show for it since 2011.
2. Zion Drama
We might be witnessing the beginning of the final descent for the New Orleans Pelicans. Chris Paul left unsatisfied. Anthony Davis left angry. If Zion, the third figure of such significance to land down in Louisiana, decides he wants out too, there will be calls to send a struggling franchise with disappointing fan support elsewhere. If Williams has really had it just two years into his career – a career that started with more than half a missed season in his first year – it’s time to question what exactly New Orleans has to offer here. This is a team that has never figured it out, and the one-year failure that was Stan Van Gundy’s time at the helm definitely didn’t do any good. You can only swing and miss so many times. The Pelicans need to get these next few months right.
3. Lots on the Line for Utah, Philly
Every team is different, but the Jazz and Sixers actually find themselves in very similar situations. Both are defensive-minded teams that have made strides to improve their offenses after disappointing playoff performances. Both have a DPOY-like player with offensive limitations, though it’s certainly fair to say that Simmons’s stand out more given his position. Both rely heavily on supporting players – Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, etc. – that haven’t proven a whole lot on stages like this. Then there’s the current parallel: both teams are down 2-3 in the second round and watching their stars play on injury-limited legs.
The Sixers already made the head coaching move when they brought in Doc Rivers for Brett Brown last summer. If they fall so clearly short once more, we could see the ultimate big move – a break-up of the Embiid-Simmons duo. They’ve tried just about everything else so far. Simmons might not survive a loss in this game.
For the Jazz, the stakes might be a little lower. Quin Snyder isn’t going anywhere. This is the first real test of their new offense after Bogdanovic missed last year’s bubble, and they’re going at it without Mike Conley, who has yet to play against the Clippers. The breaking point of the Gobert-Mitchell tandem isn’t years away if the losses continue, but Utah likely has another year at least. If they’re able to knock out LA, they might be able to push that expiration date back further. If they lose, the awkward questions will certainly get a little louder.
Bring on the chaos.