Category Archives: NBA

2017 NBA Mock Draft – Top Ten

  1. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers

Everyone and their mother at this point knows that the Sixers are going to draft Markelle Fultz number one overall. Philadelphia needed a scoring option at guard who could knock down a three and that’s exactly what they’ll be getting from the Washington product. Fultz has the potential to become a lethal scorer with his handles and NBA-ready shot. The Process is almost complete.

 

  1. Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers shocked everyone, shipping off former no. 3 pick and budding star DeAngelo Russell for veteran big man Brook Lopez to shed Timofey Mozgov’s contract, looking clear out space for the Paul George and LeBron James sweepstakes. The backcourt is now clear for Lonzo to take center stage in LA and bring winning back to the purple and gold. With his elite passing ability and an already outstanding IQ and ability to make plays, Lonzo looks to be one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. With a 6’6” frame and his athleticism, his ceiling is as high as anyone’s in the draft. Lavar called it. Against all odds, Lonzo will be a Laker

 

  1. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

The Celtics have called Tatum “the next Paul Pierce,” as he had shown flashes of offensive brilliance towards the end of his freshman season at Duke. The Celtics hope Tatum can become that second offensive weapon they need to compliment Isaiah Thomas. They will be able to play inside-out with Tatum’s ability to score in the post and midrange in the half-court set. He will need to improve on defense, however he certainly has the athleticism and full-build to hold his own in the NBA.

 

  1. Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns

Devin Booker and Josh Jackson would be an impressive young core for the Suns to build around. He’s the most athletic player in the draft for his size and an absolute lock-down defender for all 92 feet. He has also shown flashes of the rare ability to “take-over” games at Kansas, where he stopped teams single-handedly defensively, resulting in easy buckets on the other end. He will need to develop an NBA-ready jump shot, especially improve from behind the arc, but with his motor and motivation, there’s no reason he can’t become an all-star at the next level.

 

  1. DeAaron Fox – Sacramento Kings

DeAaron Fox has been called the best guard in the draft by many scouts and reporters. However, after some leaked footage of his private workout with the 76ers, where it was shown he was struggling with rhythm 3s, the talks of seeing Fox taken higher have subsided with Philly moving up and Lonzo a lock to go to LA. Say what you will about his jumper, Fox has proven in college to be one of the quickest guards in the league, absolutely lethal in the pick and roll, and a great competitor. His success will go as far as his jump shot will take him.

 

  1. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

Perhaps the biggest wild-card in the draft, at a skinny 6’10”, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons to Kevin Durant from the eye-test. Jonathan Isaac has yet to fill out his frame that continues to grow, but we have already seen glimpses of what he can become. He has great footwork and athleticism, however he has a long way to go to develop his game, particularly his strength and physicality at his size. He has a serviceable shot that complements his skills, however being undersized, he settles too often rather than taking advantage of his size. His combination of length and athleticism with skill is not seen every year, but he has a long way to go before he reach his ceiling.

 

  1. Dennis Smith – Minnesota Timberwolves

It’s take two for the Timberwolves, as last year’s top 5 pick Kris Dunn has majorly disappointed in his rookie season. They’ll hope to get better luck with Dennis Smith, the athletic freak guard from N.C. State. Smith is a nightmare to guard in the fast-break, with an explosiveness that will be scary with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns running the floor. His quickness also can translate to make him an elite perimeter defender at the next level. He will need to improve his decision making and jump-shot however, if he doesn’t want to fall into the same boat as Dunn.

 

  1. Lauri Markkanen – New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis 2.0. Amid rumors that Kristaps is on his way out, the Knicks have been looking for his imminent replacement. Well, they might have found him here with the Arizona product from Finland. He certainly passes the “where’s that guy from?” test, but can he play like Porzingis? On the offensive end, Markkanen blew away everyone with his efficiency and athleticism as a 7-footer. He shot an incredible 42% from behind the arc, while possessing a nice soft touch inside. He will be lethal off screens and in the post as he adjusts to NBA play. However, he will need to improve on the defensive end. For his size, he is an underperforming rebounder and will get bullied in the post. He has the size to battle down low, but he will need to develop that part of his game in order to make it in the NBA.

 

  1. Frank Ntilikina – Dallas Mavericks

If Markkanen falls to the Mavs laps at 9, the Mavs will certainly snatch him up to fill the large void Dirk will be leaving soon. However, I think he’ll be gone by then so the Mavs will draft Frank Ntilikina out of France. At 6’5” with a nearly 7’0” wingspan, Ntilikina has the physical gifts to be an absolutely dominating point guard. A tremendous passer and terrific ball-handler, he is perhaps the most true point guard in the draft. However, he is incredibly underweight for his size and that will hold-back his game from elevating to the next level. He will need to add weight and strength in order to succeed in the NBA, but with his length and athleticism, he has one of the highest ceilings in the entire draft.

 

  1. Zach Collins – Sacremento Kings

Although he only played less than 20 min/game in his lone season at Gonzaga, Collins brings a huge frame with excellent athleticism to the NBA. His speed and mobility are his greatest assets and he’s shown to play a mature style of basketball, blending a good set of post moves with his patience. He’s a strong rebounder and defender on the other end as well, but his biggest knock is that he is so largely unproven. There may be a steep learning curve with Collins, but the upside, like his huge Final Four game against South Carolina, can make it all worth it.

NBA Finals Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Even since Kevin Durant shocked the basketball universe on July 4, 2016 and decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors, this is the matchup that every NBA fan has been expecting and desperately looking forward to witnessing. As everyone knows, the Dubs and Cavs have met in the last two NBA Finals, which makes this showdown the ultimate rubber match. This will mark the first time in NBA history that the same teams will meet in the finals for the third consecutive season.

This matchup is the subject of NBA fan’s dreams because of the multitude of stars that will grace the hardwood at once this series. Between the Cavaliers and Warriors, the teams have 7 current All-Stars and 3 more former All-Stars. In addition, these are not just any All-Stars that will be on display. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry rank as 3 of the 5 best players on the planet and this trio has won every MVP award since Derrick Rose won the award in 2010-2011. Along with Durant, James, and Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving can all be considered top 15 to 20 players in the league of their versatility and excellence.

Reasons for Cleveland’s Second Consecutive Title:

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a great chance of staking claim to the 2017 NBA title because of the man who will wear 23 for the maroon and gold. Even at age 32 and having played nearly 50,000 minutes between the playoffs and regular season, James continues to play at the highest level and improve his game. Although he does not possess the same athleticism or explosiveness as he did when he was 23, he has never been better at analyzing defenses, exploiting his opponents, and elevating his teammates level of play. This season, James set career highs in rebounds, 8.6, and assists, 8.7, per game while posting 26.4 points per game on 55% shooting from the field and 36% from three. During the playoffs, LeBron has taken his play to an even higher and more efficient level as he has been scoring 32.4 points per game while shooting 57% from the field and 42% from three. This level of play is the main reason why the Cavs have rolled through the Eastern Conference while only dropping one game. As with every team, except with the potential exception of the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard, the Warriors do not have a player on their team that can stop or even limit LeBron’s ability on the offensive side of the floor without committing multiple defenders. Over the past two finals, LeBron has gauged the Dubs because they do not have an interior presence that inhibits LeBron from driving to the basket.

While LeBron has definitely improved his overall level of play since last year’s finals, Love, Irving, and the Cavaliers’ roster can stake the same claim. Unlike the first two seasons, when Love looked lost and uninterested in his role on the team, Tyron Lue has been able to place Love into situations that have enabled him to excel and even return to his All-Star form that he displayed in Minnesota. During the series against Boston, Love was incredibly valuable because of his ability to stretch the floor, provide competent interior defense, rebound effectively, and complete incredible outlet passes. While Love has raised his play considerably since last season’s final when he averaged only 8 points per game, the Cavs should expect the same dynamic scoring ability from Kyrie that he demonstrate in the finals last season and against the Celtics in game 4. Although LeBron was the catalyst for the championship team, Kyrie was the offensive finisher. The Dubs will need to discover an effective way to guard Irving because last year’s strategy of switching Curry will only lead to disaster once again. The Warriors will need to stick Thompson on Irving so that he can leverage his defensive acumen.

Outside of the Cavs top three, the rest of the team has improved due to shrewd additions by GM David Griffin. Deron Williams is an excellent backup point guard that can create plays for others while James or Irving need a blow. Korver was a great addition at the deadline because he is one of the best dead eye shooters in the history of the NBA and will have the Warriors thinking twice about helping on James, Love, or Irving. Smith and Shumpert should continue to provide quality minutes for the team because of their athleticism and finals experience. The most important role player for the Cavs will once again be Tristian Thompson. Thompson is a monster on the glass because of his never ending motor. The Warriors are going to be looking to play small so if Thompson can abuse the team for placing Green at center by providing the Cavs with offensive rebounds, the Dubs are going to be forced to alter their plans. In addition, Thompson is going to have an incredibly important role for the team because he will be asked to guard the Splash Brothers behind the arc when the Cavs decide to switch on defense. Last year, he used his agility and did an extraordinary job of limiting the Warriors’ three point barrages.

 

Reasons for Golden State’s Revenge:

Even after winning the championship in 2015 and breaking the record for most wins in a season in 2016, this Warriors’ team may the best of the trio. The Warriors’ big four of Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green are each destined for the Hall of Fame because of the team’s and individual success. The Warriors are an all-time great team because they are an offensive juggernaut that shares the ball incredibly well and possess multiple defensive stalwarts that know how to play as an unit. Even though the Cavs have LeBron James, the Dubs have the best scorer in the league and potentially the best scorer in the history of the league in KD. Durant’s ability to shoot from anywhere on the court and finish in traffic near the room as a seven foot player makes him nearly unguardable. During the post season, Durant has been the Warriors most consistent player, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Even when Klay and Steph were struggling from the outside, Durant’s consistency from anywhere on the court kept the Warriors afloat in many games, until one of the Splash Brothers regained their form. The Warriors must ensure that Durant will never feel the need to solely take over the game and continues to trust his Hall of Fame teammates. While Durant’s offense will not be questioned, he will be given the unenviable task of guarding James for a majority of the series. Although he does not have the strength to contend with James, his incredible wingspan, speed, and determination to finally defeat James should allow him to limit the All-Pro.

The entire Warriors’ team will be driven to avenge their loss in last season’s final, but the player that needs to improve the most is Steph Curry. Curry was held to only 22 points per game on 40% shooting and routinely did not show up in the biggest moments. In addition, his defense against Irving was abysmal. Curry will no longer need to carry the team due to the addition of Durant, but he will need to shoot a higher percentage as well as taking better control of the ball in the half court. Although Curry will not be asked to stay in front of Kyrie, he should take on the challenge of either guarding JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, or Kyle Korver because they do not possess the same explosiveness or dynamic ability. While Curry has played at a high level this postseason, the Dubs are going to need a significantly better effort from Klay Thompson if they are going to overcome the best player in the game. If Klay plays like the fourth best player on the floor, the Warriors could see themselves winning in five games because he is a defensive stalwart and the second best shooter in the league, after Curry. However, if he continues to play at a subpar level the Warriors will be in trouble. This postseason, Thompson is averaging only 14 points per game, 8 points below his season average, on only 38% shooting. The Warriors need Thompson to score close to 20 points per game and shoot over 40% from three if they are going to play at their best. The extra rest and the desire to win his second title should drive Thompson to play at a level closer to his career average. Along with providing an offensive spark, Thompson will need to defend Irving. Thompson needs to take the challenge and fight through screens and not allow Curry to switch onto him and be abused like last season.

Outside of the Warriors big three, the rest of the team just needs to accept their role and they will be crowned champions. Draymond Green may not have the talent like Curry, Durant, or Thompson, but he has the most heart on the floor and he can do everything on a basketball court. Green may be only 6’6″, but he fights like a 7’0″ center. Green will need to keep his temper under control because the Warriors need him for his playmaking ability as well as his rebounding against Tristian Thompson. Besides Green, the most important role player for the Warriors will be Zaza Pachulia. Last season’s series showed the importance of having a big man near the paint. When Bogut was on the floor, Golden State was significantly better and gives the team someone who is actually bigger than James. In addition, he is an extremely dirty player and everyone should watch him.

Prediction: Warriors win in 6

Over the past two seasons, the champion has won on the opposite team’s floor and I believe that this will occur once again. The Warriors have an incredible amount of talent and determination to win, which is an extremely dangerous combination. The Cavs and Dubs both have outstanding offenses, but the Warriors have the more reliable defense. Cleveland fans should expect and all-time performance from LeBron, but he is already showing signs of fatigue while the entire Warriors’ team looks fresh. Green is not at risk of being suspended this series, which was one of the biggest reasons of the Warriors defeat along with Bogut’s injury. Even though he will not match James, I expect Durant to play at a level comparable to the potential GOAT and claim his first title.

Western Conference Final Preview: Spurs vs Warriors

After finally putting away the Houston Rockets in Game 6 on Thursday night, the San Antonio Spurs are set to face the Golden State Warriors. Over the past two seasons, the Spurs and Warriors have been the two best teams in the NBA. Last season, the entire NBA was looking forward to a matchup between the Spurs and Warriors, until the Thunder played spoiler and defeated the Spurs. This season, many believed that the Rockets were going to be able to upend the Spurs, especially after Game 1’s demolishing of the Spurs. However, the Spurs and Popovich were able to turn around their fortunes and won 4 out of next 5 games in dominating fashion. While Spurs were pushed to 6 games, the Warriors swept their opponent for the second straight series without little resistance. Throughout the first eight games of the postseason, only once, Game 3 at Portland, has a game been decided by 10 points or less. Similar to the regular season, the Warriors have received contributions from all the players on their roster.

Why the Spurs can win?

Over the past 20 years the San Antonio Spurs have been the most consistent team in the NBA because of head coach Gregg Popovich and a superstar players such as Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. Although Duncan no longer remains on the roster, Leonard elevated himself from a role player to one of the best players in the entire NBA. During this season and especially during the postseason, Leonard demonstrated an ability to take over games not only defensively, but offensively. This postseason, Leonard leads the team in points, 27.8, assists, 4.7, rebounds, 7.7, and steals, 1.7, per game. Even though the Warriors are a great defensive team with phenomenal individual defensive players, they do not have a great matchup against Leonard. Green is likely too small and slow to defend Leonard while Durant does not possess the strength to stay in front of the stronger forward. Leonard will use his mid range ability along with his improved three point shooting to give the Warriors fits throughout the course of the series. While Leonard is a major reason why the Spurs have a chance to defeat the Dubs, the best aspect of their team and organization is Pop. Pop is the best active coach in the NBA and maybe the best coach in the history of the NBA. Pop’s ability to command respect from his players, elevate their games, put players in the best position to succeed, and dissect his opponents allows him to put the Spurs to be in the best position to win games. Even though the Spurs lost Tony Parker, they were able to replace the former All-Star point guard with Mills and Murray and the Spurs were still able to defeat the Rockets. Lastly, the Spurs have the opportunity to win because of star, LaMarcus Aldridge. Throughout the postseason, Aldridge has underperformed and has not looked worthy of the max contract that the Spurs bestowed upon him two years ago. However, during Game 6 in a close out game on the road, Aldridge scored 34 points and led the team without Leonard on the floor, which demonstrated that he possesses the ability to be major factor in the series.

Why the Warriors can win?

Over the past three seasons, the Warriors have won the most games in NBA history over a three year span. The Warriors’ combination of skill, determination, and willingness to win has put them in rarified air. Even though the Warriors have the two time reigning MVP, Steph Curry, the team is led by All-Pro starting forward Kevin Durant, who they acquired this offseason. The Warriors won the most games in NBA history in one season last season, but their loss in the Finals to the Cavaliers led them to signing Durant. Durant, an MVP himself, has averaged 23 points, 4 assists, and 8 rebounds per game throughout the postseason. When Curry and Thompson were failing against the Jazz in Game 3, Durant took over the game as a dominant scorer and led the team to the statement victory. This team is so dominant and menacing because they have 3 of the best shooters and scorers in the game and each of them can take over a game. Along with Thompson, Curry, and Durant, the Warriors possess starting power forward Draymond Green. Green may not be the most talented player, but he plays with more heart than any other player in the league, can pass like a point guard, and possesses the ability to defend any position. This aspect of Green helps the Warriors because it allows him to run the floor, shoot threes, and play small. Along with four dominating players, the Dubs have many talented role players such as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, JaVale McGee, David West, and Zaza Pachulia. Each of these players have their own skills that they can provide to the team and complement the stars of the team. In addition, most of these players have championship experience, which will help them against the veteran San Antonio Spurs.

Who Wins?

Even though the San Antonio Spurs were 2-1 against the Warriors this season, very few are selecting the Spurs in this series and the Vegas odds makers have the Spurs as +900. The Warriors are blessed to have four different Hall of Fame players in their starting rotation. Although Steve Kerr will not be on the sidelines for the game due to his neck and back issues, the Warriors are intelligent and possess the leadership to overcome this obstacle. If the Spurs are unable to find a legitimate number two scorer after Kawhi, assuming he is able to play with his ankle injury, this will be a very short series. Popovich was able to create a plan to stop James Harden, the catalyst of the Rockets, but it will be nearly impossible for him to stop Thompson, Curry, Durant, and Green. Look for the Warriors to spend much of their attention on Kawhi and counteracting the Spurs’ ability to control the boards. The Warriors possess too much talent and seem to be on a mission after last season’s loss in the finals. The Warriors have faced little resistance in the past two series and I expect it to continue as they will win in five games.