NBA Southwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Southwest Division

The Southwest Division has gained a superstar. Chris Paul joins the Rockets and James Harden to make the top of the division even better.

The San Antonio Spurs get a whole offseason to get Kawhi Leonard healthy, as well as having the best coach in the history of the NBA.

The Mavericks received a lottery pick and added Dennis Smith Jr. to a Dirk Nowitzki led team.

The New Orleans Pelicans get more time to have Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins mesh. They also added a pass-first point guard in Rajon Rondo, who hopes to help the two.

Finally, the Memphis Grizzlies look to improve on a solid season last year, but lose a few veterans who have contributed in the last few years.

Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Southwest Division this upcoming season.

Dallas Mavericks

2016-17 record: 33-49

2017-18 prediction: 36-46

The Mavericks have pretty quietly put together a solid starting lineup. Dennis Smith Jr. will solve one of the major problems that the team had.

The starting lineup of Smith, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel is a solid starting lineup. Smith is showing that he has big potential and can be a good point guard in the league.

Building with a core of Barnes and Smith could be lethal moving forward, but for the immediate future the Mavericks will be a fringe playoff team.

Houston Rockets

NBA Southwest Division preview

James Harden, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

2016-17 record: 55-27

2017-18 prediction: 56-26

The Houston Rockets gave up a lot, but they have another star to team up with James Harden. The west seems to be all about star power, and the Rockets have added some to their roster.

The west has been very strong and that is why they will hang around the same wins that they had last season.

Having good guard play is one of the many keys in having success in the NBA, and the Rockets have one of the best backcourts in the whole league.

Memphis Grizzlies

2016-17 record: 43-39

2017-18 prediction: 33-49

The Grizzlies didn’t add a bunch this offseason, but their main offseason move was the loss Zach Randolph.

With Chandler Parsons supremely underperforming comparatively to the contract that he signed, there is reason to believe that they have not gotten better this offseason.

Whether Randolph and Vince Carter leaving is a 10-win difference remains to be seen, but Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are basically the only options on offense now.

New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Southwest Division preview

Photo Courtesy of SB Nation.

2016-17 record: 34-48

2017-18 prediction: 43-39

The Pelicans finally get a whole season of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, which is enough to raise their win total from last season.

The big addition is Rajon Rondo. Rondo adds the ability to facilitate to the two big men and add to their output. They also added former Warrior guard Ian Clark to a very young bench.

Jrue Holiday is a solid guard as well. The Pelicans will rely heavily on their frontcourt and will potentially find their way to the playoffs because of them.

San Antonio Spurs

2016-17 record: 61-21

2017-18 prediction: 52-30

The west is a gauntlet and there’s no way around it.

The Spurs have nearly moved on from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and have handed the keys over to LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Dejounte Murray.

The Spurs seem to always be good with Gregg Popovich at the helm, and I don’t see it changing this season. A healthy Kawhi Leonard will be dangerous with solid pieces built around him.

The Spurs will be very good this season and will trade blows with the Houston Rockets at the top of the Southwest Division.

 

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NBA season preview: Pacific division

The Pacific Division is the home of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have the best team in basketball and everyone else is chasing them.

Three of the top five picks in the last draft find themselves suiting up in the Pacific division. The Suns and the Kings are currently in the midst of a rebuild but have formed solid foundations that look bright moving forward.

Finally, both of the teams in LA shook up their rotations in big ways this year by trading away one of their best players. The Pacific Division will be interesting due to the new faces in the division.

Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Pacific division for 2017-2018.

Golden State Warriors

Pacific Division

The Warriors celebrate, Photo Courtesy of USA Today.

2016-2017 record: 67-15

2017-2018 prediction: 64-18

This record doesn’t really show too much. The Warriors are the best team in basketball and they return nearly the same team. They add Nick Young and Jordan Bell (through the draft) this offseason to an already strong bench.

Ian Clark leaves the team but Patrick McCaw has emerged as a role player this summer and could possibly play some of the minutes that Clark did.

The record is pretty much up to Golden State here. Ultimately there’s an extremely high chance that the Warriors make the playoffs so it is just up to Steve Kerr on how many games they truly want to win in the regular season.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will always take this team deep into the playoffs if they are all healthy.

Los Angeles Clippers

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 44-38

Chris Paul wanted out of LA, but the Clippers somehow managed to get a very solid return for him.

Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley lead the charge out of the backcourt while the Clippers also added Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker. They lose Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul but have an interesting set of Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan forming.

A starting lineup of Beverley, Rivers, Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan with Williams coming first off the bench could be very interesting and doesn’t strike you as a team that just lost a superstar.

If Gallinari and Griffin can stay healthy this team looks like they could find a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

Pacific Division

Jordan Clarkson, Photo Courtesy of LA Sports Hub.

2016-2017 record: 26-56

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Lakers shook their roster up in a big way by getting out of the Timofey Mosgov contract. They also lost their best statistical player from last season in D’Angelo Russell.

However, in comes Brook Lopez, Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma and Ball were drafted by the Lakers this season and showed lots of promise in the summer league.

Brook Lopez is the big addition this offseason. An All-Star and proven low post scorer, Lopez adds something that’s rare in the NBA. The Lakers attempted to get away from their guard heavy rotation, thus getting rid of D’Angelo Russell to make way for Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson.

No one knows how good the Lakers will be but they will be much better than the product they had on the floor last season.

Phoenix Suns

2016-2017 record: 24-58

2017-2018 prediction: 28-54

The Suns turned their lottery pick into another young player with lots of potential. They are not necessarily in win now mode but more waiting a few years for their young talent to develop.

The Suns have grabbed a lot of former Kentucky guards to bolster their young backcourt. Josh Jackson, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss show promise in moving the Suns in the right direction.

The Suns continue to draft players that they find value in and put them on the floor. The Suns are getting a good young core together and could be a playoff team in the near future.

Sacramento Kings

2017 Sacramento Kings draft class, Photo Courtesy of Real Sport 101.

2016-2017 record: 32-50

2017-2018 prediction: 30-52

I don’t think the Kings have gotten worse at all, the Western Conference has gotten better. The Kings have mixed seasoned veterans in with great young talent.

Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, George Hill, Georgios Papagiannis, Harry Giles and Justin Jackson are just some of the talent that is in this loaded rotation.

The Kings are a team quickly on the rise and have done it specifically through the draft. With adding established veterans, the Kings are working to bridge the gap between putting a competitive product on the court as well as developing their younger guys looking to win in years to come.

Kings fans have a lot to look forward to moving forward, but for right now this is the Warriors division.

 

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NBA Northwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Northwest Division

The Northwest Division has a different look to it this season. Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap jump into an extremely competitive division.

This division has the potential to bring three or four teams to the playoffs. A tough division has gotten even tougher in just one offseason.

Here are the win predictions and preview for each team in the Northwest Division.

Denver Nuggets

2016-17 record: 40-42

2017-2018 prediction: 46-36

The Denver Nuggets have absolutely gotten better this summer. Paul Millsap adds to an already boarderline playoff team. Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris are the leaders on this team. The young talent is there to make a run.

Tyler Lydon is another addition from this summer and a good scoring option off the bench.

Despite being in a tough Western Conference, the Nuggets have a good chance to make it to the middle tier in the west.

Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Northwest Division preview

Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. (Photo Courtesy of Foxsports.com.)

2016-2017 record: 31-51

2017-2018 prediction: 49-33

Jimmy Butler is coming to town, as well as Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. The Timberwolves may be the fifth best team in the Western Conference, but they have a lot to put together to get to that point.

A season is long and grueling, so rotations need to be figured out quickly. The Timberwolves have a very different lineup heading into this season, so it will take a little while to get everyone used to playing with each other.

If the Wolves can put it together, they will be much better than people expect. Barring anything crazy, this will be the year the T-Wolves make the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2016-2017 record: 47-35

2017-2018 prediction: 50-32

Paul George tops off a great summer for the Thunder. He joins Patrick Patterson to add to a strong starting lineup.

One of the biggest parts of this offseason for the Thunder was getting out of the Victor Oladipo contract. They freed up money moving forward and that is a large asset for adding players moving forward.

George gives this team a win-now look, but not just anyone can play with Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder have gotten better this summer and more importantly match up better. To have another scoring option in the Western Conference means that there’s a possibility for a longer playoff run in Oklahoma City.

Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Northwest Division preview

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. (Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.)

2016-2017 record: 41-41

2017-2018 prediction: 38-44

As much as the Trail Blazers are intriguing, they still don’t have a dependable big man. Jusuf Nurkic has been good in his limited use on the team, but he isn’t reliable yet.

The Trail Blazers are a fringe playoff team, but the Western Conference is a gauntlet. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can only carry them so far without a dependable third option.

Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins are two solid young big men who have a bright future, but for the time being, the Trail Blazers are on the outside looking in.

Utah Jazz

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Jazz may have lost their best scorer, Gordon Hayward, from last season, but they did add Jonas Jerebko and Ricky Rubio, as well as draft pick Donovan Mitchell.

Jerebko is an underrated player who can stretch the floor and Mitchell looks like the most overlooked player in this draft after this summer. Even though the Jazz lost one of their best players, they still are in the hunt for a playoff birth this season.

Rudy Gobert will shine and Joe Johnson will find a way to add to the scoring that Hayward left behind. The Utah Jazz will be competitive this upcoming season.

 

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NBA season preview: Southeast Division

The Southeast Division has been interesting this offseason. With the Wizards emerging as the team to beat moving forward, it leaves the other four teams trying to contend.

The Atlanta Hawks and the Charlotte Hornets passed Dwight Howard to each other this offseason and the Miami Heat are now healthy moving forward and have added some key pieces. The Southeast Division has gotten stronger as a whole this offseason.

Here are the win predictions for each team in the Southeast Division.

Atlanta Hawks

2016-2017 record: 43-39

2017-2018 prediction: 22-60

The Hawks have elected to go younger this offseason losing Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr.

The Hawks will lose some of their top scorers but give way to the young talent of Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Price and newly drafted John Collins.

It will be a tough season in Atlanta. Ultimately they are relying on four young guys to carry most of the offensive load.

It’s hard to throw role players from last year right into the fire this year but the Atlanta Hawks have no choice. They will be giving their younger guys experience on the fly and they will be learning throughout the season.

The Atlanta Hawks will struggle this season, but they can only go up from here.

Charlotte Hornets

NBA season preview: Southeast Division

Dwight Howard, Photo Courtesy of sneakernews.com.

2016-2017 record: 36-46

2017-2018 prediction: 44-38

On the other side of the Dwight Howard deal, the Hornets get better in it.

To put Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard help lead the way is a supreme step forward. The Hornets needed a big man to help Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, with Howard they found him.

The Hornets got Howard for a very good price and seemed to have only built up this offseason and are absolutely in a good spot to make the playoffs.

Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist was the leading rebounder on this team last year, now Dwight Howard will solve that problem. The Hornets solved their biggest problem and look to be a tough team moving forward.

Miami Heat

2016-2017 record: 41-41

2017-2018 prediction: 46-36

The Miami Heat would have been a completely different team had they not started the season 11-30. Dion Waiters emerged as a strong scoring threat to go along with Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.

If not for a slow start, the Heat were a playoff team. This year Spoelstra gets back virtually the same team with the addition of Kelly Olynyk who can stretch the floor.

The Miami Heat will pick up a few more wins this season and be a strong team come playoff time.

Orlando Magic

NBA season preview: Southeast Division

The Orlando Magic celebrating, Photo Courtesy of slamonline.com.

2016-2017 record: 29-53

2017-2018 prediction: 32-50

The Magic are also bringing back a lot of the same guys from last year.

Serge Ibaka and Terrance Ross joined a Magic team midway through last year and join a solid young group.

Evan Fournier led the way scoring and can only get better as an offensive weapon. If Aaron Gordon can extend his offensive game and create another option, this team could be sound offensively.

Jonathon Simmons is a good replacement for Jeff Green and the Magic are starting to move forward with their young players.

The Magic will be very competitive but will lose some close games due to their youth. The Magic have a good core and will be good moving forward.

Washington Wizards

2016-2017 record: 49-33

2017-2018 prediction: 47-25

Don’t get me wrong, the Wizards are the third best team in the East for sure, and even though they don’t lose too much, other teams have gotten much better.

The Wizards are a very similar team comparatively to last season. Wall turned into a superstar caliber guard and a very good two-way player.

Bradley Beal continued to score at a high level and Otto Porter emerged as a nice option as well. Kelly Oubre will need to improve his game off the bench as he is one of the only bench scorers they have.

The Washington Wizards are talent wise the same as they were last year. They will grow as a team and compete against a tough Western Conference but drop a few mire games than they did last season. The Wizards are still the third best team in the East.

 

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NBA season preview: Central Division

The Central Division winner has been what seems like a foregone conclusion lately. The Cleveland Cavaliers led by star LeBron James have been one of the best teams in basketball the last few seasons.

There are teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons on the rise and teams dealing stars on the decline. Stars like Jimmy Butler and Paul George are moving out, which means the division race could be Cleveland’s once again.

Here are my record predictions for each of the five teams in the Central Division.

Chicago Bulls:

2016-2017 record: 41-41

2017-2018 prediction: 26-56

It’s a tough fall to lose Jimmy Butler, and the biggest part of that trade is the high draft pick the Bulls get in next year’s draft.

As far as winning now goes, the Bulls are relying on Zach Lavine to carry most of the offensive load.

Taj Gibson and Rajon Rondo are also gone from last year’s team meaning that a lot of offensive weapons have left. Dwyane Wade is currently looking for a buyout which would mean that some of the best offensive weapons could be gone.

The Bulls are going in the rebuilding direction and this season will be a tough one in Chicago.

Cleveland Cavaliers:

nba season preview: Central Division

Lebron James and Kevin Love, Photo Courtesy of sportsworldreport.com

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 48-34

The Cavaliers have been the team representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals each of the last three years. Obviously any team with LeBron James is hard to beat. This upcoming season, the Cavaliers are the favorite to win the Central Division.

With lots of teams getting more competitive, the Cavaliers stayed about the same this summer. Losing Kyrie Irving is a big deal due to his ability to create and finish around the rim. However, LeBron is still the best player in basketball and he can carry a team if he needs to.

LeBron and the Cavaliers will still be a top three seed in the Eastern Conference, but there will be a lot more competitive games this season, especially now that Isaiah Thomas is a defensive mismatch.

The Cavaliers are still the team to beat in the East, but I think they took a small step back this offseason.

Detroit Pistons:

2016-2017 record: 37-45

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

Avery Bradley was a huge offseason move for the Detroit Pistons. He has the ability to score offensively and also rebound and defend at a high level for a guard.

Unfortunately the Pistons lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris. Morris and Pope provided scoring that was much needed throughout the year and Baynes and Drummond dominated the boards.

One addition that helps mightily on a somewhat poor shooting team is the drafting of Luke Kennard. Kennard can flat out shoot it and the Pistons will need it to free up Andre Drummond inside.

The Pistons stay about even after the offseason. They lose some offense but add some defense which will help them win the lower scoring games.

Indiana Pacers:

nba season preview: Central Division

Myles Turner, photo courtesy of Freep.com

2016-2017 record: 42-40

2017-2018 prediction: 33-49

Losing an All-Star in Paul George is a big deal but this Pacers team can still play. Lance Stephenson, Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo are a very good set of players who can be very good for this team.

Myles Turner is going to take a big jump this year and turn into a star and Victor Oladipo will benefit from not having as much pressure around him. The Indiana Pacers may have backtracked but they are still a good enough team to make a playoff push, it just might come up short.

Losing Paul George in the offseason means that your wins will decrease but I think the Indiana Pacers will still be very competitive this season.

Milwaukee Bucks:

2016-2017 record: 42-40

2017-2018 prediction: 47-35

The Milwaukee Bucks return the same core as they did last season, and this season everyone is more experienced.

They add D.J. Wilson out of Michigan and keep virtually the same team. Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo are looking to build off the great seasons they had last year.

The Bucks have built themselves into a team on the rise through the draft. They have a lot of versatile guys who can guard multiple positions.

Come playoff time they will be a hard out and I think that when they play Cleveland they will give them all they can handle.

 

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NBA season preview: Atlantic Division

The NBA basketball season is quickly approaching, so the balance in many of the divisions has shifted. The Atlantic division doesn’t seem to be one of those conferences, however.

In a weak Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are the only teams out of the Atlantic that were playoff bound. There are teams on the rise, and teams also falling, but the Atlantic division is on the rise as a whole.

Here are my predictions for the five Atlantic division teams going into 2017-18 NBA season.

Boston Celtics:

2016-2017 record: 53-29

2017-2018 prediction 55-27

Well the rich just keep getting richer. The Boston Celtics added two All-Star guards this summer but they also lost their leader and defensive star. Isaiah Thomas was the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics and now he plays for a conference rival.

They also lost Avery Bradley who was a star in the playoffs when Isaiah Thomas went down. He also was the Celtics’ most consistent player throughout the entire season.

What they got in return far outweighs their loses. Even though the Celtics lost nearly their entire roster from last year, keeping just Rozier, Brown, Smart and Horford, they managed to get better this summer. With the big additions of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes and Jayson Tatum the Boston Celtics are going to be building firmly on where they were just a year ago.

The Celtics may not be the best team in the East, but they at least will have a shot at it.

Brooklyn Nets:

Photo Courtesy of Nothingbutnets.com.

2016-2017 record: 20-62

2017-2018 prediction: 29-53

Well there’s no way around it. The Nets were the worst team in basketball last season. They have gotten better this summer by adding D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mosgov and DeMarre Carroll but it’s hard to see them as anything better than a 30-win team heading into this season.

The bright side is that there are teams out there who are worse than them on paper as of now, but no one knows what happens come October when the season starts.

They have a long way to go in Brooklyn and with the Celtics having all of the Nets’ first round draft picks from the last couple years, there have been some tough times in Brooklyn.

New York Knicks:

2016-2017 record: 31-51

2017-2018 prediction: 34-48

The Knicks have had a strange offseason. Their two best players were both mentioned in trade talks and then Phil Jackson was let go.

Obviously it’s hard to see the Knicks getting a ton better with the loss of Derrick Rose, but it’s another year for Porzingis to grow and for Melo to continue to be the scorer he always has been.

The Knicks did make some interesting moves this offseason. Frank Ntilkina is not someone you can judge at all because he hasn’t played against NBA guys but Phil Jackson passed on Dennis Smith Jr. and he had an incredible summer.

The contracts to Ron Baker and Tim Hardaway Jr. seemed a little heavy for the production that they put forward, but the Knicks will win games.

All in all I think the Knicks win a few of the close games they didn’t last season, and set themselves up well for the future.

Philadelphia 76ers:

Photo Courtesy of Sportsrageous.com.

2016-2017 record: 28-54

2017-2018 prediction: 37-44

The 76ers are a young and talented team on paper who can only get better as time wears on because the core group of stars have never played together.

Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons are both viable candidates for Rookie of the Year and Joel Embiid and Dario Saric played great basketball over a short timespan last season. The key here is injuries, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

Saric, Embiid and Simmons were all hurt at length last season but if all four of these key guys, combined with a shooter like J.J. Redick can all stay healthy, this should be a playoff team.

Toronto Raptors:

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 46-36

It’s tough to think the Raptors got much better this offseason. They kept their backcourt duo in check but lost Patrick Patterson who did a lot of dirty work for the team. They didn’t gain any star players, as they are just looking to develop more.

Even though the East is weak and the Atlantic is certainly weak, the Raptors are still less superior to quite a few Western Conference teams and at least three Eastern Conference teams.

It will certainly be an interesting season for the North, but I think it’s hard to find them winning as many games as last season.

 

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Can Davis and Cousins lead the Pelicans to the postseason?

When the Pelicans initially made the blockbuster trade that brought All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans, the playoffs became a big topic of discussion.

New Orleans was 11th in the West at the time with a 23-34 record. Surely the All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and Cousins would push the Pelicans into the playoffs, right?

Not quite. The Pelicans only moved up one spot in the conference standings after the trade and finished with a 34-48 record. They only went 11-14 after Cousins arrived.

It is crazy looking back at the playoff talk. The Pelicans were supposed to reach the eighth seed and challenge the Golden State Warriors with the mismatches their frontcourt had created. How would Golden State’s backcourt deal with this obstacle?

Anthony Davis DeMarcus Cousins

The addition of Cousins did not go as planned last season. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The question we should have been asking ourselves is how are these slow-paced big men going to deal with the tempo Golden State plays at? Yes, the Pelicans no doubt have the best frontcourt in the NBA. However, they still lacked production from the rest of the roster and had some team chemistry issues.

They got 52 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks per game from the dynamic duo, but didn’t get much from the rest of the team.

Jrue Holiday is a former All-Star, but put up a mediocre 15 points and seven assists last season as the Pelicans’ starting point guard.

The next highest scorer on the team was Jordan Crawford at 14 per game.

As a team, the Pelicans scored 104.3 points per game (18th) and allowed 106.4 (17th). With Cousins on the roster, they scored 106.5 and allowed 106.3 per game.

Besides the fact that those numbers are below average, Cousins did not seem to do too much for the team.

Davis and Cousins’ resumes

What has Cousins done in his seven seasons in the league? He’s a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged a career 21.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Something is missing though, and that is a playoff appearance.

Now I know Cousins has not had much to work with as far as teammates go in his career, but the most games the Kings ever won with him on the roster was 33.

The same can be said about Davis. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his five NBA seasons. Davis has led New Orleans to one postseason appearance when they finished 45-37 in a very competitive Western Conference and were then swept by the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Other than that, Davis has only helped the Pelicans reach 34 wins in a season.

However, like Cousins, he also has not had much talent surrounding him. During the year they went to the postseason he had Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday as his supporting cast. It is by far the most talent Davis or Cousins has had around themselves.

Their circumstances are similar and have been difficult, but could Davis and/or Cousins just not have it in them?

Davis and Cousins are a whole lot of star power to be going 11-14 and missing the playoffs. The fact that they have one postseason birth in 12 years of combined experience is also interesting to think about. The fact that so many teams in the Western Conference boosted their talent is not going to make things any easier for the Pelicans.

The Warriors, Rockets and Spurs seem to be a lock for the top three seeds. The Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets will most likely finish four through six. That leaves teams like the Trail Blazers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Pelicans will be battling for the last two seeds.

How the Pelicans have improved

What has New Orleans done to get better? They resigned Holiday to a five-year contract and also added veteran Rajon Rondo. Rondo is by no means the player he used to be, but he did average almost 12 points and 12 assists per game two seasons ago when he was with Cousins in Sacramento. He assisted Cousins 237 times, which is the most he has had to one player in a season according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Anthony Davis DeMarcus Cousins

Davis and Cousins have been working out this summer in hopes of improving their team chemistry. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Davis and Cousins have also been working out together with a focus on team chemistry. The Pelicans definitely were not all on the same page considering their record after Cousins arrived. Davis told local reporters that chemistry is the biggest thing the former Kentucky Wildcats have been working on.

“He knows the things that I like to do, I know the things he likes to do, where he likes to score from, where I like to score from,” Davis said. “We know that we’re going to be two big focal points on every team’s scouting report, so we just wanted to get together and work out together and just figure out things we like to do.”

What if they can’t?

Will these moves be enough to push the Pelicans into the playoffs? They sure ought to.

If Davis and Cousins can’t gel together, that is going to be a big problem. Holiday and Rondo are also need to contribute and figure out how to get Davis and Cousins opportunities.

I’m not the type of guy to knock a player for never winning the Finals or even if they never play in the Finals. However, if Davis and Cousins can’t work together and lead this team to a postseason birth, that is a problem and going to put a damper on their legacy should they continue to miss the playoffs.

 

Featured image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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Breaking down the Cavaliers and Celtics blockbuster trade

Just when the NBA offseason seemed over, one of the biggest moves shook up the top of the Eastern Conference.

Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick were shipped away for Kyrie Irving Tuesday night and it shocked the NBA. Kyrie was obviously demanding a trade, however most people didn’t view the Boston Celtics as a landing spot, even if they could offer the best package.

As the top two teams in the Eastern Conference last season, the Cavaliers and Celtics didn’t seem like ideal trade partners. This trade is unique because both teams have gotten better in their own ways.

The Celtics

Cavaliers Celtics Blockbuster Trade

Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, Photo Courtesy of inquisitr.com.

Ultimately there were two big problems here. Isaiah Thomas is one offseason away from a new possible max contract, and Jae Crowder would contribute to a log jam at the small forward position.

When the Celtics made this trade, they were looking for stability, and that comes with Kyrie Irving. Irving has at least one more year on his contract and he is obviously not coming off a hip injury.

Jae Crowder is a guy who would ultimately interfere with the development of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Crowder would receive minutes that could be going to Tatum and Brown, which are important minutes that would speed up their development.

Based on this season’s summer league (obviously not that important), Zizic was at least one step slow. He seemed to be a few years away from translating his skills to contribute to an NBA rotation.

The biggest part of this whole deal is the Brooklyn Nets draft pick. The Nets haven’t recently been a powerhouse, and because of that the chance of that pick being high in the lottery is more likely than not.

The 2018 NBA Draft will be a loaded draft without a doubt, but with the additions of D’Angelo Russell and DeMarre Carroll, the Nets might not be in the cellar anymore.

The Cavaliers

Cavaliers Celtics Blockbuster Trade

Kyrie Irving, Photo Courtesy of Image Arcade.

Listen, there really wasn’t a choice for Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers here. Kyrie had voiced his frustration and if he had stayed on the Cavs to start the season, who knows how it would’ve played out.

The Celtics ultimately had the most to offer, but sending one of your stars to a conference rival is always messy. I don’t think the Cavaliers get to the Warriors level with this move, but they do close the gap.

Isaiah Thomas’ production-wise is nearly even with Kyrie and much cheaper, but the big key here is Crowder.

Richard Jefferson seems like he’s been playing in the NBA for 30 years, but for a fair amount of Finals minutes he chases Kevin Durant around. Jae Crowder adds another wave of defense to try and contain Durant.

In turn, Jae can attempt to guard Durant and give LeBron more minutes to rest.

The trade also opens up the idea of life after LeBron or could even get him to stay. The 2018 Nets pick could very well be a star.

There has been a lot of speculation on what LeBron will do next summer in regards to where he will play. If LeBron does walk, the Nets pick could be a player to build around. At the same time, LeBron could look at that as a reason to stay, and another playmaker to compete with the Warriors down the road.

The East moving forward

Oddly enough, these players were viewed differently by their former fan bases. Thomas was loved by the Celtics for putting it all on the line every night. Kyrie made the biggest shot in Cleveland Cavaliers history, but he also demanded to be traded out of that same scenario.

Both of the primary players in this trade are below average defenders and that’s a given, but both guards have unique skills that will be better suited for their new locations.

Kyrie is a pure playmaker who loves to finish around the rim and is possibly the best finisher in our game today. He comes to a Celtics team looking to help stretch the floor and finish when team don’t collapse, something he is better than Thomas at.

Thomas has the ability to spot up and also slash to create for others. Sharing the ball with LeBron will mean he will be off the ball much more than he was with the Celtics.

His spot up shooting was at 40 percent from three last season and that is with a large sample size. Thomas’ statistics will diminish without being the primary offensive weapon but he will still score well.

Both the Cavaliers and Celtics got better, and neither team lost this trade as the teams just filled different needs. The two top teams in the East just got a whole lot more interesting. Keep a lookout for opening night where Kyrie will get his nice warm welcome by Cavalier fans.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of ArkansasNewsonline.com.

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Welcome to Boston, Kyrie Irving

Just when you thought the Boston Celtics were done with their off-season journey, they strike again. Boston has acquired All-Star guard, Kyrie Irving, from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Boston has agreed to trade All-Star guard, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and 2018 Nets First Round Pick.

Its been over a month since Kyrie Irving openly talked about his urge to get out of Cleveland. Well, welcome to Boston: home of 17 NBA Championships.

Boston has made the biggest decisions this NBA off-season. They have acquired Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz. They have traded Avery Bradley to the Pistons. They drafted Jayson Tatum. What more can they do? Oh yeah, pick up the one of the best guards Kyrie Irving, if not the best, in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving averaged 25.2 points-per-game last season, while helping lead the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the third straight year.

Photo Courtesy of (NBA.com)

Isaiah Thomas will be truly missed in Boston. His determination to make this team succeed was impeccable. Thomas averaged 23.3 points-per-game last season, bringing the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ante Zizic is a 7-foot rookie-center, who is on his way to Cleveland now. Zizic made the Boston roster just weeks ago.

Jae Crowder is entering his fifth season in the NBA, after averaging nearly 14 points-per-game for Boston last season. Crowder was originally drafted by Cleveland in 2012.

After this trade, Boston is a definite favorite for the Eastern Conference champions. They fell to Cleveland last year 4-1. Kyrie is ready to play for Coach Brad Stevens, making him a great fit in Boston.

Mark the calendars for October 17th, as Boston travels to Cleveland for the first game of the season. Kyrie will be in the Celtic green.

 

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NBA players set to make the leap to Stardom in 2017-2018

NBA Preview:

Many different NBA players are looking to make the next step into stardom or from stardom to super-stardom. The off-season is a time for players to improve without being in the center of the media.

Young players show lots of promise in their first couple years in the league. Some experience injuries, off-court struggles and ultimately a lack of production. However, some rise from all the setbacks and make the transition to the spotlight.

This is a chance to speculate about the players who will make the biggest jumps this off-season.

Star Watch:

Myles Turner:

NBA

Myles Turner, Photo Courtesy of SI.com.

Paul George is out of town so Turner is the guy in Indiana now.

Turner has always had the potential to breakout but he has always been in the shadow of Paul George. Now it’s his chance to get the spotlight and lead a team that is mid rebuild.

Turner shot 35 percent from three and averaged 14.5 points while grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game last year.

Turner is a consistent double-double threat and can stretch the floor in a pick and pop situation. He is also a very good low post player who can take the pressure off the Indiana guards.

This will be one of Turner’s best opportunities to show just how good he is, and with the door open in Indiana, he has a very good chance to be a consistent All-Star in the Eastern Conference for years to come.

Dion Waiters:

Who would have thought that a guy who Lebron basically forced out of Cleveland would thrive in the second half of last season?

Part of the Stardom that Dion Waiters is capable of came out in the back half of the 2016-2017 season for the Miami Heat. Waiters was one of the main reasons in turning the Heats record completely around.

In the last 41 games of the season (the ones Waiters played in) he averaged 21.6 points, 4.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Obviously he was lost for some time due to an ankle injury, but those numbers are All-Star worthy. The Heat have added a few key pieces, but Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside are the two keys to this team.

If Waiters can harness his last 41 games and turn it into a season he will lead the Heat to the playoffs and put up career numbers.

Jusuf Nurkic:

Nurkic is unique because he put up star numbers before injury. In 20 games with the Portland Trail Blazers, Nurkic shot 51 percent, and averaged 15.2 point and 10.4 rebounds.

A double-double over 20 games while sharing the ball with a ball dominant guard has the means for a star. Obviously Nurkic hasn’t had a large sample size on the Trail Blazers, but from his small sample size he screams stat-sheet stuffer.

He might not be an Allstar in a loaded Western Conference, but he can put up big time numbers.

With a complete recovery from a right leg fracture, Jusuf will pick up right where he left off.

The Trailblazers are in need of a jolt to their frontcourt, and with a healthy Nurkic, Portland could be playoff bound, and form their own big three moving forward.

D’Angelo Russell:

There’s a lot less pressure on D’Angelo Russell these days. He’s in a weaker Eastern Conference and is the clear cut star of the Brooklyn Nets.

Russell has proven that he can score and he has improved in his all around statistics in this past season. He is only 21 years-old and he is in a completely different system now.

The lights aren’t shining down on Russell now, he is on a team that finished in the basement of the NBA, and doesn’t appear on the brink of a playoff push in the upcoming season.

It’s weird to say that a player could benefit from being on a less competitive team, but Russell will get a huge confidence and statistic boost being the centerpiece of the Brooklyn Nets.

There’s low expectations surrounding this new look Nets team, and Russell is ready to take the reigns and put together a very solid season that might even land him an Allstar selection.

Why:

The players listed are all players who have shown lots of promise in their NBA careers. Even if it’s for a short span of time, the players have shown they are capable of stardom.

So many players in the league can have a few good games, but to be a star, you have to carry great statistics over the course of an 82 game season. Last year these players all fell into the category of having some good games but for one reason or another couldn’t carry it for the whole season.

With each of their current situations they have been placed in, the future looks bright. These four players will make the jump to stardom in the 2017-2018 NBA season.

 

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