The Houston Rockets recently acquired Russell Westbrook, pairing him with former teammate James Harden once again. These two have had success together before, but years later, these are two very different players. Players who are used to handling the ball and taking the last shot. Now when the game is on the line, who takes the last shot becomes the question.
After the breaking news of Russell Westbrook being traded to the Houston Rockets, you know I was scrolling through my Bleacher Report feed to get all the details. I mean, where else would I be after a blockbuster trade?
As I was scrolling through my feed, I can across a photo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There was a question above this photo, asking, “Who should take the final shot” Normally when there’s more than one star on a team, this question can be difficult to figure out. However, in my mind, this time it’s easy.
Who should take the final shot?
While this may seem like a tough question to answer, I have no hesitation when I say it should be James Harden. James Harden should 100% take the final shot. Let me tell you why.
This is Harden’s team
First off, the Houston Rockets are James Harden’s team. He is the leader. He’s been their leader since arriving there in 2012. Every time a big shot needed to be made, it’s been James Harden.
Yes, technically the Rockets are now Russell Westbrook’s team too, but Westbrook is just coming over from OKC. Now being in Houston, Westbrook can still be a leader, but he’s not going to be ‘the guy.’
This is similar to when Chris Paul came over from the Clippers. Chris Paul is a star, but from the moment he arrived in Houston, there was never a doubt as to who’s team this was. It was always Harden’s team. With Westbrook now there, nothing should change. This is James Harden’s team, and there should be no question about it.
As usual, I can’t state my opinion without supporting it with some sort of numbers. Here, I’m going to compare the shooting numbers for both Westbrook and Harden throughout their careers.
After comparing their shooting numbers, it’s clear James Harden is the better shooter. Throughout his career, Harden has shot 0.9% better than Westbrook overall, 4.1% better on 2PT shots and 5.7% better on 3PT shots.
When it comes down to hitting a game winner, who would you rather have? Would you rather have the guy with better shooting percentages all-around (Harden), or the other guy (Westbrook)? Don’t get me wrong here, Russell Westbrook has hit his fair share of game winning shots during his career, but when it comes down to it, James Harden is clearly the guy who’s got a better chance of making the shot.
James Harden is not only the leader of this team, but he’s the better shooter between him and Westbrook. If it comes down to Russell Westbrook taking a shot to win the game, there’s a good chance he’ll hit it. He’s done it many times before. However, if you ask me, when the game is on the line, I want James Harden taking the shot.
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.
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.
Today we’re taking a look at the top 10 shooting guards in free agency and where each of them could go. In case you missed any of the other positions so far, follow the links at the bottom of the page.
Top 10 shooting guards
1. Klay Thompson
Current Team: Golden State Warriors
New Team: Golden State Warriors
It’s going to be tough to believe Klay Thompson will leave the Warriors. If he does, it’ll be because of Kevin Durant staying. I say that because Thompson went from being the second option to the third, and it showed a lot through the past few seasons what its done to him. He’s one of the best defensive guards in the league, and I honestly want him to sign with the Lakers, but he’ll be injured for most of the season. That injury could just have him take a short term deal with the Warriors, despite how many teams may want him. I find it hard for the Splash Brothers to split up.
2. Jimmy Butler
Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers
New Team: Houston Rockets
According to the reports, the Sixers want to keep Butler on a max deal. However, there are several teams in the hunt. The Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets are two teams favored to land him. The Clippers want to try to get a pairing of Kawhi Leonard and Butler together, but that’s not going to happen. The Rockets have openly said they want to do a sign-and-trade with the Sixers to get Butler. Of course, the Rockets can’t just sign him straight up. However, a deal that sends both Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker to Philadelphia with some first-round picks could do it for both sides.
3. J.J. Reddick
Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers
New Team: Los Angeles Lakers
The Sixers will be losing out on another great shooter. Honestly, as a Lakers fan, I’d rather have one of the top two guys here, but they haven’t been able to get the money right yet, and Reddick should once again sign a one-year deal with the Lakers and see how it goes before signing long term.
4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Current Team: Los Angeles Lakers
New Team: Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers missing out on Butler gives them a bit of nerve as they look for a true three and D guy who can help their team. That will also allow them to continue bringing Lou Williams off the bench as the sixth man. Caldwell-Pope is a better player than he’s been given credit for. Let’s be honest, the Lakers couldn’t keep up with the rotation of their players. That was one of the biggest issues with the coaching staff. Caldwell-Pope often found himself behind in the rotation, so hopefully, it’s better for the Clippers.
5. Terrance Ross
Current Team: Orlando Magic
New Team: Indiana Pacers
Terrance Ross is one of the more underrated guards in the league. I think he’ll really be able to shine in Indiana with Ricky Rubio and Victor Oladipo. He fits that type of offense and he’ll have a much larger role in the beginning of the season with Oladipo trying to recover from injury.
6. Rodney Hood
Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers
New Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Hood will continue to be the sixth man for the Blazers. Although, there have been talks of him also joining the Lakers and reuniting with LeBron James. The Blazers and Hood fit well together. He helped them get to the Conference Finals in a tough Western Conference. He plays well off the ball with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. I can see him being a huge part of the team again this year.
7. Danny Green
Current Team: Toronto Raptors
New Team: New York Knicks
With the recent news of Marc Gasol opting into his contract, it makes it more obvious that Green could be on the move, especially if the Raptors really do want to bring Kawhi Leonard back. I think Danny Green will be a good fit in New York, putting himself in the Big Apple with DeAndre Jordan, Marcus Morris and R.J. Barrett. Green could continue to be a starter for the Knicks as they slowly progress with Barrett taking over. I think they could be a bit better if they get the right pieces around them.
8. Jeremy Lamb
Current Team: Charlotte Hornets
New Team: Chicago Bulls
With the Hornets spending all the money on keeping Kemba Walker and adding Enes Kanter, they’ll be limited on certain things. With Malik Monk likely to continue to be the starter, Lamb could go elsewhere. I think Chicago would be a great place for him. The Bulls could use all the guard help they can get. Lamb would be a nice piece off the bench for the Bulls behind Zach LaVine and could turn into a nice role player like he was in Charlotte.
9. Wesley Matthews
Current Team: Indiana Pacers
New Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
I think this is a dream made to come true. The Thunder haven’t had a shooting guard who’s shoot first since James Harden, and they need the extra offense. I know Matthews is much older now, but he’s one of the leagues best veteran leaders, and he showed that last season with the Pacers. The problem is that he has to be a starter to be successful. That’s why he’ll succeed with the Thunder alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
10. Austin Rivers
Current Team: Houston Rockets
New Team: Orlando Magic
I don’t think Rivers will be staying with the Rockets. They already have a lot of things to figure out trying to get Butler. Rivers is a nice bench piece to have. With the Magic losing Ross, I think Rivers could be a great addition. He can also play both guard positions, which is a bonus if Rozier and Fultz struggle.
The Brooklyn Nets are interested in a Russell & Irving pairing. Here’s why the two guards could end up making an impact for their team like Harden & Paul.
Kyrie Irving has been linked to several different destinations this coming offseason, the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics to name a few. A new team just realistically joined the mix. The Brooklyn Nets expressed their interest in signing Kyrie Irving to pair him with D’Angelo Russell.
On first thought, I didn’t think this would be a good pairing. How can two ball dominant guards coexist in the same backcourt? On second thought, I thought back to when Chris Paul joined the Houston Rockets a couple years back. I remember thinking the exact same thing about how Chris Paul and James Harden would coexist.
In two seasons together, James Harden and Chris Paul have had a lot of success together as teammates. Last season, they were one game away from making it to the NBA Finals. This season didn’t go as well as last for the Rockets, but Harden and Paul were able to carry the Rockets to the second round of the playoffs, where they were able to win two games against the Warriors.
If you ask me, the acquisition of Chris Paul has absolutely been worth it for the Rockets. If the Rockets have had great success with two ball dominant guards, why wouldn’t the Nets be able to do the same thing with Russell and Irving?
Russell & Irving vs Harden & Paul
If Kyrie Irving was to join D’Angelo Russell on the Nets, both backcourts would feature a lot of similarities. The biggest similarity I see between these two backcourts, is their abilities to score. We all know James Harden can score almost at will. Chris Paul gets overshadowed by Harden on several occasions, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great scoring guard. Paul has averaged 18.5 points over the course of his career.
Just as Harden & Paul are both great scorers, so are D’Angelo Russell & Kyrie Irving. Kyrie Irving has hit some big time shots during his NBA career. We know he can score, especially during the biggest moments. D’Angelo Russell is still a very young player, but he had a breakout season this year and should only become a better scorer as time goes on. A guard who averaged 23.8 points (Irving) and another who averaged 21.1 points per game (Russell) would be very difficult to stop.
James Harden and Chris Paul are both great scoring guards, but they’re also both great passers. We may not think of Russell & Irving as great passers, but they averaged 7.0 and 6.9 assists last season. That’s not much worse than Harden and Paul. Russell and Irving are more than capable of scoring the basketball, but also using their scoring ability to create open shots for their teammates.
The biggest problem I can see with Russell and Irving being in the backcourt together, is figuring out who’s going to take control of the ball at what times. It’s pretty clear that Chris Paul has taken a back seat to James Harden when it comes to handling the basketball. Would Kyrie Irving be willing to take a back seat to D’Angelo Russell? Or would Russell being willing to take a back seat to Irving?
If both guys are competing for the ball, things won’t work out well. However, if these two can share the ball equally and let the hot hand take over when needed, this backcourt combo of Russell and Irving could work out nicely.
Russell & Irving would elevate Nets
I’m not going to predict that if Irving joins forces with Russell, they’ll make it to the NBA Finals. However, I will predict that their combo in the backcourt would take this team further than they’ve been. I think they’d have a legit chance at competing in the Eastern Conference. Mark my words, if Russell and Irving come together on the Nets, they’ll be a one of the better teams in the East.
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.
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.
Western Conference: Eastern Conference:
Warriors vs. 4. Rockets 1. Bucks vs. 4. Celtics
Nuggets vs. 3. Blazers 2. Raptors vs. 3. 76ers
That’s what the playoffs look like, but let’s see what our predictions are!
4. Rockets over 1. Warriors in seven
3. Blazers over 2. Nuggets in six
1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in seven
2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in six
4. Rockets over 1. Warriors in six
2. Nuggets over 3. Blazers in five
1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in seven
2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in seven
1. Warriors over 4. Rockets in seven
2. Nuggets over 3. Blazers in six
1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in six
2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in seven
1. Warriors over 4. Rockets in six
3. Blazers over 2. Nuggets in seven
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.
In Joel’s recent article, we see who the best QB in the 2019 NFL Draft is based on the QB rules of a Hall of Fame coach, Bill Parcells, and the results may surprise you. This works well with our first topic in this week’s edition.
We have also been wondering what’s going to happen with the Bryce Harper contract. And in case you missed it, it was a 13-year, $330 million deal. But we discuss another deal made by one of the best third basemen in the game.
So let’s take a look at if we think Parcells’ rules will work. Mickayeen, Joel and I will also discuss if the Rockies and Nolan Arenado’s extension was worth it. Our third topic will be about whether or not James Harden’s historic 30+ point game streak ending is best for the Houston Rockets.
Joel: A QB other than Dwayne Haskins or Kyler Murray will be the first off the board in the upcoming NFL Draft
RahimAli: This is a tough decision, because you automatically want to see Kyler Murray be paired with QB minded head coach Kliff Kingsbury and watch what the two can do together. I just don’t think the Arizona Cardinals are going to give up on QB Josh Rosen just yet, so first overall will be a defensive player.
The next four picks will likely be defensive players too, as they all have a QB who they are somewhat comfortable with. I find it hard to believe that any of them would be willing to draft one here, unless we get a trade done that allows teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins to move up.
For that reason, I’m going to sell this. I think Murray and Haskins are the best two QBs in the draft, and I don’t think there’s any debate.
I honestly want to see Murray or Haskins get drafted by the New York Giants as the potential franchise QB after they finally part ways with Eli Manning. The only way I could see this not happening is if the Giants decide to take Daniel Jones, who was played for David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe also worked with Eli and Peyton, ironically. But I don’t think Jones or Drew Lock will get drafted ahead of Murray or Haskins.
Mickayeen: I’m selling that one. Any mock draft you look at has either one of them off the board first.
The only QB who has a chance of threatening that would be Drew Lock. Barring any unlikely Baker Mayfield-type rises, that’s unlikely to happen. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I’m going trust the people who know more than me who are doing the mock drafts and say that either Haskins or Murray will be first off the board.
Mickayeen: Arenado’s contract extension was worth it
RahimAli: I’m buying this one! I think the Colorado Rockies made the right decision in getting this deal done. The timing of it couldn’t have came at a better time either. Arenado was set to hit the free agent market next winter, but with this deal, it allows both him and the Rockies to move into the future together.
We don’t know what could’ve happened a year from now if he hadn’t signed the extension. I mean, take Bryce Harper for example. As teams are about to start spring training, he just barely signed his contract with the Phillies. Now most of that is Harper’s doing, but at least Arenado won’t need to worry about that.
This contract is for eight-years at $260, which is a record-setting contract. I honestly don’t think it’s bad though. Arenado will turn 28 at the beginning of the season, and he is still improving himself every season. Last season, he helped lead the Rockies into the playoffs, as he led the National League in Home Runs for the third time in his six year career.
Arenado has also been a 4X All-Star, 6X Gold Glove Winner, 4X Silver Slugger, and led the NL in RBI’s twice. He’s batting a .291 with 975 hits, 186 HRs, and 616 RBIs. Over the span of the eight year contract, I could honestly see him as part of the 3000 hit club and 1500 RBI club as he looks to place his name in the hall of fame picture. However, I don’t think this move will result in more than just one championship if they could get the right pieces in place.
Joel: I agree with RahimAli on this one and am buying, although I don’t have much more to add. However, I will just point out that Mickayeen listed Arenado on the Rockies’ Mount Rushmore. That alone tells me this deal was worth it. If he’s one of the greatest players in franchise history, he deserves this deal. They could have even paid him more and I would buy this as being worth it.
Those type of players don’t come around every day. The Rockies paid a him a lot of money, like a lot, but that’s what teams should be doing with players of his caliber. The reason Mickayeen put Arenado on the Rockies’ Mount Rushmore is because of this quote by Mike Schmidt. “In my opinion, Nolan Arenado is going to be the heir apparent to the all-time greatest third basemen.” A player like that is worth every penny.
RahimAli: Harden’s 30 + point streak ending is good for the Rockets heading into the playoffs
Joel: I buy Harden’s 30+ point streak as a good thing for the Rockets. While it was a great achievement for Harden, I often felt like he didn’t care about the result of the game, as long as he got his 30 points. His 30 points often did lead to wins, but I felt like winning wasn’t the first thing on his mind. Now that his streak has been snapped, Harden can get back to what he should really be focused on. That’s winning.
Not only winning in the regular season, but winning in the postseason too. People have criticized Harden’s game recently, saying his style of basketball won’t win championships. If he plays like he did when he was on that 30+ point streak, then they’re correct. However, we saw Harden come within one game of the NBA Finals last season, so we know that when he’s not just playing to score 30 points, he can win.
The playoffs are getting closer, so Harden needs to play the style of basketball that will get the Rockets a win. If that means he only scores 20, that’s just fine. He now has no reason to try and score 30 points every single night, but he does have reasons to win basketball games. Hopefully Harden’s mentality of having to score 30 or more points every single game breaks like his streak. If it does, the Rockets will benefit from it.
Mickayeen: I buy that it’s better for the team overall that he isn’t putting near as much effort to carry them every game. They’re good enough to make it back to the conference finals against the Warriors. Whether Harden is going crazy or not, that’s probably their ceiling, so I don’t think it makes a huge difference in the long run. So I both buy and sell.
Okay, so we missed last weekend of giving you the updates of what you missed, but there wasn’t really much we missed anyway. Well, besides the last game of the NFL season, which happened to be the biggest one of the year. That was the Super Bowl played between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots in Atlanta, Georgia.
By now, you all know the results. It was one of the most boring Super Bowls I’ve ever watched. Don’t believe me? Read Joel’s point of view on it here. I was so bored with what I was watching I forgot about writing altogether.
This week, however, is different! I’m finally over the results of Super Bowl LIII that saw the New England Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl title in the last 17 years. Their first and sixth were against the Rams in both Super Bowl XXXVI and this past one. Want to relive moments of that Super Bowl? Read here!
There weren’t any NFL games this weekend, but there was other important news. For example, the question of whether or not some key players will remain with their current team. We have already seen some news, like the Atlanta Falcons parting ways with veteran kicker Matt Bryant and cornerback Robert Alford. But there was much more than that. Let’s get you all caught up on what you may have missed!
Harden, Westbrook chasing NBA legend
It was a Saturday night to remember in the NBA, as we all got to see two of the NBA’s greatest players battle it out. Not only was it a game between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, but a game of two All-Stars chasing history.
Rockets’ James Harden is currently on a 29-game streak of 30+ points or more, which is the third most in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain holds the NBA record with 65 straight games and also 31 straight. Harden may not be able to catch the 65 mark this season, but he could pass Chamberlain for second on the list.
Another NBA record Chamberlain holds is the most consecutive games with a triple-double, which is nine. On Saturday, Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook tied that record late in the game and will look to pass it in their next game Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Celtics, Rockets blow 25 + point lead at home
Speaking of the Rockets and Thunder, the game went back and forth, as both teams had a chance to win it at the end. But that chance was the Rockets’ to lose after blowing a 26-point lead in the first half. They watched Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder come back and win 117-112 on the road. The Rockets and Thunder are two of the top five teams in the West. There’s been a lot of talks about how these two could be a tough challenge for the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Another team who we expect to have been a real challenge for the Warriors is the Boston Celtics. That’s because of a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the mix. Or so we hope it’s a healthy Irving, as he left the Celtics game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Irving’s injury was a right knee sprain that held him out for the rest of the game and helped the Clippers mount a huge 28-point comeback victory in TD Garden with a 123-112 win. That was the Celtics second straight home loss to an L.A. team, as the fans went from chanting “Beat LA,” to booing their home team. Irving is listed as day-to-day, but no word yet on whether he’ll play Tuesday.
LeBron James went to College
After the Lakers and James used a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater on Thursday night to beat the Boston Celtics, they decided to take their talents to the Cavaliers and Virginia. Both James and Rondo were spotted in the crowd during the Duke and Virginia game on Saturday. Let’s be honest, they should have been in the gym with their teammates to prepare for their game against the Philadelphia 76ers, which did not go as well as they hoped.
Ellington, Matthews found new homes
In case, you missed all the crazy moves and trades made before the deadline on Thursday, Joel Deering and Jon Geib will give you the winners and losers from the deadline here. But some of those trades resulted in players finding new teams after being released by the team who traded for them. That is the case for both Wayne Ellington and Wesley Matthews, who were both traded from their original teams and then cut by their new team.
For Ellington, it was a trade between the Miami Heat (original) and Phoenix Suns (traded) for Ryan Anderson. Ellington and Tyler Johnson were both traded to the Suns. Ellington was later cut and cleared the waivers. Ellington’s new team will now be the Detriot Pistons.
Matthews was traded as part of the Kristap Porzingis deal the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks made that ultimately led him to get waived and signed by the Indiana Pacers. Matthews signing with the Pacers will help them fill the void left with All-Star guard Victor Oladipo out of the season.
Chelsea embarrasses themselves in Manchester
Manchester City and Argentina forward Sergio Aguero is now tied for the Premier League top goalscorer with 17 goals and the most EPL hat-tricks with 11. Six of those 17 goals have come in the last two games, three vs. Arsenal, three now vs. Chelsea. But the scoreline between Man City and Chelsea was even crazier. 6-0! Two goals by Raheem Sterling and a goal from Ilkay Gundogan, along with Aguero’s hat-trick took Man City back to the top of the table, tied on points with Liverpool, but boasting a goal difference ten goals higher than the Reds.
Manchester United continue to accelerate
Eleven matches now it’s been since Manchester United fired Jose Mourinho. 11 matches now it’s been since Man United have lost. Despite Fulham being at home, it seemed the 19th-place side faced no chance against the Red Devils. Two goals from midfielder Paul Pogba and a brilliant solo-effort from Antony Martial gave United a 0-3 win and put them at fifth in the Premier League table, above Arsenal.
Arsenal shine against Huddersfield
It doesn’t seem that Huddersfield’s situation will improve anytime soon. After losing to Chelsea 0-5, they lost again to Arsenal 1-2, still lingering at the bottom of the table. Arsenal played a weaker squad, benching Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette still did the job with their first-half goals. After some Huddersfield resistance, they were rewarded with a late Saed Kolasinac own-goal in the 92nd minute.
A perfect day out for Cardiff City
Southampton were favorites to win at home against Cardiff City, but the day was meant for City. After losing Emiliano Sala to a plane crash, City honored him with a win in spectacular fashion. Going nil-one up in the 69th minute, they held that lead for another 22 minutes until Jack Stephens scored for Southampton. Then, magically, two minutes later, Kenneth Zohore sealed the winner away for City.
Emiliano Sala’s death confirmed
Despasco en Paz, rest in peace. After transferring from FC Nantes to Cardiff City, Emiliano Sala’s plane went missing. It was later confirmed by police that a found dead body was his and the search for the pilot is ongoing. As a tribute, Nantes has announced the retirement of the number nine on the players’ jerseys.
England finds success in the Caribbean
In the final test of the three-match series between the West Indies and England (which the Windies are winning 2-0), England ended Day Two with a lead of 142 runs. In the first innings, twin half-centuries by Ben Stokes and Jos Butler lead England to 277. But the star of the day has to be Mark Wood, who collected a miraculous fiver in just 8.2 overs. At one point in the day, West Indies had lost six wickets for just 22 runs, but managed to get to 154.
Brisbane Heat chase 157 in just ten overs
No, it wasn’t a T10 match. It was most definitely a T20 match, but Brisbane Heat chased Melbourne Stars’ 156-8 in just ten overs, winning by ten wickets. The openers Max Bryant and Ben Cutting scored 71(30)* and 81(30)* each, which say ten fours and 13 sixes in the innings.
Losses by top 25 teams
11 Virginia Tech to Clemson (59-51)
19 Wisconsin to 7 Michigan (61-52)
17 Iowa State to TCU (92-83)
14 Villanova to 10 Marquette (66-65)
16 Louisville to 22 Florida State (80-75)
3 Virginia to 2 Duke (81-71)
25 Cincinnati to 12 Houston (65-58)
The NBA trade deadline will shortly be upon us. We’ll probably see a few trades here and there before the cutoff. While NBA teams are focused on making trades, we’re going to take a look at the top five NBA MVP rankings at the trade deadline. Our last NBA MVP rankings came early in the season. While some names remain the same, there are a couple names who weren’t previously ranked. Take a look back at our first NBA MVP rankings here.
Now that you know where our NBA MVP rankings sat last time around, let’s take a look at who tops the list at the NBA trade deadline.
NBA MVP Rankings
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Season stats: 36.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game
28 straight games of scoring 30+ points. A league leading 36.5 points per game. His team right in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. It’s hard to make a case against James Harden as the NBA MVP leader right now. Harden is getting it done in just about every category. His 36.5 points per game not only lead the league, but are an average of 7.2 more points per game than the next guy (Anthony Davis). That average of 36.5 points per game to this point in the season is by far Harden’s highest scoring average of his career. His previous high is 30.4, which came in his MVP season last year. In addition to his insane scoring output, Harden is also averaging the second most rebounds and third most assists of his career.
Perhaps what is most important though, is the fact that Harden is averaging the most steals (2.2) and blocks (0.8) per game of his career. Harden isn’t just putting up historic scoring numbers. He’s putting up historic scoring numbers while playing maybe the best defense of his career. James Harden has carried a heavy load this season due to his teammates missing time here and there. While not everyone has been available for the Rockets, James Harden always has been.
A knock on Harden being ranked first is the fact that his team currently sits fifth in the Western Conference standings. While that may be true, we have to remember how poorly the Rockets started. They weren’t in the playoff picture for a good chunk of time. Harden has fought hard for the Rockets and dug them out of a hole many thought they wouldn’t come out of.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Season stats: 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks
Giannis Antetokounmpo was once the clear favorite for MVP, but then James Harden exploded. While Harden has taken the top spot in the NBA MVP rankings, it doesn’t mean Giannis is out of the MVP race. Not by any means. The Greek Freak currently has his team sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-13. That’s also the best record in the NBA. You could easily make a case for Giannis to be No. 1. His biggest case to be ranked there is his teams’ current status.
Like James Harden, Antetokounmpo is doing a little bit of everything for the Bucks. He currently averages 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. In addition to those numbers, he’s shooting a career high 57.2% from the field. His points, assists and rebounds all lead the NBA’s best team.
If you want to knock Giannis for something, it’d have to be his three point percentage. He’s shooting 19.3% from that range this season, but believe it or not, that’s actually not a career low. Giannis hasn’t developed that area of his game yet. Knock him on that if you want to, but it’s incredibly hard to deny literally everything else he’s doing for the Bucks.
At just the age of 24, Giannis is still getting better. He’s improved every single season in the league, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so over the next few years. Forget the stats for a minute though. His stats are great, but even if you don’t look at them, it seems like Giannis has taken his game to the next level. He’s truly become the star for the Bucks. He’s their go to guy. Expect him to stay at the top of the NBA MVP rankings the rest of the season.
3. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats: 28.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.5 blocks
Some may not think Paul George deserves to be this high in the NBA MVP rankings, but I do. You can’t deny what Paul George is doing for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Right now they’re sitting with a record of 34-19. That’s good enough for the number three spot in the Western Conference. If Paul George wasn’t having the season he is, the Thunder would likely be somewhere in the range of the six to eight seed right now, if they were in the playoff picture at all.
George’s fellow teammate and former MVP Russell Westbrook is once again averaging a triple-double. He’s averaging 21.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 11.1 assists. His 11.1 assists actually lead the NBA right now. So, if Paul George has a former MVP on his team who’s averaging a triple-double and leading the league in assists, why is he ranked third in the NBA MVP rankings?
Well, while Russell Westbrook is averaging 21.4 points per game, he’s not shooting at a very effective rate. His field goal percentage for the season is just 41.7%, his lowest since his rookie season. He’s also making three point shots at a percentage of just 24.8%. Paul George has made up for Westbrook’s ineffective shooting. His 28.0 points per game are a career high for him, by a big margin. His 2.3 steals per game are also a career high. That also leads the league. Those aren’t the only career highs for George this season. He’s also averaging a career high in rebounds (7.9).
With Paul George playing at this level, the Thunder actually look like a team who can win a playoff series and make a deep playoff run.
4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.5 blocks
Kawhi Leonard may not have the Raptors as the best team in the Eastern Conference anymore, but that doesn’t matter. They’re still sitting in second place at this moment. With Kawhi leading them, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’ll be a top three seed in the conference come playoff time. Regardless of their record, what I really like about Kawhi Leonard’s play this season is how he’s helped the Raptors turn into a legit Eastern Conference team.
The Raptors have been good in previous years, but everyone knew that come playoff time, they would fall. Ever since Kawhi got to Toronto, there’s a different feel about this team. They feel like a team who can actually win the Eastern Conference and then have a legit chance at winning a championship. That all starts with Kawhi.
Leonard has missed 14 games this season. Despite him being out, the Raptors still did fairly well. It’s fair to knock him on that if you want to, but I’d argue that without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are just the same pretty good team who wouldn’t have a legit chance at winning a championship. They may be a good team without Kawhi, but he makes them legit.
His 27.3 points are a career high for him. His 7.9 rebounds are also a career high. There’s just something about Kawhi Leonard that makes him feel like a different player this season than in any season he spent with the Spurs.
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks
Curry is probably the toughest player for me to accurately judge in the NBA MVP rankings. When I rank MVP candidates, I want a guy who elevates his team when he doesn’t have others to help him do so. Yes, James Harden has Chris Paul, but he’s been hurt and is getting older. He’s never been a lights out shooter either. Giannis Antetokounmpo has Khris Middleton, who’s a border line All-Star. Paul George has Westbrook, but he’s not an effective scorer this season. Kawhi Leonard has Kyle Lowry, but I think he’s also a border line All-Star.
Who does Steph Curry have? He’s got Kevin Durant, who’s arguably the best player in the NBA. He’s also a former MVP. Then there’s Klay Thompson, who despite having shooting struggles this season is one of the best shooters ever and can go off at any moment. He’s also got Draymond Green, who is always a defensive player of the year candidate. Now he even has DeMarcus Cousins. It’s one thing to win with one other or no other stars, but it’s another to win with four other stars. Of course they’re going to win with those guys!
Despite having all those players, you can’t deny Curry’s production. That’s why he makes the top five NBA MVP rankings. With four other star players, Curry still averages 28.9 points per game. That currently ranks third in the NBA.