Every Thorn Leads to Its Rose

Derrick Rose
Derrick-Rose” by Soletron is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For 2011 NBA MVP turned perpetually injured journeyman Derrick Rose, last night was a long time coming. After the game, his emotions were as raw as his play was perfection. Rose pulled out all the stops against the Utah Jazz. Spin moves, crossovers, a game-saving block near the buzzer – Rose was clearly in the zone, and nothing Utah conjured up could stop him.

With all he’s been through – the injuries, the adversity and the trade deals, Derrick Rose is an easy guy to root for. The same Utah Jazz franchise that waived him less than a year ago couldn’t compensate for Rose’s skill set and ferocious determination. One can’t help but grin seeing Rose, surrounded by his teammates, dousing him with liquid – king for a night. On top of his career-high 50-point performance, he also doled out 6 assists. Unselfish and disciplined, Rose must have known it was his night. The question now becomes: how good can Derrick Rose get this season?

Rose and the rest of the Timberwolves will be tested right away – a road trip at Oracle Arena to play 8-1 Golden State looms. It will no doubt be interesting to see what Thibideau and the Wolves can do to try and contain Curry and Thompson, who have had some career games of their own this season.

The Timberwolves will then embark on the rest of their road journey, where they will face only one team with a losing record thus far – LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers. While they will have to run that onerous road gauntlet, Rose’s heroics last night are encouraging, and the Wolves must feel confident with what they have in the 3-time NBA All-Star.

Derrick Rose is only 30 years old, but he’s an old 30, based on all that his body has been through. One can’t help but wonder how much he has left in the tank. If last night was any indication, the Western Conference may need to raise an eyebrow in the coming weeks. As important as his play and durability will be throughout this season, Rose must continue to embrace being a team leader as well for the Wolves to succeed come playoff time.

It doesn’t feel like long ago when Rose ripped apart defenses and attacked the basket on his way to that MVP award. Now, eight years later, Rose is the elder statesman, whose own adversity can be a beacon and bridge to teammates facing similar struggles – both mental and physical.

As a sports fan, I’ve enjoyed watching Rose play. I wanted him to be healthy when he was with the Bulls, Knicks and Cavs. Seeing him rise to the occasion after all that heartbreak, exhibiting the leadership and maturity of an NBA great, his tears last night resonated.

So, here’s to a few more years of Derrick Rose. Hopefully we can enjoy watching one of the best players in the game return to the height of his powers. Because somewhere beneath that jersey is still a 21-year old kid with fierce determination and fantastic ball-handling skills. The man you see now? He’s carved out his scars – and that determination? Those ball-handling skills? For all the thorns that have gashed his exterior, they clearly haven’t done a thing to touch his will to play the game of basketball at the highest level.

Is Offering Four 1st-Round Picks for Jimmy Butler Really That Crazy?

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2013 Houston Rockets 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you haven’t already heard, the Houston Rockets have upped their offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves to four 1st-round picks for Jimmy Butler.

Your initial reaction, like mine, was probably something like this: “Four 1st-round pick?!?!? That’s crazy!!”

Is it that crazy though? The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve felt like giving up four 1st-round picks for a player like Jimmy Butler might actually be worth it for the Rockets.

Now you probably think I’m crazy too, but at least hear me out on this one. Let’s start with the draft picks they’re offering.

 

1st-Round Picks Every Other Year

As a result of the NBA’s Stepien Rule, every team must have at least one 1st-round pick in every other draft. The NBA also doesn’t allow the picks to be traded more than seven years out. It’s because of this that the Rockets could offer the Timberwolves their 1st-round picks in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025.

If Houston did trade four 1st-rounders to the Timberwolves, it’s not like they’d be giving up their 1st-rounders in four consecutive years. They’d still have 1st-round picks in 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026. If the Rockets take a significant decline within those years, it’s not like they’d be stuck with nothing during their rebuilding period. That brings me to my next point.

 

Draft Position

Houston was one game away from going to the NBA Finals last season. They’ve been to the playoffs six straight years now. Despite their slow start this season, pretty much everyone expects the Rockets to be back in the playoffs. What does that mean? That means their 1st-round pick in 2019 won’t be in the lottery. At the very least, the pick would be 15th overall in the NBA Draft.

I’m not saying the 15th overall pick is bad, but most of the time you’re not going to find your superstar player with a pick ranging from 15th – 30th overall. There are some exceptions, Kawhi Leonard being one of them, but it doesn’t happen every day. A team is way more likely to find a superstar player with a pick ranging from 1st – 14th.

 

The “Aging” Rockets

I know I only spoke about the Rockets’ 2019 1st-round pick, but I wanted to make this point before getting to the next three. Many think giving up those 1st-round picks is too much because the Rockets are an aging team. They’re not entirely wrong.

Chris Paul is 33, while both Harden and Butler are 29. Yes, I’m leaving Carmelo Anthony out. By the time the 2021 comes around, Chris Paul will be 35 years old. That’s getting up there for an NBA player, but even at age 33, Paul hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. Maybe he won’t be the same at 35, but he’ll still be a good player.

Harden and Butler will both be 31. That’s getting closer to old, but really it’s only two years away. Do you really think James Harden and Jimmy Butler will be that much worse than they are right now in two years? If they all stay together, they can still be a very good team heading into 2021.

When we get to 2023 and 2025, the story might be a little different. Chris Paul will be 37 and 39 in those years, while James Harden and Jimmy Butler will be 33 and 35. At that point, they likely wouldn’t be the same team.

 

Back to the NBA Draft

When we get to those 2023 and 2025 draft picks, then they might be in the lottery. How early in the lottery? I don’t know. Going back to my first and second points, the picks are every other year. The 2019 and 2021 picks likely wouldn’t be that high, but the 2023 and 2025 picks might be.

Even if the Rockets are a declining team after 2021, they’d still have their 2022 and 2024 1st-rounders. It’s not like they’re giving up four straight years worth of picks. Yeah, it might be a little frustrating to not have a 1st-round pick in a year when you’re a bad team, but they’d have a 1st-round pick again the next year. Not an ideal situation for rebuilding, but it’s not the worst.

So here’s what the Timberwolves would be getting: a 2019 and 2021 1st-round pick not in the lottery and a 2023 and 2025 1st-round pick that might be in the lottery.

I’m really not trying to make non lottery picks sound bad, but those 2019 and 2021 picks will likely be toward the end of the draft, probably in the 25 to 30 range. Minnesota could find a decent player there, but likely not a star. So the Rockets’ 1st-round picks in 2019 and 2021 aren’t worth that much anyway.

This isn’t the NFL Draft. A player drafted in the range of 25 to 32 could end up being the best player in the entire class. The chances of that happening in the NBA are, well, not good. There’s just not that many star players in an NBA draft class. Anyway, you get the point.

 

What About the Nets & Celtics Trade?

I see the comparisons between this potential trade for Jimmy Butler and the trade made between the Nets and Celtics a few years back. The two main players in that deal were Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Nets gave up their 1st-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The Celtics could also swap picks with the Nets in 2017.

Sounds similar to this potential trade for Jimmy Butler doesn’t it?

Here’s the difference. The Rockets are trying to get a 29-year-old Jimmy Butler to pair with Chris Paul and James Harden. We’ll thrown Clint Capela in there too. Yes, still leaving Carmelo Anthony out.

Again, this is a team who was one game away from going to the NBA Finals last year.

When the Nets acquired Garnett and Pierce, Garnett was 37 and Pierce was 36. They were both just about done. They were not the same caliber players a 29-year-old Jimmy Butler is right now.

The Nets also weren’t a team who could seriously think about contending for a championship. Who were they trying to build around? Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. Not on the same level as Chris Paul, Clint Capela and James Harden.

 

Still Think It’s Crazy?

You may still think four 1st-round picks for Jimmy Butler is crazy after all that. I don’t blame you if you do.

Would you still think it’s crazy if the Rockets win a championship? I’m not sure if Jimmy Butler can elevate them to that level, but I do think their chances are better with him than without him.

I don’t think this trade offer is as crazy as it seems, but what do you think?

Players Who Could Be Traded During the 18-19 NBA Season

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

So the NBA season has begun and I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of NBA articles to this point. From the NBA power rankings to the award predictions, they’re all pretty much the same. Golden State will be the top team in every power ranking (if they aren’t I suggest changing your source), with the Rockets and Celtics right behind them. Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the most likely to win MVP in every article. Of course, some small stuff might change based on writer bias, but the core will more or less be the same.

Also, just in case you didn’t notice, teams change. A good team one day might make a trade and become a bad team the next day. Injuries can also cause a team’s season outlook to completely turn on its head. NBA power rankings must be updated every couple weeks with the amount of injuries, signings and trades that take place throughout the NBA season.

That is why I am doing something completely different. I thought: How about instead of predicting the teams, I predict the NBA trades? I can’t accurately predict injuries, and mid-season free agent signings rarely have a significant impact on a team’s final regular season record. However, with the right amount of research (and luck), basketball trades are foreseeable and sometimes expected. These are still predictions, but different, fresh and unique. Maybe I’m a little crazy, or maybe I am just 2 steps (or 4 months) ahead of the game.

The NBA season is just starting, but I’m already looking far into the future. February 8th at 3PM ET is the NBA trade deadline, and these are my predictions for who will be moved before that final hour.


Very Likely to be Traded

SG/SF Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves) – Ok, so I’ll start with an obvious. Personally, unlike some people, I can’t say with 100% certainty Jimmy Butler will be traded. Crazier things have happened. But it is certainly very likely. President Thibs has to be sweating from the pressure he has put on Coach Thibs. This exact situation is a perfect example of when it is dangerous for a team to have the same person making long-term decisions, also make game time decisions.

Jimmy Butler will help the Timberwolves win games this year, but long term it would be way more beneficial to trade him to any team offering a player who fits their timeline. If, for some wild reason, Thibs trusts Jimmy Butler will re-sign with the team in free agency and doesn’t trade him, then he runs the enormous risk of letting Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and 7th overall pick Lauri Markkanen leave for practically nothing. Thibs might just be waiting for a team like the Pelicans or Clippers to get desperate and send the asking price to get a great two way player.

PF/C Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves) – No, I promise not everyone on this list are Timberwolves’ players. Gorgui Dieng’s name has floated around in the Jimmy Butler trade rumors for two reasons. Firstly, his statistical decline under coach Thibs is shocking and indicates he needs a change of scenery. Last year, he averaged less than six points and five rebounds per game. That was a four point and a three rebound decline from the year before. Taj Gibson has taken over Dieng’s previous role as the starter, and we all know how Thibs loves playing his reserves…

In the small window this year, Dieng’s numbers have risen a lot. However, I expect that is due to the organization attempting to showcase he is still a good role player. Secondly, Gorgui Dieng is overpaid and the Timberwolves need his contract off their books with both Wiggins and Towns entering into their large extensions. Expect Dieng to be included for salary matching or contract dumping purposes in any NBA trades with Jimmy Butler.

C Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) – Nikola would be an interesting buy-low candidate for a young team looking for a good backup center. Let’s not forget Vucevic has flashed a lot of potential and talent. Four years ago when he was 24, he averaged 19/11/2, and now he has tested with expanding his game outside the arc. Again, it is still early, but Nikola has actually looked like a reliable starting center for the Magic this year. Another reason Vucevic might get traded is because he’s the odd man out in a crowded front court.

Mo Bamba deserves playing time as the center of the future, while Timofey Mosgov might just get some because of how much he’s being paid. Finally, the Magic are a very imbalanced team and have a glaring need for a playable point guard. Look for a team like the Nets, who have more than enough young point guard talent, to send someone away for Nikola and a possible pick.

SF Trevor Ariza (Phoenix Suns) – As a nominee for the most surprising signing of the offseason, Trevor Ariza inked a one year deal with the Suns. The Suns are in the middle of a rebuild and are doing pretty well so far. They still have Tyson Chandler, a member of a past regime, and Jamal Crawford acting as mentors and leaders. So why bring in a veteran with coveted 3 and D ability? To trade him.

The Suns could have used their cap space to accept bulky contracts attached with picks, but that usually requires long term commitment. By trading Trevor Ariza to a team desperate for more floor spacing and defense (so pretty much every team in the NBA), the Suns can get the picks and also choose what kind of contract they want to accept. I expect the Suns to trade Trevor Ariza to the Bucks or Pelicans just before the trade deadline.


Likely to be traded

SG Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers) – Like most players on this list, this is not a shot at Lou Williams’ talent. Lou Will can definitely still ball, as seen in his second Sixth Man of the Year award last year. He will continue to help the Clippers win games this year. However, the Clippers are determined to “win” more than games. They want to “win” the 2019 free agency, and every single penny will matter to free up two max slots. There are plenty of teams who would love to have the offense and bench energy Williams seems to bring to a team.

Also, Lou is 32, and a slight decline over the course of his three year contract is expected. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverly are also potential pieces to be moved. But as the Clippers prepare for this summer, their asking price for Lou Williams will decrease and a team who needs bench scoring, like the Spurs, will buy the bargain.

C Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat) – Hassan Whiteside could be put under the Very Likely to be Traded category. He has expressed his unhappiness with the organization and with the amount of minutes he plays. I think both sides want to move on. However, this is nothing but a hefty contract dump. Whiteside still has talent and potential, but it is hard to determine how much it would cost the Heat to get rid of this disgruntled, non-spacing center.

Based on the Joakim Noah situation, I am sure it’s not cheap. I don’t think Pat Riley is quite ready to give away assets to get rid of a player. Yet, if the Heat find the right deal or this situation takes a turn for the worse, the Heat may have no other option except to get Whiteside out of the locker room. I could see the Heat trading one bad contract for another bad contract, like Chandler Parsons with the Memphis Grizzlies.

SG CJ McCollum/ PG Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) – If CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard are traded before the end of the season, then something has gone wrong for the Blazers. There is a lot of pressure for this team to produce after being swept as the three seed in the first round in last year’s playoffs. With a lot of good teams in the West, it is way too early to tell if this team is even of playoff caliber.

If the Blazers begin to lose games and they slip out of playoff contention, I expect this team to split up their all-star back court. The Lakers could cough up the pieces to acquire Damian Lillard, merely because LeBron has reportedly said he would like to play with him. I think the Blazers would rather give up CJ McCollum, and a team like the Orlando Magic would probably be buyers.

SG Kent Bazemore (Atlanta Hawks) – The Atlanta Hawks are on their merry way through a rebuild. Trae Young, John Collins and Taurean Prince look like the prominent pieces for the Hawks’ future. Other pieces are hanging around just in case they have a breakout season. Others are there to establish the culture *cough* Vince Carter will never retire *cough*.

Then there is Kent Bazemore. He is still very talented and could be a great role player for a contender. As a 39% three point shooter last year, now entering his prime, his talent is being wasted on the Hawks. The Rockets were reportedly interested in him last year (as they are in everyone who can shoot threes). Something probably holding teams back is his two years, $36 million left on his contract. I could see the Pelicans or Spurs trading for the floor spacing guard.

PF Thaddeus Young (Indiana Pacers) – The Pacers are far from a rebuild. They look like a team with a low floor and a high ceiling. Led by all-star Victor Oladipo, they were able to take the Cavaliers to seven games last year. They then added Tyreke Evan this summer on a “prove-that-last-year-was-real” deal (slogan trademark pending). Thaddeus Young is a good, not great, starting power forward on the last year of his contract. The Pacers cannot expect the 30 year old to re-sign this summer.

They probably have a future power forward in Domantas Sabonis, so they may not even offer Young another contract. It would be smart to at least test the market for Thaddeus Young before the February 8th deadline. If a team like the Blazers or Wizards offers a pick or even a solid role player, I don’t think the Pacers will hesitate in moving on from Thaddeus Young.

PG Terry Rozier (Boston Celtics) – “Scary” Terry is on the final year of his very cheap contract. The point guard filled in very well during the games Kyrie Irving nursed his knee injury. Since the Celtics are legitimate contenders to make the NBA Finals, they may not be looking to trade players for assets. Except this is the Celtics…Danny Ainge is always weighing the pros and cons of keeping a player. Rozier’s “stock” is at an all-time high right now, and the organization might want to get a lot of bang for their buck.

The team was in a similar situation when with Avery Bradley and they moved him. Also, the Celtics know they probably can’t keep Irving and Rozier. With Irving recently announcing his intent to re-sign, the Celtics might be looking to move “Scary” Terry to another team. If he is traded, I expect the Suns or Magic to buy their potential franchise point guard.


Unlikely to be Traded

PG Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets) – I guess technically every player not in the first two sections could be categorized as ‘Unlikely to be Traded’. However, this category consists of players who have had their name floated through the rumor mill. They could still get traded, but I don’t think it’s as likely. Kemba Walker, for example, is a very common name when talking about possible NBA trades. It would make sense for the Hornets to trade him too, as he will demand max money next year. Yet, I think the Hornets see Kemba, who just turned 28, as a player barely young enough to build around after the Nicolas Batum and Bismack Biyombo contracts get off their books.

According to ESPN, he has reportedly expressed his intent on re-signing. Their rebuild is secretly already underway with Malik Monk, Frank Kaminsky and Miles Bridges all showing signs of becoming a number 2 option. Am I saying the Hornets are right to keep Kemba? No, but it’s what I think they will do. If I am completely wrong and the Hornets are just playing hard to get, the Cavs or Lakers could be calling.

PF Paul Millsap (Denver Nuggets) – The Nuggets are and will be a dangerous team for the next few years. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokić are all young and oozing with All-NBA potential. Paul Millsap will turn 34 soon, and his best years are in his past. He does not fit the team’s timeline, and that is a good reason for him to be traded. He is also a former 4x all-star on an expiring contract. All this points to him being dealt before the trade deadline.

Except the Nuggets really want to make the playoffs this year. I don’t mean it would be nice if they did, I mean according to an ESPN article, they really want to play basketball in May. It has been almost a decade since the Nuggets won a playoff series. Theoretically, if he’s healthy, Paul Millsap fits perfectly alongside Jokic. A normal Paul Millsap will end the five year playoff drought. If he is traded, teams that would be interested in his expiring contract and all around ability are the Timberwolves, Heat and Lakers.

PF Carmelo Anthony (Houston Rockets) – Much like the Blazers with their back court pair, if Carmelo is traded during the year, then Houston has a problem. Carmelo still has something left in the tank, but that “something” comes with a lot of pride from the 10x all-star. Picture this: The Rockets are not nearly as good as last year. Carmelo is struggling in his new role off the bench and fans begin to blame him for the team’s struggles. He starts losing minutes to James Ennis and Marquese Chriss, and so he starts causing problems in the locker room.

Finally enough is enough, the Houston organization feels the pressure to meet his trade demands and he is shipped to a team who will have him (All of this somewhat similar to his time in Oklahoma City). Granted, all this happening in just four months is very unlikely. However, some experts think the Rockets will regress a lot in 2018, and I think Anthony could see the ugly side of Rockets fans if that happens. If Carmelo is traded, I would predict an Eastern Conference team like the Wizards or Nets to accept him.

 

All player stats were collected from BasketballReference.com

All contract details were collected from Spoctrac.com

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Playoffs and Player Awards

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

Tonight is the night where we see the Golden State Warriors raise their third Banner in four years. The Warriors will tip off against the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the doubleheader on TNT. The first game will feature the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. Both of these games look to be exciting games that should be a big part of the playoff seeding.

If you don’t know by now, the writers of Fourth Quarter Sports have come together to put a series of articles together to break down each division as we see it. Of course, each division was done from the view of one individual writer and everyone else has their own opinions too. So that brings us to this next piece, which you can read below.

This piece will tie all the articles together with everyone giving you their picks for the playoff picture and each round leading up to the NBA Finals. It will also provide you with a unique look at who we think could potentially win the player awards. So let’s jump into it and read all the posts of each writer’s divisional picks. Click the links below to see our individual division predictions.

Joel’s Southeast:                                              Joel’s Southwest:

  1. Washington Wizards (50-32)              1. Houston Rockets (55-27)
  2. Miami Heat (45-37)                              2. New Orleans Pelicans (50-32)
  3. Charlotte Hornets (36-46)                   3. San Antonio Spurs (48-34)
  4. Orlando Magic (33-49)                         4. Dallas Mavericks (35-47)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (30-52)                         5. Memphis Grizzlies (28-54)

Aman’s Central:                                            Mickayeen’s Northwest:

  1. Indiana Pacers (50-32)                        1. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-26)
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34)                2. Utah Jazz (54-28)
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (48-34)                    3. Denver Nuggets (52-30)
  4. Detroit Pistons (40-42)                        4. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40)
  5. Chicago Bulls (30-52)                          5. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41)

Adam’s Atlantic:                                           Rahim’s Pacific:

  1. Boston Celtics (60-22)                         1. Golden State Warriors (66-16)
  2. Philadelphia 76ers (54-28)                  2. Los Angeles Lakers (50-32)
  3. Toronto Raptors (50-32)                      3. Los Angeles Lakers (46-36)
  4. New York Knicks (27-55)                     4. Phoenix Suns (25-57)
  5. Brooklyn Nets (22-60)                          5. Sacramento Kings (23-59)

After recapping what we all thought of each division individually, let’s take a look at who everyone picked as their playoff teams!

 

Joel’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                   Eastern Conference:

  1. Golden State Warriors                                                1. Boston Celtics
  2. Houston Rockets                                                        2. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Los Angeles Lakers                                                    3. Toronto Raptors
  4. Utah Jazz                                                                    4. Washington Wizards
  5. New Orleans Pelicans                                                5. Indiana Pacers
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder                                             6. Milwaukee Bucks
  7. San Antonio Spurs                                                      7. Miami Heat
  8. Denver Nuggets                                                          8. Detroit Pistons

 

Aman’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference: 

  1. Golden State Warriors                                                   1. Boston Celtics
  2. Houston Rockets                                                           2. Miami Heat
  3. Los Angeles Lakers                                                       3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Utah Jazz                                                                       4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder                                                5. Cleveland Cavaliers
  6. New Orleans Pelicans                                                   6. Indiana Pacers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers                                                    7. Milwaukee Bucks
  8. Denver Nuggets                                                             8. Charlotte Hornets

 

Mickayeen’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference: 

  1. Golden State Warriors                                                   1. Boston Celtics
  2. Utah Jazz                                                                       2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Houston Rockets                                                           3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Denver Nuggets                                                             4. Indiana Pacers
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder                                                5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Los Angeles Lakers                                                       6. Washington Wizards
  7. San Antonio Spurs                                                         7. Miami Heat
  8. New Orleans Pelicans                                                   8. Detroit Pistons

 

Adam’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference:

  1. Golden State Warriors                                                   1. Boston Celtics
  2. Houston Rockets                                                           2. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Los Angeles Lakers                                                       3. Milwaukee Bucks
  4. Portland Trail Blazers                                                    4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder                                                5. Indiana Pacers
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves                                             6. Cleveland Cavaliers
  7. New Orleans Pelicans                                                   7. Miami Heat
  8. San Antonio Spurs                                                         8. Detroit Pistons

 

 Rahim’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference:

  1. Golden State Warriors                                                   1. Boston Celtics
  2. Houston Rockets                                                           2. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Los Angeles Lakers                                                       3. Milwaukee Bucks
  4. Utah Jazz                                                                        4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder                                                5. Indiana Pacers
  6. Portland Trail Blazers                                                    6. Washington Wizards
  7. New Orleans Pelicans                                                   7. Miami Heat
  8. San Antonio Spurs                                                         8. Detroit Pistons

 

Standings Breakdown:

Everyone has the Warriors and Celtics as the top teams of each conference. Everyone except Mickayeen has the Rockets and Sixers at two. Aman also didn’t have the Sixers as the second seed. Everyone does agree that the Jazz, Thunder, Lakers, Pelicans, Bucks, Heats and Pacers will be in the playoffs. Adam and Rahim think the Blazers could still make playoffs. Adam also believes the Timberwolves could still make playoffs despite their Jimmy Butler drama. Adam also believes the Cavaliers will make it back to the playoffs without LeBron James. Aman also agreed; he has the Hornets in there over the Pistons, who everyone else seems to like. But let’s see where that leaves us in the First Round.

 

First Round Playoffs:

Joel’s Picks

1. Warriors over 8. Nuggets in 4                   1. Celtics over 8. Pistons in 4

2. Rockets over 7. Spurs in 6                         2. 76ers over 7. Heat in 6

3. Lakers over 6. Thunder in 6                       3. Raptors over 6. Bucks in 6

5. Pelicans over 4. Jazz in 7                          5. Pacers over 4. Wizards in 7

 

Aman’s Picks

1. Warriors over 8. Nuggets in 5                     1. Celtics over 8. Hornets in 5

2. Rockets over 7. Clippers in 4                       7. Bucks over 2. Heat in 5

3. Lakers over 6. Pelicans in 6                         3. 76ers over 6. Pacers in 6

4. Jazz over 5. Thunder in 7                             4. Raptors over 5. Cavs in 7            

 

 Mickayeen’s Picks

1. Warriors over 8. Pelicans in 4                     1. Celtics over 8. Pistons in 4

2. Jazz over 7. Spurs in 5                                 2. Raptors over 7. Heat in 5

3. Rockets over 6. Lakers in 5                          3. 76ers over 6. Wizards in 5

4. Nuggets over 5. Thunder in 6                      4. Pacers over 5. Bucks in 7                       

 

Adam’s Picks

1. Warriors over 8. Spurs in 4                          1. Celtics over 8. Pistons in 4

7. Pelicans over 2. Rockets in 7                       2. 76ers over 7. Heat in 5

3. Lakers over 6. Wolves in 5                            3. Bucks over 6. Cavaliers in 6

5. Thunder over 4. Blazers in 5                        5. Pacers over 4. Raptors in 7

 

Rahim’s Picks:

1. Warriors over 8. Spurs in 4                           1. Celtics over 8. Pistons in 5

2. Rockets over 7. Pelicans in 6                        2. 76ers over 7. Heat in 6

3. Lakers over 6. Blazers in 6                            3. Bucks over 6. Wizards in 4

5. Thunder over 4. Jazz in 7                              4. Raptors over 5. Pacers in 7 

Breakdown:

After the first round of the playoffs, we get to see some of the similar picks by the writers. Mickayeen seems to be the only one who doesn’t have any faith in the LeBron lead Lakers, but he does believe the Jazz and Nuggets will make it to the next round. Adam has the Pelicans as a 7 seed beating the Rockets. Aman has the Bucks as a 7 seed beating the Heat, and that makes more sense as the Bucks should be one of the better teams. The Sixers and Celtics are the only two teams everyone picked to advance, but will they match up against each other?

 

Conference Semi-Finals:

Joel’s Picks

1. Warriors over 5. Pelicans in 5                        1. Celtics over 5. Pacers in 6

3. Lakers over 2. Rockets in 7                            3. Raptors over 76ers in 7

 

Aman’s Picks

1. Warriors over 4. Jazz in 6                              1. Celtics over 4. Raptors in 7

3. Lakers over 2. Rockets in 7                            3. 76ers over 7. Bucks in 7

 

Mickayeen’s Picks

1. Warriors over 4. Nuggets in 6                        1. Celtics over 4. Pacers in 6

3. Rockets over Jazz in 6                                    2. Raptors over. 3. 76ers in 6

 

Adam’s Picks

1. Warriors over 5. Thunder in 6                        1. Celtics over 5. Pacers in 5

3. Lakers over 7. Pelicans in 6                           3. Bucks over 2. 76ers in 7

 

Rahim’s Picks

1. Warriors over 5. Thunder in 6                        1. Celtics over 4. Raptors in 7

3. Lakers over 2. Rockets in 7                            3. Bucks over 2. 76ers in 7

Semi-Finals Breakdown: 

The Warriors and Celtics are still the teams to beat at this point of the playoffs. Everyone except Mickayeen has the Lakers and Warriors matchup to get back to the finals. But the Eastern Conference is all up to who we think can be the Celtics. Rahim and Adam have the Bucks over the Sixers in seven. Aman has Sixers beating the Bucks in seven and the Raptors is also another team who joins the Celtics in the conference finals, but will they beat the Celtics in the Conference Finals? Let’s find out!

 

Conference Finals:

Joel’s Picks

1. Warriors over 3. Lakers in 6                          1. Celtics vs. 3. Raptors in 6

 

Aman’s Picks

1. Warriors over 3. Lakers in 6                          1. Celtics over 3. 76ers in 6

 

Mickayeen’s Picks

1. Warriors over 3. Rockets in 5                         2. Raptors over 1. Celtics in 7

 

Adam’s Picks

1. Warriors over 3. Lakers in 7                           1. Celtics over 3. Bucks in 7

 

Rahim’s Picks

1. Warriors over 3. Lakers in 7                           3. Bucks over 1. Celtics in 7

Breakdown: 

The Western Conference finals include the Warriors over the Lakers and LeBron. That would break LeBron James’ consecutive streak to the Finals. Mickayeen is still the only one who has the Rockets in the conference finals agains this year. Mickayeen is also the only one who picked the Raptors over the Celtics. Rahim believes the Bucks can knock out the Celtics and have themselves a date with the Warriors, so let’s see how that will play out!

 

NBA Finals:

Joel’s Picks: 1. Warriors over 1. Celtics in 6, MVP – Kevin Durant

Aman’s Picks: 1. Warriors over 1. Celtics in 5, MVP –  Steph Curry

Mickayeen’s Picks: 1. Warriors over 2. Raptors in 6, MVP – Steph Curry

Adam’s Picks: 1. Celtics over 1. Warriors in 7, MVP – Kyrie Irving

Rahim’s Picks: 1. Warriors over 3. Bucks in 5, MVP – Klay Thompson (Leaves GS for LAL in FA)

The 2018-2019 NBA Championship goes to the Golden State Warriors to complete the three-peat! That comes to no surprise with their All-Star lineup. But this will answer a lot of questions for the Warriors. Adam thinks the Celtics will take advantage of Warriors and win in seven games to capture their 18th NBA title and first in ten years. Now that you know who everyone’s picks are, let’s take a look at everyone’s player awards as well.

 

Most Valuable Player:

Joel’s: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Aman’s: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Mickayeen’s: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Adam’s: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Rahim’s: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

James’ move to LA automatically makes him a favorite as MVP, but Adam and Rahim believe the addition of coach Bud in Milwaukee will help the Greek Freak finally get to the next level.

 

Defensive Player of the Year:

Joel’s: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

Aman’s: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Mickayeen’s: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Adam’s: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Rahim’s: Anthony Davis,  New Orleans Pelicans

There is no clear consensus on this one. It would be nice to see Leonard win it as a Raptor over some of the best bigs in the league. However, Davis and Embiid are huge favorites as they still have so much more to grow.

 

Rookie of the Year:

Joel’s: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Aman’s: Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

Mickayeen’s: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Adam’s: Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

Rahim’s: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Looks like it’s going to be Doncic or Sexton. With the Cavaliers expected to make playoffs by Adam and Aman, it makes perfect sense for them to pick him. But Doncic just looks merely the most NBA ready, and though the Mavericks won’t be in the playoffs, there is still a chance for him to win it. How about Marvin Bagley II, DeAndre Ayton and Trae Young? Will they be part of the picture this year?

 

Most Improved Player:

Joel’s: Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans

Aman’s: Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons

Mickayeen’s: D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

Adam’s: Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls

Rahim’s: Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

Another award that is wide open. So many players could win this award. With Randle playing behind Anthony Davis as a sixth man, his name should go up from last year as a Laker, especially when given more playing time. Pistons are a favorite to grab the 8th seed in the East, and great play by Johnson could be a huge part of their success. Russell is on a contract year, and he’s got nothing better to do with the Nets but to continue to improve and get himself a nice contract for the future. Lavine needs to stay healthy long enough to actually improve his game, but he could help the Bulls try to make a push for the playoffs and surprise many. But let’s just admit it, Ball is going to win the award. He’s playing with the best player in the world, and that will elevate his game to a new level as long as he can stay healthy and remain the starter.

 

Scoring Title:

Joel’s: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Aman’s: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Mickayeen’s: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Adam’s: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Rahim’s:  LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

You can never get tired of watching the greatest scoring performances of the season. You may want to see someone else not named Westbrook win it again. Davis may be the best shooting big man in the league, and if he doesn’t get MVP, he is the front-runner for a scoring title. Adam believes Giannis will win MVP and the scoring title, while Rahim likes LeBron to win it. Who will it be?

 

Coach of the Year:

Joel’s: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Aman’s: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets

Mickayeen’s: David Fizdale, New York Knicks

Adam’s: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Rahim’s: Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers

This is interesting! Mickayeen throws in the curveball with the Fizdale pick, but it’s understandable because he is a much better coach than what he’s shown for. Budenholzer has been there before also and with the talented Bucks roster they would finish atop the East. Luke Walton will benefit from the addition of James and all the players who have joined up to help the Lakers get in the playoffs and have success with Walton’s system. But D’Antoni or Stevens makes more sense than the rest. Both of their teams will be in the top of their conference, which automatically makes them a front-runner for the award.

 

Sixth Man Of The Year:

Joel’s: Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics

Aman’s: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

Mickayeen’s: Isaiah Thomas, Denver Nuggets

Adam’s: Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics

Rahim’s: Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans

Terry Rozier is a heavy favorite for this award. We saw what he was able to do without Irving in the lineup as he led the Celtics to the conference finals. With Irving back, Rozier’s role is made to the sixth man, but he could easily be a starter on other teams who need point guards. Eric Gordon was the 2017 winner, and with the changes to the Rockets depth, he could continue to find a way to produce the necessary numbers to be the winner again! Isaiah Thomas would love to get himself some sort of reward from the league, but he may end up playing more as a starter than a backup with the Nuggets. Randle could only win it if he can have constant playing time to put up consistent numbers. So let’s see who it will be!

 

You have read what each of us at Fourth Quarter Sports thinks about each division and the playoff pictures with the awards, but we would like to see what you think. Don’t forget to subscribe and comment with your picks below!

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Northwest Division

32891950495_1c078df50b_o.jpg
Russell Westbrook” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Quick! Which division was the best in the NBA last year? If your pick wasn’t the Northwest, I have a lot of land in the middle of Idaho to sell you.

It’s pretty easy—this division was the best in the NBA last year, and it’s not close. They had 238 wins combined as a division last season. Closest was the Atlantic, which had their teams combine for 223 wins. The Nuggets were the last place team, and they were an overtime loss away from the playoffs. They were the best, most well-balanced division, but can they keep it up? Let’s get to the preview!

 

1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 48-34

Postseason Result: Lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs 4-2.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Drafted Hamidou Diallo, Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed Nerlens Noel in free agency.
  • Traded for G Dennis Schroder, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Abdel Nader.

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded Carmelo Anthony and Dakari Johnson

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Carmelo Anthony is a name even the most casual of basketball fans will recognize. Rarely will losing a name like that make a team remarkably better and more efficient, but here we are. Paul George has called OKC home, Westbrook is not on the decline (yet), Steven Adams, who is one of the most underrated players in the league, is only getting better, and Andre Roberson, one of, if not the best defender on the team will be healthy.

Carmelo Anthony was an efficiency albatross on this team, and with all those factors combined, this team will be much better. This team has not one, but two superstars. They will be a hard team to beat, and their record will show it.

Prediction: 56-26

 

2. UTAH JAZZ

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 48-34

Postseason Result: Beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA playoffs 4-2, but then found themselves matched up with the best regular season team, the Houston Rockets. They went on to lose that series 4-1.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected G Grayson Allen in the NBA Draft.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost Jonas Jerebko in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

I can feel the ire of Jazz fans through the computer screen as I write this. HOW CAN YOU PUT OKC ABOVE UTAH IN THE STANDINGS?! DID YOU NOT WATCH THAT PLAYOFF SERIES? MITCHELL IS THE BEST…blah blah blah.

Listen, Jazz fans. I think the Jazz are a great matchup against the Thunder and will not lose the season series against OKC. Best OKC can do is tie the season series against the Jazz. The Jazz are a sexy pick to win this division and get a top-three seed in the west largely because of the way they played after Gobert returned from injury.

But people need to remember that Gobert’s return also coincided with the beginning of a VERY favorable schedule down the stretch along with a good matchup in the first round. Donovan Mitchell is the truth. There is no reason to think this kid will not rule the league for the next decade-plus.

This team’s calling card has been, and will continue to be their defense. If they stay healthy, it’ll be a fun contest between them and OKC for the division win. They’ll come up just short, though.

Prediction: 54-28

 

3. DENVER NUGGETS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 46-36

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected Michael Porter Jr. with the 14th pick in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed G Isaiah Thomas in free agency.

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur,
  • Lost Devin Harris in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

They barely lost to the Timberwolves in overtime in the last regular season game last year to miss the playoffs by a game for the second year in a row. That was with Paul Millsap missing more than half their games.

They had an interesting offseason. They dumped the salaries of Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Darrell Arthur. They picked up a couple of lottery tickets in Michael Porter Jr. and Isaiah Thomas. They signed Nikola Jokic to a max contract extension. Finally, they signed Will Barton to take Chandler’s spot in the starting lineup.

They have a bad defense, but unlike the Wolves, they actually have the offensive firepower to win games without playing much defense. If you want to watch a team win a lot of 150-148 games (only a slight exaggeration), then sit down and watch a lot of Nuggets on league pass this year!

Prediction: 52-30

 

4. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 47-35

Postseason Result: After beating the Nuggets to slip into the playoffs, Minnesota found themselves facing the Houston Rockets in the first round. They would lose that series 4-1.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed Anthony Tolliver and James Nunnally in free agency.

Offseason Departures:

  • No significant losses, yet…..

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

This is the hardest team to predict. Jimmy Butler obviously makes them significantly better. He could account for a good ten wins. At least. These guys aren’t that good at playing defense and they don’t have the offensive firepower, especially off the bench, to be able to produce the offense to make up for the lack of defense in many games.

Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best young players in the league. Andrew Wiggins has probably had the least talked-about amount of 20+ point games over the last few seasons because of his inconsistency.

But the rest of the team is getting older (Gibson, Rose, etc.) or doesn’t want to be there (Butler). They’re going to be hovering around .500 all year, which is where they were before acquiring Butler. They will trade Butler before the deadline.

Prediction: 42-40

 

5. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 49-33

Postseason Result: Entered the playoffs as the three seed after having a great regular season. They were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Drafted Anfernee Simmons and Gary Trent Jr. in the NBA Draft.
  • Signed G Nik Stauskas and G Seth Curry in free agency.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost F Ed Davis, G Shabazz Napier and SF/SG Pat Connaughton in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Last year’s division champs and three seed in the west. They were mostly stagnant in the offseason, signing Nik Stauskas, Seth Curry, re-signing Jusuf Nurkic (to what Blazers fans call “team friendly,” but what I call market value), and drafting Gary Trent Jr. all at the expense of losing Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier. I wouldn’t call any of those major wins or losses.

They have one of the best backcourt tandems in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere with them. Sure, they’ve made the playoffs two years in a row, but they’ve won as many playoff games as the Suns have during that span. They had one hot streak after the all-star break last year to keep them in the playoffs, but I didn’t buy them being as good as their record indicated. They proved that by getting swept out of the first round.

That being said, Lillard is a superstar in this league, and in the NBA, you can do anything with a superstar. Their talent is not questionable, but they haven’t been able to put it together and there’s no reason to think this year will be much different.

This organization seems to be waiting for contracts like Evan Turner’s to be off the books. The players will catch wind of this and will not be motivated to win. In fact, don’t be surprised if Lillard or McCollum are a couple of names floated around come trade deadline time. They will go from first to last.

Prediction: 41-41

 

PREDICTED DIVISION STANDINGS:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-26)
  2. Utah Jazz (54-28)
  3. Denver Nuggets (52-30)
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves (42-40)
  5. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41)

The Northwest will be home to three of the top-five teams in the Western Conference this year, but they will be worse overall than last year.

Buy or Sell: Boston Sports, Chiefs, Timberwolves, Falcons Defense, Golden Knights

Tom Brady
12 Tom Brady” by Peter Bond is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

By Cullen Jekel, RahimAli Merchant and Mickayeen Farner

 

Welcome to the second week of Fourth Quarter Sports’ Buy or Sell. Here, we’ll go through three NFL questions regarding the explosive Kansas City Chiefs, the struggling New England Patriots, and the depleted Atlanta Falcons defense.

Mixed in there we’ll tackle whether the Minnesota Timberwolves can survive the Jimmy Butler Situation, how that may end; whether Major League Baseball’s best team record-wise can make it through the playoffs; and whether the biggest surprise in sports in the past fifty years can repeat its 2017-2018 achievements.

 

Cullen: The New England Patriots Will Miss the Playoffs

Mickayeen: I’m going to sell that only because of the competition within their division. The Bills beating the Vikings was one that we have to chalk up to “any given Sunday” until they can put a string of games like this together. The Dolphins have had wins against teams that look like they won’t be good this year. The Jets are trending in the right direction, but are still starting a rookie QB and will continue to have growing pains. I predicted the Pats to go 10-6 in my AFC East preview before the season. I’m sticking to that, but I also predicted Tom Brady to begin his decline by comparing what I think is going to happen to Peyton Manning’s second-to-last season. I’m sticking with that as well, and I predict them to be eliminated before the AFC championship game for the first time in the last decade.

RahimAli: I also sell the Patriots. I mean yeah they are struggling to get things going, but Brady doesn’t have all his weapons out there. He lost Dion Lewis, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola from last year, which played a huge part in the team’s success in the run to the Super Bowl. They drafted Sony Michel, traded for Josh Gordon, and still waiting for Julian Edelman to come back from suspension. Once they all come back into the fold of things, we will see the Patriots team that we are all use to seeing. Like Mickayeen [stated], the division is a weak one and though Miami is 3-0, they haven’t really faced any of the top teams in the AFC. Miami has wins over the Titans, Jets, and Raiders [teams that] will probably all finish last in the division with so many questions to answer. Let’s not forget Brady is the “G.O.A.T.” and he always finds a way to win games.

I think the Patriots will once again lean on the running backs to help open the game, and then Brady throws it down the field to Edelman, Gordon, or [Rob] Gronkowski. Patriots should still win their division, but they will likely finish 10-6 like Mickayeen has said. Their key losses from here will be once to the Dolphins (later in the season), Packers, Steelers, and Vikings. But that could also change if their defense can get it together and stop the opponent from throwing the deep ball.

 

Mickayeen: The Kansas City Chiefs will represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII

CullenSell the Kansas City Chiefs winning the AFC.

The defense, while it should improve with the return of Eric Berry, needs more additions and internal improvements to help this high-potent offense. But if that doesn’t happen, if the defensive unit remains stagnant, then the Chiefs will fall before the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes II looks great, yet he’s only 23 years old. A hiccup game is sure to come, and hopefully he’ll learn from that. (I expect he will.) Another thing harming this team’s Super Bowl chances is the head coach, Andy Reid. Reid is frightfully bad when it comes to the post-season, where his play-calling becomes ultra-conservative and his mismanagement of the time clock rears its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. He’s blown huge leads in the playoffs at times, and at other times he gets his teams down in such huge holes that they can’t dig themselves out in the remaining time.

I feel very confident in this statement: the Kansas City Chiefs will win a Super Bowl with Mahomes as their quarterback.

I feel just as confident in this statement: when that happens, Andy Reid will not be their head coach.

RahimAli: Sell the Chiefs winning the AFC. Although the Chiefs have started out hot with QB Patrick Mahomes throwing 13 touchdowns in three weeks, I don’t believe that this will continue. The Chiefs have played games against teams who are still trying to find themselves. The Chargers in week one were caught off guard by what Mahomes could actually do. The Steelers are lost without Le’Veon Bell on the field and that affects them defensively as well. And well, the 49ers had an identity, that was lost when Richard Sherman left and Jimmy Garoppolo went out with an injury. I wait for the game where the Chiefs offense is quiet and have to rely on the defense that isn’t what it used to be. That should be coming soon with the schedule getting tougher and games against tough defenses like the Broncos, Jaguars, Seahawks, and Rams. I think they may finally be able to make the playoffs while winning the division again, but they will not have enough left to get to the Super Bowl.

 

RahimAli: The Atlanta Falcons’ Depleted Defense Will Hold Up

CullenSelling on the defense–yet the Falcons will still sneak into the playoffs. I can see them winning another nine games this year to put them at 10-6, which will make it close in the NFC, but I believe it will be enough to get in.

This defense got shredded by the Saints, but lest we forget, the Saints are led by one of the top quarterbacks of all-time in Drew Brees. And despite Brees’ advanced age, he’s still got enough weapons to put up 30+ points every Sunday during regulation. While the Falcons should be concerned about their injured star defenders, it shouldn’t look to yesterday’s game as a projection for the year to come. Head coach Dan Quinn is a defensive-minded head coach (he was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks before coming to Atlanta), so he’ll be able to make adjustments as the season progresses. While the NFC South is suddenly–and once again–looking like possibly the toughest division in football, with Quinn’s adjustments on defense and QB Matt Ryan running the offense, the Falcons should be fine.

Mickayeen: And I sell on the Falcons defense being able to hold up. That’s not to say anything bad about the talent they have. I don’t know of any team in the NFL who can hold up while losing over a quarter of their starting defense, especially when those three players are as good as Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Deion Jones have been for the Falcons.

I agree with Cullen, though, in that I don’t think this spells doom for the team as a whole. Let’s not forget that Matt Ryan was the NFL MVP just two seasons ago. I don’t think there is any reason to doubt that he can put on an MVP-type performance for the remainder of the season, especially if Calvin Ridley continues to make strides in the offense like he did in week three. I think they still have enough talent to go 9-4 the rest of the way and sneak in as a Wild Card team.

 

Cullen: The Minnesota Timberwolves Will Make the Playoffs Despite the Jimmy Butler Situation

RahimAliBuy Timberwolves in the playoffs [despite the] Butler situation. The Western Conference is definitely the better of the two conferences and we all expect to see the Warriors and Rockets at the top again, but the Wolves made the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season and they could make it back there. I believe that they will get one of the last two playoffs spots available. They will hold off the Nuggets and Clippers and be led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Let’s not forget the Timberwolves will have other players who were part of the Butler deal to help them win more games and fill the void left by Butler

Mickayeen: I sell the T-Wolves making it to the playoffs without Butler in the West. They barely managed to make the eighth seed with him [in 2017-2018].

Let’s assume the Lakers make it in now that they have LeBron, and the Nuggets are definitely a better team than the Wolves without Butler, as it took the Wolves overtime to beat them with Butler in Minnesota in the last game of the season to make it in. So assuming the Lakers and Nuggets move into the playoffs, that means two teams are going to have to be out. It’s definitely not going to be the Warriors or Rockets. Most likely won’t be the Jazz, Thunder, or Spurs (They are basically last year’s team adding DeRozan). That leaves the Blazers, Pelicans, and T-Wolves as most likely to fall out of the playoffs the way I see it. The Pelicans might actually be better with the additions they made (Julian Randle, Elfrid Payton, Jahlil Okafor), and people need to remember how great Anthony Davis is. Those are the reasons I think the Pelicans will make it back and the Lakers and Nuggets will replace the Blazers and T-Wolves in the playoffs.

 

RahimAli: The Red Sox Will Continue Their Regular Season Domination Through the Playoffs and Win the World Series

Cullen: Nope. Sell on the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. I think they’ll beat either the New York Yankees or Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, but then fall to the Houston Astros in the ALCS. Before the season began, I predicted the Astros winning the World Series in 5 games over the Cubs. I still feel strongly about that prediction.

The Red Sox and Astros have squared off seven times this season with the Astros winning four. The total score of those games: 34-31 in favor of Houston. Houston versus Boston would be an exciting pennant, especially with these teams stacked up so well against one another. The key difference between these squads will be the man calling the shots from the dugout. While Boston has thrived under first year manager Alex Cora (previously Houston’s bench coach), the Astros will benefit from A.J. Hinch guiding this team to the Promised Land last year. Additionally, while Boston may have the better overall record, they’ve actually outperformed their Pythagorean Record by six games while Houston has underperformed theirs by seven games. In the playoffs, take the team with the better Pythagorean, and that team just so happens to not be the Boston Red Sox.

Mickayeen: Okay. I’ll sell the Red Sox winning the World Series, but not for the same reasons as Cullen. I think the Sox will make it to the American League Championship series, but I think it’ll be against the Indians, not the Astros.

The Indians have four pitchers who have amassed over 200 strikeouts, which is absolutely incredible. They also have an MVP candidate, Jose Ramierez, leading their hitting and I think they’ll come up with enough well-timed hits to get the job done against both the Astros and Red Sox in the playoffs while the pitchers continue to mow both other lineups down.

As for Pythagorean, I can’t buy that just based on recent history. Only three of the past ten leaders in regular-season Pythagorean have gone on to win the World Series (2016 Cubs, 2013 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees). Baseball is just one of those sports where you have to go with the hottest team, and I believe the Indians (who just took two of three from the Red Sox) will catch fire and represent the AL in the World Series.

 

Mickayeen: The Vegas Knights Will Return to the Stanley Cup Finals

RahimAli: I sell the Vegas Golden Knights making it back to the finals. It’s simple: the NHL is the toughest when it comes winning back-to-back. The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to do that, but it wasn’t easy. The Knights are arguably one of the best teams in the Pacific division and that’s saying something, seeing how this was their first season in the league. It was truly a remarkable season last year to see an expansion team make it all the way to the finals. Unfortunately, they won’t make it back to the Finals this year. Especially with their division being one of the more competitive ones. I mean they have the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks in their division that could possibly make up half the field in the Western Conference playoff picture, but I don’t think that the Knights could make it that far again this season.

Cullen: I’m selling Vegas making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Several teams in the West became stronger this off-season, notably the San Jose Sharks when they landed Erik Karlsson and the St. Louis Blues when they acquired Ryan O’Reilly. Plus, there remains Nashville and Winnipeg, both of whom finished the regular season with better records and more points than Vegas.

While it looks like a two-team race for the Pacific between the Golden Knights and Sharks, the West as a whole will be much tougher to conquer in Year Two. Last year this team took the league by surprise. That won’t happen again. While Vegas should make the playoffs, couple the lack-of-surprise element with losses like David Perron (Blues) and James Neal (Calgary Flames), and this team will fall short of representing the Western Conference in the Finals in 2019.

 

What does everyone else think? Hit us up in the comments!

 

 

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!

Can Kevin Love Lead the Cavs to the Playoffs?

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Kevin Love” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Joel Deering

Remember when the Cavs had a big three? LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Well now only one member of that big three remains after Kyrie Irving requested a trade a year ago and LeBron James departed for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kevin Love is the last man standing in Cleveland.

The moment LeBron James left, everyone seemed to know the Cavs wouldn’t be making the playoffs next season. Rumors were Kevin Love was even going to be shipped somewhere else, which would leave Cleveland with a bunch of role players and recently drafted rookie Collin Sexton. Well Kevin Love is still on the Cavs roster, and as of right now he’s their best player. Because Kevin Love is the best player for the Cavs right now, the responsibility to lead this team back to the playoffs falls on him. Can Love lead this team to a spot in the playoffs?

After looking over the rosters of Eastern Conference teams, I see most of the playoff spots in the conference being locked up already. Teams I have as a lock to make the playoffs are the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, and Indiana Pacers. No that’s not in any particular order. I have six teams taking up playoff spots already, and those six teams are all teams who made the playoffs last season. That leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat spots open.

Many probably think Miami will be in the playoffs again. I think they can make the playoffs and most likely will, but I wouldn’t call them a lock. The reason why they’re not a lock is because they don’t have a star player and Hassan Whiteside could be on his way out. If you look at the teams I listed as locks, not only did they make the playoffs last year, but they all have at least one guy you could consider their star. The Raptors have DeRozan and Lowry, Boston has a starting lineup of stars or stars in the making, Philadelphia has Simmons and Embiid, Milwaukee has the Greek Freak, Washington has Wall and Beal, and Indiana has Oladipo.

Anyway, back to Kevin Love and the Cavs. Outside of Miami, who are they in competition with for those two remaining playoffs spots? Well we’ve got the Pistons, Hornets, Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Magic, and Hawks. There’s some potential here for a surprise team or two, but overall this is a weak group the Cavs are competing against. So can Kevin Love lead the Cavs to the playoffs? The answer is, possibly.

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Trevor Booker and Kevin Love” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

First we have to go back to when Kevin Love was the lone star for the Timberwolves. In six seasons with the Timberwolves, Kevin Love averaged 19.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. His best overall season with the Timberwolves came in 2013 when he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. Kevin Love put up stats with the Timberwolves, but the problem was he never led the team to the playoffs. The best record he led his team to in those six years was 40-42. We do have to keep in mind that Love was playing in the stronger Western Conference, but still, he didn’t make a single playoff appearance.

After not making the playoffs for the first six years of his career, Love came to the Cavaliers and has now made the playoffs four years in a row. Not only has he made the playoffs four years in a row, but he’s been a member of a team who’s gone to the NBA Finals four years in a row. Kevin Love has won a championship. In four years with the Cavs, Love has averaged 17.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists. His best season came in 2016 when he averaged 19.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. Obviously Love’s numbers have been down because he played with LeBron and Kyrie. Despite lower numbers, he’s been in the playoffs every year he’s been here.

Kevin Love has seemed more effective as a second or third star rather than the go to guy, but now he will be the go to guy again. I expect Love’s stats to go back up. He’ll have the ball a lot more often, meaning he’ll get a lot more shots, more points, and probably assists. Remember that Love was in the Western Conference all those years he didn’t make the playoffs, and now he’s in the weaker Eastern Conference. Love is also a more experienced player who has won a championship and has plenty of playoff experience. Will that make a difference? I can see this going one of two ways. First, I can see the Cavs being just like everyone expects and being one of the worst teams in the NBA. Second, I can see this team being a surprise competitor for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

What do you guys think? Will we see the Timberwolves Kevin Love who puts up big numbers and doesn’t make the playoffs, the Cavs Kevin Love who puts up decent numbers and makes the playoffs, or a combination of the two? If you think the Cavs can make the playoffs being led by Kevin Love, what’s highest seed you think they’ll get?