My name is Victor Coustan. I am 17 years old, and a senior in high school. I am one of the biggest Chicago Bulls fans you will ever meet. Sometimes a little biased. Over the past year or two, I have become very interested in sports writing. I often find myself with too much to talk about so I decided rather than rambling to my mom about stuff that she knows nothing about, why not share it with the world? My dad was a sports writer for SB Nation and he inspired me to start my own blog. Since I lost my dad in June of 2015, I have tried to make him proud and carry on his legacy by doing the things that we shared and loved most. I hope you enjoy my writing and feel free to leave any feedback or argumentative opinions through the comments.
Now that we are past the all star break, it’s about time to get serious. We are 60 games in for each team, and we now know the identity of every team. In this article I’m gonna be talking about what I think is the most crucial factor for each team. This is going to be a larger list of contenders than I actually think but for sake of the article I am extending my list.
Milwaukee Bucks: Supporting cast
The Bucks have the best record in the NBA and by far deserve it. They are 51-8 and are on pace for record breaking seasons offensively and defensively. Giannis is the front runner to win back to back MVPs and the lose of Malcom Brogdon has not effected them at all. Giannis has improved his game drastically. He is shooting 32% from 3 this year compared to his 26% last year. However, he can’t do everything. He’s going to have to rely on his team to knock down shots in big spots. Khris Middleton is a big part to what this team does. He is having a great season and was rewarded in making his second all star team. He’s averaging 21 points a game and shoots 44% from 3. He is the guy they go to when they need a bucket late in games. If he can establish himself as a closer, then this team will be even harder to beat. Eric Bledsoe needs to be that true point guard the team needs. Giannis is the focal point in the offense most of the time, but every team needs that true point guard to run the half court offense late in games. Last year he had a horrific performance from 3 in the playoffs shooting 17% from 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. He is a decent 3 point shooter, shooting 35% this year. He just needs to be that guy in the playoffs. George Hill is going to have to continue to play well too. He has been a huge spark off their bench and is leading the NBA in 3 point percentage at 50% attempting almost 3 a game. Those are the main 3 that need to play well but for this team everyone just needs to shoot well. Giannis will drive and kick and he needs his guys to knock down shots like they have this regular season. Donte DiVincenzo, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Ersan İlyasova, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, and Marvin Williams-who was a great buyout signing-need to play big minutes for this team. I know I just listed like the whole team but these are their established 3 point shooters who they have put around Giannis perfectly. Ultimately Giannis is gonna do him, you just need the guys around him to play well.
Los Angeles Lakers: supporting cast
With the Lakers it’s the same story as the Bucks. They have surrounded Lebron perfectly with shooters. Lebron is playing on the best team he has ever been on and Lebron will be Lebron in the playoffs. Enough said about him. Anthony Davis is looking like the DPOY front runner. He is the true anchor for this team and does a great job protecting the rim. What’s so great about this team though is how bought in they are to what they do. Everyone on the team plays defense and hustles. They look like they have so much fun when they play, and every role player understand their role and defers to Lebron and AD. This team has tons of Finals experience. Danny Green has to be playoff Danny Green. Last year in the playoffs he was a little inconsistent but still alright. Quinn Cook is going to have to knock down big shots. Rondo is a great playoff player as well. JaVale can provide valuable minutes same with Dwight Howard. All of those players have been to the Finals. Other than them, players like Troy Daniels, KCP, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma need to play well.
Toronto Raptors: keep doing you
A “Finals Hangover” is definitely not the identity of this team. They play with a different type of swagger than I’ve ever seen. They play like winners and like they have been their before which they have. Siakim has taking a huge leap this year being named an all star starter. He should be up for most improved again. His scoring has jumped 6.5 points and is filling the void of Kawhi better than anybody’s expectations. Kyle Lowry is still the gritty vet we all love and plays with that Nova dog mentality. Fred VanVleet is going to need to have his big moments like he did last year in the playoffs. OG Anunoby is going to have to step up as well as all of their other role players like Gasol, Ibaka, Boucher, Ronde Hollis-Jefferson and Norman Powell. There isn’t much to say about this team they just need to keep playing with the same swagger and confidence they have played with in the regular season and carry their momentum into the playoffs.
Boston Celtics: young talent step up
The Celtics have been one of my favorite team to watch this year. They have played in so many close games and Jayson Tatum and crew always find a way to make it interesting in the end. Kemba has been the perfect addition for this team and his attitude as well as his play style mesh well with the rest of the squad. The leap that Tatum has made this year has been exponential and a key to this teams success. We saw hints in his rookie year in the playoffs of how great of a prospect he could be when he took Lebron to 7 games in the eastern conference finals with no Kyrie or Gordon Hayward. His scoring averages have gone up by almost 8 points and he is shooting more efficient in every area. At the young age of 21 (March 2nd: turning 22 tomorrow) he has demonstrated all the tools to be a future superstar in the league. Jaylen Brown has also taken a massive leap this year and seems a lot more bought in to what the Celtics are trying to do this year rather than last year. His point averages are up by 7 and he is also shooting more efficient in every category. But the Celtics aren’t as much worried about the success of these guys as they are some of the others. Rookies Grant Williams, Carson Edwards and Romeo Langford are all going to have to step up and play big playoff minutes. After losing Kyrie and Al Horford in free agency, this team is relying a lot on the young talent they used their draft capital on this year for their success. I look forward to seeing this team in the playoffs because as a team everyone is bought in offensively and defensively because all they wanna do is win. Pair that with a coach of the year candidate in Brad Stevens and you could be playing until June.
Denver Nuggets: defense
Denver’s defense this year is so far 18th in the league in points per game. Yes this isn’t bad, but I think it is the peak for this team. This team has few players that make an impact defensively that get lots of minutes. When it comes to the playoffs, hiding players who aren’t great on defense becomes a lot more difficult. Mike Malone has done a great job this year and should be up for coach of the year. Hiding Jokic and Jamal Murray on defense in the playoffs will be an extremely difficult task for him though. The players that really make an impact on the defensive end for this team are not their main scorers. They are Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Mason Plumlee. Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant occasionally will provide some energy as well. My point in saying this is that none of these players are one of the main sources of their offense. Most are bench players and others are role players on offense. The lack of 2-way players on this team may hurt them in the long run because it can get very hard to sub in the heat of the moment in a playoff game. Also, teams will attack your weakness in a 7 game series once they start to figure you out. As much as the game is fun to watch on offense, there is still 2 sides of the ball and you need guys that are going to be difference makers on both sides.
Los Angeles Clippers: stay healthy
When healthy, in terms of talent the Clippers have put together the most talented roster in the league. However, this year they have played only 5 games with their entire team available. Essential pieces to this team have missed time due to injuries such as Paul George, Patrick Beverly and Landry Shamet. Also as we all know Kawhi gets his load management games which doesn’t help. If the playoffs started today they would be a 3 seed and that is solely because of their talent. Multiple players and their coach Doc Rivers have come out and said that they don’t believe that they are playing their best basketball yet they are sitting tied for second in the grueling Western Conference with a 41-19 record. The additions of Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson will only help their chances as well. Marcus Morris gives them not only 3 point shooting but effort and grittiness on defense which only adds to the teams identity. Reggie Jackson also can come in and slow the game down in the half court for the bench when need be. I think this team is in a great spot to win but they need to get healthy towards the end of the season to start gaining some team chemistry before the playoffs. As soon as they can get everyone on the floor they can start to really lock in defensively with all of their talent in not just their stars, but in the rest of the team as well.
Houston Rockets: Get hot
The Rockets are a team that lives and dies by the 3. They lead the league in 3 point attempts by far and their entire offense revolves around it. James Harden is one of the scariest players in the league when he gets hot and after seeing the scoring run he went on last year, it is possible it happens again. Last year he went on the second longest run to only Wilt Chamberlin of consecutive 30+ point games. Although the streak ended at 32 he finished 2019 averaging 36 a game. If he gets hot at the right time this year don’t be surprised if this team makes a run, although getting past a great defensive team like the Clippers in the west might not be so easy. Now that they have proved that they can make the small ball lineup work in the regular season, they need to carry it into the playoffs. In a 7 game series, teams start to scheme more and can find the best way to attack an opposing team. It will be interesting to see if D’antoni’s system works in the playoffs like it has so far in the regular season.
Utah Jazz: Mike Conley
Utah has been atop the West almost all year but recently have dropped to the 5 seed. This teams defense as well as offense is good enough to make them contenders but I don’t know if they have it all figured out quite yet. Mike Conley is struggling this year. His points per game has dropped by almost 7 points and he has yet to find his role on this Jazz team. They recently had to move him to the bench for Royce O’Neal to start. It is unfortunate that Conley is having this type of season because he has always been known as a very solid point guard who plays good defense and can score the ball for you. He has not turned out to be that player this year for the Jazz. The Jazz need to find a way to help Conley find his role with the team behind their young stud Donovan Mitchell who has been exceptional this year and their defensive anchor Rudy Gobert.
Philadelphia 76ers: spacing (duh)
If you are a fan of the blog you know I love to talk sixers. I couldn’t really tell you why I like talking about them so much. Maybe it’s because of how intriguing of a team they are. They have 2 different center pieces on their team which is almost unheard of. You can build a playoff caliber team around Ben Simmons and Joel Embid but maybe you can build a championship caliber team if you pick one of them. Right now both of them are injured and it is not looking good for them which is why I barely put them on this list. However, with their abundance of talent on their team they were too hard not to include. The additions of Alex Burks and Glenn Robinson haven’t been great for them so far. In 8 games Glenn Robinson has failed to make a 3 after shooting 40% from behind the arc for golden state for the first half of the season. Although Alec Burks hasn’t been bad, his numbers have also taken a bit of a dip but one would expect that when you go from the Warriors to a team full of talent. Unfortunately his 3 point percentage is down though to 31% with the sixers compared to his 38% with the Warriors. I’ve talked a lot about Embid and Simmons in prior articles but mainly they either need to figure out a way to play with each other or fire Brett Brown and find a coach who can make a system that fits Embid and Simmons in an offense together because their talents and potential are undeniable.
Like I said, this is a very broad list of contenders. There are certainly tiers of contenders but I think that this is a fair broad list. If there is a team that you think I left out or a team that shouldn’t been on here let me know and I’d love to discuss. I’m always looking for feedback and someone to talk basketball with so feel free to leave your comments. I look forward to the playoffs this year and I think it will be very entertaining.
These will be my reaction to this years deadline. It was definetely a more eventful deadline then most people expected and I think that there are a lot of underated moves that can end up making a difference.
Timberwolves receive: D’Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans, Omari Spellman
Warriors receive: Andrew Wiggins, 2021 first-round pick (protected Nos. 1-3), 2021 second-round pick
I was extremely shocked to see the Warriors rush into dealing Dloading. I had thought that they were going to wait for the offseason. This is a huge dub for the Timberwolves in my opinion because now they have a very young team with 2 all-stars for the years to come. Towns didn’t make it this year because he has missed many games for injury and so did Russell and both of their teams are not good this year so it is hard to build a case but they are both having career years so far. Towns is shooting the ball unbelievabley at 40% from 3 on over 8 attempts a game. Russell is scoring more this year and shooting more efficent. Interesting that the number 1 and number 2 overall pick of the 2015 draft end up on the same team. They are best friends on and off the court, and with the Timberwolves great youg pieces like Culver, Okogie, Naz Reid, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik beasely, their future could be bright, especially if they have a lottery pick this year. On the Warriors side, yes Wiggins is a better fit, but I don’t think that he was the missing piece they needed. I said the Warriors rushed because I thought they were going to wait until the offseason, see what lottery pick they had, and package that with Dlo to try to get an upgrade rather than downgrading for fit. However, if they got the 1st overall pick, I would have taken James Weismen and you get the position you have not had on any of your championship teams in a Center, and you have your buildig block for the post Steph, Klay and Draymond era
Heat receive: Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill
Grizzlies receive: Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Dion Waiters
I like this trade for both team a lot. Iggy was never going to play for Memphis, and this gives him an opportunity on a Heat team that can make a deep playoff run. Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill give them some great spot up shooting and still leaves them with flexibility in 2021 free agency like they said their goal was. This will be a stacked free agency class that could include Lebron, Kawhi, Paul George, Giannis, Anthony Davis, Demar Derozan, Victor Oladipo, Blake Griffin and even more big names. Iggy brings playoff expirience with his 3 rings and Finals MVP with the Warriors. The only player who has been to a Finals on their roster is Udonis Haslem. There great young core highlighted by Adebayo, Nunn and Herro can grow with the great players and basketball minds of Jimmy Butler and Iggy around them. The Grizzlies picked up a great young player in Justice Winslow who can play point guard or on the wing. He is a great defensive player and only improves Memphis’s young core. Memphis already looks to have a bright future as they are sitting in the playoffs in the West due to Rookie of the Year front runner Ja Morant.
Rockets receive: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell (Grizzlies), 2024 second-round pick
Hawks receive: Clint Capela, Nene
Timberwolves receive: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Nuggets receive: Gerald Green, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, 2020 first-round pick
The Rockets picking up Covington really fits their system but they are forced to play very small with 6’5 PJ Tucker at center. James Harden has recently been taking jump balls because they traded away Capela. The system is interesting, but Covington fits perfectly into the 3 & D player they needed. Interested to see how it works. Harden needs to get hot at the right time for this team to be successful. The Hawks pick up a much needed center in Capela but the trade confuses me. They are very early in their rebuild and not winning games this season. They have one of the better young cores in the league and should be patient and let everything play its course for now. They could also be a team who is a canidate for James Weisman this season, but this makes it less likely. The Timberwolves got great value in this deal. Covington is 29 and under contract for 3 more years but they got younger with Malik beasely and Jarred Vanderbilt we’ll also snagging a 1st in the process. The Nuggets got a pretty good return too without giving up much. Bates-Diop is promising out of Ohio State and Vonleh played well for the Knicks last year but has dealt with injuries this season and a first round pick is always a dub. It might be a hot take, but I think the 2 teams that won this deal, didn’t even get the most valuable pieces in the Nuggets and Timberwolves.
Cavaliers receive: Andre Drummond
Pistons receive: John Henson, Brandon Knight, 2023 second-round pick
This trade is not as signifigant as people think it was. All players in this deal are set to be free agents this offseason, but if the Cavs can get Drummond on a cheap deal and he doesn’t demand the max, than this is a huge dub for the Cavs with Drummond only being 26.
Clippers receive: Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas
Knicks receive: Maurice Harkless, 2020 first-round pick
Wizards receive: Jerome Robinson
Morris was having a career year for the Knicks but only signed a one year deal and the Knicks got good value for him. Harkless is also an expiring deal and that first round pick will be late but still valuable. Really happy the Clips said they would not give up Shamet. Isiah Thomas will bring good scoring off the bench if he doesn’t get waived and the Wizards get a young sharpshooter who has had a tough time finding minutes with the Clippers deep team. All teams win this deal.
76ers receive: Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III
Warriors receive: Three second-round picks (2020, 2021, 2022)
This is also a win for both teams. The Sixers get much needed veteran shooting to help their floor spacing with Ben Simmons. Alec Burks’s season is being extremely overlooked this year and will provide scoring the sixers need. They gave up 3 seconds that all did not belong to them in the first place. The picks were previously acquired from Dallas, Denver and Toronto. The Warriors have proven to have a good eye for second round talent with players like Draymond Green.
Hawks receive: Dewayne Dedmon, two second-round picks (2020, 2021)
Kings receive: Jabari Parker, Alex Len
I think this is a big dub for the Hawks. They pick up a center that has barely been getting playing time with the Kings and has asked out multiple times in Dewayne Dedmon. He now gets a chance to play and he has something to prove. He is still relatively young and will be a great bench center who can rebound and shoot the 3s. The 2 seconds only make the deal sweeter considering that Alex Len or Jabari Parker have not played signifigant roles for the Hawks.
Nuggets receive: Jordan McRae
Wizards receive: Shabazz Napier
This is one of the overlooked trades in my opinion. I think Jordan McRae is a great addition as a scorer off the Nuggets bench. Napier did not hold much value for them as they just got him from the Timberwolves but McRae can come in and have some high scoring nights for you off the bench.
These were the trades that I found most impactful. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.
After hearing the news, I could not write this immediately without flicking myself thousands of times trying to wake up from this nightmare. As a young basketball fan, I wasn’t able to witness the young number 8 “Frobe” but I was able to watch his last 8 years of greatness. The earliest I can remember watching the NBA was in 2008-the rookie year of Derrick Rose- and it was when Kobe was at his individual peak. Out of the first 3 NBA Finals that I can remember watching, Kobe took home 2 of them and in historic fashion. I’m not going to claim myself as the biggest Kobe Bryant fan but he is certainly a player I loved watching, who left his mark on basketball forever. Instead, I will talk about what his legacy meant to me and what I have learned from him. Kobe brought a different attitude. He was a take no prisoners type of guy. He was gonna win, and he was gonna win at all costs. He never backed down from a challenge. Even after winning 3 titles with Shaq, he wasn’t satisfied. Everyone remembers the famous Kobe picture that I have posted up there of him sitting in the corner of the locker room looking upset after just winning the NBA Finals. Many thought this was Kobe upset not winning Finals MVP, but I see it as a young 20 year old Kobe Bryant, trying time find himself, just like any other 20 year old. Many young players are not immediately put in a position to win and the fact that Kobe was able to mature his game at such a young age says a lot about his work ethic. Another thing I took away from Kobe, is to embrace all of the critics and use it as fuel. After looking back at some draft day reports, many said he played a similar game to Michael Jordan (which we all know is true) but didn’t have the efficiency or ability to do it at the next level. He was labeled as a “project prospect” with high ceiling but also a very low floor making him a high risk high reward pick straight out of high school. Luckily the Hornets took a chance on him at #13 but the Lakers took an even bigger chance by trading for him at that pick. There may not be a player for the next 50 years that can be a near clone to Michael Jordan and embrace it like Kobe did. Many would fall under the pressure or would get lost up in the hype, but not Kobe. He was the bean. He embraced the challenge of trying to become MJ. On draft day in 1996 there was not one person in that room who believed he could do it but I guarantee you that Kobe did, because he had that type of confidence. He believed in his own ability and set his own path to greatness. He truly was an inspiration for multiple generations of NBA fans. The main things I’ve learned from Kobe were to #1 Win at all costs, #2 embrace every challenge you are faced with and #3 believe in your own ability. Thank you Kobe Bean Bryant for the lifelong memories and lessons you have taught me and the rest of the NBA community. You are truly a legend and legends never die. RIP to Gianna Bryant as well and everyone else on the helicopter. Your legacy will live on forever. “Mamba never out”
Christmas is one of the most exciting days of the year for everyone. However, what I look forward to most is the basketball. This year we have some great matchups and it was not a dissapointing day. These are my opinions on each of the games played on a Christmas Day.
After falling down 10-0 in the first minute and 58 seconds of the game, Brad Stevens took a timeout and the Celtics did not look back after that. They went on a 28-9 run in the last 10 minutes of the quarter and kept that momentum for the rest of the game. For the Celtics, Jaylen Brown shined. He had a great 4th quarter and finished the game with 30 points on 10/13 shooting. He is for sure one of the front runners for most improved player this year as his offensive game has evolved in his development in becoming a great two-way player. Kemba Walker’s numbers may not jump out at you but I think his impact on the game was the most on his team. Whenever the Raptors seemed like they were going to make a little bit of a comeback, Kemba would knock down a 3 and get the Celtics back on track. His plus/minus was +23 and he finished with 22 points and 4 assists on 50% shooting. Jayson Tatum is having a great season and he is an early canidate for a first time all-star. He didn’t have his best shooting preformance but he was still able to contribute with his 9 rebs 6 asts and 2 steals with a plus/minus of +21. It was also nice to see Gordon Hayward back from injury and shooting effienclty in his role with 2 steals as well. I think this Celtics team is deep and guys like Brad Wanamaker and Romeo Langford will be a big part to their playoff success. It is tough to analyze the Raptors because they are missing their Most Improved Player and future first time all-star Pascal Siakim. Vanvleet had a great game with 27 points, 6 assists and 4 steals. He is a very important piece to this team. Kyle Lowry stuggled a little bit shooting wise but still did not play a bad game. Chris Boucher came off the bench and had a great game. He had 24 points and 2 blocks. Other than that everyone played their role for the most part but we know what the Raptors have been this season with Spicy P on the floor.
This game was not the most exciting game because it was never really a close game until the end. This game was very informative in fact and I certainly have a lot to talk about for both teams. Even though the Sixers did end up winning, I think many of their flaws were exposed. Defensively, they were flawless. They played tough defense early on Giannis, and he had difficulty finishing around the rim curtesy of Sixers 7 team blocks and 9 steals. They let him shoot 3s as well as the majority of other players on their team. Giannis was 0/7 from 3 and since he was not able to establish an outside shot, the Sixers defense could play off of him. This made it much easier for them to defend him inside which is where he is best. That is the positive I got out of the Sixers today. The flaw is their offense in crunch time. Embid feasted in the first half with a career high of 23 in one half. He finished with 31 and played a great game. Ben Simmons was lethal in transition. He didn’t have to force up a lot of shots because Embid was hitting his 3s early which really opened up the paint for him. Embid made three 3s and so did Horford. Yes, they are above average 3 point shooters regularly, but today they were threats, knocking down shot after shot. Some added help from Furkan Korkmaz’s 16 points off the bench gave them the extra boost they needed. Going back to the crunch time point. Every team needs a closer, and the Sixers don’t have one yet. They entered the 4th quarter up by 27 and after being out scored 36-21 in the 4th by the Bucks(mostly without Giannis), they almost made a comeback. They brought it within 6 at one point and with about a minute and a half left, Tobias Harris hit a deep contested 3 from the left wing that was heaved up at the end of the shot clock. This is not a shot Tobias will hit with consistency, or one you would want to bet your game on. When it comes down to the 4th quarter, the Sixers will have to give the ball to Tobias when they need a bucket. This is due to a lack of iso game with Ben Simmons and Embid being easily doubled in the post late in the game. If Tobias can establish himself as a true closer, I will say the Sixers are a legit contender in the east. Giannis struggled to get anything going offensively. The absence of Eric Bledsoe was also crucial. Although he is not a great 3 point shooter, he gives the Bucks a real point guard that sometimes Giannis needs. Giannis started off the game bringing up the ball a lot more than the end of the game. When the Bucks started to make their comeback in the 4th, Khris Middleton was taking up the ball which worked out really well for them. Bledsoe also brings greats defense as he was a member of the all-defensive first team last year. Khris Middleton is an all-star caliber player, but he is no superstar. He had a great game putting up a stat line of 31-8-4 and making 5/9 of his threes. Not taking anything away from Middleton because he is a great player, but he is not the side kick that the other stars have in this league. My point in saying this is that the Bucks rely on their role players to step up every night, especially when Giannis doesn’t have it. Today they didn’t step up. Korver had only 3 points in his 20 minutes. And Robin Lopez played only 8 minutes but missed 3 threes. For someone who is a career 26% shooter from beyond the arc, that is not where his value is. Other players had also underperformed which is very unlike this Bucks team. The only other time I’ve witnessed their role players underperform severely, was in the Dallas game(with no Luka Doncic) that broke their 18 game win streak. Giannis scored 48 in that game. Although Korver did score 17 that night, Middleton only had 9 (Hence my point earlier-a legit side kick can give you more than 9 every night-but everyone has off games) and Brook Lopez had only 3. If the Bucks role players step up in the playoffs just like they have most of the regular season, and Giannis can establish an outside shot early in the game, this team can make some noise.
This absolutely amazes me. With all the offensive fire power that the rockets have, the warriors of all teams were able to keep them in check. For the Rockets, I thought Westbrook played well, but he did not shoot well from 3 at all which did not help their spacing whatsoever. He was 0/8 from 3, and still finished with 30 points, proving that he doesn’t even need to take those shots to be affective. Harden was efficient. He had 24 on 9/18 shooting, making 6 threes, to go along with his 11 assists. The name of the game for the rockets is 3 point shooting and as a team they were not great. They shot 31% as a team, due to the struggle of Westbrook, Rivers, McLemore and Pj Tucker. Keeping it simple, Rockets just didn’t hit their 3s tonight and played minimal defense like they usually do. Golden State trapped Harden on defense in the beginning of the game which did not allow him to get the shots he wanted early. He had 5 points in the middle of the second up until he went off for 11 straight. They also played a great team game offensively. All of their starters had a double digit scoring night. Damion Lee had 22 on 5/9 shooting making the 2 threes he shot. He also added 3 steals, 15 rebounds and 4 assists. They also got some big plays down the stretch by who else but Draymond Green. There is nothing special to really analyze about this game besides the fact that the Warriors played good defense and did not allow Harden to get to his spots the majority of the game. They tried to make the other role players of the rockets beat them with double teams and traps on Harden, rather than him going off for 40+.
Lebron came out cold and Kawhi came out on fire. Kawhi’s first 13 points came in his first 15 minutes on 6/8 shooting while Lebron started off the game shooting 0/7 with 2 points. Lebron was still able to keep his cool and play a good all around game, but thanks to Kyle Kuzma’s 15 first quarter points off the bench the Lakers still were in it. The game was the Kawhi show. He had 35 pts 12 rebs and 5 asts shooting 11/19 and 5/7 from 3. He came up in big moments even when Lou Williams and Paul George had off nights. He made all 8 of his free throws and got the ball in the hoop when it mattered most. He now moves to 15-8 in his career against Lebron. Pat Beverley had a major impact defensively. His plus/minus was +26 and for the majority of the game he was given the Lebron assignment. He had a huge block on Lebron in the final seconds of the game to seal the deal. Paul George struggled from the field but brought his defensive game with him and made a huge impact. The big difference between the 2 teams was 3 point attempts. When Lebron struggled early, instead of attacking the basket like he’s great at, he tried to force up too many 3s which isn’t his game. He was 2/12 from 3 and that is very unlike Lebron to even attempt that many. The lakers attempted 45 threes and only made 12 which is 27% as a team. Half of their made threes came from Kuzma(4) and KCP(2) alone. The clippers on the other hand only shot 25 and they made 9 of them which was good enough for 36%. The Lakers are a team that thrives off 3 point shooting due to their play style with the passing of Lebron. If the players around him struggle to make those shots it could be a tough playoff run for them. However I do think that they are well equipped with shooters and most of them had an off night. One positive from tonight for the Lakers is the play of Kyle Kuzma. Kuz shot 4/9 from 3 and showed the ability to be a valuable asset off the bench, and in the Lakers death lineup. He has been battling injuries all year and hopefully this is the start of him being healthy. I know he put in a lot of work this summer with shooting coach Chris Brickley who is notorious for making players better shooters. Overall it was a great exciting game and it was nice to see both teams at full strength for the first time. I would pay anything to see a 7 game series of these 2 teams in the Western Conference Finals this May.
Brandon Ingram deserves to be an all-star this year and it’s unfortunate that he might not be because he plays in the western conference. Why the New Orleans Pelicans play in the western conference is beyond me. He led the Pelicans to a W with his 31 points on an efficient 11/18 shooting. He has really thrived without Lebron and the reason for this is because he can actually have the ball in his hands. With Lebron, as I’ve explained in previous articles, other players often don’t get their touches even though he leads the league in assists. He leads the league in assists because he is gifted at creating for others, but Brandon Ingram isn’t that type of player. Ingram thrives when he isolates and breaks down the defense himself to score or create offense. He is not the catch and shoot type of guy that Lebron is best playing with. He has truly shined this year and is a candidate for most improved without a doubt. Right now he would get my vote. His 3 point percentage has increased from 33% to 41% and he is averaging 25 points compared to his 18 last year. Now he has the opportunity to get more shots up and he is doing it more efficiently as well. Jrue Holiday continues to improve his trade stock with his 20 points 8 assists and 6 steals. I am curious to see what teams are interested in trading for him because he can be a very valuable player on both sides of the ball. Josh Hart played some nice minutes off the bench and Favors put in worthy time as well. I would really like to see the rookie Jackson Hayes get more minutes. The Nuggets played an all around solid game, but Jamal Murray is slowly gaining the reputation of being a streaky player. After his 28 point performance on Monday night against the Suns, he had only 8 points on 2/10 shooting and was not much of a factor playmaking either. He is still very young at the age of 22 and has lots of room to improve. Jokic was solid but Favors definitely slowed him down a little. This year I don’t think that he is being aggressive enough scoring wise. He is a gifted passer especially at the center position but often does not look to score. In the beginning of games he should be aggressive and look to get to the hoop. This opens up the passing lanes for him a lot more once they start double teaming. This is not a good loss for the 21-9 nuggets as they fell to the 9-23 struggling Pelicans. They need to find more consistency in all of their players not just Murray if they truly want to contend in the West.
Wow. I am so happy that Carmelo Anthony is able to get a chance on a team this season. Melo has always been one of my favorite. His play style is filthy and makes more difficult shots than anybody in the game. It’s pretty to watch. We all know Melo won’t be his old self on the Blazers, but I do think that he can be a great bench scorer to help out their lineup. They lost Zach Collins to a shoulder injury, which could likely have him out for 4 months or more. This means they have lack of depth at the PF spot. This is where Melo comes in. He’s not being asked to start, or score 20 points a game. He will more than likely be asked to just “do his thing” off the bench and “play his game”. If Melo does this, it adds a lot more depth to this Blazers team who is trying to make a run. I cannot wait to watch more Blazers game, and hopefully watch Melo seize this opportunity to revive his career.
I am going to keep these all relatively short so there may be players that I don’t mention but still like, but this is just a short immediate reaction to each NBA team.
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young, Trae Young go off! Trae has been on fire but unfortunately he is dealing with an ankle injury that he suffered in their fourth game. He averaged 34 points to go along with his 9 assists the first 3 games of the year. Cam Reddish has been struggling, but obviously he is still very young and can grow into a stud. This team is set for the future and will only grow from here. When Trae gets healthy, this team can make a serious playoff run.
Boston Celtics: Do NOT sleep on this team! I know this might be a hot take, but seeing Kemba play with some talent around him is very enticing. I think this team has shown a lot this season, but they are still very young. The most pivotal thing for this team is the play of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. These guys need to take a leap, playing it simple. Tatum is shooting the 3 ball like everyone wants him to at 48.3% but his field goal percentage is 37.3%. This is because “his game” is taking midrange shots and creating for himself and those just haven’t been falling for him. The teams offense looks stagnant when he plays iso ball, but he is still playing well. If Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue their hot start to this years season, along with some rookies stepping up, the Celtics could win a lot of games this year.
Brooklyn Nets: I feel for this team. I really do. Starting out at 1-3 is not easy especially when you are playing as well as they are. Kyrie Irving has been unconscious. He dropped 50 in his first career game as a member of his hometown Nets. Yet they still lost the game. But this is not his teammates fault either. His co-star, (for this season) Caris Lavert is picking up right where he left off in the playoffs, averaging 19-4-4 with over a steal a game. This team will get some games in the W column soon, it’s only a matter of time. Don’t panic nets fans, you still have KD next year.
Charlotte Hornets: Excuse my french but wtf Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are 2-3 as of right now including a historic 1st game, draining a franchise record 23 3 pointers. The emergence of P.J. Washington has taken the NBA by storm. I actually talked about him in my article for the goals this season for each team, as a player I liked for the future, but did not expect this immediate of an impact. He started the season off averaging 16 points, shooting 52% from 3. Devonte Graham has also caught fire. The Kansas alumni is averaging 16.4 points, shooting 51.5% from 3. He has also showed off playmaking ability as he is averaging 7.6 assists. This teams young pieces look nice, but I still don’t think they will contend for a playoff spot this year.
Chicago Bulls: I am absolutely appalled by the play of this team. To say the least, they are the most disappointing team in the league for the first couple of weeks. They have gone up in almost all of their games, and have had some of the worst 4th quarter stretches ever. The Knicks ended their game against the Bulls on a 16-0 run in the last 3 minutes. They took their first lead of the game with 2 minutes left! They also let the Cavs come from behind as well. This teams needs to learn how to close out games otherwise it will be a long season.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs are 2-2 this year and the only game I have watched of theirs was the one against the Bulls. Sexton looks impressive as an athlete and a scorer but still has yet to prove that he can be a playmaker in this league. Garland is off to a slow start as well, averaging just 9.5 points and 3.5 assists. This team has won games due to the play of Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (who probably just wants to gain trade interest).
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic’s second year so far has not just met the high standards, but exceeded them. Luka is averaging 25 points 9 rebs and 7 assists which are All-Starter type numbers. And that’s even after his last game against the Nuggets in which he only had 12-4-5, but they played great basketball as a team. It is also very exciting to see Kristaps come back as what seems to be the All-Star he once was before his injury. He is averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds to go with his 2.5 blocks. This duo is young and lethal and can make some noise this season and will for a long time in this league.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are all about team basketball and they have showed just that this season. Although nobody has stood out individually, we know Jokic is their guy, and we know what he brings to the table. He’s an elite passer at the center position and a great scorer as well. He hasn’t showed off much of his scoring ability yet, but as the season progresses he will become more aggressive at getting to the rim. Michael Porter Jr. has showed a little promise, and I hope that he continues to, as he dropped 15 points in their last game against the Pelicans. This team will be a tough team to beat once Jokic gets going.
Detroit Pistons: It is not always easy starting the year off without your best player (Blake Griffin) but the Pistons still remain 2-3 with some hope. Andre Drummond looks extremely dominate so far. He is averaging 21 points, 17.4 rebs to go along with 2 blocks a game. Not only this but Derrick Rose is on a mission. He is on a mission to prove that last season was no fluke. He is averaging 20.4 pts and 6.2 assists in his resurgence. Not only that, but the year 3 play of the Duke guard Luke Kennard has been really promising. He is averaging 15 points and shooting 45% from 3 after only averaging 8 points for the first 2 years of his career. When Blake comes back, this team can win some games.
Golden State Warriors: This team has been upsetting for sure. I’m not gonna use the word disappointing because it is an unfortunate situation with all the injuries they have been plagued with. First, losing Klay for most likely the season after the events of their last game is highly likely. In their last game, Steph Curry suffered a broken left hand in their game against the suns the other night. This will probably provoke them to keep Klay on the bench the rest of the season as well because they are no longer a contender. They have announced that they will be preparing for a high draft pick. Prayers out to Steph and Klay.
Houston Rockets: I love this team! This is easily the most fun team in the league to watch. Starting off the season 3-1 looks, the best friend/ duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook have proven to the league that they can make things work. Harden erupted for 59 the other night to go along with his 9 assists. Even with Harden taking 32 shots, Russ was still able to pick up his triple double with 17-10-12. Russ brings a whole new dynamic to their offense that they didn’t have before. They can get out and run now and really score in transition which is something they lacked last year. Often easy buckets like that get the team going and may be the thing that prevents James Harden from having a cold night. This team is a serious contenders!
Indiana Pacers: I talked about the impact of Malcolm Brogdon in my goals article. Brogdon has been nothing short of spectacular. He is averaging 22-5-11 and shooting 38% from 3. This number will only go up. He could be in the conversation for most improved player when it’s all said and done because he is taking on a much newer role at that point guard spot. Sabonis got paid this offseason yeah, but, why does that all of the sudden make him a starter? Let him play the great 6 man role that he played last year. If this team can “stay solid” like I mentioned in my goals article, than when they get Oladipo back in December-February, they may be able to make a little noise. Also prayers out to Myles Turner on his injury.
Los Angeles Clippers: Wow. That’s all I gotta say. This team came out strong with their 4-2 start. They took no prisoners against the Lakers on opening night and beat the Warriors with Steph by 20 2 nights later. Kawhi is averaging 29-7-6 to go along with 2 steals and is looking like an early MVP candidate. That is of course if he plays enough games. The shooters they have around him are knocking down their shots such as Patrick Patterson and Landry Shamet. JaMychal Green and Mo Harkless fit in really nice with that bench unit run by Lou Will and Montrezl Harrell. Every member on this team is bought into the defensive system and plays well as a cohesive unit. By the way, Paul George-an MVP candidate last year- has yet to play a game. When he comes back, I cannot see anybody stopping this team.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers have had a very solid start at 3-1. Some Lakers fans are complaining that Lebron isn’t dominating in the points column(23 ppg) or anything like that but if you think about it in the grand scheme of things it makes sense. Lebron knows this is a marathon and not a sprint. He knows the season is long and that he is getting older, and needs to save some for the playoffs. Not only this, Lebron is playing with a lot of new guys that may not be used to playing with him. He often has found himself passing out of drives to find open shooters when he can probably go up for a contested dunk or layup and make it. The reason I think Lebron is doing this is to instill confidence in the guys around him. Lebron won’t be able to do it all down the stretch and neither will AD and they know that. Lebron is going to need guys like Danny Green, Avery Bradley, KCP, Jared Dudley and Quinn Cook to hit some big shots in the playoffs. Lebron knows what he is in for and he is preparing his team for it better than anyone else can.
Memphis Grizzlies; Some of you guys May know if you read my last article how much I like this young core they have even though they still have a couple of years with lottery picks probably. Ja has been very good. Averaging 17 points and 5 assists to go along with almost 2 steals is great for a rookie. Often rookie point guards struggle to start, but he has gone out their and just simply played his game. Brandon Clarke has been great this year. His 10.5 points 5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game bring a different intensity to this team on the defensive end. He fits really well with Jaren Jackson Jr. who is having a great year himself averaging 15 points and 6.5 rebounds to go along with a block a game. The players on this team need to play their game and let everyone develop in order to be part of something special in the future.
Miami Heat: This team looks real nice. Starting off 4-1 due to the emergence of their 2 rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. Nunn leads all rookies in points per game with 22 and Herro is not far behind him with 16. Bam Adebayo is playing like the center they need and is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds and showing off a little playmaking with his 5 assists per game. He also has almost 2 blocks a game. Plays the small ball center role perfectly. Now that Jimmy is back, it will only help this team and their route to the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks: This team has had a solid start at 2-2. We all know what Giannis brings to the table but the loss of Brogdon has certainly effected them. His replacement Wesley Matthews has been effective but he is nowhere near what Brogdon is. We all know what this team brings as they brought back almost an identical team. Hopefully Giannis can make a run at his first ring this year.
Minnesota Timberwolves: This is the most surprising team to me. Starting off the season at 3-1, Karl-Anthony Towns looks like an early MVP candidate. He is no longer just a center. Towns has been on the wing taking step back 3s like a guard. He is averaging 27 points, 11.5 rebs, 4 assists to go along with his 2.5 steals a game and 1.8 blocks. He is shooting 54% from the field, and 52% from 3. You can make a serious argument that he has been the best player in the league through the first 2 weeks. Jarrett Culver has been disappointing to start the season. He is only averaging 3 points on 26% shooting. Once he finds his shot he may emerge as one of the better players in his loaded draft class. If this team keeps winning, Karl-Anthony Towns could end up being a serious MVP candidate.
New Orleans Pelicans: Starting off 1-4 may seem upsetting for this team, but they really aren’t playing all that bad. Even without Zion, they are the second highest scoring team in the league. We all know the the scoring impact and the defensive impact that Zion brings to a team. I have been really impressed with the early play of Lonzo Ball averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 assists to go along with 1.6 steals. He is even shooting 37% from 3 which is very good. Most importantly though Brandon Ingram has been an absolute stud. He is averaging 27-8-5 all while shooting 50% from 3. Truly amazing to see how a player can break out in a different setting, as he is playing like an all-star right now. When this team gets Zion back it will only help and maybe they could make a playoff run.
New York Knicks: Man I love me some R.J. Barrett. Averaging 18-6-3 while shooting 42% from 3 is amazing for a rookie. Not to mention a rookie that has already been titled the face of the franchise in New York City. R.J. is embracing all the love and even though the Knicks have started 1-4, he has a real bright future with some help. Elfrid Payton has come in and played very solid basketball at the point guard spot and Mitchell Robinson has also added a very solid year 2 so far. Julius Randle is also playing well averaging 15 ppg and 11 rebounds but is struggling to find his 3 point touch, shooting just 8% from 3. This will definitely improve. I hope the Knicks can continue to develop and become a great team in the future.
Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC has started out 1-4 but that does not matter. They are prepped for the future with draft picks. The play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has exceeded expectations. Taken under the wing of veteran point guard Chris Paul, Shai has become lethal. He is averaging 21.6 ppg, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He is doing this all while shooting the 3 ball at 33% which will only get better. Like I have been preaching, LET SHAI PLAY! as you may have read as my goal for this team this year. He has showed much promise for the future of this team, that little to nobody expected.
Orlando Magic: The 2-2 start for the Magic has been solid. Seeing Markelle Fultz back on the court is amazing. Averaging 11 points and 3 assists at the age of just 21 is great, and now that he is finally healthy (knock on wood), he has many years to develop. The play of Aaron Gordon has definitely held this team back. Like I mentioned in the goals article, he needs to take a leap in order to make this team successful. The fact that they have been still solid even with him averaging 9 points per game and only shooting 35% is promising. I hope that Aaron Gordon can improve and this team can make a playoff run.
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers look like one of the strongest teams in the league so far. We all know about the play of Joel Embid, but I think that Ben Simmons is learning how to hide his lack of a shooting ability. He is moving more without the ball, cutting to the basket and coming off screens to get the ball in momentum going to the rim. He is also extremely locked in defensively with his 2.8 steals a game. Josh Richardson has also had a solid start to the season for this team providing even more defense and averaging 13-4-3 with almost 2 steals a game. This team is very good but could face spacing problems in the playoffs when teams tend to game plan more and Ben Simmons lack of a jump shot could possibly be exposed.
Phoenix Suns: Like I said in my goals article, I really like what they did with their team this offseason. They have really built a team this year rather than just having pieces which is proven by their 3-2 start. Rubio has taking a lot of the playmaking load off Devin Booker. Devin Booker can go out and do what he does best and that’s just, playing it simple, getting buckets (24 ppg). New head coach Monty Williams has placed every player into a role and it is a whole new look suns team. Cam Johnson and Oubre hitting their shots on the wing as well as the solid play of Rubio and Saric and even Aaron Baynes in the absence of Deandre Ayton has been the key to this team’s success. I still don’t think this team will be a playoff team in the west but seeing this early promise looks great for the future.
Portland Trail Blazers: This is another team I love just like the Rockets. I would love to see Damian Lillard get himself a ring after all he has been though (future article idea?). The 3-2 start of this team is very solid. I think the addition of Hassan Whiteside has been very good for them as he is averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds with over a block a game. Other than that this team is similar to their past years and will be a solid team that probably makes the playoffs. I would like to see Nassir Little get some more minutes and give this team some more defensive grit.
Sacramento Kings: After their breakout season last year, the Kings have taken a bit of a step back. Starting the season off 0-5, has been mainly because of the loss of Marvin Bagley. Bagley looked like a stud in the preseason. This Kings team looked like they would be very solid this year and because of his injury the results have not been there. I hope that when he comes back this team can get back on track because De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are still having solid years themselves.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are again, the solid team they always are. Looking to make the playoffs for a 23rd straight year under head coach Greg Popovich, their 3-1 start is a great start. DeMar Derozan has been playing some of his best basketball. Averaging 24-5-2 with a steal a game is some of Derozan’s best numbers of his career and he is also closing out games for them effectively. The return of Dejounte Murray has been pivotal for this team. He is averaging 13-8-5 on 52% shooting, but it is his defensive impact that truly separates him from other point guards. He is averaging 2.2 steals and just under a block a game. I think this team has a very solid chance to make the playoffs again, but in the West it might be hard.
Toronto Raptors: The defending champs look like… the defending champs with their 4-1 record. The obvious difference is that there is no Kawhi on their team and most of their solid veterans have contracts that are up at the end of the year. Pascal Siakam has a bright future in this league. The most improved player last year, has emerged as more than just that this season. He is averaging 28-9-4 and shooting 44% from 3. Siakam’s excellence is met with the great play of Fred Vanvleet. He is averaging 17-4-7 while shooting 40% from 3 with 1.4 steals a game. I would love to see this team make another run, but although I do see this team being successful, I don’t think that they will be a top seed in the east.
Utah Jazz: I love this Jazz team. I think that they are going to be great. The first 4 games of the season, their new point guard Mike Conley (who has played at an all-star level for so long) struggled badly. The team was still good enough to hold down the fort and remain 3-1. Conley went off in their 5th game, putting up 29 points and 5 assists and I hope that this helps him find his game. The play of Bojan Bogdanovic has been crucial for this team. He has filled the void for the Jazz of a great shooter. He is averaging 21 points and shooting 44% from 3. I really hope this team can make a run this season.
Washington Wizards: There is not much to say about this Wizards team because we didn’t expect them to be all that good. Bradley Beal has been his usual great self averaging 27-6-8. Thomas Bryant is having a very solid season we’ll averaging 14.5 points and 10 rebounds to go along with his 2 blocks a game. The play of rookie Rui Hachimura has also been very promising. He is averaging 18 points per game which amongst the top of the leaderboards for rookies. Although Washington is on the top in the baseball world, it may be a while until they return to contention for basketball.
I hope you enjoyed my first reactions for each team through this point in the season. It has been a very fun season so far and it will only get better. I know I might have left out some players on teams but I tried to point out the guys who are different, and we usually don’t know what to expect from them. Let me know if you have any feedback or just wanna talk hoops.
Last night, the Bulls had their first regular season game of the season. Playing the Hornets, I saw it as a solid opportunity to get the season off on the right foot. Although I did not think they played terribly, they did not come out with the W. The Hornets outlasted the Bulls in the final seconds to win 126-125. The MVP of the game for the Bulls was for sure Lauri Markkanen. The Marksman dropped 35 points, and proved his ability to be a big man in this league by snagging 17 boards. Although he did struggle from 3, shooting 1/7, that is the one part of his game that we know is there, and it was just an off night. He was most successful when attacking the rim. He proved that he was not a one dimensional player and I hope in the future he looks to attack the rim more. He tried shooting too early this game and struggled. If he looks to attack the rim first, it will open up his 3 point shot more for him. He should try and take a couple of closer shots or “rhythm shots” as I like to call them to help get him going. Zach Lavine for sure had an off game. He had one field goal in the first half and looked frustrated to start the game. Zach is a complete gym rat, and works just as hard on his craft as anyone does. Seeing him struggle in the first half was disappointing, but he still remained an effective playmaker, picking up 7 assists. He also wasn’t able to play as many minutes as they would probably have wanted him to because he picked up 2 fouls early, and his 3rd right before the 1st half ended. After all this, he still ended the night with a solid 16 points, but I expect him to be back to himself next game. Wendell Carter Jr. had a solid game as well. Although he didn’t do anything special, he added a solid 12 points, 9 rebounds to go along with a block. Thomas Satoransky played really well I thought, disregarding the stats. He only had 2 points and 3 assists, but he made some great hustle plays, including a fast break block that led to a bulls scoring run. Coby White was really good in his debut. He had 17 points off the bench, adding 7 assists, all we’ll playing valuable minutes for Lavine who was in foul trouble. I am not too worried about him shooting 1/4 from three because they were all good shots that just did not fall. He looks to have a bright future with this team. Thaddeus Young proved to be the player that they wanted him to be when they signed him this offseason. He played great defense for the bench unit, and knocked down 3 threes all while collecting 17 points. Arcidiacono brought his usual hustle, making multiple diving plays to keep bulls possessions alive or provide second chances. He makes his money with his hustle, proving his worth on an NBA roster while knocking down 2 open spot up 3s. If he can shoot the 3 well this year, he will continue to get minutes. Kris Dunn also had a solid game, proving he wants a spot on this team. With a surplus of point guards, this could be hard. At one point in the second quarter, the Bulls bench unit consisted of 3 point guards (Kris Dunn, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono) on the floor at once. The Bulls could look to move Dunn for a nice young wing, or give Denzel Valentine some more minutes. Overall I’m not too mad at how they played for the first game of the season. I think that the Hornets had an uncharacteristic night, in which they knocked down 23 threes which was a franchise record. Their rookie, P.J. Washington had 7 of them, which is a record for a rookie in his first career game. The entourage of threes killed the Bulls, and lead to a one point defeat. I think this team has promise, and I think it showed last night. The main takeaways from last nights game is 1. Lauri can attack the rim, he is no longer a 1 dimensional player who can also hold his own on the glass. 2. Lavine can stay calm and collected even when struggling. Even though he struggled in the first half and got into early foul trouble, he came out for a strong second half and still played decent defense and showed his playmaking ability. 3. The role players that the Bulls have implemented are solid. Most of the role players for the Bulls played their part. Thad Young had a very solid game and proved that he can shoot he 3. Otto Porter added 2 steals and 9 points. Arci played to his hustle style and Kris Dunn had a solid all around game with 11 points and 4 steals. 4. We have a promising rookie in Coby White. The future is bright for Coby. I really liked what I saw out of him last night. He wasn’t forcing up any shots and he was letting the game come to him. He took the shots when they were open and found his teammates when they were. The team showed flashes of great team work and a winning mentality. I look forward to a year with this team and I hope that they can develop into something special.
Miami Heat: Get another star
I love Jimmy Butler. I think he is a villain in the news and gets a lot of hate that he does not deserve. Fans hate on the fact that he tried to motivate Wiggins to get to the next level but Jimmy is just a dog, whose always working. Maybe he was right about Wiggins. Past the point. This team is young which is good but I still do not see potential in any of their young assets to become future all stars. It will definitely take another all star on this team to take them seriously. The only one I think has the potential is Tyler Herro, but he is just going to be a rookie this year and won’t be fully developed. If they could use some of their solid young guys as trade assets they may be able to get another star. This could help push them over the hump from being a boarder line playoff team to a solid mid-seed playoff team. I think they should try to make a trade for Bradley Beal and/or John Wall we’ll their asking prices are cheap because of injury. Some young guys they might use as trade bait are Justice Winslow(23), Derrick Jones Jr.(22), KZ Okpala(20). However, if possible I think that they should do their best to keep Tyler Herro(19) and Bam Adebayo(22). These are the two I think are the most valuable assets and have the highest potential on their team.
Miluawkee Bucks: Finals appearance
Giannis is, rightfully named, the Greek Freak. Giannis is a once in a generation type of player. Nobody questions Giannis’s ability to finish at the rim. He is one of the best as he finished with the highest field goal percentage in the paint. Earning his first MVP last season, Giannis led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA and he isn’t satisfied yet. Giannis has also made his goals clear. He wants to become a better “basketball player” this season. He said that last season he would go full force to the rim and that’s all. He wants to develop more as a shooter and a player. This is a great sign in a young player of his caliber because it shows that he only wants to get better. Giannis’s up coming free agency will for sure remain a topic throughout the rest of the season. Enough about Giannis. This team needs to win the East this season to prove that they are the real deal. They have had a tougher time in the playoffs as teams begin to key in on Giannis, and force him to shoot. Devising a game plan for when this happens in the playoffs is essential if they want to win. They gave Giannis a great perimeter shooter this offseason in Kyle Korver, but the impact of losing Malcom Brogdon will for sure hurt them defensively. This teams championship window could be one year or it can be many depending on what Giannis decides to do this upcoming summer. If he stays, the Bucks could be looking at a long tenure of contention.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Develop Youth
The Timberwolves have a pretty good foundation. They have a stud Center in Karl Anthony Towns-who is only 23-that was an All Star the last 2 seasons. Wiggins has been interesting. He has proven that he can score the basketball but that’s really all. He still struggles to become “that guy” in Minnesota like they had envisioned. You would think back to back rookie of the years who were back to back #1 overall picks would pan out a lot better for the Timberwolves. I think they should try to make a move for a point guard. If they can find a deal to trade for D’Angelo Russell from the Warriors this team could become a lot more competitive. I like the young piece they added in Jarret Culver. Culver is a lengthy wing that not only showed at Texas Tech what he can do with the ball in his hands, but he showed potential of being an elite defender. I think the future is bright for Minnesota but they will always remain one piece away because Wiggins does not look like the guy that they drafted him 1st overall to be. If this team continues to develop some decent young players, they could be a very good team in the future.
New Orleans Pelicans: establish roles
The Pelicans are one of the best, arguably the best young core in the league. They stacked up on draft assets this summer and I think hit on most of their draft picks. They acquired Lonzo Ball(21 yrs), Brandon Ingram(22) and Josh Hart(24) from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis deal. Lonzo is a great young facilitator and an intelligent basketball mind. He sees the floor differently than most young players. He makes it seem easy, when finding open players. Brandon Ingram is a gifted scorer and Josh Hart could become a nice bench piece. The rest of their assets they were able to scoop up in the draft. Obviously, with the #1 overall pick they took Zion Williamson(19) who will be a force in the league. With the #8 pick they took center Jaxson Hayes out of Texas who I think can be a solid rim runner and shot blocker for the Pels. Also, with the #17 pick, the Pels drafted Nickeil-Alexander-Walker(21) out of Virginia Tech who ironically, is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin. This man went off in the summer league and has a very bright future. Add in a couple of nice signings like J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors and this could be a playoff team. I think the main goal is for everyone to find themselves in a comfortable role in order to succeed best as a team. This team has a lot of talent, but often teams with lots of talent and different young egos don’t succeed because they are all trying to be a star. If these young guys could find some good team chemistry they could be in for a fun season.
New York Knicks: Development
The Knicks this offseason were not able to sign the big name free agents that they wanted to. Many fans are disappointed in management or ownership. I think the Knicks have found their savior. R.J. Barrett is one of the best prospects in this draft, in some people’s eyes he is the best. The wing from Duke is crafty when he gets to his left and has the potential to be a long time star in this league. The Knicks need to give him opportunity to shoot. Make him your #1 option right now and let him grow into the league. It will take time for R.J. to develop. His percentages may not be pretty at first, but when he finds his way in this league he will be scary. The Knicks have other nice pieces as well. Mitchell Robinson is one of the best shot blockers in the league after only one season. He averaged 2.4 blocks in only 21 minutes a game. If given more minutes, and if he learns to avoid fouling often, Mitch can be a breakout candidate this season and a sleeper for DPOY. Other than these 2, Julius Randle was a solid signing and they have decent young bench pieces. I see Knox as a future bench scorer because I don’t think his game will fit alongside RJ unless RJ plays shooting guard(which is possible). Allonzo Trier A.K.A. Iso-Zo is one of the more fun players to watch on this team. He averaged a smooth 11 points per game last year on almost 40% from the 3. He is a solid young piece that I can see in the Knicks future. Mainly, the Knicks need to focus on developing their young guys so they can use their future assets to build off what they have. It will take time for this Knicks team to be good again, but as of now, I think they are on their way.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Let Shai Play
The Oklahoma City Thunder had an eventful offseason. They watched their core slip out of there fingertips due to the savagery of Damian Lillard. Paul George and Russell Westbrook were moved in deals that gave the Thunder their future. They were blessed to receive a plethora of first round picks. Many say Paul George was traded for a 7th grade Mr because the picks go as far as 2026. Paul George will be 36 then. OKC now has a crowded point guard position. They have Chris Paul, who although is still solid, is not in their future plans. Dennis Schroder was very good off the bench for the Thunder last year, however, at the age of 26, he probably is not in the future plans to team up with this 7th grader. Their last point guard is Shai Gilgious-Alexander. The 11th pick out of Kentucky last year is a 6’6 point guard with great playmaking ability and defensive potential. He averaged 10.8 pts and 3.3 ast in just his rookie season with the clippers. He played in all 82 games last year and shot almost 37% from three. On defense, the night was always tough for his opponents. He averaged 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game as a point guard. I think the Thunder would be making a huge mistake if they didn’t give this guy big minutes next year. He needs the opportunity to thrive but may be denied it because of the team he is on. Hopefully the Thunder find a trade partner for Chris Paul and can LET SHAI PLAY!!
Orlando Magic: Improve
The magic showed some promise last season. First time all star, Nikola Vucevic showed the league what he’s all about. The Magic were able to resign him this offseason, helping them keep their main core around. I think that their starting 5 is filled with potential. Vucevic is 28 and he will only improve. Johnathan Issac was the 6th Pick in the 2017 draft. He’s lengthy and plays good defense. Many want him to make an MIP jump this season. Markelle Fultz was the 1st overall in the 2018 draft, and I fully expect him to live up to that hype. Fultz is a great basketball player who has been dealing with some injury issues that has left many NBA fans concerned that he won’t get back to the level he was in college. However, this kid is special. He’s not like everyone else. Fultz worked hard to get where he was his entire life and was a stud at Washington for a reason. Terrence Ross is always a solid option off the bench and the addition of Al-Farouq Aminu will provide defense and a little bit of shooting. I expect a big jump from Aaron Gordon this season as well. I think this team can be better than they were last year. They made additions and gained experience after last years playoffs. This team may be able to reach at most the 6 seed.
Philadelphia 76ers: Finals Run
If this team does not win the finals this year it is not the end of the world. They have lots of youth in Joel Embid(25), Ben Simmons(23) and even Tobias Harris(27) is still young. Al Horford was a great add this offseason. Although he will start at the PF spot, Horford can play the 5 for Embid’s load management games. Embid has had trouble staying healthy and playing a full season in the beginning of his career. Embid now won’t have to play as many games during the regular season, and can focus on his health. Ben Simmons needs to at least take 3s. He is a great young player, with great defense, rebounding and playmaking ability. The one thing he misses most from his game is an outside shot. Many think if he can develop one, he is a future MVP. Matisse Thybulle is a great young player from Washington that I really enjoyed watching at the college level. He averaged 3 steals and 2 blocks a game that will only add great defense to the sixers already stacked defensive lineup. The main problem for this team is not having an established closer. The closer is the player on your team, that you are most confident in to get a bucket in a half court set. This is important because as the game slows down and the 4th quarter heats up, players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embid tend to be non factors. Every great team has a closer, and for this team to succeed, Tobias Harris will have to play the closing role that Jimmy Butler played last season. Tobias, however, has yet to establish himself as a true closer. Guys like Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are examples of bonafide closers, they have proven their ability to knock down clutch shots for their team at the end of the game. This sixers team is missing that and every great team needs one.
Phoenix Suns: Develop More (I guess)
The good news about the Suns is that they are very young. Devin Booker is one of my favorite young talents in this league. He is a walking bucket such that he averaged 26.6 ppg last year to go along with a career high 6.8 ast. He is only 22 but he is a future stud in this league. Deandre Ayton was their number 1 overall pick last year and had a very good rookie season. I think that he needs to be a more aggressive scorer and also improve his defense. The pick and roll with Devin Booker-or newly acquired point guard Ricky Rubio- and Deandre Ayton can be a weapon for this team. Now the reason I said the goal was to: Develop More (I guess) was because this team will probably not compete with the stacked western conference. This team made solid moves this offseason. I really like their young point guard Jevon Carter because he is a really great defender. They acquired Cam Johnson an NCAA veteran from UNC that is one of the best shooters in the draft. There were many other moves this team made this offseason that were solid but the realistic goal for this season is just to keep developing. Devin Booker has come out and said he’s “done missing the playoffs,” and his teammates need to step up and help him out. For this season however, with the youth and a loaded Western Conference, I don’t think that this is their year to make the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers: One more piece
The Trail Blazers have consistently been a solid team in the NBA over the past few years. This team did almost everything they could have this offseason. I do think they are contenders to win, but I think they should make a move. That move is to go out and get Kevin Love. I would assume the Cavs would want young players or pick so you may have to include a Anfernee Simoms and maybe a pick or two. Working out the contracts would be hard, but if they can work out a deal than they would have a solid starting 5. The draft was a success this year as the raw talent in Nassir Little fell to them. He is known for his grit and his defensive play at UNC and has promising athleticism to hopefully develop an offensive game. I don’t think there is much to say about this team because they remained mostly the same. I love Dame Lillard, and I would love to see this Finals run occur.
Sacramento Kings: Develop More
The Kings are another team that are a boarder line playoff team but it is hard to believe that they could make it in the West. Similar to the Suns, this team is very young. They have one of my favorite young point guards in the league in De’Aaron Fox. Fox was an MIP candidate last year in just his second season. Swipa, they call him for his blazing speed, also has great scoring and defensive ability. Paired up with one of the most dynamic college players of the last decade in Buddy Hield, and you have a fun line up. These are 2 great young pieces, however they are not their only ones. Harry Giles was a stud in high school, I would love to see him bring some of that to the NBA. Kyle Guy was a fun pick from the former national champions, The University of Virginia Cavaliers and Marvin Bagley III looks to be a great big fit for the future. This teams future looks bright and the core looks strong, however in the stacked western conference I do not think that this is the year that they will compete for a playoff spot.
San Antonio Spurs: Playoffs
The spurs are a very interesting team. I love the way that the spurs front office continues to put a great team on the floor every night. For the past 22 years, the Spurs gave their fans at least one playoff series every year. They are one of the most successful franchises of all time. Lead by head coach Greg Popovich, this squad manages to find a playoff spot every year. DeMar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are 2 very good all-star caliber players that they have on their roster. They are complemented by multiple solid role players from recent drafts. Even with their later picks in the draft, the Spurs are always able to cash in on a great player. Some of their young late round picks in the past couple of years include Derrick White and Dejounte Murray (who I’m really excited to watch play after missing all of last season with an ACL). Lonnie Walker IV is another young player that we were not able to see a lot of last year and I would hope to see a full season out of him. This years draft pick in Luke Samanic I think will be very good for them in the long run. He is a big man that can shoot. Who can’t use one of those? If you want to read more up on the spurs and how they use their late picks in the draft to rebuild, read my article on them on the “free write” page. I look forward to hopefully another playoff season by this team team, but it may be hard in the stacked western conference.
Toronto Raptors: Playoffs
Last season, was a wild run for the raptors. They not only made the move to go out and get Kawhi, but they made many more underrated moves that ultimately lead them to winning their first NBA Finals in franchise history. This season, losing Kawhi takes them out of contention. However, this team does still have the pieces to be a solid playoff team, and because of their experience, maybe they can steal a series. They do still have some solid young players to look forward to in the future. This years Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakim(25), could end up being a first time all-star this year. One guy that flys under the radar a lot is OG Anunoby. The forward out Indiana missed the entire playoffs last year due to injury but he could be the “glue guy” for the future that the raps need. He has great defensive potential and hopefully can develop and offensive game as well. Fred Vanvleet(25), the sharpshooting point guard looks like a pretty good option for the future. Even though he stands at just 6ft tall, he proved to the league he can hang with the best on defense as he played tough defense on Steph Curry and other point guards throughout the entire playoffs. He also proved his ability to hit a big shot. In game 6 of the NBA Finals, he stepped back for a 3 with just under 4 minutes left and the game tied. This was one of the more momentous shots in the game and helped the Raptors become World Champs. Seeing this team without Kawhi is upsetting, but seeing promise in young guys could help for the future.
Utah Jazz: Western Conference Finals
This is a tall task for this Jazz team, but I truly believe with the improvements they made this offseason, that it is possible. Going to the Western Conference means you will probably have to beat at least the Lakers or the Clippers to get there. If the Jazz were to beat one of those teams before the WCF, I think it would be a long gritty series. It would be hard for them to recover for their next series, which would probably be against the other LA team. Donovan Mitchell is a special player, that I personally love because he is similar to me because his first love was baseball. His dad was a professional baseball player so he knows what it takes to be good at a high level. He is viscous at the rim, finishing over defenders sometimes almost a foot taller than him. Put him alongside 2x Defensive Player of the year Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and Joe Ingles and you will probably have a top 5 defense in the league. I think the signing of Bojan Bogdanovic was very underrated. He averaged 18 a game last year, and shot almost 43% from 3. It will be either him or Joe Ingles who plays the PF, but they will be interchangeable. The added shooting to this team will only help. The main problem I see for this team is their bench. This is one of the best built starting 5s in the league, however, a bench is essential in making a playoff run. Signing Emmanuel Mudiay was also a little underrated too. He can come in a provide some nice bench scoring. Other than that, this bench needs to emerge as a serviceable NBA bench and prove that they can hold their own, before I can call the Jazz a legitimate contender.
Washington Wizards: Reset
In my opinion, The Wizards need a reset. They have failed to pair up John Wall with the pieces to make a deep playoff run, every since they drafted him first overall back in 2010. He showed great scoring, defensive and playmaking ability to go along with his leadership. This is everything you look for in a point guard. Now, he has suffered a terrible Achilles injury, and will miss the majority, if not the entire season. The good news is, they have great trade assets. Bradley Beal and John Wall are both names that have been tossed around the trade market the last couple of years, because this team has remained a boarder line playoff team every year. Now, with the NBA at its peak due to the competitiveness of more teams this season, contention is not in the near future. Rui Hachimura will be a great start to their rebuild. The 9th overall pick this year, showed great potential at Gonzaga. He averaged just under 20 pts and almost 7 rebounds while shooting 42% from 3. Have you noticed the common theme about what I like in player? They can shoot and play defense. The NBA is becoming a 3 point league. Some teams even live and die by it like the Rockets. But it’s becoming essential on every team. For this Wizards team, I think it’s time to throw in the towel and try to get rid of John Wall’s crazy contract, and just start over.
This was the second half of the NBA. I hope you enjoyed and if you have any feedback or just want to discuss let me know in the comments.
This upcoming basketball season is going to be special. More teams right now are getting better and gaining assets than others. However, obviously not all teams can succeed. So teams need to set realistic goals for themselves based off their roster. I am going to explain what I believe should be the goal coming into this season for half of the teams in the league. Stay tuned for Part 2 which will consist of the second half of the NBA.
Atlanta Hawks: Make the Playoffs
This offseason for the Atlanta Hawks was a very successful one. They drafted 2 players with extremely high potential. The 4th overall pick was Deandre Hunter. Coming out of Virginia he is one of my favorite players in this draft as he proved he can be a future weapon with his 3 point shot. He shot just under 44% in his last season at Virginia while also capturing a National Title. The 10th Pick was Cam Reddish who was voted in a pole by the players in his own draft class to finish with the best career. Cam was the 3rd ranked high school player coming into last college season. With a crowded Duke starting line up, his full potential didn’t show but he has the ability to shoot the ball as well as anybody in this draft. The future looks bright with their stud sophomore point guard Trae Young and the pieces around him could propel them to the 8 seed in the East. This gives the young guys the ability to gain more playoff experience in order to continue to develop for the future.
Boston Celtics: Win 50 games
The Boston Celtics are an interesting team because they did lose lots of pieces in free agency, but were blessed with a plethora of draft picks. They took Romeo Langford from Indiana with the 14th pick and I think his ceiling is very high. He can provide some good bench scoring for this season. Grant Williams was taken with the 22nd pick from Tennessee and they also added Carsen Edwards, a filthy point guard from Purdue who went off in the tournament last year. Not only that but they went out and got Tacko Fall, the 7’6 center from UCF. This team won 49 games last year and the losses of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will for sure show. I believe in this young team and I think this could be the year Jayson Tatum makes that leap we have been waiting for. However, I think a second round exit is warranted as they will miss the defensive impact of Al Horford in the playoffs and many are in question because we have never seen Kemba play with solid pieces around him.
Brooklyn Nets: Make Kyrie happy
This season is obviously not the season that the Nets will be contending. However they will still be a very solid team. As the 6 seed last year they were able to make some noise and show that their young core is solid too. Caris Lavert is an MIP candidate to look out for this season. The additions of Kyrie and Deandre Jordan will only help. I expect this team to be a top 4 seed in the east. The season of 2020-2021 will be when they contend with a healthy KD because that is when this team is the most dangerous. For now make Kyrie happy because Boston went wrong and you don’t want to lose a player of his caliber, at his age.
Charlotte Hornets: Get the #1 overall pick
This offseason was definitely a questionable one for the Hornets. The Hornets were stuck in a tough position on wether to give up on their star point guard Kemba Walker and start the rebuild, or resign him and try to find pieces. Ultimately they made the right decision(or he made it for them) by not resigning him. They gave Terry Rozier a huge contract and I don’t think that his averages of 9 points and 3 assists on 39% shooting last year is worth over $19 million a year. They luckily now have a couple young pieces like P.J. Washington, Miles Bridges and Malik Monk. PJ has a lot of potential. Defensively, he is athletic in his 6ft 8in stature. And was a solid three point shooter at Kentucky shooting 42% his Sophomore year. But they need to be patient and wait for their next couple of years of draft picks to develop and get better talent.
Chicago Bulls: Make the Playoffs
The Bulls got unlucky with the NBA lottery this year. Although they were projected the 4th pick, they fell all the way to 7 for the 3rd year in a row. The 7th Pick, however, has showed some promise for the Bulls. They took Lauri Markkanen in 2017 who set the record for most 3s made by a rookie while making all rookie 1st team. Wendell Carter Jr. Was picked out of Duke by the Bulls in the 2018 Draft. He showed the ability to protect the rim and be a solid all around player for the future. He fits perfectly into the new small ball center role. Lastly, in this years draft, they added Coby White who is a 6’5 point guard out of UNC who is a great scorer and has defensive potential because of his size and athleticism. They also got deep this summer by adding guys like, Thad Young to play defense and shoot the 3. Also Satoransky is a very solid point guard who filled in well in John Wall’s absence. If this team can stay healthy, I believe they can make the 8 seed lead by future first time all star, Zach Lavine. This will give the young guys experience to grow as a team.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Find your guy
Every NBA team has “their guy” and some even have multiple. Whether a team is bad and has a stud to build around or they are contending, every team has “their guy”. But this team is missing that guy. Similar to the Hornets situation. Darius Garland and Colin Sexton are both young prospects that could end up being pretty good. Sexton had a solid rookie season in which he averaged 16.7 points per game. We didn’t see much of Garland in college but we were able to see 5 games in which he averaged 16.2 points and shot almost 48% from three. The Cavs said their goal was to use them in a similar way to a back court duo like Lillard and McCollum, however I cannot see this working out. Sexton (6’3) and Garland (6’2) will have a very hard time guarding opposing teams back courts because of their size disadvantage. That’s why they need to find “their guy” and buy into him. If they find a solid piece to build around and still have a lingering trade asset in Kevin Love, this team could get good again soon. Obviously it could take multiple seasons to find “that guy” but during that time the best thing you can do is accumulate future assets and pieces for down the road.
Dallas Mavericks: Make a playoff push
Last season, Mavericks fans were lucky enough to witness “Luka Magic” which was the very special rookie season that Luka Doncic had. Doncic capped of his season averaging 21.2 pts 7.8 rebs and 6 ast all while taking home the rookie of the year award. Mark Cuban went out and made a move that set up a lethal young duo. The acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks mid season last year shocked the entire NBA. Last time we saw Kristaps on the floor was when he was playing All Star level basketball. He averaged 22.7 points and 2.4 blocks as in just his 3rd season, made the All Star team. Having someone as young as Luka with that high of a ceiling is always a gift as he is even called a generational talent in some people’s eyes. If you add him alongside a 7’3 big that can shoot the ball and protect the rim all while remaining one of the most athletic guys on the court, fans could be in for a treat this season.
Denver Nuggets: Establish yourself as a true contender
The Nuggets have a great foundation, and one of the top young cores in the league. Nikola Jokic is one of my favorite players in the league to watch. He has the vision and passing ability of a point guard with the size and touch around the rim of an elite center. Michael Porter Jr. was a stud in highschool and after missing his entire first season, I’d love to watch him break out. Jamal Murray is a great young point guard who shocked me a lot in the playoffs. He showed the ability to come up in big spots as he went 37/38 from the line during the series against the Trail Blazers and also put up a 21 point 4th quarter to bring the Nuggets back and help them win. Unfortunately this was not enough for the Blazers as they lost the series in 7 in one of the most exciting game 7s I’ve ever watched. Many people last year were sleeping on the Nuggets because of their youth but with one year more of experience now, do not count them out. If they can get better on defense as a team I think they have a serious chance to win the Finals. Finals would set the bar too high as a goal because this team is not championship or bust because they have very young pieces that are still developing. They have a larger window than most NBA teams.
Detroit Pistons: Make some type of move
The Pistons have been one of those teams over the past couple of year who just hang around. Blake Griffin last year had a career year. He made his first All-Star game since the 2014 season and finished this year averaging 24.5 pts 5.4 ast and 7.5 rebs. This was good enough for an All-NBA third team selection. Reggie Jackson has not been the guy they expect him to be but he still has been solid. Drummond is always gonna be a horse on the glass and is a great piece to have on any team. But this team is still not in contention and cannot do much with their roster unless they trade. I liked their first round pick this year in Sekou Doumbouya from France. He is a nice player who can stretch the floor well. Also they signed Derrick Rose who will be a very quality scorer in the starting lineup or off the bench. The moral of the story is that if the Pistons want to be competitive, they need to make a move of some sort to get better because they are a borderline playoff team right now.
Golden State Warriors: Get Klay healthy
The Warriors have been the top contender in the league for the past 5 years. For the first time in a while they can call themselves the underdogs. Many people think that because Kevin Durant left that they are no longer contenders. However, this is not true. Many forget but in 2015, Curry, Klay and Draymond won a Finals by themselves. I know Klay will miss the majority of the year if not the entire year but this offseason they added a really nice asset in D’Angelo Russell. Russell-in just his 4th season-made the all star team for the first time and finished the year averaging 21.1 pts and 7 ast. Russell is only 23 and has a lot of room to grow as the former number 2 overall pick. If they don’t decide to keep him, he can always be traded and definitely will bring in a great haul for the Warriors due to his talent at such a young age. The dynasty is far from over but for this season the main focus should be getting Klay back to his old self.
Houston Rockets: Win NOW!!!!!!!
The Rockets are a fun team that personally, I love watching and I’m even more exited now that Russell Westbrook is there to join Harden. Mike D’antoni has always been a coach known for his offense. He created the seven seconds or less system with 2x MVP Steve Nash and the Suns. With the Rockets he created an offense based around the 3 point shot and iso ball. Harden either creates a shot for himself by stepping back or driving to the rim and then kicks out to one of his shooters. We have seen some historic scoring performances from him in the past because of this. Although we have seen them on top of the West as a 1 seed, they never could get over the jump of the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. James Harden is in his prime right now and the Rockets need to capitalize. They need to win now because compared to other teams they have a lot of smaller of a window due to the age of their players and lack of young assets to trade or develop.
Indiana Pacers: Be solid
The Pacers are a very interesting team because there was not much they can do to improve their team, but they did everything they possibly could to do so. Indiana is not a destination for big names, so it was expected that they wouldn’t be able to sign guys like Kawhi, KD and Kyrie. However, they were able to sign multiple solid players that will make immediate impacts on the team. The signing of Malcom Brogdon was one of the most underrated moves this offseason. He is a guy that any team could use because he can shoot the 3 and play defense. He had a historic season last season but not necessarily because of his numbers, it was his shooting percentages that went in the history books. Brogdon is one of 8 players ever to join the 50-40-90 club. This means that he shot over 50% from the field, over 40% from 3 and over 90% from the free throw line during the course of one season. The other 7 players on this list include names like KD, Steph, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Steve Nash who is the only player to do it more than once. It takes this list to truly show the impact that Brogdon has. Because the health of Oladipo is up in the air, the goal for this team is to just be the solid team that they are until he comes back. If he comes back to be as good as he was before the injury, I would love to see this team try to make a run at it all, but I don’t think that they have the star power to do so.
LA Clippers: Become LA’s team (for now)
Realistically we all know the ultimate goal for this team is to win a championship if not more. This being said, they have something to prove. The Clippers have been the little sibling to the Lakers ever since they made the move to LA in 1984. The Lakers have a rich history and it would take generations on top of more generations for them to catch up. Therefore, the Lakers are LA’s team even if they win a championship. But that is no saying that they can’t rule LA for a small period of time. The Western Conference Finals that most people expect in the West is to be Lakers vs Clippers. This is where you have to put your money where your mouth is and prove to the league that you are LA’s team. If Kawhi and Paul George leave the Clippers without a ring, than it is 6 first round picks down the drain. This was an all in move and I’m exited to see how it turns out.
LA Lakers: Championship or Bust
The Lakers have Lebron James. This automatically makes them a contender. Than, you add in Anthony Davis, some guys who can shoot, and you have arguably the best roster in the league. Lebron is getting older-as much as everyone hates to admit-but the league some time in the near future will see Lebron retire. I don’t know if it will be with the Lakers or with another team, but similar to the Rockets situation, their championship window is closing. What makes their situation better for the future than the Rockets, is that they have Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis is only 26 and can definitely attract future free agents after Lebron leaves. This offseason was a huge success for the Lakers because as I mentioned early, they signed a lot of 3 point shooters. Lebron plays best with shooters. He gets the majority of his assists from driving to the hoop and kicking out. This was most apparent in Miami. Looking at the Miami roster you see guys like Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and even Rashard Lewis could even knock down a shot. Comparing this roster to the Lakers, there are many similarities. Some of the shooters on the Lakers roster consist of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley and Danny Green. These players are similar to the players on the Heat team because they play similar roles and don’t demand the ball a lot. I think this team is set up for success extremely well and if they don’t win with Lebron than many might start to question his legacy.
Memphis Grizzlies: Give young players opportunities
The lottery treated the Grizzlies well as they moved up to the 2nd pick in the draft and took Ja Morant. They moved Mike Conley (who was solid but just didn’t fit the timeline) to the Jazz to make room for their new young center piece. The point guard from Murray State showed unreal potential last season. In college he showed off his freak athleticism buy constantly putting opponents on posters. He has a natural will to score the ball. He average 24.5 points and shot 36% from three. Not only is Ja a scorer but he possesses the ability to pass the ball with the best of them. He lead the NCAA by being the only player to average double digit assists with 10 a game. Other than him there are a lot more young players on this team that deserve playing time. Obviously they have Jaren Jackson Jr. who I think will be a great fit at the 4 or the 5 in today’s NBA. But many might overlook their later picks in the drafts over the past couple of years but I think they drafted well. Most fans know about Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant but I think Grayson Allen (23yrs), Dillon Brooks(23), Bruno Cabocolo(24), Brandan Clarke(23), Josh Jackson(22), Tyus Jones(23) and Ivan Rabb(22) all deserve quality minutes to try and prove themselves in this league. I would look out for one or more of these players to break out if given enough playing time. The goal here is think future, because you aren’t going to win now.
These are the first 15 teams in the NBA alphabetically. The second half of the league will be found in part 2. Feel free to leave any comments about anything you agree on or disagree on because I love to discuss.
The 2019-2020 NBA Season is destined for greatness. Almost half the NBA is in contention with the league wide open. But at the end of the season who will take home these 6 awards? Here are my predictions for the upcoming season and also one “Sleeper Pick” or “Hot Take” as I like to call it.
NBA Coach of The Year (CoTY)
Luke Walton-Sacramento Kings
Doc Rivers- Los Angeles Clippers
Mike Budenholzer- Milwaukee Bucks
Mike D’Antoni- Houston Rockets
Winner: Doc Rivers
Often the CoTY award is given to the team with the best record in the league. I have D’antoni in here because the rockets are always a great regular season team but I don’t think he is near a top 3 coach in the league. I believe the Bucks will remain the top team in the East (in terms of record) so that is why Bud is up there. However, Doc is one of the best in the business and knows how to work with multiple stars. He took the full strength Warriors in round one to 6 games in the playoffs without having arguably the 2 best two-way players in the league. Even with load management this team is deep and will win games even when Kawhi and/or Paul George rest. Doc will take home his second CoTY award; his first dating back to his first ever season in the league in 1999 with the Magic. Luke Walton is a VERY…VERY big bold prediction I know. The kings have a lethal young core that showed lots of promise and Luke Walton can have his fresh start in Sacramento and maybe they can make a leap to become a playoff team.
NBA Sixth Man Award
Derrick Rose-Detroit Pistons (Please come off the bench and put up 18-4-4 Drose)
Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers
Domantas Sabonis- Indiana Pacers
Fred Vanvleet- Toronto Raptors
Winner: Lou Williams
Nobody says it better than Drake. “6 man like Lou Will.” One of my favorite players to watch play is Lou Williams. He is a walking bucket. His job is to provide a spark from the bench and that’s exactly what he does by giving the Clippers 20 points per game off the bench last year. Having already won the award 3 times it would be no surprise to anyone to see him win again. Sabonis I like but does not fit well with Myles Turner so I think he would provide great depth off the bench for the Pacers and I’d love to see Vanvleet take a big leap this year and hopefully become the starter for the 2020-2021 season with a nice mentor in Kyle Lowry and a ring under his belt.
NBA Rookie of The Year (RoTY)
Michael Porter Jr.-Denver Nuggets
Zion Williamson-New Orleans Pelicans
R.J. Barrett-New York Knicks
Tyler Herro-Miami Heat
Winner: R.J. Barrett
Most are not surprised with the first 2 choices but the 3rd may surprise you. Zion to start off is a freak of nature and will be nothing short of that in the NBA if he can stay healthy. However, at least for his rookie year I don’t see his numbers being up there with R.J.’s. Zion has more young developing players around him that are trying to find themselves in the NBA and they need to fill the stat sheet too. David Griffin has also made it clear that this is not Zions team (yet), he said that it is still Jrue Holiday’s team. R.J. will take more shots than Zion and will ultimately average more points but on worse shooting. Not many people look at shooting percentages especially for rookies with no help around them. R.J. could potentially even average 20 a game this year. Herro is a great player and was overlooked at Kentucky but in the Summer League we could see assets of his game that we didn’t get to see in college like the ability to create his own shot or get to the hoop and create for others. Herro is a great upcoming player and is the piece Miami needs to push them into the playoffs. (By the way don’t sleep on Michael Porter Jr. either-we all know what he was in High School).
NBA Most Improved Player (MIP)
Lauri Markkanen-Chicago Bulls
Jayson Tatum-Boston Celtics
Jamal Murray-Denver Nuggets
Caris Lavert-Brooklyn Nets
Winner: Jayson Tatum
The MIP is interesting every year because it is always hard to predict who will take that leap to the next level in their NBA careers. I believe last year Tatum got a lot of hate but did not play as bad as most people think. He had a couple rough shooting splints but still maintained 15.7 points per game. We saw Tatum go off in the 2018 playoffs. If he can play like he did in those playoffs, (the last time he played without Kyrie) the Celtics could be a true contender this year. Caris LeVert got robbed last year as he started off the season on a tear but unfortunately only played 40 games due to injury. He came back and showed solid stuff in the playoffs and I hope he continues into this season. Jamal Murray just came off a great playoff run as we saw him play in big spots with Jokic for the first time in their young careers together. Now that Murray got the bag he can just go out and hoop like he always does. I expect a great season from him possibly even leading the league in FT%. For my bold prediction I chose Lauri because every single one of his stats went up last year including raising his points per game by 3, his rebounds by 2 and had better percentages than his rookie year. If he can play a full season he may be able to win Most Improved Player.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year (DPoY)
Mitchell Robinson-New York Knicks
Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz
Paul George-Los Angeles Clippers
Anthony Davis-Los Angeles Lakers
Winner: Paul George
The DPoY award is dominated by centers as Rudy Gobert has claimed the award the past 2 years. A center or power forward has won the award every year since 2004 except in 2014 and 2015 when Kawhi won it. However this is something Paul George not only needs, but deserves on his resume as he has averaged over 2 steals the past 2 years including averaging the most steals per game in the league last season and that’s why he will take home the award. We all already know about Anthony Davis’s defensive abilities but I also believe AD will have a lot of opportunities to block shots with the Lakers weak defensive backcourt. Then, of course we have Rudy who has been an anchor for the Jazz since he’s been drafted. His impact goes far beyond his blocks as he makes everyone around him better on defense. I think this award will go the the player whose team has the best record similar to CoTY and MVP. Mitch Rob is my bold prediction because he was second in the league in blocks per game last year with 2.4 in only 20 minutes played per game. If Mitch can learn to not foul as much he may assume a bigger role on a young Knicks team.
NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Joel Embid- Philadelphia 76ers
Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks
Lebron James-Los Angeles Lakers
Stephen Curry- Golden State Warriors
Winner: Lebron James
To be completely honest with you. This would be my biggest nightmare. That is exactly why it will happen. I have the upmost respect for Lebron James as a player and a person but I am a Jordan advocate. If this happens the debate will be brought to the next level and I think that’s exactly what the NBA wants. Lebron has something to prove. For the first time in maybe 10-12 years Lebron is not the best player in the league in everybody’s eyes. Being the great that he is, he will silence all the haters by taking home his 5th MVP this season. Lebron is not human. He is still one of the most athletic and dominant players in the league even though he is the 5th oldest player on an active NBA roster. It is also Lebron’s first time not going to the Finals since 2010. He didn’t even make the playoffs. Lebron has had more time to prepare his body, rest and even get better for the next season. He will come in and dominate with his new superstar teammate Anthony Davis and shooters around them. Also, if it was up to Lebron, he would not sit a game until they clinched a playoff birth. Giannis is only getting better and it’s scary. Based on his rapid development and the things he has said to the media, he seems like he knows what it takes to truly be great. He will come back stronger, more skilled and smarter. Don’t sleep on his jumper either. Expect an even better year from Giannis! Steph is destined for a great year. The last time Curry played a full year without KD was when he was the first ever unanimous league MVP in 2016. In game 3 of the Finals with no KD Steph put up 47. I think he is out to prove that the Bay Area dynasty isn’t over just yet. Not only will he be missing KD, Klay will be out for the majority of the season if not the entire season with his ACL injury. In game 6 we saw Curry go off for 33 in the second half and he was without Klay for the last 14 minutes of the game. I truly think he can have a wild season. Embid is my wildcard. I believe it is very rare he will finish as a finalist, however, I also think it’s possible that he takes the step from superstar to Top 5 player in the league. If at any point he deals with injuries during the season, he won’t win MVP. The Sixers won’t risk not having him for the playoffs when they can slide Tobias and Horford up to the 4 and 5 from the 3 and 4 whenever they want. If Embid plays over 70 games this year I think that there is a strong chance that he can be a finalist and a future league MVP.
Do you have any bold predictions or sleeper picks for the upcoming season?