Category Archives: NBA

2017-2018 NBA Season Preview

The NBA summer was the most interesting and fascinating offseason in recent memory due to the amount of transactions and the significance of these deals. Multiple Hall of Famers, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul, changed teams this offseason, which partially switched the power dynamic in the NBA. In addition to these future Hall of Famers, current stars in their prime, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Paul Millsap, all changed teams this offseason. Along with the number of stars that switched sides this offseason, many of these players were traded, which has never been done before to this height.

Favorite: Golden State Warriors

Even though the Warriors did not add any new components to their team, they are the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA championship and are vying for the title of the greatest team of all-time and become a dynasty. Though the Warriors did not acquire another star, they were one of the winners of the offseason because they were able to keep their key supporting parts, Andre Iguodala, David West, Zaza Pachulia, and Shaun Livingston, while acquiring valuable scoring bench players such as Nick Young and Omar Cassapi. The Warriors do not have any flaws on their team because even though they lack a true center, they are able to play small and avoid the issue. Their “death lineup” of Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Iguodala has not been stopped and there is no team with the capabilities to overcome their combination of great defense and explosive offense. In addition, they are all willing to share the ball and play as a team, which eliminates the possibility of “hero ball” and stagnate offense. On defense, outside of Curry, they are all extremely athletic, lengthy, and willing to play together as a team. Even though some will speculate that other teams can compete with the Warriors to drive viewership, no other team can compete with the Warriors and they will win their second consecutive title and third title in four years.

Other Contenders: Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder

Outside of the San Antonio Spurs, each of these made major offseason moves in an attempt to better themselves and increase their chance at dethroning the defending champions. The most interesting move of the offseason was the Kyrie Irving/Isaiah Thomas deal between the Cavaliers and the Celtics. The additions of Dwyane Wade, Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Jeff Green should make the Cavs a better team and give them a higher chance of defeating the Warriors. While they improved their depth, they still do not have a good defense and the will severely miss Irving’s ability to create offense against any defender. IT and DWade have great offensive talent, but IT looked exposed against elite defenses and Wade is too old to be consistently relied upon to run the offense. The Cavaliers have their flaws, but they remain the class of the Eastern Conference as long as James dawns Cleveland on his jersey. The other side of the deal should help the Celtics close the gap between themselves and the Cavaliers in the East. Kyrie gives Boston an elite scorer who can dominate a game. In addition to Kyrie, Hayward is a star in the league and the trio of him, Irving, and Horford will keep the Celtics as a top two team in the East. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome the Cavs unless one of their talented young players, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, or Jayson Tatum, take a significant leap forward and become a dependable star. Due to the added storylines, the series between the Cavs and Celtics will definitely be more exciting and closer than last years Eastern Conference Final.

In the West, Houston  made the first big move of the offseason when they convinced Chris Paul exit the City of Angels and join Houston. The combination of Paul and James Harden may be the most exciting 1-2 combo in the league. Although there will be questions about who is running the offense since they are both ball dominant players, they are too talented and driven to succeed to not figure out the problem. However, the Rockets will likely not climb higher than the third best team in the West because a lot of other star power. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, and Ryan Anderson are nice players, but they are not at the level of the other contending teams. Even though the Spurs did not acquire a marquee player during the offseason, the combination of Popovich and Kawhi Leonard is too dangerous of a duo to not be one of the best teams in the West. The Spurs’ style of play will guarantee the team 50+ wins, but they look like nothing more than a second round team, unless Aldridge return to his past dominant self and become a superstar once again. Finally, the team with the best opportunity to beat the Warriors is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sam Presti has done an incredible job of recovering from the Durant departure and exchanging picks and spare parts into Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Carmelo is an aging star, but he is still a fabulous offensive player and will be determined to win a championship. George is one of the preeminent players in the league as he is one of the best two way players in the league. George and Anthony will give the Thunder the capability of keeping up with the Warriors on offense. Steven Adams is a solid fourth option and will add toughness and defense to the starting lineup. However, the rest of the team is subpar and will ultimately be their undoing. The team’s biggest asset and the player that gives the team the best chance of beating the Dubs is Russell Westbrook. The reining MVP would like nothing more than defeat Kevin Durant and the Warriors. Although this determination may drive him to work too hard and attempt too many breath taking plays, he has a lot of talent around him and must rely on his teammates.

Interesting Teams to Watch: Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philadelphia 76ers

Due to an incredible inflow of young talent, these three teams have the potential to take a large step forward and make the playoffs. The Bucks took a major step forward last season and it was mostly due to the emergence of Giannis as a legitimate superstar. Giannis should continue to improve his game as he learns to develop a jump shot and adds muscle to his slight frame. Along with Giannis, the team has solid young players such as Jabari Parker, Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton. With Jason Kidd as their head coach, the team will continue improving and enacting a position-less system. Due to the team’s versatility and athleticism, they can continue to overwhelm their opponents on both sides of the court. The team will need to develop a second star to partner with Giannis, but they have the potential to become the next great team in the East, when LeBron decides to either retire or head west. The other team in the East that will be fascinating to watch is the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers have been terrible for years, but they are finally ready to see the benefits of “The Process”. During his brief stint last season, Embiid looked like an absolute force that can dominate a game offensively and defensively. Ben Simmons has looked extremely talented during the preseason and some believe that he has the skill and size to play like Magic Johnson. First overall pick Markelle Fultz has been dealing with injuries this preseason, but he was the number one overall pick for a reason and has superstar talent.

There may not be a team in the NBA that can boast more young talent than the Minnesota Timberwolves. The combination of Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins will put fear into opposing teams for years. KAT may already be the best big man in the league because he can do so many different things on the court. The team has the potential to make the playoffs this season because of the additions they made during the offseason. The additions of veterans Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague will make the team more savvy and intelligent, which is dangerous because of their great talent.

Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas: The biggest trade of the past decade

Deals like this are not supposed to happen. A superstar player who has been to three straight titles, hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history, and helped a city win a title for the first time in 40 years is not supposed to request a trade. Similarly, a star player who was top three in the league in scoring, led a team to the best record in their division, and revived the hopes of one of the league’s hallmark franchises is not supposed to be seen as expendable. Lastly, teams that competed in the conference finals and were prohibitive favorites to meet once again are not supposed to trade pieces let alone superstars, especially at the same position. However, last night one of the biggest trades in NBA history occurred as the Cleveland Cavaliers sent Kyrie Irving to Beantown in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Nets first round pick. Speculation about Kyrie being traded after his trade demand has swirled over the past month as multiple teams such as the Suns, Knicks, Timberwolves, and Spurs were seen as the most likely candidates to acquire the young point guard. At the end of the day, this was the best deal that the Cavaliers could have received as it keeps the team as the conference favorites while protecting their future in case LeBron James decides to leave after the season.

The Cavaliers were in a peculiar position because they are a win-now team and anything besides a title appearance would be seen as a disappointed, but they are also looking toward the future in case of the departure of LeBron. The Cavaliers were able to satisfy both these needs through this trade, which makes this deal a win for the organization. Last season, Thomas was one of the best players in basketball due to his crafty ball-handling and clutch ability to lead the Celtics down the stretch of games. Thomas should be able to easily step in for Irving as his game closely mimics the former Duke guard. Thomas should be more willing to accept a second role behind James as he was never supposed to be a star in the league. Thomas was the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft, started his career as a backup, and has already played for four different teams. Along with Thomas, the Cavs acquired small forward Jae Crowder. Crowder will become a valuable piece for Ty Lue because of his ability to defend multiple different positions and stretch a defense. If the Cavs make the finals and undoubtedly play the Warriors for the fourth straight year, Crowder will be an important cog asked to guard either Thompson, Iguodala, Durant, or Green. In addition, Crowder brings a tough demeanor to the squad as they will look to play a more physical brand of basketball against the more talented Warriors. While these two pieces will help bring Cleveland to their fourth straight Eastern Conference title, the acquisition of the Nets 2018 first round pick should keep them in contention for years to come. Although the Nets have improved their roster with the acquisitions of DeMarre Carroll, DeAngelo Russell, and Timofey Mozgov, they are still one of the worst teams in the league and the Cavs could land the first overall pick.

While the deal does have considerable upside for the Cavs, there are many potential downsides. The biggest risk in the deal is IT’s hip, which required surgery this offseason. Thomas is a skilled player, but without his shiftiness and lateral quickness he is not nearly as valuable a player. If he is unable to perform at a high level offensively, he is a negative on the court as he ranks as one of the worst defensive play makers in the league. In addition, even though Kyrie had his faults, he was undoubtedly one of the best offensive weapons in the league that could score on any team and any player in the league. Over the past two Finals appearances, Kyrie showed an ability to take over a game, which only a handful of players can do in the league. Due to Thomas’s diminutive size, he simply cannot control a game like Irving against the best competition. This fact became evident when the Celtics played the Cavs and were actually a better team without Thomas on the floor. Similarly, how Thomas was unable to defend Irving, he will have no chance at containing Curry. Although Cleveland improved their depth in this deal, they needed more top shelf talent if they want to continue their arms race with one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

Even though NBA rivals across the league are arguing that the Cavs easily won the trade, I do not agree with that sentiment and believe that the Celtics did incredibly in this deal. In today’s NBA landscape, it is imperative to acquire top shelf that has the ability to create baskets for themselves and their teammates. The Celtics acquired a controllable 25-year-old All Star/NBA Champion point guard for the 5’9” player who was going to command a $30 million per year deal next season, a role player, a 20-year-old center who is a project, and a first round pick. Anyone who does not see this as a big plus for the Celtics does not know basketball. Unless Kyrie leaves in two years’ time, the Celtics will be able to establish a big three of Irving, Horford, and Hayward that should be able to compete for the Eastern Conference title for the next 5-10 years. Along with the trio, the team has budding stars such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Even if the team falls short of beating the Cavs this season, they will undoubtedly become the prohibitive favorites to win the conference if/when LeBron jumps ship and exits The Land. In addition, under the tutelage of Brad Stevens, Kyrie should be able to elevate his game to an even higher level as he tries to bring himself from superstar to best player on a championship team. Even though it is likely that he will never reach the level of James, Durant, Westbrook, and Curry, if Danny Ainge continues to find the right group of players, this team could win a title in a few years.

While the Celtics and Cavaliers were both seen as winners in the deal, the ultimate winner was the Golden State Warriors. This trade guarantees the Warriors their second straight title and third title in four years. Cleveland showed that the only way to beat the Warriors is if you have at least two players that are literally unstoppable and able to take over and win a Finals game. Currently the NBA has about 5-7 of these players in the league and the Cavs just lost one of these players. Even though IT is great, the Warriors will be able to devise a plan to defend him due to his small size. In addition, Crowder is not a big enough upgrade over Iman Shumpert or JR Smith to make difference against the likes of Durant or Thompson or Green. Obviously injuries could keep the Warriors from fulfilling their destiny, but that is the only thing now standing in between them and history.

NBA Lottery Mock Draft

1. Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz

After trading up with the Boston Celtics to acquire the number one pick, the 76ers stated that they will take the Washington product first overall. Even though Fultz did not play in the bright lights at Washington, the star point guard dominated the PAC-12. Fultz plays like a point guard, but has the size and scoring ability of a shooting guard. Philadelphia should be excited for this young prospect to pair with Joel Emiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball

Even though Ball will not be the first player selected, he has received the most recognition because of his play at UCLA and his father’s loud and controversial comments. Ball does not have the greatest shooting touch or finishing ability, but he is a natural leader and a master with the ball. Ball has the passing ability that has not been seen in many decades out of college. Many people compare Ball to Jason Kidd and the Lakers hope that he will fulfill his potential and help lead the Lakers’ revival.

3. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

Although the Celtics should opt to draft Josh Jackson with the third overall selection, it seems more and more likely that they will draft the Duke forward as Jackson did not workout for Boston. The Celtics need a player like Tatum that can carry the scoring load when Thomas needs a break from the ball. Even though he does not possess a great three point shoot, which contradicts the Celtics style of play, he can hit shots from anywhere inside the arc. In addition, Tatum’s strong build and size should allow him to become a solid defensive player and durable player under the tutelage of Brad Stevens.

4. Phoenix Suns – Josh Jackson

The Suns are getting an absolute stud and future superstar in Josh Jackson at number four overall. The Suns have a lot of offensive firepower with Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, and TJ Warren, but they lack a wing that can lock down opposing stars in the Western Conference. Jackson would be a great fit for the Suns due to his extreme athleticism, competitive nature, and incredible motor. Even though he is not a great shooter, he is an exceptional slasher and finisher around the rim.

5. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox

Even when the Kings are fortunate enough to move up in the draft order, they have to flip their pick with the 76ers and drop to the fifth overall pick. The Kings have a multitude of needs so they should just look for the best player available, which in this case is De’Aaron Fox. Fox dominated college basketball at the end of the season because of his phenomenal passing ability as well as his surprising scoring touch. Like many of the other players, he does not have a great shot, but he gets to the rim with ease and is a tough on the ball defender.

6. Orlando Magic – Frank Ntilikina

The Magic’s new GM, John Hammond, is from the Milwaukee Bucks’ organization should give good insight into who they will selecting. In Milwaukee, Hammond loved players that could defend multiple positions and handle the ball. The foreign product has both of those abilities along with a great passing ability and leadership skills. Even though he does not have a great jump shot, he is a good slasher, similar to fellow countryman Dennis Schroeder. The Magic could be looking for a new point guard to either replace or pair along with Elfrid Payton for the foreseeable future.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonathan Isaac

The Minnesota Timberwolves may have the best collection of young talent in the league, but they still have not been able to translate that into wins. The collection of Towns, Wiggins, Dunn, and LaVine give the Wolves future stars at every position, but power forward. Although Dieng has filled his role valiantly, he does not have the same upside or athleticism as Isaac. The former Seminole will play well alongside Towns because he will help with interior defense and give Towns more room inside the paint to operate. Isaac is not a polished product in the slightest, but his immense upside, ability to protect the rim, and shoot from behind the arc make him a great fit for Minnesota.

8. New York Knicks – Dennis Smith

The New York Knicks are looking to trade in order to acquire another top pick, even if it means trading star Kristops Porzingis. The Knicks need a point guard of the future and Smith can be the answer to their quarrels. During his time at NC State, Smith dominated the ACC, even the toughest competition, because of his quick acceleration, court vision, and passing ability. Many of the Knicks’ problems can be answered with a point guard that can defend opposing guards and effectively distribute the basketball to Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony. Although he is coming off of an ACL injury, the Knicks should be excited to draft Smith as the future point guard.

9. Dallas Mavericks – Lauri Markkanen

The Mavs are in need of a franchise player to replace future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and fortunately for Mark Cuban they may be able to find that man in Markkanen. Although it is presumptuous to believe that the Arizona center will have as distinguish career as Nowitzki, he has the attributes and skills to replicate his success. During his sole year at Arizona, Markkanen was able to create success by stretching out to the three point line and using his seven foot size body to shoot over defenders. Like Nowitzki, Markkanen could use help at rebounding and shot blocking, which could happen if he listens to coach Rick Carlisle.

10. Sacramento Kings – Malik Monk

With their second lottery selection, the Kings should look to bolster their wings, especially after drafting multiple big men in last year’s draft and Fox with their first selection. The Kings should look to add Monk, not just because of his offensive prowess, but due to his rapport with Fox. During their time in Lexington, Monk and Fox became the best backcourt in basketball. Fox’s incredible court vision along with Monk’s insane range and scoring ability, the best in the class, made the duo unstoppable. Monk may not possess great size or strength for the position, but he should definitely be considered at this point in the draft.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Luke Kennard

Luke Kennard seems to be a perfect fit for the Hornets at number 11 in the draft. During his two years at Duke, Kennard displayed a drive, intelligence, and shooting stroke, unlike many in college basketball. Kennard’s basketball IQ and three point shooting ability will fit well next to Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, neither of which are great shooters. In addition, Batum and new Hornet, Dwight Howard, should be able to make up for Kennard’s defensive limitations due to his less than exceptional athleticism and strength.

12. Detroit Pistons – Donovan Mitchell

The Detroit Pistons are almost able to return to the playoffs in the crowded Eastern Conference. The addition of a player like Donovan Mitchell should significantly help their chances. Although he does not have great size for the position, his elite strength and explosion allows him to beat defenders and score inside the paint. Mitchell may need work on his shooting, but he should help the Pistons, who are in dire need of offensive assistance.

13. Denver Nuggets – OG Anunoby

The Denver Nuggets are hoping to return to the playoffs and hope that Anunoby can give them the advantage to succeed in the West. Anunoby’s biggest asset that will help the Nuggets is his knack for knocking down three point shots. The former Hoosier may be raw offensively, but he has good range and should be able to draw attention away from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. In addition, if Danilo Gallinari leaves Denver this offseason, Anunoby should be able to fill his shoes as one of the most underrated 3 and D players in the NBA, if he can return from a knee injury that may knock him out for a majority of the season.

14. Miami Heat – Zach Collins

The former Gonzaga Bulldog would be a good addition for the Heat as they hope to return to dominance in the East. Collins did not play major minutes for the Zags as he was only a freshman on a veteran latent team, but he may have been the most talented player on the squad. If the Heat can have Collins paired alongside Whiteside down low, they will be extremely difficult to score against inside the paint. While he does not have the shot blocking ability like Whiteside, although very few do, he can shoot from the outside and force opposing defenders to respect his game.