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.

Five role players the Lakers should pursue in FA after acquiring Anthony Davis

With the addition of Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers have turned themselves into an attractive free agent destination. Free agents who want a shot at winning a title will strongly consider going to L.A. to play with two of the best the NBA has to offer. 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Los Angeles Lakers have finally acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans! In return for the now former Pelicans superstar, the Lakers gave up three players: Lonzo Ball, Brandom Ingram and Josh Hart. The loss of those three guys is leaving the Lakers a little thin at those positions. Combined their absence with the potential loss of several free agents, and the Lakers aren’t looking too good outside of James and Davis.

Acquiring Anthony Davis is a step in the right direction for the Lakers as they try to win another title, but his presence alone won’t get them there. We know the Lakers are interested in acquiring another superstar, most likely at the PG position. Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are two players heavily linked to this squad. With James and Davis there, it seems pretty likely they’ll add a third superstar to the roster. However, even a third superstar won’t get the Lakers a title if the rest of the roster doesn’t shape up.

We all know superstars are a big part of success in today’s NBA. Superstars get all the praise when things go right, and all the blame when things go wrong. What we tend to forget, is that a team is more than just superstars. A championship caliber team has successful role players too.

So, just because the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis and will likely land another superstar, it doesn’t mean their work is done. After acquiring their stars, the Lakers need to focus on building the rest of the roster with role players who will fit alongside them. Let’s take a look at five role players the Lakers should pursue in free agency this offseason.

 

Five free agents the Lakers should pursue

Tomas Satoransky, JJ Redick
“”Tomas Satoransky, JJ Redick” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

1. JJ Redick, SG

LeBron James is at his best when he has reliable shooters around him who can get open and knock down big shots. James has a down low presence in Anthony Davis now, but he still needs players on the outside. JJ Redick would be the perfect alongside James and Davis.

Redick may be getting up there in age, but he’s still one of the best three point shooters in the league. Last season with the 76ers, Redick shot 39.7% from three-point range. We’ve watched Redick knock down three-point shots for years, and I think he’d only be more lethal from outside with James and Davis on his team. LeBron James and Anthony Davis demand attention pretty much anywhere. With teams focused on stopping them, it’ll give JJ Redick a lot of open shots. If Redick can shoot 39.7% from three while being surrounded by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, I have no doubt he’ll shoot better with James and Davis around.

I should mention that Redick isn’t just a three-point shooter. Redick can space the floor with his shooting from inside the arc as well, as evidenced by his 50.2% shooting on two-point FGs. Another bonus to having Redick, is that he’s one of the better free throw shooters in the NBA, having shot 89.4% from the line last season. Redick’s ability to space the floor from outside, inside, and knock down free throws, makes him a perfect fit for the 2019-2020 Lakers.

 

2. Danny Green, SG

I believe Danny Green would be a great fit for this Lakers team for many of the same reasons JJ Redick would be. Danny Green shot a career high on three-point shots last season, making 45.5% of his shots from that range. Just like Redick, Green would benefit from having James and Davis demanding so much attention. He could move around, get open, and knock down open shots off passes from James and Davis.

Much like JJ Redick, Green can also space the floor from inside the arc, as he shot 48.7% from inside the arc this past season. I do believe JJ Redick is a little bit more of a scorer than Green is. Redick averaged 18.1 points per game last season, while Green averaged just 10.3 and has never averaged more than 11.7 in a season. With that being said, Green makes up for it in other ways.

While being a very good three-point shooter, Danny Green is one of the better defenders in the league. I would consider him one of the most underrated defenders, as he doesn’t get a ton of attention for it. If you haven’t watched Green’s defense, go back and watch him in the NBA Finals against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. He played a big part in slowing them down.

The reason I bring up Green’s defense, is because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about LeBron’s teams in recent history, it’s that they’re not good defensively. Anthony Davis will improve the defense, but he can’t be everywhere at once, and you need more than one good defender to be a good defensive team. Danny Green would take the Lakers’ defense up another notch, all while playing a crucial role in their offense at the same time.

 

3. Patrick Beverly, PG

Patrick Beverly shot 39.7% from three-point range last season, which is the same as JJ Redick, but I don’t believe he’s anywhere near the three-point threat Redick is. Instead of being on this list for his shooting ability and potential to space the floor for James and Davis, Beverly is here because of his toughness and defense.

How many times have we seen Beverly get in the head of his opponent because of tough defense? Countless times. One thing I love about Beverly’s defense, is that it doesn’t really matter how big or small a defender is. Beverly defends with the same intensity regardless of who he’s defending. That kind of defensive ability is very valuable, especially to a team who struggled defensively last season.

While I do believe Patrick Beverly would be a very valuable addition to this team, I think he’d be best as the backup PG. If the Lakers do end up signing Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, having Beverly would give them a great set of PGs who could constantly be contributing to the team. With not much depth on the bench right now, the Lakers need to add a player like Patrick Beverly to it to give them a major boost.

 

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Bojan Bogdanovic, SF

Of all the free agents I’ve mentioned so far, I think Bogdanovic is the least likely to join the Lakers. He had a breakout season in the absence of Victor Oladipo, averaging 18.0 points on 49.7% shooting. It really was Bogdanovic who kept the Pacers alive after Oladipo went down. It’s for that reason I believe he can get more money elsewhere than the Lakers could offer him, especially if they sign a third superstar.

Another problem with signing Bogdanovic, is that there’s a good chance he’d come off the bench. There’s a good chance he could start, but the Lakers could possibly ask him to come off the bench to strengthen their second unit. After how he played last season, would he be willing to do so? Would he be willing to take a pay cut for a chance to win a title? There are some questions here, but if they could somehow sign him, it would greatly benefit this team.

Bogdanovic can do a little bit of everything. He can shoot the three, make a high percentage of two-point shots, hit free throws at a consistent rate, rebound, do a little passing and play decent defense. A player like Bogdanovic could be used in all sorts of different ways if he was surrounded by guys like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With his scoring ability, it’d take a ton of pressure off the superstars, especially when they’re having an off night.

 

5. Enes Kanter, PF/C

A lot of NBA fans don’t like Enes Kanter for various reasons, but I’m one of his biggest fans. Why? He does the dirty work. Kanter ranked fifth in the NBA in offensive rebounds last season, averaging 3.8 per game. Can you imagine what LeBron James and Anthony Davis could do with all those second chances to score? The Lakers need a player like Kanter on their roster.

Another thing I love about Kanter, is that he can be productive in multiple roles. When he came to Portland last season, he went there knowing he wasn’t going to be the starting C. Despite not being the starter, Kanter still produced. Kanter did get the chance to start due to an injury. When his chance to start came, he took it and ran with it.

It’s possible Kanter could start for the Lakers next to Anthony Davis, but he would also be a great addition to their bench if they were to sign him. Kanter would give the Lakers valuable minutes off the bench when Anthony Davis goes off the floor, and I’m sure there would be several occasions when they’re on the floor together. Anthony Davis averaged 12.0 rebounds last season, while Enes Kanter averaged 9.8. If these two were on the floor together, teams will be hard pressed to get many second chance opportunities on offense.

Did the Warriors have the most disappointing arena farewell of all-time?

Being down 3-2 in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors had a golden opportunity to extend the series to a Game 7. Game 6 was played at Oracle Arena, but it wasn’t just any Game 6. This Game 6 was the last game the Warriors would ever play here. Warriors players and fans alike were hoping that would spark their team to a Game 6 victory and another championship. Instead, their farewell to Oracle may have turned out to be the most disappointing farewell of all-time.

Warriors

It was win or go home for the Golden State Warriors in Game 6. After all, they would never play another game at Oracle. They had the home crowd. They had the momentum after coming off a Game 5 victory in Toronto. On top of that, they had motivation to win this one for KD, who ruptured his achilles in the previous game.

Everything was on their side. Everything was set up for the Warriors to give their fans one last show at Oracle before moving to a new arena. However, instead of giving Warriors fans something to cheer about one more time, what could have gone wrong, did go wrong.

 

Crowning new NBA Champs

The result of Game 6 was a Raptors win, which meant they were now the NBA Champs. The last game to ever be played at Oracle Arena resulted in the Toronto Raptors raising the trophy. What kind of farewell memory is that? It’s a memory many Warriors fans will want to forget, but I doubt it’ll be easy. How do you forget the last game to ever be played in this historic stadium? The memory of the Toronto Raptors winning a title in this building will last forever.

 

Losing Klay Thompson

If it wasn’t already bad enough to see another team win the NBA title in their building, Warriors fans had to see one of their stars, Klay Thompson, leave the game with what we now know is a torn ACL. What does this mean for their future?

Well, Klay Thompson is set to become a free agent, and it’s possible the Warriors could have seen the last of him as a Warrior. In what could have been his last game as a Warrior, Warriors fans had to see Thompson leave the game early with a serious injury.

What kind of last memory of Klay Thompson as a Warrior would that be?

 

Losing KD in Game 5

Technically, losing KD had nothing to do with the final game played at Oracle Arena. However, Warriors fans likely will never see Durant play another game for the Warriors.

Despite questions about how valuable KD was to the Warriors, Durant made his presence felt when he scored 11 points in 12 minutes during Game 5, which ultimately boosted the Warriors to extending the series. Shortly after dominating the first quarter, Kevin Durant went down with a devastating injury, an injury that could potentially never allow fans to see Durant in a Warriors jersey again.

It’s pretty likely Warriors fans were expecting Durant to be gone after this season anyway, but I doubt they thought they’d see Durant go out like that. They didn’t even get to see Durant play the final game at Oracle Arena. Just another disappointment.

 

Most disappointing farewell of all-time? 

It’s not every day we see an NBA team move from one arena to another. For that reason, I have to admit I haven’t seen a whole lot of them. Regardless of that, I don’t think there’s ever been a more disappointing final game in an arena than Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

KD didn’t play, and may never be a Warrior again. Klay Thompson got hurt, and may never be a Warrior again. If either of them are, they’re likely not playing next season. one didn’t get to play the final game at Oracle, and the other didn’t get to finish it. On top of that, the Toronto Raptors won a championship in the arena on its final night. How could you be more disappointed?

Unfortunately, the farewell to Oracle Arena could be a painful, long lasting memory in the hearts and minds of Warriors fans everywhere.

 

Kawhi Leonard: The. Greatest. Raptor. Ever.

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

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

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

Who led them there? Kawhi Leonard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congrats to the Toronto Raptors and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard!

What you missed this weekend: 5/17-5/19

Although most leagues around the world are coming to a close, What you missed this weekend won’t. This weekend, things continue to become more exciting in the NBA and NHL playoffs, the Braves and Cardinals find success in the MLB, an anticipated boxing match ended rather quickly, and as England get their World Cup preparations underway. Also, we have to say good-bye to a few names from the world of sports, which we’ll cover. 

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Stanford vs. Washington State by Daniel Hartwig is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Bob Schloredt passes away at 79

College Football Hall of Famer Bob Schloredt has passed away on Thursday. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989 after leading the University of Washington to consecutive Rose Bowl titles in 1959 and 1960. He received MVP Honors in both Bowl games. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Schloredt and football fans from Fourth Quarter Sports.

 

NBA Playoffs

Warriors’ Curry drops 37 in game 2 comeback to take a 2-0:

Stephen Curry was just too much to handle for Portland Trail Blazers. In game 2 of the conference finals, the 2016 NBA MVP put 37 points passed Trail Blazers in Warriors’ 111-114 victory over them to establish a 2-0 lead for Golden State. Although the scoreline reads a tight encounter between the two, Trail Blazers could’ve squared the series as they had a 15 point lead at half-time. As this game was on the road for Golden State, Kevin Durant didn’t join the team, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference for as of Sunday night, Warriors currently have a 3-0 lead.

Kwahi Leonard “The Klaw” led his team to a win in double overtime:

Just as Toronto was starting to lose hope, Kwahi Leonard lead his team to victory as Toronto beat Milwaukee 112-118. In the NBA’s first double-overtime game since 2007, The Klaw’s 36 points helped Toronto come back in the series 2-1. Leonard ended up scoring 11 shots and 12 free throws and played for a new personal record 52 minutes.

Tyreke Evans dismissed from NBA:

Pacers’ guard Tyreke Evans has to pack his bags after violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. This is the third time he’s been suspended, first for anything related to drugs, with the first suspension being in 2010.

 

NHL Playoffs

Boston sweep Carolina:

A few weeks back, in a special NHL edition of Buy or Sell, with Joel Deering, RahimAli Merchant and I, I backed the Boston Bruins to lift the Stanley Cup. On Thursday, Boston knocked Carolina out, beating them and winning the series 4-0, to advance to the Stanley Cup. In game 4, both teams were tied at 0-0 for the first 25 minutes until the Bruins scored back-to-back goals in the powerplay. Boston’s goaltender, Tuukka Rask , also came to the occasion, stopping a whopping 109 of the 114 shots he faced in the four games.

 

NFL

Le’Veon Bell to leave Jets?:

After New Jersey Jets manager Todd Bowles was fired at the end of the 2018-19 season, it seems that interim manager Adam Gase doesn’t think Le’Veon Bell fits in his plans. Gase stated that the Jets spend too much money on Bell, which points towards the possibility of Bell being traded away. Although he could find himself at Seattle or San Francisco, it seems difficult to do so at this stage, and Bell may just have to wait through this upcoming season.

Chris Long retires from Philadelphia:

After winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year last season, the defensive end Chris Long has announced the end of this eleven-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. Retiring at the age of 34, Long won two consecutive Super Bowls, 2016 with the New England Patriots and 2017 with the Eagles. His father, Howie Long, also played in the NFL and combined with Chris Long, both have a total of 154 sacks. This last season, Chris Long held 6.5 sacks to his name, his most since 2013.

 

MLB

Cardinals beat Rangers for the first time since 2011:

Since the World Series eight years ago, the Arizona Cardinals have failed to beat the Texas Rangers until Friday. It was a big win as well, with the Cardinals winning 8-2. The fifth innings seemed to be the breakthrough which saw six runs being scored by Arizona. The Cardinals also pitched well as Dakota Hudson pitched six innings, striking out five batsmen and allowing only two runs.

Ryan Pressly goes 39 games without giving up a run:

In 2011, Craig Kimbrel went 38 games without giving away a single run. In 2019, Ryan Pressly has gone 39 games and counting. He broke the record Friday night in the Houston Astros’ 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox. Since August 10, 2018, Pressley has struck out 47 batsmen and allowed only 17 hits and three walks. It was a special night for Pressly as teammate Gerrit Cole remarked: “We were all aware of what he was going for, and wow, what a special moment for him.”

Braves beat Brewers in dramatic series:

On Friday, 20 runs were scored as the Atlanta Braves beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-12. On Saturday, the Braves won, but just barely as Freddie Freeman’s homer in the tenth innings was the difference, handing Atlanta a 4-3 win and the series. This made Atlanta the first NL East team to beat Milwaukee in a series this season. However, the drama wasn’t over just yet. The Brewers found solace in another overtime game as this time, the Brewers won 3-2, thanks to Ben Gamel.

 

Boxing

Wilder quiets Breazeale in the first round:

The rivalry between heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder and challenger Dominic Breazeale had reached such a high point that Wilder threatened to kill Brezeale in the ring. Such didn’t happen, but Breazeale’s will was killed within seconds. Wilder’s right-hand punch to Breazeale’s jaw was the difference as Breazeale was knocked out in the first round. Wilder has now tied Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis for nine consecutive titles.

 

Soccer:

Manchester City hero announces retirement:

Another athlete hung up the boots this weekend, this time, in England. Manchester City and Belgium captain and defender Vincent Kompany announced he’s played his last game for City after City won their fourth Premier League title, the last two being back-to-back. Despite facing an injury-filled career, Kompany’s long-range goal against Leicester City in the 70th minute ensured City were favorites going into the final week and prevented Liverpool from winning the title. Kompany’s leaving City after winning the domestic treble this season after winning the PL, Domestic Cup and the FA Cup, and will start managing for Anderlecht in Belgium.

 

Cricket:

England stumbles to victory at Trent Bridge:

Pakistan’s poor bowling continued to cost them as England chased down Pakistan’s 340-7 with three wickets and balls to spare. In the first innings, after Imam Ul-Haq was retired hurt, Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez both made half-centuries while Babar Azam found a century. England opener Jason Roy replied with a century as well before Mohammad Hasnain took his wicket. Spin made the difference as Imad Wasim and Shoaib Malik found wickets, but Ben Stokes’ 71(64)* and Tom Curran’s 31(30) lead England to victory.

Chris Woakes bowls well in Leeds:

England wrapped up the series with a 4-0 win over Pakistan as England won the final ODI at Headingley in Leeds by 54 runs. England achieved a score of 340-7; half-centuries from Joe Root and captain Eoin Morgan and Shaheen Shah Afridi and Imad Wasim shared seven wickets. In the second innings, Pakistan was exposed to a poor start by losing three wickets in the first six runs. Babar Azam and wicketkeeper/captain Sarfaraz Ahmed steading the ship with a partnership worth 146 runs. However, Pakistan collapsed after Sarfaraz was stumped out on 97(80). Afridi and Hasnain had a comical partnership of 47 runs at the end of the innings, but the game was already lost for Pakistan by then.

Amir, Asif, Wahab in for World Cup:

Right after the England series, Pakistan announced their final World Cup squad. After an excellent performance in the England series with two half-centuries, Asif Ali was included over opener Abid Ali. From the need of serious pace in England, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have been recalled, replacing Faheem Ashraf and Junaid Khan.

Asif Ali mourns daughter’s passing:

After a long battle with cancer, Ali’s daughter has passed away at the age of 19 months after receiving treatment in the U.S. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, teammates and friends of Asif Ali from us here at Fourth Quarter Sports.

USA Women find light in T20I series against Canada:

As the men’s team finds success in ODI cricket, the women are roaring through the T20 format. The US beat Canada 3-0 in a T20 series, the first by ten wickets after restricting Canada to 66-6, the second by 37 runs after bowling Canada out for 76 and the final one by 35 runs after the Canadians could only score 81-6. In the first T20I, medium-pacer Lisa Ramjit broke records after bowling 2-5 in her four overs.

Kawhi vs Giannis is the modern day Jordan vs Shaq

The two historic playoff runs of Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo has led NBA fans to compare them to two of the greatest this game has ever seen, and now we get to see them go to war to the best of seven games!

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Giannis Antetokoummpo” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0Article by Jett Hatton

Although the two may be of different builds and personalities, Kawhi and Giannis are the modern-day reincarnations of Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

 

KAWHI LEONARD

This postseason, Kawhi is dominating his opposition on both ends of the court in a Jordaneske fashion. He’s currently averaging 31.8 points-per-game in the playoffs, while being the second most efficient player behind big man Nikola Jokic. Showcasing his elite mid-range and tough shot making ability in the moments where it counts most – clutch time. In what has been a historic playoff run, The Klaw most recently created history by sending Joel Embiid and Philadelphia 76ers home with nothing but a swarm of tissues.

With four seconds left on the clock in game seven of the series, Kawhi hit one of the toughest game-winning shots in NBA history. It was the first buzzer beater in a game seven EVER! Not to mention, he got the shot off over seven-foot DPOY candidate Joel Embiid to ice the game and add his 41st point. The only other players in NBA history you could imagine making that kind of a shot, would be none other than the likes of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.

 

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

Shaquille O’Neal himself handed the title of ‘superman’ over to Giannis. Like Shaq, Giannis has been the most dominating force in the NBA. He’s led the Milwaukee Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals with only one post-season loss. He’s averaging Shaq-like numbers of 27.4 points and 11.3 rebounds, while adding 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. What is crazy is, he has only played 38+ minutes once in his nine playoff games. However, the one thing Shaq didn’t have was a 3-point shot, with the Greek Freak hitting 32% of his shots behind the arc in the playoffs.

Although Giannis hasn’t been showing his talents off in the clutch like Kawhi, he isn’t allowing for the team to be in that position, with the closest game being a win by seven points against the Celtics. Apart from that game and the one loss, the Bucks have won by 12 points or more each game – winning by 20 or more on five occasion, including a 35-point blowout.

 

WHO LEADS THEIR TEAM TO THE FINALS?

You can make great cases for both sides to triumph to the finals, and obviously a series is decided by more than one lone player, but this is more about Giannis vs Kawhi rather than the Raptors vs the Bucks.

Which of the two will replace LeBron James as the representative for the Eastern Conference? It’s a tough question, and I’m guessing we will be gifted with another long series. MJ won six and Shaq won four, and I’ve got Kawhi coming on top here. There is no one in the league who can guard Giannis, but I’m a firm believer The Klaw can make another trip to the NBA finals, and continue to write history.

Being a finals MVP, he already has the championship blood, and he has just been the better player during these playoffs. I’m not knocking the talent of Giannis and the Bucks, only having only lost one game and putting up historic numbers as a team, but they played a Pistons squad without Blake Griffin for two games, and then faced a dysfunctional Celtics team who had more problems than one could imagine.

On the other hand, the path handed to Kawhi and the Raptors wasn’t of the same ease. He disposed of a hungry Magic team in the first round, a team which had a bunch of talent. Then they were stacked against the Philadelphia 76ers, who had an insane starting five. And yes, it took him seven games to knock them off, but in the end, The Klaw ended them in style.

This series will have plenty of close games, but Kawhi is the rare type of player who you can give the ball to and trust to take the team to the promise land.

Which remaining NBA team is best equipped to dethrone the Warriors?

If you’re a fan of the NBA and not a Golden State Warriors fan, there’s a good chance you’re rooting against the defending NBA champions this postseason. It’s about time we see the Warriors’ dynasty come to an end, but is there a team who can dethrone the Warriors?

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Joel Embiid” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

On my way to work a few days ago, I asked my co-worker who he thought, if anyone can, has the best chance at dethroning the Golden State Warriors as NBA champions. He answered by saying the Philadelphia 76ers. I politely disagreed, but realized I didn’t have a sure answer to my own question.

Who do I think has the best chance to dethrone the defending champs? We’ll get there in a minute, but first let me tell you why I don’t think it’s the 76ers. Yes, the 76ers have a starting lineup that’s perhaps the second best in the NBA, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best chance at beating the Warriors.

For any team to beat the Warriors, there are two main things that team needs to do. What are those two things?

  1. Shoot well

  2. Play great defense

For the 76ers, I believe their talent matches up to what the Warriors have, but their shooting doesn’t. Ben Simmons can’t shoot, Joel Embiid can shoot, but he’s not consistent, and both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are solid shooters, but neither measure up to what the Warriors can do. I’m confident in JJ Redick as a shooter, but he’s not going to have the ball as much as Simmons, Embiid, Butler and Harris.

As far as their defense goes, the 76ers rank seventh among the 16 playoff teams in points allowed per game. Not bad, but it’s also not great either. In order to beat the Warriors, I think a team needs to have a great defense while also having a great shooting team. I believe the 76ers could win a game or two against the Warriors, but I don’t think they shoot well enough or play good enough defense.

Is there a team like that remaining in the NBA playoffs? Yes.

Who is it? The Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee Bucks - Dethrone Warriors
“Giannis Antetokounmpo” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

How did I come to the conclusion that the Milwaukee Bucks have the best chance to dethrone the Warriors? Numbers, of course! Let’s take a look at how the Bucks fit the qualifications of shooting well and playing great defense.

 

Shoot well

Of all the teams in the playoffs this postseason, the Milwaukee Bucks rank second in points per game, behind the Golden State Warriors. Their 117.6 points per game is the closest average to the Warriors’ 120.8 points per game.

We can’t just look at points per game. We’ll also look at field goal and three point percentage. The Bucks have a FG percentage of .476, which is second only to the Warriors’ .491 FG percentage.

Then there’s three point percentage. The Boston Celtics actually have the best percentage in the playoffs, but the Warriors are second and the Bucks are third. The Bucks have a three point percentage that’s almost identical to that of the Warriors. The Warriors have a three point percentage of .384, while the Bucks shoot a percentage of .380. The Bucks may not seem like a team who can compete with some of the best shooters in NBA history from the three point line, but their numbers say otherwise.

 

Great defense

The Warriors play great defense, but their points per game allowed actually rank 13th among all playoff teams. Regardless of if their defense is doing well or not, the Warriors have the best offense, which means if a team is going to take them down, they must play great defense.

The Milwaukee Bucks have the fourth best points allowed per game average in the playoffs, and are third among active playoff teams. They also rank 3rd among active teams in FG% allowed. To top that off, the Bucks rank first in blocks per game in the playoffs.

 

Summary

According to the numbers, the Milwaukee Bucks may not have the best overall defense among playoff teams, but they’ve got a defense more than capable of locking down their opponents. They’re towards the top when it comes to defense. Combined that with the second best offense, second only to the Warriors, the Bucks have everything they need to dethrone the Warriors if they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

Which remaining NBA team is best equipped to dethrone the Warriors? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Fourth Quarter Sports’ NBA playoff predictions: Second round

Okay, so that was one of the more boring first rounds of NBA playoff history. Looking back at the early round predictions, things went pretty well for us, except what Damian Lillard did to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“K26A0442” by nikk_la is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

I never thought the Blazers had a real chance to beat the Thunder if it went to all seven games, but they didn’t even need that. I knew Lillard was underrated, and I love how he’s always been an underdog his whole career, but he made Westbrook look like a rookie out there.

But aside from Lillard’s incredible series winning three-pt shot over Paul George in game five, several other things happened too.

Things like the Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley giving it all they have against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. That even resulted in ejections by both Beverly and Warriors’ Kevin Durant. And of course, DeMarcus Cousins got injured again. Lou Williams was also proving why he is the best player ever to come off the bench.

The Houston Rockets took care of the Utah Jazz with ease, as James Harden and Chris Paul proved to be too much for Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz.

Speaking of handling, the Spurs and Nuggets battled their way into a game seven, and it could’ve gone either way. But the Nuggets found a way to wrap up the series behind Nikola Jokic’s triple-double.

The Eastern Conference playoffs weren’t worth watching at all. Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics swept their opponents in four games, and you would’ve thought that the Indiana Pacers would’ve given the Celtics a bit of a challenge.

The Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers lost shocking game ones, only to win four straight games and finish the series in five games.

But now that we have the next round of matchups set after a long seven-game series between the Spurs and Nuggets, we will take a look at the second round predictions.

Before we get started, I would like us all to take a moment of silence for one of the greatest Celtics in history, John Havlicek, as he passed away on Thursday at the age of 79.

Playoff matchups:

Western Conference: Eastern Conference:
  1. Warriors vs. 4. Rockets 1. Bucks vs. 4. Celtics
  2. Nuggets vs. 3. Blazers 2. Raptors vs. 3. 76ers

That’s what the playoffs look like, but let’s see what our predictions are!

Rahim’s picks:

West:

4. Rockets over 1. Warriors in seven

3. Blazers over 2. Nuggets in six

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in seven

2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in six

Aman’s picks:

West:

4. Rockets over 1. Warriors in six

2. Nuggets over 3. Blazers in five

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in seven

2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in seven

Joel’s picks:

West:

1. Warriors over 4. Rockets in seven

2. Nuggets over 3. Blazers in six

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in six

2. Raptors over 3. Sixers in seven

Dan’s picks:

West:

1. Warriors over 4. Rockets in six

3. Blazers over 2. Nuggets in seven

East:

1. Bucks over 4. Celtics in six

3. Sixers over 2. Raptors in seven

Aman seemed to be the only one who picked the Blazers and Spurs to win their first-round series, and he got the number of games right for them too. But this round should be different. The question is, can the Rockets beat the Warriors in the second round? Aman and I both think that’s the case here. I honestly believe that with a healthy Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and James Harden, the Rockets could do it. The addition of Kenneth Faried off the bench is also a plus because it will force the Warriors to make adjustments when Faried and Capela are on the floor together. Will the loss of DeMarcus Cousins affect the Warriors in their pursuit of the three-peat?

Nonetheless, I think the winner of this series will make it to the NBA finals, and that will be more clear in a few more weeks. Aman doesn’t seem to have faith in the Blazers in this round, as we saw Lillard play lights out. Look to see him do more of what he has been doing because that guy is hungry and unless he gets a snicker, he’ll never be satisfied.

Everyone seems to think the Bucks will eliminate Kyrie Irving and the Celtics in either six or seven games, making them the front runner for the NBA finals. But Dan thinks the Sixers will knock off Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors, while the rest of us believe the Raptors will face the Bucks.

Behind all the great picks in the NFL draft, there was still the first round of the NBA playoffs being wrapped up. Though you might have tuned out of the last few games, we should now look at the next round. We continue to give you our predictions for the next round, through to the NBA Finals.