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.

 

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?

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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

What you may have missed this weekend: 1/25 – 1/27

We have managed to make it through the first month of 2019 without missing one of these articles. As we go on this is going to get harder and harder, especially with the NFL season wrapping things up next week in the Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots.

You can find out more on that next weekend and all throughout this week, as we will be giving you some Super Bowl surprise articles involving both teams.

Until then, let’s see what we missed this weekend with the limited action we did have. Action like the Pro Bowl, NFL news, NBA stars and brothers, College Basketball upsets and Tennis.

Novak Djokovic” by Carine06 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NFL

NFL fines Rams DB Nickell Robey-Coleman for the missed penalty

Was it or was it not a penalty when Robey-Coleman lit up New Orleans Saints WR Tommy Lee Lewis? Whether it was or not, it raised a lot of questions about the NFL rules and officiating. The penalty could’ve been many different things like pass interference, hit on a defenseless receiver, or helmet-to-helmet. For this one, it was the helmet-to-helmet penalty that Robey-Coleman will be fined for.

Chicago Bears sign K Redford Jones

After the Bears lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, this was a move that had to be made. The Bears lost off a missed kick by kicker Cody Parkey, which is why they signed Redford Jones.

With this signing, Jones has a chance to compete for the starting job with Parkey after he struggled in his first season with the Bears. Parkey missed a total of 11 kicks this season, which was the worst by any kicker. Jones doesn’t have any NFL experience, but he will get a chance to compete with Parkey come next season.

AFC dominates Pro Bowl

The only football game left before the Super Bowl was the Pro Bowl. That game featured the best players in the league all playing together against their rival conference. The AFC dominated with a 26-7 victory, as Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes picked up MVP honors. Could this be the first of MVPs he picks up?

This was a game that saw the NFC score their least amount of points in 25 years. They tried everything to get themselves going. Everything like having RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara playing defense.

 

NBA

Clippers star arrived late to the game and achieved a career first

On Friday night the Los Angeles Clippers visited the Chicago Bulls and were experiencing weather delays that caused Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and star guard Lou Williams to miss shootaround. The snowy conditions made a 10-minute bus ride from the team hotel to the arena a long two hours. That didn’t seem to bother Williams though, as he accomplished a career first while leading the Clippers to a 106-101 win over the Bulls. Williams picked up his first ever career triple-double with a 31 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist game.

 

College Basketball

Losses by top 25 teams

13 Maryland to Illinois (78-67)

20 Mississippi to 24 Iowa State (87-73)

9 Kansas to 8 Kentucky (71-63)

16 Auburn to 22 Mississippi State (92-84)

6 Michigan State to Purdue (73-63)

19 Iowa to Minnesota (92-87)

 

Tennis

Djokovic adds another Grand Slam title to his career accomplishments

When you think of some of the greatest tennis players of all time, is Novak Djokovic on there? Well, he should be, as he added his 15th major title this weekend. It was his third in a row after already having won the Wimbledon and the US Open. This time it was the Australian Open, as he took on Rafael Nadal and beat him in three straight sets. Djokovic has also passed his idol, Pete Sampras, with the third most Grand Slam victories behind Nadal and Roger Federer.

NBA season review: November 14th – November 27th

We are now a quarter way through the 2018-19 NBA season and things are just starting to get a bit more exciting.

The last time we spoke, I shared with you a little about the Jimmy Butler and how that might impact the 76ers. Well, the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t done making moves yet, as they are planning on shopping one of their young stars. I’ll get into that a little bit later in the ‘Hot team’ section. There have been other rumors of players from other teams who may be on the move too. That could change over the next two weeks. Until then, let’s see how things have changed from the last time we did a season review.

 

East:                         West:

1. Raptors (18-4)     1. Clippers (13-6)

2. Bucks (14-6)        2. Warriors (15-7)

3. 76ers (14-8)         3. Nuggets (14-7)

4. Pacers (13-8)       4. Thunder (12-7)

5. Pistons (11-7)      5. Grizzlies (12-8)

6. Celtics (11-10)     6. Trail Blazers (12-8)

7. Hornets (10-10)   7. Lakers (11-9)

8. Magics (10-11)    8. Kings (10-10)

As you noticed in the last article, the standings have once again changed. Some new teams have made the jump into a playoff spot over the last two weeks. Those teams are the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams, like the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers, have continued to win games and be the hottest teams in leagues.

Where does your favorite team fit? Are they one of the colder teams, like the Portland Trail Blazers or San Antonio Spurs? Let’s find out!

 

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

Cold Teams

Charlotte Hornets:

I wouldn’t necessarily say the Hornets are a super cold team, because they’ve been able to win and lose games at the same rate. They are currently 10-10 and 7th in the East standings. Last time, they were 7-7 and still in the playoffs. Of course, the Hornets are expected to be one of the teams in the mix for one of those final two or three playoff spots. We should likely see them stay at this pace and finish with 40 wins, clinching a playoff spot. There has to be some stretches of games they win and carry on a hot streak! Let’s see where they’ll be in two more weeks.

Brooklyn Nets:

Last time we saw the standings, the Nets were actually the 8th seed. Since then, they have lost five of the last seven games. Now that’s the Nets team we’re use to seeing! I mean, I’m glad they got off to a hot start, but it wasn’t going to last that long. It would be nice to see them back in the playoffs though, so maybe they can manage to put a nice run together again and sneak into a playoff spot.

Portland Trail Blazers:

The Blazers were one of the top two teams in West two weeks ago, but they have now lost five of their last eight games and are currently 6th. The good thing for them, is they’re only 1.5 games out of the top spot in the West. At this point in the season, it’s still open wide until somebody like the Golden State Warriors starts to separate themselves from the rest of the teams. I still think the Blazers will make playoffs. The real question is, how far in the playoffs can they go? Let’s continue to watch as Damian Lillard leads his team.

San Antonio Spurs:

The Spurs had a strong start to season, but their recent slump has knocked them out of the playoff picture (for now). Don’t expect the Spurs to miss the playoffs, but it is kind of surprising how they are playing as of late. Losers of five of their last eight, the Spurs need to figure out a way to win consecutive games. However, there is no need for a panic attack just yet. The Spurs have made the playoffs for 21 straight seasons under coach Gregg Popovich. They will likely continue that streak this year.

 

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

Hot Teams

Los Angeles Clippers:

Are you surprised the Clippers are the top team in the West standings? I’ll be honest, I am too, but they have found a way to play together and win five of their last six games. Can they continue to stay hot? Yes! Finishing the season with the best record in the West, not going to happen! It’s still interesting to see how this team has bounced back from all the star talent they have lost over the past two seasons. Maybe they can do better now than they did before.

Toronto Raptors:

These Raptors are for real! Kawhi Leonard is proving why he deserves to be one of the best players in the world. This team has only lost four games thus far this season and have the best record in NBA. With their 122-117 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Raptors have won six games in a row after losing three in a row. They have some tough games against the Warriors and Nuggets coming up later this week, so let’s see how well they can play against those teams.

Los Angeles Lakers:

Are you surprised to see the Lakers in the playoff picture this early in the season? Let’s be real, we are talking about a team led by the best player in the world, LeBron James. James and the Lakers have won five of their last eight games to get them to where they are now. They have lost twice to the Orlando Magic within that time and took a huge loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, but we already know it’s going to be a long season for the Lakers. They are still looking for more help for James.

They brought on Tyson Chandler after he completed his buyout with the Suns, but now there are reports of Washington’s Bradley Beal likely coming to the Lakers. That will be an interesting pairing if that were to happen. What would they give up to get him. How will it impact the moral of the team?

Philadelphia 76ers:

So far Jimmy Butler has been able to help the Sixers win games, as they maintain their top three spot in the East. The Sixers aren’t happy with one of their young players and are looking to trade him for the right price. That player is 2017 No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, who hasn’t lived up to the hype. Fultz has been injured most of his time with the Sixers, which hasn’t allowed him to develop into what the Sixers wanted from him. Despite all the trade rumors on Fultz, the Sixers have continued to play well.

 

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Aaron Gordon Dunk” by Jose Garcia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Teams to Watch

Sacramento Kings:

With all the teams around them either rising or falling in the standings, the Kings have been right where they want to be, for now. They have actually been playing very well, but most of their opponents were teams with losing records. They have taken advantage of that, as they should. The real question is, how long they can keep it up? Can they go on a hot streak and make it into the playoffs by the time the season ends? They are definitely holding their own right now, as some of the better teams continue to struggle early on in the season. What do they have to do to keep it up?

Dallas Mavericks:

The Mavericks aren’t yet in the playoff picture, but all the teams from six to 14 are within three games of each other. That means the Mavericks have a chance to get in the playoff picture early in the season. With DeAndre Jordan and Harrison Barnes continuing to play well with the young guys, they could quietly make some noise in the West. Don’t forget about the best Mavericks player of all time, Dirk Nowitzki.

Orlando Magic:

Orlando is one of the surprising teams this year. How many of us thought they would already have 10 wins on the season after playing 21 games? I thought they would’ve lost four of the 10 they won, but they were able to pull together some good wins. If they can continue to do so, they might actually stay in the playoff picture.

Detroit Pistons:

The Pistons are one of those teams many expect to actually make the playoffs this year. With the way Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson have been playing lately, they could very well be a top team in the playoffs. They are one of the teams that make you fear them when your favorite team is going up against them. They could either destroy your team or be destroyed. That’s what this Pistons team is all about. Can we see them do some damage through the length of the season? Let’s keep watching as Griffin leads them this season.

 

Don’t forget to let us know how you feel about your favorite team! Visit us again in two weeks for an update on the season!

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Pacific Division

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Stephen Curry” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pacific division features the defending champions in back-to-back seasons, Golden State Warriors. Golden State has won three of the last four NBA titles and are looking to be the next three-peat.

The Los Angeles Lakers made the biggest changes to their roster, but the Warriors topped them with one more addition to the Splash Brothers. The Clippers made moves to try and stay relevant in the division and hope to make the playoffs again. I’m not even getting started with the Kings and Suns. Let’s still take a look at each team in the Pacific division and see where they’ll finish in the 2018-19 season.

 

1. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 58-24

Postseason Result: Beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second consecutive season to become 2018 NBA Champions (third in last four seasons).

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Signed DeMarcus Cousins (NOP).
  • Claimed Tyler Ulis off Waivers (PHX).
  • Resigned Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost JaVale McGee (LAL), Zaza Pachulia (DET)
  • David West (RETIRED)
  • Did Not Resign Nick Young (FA)

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

The Golden State Warriors are seemingly unstoppable and tough to beat. It took LeBron James a game 7 in 2016 to do so. It was the biggest comeback in NBA history when James came back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals. The Warriors answered that Finals loss by adding Kevin Durant. Durant has won the Finals MVP the last two years, but that still doesn’t stop them. After seeing how things played out in free agency, the Warriors added another All-Star to their lineup, DeMarcus Cousins. Going into this season, the biggest question is: What impact will Cousins have on the Warriors in their quest for the three-peat? Cousins is still recovering from a season-ending injury as a member of the Pelicans, and he is expected to miss some time. Will he be a significant factor in the Warriors success when he returns? I mean, it’s not like any other team in the league has five All-Stars in the lineup going into the season.

Prediction: 66-16

 

2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 35-47

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Signed LeBron James (CLE), Rajon Rondo (NOP), JaVale McGee (GS), Lance Stephenson (IND) and Micheal Beasley (NYK).
  • Resigned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
  • Drafted Moritz Wagner (Michigan) and Sviati Slav (Kansas).

Offseason Departures:

  • Waived Luol Deng and Tyler Ennis.
  • Lost Channing Frye (CLE), Brook Lopez (MIL) and Isaiah Thomas (DEN).
  • Did Not Resign Julius Randle (NOP).

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

The young, athletic Lakers are coming, and they look to take over the division. That’s not going to happen just yet. Regardless of the addition of King James, the Lakers don’t have enough to get by Warriors yet. The good part of James and the other additions like Rondo, Stephenson and Beasley is the aggressiveness they bring. As a Lakers fan, I hope the younger guys can learn to play better. The question here is, how will Lonzo Ball improve his game with LeBron James and Rajon Rondo on his team? Ball has been talked about as if he’s one of the best point guards ever. He had an injury-prone rookie season, but still averaged 10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 7.2 APG while shooting 35 percent. With James and Rondo, we could expect his averages to increase greatly, as long as he takes smart shots and helps lead the Lakers in their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Prediction: 50-32

 

3. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 42-40

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Signed Mike Scott (WAS).
  • Traded for Marcin Gortat (WAS), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (CHA).
  • Resigned Avery Bradley and Montrezl Harrell.
  • Drafted Jerome Robinson (Boston College).

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost DeAndre Jordan (DAL) and Sam Dekker (CLE).
  • Traded away Austin Rivers (WAS).

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

The Clippers have officially moved on from the era we all called “Lob City.” It was evident this move would happen soon enough. Chris Paul left the Rockets last off-season, and Blake Griffin was traded to the Pistons midseason. Austin Rivers was traded this offseason for Marcin Gortat, while DeAndre Jordan signed with Dallas. It’s totally a new Clippers team under head coach Doc Rivers, but they should still be competitive and may be in the hunt for a lower seed in the playoffs. The question here is, who will step into the leadership role and lead the Clippers? This could be the year we finally see Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris turn into All-Star caliber players. Pairing them up with Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari could cause for tough nights for their opponents, so let’s see where they go this season.

Prediction: 46-36

 

4. PHOENIX SUNS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 21-61

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired new coach Igor Kokoskov.
  • Signed Trevor Ariza (HOU), Richaun Holmes (PHI).
  • Traded for Darrell Arthur (BKN), Ryan Anderson (HOU).
  • Drafted: Deandre Ayton (Arizona), Mikal Bridges (Villanova), Elie Okobo (France).

Offseason Departures:

  • Fired coaches Earl Watson and Jay Triano.
  • Fired general manager Ryan McDonough (last week).
  • Traded Marquese Chriss (Hou), Jared Dudley (BKN).
  • Lost Alex Len (ATL), Tyler Ulis (GS), Elfrid Payton (NOP).

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

On paper, the Suns look like a better team. They got the No. 1 overall pick, DeAndre Ayton, to pair with their explosive SG Devin Booker. They also drafted Elie Okobo from France in hopes he can solve their problems at PG. It’s going to be an interesting season with a lot of questions that need to be answered. First question: how well can new head coach Igor Kokoskov bring this team together? There’s a lot of young talent that needs to be developed, and Kokoskov has a resume for that. Question two: can Devin Booker stay healthy? We have seen what he could do when he is healthy, and now it’s time to see what he could do with the No. 1 pick, Ayton. Can the Suns and Booker actually be in the middle of the pack in the West? Maybe not this year, but it’s coming!

Prediction: 25-57

 

5. SACRAMENTO KINGS

 OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 27-55

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Drafted Marvin Bagley II (Duke), Cameron Reynolds (Tulane), and Wenyen Gabriel (Kentucky).
  • Signed Nemanja Bjelica (MIN) and Yogi Farrell (DAL).
  • Traded for Ben McLemore (MEM).

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost Bruno Caboclo (HOU) and Vince Carter (ATL).
  • Traded away Garrett Temple (MEM).

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION 

The Kings look to improve from last year, and they hope rookie Marvin Bagley can be the answer for them after trading away DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings have been trying to make the playoffs again since the 2005-2006 season, and they have been in rebuild mode ever since. Last year was the biggest year for the rebuild, as they drafted De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who were big pieces. They also got Buddy Hield from the Cousins trade and Willie Cauley-Stein. But the addition of Bagley could help the Kings get to the place they need to be. The biggest question is, how does Bagley help the rebuild of the Kings? Although Zach Randolph is still on the team, Bagley will get a lot of playing time. If he could develop into one of the best forwards of the future, imagine him and Fox playing alongside. Now that’s something to look forward to.

Prediction: 23-59

 

PREDICTED DIVISION STANDINGS:

  1. Golden State Warriors (66-16)
  2. Los Angeles Lakers (50-32)
  3. Los Angeles Clippers (46-36)
  4. Phoenix Suns (25-57)
  5. Sacramento Kings (23-59)

 

Let us know what you think of these predictions and even give us your own! Also, don’t forget to return daily to found out more predictions!

From Chicago Bulls To Minnesota Timberwolves To … Where will Jimmy Butler Play Next?

 

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Jimmy Butler – Rio 2016” by Catherine Salaün is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By RahimAli Merchant

 

Over the past few days, Jimmy Butler has made it known he wants out of Minnesota after just one season with a young, uprising team.

The Minnesota Timberwolves were one of four teams to try building a super team. The goal was to knock off the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers from the top of the league. Minnesota acquired All-Star Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls in a draft night trade in 2017. That trade would also give them the No. 16 pick (Justin Patton). In return, the Timberwolves traded Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen) to the Bulls.

This trade reunited Butler with coach Thibodeau, and everyone thought it was going to be the 2011 Chicago Bulls all over again. That team finished with the No. 1 seed in the eastern conference. After this trade, the Wolves added former teammate Taj Gibson. Later they added Derrick Rose mid-season. Let’s not forget they already had the young, talented stars like Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns.

With these pieces, the Wolves managed to make the playoffs (8th seed) for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. That was when Kevin Garnett lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. That didn’t seem like something Butler wanted to be a part of anymore. They lost to the Houston Rockets in five games. We didn’t see much of anything from the Timberwolves offense. But it was like that all season, and we knew that this day was coming soon.

Not really sure what Butler’s intentions were when he asked to be traded this past week, but it is apparent that he isn’t happy with the Timberwolves organization. There were reports about him and Wiggins having issues. In case you missed it, Andrew’s brother, Nick, responded to Butler’s trade request with a tweet saying, “Hallelujah.” Butler responded in his own right with this tweet seen here!

Not quite sure where this twitter beef will get either one of them, but it was unclear if the Timberwolves owners and front office wanted to trade Butler. That was until they locked up one of their all-star players, Karl Anthony-Towns. Karl Anthony-Towns and the Timberwolves agreed to a five-year, $190 million super-max deal. But now what do they do with Butler?

If they decided to keep Butler for this year and let him opt-out after that summer, where would that leave them? I mean let’s be honest, Butler most likely won’t stay where he gets traded to anyways, unless it’s a team on his wishlist. Those teams are the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets. Now, why would anybody with star-caliber like Butler want to go to Brooklyn by himself? The same reason LeBron left Cleveland for Miami and then again for L.A. It’s all about endorsement deals, and when you’re in a big market like L.A. or N.Y. that is more possible.

But also remember that Butler can opt-out of his current contract at the end of the season with the Timberwolves or any other team he gets traded too, so what value is really there for him. I guess we’ll have to wait and see! I didn’t think a deal was going to get done that worked out for the Spurs. Turned out Kawhi and DeMar DeRozan made pretty good sense to me. Although, I don’t think the teams on Butler’s wishlist have that big of a value to trade for him. I mean all three teams missed the playoffs, but is he really the answer for them?

I believe Butler will go back East and settle in on one team for a year where he can be the star. But then, here come the superstars. If you thought LeBron James becoming a Laker was something shocking, just wait until next summer when we have way more superstars available.

I mean let’s check out the potential free agents for next summer and see who we can pair with Butler who could actually work out.

 

Big Names

Al Horford (Player), Kyrie Irving (Player), Kemba Walker (UFA), Harrison Barnes (Player), Paul Millsap (Team), Kevin Durant (Player), Klay Thompson (UFA), DeMarcus Cousins (UFA), Goran Dragic (Player), Kristaps Porzingis (Restricted), Kawhi Leonard (UFA), and Dwight Howard (Player)

So regardless of where Butler ends up, he could add one or two more guys with him. They could then look to take over the crown from the Golden State Warriors. I’m not sure what to really think of all this. Maybe you can help me figure out where this all went wrong?

Comment below to let me know where you think Butler should be traded to and who you think might join up with Butler next summer to create another super team that we all are waiting for!