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.

 

How the Lakers signing Dwight Howard will be different this time around

Dwight Howard’s first stop with the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t go as planned, but his second stop with the team will be much different.

Back in 2012, Dwight Howard became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The then 27 year old Howard joined a 34 year old Kobe Bryant and 38 year old Steve Nash. At the time, Howard was a star in the league. Prior to joining the Lakers, Howard had been a six time All-Star after leading the Orlando Magic to the playoffs six straight times, including one NBA Finals appearance.

Coming off a season in which he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, Howard was expected to be a star for his new team. It was at this same time that Howard’s career would never be the same. From there on out, Howard has bounced around the league, spending time with the Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards.

Howard with the Lakers in February 2013” by scott mecum is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2012 to 2016

In his first season with the Lakers, Howard’s stats didn’t look as bad as things actually were. Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the league) and 2.4 blocks. The Lakers finished that season with a record of 45-37, making the playoffs, but went on to lose in the first round.

The very next season, Howard moved on to the Houston Rockets, where he spent the next three seasons of his career. Why did Howard move on so quickly? There were several factors that likely went into Howard moving on, but to put it simply, Howard wasn’t the star he was with the Orlando Magic any longer. Howard wasn’t able to take a team of aging stars deep into the playoffs, as he hoped to do when he joined the team. Sure, his stats were still good, but individual stats and team wins are two very different things.

Howard’s short time as the star player for the Lakers seemed to take a toll on him. That’s why he split to join James Harden in Houston. Unfortunately for Howard, he was still expected to perform at a superstar level. Again, his stats looked good, but the team had another early out in the playoffs. The longer Howard played in Houston, the worse he got. Clearly, he still couldn’t handle having to perform at such a high level.

I’ll just go ahead and skip over the next few years of his career, as the story is the same.

Lakers Round Two

Howard’s first stop with the Lakers didn’t work out, but now he has a second chance. This time around, Howard will be a much more effective player for the Lakers than he was back in 2012. His stats won’t be as high, but his impact on the team will be much greater.

How so?

Well, this time around, Howard isn’t expected to be a star. This time the Lakers are bringing him in to protect the rim and grab rebounds in the absence of Boogie Cousins.

Instead of having to be a star with a rapidly declining Kobe Byrant and a Steve Nash who was about to walk away from the game, Howard will now be asked to play a specific role next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron may be getting up there in age, but he can still perform at a very high level. We all know Anthony Davis is a star.

With LeBron and Davis, Howard will not be required to carry the team. He won’t be expected to be a star like he was the first time around. Instead of averaging 17+ points per game, we should look for Howard to average 10 points per game or less.

While Howard’s points will be way down, he still has the talent to be a good rebounder and shot blocker for this Lakers team. That’s what the Lakers expect from Howard, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. He won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as often, just when LeBron or Davis pass it to him down low or he grabs a board.

I believe the Lakers made the right move by giving Howard a second chance with them, but they’re making an even better move by making the expectations for him very clear before he even steps foot in the building.

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.

 

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.

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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.

NBA Free Agency: Winners and losers from day two

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

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

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

 

Winner: Golden State Warriors

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

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

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

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

 

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

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

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

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

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

 

Winner: Boston Celtics

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

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

 

Loser: DeMarcus Cousins

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

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

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

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

 

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

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

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

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

 

Loser: Houston Rockets

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

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

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

NBA Free Agency: Top 10 shooting guards

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.

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“Klay Thompson” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

 

Here are the links to the previous articles:

Point guards

Centers

Power forwards

We aren’t done yet! We still have the small forwards to figure out, so make sure to return tomorrow to see where the best available may land.

NBA Free Agency: Top 10 Centers

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

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

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

Top 10 Centers

1. DeMarcus Cousins

Current Team: Golden State Warriors

New Team: Los Angeles Clippers

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

2. Al Horford

Current Team: Boston Celtics

New Team: Sacramento Kings

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

3. Brook Lopez

Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

New Team: Milwaukee Bucks

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

4. DeAndre Jordan

Current Team: New York Knicks

New Team: New York Knicks

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

5. Enes Kanter

Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers

New Team: Charlotte Hornets

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

6. Marc Gasol

Current Team: Toronto Raptors

New Team: Toronto Raptors

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

7. Nikola Vucevic

Current Team: Orlando Magic

New Team: Boston Celtics

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

8. Jonas Valanciunas

Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies

New Team: Memphis Grizzlies

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

9. JaVale McGee

Current Team: Los Angeles Lakers

New Team: Washington Wizards

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

10. Willie Cauley-Stein

Current Team: Sacramento Kings

New Team: Los Angeles Lakers

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

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

Better fit for the Lakers: Kyrie or Kemba?

NBA Free Agency is one week away! Over the next week, the NBA world will be all in on the speculation of which stars go where. The Los Angeles Lakers have been talked about as one of the biggest free agent destinations all season long, but has become even more attractive after the team acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Since the acquisition of Davis, the Lakers have had their sights set on adding a third star to the mix. With a glaring hole at PG, two of their biggest targets this offseason will be Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.

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

Both Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker are star PGs in the NBA, meaning there’s absolutely no chance the Lakers sign both of them. I don’t think they intend to even attempt to do so, but that makes the decision of who to sign that much more important.

We all know the Lakers are trying to bring a championship back to their city. In order to do so, they’ll have to make all the right moves this offseason. With Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker being their top targets, this decision is their biggest one, and they have to get it right.

With that in mind, which PG would bring the Lakers closer to a championship? Who’s the better fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

In order to answer these questions, I’m going to break down five categories of skills I believe the Lakers need from their third star. I’ll then break down which of these two star free agent PGs would be the better fit.

 

1. Health

Even with LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers missed the playoffs last season. A huge part of that was because of injuries. The biggest injury was to LeBron James, who missed a significant portion of the season. All together, LeBron missed 27 games, which was by far the most he’s missed in his career.

LeBron will come back healthy this season, and the Lakers have Anthony Davis now, but Davis isn’t necessarily the most reliable player when it comes to availability. Last season he only played in 56 games. Not all of those games were because of injury, but he still has an injury history we shouldn’t ignore. Prior to this most recent season, Davis played in 75 games two seasons in a row. That’s pretty good, but before those two seasons, Davis didn’t play in more than 68 games during a season.

With an injury history to Davis, the Lakers need a third star who will be available if Anthony Davis is not.

This one’s easy to evaluate, because Kyrie and Kemba came into the league during the same year. Since these two were drafted in 2011, Irving has played 508 games and Walker has played 605. Kemba Walker has played 97 more games than Kyrie Irving in the same amount of years. Walker has never played less than 62 games in his NBA career. Irving has played less than 60 games three times.

If the Lakers are looking for the guy with a greater chance to be available, Kemba Walker is their guy.

Advantage: Kemba Walker

 

2. Pure scoring ability

For this skill, we’re going to take a look at the scoring stats for both players.

  • Irving has career averages of 46.5 FG%, 39.0 3PT%, 49.8 2PT%, 87.5 FT% and 22.2 PPG.
  • Walker has career averages of 43.4 FG%, 35.7 3PT%, 45.2 2PT%, 83.5 FT% and 19.8 PPG.

Based on their career numbers, Kyrie Irving has the advantage as a scorer. Irving’s career numbers are better than Walker’s in every shooting category. Both players are great scorers, but Irving seems to be just one level above Walker.

We’ve seen several times throughout his career that Irving can score at will when he wishes to do so. We’ve seen Irving make big shot after big shot, even in the biggest moments. I’m not saying Walker hasn’t or can’t do this, but Irving’s numbers speak for themselves.

Advantage: Kyrie Irving

 

3. Defense

Kyrie Irving has always been known as a guy who’s not great on the defensive end. Kemba Walker also isn’t one of the better defenders at the PG position. Neither of these guys are great defenders, but does one of them hold an advantage? For this skill, I’m going to be looking at steals, blocks and defensive rebounds. Yes, rebounds count as defense. Let’s compare career averages.

  • Kyrie Irving: 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks and 2.9 defensive rebounds.
  • Kemba Walker: 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks and 3.3 defensive rebounds.

The defensive numbers for Irving and Walker are pretty much identical. Neither guy has been known for their defense during their time in the league. With these career numbers, neither guy has the advantage here.

No Advantage

 

4. Assists

This skill is interesting. Kyrie Irving has been known as a ball hog type player for much of his career, while Kemba Walker hasn’t ever had that type of reputation. It’s funny Irving gets that type of reputation, because he has a better career average in assists than Walker does.

Irving’s career assist number is 5.7 per game. Walker’s career assist number is 5.5 per game. Both guys are in the same general area when it comes to this category. Walker has had one season in which he averaged less than five assists per game, which came in his rookie season. Irving has also had just one season in which he averaged less than five assists per game, which came in the 15-16 season.

When it comes to seasons in which these two have had more than six assists, Walker has one and Irving has two. Neither of these guys are considered the premier passers in game, but both are more than capable of creating for their team.

The reason this skill is important for the Lakers to consider, is because LeBron James can’t be the only guy who creates shots for his teammates. Anthony Davis can create shots from the post, but he’s not going to be the primary shot creator. When LeBron isn’t on the floor, the Lakers will need a guy who can create shots. Lucky for them, both of these guys are capable of doing the job.

No Advantage

 

5. Ability to elevate a team

This is perhaps the most important skill of them all. LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t going to be able to be on the floor at all times. When they’re not on the floor, the Lakers need a guy who can elevate the players around him.

Kyrie Irving has never really been a guy who can elevate his team. Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Kyrie Irving never made the playoffs. Granted, he was still a very young player, but he never even came close to a playoff appearance until LeBron came back.

Since going to Boston, Irving has taken the Celtics to the playoffs both years. However, he seemed to be more of a hassle for them rather than a guy to elevate them. During his first playoff appearance with the Celtics, Irving was injured. The Celtics, without Irving, gave LeBron James a heck of a time in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Kyrie was playing in his second playoff appearance with the Celtics, they didn’t even make it close to the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the other side, Kemba Walker has only been to the playoffs twice in his career. Both times he was in the playoffs, his team lost in the first round. That doesn’t look great when talking about elevating a team, but we have to consider how well those teams would have done without him.

We just talked about how the Celtics seemed to be better when Irving was out. That’s not the case with Walker and the Hornets. Without Kemba Walker, the Hornets would likely be one of the worst teams in the league. They wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs. It’s only because of Walker that the Hornets are anywhere near relevant. It’s not his fault the Hornets have failed to put players around him.

I can only imagine how much Walker could elevate a team when he has legit players to help him out.

Advantage: Kemba Walker

 

Recap

Kemba Walker got the advantage in two categories, while Irving got the advantage in just one. The other two categories were ruled no advantage. Therefore, Kemba Walker gets the nod as the PG who’d be a better fit for the Lakers.

I believe his ability to stay healthy and elevate a team outweigh Irving’s ability to score. Walker isn’t that far behind Irving in that category anyway. I believe that if the Lakers are going to pursue one of these guys, it should be Kemba Walker.