NBA Mid-Season Awards

NBA Mid-Season Awards ’17

All-Star Weekend has finished up and more than half the season is gone. Teams are either preparing for the draft or preparing to push towards the playoffs. There have been some amazing performances this season. All-Star break has always been looked at as the mid-season and for those teams who make deep postseason runs, it still is. So catch your breath and lace your sneakers for the second half of the season. Here are Hagan’s Haus NBA mid-season awards.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’antoni- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Rocky Widner Getty Images)

This is the hardest award to pick out of all. There were a couple of strong candidates for this award including Washington head coach Scott Brooks and Utah head coach Quin Snyder. Both of those coaches are having great seasons but this award must go to Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets.

Last season the Rockets were the eighth seed in the playoffs after making the conference finals the previous year. This season they hold the third seed in a strong Western Conference and already have 40 wins after only amassing 41 last season. That type of improvement in just one season is impressive. The Rockets may not win the NBA Title but they have become a dangerous team in the west under D’Antoni.

 

6th man of the year: Eric Gordon- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: LM Otero, Associated Press)

There is no question that Eric Gordon is the sixth man of the year. His career was in shambles until this season. Gordon could not stay healthy and could not live up to his potential in New Orleans. Now as a sixth man Gordon provides a spark off the Rockets bench. He is shooting 38.9 percent from behind the arc. Gordon also has the fourth most made three-pointers in league with 184. This is also Gordon’s third best year in scoring. If he continues this he will easily win the sixth man of the year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Bradley Beal- Washington Wizards

This was a difficult award to assess but Bradley Beal is a good candidate for the award. Bradley Beal missed 27 games due to injury last season. He only started 35 of the 55 games he appeared in. This season, however, Beal has started all 51 games that he has played in.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://wizofawes.com)

Beal is a part of a surging Wizards team that has won nine out of their last 10 and have taken the third spot in the Eastern Conference. They are only two games back of the Celtics for the two seed. Part of that surge is because Beal is having a career year. Beal is averaging a career high in points per game (22.2), assists per game (3.7), free throw percentage (81%) and field goal percentage (47%). Beal has come back strong this season and the Wizards are a threat because of it.

Most Improved: Giannis Antekokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://hoopshabit.com/)

The Greek Freak just played in his first ever All-Star game at the age of 22. Giannis is also averaging a career high in points per game (23.4), blocks per game (2.0), steals per game (1.8), assists per game (5.4), rebounds per game (8.6), free throw percentage (79%) and field goal percentage (52.3%). Not only are those his career highs, he leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Giannis is clearly on his way to stardom and has improved vastly since last season. He has improved more than anybody else this season and one day may be an MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Mid Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Trust the process. No really, trust the process because Joel Embiid has been fantastic in his first year on the court. It has been a long wait for 76er fans to see Embiid in action but it has been worth the wait. He has started 31 games and is averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. His 78 percent free throw shooting is also impressive for a big man.

The 76ers have found a legitimate franchise piece to build around. Their only concern now is his history of injuries. If he can stay healthy the 76ers are in for some great years of basketball. Embiid is no question the rookie of the year and there is no competition. Trust the process.

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green- Golden State Warriors

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://ballislife.com)

Defensive player of the year was tough to pick. There is no clear cut favoite that stands out above the rest. Permiter defenders don’t typically get this award. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are both great defenders but are unlikely to win the award.

Draymond Green is a player who is deserving of this award. Green can defend all five positions on the court. His versitility makes him valuable and one of the best defenders in the NBA. He also ranks 14th with 1.5 blocks per game, and first in steals in the NBA with 2.1 per game. He is the best defender on the league’s best team and that has to account for something. He also recorded the rarest triple double in NBA history. It was the first ever triple double without scoring more than 10 points. Green’s triple double came from 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. In an era where scoring and offense are valued so highly, Green is one of the best defenders in the league.

Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook- Oklahoma City Thunder

How can you not love “Brodie”? He is every fan’s and team builder’s dream. He plays basketball harder than any athlete in the world plays their sport. Westbrook is an old-school competitor and all he really wants to do is win. Only one player in NBA history has averaged a triple-double. Westbrook is looking to become the second player ever to accomplish this in 70 seasons of the NBA.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://www.chatsports.com)

Many people argue that this era of the NBA is the most talented era of all-time. Players are more skilled than ever before which makes the nightly triple-double watch for Westrbook more spectacular.

Without Westbrook the Thunder would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. “Brodie” has a PER of 29.5 which is a career high and would be the 26th best PER in NBA history. Westbrook is averaging a career high in points per game (31.1), rebounds per game (10.5) and three-point percentage (33.8). He is also adding 10.1 assits per game to round out the triple-double. “Brodie” is carrying the franchise on his back to the playoffs.

Some may argue that James Harden should be the MVP and they wouldn’t be wrong. Harden is having an MVP caliber year but think about this. Westrbook is averaging a triple-double. That alone is absolutely amazing, but his team is also a playoff team. If averaging a triple-double over a season is not worth the MVP award then we need to take away the name “Most Valuable Player” and call it “Media’s Most Popular Player”. Russell Westbrook is the MVP.

 

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Expect An Exciting End to the NBA Trade Deadline

With the recent blockbuster trade that sent Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, the Trade Deadline has started to heat up in the NBA. What deals can still happen in the next few days?

There has been some speculation that the Cousins deal actually depreciated the market. Teams may be less inclined to give up a bundle of assets since the Pelicans gave so little for a superstar. The current state of the NBA lends well for some trades to still happen however. There are a few names in particular that seem to be hitting the market.

NBA Trade Deadline

Brook Lopez (Photo courtesy: twitter.com)

The Nets seem to be the biggest seller at this point. Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic have both been floating around trade talks for a good while now. Finding an appropriate destination for them is a different story.

Lopez was often linked to the Pelicans who have obviously satiated their need for a big man with Cousins. The Pelicans’ deal seriously hampers the chances of a Lopez deal happening. Although he was linked in trade talks with the Pacers, it seems unlikely that the Pacers’ first round pick will be enticing enough to get Lopez.

Bogdanovic is another story. He would be a perfect fit in Oklahoma City as they need a wing threat. He also could fit in Washington as a bench scorer, which is something the Wizards desperately need. It’s yet to be seen whether either of those deals could materialize, but Bogdanovic is much more likely to move at the deadline.

The most recent development of the day is the linking of Blake Griffin to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are one of the few teams that have the assets to grab a superstar (assuming Vlade Divac is done giving them away), and if anyone was going to make a huge splash it would be Boston. With Kevin Love injured, the Cavaliers may try and leverage their assets for a chance at a title push this year.

The bottom line is that even though the Cousins trade undoubtedly will make General Managers more wary about being on the wrong side of a deal, the atmosphere for big trades may have been increased. The parity in the league right now is as high as it has been in a long time, and teams may try to take advantage of a perceived window of opportunity.

The four best teams in the East (The Cavs, Celtics, Wizards and Raptors) all have a shot at winning the East after the Kevin Love injury. Although the Cavaliers remain the favorites, an upset is more likely than it has been since Lebron Left Cleveland in the first place. In the West, the Pelicans trade allows for significantly more parity, and the chances of a playoff upset increase astronomically.

The next few days could reflect those sentiments. Look out for at least a few deals to be made, and maybe even a blockbuster.

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What Cousins Means For The Pelicans

Something was up with DeMarcus Cousins when he logged only two minutes in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. He told the coaching staff he was dinged up and didn’t want to play much, but then it became apparent that the Sacramento Kings had decided to deal the big man and didn’t want to risk (further) injury. Now the Pelicans are putting their faith in Cousins to make the playoffs this season.

The Trade

While the Kings got an awful return for, who some consider, the best big man in the game, the Pelicans now have the best front-court in the NBA. New Orleans will send Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, their 2017 first round pick and their 2017 second round pick to Sacramento for Cousins and Omri Casspi.

The Kings now have no elite players and will once again have to try and rebuild. The Pelicans, on the other hand, now will be looking to compete for a playoff spot in a very difficult Western Conference.

The Team Impact

Boogie

DeMarcus Cousins (Photo courtesy: thebiglead.com)

Like Chris Bosh in Toronto, Anthony Davis has admirably played the five position, even though he is more of a four. He has publicly stated that he feels like more of a four (He even lobbied to play shooting guard in college at Kentucky). The Pelicans have listened to their star player and acquired a center for Davis to play alongside.

While Cousins isn’t known as a great defensive stopper, he is right outside of the top 20 in defensive rating (how many points allowed per 100 possessions) and 15th in the NBA in defensive win shares (how many wins Cousins is responsible for defensively). With him and Davis roaming around the middle, it will be hard for a lot of teams to score in the paint.

Offensively, the Pelicans are going to have to work from the inside-out. They have Cousins and Davis who are both averaging roughly 28 points per game. Passing out of the post will be the key, as teams will likely pack it in on defense and try to stop these stars.

The Pelicans lost about 26 points per game from the back-court in this trade. In order to give some threat of scoring from the guard/wing position, Tim Frazier, Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore or Quincy Pondexter have to step up. E’Twaun Moore has led this group in scoring with 9.8 points per game.

The good news for the New Orleans is that they have Jrue Holiday. Holiday missed games early in the season to take care of his wife, but has come on strong. The point guard is almost playing as well as he did in 2012-2013, when he went to the All-Star Game as a representative of the Philadelphia 76ers. A lot of responsibility now falls on him to not only feed Davis and Cousins, but to also carry the scoring punch from the guard position.

The Playoff Push

Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis (Photo courtesy: youtube.com)

The Western Conference is very tough, but the eighth seed is likely going to have a record that is below .500. New Orleans currently sits 2.5 games outside of the final playoff spot. With this trade, they should be the favorites to clinch the eighth seed in the West.

New Orleans has 25 games left this season, 15 of which are against teams with losing records. With two dominant players like Davis and Cousins, they should be able to win the majority of their games down the stretch.

Possible Playoff Match-up

With the eight seed seeming like the most likely scenario for the Pelicans, they could get a first round series with the Golden State Warriors. This would be the ultimate test of small-ball vs. dominant inside game. The story-lines from this series would be endless.

If the Warriors go to the “death line-up”, Cousins and Davis (if on the court) would match-up with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Golden State would try to run and gun on the Pelicans, while New Orleans would try to bruise their way to the basket.

The Pelicans, with their new big man, will make the play-offs and create one of the most entertaining first round match-ups in the history of the NBA, regardless of who they play.

 

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

The Battle For the Eight-Seed In the West

As of now, it looks like the top seven seeds in the Western Conference are set. The Oklahoma City Thunder currently sit in the seven seed. They have seven more wins than the Denver Nuggets, who currently hold the eighth seed.

The seven top seeds in the West also are the only Western Conference teams with positive point differentials this year. It seems like the top seven seeds in the West will be, in some order, the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Jazz, Clippers, Grizzlies and Thunder.

That leaves one spot up for grabs in the playoffs this year. This is already an unusual position for teams to be in in the Western Conference. According to Tom Haberstroh on Twitter, the projected record of the eight seed in the West would be the worst since 1997.

So with a plethora of teams fighting for that final spot, what teams have the potential to make a strong push in the final months of the season?

The Contenders

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the eighth spot. Although their lead is still slim, they have a good chance of keeping that spot in the final few months.

(courtesy of Denver Stiffs)

For starters, Nikola Jokic has been on a tear recently. In his last 10 games Jokic has put up 22.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. Those are elite numbers coming from the young big men. The emergence of Jokic as a truly elite big man put the Nuggets in good position to keep their playoff hopes alive this spring.

Their deep bench has also been a huge asset this season. The young backcourt of Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray has been performing well so far this season. Murray or Mudiay have been featured in four out of the five most efficient lineups for the Nuggets. Their young talent has given them depth off of the bench that could make them a threat down the stretch.

Their trade earlier this week makes it clear that they are trying to make the playoffs this year. Mason Plumlee will be a big help for the Nuggets and has been having a great season so far. They also eliminate the somewhat redundant skill-sets of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic that has been plaguing them all season. The Nuggets have to be the favorite to take the eighth seed at this point.

The Sacramento Kings could also contend for that final spot. The Kings have one thing that the Nuggets lack. They put one of the top players in the league onto the court every night.

(courtesy of Deadspin)

Demarcus Cousins has been having yet another great season for the Kings this year. He is averaging 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, and has improved his three point shot significantly. The injury to Rudy Gay will make it difficult to win enough games down the stretch however. They have been keeping their head above water without Gay, but his scoring threat is dearly missed on the team.

If the Kings are able to make a deal at the deadline that brings them more scoring, they have a shot at making the playoffs. Otherwise, the playoffs may be a pipe dream. With their supreme lack of talent outside of Cousins, it may be better to have a lottery pick this season anyways.

The Portland Trailblazers have been somewhat of a disappointment this season, but remain in contention for the eight seed. The Blazers are another team that desperately needs a trade before the deadline if they want to contend.

(courtesy of Hoops Habit)

The acquisition of Nurkic will certainly be helpful, but it’s unlikely that he is enough to turn the team around. Regardless, they now have three first round picks in the stacked 2017 draft. That removes any motivation for the team to tank down the stretch. That increased motivation may be enough to push them by their competition.

Additionally, they now have to make up for the lost production of Mason Plumlee. It’s hard to see the Blazers having an actual shot at the playoffs this season with the way things have gone. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum anything is possible though, and they will continue to be a threat this year.

The rumors connecting the New Orleans Pelicans to Brook Lopez and Jahlil Okafor make the Pelicans a threat this spring. Okafor may not be enough to tip the scales on the Pelicans season, but the addition of Brook Lopez would certainly give this team a new breath of life.

(courtesy of Yibada)

Anthony Davis has been having a ludicrous season while averaging 28.0 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. Jrue Holiday has also been having a great season for the struggling Pelicans. The addition of Lopez would make them the favorite for getting the eighth seed.

Anthony Davis is one of the most talented players in the league. He has shown he is capable of dragging subpar teams to the playoffs as he did in 2015, and if he stays healthy this spring the Pelicans will remain contenders. He is just that good.

The Pretenders

Despite their recent success, the Dallas Mavericks won’t be making the playoffs this season. Harrison Barnes has been great this season, and Yogi Ferrell has been a revelation off of his 10-day contract. This team simply doesn’t have enough depth and talent to push them past some of the other Western Conference contenders.

(courtesy of NBA.com)

Their recent losses to Portland and Denver reinforce that position. The Mavericks are pretenders, and won’t be making the playoffs this year.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are an incredibly talented team. They have a ton of potential and young stars. This, however, is not their year. They’ve lost Zach Lavine for the rest of the year. It’s time for them to try and put themselves in the best position possible for the 2017 draft.

The Timberwolves also have the toughest remaining strength of schedule in the entire league. It will be too hard for them to overcome their injuries and tough schedule this year.

Finally, the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns have absolutely no chance at the playoffs. The Lakers need to be trying to lose as many games as possible this season, as they only keep their top pick if it falls in the top-three.

The Suns are simply terrible. They have only won six games in-conference this season, and have shown almost no signs of life this season. They have young pieces, but it is time for them to tank.

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How Social Issues are Becoming Entrenched in the NBA

Recently, social issues and politics have become especially prominent in the NBA. Basketball has always found itself intrenched in cultural issues, but over the past year it has become increasingly noticeable.

One prominent social issue that came to light earlier this year was regarding the use of marijuana in the NBA. Frequently outspoken coach and former player Steve Kerr made headlines when he admitted to using marijuana to help with his back pain. Kerr, 51 years old, also mentioned that hopes the NBA will soften its stance on marijuana. Interestingly, the NBA already refrains from testing for marijuana during the offseason.

The NBA has a much more lenient position on pot usage than the MLB and NFL. The NFL is notoriously strict on players who test positive for marijuana and bans players for a full season after testing positive three times.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Kerr specifically spoke out against the NFL’s policies.

“If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin,” Kerr said.

Former NBA player Jay Williams said that he believes 80% of NBA players use marijuana. He also expressed his support for leniency on marijuana also citing the benefits of marijuana over painkillers.

Marijuana has proven to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of NBA personalities expressing their beliefs. This became especially clear in the months surrounding the 2016 election.

On November 6th, in Cleveland, LeBron James spoke out at a rally for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Rather than spark a controversy, his endorsement brought support from his peers on both sides of the aisle.

Milwaukee Bucks center Spencer Hawes, a known conservative, spoke out on James’ endorsements in October. Hawes was asked whether James’ comments regarding Clinton made him uncomfortable in an interview with Sporting News, eliciting this response:

No, I like it. Obviously, I don’t agree with LeBron there. And that’s fine. But the ability to not agree and put that in one compartment and not judge someone’s entire character based on how they view the world or what their political beliefs are, that’s what makes us great. So yeah, I disagree with LeBron. I would love to have a discussion with him or anybody that wants to talk about it. But at the end of the day, there’s two parties, there’s two ways of doing things. Each one has been in power many times over again, and we’re still where we are.

The political statements from big NBA stars only continued after the election. Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan van Gundy all made huge political statements in the days following the 2016 election.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of Rolling Stone)

The NBA’s social involvement does not end with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In 2014, across the league, players showed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Led by stars Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, many players wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” during warmups. The NBA broke their protocol and decided not to fine the players who wore the shirts.

In another politically charged act, the NBA pulled the All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this year. This came in response to the “bathroom bill” that had been passed in the state. The NBA also became the first professional American sports league with an active openly gay athlete when Jason Collins came out in 2013.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of USA Today)

This article from Bleacher Report explains how Donald Trump was causing turmoil in NFL locker rooms because of political divides. Similarly, the NFL was the focus of a huge nationwide media controversy as a result of Colin Kapernick kneeling during the national anthem earlier this year. The political statements that come out of the NFL have simply not been received kindly by fans and the media alike.

As we can see from the comments from Hawes and those three coaches, the NBA has clearly had a much better reaction to the social issues that have become so deeply entrenched in this sport.

Additionally, while some more mediocre players in other sports leagues have spoken up, marquee players in other leagues have been mostly silent about social issues. Meanwhile, some of the biggest stars in the NBA have been politically outspoken.

Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are undoubtedly the two biggest 21st century basketball stars and both have been remarkably outspoken about social issues. Additionally, stars such as Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and many others have let their voice be heard. And, as mentioned, three of the top coaches in the league spoke very strongly about their political beliefs this year.

So, what allows the NBA to foster so much more activism than other American sports leagues?

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of NBA Lead)

One of the key factors is commissioner Adam Silver. Silver has fostered an environment in the NBA that has allowed players to be comfortable expressing their beliefs politically and on social issues.

Since becoming the commissioner of the NBA, Silver has set the tone for creating a welcoming environment and has hastily stood up for the things he believes in.

Silver delivered a lifetime ban to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments. He instituted the removal of the All-Star Game from Charlotte earlier this year. And earlier this year, Silver expressed outright that NBA players were free to use their celebrity to express their political views.

Silver has emphasized the importance of sports bringing people together and he has certainly not been afraid to put his beliefs to action. Silver also remains an incredibly liked commissioner, proving a sharp contrast to the commissioners of other sports leagues such as Gary Bettman and Roger Goodell.

The NBA’s ability to intertwine relevant social issues and sports has proved successful so far. With one of the most liked and respected commissioners in sports at the moment, it seems likely that they will continue to succeed. And as long as it’s working, why not?

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We Just Witnessed the Greatest Sports Year Ever

Sports are cool, and they’re even cooler when a season ends with fireworks. Thankfully, in the last cycle of season championships, we were able to witness the greatest sports year ever.

From the 2016 college basketball National Championship, to the latest Super Bowl, none of the championships have disappointed. Each of them saw incredible comebacks or last-second scores. As fans, we are blessed to be able to watch all of these games unfold.

That said, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce in the previous year’s amazing culminations.

*Of the four major sports in the United States, and the two major college sports, only one doesn’t make the list. Sorry, NHL fans, the 2016 Stanley Cup was good, but not great enough to be mentioned on the list.*

Super Bowl LI

It seemed as though the states to the most northeast in the U.S. were rooting for New England, and the rest of the population became Falcons fans for one day.

Maybe it’s because Atlanta was foreign to the big stage. It seemed so weird seeing a team like Atlanta playing in the Super Bowl since we had become accustomed to seeing either Seattle, Green Bay, or New York represent the NFC for more than half of the Super Bowls played since 2006.

Greatest Sports Year

In Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does- win Super Bowls. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maybe Atlanta became America’s team for one day simply because of the hatred spewed towards New England. The Patriots have made seven Super Bowls since 2001, and won five. New England has also been to the AFC Conference Championship game 11 times since 2001. Picking New England to make it to the Super Bowl has become routine for many NFL pundits because that’s just what they do.

Nevertheless, this Super Bowl just felt different. New England was the heavyweight that everyone had seen win before. Atlanta was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and the popular vote was in favor of the newbies.

No one saw Atlanta jumping out to a 21-3 lead at the half and a 28-3 lead as the third quarter waned. At this point, many fans just wanted to see a close game.

We should be careful what we wish for.

The Patriots scored a touchdown late in the third, and continued to mount a comeback in the fourth.

The final quarter was the equivalent to slowly watching a bottle of soda being shaken. The game continued to feel closer and closer, and before long, New England put so much pressure back into the game that the contest exploded to help make the greatest sports year we’ve seen.

In overtime, it was inevitable. Not only did the Patriots have momentum, but they also had history. It felt impossible for New England to lose the game. Coming back from a 25-point deficit and pushing the game into the Super Bowl’s first ever overtime? That’s just not a game New England loses.

Because of the incredible comeback by those darn Patriots, Super Bowl LI capped what was the greatest sports year of all time.

2017 College Football National Championship

In a narrative much the same as the Super Bowl, Alabama took on Clemson to be called college football’s undisputed champion. In this game’s case, there was no insurmountable lead that ended up being toppled. The game was tight the whole way, and was never separated by more than two possessions.

Clemson found itself down by two possessions twice, and each time it seemed like Bama was gonna keep Bama-ing. At one point, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave Alabama over a 90 percent chance to win the game.

But this is the greatest sports year we’ve ever seen, so hopefully you’re sensing a theme.

Clemson came back, led by crisp drives from Deshaun Watson. Watson may not have won the Heisman, but at least he got himself a ring. Watson completed a two-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left in the game to clinch a victory for the Tigers.

2016 World Series

Where do we start in this event? So many storylines developed by the time the series was all finished. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals after being down 3-1. Once the Cleveland Indians went up 3-1 on the Cubs, there was no way that would be blown, right?

Maybe Cleveland fans got what they deserved for making fun of the Warriors. #WellActually when a city has to root for the Browns, it deserves no other bad omens. The Indians didn’t catch that vibe.

Greatest Sports Year

Rajai Davis hit the most memorable home run in recent years. (Photo: FX Tribune)

Sure, our very own Matt Hagan knew the Cubs would win it all. However, since no one else did, the 3-1 series lead all but wrapped up the World Series.

The Cubs almost lost it. They had a 6-3 lead with less than two innings left to play. With the lead cut to two, Rajai Davis sent the world into hysteria with the craziest turn of events the World Series had ever seen.

Chicago had it all but won, yet in two seconds Cleveland was right back in it. A ball traveled faster than offseason Rob Gronkowski on the way to the club into the left field seats, while it seemed like it was in slow motion, even as slow as Tom Brady running the 40-yard dash in fashionable yet exotic khaki shorts.

Every baseball kid dreams of coming to bat in the tenth inning of the World Series game seven, and the Cubs had that chance. Chicago scored two, and took an 8-6 lead to end the top half of the inning.

Rajai Davis came back up in the tenth, and even delivered an RBI. The Indians didn’t have enough in them, as they fell short, 8-7. However, it still was one of the greatest World Series of all time.

2016 NBA Finals

The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, and that remains a joke on social media to this day. When you think of Steph Curry, you think of triples galore, an outspoken wife and the fact that he was the MVP on a team that for the first time ever blew a 3-1 lead.

LeBron James put on the greatest performance of all time in a Finals series in the most historically-charged Finals series of all time. Kyrie Irving hit the most clutch shot of his life to clinch the win for Cleveland- in Golden State.

The 2016 NBA Finals will be a landmark for the NBA’s modern era. With super teams becoming more and more evident, this series will forever be known as the time the NBA’s Goliath was taken out.

2016 College Basketball National Championship

Marcus Paige was supposed to be the hero. He hit one of the greatest three-pointers you will ever see. Double-clutch layups are hard enough, but a double-clutch three is just stupid good.

With Paige’s shot, North Carolina tied Villanova, 74-74, with 4.7 seconds left. At that point, viewers of the game had to pick their jaws up from the floor. The shot was incredible.

But what Kris Jenkins did carried more water. A deep triple as time expired sent Villanova into absolute elation.

The Greatest Sports Year

Who knew that game would turn into the precursor to what was to come? With all the great games that happened in the past year, college basketball’s National Championship was my favorite. Everyone has their own favorite, and the games are probably split pretty evenly across the board.

This was a year that we will tell our children and grandchildren about. It was a year that probably will never be topped. We should all feel fortunate that we were alive to take it all in.

If anyone can make a DVD of all these games in it’s entirety, I will throw my money at you. So someone please do that.

 

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February NBA MVP Rankings

It’s February, which means there are only about two months left in the NBA season. It’s been one of the strongest seasons in terms of individual performances in recent memory.

With so many outstanding performances this year, it’s important to try and sort out who is in the front running for the 2017 MVP award.

Tier 1: The guys who actually have a shot

1. Russell Westbrook: James Harden is currently the most popular pick for MVP in the eyes of many fans, but Westbrook has a small edge here for a few reasons.

For starters, Westbrook is essentially a lone wolf in terms of scoring on the Thunder. Their starting lineup consists of Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Steve Adams. No one besides Westbrook is a serious help on offense.

Westbrook is carrying this team to the playoffs right now.February NBA MVP Rankings

James Harden has a team built to score around him. The proficiency of their three point shooters also spaces the floor and gives him enough space to score and distribute the way he does.

Nothing against Harden and the incredible season he has been putting up, but Westbrook’s season is just more impressive. Additionally, the historical precedent is enough to justify putting Russell Westbrook in the top spot.

He would be just the second player in the history of the NBA to average a triple-double. How can someone having that unprecedented of a season not get the MVP?

Understandably, the guy below him on this list is having a historic season of his own. The gravity of averaging a triple-double over a season simply cannot be understated. The fact that he has been a much more formidable defender than the other two point guards in tier 1 helps his case immensely.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of NBA)

2. James Harden: What have we been missing all these years with Harden not playing point? The race is so close between Harden and Westbrook right now.

Harden is leading the league in assists and is third in points per game. Westbrook is leading the league in scoring and third in assists per game. Harden’s Rockets having a far superior record to the Thunder will most likely be used as reasoning for putting Harden ahead of Westbrook.

Harden’s superior team around him is impossible to ignore however.
It would be unsurprising if either of these players won the award this year. A strong argument can clearly be made for both. Right now, the season long triple-double give Westbrook the slightest of advantages. Let the stretch run begin.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

3. Lebron James: Voter fatigue is a real thing. LeBron has been dominating the league for so long now, that he can put up ridiculous stats without attracting much attention.

He is averaging more than 25 points per game this year while adding more than eight assists and rebounds. Those would both be tied for his career high. He’s also boosted his 3-point average and is hitting at his best rate since 2011. His play has been a notch below Harden and Westbrook, but you can’t ignore what the King has been doing in Ohio this year.

It’s likely that the recent debacle with Charles Barkley will negatively impact his standing with MVP voters as well. Lebron would have to go on a tear to catch up with the two guys in front of him. Unlikely? yes. But impossible? No.

Tier 2: Guys with an outside shot

4. Isaiah Thomas: The last pick in the 2011 draft continues to impress this year. Not to mention, he has been the undisputed belt-holder of the “best in the fourth quarter” award.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of The Boston Globe)

19 of his 44 points came in the fourth on Wednesday. That was in the midst of a ferocious fourth quarter comeback. He has been a man possessed for the last few months and he has lead the Celtics to the second spot in the East.

Only one thing keeps Thomas from vaulting into the top tier. His defense is some of the worst in the league. According to ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus ratings, it is in fact the worst among point guards.

He’s become somewhat of a revolving door for opposing offensive players as they blow by him to get easy buckets. Quite simply, Isaiah Thomas does not have much of a chance at grabbing an MVP award this year. His scoring isn’t quite at the level of Harden’s and he has been playing some of the worst defense in the league. It won’t be this year for Isaiah Thomas.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of JordanDaily)

5. Kawhi Leonard: In typical Spurs fashion, Kawhi Leonard has been quietly dominating the league. He’s not the flashiest guy in the league. He doesn’t make the headlines that other superstars do. At this point, it’s pretty clear that he is the best two-way player in the league.

Offensively, he has taken a huge leap. He is now averaging 25.5 points per game with 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He’s the perfect player for that system as well.

The Spurs lost a lot of leadership and talent with the departure of Tim Duncan, but Kawhi has evidently filled that role. They’re clearly one of the three best teams in the league this year, and Kawhi has let them remain a contender.

Perhaps most impressive is his 3-point shooting. He came into the league as a poor shooter, but is shooting 40 percent from down town. He is scoring more that he ever has while remaining a huge defensive force.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of Sporting News)

6: Kevin Durant: Kevin Durant recently talked about how he would start to let Steph Curry run the offense and take a step back. Durant’s season, however, has been one of the best of his career. It has certainly been his most efficient as a result of having Klay Thompson and Steph Curry spread the floor around him. Despite his cold streak recently, he is sporting a slash line of .541, .377 and .875.

He hasn’t had to shoot as much as he had to in OKC, but he is doing more with his touches than before. Not to mention, he’s averaging more than eight rebounds and eight assists. If he didn’t have another MVP candidate on his team, Kevin Durant would be much higher on this list.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

7. Stephen Curry: Just one year removed from being the unanimous MVP, Steph has seen diminished production with his diminished touches. Not to mention, he has been heating up lately and has been taking control of the offense.

Since Durant’s comments about letting Steph play his game, Curry has put up 43 and 39 points, while adding five and nine rebounds, and six and eight assists.

If Steph can continue to play at that level, he will undoubtedly rise up the ranks. It will be impossible for him to even come close to his astronomical numbers that he put up last season, but Curry can certainly make his way into the conversation for MVP. As of now, he finds himself on the fringes with a long shot.

Tier 3: Great seasons, but no shot

8. Anthony Davis: Anthony Davis deserves to be on a better team. For the fifth straight year, Anthony Davis is on a subpar team. He is also putting up ridiculous numbers for the fifth straight year.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of For The Win)

Davis is putting up career highs with 27.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He is tying his career high in assists with 2.2 per game as well.

There have been four players in NBA history who have put up 28 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Shaquille O’Neal did it three times, Bob McAdoo did it three times, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it once. That’s some elite company.

There’s absolutely no chance that Davis is going to win the MVP award based on the fact that he’s on a terrible team. Even if the Pelicans are able to play their way into the eighth seed in the West, it’s unlikely that The Brow will get serious MVP consideration. It is a shame. Get this man on a better team!

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of CSN)

9. John Wall: John Wall has been on an absolute tear lately. Of the 16 games in 2017, John Wall has nine double-doubles. He now has 28 double-doubles on the season.

Wall has been the engine on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He’s done so by averaging a career high in both points, assists, and steals. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and he has established himself as one of the best point guards in the league.

His uptick in production hasn’t effected his efficiency either. He is scoring at the best rate of his career while taking more shots per game.

John Wall has earned this spot on the list this year by turning the Wizards into a contender in the East. He is solid on both ends of the floor and continues to improve in his bigger role.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of AP)

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak has made it clear that he is going to be a force in the league for years to come. He is the only player leading his team in every stat category, and has dazzled all year with freakishly athletic highlights.

Giannis, like Anthony Davis, has no shot at winning this award simply because of the team that he plays on. The Bucks have a chance at getting one of the lower seeds in the Eastern Conference, but it’s not likely to give him a chance at the award.

It’s not likely it will matter. Giannis will see his name on many top-ten lists in years to come and might just have his name engraved on an MVP trophy someday. This is not his year though.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stars That Should Be in The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

It was recently announced that Brazilian basketball legend Oscar Schmidt will be participating in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. Here are some other icons that would make the game even more of a spectacle come All-Star Weekend.

NBA All-Star Celebrity GameJack Nicholson (Coach): Oscar Schmidt is an international basketball legend, but actor Jack Nicholson is a legend in his own right. And no, not just on the big-screen. Nicholson is one of the biggest celebrity basketball fans out there.

He has been a staple of Lakers games for years now. Sure, the man might be chasing 80 years now. But having him in the All-Star game would add an extra level of intrigue to the game. New York Knicks superman Spike Lee was the coach of the celebrity game in 2015, so Nicholson’s time has come.

Will Smith: Whether or not Smith can play ball is uncertain. But he is a huge Philadelphia 76ers fan, and he certainly balled out in Fresh Prince of Bel Air back in the day. Getting Will Smith in the Celeb game would be and instant classic.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

Tiger Woods: Tiger recently made his (not-so) triumphant return to golf, and maybe it’s time for him to step onto the hardwood. Woods is one of the most gifted athletes of this generation, and has been a huge Orlando Magic fan.

Putting in one of the biggest athletes of the 21st century would be big enough, but the controversy that Tiger could bring with it would add another layer of intrigue. Get El Tigre into the Celeb game.

Mark Cuban: Sure, Cuban owns the Mavericks, but the guy is a marketing powerhouse. He steals the stage everywhere he goes, and no doubt the Celeb game would prove no differently. Cuban would undoubtedly be a hit on the course, and in the interview room.

Jared from Subway: Ok this might be a stretch. If only because Jared is currently in prison, getting him to New Orleans might cause some logistical problems this year. Nevertheless, getting the former commercial star to the celebrity game would be a great show. Jared is a big Indiana Pacers fan, and is still just 39 years old. Surely, it would make for great television.

Barack Obama: We come to the final, and most important name on this list. There is currently a huge push to get former President Barack Obama to New Orleans to play in the game. Sure, it might be a bit of a long shot. But can you imagine?

Obama is currently on vacation and enjoying his time now that he is out of office, but right now the Celebrity game needs him. Drop those swim trunks and lace up those sneakers Barry. The time has come for you to shine.

Here are some highlights of Barry ballin’ out on the hardwood. Expect lots of weak defense on the president if he plays. And for the sake of the potential greatest moment in Celebrity game history, please play Barry. Please play.

 

 

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Seven Stats or Less: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are one of the best teams in the league. Mike D’Antoni, a viable coach of the year candidate, has reinvented the offense and helped the team bounce back from a down year last season. Additionally, the front office made subtle moves that turned into fruitful returns for the team. General Manager Daryl Morey added Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to run with James Harden in an offensive juggernaut. That should not go unnoticed when discussing executive of the year. Harden is third in the league in scoring, first in assists and has a legitimate case for MVP. Third in the Western Conference with a record of 35-16, Houston has the potential to return to the Conference Finals and challenge the Golden State Warriors.

  1. The Houston Rockets are number one in the league in catch and shoot three-point attempts. They make them at an efficient 38 percent. The way the shots come in the scheme of their offense is close to unguardable as they have a top-two offensive rating, second only to the Golden State Warriors. Teams are going to have to be able to get out and contest these shots if they want a chance at slowing them down.
  2. The Rockets are adverse to the mid-range shot. They rank last in the league in those types of shots with 7.6 attempts. For perspective, the second ranked team in the Western Conference takes a league leading 25 mid-range shots a game. The lack of those shots are clearly a by-product of the Mike D’antoni offense.
  3. In the last six games, Houston has a 108.2 defensive rating.  They’ve allowed over 120 or more points in four of those games. 125 in a loss to Golden State, 127 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, 120 in a loss to the Boston Celtics and 120 in yet another loss to the Indiana Pacers. In the last six games Houston’s opponents are averaging 53 points in the paint and 15 fast break points — both higher than their season average. The defense might come back to hold them back in terms of postseason success if they don’t shore up some deficiencies.
  4. The Rockets have drawn the second most charges in the league at 1.04 per game. Patrick Beverly is third among guards in charges drawn. Montrezl Harrell is seventh among forwards. Charges are one of the best ways to stop the flow of an opponent’s momentum and also gain extra possessions.
  5.  James Harden isolates the fourth most of any player in the league. His 6.1 points from isolation leads the NBA. Harden averages 29.1 points a game, which is third most in the NBA. He’s one of the premier scorers in the league. His skills with the basketball coupled with his strength allows him to take his man either to the hoop or shoot over him.
  6. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are two of the only players to possess an assist percentage of at least 51 percent this season with a minimum of 45 games. Both players have a legitimate case for MVP, based on the historical context of their respective seasons.
  7. James Harden has two of the only three 50-point triple doubles in the league. Westbrook has the other one.

 

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