Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Why Miles Bridges Declining the Draft is a Good Thing

Last week, Miles Bridges said he would return to Michigan State for his sophomore year of college basketball. Spartan fans couldn’t be happier that their star freshman will be coming back.

He told fans at his press conference last week, “I have personal goals here. I want to win a national championship.” ESPN has had a few mock drafts which put him in the top 20 but the NBA will not see Bridges for another year. Here is why Bridges made the right decision to return to college:

1. Another Year with Coach Izzo

Coach Tom Izzo is unarguably a legendary coach, and his awards are mere evidence of his success. Izzo won a national championship in 2000, appeared in the Final Four seven times and has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times. In 2016 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with a .712 winning percentage in his career.

Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Tom Izzo speaks with guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This is all to say that the guy knows his stuff. Bridges will continue to learn a lot about Izzo’s motto: “players play, but tough players win.”

Coach Izzo is also well known for scheduling a very tough non-conference schedule in preparation for March, which will only benefit Bridges and the rest of the Spartans.

Along with Coach Izzo, think about Draymond Green. He stayed at Michigan State for four years and is now having one heck of a career in the NBA.

Green has had a lot of success with the Golden State Warriors over the course of five seasons. He won a championship in 2015 and has the perk of a 15.3 million dollar salary for 2017.

Miles Bridges is a lot like Green with a 6’7” stature and strong explosive moves. Bridges looks more like a guard than Green did in his Michigan State days, however there are lots of similarities.

2. The College Experience Will Help Miles Bridges and his Draft Stock

Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Miles Bridges of Michigan State Spartans. Mandatory Credit to spartanavanue.com

This statement rides on a lot of “ifs” because it won’t be true unless Bridges really improves his sophomore season. The experience will help if he can produce better statistics, take his team further in the tournament and have more success. However, if all of these ifs become reality, his draft stock will increase.

Bridges had the potential to make millions but he turned it down for the opportunity to go to school and win a national title. That says a lot about him as a player and a person.

He also averaged 16.9 points per game, which is the highest for a freshman since Magic Johnson who averaged 17 points per game his freshman season.

A lot of people are worried about his draft stock declining if he stays another year. However, the risk of staying another year could put him in the top 5 for overall picks. Another year with Coach Izzo and more growth, could be the key to even greater success in the NBA.

3. NEXT YEar is looking even better

The Spartans will have a lot of returners for the 2017-2018 season. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward will be coming back, along with Joshua Langford and Tum Tum Nair Jr. for his senior season. Eight of the top ten players will be returning for next year. They will have something special if Coach Izzo can keep everyone healthy and working hard.

Just last week Jack Hoiberg, son of Fred Hoiberg (Chicago Bulls head coach), said he would be walking onto Michigan State’s basketball team for the 2017-2018 season. Hoiberg will be joined by Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman, two power forwards who have signed with the Spartans. Jackson stands at 6’11, ranked 16th in the nation and will play good minutes for the Spartans next year. Tillman is 6’9 and 250 pounds, a little bit thicker than Jackson but will also add size to the Spartan roster for next year.

Bridges made the right decision to stay, despite the NBA being a very enticing choice. Teammates and fans of Spartan Basketball will get to watch him at the college level for one more year and next year could be big for the Spartans because of his decision.

 

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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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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Post Tournament)

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it is time to fully dive into the 2017 NBA mock draft. The NBA season is still unfolding, but many teams are starting to focus on the draft, especially the lottery teams.

The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first. He is the consensus number one pick. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft 2.0.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for a superstar. Fultz is the clear number one pick, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the west in two to three years. Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

It is difficult to predict what the Lakers will do. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is a lack of veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player. If they keep the pick, expect them to take the best available player, which would be Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top three prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. D’Angelo Russell is a great young player, but could you imagine a backcourt for the next 10 years of Russell and Ball? Sleep on that Hollywood.

4: ORLANDO MAGIC: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and that needs to change quickly. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but he needs more talent outside of Aaron Gordon.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become the missing piece in Orlando.

5: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: NEW YORK KNICKS: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

De’Aaron Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Fox would be the perfect fit in New York.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right handed players. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game. The Knicks need that more than ever.

7: SACRAMENTO KINGS: JONATHAN ISSAC PF FLORIDA STATE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Issac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

8: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com/)

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a Dirk-like power forward. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could relate to Dirk easily and due to Dirk being a legend, would really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): DENNIS SMITH PG N.C. STATE

The Kings need a young explosive point guard. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Kings would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick if the Kings want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team while building around Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

12: CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MILES BRIDGES SF MICHIGAN ST.

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(http://www.sportingnews.com)

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Denver. Their young core is close to being a legitimate playoff contender, and Jackson would really help them.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. For most of the tournament, Jackson played great. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well polished and Denver would instantly get better by drafting Jackson.

14: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

15: MIAMI HEAT: TJ LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

TJ Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

16: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins is a bit of a project. If the Trailblazers take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset to build around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

17: CHICAGO BULLS: IVAN RABB C California

Robin Lopez is an average NBA center at best. The Bulls need a young center who can come in as a defender. Rabb is a solid defender who needs time to develop a back to the basket game.

18: ATLANTA HAWKS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images )

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future and Patton would be a great pick. He is a seven-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

19: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Kris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Kentucky a presense inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs alot of help, even though they have been playing well since the beginning of March. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room. Josh Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): Jordan Bell PF Oregon

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Jordan Bell was a second round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

 

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NBA Playoff Races

NBA Playoff Races

There is only a month remaining in the NBA season, and the NBA playoff races are heating up. There are so many questions left to answer. Who will get the one seed in the West? Who will be the eighth seeds in both the East and West? There are so many seeds undecided and positioning is going to very important in who will make deep postseason runs. Here is what to watch for in the final four weeks of the season.

Western Conference: First Seed

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

There is still much to be decided in the West. The race for the first seed has really picked up since Kevin Durant got injured. The Warriors lead has vastly shrunk.

Their lead for the first seed is down to just a game and a half over the Spurs with 14 games remaining. This is an important race for the path to the conference finals and then having home-court in the conference finals.

Neither team has to worry about their first round matchup as both should win in short, easy series. The team who gets the second seed would likely see a tough series versus Houston in the second round. That is what both San Antonio and Golden State want to avoid. Both teams want to go into the conference finals as rested as possible.

Golden State and San Antonio will meet on March 29. It will be a huge game in deciding who wins the number one seed.

The Spurs and Warriors both have nine home games remaining. San Antonio has six away games while the Warriors have five. Both teams’ remaining opponents have a win percentage of 53 percent.

It will be a close finish and will come down to the final days of the season. Golden State will hold on to that number one seed as the season ends.

Western Conference Race for 8th

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the spot for the eighth seed in the West with a record of 33-35. Portland (30-37), Dallas (29-38) and Minnesota (28-39) all still have a shot to get the eighth seed.

This four team race is really close to becoming a two-team race between Denver and Portland. Denver has been playing much better lately and looks like a playoff team. They only have five home games remaining and that could be the factor that costs them that playoff spot.

Portland, on the other hand, has 10 games remaining at home and their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of 49 percent. The Trailblazers will end up getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference with all those home games remaining against subpar teams.

The Rest of the West

NBA Playoff Races

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

Golden State and San Antonio are fighting for first and second. Denver or Portland will get the eighth seed. That leaves seeds three through seven.

The third seed is pretty much locked into Houston. Utah, Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City and Memphis mathematically can catch them, but it would take a total collapse by Houston to do so. Utah is the current four seed, but only four games separate Utah, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Memphis.

Russell Westbrook is close to breaking the single-season triple-double record and the Thunder are 29-6 when Westbrook gets a triple-double. Predicting he breaks the record means the Thunder will win at least eight more games. If that happens the Thunder will end up in the four or five spot.

Utah will get the spot the Thunder do not get, meaning they will also be the fourth or fifth seed. The Clippers will finish with the sixth seed and Memphis will remain as the seventh seed.

The East’s Top Half

The Eastern Conference is divided in half in terms of playoff seeding. Teams seeded one through four can end up in any one of those spots while teams five through eight will end up in the bottom half of the seeding.

The Cavaliers are in the top spot with a record of 45-22. The Celtics are two and a half back, the Wizards are three and a half back and Toronto is six and a half games back of the top spot. There should be a few changes in the top four seeds in the final weeks.

The Celtics remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 44 percent. They also have nine home games remaining while the Cavaliers have nine road games remaining. it is safe to predict the Celtics being only two and a half back will finish as the first seed and the Cavs will finish as the second seed.

The Wizards have 10 road games remaining and all that travel will catch up with them. The Raptors remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 47 percent. The top of the east will finish as follows: First Boston, second Cleveland, third Toronto, and fourth Washington.

The Rest of the East

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams seeded fifth through 10th are separated by just five games. There are four spots for six teams.

Currently, it stands as Atlanta as the fifth seed with a record of 37-31. They will make the playoffs without question.  The Pacers are 35-33 and being above a .500 win percentage will be enough to get in as well.

That leaves Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami and Chicago fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds. Chicago has lost Dwayne Wade for the remainder of the year with an elbow injury. They were struggling with Wade and won’t be able to win enough games without him in the final month to make the playoffs.

Milwaukee is an exciting team with a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will lead them to a playoff appearance this season. Their remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 49 percent.

That leaves Miami who is 33-35 and Detroit who is 33-36. Both are fighting for the final remaining playoff spot. Miami started the season 10-31 and has since been on fire. No pun intended, but they have been heating up.

These teams have one more meeting against each other and that could be the deciding factor. The Pistons do have the easier remaining schedule of the two teams. This race is hard to predict, but in the second half of the season, the Heat have been the much better team.

The Heat will end up making the playoffs and Detroit will be the odd team out in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first, but it depends on who wins the lottery. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit:https://www.bostonglobe.com)

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a Russell Westbrook type of player by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, but could be a huge steal.

Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one overall pick before he began having injury problems. We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

27: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA eLeague

The NBA and Take-Two Are Changing esports

The NBA and Take-Two (Makers of NBA 2K) are teaming up to change esports in a major way starting in 2018. The NBA and Take-Two have partnered to create a professional, competitive NBA eLeague.

Traditional sports games have fallen behind in the world of esports. Games like League of Legends, Pokemon, Halo, Counter-Strike and Dota2 have had been dominating competitive gaming and are already paying gamers million of dollars.

The NBA is trying to take a piece of that pie. There is so much money to be made from gaming that traditional sports need to innovate before they get left behind.

The NBA and Take-Two are trying to set the trend for these traditional sports. This bold leap could change the gaming industry like never seen before.

So what exactly will this NBA eLeague be and how will it run?

How Will it work?

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: https://geekiversedotcom.com)

The eLeague, as Adam Silver has called it, will be a professional gaming league run by the NBA and its franchises. Each NBA team will be in control of their own 2K virtual basketball team.

For example, the Chicago Bulls will have the eBulls and the team will manage its roster just as they do for the on-court basketball team. There will be general managers and a salary cap.

All 30 NBA teams will be involved and this season will mirror the real season. Gamers will be paid a salary to practice, train and compete for their respective teams and the only difference is they will be training with a controller instead of their body.

These teams will be through a real draft, similar to the traditional NBA draft. Each team will have five professional gamers on its roster. They won’t be playing with LeBron James, Steph Curry or Kevin Durant but instead they will play with their custom created avatars that they work on to improve.

One area of concern most people come up with is how can they do this if everyone is going to just be a 99 overall player who can do everything? NBA2K has already fixed this issue in their latest version of the game.

archetypes and badges

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit:https://www.youtube.com)

NBA 2K17 really wanted to make sure that each player had their own specialty. In previous years a player could make a point guard who could be 6-foot-7 and earn all badges to become the most unstoppable player of all-time.

There are three solutions they came up with to halt this.

The first is with archetypes. For all examples in how this works, we will stick to looking at point guards.

When you create your player you can pick a position. Once you select the position you wish to play, you must pick an archetype. The archetypes for point guard are the following: playmaker, sharpshooter, lockdown defender, shot creator and slasher.

Depending on the type of point guard you decide to become, you will have only five badges you can upgrade. That is the second part of the solution: the number of badges one can upgrade. In NBA 2K there are dozens of badges a player can get that makes them better.

One of those badges is the pickpocket badge. To unlock the pickpocket badge, a player must get a certain amount of steals within a season. The pickpocket badge makes a player more effective at stealing the ball.

As you can see in the picture with the sharpshooter, pickpocket is not one of these upgradeable badges for that archetype. What that means is that the pickpocket badge must stay at the bronze level.

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: YouTube)

If the sharpshooter archetype gamer unlocked the limitless range badge then they could upgrade it from bronze to silver then to gold. Once a player has a gold badge they can upgrade it to the hall of fame level. Hall of fame badges allow a player to be great at that skill.

By allowing gamers to only have five upgradeable badges, they have stopped people from becoming players that are great at everything and 99 overall.

The third way NBA 2K17 has made it difficult to become 99 overall is by including park reputation.

Park reputation is a tier system in which can only be aquired by playing at MyPark. There are five levels to each tier. The tiers are as follows: rookie, pro, all-star, superstar and legend.

A player can only get to 95 overall before the game will not let them upgrade anymore. To earn more upgrades, one must reach levels one, three and five of the superstar tier at MyPark. The amount of games and time it takes to reach those tiers is extremely straining and does not come easily.

These three additions have really helped NBA 2K level the playing field and made a game that requires multiple different skill sets, rather than just a bunch of players who can do all. This is something NBA teams will have to look at when constructing teams for their NBA eLeague.

2K HAS ALREADY TESTED THIS

There is a mode in NBA 2K called Pro-Am that allows all these different gamers to take their custom players play in five on five games similar to an NBA contest. These teams become really competitive and are an example of how an NBA eLeague team would look. NBA 2K have already held two major tournaments over the past two years to test how this would work in a legitimate format.

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit:http://www.usatoday.com/sports/)

The first one was called the Road to the Finals which took place in 2016. This year NBA 2K held the All Star Tournament which would gave 250 thousand dollars to the winning team Still Trill.

Over two million people streamed the final game, according to NBA 2K, proving that there is a market for competitive traditional sports games. The tournament showed is that these skilled players are capable of drawing a lot of viewers.

There are over 110,000 teams on Xbox alone in the Pro-Am game mode. The teams and players are already around waiting to be picked up by NBA franchises.

Why This Will Change eSports

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: Matthew Hagan)

The potential of this idea is unlimited. Currently, getting the NBA to be involved is monumental for the growth of NBA 2K as an esport. The NBA is the first professional league in the United States to create their own esports league.

The success with the two tournaments that NBA 2K have already run proves that there is huge interest in this game. Eventually the NBA eLeague could expand to more teams than just 30. There could be hundreds of teams in each region of the world. Eventually there could be regional championships that lead to a world championship.

An eLeague allows people who could never play in the NBA a chance to become NBA stars. This includes people who have disabilities and are unable physically play the sport. It doesn’t matter your size, weight, or gender, anybody who is good enough on the sticks can end up being drafted to an NBA eLeague team. That is something that no other professional sport can offer.

This is just the beginning for the NBA and Take-Two. Once the money begins to flow they will realize they need to expand the field. Before you know it there will be an NBA2K Hall of Fame and a list of new NBA eChampions.

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January NBA Playoff Predictions

As we head into the new year, here are the NBA playoff predictions for who will grab the 16 spots in the NBA playoffs this spring.

East

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs will most likely rest their starters heading down the stretch. The Raptors will most likely make a push for the top spot, and could make it close. The easier schedule will let them grab the top seed in the East. Projected win total: 62

NBA Playoffs

DeMar DeRozan (Photo courtesy: chch.com)

2. Toronto Raptors: The superstar backcourt in Toronto, coupled with their depth, makes them almost a lock for one of the top two seeds. They’ll most likely push Cleveland for home field advantage towards the end of the year. The tough schedule down the stretch will have them fall into second. Projected win total: 58

3. Boston Celtics: Boston looks to be a prime candidate to make a big splash at the trade deadline. Either way, the streaking Celtics will grab the third seed and home court in the first round. As their young backcourt and wings continue to develop the team will only continue to improve. Projected win total: 52

4. Milwaukee Bucks: The rise of the Greek Freak and Jabari Parker will propel the Bucks passed the Hawks and Hornets and give them home court advantage in the first round. Their schedule gets easier as the season progresses as well. Look for them to grab a few key wins in the next few months. Projected win total: 44

5. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks might be sellers at the deadline, but either way they look to rise up in the weak Eastern Conference. The Hawks backcourt may prove to be their downfall in the stretch run. If they can get some solid guard play at the deadline, they may rise even further up the conference. Projected win total: 42

6. New York Knicks: The Knicks will benefit from any easy schedule over the next few months. If Derrick Rose can continue to adapt to the offense and get Kristaps Porzingis more involved in the offense, this team can compete with anyone. Projected win total: 41

7. Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets will drop down the stretch as they face more Western Conference opponents. The pace of the Hornets is unsustainable and they will likely fall in the muddled East. There are so many average teams in the East that it could go any way, but the Hornets will drop down to 7th. Projected win total: 41

8. Washington Wizards: The Wizards will ride their trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter to the last spot in the East. The Wizards bench may be one of the worst in the league right now. But the return of Ian Mahimi an the hopeful improvements of Trey Burke will help this team grab the last seed. The weak Eastern Conference will also help them sneak in with a sub-.500 record. Projected win total: 38

West

1. Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors will remain the top seed in the West. They’ll face stiff competition from the two teams below them. But, ultimately, they are just too good. It’s hard to see the Warriors losing more than six or seven more games this year as they just don’t face enough tough competition. Projected win total: 70

NBA Playoffs

James Harden (Photo courtesy: nba.com)

2.  Houston Rockets: The Rockets have weathered through their tough schedule this far. In the second half, their schedule gets even easier. The Rockets will spend much of the next two months beating up on the weak Eastern Conference teams before holding on to grab the two seed. The Rockets will also pursue the 2nd seed more aggressively than the Spurs will. Projected win total: 62

3. San Antonio Spurs: Greg Popovich will most likely rest some of his starters down the stretch. The seeding doesn’t really matter for these yearly powerhouses. They are just too good to slip much past the 3rd seed though. Projected win total: 58

4. Utah Jazz: Look for the Jazz to make some small moves at the deadline. Home field advantage will be more important to the Jazz as well. Their depth will allow them to chase the four seed more aggressively. Projected win total: 52

5. LA Clippers: The Clippers look to be potential players at the trade deadline. But, their health will make it tough for them to keep up in the second half of the year. Hopefully when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are back on the same floor they will be able to push back up the standings. Projected win total: 50

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: No doubt, Russell Westbrook’s push for averaging a triple-double will allow the Thunder to win enough game down the stretch. Also, after these six teams there is a severe drop-off in talent in the west. The combination of Westbrook, Steve Adams, Victor Oladipo and Damontis Sabonis will lead the Thunder to the 6th seed. Projected win total: 48

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis has the firepower to compete with anyone, but injuries will make it tough for them to compete with the better teams in the East. Look for them to slump down the stretch as they try to get healthy for the playoffs. Projected win total: 44

8. Denver Nuggets: The 8th seed in the West is a mess. Currently, Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento, Portland and Los Angeles are fighting for it. Denver, ultimately, will grab the last seed in the West assuming one thing. They need to grab a piece at the trade deadline. Denver has to be the biggest player at the trade deadline. They must deal one of their big men to give this team the final push it needs to become a playoff team. If they do, they will get the 8th seed. Projected win total: 36

 

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2016 NBA Off-season Summary

An Offseason to Remember

 

The summer of 2016 introduced the new NBA salary cap, which in turn paid loads of money to multiple NBA players. This offseason also created a Hall-of-Fame caliber team with Kevin Durant making the fantasy move to the Golden State Warriors. And as per usual, in the Summer Leagues, unproven NBA rookies showcased their talents and gave the basketball community a progress report on where they’re at in their development.

Players Getting Paid

People may not have liked some of the events in this offseason, but it set a precedent for what fans should expect next season when the salary cap increases again. This free agency period paved the way for the NBA’s elite to earn twice as much as they were getting paid with role and bench players, like Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and Mike Conley Jr., all cashing in on their newly increased value. Mike Conley’s signing drew a more significant uproar among free agents not named Kevin Durant. Conley, who averaged 15 points (on 42% shooting), 6 assists, and 3 rebounds in the 2015-16 NBA season (only played 56 of the 82 regular season games), didn’t exactly post All-Star caliber numbers, and yet, by the previous salary cap’s standards, will be making the most money per year since Michael Jordan at around $30.6 million dollars for the next 5 years; that is more than just All-Star money, it’s global icon money. But with the new, larger salary cap in place, and an even larger cap next off-season, fans should expect the ridiculous looking deals to keep on coming, especially when Steph Curry becomes a free agent next year. Also, some food for thought: free agent LeBron James has yet to sign a new deal with the Cavaliers under this new salary cap. One can surmise it will be at least around the $28 million per year mark like Kevin Durant will be making with the Warriors this upcoming season. Speaking of which….

KD to the Bay

No doubt the most noticeable move in the NBA since LeBron famously took his talents to South Beach, Kevin Durant dropped the proverbial bomb on the basketball community (not just in OKC) this off-season by signing with the defending Western Conference Champion, Golden State Warriors. Durant going to the Warriors shook the NBA in a similar, if not more severe, way than when LeBron went to the Heat. The Bay Area will now house the best three shooters on the planet. The Warriors may look invincible on the offensive end, but signing KD meant they had to blow up a good portion of their depth and start over. Their center and rim protector, Andrew Bogut, had to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks along with now fellow-ex Warrior and small forward Harrison Barnes, who signed Dallas’ offer sheet as a restricted free agent since the Warriors couldn’t match the offer to keep Barnes while adding Durant. The Warriors also lost Marreese Speights to the Clippers, Festus Ezeli to the Trailblazers, Brandon Rush to the Timberwolves and Leandro Barbosa to the Suns. The Warriors were able to retain Ian Clark, Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo and also added veterans Zaza Pachulia, David West and rookie draftees Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones. Simply put, their interior defense will come into question against a good team, but as of now in the off-season, no team looks like they can handle the onslaught of perimeter shooting that Golden State possesses for that to be a problem.

The NBA Summer League Showcases

Going into the NBA summer leagues, a few names were on everyone’s mind. Heading out of the summer leagues, a few more names were added to that mental list. Ben Simmons was probably the most common name coming out of the draft and into the summer league. Being the first overall pick of the draft by the 76ers, Simmons didn’t disappoint his expectations, showcasing the as-advertised court vision college scouts were raving about and seeing why fans and fellow rookie Denzel Valentine were comparing him to 4-time MVP LeBron James. I echo that comparison based on his passing ability, hard drives to the basket, and unwillingness to shoot a pull up jumper at that age due to lack of efficiency at it; hopefully we will continue to get better at it. Ben Simmons was definitely the right choice for the 76ers to make with the first pick and I expect he will have a much greater impact on a game than former first round picks Okafor and Noel have in Simmons’ rookie year; the 76ers will be better this year, if only by a handful of games, they will be better.

Other names on everyone lips were those of NBA sophomores like Emanuel Mudiay, Larry Nance Jr. and DeAngelo Russell. The trio showed a maturity and confidence on the court against NBA rookies knowing what pace and intensity they had to play with at times. The biggest stride, I thought, was made by DeAngelo Russell, who was the best player on the Lakers’ summer league team, not the lottery pick, Brandon Ingram, who looked like he needs to gain about 20 pounds or so in order to not be pushed around so easily by the better competition; granted Ingram is able to create his own shot, but putting on some weight will help him. Overall, the summer league always hints at what we can expect in years to come from the crop of rookies and sophomores.

Biggest Winners of the NBA Offseason

  • Warriors. They got KD. Even though they had to get rid of key bench players to do it, they got the big free agent to form the super team. Clear winner. They also added David West who will contribute a much needed interior toughness to a depleted bench.
  • Timberwolves. Minnesota hired former Bulls head coach and defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau as head coach to lead this young core of talent into a new era without Garnett (even though he is still with the team) and without Love. The T-wolves also drafted the versatile guard Kris Dunn out of Providence which only adds to the team’s potential.
  • 76ers. I know right? Why on earth would the 76ers be winners here? They got rid of their GM and drafted the clear number one pick of the NBA draft. I believe Simmons makes the 76ers that much better to call them a winner in the offseason. The regular season, however…. Eh maybe not yet.
  • Bucks. Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon add similar potential to that of the T-wolves; summer league showed me they are on pace to be at the very least, quality NBA players. Jason Kidd ought to lead the Bucks to the playoffs this year and hopefully make the Eastern Conference more interesting.
  • Knicks. Despite not having any draft pick in this year’s draft, Phil Jackson did make some moves. Trading for Derrick Rose, who’s on the last year of his contract, was a good move since it got rid of an aging Jose Caulderon, an unproven Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez. The Knicks put themselves in a good position next off-season for other free agents and a draft pick or two, all awhile making themselves a team to keep an eye on with the additions of Brandon Jennings and Joakim Noah. I’m not saying they’ll be winners and get to the postseason, but they are not losers in the off-season.

Biggest Losers of the NBA Off-season

  • Kings. They draft and trade for two big men when they already have three, and one of the three is an NBA All-Star named Demarcus Cousins. What is Divac doing?
  • Bulls. They sign Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. Two guards that can’t hit perimeter shots and prefer to have the ball in their hands in order to create offense. Add that to a budding star in Jimmy Butler who practically ran Derrick Rose out of the organization and who also can’t hit consistent perimeter shots and you have a very isolation oriented offense. Did I forget to mention that coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t really command the team well in his first season?
  • Rockets. Hiring Mike D’Antoni was the Rockets first mistake in the offseason; D’Antoni is notorious for not employing any type of high level defense, if any defense at all. The Rockets were already one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year, so this isn’t a good move at all. The Rockets next mistake was letting their best defender and rim protector in Dwight Howard go in free agency. Then they added shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Defense will be the team’s downfall.
  • Heat. Miami failed to keep Dwayne Wade, the franchise’s most valuable player in its history. Seeing him leave South Beach will take some time getting used to. They managed to keep Whiteside, but couldn’t land Durant. The Heat also let Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Luol Deng go. Miami should now be in full rebuild mode. Pat Riley needs to hope that Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow become players the Heat can market closer to the levels that Minnesota and Milwaukee are presenting themselves at; young, hungry and talented.

With NBA news now going quiet until LeBron announces his new deal with Cleveland, baseball season in full swing and football preseason preparing to kickoff, the NBA won’t be short of any story-lines when the season starts in October. I can’t wait to sit back and watch it all unfold.

Death of Competition Part II

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

I have been a fan of the NBA for all my life. There is a trend that has been happening over the last five to seven years that is starting to make me sick. That trend is the death of true competition.

Wait…Does this sound familar? It should, because that introduction is word for word how I opened up my first “Death of Competiton” article at the end of March. I was angered at the time because rumors were swirling around about the possibility of LeBron James teaming up with Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The thought of all these players teaming up was unfathomable to me. It was sickening. I knew that if they teamed up the NBA would be a cakewalk. At the time those were just rumors that had me boiling. Today the NBA changed and the result is competition left gasping for air.

Kevin Durant decided to take a knife and continue to stab the idea of competition- now leaving competition in the NBA in shambles. Kevin Durant decided to become the NBA’s biggest villain. Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors. This is the most detrimental move a superstar has ever made to their reputation.

Naturally, people are going to try and compare Durant’s decision to LeBron’s decision in 2010 when he left the Cavaliers for the Heat. It is not the same. This is much worse. Although LeBron left his hometown team and by doing it on national television, he didn’t go to the Celtics. I only mention the Celtics because that was the team LeBron struggled to beat. It was the team that had eliminated him in the playoffs. LeBron received so much backlash because he left home when he had promised his city so much. He formed a super team in Miami that was deemed impossible to win against.

It was a move that many people believed was the easy way out. If you need proof about how easy it was here it is. He joined up to form a team that had three players taken in the top five of the 2003 draft. With LeBron, the starting five of the Miami Heat had three all-star players.

This was bad and destroyed LeBron in the eyes of NBA fans. Again, what Kevin Durant did is worse. Kevin Durant was 48 minutes away from reaching his second NBA finals, not once, not twice, but three times. He, along with the rest of the Thunder, blew a 3-1 lead against the Warriors. He had three games in a row to get the job done and failed. Failure is okay. Failure is necessary for growth. We all fail at some point at some capacity.

You don’t join a team who beat you when you were up 3-1 on them. You don’t join them when they went to back to back finals after they eliminated you. You don’t join the team who just won a record 73 games in one season. That is the definition of being weak. But if you can’t beat them you join them right? WRONG.

Michael Jordan struggled mightily against the Pistons over and over. He didn’t join them. He got in the gym and trained harder. He studied harder. He made it his mission to beat the team that kept giving him the pain of losing.

Reggie Miller is a legend who never won a ring. But we can respect him more for playing hard and fighting rather than running and joining the Bulls.

Carmelo gets heat for not having won a ring. The thing is, Carmelo can be respected because he doesn’t go running to loaded teams coming off of a finals loss.

It truly feels that Durant is trying to buy his way into the club. He is trying to buy a championship. He could have gone back to Oklahoma City and fought through the adversity. It is so much sweeter when you work for something rather than have it handed to you. If he wins a championship it will be tainted. Everybody will remember what he did to get it. Nobody will forget his fear of adversity, or competition. Now teams will have to assemble All-Star rosters to try and compete with the Warriors. There may be only two or three teams capable of winning a championship. The league created free agency to give more teams a chance at a championship. It was to create more parity throughout.

That is gone. Teams will play hard and try to compete but won’t have the talent to compete with the Warriors. Teams will beat them on nights they aren’t completely focused because nobody can go 82-0. Competition is dying. It pains me to know that the days of players like Magic, Bird, Jordan and Kobe are gone. Players would rather run and “buy” a championship in this day and age than work through the adversity.

Congratulations Kevin Durant, you made a business decision that will ruin your reputation. It will make fans all over the country curse your name. Never did I think someone could do something worse than LeBron did. Never did I think a player would become as big as a villain as LeBron was. I was wrong. You will become a bigger villain than LeBron. If you don’t win the championship NBA fans all over the world will celebrate like it’s their Independence Day.

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