Both of these teams took very different roads to get to where they are at. The Nuggets were down 3-1 twice and came back to win. The first team to ever do that twice in a single playoffs and they have only played in 2 rounds. For the Lakers, they lost game 1 in both series, but after flipping the switch the Lakers cruised to win the next 4 in both. The Lakers are the clear favorite as the 1 seed with Lebron James and Anthony Davis. They need their role players to step up and knock down shots. Danny Green, KCP and all other spot up shooters mush show up this series. I am also interested to see whether they have AD guarding Jokic or they have Javale. They can throw a lot of different looks at him which the Clippers and Jazz both did not have the rosters to do. They have multiple big men who can match up with him. Other than matching up on him you need to close out on their perimeter shooters and you need to watch the cuts when Jokic has the ball in the post. He is a lethal passer and can fit it into any window to hit his player. If the Lakers can minimize the Nuggets offense, theirs could be just enough to get them the wins they need. On the other side of the ball, the Nuggets really stepped up defensively when it mattered most this playoffs. I have talked about this as the key all along for the Nuggets. Can Jokic match up and keep up with AD and all the other big centers on their team. Not to mention that they have Lebron who is an oversized point guard. The height of the Lakers is very hard to match, especially for the poor defensive Nuggets team. However, I give Mike Malone a lot of credit. His defensive adjustments for the second half of games have been spot on. They have made multiple large deficit comebacks all playoffs and it is mostly because of their defense. The Nuggets team +/- in the 2nd half was -23 through the first 4 games in the Clippers series in which they went down 3-1. The Clippers were getting their buckets, playing their defense and doing their thing. But Mike Malone must have found something because the 3 games in a row that the Nuggets had won, their team plus minus was +63 in the second half of the final 3 games of the series. That means that the Nuggets outscored the clippers by an average of 21 points in the second half of the each of the final 3 games of the series. That is almost unheard of. The Clippers completely fell apart and struggled to even score 15 points in the final quarter of the series. If the Nuggets can keep up this 2nd have defense and intensity, they have a pretty solid chance. It ain’t easy to go through Lebron and Lebron will make sure of the fact that he does not blow a 3-1 lead. I think if the Nuggets want a chance they gotta get off to a hot start and keep it going in game 2. If you win game 1 you gotta come out and win game 2. I think this is important because the last 2 series losing game 1 was a “wake up call” for Lebron and the Lakers. They were steam rolling after that. If the Nuggets could go up 2-0 (I would still not count the Lakers out not even a little bit) than it makes it a lot easier on them only having to win 2 out of the next 4. With Jamal Murray’s ability to take over games down the stretch and steal a game for you, and the Lakers somewhat lack of that, will make for a fun series.
This is the matchup that I thought would be the most competitive and fun to watch and I am beyond glad that we got it. I think these teams are very similar and matchup very evenly. Both these teams have such a great mix of veteran and young players that all contribute and play together well as a team and I think that is shining more than anything in this weird 2020 in the bubble. The Heat had little to no problem taking down the top record of the league in the Bucks in just 5 games. Their versatility on defense is elite. Jimmy is an elite defender all around and Bam Adebayo is as well. Having a small ball center that can switch onto point guards is quickly becoming an essential in today’s modern NBA. Both teams actually have this. Bam being the obvious one for the Heat as he made all defensive second team. But for the Celtics they actually have 2 guys like that. That is Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. Their offensive/tall center is Enes Kenter. Brad Stevens gets extremely creative with his subs when it comes to his centers including sometimes switching them before 2 minutes in the first quarter has even passed. Both these coaches unique styles and ability to adapt on the fly is another reason this series will be great. They both are elite defensive coaches and the offense is always there as well. They always seem to find ways to get their players in spots on offense where they can succeed and do what they are best at which I think sometimes is the biggest problem for coaches. It is easier said than done though of course. Sometimes, coaches try to mold their players to fit their system when really the job of a coach is the other way around, mold your system to your players. Call offensive sets that put your guys in position where they feel comfortable (for example have a right handed player catch a screen handoff running to his right not his left) which I think is often overlooked skill of a coach. Not only do both these teams have elite defenses, elite coaching and elite offense, they also have elite shot making ability in the 4th quarter down the stretch. This is also made a lot easier if your coach puts you in a good position to succeed in the half court offense like I mentioned earlier. I talked about how the Heat had this “shot making” ability and the Bucks did not and that is why I thought they would beat the Bucks in my preview article for that series. (If you want to look at my take it was spot on at https://vicspx.com/2020/08/31/miami-heat-vs-milwaukee-bucks-ec-semis-preview/ ) The teams main closers down the stretch are Jayson Tatum for the Celtics and Jimmy Butler for the Heat. They have knocked down big shots for the entire playoffs, the entire season and their entires careers. What makes these teams so fun though is that they aren’t the only guys on their team that do that. All last series Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro knocked down timely shot after timely shot. Dragic was the Heat’s leading scorer or tied for it in 2 out of 5 games last series. He is a huge spark to their scoring and is a great team player. For the Celtics, other than Tatum, Kemba is also an elite shot maker down the stretch which we have seen since back to his collegiate days at Uconn. Jaylen Brown knocked down timely shots last series and so did Marcus Smart. Smart’s elite defense will be there all series but if he can shoot well from 3 like he did against the Bucks, that is a very good sign for the Celtics. He shot 39% from 3 against the Raptors compared to his 13% in the Sixers series in the first round. Hopefully for the Celtics he is catching fire just in time for a run. These teams are extremely similar in terms of their “new school” small ball centers, elite defensive players like Jimmy and Bam vs Jaylen Brown and Smart, mixed with elite coaches and great 4th quarter shot making. This series is set up to be the great one and I think it will come down to which team has the “clutch gene” at the end of the game more often than the other. Who can “steal the game” at the end? This could very well go 7 and even if not, all the games will probably be close anyway. I think this is going to be one of the best series so far this playoffs. Feel free to comment/debate in the comments I am all for it.
This may be a way more interesting series than some think. The Heat were 2-1 against the Bucks in the regular season. Yes the Bucks have the best record in the league. Yes they have the DPOY and probably future back to back MVP. But the Heat have a bad bad man on their team named Jimmy Butler. The heat have proved this season that they are a legit contender. Jimmy has been taking over games down the stretch with his elite shot making ability and defense. Something a poised vet like him does very well is also “make the right play.” Which is a lot harder than it sounds. He lets the game come to him and does everything he can to win. He needs his guys to show up too. Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic all showed up last series. Bam Adebayo is gonna also have to be that defensive animal we all know and don’t forget about playoff Iggy. They will be key bodies to throw at Giannis to contain him. There is not much to say about the Bucks that has not already been said. We know why the Bucks should win but the Heat have a very comelling arugument. The key for the Bucks has been the same all year. Role players knock down shots, especially Middleton, and get big halfcourt buckets late in games: Middleton and Giannis (something the Heat specialize in). I think this is going to be a very gritty series of 2 great NBA teams and coaches and I am excited to watch. Do not be surprised if the Heat make it very competitive or even win (not a prediction).
This has been a weird year to say the least. It’s August and at this time I’d usually be gearing up for the MLB playoffs, but I can’t complain about having that and the NBA. Us sports fans are aloud to be a little spoiled after the 4-5 month drought we had when the most entertaining things on TV were Korean baseball and Corn Hole. Luckily the NBA is back and we are ready to head into the long awaited playoffs. This article I will preview every matchup as well as share my opinion on them and on the bubble in general. I may make rough predictions but I never like to make predictions. I like to discuss and then enjoy we’ll history is happening. If I predict, too often I find myself rooting for one team we’ll a basketball fan of a non playoff team like myself really just wants to see a great game. Also, with no fans this year and unfamiliar scenery, anything can happen. The Suns went 8-0.
Truthfully, only time will tell who is going to win and I like to enjoy it we’ll it’s happening.
I am absolutely loving the bubble so far. The players are pure entertainment. Seeing them interact around the campus and everything is extremely fun. Especially watching some of the guys post their vlogs on YouTube. I think it’s also been really cool to see players step up in bigger roles because of the absences of some players. TJ Warren and Gary Trent are just a few examples. Overall the NBA restart went better than almost everyone expected and I’m extremely excited for the playoffs.
Bucks vs Magic
Last year the Magic surprised us and took game 1 against the eventual champs Toronto Raptors. DJ Augustin hit the most cold blooded shot of his life. Guarding Giannis is a difficult enough task as it is. With Johnathan Issac recently tearing his ACL, the Magic will be missing their best defensive player and their best one on one matchup against Giannis on the defensive side of the ball. His frame is similar. He’s long lengthy and has a nose for the ball. I hope he gets well soon and comes back strong in the future. Even with John Issac healthy, the Magic are still severe underdogs to the team with the best record in the league, as well as the front runner to win MVP and maybe even DPOY too.
Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers
Oh boy am I excited for this one. This series can end up being a long and gritty one. The beef between TJ Warren and Jimmy Butler is starting to heat up just in time. They have had multiple altercations on the court over this season and in the past. Now that TJ Warren is playing at an elite all star level, it’s going to be a lot of fun watching him go back and fourth with Jimmy Buckets. They still have plenty of other young guys like Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn that are all going to have to step up. I’m interested to see how this young team plays in the playoffs together for the first time. With a good leader like Jimmy Butler, who is focused on one goal and that’s to win, I’d be satisfied with where the Heat are if I was a fan. They are set up perfectly to sign a big name pretty soon to fit in with the great core they already have. Don’t forget about playoff Iggy too, we all know he turns up. For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo has been working back from the injury he suffered last year and has showed glimpses of his all star self, but hasn’t quite bursted out of the bubble wrap yet (no pun intended). In the bubble when he has played hes looked alright just has not been very effiecent. Overall this is defientley going to be one of the best of the first round matchups I think with a lot of drama.
76ers vs Celtics
Unfortuantely for the 76ers thery will be missing their all star point guard/power forward Ben Simmon who suffered a season ending injury during his time in the bubble. This will be a major negative with him as the floor general on offense, and an elite defender on the other side of the ball. The Sixers are built for defense though with Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Al Horford and Joel Embid. When Simmons missed time most recently this last season, the team did not take a huge fall however. They were able to succeed still because the game opened up more for them with Simmons off the court. But besides shooting, hes a guy that does everything well and you definitely wish you could have him out there to guard 1-5 on a nightly basis like he does. Joel Embid needs to dominate because he is the mismatch against Danie Theis. The Celtics can make a big statement here if they “take care of business like they should.” The reason I say this is because they are the 3 seed and the Sixers are the 6. They are already the favorite in the series without Simmons out. If the Celtics take this in 6 or less games it could be a very good confidence booster for them because they are a team that can definitely make a run with the emerging star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The positionless lineup the Celtics run might be able to expose the absence of Ben Simmons. With the sixers missing a key defensive player, it may be harder to guard the more versital Celtics lineup.
Raptors vs Nets
Unfortunately, a common theme of the bubble, the Nets are not at full stentgh. But no team compares to them at all. Obviously they are missing KD which is a lot to begin with but we knew that and expected that coming in. Kyrie had season ending shoulder surgery and same with rookie Nicholas Claxton. Deandre Jordan, Michael Beasely and Taurean Prince all had Covid-19 before the restart and decided not to participate. Spencer Dinwidee and Wilson Chandler also decided not to play in the restart. Even Jamal Crawford who they signed as a roster filler in the bubble got hurt his first game back. This year ultimately is not the year for the Nets and hopefully next year they are healthy and can contend. The Raptors on the other hand are a team that nobody wants to face this year. They are coming in with a chip on their shoulder and a winning attitude. They act like they been there before, and are one of the most well coached teams in the league. In my opinion, without a doubt the coach of the year should be Nick Nurse and executive of the year should be Masai Uriji. The winning culture that them two have built there is the model all teams around the league should use. They might not be the most talented team, but their length and grit on defense gives them and edge that very few teams have. They had the number 2 defense in the league this year and it is all because of Nick Nurse’s unique way of getting the best out of all his players. He mixes in different traps in the halfcourt and backcourt and also will often switch to zone for a few possessions. They make professional NBA players look confused sometimes with their different defensives looks. All this mixed with their great depth is scary because many teams do not have that in the bubble.
Lakers vs Blazers
The Lakers have been atop the West all year and are ready to make a run. They are a top 5 offense and defense in the league. Oh and also they have these 2 guys on their team named Lebron James and Anthony Davis. These two have been the dynamic duo all year. Lebron led the league in assists for the first time and he is geared up for another deep playoff run. Anthony Davis has never been in a deep playoff run, but we know the type of player he is and the impact he adds on both sides of the court. For this Blazers team it will definitely be tough. Lillard has been going off in the bubble and I am interested to see what Frank Vogel plans to do to stop him from putting up 60. It was interesting to see to see multiple teams try and trap Lillard at the top of the key but that leaves a 3 on 2 for Nurkic who just needs to make the right play. However, the Lakers interior defense is their strong suit so this might be the best way of stopping him. They have so many shot blockers on their team backed up by the fact that they led the league in blocks this year. With AD at the 4 and whoever running the 5, especially with Lebron at point guard, their lineup will always be big. But the difference between this team and most is that they can also go small and play AD at the 5 and Lebron at the 4 which they haven’t showed much of this season because they do not have to. Watching the play in game, it was interesting to see Terry Stotts run a lineup with both Nurkic and Whiteside in it to combat the Lakers big lineup. I am very interested to see how these teams play against each other as they have very different play styles. If the Blazers want any chance, they need to step up their defense. This could also be one of the last times we see Melo and Bron on the court together dating nack to high school on this big of a stage so enjoy it.
Rockets vs Thunder
This is a matchup only the Thunder could have dreamed about since last offseason. When Russell Westbrook was traded, many thought the Thunder were done contending, but CP3 and my man Shai Gilgeous-Alexander thought otherwise. CP3 is one of the most underated players in the league and he may not put up the most mind blowing stats, but he contributes to winning basketball always. There is no question the Rockets have more talent. They have 2 former MVPs on their team and both of them will probably finish in the top 10 of voting this year as well. But for the Rockets it’s all about making timely shots. We all know James Harden and Russel Westbrook will get there numbers and put up stats. But they got to get hot right now and make timely shots if they want to make a deep playoff run. The Thunder having Roberson back from injury after over 2 years of not playing is huge. He was an elirte permiter defender and hopefully for the Thunder he can help guard James Harden. This series is really hard to predict and I am just going to enjoy every second of it.
Jazz vs Nuggets
The Nuggets have been great all year behind Jokic and company and they are looking to make a deep run finally this year. The Nuggets main focus should be their defense. The Jazz are a very good defensive team and also a good offense team. If they can slow down the Jazz just enough for their offense to prevail, that would be their best shot at the series. The chances of you winning a shootout against the Jazz are very low because of how good they are defensively. Led by 2x defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert and 1st time all-star for him and Donovan Mitchell, this team has a lot of talent and they would not be someone I would want to matchup against in the first round. They play gritty and are well coached. The Nuggets are also very well coached. Mike Malone is going to have to mix up his matchups and try to slow down the Jazz’s offense for the best shot to win the series. For the Jazz, their role players gotta step up like they have all year. Ingles and especially Mike Conley (congrats on the new born son I know you may miss the first 3-4 games) all need to come up in big moments. Jordan Clarkson is also a great spark plug off the bench for them. The Nuggets need their guys like Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol to really step up. This is going to be a good series and I am exited to see what happens.
Clippers vs Mavs
The Mavericks drew the worst draw here. After finishing the season with one of the best offenses in NBA history they get matched up against the juggernut of the Clippers. Luka had an unreal season, one of the best sophmore campaigns we have ever seen. Him and Kristaps as a future duo is going to be lethal. The Mavs have great role players as well like Maxi Kleber, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Seth Curry who are all great shooters for Luka to kick out to. It will not be easy for Luka in this series because he will probably be guarded by a surpluss of elite defenders that the Clippers have. For the Clippers, you just cannot lose focus. Yes they are the 7 seed but this is one of the more talented 7 seeds we have ever seen. Luka brings it every night. They will probably throw guys like Kawhi, Paul George and Pat Beverley on him to mix up the looks. I think this is going to be one of the more fun series to watch.
This NBA playoffs is the most unpredictable one yet and it is more competitive now than ever before.
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.
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.
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 Knicks are one of the most iconic NBA teams and is the favorite child of the media and the League. The NBA loves nothing more than watching big market teams succeed helping them gain revenue and an audience. That is exactly why you would think the Knicks should succeed. However with horrific ownership, multiple draft and trade mistakes and poor development you get the Knicks. Luckily for the Knicks, they might have just found their hero.
RJ Barrett is a 6’7 Sg/Sf from Duke, nicknamed the Maple Mamba. He arguably has a ceiling that is just as high as anyone in the draft(Hot take…I know). He is a crafty wing who showed potential to be a superstar in high school and in college. If given the keys to the city and the team with some successful draft days in the future, they can develop a very strong young core around him(will talk about later). With the potential of a superstar, an NBA built body and the mindset of his godfather Steve Nash, RJ can end up being the savior for the Knicks franchise. It is all written perfectly. The 3rd pick. Like Michael Jordan was the savior of basketball in the late 80s. RJ will be the savior for the Knicks.
Although not getting Kyrie and KD is disappointing, the Knicks might just be better off without them. The reason I believe it is best for the Knicks Franchise is because I think a fresh start is exactly what they need. The Knicks just cleared almost all of their bad contracts, and now have a clean slate. We saw the Lakers this season struggle because their young players were not given the freedom on the basketball court to feel things out, find their way and preform. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are 2 prospects with very high potential but were put into an unfortunate role as more of a spot up shooter alongside Lebron. It is not easy to learn from your mistakes and get better especially when you can’t even play your own game. KD and Kyrie would stunt the development of RJ and with them on the court he would never reach his full potential.
Future talent has never been better as their are more hyped up college and high school-heck even middle school-prospects to come. We saw the Warriors build their dynasty with successful drafts. They were able to pick Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in the same draft we’ll also drafting a solid role player in Festus Ezeli all in 2012. They got Steph at 7 in 2009 and Klay at 11 in 2011. Originally- of course-with a young core, you are going to struggle. There will be growing pains and chemistry building needed to be successful in the league. The warriors devolved their players to play the role that they envisioned for them and built s championship team. KD was the only signing but even without KD the Dynasty was built through the draft. If the Knicks were able to replicate the success of the Warriors with their drafts, with all of their future draft assets, can create a lethal young core.
The upcoming drafts have players with start studded talent the Knicks should look to draft like James Weissman, Cole Anthony and Lamelo Ball (I purposely did not mention a wing player because of RJ). There is 2 real questions about the Knicks future. 1-Who will they pick? 2-How will the Knicks develop them? Obviously most of the time drafting is not easy(unless you were the pelicans this year). But if the Knicks do not think that they have the right staff to draft the right players than get rid of them. Start fresh in the front office if you need to as well. The staff also needs to find the best in every prospect and bring out the best player in them.
The Knicks are set for the future. The Knicks this year will probably improve a little with young future role players/assets like Trier, Knox and Mitch Rob further developing and of course RJ Barrett. But I would guess that most people will predict that they will miss the playoffs next year. This means that the Knicks will not only have an entry in the lottery, they will have an even better chance than before with the new lottery odds. We saw teams skip all over the place in the lottery this year. Anything is possible as we saw the lakers, grizzlies and pelicans all fall inside the top 5 without even being projected there. Not only that but they have future assets like 2 first rounders from the Mavs in 2021 and 2023. Also 2 seconds from a Charlotte in 2020 and 2021. The Knicks have set themselves up for success with short contracts this summer. When the players they pick in future drafts start to develop, that money will be off their books and it will open room for a big name free agent possibly. This is exactly why they are better off building through the draft. Teams are built through chemistry and failure. They get another lottery pick, than eventually make the playoffs and gain experience and chemistry throughout the journey. Then they are ready to make a run. We saw it just this year with a young Brooklyn team that nobody expected anything out of. They were one solid piece away from making a serious run. It is the players development as a team that makes them great not their individual development.
RJ is a franchise caliber player and can turn things around for the Knicks. I believe that if the Knicks draft well in the future, and RJ develops into the superstar that he has the potential to be, the Knicks will be in good position for years to come. Make RJ the face of not just the team but the city. Give him everything New York. Surround a stud like RJ with the right talent and you are in for something dangerous. The Knicks have a clean slate. If they mess this up, something needs to change in the front office, or Dolan needs to sell the team.