It’s time to put Siakam in the MVP conversation

Pascal Siakam
Game 2 of 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Earlier this week, the NBA put out their KIA MVP Ladder, ranking players based on their production so far this season. Below are the top five MVP candidates so far.

Current NBA MVP rankings

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

3. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

With all of these guys having some of the best teams in the league and them all being some of the most popular names in basketball, it’s no surprise these guys are atop the list.

 

The next five

6. James Harden, Houston Rockets

7. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

8. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

10. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

As the list moves into the next five, it’s no surprise the guys listed above are there either. They’re just as popular as the guys above, it’s just their teams haven’t had as much early success.

 

And five more

11. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

12. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

13. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

14. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

15. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

Then there’s these guys, who are having successful seasons early on and are still popular names, but aren’t as popular as the top tier guys.

 

The guy who should be in the conversation

With most of this list I agree, but there’s one huge disagreement. That’s the absence of the name Pascal Siakam. I get Siakam isn’t a super popular name. Last year was the first year most people knew who he was! Instead of being a star player, he won Most Improved Player. While that is an accomplishment, winning Most Improved doesn’t make you a star.

I understand that Siakam has yet to play an entire season as the main guy for his team, but based on what he’s done so far this season, he absolutely should be in the MVP conversation.

Through the Raptors’ first eight games, Siakam has led them to a 6-2 record, which currently puts them second in the Eastern Conference. In those eight games, Siakam has averaged 27.9 points (7th in the NBA), 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s doing all that while shooting 51.9% from the field and 41.3% from three-point range.

First of all, why is the NBA’s seventh leading scorer not in the top 15 in the MVP race? Guys like AD, LeBron, KAT and Booker are all on the list, and they’re all currently averaging less points than Siakam!

Second, how in the world is Kendrick Nunn, an undrafted rookie, ahead of Siakam? Nunn is averaging 16.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game and ranks 12th on the list, yet Siakam is left off? Makes perfect sense!

 

Where should Siakam rank?

If you ask me, Siakam should at the very least be ranked in the top 10. Let’s take a look at the guys in the top 10 and briefly compare them to Siakam.

Jokic currently has his team at the same record as the Raptors and in the same playoff spot, only in the Western Conference. However, he averages 16.3 points, which is 11.6 less than Siakam. Jokic averages 0.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists more than Siakam, but there’s no way that’s enough to overtake him.

Booker has his team off to a worse start (5-3), and is also averaging less points and significantly less rebounds. Lillard currently has the Blazers at 3-6 and not in a playoff spot, so I’m not sure why he’s even on the MVP list. He may be the league’s second leading scorer, but MVP’s don’t play for losing teams. Irving is kind of in the same boat as Lillard. He’s the league’s third leading scorer, but his team is just 4-4 and seems to be struggling to finish games. If anyone ranked six through 10 has a legit case, it’s Harden, who has his team at 6-3 and is the league’s leading scorer right now.

Now let’s move to the guys ranked in the top five. Embiid currently averages less points and assists, while shooting worse percentages from the field than Siakam. I’d easily take Siakam over Embiid for MVP right now.

This is where it starts to get interesting. AD and James are both averaging less points than Siakam, but they do have the best record in the Western Conference right now. You could make the argument here that Siakam has less help, because he’s not playing with a top five NBA player, while these two guys are.

That leaves us with Kawhi and the Greek Freak. Both guys are averaging more points than Siakam. With both of their teams sitting right where the Raptors are, I think I’d have to put these guys above Siakam at this moment.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific place for Siakam to rank right now, but I’d say he’s at least in the top five. At the very, very least, he should be in the top 15! Again, how on earth is Kendrick Nunn ranked over him, or even in the top 15 at all?

Pascal Siakam may be last year’s Most Improved Player, but he’s this year’s star for the Toronto Raptors. Siakam is a star, yet most people don’t see it. It’s time to start recognizing Siakam as more than the guy who helped Kawhi a year ago. It’s time to recognize him as a legit MVP candidate. Let’s give him the recognition he deserves.

 

Way too early bold Eastern Conference predictions

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

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

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

 

1. Trae Young will be an MVP finalist

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. The Kyrie Irving led Nets will miss the playoffs

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

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

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

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

 

Are the Lakers better off without Kawhi?

The Los Angeles Lakers missed out on pairing Kawhi Leonard with LeBron James and Anthony Davis after Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. A Kawhi, LeBron and Davis combo would have been great, but are the Lakers better off without Leonard?

9163099039_eae7648130_o.jpg
2013 Los Angeles Lakers 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After the Los Angeles Lakers were able to acquire Anthony Davis, they opened up enough room to sign a third max contract player. With Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and others already off the board, L.A. had their sights set on Kawhi Leonard.

Just a few days ago, Kawhi Leonard made his free agency decision, choosing the Los Angeles Clippers over the Lakers and Toronto Raptors. Not landing Kawhi may seem like a huge blow for the Lakers, as the combo of him, LeBron and Davis would have incredibly tough to stop. However, the Lakers may be better off without Leonard.

I know it sounds crazy for a team to be better without Kawhi Leonard, but hear me out on this one.

 

Roster with Kawhi

Had the Lakers signed the Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers would have had a roster consisting of three of the best players in the NBA. That sounds awesome, but it takes more than three guys to win basketball games. By adding Kawhi, the Lakers would have had a roster consisting of pretty much the following:

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • Jared Dudley
  • Troy Daniels
  • No name players who won’t help them win

Had the Lakers signed Leonard, their roster would have been real thin. Outside of Leonard, LeBron, Davis and Kuzma, all the Lakers would have had were depth guys. Not guys who could help them win off the bench, but depth guys. Guys who probably shouldn’t play unless the absolutely have to. Sure, the Lakers would have been able to sign a couple more guys to minimum contracts, but they wouldn’t have been anything more than depth guys either.

One of the biggest problems the Lakers had a season ago, was their frequent usage of backup players in a starting role. Yes, injuries had something to do with that, but regardless, they played guys who shouldn’t have been on the floor way too often. That obviously helped lead the Lakers to missing the playoffs.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Would the Lakers have made the playoffs with the above roster? Yes. Would they have been a good team? Yes. Would they win a championship? I’m not so sure. It would have been great to have at least one of these guys on the floor at all times, but who would have been around them? As proven by Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors, it takes a team FULL of capable players to win a championship. This Lakers roster would have been far from that.

 

Roster without Kawhi

The Lakers’ roster with Kawhi Leonard would have been good, but their roster without him may be better because of how well rounded they can be. After missing out on the biggest free agent available, the Lakers made a series of great moves to fill out their roster. Let’s take a look at what their roster looks like now.

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Danny Green
  • Rajon Rondo
  • Quinn Cook
  • Troy Daniels
  • Jared Dudley
  • JaVale McGee
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Avery Bradley
  • No name players (Alex Caruso, Zach Norvell Jr., Talon Horton-Tucker and Johnathan Williams)

As you can see, because the Lakers didn’t sign Kawhi Leonard, they were able to make several moves they wouldn’t have been able to make before. They were able to sign DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green to fill out their starting lineup. Next, they were able to sign Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldewell-Pope and Avery Bradley to fill out their bench rotation. There’s no way they would’ve been able to acquire a roster this deep with Kawhi Leonard’s contract.

Without Kawhi, the Lakers now have a well built roster. They’ve got a lineup of guys who should be starters (LeBron, Davis, Kuzma, Green and Cousins). They’ve got a lineup of guys who can make valuable contributions off the bench, but won’t be relied upon to carry the team (Rondo, Cook, McGee, Caldwell-Pope, Bradley, etc.) Finally, they’ve got guys who may play occasionally, but shouldn’t play often.

This Lakers’ roster has a lot more depth and a lot more possibilities than it would have had they landed Kawhi Leonard. Throw that in with the possibility of them acquiring Kyle Korver (recent free agent after being waived) and maybe adding Andre Iguodala (Grizzlies are seeking a trade, but may come to buyout agreement).

Not adding Kawhi Leonard allowed the Lakers to build a solid roster from head to toe, rather than having a roster consisting of three stars, one young player who’s on the rise and a bunch of no names. This Lakers roster is legit, and they may not be done making moves just yet.

 

What you may have missed this weekend: 7/5 – 7/7

If you didn’t think much happened in the last few days around the world in sports, trust me, a lot more happened then you think. Along with the NBA Free Agency headlines, there were three soccer finals yesterday and a special 15-year old is causing an earthquake in London’s Wimbledon. So without further ado, let’s start by seeing what the Los Angeles Lakers are up to during the NBA Free Agency.

48164193957_b276c77d82_k
Coco Gauff by Kate Tann is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

NBA

Lakers on the hunt:

After a dismal NBA season, the Lakers are being quick to patch their team by signing some big names. Right after Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard announced his decision, Danny Green announced he would be signing with the Lakers for a two year, $30 million deal. The other big name to come to Los Angeles is DeMarcus Cousins from Golden State Warriors and Rojan Rondo is set to rejoin his former team. The Lakers completed three more signings in JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Quinn Cook.

Clippers, Thunder secure big trade:

After the Los Angeles Clippers signed NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard, they were quick to move for Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George. However, the Clippers have had to give up a lot for George. First, they traded away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, but also four future first-round picks, another protected first-round pick in 2023 and an extra potential two more picks of the Clippers.

 

UFC 239 (By RahimAli Merchant)

Jones beats Santos, Nunes wrecks Helms:

It was a busy week in Las Vegas for the world of sports, we not only saw the start of the NBA’s Summer league where Zion Williamson showed off, but we got to feel an earthquake or two that might have changed the whole atmosphere. The fight between Jon Jones and Tiago Santos was not affected by the earthquake, but they definitely hit the road running with a five-round contest that ended in a decision by the judges that gave Jones (25-1) the controversial victory.

Let’s not forget about the women. Though the men were the highlight of the night, Amanda Nunes did some quick work to Holly Helms with a head kick knockout in the first round to claim the victory. Both Helms and Nunes have proven that MMA is not just for the boys.

 

Wimbledon:

Coco Gauff advances to Round of 16:

After a shocking victory against 15-year old Coco Gauff’s idol, Venus Williams, Gauff sealed her place in the Round of 16 by beating Pelona Hercog on Friday. After losing the first round unfortunately by six sets to three, Gauff won a 7-9 tiebreaker in the second set, before nearly avoiding another tiebreaker in the third set, winning 5-7. Gauff is currently playing possibly her hardest opponent yet, Simona Halep. What’s most impressive about Gauff’s playing style is her youthful athletic ability on the court.

 

Soccer:

USA wins fourth World Cup title:

After beating France earlier in the tournament, the US proved they were favorites to retain the FIFA World Cup title and had one last game to play before lifting the trophy: the Netherlands. After a tight, scoreless first half, VAR played a role once again in giving the US a penalty in the 61st minute, which Megan Rapinoe scored. Just eight minutes later, Rose Lavelle netted a second for the US and the US won 2-0, adding a fourth star.

Mexico wins another Gold Cup:

The US Men’s National Team were involved in another soccer final on the same day as the Women’s, and just like the earlier, the favorites won, but in this game, the US wasn’t the favorites to win. The US had an excellent Gold Cup, without a doubt, but Mexico was far too strong. Despite Mexico only scoring once through Jonathan Dos Santos, the US wasted plenty of opportunities to score under pressure, and Mexico lifted the trophy at the end of the night.

Brazil beats Peru in Copa América Finals:

Peru made a Cinderella run to the Copa América Finals, but they were unable to compete with the hosts as Brazil routed Peru 3-1 to win their first Copa América since 2007. Everton continued his excellent tournament and international career by opening the scoring in the 15th minute before Gabriel Jesus typically added a second right before the half. Peru got one back through their hero Paulo Guererro, who scored a penalty in the 44th minute, but Richarlison put the nail in the coffin by scoring Brazil’s third in the 90th minute.

Have the Clippers become the best defensive team in the NBA?

Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Is there a better defensive group in the NBA? The Los Angeles Clippers may have become the best defensive team in the league.

Best defensive team
2013 Los Angeles Clippers 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Los Angeles Clippers won the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, pulling the Finals MVP away from the Toronto Raptors in free agency. With the signing of Kawhi, the Clippers are getting a superstar. Leonard is no ordinary superstar, though. He may be the best two way player in the game, if not the best player in the league right now.

Kawhi, a two-time defensive player of the year and five time All-NBA defender (Three first-team and two second team), joins another defensive star as a member of the Clippers. Shortly after acquiring Leonard in free agency, the Clippers made a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire MVP candidate Paul George. PG has been one of the best defenders in the NBA since he entered the league back in 2010. George may not be a winner of two defensive player of the year awards, but he is a four-time All-NBA defender (Two first-team and two second-team). George also led the NBA in steals last season, averaging 2.2 per game.

With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same team, the Clippers are going to be a defensive force. Wait, they’re not the only All-NBA defenders the Clippers have. Patrick Beverley has also earned multiple All-NBA defensive team awards during his career, earning one first-team and one second-team award. The Clippers have not one, not two, but three All-NBA defenders in their starting five.

 

Defensive statistic

Here we’re going to take a look at where the Clippers ranked defensively last season. With Patrick Beverley leading the way, the Clippers ranked 19th in defensive rating (110.4) last season. Clearly, he needed a little bit of help, which he didn’t get. Don’t worry Patrick, help is on the way!

By adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers have added the defensive leaders for two of last season’s top five defensive rated teams. Paul George led OKC to a defensive rating of 106.5, which ranked fourth in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to a defensive rating of 106.8, which ranked fifth in the NBA. The best defensive players from two of the top five defensive teams are coming to join Patrick Beverley in his defensive efforts.

With three All-NBA defenders, the Clippers will be able to guard any lineup opposing teams throw at them. Patrick Beverley will primarily guard point guards, but he can hold his own against pretty much any position on the floor. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can guard any position on the floor. With these three guys on the floor at the same time, it’ll make it very tough for opposing teams to come up with an offensive game plan to get by this defense.

Overnight, the Los Angeles Clippers went from the 19th ranked defense, to a defense that will most likely rank first in the NBA when it’s all said and done next season. Top five at least! With defense, comes championships, and the Clippers are surely going to be competing for one during the postseason.

 

 

 

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.

33237061028_9b43ebd4e9_k.jpg
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 small forwards

After spending the last few days looking at the other positions, it’s time to take a look at the most important position in the NBA. The small forward position includes big names like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.

img_5366
“”1 kawhi leonard 2019 nba finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

As we quickly approach the free agent period, everyone has their eyes set on these two guys. Let’s be honest, they might all be disappointed, but let’s see where they might actually go.

 

Top 10 small forwards

1. Kevin Durant

Current Team: Golden State Warriors

New Team: Los Angeles Clippers

Yes, you are seeing this right! Kevin Durant will leave the Warriors and join their division rival, Los Angeles Clippers. By doing so, he’ll team up with DeMarcus Cousins again. Durant is expected to be a part of one of the New York teams, but he’s also expected to meet with the Clippers. He could also opt into his deal with the Warriors. The injury will play a huge part in where he plays, and I think the Clippers would still be a playoff team if they sign him and still have to wait the year.

 

2. Kawhi Leonard

Current Team: Toronto Raptors

New Team: Toronto Raptors

Despite having meetings with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the Raptors get the last laugh. Leonard hears them out, and stays with Toronto for the biggest contract in NBA history. Look at what he was able to do in just one year. With not many changes happening with the team, they could be right back there again. Pascal Siakam won most improved player and he’ll continue to improve with Leonard playing along side him.

 

3. Bojan Bogdanovic

Current Team: Indiana Pacers

New Team: Philadelphia 76ers

This is a match made in heaven for both sides, as the Sixers clearly need shooters with both Reddick and Butler leaving. Bogdanovic has been known for his lights out threes, which played a major part in the success of the Indiana Pacers when Victor Oladipo went down. With Bogdanovic and the addition of P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon, the Sixers can have the offense they had last season. The problem will still be the injury prone Joel Embiid and the no jump shot Ben Simmons.

 

4. Khris Middleton

Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

New Team: Milwaukee Bucks

Although Middleton opted out of his contract, I think he’ll stay with the Bucks. They were as close to the NBA Finals as they’ve been for a long time. If they can keep him, they have a better chance of getting there next season and in the future. They could also look to add more shooters to the bench to help take pressure off MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

 

5. Harrison Barnes

Current Team: Sacramento Kings

New Team: Indiana Pacers

Barnes is one of those forwards who’s underrated. He really grew into a nice star during his time with the Dallas Mavericks. The only reason why they moved him was to create space for the Porzingis trade. Having Luka Doncic playing well as a rookie was also a plus. I think Barnes could be a star in Indiana with all the other new pieces they have. Of course, the money will have to be figured out if they’re really going to have all the players they want.

 

6. Wilson Chandler

Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

New Team: Sacramento Kings

Chandler has been a player who’s moved around so much over his career, and he’ll continue to do so. I hope he can find a big deal and be settled with one team again. With the Kings, it could be it. They’re on the rise and hoping to make the playoffs this year, if not the next. With the young team they’ve assembled, a playoff appearance could be in the near future, and it will be a good thing to see from this franchise.

 

7. Rudy Gay

Current Team: San Antonio Spurs

New Team: San Antonio Spurs

Gay has found a way to remain relevant in the NBA, and the Spurs seem to fit him well. He may visit other teams to see what they can offer, but he fits the Spurs well and I can see him adding a few more years with them.

 

8. Trevor Ariza

Current Team: Washington Wizards

New Team: Denver Nuggets

Since he came into the league, Ariza has always been known as one of the better three and D guys. He made several big plays as a member of the Lakers in their 2008-09 season. He’s helped several other teams, such as the Wizards and Houston Rockets, make the playoffs and be better defensively. I think him being added to the Nuggets will be a good spot for him. He can come in and set the tone for what the Nuggets want to do on defense. We already know they can score, but the addition to Ariza could help slow down their opponents.

 

9. Jabari Parker

Current Team: Washington Wizards

New Team: Washington Wizards

Parker hasn’t really been able to fit into the NBA like he’s wanted to. He had too many injuries in Milwaukee, which led to them letting him go. He got traded again from Chicago to the Washington Wizards. I think the Wizards are a better fit for him, because he’s not having to be be a star there. He was also able to learn behind Trevor Ariza, so if Parker can stay healthy, he could be a better player for the Wizards this year.

 

10. Kelly Oubre

Current Team: Phoenix Suns

New Team: Phoenix Suns

Speaking of the Wizards and Ariza, they traded Kelly Oubre to Phoenix for him. It made sense for the Wizards, because Oubre was costing them too much. That’s why they also shopped Otto Porter Jr. It was good for both Oubre and the Suns, who’ll likely stay together one more year on the player option and see where that takes them. I like this for both sides.

 

I hope you enjoyed the list of players who’ll hit free agency on July 1st. Don’t forget to share and comment what you think about each player and where they’ll be playing next season.

Check out our other position predictions:

Point Guards

Centers

Power Forwards

Shooting Guards

Kawhi Leonard: The. Greatest. Raptor. Ever.

Vince Carter. Chris Bosh. DeMar DeRozan. Those are the names of some of the greatest Raptors players of all-time, but there’s one name who tops them all. That name is Kawhi Leonard. 

Kawhi Leonard.jpg
Kawhi Leonard shooting a free throw at Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions! The Toronto Raptors have won their first championship ever!

Who led them there? Kawhi Leonard.

In his first season with the team, Kawhi Leonard accomplished something no other Raptors star has ever done. No, I’m not talking about regular season records. I’m not talking about setting a playoff record for most 30 point games. I’m talking about winning a championship. 

Kawhi Leonard brought the first ever NBA Championship to the city of Toronto, and he did it in just one season. In just one season as a Raptor, Kawhi Leonard established himself as the greatest Raptor ever!

I know it’s bold to claim a player who’s only played for the franchise for one season as the greatest ever, but I can’t see how anyone else can top him after what he’s accomplished.

Many consider Vince Carter to be the greatest player in Raptors history. If you do, I don’t blame you. He was one of the most exciting players the Raptors have ever seen. However, I don’t believe he was ever the same caliber player Kawhi Leonard is. This is also how I feel about a player like DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan is a good player, but by no means is he on the same level as Kawhi Leonard. For the record, I think Vince Carter was a better player than DeRozan in his prime, but my point is that neither of them are on the same level as Kawhi. No Raptor has been on his level, and I don’t think any other Raptor ever will.

It only took Kawhi one season to accomplish what no other Raptors star could EVER do! Regardless of if Kawhi Leonard stays or goes, he will go down as the greatest Raptor of all-time because of this season alone. The name Kawhi Leonard will never be forgotten in the city of Toronto.

Congrats to the Toronto Raptors and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard!