Maybe the Isaiah Stewart-LeBron James Brawl Was a Good Thing

As many of us know, LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart got into an altercation during a Sunday matchup of Lakers-Pistons. Whether this was intentional or not is up for debate, but the fact of the matter is that it still happened, and a heated argument took place afterwards. Once Stewart saw that he was bleeding, he charged at James, ready to take his head off. The two were separated by the other eight players on the court, as well as both team’s benches and coaching staffs. Both James and Stewart are around 6’9″ and 250 pounds, so it takes a lot of people to restrain them (it also means it would have been a pretty fair fight, except that James is almost 37 and Stewart is 20). Eventually, after enough restraint, Stewart calmed down. End of story.

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… Or so we all thought, because it turns out Stewart wasn’t really calm. Stewart still wanted James’ head, so he made everyone think he was fine and then charged at James again. It looked a lot like an NFL running back swerving through defenders, trying not to get taken down. Although he shoved off the first few people that tried to hold him, he was eventually stopped by three coaches and Cade Cunningham, the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. With blood by his eye socket and streaming down his face, Stewart made his way back to the locker room, for it was already a foregone conclusion he was ejected… except he didn’t stop there. Once he was about to exit the floor, pushing off the arm of one of his coaches, Stewart turned around, charging at James while seeing red (literally and figuratively). He got through nearly the entire Pistons’ staff and almost made it to the Lakers end of the floor before he was stopped, and I don’t doubt he would have knocked James unconscious if he had the chance. Eventually, after the third and final time, Stewart and James were both ejected, and play resumed.

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When the NBA handed out suspensions, they gave James a one-game suspension, and Stewart two games. This makes sense to me, because while James started the conflict and gave Stewart a bloody eye (I do believe this was an intentional and dirty play), Stewart escalated the conflict by trying to take his head off. Then again, who wouldn’t want revenge on someone who hit them hard in the head with a flying elbow? Despite fights not being a good look for the NBA, I think this one was particularly beneficial to both the Pistons and the Lakers.

Let’s start with the Pistons’ point of view. This game was played in Detroit, and while the city has a bad history of fighting (the Bad Boys Pistons and the Malice at the Palace), this one was helpful in determining team identity. Almost every championship team has one of those players who is a spark, off the bench or as a starter. This player often brings the energy at home and is a fan-favorite with the crowd, although opposing teams often end up hating him. They can, in some instances, be a real pain in the butt, because they will do things that you sometimes question, such as calling out their teammates in public. Some examples of these types of guys are Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors, Marcus Smart from the Boston Celtics, Patrick Beverly now for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Alex Caruso for the Chicago Bulls, Montrezl Harrell from the Washington Wizards, and many more. The Pistons don’t have their spark guy who is willing to mix it up with anyone, unless you count Kelly Olynyk, who, along with Zaza Pachulia, often seems to be involved in injuring star players. The Pistons may have just found their spark guy, and although it seems to be a smaller role on an NBA team, it’s difficult to win without a spark guy.

Credit to The Sports Rush for Picture

As for the Lakers, James’ ejection is showing the team once again what they are missing and where they need to improve. Despite the fight coming a few minutes into the third quarter, the Pistons were up 12 points when the brawl started. The Lakers would end up winning this game, 121-116, but they should have won by a lot more. Yes, the squad was on the road, and James got ejected, but the Pistons are still one of the worst teams in the entire NBA. The Lakers are supposed to be contenders, title favorites. Yet, they can only squeak out a five-point victory on the road to a team who is the 14th seed in the Eastern Conference? Imagine how poorly they would do against a playoff team.

Well, against the New York Knicks, the Lakers had to play in Madison Square Garden without James, and they lost. An unsurprising takeaway? Russell Westbrook had a great statline of 31 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals… but they lost. Anthony Davis put up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists… and they lost. The Knicks were simply the better team, and as I watched this game, I found it interesting that Westbrook shot 50% from three, 88.9% from the free throw line, and 55.6% in total, which was one of his better shooting performances. The Lakers as a team, however, shot 37.4% from the field and 30.6% from three, while the Knicks shot 45.1% from the field and 44.1% from three. In this game, Westbrook did exactly what he was brought in to do with the Lakers, but they still lost.

The Lakers still haven’t learned to play with one another, and more importantly, they haven’t yet figured out how to win with each other. It’s the same as learning how to get A’s in school; if you know the content, but struggle on quizzes and tests, you won’t get good grades. I’m sure the Lakers are great in practice, but in the game, they don’t always get good results.

I’m not going to say Westbrook was a bad addition to the roster, but I know most Laker fans are panicking, and in hindsight, Buddy Hield should have been traded to this team, not Westbrook. I predict that the Lakers will have a much better second half of the season (assuming everyone remains healthy), but we’ve seen Westbrook’s track record in the playoffs, and if the Lakers advance beyond the second round, I’ll be amazed. Westbrook can’t realistically be traded, due to his large contract, so GM Rob Pelinka has to live with what he has. If by the time James retires the team hasn’t one another ring, I think the Lakers may have a new GM.

 

What do you think about the Lakers and Pistons? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

Every NBA Team’s Biggest Flaw (Part 2)

Today we’re once again looking at every NBA Team’s Biggest Flaw. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can do so here, and Part 3 will be coming out shortly. This list covers the next ten NBA teams, alphabetically speaking.

 

 

Houston Rockets: The Young Core

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The Houston Rockets are a promising team in the future, with a great young core featuring Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr, Alperen Sengun and Christian Wood. Unfortunately, none of these players have been in the league for very long, and the team overall is very young. John Wall is a great veteran, but he and the team have agreed that he won’t play until he finds a trade, which I don’t think is wise considering how good of a mentor he could be to the younger guards. Eric Gordon, now 32, is still on the roster for some reason, although he doesn’t really belong there. The young guys will need to take time to develop, and with minimal veteran presence, they’ll have to figure out on their own how to win in this league; that I think will be their toughest challenge.

Indiana Pacers: Defense/Rick Carlisle

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The Indiana Pacers got a new Head Coach during the offseason, Rick Carlisle, who last coached Dallas and Luka Doncic. The problem with Dallas when Carlisle was in command was their defense; the offense was great but their defense was simply subpar. Indiana has lots of guys that can score, such as Chris Duarte, Malcom Brogdon, and Domantas Sabonis. However, they currently rank 21st in the entire NBA in defense, a telling stat that may explain why they are below .500 and not even in the play-in picture. They are allowing nearly 20 points per game off of turnovers and are giving up nearly 15 second chance points to their opponents. Myles Turner is a great defensive player, but the rest of the team could benefit from better defense… maybe they should have hired Wes Unseld Jr as their Head Coach instead of Carlisle.

Los Angeles Clippers: Kawhi Leonard‘s Absence

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The Los Angeles Clippers are a good team, but how good are they really without Leonard? The team is built for Leonard and Paul George to thrive as the stars, with everyone else playing a supporting role. Originally, some thought that Terrance Mann could fill in for Kawhi due to his incredible performances in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz (and Rudy Gobert). However, while the 25 year old is having his best NBA season yet, he’s been in the league for three years and is currently averaging 10 points per game… it’s pretty difficult to fill in for an MVP candidate and Defensive Player of the Year. Trading Patrick Beverly was not a good idea, as while Reggie Jackson has proved to be a good point guard, Beverly is a much better defender, and helps get the crowed hyped up. This team has many flaws, and without Leonard, they will likely be a play-in team, unless he returns sooner than expected.

Los Angeles Lakers: Russell Westbrook

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After the first few games of the season for the Lakers, I wasn’t sure what the bigger problem was: Westbrook or the age of the Lakers. Going into the season, it was clearly the age of the roster, as they were and are the oldest team in the entire NBA. However, older guys like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard have been playing just fine. As much as I like Westbrook, the Lakers have put him in a position to fail. They claim they want Westbrook to be Westbrook, and GM Rob Pelinka reasoned that when LeBron James is out, they will have another playmaker to rely on. When James is injured, like he currently is, that should work in theory. Unfortunately, Westbrook still can’t shoot threes, and neither can Howard and Deandre Jordan, the team’s bigs. They clog the paint, and with his countless turnovers (it’s likely he’ll lead the league in turnovers once again), the Lakers have been subpar with Westbrook leading the helm. When James is playing and Westbrook is as well, Westbrook tries to adapt his game, but can’t. He plays his heart out every possession, and doesn’t know how to take a break. He doesn’t fit well playing with James, and although everyone tried to shrug this off at the beginning of the season, the evidence is clear in our faces. As of November 10th, the Lakers are 6-5, good for eighth in the Western Conference and the 15th best record in the league, dead average. This is very concerning for the Lakers, as they are supposed to be title contenders.

Memphis Grizzlies: HELP

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Ja Morant has proven to be an MVP level talent this year, improving his statistics in multiple areas. 11 games into the season, he is averaging 26 points (a career high), 5.6 rebounds (also a career high), 7.2 assists, and1.6 steals (career high), all while shooting 48.5% from the field (career high) and 36.7% from three. The Golden State Warriors have started the season 11-1, and that one loss has come at the hands of Morant, as he dropped 30 points. The Grizzlies are 6-7, which isn’t too bad in a competitive Western Conference. However, one does have to ask1: who else is contributing to this team? The team’s second option, Jaren Jackson Jr, is averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds per game, which is underwhelming for a guy who got a massive rookie contract extension. They also have wings like Kyle Anderson, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, and Brandon Clarke, who all make meaningful contributions off the bench. However, based on the fact the Grizzlies are on a three game losing streak, I think they need more help and more contributors then what they have.

Miami Heat: Depth

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The Miami Heat are an incredible team, with flaws difficult to find. Tyler Herro has been averaging over 20 points per game to start the season, Kyle Lowry has proved to be a seamless fit on the team, and All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are having resurges from last year. They all have a winning mentality, buying into the Heat culture laid out by Pat Riley. The only thing I can think of that may be a problem is depth. Aside from Herro, their best players off the bench are Dewayne Dedmon, Cody Martin, Markieff Morris, Victor Oladipo (who was an All-Star in 2018), and Udonis Haslem (who is 250 years old now). This is a solid bench, but the rest of it isn’t very notable, and if Miami suffers injuries, it may be more difficult to bounce back, especially in a stronger Eastern Conference.

Milwaukee Bucks: Reliance on Stars

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The Bucks have proven that when they are healthy, they are a championship team. Unfortunately, during the offseason, they lost PJ Tucker, who was instrumental in their 2021 championship run. The Bucks blew out the Nets on opening night, but after Khris Middleton got injured, they haven’t looked like the same team. They currently sit at 6-7, and if that’s without their All-Star second option, imagine how horrible the franchise would look without MVP/DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks are one fluke injury away from a wasted season, and no amount of depth can compensate for the loss of a player who is considered top five in the entire NBA.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Defense in the Paint

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The Timberwolves have a much improved roster from the previous year, as Anthony Edwards has once again emerged as a scoring threat, Malik Beasley is still scoring at an elite level, and D’Angelo Russell… well, he’s playing a bit below average. However, the centerpiece of this team, Karl Anthony-Towns, is back and completely committed to the Timberwolves, despite the fact that he liked a tweet with the hashtag “Free Kat.” (He claims someone hacked his twitter and did that, but why would someone hack his account only to like a single tweet? Not buying it) The Timberwolves roster is overall well balanced, with the exception of the center position. Towns is carrying the lion’s share of the burden, with his only backup at the position being Naz Reid. With the revival of the big man and players such as Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis, KAT needs to be dominant in the paint, and he is… on offense. The problem is that KAT is a defensive liability. While the addition of Patrick Beverley will help with perimeter defense, it’s a whole other problem in the paint. Because the Timberwolves have to rely on Towns so heavily in the paint, they have to rely heavily on his defense, something that hasn’t yet improved and will continue to hurt the team.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson‘s Weight Issues

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When healthy and playing without minutes restrictions, Williamson is a beast, dominating the paint in ways we haven’t seen since Shaquille O’Neal. Unfortunately, he seems to have inherited some of Shaq and Charles Barkley‘s weight problems, as he weighs over 300 pounds currently (just look at this video). Williamson had offseason foot surgery, which was amazingly kept a secret until training camp, and it is widely believed that David Griffin lied to Pelicans’ season ticket owners about Williamson’s return time table in order to sell more tickets and increase their revenue. Without Williamson, the team has a very small chance at winning; however, without All-Star Brandon Ingram, the team has next to nothing to be excited about. Jonas Valanciunas is a very reliable big man, but he doesn’t get fans and season ticket holders excited. Without their two All-Stars, the Pelicans are one of the worst teams in the entire NBA, and if Williamson doesn’t get these problems under control, the Pelicans could be headed for yet another horrible season.

New York Knicks: They Aren’t Contenders

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The Knicks are a fun team to watch, and are a great team in the Eastern Conference. It’s clear they are a playoff team, but they lost in the first round last year. People respect New York now, but let’s be honest: they’re not a championship contending team. In a conference filled with the Bucks, Heat, Nets, 76ers, and Bulls, the 76ers will be lucky to make it into the second round, and short of a miracle like the Atlanta Hawks pulled off last year, the Knicks will be sent home early once again. Their best option would be to make a trade for another All-Star caliber player, and I think they have the assets to pull it off.

 

Part 3 will be coming soon, so don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

 

 

1: To anyone asking themselves why the MEMPHIS Grizzlies play in the Western Conference, the answer is that they used to play in Vancouver, and it would unbalance the conferences if the Grizzlies switched to the East.

 

Why the Washington Wizards NEED to Trade For Pascal Siakam

The Washington Wizards currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 9-3 record, marking the franchise’s best record since the 1974-75 season, when the team started 7-0. It’s been rare these past few seasons to see the Wizards play so well, but I couldn’t be happier for them. Lots of the credit has to go to the new additions this offseason, but even more credit has to go to the people that got them there. Tommy Sheppard, the GM of the Wizards, Brett Greenberg and Rod Thorn, his right-hand men, and Ted Leonsis, the owner, did a phenomenal job of signing and trading talent in free agency, ultimately turning John Wall‘s untimely contract signed in 2017 into five amazing players in Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Aaron Holiday. What the Wizards’ front office has done is amazing, and the reason I think they had the best offseason of any NBA team.

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The sad thing about the Wizards is that they often don’t get the coverage that other teams do. Yes, DC is a big market, but the Wizards are one of the least talked about teams among the media; in fact, I’ve seen more Wizards coverage in these first few weeks of the season then I have in the past three years. No one expected the Wizards to be nearly this good, nor their city edition Jersey selling so well for the year.

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Despite how good the Wizards are and the praise they are receiving, people still don’t believe that this team will be top five in the Eastern Conference, and I can see why. Aside from Bradley Beal, the team has no other All-Stars (although Spencer Dinwiddie was very close in the 2019-20 season, before COVID). It’s great that Beal gets to take a step back this year and doesn’t need to carry the load so heavily, (please send your thoughts and prayers to his family as they grieve the loss of his grandmother) so that when he is absent, they still have a chance at winning. According to Basketball-Reference.com’s MVP Award tracker, Harrell is ranked as the fifth best MVP choice, behind Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Kevin Durant, and Jimmy Butler (while being ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo)! This should get any fan excited, and so should the Wizards’ depth. However, lots of these players are young, and I believe that if the Wizards want to become title contenders, they need to trade for a third star. That star is the Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam.

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The Wizards have too much depth at both forward positions, one could say. Aside from Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope, the team has Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Anthony Gill, Montrezl Harrell (sometimes as a power forward), Corey Kispert (sometimes as a small forward), and Isaiah Todd. That’s six forwards alone, and unfortunately, the 240 minutes played every NBA game can’t be fairly split up among these players. It’s great to have depth, but in this scenario, I simply believe it’s more important to have that third star to step up in necessary moments, and bring in a veteran leader who is still in his physical prime (Siakam is 27 years old).

In order for this trade to work, the Wizards would have to give up Bertans (who is overpaid), Caldwell-Pope, and possibly a protected first round-pick for Siakam. This seems like a fair deal for both teams, as it hits the reset button for the Raptors (let’s be honest, they aren’t going to get far in the playoffs or play-in, and this gives Siakam a chance to win) and gives the Wizards that third All-Star caliber player they need in order to be successful. I see this as a win-win, and on the off chance the owner, Leonsis sees this, I highly suggest that he and the front office think about this trade. It helps both teams, and while it’s difficult to let go of any player from this love-able squad, it makes sense given the direction of the team.

 

What do you think about this potential trade? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

Every NBA Team’s Biggest Flaw (Part 1)

This year, lots of teams have revamped rosters, and signed players for their fanbases to get excited about. Teams that weren’t taken seriously last year could now be contending for titles, and vice versa. However, almost (if not) every team has at least one thing wrong that could hinder them from success this season. We’ll be looking at what that flaw is for every NBA team, breaking it down into three parts with 10 teams in each part. Let’s get to it.

 

Atlanta Hawks: The Eastern Conference just got a lot stronger

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Atlanta has kept its core of John Collins, Trae Young, Clint Capela, and Kevin Huerter together after making an amazing run to the Eastern Conference Finals that no one could have predicted. The team clearly works well together under Head Coach Nate McMillan, and as Steve Kerr noted to the press, it takes two years for a team to really understand the coach’s system and have their best season together. We are coming upon McMillan’s second year in Atlanta (he was at first the Interim Head Coach once Lloyd Pierce was fired). However, their biggest problem will be getting that far in the playoffs again. Not only do they have to worry about championship contenders like the Nets and Bucks, but they now have to worry about the +Kyle Lowry Miami Heat, the new look Chicago Bulls, and the New York Knicks, who are itching for revenge. They also have to worry about playoff and play-in teams, such as the Philadelphia 76ers (once the Ben Simmons drama gets resolved… or if), the Boston Celtics, the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, and maybe the Toronto Raptors. It’s going to be a much tougher path to the ECF this year, and their chances of making it that far again aren’t high.

Boston Celtics: Stars trying to do it all/lack of a third All-Star

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This might seem counter-intuitive, but in reality these problems go hand in hand. When Boston lost to Chicago on Monday night, Marcus Smart, one of the team’s point guards, said that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were trying to do it all, and weren’t passing enough to their teammates. Alleged selfishness and chemistry may be a problem for the Celtics, but another is what the team has to have realized by now: without a third All-Star or near All-Star, the Celtics aren’t a title contender or Eastern Conference contender. To get that good, they need to acquire a star via trade… even if that means giving up some assets they like.

Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving‘s absence

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With the Nets’ Big Three entirely healthy, almost everyone has them as their favorite to win the NBA title. However, even with two MVPs in James Harden and Kevin Durant, people aren’t giving them the same odds without their All-Star point guard. As I previously mentioned, the Eastern Conference is stacked this year, and although the Nets came close last year, they simply weren’t a match for the Milwaukee Bucks, who beat them while Harden hobbled around the court. The NBA’s new rules have not been kind to Harden, and it’s taking him some time to figure out how to score when the game is more physical and he’s not allowed to hook people’s arms. If Irving doesn’t get the vaccine and return, another year of Harden and Durant’s prime could diminish with no ring and no cigar.

Charlotte Hornets: Age

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Unlike some other teams that will be mentioned later, I see the Hornets biggest flaw for this season as age. The team has an incredibly young core with LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Kelly Oubre, Jr, and James Bouknight. They have some veterans, like Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee, but they simply aren’t a contender; perhaps not even a playoff team. The lack of experience showed last year when the Hornets failed to make the playoffs in the play-in tournament, and until they become a more hardened, determined team, I think they will be fun to watch, but won’t win as many games as other teams around them.

Chicago Bulls: Lack of depth at the center position

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It’s extremely difficult to find a weakness in this Bulls team. They have great point guards in Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso1, an All-Star shooting guard in Zach LaVine, and depth at the forward positions highlighted by Demar DeRozan and Patrick Williams. At center, the Bulls have an All-Star center in Nikola Vucevic… but then what? When all the starters are on the floor, they play great, but the Bulls only have two other centers on their roster: Tony Bradley and Marko Simonovic, both 23 and 22, respectively. They haven’t established themselves in the NBA yet, and can’t match the production of Vucevic both inside and outside the paint. The team will suffer when Vucevic doesn’t play, and he’ll have an absurd number of minutes, which will lead to great production but could increase chances of injury. Without an All-Star big man I think everyone can agree the Bulls aren’t Eastern Conference contenders.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Too many big men/Collin Sexton

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The Cavaliers have a very deep team, and their roster looks the most promising since LeBron James left the team in 2019 for the Los Angeles Lakers. They have two young point guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton; although the last of those two has had some problems with his teammates. Many Cavaliers have anonymously called out Sexton, citing his attitude as a problem. If enough of his teammates don’t like him, there will be a trade (personally I think in the right situation, Sexton has more potential then Garland). However, the bigger problem in this case is the amount of power forwards and centers the team has. On their roster is Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Tacko Fall, Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, Lauri Markannen, and Dean Wade. It’s good for a team to have depth, but this may be a bit too much depth. It’s clear Allen is the Cavaliers go-to center for now, and Mobley has shifted from playing the five to the four, in order to form one of the tallest front courts in the NBA. The best possible option I can think of for the Cavaliers is a trade. The team doesn’t need Davis, and they want to be rid of Sexton and Love… there are lots of teams that would give up a star player in exchange for Love, Sexton, Davis, and a pick. The only problem would be finding an All-Star (probably a small forward) who is unhappy and matching team salaries. Perhaps the Bulls, in need of a backup big man, could make a trade with the Cavaliers work?

Dallas Mavericks: Three-Point Shooting

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With Rick Carlisle at the helm, the Mavericks had an incredible offense, one of the best in the league. In fact, during the 2019-20 season, the Mavericks scored 115.9 points per 100 possessions, the most efficient any team in the history of the NBA has ever been (Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis were more efficient then Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal‘s Lakers, as well as the 2016 Golden State Warriors). With Carlisle now coaching in Indiana, the Mavericks are led by their former star point guard, Jason Kidd. With Kidd being a defensively minded coach, the Mavericks now have one of the best defenses in the league, but one of the worst offenses. They rank towards the bottom of the NBA in three-point attempts, and Kidd has made it clear that’s how he wants the offense to run. The Mavericks are 5-3 right now with Kidd’s new defense in place, but imagine if they put Carlisle’s offense and Kidd’s defense together. That would be scary, and the Mavericks might be a title contender.

Denver Nuggets: Injuries

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The Nuggets are without their star point guard, Jamal Murray, to start the 2021-2022 NBA season. They still have their MVP center, Nikola Jokic, and a great supporting cast, but the team simply isn’t the same without him. Michael Porter, Jr, is a candidate for Most Improved Player, and he and Jokic will have to work to keep this team afloat. In a stacked Western Conference with many title contenders, Denver sits at 4-4, and in last year’s playoffs they showed they couldn’t make it all the way without Murray, losing to the Phoenix Suns in the second round. Murray is expected to make a comeback in April, and it’ll be interesting to see how Denver fares as the season continues.

Detroit Pistons: Lack of good players (they suck)

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I’m sorry if this seems harsh Detroit fans, but let’s look at the facts. The best player on the team’s roster is Jerami Grant, who leads the Pistons in points (16.8), steals (1.7), and blocks (1.2). The next best players are Saddiq Bey and Kelly Olynyk. They’re good players, but there is no way that this team would even be a play-in contender with these guys as their best players. Cade Cunningham is having a slow start to his NBA career, and while I fully expect him to pick it up, his impact isn’t going to be enough to transform Detroit. Aside from Cunningham, they have four other point guards, including Killian Hayes, the 2020 Lottery Pick who has proved that he needs a few more years of development before he’s ready for the NBA. The Pistons’ best bet will be to try and get a generational talent next year, like Chet Holmgren or Emoni Bates.

Golden State Warriors: Rookie Development

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The Warriors have been far from disappointing this season, going 6-1 to start the season. Stephen Curry has been playing like an MVP, Jordan Poole has emerged as an MIP and 6th Man of the Year candidate, and wings off the bench, such as Otto Porter, Jr, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Iguodala, and Nemanja Bjelica have all been doing great. I don’t see anything wrong with the Warriors as they wait for Klay Thompson to come back, but if I had to point to something, it would be the rookies from the 2021 NBA Draft. Moses Moody hasn’t been productive, and is averaging around six minutes per game, while Jonathan Kuminga has only appeared in two games so far. Gary Payton II has been better, playing in more games and having a 23 PER, good for 30th in the league. If the rookies had turned into studs, Golden State could have been even better then they already are, but instead, they will have to wait a few years and do their best to develop them into future All-Stars.

 

Part 2 will be coming soon, so stay tuned, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

 

1: I know Coby White also represents a problem for the Bulls, but there could be a remedy for that in the trade.

 

My Unusual 2021-22 Award Predictions

Every year, people make predictions for who they think will win various NBA awards, such as the MVP Award, ROTY, DPOY, and many more. Many websites have betting odds for who will win these awards, which lots of times are accurate, but other times, not as much. In this blog post, I will make my predictions for the end of season awards, but with one catch: none of my predictions can be for the players or teams that have the best odds. I have to pick players or teams that aren’t favored, and the betting odds that I will be using are from Vegas Insider. With that, let’s get to it.

 

MVP: Stephen Curry

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According to Vegas Insider, Luka Doncic has the best MVP odds for this season, followed by Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant. I can understand why Doncic would be favored, but aside from the fact that I can’t choose him, I wouldn’t have had him as my MVP pick anyway. With a coaching change in Jason Kidd, I think the Mavericks are going to take some time to figure out their identity and how they play, and if they aren’t at the top of the standings, it’ll be difficult for Doncic to claim the award. On the other hand, we saw Curry’s resurgence towards the end of last year, when he won the scoring title and averaged a career high 32 points per game. The Warriors have been off to a hot start, and Curry has been leading the charge. Plus, with reports of how Curry has been training this offseason, I think he’ll be better then ever. The Warriors will get a boost once Klay Thompson returns, and even though he has the fifth best odds, I think Curry will win MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year: Scottie Barnes

Credit to Michael Dwyer of AP Images for Picture

Cade Cunningham has the best odds to win the ROTY Award (+250), followed closely by Jalen Green (+300). While these rookies have a very good chance to become All-Stars down the road, chances are that none of these rookies are going to make a huge impact on their team immediately. It’ll come down to stats, consistency, and how quickly these players adjust to the NBA play style. Barnes, who has the fourth best odds, is averaging 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, while being a nightmare matchup for me in my ESPN fantasy leagues. The Raptors are only 3-3 right now, but no one is expecting them to be contenders in such a stacked Eastern Conference. He has a positive box plus/minus, which is another good stat, and given that Cunningham has only just started his career and Green is on one of the worst teams in the NBA, I think Barnes has a very good chance to win this year.

 

6th Man of the Year: Derrick Rose

Credit to Steven Ryan of Getty Images for Picture

At the top of the odds for 6th Man of the Year are Jordan Clarkson, Kevin Huerter, and Patty Mills. I would have Mills as my 6th Man of the Year because I really like what I’ve seen from him so far, but Kyrie Irving isn’t going to be playing this season (unless he gets the COVID-19 vaccine), and Mills may be a starter for a majority of the season, disqualifying him from this contest. Rose is going to be a 6th man behind Kemba Walker, who he has a history of playing at Madison Square Garden. Rose isn’t the athletic, explosive player he once was, but he’s shown he’s a very valuable addition to have come off the bench. If the Knicks have a good enough record, I see no reason why Rose can’t win the award.

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid

Credit to Tim Nwachukwu of Getty Images for Picture

At the top of the DPOY odds are Rudy Gobert and… Ben Simmons????? These odds were made on October 8th, before the season, but that still sounds very wrong given Simmons’ current situation. However, I do believe that his teammate, Embiid, will win DPOY this year. Without Simmons, the team’s overall defense is going to go down, meaning Embiid will have to step up. Considering that Embiid was an MVP candidate last year (finished second in MVP voting) in large part due to his defense, I think he can win DPOY, assuming that his level of play stays the same or improves.

 

Most Improved Player: Mo Bamba

Credit to Brian Babineau of Getty Images for Picture

The players with the best odds to win MIP this year are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+700), Zion Williamson (+700), Michael Porter Jr (+750), Kevin Porter Jr, Zach LaVine, Collin Sexton, Christian Wood, Jarrett Jackson Jr, Jaylen Brown, John Collins, Chris Boucher, and De’Aaron Fox. Some of these I don’t understand at all, and some I do, but I think that people are sleeping on Bamba. Many people thought that Bamba was a bust only a few seasons after he came out of the University of Texas, but that is far from the truth. In his first three seasons in the NBA, Bamba started in 6 games, largely due to the fact that he was playing behind All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Bamba also had to deal with some nagging injuries, so in his first fully healthy season as a starter, I expect Bamba to thrive, and run away with this award. The only thing that will keep him from being a clear favorite in my mind is Orlando’s record, a reason why I think everyone is sleeping on him.

 

Coach of the Year: Wes Unseld Jr

Credit to Jonathon Newton of The Washington Post for Picture

The favorites for the Coach of the Year award are Steve Nash, Erik Spolestra, and Billy Donovan. However, I don’t think any of the coaches with the best odds will win this award. I think it will be Washington Wizards Head Coach Wes Unseld, Jr. Son of Wes Unseld, this is his first year as an NBA Head Coach, and he has already led his Wizards to a 5-1 record, the team’s first since 2006. The team has gelled very well so far, and the only loss the team faced was on the road against Brooklyn, who is a title favorite. The Wizards have been horrible recently under Head Coach Scott Brooks, and if Unseld, Jr, can lead this team to a high playoff seed, he will easily become a Coach of the Year contender.

 

Championship: Golden State Warriors

Credit to Clutch Points for Picture

The Lakers and Nets are tied for the best odds to win the 2022 NBA Championship, but because of injuries, drama, and how old the Lakers are, I don’t think they will win it all. If Thompson comes back healthy and Jordan Poole continues to produce at the level he is, I don’t see any reason why Curry can’t win a championship, the MVP, and a Finals MVP this year. The Warriors also have depth with rookies Jonathon Kuminga and Moses Moody, wing players Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr, and more. They’re 4-1 to start the season, and if they can build off of that, then expect to see them playing in June.

 

Which of these predictions do you think will come true, and which won’t? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

 

 

 

 

Should NBA Executives and Los Angeles Fans Be Worried About the Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most hyped teams coming into the 2021-22 season, the NBA’s 75th. With LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook as their big three to go along with Carmelo Anthony, Deandre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Nunn, and Malik Monk, the Lakers have a loaded roster. While there’s no definitive proof that the NBA fixes games, even the NBA’s front office would have to admit that the Lakers winning a title would be a perfect ending to the 75th NBA season. The Lakers and Boston Celtics are tied for the most championships in NBA history with 17, and the Lakers have been in 32 NBA Finals total. The only thing that could make this better is if the Lakers defeated the Celtics in the Finals to get that 18th championship. However, if their preseason performance is any indication of how they will play this season, then they will be lucky to make the Finals.

Credit to Lakers Daily for Picture

When Westbrook was first traded to the Lakers, many true NBA fans questioned why Westbrook, a somewhat selfish point guard who is one of the worst shooters in the NBA and causes turnovers galore, would work well when playing alongside two MVP caliber players. However, many casual fans shrugged off the questions about Westbrook’s relentlessness and floor spacing, because they were so excited to see everyone play together. Now, after six games, people are realizing what many knew all along: this big three simply can’t work together.

Their first preseason game came in the form of a blowout loss against the Brooklyn Nets. Keep in mind that James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant did not play, and while James and Westbrook didn’t play, Davis did. The Nets best player on the floor was LaMarcus Aldridge, who is 36 years old, and much older then Davis. The final score of this particular bloodbath was 123-97, but the Lakers get a little bit of a pass because it was their first game.

The second game was against the Phoenix Suns, and once again, Davis was by himself. While Chris Paul did play in this game, Devin Booker did not, so the Suns didn’t have all of their star power. The result was a 12-point loss. Next up was the Golden State Warriors, which had Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both playing. In this game, Davis got a rest, while James and Westbrook played in their first ever preseason game. Both did not play much, but in 17 minutes, Westbrook had six turnovers. Curry did not play much more then either of the Lakers’ stars, and the result was Jordan Poole stepping up to score 28 points. The result? 114-121, in favor of the Warriors.

Credit to Kyle Terada of USA TODAY Sports for Picture

After going 0-3, it was time for the Lakers to step it up, as they had a rematch against the Phoenix Suns. Booker didn’t play once again, and in this game, James took a rest, while Davis and Westbrook played together. In 25 minutes, Westbrook and AD combined for 27 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, and 10 turnovers (9 of those came from Westbrook). There are some good things about that statline, but some pretty bad things as well. The result of this game was an even worse 123-94 blowout loss.

In game five, the big three would play their first ever game together, in a rematch against the Golden State Warriors. During the game, the big three would all play great. Davis had 20 points, Westbrook had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, and James had 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Unfortunately, they combined for 11 turnovers, and they lost the game by 12 points. The worst part? Both Curry and Green weren’t playing! Three MVP talents lost against the Warriors bench!

After going 0-5, the Lakers finally caught a break, playing a lottery team in the Sacramento Kings. The big three was playing again, and at the very least, they would have a confidence boost as the preseason ended. Right?

Wrong. Somehow, the Lakers managed to lose to the Kings, as De’Aaron Fox had 21 points, Richaun Holmes put up a 15 point 10 rebound double-double, and Terrance Davis had 20 points off the bench. The loss was only by four points, but still… three superstars against Fox and company? This is truly unacceptable.

If the Lakers continue like this, their diamond season could turn into a lump of coal, and without so much as an NBA Finals appearance. Whatever’s going on, the Lakers have a lot of fixing to do if they truly want to contend. So yes, I do believe that people should be worried about the Lakers. But what do you think about them? Don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog for more articles and opinions on this upcoming NBA season, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

A Preview of the Controversial Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls made a lot of noise this offseason and acquired some good and great players, enough that they have hopefully pleased All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine into re-signing with the team. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that if a star player doesn’t like the amount of wins his team has, he will request a trade or leave by the end of the year. But, despite picking up great assets, not everyone believes the Bulls will be all that they stacked up to be this year. Can the Bulls be a playoff team, and advance past the first round for the first time in LaVine’s young career? Today, we break down the pros and cons of the Bulls’ offseason, and take a look at their roster and what we can realistically expect from them this season.

Credit to The Chicago Tribune for Picture

Just a few minutes into free agency, the Bulls made their first major signing, which was point guard Lonzo Ball, brother of Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball. Ball signed a four-year $85 million deal, and was acquired by the Bulls in a sign and trade, in which the Pelicans received Tomáš Satoranský, Garrett Temple, and a second round pick. This was a great move considering the low production of Satoranský and Temple, and considering how Ball wanted to be in a bigger market and has All-Star potential. It’s clear to Bulls fans that he will be the starting point guard over the 2019 sixth overall pick, Coby White from UNC. In fact, there have been a lot of questions about whether or not a more ball-dominant point guard like White can coexist in the backcourt with LaVine. Needless to say, this move was heralded and loved by just about everyone.

In addition to adding Ball at point guard, the Bulls signed Alex Caruso in free agency, who became quite a meme during his time with the Lakers (with many fans calling him the GOAT despite his averaging 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game). However, he has made some incredible jaw dropping dunks and is a good three-point shooter (his free throw shooting could use some work). The fact that the Bulls signed him makes me even more sure that White will find his way out of Chicago. Even though Caruso was arrested for weed possession, he is still loved by almost everyone, and I don’t think anyone disagreed that it was a good move for the Bulls to pick up Caruso.

The same thing, unfortunately, cannot be said about DeMar DeRozan. A four-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-NBA Team, DeRozan was an athletic freak in his prime, appearing in the 2010 and 2011 NBA Slam Dunk contests. Unfortunately, DeRozan’s prime was in Toronto, and while he still had a few monster dunks while playing for the San Antonio Spurs, he’s a shell of his former self. As a 6’6″ shooting guard, DeRozan has transitioned to playing small forward and even power forward for the Spurs, where he logged a large percentage of his minutes in 2021. DeRozan can be a great locker room guy and has lots of experience, but he is now 32 years old. Even though he’s averaged 20+ points per game every year since 2013 (his fifth in the league), it’s clear that will change this season.

To get DeRozan, the Bulls had to give up Thaddeus Young, a solid veteran big man who still has a lot of athleticism, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round pick, and two second-round picks. While that may not seem like a lot, assuming those draft picks all play in the NBA, that’s five players for DeRozan! Even if the Bulls became one of the best teams in the NBA, there’s value in a protected first-round pick, as the Lakers proved with the Nets’ late first-round pick in 2017 by drafting Kyle Kuzma. So, five players for an out of his prime former All-Star? While DeRozan can bring a lot to the table and is very versatile, it’s clear why so many people did not like this move.

Credit to Jonathon Daniel of Getty Images for Picture

It was also very clear from early on in the 2020-21 season that Lauri Markannen, the Bulls power forward ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, was not fitting in well with the team, and that it was time for him to move on. The opportunity finally came around, and Markannen was traded in a three-team deal to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Also in this deal, Larry Nance, Jr, goes from Cleveland to Portland, and the Bulls picked up Slam Dunk Contest champion Derrick Jones, Jr, and some draft capital. Whether or not Jones, Jr, deserved to win the dunk contest is a story for a whole other blog, but he is a very athletic forward nonetheless, and will be a valuable asset to the team. I personally don’t think Markannen will fit in very well with the Cavaliers either, as they have centers Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the roster… and somehow, Kevin Love hasn’t been traded yet! He’s been unhappy for nearly three years, and he’s still not gone?

These are the most notable offseason additions, but we also have to look at what the Bulls already have. We’ve mentioned that they have an All-Star scorer in LaVine who sometimes looks like a clone of Bradley Beal, and White, who the Bulls decided to keep with their fourth-year option on his contract but may be leaving soon. In March of 2021, the Bulls acquired Nikola Vučević from the Magic, giving the All-Star big man a contender and giving the Magic some more assets, which you can read about here. It was wonderful that LaVine got an All-Star partner and the Bulls suddenly had a chance to make the playoffs, but the Bulls finished the year as the 11th seed, one spot out of the play-in tournament. It was during this time when some started to believe that Vučević was one of those great-numbers bad-team players. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Andre Drummond is a perfect example. On the Detroit Pistons, Drummond put up great numbers, and was an All-Star center. However, as soon as he left Detroit to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, people realized that his efficiency was horrible, he had almost no offensive game, and his basketball IQ was severely lacking. He went from an All-Star to a shell of his former self on the Lakers, and this upcoming season will be Joel Embiid‘s backup on the 76ers. From an All-Star to a backup in just a few seasons!

It’s not an understatement to say that the Magic were barely a playoff team, and while Vučević is still putting up All-Star double-doubles, his shooting percentage has dropped in every part of his game, save for free throw shooting. If Vučević truly was overrated on a bad team, I’m afraid that’s going to show next year with so many better players around him.

The final key piece of the Chicago Bulls for next year is Patrick Williams, the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. At first, many thought the Bulls were crazy for taking Williams so early in the lottery. However, during the 2021 NBA Summer League, Williams showed how much he improved both defensively and offensively. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game his rookie season, although I’m expecting him to take a big leap and become a sophomore stud next year. His performance will end up contributing a lot towards the Bulls’ success.

While the Bulls had one of the more active free agencies this offseason, and have a lot of new talent to be excited for, I simply don’t think they can compete with the powerhouses and All-NBA players in the Eastern Conference, such as NBA titans Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Embiid. Even with the new look roster, there’s no way the Bulls are the 1, 2, 3, or 4 seed. The highest I could see them being (and this is assuming everything goes as planned) is the fifth seed. Realistically, I think the Bulls will be in the play-in mix, and win around 35 games in 2022; a slight improvement but not by much. How well they do depends on how much the team gels and how well the younger players develop. However you spin it though, the Bulls are going to be a very fun team to watch during the 2021-22 season.

Where do you think the Bulls will land in the win spectrum? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

A Preview of the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics are currently in one of the most precarious positions in the NBA. While they have two All-Stars and are clearly a playoff team, they will most likely have trouble competing with more powerful teams in the Eastern Conference, such as the Nets, Bucks, Heat, and maybe 76ers. Today, we’re going to preview the Boston Celtics, and look at the depth they have at each position, key departures and acquisitions, their new Head Coach, and what they need in order to become even more successful. 

Credit to NBA.com for Picture

At point guard, the Celtics were able to pick up Dennis Schroder this summer, and assuming Marcus Smart shifts over to shooting guard, Schroder will start. His coming to the Celtics was a bit of a controversy, as the rival Los Angeles Lakers, who formerly had him on their team, offered him a contract worth four years and $64 million! However, Schroder believed he could get more from other teams, and when it was clear he couldn’t, he decided to sign a small one-year contract to prove that he was worthy of the big contract, and collect his payday next year. Schroder wanted to be brought to the Celtics on the mid-level exception, but the Celtics decided to offer him even less, a contract for one year and $5.9 million. Schroder still took it, and now they have a point guard who averaged 16 points per game last year for the Lakers on their team. The backup point guard will be Payton Prichard, who has shown flashes of All-Star potential during his first few seasons in the NBA. Although he hasn’t put up super impressive numbers (7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game), Pritchard is an incredible ball-handler and above-average shooter. 

The Celtics have a fair amount of depth at shooting guard. If Smart does shift to shooting guard so Schroder can take over at point, then the All-Defensive 1st Team selection will clearly be the starter, locking up players like James Harden, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Donovan Mitchell. The backup will be Josh Richardson, who the Celtics did use their mid-level exception to bring in. Richardson is a solid scorer and shooter, and can bring some much-needed offense when both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are taking a rest. The Celtics also have their 14th overall pick from 2019, Romeo Langford, although he has been very disappointing in the first two years of his career. 

At small forward, the Celtics have Brown, one of their two All-Stars. Since being drafted in 2017 out of the University of California, Brown has gotten better every year in his career, averaging 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game on 48.4% shooting. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist last year, derailing the Celtics’ hopes at making a playoff run. Now, he’ll be back and hopefully better than ever, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play close to 40 minutes per game. His main backup (the only one that has a chance of getting minutes behind him, with the exception of blowouts) is Aaron Nesmith. Drafted with the 14th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft out of Vanderbilt, Nesmith was considered the best pure shooter out of anyone in the 2020 Draft class. While he didn’t get a chance to shoot much, he did shoot 37% from three while averaging 14 minutes per game. If we look at his Per 36 minute numbers (numbers that show what a player would produce if he played 36 minutes per game), Nesmith averaged 11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists, which means he too would be a valuable contributor off the bench.

The Celtics have one of the best wing players in the NBA at power forward, and that is Jayson Tatum from Duke University. Like Brown, Tatum has gotten better every year, and in 2020, he was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team and an All-Star. While he was snubbed from the All-NBA Teams in 2021, he was an All-Star once again and his numbers only got better: 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game on 46% shooting from the field. However, this year may be difficult for Tatum, as it’s the first time he will be the undisputed leader of a team. From 2017 until 2019, Kyrie Irving was the undisputed leader of the team, and from 2019-2021, it was Kemba Walker, another All-Star point guard when healthy. Now, it’s Tatum’s turn to take command of the ship. Among his backups are Grant Williams (whose face bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Damian Lillard), Juan Hernangomez, and the athletic Jabari Parker

At center, the Celtics have three main guys they’re going to roll with. The starting spot will most likely belong to Robert Williams. Known as “The Time Lord,” Williams is an ultra-athletic big man who can catch lobs and block shots at an astounding rate, and is still very young. Via trades, Al Horford is returning to the Celtics, as the All-Star big man played for the team from 2016 until 2019. Horford brings veteran experience, and is familiar with the Celtics’ playbook, all of which will help him fit in easily with the team. The last center is Enes Kanter, who at 28 years old is entering his athletic prime and averaged a double-double last year. Kanter has played for many different teams, and he played for Boston during the 2019-20 season.

Credit to John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Two major changes occurred for the Celtics this offseason that happened off the court. For one, Danny Ainge, former Celtics’ champion and longtime President of Basketball Operations, has stepped down. He is being replaced by Brad Stevens, who was previously the Celtics’ Head Coach. This could explain why Horford was brought in … Stevens is trying to run with what took the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. However, everyone is a year older, and while I think Stevens will be a good President of Basketball Operations, I don’t know if he can match Ainge’s level of success.

Since the Celtics coach transitioned to the front office, they were in the market for a new Head Coach, and did not waste any time hiring Ime Udoka. I wrote about the hiring here if you’re interested, but in a quick summary, Udoka played basketball professionally in the NBA and overseas, and this is his first job as a Head Coach. He also has some chemistry with Celtics’ players because he coached them on the 2019 FIBA team. There’s no way to know if he will be as effective as Brad Stevens, but Celtics fans will certainly hope so.

As I mentioned earlier, the Celtics’ dilemma is that they are a playoff team, but because the Eastern Conference is so stacked, it’s unrealistic to expect that they can make the NBA Finals or even the Eastern Conference Finals with their current roster. What they need is a trade for an All-Star or near All-Star level player, just like the Milwaukee Bucks did last year. The Bucks had MVP and DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo and All-Star Khris Middleton, but until they traded for defensive ace Jrue Holiday, they weren’t true contenders to win. While the Celtics have their defensive ace in Smart, it might be helpful to bring in a player of Holiday’s caliber in order to become true championship contenders… if that’s the path that the Celtics are trying to pursue.

This season, I think the Celtics will win 48-55 games, and finish as the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. That is, if they don’t make a game-changing trade sometime this season. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

A Preview of the Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are in the middle of a rebuild, and after trading Nikola Vucevic last season, it seems as though that rebuild is going as planned. Orlando has a ton of young players and draft picks, including Jalen Suggs, the 5th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. However, the Magic still have a fair amount of injuries as well as guards, and chances are they will end up towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Today, we’re going to break down the Orlando Magic, and see what we can realistically expect from them in the upcoming 2021-22 season.

Credit to ClutchPoints for Picture

First off, let’s talk about Orlando’s point guards. Through trades, Orlando has acquired Markelle Fultz and Michael Carter-Williams, both of whom were considered busts for their separate reasons but found new life in Orlando. The Magic drafted Suggs this year, and in 2020, they drafted Cole Anthony out of the University of North Carolina. They also have RJ Hampton, who they acquired from the Denver Nuggets in the Aaron Gordon trade, and can play both point guard and shooting guard. That’s five incredible point guards, all of whom have loads of potential and have yet to reach their athletic prime.

Orlando also has some great shooting guards, starting off with Gary Harris, also acquired in the Gordon deal from Denver. E’Twaun Moore is a 31 year old veteran who last played for the Phoenix Suns (who went to the NBA Finals), and can be a great locker room guy. At small forward, the Magic also have depth, although due to injuries, that spot is a little bit limited. Terrence Ross will surely be the starting small forward, as he has been great for the franchise ever since arriving from Toronto, averaging around 16 points per game. Jonathon Isaac is another great small forward (he can also play power forward), and they have their 10th overall pick of the 2021 draft, Franz Wagner, who stands 6’9″.

One of the most exciting things about the Magic this year is that they will have something only a few other teams have… two brothers playing on the same team! Yes, after Moe Wagner was bounced around at the trade deadline, he found his way to Orlando, where Franz was also drafted! Since they don’t play the same position (unlike Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris), we may get to see the brothers play at the same time, which would be amazing. Unfortunately, other than Wagner, the Magic don’t have much depth at the four, so when Isaac returns, he might be spending some time there.

Credit to Nic Antaya for Picture

The Magic have three quality centers in Wendell Carter Jr, Robin Lopez, and Mohamed Bamba, and out of everyone, I think Magic fans want to see Bamba play the most. Drafted in 2018, Bamba has not been able to showcase his full potential as a lanky, 7’0″ center because when Vucevic was on the Magic, he was a two-time All-Star, and got the lion’s share of minutes. I sincerely hope that Lopez and Carter, Jr, don’t start over Bamba, because he deserves his time to shine and show the rest of the NBA what he can do (although Magic fans should be excited about Lopez’s hook shot; instant offense!)

The Magic are one of the teams that hired a new Head Coach this offseason, and his name is Jamahl Mosey. Mosey is 42 years old, which means he is the age of a player who just retired or a few years into retirement; Mosey played college basketball at the University of Colorado and four years professionally overseas. Having a young coach will be great for the Magic, as the players and coach can learn from their mistakes together. This is Mosey’s first gig as a Head Coach, because for the last seven seasons, Mosey has been an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, and Cleveland Cavaliers. It will also be a lower pressure environment, meaning Mosey can make decisions without worrying if he will lose his job because of a slip-up.

Overall, the Magic have a great young team with many core players that could one day become All-Stars. Since so many players are the same age, they will form bonds that they wouldn’t with grown men who are sometimes 10 years older then themselves. The chemistry will be apparent on-court, and if things continue to go as planned, the Magic could be back in the Finals by the mid- to late-2020s.

But, on the slight chance they are looking short-term and want to win now, I say blow it all up.

What? Didn’t I just get through saying how set they are for the future if they play their hand right? Yes, but if the Magic are desperate to win now, it wouldn’t be difficult to swing a trade for a player of All-Star level talent. The Magic have an excess of guards and future draft picks to give away in trades, while still keeping enough that they are not ruined for the future. For teams that want an All-Star caliber player back in return, this idea may not work (so no Ben Simmons to the Magic deal). But for teams like the Indiana Pacers (with Domantas Sabonis) and Toronto Raptors (Pascal Siakam), a trade for an All-Star who could be disgruntled could solve a lot of problems; and Orlando isn’t a small market by any means. In fact, a trade for Sabonis or Siakam could be very beneficial assuming they didn’t give away all of their assets, because they would then have an All-Star power forward and a bunch of young guys who could help the team win. If I were the Raptors, I’d do a trade for Siakam to the Magic today.

However, assuming something that dramatic doesn’t happen, their best course of action would be for the young players to spend a year becoming a tight brotherhood, and becoming a fun team to watch… even if it means losing games. Let’s be honest, the Magic aren’t going to be contenders this year, and if they are one of the worst teams in the league as many predict, then they have a chance at solving their power forward dilemma through the draft. Somehow, there are two generational talents (assuming they are both one-and-dones) in the 2022 NBA Draft, and both of them are power forwards: Emoni Bates and Chet Holmgren.

Credit to Sports Illustrated

Bates has been issued the next LeBron James/Zion Williamson label, as he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 15 and has been well over six feet tall and able to dunk a basketball since he was in the 7th grade. Holmgren played with Suggs in high school, and is going to the same college that Suggs went to for a year: the University of Gonzaga. If the Magic are lucky enough to select him, they will have unbelievable chemistry.

If the Magic earn a top two pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, then in 3-4 years, they could be legitimate title contenders. However, for this upcoming season, I don’t expect them to win more then 20 games. I know this sounds harsh, but look at the Eastern Conference. The Nets are still the Nets with Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant; the Bucks are coming off a championship with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton; the 76ers still have Joel Embiid and whoever they trade for Simmons; the Miami Heat have Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, and Jimmy Butler; even teams that may end up being much lower in the standings, like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, have great players like Evan Mobley, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen, as well as DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, and Vucevic for the Bulls. It’s also probably the best for the Magic if they don’t win over 20 games, because while the NBA does not like its franchises losing games on purpose, it does sometimes benefit teams. In this case, I’m sad to say I don’t think the tanking will be intentional. If they’re not dead last in the East, I’ll be surprised.

What do you think about the Orlando Magic? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

A Preview of the New Orleans Pelicans

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Right now, the New Orleans Pelicans are desperately trying not to fail their history class, although it already seems to some fans as though they are repeating history. In 2012, with the number one overall pick, the Pelicans drafted Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky, as he was easily considered the best player in his class, and was a generational power forward. After multiple years fed-up with New Orleans, Davis eventually demanded a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, moved there, and won a ring.

Fast forward seven years, and in 2019, with the number one overall pick, the Pelicans picked another player who had an amazing one-and-done season at a blue-blood college, knowing he was the best pick in the draft and a generational-type talent. While he hasn’t demanded a trade, it’s Zion Williamson‘s third year in the league, not his seventh (it’s also worth noting that Davis and Williamson lost the Rookie of the Year Award to upstart point guards from small colleges, Damian Lillard and Ja Morant). As you can see, New Orleans is repeating itself, and this year is crucial to sending a message to Williamson, and showing that the Pelicans are going to be contenders, and not lottery bound for the next four years. Let’s dive right in to what New Orleans can realistically expect from its team this year.

Credit to Michael Reaves of Getty Images for Picture

The Pelicans made a few moves this offseason, and had a few signings come close… but ultimately never fall through. The Pelicans let Lonzo Ball go in a sign-and-trade to the Bulls, and in exchange received Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky, a 2024 second-round pick, and some cash. No GM would have normally made this move unless they were forced to, but the Pelicans front office did this because they believed that they were going to receive a much better point guard later during the summer… 7-time All-Star Kyle Lowry! If this move happened, it would have been amazing for the Pelicans and amazing for the team… but he went to Miami, teaming up with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Victor Oladipo, and head coach Pat Riley. Lowry coming to the Pelicans was a huge part of their offseason plan, and it really crushed them when he was traded elsewhere. For now, the starting point guard will be Devonte’ Graham.

Believe it or not, the Pelicans have some of the worst depth in the entire NBA this season. At point guard, they have Graham, Satoransky, and Kira Lewis Jr. At shooting guard, they have Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, and three guys who are on two-way contracts. At small forward, they have Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Garrett Temple, Naji Marshall, and another player on a two-way contract. At power forward, they have Zion Williamson and Wenyen Gabriel. Lastly, at center, the Pelicans have Jonas Valančiūnas, Willy Hernangomez, and Jaxson Hayes.

There are a few very concerning things to me about this depth chart. For one, there is only one other “true” power forward on the team (Gabriel), and he only played 21 games last season. Is Williamson’s body ready to fully handle the stress of the NBA (probably)? The shooting guard spot is near abysmal in terms of depth, and for those that didn’t know, Hayes was arrested this offseason on suspicion of resisting arrest. The Pelicans roster only has 13 players for this upcoming season, many of which haven’t played real minutes in the NBA.

Credit to ClutchPoints for Picture

However, there are a few bright spots on such a bleak roster. The Pelicans acquired Graham, who didn’t have a chance to shine with the Charlotte Hornets, playing behind LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. Many have called him underrated and this season could be a coming-out party for him.

The Valančiūnas trade was also a great move for the Pelicans, as he has entered his prime and is a much better center then Steven Adams. Last year, Valančiūnas averaged 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds on 59.2% shooting for the Memphis Grizzlies, which is amazing. He’s 28 years old, so he still has 2-3 more seasons in his prime before he (likely) begins to fall off. Valančiūnas can solidify the paint, but the one argument you could make against him is that he simply doesn’t shoot threes. He and Williamson are going to have an interesting time working out floor spacing; or maybe their head coach will.

As New Orleans gets more and more desperate to make Williamson happy, they are firing head coaches and bringing new ones in. After 2020, the Pelicans fired Alvin Gentry, and replaced him with Stan Van Gundy. After a single season in which Van Gundy did not meet expectations (the team went 31-41 and finished as the 11th seed in the Western Conference), he was fired. One season? This shows the kind of agenda the Pelicans have, and that to an extent, they are not thinking clearly. It is incredibly rare for rookie head coaches to coach a winning team and build a winning environment in only their first year with the team. Among 17 rookie head coaches in the past five years, only four have had winning records in their first year coaching: Nick Nurse (who came to a contender and helped lead the Raptors to a championship), Steve Nash (who joined a super team in the Nets), Joe Prunty (who joined a team with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, and was also the interim after Jason Kidd was fired), and David Fizdale of the Grizzlies. Willie Green, a former NBA player, has been an assistant coach for both the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, but this is his first job as a head coach. If the Pelicans don’t give their coaches time to get to know the roster and find out what will help the team succeed, then they will never reach the lofty goals they have set for themselves.

Credit to Gerald Herbert of AP Images for Picture

Brandon Ingram has been a consistent 23 point per game scorer for the Pelicans, although his numbers did drop off a little bit in 2020-21 from 2019-20 when he was an All-Star. Believe it or not, his 23.8 points per game are the most ever points per game averaged in franchise history, with the second being Davis’ 23.7 points per game. His defensive game does need some work, and at this point in time, I don’t see Ingram as the second option on a playoff team. However, one of the Pelicans’ biggest problems are the never fading rumors that Williamson will leave the franchise as soon as he’s eligible to.

The fact that one family member of Williamson’s said that they don’t like Zion playing for the Pelicans, stirring up weeks of rumors and controversy, shows just how important Williamson is to the franchise, and what it would mean if he left. A similar thing happened when Williamson said that he “loves” playing in Madison Square Garden. These are off-hand comments, but everyone treats them as though it means he will be traded or leave in the offseason! If the Pelicans can persevere through this and keep Williamson happy, then that will be great, because I believe they can be contenders this year… for the play-in.

For the upcoming season, I predict the Pelicans will win between 30-35 games, assuming they don’t make any big trades (such as for Ben Simmons or Kristaps Porzingis). While I wish the Pelicans would be able to do more, given their lack of a supporting core around Williamson, and how stacked teams in the west are, I think it’s unreasonable to expect more. Even among the teams that may end up making the play-in, there is the Memphis Grizzlies with Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, Jr, the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, as well as teams like the Jazz with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert that have the potential to fall that low. I wish them success, but realistically, if they could make the play-in and even be the 10th seed, I’d be impressed.

How many games do you think the Pelicans will win this year? Let me know in the comments below, as well as any other teams you want me to preview, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!