Buy or Sell: NBA Playoffs, MLB Home Run Derby and Mike Conley

On this week’s edition of “Buy or Sell,” we’re changing things up a bit. Instead of your standard three people giving one question each and the other two answering, we’ll have all three answered by everyone.

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“Mike Conley #NBABallot” by Stephen O is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

So let’s jump right into it, as we have plenty to discuss that will give you a sneak peak of next season’s NBA standings. Dan, Mickayeen and I have plenty of thoughts about each of these topics. Whether or not we agree may surprise you.

 

The NBA will change the playoffs to the top 16 teams overall instead of the top eight from each conference?

Mickayeen: I buy this! I’m all for the best 16 teams going into the playoffs, regardless of conference. Here is my prediction for the top 16 teams in the NBA this upcoming season, in order (regular season):

1. Milwaukee Bucks – Greek Freak is only going to get better. They don’t have to worry about resting anyone during the regular season. They will be a force. Expect 60-plus wins again.

2. Denver Nuggets – They got 54 wins and the second seed in the west while losing the third-most players in the league due to injury, including three of their starters. Jokic and Murray will only get better, and Jerami Grant is an underrated addition.

3. Philadelphia 76ers – These guys arguably got better. Embiid and Simmons will have another year under their belt and should be even better than next year. With Jimmy Butler gone, who’ll take the big shot when they need it? That question is more important for the playoffs, though.

4. Utah Jazz – Read more detail about them in another question. If they stay healthy, they will be one of the toughest teams to beat in the league.

5. Los Angeles Clippers – Even though Kawhi and Paul George will potentially be injured/resting, they still have a great team around them to make the regular season work.

6. Houston Rockets – I’m taking the chance that the Harden/Westbrook combo will work out well, at least for this year. It’s tough to envision these two working initially, but I thought that same thing when CP3 went to Houston, and they were by far the closest team in the Western Conference to dethroning the dynastical Warriors.

7. Los Angeles Lakers – It’s tough because could LeBron take this regular season a bit more seriously from day one seeing what happened last year? If he does, he could get injured again—how many NBA minutes can one body take? If he doesn’t, he has AD to lean on now, and there is a world where AD just wrecks the league. He certainly has the talent to do so. But is the cast of role players minus LeBron as good as any team he had in New Orleans the last few years? Probably not.

8. Golden State Warriors – Let’s not fool ourselves—this version of the Warriors is not as good as the 73-win team pre-KD, even though the three main guys are still there. Klay is hurt, Draymond looked old last regular season. Steph is still great, but the supporting cast isn’t nearly as good as it has been in the last few years. I do think Steph can pull off an MVP-type season and they will ascend to this spot despite a poor cast around those three and D’Lo.

9. Portland Trailblazers – Dame and CJ are still great. I think overall they stayed stagnant with all the trades they made. Whiteside is a better defender than Kanter, so maybe they slightly improved if anything. But Dame and CJ are good enough to get them to this spot.

10. Boston Celtics – Finally, another team in the Eastern Conference. To be fair, I thought it was a toss-up between them and Portland. It’ll be interesting to see how Kemba does with an actual team around him. They also have the pieces to add another great player at the deadline, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

11. Indiana Pacers – With Oladipo back, these guys will be really good. Losing Bogdanovic will sting a bit, but if Brogdon can stay healthy, they might even be higher up on this list.

12. San Antonio Spurs – Popp will have this team in the playoffs even in this format. He’s a genius and will probably make Trey Lyles an all-star caliber player.

13. Toronto Raptors – The Raptors lost their best player, obviously. They were 18-4 last year in games he sat out. They obviously won’t be that good, but they would be good enough with Siakam, Lowry and company to make the playoffs here.

14. Miami Heat – They would go up a bit on this list if they are able to acquire CP3 from the Thunder, but I really like Jimmy Butler as a player and think they have enough around him to be able to compete pretty well in the league.

15. Dallas Mavericks – Kristaps and Luka—a match made in foreign-player heaven. They will be really good next season, but their ascension is another year away. They squeak in with this format though.

16. New Orleans Pelicans – Not just because of Zion. These guys are deep, and that matters a lot. I do like Lonzo as a PG, Ingram can score, and the Redick and Favors additions make this a really fun team. If all these pieces work together well, they will probably be better than this and might actually push for a playoff spot the way it’s currently constructed.

Rahim: This has been a topic that has crossed my mind for several years now. Once LeBron James left the Eastern Conference last year, it became now clear. That’s why I buy this idea!

This has been something that should have changed years ago. Let’s go back to the 2014-15 playoffs. We saw a 45-37 Oklahoma City Thunder team finish 9th in the Western Conference, which would have earned them a playoff spot ahead of the Boston Celtics (40-42) and Brooklyn Nets (38-44).

The following season was the same, in favor of the Chicago Bulls (42-40), who missed out on the playoffs when a team like the Houston Rockets finished 41-41 in the Western Conference and still made it.

The 2016-17 playoffs would have been fine, as the Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat all finished the season with a 41-41 record, which meant one team would’ve still missed the playoffs.

I think the 2017-2018 playoffs is what really got people thinking this needs to change. We saw a 46-36 Denver Nuggets team miss out on the playoffs in the Western Conference, but would’ve taken the spot of the Washington Wizards had it been the top 16 teams.

This past playoff was finished in terms of the right teams making it, but instead of seeing the Los Angeles Clippers face the Golden State Warriors in the first round, it would’ve been the Brooklyn Nets. After seeing what has happened in free agency, that would’ve been interesting to see. Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder would have had a first-round match with Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers. Now that would’ve been more fun to watch without LeBron James in the playoffs.

This upcoming season, the two best teams are likely to be both LA teams, and here is where I rank them in the top 16.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

2. Milwaukee Bucks

3. Los Angeles Clippers

4. Philadelphia 76ers

5. Denver Nuggets

6. Houston Rockets

7. Utah Jazz

8. Portland Trail Blazers

9. Indiana Pacers

10. Toronto Raptors

11. Golden State Warriors

12. Brooklyn Nets

13. Boston Celtics

14. San Antonio Spurs

15. Orlando Magic

16. Dallas Mavericks

Dan: I buy that the NBA should/will change the playoff format that makes it the 16 best teams in the league, rather than eight from each conference. This is really based on the fact that the Western Conference has so many good teams who could end up missing the conference playoffs while teams in the Eastern Conference, who have way worse records, are making the playoffs because the Eastern Conference is weaker.

It will only create better competition in the league, especially with how common super teams are now. I mean seriously, imagine LeBron James and Anthony Davis taking on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in a seven game NBA Finals series in the Staples center.

Or one of the LA teams facing the Golden State Warriors in the finals. It would drastically change the game in such a huge way, and I truly think it needs to happen.

With that being said, here are my top 16 teams right now with the new format.

1. LA Clippers

2. Milwaukee Bucks

3. Philadelphia 76ers

4. LA Lakers

5. Golden State Warriors

6. Brooklyn Nets

7. Denver Nuggets

8. Portland Trail Blazers

9. Toronto Raptors

10. Houston Rockets

11. Utah Jazz

12. Indiana Pacers

13. Detroit Pistons

14. New Orleans Pelicans

15. Boston Celtics

16. San Antonio Spurs

 

After Monday night, the Home Run Derby SHOULD change its format?

Rahim: I will also be buying into this. With the way the MLB has formatted the Home Run Derby, it’s not as interesting anymore. I liked it better when it was no head-to-head. I get they want to have an American League versus National League Championship, but why take away from the potential slugfest.

This past Monday we saw Toronto Blue Jays’ rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. slug it out with Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson in the AL finals. Guerrero totaled 91 homers in the derby and break records that Dan will tell you more about.

I would love to see it go back to the normal every batter against each other, and the players who have more homers at the end of each of round not only go onto the next round, but their home runs carry over with them.

Dan: I buy the Home Run Derby format needs to be changed after Monday night.

If we are being real here,  Toronto Blue Jays’ rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a total of 91 homers and set a new single-round record in each of the first two rounds (29 and 40). The 91 homers were also a new total record, but he still lost to New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso because of the head to head format.

Alonso had a total of 57 home runs. In what world should a guy who hits 34 more home runs than his competitor lose the competition? Yes, I realize it’s always been like that and the same case happened to Josh Hamilton in 2008. The total number of home runs hit Monday night was 312, and that shattered the old record, which was set within the last 2-3 years if I’m correct.

The game of Baseball is changing, especially when it comes to the Home Run Derby, and the format must change with it. There’s no other way to say this, but Vlad. Jr. should have easily won that Home Run Derby based off of his total amount of Home Runs throughout the night. It’s ridiculous to see a guy in the home run derby when his competitor had more home runs in the first two rounds than the winner had the entire derby. It must be changed.

Mickayeen: I sell this. Bracket style is everything we like about sports in America: March madness, playoffs, etc. are all great because of the bracket style. Everyone will remember Vlad more than Alonso when it’s all said and done anyway.

 

Will Mike Conley help the Utah Jazz propel in the West, or is he simply overrated?

Dan: I sell that Mike Conley will help the Utah Jazz propel in the West any more than they did last season. This team is Donovan Mitchell’s, and it’s going to stay that way. Simply put, Mike Conley may be one of the most over-hyped players in the league.

He has been in this league since the 2007-2008 season, so 12 seasons in total. He has never been an all-star, and his only accolade is being on the 2012-2013 All-Defensive Team. He’s never been on an All-NBA team either.

In 12 seasons as probably the Memphis Grizzlies top “go-to guy,” he’s averaged 14.9 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 5.7 assists per game, with an average of two turnovers while shooting 44 percentage from the field, but yet he makes 33 million dollars a season and has one of the largest contracts in NBA history.

I’m not buying the Mike Conley hype simply off these facts. The 4th overall pick in the 2007 draft is one of the richest men in the NBA, and he has nothing to show for it other than the stats that a lot of bench players probably average and no All-Star or all-NBA appearances. This guy has no accolades and average stats. He gives me no reason to believe that he’s going to make any sort of monumental impact on this Jazz team.

Mickayeen: To answer the Conley question, you have to first look at the team he’s going to. It’s true that the Jazz were the fifth seed in the Western Conference by the end of last season, so it doesn’t really seem like one or two players will make a big difference, but let’s look at how they ended: Since January 5th, they were 32-12, which was the second-best record in the Western Conference; only the Warriors were better during that stretch, and only by one game.

It’s not completely out of the question that they could be up there again. The two LA teams definitely look good, but they will likely be resting a lot during the regular season, which will open a path to a team like the Jazz to pick up a top-three seed in the conference.

Now let’s look at who Conley will be replacing in Utah and compare the two: Rubio had an average of 12.7/3.6/6.1 last season. Conley had 21.1/3.4/6.4. Those are just surface numbers and already Conley is a huge improvement. Conley is more efficient, especially from three-point land. Not to mention, he has never been on a team nearly this talented, especially with someone as talented as Mitchell, who is able to create his own shot.

Mitchell will take some offensive pressure off of Conley. Not to mention their addition of Bojan Bogdanovic, who will space the floor and make the Jazz an extremely dangerous team adding to the likes of Joe Ingles, who is a career 40 percent three-point shooter.

To hedge my bet a bit, I will say that this team could run into a lot of injuries, but so could any team. All things being equal, I do think the Jazz are a top-three team in the Western Conference.

Rahim: I am going to sell this! It’s actually way easy if you ask me. I have be a fan of Mike Conley and I believe that he is a better player than he gets credit for. However, I don’t think the Utah Jazz or any Western Conference team will help that matter.

You see, the Western Conference is so stacked with a number of great point guards like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and maybe Chris Paul, that Conley is never the first choice at getting an All-Star spot. Don’t forget to add D’Angelo Russell in the mix of point guards now. So let’s not focus on him being an All-Star, but I don’t think he’s a bust either.

Conley had to battle through some devastating injuries and the decline of a once competitive Memphis Grizzlies team. The trade to the Utah Jazz gives the Jazz the point guard they have long been waiting for. I don’t see how Conley can help a team like the Jazz propel further, especially when it’s going to be tough to beat the Los Angeles teams in a seven game series anyways.

I do think the Jazz can compete for one of the top five spots in the Western Conference, but that’s all they are right now with the way the conference is looking.

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There you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Should the NBA change the playoff system to the top 16 teams instead of best eight in a conference?
  • Does the Home Run Derby format need to be changed?
  • Can Mike Conley propel the Utah Jazz to the next level?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment!

Buy or Sell: D’Angelo Russell, Pittsburgh Pirates and Utah Jazz

While Joel Deering, Mickayeen Farner and I were discussing, Joel brought up D’Angelo Russell’s move to the Golden State Warriors, and labeled Russell as the next Steph Curry. Mickayeen immediately disagreed. So the two decided to debate it out here in this week’s Buy or Sell. Along with Russell vs. Curry, we’ll also bring up the Pittsburgh Pirates after they crushed the Chicago Cubs 5-18 and the Utaz Jazz and their Western Conference chances. 

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D’Angelo Russell by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Aman: D’Angelo Russell is capable of being the next Steph Curry?

Mickayeen: I’ll start with the classic Player A/Player B scenario. These are the first four seasons of Steph vs the first four seasons of D’Lo:

Player A (per game): 16.5 points/ 3.7 rebounds/ 5.1 assists
Player B (per game): 19.2 points/ 4.0 rebounds/ 6.1 assists
Seems pretty close on the surface, but when we dig deeper and look at more advanced numbers, we see where the separation really is:

Player A: 35.3 3P%, 49.2 eFG%, 76.2 FT%, 51.9 TS%, 28.2 USG%, 6.6 WS, 4.6 VORP
Player B: 44.6 3P%, 54.8eFG%, 90.1 FT%, 58.6 TS%, 24.2 USG%, 24.7 WS, 11.2 VORP
Explanation of those stats: 3P% is simply three-point percentage; eFG is adjusted for the three-point FG is worth one more point than the two; FT% is free-throw percentage; TS% is a true measure of efficiency, taking into account, two-pointers, three-pointers, and free-throws; USG% is usage percentage, or the estimate of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor; WS is the estimate of number of wins added by the player, similar to WAR in baseball; and VORP is an estimate of points added per 100 possessions.

Player A is D’Angelo Russell and player B is Stephen Curry through their first four years in the league. I mean, it’s not even really that close when you look at it. Steph shot 10% better from three-point land, was more efficient in every single category, and scored more points per game despite having a lower usage rate than D’Lo. The counting stats wills look closer when looking at the per 36 minutes or per 100 possessions because of that higher usage rate, but make no mistake about it, even though D’Lo is a really good player, he is no Steph, and the efficiency numbers and advanced metrics reveal that truth.

Joel: Looking at Mickayeen’s breakdown of D’Angelo Russell against Steph Curry, I can see how one might think to say Russell is the next Curry is ridiculous. However, there are several other stats we can look at that will say otherwise.

In their first four seasons in the league, Russell made 589 three-pointers, while Curry made 644. Curry made 55 more three-point shots than Russell. However, Curry also started more games and played more minutes per game. During their first four seasons, Curry started 28 more games and averaged 5.6 more minutes per game than Russell.

When you do the math, you’ll find that Curry averaged 2.55 three-point shots made per start. Looking at Russell, he averaged 2.63 three-point shots made per start. At that pace, had Russell started as many games as Curry during their first four seasons, he would currently be at 662 three-point shots, 18 more than Curry.

Moving on to their points per game, Steph Curry beat out Russell in points averaged per game during their first four seasons. We could go back to the starts argument here, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll compare how long it took each player to get over 20 points per game. It took both Russell and Curry until their fourth NBA season to average over 20 points per game, Russell averaging 21.1 and Curry 22.9.

Next, we’ll look at their assists. How long did it take each player to average over six assists? It took both of them until their fourth NBA season, with Russell averaging 7.0 and Curry 6.9.

Next, let’s look at the playoffs. Steph Curry didn’t take his team to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. D’Angelo Russell didn’t take his team to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. What seed were their teams in their first playoff appearance? They were both six seeds.

Finally, I’ll just add that D’Angelo Russell is the youngest player in NBA history to reach 500 three-point shots made. Russell may not have the same shooting percentages as Curry, but there are plenty of other similarities between the two guards.

Mickayeen: The Utah Jazz are favorites to win the Western Conference?

Joel: As it currently stands, I don’t think the Jazz are considered the favorites to win the Western Conference. They’ve made some really nice moves this offseason, which I think definitely makes them contenders to win the Western Conference, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say the favorites.

Looking at the teams in the Western Conference, you’ve got the Nuggets (Should be even better than last season), Warriors (Will still be contenders despite losing Durant and Klay being out), Blazers (Consistently tough), Rockets (Despite drama, should still be there), Lakers (Should be in the playoffs this season), Clippers and several other teams. Among all those teams, I don’t think I’d take the Utah Jazz as favorites. Do they have the pieces to win the Western Conference? I think they do. Are they the favorites? I think at least a few other teams would be favored at this point.

Aman: I was about to buy this, but then the Los Angeles Clippers did two things. First, they signed NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard from Toronto Raptors. Due to that, Paul George signed from Oklahoma City. To be honest, even Leonard alone would’ve pitted the Clippers as favorites for me. And adding onto Joel’s points, the Houston Rockets can be NBA title contenders, forget the Conference. The Trailblazers, Warriors and the Lakers will likely be in the hunt, not to forget the kind of damage the Denver Nuggets can do. Therefore, I sell this.

Joel: The Pittsburgh Pirates will finish with a better record than the Philadelphia Phillies by the end of the season despite the Phillies having Bryce Harper?

Mickayeen: I wish I could buy the Pirates being better than the Phillies by the end of the season, but I just can’t. Even as it stands right now (July 3rd), the Phillies are 3.5 games better, have a +6 run differential while the Pirates have a -39. The Phillies are the more talented team overall and will probably finish 5-10 games better than the pirates. You can never say never in sports, especially baseball, but this doesn’t seem like it’ll finish close.

Aman: In terms of wins and losses, both teams seem similarly consistent this season. The Pirates have just won two fewer games, but the reason I buy the Pirates doing better than the Phillies this season is the away ratio. The Pirates have a batter away record winning 22 games compared to the Phillies’ 20.

 

Now that you have our takes on these intriguing debates, let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

  • Is D’Angelo Russell set to be the next Steph Curry?
  • Are Utah Jazz favorites to win the Western Conference?
  • Will the Pirates beat out the Phillies?

NBA Free Agency: Top 10 power forwards

After spending the last two days talking about the point guards and centers, we will now turn our attention to the forwards. If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can check out the centers here. Now we’ll move on to their counterpart in the lineup, the power forwards.

Markieff Morris, Paul Millsap
Markieff Morris, Paul Millsap” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This position might be even more important than the centers because of the way the NBA is transitioning. These players have the ability to stretch the floor, which is what most teams look for. So let’s see where these guys might be going and how they’ll fit.

Top 10 power forwards

1. Paul Millsap

Current Team: Denver Nuggets

New Team: Denver Nuggets

Millsap is one of the veterans on this list who we could find with several different teams. Of course, the Nuggets will have the first option, but they’ll need to work on something that works for both sides. Millsap and Nikola Jokic have been able to do great things together as members of the Denver Nuggets, and I don’t think they want this to end, nor should they. The Nuggets are one of the best teams in the Western conference with these two together, and I hope they can work out a deal.

2. Derrick Favors

Current Team: Utah Jazz

New Team: Utah Jazz

Regardless of all the teams who want Favors on their roster, I think the Jazz will bring him back. With the trade the Jazz made for Mike Conley, they’re looking to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. It will help them actually be able to use other players in the right role. Favors’ role with Rudy Gobert has helped give the Jazz success, and I don’t see them letting that go yet.

3. Tobias Harris

Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

New Team: Brooklyn Nets

Let’s face it, the Sixers went all out last year trying to make it to the Finals with the trade they made to get Harris. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s amazing game-winner in game seven. Now the Sixers are in for a lot of changes. They’ll be looking to refill their team around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid once again. I think Harris will be moving elsewhere. A place like Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving could be nice for Harris. He would be able to play his true forward position, which would benefit him.

4. Nikola Mirotic

Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

New Team: Boston Celtics

Mirotic has been on three different teams in the last three seasons and is looking for a nice place to call home. Milwaukee could still be an option, but with the limited cap space available, he’ll likely be the odd man out. The Celtics could benefit from this, as they’ll be looking to retool their roster without Irving and Al Horford. Let’s not forget that Marcus Morris is likely to leave as well. Mirotic could have a bigger role with the Celtics as a possible starter alongside Jayson Tatum.

5. Marcus Morris

Current Team: Boston Celtics

New Team: New York Knicks

Yeah, Morris leaves Boston too, just like Horford and Irving. However, he leaves because he wanted more money than the Celtics are ready to give. The Knicks have plenty of money and need to find players who want to play there. I think Morris playing with DeAndre Jordan could be a great defensive force for the Knicks. Don’t forget to add Kevin Knox and R. J. Barrett into the mix. The real question is, will they still get a top free agent like Kevin Durant?

6. Julius Randle

Current Team: New Orleans Pelicans

New Team: Indiana Pacers

As soon as the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, Randle opted out of his deal. I’m not sure if he feels some type of way about his former teammates of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, but I think he made the right move. Regardless, the Pelicans drafted Zion Williamson, which meant more depth issues. I can see Randle fitting well with the Indiana Pacers. Can you imagine having Ricky Rubio with Myles Turner, Domantas Sabnois and Randle? Let’s not forget about Victor Oladipo and the hope of him returning to the team soon. Randle needs a coach who will help him continue to grow his game, and the players around him will be good too.

7. Kristaps Porzingis

Current Team: Dallas Mavericks (via Knicks)

New Team: Dallas Mavericks

I don’t think I need to explain anything. Despite not playing a game with the Mavericks last season, Porzingis will return. The trade would’ve never taken place if he was just going to get up and leave. We know from reports earlier this week that he and the Mavericks are working on a five-year deal, so expect him to stay.

8. Thaddeus Young

Current Team: Indiana Pacers

New Team: Philadelphia 76ers

Now it’s time for us to have a little fun. With Randle going to Indiana, Thaddeus Young will likely be on the way out. I could see him making a return to where it all began for him. That place is Philadelphia, and Young could be a better fit for what the Sixers are trying to do now. Can you imagine having him with Embiid and Simmons? I know Young isn’t the same caliber player as Harris, but he is a player who can fill the void at the position for them.

9. Kenneth Faried

Current Team: Houston Rockets

New Team: New Orleans Pelicans

With the Rockets pursuing other needs, we could see Faried playing somewhere else. Although, you have to give him a lot of credit for how he stepped up for the Rockets during the absence of Clint Capela. Faried showed he could be a nice role player and a good leader. That’s why I think the Pelicans are a good fit for him. Regardless of whether or not they keep Jahlil Okafor at the center, Faried could be a nice leader to this young team and help Jrue Holiday.

10. Al-Farouq Aminu

Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers

New Team: Milwaukee Bucks

The Blazers have a lot of questions to answer at the forward position, but I think they struck gold in the draft with Nassir Little. They also still have Maurice Harkless on the team, so they might be comfortable letting Aminu leave. With Aminu leaving, he’ll be free to go wherever he wants. I think Milwaukee could be a good fit. Aminu will play the same role Mirotic played last season. The role of backing up Giannis Antetokounmpo, but still being a productive piece off the bench. The Bucks have their eyes set on winning an NBA championship, but they fell short of reaching the finals. With the Bucks adding more players like Aminu, it could put them over the top in the Eastern Conference again.

How will all these players help each of their new teams? Can one or more of them make an impact and get their team over the hump? Or do they need to add some shooting? Don’t worry that’s the next set we’ll be getting too, so stay tuned!

NBA season review: 1/9/19 – 1/21/19

We are more than halfway through the 2019 NBA season, which means the more important part of the season is right around the corner! That important part is the playoffs, and we are now just three months away, as teams look to make the final moves to help them make it in.

As we look at the standings of the playoffs, we will see much of the same in terms of which teams are still in the hunt. For the West, the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies are slowly falling out of playoff hunt, while the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves are continuing to rise. The East is still an 11 team race, with the same teams involved, but we are starting to see a lot more from teams that may surprise us.

We’ll find out more about this later as we look at those teams on the hot and cold list. If you forgot who was on the list last time, you can read about it here.

Before we get into the hot or cold teams, we’ll see what there is that we might have missed over the past two weeks.

Mike Conley” by Sean Davis is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Injuries

  • New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (finger) is expected to be out approximately 1-2 weeks.
  • Memphis Grizzlies’ Kyle Anderson (ankle) is expected to miss 2-4 weeks.
  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball (left ankle) is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Lakers are hoping that Rajon Rondo and LeBron James will return soon enough.
  • Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic (knee) continues to miss time and expected to return after the All-Star game.
  • Houston Rockets’ Clint Capela (thumb) is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks, and Chris Paul (hamstring) is hoping to return by the end of the month.
  • Dallas Mavericks’ J.J. Barea (Achilles) will be out for the rest of the season.

 

Trade Rumors

  • Houston Rockets have agreed to send Carmelo Anthony and cash to the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls plan to waive Anthony and make him an unrestricted free agent if he clears waivers. Anthony has immediate interest from the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James.
  • Dallas Mavericks’ Dennis Smith Jr. has been in the news as a trading piece for the Mavericks.

 

Team Additions

  • Toronto Raptors signed Patrick McCaw
  • Boston Celtics signed R.J. Hunter
  • Detroit Pistons signed Isaiah Whitehead
  • Philadelphia 76ers signed Corey Brewer
  • Brooklyn Nets waived Kenneth Faried (looking for a new team)

 

Other News

  • Rockets’ James Harden continues streaking with 19th game with 30 + points while averaging 42.5 points and 8.9 assists over that time.
  • Golden State Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins returns from injury.
  • Kyrie Irving calls LeBron James to apologize for being a young player who wanted to be a leader.
  • Steph Curry and Kyle Korver pass Jason Terry for All-Time career leaders in 3-pointers.
  • Joel Embiid fueding with Russell Westbrook and James Harden in their games against each other.
  • Klay Thompson sets NBA record for most consecutive 3s made in a row (10)

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, Jan. 21st.

 

East:                           West:

1. Bucks (34-12)         1. Warriors (33-14)

2. Raptors (35-13)      2. Nuggets (31-14)

3. Pacers (31-15)        3. Thunder (28-18)

4. 76ers (31-17)          4. Blazers (29-19)

5. Celtics (29-18)        5. Rockets (26-20)

6. Nets (25-23)           6. Spurs (27-21)

7.  Heat (22-23)          7. Clippers (25-21)

8. Hornets (22-24)      8. Jazz (26-22)

9. Pistons (20-26)       9. Lakers (25-23)

10. Wizards (20-26)  10. Kings (24-23)

11. Magic (20-27)      11. Timberwolves (22-24)

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

 

Cold Teams

Orlando Magic

The Magic have dropped seven of their last 10 games and haven’t made any progress in their step to make the playoffs. The Magic have actually fallen even more in the standings. Hopefully they can climb back into the race. I mean, they are only 2.5 games back from the eighth spot and have plenty of games left, so let’s see if they can make it back into the playoffs before it’s too late.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have continued to be effected by the injury bug. As you might have seen above, PG Lonzo Ball is expected to miss four to six weeks with an ankle sprain. They are also facing the toughest part of their schedule, with 10 of their next 15 games being against teams currently in the playoffs. They also still don’t have LeBron James and Rajon Rondo back from their injuries, but it looks like they could be available soon.

Memphis Grizzlies

Still not sure what’s going on with the Grizzlies, as they continue to fall in the standings. They are currently 14th in the West with six straight losses. Center Marc Gasol has been in and out of the lineup, and they have been struggling.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are still in the hunt despite being ninth in the standings, but they are continuously falling and need to find Blake Griffin some help. It’s nice to know that Griffin is coming along on his own with the Pistons, but one man can’t make the team better. Yeah, I mean they do have Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, but both of them have been inconstant or injured all season. That certainly doesn’t help Griffin and the Pistons.

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

Brooklyn Nets

If I told you the Nets would be in the playoffs before the season, would you have believed me? Well you should because the Nets are surprisingly the sixth seed in the Eastern conference and could very well stay there. D’Angelo Russell has been playing well, which has given the team a spark as they look to continue to be hot. Let’s see how this plays out for them in the last few months and see if they can keep their playoff hopes alive.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are back to full force with the debut of DeMarcus Cousins, which you can find out about here. With Cousins now joining the Warriors, we could see some impressive performances by this Warriors team, as they plan to take complete control of the league. Watch out NBA, they are coming for the three-peat.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz have finally cracked the playoffs for the first time since the first week of the season. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are starting to get things going in the right direction. They have jumped from 11th to sixth while winning six of their last seven games. They are hoping to continue having success from this point on.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics finally have everybody back from injury and are looking to capitalize on that. With Gordon Hayward taking on the sixth man role, things are starting to look up for them. Irving has shown he’s ready to not only be a leader, but be a team player as well. Let’s also remember that Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have continued to improve their game throughout the season. Don’t let the Celtics being in the fifth spot fool you, because they could very well be in the top three when it’s all said and done.

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

As we watch the league continue to play great basketball, we should also remember to vote for the NBA All-Stars. We should all make sure to vote for the best players in the league!

NBA season review: 12/25/18 – 1/8/19

With the holidays behind us, we now turn our attention to the start of a new year. And with this new year, many teams have set a goal to become the NBA champions.

As we approach the halfway point of the season, most teams are still in the playoff race. For the West, every team except the Phoenix Suns are in the race. That’s 14 teams fighting for only eight spots, so you know we’ll be in for a lot more excitement as the season heads into the second half. For the East, it’s still an 11 team race, but a lot has happened and it could quickly become a 10 team race, which I’ll explain later.

When you look at those teams on the hot and cold list, you’ll see similar teams from the last article before the holidays!

So there’s not much we missed, besides a few injuries that impacted teams.

One of those injuries was to Washington Wizards PG John Wall, who will likely miss the season with a heel injury. Teammates Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris are also dealing with injuries. The Houston Rockets are still playing without PG Chris Paul because of his hamstring injury. The LeBron led Lakers have had to play a few games without him and Rajon Rondo, who are both dealing with injuries. All these injuries have affected these teams, as you can see in standings below!

But these injuries aren’t the only news we got from the NBA over the past two weeks. The Los Angeles Clippers PG Patrick Beverley is back at it again. On New Year’s Day, Beverley and the Clippers took on the Philadelphia 76ers with Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid. It was a closely contested game all night, which started to get chippy late. We saw Clippers guard Avery Bradley and Jimmy Butler get ejected. Read the full story here.

There was also a trade that this time included Marshon Brooks. It was a trade between the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls that would send Brooks, Wayne Selden and two 2nd-round picks to the Bulls for Justin Holiday! Not sure if that’s a fair trade, but nonetheless, it was a trade that worked for both teams!

Let’s see where each of these teams stand as of right now in the standings.

East:                           West:

1. Raptors (31-12)      1. Nuggets  (27-12)

2. Bucks (28-11)         2. Warriors (27-14)

3. Pacers (27-13)        3. Thunder (25-15)

4. 76ers (27-14)          4. Clippers (24-16)

5. Celtics (24-15)        5. Rockets (23-16)

6. Heat (19-20)            6. Spurs (24-17)

7.  Nets (20-22)           7. Blazers (24-17)

8. Hornets (19-21)      8. Lakers (22-19)

9. Pistons (17-21)       9. Jazz (20-21)

10. Magic (17-23)       10. Kings (20-21)

11. Wizards (16-25)    11. Timberwolves (20-21)

 

After looking at where each team stands in the playoff race, let’s turn our attention to the teams who are cold or hot, as well as other teams to watch for over the next few weeks.

Cold Teams

Los Angeles Lakers

As a Lakers fans, this one really hurts to watch because they’ve been playing well, but with the injuries to Rajon Rondo and LeBron James it is no surprise. The Lakers’ young core has been led by these two guys all season, but James pulled his groin during the great win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas day. Rondo has been dealing with injuries all season, but he has figured out a way to still help the growth on Lonzo Ball.

That’s what this season is all about for Rondo and James. Helping the young guys like Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and even Josh Hart. I don’t expect to see the Lakers on the cold list for long, as James returns and looks to get them back into the top four of the Western Conference.

Detroit Pistons

I still don’t understand what’s going on with the Pistons. I know the East isn’t that good compared to the West, but they are barely in the playoffs and haven’t seemed to find themselves where they were earlier in the season. There has been recent struggles with PG Reggie Jackson, who says he’s in his own head. Hopefully, he can get out of his head and play the way we know he can alongside Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks don’t know whether they want to be hot or cold. But then again, they are still in the learning curve with the young guys like Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic trying to play together with the veterans like Dirk Nowitzki and DeAndre Jordan. I still believe Doncic will end up winning the rookie of the year award, like I said in previous articles, but can he and the Mavericks manage to get themselves into one of the playoff spots?

Washington Wizards

As you probably read above, the Wizards are suffering from a lot of injuries to different key players. It’s going to be a tough season for their fans, as they watch the Wizards likely fall further down and remain in the bottom four of the Eastern Conference. With Morris, Porter and Wall all out, coach Scott Brooks needs to find a way to motivate this team. Maybe turning to the next guy after Wall, Bradley Beal! I have said previously the Wizards need to break up their guard duo, but maybe it’s a good thing. Neither of them could stay healthy for the entire season, but they still manage to fight and claw their way into the playoffs. I’m not so sure this will be the case this season.

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

Milwaukee Bucks

This isn’t a surprise, the Bucks are one of the younger teams in the league with a lot of proven talent. They have been able to make the playoffs, but could never make it past the second round. I think this year will be different. Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing out of his mind and looking like a real candidate for MVP.  He is my choice, and he should be yours too.

Indiana Pacers

Victor Oladipo has returned from injury and has picked up right where he left off. That’s always a good thing for teams without their All-Star guard. However, the Pacers were still doing a decent job without him. I’ll be honest though, it’s going to be a five-team race to the top in the East, and Pacers will be one of them. Who are the other four? Well, just look at the standings. Those are the top five teams in the East and any one of them could win it.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets beat the Warriors 135-134 in an epic overtime game where the Rockets didn’t have Chris Paul.  They certainly did “fear the beard,” as James Harden went off and carried his team to a huge win over the defending champions. He has helped lead the Rockets back to the top of the Western Conference. Okay, well not all the way yet, but they have gone from 13th to fifth in just one month. Most of these games have been without PG Chris Paul. It’s like Harden is trying to prove he is still the MVP until he says otherwise!

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers have suddenly gone from cold to hot, yet they haven’t moved a spot in the standings. That shows how competitive the Western conference will be this year. It does not surprise me to see the Blazers have another good season, as they look to stay in the hunt for one of the top spots in the playoffs. With both C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard playing extremely well, we should continue to see the Blazers have success and be on the hot list.

But let’s also take a look at the teams to watch as the season goes on.

 

Teams to watch

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are surprisingly playing well. We might even see them in the playoffs. Yes, that’s the goal for the Nets this year. They are as capable as ever of making the playoffs in a weakened Eastern Conference. All the players on the team have played well together, as they continue to stay in the hunt for the playoffs and look to bring more excitement to the city of Brooklyn.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz are slowly climbing their way back into the playoff picture. We could see them there for the first time since October. They look like they are finally getting everything together the way it was last year. If that is the case, then we might be in for an exciting second half of the season for the Jazz.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are still in the hunt, but out of it right now. With the East being so weak, we might actually be able to see them in the playoffs. The last three spots in the East are open for the taking right now. I think it’ll be good for them to make the playoffs, even though they probably won’t have an chance of winning a seven game series against the top five teams. Just the fact that they make playoffs after so many years of struggle is great for the franchise.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings are like the Nets and the Magic in the sense that they haven’t been in the playoffs in many years. Their chances of making it by seasons end will be a lot more difficult for them than it is for teams in the Eastern Conference. But the Kings have played exceptionally well this season. I am actually surprised in how well they are playing. Before the season,  I thought they were going to have the worst record in the West, behind even the Phoenix Suns. You can see that here!

 

As we watch the league continue to play great basketball, we should also remember that voting for the NBA All-Stars has started! We should all make sure to vote for the best players in the league!

So I expect to see some more votes being cast for other guys like Steven Adams, Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard. Come on guys, let’s get them in!

 

NBA Season Review: October 29th – November 13th

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

It’s been a month since the National Basketball Association tipped off its season. Going into the season, it was all about the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James’ move to Los Angeles.

There have been several other headlines though. Like the eventual trade between the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs that would have Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan that we spoke briefly about in the last article. As you read along, I will tell you how that trade continues to benefit each team.

But since then, there has been a new emergence in the East. Well, not yet, but it’s coming. The emergence is in Philadelphia, where we should all trust the process. Because whether or not it was part of the process, Jimmy Butler is now a Sixer. It was announced on Saturday during the mist of all the college football games, so in case you missed it, Joel’s got you covered.

What does this mean for the Sixers and the East? We’ll talk more about that as well. So let’s see how things have changed from the last time we did a season review.

East:                        West:

1. Raptors (12-2)    1. Warriors (12-3)

2. Bucks (10-3)       2. Trail Blazers (10-3)

3. 76ers (9-6)          3. Nuggets (9-5)

4. Pacers (8-6)        4. Clippers (8-5)

5. Celtics (7-6)        5. Thunder (8-5)

6. Hornets (7-7)      6. Spurs  (7-5)

7. Pistons (6-6)       7. Grizzlies (7-5)

8. Nets (6-8)            8. Kings (8-6)

If you have been keeping up, you would have noticed there’s been a slight change to the current seedings. It will continue to be changing all season long. But where is your favorite team now?

There are also good teams who have gotten off to a slow start and look completely ice cold.

Cold Teams

DENVER NUGGETS:

The Nuggets got off to a hot start in the first five games going 4-1, but since then they have gone 5-4 and lost four straight games after winning five in a row. The Nuggets looked like one of the top teams in the West. Some might have had them as an early favorite to finish as a top two team and a possible challenge for the Golden State Warriors. With the way they have been playing lately, that may be harder to believe. As of this point in this season, the Nuggets could very well be a playoff team,  but they still have a lot to figure out. The first thing they need to figure out is how to get back on the winning side of things and off the cold teams list.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS:

The Pelicans started off hot as well, with a 4-1 record like the Nuggets. But they have since dropped five of the last nine games. This is expected from the Pelicans after losing DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors. It is going to be a long season for Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, but we do expect them to be a playoff team.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS:

Let’s be honest, this was going to happen whether we all liked it or not! The Wizards have never really been a super great team, regardless of having the talented guards like John Wall and Bradley Beal. They may be able to inch their way into the playoffs in a weakened Eastern conference, but they don’t have much expectations besides that. We may end up leaving them off the list all together come next time.

DETROIT  PISTONS: 

The Pistons are looked at as a team that could make a huge jump from last year.  They finished 9th in the standings last year and could be a 7th or 8th seed this year and make the playoffs. They looked good the first two weeks of the season, as Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond were dominating the boards, but they have since slowed down. I expect things to pick up for them again like they have already.

With the cold, there is the hot! And apart from teams we expected to start strong, there are more!

Hot Teams

TORONTO RAPTORS:

The Raptors are looking like the team to beat in the East so far, although the Milwaukee Bucks handed them their first loss the night of the first article of this series. They didn’t let that bother them, as they continued to stay hot and hold control over the Eastern conference. Has Kawhi Leonard given the Raptors what they need to get to the next level? I guess only time will tell in this long NBA season, but it’s going to be a good competition for the top spot in the in the East.

UTAH JAZZ: 

The Jazz started the season off strong with a quick 4-2 start. Since then, the Jazz dropped to 7-6 after losing four straight. Ironically though, the Jazz are currently on a three-game streak. That could be a sign of better things to come on the young NBA season. The Jazz are still trying to figure themselves out and look to continue to increase their record, as they are one of the teams who were on the high expectations list.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: 

This is no surprise, the Blazers have put a good team together. Their only problem has been in the playoffs, where they can’t win a series. Luckily for them, they don’t have to worry about the playoffs until the summer and they can focus on taking the top spot in the toughest division in the league. Portland has to compete with the Jazz, Nuggets, Thunder and Timberwolves just to win their division. It will be an interesting watch as to who can take control over the division this year.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: 

After a quick 0-3 start, the Thunder have found themselves right back in the midst of the competition. Their biggest challenge this season is going to be figuring out how to play without their Triple-Double, Russell Westbrook, who is having a rough time staying healthy in the earlier part of this season. As the season goes on, we expect Westbrook to return and play alongside Paul George, Steven Adams and all the new additions to the team that could play big roles in their success this season.

This time, instead of giving you teams on the rise and teams with high expectations, we’ll just give you teams to watch for. And this should change each time.

Teams to Watch:

SAN ANTONIO SPURS: 

Did you have any doubt about the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard? I didn’t! I’ve grown up watching the Spurs battle and claw their way through the season and make the playoffs each year. And as a Lakers fan, it’s hard for me to admit, but coach Gregg Popovich is possibly the greatest coach of all time. He has managed to take several late draft picks and make them into something good. He doesn’t look like he’s interested in slowing down any time soon. That could be a problem for several teams in the league, especially those young teams trying to take it to the next level.

BOSTON CELTICS:

The Celtics are one of those young teams trying to make it to the next level.  Fortunately, the Celtics only have to face the Spurs twice, so they won’t be affected by Pop’s Spurs. Instead, they will be part of a wide open Eastern conference without LeBron James for the first time in 15 years. Can a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward take the Celtics back to the finals and hope to win it for the 18th time (most in NBA history), or will they continue to be a middle of the pack team like they are currently?

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES:

The Grizzlies have been on a surprising hot start for what they have gone through with injuries over the past two seasons. They might be a surprising team this year and could sneak into the playoffs behind a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. If the Grizzlies can manage to stay healthy, they could likely get themselves a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. Let’s keep an eye on them as the season goes on.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS:

Now here’s where things get interesting! The Sixers were already one of the favorites to come out the East, and with the Butler trade they are now considered the front-runner in the East. We have debated in this week’s “Buy or Sell,” so make sure you check that out later in the week. The thing to watch about the Sixers here is how Butler will connect with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons over the length of the season. Butler probably had a better team around him in Minnesota in terms of talent, but they just couldn’t learn to play together. Hopefully he can change his attitude and help the Sixers during their process of wanting to win a championship.

Let us know how you feel about your favorite team and where they are right now. Also, don’t forget to visit us again in two weeks for an update on the season and how each team is doing!

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Playoffs and Player Awards

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

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

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

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

Joel’s Southeast:                                              Joel’s Southwest:

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

Aman’s Central:                                            Mickayeen’s Northwest:

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

Adam’s Atlantic:                                           Rahim’s Pacific:

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

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

 

Joel’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                   Eastern Conference:

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

 

Aman’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference: 

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

 

Mickayeen’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference: 

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

 

Adam’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference:

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

 

 Rahim’s Picks

Western Conference:                                                       Eastern Conference:

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

 

Standings Breakdown:

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

 

First Round Playoffs:

Joel’s Picks

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

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

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

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

 

Aman’s Picks

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

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

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

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

 

 Mickayeen’s Picks

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

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

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

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

 

Adam’s Picks

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

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

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

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

 

Rahim’s Picks:

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

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

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

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

Breakdown:

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

 

Conference Semi-Finals:

Joel’s Picks

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

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

 

Aman’s Picks

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

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

 

Mickayeen’s Picks

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

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

 

Adam’s Picks

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

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

 

Rahim’s Picks

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

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

Semi-Finals Breakdown: 

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

 

Conference Finals:

Joel’s Picks

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

 

Aman’s Picks

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

 

Mickayeen’s Picks

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

 

Adam’s Picks

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

 

Rahim’s Picks

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

Breakdown: 

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

 

NBA Finals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Most Valuable Player:

Joel’s: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Aman’s: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Mickayeen’s: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Adam’s: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Rahim’s: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

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

 

Defensive Player of the Year:

Joel’s: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

Aman’s: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Mickayeen’s: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Adam’s: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Rahim’s: Anthony Davis,  New Orleans Pelicans

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

 

Rookie of the Year:

Joel’s: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Aman’s: Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

Mickayeen’s: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Adam’s: Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

Rahim’s: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

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

 

Most Improved Player:

Joel’s: Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans

Aman’s: Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons

Mickayeen’s: D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

Adam’s: Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls

Rahim’s: Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

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

 

Scoring Title:

Joel’s: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Aman’s: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Mickayeen’s: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Adam’s: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Rahim’s:  LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

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

 

Coach of the Year:

Joel’s: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Aman’s: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets

Mickayeen’s: David Fizdale, New York Knicks

Adam’s: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Rahim’s: Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers

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

 

Sixth Man Of The Year:

Joel’s: Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics

Aman’s: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

Mickayeen’s: Isaiah Thomas, Denver Nuggets

Adam’s: Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics

Rahim’s: Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans

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

 

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

2018-19 NBA Predictions: Northwest Division

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

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

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

 

1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 48-34

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

Offseason Acquisitions:

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

Offseason Departures:

  • Traded Carmelo Anthony and Dakari Johnson

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

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

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

Prediction: 56-26

 

2. UTAH JAZZ

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 48-34

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

Offseason Acquisitions:

  • Selected G Grayson Allen in the NBA Draft.

Offseason Departures:

  • Lost Jonas Jerebko in free agency.

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 54-28

 

3. DENVER NUGGETS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 46-36

Postseason Result: N/A

Offseason Acquisitions:

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

Offseason Departures:

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

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

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

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

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

Prediction: 52-30

 

4. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 47-35

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

Offseason Acquisitions:

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

Offseason Departures:

  • No significant losses, yet…..

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

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

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

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

Prediction: 42-40

 

5. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

OFFSEASON & REVIEW

Record: 49-33

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

Offseason Acquisitions:

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

Offseason Departures:

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

2018-19 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 41-41

 

PREDICTED DIVISION STANDINGS:

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

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