Way too early bold Eastern Conference predictions

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Pascal Siakam going for a jump ball at Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Half the teams in the NBA have yet to play their fourth game of the season, but there are already budding tendencies we see continuing throughout the season. Using these tendencies, we’re making way too early bold predictions for the Eastern Conference!

Is it too early to be making these predictions? Probably. With such a small sample size, it’s hard to know how accurate our findings truly are. We won’t know for sure until much later in the season. However, we believe there are three predictions about the Eastern Conference we have right. Here we’ll break them down one by one, showing you why we believe we’ll see these results by the end of the NBA season.

 

1. Trae Young will be an MVP finalist

Trae Young has played just three games so far this season, but it’s already clear he’s taken his game to the next level. In his rookie year, Young averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 41.8% and a three-point percentage of 32.4%.

In the first three games of his second season, Young is averaging 34.0 points, 9.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 51.5% and a three-point percentage of 52.0%. His points per game have risen by 14.9, assists by 0.9, and rebounds by 2.3. Perhaps what’s more impressive, is the fact that his field goal percentage has risen by 9.7% and his three-point percentage by 19.6%.

Through three games this season, there’s been a clear difference in the way Young is playing. I know three games isn’t much to go off of, but let’s take a closer look into his numbers. During his rookie season, Young scored 30 or more points nine times in 81 games. In three games this season, Young has already done it twice. I foresee his number of 30 point games this season making a big increase, jumping from eight to somewhere between 20 and 30 times.

It’s obvious Young’s shooting has been better, as evidenced by his 9.7% increase on field goals and 19.6% increase on three-pointers. With the way he’s shooting and scoring right now, he honestly looks like MVP Steph Curry. I know that’s a big claim, but through his first three games, Young is averaging more points, assists and rebounds than Curry did in his unanimous MVP season (15-16), all while shooting 1.1% better from the field and 6.6% better from three-point range.

Young currently has his team sitting at 2-1, with their one loss coming to the 3-0 76ers by two points. There are still many games to be played, but if Young can keep up this play, he’ll surely have his team in the top half of the Eastern Conference by the end of the season. If he can do that, he’ll have my vote for MVP.

 

2. The Toronto Raptors will still make the Eastern Conference Finals

The moment Kawhi Leonard left Toronto to join the Clippers, was the moment every fan in the NBA counted out the Raptors this season. Yes, the Raptors are a much better team with Leonard. However, I don’t think it’s fair to completely count them out as Eastern Conference contenders.

We have to remember, Kawhi wasn’t the only player on this team. This roster still holds names like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. As much as we liked to think he was, Leonard wasn’t a one man show. This Raptors roster was, and still is deep. Through their first four games, the Raptors have five players averaging 12.3 points or more. Those five players are Siakam, Lowry, VanVleet, Ibaka and OG Anunoby. This is evidence this Raptors roster is still built to win, even without Kawhi.

You could easily argue that teams without a star don’t go far, but I’d counter that by saying this team does have a star. Last season we saw Siakam have a breakout year, but he was always in the passenger seat because of Kawhi. Now he’s taking over as the driver.

Through the Raptors’ first four games, Siakam is averaging 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s also shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.9% from three-point range. Guess what Kawhi averaged for the Raptors last season. 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 49.6% shooting from the field and 37.1% shooting from three-point range. Overall, Siakam’s numbers are better. I’m not saying Siakam is Kawhi, but I am saying he has taken over the star role for this Raptors team.

With a star player, another all-star (Kyle Lowry) and a roster full of great role players, there aren’t many teams in the Eastern Conference I’d take over the Raptors in a four game series right now. They may not have Kawhi, but they’ll still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

 

3. The Kyrie Irving led Nets will miss the playoffs

The Kyrie Irving era has officially begun in Brooklyn, but it hasn’t gone as planned to this point. Irving has been putting up massive numbers, averaging 37.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals on 45.6% shooting from the field and 41.2% shooting from three-point range. Irving’s numbers are awesome, but that unfortunately hasn’t translated to wins for the Nets, as they currently hold a 1-2 record.

To be quite honest, this Nets team led by Irving reminds me a lot of the Cavaliers teams Irving led before LeBron decided to come back to Cleveland. I know Irving was a lot younger back then, but he was the star player for the Cavaliers. He was their best player, and he put up good stats, but he could never lead them to a winning season.

Since then, Irving has won an NBA title and made the playoffs a bunch of times, including a couple times with a Celtics team he led. Irving is better than he was when he was a young star leading the Cavaliers, but his tendencies are still the same. Irving can make a lot of great plays and score a lot of points, but none of that really matters if you don’t win. He’s never been the type of player to take a team far when he’s the only star. That’s what he is on this Nets team right now.

Brooklyn has an exciting future, as Kevin Durant will be returning from injury next season. Nets fans should be excited, but they may have to put that excitement on hold for one more season. I’m not so sure Irving can get it done with this team. If the Nets do make the playoffs, I don’t see them being anything above the No. 7 seed. Maybe Irving can squeeze them in, but right now I’m not confident in that.

 

Two NBA lottery teams who should trade their picks

Several NBA teams in the lottery ended up with picks they didn’t expect. For some, that unexpected pick was fantastic, but for others, not so much. 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1 and 2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After looking over the teams in the NBA lottery and where their picks landed, I believe two teams should trade their picks. Those two teams are the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks.

For the Lakers, getting the fourth pick in the draft was fantastic. Had they got the pick they were supposed to get, they would have been picking 11th. Going from 11th to fourth is a huge jump. It’s a jump that will greatly benefit the Lakers this offseason.

For the Atlanta Hawks, the balls didn’t bounce in their favor. They were supposed to receive the fifth overall pick, but ended up with the eighth. However, they did pick up a second first-round pick from the Mavericks, which also has them selecting 10th.

Let me break down why I believe these two teams should trade their picks in the first-round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Los Angeles Lakers

Again, going from 11th to fourth is a huge jump. That’s a big win for the Lakers, a win they really needed after last season. The reason I believe the Lakers should trade this pick, is because it would allow them to get LeBron James the help he needs in order to compete for a championship.

The most common name the Lakers have been linked to is Anthony Davis. If I were the New Orleans Pelicans, I’d be intrigued by the Lakers having the fourth overall pick. We already know the Lakers are willing to give up a lot, but the fourth pick would make their offer even that much sweeter.

If the Pelicans traded Anthony Davis to the Lakers, I believe it would benefit both sides. The Lakers are a team trying to compete now. LeBron James needs a star player to help him compete, not another young guy who will take time to develop into a star. If the Lakers kept their pick, they’d be getting a young guy who needs time to develop. If they trade that pick as part of the package for Anthony Davis, they’d be giving LeBron what he needs to compete for a title.

On the other side, the Pelicans would be getting rid of their star player, but they’d be fully prepared for a rebuild. We already know they’re selecting Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick. If they had the No. 4 overall pick in addition to that, it would allow them to give Zion another potential star to grow and develop with.

This move makes too much sense in my opinion, and I believe this move will be done between the two sides before draft day.

 

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2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks weren’t exactly thrilled with getting the eighth and 10th overall picks. The good news is that they’ve got two lottery selections. Looking at the teams ahead of the Hawks, there’s the Cavaliers, Suns and Bulls. I’m willing to bet that at least one of those teams would trade back for the eighth and 10th overall picks.

Atlanta is a team who’s trending upward. I expect them to be a playoff team within the next few seasons. I believe they believe that too. If I’m the Hawks, I would try to trade up in the draft to get the player I like, rather than waiting until picks eight and 10 to get two players who may not be as high on my board.

Atlanta has some really nice pieces in place, but their roster isn’t complete yet. They’re still a team who needs to add as much talent as possible. If a guy they like is there from picks five to seven, it’d be more than worth it for them to move up and get a guy who can be part of their team moving forward.

I’m not saying the Hawks can’t get good players with picks eight and 10. What am saying, is that I think they could get someone better if they use those picks to trade up.

Buy or Sell: Trae Young, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders

Now that March Madness is officially over and a National Champion has been crowned, we can all turn our attention to the next chapter in the world of Sports. But first, congratulation is in order for Virginia, as they beat Texas Tech 84-77 in overtime and withstood all doubters to become the 2019 College Basketball National Champions.

While we continue to celebrate the accomplishment of Virginia, let’s see what Aman, Joel and I think about other accomplishments from three different sports teams/players.

“Raiders” by Brian Cantoni is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

As the NBA season wraps up, we look at whether or not Atlanta Hawks rookie guard, Trae Young, did enough in March to earn him the rookie of the award. We will also look at whether or not the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders can accomplish making the playoffs this season.

Joel: The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs this coming season after their recent string of offseason acquisitions.

Aman: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs this season. Even though they’ve had some good off-season acquisitions, the Raiders will need some games to work on finding a good combination, and perhaps their acquisitions haven’t been the best. Positions which they’ve needed to fill, they haven’t.

Of course, the addition of Antonio Brown is fantastic, but you need more than one good player to win a game. I see the Raiders improving from last season for sure, but there’s still more established competition the Raiders will have to deal with, like the Chargers and the Chiefs. Hopefully, the Raiders have a good draft, and the Raiders can win more games, but playoffs is still a long shot.

Rahim: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs, at least, at this point of the offseason. The trade they made to get Antonio Brown was a steal, but that’s all they have on the offensive side right now.

Though the Raiders added OT Trent Brown, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Tyrell Williams and TE Luke Willson, I don’t believe it adds up to the talent they had last year at those positions. They have yet to resign RBs Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, WR Jordy Nelson has announced his retirement, and TE Jared Cook has joined New Orleans. Those are a lot of offensive threats QB Derek Carr will miss in the 2019 season, but they have a lot of drafts picks they could use to change my mind on whether I buy or sell them in the playoffs.

Their division is wide open, despite the pure dominance the Chargers and Chiefs showed last year. Both of those teams will have a lot of pressure to make it back to the playoffs and the Broncos will as well.

Speaking of Broncos, former Denver LB Brandon Marshall has joined the Raiders as well. But like I said, they need to draft BIG if they want to change the way I think about their playoff chances. I personally like Carr and Gruden, but they’ve got to get things back in order.

For now, it’s no playoffs for Raiders, maybe we’ll see them in it again when they get to Vegas.

RahimAli: After his excellent play in March, Trae Young will win rookie of the year?

Joel: Despite Trae Young’s great play recently, I’m going to sell on him being the new favorite to win rookie of the year. For starters, Luka Doncic has led his team to a better record than Young. Luka has led the Mavericks to a record of 33-48, while Young has the Hawks with a record of 29-52. There isn’t much of a difference in terms of the team record, but Luka has a slight advantage. I feel like having a better record, regardless of how small the margin may be, gives Doncic a leg up already.

Then there are their stats. Young had a great run in March, but Luka Doncic still has better overall stats than him. Doncic averages 21.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists, while Young averages 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. I’ll take the stats of Doncic over Young’s. We can also compare their shooting stats. Trae Young is shooting 41.9% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range, while Luka Doncic is shooting 42.7% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range. Trae Young has better assist stats. Outside of that, Doncic has better stats in every other category I mentioned.

Aman: Although he’s had a great season, it would be injustice to Luka Doncic if Trae Young won rookie of the year. Along with having a better record with the Mavericks than Young did with the Hawks, Doncic’s stats are also better. Doncic averages 3 points more than Young’s 19.1/game with eight less games. When it comes to rebounds, Doncic leads that by a much bigger margin, 4.1 ahead of Young’s 3.8. Therefore, I sell Young winning the award, but just barely. It would still make sense if Young were to win it, especially with the Hawks chances of being set up to have two top 10 picks in the NBA Draft this summer.

As Doncic and Young battled their way to the top of the rookie standings in all categories, many of us might have forgotten they were part of a trade for each other. That trade was Lukas Doncic and a 2019 first round pick for Trae Young. The pick is a top-five protected, so if the Dallas Mavericks do manage to get a top-five pick, they will keep it, but if it falls out then the Hawks could get it. Now let’s imagine the Hawks having Trae Young with two of the top 10 prospects in the draft.

Aman: After a mixed start to the season, the Cubs still are a team which will make playoffs.

Rahim: The MLB Season is back, and the Chicago Cubs are looking to reclaim their division after losing it in a tie-breaker with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. This season will be a bit harder, as the Cardinals are seeking to join the mix. You can find out what we at Fourth Quarter Sports think of the NL Central division in your playoff predictions here.

But the Cubs have a good team; they need to find themselves right now. The pitchers are struggling early in the season, and the bats are swinging in the wrong direction. In game one of the Cubs’ series against the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs put up a “0” in the runs columns, while the Braves had eight.

That zero runs by the Cubs came by surprise early in the season, as it was only the 4th game and they were averaging over nine runs in the first three games. Now we are 10 games in and the Cubs are finding themselves struggling in the same way. The Braves swept them and took one of three games from the Brewers, and because of that, I am selling the Cubs making the playoffs, especially if they remain struggling for a while.

Joel: The Cubs have had a rough start to their season, but it’s still very early in the season. I’m not going to count the Cubs out just yet because they’ve started 3-7. For the last four seasons, the Cubs have made the playoffs and won at least 92 games. I think they still have the talent to do so, and the amount of time left in the season very much allows them to win 90+ games again. I’ll buy they’ll still make the playoffs because it’s early in the season and their recent history shows they’ll end up as a playoff team.

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And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Will Trae Young win rookie of the year honors after his performance in March?
  • Can the Chicago Cubs overcome their recent struggles and still be a team to make the playoffs?
  • Will Antonio Brown and other acquisitions help the Oakland Raiders make playoffs this season?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

What you may have missed this weekend: 3/1 – 3/3

It was another weekend of interesting sports events. I hope you didn’t miss any of it, but in case you did, you know this is the place where you can get all caught up.

This weekend there was a lot of different things going on from all aspects of the sports world. For College Basketball and NBA, it’s about wrapping up the season as they prepare themselves for the playoffs or tournament. But we have headlines in other sports including Soccer and Cricket. Let’s find out what we missed.

“Giannis Antetokounmpo” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NBA

Bulls beat Hawks in 4OT:

If I told you that two of the leagues worst teams battled in an epic game for the ages, would you believe me? I wouldn’t either, but it happened, and it was one of the best games in history. It was the 3rd highest scoring game in NBA history (168-161). It was also only the 15th four overtime game in NBA history. These two teams tied an NBA record with 43 three-pointers made.

That wasn’t all though, it was the first of two games between the two teams over the weekend. In this game, we saw Chicago Bulls players like Lauri Markkanen (31 pts), Zach Lavine (47 pts), and Otto Porter (31 pts) come up big. For Atlanta, it was rookie point guard Trae Young who shined to became the 1st rookie with 45 points and 10 Assists since the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan.

Game two on Sunday came down to the wire as well, but no overtime, as the Hawks held on to beat the Bulls after Kris Dunn missed the game-tying three. Markkanen and Lavine combined for 31 points, and Porter didn’t even play. Trae Young got ejected with 9:20 left in the third quarter after he received a double technical earlier in the game. Young finished with just 18 points.

Milwaukee Bucks first team to clinch playoffs:

The Bucks have been the league’s best team all season long, and they have one of the best players in the game to lead them. Bucks forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is one of the top candidates for Most Valuable Player this season. He and the Bucks became the first team to clinch a playoff spot with their win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

These Bucks are playing the best basketball of their careers, as guard Khris Middleton became a first-time All-Star. Guard Eric Bledsoe has finally come into his own with this Bucks team. He has been a huge part of their success this season. Bledsoe also earned himself a much-deserved contract extension with the Bucks. The deal was four years for $70 million.

Celtics, Thunder break their 4-game skid:

The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder are arguably two of the best teams in the league, but they both went on runs that were not favorable. They both lost four straight games until this weekend.

The Thunder lost to teams who are all in the playoff picture, like the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs. Since Westbrook’s triple-double streak ended, the Thunder have been struggling to win games. The good thing is that he and Paul George have continued to play well together, so they will still be one of the best in the West.

The Celtics lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers. The Celtics were having a tough time winning any game. Let’s be honest, we probably thought they were going to be the top team in the East, seeing how they went all the way to the Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, that hasn’t been the case this season.

Soccer:

Tottenham, Arsenal fail to cross the finish line:

Though it was hard to decide which of the two teams played better, one thing is certain: Arsenal let it slip.

Arsenal played the first half to their taste, scoring the opening goal through Aaron Ramsey, coming from a counter-attack after a Tottenham corner. In the second half, a foul in the box saw Harry Kane scoring in his ninth fixture against Arsenal, the penalty being the equalizer.

Towards the end of the match, Arsenal had a golden opportunity to take the game home, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his penalty saved by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. In the last moments of the game, Arsenal substitute Lucas Torriera was shown a red card. The match ended 1-1, Arsenal in fourth, four points behind Tottenham in third.

Atlanta United’s mistakes cost them versus DC United:

Despite Atlanta United beating Herediano 4-0 before coming into the MLS opener against DC United, DC United was too good for Atlanta to handle. From early on, it seemed DC had most of the control of the ball and Atlanta struggled to find the opponent’s box. Then, finally, in the last minute of the first half, DC found a breakthrough through Paul Arriolia. Atlanta were unable to improve in the second half, as Luciano Acosta brought over his form from last season and scored from outside the box.

Cricket:

Liam Dawson heroics help Peshawar Zalmi cross the line against Islamabad United:

Oh, Peshawar Zalmi badly needed revenge against Islamabad United. They lost to United in last year’s Pakistan Super League (PSL) final and once again earlier this season by 12 runs, kudos to a Mohammad Sami hat-trick. But this time around, Peshawar didn’t give up hope, not even till the last ball. In the first innings, it seemed Cameron Delport had won the match for Islamabad with his 71(55). But in the second innings, Liam Dawson and captain Darren Sammy responded well, putting up an 89-run partnership, until Sammy was dismissed for 40. Off of the last ball, Peshawar needed a boundary to win, and Dawson drove Sami straight down the ground towards long-on for just that.

Ahmed Shehzad, Rilee Rossouw helps Quetta Gladiators climb above Multan Sultans:

Though it took them 19 overs, the Quetta Gladiators managed to successfully register another win against the Multan Sultans. Multan was only able to put up 121, 46 of those runs being Johson Charles. Darren Bravo and Sohail Tanvir each took three wickets with Mohammad Nawaz grabbing two and Mohammad Hasnain having one to his name. Quetta’s batting got off to a good start, with the Shane Watson-Ahsan Ali partnership lasting 49 runs, until birthday-boy Shahid Afridi removed Watson for 33. Ahmed Shehzad scored a sturdy 28(35)* and Rilee Rossouw’s 35(33) was sufficient enough as Quetta won by six wickets.

Lahore PSL matches relocated to Karachi:

This year, eight PSL matches were to be held in Pakistan, three in Lahore, five in Karachi. However, due to flight scheduling issues, all the matches will be held in the southern city of Karachi. The first game in Karachi begins on March 7, with the hosts Karachi Kings taking on Peshawar Zalmi. The playoffs and final will also be held in Karachi.

College Basketball:

Losses by top 25 teams:

4 Kentucky to 7 Tennessee (71-52)

6 Michigan State to Indiana (63-62)

8 Houston to Central Florida (69-64)

22 Iowa to Rutgers (86-72)

12 Nevada to Utah State (81-76)

10 Marquette to Creighton (66-60)

17 Maryland to 9 Michigan (69-62)

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic: Learn his name

“With the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks select…Luka Doncic.” These words became the birth of the newest young superstar in the making, a 19 year old from Slovenia.

Atlanta traded Doncic on draft night to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young, the scintillating shooter out of the University of Oklahoma. The direction of these two franchises changed over night.

Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic” by Javier Mendia García is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Whereas the Hawks find themselves in the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Mavericks are a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference. Luka is the main reason why. He has vastly separated himself from the other rookies in his draft class. He will undoubtedly be this year’s Rookie of the Year.

In years past, European players have always been criticized for playing at a level lesser than the NBA, and general managers are skeptical about how their talent will transfer to the NBA. However, Luka appears to be playing at a level higher than he played in the Euroleague and is exceeding all expectations set for him.

Luka’s professional basketball career began when he was just 16 years old. He was a professional in his craft before he could even drive a car. The reason this seems so pivotal to me is the experience he gained at such a young age was invaluable. Many European professional basketball players are former college athletes from the states who are not able to make the NBA or those players who want to make more money than they would in the NBA G-League (development league).

Therefore, Luka was playing basketball against grown men who had years of competitive basketball experience when he was just a young teenager. And even with the high level of competition and all the pressure put on him, he was able to lead Real Madrid to a Euroleague Championship last season, where he was also named the Euroleague Most Valuable Player. Even now at age 19, Luka’s pure natural basketball talent is impossible to ignore. With his confidence growing and his extremely high basketball IQ, Doncic is not only holding his own in the NBA, but also performing to the level of an all-star in just his first season.

 

Luka Doncic vs LeBron James

The below is a comparison of statistics between LeBron James’ rookie season and Luka’s. They say numbers don’t lie, and I have to say the similarities in stats are uncanny.

Now, I am not by any means claiming Luka Doncic is the second coming of LeBron James. However, his on court play has to be terrifying for the other 29 teams in the league. The Atlanta Hawks must be having nightmares of the draft night trade; even though Trae Young isn’t a bust, he is definitely not Luka.

Superstars all across the league have been quick to recognize his game. From Steph Curry and Kevin Durant to Draymond Green and LeBron James. Additionally, those players just mentioned will all be out of the league before Doncic turns 30. They’ll be out of their prime years, even before that. This presents an exciting opportunity for Doncic. He currently ranks first in points per game, second in assists per game and third in PER on the Mavericks roster.

The one flaw that is pretty easy to see in Luka’s game is his turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio needs work. That is because he attempts a lot of tight passes looking for highlight plays. Luka’s confidence in his game is what causes him to try to make these special plays. Unfortunately for Dallas, that confidence is also his greatest quality.

Playing behind arguably the greatest European basketball player of all time in Dirk Nowitzki will be indispensable to his growth. As the title says, learn his name now. Luka Doncic will be a superstar in the NBA in short order.

A Fourth Quarter Sports Christmas: NBA Naughty or Nice List

Merry Christmas! By now you’re probably sitting back and watching some NBA games on Christmas, like you do every year with the family! If you’re wondering what games to watch, you can always look back at my NBA Review article to tell you about the five games today.

Of course, there is no Christmas for the NBA without the defending champs facing their biggest rival on a new team. That is the Golden State Warriors facing LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

I hope that is at the top of your list of games to watch, because I know it is mine! But that’s not the only list you should be thinking about. No, I’m not telling you Santa left the biggest gift for last. Instead, I’m telling you about our “Naughty or Nice” list.

Since it’s Christmas, it’s time for us at Fourth Quarter Sports to provide you with a gift. A gift that does, indeed, include Charlotte Hornets’ PG Kemba Walker. But let’s see what he has decided to pick from Santa’s sleigh.

Fourth Quarter Sports Christmas
Kemba Walker” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and is mixed with Religion Christmas Eve and Santa hat Christmas photos

We’ll have to wait a little bit longer to get to what exactly Walker and the Hornets pick for the Naughty or Nice list. We will, instead, look at three of the top five teams and their division first.

 

Atlantic Division: Kevin Dannaher

Toronto Raptors:

Nice: SF Kawhi Leonard

The decision to put Kawhi Leonard on the nice list was easier than Santa’s decision to have Rudolph lead the reindeers. The only player shrouded in more mystery than Markelle Fultz is Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors took a huge risk trading their beloved star DeMar DeRozan. It was unknown just how bad Leonard’s injury was, or if it was even real. Kawhi Leonard has put these questions in the past by averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game. He has looked a lot like the two-way superstar that led the Spurs to the playoffs every season he was there. The only question left is, will he do it for them next year, or will he leave in free agency?

Naughty: G/F Norman Powell

If I had to put a player on the Naughty List, it would probably be Norman Powell. He’s been injured a majority of the season. Something even more concerning is the Raptors’ three-point percentage. At 34% on the season, they are tied for 24th in the NBA in that department. Players like Kyle Lowry and CJ Miles have gone on awful cold streaks. For this egalitarian style offense, three-pointers are required for spreading the floor and opening up space.

 

Philadelphia 76ers:

Nice: C Joel Embiid

There are a lot of strong candidates for the 76ers’ Nice List. The Jimmy Butler trade has worked out well, and he looks like he’s more than a one-year rental. Ben Simmons still looks like a potential All-star, which is rare for a non-shooting point guard. But of course, Joel Embiid is the name on NBA Santa’s Nice List. He has played himself into the MVP conversation. Averaging 26 points and 13 boards per game, Embiid has looked like the superstar needed for a Finals run.

Naughty: PG Markelle Fultz

I don’t enjoy putting him here, but Markelle Fultz is on the Naughty List. There’s a lot of mystery over whether Fultz is really injured or if he just forgot how to shoot. The Sixers could have even tried to change his shooting form, and that had something to do with it. We may never know. What we do know, is they traded another first rounder to move two spots up in the 2016 draft for Fultz. As the first overall pick, he has averaged just eight points and three assists in the games he does play. If Markelle could return at a high level, then this team could be first in the Eastern Conference. Instead, GM Elton Brand said we may not see him play again this season.

 

Boston Celtics:

Nice: Talent

The Celtics could easily have Kyrie or Tatum on the Nice List, but instead, I’m going to put talent. Boston is probably second in the league (behind the Warriors of course) with the amount of talent they have. They are stacked at every position, and proved it last year with a competitive Eastern Conference Finals despite missing two All-stars. Even though they have had early season struggles, they are still one of the most feared teams in the NBA because of all their talent. Some experts think they’re the only team who can give Golden State trouble if their talent starts playing well together.

Naughty: Chemistry (Team, not Science class, Kyrie) 

Similarly to a lot of college students, Boston fans have to hate chemistry. Everyone knows how much talent is on Celtics’ roster, so why aren’t they the top team in the east? Well, in one word, chemistry. Kyrie Irving explained it quite simply, on offense the team has been selfish. For the past four years, the Warriors have been the best team in basketball. For the past four years, the Warriors have also been the most unselfish team in basketball. Coach Stevens needs to call up Steve Kerr and figure out how to make talented players share the basketball for the betterment of the team.

 

Brooklyn Nets:

Nice: G/F Joe Harris

This player has started every game this season and shot efficiently from the floor while averaging 13.3 points per game. He has been shooting the fourth highest three-point percentage in the NBA on five threes per game. He’s doing this while earning less the nine million for this season and next. Nope, this isn’t Caris Lavert, Spencer Dinwiddie or D’Angelo Russell. This is Joe Harris. All of those players could very well be on this list (not to mention Jaret Allen), but they’re all at least two years younger and will get their shot. Joe Harris has been steady throughout the year, and his hard work and pure stroke has earned him this spot.

Naughty: G/F Allen Crabbe

Allen Crabbe’s story is pretty funny. He was a restricted free agent, and the Nets wanted him, so they offered him a big contract. The Trail Blazers matched the contract, but quickly realized they needed cap space, and he wasn’t worth the money. So the Nets, of course, traded practically nothing for Crabbe and thought they had made a steal. Fast forward two years and Crabbe’s contract is almost untouchable. He is super inefficient and losing playing time to players younger than him. Just from watching him, you can tell he looks lost on defense sometimes. His 18.5 million for the next two seasons (player option he will definitely opt into) is one of the worst contracts in the NBA right now and the reason he is on the Naughty List.

 

New York Knicks:

Nice: Potential 

After saying he would be willing to play for the Knicks, Zion Williamson is atop the Nice List… I’m just kidding. There are a lot of individual candidates for the Knicks’ Nice List, so I’m going to put potential. Is this a cop-out? Absolutely. But I don’t care because there’s a lot to talk about. For example, Emmanuel Mudiay has scored 30+ points in three of the last five games. Kevin Knox has looked like a draft day steal, which is surprising considering he was taken in the top 10. Alonzo Trier took advantage of Frank Ntilkina’s poor play and earned real minutes and a long-term deal. Even Trey Burke could possibly be the future franchise point guard for this team now oozing with young talent. Oh, and not to mention Kristaps Porzingis is coming back from injury next season when the Knicks have enough cap space for a max contract (Could KD or Klay want to play in MSG?)

Naughty: SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr. 

This award could go to Frank Ntilkina, but with the number of young point guards available for the Knicks, he is somewhat exempt. It may come as a surprise to the average basketball fan, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is on the Naughty list for the New York Knicks. Yes, the same Tim Hardaway leading the team in points and steals per game. His points per game are backed by a high volume and low efficiency. At 39.6%, Hardaway has the lowest field goal percentage in the NBA for a player shooting more than 17 times a night. His three-point shot this year is just average. Despite leading the Knicks in steals, Hardaway is a negative on defense. The advanced statistics even show the lowly Knicks are four points better with him on the bench. All of this wouldn’t be awful, except Hardaway’s contract will prevent the Knicks from having two max contract slots during free agency. Despite his high scoring numbers, it would require shipping away valuable assets to get rid of Tim Hardaway’s remaining 37 million dollars.

Central Divison: Joel Deering

Milwaukee Bucks:

Nice: The Greek Freak’s Supporting Cast

Giannis Antetokounmpo makes the nice list, but we all know that. The recognition deserves to go to his supporting cast. By that, I mostly mean the players in the Bucks’ starting lineup. I’m talking about Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez.

The reason why these four players deserve to be on the nice list is because they’re all making life a lot easier for the Giannis. Giannis is a star, but he’s not a star who has to do everything himself. The other four guys in the starting lineup are all averaging 11.4 points or more. This is one of the main reasons why the Bucks are the number two team in the Eastern Conference right now.

Naughty: PG Matthew Dellavedova

Matthew Dellavedova is no longer a part of the Bucks. He was traded to the Cavaliers not too long ago, but he still makes the naughty list for this team. In his 12 games played with the Bucks, Dellavedova averaged 1.7 points on 31.6% shooting. Those are both career worsts for him. That probably has something to do with why he was traded.

 

Indiana Pacers:

Nice: SG Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo makes the nice list for the Pacers because he’s their best player. He currently leads the team in points and steals per game. He’s also second in assists. Oladipo continues to be the leader of this team. Right now they sit as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They wouldn’t be there without Oladipo.

Naughty: SG Victor Oladipo 

Yes, Oladipo makes both the nice and naughty list. Oladipo has helped the Pacers earn the three seed in the Eastern Conference right now, but he’s also missed a significant portion of time early in the season. Of the 34 games the Pacers have played, Oladipo has missed 11 games. Those injuries aren’t necessarily his fault, but the Pacers need him back and healthy throughout the season.

 

Detroit Pistons:

Nice: PF Blake Griffin

The Pistons had a hot start to their season. Blake Griffin is one of the main reasons why. He leads the Pistons in scoring and assists, while also being second in rebounds. He’s doing a little bit of everything for the Pistons so far this season. They’ve since taken a fall after starting off hot, but Blake Griffin is doing everything he can to keep the Pistons alive and in a playoff spot.

Naughty: Those who thought the Pistons were a top Eastern Conference team

It’s fair to say the Pistons are an improved team from last season, but it was never fair to think of them as a top Eastern Conference team. They started hot, but it was early in the season. We’ve seen them take a fall, currently sitting in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. We can’t say this for sure, but the expectations for them to be a top team in the conference may have hurt them.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers:

Nice: G Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson was terrible for the Cavs last season, but this season has been a different story. Clarkson is currently averaging 16.9 points per game. That’s the second most points per game for the Cavs. It’s actually first if you take away Kevin Love, who has only played four games compared to Clarkson’s 33. It’s even more impressive that Clarkson has done this without starting a single game for the Cavs this season.

Naughty: PF/C Tristan Thompson

Thompson could make the naughty list just because he’s a player who likes to talk a lot of trash and get in fights. The real reason he makes the naughty list this season though is because he said earlier in the year that the Cavs still run the Eastern Conference. We pretty much all knew that wasn’t true when he said it, but it makes it worse that the Cavs have done nothing to back that up in any way. Instead of being the team to beat, they’re the worst team in the conference. Thompson needs to think about what he says before he says it.

 

Chicago Bulls:

Nice: G Zach LaVine

The Chicago Bulls haven’t been a good team this season, but Zach LaVine has been a bright spot for them. He’s averaging 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and just over one steal per game. This has been LaVine’s best season so far, and he looks like a future star in the NBA.

Naughty: F Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker hasn’t been bad statistically this season, but he just hasn’t seemed to fit in with this team. He just signed with the team in the offseason and now is most likely going to be traded. This signing just hasn’t worked out for either side.

 

Southeast Division: Joel Deering

Charlotte Hornets:

Nice: PG Kemba Walker 

With the Hornets currently in the playoff picture, Hornets fans have to know Kemba Walker is the reason why. Walker is averaging over 24 points per game on the season, which is about 10 more points per game than their next leading scorer (Jeremy Lamb).

In addition to being their leading scorer, Walker is also leading the team in assists and steals. Kemba Walker is having his best season yet. If he can keep this up throughout the season, the Hornets will be back in the playoffs.

Naughty: SF Nicolas Batum 

Nicolas Batum is not having himself a good season. His nine points per game are his lowest since his first NBA season (5.4). In seasons past, Batum has been a significant contributor for the Hornets. This season, not so much. It’s not like his minutes have significantly decreased either, Batum has made small contributions here and there, but he’s taken a step back this year.

 

Orlando Magic:

Nice: C Nikola Vucevic 

Orlando has fallen out of playoff position after holding the eight spot for a while. If there’s any way they’re getting back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference, it’s going to be because of Vucevic. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding. If it weren’t for his average of about 20 points per game, I’m not sure Orlando would score above 80 points in a game. If this team is going to make it back into playoff position, their only offensive weapon has to keep up his great play.

Naughty: SG Evan Fournier 

Evan Fournier makes the naughty list for Orlando because he’s not having a great season. His points per game are lower than the previous two seasons. The reason for that is because he’s shooting the worst three-point percentage of his career. He’s also shooting his second-worst field goal percentage of his career. For a team who already struggles offensively, they need Fournier to step it up, as he’s supposed to be a scoring threat for them.

 

Miami Heat:

Nice: SG Josh Richardson 

Josh Richardson is currently the leading scorer for the Miami Heat. To this point in the season, Richardson is having the highest scoring output of his career. His points per game this season are about six more points than any of his other seasons. He’s also averaging the most rebounds and assists of his career. Richardson is proving he’s developing into a future star for this team.

Naughty: Dwayne Wade’s retirement tour 

Dwyane Wade himself doesn’t make the naughty list, but his retirement tour does. I get it, Miami wants to see Wade go out with a bang. That’s why they’ve been so focused on him this year. Shouldn’t the focus be winning? If Miami truly wants to send Wade out on a high note, they’ll do everything they can to win. I just think this focus on Wade retiring has distracted the team from something more important. They’re in playoff position right now, but I think they could be better if their focus wasn’t on Wade.

 

Washington Wizards:

Nice: F Trevor Ariza 

Trevor Ariza has been great for the Wizards since being traded to the team. In his first three games with the team, Ariza averaged 16.0 points, seven rebounds, 4.7 assists, and four steals. Ariza hasn’t seemed to have a problem fitting in. I’m not sure Ariza is what this team needs to fix all their problems, but he can fix some. Ariza is a veteran leader who can defend and shoot. Any team can use him. So far, Ariza has been valuable for the Wizards.

Naughty: Wizards Front Office 

The Washington Wizards have struggled this season. Their struggles have led to rumors about John Wall and Bradley Beal being traded. The problem with those rumors is that it creates more problems for this team. The Wizards’ front office may be looking to trade one of their star players, but I don’t like how they let the rumors get out.

What I don’t like is that nobody has shut down the rumors. Instead of putting the rumors in their place, the rumors are being allowed to fly around. How can that help your team? It can only hurt them. Obviously, it has.

 

Atlanta Hawks:

Nice: PF John Collins 

John Collins has made great strides in his second NBA season. He’s averaging about eight more points than his rookie season. He’s also averaging more assists and rebounds. Just in his second season, Collins is already showing he’s a future NBA star with his improvement. He’ll only get better as he matures.

In addition to improving his stats, Collins is leading the Atlanta Hawks in points and rebounds per game. Atlanta may be one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, but when they make the jump into the playoffs in a few years, Collins will be one of the main reasons why.

Naughty: PG Trae Young

People fell in love with Trae Young because of his ability as a shooter. Yes, he’s made some good three-point shots, but overall his shooting hasn’t been good. The so-called next Steph Curry is shooting about 25% from three-point range this season. Young is leading the team in assists, which is great, but it’s not why people love him. The reason why people want to watch young players hasn’t been one of his strengths this season, which is why he lands on the naughty list this season.

 

Northwest: Jon Geib

Denver Nuggets:

Nice: MVP numbers from C Nikola Jokic

The Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference and hold a Western Conference second-best +6.6 points per game differential this season. Nikola Jokic should be considered a fringe MVP candidate leading the Nuggets in points (18), rebounds (10) and assists (7) per game. Lastly, Michael Porter Jr. and Isiah Thomas have yet to play for Denver.

Naughty: No Star power

Denver lacks a proven star and veteran presence. Jokic is proving to be a force and future superstar, but is only 23 years old. The Nuggets boast the youngest roster in the NBA just under 25 years old and are unproven in the playoffs.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Nice: PG Russell Westbrook

Russ, Russ, Russ! Say it three times because believe it or not, Westbrook is going for a third straight season of potentially averaging a triple-double. Paul George has settled into his role as the leading scorer as well, and the Thunder are rolling.

Naughty: Thunder’s bench

The bench for Oklahoma City is shallow. With Roberson hurt and Melo leaving in the offseason, the vast majority of the scoring for OKC is from three players: Westbrook, PG13 and Steven Adams. Hopefully Dennis Schroeder and Nerlens Noel can help with that as the season goes along!

 

Portland Trail Blazers:

Nice: G’s Lillard and McCollum

The big question all Blazers fans ask themselves is, are Dame and CJ considered the best backcourt in the game yet? Well, to the eyes of Portland fans I could say yeah! They combine for an average of nearly 50 points a game and are looking to be comfortable in the playoffs with the fifth seed at the moment, but we know they are known for being hot later. Maybe they’ll finish third best again.

Naughty: No interior presence

But third best and getting swept in playoffs doesn’t help the case of being the best duo. That’s not on them though. I mean, since the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers have lacked a strong interior presence and have trouble rebounding the ball. Where could they get help to find a way to get better? Could Portland be in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes?

 

Utah Jazz:

Nice: C Rudy Gobert

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert is the bright light in Utah. He is improving his game on the offensive end as well averaging 3.6 offensive rebounds per game (eighth best in league). Now only if he could get some help from his supporting cast, like Rookie Of The Year runner up, Donovan Mitchell.

Naughty: SG/SF Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell is still scoring at an impressive clip, but seems to have regressed slightly from his rookie season. Maybe not having an award motivating him this year is the issue. Or maybe it’s another issue. Whatever it is, Mitchell needs to figure it out before it’s too late and the Jazz end up missing the playoffs.

Ben Simmons: Not A Rookie, THE Rookie.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Nice: SG/SF Jimmy Butler 

Getting rid of Jimmy Butler may have been the best thing for Minnesota because of his toxic relationship with individual members of the team. It might have also been a slight decrease in offensive efficiency, but at least there won’t be any troubles in the locker room anymore. The Timberwolves are 10-8 since Butler’s departure.

Naughty: SG/SF Jimmy Butler

However, Jimmy Butler is also the Naughty for Minnesota. He is a top-15 player in the league and the intensity shown in his famous practice for the Timberwolves shows the kind of leader you want for a team. Maybe Wiggins and KAT do need to get in line.

 

Pacific Division: Jon Geib

Golden State Warriors

Nice: The Whole roster 

Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Boogie Cousins. I could list the whole roster, but the Nice in the Bay Area is having the most talented and deepest roster in the league. The video of Boogie Cousins dunking on KD in practice was just the reminder I needed that the Warriors have more all-star talent that has yet to play. It’s disgusting and dangerous they will all be together if they can avoid the conflict.

Naughty: Internal Conflict 

Golden State is losing games while fully healthy, and apparently, there is an internal conflict in the locker room over Kevin Durant’s pending free agency. I know it is early in the regular season still, but this year feels different than the past few. And it’s possibly the last year of the Warriors’ era…

 

Los Angeles Lakers:

Nice: F LeBron James 

Pretty sure this one is self-explanatory: LeBron James. Having the potential G.O.A.T. in the city of Angels finally made the Lakers relevant again and restored the Purple and Gold to glory.

Naughty: Inexperience

The Lakers’ roster is very young and has potential, but Lonzo, Kuzma and Hart are all inexperienced. The lack of playoff experience and short bench could hurt the Lakers come April.

 

Los Angeles Clippers:

Nice: Coach Doc Rivers

Rivers is making the team with no name players a playoff contender. The Clippers seem to be filled with role players who all know their place. Their team ball has them in the top tier of the Western Conference.

Naughty: Defensive effort

The second team in Los Angeles cannot compete with teams who have bonified stars. Skill players cause matchup problems for the Clippers on the defensive end, who are letting up 114.3 points per game.

 

Sacramento Kings:

Nice: PG De’Aaron Fox

De’Aaron Fox is another young star in the making, and dare I say, he looks like a young Russell Westbrook. Sacramento is also scoring 115.3 points per game, which is currently fourth in the NBA.

Naughty: Young guards’ struggle

The Kings’ Naughty is similar to the Nuggets in being a young team. They have a deep bench in the frontcourt, but the backcourt struggles when Fox goes to the bench.

 

Phoenix Suns:

Nice: Duke’s Zion Williamson

Am I allowed to say nothing? Spin Zone though, the Suns may have the best Nice of any team in the league, as they are primed for a great spot in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes.

Naughty: Worst Western Conference Record

Phoenix is last in the Western Conference with an 8-24 record. They also have a Western Conference worst -9 points per game scoring differential. Not a lot of hope for the Suns, especially with rumors of the team possibly moving from Phoenix.

 

Southwest: RahimAli Merchant

San Antonio Spurs:

Nice: PF/C LaMarcus Alridge

This season has been interesting for the Spurs because it’s the first time they don’t have any player on the roster from the 2014 championship team. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green were the last remaining pieces, until they were traded.

But that trade was good for Alridge, because with Leonard out all season last year, he averaged 23.9 points per game. He isn’t even close to that mark yet, but he is the top option on the team now despite having Demar DeRozan there.

Naughty: SF Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is on the naughty list for the Spurs. I mean, that probably could’ve used the change away from him anyways, especially since he was probably not going to return. But he could’ve handled the situation a bit better.

 

Houston Rockets:

Nice: SG James Harden 

As long as Harden is out there shooting threes, I’m sure the Rockets will be fine. He has changed the face of the Rockets’ organization since he was traded there in 2011. He made a name for himself and won his first NBA MVP. This season, he’s looking to do more and won’t give up easily. After struggling to get hot early in the season, Harden and the Rockets are finally climbing up the playoff ladder. As long as they stay healthy, we should see them in the playoff picture from here out.

Naughty: PG Chris Paul 

Speaking of health, let’s talk about father time catching up to Chris Paul. He’s been injured this season. It feels like he has been his entire career. I mean, he is 33 years old and has never tasted an NBA Finals in his career. In fact, last year was the first time Paul made it to the Conference finals in his career. It’ll be tough to see him getting there again without him being able to play.

 

Dallas Mavericks:

Nice: SG/SF Lukas Doncic

I think the trade to get Doncic from the Atlanta Hawks for Trae Young and another pick was brilliant. Doncic has been a shining star for Dallas and is the front runner for rookie of the year.  He has also been a reason why the Mavericks are in the playoff picture right now.

Naughty: PF Dirk Nowitzki 

It’s great to be in the playoff picture, but it’s not great when you try to play more years than you should have.

Like honestly, I love Nowitzki and all that he’s done for the game of basketball, but it’s time to hang it up big man! You don’t look like the same Nowitzki I saw beat not only Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in a playoff sweep, but also Miami’s Big Three of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh in an NBA Finals.

 

Memphis Grizzlies:

Nice: PG Mike Conley 

This was an easy decision. As long as he stays healthy, the Grizzlies are going to be tough to beat. Conley has always been one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA. Being injured never helped him get appreciated for it! Let’s continue to watch what this Grizzlies team can do with Conley and Marc Gasol both healthy.

Naughty: Bench depth

Even with those two guys healthy, they might still need some help. The only way for that to be possible is if the bench and role players start to contribute more. The problem with that though, there never was any PG depth on the Grizzlies teams, even when he was injured the last two seasons. That probably explains why they have been so bad, but addressing this issue in a trade would benefit them.

 

New Orleans Pelicans:

Nice: PF/C Anthony Davis 

Of course it’s Davis! What are the Pelicans without him? I mean, Davis is proven to be the best center in the game and there is no body who can stop him. If it wasn’t for the Warriors being super stacked, I believe we could’ve seen him lead his team past the second round. The bad part about Davis and his success with the Pelicans, is the next chapter of his career.

Naughty: PF/C Anthony Davis 

The first chapter of his career was getting drafted. He has spent the last five years building his name. He will be putting his name on the naughty list, as we all expect him to leave the Pelicans behind and take his talents elsewhere. But where?

I don’t think we’ll be finding out that answer until the Summer when he tells us all.

 

Until then, have a Happy New Year and enjoy the rest of your Christmas day! Also, don’t forget to read the “naughty or nice” list for all your favorite NFL teams as well.

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Southeast Division

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John Wall” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Southeast division features two playoff teams from a season ago, the Washington Wizards and the Miami Heat. Miami was the best team in this division a season ago, but there have been a lot of changes throughout the division over the course of the offseason.

Miami was the only team who didn’t really make any significant changes. They have been trying to get Jimmy Butler, so keep an eye on that situation, but for now, they haven’t done anything significant. Every other team has made moves to hopefully shake things up. Will Miami be able to repeat as the Southeast division winners? Let’s take a look at each team in the Southeast division and see where they’ll finish in the 2018-19 season.

 

1. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 43-39

Postseason Result: Lost 4-2 to the Toronto Raptors in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Signed C Dwight Howard and F Jeff Green in free agency.
  • Acquired G Austin Rivers from the Clippers.
  • Drafted SF Troy Brown (Oregon) 15th overall in the NBA Draft.

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded C Marcin Gortat to the Clippers.
  • Lost PG Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier and PG/SG Ramon Sessions.
  • Also lost PF Chris McCullough and PF Mike Scott.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

I like what the Wizards did this offseason to help their team. Trading Marcin Gortat was a good move because he brought some locker room tension they no longer needed. They also got G Austin Rivers in return for him. Rivers should provide some needed scoring off the bench when either Wall or Beal are out of the game.

Signing Dwight Howard was an underrated move in my opinion. Howard isn’t the superstar player he once was, but he’s still a good player who can get a lot of rebounds and provide some scoring inside.

This team now has John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Dwight Howard in their starting lineup. That looks great, but can they put it all together? Wall and Beal haven’t been able to become the dynamic duo we all want to see from them. They’re good, but not elite. Can they take the next step and have Porter Jr. and Howard there to be reliable secondary options? If they can live up to their potential, we could be looking at a serious Eastern Conference contender.

The biggest question for me with this team though, is can John Wall stay healthy? It was clear this team struggled without Wall in the lineup last season. John Wall had four straight years of playing 77 games or more, but last season he only played 41. Wall must get back to playing 70+ games for this team to have a real shot. He played very well when he returned last year, so let’s see if he can keep it up this season.

Prediction: 50-32

 

2. MIAMI HEAT

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 44-38

Postseason Result: Lost 4-1 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.

Offseason Acquisitions: 

  • Resigned Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost SF Luke Babbitt.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Miami was a pretty good team last year even though they didn’t have a star player. Miami is full of really good players, but they don’t have a star. They were able to keep Dwyane Wade for another year though. The problem with that is that even though Wade is their biggest star, I’m not sure he’s their best player at this point in his career.

Miami has a lot of good players who play well together, which is why they win games. They have great team chemistry. Not one of their players dominates every single game. One game it could be Goran Dragic, but the next game it could be James Johnson. I love how they play as a team.

My biggest concern for the Heat this season is Dwyane Wade’s retirement tour. We know this is going to be his last year. Will it change how this team plays? I want to see Wade go out on a high note, but what I don’t want to see is Miami trying to get him to score 50 points every game so he can put on a show for the fans.

The fans are probably going to want to see Wade put on big performances. That’s okay for them to want that, but they have to wait for one of those games when Wade just goes off and has the hot hand. What Miami can’t do is force the ball to Wade every game so he can score a bunch of points. I trust Erik Spoelstra will be able to manage this and keep his team winning while allowing Wade to have a great retirement tour.

Prediction: 45-37

 

3. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 36-46

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired Coach James Borrego.
  • Named Mitch Kupchak GM.
  • Signed G Tony Parker in free agency.
  • Drafted F Miles Bridges 12th overall in the NBA Draft.
  • Drafted G Devonte’ Graham in the second round of the NBA Draft.
  • Traded for C Bismack Biyombo.

Offseason Departures:

  • Fired GM Rich Cho.
  • Fired Coach Steve Clifford.
  • Traded C Dwight Howard to the Nets for C Timofey Mosgov. Mosgov was later traded to Orlando.
  • Lost Michael Carter-Williams in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

We all know who the man is on this team. Kemba Walker is the best player for the Hornets without question. Walker has scored 20+ points in three straight years, and I expect him to do so again this season. When the Hornets need a bucket, Walker is who they look to.

They have a star player, but he’s not enough to carry them. Nicolas Batum has always been more of a role player, Miles Bridges has promise but is a rookie, Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon have potential but are still very young players, etc. There’s nobody outside of Walker who can elevate the Hornets to the next level.

Not if, but when they aren’t in contention this season, will the Hornets trade Kemba Walker? It would make sense for them to trade him. They’re not putting other star players around him, but rather have younger pieces with potential. Is it time to officially start a rebuild? They could get a first round pick or other valuable assets in return for Walker that could help them build their future.

Even if the Hornets do get in the playoffs, they’re not going to be taken seriously with the Celtics, Raptors, 76ers, Bucks and others among the Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Prediction: 36-46

 

4. ORLANDO MAGIC

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 25-57

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired Coach Steve Clifford.
  • Traded for C Timofey Mosgov and G Jerian Grant.
  • Drafted C Mohamed Bamba 6th overall in the NBA Draft.
  • Drafted SF Melvin Frazier Jr. 35th overall and traded for the rights to G/F Justin Jackson (43rd pick).
  • Signed G Isaiah Briscoe.

Offseason Departures:

  • Fired Coach Frank Vogel.
  • Traded C Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte.
  • Lost G/F Mario Hezonja in free agency.
  • Lost G Shelvin Mack in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Orlando has been a frustrating team to watch over the last few seasons. They continuously draft players who can’t shoot, but are good defenders. They did that again this year by selecting Mohamed Bamba. I don’t blame them for taking Bamba sixth overall. After all, he was the best player available and Trae Young had been taken at that point.

But Orlando really does need some scoring ability. Where is the scoring going to come from? This team has nice defensive pieces, but you can’t win a game on defense alone. You need offense to go along with the defense. I’m not sure Orlando has that.

Aaron Gordon is going to be looked at this season as the player who should take a big leap. He’s made improvements every year he’s been in the NBA, but now he’s entering his fifth NBA season. It’s time for him to take the next step. He’s only 23, so he still has time to grow as a player, but he does need to take a step forward.

Orlando seems like a team who could surprise, but for that to happen they have to get someone to step up and be their star player. Who’s their go to guy? Orlando will make a step forward in the win column this year, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before they’re a real threat in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: 33-49

 

5. ATLANTA HAWKS  

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 24-58

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired Coach Lloyd Pierce.
  • Drafted G Trae Young (5th), G Kevin Huerter (19th) and F Omari Spellman (30th).
  • Traded for G/F Justin Anderson.
  • Signed C Alex Len.
  • Signed G/F Vince Carter and F Thomas Robinson.
  • Traded for G Jeremy Lin.

Offseason Departures:

  • Parted ways with Coach Mike Budenholzer.
  • Traded for SF Carmelo Anthony, who was waived days later.
  • Traded PF/C Mike Muscala to Philadelphia.
  • Traded G Dennis Schroder to OKC.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

I think Atlanta is going to be a fun team to watch this season, even though they still won’t be contending for a playoff spot. One reason this team will be fun to watch is because they have a lot of new pieces. Trae Young, Vince Carter, Jeremy Lin, etc. How will they all fit together?

This is still a pretty young team with a lot of potential. I think they get closer to fulfilling that potential this year, but they’re not at the point where their potential has been reached. John Collins, Tyler Dorsey and Taurean Prince are a few young Hawks players who could be part of a winning culture in the future.

Obviously the biggest reason to watch the Hawks this season will be to see how PG Trae Young performs in his rookie season. Young lit up college basketball with his scoring and passing ability. He’s been compared to Steph Curry hundreds of times, which instantly makes me want to watch him. How quickly will Trae Young adjust to the NBA? Will he become a star? If so, how long will it be before that happens?

What Hawks fans need to keep in mind is that drafting Trae Young is just the start. He’s not going to turn the Hawks into the Warriors in one season. If you look at Steph Curry, he didn’t help the Warriors get to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. It took them time to acquire the right pieces.

Hawks GM Travis Schlenk was part of the Warriors building a championship, and by drafting a Steph Curry comparison in Trae Young, it’s obvious he’s trying to build a similar team in Atlanta. He’s headed in the right direction, but he needs time to acquire all the right pieces. The Hawks will improve this year, but they’ll need a couple more seasons before they’re in the playoff mix.

Prediction: 30-52

 

PREDICTED DIVISION STANDINGS:

  1. Washington Wizards (50-32)
  2. Miami Heat (45-37)
  3. Charlotte Hornets (36-46)
  4. Orlando Magic (33-49)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (30-52)

 

Winners and Losers of the 2018 NBA Draft

NBA Draft Winners and Losers.png
2013 NBA Logo2013 Dallas Mavericks 12013 Orlando Magic 12013 Philadelphia 76ers2013 Phoenix Suns 32013 Atlanta Hawks 22013 Los Angeles Clippers 12013 Sacramento Kings 2, and 2013 Denver Nuggets 2” by Michael Tipton are licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2018 NBA Draft quickly came and went this past Thursday. Now we have to look forward to actually seeing these players playing for their new teams. We won’t know who really won and lost this draft until a few years down the road once we’ve seen how these players actually do, so for now we have to choose winners and losers by the talent level of players and what needs each team filled. Like I did with the NFL Draft, I’m posting this a few days after the draft because I wanted time to really look into the moves each team made. I’ve had time, so here are my 2018 NBA Draft winners and losers.

Winners

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix got one of the best players in this draft with the selection of DeAndre Ayton, so that would have been a win if he was their only pick. What really makes the Suns winners in this draft is what they did after their first selection. They made a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers to get Mikal Bridges. Bridges has been considered one of the top 10 players in this draft throughout the entire draft process. He’s a player ready to contribute right away. Phoenix got two top 10 prospects in this draft who are both ready to make an impact right now.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas came away with Luka Doncic in the first round of the draft. He was selected by the Hawks with the third pick, but then traded to the Mavericks for Trae Young and a first round selection. Turning the fifth pick into Luka Doncic is a huge win for the Mavericks because Doncic was considered by many to be the best overall prospect in this draft class. I also really liked the selection of Jalen Brunson. He may not be anything special in the NBA, but I believe he’ll be a solid player for many years. Getting the EuroLeague MVP and the College Player of the Year is a solid draft.

Denver Nuggets

Denver took a risk by selecting Michael Porter Jr. with the 14th pick, but I love this risk. MPJ was once considered the number one pick in this draft class. Unfortunately, an injury set him back in college and had a lot of teams worried about his future. Even though there’s the injury scare, you only get mocked number one overall in a draft if you have talent. If this risk pays off, the Nuggets got a huge steal. If it doesn’t pay off, some might be disappointed and think they wasted the number 14 pick, but I don’t see it that way. The possible reward of this pick significantly outweighs the risk in my opinion.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta came away with the best shooter in the draft in Trae Young. We don’t know how Young will turn out yet. Some think he’s a bust and some think he’s the next Steph Curry. Just the fact that he’s getting compared to Steph Curry makes the Hawks a winner. If Young can be anything near Curry, the Hawks are getting a franchise changing player. Young isn’t just a shooter. He can also pass very well. Atlanta picked Kevin Huerter with their second pick, who is a sharp shooter. Huerter shot 41.7% from three point range last season. Atlanta also selected Omari Spellman, who shot 43.3% from three point range last season. Atlanta came away with the best shooter and one of the best passers in the draft, along with two guys who Trae Young can pass to and rely on to put the ball in the basket.

Losers

Philadelphia 76ers

Mikal Bridges was selected by the 76ers with the 10th pick in the draft. When he was selected, he and his family were celebrating the pick because Bridges would get to stay home and play for his home team. Bridges was interviewed about it during the draft and everything seemed normal. Soon after that Bridges was traded to the Suns. I lost a lot of respect for the 76ers for this move. Why would you not tell him he was going to be traded before he and his mother were so excited about it in front of the entire NBA fan base? Come on 76ers. Come on. I also think trading Bridges was a mistake from a player stand point. This is a team ready to compete right now. Mikal Bridges can contribute right now. Instead the 76ers got a player who may not be ready to contribute right now and will need time.

Orlando Magic

When I say the Orlando Magic are losers in this draft, I’m not taking a shot at Mohamed Bamba or any other player Orlando drafted. I think Mohamed Bamba is going to be a great NBA player, but his skill set doesn’t fit what Orlando needs right now. Orlando’s biggest need was a point guard who can shoot. They lost out on Trae Young and selected Bamba instead. With their other two picks, the Magic selected players who are much better defenders than they are scorers. Somehow I just knew the Magic would end up with a couple more defenders who won’t solve their biggest problem. This team might be good defensively, but it won’t matter if they can’t score.

Michael Porter Jr.

Once considered to be the number one overall pick in this draft class, Michael Porter Jr. fell all the way down to number 14 because of injury concerns. His talent is there, but he hasn’t played at a high level pretty much since high school. It’s a win for MPJ because he won’t have as high of expectations and if he turns out to be the player he was once thought to be, every team before the Nuggets will regret not taking him. The loss here is because of the money he lost out on. There’s a significant difference between number one money and number 14 money.

Los Angeles Clippers

I feel like the Clippers wasted their two lottery picks. The first selection allowing them to get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a good pick for their draft position, but the second pick I’m not too sure about. Jerome Robinson is athletic, but I don’t feel like he’s ready to contribute right away. There were much better players available when the Clippers were making their second pick. I feel like they should have taken a chance on Michael Porter Jr. With two lottery picks, why not take a risk on one of them that could pay off big time?