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

Credit to Kyle Terada of USA Today Sports for Picture

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!

 

 

 

 

 

NBA History Was Made This Preseason, and Most People Didn’t Even Realize It Was Happening

The 2021-22 season is going to prove to be one of the NBA’s greatest, as it is the 75th anniversary of the NBA’s existence. There are multiple marquee matchups this year, as well as fabulous rookies and superstars, waiting to shine and attempt to capture a title. We’ve had our first glimpse at some of these stars during the NBA preseason, and seen some players and teams that look amazing (the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat) and some players/teams that make us scratch our heads (the Los Angeles Lakers). However, on a seemingly normal day of preseason games, something crazy happened that I don’t think has been talked about nearly enough.

Credit to The Charlotte Observer for Picture

On Wednesday, October 13th, 2021, you had the Magic edging the Celtics by one point, the Suns absolutely demolishing the Trail Blazers (yes, Damian Lillard was playing), the Pacers barely beating the Grizzlies, and a few other games. However, one game stood out above the rest, and that was the Dallas Mavericks against the Charlotte Hornets. In theory, this should have been a well-matched game. Charlotte has one of the best young cores in the NBA, with Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, lob partner Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, Terry Rozier, rookie James Bouknight, Kelly Oubre, Jr, Gordon Hayward, and Mason Plumlee. The Mavericks had Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Tim Hardaway Jr. Doncic is amazing, but the Hornets have the better overall roster. However, you wouldn’t have known it based on the way they played.

Credit to Jared C. Tilton of Getty Images for Picture

The Hornets won the opening tip, but Porzingis would score the first basket of the night, a three-pointer off a long rebound. Soon after, Doncic threw a no-look pass, and while the three didn’t go in, the Hornets didn’t box out properly and the Mavericks got some second-chance points, making the score 5-0. The Hornets would fail to score on the other end, and as the Mavericks came down the floor, Hardaway, Jr, nailed another three, making the score 8-0. The Hornets would score, but the Mavericks would score right back, keeping their eight-point lead. Ball would score on a mid-range jumper, but unfortunately, it was one of two shots that he would make that night. Yes, Ball took 10 shots that night and only made two of them.

Throughout the first quarter, the Hornets did their best to keep the game competitive, but Hardaway, Jr, just kept knocking down threes, as he would finish the game with 20 points. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 24-17 in Dallas’ favor, and then the bloodbath really began. The Mavericks would hit a three, followed by a coast-to-coast layup, which was followed by a timeout by the Hornets, a block on Hornets center Mason Plumlee, and one of the craziest posters during the preseason from Josh Green, which you can see here:

Credit to ESPN for Picture

From there, the Hornets botched another play and Porzingis threw down a slam dunk. Then the Mavericks scored again. And then they drained another three. The Hornets called another timeout. The Mavericks made another three. At this point, the score of the game is 39-17.

Are you sensing a recurring pattern here?

The Mavericks continued to demoralize the Hornets by throwing down dunks and seemingly making all of their shots, while the Hornets can’t get any offense going. At halftime, the score was 61-30. At what point would this stop? Would Head Coach James Borrego give the pep talk of the century and inspire his team to rally for the city of Charlotte? Would Miles Bridges catch a lob from Ball, prompting announcer Eric Collins to shout way too loudly, “MILEEEESS BRIDGESSSS! MY MIND IS BLOWN!” Would the Hornets defend their home court and win the game?

No, they would not. The Hornets would score 11 points in the third quarter; I’ve scored more then that in a single quarter. Klay Thompson would agree with me, as he scored 37 points in a quarter, which is an NBA record and more then the Hornets scored in the whole first half.

Thompson wasn’t the only one who has NBA history with him, as when the final buzzer sounded, the Hornets had lost by 68 points, with a final score of 127-59! Doncic, the generational talent, only had 10 points and 8 assists, while Porzingis had 17 points and 9 rebounds! These are solid stat lines, but Doncic is known for putting up 30 point triple-doubles, so imagine how badly the Hornets would have lost if he did that. The 68-point blowout tied an NBA record for the worst loss in history (or more optimistically, the biggest margin of victory in NBA history). In a home game against the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers won 148-80 in 1991, which is the NBA record. Teams have gotten close since then, such as when the Pacers beat the Thunder by 57 points (the largest road win) in 2021, and the Boston Celtics beating the Chicago Bulls by 67 points in 2018. Whatever the case, Hornets fans are desperately hoping this was a fluke. The Mavericks are in a very competitive Western Conference, fighting for the highest seed, and the Hornets are one of the most fun young teams to watch; well, most of the time. Eric Collins will lose it if he has to put up with this for a year.

The worst part? Jason Kidd, the Mavericks’ Head Coach, has said that he wants the team to shoot less threes, and that night, they attempted 46 threes. This is a lot, but in terms of their entire preseason, the Mavericks are dead last in three pointers attempted in the league. With luck, this trend won’t continue into the regular season.

Don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, let’s hope that kids under 10 weren’t watching this bloodbath on TV, 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!