Russell Westbrook Undeserving MVP?

 @matt_hickey10

No, of course Russell Westbrook deserved the 2017 NBA MVP. In the 2016-2017 NBA season, Brodie put up freakish numbers, that honestly had some of us thinking he wasn't human.  He broke the record (that before him stood over 50 years) for the most triple doubles in a single season.  He single handedly led his team to the playoffs.  So, obviously I'm not saying Russell Westbrook isn't deserving, but is there someone who deserved it more?

While Russell Westbrook was putting up the greatest numbers of this season.  There is someone who I believe deserved this award just a bit more.  Of course, I am talking about the Runner-Up in NBA MVP voting James Harden.  Although Harden did not lead the league in scoring as well as average a triple-double, he fits the description of MVP just a bit better.  A Most Valuable Player (MVP) is a teammate who is so valuable to his team, without him they would be nothing. Westbrook did carry his team full of role players to the playoffs, but Harden lead the Houston Rockets to the 3rd best record in the Western Conference.  Harden had a cast around him similar to that of Russell Westbrook, and yet Harden propelled his team past Westbrook. 

Harden also led the League in Win Shares, a metric stat which shows how many wins one player is responsible for on his team.  He sat on top with 15.0 Win Share, while Westbrook was 5th with 13.1 Win Shares.  The Rockets had a better Plus/Minus with Harden on the court than the Thunder did with Westbrook on the court. 

At first glance, Russell Westbrook looks like the MVP!  However, when has this league ever been about first glances?  Although, Westbrook is an MVP caliber player, Harden is the true MVP of the NBA. 

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Kyrie Irving wants out

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     As im sure you heard by now Kyrie Irving said he would like to be traded, and honestly I can't blame him one bit.  Cleveland is about to be blown up, Lebron James is already frustrated with management after the firing of GM David Griffin.  If James isn't happy nobody is happy.  It has been said that Irving doesn't want to play beside James anymore and would like to be prominent player and the face of the franchise. 

 

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   It is rumored that the San Antonio Spurs are one of the early favorites for him.  In my opinion that would be a perfect fit, him playing in Coach Pops offense would fit him nicely.  Irving could become the new and better version of Tony Parker who anchored their offense for years.  Playing with Kwahi Lenoard and LaMarcus Aldridge that would be a top 2 or 3 seed in the west easily.

  Another rumored destination is the New York Knicks.  Who in there right mind would want to play in that dumpster fire?  Phil Jackson set that franchise back 3 or 4 more years if not more. On another note all of the drama surrounding Carmelo Anthony doesn't exactly have superstar players lining up to play in New York. 

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  Beside San Antonio and New York he has told the Cavs that he would like to play in Miami and Minnesota.  I would pick Minnesota as they have a young team there with Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague.  If you were to add Irving to that, that would instantly be a top 5 starting lineup in all of the NBA.  That lineup would be so young, if they are able to keep that nucleus together they could become the new Warriors spent the road. 

      Only time will tell, but if the Cavs where smart they would trade him and get some value for him.  If they don't he will be taking is talents some where else like James did when he hit free agency. 

Follow me @jordon_tarrence

Ball Can Ball

(@MrSkinnyArms)

Lonzo Ball might not be Magic Johnson like his dad LaVar Ball promised but he can straight up play.  He averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game in the NBA Summer League and Monday Lonzo was named Summer League MVP.  Now, let's keep in mind that the Summer League isn't exactly up to the standard of play as a regular season NBA game but Ball always looked like the best player on the floor.  He didn't shoot extremely well but he made up for it with some of the dimes he was dishing out. 

Another story that took over the internet was what shoe Ball chose to wear for each game.  Instead of just wearing his dad's Big Baller Brand shoes for every game like most people thought he would, Ball wore signature shoes from Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Jordan and of course his own Big Baller Brand.  The Ball family understands that no publicity is bad publicity and this was just another genius PR move by Ball because it got everyone talking about him and his shoes.  Ball also created a bidding war so if Big Baller Brand dies (probably because it has only sold like 400 pairs of shoes and they take around 5 months to ship) he can just sign with one of the main shoe brands and make a bajillion dollars.

Ps. LaVar Ball might have a brighter future in the WWE than Lonzo does in the NBA.                 

Update: No longer excited about this NBA offseason.

(@miles_migs)

Lets look at the good and bad (opinion based, obviously) of what's gone down in the NBA so far this offseason:

GOOD: Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, great for a budding Timberwolves team.  You've got Karl Anthony-Towns as your big and A Wiggins at the 2.  My guess is that Butler is now the "pack leader" (Get it? Because Timberwolves).

BAD: Chris Paul to the Rockets. Yes, the Rockets got better.  But can two alphas in Paul and Harden get along?  Hopefully, the fact that they are still stacked with talent will help differ from egos.  Also, another bad, Pat Beverly leaves.  I always thought Beverly was a good "enforcer." He was similar to a Dennis Rodman type player, not very big but scrappy.

GOOD: Knicks got rid of Phil Jackson, who with the direction he was headed looked like he was trying to get himself canned, and soon Derrick Rose.  But Carmelo Anthony might be on his way out as well.  I am not an Anthony fan, however, two impact players leave, and all of a sudden Kristaps Porzingis is on an island all alone along with James Dolan of course.

BAD: Cleveland AND Chicago.  I thought the Bulls were going to build around a young, freak athlete in Jimmy Butler but that proved to be incorrect.  Rajon Rondo might not get resigned, and I think Dwayne Wade signed because he wants to collect.  He knows he doesn't have much left in the tank.  Griffin fired, LeBron and Gilbert have found tension again, and poor Kyrie Irving just want to follow James and chase rings. But if James leaves, there's no chance Kyrie is getting those walking papers. Gilbert will do what he can to spite LeBron. 

Some meager notes, Blake collects the big check and stays with a team that has no chance, almost everyone in Golden State is staying in Golden State, and Paul George is joining Westbrook. Not sure what to make of that last one. Gordon Hayward left for Boston, but Kelly Olynyk is leaving so...

A Tale of Two Approaches

The Cavs-Warriors effect

 

For the last three seasons the NBA has been dominated by the dueling super teams, comprised of Lebron James’ Cavaliers and the now foursome of superstars in Golden State, with everyone else seemingly playing catch up. For many this style of basketball has left a bad taste in their mouths and it is not hard to see why, the regular season has become meaningless and even once you get to the post-season their really has to be an injury for any team to compete for the title with these two. What that has done is essentially split the league into two factions. Those who are going to take a risk and recruit other superstars to their team in hopes of catching the two teams who have created the gold standard of modern basketball, and those who are content to simply wait things out until Lebron is no longer playing and the Warriors have gone their separate ways. The following are the teams that, in my opinion, are best suited to succeed using each of these methods as well as a team that’s playing the middle ground.

First off are the teams that are making an honest attempt to get better by adding other stars to pair with their own in hopes of challenging for a title. The teams I think are doing the best job of this are in no particular order, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Houston.

 

Spurs


The Spurs have been among the elite in the NBA over the last 20 years in large part due to Greg Popovich who is by far the best coach in the NBA today. Despite losing Tim Duncan last offseason he still found a way to get back to the Western Conference Finals and although it was not much of a series it was still impressive to do with as beat up of a roster as they had. They made a splash two offseasons ago by signing Lamarcus Aldridge and made a run at Chris Paul this year. Despite their aging roster I expect them to be right back in the mix with enough veteran coaching from Pop to go along with stellar play from Kawhi Leonard.

 

Thunder


Did anyone foresee the Thunder pulling off a trade for Paul George? I sure didn’t, especially considering they gave up next to nothing for a player of George’s caliber. Pair him with a bona fide superstar like Russell Westbrook and they’re going to have a legitimate shot to make some noise in a stacked Western Conference. Now obviously, Westbrook would have to stop killing his team with the dumb shot choices and keep his cool a little better but add in a strong center rotation of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter and I would be shocked if this team didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs.

 

Rockets


Now the Rockets are the most intriguing team on this list because they are the only ones that look like they have a good shot of landing another superstar to pair with the two they already have. They already have a perennial MVP candidate in James Harden and then they went out and got the best point guard of the last decade, and if that wasn’t enough they are still trying to find a way to get Carmelo Anthony in a Rockets jersey. While I already expect this team to make it to the conference finals next year, if they can get Melo then they have a legitimate shot at pushing the Warriors. I still expect the Warriors to be a better team but I applaud the Rockets front office and Daryl Morey for not being content to just throw out the same product that they put out last year, we already saw how that ended and you would get the same result if you tried again.

 

Next, we take a look at the teams that realize that they have no shot at contending right this moment, but are doing an excellent job setting themselves up for success in the future.

 

76ers


For those who waited out long enough to “Trust the Process” you may finally get your first return on that investment this upcoming season. I fully expect the sixers to make the playoffs if they can stay healthy, which with how things have gone in recent years is no small task for the team. But fans should not be discouraged by a low seed or even a quick exit from the playoffs because this team’s success is really going to come in the upcoming years. They took the time and built a team the right way, tearing it all down and starting from scratch by drafting the best available talent in every draft regardless of position or worrying about a quick return to relevancy. The result is a solid core of future stars in the league of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, and the best of them all Ben Simmons. This team won’t be winning any championships soon but they have done a great job at making the future look bright for a league that is post Lebron.

 

Bucks


Russell Westbrook is the most fun player to watch in the league today but I have to give it to Giannis, he makes a close second. He’s the Greek Freak for a reason, there isn’t anybody in the league that can do the things he does at his size, it is ridiculous to watch and not only makes for entertaining basketball but also gives the Bucks arguably the best building block to start a team. He is not the only talented young player however, rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon is a solid second option and if or when Jabari Parker comes back they will make a formidable trio of young talent. The Bucks have already had a taste of success by making the playoffs as a six seed this past season and pushing the Raptors to a game 6, and with the way they are currently constructed they will continue to make the playoffs and will have the most immediate success out of the wait it out teams.

 

Lakers


Hear me out on this one, the Lakers, no matter how bad they have been recently, are still the Lakers. They have been under bad management from the top down and it has caused them to face some major hurdles to return to relevancy, but I believe that will change now that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are in charge. Magic brings credibility and a winning pedigree back to the organization that they have been severely missing since the days of Kobe Bryant. Pelinka is well liked and well respected guy who makes smart decisions and it would not surprise me to see him bring in a top player in the next few years. They have done an excellent job this offseason dumping Timofey Mozgov’s terrible contract and whether you like the move or not drafting Lonzo Ball was probably not a bad choice. They have a solid foundation of young players that if they so choose they can flip and turn them into proven players and that freedom is one reason I chose to put them on this list. The main reason I put them here however, is that Paul George has made no secret of the fact that Los Angeles is his desired destination and I am certain that there are other players who feel the same. LA is still LA and people want to go there. Hollywood, great weather, and getting to play for one of the storied basketball franchises, who wouldn’t want that? I fully expect the Lakers to land a big free agent in the next few seasons that will push them back into the playoff picture and set them up for a brighter future.

 

You can’t play both sides


Now I said that the league was split into two groups of thinking earlier and that is not necessarily true. There is still at least one team who because of their general manager’s unwillingness to make a move or tank has tricked his entire fan base to be happy about the state of things in both the present and future. I am talking of course about Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics. Ainge for the last two seasons has seemingly been in on every single big trade target and free agent and yet he has nothing to show for it except first round draft picks who lose value every day and Gordon Hayward who, while a nice player is not the franchise changer that the team expects him to be. Ainge always finds an excuse usually along the lines of the price for a player simply being too high which under normal circumstances would be fair enough, but after seeing what it took to get Jimmy Butler or Paul George I refuse to believe that he could not scrape together a better deal. The truth is just that he is too scared of Lebron to make a move to challenge him now. He has the pieces, he has the complimentary players, but he is just too scared to fail. It is much easier for him to plan for the future by stockpiling draft picks, but there is one flaw in that plan. The three teams I listed above have already been planning ahead for life after Lebron so Ainge and the Celtics are at a disadvantage there as well. This is what happens when you can’t commit to anything and in my mind Ainge has wasted all those draft picks he got for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett years ago.

 

Conversation and debate is always welcomed
@MasonAnkenbruck on Twitter

 

 

 

Paul George/Kevin Love Trade? Butler Too? Porzingis?

(@miles_migs)

This is the most excited I’ve ever been for an NBA off season!

LeBron James’ best friend in the front office (David Griffin) just made his exit after not getting a pay raise, and James has shared his appreciation for his former GM over Twitter (passive aggressively poking Dan Gilbert).  Gilbert now looks like the bad guy.  To keep the people of Cleveland happy, he now has to aggressively seek out Paul George (extremely attainable) AND possibly Jimmy Butler (mush less imaginable).  Both players would give the Cavs the firepower to arguably overthrow the Warriors of the West.

George could easily be traded for Kevin Love.  You can make the argument that Love will give the Pacers 23 points a game on average, and double-digit numbers in rebounds.  He’s also a former NBA Champion.  That being said, Kevin Love isn't getting the Pacers to the Finals on his own, but neither is Paul George.  And while Love may find some enthusiasm in playing with a new team in Indiana, you’ll find no such excitement from George, who would be gone after next year’s mediocre season performance.  Paul George adds nothing to the Pacer game at this point, he’s mentally checked out!

Why Jimmy Butler would leave the Bulls (besides the opportunity to play with LeBron) I have no idea.  He has a good unit with the Bulls, and if the Bulls we’re smart and wanted to make sure Jimmy would stay, they’d write a big time check and make it out to Chris Paul.  However, I wouldn’t fault Butler here.

In other news, the Knicks are considering trade offers on their best player in Kristaps Porzingis.  I don’t know if there’s something in the water up there, maybe it has something to do with wearing orange and blue, but problematic things are happening in New York.

(@miles-migs)

The Future of the Los Angeles Lakers

@RylandWeiner

Just a couple days ago, the Lakers made a blockbuster trade that I don't think even the best analyst could have predicted. They traded D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the draft. This accomplishes a few things for the Lakers, and also makes a statement that Lonzo Ball will for sure be the 2nd pick in the NBA Draft, otherwise there would be no reason to trade D'Angelo Russell. While Russell has shown signs of promise, he is not what the Lakers were hoping for him to be with the #2 pick in 2015, and they decided it was time to move on. He does still have a huge amount of upside though, and that is exactly why he was included in this trade. Mozgov is on one of the absolute worst contracts in the NBA, still set to make $54 million over the next 3 years. There is no way any NBA team would take on that contract without some sort of compensation, that compensation just happened to be D'Angelo Russell. Brook Lopez is also on a huge a contract, however his deal is expiring after this season, meaning the Lakers could save all that money by simply letting him walk. Now Paul George has made it clear to all that he does not want to be in Indiana, and his destination of choice just so happens to be Los Angeles. If the Lakers decide to let Brook Lopez walk at the end of the season, they will have enough money to offer Paul George a max deal, and ensure that he will come to LA. With a young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac, the Lakers have a solid group of players to add Paul George into. However, they still posses the 27th and 28th picks, and could add even more to their promising nucleus.

While 27 and 28 are not the most valuable first round picks to have, there have been many NBA stars such as Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Marc Gasol taken well after those spots. There are two players I see falling this far in the draft that could potentially be sleepers in this very deep draft. The first being Caleb Swanigan out of Purdue. Swanigan averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game on 52.7 FG%, and shot 44.7% from three-point range. This was all over about 32.5 minutes per game. These stats are quite impressive, and it amazes me that he is projected to fall this low to the Lakers. I don't see any reason the Lakers should not snatch him up at 27, as his stats are very respectable, he can stretch the floor at 6'9. Not to mention that every single time I watched a Purdue game, including the game against #3 Villanova early in the season, Swanigan was the player who popped off my screen more so than anybody else on either team. I see him potentially developing into a Draymond Green type of player. Not necessarily a defensive stopper, but someone who will do the dirty work that nobody else will do, and is not concerned with being the top scorer or "getting his shots" per say. 

The next player who I think the Lakers should take with pick 28 is Josh Hart from Villanova. Many scouts do not see his college excellence translating to the pro game, however I think he will be a serviceable NBA role player or starter. With the 28th pick in the draft, you can only hope to get someone who can play a good role or eventually start, and Hart has the potential to be that and then some. Hart is a four year player at Villanova, which makes people hesitate because he is not as young as other prospects, however I think the four years give him an advantage over others. He is a proven scorer, amassing over 1900 points scored in his career, including his freshman year when he wasn't even a starter. The Lakers also need a shooting guard, to be a scorer with passes from Lonzo Ball being zipped in off the drive, and Hart, an over 40% three-point shooter in his senior year, more than fits that mold. Hart also won a national championship at Villanova, proving that he knows how to win, and that is something the Lakers need right now, someone who can help you get those close wins and be a true competitor by nature. Only time will tell if this is the right choice, but the reigning Big East Player of the Year can't be a bad choice with a late first-round pick. 

Picture this, Lonzo Ball, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, Swanigan/Randle, Zubac, with Josh Hart and Swanigan/Randle coming off the bench while the other one starts, give that lineup a few years to develop and mesh, and I see no reason why they cannot be contenders assuming these young players reach their full potential on the court.

 

Statistics from www.ESPN.com and www.sports-reference.com 

 

Celebrating The Pettiness Of The National Basketball Association

On June 12th the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA championship for the second time in three years. However, that is not where this story starts, it starts with the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA championship parade. After the Cleveland Cavaliers famously came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals to thwart the 73 win Warriors attempt at a repeat, the pettiness begin. The bad blood was apparent during the 2016 finals, especially with the behavior, and eventual suspension of Draymond Green. To celebrate finally bringing a championship back to Cleveland as he said he would, Lebron James brought a little irony and a whole lot of pettiness to the Cavaliers championship parade. His "Ultimate Warrior" t-shirt did more than just celebrate his favorite old school WWF wrestler, it sent a message about what he had just done and who he had done it against. 

If that added fuel to the fire, Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors in the off season added c4  to it. Both on the court and off the court, the hostility and pettiness raged in this fledgling rivalry. Whether it was Draymond Green declaring that he wants to destroy the Cavs or Draymond Green mocking Lebron's "flopping" after a hard foul in January, the antics added to the intensity and Draymond Green was most often on the front lines. 

As the finals approached and both teams dominated their way to the NBA finals, the pettiness and passive aggressiveness grew ten fold. Comments about super teams and doing things the right way added to the narrative as the third part of the trilogy built momentum. The games came and went, the Warriors won, but the hostility engulfed the series. Technical fouls were given out, David West almost fought everyone, Draymond Green mouthed off at people on the court, Dahntay Jones mouthed off at people from the bench and Lebron and Durant got in each other's faces. Off the court, Lebron made comments about doing things the right way and never having played for a "super team" and the Warriors made comments about winning the title. Once the series was over, it felt like the culmination of a rivalry three years in the making. 

It was only destiny that the blow-off would not be during the finals, but instead it would come to fruition during the Warriors championship parade. That day happened to be June 15th, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. The NBA news came early with a video of Lebron rapping along with Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley, but more importantly it showed off his newly shaved head. For years, Lebron James' hairline has been at the forefront of NBA humor, and today he took the final step in his constant journey to trying to be Michael Jordan, or so said NBA twitter anyways. The real news however, came when Draymond Green got to the Warriors parade wearing a "Quickie" shirt showing both the Larry O'Brien trophy and the "Quicken Loans" logo famous for being both the namesake of the Quicken Loans Arena as well as the company that made Cavs owner Dan Gilbert so rich.  In an interview with Rachel Nichols, Draymond Green was happy to flat out say "I'm petty" when discussing how long he has been planning on wearing this shirt. Lebron James was quick to respond to Draymond's petty shirt with a classic middle school joke via an Instagram post captioned "That's what she said, huh?!? https://www.instagram.com/p/BVXx2ddh_kA/?taken-by=kingjames. Not only was it posted quickly by Lebron James, it was liked just as quickly by both of Kevin Durant's MVP candidate former teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Draymond Green, never the one to keep his mouth shut, was quick to rebuttal at "King James" with a picture of his newly shaven head saying "Them dubs finally made him go bald!!! Congrats bro @kingjames" https://www.instagram.com/p/BVX0v36lYJV/?taken-by=money23green. 

Clearly the Warriors are in on the party, posting a picture of Draymond smiling with a crying Lebron fathead at the parade on their official Snapchat, and Draymond added to the fun with a picture of fans wearing shirts with JR Smith's infamous "Cavs in 7" tweet  on his own personnal Snapchat. If all that wasn't enough, Steve Kerr delivered the petty cherry on top giving a speech saying "Every one of you are Ultimate Warriors" during their celebration in Oakland. We are only in the very beginning of the NBA off season but already the #PettyWarz are in full effect. It is only a matter of time until more bombs are dropped and more comments are made both passive aggressively and openly, and I for one cannot wait to see what the pettiest league in the world will bring to us. 

Ultimate Warrior.jpg

Tristan Thompson Out Rebounded by Steph Curry in Game 2

When Tristan Thompson was asked about how he expects Game 2 to go, Thompson said, "It's going to be a wrestling match. It's going to be a wrestling match, like WWE down there."

Well, if game 2 was a wrestling match, Thompson was upset not just be his counterpart, Draymond Green, but also the 6'3 Steph Curry. After 21 minutes of play the 6'9 center only managed to pull down four rebounds along with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting. Take a look at the list of players with more rebounds in the Finals than Thompson.

Kevin Love (CLE) — 28

LeBron James (CLE) — 26

Kevin Durant (GSW) — 22

Draymond Green (GSW) — 17

Stephen Curry (GSW) — 16

Klay Thompson (GSW) — 11

Iman Shumpert (CLE) — 9

Tristan Thompson (CLE) — 8

The lack of rebounds from Thompson is a problem for the Cavaliers. Since, outside of gathering offensive rebounds, his ability to score is limited and keeping him on the floor becomes a liability.

Tyron Lue recognized this in game 2, opting to play Channing Fyre for 11 minutes after not playing him a single minute in game one. Although a three-point specialist, Fyre lacks the size and toughness the Cavaliers need in the paint.

Last year in the finals Thompson averaged 10.3 points and 10.1 rebounds. If the Cavaliers want to even win one game, Thompson needs to show up with more than an encore performance from the 2016 finals.

Relax. It's King James' Throne

@aaron_torres16

People probably figured this would happen. Happens a lot to LeBron James actually. Why is it that people cannot appreciate the presence of James? Already after two games of the NBA Finals, Paul Pierce hinted at what had his fellow analysts wondering what was in his drink…..

Kevin Durant is better than LeBron James

Hold your horse’s people please!  Now I will acknowledge that Kevin Durant is absolutely the second best basketball player in the world and is playing like a man possessed in these Finals thus far.  Let’s not forget that James is averaging a triple double and the supporting cast around the two superstars.  James is actually having a good finals but he’s disappearing in the dust of these Golden State Warriors.  If you were to put James on Golden State in place of Kevin Durant just think of the stats this man would drop.

Now, we’re not too sure what Paul Pierce was thinking when he said this. Is it because there is a sort of rivalry between the two players in the past? Maybe!  Or maybe some bad blood considering James has sent Pierce out of the playoffs the last three times they met? Possibly.  In all reality, Paul Pierce probably just got caught up in another absolutely great Finals performance from Kevin Durant and just so happened to overlook LeBron James’ triple double performance.  You know who else had a triple double performance?  Yeah, the man who brought Kevin Durant to Golden State, Stephen Curry.  With a squad like the Warriors with four future hall of famers it just makes the work load that much easier for Durant because I mean c’mon his point guard dropped a triple double.

James is playing in his 7th straight NBA Finals while Kevin Durant is in search for his first championship.  Two games in the NBA Finals where James is averaging a triple double with a double double in the first half of each game, is not changing who the best player in the world is.  I mean, let’s not let this collective mesh of talent the Warriors have deceive you.  James is a bad dude!  The baddest dude in the NBA.   Kevin Durant is nasty good, but not yet proven enough to take over the throne of the king.

The King's Next Move

(@miles-migs)

Let’s think, hypothetically, toward the future if the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t win the NBA Finals. Better yet, lets look at the aftermath if they get swept. The Cavs will have lost to a team with a deeper bench, a better coach, and players who show up in crunch time. That last sentence is directed at J. R. Smith and Kyle Korver, who score a meager three points in game one, and along with Kevin Love are no where to be found when it comes to defense.

Even If Cleveland snags one game from Golden State, a five game decision leaves the Eastern Conference in disarray, and Lebron James looking to shift Love out and plug in a new playmaker.

That is, as long as Dan Gilbert lets him.

There’s not much Gilbert could want for in his life, much less another championship. He brought Cleveland one, he (along with Lebron) has fulfilled his promise to Cleveland, and he’s also paying out personnel like Mike Brown (who Lebron didn’t want) and J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson (I like Tristan, but he ain’t worth THAT much). Championship-caliber rosters cost big money, I’m just not sure how much money Gilbert want to keep coughing up.

Dan Gilbert and LeBron James have very different goals they hope to achieve. LeBron is chasing Michael Jordan, Dan Gilbert is not. Who ever said it’s Dan Gilbert’s responsibility to help Lebron reach this milestone? Lebron didn’t expect it, that’s why he left the first time. If Gilbert won’t open his pocketbook after a Finals loss this year, Lebron will recognize it again. He’ll make moves to a new city, a city hungry for a championship, with an owner desperate enough to sign off on whatever The King wants.

2017 NBA Draft Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

@RylandWeiner

The Philadelphia 76ers are among the most promising young teams in the NBA today. Led by a young nucleus of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and now the #3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. But who should they take? The safe assumption is that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will go one and two to the Celtics and Lakers respectively. Should one of those two fall to the Sixers, they should take them without a doubt, however if not, the Sixers have a choice to make. The top players who could be available include Josh Jackson, De'Aaron Fox, and Jayson Tatum. While all three are fantastic NBA prospects, I don't see any of them being what the Sixers need.

Fox is a point guard with great athleticism, good play making ability, but no jump-shot to go along with it. The 76ers would be silly to take Fox at 3. They already have a ball-handler with a sub-par jump shot in the form of Ben Simmons, and in the NBA there's only one ball, and I just don't see any competent offense being run with two ball dominant players who can't shoot. Josh Jackson is not a terrible fit for Philly though. Great athleticism, decent scoring, fantastic defense, however we run into the same problem, not a consistent shooter. You could argue Jackson is as good a prospect as anybody in this loaded draft, however he just doesn't fill the Sixers number one need, shooting. Tatum is the best scorer out of this bunch, however he still lacks a consistent 3 point jump shot. While he has shown signs of being able to hit from 3, he is not a pure-shooter, however he can be a great isolation scorer, and works well off ball as well. So to recap, 3 great prospects will likely be available for Philly, none of which fill their needs though. However, there is one prospect in this draft that I believe fits perfectly with the young core of Simmons and Embiid. His name is Malik Monk. Monk is one of the best pure shooters in this draft, aside from Ball and Fultz, and can certainly help Philly take the next step forward.

This seems like a great fit to me, Monk can handle the ball when he needs to, catch and shoot very well, and has the ability to create his own shot. The problem is, taking Monk at 3 is certainly a stretch in most eyes, as there are players on the board with higher ceilings who are already more NBA ready. That being said, Monk is somewhat more of a project than other prospects in the top 8, however the Sixers are still far off challenging for the title, so that should be no problem whatsoever. This is where one team who is very interested in De'Aaron Fox comes into play. This team is the Sacramento Kings who could look to shake up the league once again.

The Kings made arguably the biggest trade of the year, sending Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans during All-Star weekend, and officially entering rebuild mode. The good thing for the Kings is that Buddy Hield, the main player received in the trade has shown signs of being a great scorer and shooter in his rookie year. The Kings also possess the #5 and #10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. While these picks are great, it is unlikely that De'Aaron Fox will fall to #5, and the Kings are in desperate need of a creative force on the offensive end to get Hield open shots, and get Willie Cauley-Stein easy looks at the rim. De'Aaron Fox is the perfect player to help both of these young players achieve their full potentials on the court. The 76ers could certainly look to shop the #3 pick to the Kings here, as it is mutually beneficial for both teams. A hypothetical trade could look like this...

Sixers give up #3 pick to Kings for #5 pick and future draft pick/player. This way the Sixers can get Monk at #5, and the Kings can get Fox at #3. I believe the Kings would keep the #10 pick, and instead give up a future pick or a player to sweeten the deal for Philadelphia. Overall this trade makes a lot of sense for both teams, but knowing Vlade Divac, this deal probably wont happen.

The Sixers could just take Monk at #3, however I think this deal helps both, as the Kings can almost guarantee they will get their guy, and the Sixers get the best fit for them without reaching, plus another asset that could benefit them in the present or future.

CP3 to the Spurs?

Could superstar Clippers' point guard Chris Paul be headed to San Antonio? Marc Stein of ESPN reported that the Clippers are taking the Spurs' interest in CP3 "very seriously." Chris Paul is set to become a potential unrestricted free agent. Paul has the option of staying with the Clippers or using his early-termination option in his contract. By using the early-termination option, Paul would hit the open market and turn down a $24 million salary from the Clippers.

The Spurs currently do not have enough cap space to sign Paul, so they will need to make some changes to make this even a possibility of signing him. Chris Paul would obviously be a tremendous addition to the Spurs. The series against the Warriors showed how much Kawhi Leonard meant to the team. Without him, they were a totally different team that lacked scoring depth. Tony Parker also got injured early in the playoffs which didn't help matters. Paul would also be an excellent way to replace the aging Tony Parker. Paul was ranked 9th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating. Multiple teams will be interested in Paul if he decides to leave the Clippers so it will be a joy to watch this unfold.

Warriors-Cavaliers Part III

By Aaron Torres

@aaron_torres16

 Two years ago the Cleveland Cavaliers featuring LeBron James played the newly seasoned juggernaut Golden State Warriors featuring Stephen Curry in an NBA finals series that would two years later bring debatably the most epic, most anticipated NBA Finals series in NBA history. In 2015, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers to win the NBA title for the first time since 1975. A year later, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers put on a show, coming back from down 3-1 to get their revenge on the record setting, 73-9, Golden State Warriors. Now in 2017 for the third consecutive year, the Warriors and Cavs have decided to grace us with the trilogy.

Kyrie vs Steph, LeBron James vs Kevin Durant, Kevin Love vs Draymond Green.

Who ya got?

How we got here...

 Golden State:

The Dubs absolutely tore through the so called testy Western Conference. Bringing out the brooms and handing out participation trophies to everyone in their path. Granted they were a tad bit lucky with injuries on every team they faced, did we really think they would lose anyways? The Warriors swept the Trail Blazers despite the scary backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum and later swept the Gordon Hayward led Utah Jazz and then cake walked into the Western Conference Finals to play the mighty tested San Antonio Spurs who suffered a huge blow when Kawhi Leonard twisted his already hurt ankle on a controversial run in with Zaza Pachulia in the 3rd quarter while up 20 plus points and went to the locker room with a limp and that was the last we saw of Kawhi for the series. That led to the Spurs blowing a 25 point lead in Game 1 and after that the Warriors never really looked back and steamrolled the Spurs to a 4-0 sweep to head back to the NBA Finals with an astonishing 12-0 unbeaten record throughout the playoffs. What's even crazier? The Warriors posted a single-digit margin of victory just two times, once in Round 1 the Trail Blazers only lost by six points after holding the lead for 3 quarters thanks to McCollum and Lillard’s 30 point performances. The second was the 25 point blown lead from the Spurs in Game 1. Utah was no contest for the Warriors as the dropped every game by double digits.

Cleveland:

Over in the East, the Cavs were in some questionably close contest with the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Although they went on to sweep the Pacers they only won the four games by 16 points and Indiana was a C.J Miles shot at the buzzer away from stealing Game 1 in Cleveland. The Toronto Raptors, who had a lot of people wanting to watch this matchup because of some acquisitions they had made, including Serge Ibaka, were really no hard task for the loaded Cavaliers roster as they went on to sweep the Kyle Lowry-less Raptors as well, making them 8-0 after the first two round because well, why not? As the Eastern Conference Final rolled around the fans of the NBA were hopeful for a great series between the Celtics and Cavs but just didn't get that at all. Although the Celtics had no star point guard Isaiah Thomas after game 2 due to injury, did they really even have him in Games 1 and 2 in Boston? The Cavs absolutely annihilated the Celtics in both games and although the Celtics did pull one out in Game 3, the Cavs and King James unsurprisingly bounced back in Games 4 and 5 to close out the series in Boston and officially booked a trip to Oakland as they are headed back to the NBA Finals.

 

With the acquisition of Kevin Durant to join long side Steph Curry the Warriors look very deadly. But the Cavaliers have something that the Warriors don't, LeBron James. This match-up is one that should just have every basketball fan drooling. LeBron, Kyrie, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R Smith against Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Zaza Pachulia. This is a clash of the titans and the time has finally arrived. Throw all the numbers out the door, it's time to ball.

Who wins?

The Golden State shooting backcourt of Steph, Klay, and Kevin Durant who can also do just about everything is gonna prove to be too much for an at times very suspect Cleveland defense who tends to give up a lot of open looks. This is the wrong team to give open looks too and they're going to make Cleveland pay. LeBron will be LeBron but the acquisition of Kevin Durant with post presence like Draymond Green and 7 footer JaVale McGee, who has been playing extremely well will force LeBron to take outside shots. Kyrie will be Kyrie in some moments but Steph Curry will put on an absolute show as he is entering this Finals on fire and is 100% with more than a weeks rest.

 My pick?

 Golden State in 5

 Finals MVP: Wardell Stephen Curry

What should the Boston Celtics do with the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft?

As the offseason begins, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a situation most NBA teams can only dream of.  Appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals AND having the number 1 pick in one of the best drafts in recent years sounds like the start of a dynasty...if it wasn't for a man named LeBron James.  I'll keep the James praise to a minimum, as regardless of whether you like him or not, you cannot deny his place among the all-time greats.  James has dominated the Eastern Conference for the last decade, appearing in 7 straight NBA Finals (6 along with James Jones of course), and is showing no signs of slowing down. Yes, he had a bad Game 3 against the Celtics this year, however, the real lesson that needs to be taken from that series is not that James is, in fact, human, but that the Celtics are nowhere close to seriously challenging the Cavs.  It took James worst playoff game in years, Marcus Smart to become Michael Jordan, and an impossibly perfect time wasting shot from Avery Bradley to take just a single game from the Cavs. Even if the Celtics go trade for Jimmy Butler, Paul George, or sign Gordon Hayward in free agency, that is still not enough to challenge the Cavs. However, in 3-5 years, James will be in his mid-late 30's, and will still be good, but not the dominant force he is today.

If Danny Ainge is a competent GM, which given the Celtics current position, I would say he is, then he would take Markelle Fultz with the #1 overall pick and begin the youth movement in Boston.  With Fultz, the Celtics have a young point guard with superstar potential, Jaylen Brown, a small-forward with great athleticism who has shown promise as a rookie this year, and on top of that, the Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first round pick.  To be brutally honest, the Nets are a joke of an NBA team with no signs of improvement anytime soon.  This puts the Celtics in a position to yet again have a high chance at landing a top 3 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.  Should that play out as many expect it to, the Celtics would be looking at their 3rd consecutive top 3 pick.  If the Celtics are able to make a good selection with a high pick once again, they could be looking at a potential dynasty.  One thing is certain though, James will rule the East for a few more years, but someone has to take the crown from him, why not the Celtics?  They are among the most storied franchises in NBA history, and it seems only a matter of time before they begin competing for titles once again if they play this correctly.

Photo Citation: Boston Celtics. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2017.

Two Prospects The Lakers Could Choose Over Lonzo Ball

Heading into the 2017 NBA Draft it's no secret Lonzo Ball wants to be drafted number two by the Los Angeles Lakers.  Recently, he even went as far as refusing to workout for the team with the number one pick, the Boston Celtics.  Despite, his ambition and the prediction of many NBA writers, Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka could decide they don't like Ball's game or they don't want to deal with Lavar Ball's antics and save their draft pick for another young prospect.  If the Lakers skip out on Ball, here are the top two prospects Adam Silver might call as the number two pick. 

De'Aaron Fox

Back in March, Fox helped Kentucky beat UCLA for a spot in the elite eight, finishing with a stat line of 39 points and four assists.  A dominant performance over Ball's finish that night of 10 points, eight assists, and four turnovers.

Besides that game, Fox has consistently played hard throughout the season using his athleticism and speed to break down defenders.  On defense, Fox has the ability to pressure ball-handlers, which is a great asset for today's point guard dominant NBA.

Despite not having a great shot, Fox distributes the ball well and could help D'Angelo Russell come off the ball to focus primarily on scoring.  More importantly, he'll be a nice addition to the Lakers mediocre backcourt defense.

Josh Jackson

If the Lakers decide against drafting a point guard, the 6-foot-8 forward, Josh Jackson, might be their guy.  At Kansas, Jackson was a star!  Jackson lead the team with averages of 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest.

With the Lakers, Jackson would play the same position as Brandon Ingram.  This would force Luke Walton to devise a plan for them to play together.  Jackson could play the two, but the small forward position is his best fit.

Jackson's addition to the team will help on the glass, as the Lakers rank in the bottom half of the league in terms of rebounds per game. His superior athleticisim and length will no doubt uplift the team on the defensive end.