NBA Free Agency: Winners and losers from day two

After an exciting day one of NBA free agency, day two didn’t offer nearly as much excitement. However, there were still a few significant signings throughout the league that will impact how things play out the rest of the way.

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yesterday we looked at the winners and losers of free agency’s first few hours, as that’s when most of the action happened. However, several significant moves happened later on on day one, meaning there were winners and losers we missed from the first day. With that in mind, the winners and losers from day two will include some of the moves made technically on day one of free agency. Let’s take a look at the free agency winners and losers from day two!

 

Winner: Golden State Warriors

Just when you think the dynasty is over, it comes right back. After losing Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors were able to pull off a sign-and-trade to get D’Angelo Russell on a long term deal. Somehow, someway, the Warriors lost two All-Stars in Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, yet they still have four All-Stars on their team.

This move by the Warriors is a great move for them, both for now and later. It’s a good move now, because Klay Thompson will be out for most of, if not the entire 2019-20 season. With him out, Steph Curry still has another splash bro who can drain three point shots pretty much at will.

It’s a great move for later, because we know the Warriors’ stars won’t last forever. Curry and Thompson still have great years ahead, but when they do start to decline, they’ll have D’Angelo Russell there to keep them competitive. Russell’s four year deal will give the Warriors time to develop a relationship with Russell to make sure he doesn’t leave when his opportunity arises. They can take care of that before it even gets that far.

The down side to the trade is that the Warriors had to get rid of Andre Iguodala in order to make space for Russell. Iguodala was a huge factor in the Warriors’ run over the last several years. We can’t tell just yet how that will impact this team, but it’s likely they’ll decline defensively. Despite that move, the Warriors are winners because they’ve kept themselves legit title contenders after losing one of the NBA’s best players.

 

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

While NBA teams have been going nuts and making headlines, the Lakers have been sitting back and doing nothing. We all know they’re waiting on Kawhi Leonard, but in the mean time, a lot of solid players have been swallowed up by their competitors. This team is banking on getting Kawhi Leonard, and it may not even happen. I don’t blame them for banking on him. If they land him, they’re legit title contenders. However, if they don’t, they pretty much wasted free agency.

Since free agency started, the Lakers have done just about nothing. They did make one move during day two of free agency, but it wasn’t anything exciting. The Lakers signed guard Troy Daniels, who’s spent six years in the league with multiple teams. Who? Yeah, most people don’t even know who Daniels is.

The reason they signed Daniels is because of his three-point shooting ability. He’s shot 40% from deep over his six year career. He’ll provide some nice shooting for the Lakers, but he doesn’t bring much else outside of that.

L.A. could easily go from losers to winners if they land Kawhi, but for now, their boring free agency period and lack of ability to surround LeBron and AD with help has landed them here.

 

Winner: Boston Celtics

I’ve been going back and forth on if I think the Celtics are winners, losers or just somewhere in the middle. They lost Kyrie Irving, but were able to land Kemba Walker. They also lost Al Horford, but replaced him with Enes Kanter. Replacing Irving with Walker offsets, but what about replacing Horford with Kanter?

Overall, I think Horford is the better player. However, the Celtics were able to get Kanter on a two-year, $10 million deal. That’s a great value for what Kanter brings to the table. Many don’t like Kanter, but I personally love the way he plays. He’s a great rebounder, who excels at getting his team second chance opportunities. He’s not an elite scorer, but the Celtics don’t need him to be. The Celtics won with this signing because they got a player who’ll do all the dirty work on such a great deal.

 

Loser: DeMarcus Cousins

After day two of free agency, DeMarcus Cousins is still sitting there, waiting for someone to scoop him up. For most bigger name free agents, we’d typically hear something about them meeting with teams and getting close to a deal. We haven’t really heard anything about DeMarcus Cousins during free agency to this point. What does that tell us about how teams view Cousins?

I think a lot of teams may be shying away from Cousins because of his recent injury history. He’s been hurt a lot over the last couple of years, and hasn’t been available for his team as often as teams would like.

Then there’s the fact that Cousins has never been able to help his team win. The only time Cousins has been on a relevant team have been when he played with Anthony Davis, and when he played for the Warriors with Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant. Other than that, Cousins’ teams have been nothing.

Someone will pick Cousins up eventually, but the fact that he hasn’t received much interest to this point has to be bad for him going forward. This has shown he’s got a lot to prove this coming season wherever he ends up signing.

 

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland won day two of free agency because they were able to land Hassan Whiteside from Miami. The acquisition of Whiteside gives the Blazers a legit big man to help fill the void of Jusuf Nurkic as he continues to make his way back from injury. Enes Kanter did a nice job last season, but he’s no longer with the team. Had Portland not traded for Whiteside, they would have had a huge gap to fill at the position.

There are two more things I love about this trade. One, the Blazers didn’t give up much to get Whiteside. They only had to give up Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless in order to land his services. Second, Whiteside is entering the final year of his contract. That means the Blazers didn’t commit to anything long term with Whiteside. If they like him, they can sign him to a long term deal later. If he ends up not working out, it’s not like the Blazers are stuck with him.

Landing Hassan Whiteside was a good insurance policy for the Blazers, which should help them stay competitive in the Western Conference this coming season.

 

Loser: Houston Rockets

We all know the Rockets were trying to add Jimmy Butler to their roster. Well, that didn’t work out, as Butler is now a member of the Miami Heat. Instead, the Rockets settled for re-signing Austin Rivers. That’s no knock on Rivers, but it’s not great when comparing it to trying to land Butler.

There’s also another downside here. There had been a lot of talk about the Rockets moving on from Clint Capela to possibly make room for Butler and his contract, but now it looks like he may be sticking around. How will that impact Capela and his relationship with the team?

There already seemed to be some sort of drama going on within the organization. Will this make it even worse? Things have been tough for the Rockets lately, and this certainly didn’t help.

NBA Free Agency: Top 10 power forwards

After spending the last two days talking about the point guards and centers, we will now turn our attention to the forwards. If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can check out the centers here. Now we’ll move on to their counterpart in the lineup, the power forwards.

Markieff Morris, Paul Millsap
Markieff Morris, Paul Millsap” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This position might be even more important than the centers because of the way the NBA is transitioning. These players have the ability to stretch the floor, which is what most teams look for. So let’s see where these guys might be going and how they’ll fit.

Top 10 power forwards

1. Paul Millsap

Current Team: Denver Nuggets

New Team: Denver Nuggets

Millsap is one of the veterans on this list who we could find with several different teams. Of course, the Nuggets will have the first option, but they’ll need to work on something that works for both sides. Millsap and Nikola Jokic have been able to do great things together as members of the Denver Nuggets, and I don’t think they want this to end, nor should they. The Nuggets are one of the best teams in the Western conference with these two together, and I hope they can work out a deal.

2. Derrick Favors

Current Team: Utah Jazz

New Team: Utah Jazz

Regardless of all the teams who want Favors on their roster, I think the Jazz will bring him back. With the trade the Jazz made for Mike Conley, they’re looking to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. It will help them actually be able to use other players in the right role. Favors’ role with Rudy Gobert has helped give the Jazz success, and I don’t see them letting that go yet.

3. Tobias Harris

Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

New Team: Brooklyn Nets

Let’s face it, the Sixers went all out last year trying to make it to the Finals with the trade they made to get Harris. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s amazing game-winner in game seven. Now the Sixers are in for a lot of changes. They’ll be looking to refill their team around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid once again. I think Harris will be moving elsewhere. A place like Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving could be nice for Harris. He would be able to play his true forward position, which would benefit him.

4. Nikola Mirotic

Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

New Team: Boston Celtics

Mirotic has been on three different teams in the last three seasons and is looking for a nice place to call home. Milwaukee could still be an option, but with the limited cap space available, he’ll likely be the odd man out. The Celtics could benefit from this, as they’ll be looking to retool their roster without Irving and Al Horford. Let’s not forget that Marcus Morris is likely to leave as well. Mirotic could have a bigger role with the Celtics as a possible starter alongside Jayson Tatum.

5. Marcus Morris

Current Team: Boston Celtics

New Team: New York Knicks

Yeah, Morris leaves Boston too, just like Horford and Irving. However, he leaves because he wanted more money than the Celtics are ready to give. The Knicks have plenty of money and need to find players who want to play there. I think Morris playing with DeAndre Jordan could be a great defensive force for the Knicks. Don’t forget to add Kevin Knox and R. J. Barrett into the mix. The real question is, will they still get a top free agent like Kevin Durant?

6. Julius Randle

Current Team: New Orleans Pelicans

New Team: Indiana Pacers

As soon as the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, Randle opted out of his deal. I’m not sure if he feels some type of way about his former teammates of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, but I think he made the right move. Regardless, the Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson, which meant more depth issues. I can see Randle fitting well with the Indiana Pacers. Can you imagine having Ricky Rubio with Myles Turner, Domantas Sabnois and Randle? Let’s not forget about Victor Oladipo and the hope of him returning to the team soon. Randle needs a coach who will help him continue to grow his game, and the players around him will be good too.

7. Kristaps Porzingis

Current Team: Dallas Mavericks (via Knicks)

New Team: Dallas Mavericks

I don’t think I need to explain anything. Despite not playing a game with the Mavericks last season, Porzingis will return. The trade would’ve never taken place if he was just going to get up and leave. We know from reports earlier this week that he and the Mavericks are working on a five-year deal, so expect him to stay.

8. Thaddeus Young

Current Team: Indiana Pacers

New Team: Philadelphia 76ers

Now it’s time for us to have a little fun. With Randle going to Indiana, Thaddeus Young will likely be on the way out. I could see him making a return to where it all began for him. That place is Philadelphia, and Young could be a better fit for what the Sixers are trying to do now. Can you imagine having him with Embiid and Simmons? I know Young isn’t the same caliber player as Harris, but he is a player who can fill the void at the position for them.

9. Kenneth Faried

Current Team: Houston Rockets

New Team: New Orleans Pelicans

With the Rockets pursuing other needs, we could see Faried playing somewhere else. Although, you have to give him a lot of credit for how he stepped up for the Rockets during the absence of Clint Capela. Faried showed he could be a nice role player and a good leader. That’s why I think the Pelicans are a good fit for him. Regardless of whether or not they keep Jahlil Okafor at the center, Faried could be a nice leader to this young team and help Jrue Holiday.

10. Al-Farouq Aminu

Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers

New Team: Milwaukee Bucks

The Blazers have a lot of questions to answer at the forward position, but I think they struck gold in the draft with Nassir Little. They also still have Maurice Harkless on the team, so they might be comfortable letting Aminu leave. With Aminu leaving, he’ll be free to go wherever he wants. I think Milwaukee could be a good fit. Aminu will play the same role Mirotic played last season. The role of backing up Giannis Antetokounmpo, but still being a productive piece off the bench. The Bucks have their eyes set on winning an NBA championship, but they fell short of reaching the finals. With the Bucks adding more players like Aminu, it could put them over the top in the Eastern Conference again.

How will all these players help each of their new teams? Can one or more of them make an impact and get their team over the hump? Or do they need to add some shooting? Don’t worry that’s the next set we’ll be getting too, so stay tuned!

NBA Free Agency: Top 10 Centers

Yesterday we listed the top point guards available in free agency and where they could be playing next season. Today we’ll move on to the next position, the centers. We can’t forget about the big men in the middle.

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Al Horford, Bradley Beal” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is one of the more underrated positions in the NBA because several teams like to play small ball. However, every player on this list is capable of being involved in a team who plays that style. We’ll now look at the top 10 Centers who are available and what team they’ll be playing for next season.

Top 10 Centers

1. DeMarcus Cousins

Current Team: Golden State Warriors

New Team: Los Angeles Clippers

Cousins joined the Warriors on a one-year, $5 million deal because he was chasing a ring, but Kawhi Leonard put a stop to that. The Warriors have a lot of decisions to make this offseason with their team, and I think they’ll be moving on from Cousins. With the Warriors moving on, Cousins will too. I think the best place for him is in Los Angeles. Not with Davis and James, but on the Clippers with Lou Williams. Cousins signing with the Clippers may actually hurt them, that’s why this deal won’t go down until later in the free agency period.

2. Al Horford

Current Team: Boston Celtics

New Team: Sacramento Kings

I think this is where things start to get interesting from the Center position. Al Horford opted out of this contract with the Boston Celtics. He’s got a lot of different teams who could consider signing him. Of course, there are smaller teams who could use an All-Star like Horford, teams like the Sacramento Kings, who were just five games out of missing the playoffs. The Kings could use a big man presence like Horford after years of having Willie Cauley-Stein, who will likely move on. Horford is more of an offensive threat than Cauley-Stein, but that’s what makes him right for the job. He can help the young guys in Sacramento become better and lead them into the playoffs like he was able to do with the Hawks and Celtics and their young rosters.

3. Brook Lopez

Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

New Team: Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks, like the Warriors, have a lot of questions that need to be answered in free agency. As you saw with the point guards, they’ll be losing two-way guard Malcolm Brogdon, but they don’t want to let Lopez go too. Lopez was signed for one year to see how well he could play in coach Mike Budholzer’s system. I honestly think he fit the system well, and it really showed as the season went on. Of all the questions that need to be answered, this should be the first one.

4. DeAndre Jordan

Current Team: New York Knicks

New Team: New York Knicks

All I know is that the Knicks could be in trouble this summer. They drafted Duke’s R.J. Barrett with the 3rd overall pick, and they’re hoping to land superstars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. As you already saw from my predictions, Irving will not be going there. You’ll find out whether or not Kevin Durant goes there or not in my future articles. Just in case they were to miss out on the guys they really want, they’ll still need to get a center in the middle to add to their roster. That’s where DeAndre Jordan comes in. Jordan was part of the Porzingis trade, along with Dennis Smith Jr. from Dallas. Having played half a season with the Knicks might have been good for him. I think having David Fizdale as a coach might also be a helpful reason for Jordan to stay in New York, but will another player decide to join?

5. Enes Kanter

Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers

New Team: Charlotte Hornets

We know one player who won’t join the Knicks again is Kanter. I could honestly see the Blazers trying to keep Kanter, but it will be tough to find playing time for Kanter when Jusuf Nurkic returns from injury. That is why I think Kanter will play elsewhere next season. The team he could play for is the Charlotte Hornets. I know it may seem like a tough grab, but with Kemba Walker likely to return, the Hornets are looking to make the playoffs again, and this move will be a key acquisition for the Hornets. Of course, Kanter will also have to fight off Bismack Biyombo for some minutes, but I think the two of them can play well with each other.

6. Marc Gasol

Current Team: Toronto Raptors

New Team: Toronto Raptors

So, we don’t know what will happen with the defending NBA champions, as the Toronto Raptors have to decide what to do with their free agents like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol. All three of these guys played huge roles in the franchises first ever championship, and that’s why it’s important to bring back Gasol. Having Gasol on the team helped the Raptors stretch the floor better because of his ability to make the three-point shot. I think it may take a bit longer to get a deal done because it’s about Kawhi first.

7. Nikola Vucevic

Current Team: Orlando Magic

New Team: Boston Celtics

I’m not sure how this happens, but after trading Aron Baynes on draft night and losing Al Horford in free agency, this needs to be done. I think Vucevic could be a good fit for the Celtics as they look to remodel the franchise. What other pieces do they have in mind for this remodel, though? That will be key to another successful Celtics season!

8. Jonas Valanciunas

Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies

New Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Despite being traded midseason like Marc Gasol, Valanciunas made the best of his time as a member of the Grizzlies. This could be a nice pairing for the future. After the Mike Conley trade, it’s obvious they’re heading in a new direction. That direction involves younger players like Grayson Allen, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson. Don’t expect the Grizzlies to be a playoff team right away, but resigning a guy like Valanciunas would be a big step in the right direction.

9. JaVale McGee

Current Team: Los Angeles Lakers

New Team: Washington Wizards

McGee had a good year in Los Angeles with the Lakers. He even said he’d like to re-sign, but with the tight salary cap, the Lakers and McGee will likely part ways as they look for cheaper options. I think McGee would be a good fit for the Wizards, as they’re in need of a center because of the status of Dwight Howard and Thomas Bryant. Of course, he may not be able to get what he asks for.

10. Willie Cauley-Stein

Current Team: Sacramento Kings

New Team: Los Angeles Lakers

Another player who might be on the move is Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s made it clear he’s unhappy with the Kings. I think that mispleasure will end up with him leaving. A team who could use him is the Los Angeles Lakers, as they could pair him with Anthony Davis and become a great defensive front court. When this deal happens, it’ll likely move Kyle Kuzma back to the bench, but it’s a good thing for the Lakers because they could play a lot of different lineups throughout the season.

As we complete the list of available Centers who could be on the move, we look forward to hearing what you think. Where will the top available players at this position land?

Fourth Quarter Sports’ NBA playoff predictions: Second round

Okay, so that was one of the more boring first rounds of NBA playoff history. Looking back at the early round predictions, things went pretty well for us, except what Damian Lillard did to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“K26A0442” by nikk_la is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

I never thought the Blazers had a real chance to beat the Thunder if it went to all seven games, but they didn’t even need that. I knew Lillard was underrated, and I love how he’s always been an underdog his whole career, but he made Westbrook look like a rookie out there.

But aside from Lillard’s incredible series winning three-pt shot over Paul George in game five, several other things happened too.

Things like the Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley giving it all they have against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. That even resulted in ejections by both Beverly and Warriors’ Kevin Durant. And of course, DeMarcus Cousins got injured again. Lou Williams was also proving why he is the best player ever to come off the bench.

The Houston Rockets took care of the Utah Jazz with ease, as James Harden and Chris Paul proved to be too much for Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz.

Speaking of handling, the Spurs and Nuggets battled their way into a game seven, and it could’ve gone either way. But the Nuggets found a way to wrap up the series behind Nikola Jokic’s triple-double.

The Eastern Conference playoffs weren’t worth watching at all. Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics swept their opponents in four games, and you would’ve thought that the Indiana Pacers would’ve given the Celtics a bit of a challenge.

The Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers lost shocking game ones, only to win four straight games and finish the series in five games.

But now that we have the next round of matchups set after a long seven-game series between the Spurs and Nuggets, we will take a look at the second round predictions.

Before we get started, I would like us all to take a moment of silence for one of the greatest Celtics in history, John Havlicek, as he passed away on Thursday at the age of 79.

Playoff matchups:

Western Conference: Eastern Conference:
  1. Warriors vs. 4. Rockets 1. Bucks vs. 4. Celtics
  2. Nuggets vs. 3. Blazers 2. Raptors vs. 3. 76ers

That’s what the playoffs look like, but let’s see what our predictions are!

Rahim’s picks:

West:

4. Rockets over 1. Warriors in seven

3. Blazers over 2. Nuggets in six

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in seven

2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in six

Aman’s picks:

West:

4. Rockets over 1. Warriors in six

2. Nuggets over 3. Blazers in five

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in seven

2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in seven

Joel’s picks:

West:

1. Warriors over 4. Rockets in seven

2. Nuggets over 3. Blazers in six

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in six

2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in seven

Dan’s picks:

West:

1. Warriors over 4. Rockets in six

3. Blazers over 2. Nuggets in seven

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in six

3. Sixers over 2. Raptors in seven

Aman seemed to be the only one who picked the Blazers and Spurs to win their first-round series, and he got the number of games right for them too. But this round should be different. The question is, can the Rockets beat the Warriors in the second round? Aman and I both think that’s the case here. I honestly believe that with a healthy Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and James Harden, the Rockets could do it. The addition of Kenneth Faried off the bench is also a plus because it will force the Warriors to make adjustments when Faried and Capela are on the floor together. Will the loss of DeMarcus Cousins affect the Warriors in their pursuit of the three-peat?

Nonetheless, I think the winner of this series will make it to the NBA finals, and that will be more clear in a few more weeks. Aman doesn’t seem to have faith in the Blazers in this round, as we saw Lillard play lights out. Look to see him do more of what he has been doing because that guy is hungry and unless he gets a snicker, he’ll never be satisfied.

Everyone seems to think the Bucks will eliminate Kyrie Irving and the Celtics in either six or seven games, making them the front runner for the NBA finals. But Dan thinks the Sixers will knock off Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors, while the rest of us believe the Raptors will face the Bucks.

Behind all the great picks in the NFL draft, there was still the first round of the NBA playoffs being wrapped up. Though you might have tuned out of the last few games, we should now look at the next round. We continue to give you our predictions for the next round, through to the NBA Finals.

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)

The Eastern Conference four

Now that the NBA is in it’s annual All-star break and the trade deadline has passed, it’s a perfect time to evaluate the contenders in the Eastern Conference.

When LeBron left last summer, the Boston Celtics became the clear favorite, with Toronto a close second due to the addition of Kawhi Leonard. However, after two thirds of the regular season, there are now four legitimate contenders fighting for the throne in the Eastern Conference. Who will be wearing the crown come May?

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

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are the current one seed in the East and have a legit MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis leads the Bucks in points, rebounds and assists and is gaining confidence every night.

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I would not want to play Milwaukee in the playoffs now that Giannis is developing that mindset. The addition of Nikola Mirotic helps the Bucks’ perimeter game and frees up the lane for Giannis to drive more.

The only downside I see for the Bucks is the lack of proven veterans. In the playoffs, the defense picks up and experience is huge. Giannis will get his every night, but if teams key on the role players, Milwaukee could be in trouble.

 

Tomas Satoransky, Kyle Lowry” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Toronto Raptors

Toronto is completely selling out on winning this year. Kawhi Leonard is a free agent this summer and Marc Gasol has a player option. Both players could leave at the end of the season. Additionally, the Raptors were even rumored to be shopping Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline.

Burning bridges with Lowry after what they did to DeRozan last summer is a very risky play. The future in Toronto is so uncertain, that if any year is their year, it has to be this year. Toronto could potentially be in for a rebuild in the near future.

Now that the Raptors kryptonite, LeBron James, is no longer in their way, maybe it’s their time to be Eastern Conference champions. But can you imagine the Lakers somehow making a run to the NBA Finals and LeBron continuing his son’ing of Toronto? Obviously, it won’t happen, but it’s fun to think about.

 

Joel Embiid“by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Philadelphia 76ers

The new look 76ers are a scary team. Immediately after the trade deadline, Philly won games against the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, following that with a close loss to a Kyrie-less Boston team at home.

The Phantastic Five starting lineup: JoJo, Ben, Tobias, Jimmy Buckets and JJ is arguably the best starting five in the league, right up their with Golden State. Even with the loss to Boston, the good news for Philly fans is that this team had very few practices between the trade deadline and these three games.

The Sixers were playing pickup basketball and learning how to play with each other, while winning purely due to their talent. However, once Brett Brown can implement plays and this team builds chemistry with the new additions, they are my pick to come out of the Eastern Conference this season. Who knows? Maybe they can even challenge Golden State for a championship. If you think you’re sensing my Philly bias, just wait and see, this team is the real deal.

 

Jayson Tatum” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Boston Celtics

In order for the 76ers to make the NBA Finals, they will most likely need to first overcome their Boston problem, having lost 10 of their last 12 games to the Celtics.

Boston was the preseason Eastern Conference favorite and a team that has impressive bench depth. If you said at the beginning of the season that Boston would be fourth in the East at the All-star break with no serious injuries, I would’ve bet you my entire bank account on the Celtics being top three.

Boston was adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a roster of young stars in the making who took LeBron James, the seven time consecutive Eastern Conference champion and GOAT, to a Game 7 in the Conference Finals.

Fast forward to now with all the drama surrounding Kyrie’s pending free agency, an underperforming Hayward and a roster full of young players who are not satisfied with their new roles, and the Celtics are the team who need this mid-season break the most. Although, when the playoffs come, I think all the noise around this team will dissipate. Defense picks up in the NBA playoffs and the game slows down a lot, both which should benefit the C’s style of play. If Philly is intimidated and can’t mentally overcome their big brother, Boston Celtics, then Boston will be representing the East in the Finals this season.

 

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Remember last year when the all the talk in the NBA was about restructuring the NBA playoffs and possibly even rearranging conferences because the Western Conference was far superior?

I believe the West had something like 15 of the top 16 ranked players based on some complex statistics. The one Eastern Conference player was obviously LeBron James. The interesting part to me was that this was less of a desire for star players to play in the West, as much as it was a desire to not have to play against playoff LeBron until the Finals. And you know why my theory is still supported now, because the year LeBron goes West, the East stacks up with star players.

Now, less than 12 months after the conference realignment talk, the Eastern Conference is, in my opinion, the stronger conference. The four teams at the top of the East are loaded with talent. That will play out with much more entertaining and competitive playoff series.

It is no longer inevitable that the Warriors and LeBron will face off in the NBA Finals. I never expected to see so many teams in the East selling all out the season immediately following LeBron’s departure to the West. Yet, that is exactly what Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston are doing. Even considering my analysis above, I think it is extremely difficult to separate any of the above four teams.

I will not be the least bit surprised with whichever team makes the Finals this year out of the above list. Each has unique strengths. The team that comes out on top will be the one who gets hot at just the right time. The one thing I do know with absolute certainty, is this is the most excited I have been about the upcoming NBA playoffs in many years.

Winners and losers of the 2019 NBA trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline has officially come and gone. Before the deadline hit, we saw several trades made around the NBA. We saw several contenders make moves to make them better, while other teams weren’t as fortunate with their trade situations. 

NBA Trade deadline
Mike Conley” by Sean Davis is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Like anytime there’s a trade, there’s going to be winners and losers. My fellow Fourth Quarter Sports writer, Jon Geib, and I have worked together to put together a list of the biggest winners and losers of the 2019 NBA trade deadline. How did your team do? Let’s find out!

 

NBA trade deadline winners and losers

Winner: Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers were very active at the NBA trade deadline, notably adding Tobias Harris
and getting rid of Markelle Fultz. The first trade sent Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, Landry
Shamet and four picks to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. The Sixers gave up a lot, but this trade showed they’re all in on trying to win a championship this season.

Harris is a much needed upgrade at the power forward position. Boban provides a serviceable big man to backup Joel Embiid. The starting five in Philadelphia featuring Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick, is easily the second best in the entire NBA, behind only the Golden State Warriors.

The second trade of Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic, returned Jonathan Simmons along with a first and a second round pick. Jonathan Simmons adds depth to the bench, which is the number one criticism of the current Sixers’ roster. Elton Brand took some risks this year, especially with Butler and Harris on expiring contracts, but for this season the Sixers were definitely winners at the NBA trade deadline. – Jon Geib

 

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

Obviously, you expected to see the Lakers in the loser category after they failed to land
Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans at the deadline. Magic Johnson was willing to
trade all the young players on his team, any and all future first-round picks, Luke Walton, three
of his dogs and his first born son.

Honestly, I think the Pelicans did the Lakers a favor by not accepting any of the Lakers’ trade offers. The Lakers were clearly panicking and willing to overpay a ridiculous amount and mortgage the future of the organization in order to appease LeBron James. The young players for Los Angeles were clearly impacted by all of this trade talk. It was visible in Tuesday’s 42-point loss to the Indiana Pacers, who are currently missing their best player, Victor Oladipo.

There is a very realistic chance that Anthony Davis will not join the Lakers until 2020. By then, LeBron will be turning 36 during the season. I can assure you the Lakers did not anticipate their biggest NBA trade deadline acquisition to be Mike Muscala. – Jon Geib 

 

Winner: Los Angeles Clippers

Ironically, the team who made the blockbuster trade with the Philadelphia 76ers were also
winners at the trade deadline. It is rare that both teams benefit from a trade, but that is the case
here.

The Clippers did not want to pay Tobias Harris a large contract this summer, as they are hoping to acquire not just one, but two star free agents in the offseason. The Clippers acquired Landry Shamet, a rookie guard who is rapidly gaining confidence in his shot and has the potential to be a young JJ Redick in the making. They also flipped Mike Muscala from the Sixers to acquire Ivica Zubac, a young big man with potential, and Michael Beasley, who I presume will be bought out, from the Lakers.

But wait, the Clippers were still not done! They traded Avery Bradley to the Memphis Grizzlies, which created even more cap space. The key for the Los Angeles Clippers this season is to drop out of the playoffs, where they are currently the eight seed. If they miss the playoffs, they retain their first-round pick for the upcoming 2019 NBA draft, which was supposed to go to the Boston Celtics. Bravo Jerry West, bravo. – Jon Geib

 

Loser: Boston Celtics

The Celtics did not make any moves at the trade deadline, so you may be asking “How are they
losers?” Well, it is that exact reason I include them as a loser at the trade deadline. There are four strong teams vying to win the Eastern Conference this year: Toronto, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Boston. Three of those teams strengthened their roster at the trade deadline, and one team did nothing.

Toronto added Marc Gasol to give them a strong presence in the post. Milwaukee added perimeter shooting with Nikola Mirotic. Philadelphia bolstered their starting lineup with Tobias Harris. By keeping the roster intact, Danny Ainge made a statement that he believes the Celtics are strong enough with the current roster as is to win the Eastern Conference.

Boston has been under-performing this season after high expectations based on last
season’s deep playoff run. The reintegration of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to the lineup
has surprisingly caused problems for a young roster that took a LeBron-led Cavaliers team to
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston’s inaction at the trade deadline
could very well be the reason they do not win the East. In turn, it could be the reason they lose Kyrie Irving this summer to free agency. – Jon Geib

 

Winner: Toronto Raptors

Sitting as the number two team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors were already considered one of the legit title contenders in the conference. However, they saw their Eastern Conference challengers make some great moves, meaning they had to make some too.

The Raptors made a few moves, but by far their best move was acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol is averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks this season. Gasol is going to be a legit post presence for this team. He’ll also add another good defender to a roster already including Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green.

Gasol is easily an upgrade over Jonas Valanciunas. Losing Delon Wright and CJ Miles will make the most minimal impact for the Raptors, if it makes any impact at all. Neither of them played very much. The Grizzlies got an impactful player while not having to give up any players who were really valuable to them. Great trade for the Raptors. – Joel Deering

 

Loser: Mike Conley

The Memphis Grizzlies made their fair share of trades before the NBA trade deadline. They traded Marc Gasol to the Raptors, Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green to the Clippers, and Shelvin Mack to the Hawks. In return for those players, the Grizzlies acquired Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round pick from the Raptors, Avery Bradley from the Clippers and Tyler Dorsey from the Hawks.

Sitting at 22-23, the Grizzlies are currently the second worst team in a loaded Western Conference. Regardless of who they got rid of or who they got, they’re not going to be a playoff team. That’s the very reason why Mike Conley is an NBA trade deadline loser.

Conley’s name was heavily involved in trade talks, as was Marc Gasol’s. The difference is, Gasol now plays for a team who’s surely going to be a playoff team. Not just a playoff team, but a playoff team who has a legit chance at representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. While Conley saw Gasol leave, he stayed put in Memphis, where he’s going to have to play the rest of the season with a team who has no shot at making the playoffs.

To make it worse for Conley, it’s kind of his fault. There were rumors he was targeted by the Jazz, but then reports came out saying Conley didn’t want to play there. Utah currently sits at 31-24 in the seven spot in the Western Conference. They’ve got a real shot to be in the playoffs. A player as talented as Conley deserves to be in the playoffs, and he could have been. It’s too bad he ruined it for himself. Have fun watching Gasol in the playoffs come playoff time, Mike! – Joel Deering

 

Winner: Milwaukee Bucks

Already the best team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks made a move to help secure their status as one of the best in the league. By acquiring F Nikola Mirotic, the Bucks surrounded MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo with another weapon. Mirotic was having a career year with the Pelicans when he was playing. In 32 games played this season, he’s averaged a career high 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.

In exchange for acquiring his services, the Bucks gave up Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson and four future second-round picks. Jason Smith played in six games for the Bucks. His best stat was averaging 2.2 points per game. Stanley Johnson was acquired for Thon Maker in a trade with the Pistons, but he never played a single game for the Bucks. Four picks could be considered a lot, but they’re all second-round picks.

Essentially, the Bucks gave up pretty much nothing for a legit NBA player. When Mirotic gets healthy again, he’s going to be a huge addition to the Bucks. He’s going to be huge for the Bucks in their playoff run. – Joel Deering

 

Loser: New Orleans Pelicans

While the Bucks won the NBA trade deadline, the New Orleans Pelicans did not. To recap the Mirotic trade, the Pelicans lost a 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game guy for Jason Smith, Stanley Johnson and four second-round picks. Smith averages 3.2 points per game on the season. Stanley Johnson averages 7.5 points per game this season. Between the two of them, they average significantly less points than Mirotic by himself.

The Pelicans acquired Mirotic from the Bulls last season for three players and a first-round pick. He was huge in the Pelicans making the playoffs last season. He’s been injured for a good chunk of this season, but you’ve seen the impact him not being around has had. The Pelicans are 24-31 and the third worst team in the Western Conference. With Mirotic now gone, the Pelicans likely have no shot at making the playoffs, even if Anthony Davis does play the remaining games.

Speaking of Anthony Davis, he’s still a member of the Pelicans after the NBA trade deadline. That could be a big mistake on their part. The Los Angeles Lakers were the biggest buyers for Davis. They offered the Pelicans quite a bit, including Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and multiple first-round picks.

Instead of accepting any offers from the Lakers, the Pelicans continued to raise the price higher and higher. Now they didn’t get anything for Davis. They’ll still have opportunities to trade him, but will any of their offers be as good as what the Lakers were offering? Maybe, or maybe not. – Joel Deering

The Point God: Eastern Conference

This week I will take a look at the point guards in the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference clearly has more notable name point guards, but the East might be more top heavy with true point guards such as Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.

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

With LeBron no longer in the East, the point guards below have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in eight years. That’s make the NBA Finals. Once again, the below list is in no particular order.

 

Kyrie Irving” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kyrie Irving

Team: Boston Celtics
Shooting: A-, His shooting is impressive from all spots on the floor. Kyrie is a clutch shooter as well, hitting one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history to secure Cleveland its first ever title.
Rebounding: C+, Not a primary skill for Irving, but not needed in Boston.
Assists: B+, Kyrie averages modest assists in the NBA, but his assists are usually dimes due to his impressive court vision.
Basketball IQ: B+, On the court, Kyrie is one of the smarter players in the league. Off the court, we all know that his IQ isn’t as high, as seen in his belief that the Earth is flat.
Contribution to team’s success: A, Last season the Celtics did not have experience playing with Kyrie before his injury, but this year they are learning his importance to the team’s success. He will be needed if the Celtics want to have a deep playoff run.

 

Ben Simmons” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Ben Simmons

Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Shooting: F, Can I give a grade lower than an F? Last season, he shot a total of 42 shots outside of the paint. That is about 1 shot every 2 games and he was 12 for 42 on those shots.
Rebounding: A, Simmons is right up there with Westbrook as one of the best rebounding guards, granted Simmons’ height and weight help him in this category.
Assists: A-, Due to his tentativeness to shoot, he creates a lot of shots for his teammates, averaging over eight per game in each of his first two seasons of NBA play.
Basketball IQ: A, I consider Ben’s court vision to be his greatest strength. He sees the game one step ahead of almost everyone on the court. That allows him to impact the game immensely.
Contribution to team’s success: B+, Simmons is the motor that drives the offense, but with Joel Embiid leading the league in 20 point and 10 rebound games, Embiid is establishing himself as the #1 in Philadelphia.

 

Kyle Lowry” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Kyle Lowry

Team: Toronto Raptors
Shooting: B, His shooting is slightly above average for point guards in the league. In the playoffs however, he has seen his fair share of shooting struggles.
Rebounding: C, Lowry doesn’t show much effort for rebounding, but at a generous 6’0″ height, it makes sense.
Assists: A-, This grade is reflective of this season, as he has improved his assists by over three per game and is currently fifth in the NBA, averaging just a shade under 10 per game.
Basketball IQ: B, Kyle is a relatively smart player, but I think his team would have greater success in the postseason if he made better decisions with the ball.
Contribution to team’s success: B, This team goes as Kawhi Leonard goes at the moment. When healthy, he is arguably a top three player in the league. However, with Lowry’s improvement in his passing, he can prove to be valuable for the first seeded Raptors.

 

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

John Wall

Shooting: B, Wall’s greatest strength is his speed and ability to attack and finish at the rim. His shooting is generally not something the Wizards rely on to win games.
Rebounding: B-, Wall’s effort are fans’ main critique. I think this can frequently be seen in his lack of effort on the glass.
Assists: B+, Averaging 9.2 per game prior to his season ending heel injury, Wall sees the court very well and finds his open teammates.
Basketball IQ: A-, Maybe a point of contention for those who think he causes problems on the Wizards due to his on court play, but I believe he is an underrated player who is phenomenal at seeing the game as it develops.
Contribution to team’s success: C+, I feel bad putting the grade this low, but the Wizards seem to play better without Wall. The other players get more shots and have more opportunities to show their growth, such as Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. I think on a different team this grade would change.

 

Kemba Walker” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Kemba Walker

Shooting: B+, I would consider Walker’s shooting to be the opposite of Kyle Lowry’s. Walker is a modest shooter, but he seems to shoot best when the lights are brightest, hence his nickname: Cardiac Kemba.
Rebounding: C+, He averages less than four rebounds a game for his career and doesn’t make it a large part of his game.
Assists: B, As a shoot first point guard, assists come second to Walker’s game.
Basketball IQ: B, I think he is an emotional player who sometimes gets caught up in the intensity of the game. It only becomes a negative when he forces bad shots.
Contribution to team’s success: A, The Hornets are a franchise that has struggled in recent seasons, but the one bright spot in the team’s struggles has been Kemba, who the Hornets need to make it a priority to rebuild around.

 

Eric Bledsoe” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Honorable Mention: Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe is an intriguing player. He has had an up and down career since he came out of the University of Kentucky. Bledsoe is most well-known for his tweet, “I don’t wanna be here” when he was with the miserable Phoenix Suns that he claims was about a barber shop he was in. However, in regards to his on court play, I believe Bledsoe is underrated and generally gets a bad reputation. Milwaukee seems to have been a much needed change of scenery for Bledsoe, as he can play second fiddle to Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is a serviceable point guard who has definitely made the Bucks better and can run an offense very well.

 

Who is the Point God of the Eastern Conference?

Once again we come to the question of who the Point God is, this time in the Eastern Conference. I’m not sure I have revealed yet that I am a die hard Sixers fan. In expressing that, it may make my opinion seem biased. Now, if I had one season and had to draft a point guard from the above list, I would choose Ben Simmons. I understand his shooting is not just bad, it is horrendous, but there’s a reason he is frequently compared to LeBron James. Simmons’ skill set is incredibly rare. I may be old fashioned with how I like the point guard position to be played, but Simmons’ assists and court vision make him a unique true point guard in this new era of guard play.