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!

 

 

 

 

 

The Chicago Bulls are Simply Amazing

After an offseason that saw the Chicago Bulls revamp their roster, they came into this season locked and loaded to make a run at the east. Within the first week of the season, they’ve lived up to and even surpassed expectations, going 4-0 to start the season. In addition to All-Star Zach LaVine, who has been with the franchise ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls have lots of other All-Star talent, including All-Star Nikola Vucevic, former All-Star Demar DeRozan, and a borderline All-Star in Lonzo Ball. They also added Alex Caruso for depth off the bench. Many speculated that these moves were to keep LaVine, the team’s only All-Star talent, from leaving the franchise in free agency. Because of this and how the Bulls got these All-Stars, many teams, fans, and analysts speculated that the Bulls were overhyped, and wouldn’t do well this season.

Credit to The Chicago Tribune for Picture

Most of these thoughts came because of the DeRozan deal, in which DeRozan was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Bulls in exchange for Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round draft pick, and two future second-round picks. That’s five players for a four-time All-Star who is at the end of his prime and is 32 years old. However, what many ignored was this: DeRozan may be nearing the end of his prime, but it’s not like he’s the age of the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. DeRozan is still 32 years old, and is more versatile than ever. Once known for his high-flying athleticism, DeRozan has become a much better playmaker, as last year with San Antonio, DeRozan played power forward, and averaged a career high 6.9 assists. Being able to play three positions (shooting guard, small forward, power forward) is useful for any team, and while the Bulls may have overpaid a little bit for DeRozan, it really doesn’t matter. Young and Aminu were good players, but they had nowhere near the impact on the game that DeRozan is having for the team so far.

Almost everyone agreed that Lonzo Ball and Vucevic (traded at last year’s NBA Trade Deadline) were good fits for the team, but there were some questions about Alex Caruso, who was arrested during the offseason for drug possession. However, Caruso is a lot better than many people know, and impacts the game in multiple ways. He and Ball already have some chemistry from their days of playing on the Lakers together, and like Ball, Caruso is a fabulous passer. He thrives in transition settings, feeding his teammates who are some of the best scorers in the world. Caruso has this one move he does where he is able to freeze his defender in place coming off of a pick and roll, and he’s learned how to manipulate his hips and arms to create one of the deadliest no-look passes in basketball. Caruso has a high Basketball IQ, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and while he won’t get a ton of shots due to how incredible his teammates are, he’ll make defenders regret sagging off of him, making him one of the most valuable 6th men in the entire NBA.

Their first game of the season was against the Detroit Pistons. Everyone chipped in, and although the team only played 10 men in total, DeRozan had 17 points, Vucevic had a 15 point-15 rebound double-double, LaVine scored 34, and Ball recorded 12, 6, and four. Second year stud Patrick Williams also proved that the Bulls made the right choice in drafting him with the fourth overall pick last year by playing out of his mind in summer league and chipping in six points in this game as a starter. The Bulls would win 94-88, and two days later, on October 22nd, they would play their second game against the New Orleans Pelicans. While the Pelicans don’t have their franchise star in Zion Williamson on the floor, they still have All-Star Brandon Ingram, and one of the best big men in the NBA in Jonas Valanciunas. In this game, Ingram would have 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists while carrying the Pelicans on his back, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulls looked incredibly cohesive as Ball recorded his first triple-double in a Bulls uniform (this was made all the more sweeter when you consider the Pelicans were his old team) and LaVine scored 32 points, making the final score 128-112.

In a rematch against the Pistons the day after the Pelicans game, the Bulls would once again win, this time by 15 points. A few days later, they would play the Raptors in Toronto and escape with a three-point win as Vucevic, Ball, DeRozan, and LaVine accounted for 80 of the Bulls 111 points. However, not all of the success can be attributed to the players. Bulls Head Coach-Billy Donovan-has had experience working with stars (as he coached Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis), and he is a highly qualified candidate to coach the Bulls, as he led the Thunder to many deep playoff runs during his tenure there. He is easily a better coach than Jim Boylen, who I said was one of the worst coaches in the NBA a few years ago and needed to be fired (he was soon afterward; thanks to the Bulls Front Office for reading that!)

Credit to NBA.com for Picture

The Bulls 4-0 start is the franchise’s best start to a season since the 1996-97 season, in which Michael Jordan led the Bulls and they went 72-10 (they would also win the NBA Finals that year). Obviously, they are not going to match the talent of that Bulls team, but I do believe that people are sleeping on just how good the Chicago Bulls are. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that they could be a top three team in the East, right behind the Nets and the Bucks. This next statement is going to sound very outlandish, but if Kyrie stays out and players on the Nets roster get injured (like last year), and the same thing happens with the Bucks, then the Bulls could be playing in their first NBA Finals since 1998. Congratulations Chicago Bulls fans. You finally have something to look forward to, 10 years after Derrick Rose became the youngest league MVP and had his career derailed by injuries.

Make sure to tell everyone you know that Chi-town could actually have a good basketball team again, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!