Five things to be thankful for in the NBA

Everyone has something to be thankful for come holiday season. With Thanksgiving passing yesterday it’s time to reflect on the things we are thankful for in sports.

The NBA season has been filled with twists and turns. Many teams and players have created a different narrative to this year’s NBA. The teams that have dominated both conferences are not the ones on top. Players have both emerged and fallen from last season. However we are thankful for many things that make the NBA entertaining. Here are five of the things that have made the NBA the most interesting this season.

The 76ers’ young guys

If you haven’t watched Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington play you should. The three of them are making the 76ers more than exciting to watch. They are something to be thankful for due to the elevated play in the East. Having a team emerge with great young talent to compete every night with the top teams in the East is definitely something to be thankful for.

Simmons is averaging 19, 9 and 7 and Joel Embiid is averaging a double-double. Covington is shooting 46 percent from three while shooting just under eight a game. The 76ers are 10-7 and are sitting in the sixth spot in the East. Simmons has been terrific, taking defensive rebounds and turning them into points.

The Sixers have been off to a good start and are just a couple games back in the East. They should continue their pace and be a tough out for a top team in the East come playoff time.

The Gordon Hayward-less Boston Celtics

Well now the Cavaliers don’t like the superior team in the East. Gordon Hayward went down in the first quarter of the season and the Celtics rallied around that. They have the best record in basketball and have beaten the Warriors already this season.

Many thought the season was lost for the Boston Celtics without Gordon Hayward. Instead, they are continually proving they belong. They have the best defensive unit in the league right now and previously held the best offense in the NBA to 88 points. Finally the best team in the East doesn’t look like the Cavaliers, it only took a few years.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

Everyone loves a little conflict and soap opera. What Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have created is flat out chippy and fans can’t take their eyes off of it. Many cheer against Kevin Durant for his choice to join the Golden State Warriors and Russ has “poked the bear” in a sense.

Russell Westbrook has felt disrespected due to Kevin Durant’s decision and has made it an on the court conflict. It has made games that are normally not as interesting and turned it into prime time television.

A new villain has been created

NBA

Lonzo Ball, (Thewinningtake.com).

Lonzo Ball is a villain. Like it or not LaVar Ball has made fans not like his son but in a way it has made the NBA better. Teams look forward to playing the Lakers to watch the opposing point guard play him tough.

This is exactly what his dad wanted to do by making a below average Lakers team relevant and putting his son in the forefront because of it. People now are drawing attention to an 8-11 team with a point guard who is shooting under 32 percent.

I still find myself thinking about how thankful we are to have a person to cheer against every night. It’s like fantasy sports because it makes fans care about games that they wouldn’t normally. So in a way, LaVar deserves a thank you.

The Timberwolves in playoff position

Obviously it’s very early in the season but the Timberwolves look very good. They have a big three in Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. They are competitive every night and look poised to finally make the playoffs. We always cheer for things that don’t happen often right? Well the Timberwolves have been absent from the playoffs for a while.

It would be good for basketball to have a shake up in playoff teams. It gets boring seeing the same teams make the playoffs year in and year out. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. This could be the season that they finally break that extremely long drought. The Timberwolves round out the Thanksgiving list because they are finally relevant and create a tough playoff opponent for anyone they face.

 

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NBA takeaways

Eight thoughts about the NBA season minus LeBron James

The NBA is off to a wonderful, yet somewhat surprising start. The Celtics have won 16 straight games, the Pistons are third in the Eastern Conference and the Oklahoma City Thunder are under .500 despite building a super team in the offseason. Here are a few early season takeaways.

1. Is Lonzo Ball going to be good?

Going into the draft, the Lakers knew they were not drafting Lonzo Ball for his scoring ability, but his shot has been just awful. On shots from 0-3 feet from the basket (essentially layups), Ball is shooting 45.5 percent. His abysmal 22.8 3-point percentage is the worst in the NBA.

NBA takeaways

Hopefully Lonzo can figure out the whole shooting thing (Photo from ClutchPoints)

Instead of panicking, let’s look at some other famous guards. Russell Westbrook shot 47.6 percent from 0-3 feet, and 27.1 percent from three during his first year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. John Wall shot 40.9 percent from the field as a 20-year old in Washington, which is not as poor as Lonzo’s 31.3 percent, but is still weak.

Now for the positives. His assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty solid, and he already has two triple-doubles. Only 12 other guards have eclipsed multiple triple-doubles during their rookie seasons. That list consists of Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan, Chris Paul, Walt Frazier, Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson. It also includes Michael Carter-Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Art Williams and Elfrid Payton.

Long story short, he could be great, but he also could be a major bust. He appears somewhat passive, and walking away from a fight that involved his teammates makes me question his toughness. Only time will tell, but in BBB we trust. Through 17 games, Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The only other rookies to average at least seven boards and seven assists were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

2. Ben Simmons is super talented

You can already tell that, barring injury, Ben Simmons will be in the Hall of Fame. He is a lock for NBA Rookie of the Year, averaging a ridiculous 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. The only other rookie to average at least 18-8-7 was the great Oscar Robertson. He is the modern day Magic Johnson, and NBA fans should be ecstatic.

The kid can do it all. He is special in half court, full court, open court, heck, he would probably be good in a court of law. The best part is a guy who has no jump shot is shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Simmons dominates inside, shooting 73.5 percent from 0-3 feet. I pray each and every day that he stays healthy for the remainder of the season.

3. Joel Embiid is so fun for the NBA

On Monday night, we watched Embiid swat Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, then proceeded to talk trash while Mitchell was down. This prompted Mitchell to shove Embiid, who flopped and drew a technical foul as he fell down to the floor.

In a game against the Clippers, Embiid had 32 points and 16 rebounds, while taunting Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The following night, Embiid put up his historic 46-15-7-7 stat line and proceeded to taunt Lonzo and LaVar Ball on social media.

Embiid is a national treasure, and like his teammate Simmons, needs prayers every night to stay healthy. He has a chance to be an all-time great, both on and off the court.

4. Brad Stevens is a magician and Kyrie Irving is special

The Celtics are off to an amazing start at 16-2, but the MVP of their team is not on the court. He is patrolling from courtside and calling out the plays.

Head coach Brad Stevens is the obvious choice for Coach of the Year and rightfully so. Without Gordon Hayward, Boston is riding a 16-game winning streak, and sits atop the Eastern Conference. Their defense has been phenomenal, ranking second in opponent field goal percentage, third in opponent threes allowed and fifth in total steals. Offensively, Boston is first in total rebounds and third in free throws made.

NBA takeaways

16 and counting (Photo from NBA.com)

When the Celtics were sitting at 14 straight, Stevens, in a postgame interview, noted “We gotta play a lot better.” That is a clear sign of an elite coach.

Kyrie Irving is shooting worse from the field, from three and from the line compared to last season. Luckily, Irving looks to be back on track after two dominating performances. Against the Hawks, Irving had 30 points while shooting 10-12. On Monday, Uncle Drew had his best game as a member of the Celtics. In an eight-point win against Dallas, Irving had 47 points (16-22), six assists and was +21 for the game.

He is also the most clutch player in the NBA. In the final five minutes with the score within five, Irving, in 38 minutes, has 65 points (24-39), 10 assists, zero turnovers, and a plus-minus of +40. Momma there goes that man.

5. Victor Oladipo looks like an All-Star

After being the punchline in the Paul George trade, the former No. 2 overall pick is having quite the season in Indiana. Oladipo is averaging 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, while shooting 44.7 percent from long range. All of a sudden, Oladipo is an offensive threat, and has the Pacers above .500.

6. Dwight Howard is a Hall of Famer

On Monday night, Howard had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was his 49th 20-point, 20-rebound game, which is the most of any player since 1983. Yes, that is more than Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal.

NBA takeaways

Dwight Howard will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame (Photo from USA Today)

This past March in an interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, Howard was asked about whether or not he thinks he will be the Hall of Fame. He responded by saying, “No doubt. It’s kind of got swept under the rug because the perception of all the things that happened in Orlando. All of the media stuff. If you look at basketball itself, and I don’t ever talk about myself, but winning three Defensive Player of the Year trophies has never been done. Leading the league in rebounding six straight years. All that kind of stuff, I think that deserves it.”

Although he actually has only led the NBA in five total seasons rather than six straight, the eight-time All-Star should walk into the Hall of Fame with ease. It’s so funny because he has had such an awkward career, from dominating in Orlando, to flopping with the Lakers and bouncing from the Rockets to the Hawks and now the Hornets.

Yes, he has probably underachieved, but Howard’s numbers will put him up with the all-time greats when all is said and done.

7. What is going on in OKC?

Of course it takes time to adjust to playing with other All-Stars, but this Thunder team is sketchy. They are 7-9, and Russell Westbrook is shooting worse from the field and free-throw line than last year. He also has less assists per game despite having more talent around him.

Carmelo Anthony is shooting 42.2 percent, which would be the worst field goal percentage of his career. They are constantly letting teams back into games after the first quarter, and have now lost two straight despite being ahead by 20 points in both contests. Hopefully this team figures it out and can compete with Golden State come June.

8. James Harden is the MVP at this point in the season

Harden leads the league in points and assists per game. He is shooting 45 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from deep and 86.4 percent from the line.

Houston leads the Western Conference at 13-4, and Harden was dominating without Chris Paul, the team’s second best player, who was dealing with an injury. He dropped 56 points against Utah, and another 48 against the Suns.

 

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Joel Embiid and the rising 76ers

It’s pretty early in the season, but the Philadelphia 76ers are off to a good start. They are 8-6 and have been led by young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Ben Simmons has been showing that being a point forward is very possible in the NBA. Joel Embiid is showing that he can play with just about anyone. In a league that is shifting away from traditional centers, Joel Embiid is showing just how complete his game is.

Joel Embiid’s Early Career

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, (Si.com).

I guess it would be fair to say that all of his career is also his early career due to him being in just his second playing year in the league. To be fair, Embiid has been a star for the 76ers in almost every game he’s played in.

Given he has only played 43 games in his NBA career Embiid notched a career high Thursday night against the Lakers. He had 46 points on 14/20 shooting, had 13 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks. He dominated a weak interiored Laker team and was extremely efficient while doing it.

He is also continuing to prove he can hurt a team in more ways than one. This season he is shooting 58 percent from inside the arc. That statistic is over eight percent better than last season and shows that he can hurt you from inside as well as from outside. Embiid has struggled with his outside shot as of this season. Last year he shot 34 percent from three and this season he is sitting right at 24 percent. If he can get back to his consistent shooting ways then he is in for an even bigger impact.

The Last Few Games

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, (ESPN).

In his last two games, Embiid is averaging 39 points on 25-40 shooting which is good for 62.5 percent. He is 25-35 from the free throw line in that span and has grabbed 31 rebounds. He also has nine assists and eight blocks. Embiid has done a little bit of everything for his team and it has earned them wins in the last two games.

In wins this season Embiid has averaged 27 points and is shooting 59 percent. In losses this season, he has averaged 17 points and is shooting just 40 percent from the field. In translation, the versatile big man has been very important to this young teams success.

Team Outlook

As of right now, the 76ers only go as far as Embiid and Simmons take them. They have a lot of good role players to mix and match around them, but the NBA is all about star power. Until Markelle Fultz gets healthy and Dario Saric picks up his play a little, Simmons and Embiid have to carry most of the load.

One guy who does not get enough credit is Robert Covington. Covington is shooting 50 percent from three this season and he attempts seven a game. He’s averaged 17 points per game and he and J.J. Redick have helped open up the lane for both Simmons and Embiid to do their damage.

The 76ers are a very dangerous ball club. They have the ability to play with anyone and beat anyone on any given night. With Embiid and Simmons leading the way, the 76ers are in good position to make the playoffs. Barring any serious injuries, the 76ers should end up in the 5-7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With Embiid playing at borderline MVP quality, the 76ers could shake up the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

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Lauri Markkanen

Why is nobody talking about Lauri Markkanen?

We all knew there was something special about this draft class. This group was just loaded with talent, so much so that Malik Monk fell to No. 11. A player of his caliber is almost always a top five selection.

Throw in Ben Simmons playing his first NBA season and the “rookie” class gets that much better. Simmons is the frontrunner for rookie of the year now, but there are so many other rookies having exciting seasons.

Jayson Tatum has stepped up in Boston to fill the hole left by Gordon Hayward. The third overall pick is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds a game and been a key part of why the Celtics have the best record in the NBA.

De’Aaron Fox is also looking impressive so far this season. The fact he is on the Kings has not kept fans from seeing his production. With averages of 12.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, it is a wonder he has only started two games. He also just hit a game-winning shot to beat Simmons and the 76ers.

Fox’s former teammate, Malik Monk is also looking nice. He started off slow, but is now averaging almost 10 points per game with the Hornets. He has had some explosive performances like his 25 points in 23 minutes against the Bucks and 21 points in 27 minutes against the Knicks.

The most talked about rookie in this class has definitely been Lonzo Ball, but not because he has been one of the top rookies in this class. Sure, the No. 2 overall pick has had some nice games like his almost triple-double in his second game, but he only has topped 10 points once since then.

Ball’s fellow rookie teammate, Kyle Kuzma, is also looking good. Kuzma is third amongst rookies in scoring at 14.8 points per game and is also grabbing 6.5 rebounds.

Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Mike James, John Collins, Josh Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovic are also averaging double figures in points per game. This class has been truly amazing.

I purposely left a name out of that list though, and you may not have noticed because of how little he has been talked about. That name would be Lauri Markkanen.

Quietly dominating

If you remember the draft, Markkanen was picked seventh overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but then was traded along with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler.

Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen has quietyly been the most successful player from this year’s draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

In his one season at Arizona, Markkanen averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from behind the arc.

He has put up similar stats in his 10 games with the Bulls, as he is averaging 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Those numbers are both good for second amongst rookies behind, you guessed it, Ben Simmons.

With all the hype surrounding Simmons, the struggles by Ball and Markelle Fultz and Tatum and Boston being so successful, Markkanen’s production has seemed to go unnoticed.

It more than likely has something to do with the fact that he is playing with the Bulls. With so little star power in Chicago, why would anyone talk about them? They also are second to last in the Eastern Conference. It is hard enough to get talked about in the East with all the stars playing in the West and getting all the attention.

Scouting report

Let’s take a look at what Markkanen’s draft profile said about him. According to Draft Express, Markkanen’s biggest strengths were his shooting ability and size.

He’s definitely a good shooter. Known as a stretch big at 7-feet, 230 pounds, Markkanen’s field goal percentage is 42.6 and his 3-point percentage is 36.1. Not bad numbers for a rookie big.

For comparison, Kristaps Porzingis had a 39.8 field goal percentage and 21.4 3-point percentage through his first 10 NBA games. Porzingis has obviously improved since then. But in today’s game, you have to be able to shoot around 40 percent from deep, and that percentage should only improve for Markkanen as his career progresses.

Markkanen’s size puts him right up there with guys Porzingis, Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki. Obviously they aren’t exact in height and weight, but they are all big men that can stretch the floor and open lanes for their teammates. You have to respect their shot because they all can hit 3-pointers.

One of the bigger weaknesses in his draft profile was his defense. His lack of weight and length prevents him from being physical inside and blocking shots. Guys like Porzingis and Anthony Davis got a whole foot of length more than him with their 8-foot wingspans.

This is not as big of a concern to me though. A lot of the rookies coming in had question marks about their defensive abilities. This is also something that can be improved over time.

I’m also not going to let something like length determine if a guy can be good in this league or not because Love and Nowitzki also don’t have significant length.

Of course you can’t make assumptions this early on in a rookie’s career. Fans love to declare guys future Hall of Famers or busts early on in the season. But you cannot judge a guy that early. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged less than seven points per game in his rookie season. Now he is the leading candidate for MVP in his fifth season.

Maybe Markkanen peaks at his rookie season. Maybe he continues to improve. Maybe we will see him in the 2020 All-Star game playing in front of his home crowd in Chicago. What we know for sure is he has exploded onto the NBA scene faster than his fellow members of this draft class.

So why is no one talking about Lauri Markkanen? I have no clue, but the numbers speak for themselves. This guy is ballin.

 

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NBA summary so far

NBA Preview:

Well every team has played from 10-12 games so far this season so it’s time to make some reflections on the start to the season.

Whether it’s championship caliber teams struggling, star players off to rough starts or rookies under performing here’s a look at the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season.

Eastern Conference:

I’m going to go out on limb and say no one had the Magic and Pistons in the top 3 in the east through 10+ games. The Pistons have benefited from Tobias Harris’ spectacular play on both ends.

Other teams have shocked the Eastern Conference with their struggles. Luckily for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the season doesn’t end today or they would be out of the playoffs. Not having a second scoring option to go with Lebron has hurt them.

The Milwaukee Bucks have struggled despite MVP level play from Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the addition of Eric Bledsoe, the team should turn it around moving forward.

The Celtics have rattled off 10 straight wins even without their second best player. Brad Stevens has put together great game plans and has transformed a roster full of youth into the best defensive team in the NBA.

Players Worth Noting:

NBA

Kyle Lowry, (Raptors Republic).

Ben Simmons has practically led the way for the Philadelphia 76ers. Once a front runner for the rookie of the year, Simmons has lived up to his anticipated hype. In his last 10 games, Simmons is nearly averaging a triple double. He has 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game as well as a 19.8 player efficiency rating. Simmons is leading a 76ers team through the point-forward position.

Kristaps Porzingis has been incredible for the New York Knicks. In his last 10, Porzingis is averaging 29.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He is also at an astounding 29.2 for player efficiency rating which is one of the tops in the entire NBA.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the tops in the NBA in player efficiency as well. He sits at 32.7 and is averaging 32 points per game. Giannis is one of the only reasons that the Bucks have been competitive through 10 games.

Kyle Lowry is one of the players who has struggled out of the gates for the Raptors. Lowry is shooting 32 percent from three and 39 percent from the field. He is averaging 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists as the secondary option for the Raptors. All of those per game stats are well below his career averages.

Western Conference:

There isn’t too many surprises in the Western Conference. Some of the bigger ones have been the Thunder, Grizzlies and Clippers.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have struggled to win games. They are getting over 60 points per game from Westbrook, Anthony and George. They are 4-6 and have gotten great play from their big three.

One of the shocking things is how well the Memphis Grizzlies have played. They managed to knock off the Warriors and Rockets already and those two teams are the best in the Western Conference so far. They come out at 7-4 and have gotten help from a rested and ready Chandler Parsons who has just under a 17 player efficiency rating.

Even though the Clippers are 5-5, they have had glimpses of great play. They won their first four and have hit a skid as of late. Obviously their strength of schedule hasn’t been too heavy, but the Clippers are a fringe playoff team and they are only going to get better as the season moves forward.

Players Worth Noting:

Clint Capela has provided a low post threat and has been the second option for the Houston Rockets. Capela is averaging 12.7 points and 10.6 rebounds as well as 2 blocks and 2 assists. He is manning the middle for the Rockets and has helped them to a 8-3 record.

Lamarcus Aldridge has benefited from Kawhi Leonard being out. He is averaging 22.6 point and 8.3 rebounds and has helped a team without one of their stars jump out to a 7-4 record.

A final statistic that is interesting for the league as a whole so far is that Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 10.3 minutes in the seven games the Timberwolves have won this year. He is also averaging 22.3 minutes in the four losses they have this season.

 

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Who is the next best player in the NBA?

On Tuesday night, we saw the underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers face off against the exciting and intriguing Milwaukee Bucks. More importantly, we saw the undisputed best player in the league, LeBron James, square off against potential MVP finalist, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Behind Kevin Love’s 32 points, 16 rebounds and LeBron’s 30 points, Cleveland defeated the Bucks 124-119. Despite the loss, Antetokounmpo poured in 40 points, knocking down 16 of his 21 attempts. The Greek Freak also added nine rebounds and four blocks.

Still, Antetokounmpo’s plus/minus was -7. He also turned the ball over eight times. With that said, even at age 32, LeBron James remains the best player in the NBA. With Father Time being undefeated, it is obvious that James will eventually be dethroned, most likely in two to three years.

Ben Simmons is coming for the top spot (CBS Sports)

Once LeBron stops being the best player on the planet, will Antetokounmpo take over as the sport’s biggest star? What about The Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, over in New York? Another case could even be made for the emerging Sixers star, Ben Simmons, who through 10 games is averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Simmons already has seven games of at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Through their first 10 games, both Jordan and LeBron only had four. If he keeps his averages up, he will join Oscar Robertson as the only other player to average 17 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in a rookie season.

The following is an NBA timeline of the greatest players since 1970. This list of names was originally created by Nick Wright, co-host of FS1’s First Things First. While this list is obviously up for debate, it is, in my eyes, an extremely accurate timeline of who was the best player in the league over the last 47 years.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970-71) – (1977-78)

Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., is probably the most accomplished players in the history of basketball, absolutely dominated the seventies. During this eight-year timespan, Kareem won five MVPs, was a two-time scoring champion, and had four seasons in which he averaged at least 27 points and 15 rebounds.

In just his second season (1970-71), the Bucks, behind Kareem and Oscar Robertson, swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. Kareem, who at the time still went by Lew Alcindor, was named Finals MVP. Throughout the 1970-71 playoffs, Alcindor averaged 26.6 points and 17 rebounds. During his 1974 MVP season, Abdul-Jabbar finished in the top five in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage.

Moses Malone (1978-1979) – (1982-1983)

Form 1978-83, Malone won three MVPs, and led the NBA in rebounding five times. For his career, Malone ranks seventh in points and third in rebounds. Malone is the offensive rebounding king, as he currently sits as the all-time leader in that department.

Moses Malone, one of the best rebounders we have ever seen (ESPN.com)

In the 1977-78 season, Malone missed 23 games due to injury, yet still led the league in offensive rebounding, and finished second in total rebounds per game. The following season, after gaining 15 pounds, Malone led the league in minutes, and averaged 24.8 points with 17.6 rebounds per game.

During the 1982-1983 season, his first year with the Philadelphia 76ers, Malone averaged 24.5 points and a league-best 15.3 rebounds per game. He was named All-NBA first-team, as well as first-team All-Defensive. He became the only NBA player to win back-to-back MVPs on two different teams, and his Sixers would go on to win the championship, in an easy four game sweep over Kareem and the Lakers. Malone was named Finals MVP, and outscored Abdul-Jabbar 72-30 in the four games.

Larry Bird/ Magic Johnson (1983-1984) – (1989-1990)

It’s hard to decide who was the better of the two, but Larry and Magic ran the 80s. In the 1983-84 season, Bird’s Celtics defeated Magic’s Lakers in the NBA Finals. The following year, the Lakers beat the C’s in six. In 1985-86 Boston reclaimed their spot on top, only to be defeated the following season by, you guessed it, the Lakers. From the ’79 playoffs, up until 1988, the Lakers and Celtics combined for eight NBA championships.

Throughout this extraordinary run, both Bird and Magic won three MVPs apiece, and the two legends combined for five Finals MVPs. Magic winning three, and Bird with two.

Michael Jordan (1990-1991) – (1992-1993)

To sum it up, the Bulls won three championships in a row, Jordan was named Finals MVP in all three of them. During this three-year span, “His Airness” also won a pair of MVPs, and led the league in scoring each year.

Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1994) – (1994-1995)

Because of Jordan’s hiatus (Minor League Baseball), the NBA needed a new star. In stepped Hakeem, who led the Rockets to back-to-back titles. In 1993-94, “The Dream” averaged 27.3 points and 11.9 rebounds on 52.8 percent shooting. That same year, he became the first player in NBA history to be named MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year awards all in the same year.

The following season, on a mission for his second championship, Hakeem averaged 33 points in the 22 playoff games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, up against MVP David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs, Olajuwon put on a show. During that series, he averaged 35.3 points a game, and outscored Robinson by 40 points in the final two contests. In the Finals, Hakeem dominated a young Shaquille O’Neal, outscoring him in all four games.

Michael Jordan (1995-1996) – (1997-1998)

Just another three-peat, and three more Finals MVP trophies to add to his illustrious career. Again, Jordan led the league in scoring all three seasons, and tallied up two more MVPs.

Shaquille O’Neal (1998-1999) – (2001-2002)

“The Big Diesel”, Shaq was an absolute monster. Each year from 1998-2002, O’Neal led the league in field goal percentage. He only won one MVP, but helped the Lakers win three straight titles. Shaq averaged at least 25 and 10 in his first seven years with the Lakers. The guy was flat out incredible.

Tim Duncan (2002-2003) – (2004-2005)

In 2002, Duncan won his second consecutive MVP trophy, while also notching his second ring. In this particular three-year span, Duncan won a pair of titles, and earned Finals MVP honors in both. He averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds, while easily shooting over 50 percent in all three seasons.

Lebron James (2005-2006) – (??)

The King. (Billboard.com)

Who knows how long this run will last, but boy has it been special. LeBron has been an All-Star in 13 straight seasons, and has made the NBA Finals seven years in a row. It might as well be called the LeBron James Invitational at this point. LeBron is clearly the most talented player this game has ever seen.

To this point in his career, King James is a 4x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 3x NBA Champion, 6x All-Defensive, and also the 2007-08 NBA scoring champion. Keep in mind that when LeBron originally left the Cavs, they had the first pick in the draft. When Jordan left, the Bulls went from 57 wins, to 55.

Who is next?

 

Featured image by SI.com

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Betting on basketball: Oct. 28

Another great lineup of games for tonight with three guaranteed best bets. All the lines are pretty low tonight so lets make some $.

 

Best Bet’s:

 

Celtics @ Heat (Celtics -1):

It feels like these teams always have close games when they play for some reason, probably because the Celtic’s can’t rebound and Whiteside is a monster.

Al Horford is coming off one of his best performances of his Celtics career scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 boards against the Bucks. Whiteside is scheduled to be out for this one so the Celtic’s should be able to control the glass.

Image result for al horford (CBS Boston)

Chi’s Pick: Celtics -1

 

Cavaliers @ Pelicans (Cavs -2.5):

Image result for Lebron vs the pelicans (Big Easy Believer)

Lebron has been taking things into his own hands this season, literally. He has been on a tear since he has started at point guard the last few games. This will be an interesting game because the Cavs do not really have the height to matchup with Anthony Davis and Cousins.

I don’t think we will be seeing point guard LeBron tonight because the Cavs are going to need him down low on the glass and in the post. I still like the Cavs for tonight. The bench in Cleveland is just too much for the Pelicans to compete with.

Chi’s Pick: Cavs -2.5

 

76ers @ Mavericks (76ers -1.5):

Nerlens Noel gets to go for revenge tonight when Joel Embiid and the gang come into Dallas. Philly has gotten off to a rough start considering all the hype around this young team.

The 76ers need to turn it around now if they want to keep the playoffs in reach and tonight I think they will. Ben Simmons is going to take over this game and the 76ers are going to show they made the right choice sticking with Embiid over Noel.

Chi’s Pick: 76ers -1.5

 

The Other Guys:

Thunder @ Bulls (Thunder -8.5):

Chi’s Pick: Thunder -8.5

 

Rockets @ Grizzlies (Grizz -1.5):

Chi’s Pick: Rockets +1.5

 

Lakers @ Jazz (Jazz -10.5):

Chi’s Pick: Lakers +10.5

 

Suns @ Trailblazers (Blazers -12):

Chi’s Pick: Blazers -12

 

Pistons @ Clippers (Clippers -8.5):

Chi’s Pick: Pistons +8.5

 

Featured Photo By USA Today

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The beginning of Ben Simmons

It finally happened, the Vegas front runner for the NBA Rookie of the Year played his first professional game. Ben Simmons has taken the NBA by storm with his flashy plays and supreme athleticism.

What has been a long awaited debut has been well worth the wait. So now it’s time to trust the process and see how far it takes the Philadelphia 76ers.

Ben Simmons Debut

Ben Simmons

Simmons out in transition. Photo Courtesy of 6ABC.com.

Ben Simmons, a converted point guard, is providing a spark for the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s hard to say that the point-forward position has been brought back but it’s hard to doubt Simmons’ ability in the open court. Simmons has the ability to take a rebound down and bring it the length of the floor and create an easy basket.

Despite a loss, Simmons finished his debut with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to go along with two steals and a block. In translation, he stuffed the stat sheet. Simmons led the team in assists, minutes played, offensive rebounds and steals and finished second on the team in total rebounds.

He can impact the game in more ways than scoring and he showed that opening night. Despite losing to the Washington Wizards, the 76ers played some good basketball on the offensive end. They created open shots and scored 115 points which will win you a lot of games.

What won’t win games is their lack of defensive stops when the game gets tough. In the second half, the 76ers were outscored 64-56, when the game gets toughest teams need important stops to win games.

Moving Forward

The 76ers may have lost to the Wizards, but it was only by five. This was a matchup between a team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference versus a team that finished 28-54.

The 76ers were impressive opening night and Ben Simmons was one of the major reasons for that. In his 35 minutes, he attacked the rim with regularity, gave up good shots to get great ones and looked extremely comfortable running the break.

He is a pure playmaker and he’s already looking like he can handle the bright spotlight and more of a point guard role.

Translating College to Pros

In 33 games at LSU, Ben Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists. Based on his college career and his first NBA game, this is what Ben Simmons does. In college he was given a team with much less talent comparatively to the team he has in Philadelphia.

The numbers will only get better for Simmons as he gets both increasingly more comfortable and plays against lesser opponents. Lesser opponents includes more traditional big men who he can beat off the dribble or small players who he can take into the post and score over.

The 76ers have been waiting a long time for this, and despite a loss, they are in a great position for the near future. They have some great young talent and look to position themselves in the top part of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

 

Featured Image from NBA.com.

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NBA injuries

Eight NBA players that absolutely, positively, cannot get injured

After watching Gordon Hayward go down with a gruesome ankle injury, it got us thinking. Who in the NBA can absolutely, positively, not go down with a serious injury?

Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons, the favorite for Rookie of the Year, is an Australian prodigy with an immense amount of talent. After being shut down last year because of a foot injury, Simmons is more motivated than ever. While being the best rookie would be nice, Simmons is focused on being the best player in the NBA.

Physically, Simmons is perfect for the “positionless” trend in the NBA. His size, athleticism and length are unparalleled to many. A gifted passer, Simmons has been called upon by Philadelphia to be their starting point guard. Keep in mind that he is 6-foot-10.

The NBA needs this man to stay healthy. He is one of the most hyped up players in a while, even drawing comparisons to LeBron James, due to his selfless style and high basketball IQ. In five preseason games, Simmons averaged 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

Joel Embiid

The GOAT on social media (Twitter.com)

Not only is Twitter better with a healthy Joel Embiid, but the NBA is a joy to watch when this man is on the court. Recently, we saw Embiid get into a Twitter fight with Miami Heat star Hassan Whiteside. The exchange was over a preseason game. I can’t even imagine what this guy is capable of over an entire season, both on and off the court.

In just 25.4 minutes per game last year, Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. His season was sadly cut short due to a left knee injury.

Recently, the 76ers told Embiid that he will be on minutes’ restriction to start the year. Embiid had a few harsh words to say on the decision, but you can’t not love this guy. He is absolutely hysterical and backed up his clown behavior with incredible numbers in his first 31 career games.

The 76ers could easily make a playoff run with Simmons and Embiid healthy. I will be praying to the basketball gods on a nightly basis to keep Embiid on the floor and all over social media. The NBA needs personalities like this, which is why Embiid’s health is so crucial.

Lonzo Ball

Big Baller Brand for life! If Lonzo were to get hurt, that means less LaVar. Is this a world you would want to live in? Actually, don’t answer that. Seriously though, the Lonzo Ball hype train has been full for months and itching to take off.

Because of his father’s comments, Lonzo is walking into the league with a target on his back. He is considered to be extremely calm and laid back, yet players already don’t like him. People are tired of hearing about him and he has yet to play a minute of meaningful basketball. Can he shoot? Will he get bullied? Does he have what it takes to bring the Lakers to the playoffs? LaVar believes so, but we can only wait and see.

If Zo were to get injured, we wouldn’t be able to see what shoe he will predominately be rocking on the court. If you watched any of the Summer League, you would know that the cameras were more focused on Ball’s footwear than the actual game.

Kyrie Irving

Headlining the biggest breakup saga of the summer, Irving is ready to be the man, and the point guard he knows he can be. Without Irving, the East would be a total joke. The only team that poses a threat to LeBron and the Cavs in the East is Kyrie’s Celtics.

Can Kyrie keep the Celtics afloat? (Photo from SI.com)

Say what you want about Washington and Toronto, but if Hayward comes back, the Celtics are the only team that could give the Cavs a run for their money. The NBA needs Uncle Drew on the floor.

Kyrie vs. Lebron in the Eastern Conference finals is a dream waiting to happen. We don’t really know exactly how they feel about each other, but we do know that they are not on talking terms.

The rivalry between Boston and Cleveland was growing, but now it has risen to another level. Irving could also make a serious run at MVP, so we can only pray as his injury history is rather suspect.

Lebron James

An NBA without LeBron James doesn’t seem possible, as he has never missed a significant amount of time, but you just never know.

LeBron, the obvious face of the NBA, is so vital it is not even funny. He now has beef with Kyrie, which gives the Eastern Conference some serious drama. And, of course, James and the Cavs always have their eyes on Golden State.

This season, James is looking to become the youngest player to reach 30,000 points. He will turn 33 in December and needs 1,213 points to eclipse 30,000. The youngest to 30,000 is currently Kobe Bryant, who accomplished this at 34 years and 104 days.

James could also become the first forward to ever achieve 8,000 career assists. The NBA would probably burn down if this man was out, but I really don’t think the basketball gods would let that happen.

Russell Westbrook

Mr. Triple-Double, Russ is a must-see on TV. He is arguably the most exciting player to watch, and now has serious talent around him. They told Russ it wasn’t possible to average a triple-double in today’s NBA, and he responded with a simple “why not?”

It’s not just his style of play that is exciting. Westbrook’s fashion game is out of this world. The man never wears an outfit twice, and has quite a peculiar taste in clothing. His postgame interviews are always a joy to watch, as he has no problem with making a reporter look foolish.

Also, the KD vs. Russ battle just got more interesting with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Could we see these two duke it out in the Western Conference finals?

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Last season, the “Greek Freak” led the Bucks in scoring, assists, rebounding, steals and blocks. Antetokounmpo became the first player to ever finish top 20 in all five major statistical categories. He’s arguably the most lovable guy in the league.

Recently, Kevin Durant spoke extremely high of him, claiming Antetokounmpo could be the “best player to ever play if he really wanted to.” Durant would go on to say that Antetokounmpo is his favorite player to watch.

The best part is that he is only 22 years old. The sky is the limit for this kid. While Milwaukee won’t win the championship, they could be an interesting team. In a lot of insiders’ minds, Antetokounmpo is a dark horse for MVP. He has an incredible backstory and is the most innocent guy in the league.

Kristaps Porzingis

How great would it be if basketball was relevant again in New York? The “Unicorn” has a chance to make this happen. With Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony out of town, Porzingis has the opportunity to become a star in the Big Apple.

NBA injuries

Will the Unicorn make New York relevant? (Photo from ESPN.com)

Much like Antetokounmpo, Porzingis is young at age 22 and extremely likable. On at least two occasions, the Knicks star has slid into the “dm’s” of Instagram models. While the conversations may not have went as Porzingis hoped, you have to respect the game.

It’s a rebuilding year for the Knicks, but expect Porzingis to elevate his game. Last season, he averaged 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and two blocks a game. If Porzingis were to go down, people might forget that New York has professional basketball in their state.

 

 

Featured image by NY Daily News

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2017 Eastern Conference predictions: 76ers and Celtics

With what feels like the most compelling offseason in NBA history, there will be no lack of storylines to follow this season. There is a ton of grey area when it comes to how things are going to shape up in the Eastern Conference so here are two bold predictions for the East this season.

Philadelphia 76ers make the playoffs

2017 Eastern Conference predictions: 76ers Celtics

(MetroUS)

Trust the process has been the motto in Philly for what feels like an eternity and fans in the area haven’t seen a winning product since the 2011-2012 season where they made it to the conference semi-finals. Since then there has not been any hope or optimism surrounding the franchise besides receiving the number one pick a few a times, but this year feels much different.

The 76ers have been plagued with injuries and mismanagement for five seasons but the process is finally coming to fruition. With what seems to be a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons the world will be able to see how this team of high picks will be able to play together. There have been reports of minutes restriction for Embiid but for this case were assuming he will start.

Being in the Eastern Conference gives this young team a chance to be in contention for a playoff spot and they’re going to sneak into the eight or seven spot. With players like Dario Saric and Robert Covington stepping up last season and the influx of the young guns like Fultz, Simmons and Embiid, this team is much more interesting.

After finishing in the bottom of the barrel last season, they have a chance to completely turn around the entire identity of the franchise. Adding free agents like J.J. Reddick and Amir Johnson brings important veteran leadership to one of the youngest teams in the league that will have a huge impact on them moving forward.

With many teams in the Eastern Conference getting worse like the Pacers, Knicks, Bulls and of course the Nets, there is no reason to think that the 76ers don’t have a shot to make the playoffs this season and finally give Philly fans something to be proud of.

Celtics No. 1 seed again

2017 Eastern Conference predictions: 76ers Celtics

(Sporting News)

After the blockbuster trades and the huge free agent signings, the Celtics are poised to be one of the top dogs of the Eastern Conference. After the Celtics managed to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, they are in an even better position to repeat that this year as well.

There are only three other teams that are in the discussion for the No. 1 seed: The Cavaliers, Raptors and Wizards. The reason  the Celtics have the best chance is simple. They got better while everyone else more or less stayed the same besides the Cavs.

The reason the Cavs won’t be able to win the Eastern Conference this season is because the injuries to Isaiah Thomas, and the fact that they really don’t care where they end up. I still think a fully healthy Cavaliers have the edge in playoffs against the Celtics, so they just don’t care whether they’re the first or second seed.

Don’t get me wrong, I would not be surprised if the Cavaliers still manage to get the one seed, but with Isaiah out until the All-Star break and the Cavaliers being one of the oldest teams in the league, they won’t be taking every game as seriously as other teams.

The Cavs basically want to get one of the top three seeds and will plan for the playoffs because the regular season is essentially a formality to them. Knowing LeBron, he will be looking to send a message when they play the top teams in the league but he won’t mind taking a few games off like he did last season.

Featured Image Courtesy of NBA.com

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