Why the Orlando Magic should trade for Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook seems to be on his way out of OKC. When will that happen? We don’t know, but where he’ll land is the better question. One team who should pursue the All-Star and former MVP, is the Orlando Magic.

Orlando Magic
2013 Orlando Magic 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and “Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“There have been a lot of teams that aren’t in major markets that have acquired star players, and there are many different ways to acquire those guys these days. With that being said, that’s not where we are. Where we are is we need to build on what we established last year.”

The above is a quote from Orlando’s President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, while commenting on how he believes Orlando needs to build on what they did last year when they made the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 NBA season. While I like what Weltman had to say, I also believe his comments are wrong in one way or another.

 

How Weltman’s correct

Weltman’s comments are correct in the sense that Orlando needs to build on what they did last season. After making the playoffs for the first time in seven years, this team can’t afford to move backwards. Their goal should obviously be to move forward and get better.

Orlando got a good start to building on what they accomplished last season by re-signing two of their own free agents, Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross. Those two guys were perhaps the two biggest factors in this team making the playoffs last season. That’s a great start, but now it’s time for Orlando to make a move that really takes them to the next level.

 

How Weltman’s incorrect

I like that Jeff Weltman wants to build on what Orlando did last season, but I also don’t like a part of his comments noted above. The part I don’t like, is that Weltman said Orlando is not in a place to add a star player.

That’s ridiculous! It contradicts everything he said about wanting to take the next step.

Yes, Orlando made the playoffs last season, but how far did they go? They won their first game against the Toronto Raptors, but then lost four straight games to lose that series 4-1. Does he honestly think that simply re-signing two of their own guys and adding Al-Farouq Aminu to the mix will make them that much better?

While the moves they made in free agency were good for the team as a whole, I believe those moves keeps them right where they are. I don’t really see them building on anything with the moves they’ve made. Orlando will need to make a move bigger than signing their own guys and a role player in order to truly take the next step, and the perfect opportunity is sitting right in front of them.

 

Trade for Russell Westbrook

I find it hard to believe that a player like Russell Westbrook is hanging there for the taking, yet the Orlando Magic aren’t going to take that opportunity. This is even more shocking when you consider what’s been one of their biggest weaknesses over the last few years: the point guard position.

D.J. Augustin did a really nice job as the PG last season, but in no way is he an All-Star caliber player at the position. Augustin would be most effective coming off the bench as the backup.

Then there’s Markelle Fultz. It was just last season Orlando decided to trade for the troubled former No. 1 overall pick. The reason they traded for him is because they knew they needed to get better at the point guard position in order to take the next step. I hate to break it to Orlando, but if Fultz does end up being an All-Star caliber point guard, it’s going to take time. How long will that take? It’s anyone’s guess. It may not ever happen.

If Orlando knows they need to get better at the point guard spot, why not make a trade for the best available point guard out there?

 

How adding Westbrook would work

If Orlando made a trade for Westbrook and were able to keep Nikola Vucevic, which I believe they’d easily be able to do, they’d take care of their biggest position need and give themselves two All-Star caliber players. In today’s NBA, it takes more than one All-Star caliber player to win games.

A trade for Russell Westbrook would not only give Orlando two All-Stars, but it would give them one of the best players at his position in the entire league. Many people don’t like the way Westbrook plays, but I think he’d fit in perfectly with the players Orlando has.

Offense

Westbrook is one of the fastest and quickest players in the league. He thrives at driving into the lane to get buckets. Where he also excels, is creating shots for his teammates after driving into the lane. That’s perfect, because Orlando has an All-Star big man by the name of Nikola Vucevic who likes to hang out near the basket. With the ability to score around the basket both Westbrook and Vucevic have, they’d be tough to stop in the paint.

Their inside scoring ability would be great, but we can’t forget about the guys on the outside. Orlando ranked 13th in three-point percentage last season. That’s not great, but it’s in the top half of the league. With Westbrook and Vucevic as constant inside threats, it’d only open up more outside shots for their teammates. That would likely improve their three-point shooting.

Defense

Then there’s the defense. Orlando was one of the better defensive teams in the NBA last season, ranking 8th in defensive rating. While their defensive rating ranked top 10 in the league, their offense ranked 22nd. Russell Westbrook would help improve the Orlando Magic offense, but he’s also help them improve defensively.

Westbrook was part of a defense that ranked 4th in defensive rating a season ago. Paul George gets a lot of the credit for that, but Westbrook was a big part of it too. Westbrook would be surrounded by good defenders in Orlando, which would create a team who’d improve both offensively and defensively.

 

If Orlando wants to truly build on what they did last year, they have to make a trade for Westbrook. Would Westbrook make Orlando championship contenders? Probably not. Would he make them better than what they are now? Definitely. That’s exactly what Orlando is looking for. 

 

What you may have missed this weekend: 3/1 – 3/3

It was another weekend of interesting sports events. I hope you didn’t miss any of it, but in case you did, you know this is the place where you can get all caught up.

This weekend there was a lot of different things going on from all aspects of the sports world. For College Basketball and NBA, it’s about wrapping up the season as they prepare themselves for the playoffs or tournament. But we have headlines in other sports including Soccer and Cricket. Let’s find out what we missed.

“Giannis Antetokounmpo” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NBA

Bulls beat Hawks in 4OT:

If I told you that two of the leagues worst teams battled in an epic game for the ages, would you believe me? I wouldn’t either, but it happened, and it was one of the best games in history. It was the 3rd highest scoring game in NBA history (168-161). It was also only the 15th four overtime game in NBA history. These two teams tied an NBA record with 43 three-pointers made.

That wasn’t all though, it was the first of two games between the two teams over the weekend. In this game, we saw Chicago Bulls players like Lauri Markkanen (31 pts), Zach Lavine (47 pts), and Otto Porter (31 pts) come up big. For Atlanta, it was rookie point guard Trae Young who shined to became the 1st rookie with 45 points and 10 Assists since the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan.

Game two on Sunday came down to the wire as well, but no overtime, as the Hawks held on to beat the Bulls after Kris Dunn missed the game-tying three. Markkanen and Lavine combined for 31 points, and Porter didn’t even play. Trae Young got ejected with 9:20 left in the third quarter after he received a double technical earlier in the game. Young finished with just 18 points.

Milwaukee Bucks first team to clinch playoffs:

The Bucks have been the league’s best team all season long, and they have one of the best players in the game to lead them. Bucks forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is one of the top candidates for Most Valuable Player this season. He and the Bucks became the first team to clinch a playoff spot with their win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

These Bucks are playing the best basketball of their careers, as guard Khris Middleton became a first-time All-Star. Guard Eric Bledsoe has finally come into his own with this Bucks team. He has been a huge part of their success this season. Bledsoe also earned himself a much-deserved contract extension with the Bucks. The deal was four years for $70 million.

Celtics, Thunder break their 4-game skid:

The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder are arguably two of the best teams in the league, but they both went on runs that were not favorable. They both lost four straight games until this weekend.

The Thunder lost to teams who are all in the playoff picture, like the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs. Since Westbrook’s triple-double streak ended, the Thunder have been struggling to win games. The good thing is that he and Paul George have continued to play well together, so they will still be one of the best in the West.

The Celtics lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers. The Celtics were having a tough time winning any game. Let’s be honest, we probably thought they were going to be the top team in the East, seeing how they went all the way to the Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, that hasn’t been the case this season.

Soccer:

Tottenham, Arsenal fail to cross the finish line:

Though it was hard to decide which of the two teams played better, one thing is certain: Arsenal let it slip.

Arsenal played the first half to their taste, scoring the opening goal through Aaron Ramsey, coming from a counter-attack after a Tottenham corner. In the second half, a foul in the box saw Harry Kane scoring in his ninth fixture against Arsenal, the penalty being the equalizer.

Towards the end of the match, Arsenal had a golden opportunity to take the game home, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his penalty saved by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. In the last moments of the game, Arsenal substitute Lucas Torriera was shown a red card. The match ended 1-1, Arsenal in fourth, four points behind Tottenham in third.

Atlanta United’s mistakes cost them versus DC United:

Despite Atlanta United beating Herediano 4-0 before coming into the MLS opener against DC United, DC United was too good for Atlanta to handle. From early on, it seemed DC had most of the control of the ball and Atlanta struggled to find the opponent’s box. Then, finally, in the last minute of the first half, DC found a breakthrough through Paul Arriolia. Atlanta were unable to improve in the second half, as Luciano Acosta brought over his form from last season and scored from outside the box.

Cricket:

Liam Dawson heroics help Peshawar Zalmi cross the line against Islamabad United:

Oh, Peshawar Zalmi badly needed revenge against Islamabad United. They lost to United in last year’s Pakistan Super League (PSL) final and once again earlier this season by 12 runs, kudos to a Mohammad Sami hat-trick. But this time around, Peshawar didn’t give up hope, not even till the last ball. In the first innings, it seemed Cameron Delport had won the match for Islamabad with his 71(55). But in the second innings, Liam Dawson and captain Darren Sammy responded well, putting up an 89-run partnership, until Sammy was dismissed for 40. Off of the last ball, Peshawar needed a boundary to win, and Dawson drove Sami straight down the ground towards long-on for just that.

Ahmed Shehzad, Rilee Rossouw helps Quetta Gladiators climb above Multan Sultans:

Though it took them 19 overs, the Quetta Gladiators managed to successfully register another win against the Multan Sultans. Multan was only able to put up 121, 46 of those runs being Johson Charles. Darren Bravo and Sohail Tanvir each took three wickets with Mohammad Nawaz grabbing two and Mohammad Hasnain having one to his name. Quetta’s batting got off to a good start, with the Shane Watson-Ahsan Ali partnership lasting 49 runs, until birthday-boy Shahid Afridi removed Watson for 33. Ahmed Shehzad scored a sturdy 28(35)* and Rilee Rossouw’s 35(33) was sufficient enough as Quetta won by six wickets.

Lahore PSL matches relocated to Karachi:

This year, eight PSL matches were to be held in Pakistan, three in Lahore, five in Karachi. However, due to flight scheduling issues, all the matches will be held in the southern city of Karachi. The first game in Karachi begins on March 7, with the hosts Karachi Kings taking on Peshawar Zalmi. The playoffs and final will also be held in Karachi.

College Basketball:

Losses by top 25 teams:

4 Kentucky to 7 Tennessee (71-52)

6 Michigan State to Indiana (63-62)

8 Houston to Central Florida (69-64)

22 Iowa to Rutgers (86-72)

12 Nevada to Utah State (81-76)

10 Marquette to Creighton (66-60)

17 Maryland to 9 Michigan (69-62)

Is lightning striking for the OKC Thunder?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and are playing impressive team basketball. This has started the conversation of if this team has the potential to become the best team the city has seen since the move from Seattle in 2008.

2013 Oklahoma City Thunder 1Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Obviously, Kevin Durant and James Harden played alongside Russell Westbrook for the beginning of their careers in Oklahoma City. That team even made the NBA Finals in 2012. However, with Russell Westbrook embracing a more team-player style of play and Paul George playing at an MVP caliber level, Oklahoma City looks like a legitimate title threat THIS year.

The Golden State Warriors are still in a class of their own and the clear favorite to make the NBA Finals from the Western Conference. With LeBron and the Lakers fighting to even make the playoffs, the only true competition for the Warriors seems to be the Thunder.

Russell Westbrook is currently on pace to average, yes AVERAGE, a triple double for the third consecutive season, an accomplishment the league has never even heard of. Additionally, Westbrook is averaging a career high in rebounds and assists this season. Russ is playing less selfish basketball, and the whole team is benefiting because of this improvement.

I can’t help but wonder what the Thunder could have achieved had Russ adapted this team-first style of play when Kevin Durant was still on the roster. The closest we may get to finding out that answer is with the current team roster. I believe many people were shocked that Paul George re-signed with with Oklahoma City last summer, and maybe Westbrook’s selling point to PG was he could be the on-court leader of this team.

George is averaging career highs in points, rebounds AND assists this year. He has become a more well-rounded player, and I am sure part of that has to do with his playing proximity to Mr. Triple Double himself. But for a superstar like Paul George to improve to career highs in the three key statistical categories all in the same season, you start to wonder if there is truly lightning striking for the OKC Thunder.

Billy Donovan has found the perfect roster of role players to fit into the game alongside Westbrook and George. Donovan plays more than 10 players in almost every game, which allows his players to get enough rest and be efficient with their time on the court. This Thunder bench is deep. With Dennis Schroder, the team now has something they never had before: a reliable court general when Russ is out of the game.

Point guard depth was the biggest issue the Thunder faced in the playoffs, and now they have addressed that issue with Schroder. The acquisition of Markieff Morris, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards, continues to strengthen an already deep bench. Morris said the main reason he chose to sign with the Thunder was because of the fun they have as a team and the friendly locker room environment. Additionally, Morris noted that Paul George and Russell Westbrook are each other’s biggest fans and revel in each other’s success and accomplishments.

So do you think the Thunder have the potential to win the Western Conference this year? If they remain the No. 3 seed or even move up to the No. 2 seed, they would avoid the Warriors until the Western Conference Finals. This is the best case scenario, as OKC would have time to build playoff chemistry and continue to develop confidence in their play.

All the talk regarding the NBA playoffs is about the Eastern Conference, because of the logjam at the top of that conference. Because of that, the West talk has been limited to the Warriors and their incredible starting five. As the Thunder maintain the under the radar status, they are becoming more and more dangerous. Come April, the Oklahoma City Thunder will absolutely be the #1 threat to break the Warriors’ four year consecutive Western Conference title streak.

Buy or Sell: 2001 Patriots, OKC Thunder, Fultz’ fresh start

It’s been a long time since we’ve done an edition of Buy or Sell, but it’s back now, and we hope to keep it going.

James Harden” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In this returning version of Buy or Sell, Mickayeen Farner, Joel Deering and I discuss three big topics. These topics include the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots from 2001, the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder team that could’ve been, and a former No. 1 overall pick looking for a fresh start to prove he’s worthy of being number one.

So let’s see what we all have to say this week.

Mickayeen: The 2001 Patriots would still have won the Super Bowl if Bledsoe was the starter over Brady in that game. (Some forget, Brady was injured in the AFC championship and it was Bledsoe who took them to the Super Bowl).

RahimAli: I buy the 2001 New England Patriots would have won the Super Bowl if Drew Bledsoe was the QB. I mean yeah, it’s a great story for Tom Brady to have won his first Super Bowl after taking over the starting job when Bledsoe went down with an injury. However, it was Bledsoe, not Brady who helped get them into the Super Bowl.

Let me also remind you all that it was the Patriots’ defense and kicker who helped Brady win that Super Bowl. You can relive the moments of that Super Bowl here. Also, take a look at the stats by Brady in the Super Bowl and Bledsoe in the AFC Championship.

For Brady in the AFC Championship win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he went 12-15 for 115 yards and zero touchdowns. Bledsoe was 10-21 for 102 yards and one touchdown. That one touchdown was the only offense scored by the Patriots, as they got two special teams touchdowns and a field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

Brady went into the Super Bowl and went 16-27 for 145 yards and one touchdown. That was also the only offensive score for the Patriots in that 20-17 win.

So could Bledsoe have gotten the Patriots the win? Yes, he could have. Time management is the biggest thing in the fourth quarter of an NFL game going down to the wire. He was able to manage the clock in the second half of the championship the week prior, ultimately scoring a touchdown and setting up the kick.

Would the game plan have gone a different? Probably, but both Patriots QBs at the time could’ve won that game.

Joel: I buy the Patriots winning the Super Bowl in 2001 if Bledsoe was the QB over Brady. It’s not like Brady was the greatest QB in that game. His passer rating was 86.2. He completed just 59.3% of his passes for 145 and one TD. It’s not like he was spectacular. He’s was average at best.

I agree with RahimAli that it was the defense of the Patriots who won that game for them. The kicker helped too. Tom Brady did help the Patriots get into position to score points, but with how the defense played in that game, I think Bledsoe could have done just as good of a job.

 

RahimAli: If they stayed together, Westbrook and Harden would have helped Durant bring a title to Oklahoma City?

Mickayeen: I sell the idea that Westbrook, Harden and Durant would have, if they stayed together, brought a championship to OKC. Both Harden and Westbrook have become ball-dominant guards with below-average defensive skills. It’s because of that I don’t think they would have been able to win it all with those two on the same team.

That doesn’t sound like a good recipe for playoff success. One could argue that Harden would have been great off the bench, but I just don’t see how Harden would have been worth an extra three wins against the Heat in 2012 or how he could have improved them enough to get past the Spurs in subsequent years.

Joel: I’ll buy that Durant, Westbrook and Harden would have brought a title to OKC had they stayed together.

First off, they made it to the NBA Finals in 2012. Yes, they lost, but Durant was just 23, Westbrook was only 23 and Harden was just 22.

With Harden gone, it took OKC until 2016 to almost make it back to the Finals. That’s the year they were up 3-1 on the Warriors and ended up losing. I believe if they still had Harden that year, they would have made the Finals and closed out the series instead of blowing it.

Mickayeen makes a good point that Harden and Westbrook are ball dominant guards, but I think that could have worked. Many thought Harden and Chris Paul wouldn’t work because they’re both ball dominant guards, but that has worked out nicely for them.

Westbrook likes the ball, but he has learned to take a back seat to Paul George. I think with more time with Durant and Harden, Westbrook would have figured out how to play a lot better with them, resulting in at the very least another Finals appearance, if not a championship.

 

Joel: Markelle Fultz having a fresh start in Orlando will result in him living up to being the No. 1 overall pick in his draft class.

RahimAli: I buy the fresh start for Markelle Fultz, but I’m selling on him living up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick. I don’t even think he’s the best pick in his class, and he wasn’t the right pick for a team that’s all about “the process.”

I’m not saying Fultz is a bust at No. 1, because we honestly haven’t seen a full season out of him yet. But guys like Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma will probably have a better chance at living up to the hype.

This move is good for Fultz though, because he gets to go to an Orlando Magic team who hasn’t found their identity at the point guard position. They thought it might have been Elfrid Payton, but we saw how that worked out last season. The Magic are in the hunt for a playoff spot, and they have good pieces around Fultz to help him grow and excel his game.

With the Sixers, they used his struggle to motivate Ben Simmons to be the point guard, and there just wasn’t enough minutes for Fultz to get the experience he needs to try to live up to the expectations of being a No. 1 pick.

Mickayeen: I semi-sell the idea that Fultz having a fresh start will result in him living up to the hype of a first overall pick. I say semi because I do think a fresh start will be good for him. He might even make an all-star game or two, but I don’t think he’ll ever live up to the number one overall pick.

When I think number one overall, I think of guys like Hakeem Olajuwon, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Shaq, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, etc… you get the idea. It’s a high bar to try and reach, but it comes with the number one overall pick.

************************************************************************************And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Could Bledsoe have won the Super Bowl for the Patriots in 2001?
  • Would Durant, Harden and Westbrook have won titles for Oklahoma City if they stayed together?
  • Will Fultz’ move to Orlando help him prove he deserved to be the No. 1 overall pick?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

NBA season review: 1/21 – 2/12

We are now at the All-Star break in the NBA season, where, we’ll be delighted with some of the best players going head to head in an exhibition. We’ll also see other stars compete in different competitions, such as the skills challenge, 3-pt shoot out, dunk contest and then, of course, the USA vs. World game.

I’ll tell you all about the competitors in each of those, along with where we stand in the playoff picture as of Monday, Feb. 11th.

Dwyane Wade: Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11 by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As you can see from the last standings, there’s not much change from last time, besides the teams who have fallen continuously. Those teams are the Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves, who you can find more about in the cold teams’ section. What’s the cause of this? Trades, injuries, tanking for Zion? Let’s see what we missed over the past three weeks in the NBA, especially with the Trades and All-Star weekend.

Biggest trades:

Some of the best teams in the league made moves to get better down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs. Some of the worst teams made moves to clear cap space for the hot free agent pool that will be open this summer.

  • Raptors and Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol to Raptors for C Jonas Valanciunas, G Delon Wright, F/G CJ Miles, 2024 second-round pick
  • Pistons, Bucks, Pelicans: F Thon Maker to Pistons, F Nikola Mirotic to Bucks, F/C Jason Smith, F Stanley Johnson and Four future second-round picks (via Detroit) to Pelicans
  • Magic and Sixers: G Markelle Fultz to Magic for F Jonathon Simmons, Protected 2019 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
  • Grizzlies and Clippers: G Avery Bradley to Grizzlies for G/F Garrett Temple and F JaMychal Green
  • Kings and Mavericks: F Harrison Barnes to Kings for F Justin Jackson and F Zach Randolph
  • Bulls and Wizards: F Otto Porter Jr. for F Jabari Parker and F Bobby Portis
  • Sixers and Clippers: F Tobias Harris, C Boban Marjanovic, F Mike Scott to Sixers for F Wilson Chandler, F/C Mike Muscala, G Landry Shamet, 2020 first-round pick, 2021 first-round pick (from Miami), Two future second-round picks (from Detroit)
  • Trail Blazers and Cavaliers: G Rodney Hood to Trail Blazers for G Wade Baldwin IV, G Nik Stauskas and Two future second-round picks
  • Mavericks and Knicks: F Kristaps Porzingis, G Tim Hardaway, Jr., G Courtney Lee, and G Trey Burke to Dallas for C DeAndre Jordan, G Dennis Smith, Jr., G/F Wesley Matthews, and two future first-round picks

 

All-Star Rosters:

Now that we are all caught up on what has happened these past few weeks, let’s take a look at the standings as of Monday, Feb. 11th

East:                      West:

1. Bucks (42-14)            1. Warriors(40-15)

2. Raptors (42-16)         2. Nuggets (38-18)

3. Pacers (38-19)          3. Thunder (37-19)

4. 76ers (36-20)            4. Blazers (33-23)

5. Celtics (35-21)          5. Rockets (33-23)

6. Nets (29-29)              6. Jazz (32-24)

7. Hornets (27-29)        7. Spurs (32-26)

8. Pistons (26-29)         8. Kings (30-26)

9. Heats (25-30)            9. Clippers (31-27)

10. Magic (25-32)         10. Lakers (28-28)

11. Wizards (24-33)      11. Mavericks (26-30)

After looking at where each team stands in the playoff race, let’s turn our attention to the teams who have been cold and hot for over the past few weeks.

 

Cold Teams

Miami Heat

The last time we did this article, the Heat looked like a team who was comfortably in the playoffs. Since then, they have traded away two of their better shooters for an experienced veteran, Ryan Anderson. They’ve still got Goran Dragic, but don’t have any player in the All-Star game. Well, there is Dwayne Wade, but that’s only because it’s his final season. Can Wade help lead this young team back to the playoffs?

New Orleans Pelicans

I understand being a bad team when your best player is out, but holding your best player out longer than expected doesn’t help the moral of the team and the players. That player is Anthony Davis. He was one of the biggest names talked about on the trade block, until no deal was done. Davis is now back, but the team has put a limit on his minutes and aren’t putting in enough effort in to win games.

San Antonio Spurs

For the Spurs, it’s been a rough couple of weeks of injuries that has messed up the chemistry of the team. They’re right where they should be in terms of the playoffs, and shouldn’t be on the cold list for long. But the four straight losses doesn’t help. Let’s watch over the next few weeks and see how the Spurs continue to climb.

 

Unless they can make a run for the hot list next week. But that’s then, let’s see about the now and who’s on a hot streak!

Hot Teams

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are currently on a six game winning streak without their all-star guard, Victor Oladipo. The Pacers are in the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They recently added G Wesley Matthews to help fill the void left by Oladipo, but they’re streaking and show no signs of slowing down.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Speaking of streaking, the Thunder are winners of 10 of their last 12 games. During that time, PG Russell Westbrook has set a new NBA record for most consecutive games with a triple-double (10). He did that in Monday’s big win over Portland. Teammate Paul George also had triple-double while scoring 47 points. Both Westbrook and George will be a part of the All-Star game this weekend as teammates on Team Giannis.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are all in this season. They made the trade to get Kawhi Leonard in the offseason and have continued to make the right moves all season long! The most recent move was the trade acquisition of Marc Gasol. The Raptors have one chance to win it all before the decision of Kawhi Leonard this offseason. We should expect to see them as one of the top two teams in the East, but can they get to the next level without having to worry about LeBron James knocking them out again?

*******************

As we watch the league continue to play great basketball, we should also remember to spend our Feb. 14th with our lovely partners to show and appreciate how much they truly mean to us. That way you can enjoy all the All-Star fun over the weekend.

What? Did you really think I would tell you to miss the most exciting weekend in the NBA for a date? That’s what restaurants with televisions are for. But also, make sure you don’t get caught looking as she talks!

What you missed this weekend in sports: 2/8-2/10

Okay, so we missed last weekend of giving you the updates of what you missed, but there wasn’t really much we missed anyway. Well, besides the last game of the NFL season, which happened to be the biggest one of the year. That was the Super Bowl played between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots in Atlanta, Georgia.

By now, you all know the results. It was one of the most boring Super Bowls I’ve ever watched. Don’t believe me? Read Joel’s point of view on it here. I was so bored with what I was watching I forgot about writing altogether.

This week, however, is different! I’m finally over the results of Super Bowl LIII that saw the New England Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl title in the last 17 years. Their first and sixth were against the Rams in both Super Bowl XXXVI and this past one. Want to relive moments of that Super Bowl? Read here!

There weren’t any NFL games this weekend, but there was other important news. For example, the question of whether or not some key players will remain with their current team. We have already seen some news, like the Atlanta Falcons parting ways with veteran kicker Matt Bryant and cornerback Robert Alford. But there was much more than that. Let’s get you all caught up on what you may have missed!

James Harden Kobe Bryant 2015 best NBA players.” by Alexandra Walt is licensed under Public Domain

NBA

Harden, Westbrook chasing NBA legend

It was a Saturday night to remember in the NBA, as we all got to see two of the NBA’s greatest players battle it out. Not only was it a game between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, but a game of two All-Stars chasing history.

Rockets’ James Harden is currently on a 29-game streak of 30+ points or more, which is the third most in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain holds the NBA record with 65 straight games and also 31 straight. Harden may not be able to catch the 65 mark this season, but he could pass Chamberlain for second on the list.

Another NBA record Chamberlain holds is the most consecutive games with a triple-double, which is nine. On Saturday, Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook tied that record late in the game and will look to pass it in their next game Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Celtics, Rockets blow 25 + point lead at home

Speaking of the Rockets and Thunder, the game went back and forth, as both teams had a chance to win it at the end. But that chance was the Rockets’ to lose after blowing a 26-point lead in the first half. They watched Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder come back and win 117-112 on the road. The Rockets and Thunder are two of the top five teams in the West. There’s been a lot of talks about how these two could be a tough challenge for the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Another team who we expect to have been a real challenge for the Warriors is the Boston Celtics. That’s because of a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the mix. Or so we hope it’s a healthy Irving, as he left the Celtics game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Irving’s injury was a right knee sprain that held him out for the rest of the game and helped the Clippers mount a huge 28-point comeback victory in TD Garden with a 123-112 win. That was the Celtics second straight home loss to an L.A. team, as the fans went from chanting “Beat LA,” to booing their home team. Irving is listed as day-to-day, but no word yet on whether he’ll play Tuesday.

LeBron James went to College

After the Lakers and James used a Rajon Rondo buzzer-beater on Thursday night to beat the Boston Celtics, they decided to take their talents to the Cavaliers and Virginia. Both James and Rondo were spotted in the crowd during the Duke and Virginia game on Saturday. Let’s be honest, they should have been in the gym with their teammates to prepare for their game against the Philadelphia 76ers, which did not go as well as they hoped.

Ellington, Matthews found new homes

In case, you missed all the crazy moves and trades made before the deadline on Thursday, Joel Deering and Jon Geib will give you the winners and losers from the deadline here. But some of those trades resulted in players finding new teams after being released by the team who traded for them. That is the case for both Wayne Ellington and Wesley Matthews, who were both traded from their original teams and then cut by their new team.

For Ellington, it was a trade between the Miami Heat (original) and Phoenix Suns (traded) for Ryan Anderson. Ellington and Tyler Johnson were both traded to the Suns. Ellington was later cut and cleared the waivers. Ellington’s new team will now be the Detriot Pistons.

Matthews was traded as part of the Kristap Porzingis deal the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks made that ultimately led him to get waived and signed by the Indiana Pacers. Matthews signing with the Pacers will help them fill the void left with All-Star guard Victor Oladipo out of the season.  

 

Soccer

Chelsea embarrasses themselves in Manchester

Manchester City and Argentina forward Sergio Aguero is now tied for the Premier League top goalscorer with 17 goals and the most EPL hat-tricks with 11. Six of those 17 goals have come in the last two games, three vs. Arsenal, three now vs. Chelsea. But the scoreline between Man City and Chelsea was even crazier. 6-0! Two goals by Raheem Sterling and a goal from Ilkay Gundogan, along with Aguero’s hat-trick took Man City back to the top of the table, tied on points with Liverpool, but boasting a goal difference ten goals higher than the Reds.

Manchester United continue to accelerate

Eleven matches now it’s been since Manchester United fired Jose Mourinho. 11 matches now it’s been since Man United have lost. Despite Fulham being at home, it seemed the 19th-place side faced no chance against the Red Devils. Two goals from midfielder Paul Pogba and a brilliant solo-effort from Antony Martial gave United a 0-3 win and put them at fifth in the Premier League table, above Arsenal.

Arsenal shine against Huddersfield

It doesn’t seem that Huddersfield’s situation will improve anytime soon. After losing to Chelsea 0-5, they lost again to Arsenal 1-2, still lingering at the bottom of the table. Arsenal played a weaker squad, benching Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette still did the job with their first-half goals. After some Huddersfield resistance, they were rewarded with a late Saed Kolasinac own-goal in the 92nd minute.

A perfect day out for Cardiff City

Southampton were favorites to win at home against Cardiff City, but the day was meant for City. After losing Emiliano Sala to a plane crash, City honored him with a win in spectacular fashion. Going nil-one up in the 69th minute, they held that lead for another 22 minutes until Jack Stephens scored for Southampton. Then, magically, two minutes later, Kenneth Zohore sealed the winner away for City.

Emiliano Sala’s death confirmed

Despasco en Paz, rest in peace. After transferring from FC Nantes to Cardiff City, Emiliano Sala’s plane went missing. It was later confirmed by police that a found dead body was his and the search for the pilot is ongoing. As a tribute, Nantes has announced the retirement of the number nine on the players’ jerseys.

 

Cricket

England finds success in the Caribbean

In the final test of the three-match series between the West Indies and England (which the Windies are winning 2-0), England ended Day Two with a lead of 142 runs. In the first innings, twin half-centuries by Ben Stokes and Jos Butler lead England to 277. But the star of the day has to be Mark Wood, who collected a miraculous fiver in just 8.2 overs. At one point in the day, West Indies had lost six wickets for just 22 runs, but managed to get to 154.

Brisbane Heat chase 157 in just ten overs

No, it wasn’t a T10 match. It was most definitely a T20 match, but Brisbane Heat chased Melbourne Stars’ 156-8 in just ten overs, winning by ten wickets. The openers Max Bryant and Ben Cutting scored 71(30)* and 81(30)* each, which say ten fours and 13 sixes in the innings.

 

College Basketball

Losses by top 25 teams

11 Virginia Tech to Clemson (59-51)
19 Wisconsin to 7 Michigan (61-52)
17 Iowa State to TCU (92-83)
14 Villanova to 10 Marquette (66-65)
16 Louisville to 22 Florida State (80-75)
3 Virginia to 2 Duke (81-71)
25 Cincinnati to 12 Houston (65-58)

Has Russell Westbrook made Triple-Doubles boring?

21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists. Those are the stats of Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook through 47 games played this season. Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double for the third time in his career and third time in three seasons.

Recording a triple-double has become commonplace for the Thunder PG. While we have to recognize this as a great accomplishment, we also have to wonder if his statistical dominance has ruined triple-doubles for the rest of the league.

Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Russell Westbrook: 2016-17 season

When Russell Westbrook became the NBA MVP back in 2017, his team had a record of 47-35. Oklahoma City was the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. The record and seed of his team in the 2016-17 season wasn’t all that impressive. So why then did Westbrook win MVP that season?

Russell Westbrook won MVP for the 2016-17 season because of his record breaking year. Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over the course of a season. On his way to becoming the second player to ever do so, Westbrook broke the record for most triple-doubles in a season. With 42 triple-doubles, Russell Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson, who was the first player to average a triple-double in a season, for most triple-doubles in a single season.

Although Russell Westbrook didn’t lead his team to a great record or top seed in the Western Conference, his incredible accomplishment blew NBA MVP voters and NBA fans everywhere out of the water. For many NBA fans, this was the greatest single season accomplishment they’d ever seen.

This was in a time when getting a triple-double in any game was impressive. We used to see players like LeBron James or James Harden record a triple-double and think they dominated. One triple-double was impressive, let alone having 42 in one season!

 

Russell Westbrook: 2017-18 season

After winning NBA MVP, breaking the record for most triple-doubles in a single season and becoming just the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double throughout the course of a season, Westbrook’s triple-double dominance didn’t stop.

In the 2017-18 season, Russell Westbrook became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double in multiple seasons. After averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists the season before, Westbrook averaged 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists.

During this triple-double season, Westbrook actually led his team to a better record (48-34) and seed (No. 4). Westbrook didn’t record 42 triple-doubles this season, but he did have a league leading 25. Nobody else was even close to Westbrook’s triple-double average.

Where did Westbrook finish in MVP voting that season? Fifth. The only player to average a triple-double in multiple seasons finished fifth in MVP voting. He wasn’t even a finalist! This was after he led his team to a better record and seed in the Western Conference.

What happened? Were Russell Westbrook’s triple-doubles starting to become boring? Yes, yes they were. The historic, impressive, amazing or anything else related you want to call it season Russell Westbrook had in 2016-17 was all the rage, but the historic, impressive, amazing or anything else related you want to call it season that followed was becoming normal.

 

Russell Westbrook: 2018-19 season

Here we are with about a third of the 2018-19 season left. Of the 55 games the Oklahoma City Thunder have played, Russell Westbrook has played in 47. In those 47 games, Westbrook has averaged 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists. So far this season, Westbrook has recorded a league leading 22 triple-doubles. That’s twice as many as the next player.

In addition to his 22 triple-doubles this season, Westbrook just tied the record for most consecutive triple-doubles (9), tying Wilt Chamberlain. Westbrook will have the chance to break that record tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers.

To go along with his league leading and most consecutive triple-doubles, Westbrook has helped the Thunder earn a record of 36-19 and the current No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. If the Thunder continue at this pace, they’ll again have a better record and seed than the previous two seasons in which Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double.

Although Westbrook continues to make NBA history, where is he in the NBA MVP rankings right now? He’s certainly not in the top five for most people. For many, he’s not even in the top 10. He wasn’t on my recent top 10 list.

 

Has Westbrook made triple-doubles boring?

Russell Westbrook has gone from winning NBA MVP, to being fifth in the MVP race, to now being not ranked in most top 10 lists. Westbrook continues to slide down MVP lists despite continuing to dominate the league in triple-doubles.

Maybe ‘boring’ isn’t the right word to use in the question. Maybe the right word to use is ‘commonplace.’ In today’s NBA, Westbrook has kind of ruined triple-doubles for other NBA players.

Yes, triple-doubles are still impressive, but they just don’t seem to be as exciting as they once were. They don’t seem to stick out in the same way they used to before Russell Westbrook started his triple-double dominance.

Top five NBA MVP rankings at the trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline will shortly be upon us. We’ll probably see a few trades here and there before the cutoff. While NBA teams are focused on making trades, we’re going to take a look at the top five NBA MVP rankings at the trade deadline. Our last NBA MVP rankings came early in the season. While some names remain the same, there are a couple names who weren’t previously ranked. Take a look back at our first NBA MVP rankings here

NBA MVP rankings
Giannis Antetokounmpo” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Now that you know where our NBA MVP rankings sat last time around, let’s take a look at who tops the list at the NBA trade deadline.

 

NBA MVP Rankings

1. James Harden, Houston Rockets

Season stats: 36.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game

28 straight games of scoring 30+ points. A league leading 36.5 points per game. His team right in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. It’s hard to make a case against James Harden as the NBA MVP leader right now. Harden is getting it done in just about every category. His 36.5 points per game not only lead the league, but are an average of 7.2 more points per game than the next guy (Anthony Davis). That average of 36.5 points per game to this point in the season is by far Harden’s highest scoring average of his career. His previous high is 30.4, which came in his MVP season last year. In addition to his insane scoring output, Harden is also averaging the second most rebounds and third most assists of his career.

Perhaps what is most important though, is the fact that Harden is averaging the most steals (2.2) and blocks (0.8) per game of his career. Harden isn’t just putting up historic scoring numbers. He’s putting up historic scoring numbers while playing maybe the best defense of his career. James Harden has carried a heavy load this season due to his teammates missing time here and there. While not everyone has been available for the Rockets, James Harden always has been.

A knock on Harden being ranked first is the fact that his team currently sits fifth in the Western Conference standings. While that may be true, we have to remember how poorly the Rockets started. They weren’t in the playoff picture for a good chunk of time. Harden has fought hard for the Rockets and dug them out of a hole many thought they wouldn’t come out of.

 

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Season stats: 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks

Giannis Antetokounmpo was once the clear favorite for MVP, but then James Harden exploded. While Harden has taken the top spot in the NBA MVP rankings, it doesn’t mean Giannis is out of the MVP race. Not by any means. The Greek Freak currently has his team sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-13. That’s also the best record in the NBA. You could easily make a case for Giannis to be No. 1. His biggest case to be ranked there is his teams’ current status.

Like James Harden, Antetokounmpo is doing a little bit of everything for the Bucks. He currently averages 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. In addition to those numbers, he’s shooting a career high 57.2% from the field. His points, assists and rebounds all lead the NBA’s best team.

If you want to knock Giannis for something, it’d have to be his three point percentage. He’s shooting 19.3% from that range this season, but believe it or not, that’s actually not a career low. Giannis hasn’t developed that area of his game yet. Knock him on that if you want to, but it’s incredibly hard to deny literally everything else he’s doing for the Bucks.

At just the age of 24, Giannis is still getting better. He’s improved every single season in the league, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so over the next few years. Forget the stats for a minute though. His stats are great, but even if you don’t look at them, it seems like Giannis has taken his game to the next level. He’s truly become the star for the Bucks. He’s their go to guy. Expect him to stay at the top of the NBA MVP rankings the rest of the season.

 

3. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 28.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.5 blocks

Some may not think Paul George deserves to be this high in the NBA MVP rankings, but I do. You can’t deny what Paul George is doing for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Right now they’re sitting with a record of 34-19. That’s good enough for the number three spot in the Western Conference. If Paul George wasn’t having the season he is, the Thunder would likely be somewhere in the range of the six to eight seed right now, if they were in the playoff picture at all.

George’s fellow teammate and former MVP Russell Westbrook is once again averaging a triple-double. He’s averaging 21.4 points, 11.0 rebounds and 11.1 assists. His 11.1 assists actually lead the NBA right now. So, if Paul George has a former MVP on his team who’s averaging a triple-double and leading the league in assists, why is he ranked third in the NBA MVP rankings?

Well, while Russell Westbrook is averaging 21.4 points per game, he’s not shooting at a very effective rate. His field goal percentage for the season is just 41.7%, his lowest since his rookie season. He’s also making three point shots at a percentage of just 24.8%. Paul George has made up for Westbrook’s ineffective shooting. His 28.0 points per game are a career high for him, by a big margin. His 2.3 steals per game are also a career high. That also leads the league. Those aren’t the only career highs for George this season. He’s also averaging a career high in rebounds (7.9).

With Paul George playing at this level, the Thunder actually look like a team who can win a playoff series and make a deep playoff run.

 

4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.5 blocks

Kawhi Leonard may not have the Raptors as the best team in the Eastern Conference anymore, but that doesn’t matter. They’re still sitting in second place at this moment. With Kawhi leading them, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’ll be a top three seed in the conference come playoff time. Regardless of their record, what I really like about Kawhi Leonard’s play this season is how he’s helped the Raptors turn into a legit Eastern Conference team.

The Raptors have been good in previous years, but everyone knew that come playoff time, they would fall. Ever since Kawhi got to Toronto, there’s a different feel about this team. They feel like a team who can actually win the Eastern Conference and then have a legit chance at winning a championship. That all starts with Kawhi.

Leonard has missed 14 games this season. Despite him being out, the Raptors still did fairly well. It’s fair to knock him on that if you want to, but I’d argue that without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are just the same pretty good team who wouldn’t have a legit chance at winning a championship. They may be a good team without Kawhi, but he makes them legit.

His 27.3 points are a career high for him. His 7.9 rebounds are also a career high. There’s just something about Kawhi Leonard that makes him feel like a different player this season than in any season he spent with the Spurs.

 

5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks

Curry is probably the toughest player for me to accurately judge in the NBA MVP rankings. When I rank MVP candidates, I want a guy who elevates his team when he doesn’t have others to help him do so. Yes, James Harden has Chris Paul, but he’s been hurt and is getting older. He’s never been a lights out shooter either. Giannis Antetokounmpo has Khris Middleton, who’s a border line All-Star. Paul George has Westbrook, but he’s not an effective scorer this season. Kawhi Leonard has Kyle Lowry, but I think he’s also a border line All-Star.

Who does Steph Curry have? He’s got Kevin Durant, who’s arguably the best player in the NBA. He’s also a former MVP. Then there’s Klay Thompson, who despite having shooting struggles this season is one of the best shooters ever and can go off at any moment. He’s also got Draymond Green, who is always a defensive player of the year candidate. Now he even has DeMarcus Cousins. It’s one thing to win with one other or no other stars, but it’s another to win with four other stars. Of course they’re going to win with those guys!

Despite having all those players, you can’t deny Curry’s production. That’s why he makes the top five NBA MVP rankings. With four other star players, Curry still averages 28.9 points per game. That currently ranks third in the NBA.

 

Numbers six through 10

6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

9. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics

10. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers