Three-Point Contest

2018 JBL Three-Point Contest preview

The upcoming JBL Three-Point Contest will take place during NBA All-Star Weekend on February 18th in Los Angeles, CA at the Staples Center. It was originally introduced in 1986 with Boston Celtics legendary small forward Larry Bird winning the inaugural contest. He is also tied with former Chicago Bulls shooting guard Craig Hodges for the most wins in the event with three each.

The rules of the event are pretty simple. Eight contestants compete against each other to see who the best shooter is. There are five shooting racks placed around the three-point arc. Four of these five racks contain four regular basketballs worth one-point and one multi-colored ball worth two points. One rack is filled with all multi-colored money balls, called the “money rack”. This rack is placed at the shooters discretion at one of the five locations on the arc. All of these balls are worth two points. Each shooter gets one minute to shoot as many of the 25 balls as they can, starting from one side of the court all the way to the other.

The order of the shooters is selected randomly, the only exception being that the returning champion will go last. The top three scores from the first round advance to the finals, where they shoot again to see who the winner is.

Now let’s meet our eight contestants:

Eric Gordon

Houston Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon will try to repeat as champ after winning last year contest over Boston Celtics’ point guard Kyrie Irving. The nine year veteran out of Indiana is one of the best bench scorers in the NBA, averaging 19.1 points per game.

The 2016-2017 Sixth Man of the Year winner has made 146 three’s on the year, which is sixth-most in the NBA currently. He is shooting 33.6 percent on three’s this year for the Rockets, who are second in the Western Conference currently.

Devin Booker

The Phoenix Suns’ shooting guard is currently putting up career high numbers, averaging 24.1 points per game. The third-year player from Kentucky is one of the best scorers in the league, currently 12th overall, ahead of ahead other stars such as Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, and Victor Oladipo.

Last year he had a 70 point game in TD Garden in a loss to the Boston Celtics. He was the 11th player of all-time to score 70 or more points in a game.

The young star is making 2.6 three’s a game while shooting 38.1 percent from deep. He previously competed in this contest as a rookie in 2015-2016, losing in the final round to Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.

Klay Thompson

The two-time NBA champ is back competing in the JBL Three-Point Contest for the fourth year in a row. The 2015-2016 winner is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA. He routinely guards the best guard on the other team while also averaging 20.3 points per game. He is leading the association in three-point percentage at 45.2. He is averaging 3.3 three’s a game for the pace and space Golden State Warriors. He is second in the league with 170 three’s made, only trailing Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

He has already cemented himself as one of the best shooters of all time with his picture perfect stroke and will try to win another trophy. He is tied for the record for most points scored in a round with teammate Stephen Curry with 27 out of the possible 34 points. He did that back in 2015-2016.

Bradley Beal

The star shooting guard for the Washington Wizards is back in the contest for second time, originally competing in the 2013-2014 contest that Italian legend Marco Belinelli won. He is averaging a career high in points this year, scoring 23.8 points per game for a Wizards team that has somewhat struggled so far this year.

He is shooting 37.4 percent from the three-point line so far this season, and has made a total of 126 three’s. Beal is also a first-time All-Star this year in now his sixth season out of Florida.

Paul George

One of the best small forwards in the NBA, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder seem to have figured things out after a rough start to the year, sitting in 5th place in the Western Conference. George is currently leading the league in steals with 2.2 per game while also continuing to score well, averaging 21.7 points per game. He is fourth in three-pointers made with 160, and is 15th in percentage at 42.3 percent.

He has been one of the best swingman in the league since getting drafted 8 years ago from Fresno State in the 2010 NBA Draft. This will be his second time competing in the contest.

Wayne Ellington

Wayne Ellington has been known to be one of the best bench three-point specialists in the league since entering it in 2009 as a 1st round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the past two years with the Miami Heat, the ninth-year shooting guard has really exploded.

After making career high 149 three’s last year, Ellington has already broken it with 159 threes this year, fifth overall in the NBA. He is also averaging a career high 11.3 points per game while shooting 39.8 percent from beyond the arc. He has been a very good role-player for a surprising good Miami Heat team, who are currently sitting seventh in the East.

Kyle Lowry

The four-time All-Star point guard for the Toronto Raptors will be competing in his third straight three point contest. He has lost the previous two years, in 2016 to Klay Thompson and last year to Eric Gordon. Kyle Lowry has steadily improved his game over his 12 year career, going from back-up to starter to star.

The all-around point guard is averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from deep. He has made a total of 140 three’s on the season. He and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan have helped lead the Toronto Raptors to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference so far this year.

Tobias Harris

The recently acquired small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers is having a career year, averaging 18.2 points per game between the Clippers and the Detroit Pistons. He is also shooting a career high 41.1 percent from downtown. He is also a player who has improved more and more each year at different aspects of his game.

After riding the bench his first year and a half in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was shipped to the Orland Magic in the J.J. Redick deal. The Magic put him in the starting lineup and he has become a really good small forward since. He has made 116 three’s on the year, which is already a career high. This is his first time competing in the contest.

Luca’s Prediction: Wayne Ellington

Three-Point Contest

Waynee Ellington celebrates after hitting a 3 (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

This might seem like a surprise pick in a stacked field, but Wayne Ellington has a quick release and shot to win this contest. I believe he will continue adding on to a career year and take home the 2018 JBL Three-Point Contest trophy.

 

Featured photo by NBA.com

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NBA All-Star game snubs

2018 All-Star Game snubs and surprises

The 2018 All-Star game starters and reserves are set. We don’t know what color jerseys the players will be wearing, but we do know who will be wearing them.

So it’s time to cue the profanity-laced tweets and cries of “popularity contest.” Let the fans’ opinions on how to fix this defense-free contest both somehow simultaneously be heard and spectacularly ignored. Let’s bask in the interminable glory of four Warriors starters making the roster for the second year in a row. At least they might be playing on different teams this time.

The newly implemented draft system was meant to be an exciting way of adding an air of competitiveness to the game. Ask the NFL how that worked out for them.

What’s more is the fans won’t even get to watch the draft. The rosters will be announced on Thursday on an extended edition of TNT’s Tip-Off program.

Regardless of anyone’s feelings, the stage is set. So after we take a look at how voting is counted, let’s break down the biggest snubs and surprises from the All-Star game selections.

All-Star game voting

The voting for starters is split between fans, players and media. The fans votes make up 50 percent, while the players and media both account for 25 percent.

NBA All-Star Game snubs

Leaked All-Star Game jerseys are drawing bad reviews from fans (Photo by Conrad Burry)

The three frontcourt players (regardless of small forward, power forward or center designations) and the two guards with the highest combined vote totals in each conference are selected as the starters.

 

Starters: Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden and Kyrie Irving

The All-Star game reserves are chosen by the NBA coaches. They are asked to choose three frontcourt players, two guards and two more players at any position. These players have to be in the coach’s conference, and cannot be players on their own team.

The backcourt and frontcourt players with the highest vote total are selected. Then, the two extra players are chosen by votes, and position preference stated on the coaches’ ballots.

Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, John Wall, Victor Oladipo, Kevin Love, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green and Karl-Anthony Towns

Biggest snubs

Paul George

NBA All-Star game snubs

Paul George snubbed from All-Star game despite his great defensive season (Photo by Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports)

Paul George has been a part of a rocky experiment in Oklahoma City. At 27-20, the Thunder are currently the fifth seed in a tough Western Conference, but with their big three, one can’t help but think they are underachieving.

 

George is having a monstrous defensive season. While defense is not quite at a premium during the All-Star game, it isn’t like his offense is suffering because of it either. George is leading the league in steals at 93, and is still averaging almost 21 points per game. He’s also shooting the 3-pointer well at 42.2 percent.

In an offense dominated by two ball-hogs, that’s not bad. And many people, Russell Westbrook included, think it should have been enough to earn him a spot on the reserve roster.

Lou Williams

Lou Williams has been a revelation off the bench during the first half of the season. He’s shooting 45.1 percent from the field, and hitting 40.5 percent of his 3-pointers (of which he takes a lot). He’s averaging about 32 minutes, again, off the bench, and has had 14 games scoring over 30 points. That includes a 50-point game against Golden State, a team known for its defense as much as its offense.

Some claim that playing starters’ minutes off the bench was actually a mark against him during All-Star voting, but it also speaks to his willingness to be a team player. Those intangibles coupled with those numbers are the makings of an All-Star.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul has been pretty famously banged up this season. What most people may not realize, however, is that Paul has played in over half of the Rockets’ games this season.

When he plays, they win. Period.

When Paul has suited up this season, the Rockets have gone 23-5. When Paul, Clint Capela and James Harden are all in the lineup, the Rockets are 17-0. That’s a testament to his leadership and court vision.

Paul is averaging 19.1 points per game and 8.9 assists per game. He is also averaging a career-high 5.9 rebounds per game.

Of course, his assist numbers would be higher if the Rockets could stay healthy, but 8.9 isn’t too shabby for a team that takes as many jumpers as Houston does.

Andre Drummond

NBA All-Star game snubs

Drummond is upset he was left out of the All-Star Game reserves (Photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Finally, Andre Drummond was left out of the All-Star game reserves. He is averaging 14.3 points and 15 rebounds per game, with the rebounds being the league’s best.

 

His free-throw shooting percentage is also up an incredible 24.3 percent, which is significant for one of the NBA’s worst at the line. His 3.9 assists per game are also up from his career average of one. Not too bad for a true center.

Drummond has been pretty vocal about his displeasure towards being left out of the All-Star roster. You can see exactly what he thought if you visit his Twitter page, as long as you’re not at work, that is.

Biggest surprises

Al Horford

The Celtics’ center Al Horford somehow made it on to the All-Star game reserve roster averaging just 13.3 points, and less than eight rebounds per game. Although his assist totals are slightly higher than Drummond’s, he’s also more of a stretch player than Drummond is.

He ventures outside the 3-point line much more than some other centers, which could have been seen as an asset. That opens the door to more passing lanes than living under the basket does.

He’s also playing almost the exact same number of minutes as Drummond is on a better team. That alone lends itself to not really having to lean on Horford as much as Detroit has had to lean on Drummond.

This isn’t a completely unwarranted All-Star game appearance. It perhaps is just an example of bias towards a more complete team.

Guards over forwards

As stated in the voting section, the two “wild card” spots on the reserve roster are given to which ever kind of player the coaches would prefer to have on the teams. Those spots in both conferences went to guards.

It’s not totally shocking, seeing as how the league has changed to rely on quickness and 3-pointers. But if the fans are supposed to believe that NBA coaches are all as committed to defense as they say they are, that should probably show up in the All-Star game. You would expect them to be favoring blocks and paint presence over quick hands and pull-up jump shots.

Watchability

In conclusion, 2018’s All-Star game just might be more watchable than previous iterations. The draft is a fun experiment, even if it doesn’t quite work out. And it’s already proven itself useful if all four Warriors don’t end up on the same side.

Even though the jerseys may be terrible, and the draft is not televised, it’s important to remember that the league is trying new things. The NBA isn’t ever going to make everyone happy with the All-Star game, especially the players. No matter how selection is done, there will always be players who are vocal about not being on the roster.

There will always be fans claiming that none of it matters anyway, or about how their voice is not heard enough. But it’s a tradition, and it is the very nature of traditions to be divisive.

Either way, N.E.R.D is playing the halftime show. That should be enough of a reason to tune in.

 

Featured image by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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NBA season preview: Southeast Division

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

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

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

Atlanta Hawks

2016-2017 record: 43-39

2017-2018 prediction: 22-60

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Hornets

NBA season preview: Southeast Division

Dwight Howard, Photo Courtesy of sneakernews.com.

2016-2017 record: 36-46

2017-2018 prediction: 44-38

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

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

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

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

Miami Heat

2016-2017 record: 41-41

2017-2018 prediction: 46-36

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

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

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

Orlando Magic

NBA season preview: Southeast Division

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

2016-2017 record: 29-53

2017-2018 prediction: 32-50

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Wizards

2016-2017 record: 49-33

2017-2018 prediction: 47-25

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image Courtesy of SI.com.

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2017 season preview: Top five NBA backcourts

Many teams have All-Star guards, however few have two of them in the same backcourt. In today’s position-less NBA, most point guards and shooting guards are cut and dry.

Having two guards that can coexist with each other is unique, and can form a potential championship combination. Recent free agent signings and offseason trades have shaken up the list of top NBA backcourts.

Here are the top five guard duos going into the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Number Five: Toronto Raptors

top five NBA backcourts

Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.

DeMar Derozan: 27.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.1

Kyle Lowry: 22.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player efficiency rating: 22.9

It almost seems like year in and year out the Raptors backcourt gets overlooked.

Production wise, the numbers are extremely impressive. The Raptors averaged 106.9 points per regular season game this year. Derozan and Lowry combined for 49.7 of those points.

Both of the two were All-Stars in their 2016-17 campaigns and took advantage of a top heavy Eastern Conference.

Both Lowry and Derozan have a true shooting percentage of above 55 percent, which shows that they are both efficient scorers as well as volume scorers.

On a team that sometimes struggles offensively, the two needed to score as efficiently as they did. Scoring nearly 47 percent of their team’s points last year notches the Raptors’ backcourt at number five league wide.

Number Four: Portland Trail Blazers

top five NBA backcourts

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Damian Lillard: 27.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.2

CJ McCollum: 23.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.0

One of the youngest backcourts in the league is also one of the most impressive.

Lillard and McCollum came from Weber State and Lehigh University and have continued their climb ever since.

McCollum is coming off a season in which he earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and Lillard is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year.

Keep in mind that the average player efficiency rating for the 2016-17 season was around 14.9. Both McCollum and Lillard continue to prove themselves year in and year out, keeping their team treading above water.

The Trail Blazers struggle defensively, especially in the playoffs when teams tend to pay more attention to detail. When opposing teams lock down defensively, both Dame and CJ continue their scoring consistently. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lack of consistent defense is what keeps them from winning come playoff time.

Number Three: Washington Wizards

top five NBA backcourts

John Wall and Bradley Beal, Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

John Wall: 23.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 10.7 apg. Player efficiency rating: 23.3

Bradley Beal: 23.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.2

This past year’s playoffs are enough to argue that both Beal and Wall belong in the three spot or even higher.

Wall is a consistent double-double performer. Beal is a very good shooter who can catch fire at any moment and stay that way for a whole game.

Wall has become one of the top offensive threats in the Eastern Conference due to his change of pace and fearless ability to get to the rim.

Wall and Beal both turned in their second highest career plus/minuses which was over plus five for both of them.

They fought off elimination and were just a few minutes away from taking the Wizards to the Eastern Conference finals. Barring any physical setbacks, the Wizards led by this backcourt tandem should be right there at the top of the Eastern Conference yet again.

Number Two: Houston Rockets

top five NBA backcourts

Chris Paul and James Harden, Photo Courtesy of Business Insider.

Chris Paul: 18.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 9.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 26.3

James Harden: 29.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 11.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 27.4

They have yet to play a single minute together (not counting Olympic ball and All-star games). They are two ball-dominant guards and it very well might take a while to work.

But Chris Paul and James Harden could even be the best backcourt in basketball this upcoming season.

With the two highest player efficiency ratings in 2016, Paul and Harden are the best backcourt on paper. They have 14 All-Star seasons between the two of them.

Obviously games aren’t played on paper and the two have to figure out their playing style together. Harden has to go back to his old shooting guard role and Paul has to get accommodated to his new teammates.

The Rockets may not have put themselves on the same level as the Warriors by putting these two together, but they certainly closed the gap. Houston will skyrocket into a title contender with good play from a strong backcourt.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

top five NBA backcourts

Klay Thompson with Steph Curry in the background, Photo Courtesy of FoxSports.

Steph Curry: 25.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.7

Klay Thompson: 22.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg 2.1 apg. Player efficiency rating: 17.5

Anytime you have two league MVPs and six All-star appearances between a backcourt, it’s pretty impressive. Ultimately it comes down to success with these two.

The Splash Brothers are so electric that they draw attention and in turn make their teammates better. Klay has scored 37 points in a quarter and Steph seems to be open even when he isn’t.

Kevin Durant took a little bit of shine away from Klay Thompson this year, as you can see by his player efficiency rating, but success helps overcome that.

Both are automatic from behind the 3-point line, free throw line and make a team pay if they don’t lockdown defensively. The Splash Bsrothers will continue to torch opposing defenses for many years to come.

Honorable mentions

Most of you are probably wondering about Boston or Oklahoma City. Both Paul George and Gordon Hayward are small forwards that will play some shooting guard this year.

In fact Hayward might be the starting shooting guard for Boston all year. With Jae Crowder less versatile, Hayward could land himself in the backcourt with fellow All-star, Isaiah Thomas, which would be a strong argument for a spot on this list.

Oklahoma City is a little less likely of a backcourt. Andre Roberson is a solid shooting guard who plays excellent defense and has value being on the floor. If the Thunder went with a bigger lineup, then Russell Westbrook and Paul George would have a chance to share a backcourt together. If that happened consistently, the two would also find their way on this list.

Conclusion

Strong backcourts can be a winning formula in leading a team. If both guards are versatile and play well together, then there is no reason a backcourt can’t be lethal. The top five backcourts in the NBA have led their teams to deep playoff runs and have taken home many other accolades.

The 2017-18 season will be filled with close games and great teams. We will see how far some of the best backcourts lead their teams come playoff time.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of SI.com.

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Wizards

Washington Wizards 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 26 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the needs and targets of the Washington Wizards 2017 draft.

Summary

Washington Wizards 2017 draft

John Wall and Bradley Beal have transformed the Wizards into a perennial Eastern Conference playoff threat. (Photo by The Washington Post)

Under newly hired head coach Scott Brooks, the Wizards went 49-33, ranking fifth in points per game and 21st in points allowed. Their season was cut short after pushing the first seed Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The team’s offense was focused around focal point John Wall, who had a career year. The 2016-17 season was Wall’s first with over 20 points, 10 assists and two steals per game. His impact of the offensive and defensive end has transformed the Wizards into a perennial playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

With Wall being Washington’s Batman, we can consider Bradley Beal to be his Robin. Beal also had a career year, as he averaged 23 points and 3.5 assists on 48 percent field goal shooting.

Beyond the statistics, the greatest improvement for Beal was his durability, as he managed to start in all 77 games in which he played in. This is a huge uptick from the 35 games in which he started in the year before.

Other impact players include stretch four Markieff Morris, center Marcin Gortat and wing Otto Porter, who all averaged double figures. Off the bench came newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic, who also averaged double figures in only 23 minutes per game.

Other role players include young wing Kelly Oubre, guards Brandon Jennings, Trey Burke and Tomas Satoransky, as well as big men Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith.

The Wizards roster is fairly full, although with restricted free agents Porter, Bogdanovic and Burke, as well as unrestricted free agent Jennings, Washington could have some holes to fill. Most likely the Wizards will retain any restricted FAs, especially Porter and Bogdanovic, although if a team were to offer Burke an unmatchable contract, he could be moving on to another team.

Washington Wizards 2017 Draft Picks & Needs

After trading their lone first round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, the Wizards will be left with only one pick in the upcoming draft.

First Round: N/A

Second Round: No. 52

Since their lone draft pick is at the back end of the second round, Washington will need to find a diamond in the rough. Their glaring need is defense, although with the possible losses of back up guards Brandon Jennings and Trey Burke to free agency, it seems as though drafting a guard could be the best possible solution.

Targets & Thoughts

Washington Wizards 2017 draft

Frank Mason is being overlooked due to his age (23) and lack of size (5-foot-11). (Photo by the Arizona Daily Star)

Option 1

Pick #52: Frank Mason, Guard, Kansas

Wooden Award winner Frank Mason has been projected as a late-second round pick due to his lack of size and potential, as he only stands at 5-foot-11 and is already 23-years-old.

His size failed to hold him back from becoming one of the elite point guards at the college level, and his talent and skill set give him the potential to become a great floor general at the next level.

The two-time Naismith Award winner averaged about 21 points, five assists and four rebounds in his senior season. He also led Kansas to two straight Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament. His leadership and offensive ability will make him an asset to any team.

Washington Wizards 2017 draft

Edmond Sumner is declaring for the 2017 draft even after missing the last two months of the season with a torn ACL. (Photo by WKRC.com)

Option 2

Pick #52: Edmond Sumner, Guard, Xavier

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 combo guard out of Xavier, was forced to redshirt in his freshman season after being involved in a head-on collision that left him motionless on the floor for about 10 minutes. After playing a full season in 2015-16, Sumner suffered a torn ACL that cut his sophomore campaign short.

His vast injury history has dropped his draft stock significantly, although his size and skillset project him to be an all-around guard who can contribute with or without the ball.

He averaged 14 points, five assists and four rebounds on 48 percent shooting this season. Defensively, he could be a great asset to the Wizards who would be able to use him as a versatile defender who can guard the one-three positions. His offensive and defensive skillsets would make him a perfect fit as a depth guard for Washington.

Conclusion

The Wizards don’t have many needs, as they were only one game away from squaring up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. If they can add a cheap piece in the draft opposed to over-paying a depth asset in free agency, they would be able to save some cap for the future.

Frank Mason could become the depth floor general Washington may need if Jennings is not resigned. Edmond Sumner could be a better replacement for their current combo guard Trey Burke who struggles defensively. All in all, the Wizards are in a good spot, and will likely be in the Eastern Conference semifinals for a fourth time in the last five years.

 

Thanks for checking out the Washington Wizards 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 27 of our NBA Draftmas special to see what the Memphis Grizzlies may do this offseason.

NBA Draftmas Day 24: New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Draftmas Day 25: Houston Rockets

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Why The Wizards Are The Most Exciting Team In The Playoffs

John Wall lit up the court Wednesday night as the Verizon Center crowd rained down chants of “M-V-P.” Wall put up 32 points and nine assists for the Wizards to help them take a 2-0 lead over the Hawks.

The Wizards are beginning to prove themselves as legit as the playoff season continues to kick into gear. They’re not on the level of teams like the Warriors and Cavs, but one things is becoming clear: the Washington Wizards are the most exciting team in the playoffs.

Obviously, the excitement starts with John Wall. Wall took a steal the length of the court before finishing off with a nasty dunk on Dennis Schroder early in the second half, prompting Wall to stare down Schroder.

Wall has been publicly critical of his lack of appearances on national TV, and he seems to be taking this opportunity to show NBA fans just how great he is. Wall hit Schroder with a filthy spin move before draining a step back dagger to extend the Wizards’ lead later in the game.

Wall’s speed in transition, top notch ball handling and elite playmaking ability make him one of the most fun guys to watch in the league. He’s constantly made tough passes through the first two games of the series while showing his improved skill around the rim as a slasher.

The Wizards are made even more exciting by the second piece of their backcourt, Bradley Beal. Beal has struggled with injuries during every year before this one. He’s used this period of health to show what a great player he is when he can stay on the court.

(courtesy of Bleacher Report)

After struggling from beyond the arc during Game 1, Beal hit four 3-pointers on his way to 31 points Wednesday. Although streaky, Beal’s scoring ability is undeniable and he has turned into one of the more exciting shooting guards in the league. He also put up 16 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter to help the Wizards close out the Hawks, including a dagger 3-pointer that sealed the win.

Head coach Scott Brooks does have a knack for bringing the best out of players offensively, and he has clearly had a positive impact on Wall and Beal this season.

Markieff Morris has been another key factor in the Wizards’ success this season. Despite getting into early foul trouble in Game 2, Morris has added a physical presence to the Wizards that was desperately needed.

Morris came up huge in Game 1. He had two emphatic dunks and four monstrous blocks on the Hawks that helped the Wizards establish their physical presence from the get-go.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pADUfPRk5zU” width=”320″ height=”320″] [/su_youtube]

With Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter filling out the starting lineup, the Wizards have an incredibly dangerous starting five. Gortat and Wall have been deadly while running the pick and roll. With Wall’s playmaking ability and Gortat’s offensive prowess in the post, the duo has been consistently exciting to watch.

It will be interesting to see how the Wizards play with a 2-0 lead. They play the next two games on the road where they have struggled immensely this season. Still, every game for the Wizards should continue to be exciting with the talent they are able to put on the floor and the tenacity that the team has. So far, they truly look like they could contend with anyone in the Eastern Conference.

 

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Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

The second season is finally upon us. It is the time of year that all NBA fans have been salivating for all season.

There are so many questions left to be answered in the second season of the Eastern Conference. Will the Cavs fall, thus ending LeBron’s finals streak? Will the Celtics prove to be the best of the East? Could another team like the Raptors, Wizards or Bucks come out?

It will be fun to watch it all play out. Here is the preview of the Eastern Conference first round.

1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Chicago Bulls

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics and Bulls have had some amazing playoff series in the past. There was the time Michael Jordan dropped 63 points in a loss or the time they put on an epic seven-game series in 2009 that featured a total of seven overtimes.

These two teams split the season series, each winning two games. Chicago plays really well against winning teams and especially well on national television.

However, in a seven-game series, the better team is going to win. Boston averages 108 points per game, which is seventh-best in the NBA. Chicago on the other hand averages almost 103, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. Chicago will make it tough, but the Celtics’ defense will stifle the Bulls in the end.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7 Indiana Pacers

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Stop with the talk about how bad the Cavs have played. Like many past teams, they were just pacing themselves. The regular season means nothing to a team who has been to two straight finals, or to a player like LeBron James who has been to six straight finals.

Watch the switch get flipped in the playoffs. Indiana has a chance to steal a game or two with a superstar like Paul George, but that is it.

The Cavaliers will pick up the defense. With a healthy LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, their offense will keep them on course. Averaging 110 points per game leaves a little room for error on the defensive end.

LeBron-led teams have proven time and time again that they buckle down in the playoffs. Until proven otherwise, that will happen again this year.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

3 Toronto Raptors vs. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto versus Milwaukee is one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round. Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo will get a chance to shine on a national stage. The Greek Freak is the first player in NBA history to end the season in the top 20 of all major statistical categories.

Giannis is a great player, but lacks experience and a team that can do damage in the playoffs. The Bucks haven’t made the playoffs consistently in recent years, while the Raptors are heading into the playoffs for their fourth consecutive year. Toronto also reached the conference finals for the first time ever in franchise history last season, and they have improved their depth this year.

Toronto won over 50 games this season and finished the season winning eight of their final 10. The Raptors are hot and the better team, which is why they win this series without much of a worry.

Prediction: Raptors in 5

4 Washington Wizards vs. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington has had one of their best seasons in franchise history. They finished 49-33, which was the third most wins they have ever had. Scott Brooks has not gotten the respect he deserves for how well he has done with the Wizards.

Washington has the best chance of upsetting the Cavs in the playoffs, but they must get past Atlanta first. The Wizards went 3-1 versus the Hawks this season. If the Wizards want to repeat that success they had in the regular season, they will need their stellar backcourt to lead them there.

The Wizards will win this series because John Wall and Bradley Beal combine to average 46.2 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 14.2 assists per game. Atlanta’s backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be outmatched in this series and that will be the difference.

Prediction: Wizards in 6

You can check out the Western Conference Playoff Preview here.

 

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear-cut favorites to win the Eastern Conference and make it to the Finals. It makes you think: Who can knock off Cleveland in the East? Most assume that the Warriors and Cavaliers will meet for a third-straight Finals but that assumption could be dangerous. There are teams who could beat the Cavs and mess up everyone’s dream matchup.

The first version of this short series looked at who could knock off Golden State. If you haven’t read it you can check it out here.

LeBron James has led his team to the Finals for six straight years. It is safe to say the road to the Finals goes through Cleveland. Because it has been so long since a team not featuring LeBron has been to the Finals, it is hard to see anyone beating Cleveland in the East. Here are a few teams with the shot to dethrone the Eastern Conference Champions.

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston is just three games back of the Cavaliers for the number one seed and have one more game remaining against the Cavs. Getting that first seed could be the all-important factor in the Celtics’ chances of upsetting Cleveland as the home team has won every game this season. The Cavs have won two of the three games but all have been close contests.

In all three games, Isaiah Thomas has scored 30 points or more. They match up well all along the wing with valuable minutes coming from Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown. Boston’s depth gives them a shot at the upset.

To beat Cleveland in a seven game series, Boston will need its frontcourt to play well. It is the weakest area of the team and they have the fourth worst rebounding differential (-3.6) in the NBA. In their recent win over Cleveland, they won the rebounding battle 47-41.

Getting home court can be helpful but the key to Boston upsetting Cleveland will be in the frontcourt play and they will have to win that rebound battle with a healthy Kevin Love who did not play in the last matchup.

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Like a few other teams in the NBA, the Raptors are dealing with injuries. Kyle Lowry is a key player for Toronto and without him the Raptors have no shot at upsetting the Cavs. With that said, Lowry should be back in time for the playoffs.

Last season the Raptors faced the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals but lost the series 4-2. The Raptors struggled in the front court in that series.

The addition of Serge Ibaka was one of the most important in-season deals this year. Ibaka not only gives the Raptors a presence in the frontcourt, but he can stretch the floor on offense. He is a shot blocker on the defensive end and has lots of playoff experience.

Another addition that will help the Raptors chances of upsetting the Cavs is the addition of P.J. Tucker. Tucker provides a spark off the bench and impacts the game in multiple ways. It remains to be seen where this team will finish in the standings but this team should not be taken lightly. DeMar DeRozen needs to be a superstar for them to win a series against Cleveland as well.

They got off to a horrible slump against the Cavs last year but with those two additions they are a better team then they were last season. The Cavs cannot take them lightly or this season the Cavs will be sent home early.

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

John Wall and Bradley Beal are both having their best seasons of their careers. It can be argued that they have the best backcourt in all of basketball. Yes, as good as Golden State’s backcourt. Wall is second in assists per game with 10.9. Both guards average 22 points per game. These two stars carry the Wizards but the role players are they key to upsetting the Cavs.

Marcin Gortat is a veteran who plays big inside the paint. He could give the Cavs problems in a seven game series. Along with Gortat, the Wizards get big contributions from Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, and Kelly Oubre Jr.

The Wizards are also getting a career year out of Otto Porter who is averaging a career-high in minutes (33.8), field goal percentage (52.6%), three-point percentage (45.7%), free throw percentage (80%), rebounds (6.6), steals (1.6), blocks (0.6), and points (14.1).

This team has been playing well, especially at home were they are 25-9. Washington also signed veteran point guard Brandon Jennings will have a big impact off the bench when giving Wall some rest. They also traded for Bojan Bogdanovic who has played in five games with Washington and most recently dropped 27 points on the Raptors. As he finds his role with the Wizards he will become a valuable player. These two additions together will be huge in their pursuit of the Eastern Conference Championship.

It will take a team effort but with how well the Wizards play at home all they need to do is steal a game on the road. If they steal a game in Cleveland and John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter continue their amazing season they will upset Cleveland.

 

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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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It’s Time to Take the Washington Wizards Seriously

After a putrid start to the 2016-17 NBA season, many people wrote off the Washington Wizards. They lacked depth, their star players weren’t performing well, and their coaching transition seemed to be going anything but seamlessly. Fast forward to today and they have completely reversed course.

Once again, it’s time to take the Wizards seriously. They’re not yet a contender in the East, but they have become a dangerous team as they start to hit their stride.

Obviously, the team revolves around John Wall. After a slow start, Wall is averaging career highs in points, steals and assists. NBA teams need star power to succeed, and Wall is delivering that power better than ever.

Wall’s importance to the team was on display Tuesday night as they faced off against the Chicago Bulls. The Wizards set up an iso to the right side, and Wall buried a deep jumper to put the Wizards ahead in the final seconds of the game. Wall’s leadership and clutch factor have been brought into question over the years as the Wizards have struggled to live up to their potential. Clearly, Wall is ready to push those notions aside.

(courtesy of Washington Post)

A healthy Bradley Beal has also contributed to the success of the Wizards this year. Fresh off a max contract, Beal has lived up to the lofty expectations that he faced this year. Beal’s talent is rarely called into question, but his health struggles have posed a problem for the Wizards over the years. Those issues are starting to be put to rest. Beal is pouring in 22.5 points per game for the Wizards and has been a force during their recent surge.

The third personnel piece that has led the Wizards to success is third-year forward Otto Porter Jr.  Porter has had a breakout year averaging 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Even so, his stats undervalue the impact that he’s had on this team. He has been an explosive scorer and has come up big during important moments.

Marcin Gortat rounds out the starting five for the Wizards, which has played well over the Wizards’ hot streak. The problem remains in the bench. The Wizards have thrown in a litany of unknown and poor bench players to backup their solid starting lineup. The recent success of the team has come with a significant uptake in their starters minutes. Beal, Wall, and Porter have each averaged almost 40 minutes a game during the streak.

This might signify an impending downtick in production for the Wizards. It’s easy to think that this might not be sustainable and that the team is due for another slide soon. The Wizards will rely on the improvement of role players like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Trey Burke if they want to continue their success. They will also need to seamlessly transition Ian Mahimi into their lineup when he is healthy enough to play.

(courtesy of Washington Times)

Either way, it’s hard to see this team falling too far. Coach Scott Brooks has a reputation for bringing out the best in star players, and he’s done exactly that for the Wizards this year. As long as John Wall continues to score and distribute at such an extraordinary rate, expect the Wizards to succeed. With strong coaching and a great starting five, the Wizards are set up to be a dangerous team into the playoffs. It’s time to start taking them seriously.

 

 

 

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