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.
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.
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.
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!
In a very exciting free agency class, Days One and Two of Free Agency have brought us some crazy singings, moves, and trades. From 5-8 PM Eastern Time, NBA TV did a special called Free Agent Fever, where they had analysts react in real time to the trades and signings going on. As soon as 6 PM rolled around and free agency started, I started looking at Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter. Not two minutes into free agency, I saw this pop up on my screen:
Yup, believe it or not, Lonzo Ball is headed to the Chicago Bulls! Along with the contract they are picking up, the Bulls are sending Tomáš Satoranský, Garrett Temple, and a second round pick to the Pelicans. This is a great move for the Bulls, as they get a near All-Star caliber point guard, show Zach Lavine (who is an unrestricted free agent next year) that they are dedicated to winning and will more likely then not make the playoffs next year. Also in another exciting turn of events…
Everyone’s favorite player is switching teams
Yes, believe it or not, the official meme of the NBA (actually, maybe not considering how Ben Simmons has been playing and Kyle Kuzma… should I make a biggest memes of the NBA post? Let me know in the comments), Alex Caruso will be signing a four year, $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls, meaning that the Bulls now have lots of depth at that position. On a side note, I would expect that Coby White won’t be with the Bulls much longer, as his play style and Lavine’s don’t mesh well together. However, now that Caruso is on the Bulls and previously played for the Lakers, it will be ridiculous easy to make memes about him… almost as easy as it was to make memes about Brian Scalabrine. Here’s an example:
Personally, I don’t like Caruso because this offseason he was arrested for drug possession, but as a basketball player, this move does indeed help the Bulls.
Some All-Star worthy players resigned big contracts with their current team, such as Mike Conley, who resigned with the Utah Jazz for three years, and $72.5 million. Jarrett Allen resigned for five years and $100 million, and the Phoenix Suns successfully negotiated with Chris Paul to give him a four year deal that earns him up to $120 million. Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat also made some big money, with a five year, $90 million deal. This made headlines as the largest deal for an undrafted player in NBA history. However, the biggest contract so far has come from Steph Curry. He signed a contract extension for four-years and $215 million, making him the first player to sign two contracts over $200 million. My, how far we’ve come from the days where players were making $50,000 a year.
Kyle Lowry, who is one of the biggest free agents in the 2021 Free Agent class, has found a new home, as he is getting a three year deal in Miami, which will be a sign and trade. Jimmy Butler, who just earned himself a four year, $184 million contract, was instrumental in recruiting Lowry to the Heat, and now that he’s there, they have a team worthy of the NBA Finals once again. The Heat can have a starting five of Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo, which features four All-Stars.
In my years watching the NBA, I have developed a distain for both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, as in my opinion, they have ruined free agency. They are both big markets, meaning they can attract big names, but that is not why I hate them. Because of what LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have done in forming multiple super teams, every toxic Lakers and Heat fan likes to brag that every star player is going to the Lakers, and it gets very annoying very fast. The Heat are the same way, as it seems at every trade deadline or free agency fans claim they are going to acquire at least four new All-Stars.
Speaking of the Lakers, they have made some key acquisitions, and have had some key departures. Russell Westbrook was a huge upgrade for them at the point guard spot, but they lost a lot of young assets and draft capital in return. They still have an unhappy Dennis Schröder, who I fully expect to be traded this offseason. So, the Lakers need veterans because otherwise they simply won’t have enough players to form a solid rotation where players can get rest.
The first veteran they got was Trevor Ariza, who previously played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Kobe Bryant-era. Dwight Howard is also returning to the Lakers, back from a season with the Philadelphia 76ers in which the team underachieved. This will be Howard’s third stint with the franchise, and second time playing for them in three years. The Lakers also got Kent Bazemore on a one-year contract, as he has also played for the franchise before. Wayne Ellington will also be coming along for the ride, as he played for the Lakers for one season in 2015. One of their bigger additions is Malik Monk, who is a young stud of a shooting guard and progressing each and every year of his NBA career. The Lakers also acquired Kendrick Nunn, who despite being a younger player, really wants to win a ring. He turned down significantly more money to join the team, making only $5 million a year for the next two years. This also just helps prove my theory that the Lakers are going to trade Schröder as soon as possible. However, the most hyped-up signing of a veteran player has to be Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony has been chasing a ring his entire career, but unfortunately he’s mostly been on losing teams. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from NBA history, however, it’s that when a player joins a super team to win a ring, it doesn’t end up going very well (Karl Malone, Gary Payton on the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers). However, just think about how you would have lost your mind if you saw James and Anthony team up in 2011.
The Lakers also unfortunately got a downgrade at the center position, as even though they acquired Dwight Howard from the 76ers, the Lakers All-Star big man Andre Drummond found his way to Philadelphia. This is a somewhat puzzling move, as Drummond and Joel Embiid have a history of beef, but it is a great way to get depth for the 76er’s second unit. That is, if they can mesh after Embiid has said things like this:
Speaking of the Washington Wizards, they have been making some moves since the Russell Westbrook team. Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards GM, has let Robin Lopez walk to the Magic. Lopez is the second center to go the Magic from the Wizards, with the first being Moritz Wagner.
After Russell Westbrook was traded by the Wizards, their biggest offseason addition is Spencer Dinwiddie, who is not officially a member of the team, but as close as you can get. An anonymous Wizards fan said about the Westbrook trade, “Although some are disappointed with Russell Westbrook’s departure from DC, the trade may be just what the Wizards need to become a playoff team. For years now, Wizards have been at the bottom of the league, loosing games, and as Bradley Beal says, ‘lacking defense.’ Most people blame the downfall of the Wizards on past stars, John Wall and Russel Westbrook. However, the Wizards unstable season is more to blame on DC’s lack of role players. Through the Lakers trade, DC acquires great surrounding players, all with playoff experience. Combined with Beal’s lights out shooting, the Wizards could be unstoppable!”
Dinwiddie is a superb point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, who averaged over 20 points per game in 2020 and was nearly voted an All-Star. In 2021, Dinwiddie only played three games due to an ACL injury, but he is back, better then ever, and will certainly play at that All-Star level.
Multiple other small signings have happened as well, although it’s clear that as of right now, the winners of the 2021 Free Agency are the Chicago Bulls. I couldn’t even get through writing this article without another major trade happening, and once again, it features the Chicago Bulls.
Demar DeRozan is headed to Chicago, on a sign and trade deal for Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, and two second-round picks. DeRozan’s new contract will be for three years and $85 million. With this move, the Bulls have easily propelled themselves into the playoffs, and may just come out of the east and make their first NBA Finals since the Michael Jordan era. This is easily the best Bulls team we have seen since 2012, which featured Derrick Rose, a young Butler, Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Brian Scalabrine. Last season, DeRozan averaged 21.6 points and a career-high 6.9 assists per game, despite not being properly utilized by the Spurs and spending most of his minutes at the power forward position. A starting five of Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, Demar DeRozan, Lauri Markkanen (assuming he doesn’t get traded), and Nikola Vucevic features two All-Stars and two borderline All-Star caliber players. They also their 4th overall pick from 2020, Patrick Williams. They are undoubtedly a contender and favorite to come out of the east.
When asked about their chances, an anonymous Bulls fan told me, “I think the Bulls have set themselves up for a significant run in the playoffs. The addition of Lonzo Ball should propel their move. Zach Lavine is turning into a force, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams add to the mix. I don’t know what Ayo Dusunmu will bring but I hope it’s the same spark he gave to Illinois.”
Kawhi Leonard has not yet announced his decision to either re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, or to sign with another team, so stayed tune for what has the potential to be the biggest news in all of free agency.
The Kendrick Nunn signing came in right as I was finishing the article, so I want to know: who won free agency so far, the Bulls or the Lakers? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog so you don’t miss more articles coming out on free agency, and as always, have an awesome day!
Lamelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets has won the Rookie of the Year Award for the 2020-21 NBA season, despite missing 21 games to a broken wrist. He beat out Anthony Edwards to win the award, which may be a surprise to many, but not to those who were loyal to Ball, or in fact, to me. Ball averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists, living up to the hype he generated as the third overall pick. Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished second to Ball, averaged 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. However, it is clear that Ball meant more to his team, as the Hornets improved drastically and Ball averaged 2.8 win shares on the season, whereas Edwards only averaged 0.8 win shares.
June 16th, 2021, was a big day for NBA news, as two different coaches left their teams, and two teams have started looking for a new head coach.
The first head coach is Scott Brooks, as he and the Washington Wizards have mutually agreed to part ways.
“We have been committed to taking the proper steps over the last two seasons to develop our young players, bring in pieces to complement Bradley Beal and build a winning environment that will ultimately lead to sustained on-court success. Our organization will always be grateful to Scott for his dedication and work both on the court and in the community over the past five years and I personally admire and respect how he helped keep our team together during the unprecedented events of the last 15 months.”
Tommy Shepard on parting ways with former head coach Scott Brooks
This move does not come as a great surprise, but almost every Wizards fan out there is happy that Brooks is leaving. After joining the team in 2016, the Wizards had some great moments, but never for one moment seemed like championship contenders or even contenders to win the East. There were many unmemorable seasons stuck in mediocrity, not good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a top draft pick. Here are some Wizards’ fans reactions to the firing of Scott Brooks on social media:
It’s celebration time!
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY
BYE BYE 3 AND EVEN 4 GUARD LINEUPS AT TIMES
Our prayers have been answered
The day has finally come
It’s so beautiful
Biggest W of all time
WOHOOOOO 2022 CHAMPS INCOMIIIIIING
Ok, maybe that last one is a little bit crazy, but you get the idea. After going through just about everything I can think of, I did not see, hear, read, or meet a single person that was mad Brooks was leaving. While the Wizards are looking for a new head coach, most Wizards fans agree: anyone would be better than Scott Brooks.
The second head coach that parted ways with his former team (in his case, was fired) was Stan Van Gundy, brother of Jeff Van Gundy and former head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans went a disappointing 31-41 this season and missed the play-in tournament, despite having two All-Star players in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. Although the team started out 4-2 on the season, it quickly went downhill.
“On behalf of Mrs. Gayle Benson (owner of the team) and the Pelicans organization, I would like to thank Stan for the integrity and professionalism that he demonstrated during his time in New Orleans, as well as the commitment and work ethic he brought to our team. This was a difficult decision as I have tremendous respect for Stan both personally and professionally, but we agreed it is in the best interest of our team to move forward in a different direction. We wish Stan, Kim and their family all the best in the future.”
David Griffin, New Orleans Pelicans General Manager, on the firing of Stan Van Gundy
Hear me out on this crazy idea, but maybe the Pelicans should hire Scott Brooks. He’s excellent at developing young talent, he has connections all throughout the league and MVPs to vouch for him, and if he really does run three/four guard lineups, he’ll teach Williamson a lot and could make him into one of the most deadly point forwards in the game.
Or maybe I’m fantasizing a little too much . . .
It’s interesting that Van Gundy was fired, as he was not considered one of the head coaches whose job was in the most jeopardy, unlike Brooks and Terry Stots. This season was incredibly difficult, and unless there was something very wrong with Van Gundy’s coaching, I would have at least kept him one more year. Then again, I’m not David Griffin, so we’ll see if this turns out to be a great decision or a terrible one. Van Gundy had a lot to say on the subject of how difficult this season was:
“It was a hard year personally, because when I took the job, we didn’t know when training camp was going to start or any of that stuff. I had not really given a ton of thought to condensed training camp, condensed season, COVID protocols. That stuff was really, really difficult from a personal standpoint. For me, to go into Detroit and have my kids nearby, and I can’t see them. That kind of stuff. Having to limit people being able to come and visit us and things like that. On a personal level, it was difficult. But on a basketball level, I thought this was a great situation basketball-wise, and it’s better than what I thought it was. I wasn’t happy with the results. I wasn’t happy with myself on some things basketball-wise. But as far as looking at the job as a whole, it’s even better than I expected, and I expected it to be good.”
Hopefully, Van Gundy will find another head coaching job very soon, and I wish him all the best.
Another person has parted ways with a franchise, except this time, it’s not a head coach, but the Dallas Mavericks General Manager, Donnie Nelson. Even though he’s been with the organization for 24 years, many don’t know much, if anything, about him because of how heavily invested Mark Cuban is with the franchise. In fact, Cuban loves his Mavericks so much (one in particular) that when he was asked if he had to choose between his wife and Luka Doncic, he said he would be with his lawyers preparing for a divorce. Wow. Anyways, Nelson’s departure can be attributed to front office politics, as Nelson wanted Haralabos Voulgaris, the Mavericks’ director of quantitative research and development, to directly relay info to him. Instead, the former gambler hired in 2018 opted to relay information directly to the owner, Cuban, and the head coach, Rick Carlisle. While this isn’t the only reason, this friction is a big part, and even though the step down was announced today, it was decided upon on Sunday, June 14th.
“I just want to thank Donnie for his 24 years of service to this organization. Donnie has been instrumental to our success and helped bring a championship to Dallas. His hard work, creativity and vision made him a pioneer. Donnie will always be a part of the Mavs family and I wish him all the best.”
Mark Cuban in the team’s official statement regarding Donnie Nelson
Nelson is best known for helping scout, recruit, and draft European superstars Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic. While neither was drafted by the Mavericks, Nelson had been recruiting both of them when they entered the draft, and was able to swing draft-day trades for both, with Nowitzki coming from the Bucks and Doncic coming from the Atlanta Hawks.
There is lots of speculation about what superstars/stars will be moving or leaving during the offseason, so expect lots more from the Mavericks soon.
Aside from major parts of teams leaving, there have also been a slew of injuries that may drastically affect the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Chris Paul, the Phoenix Suns All-Star point guard who was just named to the All-NBA Second Team, has been sidelined from action as he has been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He is out indefinitely, and there is no news yet if he will play in Game 1. However, since Paul has been vaccinated, chances are his time in the health and safety protocols will be shorter than those who have not been vaccinated. No NBA player has tested positive for COVID-19 this season, a trend the NBA hopes to continue.
Luckily for the Suns, they made quick work of the Denver Nuggets and MVP Nikola Jokic, sweeping them in four games. The other series in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz against the Los Angeles Clippers, is still ongoing, and if Paul is in the protocols for some time, he will still most likely be able to play in the Western Conference Finals.
“Thankfully we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have time,” head coach Monty Williams said about the situation. “But at the same time, as the coach, I have to think through those scenarios. I’ve thought a lot about it. I haven’t, we haven’t, made a decision yet because we don’t have to, but it is a process for me to think about who starts and the rotation after it.”
Kawhi Leonard, star of the Los Angeles Clippers who was just named to the All-NBA First Team has injured his right knee. More tests are being done to see just how bad the damage is, and while Leonard missed Game Five, there is currently no timetable on his return, and he could miss the rest of the series. This would be detrimental to the Clippers, as they may have trouble beating the Utah Jazz in Games Six and Seven, who have All-Star Donovan Mitchell and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.
The injury occurred during a drive to the basket in Game Four of the Jazz-Clippers series, and Leonard could be seen grimacing in pain. However, he stayed in the game for a little bit after the injury, helping to lead the Clippers to a win. The Clippers are also without center Serge Ibaka, who had back surgery, and if Leonard doesn’t return, there is virtually no chance of them making it to the Western Conference Finals.
LeBron James chimed in on all of this by saying that he told everyone that starting the season back up again so quickly was a bad idea, as more and more All-Stars are getting injured. However, all his slowing down can’t be blamed on injury, as he’s 36 and not getting any younger. He’s also the guy who said that whoever came up with the idea of the NBA Play-in Tournament should be fired.
There was so much NBA news to share, but which part was the most important to you? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog so you never miss another post, and as always, have an awesome day!
Every offseason, there are coaches that get hired to new teams, and inevitably, get fired from previous teams. Some coaches are with their respective teams a lot longer than others, but when the team itself isn’t changing or there are problems, those coaches are soon shown the door. Today, we are looking at four coaches who are the most likely to get fired if they don’t have a successful playoffs or offseason.
Honorable Mention: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Yesterday, Stevens stepped down from his head coaching position with the Boston Celtics and became the president of basketball operations, as former president and Celtic legend Danny Ainge retired. Since the Celtics had not appeared to be making much progress in their quest towards a championship after losing to the Brooklyn Nets in five games, I wrote the following:
The Celtics have made the Eastern Conference Finals multiple times, which includes 2017, 2018, and 2020. In those multiple series, the Celtics have always come within one game, and even one quarter away from a trip to the Finals, but just miss out every time. Now, as of the writing of this blog, the Celtics are down 3-1 against the Brooklyn Nets which has three MVPs. There is very little chance the Celtics win this series, and if they do, something tells me Danny Ainge will be getting restless with the lack of Finals, and want some changes.
The Celtics have been contenders for the last five years, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean anything except that they are a top four team in the NBA. Only the top two compete in the Finals, and since Ainge played on the 1980s Celtics, he knows his basketball and how to win, even if it’s not how certain fans want to. While I hope Stevens does not depart this offseason, it could be another executive or coach who is fired, and another player who is hired (who knows, maybe Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers will sign with the franchise and give the team a big three).
This prediction proved to be both right, wrong, and somewhat backwards. There was a major change among the staff, and the Celtics will have a new head coach. This is the opposite of what Greg Poppovich did in the late 90s, as he resigned from his position as General Manager so he could coach the San Antonio Spurs himself. It will be interesting to see who the Celtics hire as head coach, and how different their style of play and win total will be in comparison to Stevens’ tenure with the team.
#4: Luke Walton, Sacramento Kings
After an unsuccessful post-Kobe Bryant coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers in which the team never made the playoffs, Luke Walton signed a contract to become the head coach of the SacramentoKings. At the time, the Kings were not a playoff team, but they had hope. De’Aaron Fox looked to be a future All-Star, Buddy Hield was becoming an elite shooter, and Marvin Bagley was a powerful force in the paint. However, as soon as Walton started coaching, things went downhill. The season before Walton arrived (2018-19), the Kings won 39 games and missed out on the playoffs. Since Walton arrived, they have sported identical 31 win seasons in both 2020 and 2021. Player development, the thing Walton was supposed to be good at, was stifled, as Fox had not yet made the leap to All-Star, Hield’s stats, efficiency, effectiveness, and minutes went down, and Bagley was misused, injured, and ultimately felt as though he was given up on. Many think the Kings are cursed, or have really bad luck, and I can’t say I disagree1.
Did you know that the Kings have not had a winning season since 2006? It has been over a decade since they were last in the playoffs! The franchise needs to fire Walton ASAP so that they can have a chance at undoing the damage he did and acquiring more assets to contend for the playoffs in the near future. Maybe they would be best served hiring this next coach if he gets fired, because something he’s been known for is player development…
#3: Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards
Ah yes, Scott Brooks… where to begin? I don’t know a single Wizards fan that still wants him D.C. From countless, countless, articles to videos (above) to petitions about why he should be fired, they all have good points: the Wizards can’t come through in the clutch, he has had the job several years and they haven’t gone anywhere, and he doesn’t have a go-to rotation; instead, he is just throwing out lineups and hoping one works. Young player’s development, which Brooks is supposed to be known for, isn’t going anywhere, and he has misused Deni Avdija, the Wizards 2020 lottery pick in different situations. The problem is, there are two factors that may end up keeping Brooks his job:
He led the Wizards through the play-in and to the playoffs, even though they are likely going to lose in the first round
Despite an injury-riddled season, the Wizards had a storybook turnaround
Russell Westbrook was coached under Brooks during part of his time in Oklahoma City, so they have bonded and Westbrook does not want him gone
These three facts are going to make it difficult to fire Brooks, but it’s the right thing to be done. The Wizards need a fresh start.
#2: Terry Stots, Portland Trail Blazers
Stots has been the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers since 2012, the longest a current coach in the NBA has been with one team. During his first season with the Blazers, they went 33-49 and lost 13 consecutive games to end the season. In the following years, they would make the playoffs multiple times, but could never get past the second round. Damian Lillard has been the star of the Trail Blazers, though aside from backcourt addition C.J. McCollum, he has never gotten any key pieces and stars that have helped him propel the Trail Blazers to the next level. The farthest Stots and Lillard have gone in the playoffs was the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019, where they were swept by a Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors juggernaut that would go on to lose the Finals after their All-Stars were injured and reinjured. In 2020, Stots and the Blazers found themselves kicked out of the first round in five games by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
All in all, the Blazers have made some playoff appearances and one deep run, but have never reached or won the NBA Finals. Stots will have been with the Blazers for nearly a decade after this season, and if Stots doesn’t make another deep playoff run this season, beating teams like the Denver Nuggets and the winner of the Phoenix Suns/Los Angeles Lakers series, then I see no good reason why Portland would keep him around any longer. Lillard has been loyal to the franchise his entire career, and to repay him, they need to get him a better supporting cast and coach who can take him places.
#1: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
A former Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks has done a great job developing Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as All-Star wing player Khris Middleton. However, post-season success may lead to the former Coach of the Year’s demise. In the 2018 playoffs, the Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics in the first round; in 2019 (Antetokounmpo’s first MVP season) they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, and in 2020, they lost to the Miami Heat in the second round. The Eastern Conference is not at its strongest, and the Bucks are simply not able to capitalize on the situation. When you have two All-Stars (including an MVP) on your roster and you aren’t able to make it to the NBA Finals (which has been the expectation for Antetokounmpo), that does seem to be a problem.
After Antetokounmpo signed a five-year extension and made it clear he is not leaving the franchise in the near future, the most removable piece of the team would be Budenholzer. The Bucks already got revenge by sweeping the Miami Heat in the 2021 NBA playoffs (the team that beat them in the prior playoffs), and if they can beat the winner of the Philadelphia 76ers/Washington Wizards series, then they will be back in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s difficult to say if making it there alone will let Budenholzer keep his job, but it’s very unlikely that if the Bucks can beat (most likely it will be) the Brooklyn Nets and make the NBA Finals that Budenholzer will lose his job. I like Budenholzer, and I think he is a great coach for this Bucks team, so personally, I’m rooting for them to make a deep run in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
What coach do you think will get fired first (if any)? Let me know your thoughts, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!
1: Then again, couldn’t you make an argument that lots of small market teams are cursed? For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, and of course, our beloved Sacramento Kings. While I doubt the NBA is rigging games, if they were, it’s not going in the small-market team’s favor. Maybe we should call it, “The Small Market Curse.”
On April 28th, 2021, Rui Hachimura had a decent game for the Washington Wizards, scoring 12 points along with a rebound and two assists. While this statline doesn’t stand out, it was one of the most significant nights of Hachimura’s career because of these two points:
This dunk landed the number two spot on the NBA’s Top Ten Plays of the Night, and showed everyone just how dangerous Hachimura can really be. Most fans may not know this unless you closely follow the Wizards or the Top 10 Plays of the Night, but Hachimura had a similar dunk earlier in the season; this time on Isaiah Stewart of the Detroit Pistons:
Hachimura’s game expands far beyond posterizing big men. While the Wizards have been riddled by injuries and COVID galore this season, Hachimura has stepped up his game. Over a ten game stretch during the end of March, Hachimura averaged 20.2 points, and 7.8 rebounds per game on 52.8% shooting from the field, 40.6% from three, and 82.6% from the free throw line. At the beginning of the season, Westbrook didn’t play back-to-backs, the Wizards canceled multiple games due to COVID-19 protocol and restrictions, and Beal was out for a short amount of time due to injury.
One of the things that makes Hachimura such a special player is his relentlessness. In his rookie season, Hachimura was blocked and dunked on multiple times by Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Davis, and Devin Booker. However, he never gave up, and kept relentlessly driving into the lane and contesting shots. While his three point shot is not yet particularly reliable (he is shooting 30% from three for his career thus far, but it’s slowly getting there), his bread and butter shot is his mid range jumper from near the free throw line. Whether it’s a pull-up, turnaround fade away, or in transition, Hachimura can make that shot nine times out of ten, over anyone.
As an example, take this possession against Giannis. Hachimura starts with the ball at the three point line, and knowing he is a bad three point shooter, Antetokounmpo gives him a little bit of space, but his hand is still near the ball. Hachimura then pump fakes, causing Giannis to move his arm. After creating a little bit of space, he drives to the left, something that it looks like Giannis was anticipating based on his feet. From there, Hachimura drives to the free throw line, then lowers his shoulder into Giannis, pushing him backwards and creating separation.
After creating the space, Hachimura shoots a falling jumper. Antetokounmpo contests the shot, but can not get his hand on the ball due to Hachimura’s elevation and space. He then nails the jumper over the two time Defensive Player of the Year.
This isn’t the only time Hachimura has done that. In that same game, Hachimura made a similar move against Khris Middleton.
Grabbing the ball outside the free throw line, Hachimura gives Middleton a few pump fakes, making Middleton think he will shoot the long two. Instead, he catches Middleton completely off guard, and while Middleton’s feet are positioned in a way that would make Hachimura think to go left like he did to Giannis earlier, he instead goes right, meaning Middleton has to take a half second to change his feet. In that half second, Hachimura drives by him, and when Middleton recovers and tries to go into the lane to contest the shot, Hachimura pulls back, and nails the uncontested free throw line jumper.
It’s safe to say that Hachimura has mastered the pull-up jumper.
However, it’s not just Hachimura’s offensive game that makes him such a special player, it’s his defense as well. Being a 6’8″ power forward, Hachimura generally ends up with the tougher defensive assignments, such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant.
During that April 28th win over the Lakers, Hachimura held AD to 26 points. The reason I say held is that while Davis is averaging 23 points per game this season, LeBron James is out, and he is expected to carry the scoring load. With the next highest scorer being Andre Drummond, who is not known for his offensive game (because of his shot blocking and rebounding), it seems Davis has to score more than 30 points a game for the Lakers to have a real chance at winning. Even though he did his best to carry the Lakers and shot 50% from the field, Hachimura had a stretch during the third quarter where due to closely contesting his shots, Davis missed four shots in a row. It got to the point where LeBron James became so uninterested in watching his team lose he began using his phone, and walked off the court before the game had officially ended (much like the 1991 Detroit Pistons).
While his game still has a long way to go on the outside, Hachimura’s game has transitioned well into the NBA, scoring 30 points in a game this season and having many 20+ point games. Originally, when the Wizards drafted Hachimura, I had no idea who he was. I thought that the Wizards should grab Cam Reddish, who was a teammate of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett at Duke. When they didn’t, I was very frustrated, thinking they had selected a guy who would become the next Dragon Bender.
The Wizards are currently on a hot streak, winning 11 of their last 13 including an eight game win streak. They were battling against the Bulls and Raptors for the 10th seed in the play-in tournament, but now hold a two game advantage over those two teams and are two games behind the Indiana Pacers, who are in the 9th seed. While Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal will lead the charge into the play-in and playoffs, the two glue guys who are holding the flaws of this team together are Daniel Gafford and Rui Hachimura.
Hachimura has been named to the All-Rookie second team and was selected into the Rising Stars Game. Do you think he will be an All-Star and member of the All-NBA in the future? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog for more posts like this, and as always, have an awesome day!
More NBA players are on the move after the NBA trade deadline, so let’s jump right in! If you haven’t read Part 1, check it out here.
It was rumored that the Boston Celtics were the most likely team to grab Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, even being called locked in by different sports analysts. However, the Celtics have ended up with another Orlando Magic player in Evan Fournier. Gordon, an incredible dunker, is on his way to the Denver Nuggets, along with forward Gary Clark. In return, the Magic are receiving Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, and a 2025 first round-pick. Gary Harris is a phenomenal shooting guard who is acrobatic-like in the air, and RJ Hampton who is a young rising star with lots of potential.
The Magic have been one of the most active teams before the trade deadline. They have already dealt away Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, and trading Gordon puts them 100% in rebuild mode. They have gained plenty of picks as well as young assets, so don’t be surprised if the Magic become a playoff contender sometime in the next couple of seasons.
In other news, the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls have made a trade once again! These two teams already have some history, as a few seasons prior, the Wizards traded Otto Porter Jr to the Bulls, and received Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. Michael Jordan also played for both teams. This time, the Wizards are trading Moe Wagner and Troy Brown Jr for Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchinson.
This trade isn’t exactly going to shake the NBA, but as a Wizards fan, I am mixed about this trade. Troy Brown Jr wasn’t getting the minutes he deserved behind Deni Avdija, Garrison Matthews, Davis Bertans, and Isaac Bonga, so it makes sense that he was traded. However, I am somewhat disappointed about Moe Wagner. With Thomas Bryant out for the season, Wagner was the #1 option in the paint for the Wizards, with his backups being Robin Lopez and Alex Len. Wagner could play in the post, and was really starting to develop his three point shot (it could still use some work though; he’s currently shooting about 32% from three). Daniel Gafford has been averaging 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Bulls, and said that he took his time in the starting lineup for granted. The best games that he’s played have been against the Wizards, which may have suckered them into making him part of the trade package. Chandler Hutchinson is an overall good big man, but at the same time, he’s been averaging 1.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 9.1 minutes per game this season, and has fallen off the Bulls lineup (more or less like Brown Jr on the Wizards). Overall I feel as though this trade is fair, but I think the Wizards got somewhat milked here. Or maybe that’s just because last year, in their debuts for the Wizards, Jabari Parker put up a near triple-double, Bobby Portis scored 20+ points, and then they both just fell off from there. If they continue to play poorly, then the Wizards are going to force 32 year old Robin Lopez to play a lion share of minutes, something I don’t know if he’s capable of doing that at this point in his career.
In other, other news, the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks are completing a three team trade which highlights Terrance Ferguson and George Hill. In this trade, the 76ers receive George Hill and forward Ignas Brazdeikis, the Knicks receive Terrance Ferguson, and the Oklahoma City Thunder receive 50 first and second round picks through 2027.
Ok, maybe not quite that many.
But in reality, the Thunder are acquiring Austin Rivers, Tony Bradley, and two second round picks in 2025 from Philadelphia. This is a trade in which everyone benefits somewhat. The 76ers get a reserve point guard they desperately need that doesn’t require a $30 million contract along with Kyle Lowry. George Hill has been averaging 11.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists as a 34 year old for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder gets two more draft picks which Sam Presti is hoarding (I think he’s up to 19 picks now) and a great, young, athletic point guard in Austin Rivers, who is averaging 7.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, and two assists on the season. If anything, the New York Knicks lost this trade, as while Terrance Ferguson came into the league with much hype, he has only played 13 games this season and lost much of his playing time. He’s averaging a pathetic 0.2 points per game on the season, so it’s good that he gets to move somewhere else where he may have an opportunity to score. On the other hand, the Knicks did give up a lot in this three team deal to only get back a player who scores less than half a point a game.
The last trade for this article, the Kings and Heat have agreed on a small trade. Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings is moving to Miami in exchange for Moe Harkless and Chris Silva. Bjelica is averaging 7.2 points in under 20 minutes per game, and his greatest play on the Kings has probably been this.
There are enough trades that a Part 3 will be coming out shortly, so don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog by entering your email address into the bar so you don’t miss it, and as always, have an awesome day!
After winning the last six of seven games and an incredibly difficult West Coast road trip, the Wizards are 12-18, good for the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference. It may sound insane to be calling a 12th seed contenders to win the Eastern Conference, but I think the Wizards can make a deep playoff run. Here’s why:
The Wizards have proven they can beat big-name teams
To start their incredible winning streak, the Wizards beat the Boston Celtics at Capital One Arena. The Celtics have two All-Stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and a former All-Star in Kemba Walker. The final score of that game was 104-91. Next up, the Wizards played the Houston Rockets, who are a good team even if their record doesn’t show it. They beat John Wall in his return game by 12 points. What really caught people’s attention was their next game against the Nuggets. Facing Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr, and a great young Nuggets team fresh off a Western Conference Finals victory, the Wizards eked out a 130-128 win, with a Westbrook triple-double, 25 points from Beal, and nine made three pointers by Davis Bertans (who finished with 35). This marked the first time in three years the Wizards had won three games in a row!
The next game was against the Portland Trail Blazers, and there is no way that Russell Westbrook would let the streak end against Damian Lillard and company, of all people. After the streak was extended to four, the Wizards managed to upset the Lakers without Anthony Davis thanks to an ill-advised three by Lebron James at the end of overtime. Many of the Wizards’ wins have come at the mercy of a missed game winning opportunity by the other team (against the Lakers, Nuggets, and Nets), but the fact that the Wizards kept it a one-possession game against top ten power ranked teams shows just how good they are, or can be when they live up to expectations.
2. This is the weakest the Eastern Conference has been in years
As a passionate wizards fan, I have been ridiculed many times by Western Conference fans calling the Eastern Conference, “a glorified G-League.” This season, it doesn’t appear as though the haters are wrong, as only four teams in the Eastern Conference have records above .500. Yes, four teams: The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors. This means that if the season ended today, the five, six, seven, and eight seeds in the East would make the playoffs with losing records! Meanwhile, if you take a team in the Western Conference and throw them in the East, say the Phoenix Suns, then they are almost certainly a top-3 team and will probably make the Eastern Conference Finals. Take a sub-par team in the West (record wise), such as the Dallas Mavericks (who are the #10 seed) or the New Orleans Pelicans (11th seed), and they will rise up through the Eastern Conference because they are that much better then the teams at the same rankings as them in the East.
The Wizards can use this to their advantage. The Wizards are 7-3 in their last ten games, and six games away from .500. The seeding is so close (and terrible), that if the Wizards won their next five games, they would secure a playoff berth or be at the higher end of the play-in tournament (give or take how the rest of the teams do). If the Wizards can capitalize on their chance, then they will be a playoff team, and as the four or five seed, they could beat their opponent and advance to the second round (most likely).
3. This team is better then they look on paper
If you don’t follow the Wizards closely and just look at their roster, you probably see the following things: a smoking hot Bradley Beal, an aging and out of his prime Russell Westbrook, some young talent here and there that might amount to something one day but not right now, and some guys you probably never heard of. However, the Wizards are so much more than that. Their early losses can be chalked up to learning how to play with each other and Russell Westbrook (who sometimes doesn’t seem worth the trouble, but more than is). Now that they know what they can do when they work together, the Wizards can make some serious noise.
In reality, the Wizards have the smoking hot Bradley Beal and an aging Russell Westbrook; but no matter what the age, Russ will be Russ. He has never had any injuries that kept him out for more than a handful of games, and while he is starting to dunk less, he still has an incredible amount of explosiveness. At the center position, we had Thomas Bryant, who was developing into one of the brightest young big men in the game before injury. The Wizards have Moe Wagner, a 6’11” 23-year old center who can defend the best centers, shoot the three, and post up. Alex Len is a solid backup, and Robin Lopez can do some damage in the paint when he uses his height and incredible hook shot. Davis Bertans can be smoke or a forest fire; once he catches fire, he doesn’t stop. While he is somewhat inconsistent, he is a valuable asset. The #9 picks, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija have been preforming well. Avdija is an incredible Three and D player, while Rui finds easy dunks and mid-range shots, going off for 20 against the Nuggets. Raul Neto and Ish Smith are great backup point guards who can dribble and pass the ball, as well as give Westbrook a break when he needs it. Garrison Matthews is a much better three-point shooter than he gets credit for, and Isaac Bonga is an above average defender.
All in all, I think the Wizards can not only make the playoffs, but succeed in them as well. John Wall led the Wizards the furthest this decade to Game 7 of the 2017 Semi-Finals, and with this team, as well as they play together, I think they can do the same. Let me know what you think of the Wizards in the comments below, don’t forget to follow and share the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!