Way too early bold Eastern Conference predictions

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Pascal Siakam going for a jump ball at Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Half the teams in the NBA have yet to play their fourth game of the season, but there are already budding tendencies we see continuing throughout the season. Using these tendencies, we’re making way too early bold predictions for the Eastern Conference!

Is it too early to be making these predictions? Probably. With such a small sample size, it’s hard to know how accurate our findings truly are. We won’t know for sure until much later in the season. However, we believe there are three predictions about the Eastern Conference we have right. Here we’ll break them down one by one, showing you why we believe we’ll see these results by the end of the NBA season.

 

1. Trae Young will be an MVP finalist

Trae Young has played just three games so far this season, but it’s already clear he’s taken his game to the next level. In his rookie year, Young averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 41.8% and a three-point percentage of 32.4%.

In the first three games of his second season, Young is averaging 34.0 points, 9.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 51.5% and a three-point percentage of 52.0%. His points per game have risen by 14.9, assists by 0.9, and rebounds by 2.3. Perhaps what’s more impressive, is the fact that his field goal percentage has risen by 9.7% and his three-point percentage by 19.6%.

Through three games this season, there’s been a clear difference in the way Young is playing. I know three games isn’t much to go off of, but let’s take a closer look into his numbers. During his rookie season, Young scored 30 or more points nine times in 81 games. In three games this season, Young has already done it twice. I foresee his number of 30 point games this season making a big increase, jumping from eight to somewhere between 20 and 30 times.

It’s obvious Young’s shooting has been better, as evidenced by his 9.7% increase on field goals and 19.6% increase on three-pointers. With the way he’s shooting and scoring right now, he honestly looks like MVP Steph Curry. I know that’s a big claim, but through his first three games, Young is averaging more points, assists and rebounds than Curry did in his unanimous MVP season (15-16), all while shooting 1.1% better from the field and 6.6% better from three-point range.

Young currently has his team sitting at 2-1, with their one loss coming to the 3-0 76ers by two points. There are still many games to be played, but if Young can keep up this play, he’ll surely have his team in the top half of the Eastern Conference by the end of the season. If he can do that, he’ll have my vote for MVP.

 

2. The Toronto Raptors will still make the Eastern Conference Finals

The moment Kawhi Leonard left Toronto to join the Clippers, was the moment every fan in the NBA counted out the Raptors this season. Yes, the Raptors are a much better team with Leonard. However, I don’t think it’s fair to completely count them out as Eastern Conference contenders.

We have to remember, Kawhi wasn’t the only player on this team. This roster still holds names like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. As much as we liked to think he was, Leonard wasn’t a one man show. This Raptors roster was, and still is deep. Through their first four games, the Raptors have five players averaging 12.3 points or more. Those five players are Siakam, Lowry, VanVleet, Ibaka and OG Anunoby. This is evidence this Raptors roster is still built to win, even without Kawhi.

You could easily argue that teams without a star don’t go far, but I’d counter that by saying this team does have a star. Last season we saw Siakam have a breakout year, but he was always in the passenger seat because of Kawhi. Now he’s taking over as the driver.

Through the Raptors’ first four games, Siakam is averaging 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s also shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.9% from three-point range. Guess what Kawhi averaged for the Raptors last season. 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 49.6% shooting from the field and 37.1% shooting from three-point range. Overall, Siakam’s numbers are better. I’m not saying Siakam is Kawhi, but I am saying he has taken over the star role for this Raptors team.

With a star player, another all-star (Kyle Lowry) and a roster full of great role players, there aren’t many teams in the Eastern Conference I’d take over the Raptors in a four game series right now. They may not have Kawhi, but they’ll still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

 

3. The Kyrie Irving led Nets will miss the playoffs

The Kyrie Irving era has officially begun in Brooklyn, but it hasn’t gone as planned to this point. Irving has been putting up massive numbers, averaging 37.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals on 45.6% shooting from the field and 41.2% shooting from three-point range. Irving’s numbers are awesome, but that unfortunately hasn’t translated to wins for the Nets, as they currently hold a 1-2 record.

To be quite honest, this Nets team led by Irving reminds me a lot of the Cavaliers teams Irving led before LeBron decided to come back to Cleveland. I know Irving was a lot younger back then, but he was the star player for the Cavaliers. He was their best player, and he put up good stats, but he could never lead them to a winning season.

Since then, Irving has won an NBA title and made the playoffs a bunch of times, including a couple times with a Celtics team he led. Irving is better than he was when he was a young star leading the Cavaliers, but his tendencies are still the same. Irving can make a lot of great plays and score a lot of points, but none of that really matters if you don’t win. He’s never been the type of player to take a team far when he’s the only star. That’s what he is on this Nets team right now.

Brooklyn has an exciting future, as Kevin Durant will be returning from injury next season. Nets fans should be excited, but they may have to put that excitement on hold for one more season. I’m not so sure Irving can get it done with this team. If the Nets do make the playoffs, I don’t see them being anything above the No. 7 seed. Maybe Irving can squeeze them in, but right now I’m not confident in that.

 

Two NBA lottery teams who should trade their picks

Several NBA teams in the lottery ended up with picks they didn’t expect. For some, that unexpected pick was fantastic, but for others, not so much. 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1 and 2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After looking over the teams in the NBA lottery and where their picks landed, I believe two teams should trade their picks. Those two teams are the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks.

For the Lakers, getting the fourth pick in the draft was fantastic. Had they got the pick they were supposed to get, they would have been picking 11th. Going from 11th to fourth is a huge jump. It’s a jump that will greatly benefit the Lakers this offseason.

For the Atlanta Hawks, the balls didn’t bounce in their favor. They were supposed to receive the fifth overall pick, but ended up with the eighth. However, they did pick up a second first-round pick from the Mavericks, which also has them selecting 10th.

Let me break down why I believe these two teams should trade their picks in the first-round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

 

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

Los Angeles Lakers

Again, going from 11th to fourth is a huge jump. That’s a big win for the Lakers, a win they really needed after last season. The reason I believe the Lakers should trade this pick, is because it would allow them to get LeBron James the help he needs in order to compete for a championship.

The most common name the Lakers have been linked to is Anthony Davis. If I were the New Orleans Pelicans, I’d be intrigued by the Lakers having the fourth overall pick. We already know the Lakers are willing to give up a lot, but the fourth pick would make their offer even that much sweeter.

If the Pelicans traded Anthony Davis to the Lakers, I believe it would benefit both sides. The Lakers are a team trying to compete now. LeBron James needs a star player to help him compete, not another young guy who will take time to develop into a star. If the Lakers kept their pick, they’d be getting a young guy who needs time to develop. If they trade that pick as part of the package for Anthony Davis, they’d be giving LeBron what he needs to compete for a title.

On the other side, the Pelicans would be getting rid of their star player, but they’d be fully prepared for a rebuild. We already know they’re selecting Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick. If they had the No. 4 overall pick in addition to that, it would allow them to give Zion another potential star to grow and develop with.

This move makes too much sense in my opinion, and I believe this move will be done between the two sides before draft day.

 

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2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks weren’t exactly thrilled with getting the eighth and 10th overall picks. The good news is that they’ve got two lottery selections. Looking at the teams ahead of the Hawks, there’s the Cavaliers, Suns and Bulls. I’m willing to bet that at least one of those teams would trade back for the eighth and 10th overall picks.

Atlanta is a team who’s trending upward. I expect them to be a playoff team within the next few seasons. I believe they believe that too. If I’m the Hawks, I would try to trade up in the draft to get the player I like, rather than waiting until picks eight and 10 to get two players who may not be as high on my board.

Atlanta has some really nice pieces in place, but their roster isn’t complete yet. They’re still a team who needs to add as much talent as possible. If a guy they like is there from picks five to seven, it’d be more than worth it for them to move up and get a guy who can be part of their team moving forward.

I’m not saying the Hawks can’t get good players with picks eight and 10. What am saying, is that I think they could get someone better if they use those picks to trade up.

Buy or Sell: Trae Young, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders

Now that March Madness is officially over and a National Champion has been crowned, we can all turn our attention to the next chapter in the world of Sports. But first, congratulation is in order for Virginia, as they beat Texas Tech 84-77 in overtime and withstood all doubters to become the 2019 College Basketball National Champions.

While we continue to celebrate the accomplishment of Virginia, let’s see what Aman, Joel and I think about other accomplishments from three different sports teams/players.

“Raiders” by Brian Cantoni is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

As the NBA season wraps up, we look at whether or not Atlanta Hawks rookie guard, Trae Young, did enough in March to earn him the rookie of the award. We will also look at whether or not the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders can accomplish making the playoffs this season.

Joel: The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs this coming season after their recent string of offseason acquisitions.

Aman: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs this season. Even though they’ve had some good off-season acquisitions, the Raiders will need some games to work on finding a good combination, and perhaps their acquisitions haven’t been the best. Positions which they’ve needed to fill, they haven’t.

Of course, the addition of Antonio Brown is fantastic, but you need more than one good player to win a game. I see the Raiders improving from last season for sure, but there’s still more established competition the Raiders will have to deal with, like the Chargers and the Chiefs. Hopefully, the Raiders have a good draft, and the Raiders can win more games, but playoffs is still a long shot.

Rahim: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs, at least, at this point of the offseason. The trade they made to get Antonio Brown was a steal, but that’s all they have on the offensive side right now.

Though the Raiders added OT Trent Brown, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Tyrell Williams and TE Luke Willson, I don’t believe it adds up to the talent they had last year at those positions. They have yet to resign RBs Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, WR Jordy Nelson has announced his retirement, and TE Jared Cook has joined New Orleans. Those are a lot of offensive threats QB Derek Carr will miss in the 2019 season, but they have a lot of drafts picks they could use to change my mind on whether I buy or sell them in the playoffs.

Their division is wide open, despite the pure dominance the Chargers and Chiefs showed last year. Both of those teams will have a lot of pressure to make it back to the playoffs and the Broncos will as well.

Speaking of Broncos, former Denver LB Brandon Marshall has joined the Raiders as well. But like I said, they need to draft BIG if they want to change the way I think about their playoff chances. I personally like Carr and Gruden, but they’ve got to get things back in order.

For now, it’s no playoffs for Raiders, maybe we’ll see them in it again when they get to Vegas.

RahimAli: After his excellent play in March, Trae Young will win rookie of the year?

Joel: Despite Trae Young’s great play recently, I’m going to sell on him being the new favorite to win rookie of the year. For starters, Luka Doncic has led his team to a better record than Young. Luka has led the Mavericks to a record of 33-48, while Young has the Hawks with a record of 29-52. There isn’t much of a difference in terms of the team record, but Luka has a slight advantage. I feel like having a better record, regardless of how small the margin may be, gives Doncic a leg up already.

Then there are their stats. Young had a great run in March, but Luka Doncic still has better overall stats than him. Doncic averages 21.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists, while Young averages 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. I’ll take the stats of Doncic over Young’s. We can also compare their shooting stats. Trae Young is shooting 41.9% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range, while Luka Doncic is shooting 42.7% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range. Trae Young has better assist stats. Outside of that, Doncic has better stats in every other category I mentioned.

Aman: Although he’s had a great season, it would be injustice to Luka Doncic if Trae Young won rookie of the year. Along with having a better record with the Mavericks than Young did with the Hawks, Doncic’s stats are also better. Doncic averages 3 points more than Young’s 19.1/game with eight less games. When it comes to rebounds, Doncic leads that by a much bigger margin, 4.1 ahead of Young’s 3.8. Therefore, I sell Young winning the award, but just barely. It would still make sense if Young were to win it, especially with the Hawks chances of being set up to have two top 10 picks in the NBA Draft this summer.

As Doncic and Young battled their way to the top of the rookie standings in all categories, many of us might have forgotten they were part of a trade for each other. That trade was Lukas Doncic and a 2019 first round pick for Trae Young. The pick is a top-five protected, so if the Dallas Mavericks do manage to get a top-five pick, they will keep it, but if it falls out then the Hawks could get it. Now let’s imagine the Hawks having Trae Young with two of the top 10 prospects in the draft.

Aman: After a mixed start to the season, the Cubs still are a team which will make playoffs.

Rahim: The MLB Season is back, and the Chicago Cubs are looking to reclaim their division after losing it in a tie-breaker with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. This season will be a bit harder, as the Cardinals are seeking to join the mix. You can find out what we at Fourth Quarter Sports think of the NL Central division in your playoff predictions here.

But the Cubs have a good team; they need to find themselves right now. The pitchers are struggling early in the season, and the bats are swinging in the wrong direction. In game one of the Cubs’ series against the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs put up a “0” in the runs columns, while the Braves had eight.

That zero runs by the Cubs came by surprise early in the season, as it was only the 4th game and they were averaging over nine runs in the first three games. Now we are 10 games in and the Cubs are finding themselves struggling in the same way. The Braves swept them and took one of three games from the Brewers, and because of that, I am selling the Cubs making the playoffs, especially if they remain struggling for a while.

Joel: The Cubs have had a rough start to their season, but it’s still very early in the season. I’m not going to count the Cubs out just yet because they’ve started 3-7. For the last four seasons, the Cubs have made the playoffs and won at least 92 games. I think they still have the talent to do so, and the amount of time left in the season very much allows them to win 90+ games again. I’ll buy they’ll still make the playoffs because it’s early in the season and their recent history shows they’ll end up as a playoff team.

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

  • Will Trae Young win rookie of the year honors after his performance in March?
  • Can the Chicago Cubs overcome their recent struggles and still be a team to make the playoffs?
  • Will Antonio Brown and other acquisitions help the Oakland Raiders make playoffs this season?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic: Learn his name

“With the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks select…Luka Doncic.” These words became the birth of the newest young superstar in the making, a 19 year old from Slovenia.

Atlanta traded Doncic on draft night to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young, the scintillating shooter out of the University of Oklahoma. The direction of these two franchises changed over night.

Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic” by Javier Mendia García is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Whereas the Hawks find themselves in the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Mavericks are a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference. Luka is the main reason why. He has vastly separated himself from the other rookies in his draft class. He will undoubtedly be this year’s Rookie of the Year.

In years past, European players have always been criticized for playing at a level lesser than the NBA, and general managers are skeptical about how their talent will transfer to the NBA. However, Luka appears to be playing at a level higher than he played in the Euroleague and is exceeding all expectations set for him.

Luka’s professional basketball career began when he was just 16 years old. He was a professional in his craft before he could even drive a car. The reason this seems so pivotal to me is the experience he gained at such a young age was invaluable. Many European professional basketball players are former college athletes from the states who are not able to make the NBA or those players who want to make more money than they would in the NBA G-League (development league).

Therefore, Luka was playing basketball against grown men who had years of competitive basketball experience when he was just a young teenager. And even with the high level of competition and all the pressure put on him, he was able to lead Real Madrid to a Euroleague Championship last season, where he was also named the Euroleague Most Valuable Player. Even now at age 19, Luka’s pure natural basketball talent is impossible to ignore. With his confidence growing and his extremely high basketball IQ, Doncic is not only holding his own in the NBA, but also performing to the level of an all-star in just his first season.

 

Luka Doncic vs LeBron James

The below is a comparison of statistics between LeBron James’ rookie season and Luka’s. They say numbers don’t lie, and I have to say the similarities in stats are uncanny.

Now, I am not by any means claiming Luka Doncic is the second coming of LeBron James. However, his on court play has to be terrifying for the other 29 teams in the league. The Atlanta Hawks must be having nightmares of the draft night trade; even though Trae Young isn’t a bust, he is definitely not Luka.

Superstars all across the league have been quick to recognize his game. From Steph Curry and Kevin Durant to Draymond Green and LeBron James. Additionally, those players just mentioned will all be out of the league before Doncic turns 30. They’ll be out of their prime years, even before that. This presents an exciting opportunity for Doncic. He currently ranks first in points per game, second in assists per game and third in PER on the Mavericks roster.

The one flaw that is pretty easy to see in Luka’s game is his turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio needs work. That is because he attempts a lot of tight passes looking for highlight plays. Luka’s confidence in his game is what causes him to try to make these special plays. Unfortunately for Dallas, that confidence is also his greatest quality.

Playing behind arguably the greatest European basketball player of all time in Dirk Nowitzki will be indispensable to his growth. As the title says, learn his name now. Luka Doncic will be a superstar in the NBA in short order.

Buy or Sell Six-Pack: Murray, Patriots, Bears, Ariza, Big Ten Basketball, Doncic

In the last Buy or Sell of 2018 (yep, we’re taking off next week), RahimAli, Joel and I are taking an expanded look at the sports landscape.

We’re discussing the future of Kyler Murray. Then we’re taking a look toward the NFL playoffs: do the Patriots have any cache left? Will the Bears manage to snag a first-round bye?

Finally, we end with some questions to be determined on the hardwood: did the Lakers make a mistake by standing pat? Will a Big Ten team rise up in March? And is the NBA Rookie of the Year already determined?

140095_7247” by Disney | ABC Television Group is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Cullen: Kyler Murray Will Be on an NFL Roster in 2019

Joel: I really want to buy Murray being on an NFL roster in 2019, but I think I have to sell. Murray has said for a long time he’s going to pursue MLB over the NFL. I thought that may change after the incredible season he’s had at Oklahoma and winning the Heisman, but his plans are still MLB. Until some sort of news comes out that’s good enough to convince me Murray is changing his mind, I’m going to believe he’s pursuing MLB.

Do I think he should choose the NFL over MLB? Yes. That’s not for me to decide, though. If Murray did pursue the NFL, he’d have no trouble at all getting on a roster. He’s an electric player who could not only help a team win, but bring in sales because people want to watch him play. I think Murray could do great things in the NFL, but I just don’t know if he’ll change his mind.

RahimAli: I would love for this to be a buy, but it’s an easy sell! Though Murray has won the 2018 Heisman Trophy, his decision was already made. Nothing will be able to change that, but maybe his dad!

I say that because this question has been on my mind since I first found out about who he is. Ironically, I had the honor of having a conversation with a former teammate of Kyler’s dad, Kevin Murray. As this conversation went on, he was telling me how Kevin also had the same plans. That was until he had a gruesome ankle injury that forced him to retire. You see, Kevin played in NFL and got hurt. He now spends his time as a high school football coach.

But the difference between Kyler and his father is the athleticism Kyler has. We have been able to see what kind of athlete he is on the football field, but I’m really interested in seeing what he will do on a baseball diamond.

Why Murray made the decision to play baseball over football, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to seeing the kind of explosive plays he’ll make as an athletic player with incredible skills. Whether he sticks with MLB or does have a career in the NFL, Murray is going to become a household name.

 

RahimAli: The Five-Loss Patriots Are No Longer the Team to Beat in the AFC

Cullen: With Tom Brady still at the helm and Bill Belichick still on the sidelines, the Patriots will be the AFC team to beat until someone beats them in the playoffs. So I’m selling this.

They looked bad Sunday against the Steelers. This offense is not at all explosive. Rob Gronkowski looks like a shell of his former self, and Josh Gordon’s usage has been perplexing, at best. Brady, who won the MVP as a 40-year-old, definitely looks his age in 2018.

But that may be an advantage in the AFC playoffs. There will be some young quarterbacks in the playoffs for the first time in the AFC, from the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes II to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson to the Texans’ Deshaun Watson. I’d feel more comfortable with Brady’s playoff experience than those young gunslingers’ potential. With the Chargers and Philip Rivers–they have had minimal, if any, success in the playoffs. The Patriots’ biggest threat may very well be the team that just beat them. But even the Steelers are playing incredibly inconsistently.

All this is to say, don’t count the Patriots out of the playoffs just yet.

Joel: I’m going to sell on the Patriots not being the team to beat anymore. New England may not be the best team in the AFC this season, but they’re still the team nobody except Patriots fans wants in the Super Bowl. Until the Patriots have been beaten in the playoffs and aren’t going to the Super Bowl again, they’re going to be the team to beat.

I agree with what Cullen said about the young QBs some of the AFC teams have. We haven’t seen too many young QBs have a lot of playoff success. Most of the time it’s the experienced QBs who come out on top. Tom Brady has a proven resume of winning in the playoffs, as evidenced by his eight Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl wins.

If the Patriots are in the playoffs, they’ll have a target on their back regardless of how bad they’re playing right now. Their bad play recently will go out the door come playoff time. It’s a new start for every team. It’s a new game. The Patriots have consistently won that game, making them the team to beat.

 

Joel: The Chicago Bears Will Grab a First-Round Bye

Cullen: Selling on the Bears getting a first-round bye. For that to happen, Chicago needs to win out, defeating both a suddenly decent-looking 49ers team in San Francisco and defeating a Vikings team that’s vying for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Rams, with whom the Bears hold a head-to-head tiebreaker, travel to the pitiful Arizona Cardinals and host the 49ers. The Rams are a game up on the Bears, and I think they’ll keep it that way.

Now, about how each of these teams fare in the playoffs, that may be a different story…

RahimAli: I will sell the Bears clinching a first round bye despite their victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14. I sell it because it’s just too late in the season. I do expect to see the Bears finish the season strong and have a nice 12-4 record with wins over the Niners this week and divisional foe Minnesota Vikings in the season finale. But because of injury to QB Mitchell Trubisky earlier in the season, the Bears lost some ground on the Rams and NFC’s No. 1 team, the New Orleans Saints.

For the Rams (11-3), it’s coming down to two of their divisional opponents, the Arizona Cardinals, and the same Niners that will face the Bears. The Cardinals are looking to get one of the top three picks in the 2019 draft (currently no. 1), and the Niners are just looking forward for their key offensive players (QB Jimmy Garrapolo and RB Jerrick McKinnon) to return next season. But the real thing is that this will give Rams QB Jared Goff a few more games to get his act together and bounce back nicely after having several interceptions and a fumble in the last two weeks.

For the Saints, they could lose one of their next two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. I think they will lose to the Steelers as a pick in this week’s picks. Read my explanation there. But still one more loss will still leave the Bears a game back of the Saints. It’s okay though, because I really believe this Bears team could be the team to beat, and I’m a Rams fan.

 

Cullen: The Lakers Made a Mistake in Passing up Trading for Trevor Ariza

Joel: I buy it was a mistake passing on Ariza. Ariza may not be the player he once was, but he’s still a very effective player who could significantly help the Lakers. Just his presence as a veteran could help them. Look at what Tyson Chandler has done for the Lakers. He’s helped their defense and gives them valuable experience. I think Ariza would have done the same for the Lakers. Ariza is a very good defender, who is also capable of scoring. He’s shooting 36% from three this season and has been a pretty consistent three-point shooter throughout his career. With a guy like LeBron James demanding all the attention, Ariza wouldn’t have had to do much but move around and take open shots LeBron gave him. I think that would have worked out nicely.

When playoff time comes around, Ariza would have been very effective. The Lakers are going to need as many defenders as they can get if they want to beat the Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, etc. in the playoffs. Ariza could have been one of the defenders the Lakers needed. They’ll be fine without him, but I believe they would have been better with him on their team.

RahimAli: As a Lakers fans since 1998, I’m buying this as a huge mistake.

When Ariza was first a Laker from 2007-2009, he wasn’t like what he is now, but I’ve always wished there was a way to get him back to the Lakers. I understand the reason for moving on the first time, but passing on him this late in his career, I don’t like it.

Looking at what was given up in the trade to get Ariza, you can’t tell me the Lakers don’t have pieces to move. I mean, they could’ve moved one of their veteran players like Lance Stephenson, Micheal Beasley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and paired them with a rookie and a pick. I mean, the Suns are the worst team in the NBA and anything is better than what they have. They just waived Austin Rivers, too, as he was a part of the deal.

But for Lakers, it’s about getting the veteran presence around the young guys like Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. That’s why the Lakers have made the moves they did signing all these veterans to one-year deals. Like Joel said, the addition of Tyson Chandler has already made a huge impact on the Lakers defensively, and Ariza would have been another great piece. Ariza not only is a good defender like he has been his entire career, but he’s become better and better every year. That’s what the Lakers need to do. Having the presence of a player with Ariza’s caliber to help Ingram, Kuzma and even Josh Hart defensively would’ve helped make the Lakers a better team and an instant top three team in the West. Although being fourth isn’t bad right now, how long will they be able to stay there with other teams like the Thunder and Warriors looking like tough opponents?

But I hope the Lakers do address the concern of more defense before the trade deadline comes around.

 

RahimAli: A Big Ten Team Will Win the National Championship in Basketball This Season, Ending an 18-Year Drought

Joel: It’s still too early in the season for me to really buy a Big Ten team winning the National Championship. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played and you just never know what will happen in College Basketball. However, as the top 25 sits right now, the Big Ten has the most teams out of any conference to be ranked. Seven teams, to be exact. Those seven teams are Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. It’s because of these seven teams being ranked in the top 25 that I’ll buy the Big Ten being home to the champs, but I’m going to leave that buy subject to change as the season goes on. The numbers are in favor of this happening right now, but again, you never know what can happen in College Basketball.

Cullen: Selling on a Big Ten team winning it all. It’s still too early to make that kind of prediction. So I’ll take the field. I expect the Big Ten teams to beat up on each other all through conference play and the Big Ten Tournament. That could do one of two things: make the eventual champion that much stronger, or weaken every team to the point that none go the distance in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, my guess is the latter situation playing out.

 

Joel: Luka Dončić is Already a Lock to Win Rookie of the Year

RahimAli: I will buy this! Out of all the players drafted in the top five, Dončić was put in the best situation. That situation was the Dallas Mavericks, who have always been known to make the playoffs. However, the past two seasons have been rough for the Mavericks.

With them losing so many games, it landed them into the draft lottery. It’s interesting though, because the Atlanta Hawks had drafted him third overall, but traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for PG Trae Young. Young is probably the only player right now who has a chance to catch Dončić. But Dončić has used the team around him to better himself and get the Mavericks into playoff position. Now I know it’s still early in the season, but I have told you previously in my “NBA Review” articles to watch out for the Mavericks. They might have had a few bad seasons, but this season will end with a playoff spot and the rookie of the year. There is no question about it! Dončić is the best player from the 2018 draft class and he will continue to show it as the season goes on. Playing alongside veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Deandre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes will only help him in his progression this season. Let’s not forget about the 2017 Slam Dunk champion winner, Dennis Smith Jr. He and Dončić are the future of the Mavericks team. Boy does that look like a great future!

Cullen: I’ll sell that he’s already a lock for Rookie of the Year, but he is the favorite, for sure. I think he’ll win it. But it’s still so early. I wouldn’t completely count out Collin Sexton or Trae Young. One thing that could surely derail Dončić’s shot at Rookie of the Year is injury. Overall, I sell, yet if he stays healthy and, at the minimum, keeps doing what he’s been doing, he’ll get that hardware.

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

There you have it! Our last thoughts of 2018. What does everyone else think?

  • What’s Kyler Murray going to ultimately do?
  • Will the Patriots show up for the playoffs?
  • Can the Bears get to help and snag a first-round bye?
  • Will missing out on Trevor Ariza hurt the Lakers?
  • Can a Big Ten basketball squad finally win it all this season?
  • Who can overcome Luka Dončić for NBA Rookie of the Year?

As always, thanks for reading. Hit us up in the comments with your thoughts on these six matters. See you all in 2019!

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Southeast Division

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John Wall” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Southeast division features two playoff teams from a season ago, the Washington Wizards and the Miami Heat. Miami was the best team in this division a season ago, but there have been a lot of changes throughout the division over the course of the offseason.

Miami was the only team who didn’t really make any significant changes. They have been trying to get Jimmy Butler, so keep an eye on that situation, but for now, they haven’t done anything significant. Every other team has made moves to hopefully shake things up. Will Miami be able to repeat as the Southeast division winners? Let’s take a look at each team in the Southeast division and see where they’ll finish in the 2018-19 season.

 

1. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 43-39

Postseason Result: Lost 4-2 to the Toronto Raptors in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Signed C Dwight Howard and F Jeff Green in free agency.
  • Acquired G Austin Rivers from the Clippers.
  • Drafted SF Troy Brown (Oregon) 15th overall in the NBA Draft.

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded C Marcin Gortat to the Clippers.
  • Lost PG Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier and PG/SG Ramon Sessions.
  • Also lost PF Chris McCullough and PF Mike Scott.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

I like what the Wizards did this offseason to help their team. Trading Marcin Gortat was a good move because he brought some locker room tension they no longer needed. They also got G Austin Rivers in return for him. Rivers should provide some needed scoring off the bench when either Wall or Beal are out of the game.

Signing Dwight Howard was an underrated move in my opinion. Howard isn’t the superstar player he once was, but he’s still a good player who can get a lot of rebounds and provide some scoring inside.

This team now has John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Dwight Howard in their starting lineup. That looks great, but can they put it all together? Wall and Beal haven’t been able to become the dynamic duo we all want to see from them. They’re good, but not elite. Can they take the next step and have Porter Jr. and Howard there to be reliable secondary options? If they can live up to their potential, we could be looking at a serious Eastern Conference contender.

The biggest question for me with this team though, is can John Wall stay healthy? It was clear this team struggled without Wall in the lineup last season. John Wall had four straight years of playing 77 games or more, but last season he only played 41. Wall must get back to playing 70+ games for this team to have a real shot. He played very well when he returned last year, so let’s see if he can keep it up this season.

Prediction: 50-32

 

2. MIAMI HEAT

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 44-38

Postseason Result: Lost 4-1 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.

Offseason Acquisitions: 

  • Resigned Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost SF Luke Babbitt.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Miami was a pretty good team last year even though they didn’t have a star player. Miami is full of really good players, but they don’t have a star. They were able to keep Dwyane Wade for another year though. The problem with that is that even though Wade is their biggest star, I’m not sure he’s their best player at this point in his career.

Miami has a lot of good players who play well together, which is why they win games. They have great team chemistry. Not one of their players dominates every single game. One game it could be Goran Dragic, but the next game it could be James Johnson. I love how they play as a team.

My biggest concern for the Heat this season is Dwyane Wade’s retirement tour. We know this is going to be his last year. Will it change how this team plays? I want to see Wade go out on a high note, but what I don’t want to see is Miami trying to get him to score 50 points every game so he can put on a show for the fans.

The fans are probably going to want to see Wade put on big performances. That’s okay for them to want that, but they have to wait for one of those games when Wade just goes off and has the hot hand. What Miami can’t do is force the ball to Wade every game so he can score a bunch of points. I trust Erik Spoelstra will be able to manage this and keep his team winning while allowing Wade to have a great retirement tour.

Prediction: 45-37

 

3. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 36-46

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired Coach James Borrego.
  • Named Mitch Kupchak GM.
  • Signed G Tony Parker in free agency.
  • Drafted F Miles Bridges 12th overall in the NBA Draft.
  • Drafted G Devonte’ Graham in the second round of the NBA Draft.
  • Traded for C Bismack Biyombo.

Offseason Departures:

  • Fired GM Rich Cho.
  • Fired Coach Steve Clifford.
  • Traded C Dwight Howard to the Nets for C Timofey Mosgov. Mosgov was later traded to Orlando.
  • Lost Michael Carter-Williams in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

We all know who the man is on this team. Kemba Walker is the best player for the Hornets without question. Walker has scored 20+ points in three straight years, and I expect him to do so again this season. When the Hornets need a bucket, Walker is who they look to.

They have a star player, but he’s not enough to carry them. Nicolas Batum has always been more of a role player, Miles Bridges has promise but is a rookie, Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon have potential but are still very young players, etc. There’s nobody outside of Walker who can elevate the Hornets to the next level.

Not if, but when they aren’t in contention this season, will the Hornets trade Kemba Walker? It would make sense for them to trade him. They’re not putting other star players around him, but rather have younger pieces with potential. Is it time to officially start a rebuild? They could get a first round pick or other valuable assets in return for Walker that could help them build their future.

Even if the Hornets do get in the playoffs, they’re not going to be taken seriously with the Celtics, Raptors, 76ers, Bucks and others among the Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Prediction: 36-46

 

4. ORLANDO MAGIC

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 25-57

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired Coach Steve Clifford.
  • Traded for C Timofey Mosgov and G Jerian Grant.
  • Drafted C Mohamed Bamba 6th overall in the NBA Draft.
  • Drafted SF Melvin Frazier Jr. 35th overall and traded for the rights to G/F Justin Jackson (43rd pick).
  • Signed G Isaiah Briscoe.

Offseason Departures:

  • Fired Coach Frank Vogel.
  • Traded C Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte.
  • Lost G/F Mario Hezonja in free agency.
  • Lost G Shelvin Mack in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

Orlando has been a frustrating team to watch over the last few seasons. They continuously draft players who can’t shoot, but are good defenders. They did that again this year by selecting Mohamed Bamba. I don’t blame them for taking Bamba sixth overall. After all, he was the best player available and Trae Young had been taken at that point.

But Orlando really does need some scoring ability. Where is the scoring going to come from? This team has nice defensive pieces, but you can’t win a game on defense alone. You need offense to go along with the defense. I’m not sure Orlando has that.

Aaron Gordon is going to be looked at this season as the player who should take a big leap. He’s made improvements every year he’s been in the NBA, but now he’s entering his fifth NBA season. It’s time for him to take the next step. He’s only 23, so he still has time to grow as a player, but he does need to take a step forward.

Orlando seems like a team who could surprise, but for that to happen they have to get someone to step up and be their star player. Who’s their go to guy? Orlando will make a step forward in the win column this year, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before they’re a real threat in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: 33-49

 

5. ATLANTA HAWKS  

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 24-58

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Hired Coach Lloyd Pierce.
  • Drafted G Trae Young (5th), G Kevin Huerter (19th) and F Omari Spellman (30th).
  • Traded for G/F Justin Anderson.
  • Signed C Alex Len.
  • Signed G/F Vince Carter and F Thomas Robinson.
  • Traded for G Jeremy Lin.

Offseason Departures:

  • Parted ways with Coach Mike Budenholzer.
  • Traded for SF Carmelo Anthony, who was waived days later.
  • Traded PF/C Mike Muscala to Philadelphia.
  • Traded G Dennis Schroder to OKC.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

I think Atlanta is going to be a fun team to watch this season, even though they still won’t be contending for a playoff spot. One reason this team will be fun to watch is because they have a lot of new pieces. Trae Young, Vince Carter, Jeremy Lin, etc. How will they all fit together?

This is still a pretty young team with a lot of potential. I think they get closer to fulfilling that potential this year, but they’re not at the point where their potential has been reached. John Collins, Tyler Dorsey and Taurean Prince are a few young Hawks players who could be part of a winning culture in the future.

Obviously the biggest reason to watch the Hawks this season will be to see how PG Trae Young performs in his rookie season. Young lit up college basketball with his scoring and passing ability. He’s been compared to Steph Curry hundreds of times, which instantly makes me want to watch him. How quickly will Trae Young adjust to the NBA? Will he become a star? If so, how long will it be before that happens?

What Hawks fans need to keep in mind is that drafting Trae Young is just the start. He’s not going to turn the Hawks into the Warriors in one season. If you look at Steph Curry, he didn’t help the Warriors get to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. It took them time to acquire the right pieces.

Hawks GM Travis Schlenk was part of the Warriors building a championship, and by drafting a Steph Curry comparison in Trae Young, it’s obvious he’s trying to build a similar team in Atlanta. He’s headed in the right direction, but he needs time to acquire all the right pieces. The Hawks will improve this year, but they’ll need a couple more seasons before they’re in the playoff mix.

Prediction: 30-52

 

PREDICTED DIVISION STANDINGS:

  1. Washington Wizards (50-32)
  2. Miami Heat (45-37)
  3. Charlotte Hornets (36-46)
  4. Orlando Magic (33-49)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (30-52)

 

June 22nd Furtakes Of The Day + Some NBA Draft Grades

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2013 Dallas Mavericks 12013 Orlando Magic 12013 Phoenix Suns 3, and 2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton are licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

People, friends, and enemies, Furtakes has been going a solid five days strong. Crazy right? Well today is a big day because the NBA draft happened and boy oh boy was it interesting. I just want to say first it’s been great writing for this site and all the support and feedback you guys keep giving on here, it means a lot. Means as much as Argentina losing again and people blaming Messi. One guy isn’t an entire soccer team, but hey, sometimes people can’t count to 11. However, (Stephen A Smith voice) you can not lose to Croatia by three goals.

The New York post saying Giancarlo Stanton is officially a Yankee because of his walk off home run must have read my article because they totally copied me! Everyone is going crazy about how Adrian Wojnarowski “Woj” didn’t want to be beat by any other person on twitter to a pick. ESPN didn’t want him to, but “Woj” being so big in the NBA twitter-verse did what he did best, break news, or as most people call them “WOJ BOMBS”.

So let’s get to the NBA draft because thats the big news of today. The Suns drafted DeAndre Ayton, which is an easy A+ grade. Ayton isn’t a big time rim protector, but is a beast on offense with a nice mid-range jumper. The Kings with the second overall pick went with their big board and got Marvin Bagley III, a long power forward who can shoot from anywhere on the court. I think he’s the best player in the draft from an all-around perspective. Bagley will pack the seats wherever the Kings play. Michael Porter Jr feel to the Nuggets at 14 because of his back injury, but he was once considered the first overall pick last year. Porter is the typical stretch 4 or a 3 everyone loves in this league now. This is a big boom or bust pick for the Nuggets.

Everyone thought the Knicks were going to trade up and get Mo Bamba, but he was drafted by the Magic at six and looks to be the next Shaq diesel. His 7’10” wingspan is the biggest ever recorded at the NBA combine, so I’ll give this a B+, but he has no offensive game really besides turning around and dunking the ball. The Knicks at nine drafted Kevin Knox, who is the now former forward from Kentucky. Knox has the length and strength to be a productive day one starter for them, and this is an A- for me even though it may have been a bit of a reach. The last big news from the draft was the Luka Doncic trade for Trae Young and a future first round pick. I loved the Mavs getting Doncic and letting him learn from another former European star in Dirk Nowitzki, A.  I do think Trae Young going to the Hawks makes sense because they lacked scoring last year, but I think this was a reach as well and I don’t think he will play well with Dennis Schroder. Trae Young does get an A+ though, because of his unibrow and he can compete from day one with Anthony Davis for the title of best unibrow.

You can listen to my NBA draft recap below for more news!

 

2018 NBA Lottery Pick Mock Draft

Trae Young
3R1A8639.jpg” by Jackson Lavarnway is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1. Phoenix Suns – DeAndre Ayton, C/PF, Arizona

With the number one overall pick, the Suns have to take the best overall prospect in this draft. I’m of the opinion that this decision will come down to Ayton and Doncic, but DeAndre Ayton gets the nod. Having young players at the SG and SF positions in Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, I don’t think the Suns really need to add another player at those positions, which is a primary reason why Doncic doesn’t get drafted here. With Tyson Chandler getting older and declining in talent, Phoenix needs to get younger at the Center position. DeAndre Ayton is the best big man in this draft and can play either C or PF. He’s athletic and has shown he has the offensive skills to make an impact right away on the offensive end. His defense isn’t as polished as his offense, but he’s young and still has a lot of time to grow defensively, which I think he will do. DeAndre Ayton fits perfectly on this Suns team.

2. Sacramento Kings – Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke

I believe the Kings should draft the best available player here because they just need talent. The best available player would be Luka Doncic, but reports are that both the Kings and Hawks are likely to pass on him. Picking Marvin Bagley here wouldn’t be a bad pick though. After all, he is widely considered the third best prospect in the draft. Bagley doesn’t fit a huge need for the Kings with players like Skal Labissiere, Zach Randolph, and Harry Giles already at the PF spot, but that shouldn’t matter to a Kings team who needs to add the best talent they can. Bagley is skilled offensively, which the Kings could use after being the lowest scoring team in the NBA this season. He’s also a very strong rebounder, which the Kings also need after being third worst in rebounds per game. Bagley may not be the ideal pick for the Kings in terms of position need, but he does bring several factors the Kings desperately need.

3. Atlanta Hawks – Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State

Just like for the Kings, Luka Doncic should be in play here, but reports are that the Hawks will pass on him. Atlanta should be drafting the best available player, so if they pass on Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr. is the next best player. Jackson has the potential to be an All-NBA defender. Watch some tape from Jaren Jackson Jr. and you’ll see him all over the floor defensively. His offensive game isn’t on the same level as his defense, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute offensively. He shot 40% from three point range last season. He’s also an 80% free throw shooter, so if he gets to the line he’s more than reliable. Any NBA team would love to have a player like Jaren Jackson Jr. Atlanta ranked 21st in defensive efficiency this season, so they could for sure use a guy like him to ramp up defensive play for the entire team. Being one of the youngest players in the draft, the potential for Jaren Jackson Jr. might just be the highest of anyone in this draft class.

4. Memphis Grizzlies – Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia

This would be a dream situation for the Grizzlies. If Doncic is available at pick four, he’s not going to be on the board at pick five. Memphis shouldn’t be picking fourth in this draft, but the messed up draft lottery screwed them over. It looked like they needed to get a top two pick to ensure they got one of the best talents in this draft, but now it might not be the case. If Memphis is going to compete while they have Conley and Gasol, they have to get as much talent surrounding them as possible. Doncic would be a great playmaker next to Mike Conley. He wouldn’t be required to run the offense right away, but could still be a big contributor from the start. As proofed by his EuroLeague MVP and Championship, Doncic is a winner, which is exactly what the Grizzlies need. The experience of Conley and Gasol would help him easily transition to the NBA game.

5. Dallas Mavericks  – Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

After looking over the Mavericks depth chart, it’s clear they need to get an upgrade at the center position. Point guard is set after drafting Dennis Smith Jr. last season, shooting guard has good depth, although could be upgraded, small forward is set with Harrison Barnes, and power forward is set until Nowitzki decides to retire. It’s a good thing Mohamed Bamba is on the board here. Bamba brings a combination of elite size, speed, and defense. His wingspan is 7’10”, which is absolutely insane. Combined with his 3.7 blocks per game, the Mavericks would be getting a true rim protector. This team was second to last in blocks per game this season, so a rim protector is obviously a need. They also ranked 27th in rebounds per game, which is another area where Bamba excels. With how this draft board has played out to this point, Mo Bamba is the clear cut choice for the Dallas Mavericks.

6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

The way Orlando has been drafting recently frustrates me more than anything. Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Jonathan Isaac are some of the most recent draft picks. What do they all have in common? When they came into the league they weren’t great shooters. Oladipo is a good shooter now, but it hasn’t been till recently and he’s not even on the team anymore. Gordon is improving, but still not good, Elfrid Payton may be one of the worst shooters ever (a reason they traded him), and Isaac just finished his rookie year so it’s hard to tell what he’ll be, but you get the point. They haven’t drafted any players who can really shoot. What else do these players have in common? They’re pretty good defensively. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have defensive players, but when those players can’t shoot, it’s not going to help you win games. If Trae Young is available and the Magic pass him, it’s probably the dumbest thing they could do in this draft. Trae Young is the best shooter in the draft, and Orlando needs shooting badly. Young also fills a position need for this team. He’s not good at defense, but he can shoot. He’s the exact opposite of the other players Orlando has drafted, which is what they need. It’s time to change the way they draft and get a player who can actually be a potential star and make a real impact.

7. Chicago Bulls – Michael Porter Jr, SF, Missouri

Chicago could use an upgrade at SF over Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine. Michael Porter Jr. is a bit of a risk because of injury, but he’s also got a lot potential. There’s a reason why he was considered the best overall prospect at one point. Michael Porter Jr. has the size and scoring ability the Bulls need after being the 26th ranked team in points per game this season. With Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls have a young core with a lot of potential. Add Michael Porter Jr. to the mix and they’d be set at almost every position on the floor for years to come. If MPJ can stay healthy and live up to his potential, Chicago would be getting a steal in this draft.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama

Collin Sexton is a great fit with the Cavaliers in my opinion. Regardless of if LeBron James stays in Cleveland or not, Sexton would fill a need for this team. The backup point guards on this team right now are Jordan Clarkson and Jose Calderon. As we’ve seen in the NBA Finals, Clarkson isn’t good, while Calderon never plays. I believe Collin Sexton could be a day 1 starter, but if he’s not he can provide much needed competitiveness off the bench. Sexton competes every play. He’s a good ball handler who can take control of an offense. His shooting doesn’t stand out, but he knows how to score. If LeBron does leave, the Cavs would have someone who they could run their offense through either now or in the future.

9. New York Knicks – Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Duke

There have been reports recently that the Knicks are high on Wendell Carter Jr., and it’s easy to see why. The big man averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and 2.0 assists per game. Carter seems to be an effective big man on both sides of the ball. He probably won’t be so good offensively that an offense will be run through him, but he will contribute. He’s a good rebounder and a solid rim protector. He also has the ability to play both PF and C, which is always helpful. With Porzingis and Kanter in the starting lineup, Carter probably won’t start, but he will contribute. Porzingis has had several injury problems during his time in the NBA, so creating more depth and versatility behind him will be key for this team moving forward. Perhaps what I love most about Carter, is how effective he was while in the shadow of teammate Marvin Bagley. This tells me Carter can produce no matter what role he plays.

10. Philadelphia 76ers – Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

This 76ers team is getting better, but they’re still very young and I don’t feel like they’ve matured enough yet. Mikal Bridges is one of the older players in this draft, but he’s also one of the most mature players in this draft. Bridges said it himself when he said he can bring championship experience to an NBA team. That makes him feel like a perfect fit for the 76ers to me. This team is trying to win a championship, but they don’t have the experience. Mikal Bridges knows what it takes. Winning an NCAA Championship is different from winning an NBA Championship, but it’s still championship experience. I can see Bridges being a very valuable member of this team with his play, maturity, and experience.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State

Charlotte needs an upgrade at both forward spots, which makes Bridges a good fit for this team. Bridges is a very good athlete who was the leader of his Michigan State team. While Bridges can bring leadership and athleticism to the Hornets, what’s probably more important is his shooting. The current starter at SF for the Hornets is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who pretty much never shoots from distance. Gilchrist just doesn’t have a shooting ability. He didn’t when he entered the league and he still doesn’t now. Miles Bridges shot 37.5% from distance in two years at Michigan State. Bridges has been criticized sometimes for settling for three point shots, but in today’s NBA I don’t think that will be problem. Because of his lack of length, but ability to shoot the ball, Bridges is best suited to play SF in the NBA.

12. LA Clippers – Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky

After looking at the Clippers current roster, I’m pretty sure one of the positions they’ll target with their two back to back picks will be a forward. Kevin Knox is an interesting prospect in this draft. He’s not a polished player quite yet, but he has a ton of potential. He has the ability to play both forward spots, which is always useful in today’s NBA. Standing 6’9″ and 215 lbs, Knox can overpower smaller defenders when he’s playing the SF position. When he’s playing PF, he has the athleticism, quickness, and shooting ability to get open looks against bigger and slower defenders. If Knox grows into his potential, he could be a matchup nightmare down the road. At this point in the draft, this is exactly what the Clippers should be looking for as they try to stay competitive.

13. LA Clippers – Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

With DeAndre Jordan potentially leaving soon, the Clippers should look for a possible replacement. Robert Williams is a guy who can play either PF or C, depending on where the Clippers need him most. If Jordan leaves, they might play him at C. If Jordan stays, he can be a backup PF or C. Standing 6’9″, Williams doesn’t have the height you typically look for in a C, but in today’s NBA it’s not so much of a problem. Even though Williams doesn’t stand as tall as you’d like a typical big man, he does have length. He has almost a 7’6″ wingspan, which allows him to block a lot of shots and protect the rim. He also has a pretty good frame so he doesn’t get pushed around by bigger players. He’s a good rebounder in addition to being a rim protector, which is what you want for a big guy. He’s not DeAndre Jordan, but he has some similar attributes that he can use to make the Clippers miss Jordan less if he decides to leave.

14. Denver Nuggets – Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami

Lonnie Walker seems to be a player who projects to be better in the NBA than he was in college. He still has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential, but he has all the tools needed to an effective player for many years. Standing about 6’4″ with a 6’10” wingspan, Walker has the length to be a potential disruptive defensive player. He also weighs about 200 lbs, which gives him enough strength so he won’t get easily overpowered by other guards. He isn’t super aggressive defensively, but he has the tools to be and I believe he will get better. Offensively, Walker is a good scorer. He doesn’t always make the best decisions on offense and doesn’t have the best shooting ability, but he’s not afraid to take a shot from anywhere. He will need to learn how to play without the ball in his hands a little more because he often had the ball in college, but he should adjust with time. Denver needs a SG and a player who can help them defensively after they ranked 26th in defensive efficiency this past season.