The Celtics’ season is not over

A tragic event occurred on Tuesday night. The Celtics new star forward, Gordon Hayward, suffered a brutal injury to his ankle.

Many people are counting this year as a complete loss for the Celtics, and while it is certainly not ideal, the Celtics could still make something out of this. Obviously, the Celtics rally in the second half was electric. Call me an optimist, but I saw enough from that second half team to be able to say they could yet be a top two seed in the Eastern Conference.

When it comes to personnel, I am only going to break down players I think will play an integral role in replacing Hayward in Boston.

Coaching

Brad Stevens

There is a legitimate argument to be made that this man is a better head coach than Steve Kerr, which would make him the second best head coach in the league. That exemplifies just how good he is at his job. While the GM’s of the league may think otherwise, I would say Brad Stevens is the best coach in the league at making adjustments, and he’s only getting started.

The team defense he has designed has even been able to hide Isaiah Thomas on that side of the ball, so Kyrie Irving’s lack of defensive skill should be no problem. With more offensive weapons at his disposal, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with on that side of the ball.

Personnel

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart was the biggest surprise to me on Tuesday, as he stepped up on the offensive end once Hayward left. His post work looked very good, like a budget Chris Paul almost. Not to mention his high effort, high-level defense and pretty decent court vision. A stellar performance from the young man, the Celtics are gonna need a lot more where that came from.

Jaylen Brown

Welcome, Jaylen Brown. A fantastic performance from the second-year man, leading his team in scoring with 25 points. His outside shot still needs work, however, his athleticism really overshadowed his lack of an outside shot.

He looked fierce in this outing as he carved up the inside, with 14 of his 25 points coming off of layups or dunks. His defense was also pretty good in this one, as he was putting up a good fight on every possession, and came away with two steals. He can step and make a difference in Boston.

Marcus Morris

While Gordon Hayward is gone, Marcus Morris should be back soon. Morris is a solid defender, and decent 3-point shooter, with a career 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. He is a great asset, especially for a team like the Celtics, as floor spacing for Kyrie Irving is key. He also brings that toughness when defending on the low block that someone like Al Horford just doesn’t seem to have.

Jayson Tatum

His offense looked very good in the second half of this game after a shaky start. I hope he blossoms quickly, as he has a similar skillset to Gordon Hayward, and could be a great sixth man, or a decent starter.

Aron Baynes

He showed some real value on Tuesday, playing decent interior defense, and grabbing quite a few offensive rebounds. He could log some serious minutes.

This Celtics roster cannot take another injury. With one more hit, even to a role player like Aron Baynes, could be enough to kill them. Though at the moment, I think they still have all they need to seriously challenge for the East crown, even if they will almost certainly fall short.


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Harden

Will the woes continue for James Harden this postseason

Last year, James Harden and the Houston Rockets found themselves eliminated from the playoffs in the conference semifinals.

Harden has impressed fans with his strength, ferocious step back and ability to get to the basket from anywhere. However, critics have constantly questioned Harden’s defensive ability and effort in the postseason.

During the 2016-17 postseason, it seemed as if Harden ran out of gas or had an out of body experience.

The former Arizona Sun Devil averaged 29 points in his last two NBA seasons. Last season the Rockets brought in former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who is an offensive genius.

The addition of D’Antoni was a great pick up, however, in the NBA you have to be able to play defense. Let’s not forget the Rockets are in the Western Conference, where they’re multiple offensive powerhouses.

Last season the team averaged 115 points and 25 assists per game. The 2016-17 Rockets could score on anyone and they seemed to be a favorite in the West.

What seemed to be a promising season came to an end after the team choked against the San Antonio Spurs, who lost Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker due to injury.

Every team in the league has a leader or a closer. On paper Harden is the designated leader of the team, but the results of the last two postseasons have caused people to wonder. Since the left-handed guard was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, the guard has displayed offensive brilliance.

James Harden

Dan Lippitt getty images

Postseason woes

But, come postseason the beard tends to pull a scene from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” During the 2012 NBA Finals, the five-time All-Star averaged 12.4 points which is good considering that it was only his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-5 guard received a bunch of criticism for choking in the Finals. During the 2012 summer of free agency, the Thunder opted to let Harden walk, which led to him sign with the Houston Rockets.

Now let’s fast forward to the 2015-16 postseason where the Rockets were eliminated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. Per usual, Harden had an impressive stat line that could fool anyone, but if you watched the series, the three-time All-NBA first team guard struggled.

It seemed liked Harden didn’t want to be on the floor or that the spotlight was too bright. During the series, the California native made poor defensive reads, and passed off on open shots, but that’s normal, I guess.

Solid roster

The Rockets had a well-balanced roster during the 2015-16 season. The roster consisted of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Michael Beasley, Trevor Ariza, Marcus Thorton, Patrick Beverley, Terrence Jones, Corey Brewer, Clint Capela, Josh Smith and Donatas Motiejunas.

In addition to the primary rotation, the team also had Jason Terry, Ty Lawson, Montrezel Harrell, Andrew Goudelock, K.J. McDaniels, Chuck Hayes and Sam Dekker. In 2015, the team was coached by Hall of Famer Kevin McHale, who recently expressed that his former star player was not a leader.

Rumors spread that Harden and Howard did not get along and that it caused a rift in the locker room. At the end of the season, Howard ended up signing with the Atlanta Hawks. Leadership reflects attitude and the beard lacks leadership at times.

Fast forward to the 2016-17 season where D’Antoni made the decision to switch the former Sun Devil to point guard. The decision seemed irrational at first, but when you think about it, Harden already has the ball in his hands more than 50 percent of the time.

Western Conference finals or bust

In the second round, the Rockets faced the depleted Spurs. The series seemed all but won for the Rockets.

Although the red carpet was rolled out for Houston, the team failed to rally together. The former OKC guard seemed gazed, confused, lost and tired. Now everyone could blame D’Antoni for switching him to the one.

James Harden

Bob Levey via getty images

If you are the Rockets coaching staff, you were excited with the numbers that Harden put up points and assists wise.

Some fans may find themselves asking if it is fair to give Harden the majority of the blame. With last season in the past, Houston has something to look forward to.

On June 28, 2017 the Rockets acquired Chris Paul and sent Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Now that Houston has a true point guard, there is no excuse for 28-year-old. CP3 brings leadership, dedication and grit to the Rockets.

Last season Paul averaged 18 points, nine assists and two steals. The former Clipper will mesh well with head coach D’Antoni. Harden’s new four-year, $228M extension should be enough motivation to show up come postseason.

If Houston doesn’t make it out of the second round of the playoffs, Harden’s legacy and brand could be affected.

 

Featured image taken by Bruce Hillyer

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NBA opening night predictions: Celtics vs Cavs, Rockets vs Warriors

It’s been a while since we have had regular season basketball. On Tuesday night, the NBA regular season kicks off. The two games slated are the Boston Celtics on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets on the road taking on the Golden State Warriors.

These two matchups have a possible conference final feel to them to tip off the season. They also have a little bit of bad blood in them as well.

The NBA season has finally returned and with a lot of Allstars changing teams this season should make for an interesting one.

Celtics and Cavaliers

Everyone knows about the bad blood between Kyrie and the city of Cleveland. That is going to be the best kick off to the season that could possibly happen. Kyrie gets to travel to Cleveland and hear all the boos and possibly lead his new team in a win over his former team.

The Celtics and Cavaliers finished one and two in the East last season and if these teams didn’t already know each other before, they certainly do now.

Both of the teams’ new guards are feeding into the fire as well. Isaiah Thomas said he may never talk to Danny Ainge again. Kyrie Irving has been quoted numerous times comparing the two cities now that he has found a new home.

So what does this mean for this game? It means that it will be chippy for sure, there will be a lot of booing of Kyrie Irving and there will probably be some technical fouls. All in all it will be a tough game that is a perfect way to open up the NBA season.

I think that the Cavs still win this one by near double-digits. The crowd will be fired up and LeBron James still seems to be frustrated with the way Kyrie left things. The Cavaliers take a statement win at home. These two teams will continue to give us great matchups moving forward.

Rockets and Warriors

NBA opening night predictions

James Harden guarding Steph Curry, Photo Courtesy of Trashtalk.co.

The Rockets acquired All-Star guard Chris Paul this summer from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets have now built a starting lineup that many think can compete with the loaded Golden State Warriors.

In a possible Western Conference finals matchup, both the defending champs and a team predicted in the top five in power rankings square off. The Warriors add different pieces to their bench and can deliver blows to the Rockets.

The Rockets traded Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley and depleted their depth. They look to get big minutes out of their key guys heading into this season. Look for Eric Gordon to carry the bench scoring load as the season moves forward and be a front runner for the Sixth Man of the Year again.

Ultimately I think the season starts off with the Warriors winning by around 16. The Warriors are too deep and the Rockets are a team that will take a little time to gel. It’s also extremely difficult to win at Oracle and there’s no doubt it will be rocking on opening night.

The Season as a whole

Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap and others have switched conferences, which will create the most exciting season in recent memory.

The young players who have entered the league are creating a large amount of buzz. Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are all set to take the NBA by storm.

Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers who haven’t made the playoffs in a few years are set to make a playoff run. A shifting of the power has made it more interesting and a less predictable narrative.

This new season will be one of the best and Tuesday night we get to kick the season off. Look for a lot of entertaining games and a lot less rest from star players. In summary, the NBA is back and it’s not a moment too soon.

 

Featured Image from www.12up.com.

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Duke Blue Devils

Five former Duke Blue Devils who are poised for big NBA seasons

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

With Gordon Hayward now in Boston, Rodney Hood has the chance to take a major leap during the 2017-18 NBA season. Hood can score from anywhere on the floor and now will have the opportunity to be the primary playmaker in Utah’s offense. The soon to be 25-year-old is coming off a career best 37.1 3-point percentage.

Duke Blue Devils

Will Hood put up similar numbers to Gordon Hayward? (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Hood is an elite pick and roll player, whose usage rate will skyrocket this year. This is a guy who could average around 18 points per game. In a 3-point league, Hood can thrive, as he shot 44.7 percent on all corner 3-pointers. He also lowered his turnover percentage

Through three preseason games, Hood is shooting 65.4 percent from the field and an exceptional 75 percent from long range.

Justise Winslow, Miami Heat

Last season, Winslow appeared to be on the verge of a coming out party, until a bruised left wrist and shoulder surgery caused him to be sidelined for the majority of the season. In the 18 games he played in, Winslow looked good, averaging just about 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34.7 minutes per game. The biggest question mark is whether or not Winslow can shoot, as he shot 35.6 percent from the field last season.

Winslow is still just a kid. He will turn 22 in March, and still has plenty of time to develop his shot. In his one season at Duke, Winslow shot 48.6 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from three. Obviously, college and pro numbers cannot be compared, but Winslow has shown he has the ability to shoot at a high level.

Winslow is also down 10 pounds from last season and has been spending extra time getting shots up in the gym to round out his game. He is an elite defender and outstanding rebounder. If his shot develops, he has the chance to be a major factor in getting the Miami Heat back to the postseason.

Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Last season, Curry started 42 games and averaged 12.8 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting. His 42.5 percent shooting from three was good for eighth best in the league. Curry is an absolute sniper, who will be starting at shooting guard once he is fully recovered from his recent left tibia injury.

Duke Blue Devils

One of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, Seth Curry. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Curry is tired of being “Steph’s little brother” and is ready to make a legit name for himself. He is in a contract year, so look for Curry to prove all the doubters wrong and work towards a major contract. While a max deal is probably out of the question, this is still a player, who in the right system, could average around 20 points a game.

Per 36 minutes, Curry averages about 16, and that is through only 118 career games. He is an underrated defender and an extremely efficient free throw shooter.

The addition of Dennis Smith Jr. will be very beneficial for Curry’s game. An insanely athletic point guard, Smith will be able to get into the paint and open the floor up for Curry to knock down shots.

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Not only did Ingram grow to 6-foot-11, but he also changed his shooting mechanics and improved his leg strength. In his only Summer League game before getting injured, Ingram tallied up 26 points in 32 minutes. Although he could have played once he recovered from his leg cramp, Magic Johnson had seen enough. Magic told Ingram that he would be disappointed if he didn’t average 20 points per game. Post All-Star break, Ingram averaged 13.2 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting.

The sky is the limit for Ingram. Once he starts hitting shots, he could emerge as a top talent in this league. While off to a slow start in preseason, his teammates are by no means concerned. Brook Lopez, who was acquired this offseason via trade, said they know what Ingram is capable of and are confident in his abilities.

With a rather thin frame, Ingram looks a lot stronger than he did during his rookie season. Playing with Lonzo Ball, one of the most gifted passers we have seen since Jason Kidd, will only boost Ingram’s potential. Ingram told reporters that his confidence is sky high and so is Magic’s. The president of basketball operations believes Ball and Ingram will have great chemistry, comparing them to himself and James Worthy.

Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers

A highly criticized guard, mostly due to his father coaching him, Austin Rivers is ready to show that he is a legitimate starter at the NBA level. Whether it’s true or not that Doc Rivers showed favoritism by not trading Austin to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, all we know is one thing: Chris Paul is gone and it is Austin’s turn to make plays for the Clippers.

Duke Blue Devils

Austin Rivers is ready to prove the doubters wrong. (Photo from NBA.com)

Because of the fact that his father is his coach, Austin Rivers is often overlooked. This was a kid who was the player of the year in high school. He was also the top-rated player in the country by Rivals.com in 2011. At Duke, he made first team All-ACC.

In 29 games as a starter last season, Rivers averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 45.8 percent from the field and an elite 42 percent from three. If he starts this year, it is because he earned the right to.

Rivers wants the haters to know that if he scores 20 a game and locks down on defense, it is his doing and not his dad’s. No J.J. Redick and no Chris Paul means Rivers could shine in the Clippers’ offense.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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NBA Southwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Southwest Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dallas Mavericks

2016-17 record: 33-49

2017-18 prediction: 36-46

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

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

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

Houston Rockets

NBA Southwest Division preview

James Harden, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

2016-17 record: 55-27

2017-18 prediction: 56-26

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

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

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

Memphis Grizzlies

2016-17 record: 43-39

2017-18 prediction: 33-49

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

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

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

New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Southwest Division preview

Photo Courtesy of SB Nation.

2016-17 record: 34-48

2017-18 prediction: 43-39

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

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

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

San Antonio Spurs

2016-17 record: 61-21

2017-18 prediction: 52-30

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image Courtesy of philstar.com.

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biggest moves nba offseason

Most impactful moves from the NBA offseason

NBA free agency is just about in the books. There are still a few unsigned players on the market like Nerlens Noel and Ty Lawson, but for the most part all the biggest names are signed.

Some teams majorly improved their roster and playoff chances. Others sat back and watched it happen.

Today we will look at which teams made the most impactful signings. What I mean by impactful is how much better their additions and losses make them.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota is not messing around this offseason. They have gone out and signed Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague. Their biggest move was trading for Jimmy Butler. These guys will join Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins for a scary roster.

To acquire Butler, they had to give away Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. However, Butler and the other free agent signings have made this roster a playoff team. They could easily finish as a fourth or fifth seed in the competitive Western Conference after finishing 13th this past season.

Minnesota is by far the most improved team in the NBA. Just wait until Towns and Wiggins reach their full potential.

Houston Rockets

impactful moves nba offseason

The Houston Rockets now have the most talented backcourt in the NBA with James Harden and Chris Paul. (Photo by SEAN M. HAFFEY / GETTY IMAGES)

The Rockets went out and grabbed Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute from the Clippers. However, they had to give up key contributors like Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams to get them.

The team now has a roster that features James Harden, Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Mbah a Moute and Nene. If Paul stays healthy, they won’t miss Beverly and Williams too much.

On paper, it looks like the Rockets have clinched the No. 2 seed in the West. If they can add another player this offseason they will for sure have it. Their backcourt of Harden and Paul is going to be impossible to stop.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles did not really make a bunch of big signings, but they were involved in one of the biggest trades this offseason. They have also gone through a lot of changes in their roster and for that reason are included in this list of most impactful offseason moves.

To recap, they added Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, and Danilo Gallinari. They also lost Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Raymond Felton, Luc Mbah a Moute and Paul Pierce.

The Clippers will more than likely struggle to make the postseason after losing Paul. However, they added a bunch of key role players. The star power is not really there, but I could see them finishing with the seventh or eighth seed despite their losses.

Oklahoma City Thunder

impactful moves nba offseason

Paul George will take a lot of pressure off Russell Westbrook. (Photo from SLAM Online)

Oklahoma City is looking like a threat again.

Their trade for Paul George gives Russell Westbrook a star teammate to work with. Now Westbrook will not have to do all the work himself, and the Thunder now look like a potential fourth or fifth seed in the West.

They lost Victor Oladipo and Taj Gibson this offseason, but the addition of George makes them too good to worry about those losses.

OKC needs to do everything they can to keep Westbrook and George together in the next offseason. For now, lets see how this duo performs.

Denver Nuggets

A lot of people think Denver can make the playoffs now with the addition of Paul Millsap to their young roster.

The team has a lot of young talent with Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Wil Barton and Kenneth Faried. They also added promising guard Trey Lyles to the roster. Millsap is a veteran these young guns can learn from and do great things with.

After missing the playoffs by one game last season, the Nuggets are now a playoff team, possibly a fifth or sixth seed in the west.

Boston Celtics

impactful moves nba offseason

Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward are reunited again. (Photo from Butler Athletics)

The Celtics made a lot of great moves this offseason. They added one of Brad Stevens’ former players at Butler with Gordon Hayward and also acquired Marcus Morris. They also added Jayson Tatum in the draft with their third overall pick.

The team did lose Avery Bradley in the trade for Morris though. They also lost Kelly Olynyk, another one of their role players.

However, the additions make Boston look like they can keep the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season. Of course that all depends on what the Cavs do with Kyrie Irving and how much Cleveland actually cares about their performance in the regular season.

 

Featured Image by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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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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Los Angeles Clippers big three: It was time to part ways

The team who was once proclaimed “Lob City” lost one of its members Wednesday morning when Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets.

Understandably, Clipper fans were shocked to have witnessed one of their popular stars dealt to a Western Conference rival. At the same time, front offices are now using the Golden State Warriors as the measuring stick for greatness and the Clippers aren’t measuring up.

The Chris Paul led Clippers were a top-four playoff team year in and year out, but nothing more. In a city where titles are the gold standard, just making the playoffs isn’t good enough.

Recent History

The Clippers’ big three consisted of Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and since the three came together in 2011, the Clippers have won at least 60.5 percent of their regular season games.

Los Angeles Clippers big three: time part ways

Chris Paul in agony after a playoff loss, Photo Courtesy of the LA Times.

The Clippers have made the playoffs in all six of those seasons. They finished third, fourth or fifth in the Western Conference regular season standings each of those years.

Unfortunately, they are 2-3 in first round series as favorites and 3-3 in the first round overall since 2011. During this time the Clippers never even made it to the Western Conference finals.

The big three finished with a total playoff series record of 3-6 in their six years together. Out of 18 possible All-Star appearances, the three went to a combined 10. By all means there was a high bar set for the Los Angeles Clippers with the arrival of Jordan, Paul and Griffin, but the results did not meet fan expectations.

Banged Up Blake

Los Angeles Clippers big three: time part ways

Blake Griffin Injured, Photo Courtesy of Sports Grid.

Blake Griffin has been plagued by injuries.

Since coming into the league in 2009, he has missed a combined 103 regular season games or approximately 18 percent of the games over his years in the league.

To put this into perspective, he has played more than 67 games in just three of those seven seasons.

Griffin’s athleticism has also taken a hit because of all of his injuries. He is averaging two less rebounds and a point less per game then when he first came into the league as a rookie.

Without Griffin on the court, the Clippers were unable to progress as a team.

Why Now

The NBA has been dominated by two teams for the last three years. Clipper fans have been disappointed by a team that has consistently under-performed. It makes sense to abandon the nucleus and attempt to put a more competitive product on the court.

Everyone in the Western Conference is chasing the Golden State Warriors. If the Clippers break up their big three, they could potentially be in great position to challenge the Warriors in the West in a few years. The time is now to put together a team that doesn’t just make the playoffs, but contends for a title.

Keeping a team together that has not achieved its potential makes little sense for ownership or players, when the goal is to win a championship.

Moving Forward

Los Angeles Clippers big three: time part ways

Clippers Guard Austin Rivers, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.

With Blake Griffin also on the way out, and Deandre Jordan having already attempted to leave the team last year, the future seems uncertain for the Clippers.

The Golden State Warriors have shown us that they are a juggernaut for the immediate future. With recent mediocrity a constant for the Clippers, why not take a chance on being great in a few years?

Trading the big three for young talent appears to give the Clippers the best chance of turning things around. It may not be a winning formula for the immediate future, but the Clippers could be title contenders very soon.

 

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Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade: Clippers get assets for free

On Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade sent the NBA offseason mood from buzzing to bewilderment. In an offseason packed with rumors of blockbuster trades and splashing free agency leads, fans of the NBA finally got a trade to chew on.

The Clippers ship nine-time All-Star Chris Paul to Houston and receive Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and a 2018 first-round pick. The pick is top-three protected for the draft next June.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Chris Paul will team up with James Harden in Houston, and the Clippers adjust to a new identity (Photo: Slam Online).

The haul for Paul is absolutely staggering. Rumors swirled that the Clippers were already going to lose both Paul and Blake Griffin in free agency this summer, so Los Angeles was already going to have to move on without their stars. The fact that the Clippers pull in what will end up being four players for a guy who was already planning to leave the team is stunning.

The Clippers essentially received fruit snacks, a Little Debbie, a bag of chips and an extra drink for a bologna sandwich they weren’t planning on eating at lunch anyway.

The Los Angeles front office basically watched the Rockets front office lob them an alley oop, only for LA to slam it right in the Rockets’ innocent face.

According to The Vertical, Chris Paul was so far out the door of Los Angeles that he’d already made his way into the Rockets’ headquarters. Paul and James Harden had previously talked about wanting to team up, so Houston landing the Wake Forest product this summer was extremely likely.

Although the Clips lose a superstar point guard in the trade, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that Paul was already going to leave, so the fact that he’s “included” in the trade doesn’t matter.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

The Clippers receive what will turn out to be some solid pieces and a brand spanking new rookie in next year’s draft. Sam Dekker is a young guy who was overshadowed in a crowded backcourt in Houston. Patrick Beverly can be a solid starter for Los Angeles and move back to point guard. Lou Williams can do what he does best: Be a scoring threat while getting Sixth Man of the Year consideration every single year.

Patrick Beverley: A solid two-way guard

It’s no secret that Patrick Beverley will most likely never break out and become a star in the NBA, but that’s OK. The Arkansas product is as consistent as they come. Beverley is a two-time All-NBA Defensive team selection and can play both point guard and shooting guard with ease.

In five seasons, Beverley has averaged 9.3 points per game. Again, that’s not fantastic, but it’s still solid. Los Angeles has the seventh-most turnovers in the league last season, and Beverley only averaged 1.5 turnovers per game last season. This could be a big step in taking care of the ball for the Clippers.

The bottom line is that you know what you’re getting from Beverley. He won’t be a star in LA, and may not produce many fireworks, but he’s a solid player that will make the NBA his home for a long time. The Clippers can use a leader like Beverley in the locker room and on the court, and that’s what they’ll get.

Sam Dekker: The next Gordon Hayward (maybe)

Sam Dekker’s first full NBA season came last year. In 77 games, Dekker averaged 6.5 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field. Dekker may not seem like a big piece in the trade, but he could end up being a steal.

The 23-year-old wing man was drafted 18th in the 2015 NBA Draft. Dekker was one of the most consistent players in college basketball in his time with Wisconsin, and was the 19th ranked prospect in the nation in his 2012 recruiting class.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Sam Dekker could end up being a steal in the Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade (Photo: nba.com).

Dekker has received NBA comparisons to Gordon Hayward (cuz of course, lolz) for his versatility to play multiple positions, offensive prowess and ability to play above the rim.

Dekker’s per 36 minutes stats are encouraging. When using the metric, his points per game total jumped to 12.8. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The Clippers will use Dekker as a versatile bench player. Dekker, who’s known as a small forward, played 87 percent of his minutes as a power forward for Houston last season according to Basketball Reference’s play-by-play stats. This only helps Dekker in that he can play from shooting guard to power forward.

The Clippers already have more depth in the backcourt than the frontcourt with Austin Rivers and the aforementioned Williams and Beverly. If the Clippers can sign J.J. Redick, they’ll have a quality backcourt. Dekker will most likely see more time in the front court which is where Los Angeles needs the most help. Dekker is a diamond in the rough in the NBA, and could break out in LA. If he does, it will make this trade even sweeter for the Clippers.

Lou Williams: Sixth Man of the Year, every year

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Lou Williams will take his scoring expertise to Los Angeles (Photo: The Undefeated).

The Clippers need to just let Williams come off the bench and do his thing. Williams has finished in the top ten in Sixth Man of the Year voting six times in his career, including winning the award two seasons ago.

Williams has continued to improve over the course of his NBA career. He reached his career-high in scoring last season, averaging 17.5 points per game in his age-30 season. Williams shot 43 percent from the field as well. Williams has steadily seen his scoring totals rise during his career, and might as well be on pace to win the MVP by his 40th birthday.

A score-first guard, Williams can provide a scoring presence that neither Beverley nor Dekker can provide. Williams averaged 27.5 points per 36 minutes last season, which shows that when he’s on the floor, he scores at will and with tenacity.

Williams adds to what is becoming a loaded backcourt for LA. He can be the score-first player the Clippers need, and could possibly lead the team in scoring next season.

Clippers win Big, Set Up For Future

By the time this trade has panned out, the Clippers ought to credit the Rockets with an assist on keeping LA a competitive team. Yesterday, Los Angeles looked as though it could be reeling, with losing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a real possibility. Now, Paul is gone, but the Clippers gain a lot from a trade rather than losing him in free agency.

Los Angeles’ backcourt becomes one of the ten-best in the NBA. The depth is incredible, and if the Clippers can resign J.J. Redick, it will be even better. Los Angeles will also get a chance to see Austin Rivers blossom as a starter. Rivers was a big time talent when Chris Paul missed time last season, so it seems the best is yet to come for Rivers.

Los Angeles now must focus on the frontcourt. Whether they resign Blake Griffin or sign another quality big man, shoring up the frontcourt needs to be the highest priority. If that happens, expect the Clippers to compete in the Western Conference next season.

Oh, and the Clippers will be welcoming a top-three pick to its roster after the NBA Draft this time next season.

 

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2017 NBA Draftmas

2017 NBA Draftmas: Teams with no picks

It is the final edition of this year’s 2017 NBA Draftmas. This edition will focus on all the teams that do not have picks in tomorrow’s NBA Draft.

Summaries

Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have made the playoffs in seven straight seasons with their only conference finals appearance coming in 2013. Last season, Memphis finished 43-39 and lost to the Spurs 4-2 in the first round.

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Grizzlies are like the Atlanta Hawks of the West because they are a consistent playoff team that will be competitive but won’t win the Finals.

Memphis is known as a physical, slow-paced defensive team ranking third in the NBA in points allowed per game at 100 points per game.

Offensively, the Grizzlies shot a league-worst 43.5 percent from the field but ranked 17th in three-point shooting at 35.4 percent.

Memphis is stuck in the middle of the league, which is the worst spot to be in. They aren’t good enough to win a title but are too good to get decent draft picks.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles is in a similar situation as Memphis in which they are stuck in the middle and can’t win a title but are too good to get new young talent. The Clippers have made the playoffs for six straight seasons but have never made it to the conference finals.

Last season they finished 51-31 and lost to the Jazz 4-3 in the first round. Los Angeles doesn’t have the money to acquire any big free agents currently and they have no draft picks. To make matters worse, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can leave in free agency.

The Clippers were a very good offensive team shooting 47.5 percent from the field, second-best in the NBA. Los Angeles also shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Clippers were a solid defensive team only giving up 104.4 points per game which ranked 12th in the NBA.

The state of the Clippers isn’t as positive as it seems and the best days may be behind them.

Cleveland Cavaliers

In the past couple of days, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization has been rocked by news. Former General Manager David Griffin is no longer with the team and LeBron James was not happy about it. Rumors are flying that they will be trying to acquire Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

Everyone knows the Cavs’ story. They have been to three straight NBA Finals, winning the 2016 NBA Championship after coming back from a 3-1 lead.

This season they finished the season 51-31. The entire franchise is built around LeBron and as long as he is there they have a chance to make it to the Finals. Without any picks, in the NBA Draft, they must sign free agents or make trades to improve the team, but they are pretty limited in what they are able to do.

Golden State Warriors

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The defending champions are sitting pretty. Not only did the Warriors just win a championship but they have won two of the last three championships. Their core is still solid with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and of course, Kevin Durant.

Andre Iguodala may leave but the Warriors are confident Patrick McCaw can fill that role. The Warriors are in prime position to continue competing for titles. As long as they keep the peace amongst one another they will be fine. Their roster may need some fine tuning to the bench but there is nothing to worry about for the Warriors.

Needs

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies biggest need is a small forward or shooting guard who can impact the scoreboard. Scoring is a big issue for the Grizzlies and these two positions, in particular, need an upgrade the most.

Memphis could also look to add a power forward that could take over for Zach Randolph. Randolph is aging and losing the ability to be a dominant player. If Memphis wants to improve they need to address it as soon as possible.

Los Angeles Clippers

If Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leave they will need a complete rebuild. If the Clippers can keep these two players then what they need badly is a small forward. Their current small forward is Wesley Johnson and the entire depth at the position is lacking. Acquiring a capable small forward could send the Clippers to the next level.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs need a bench capable of not fading in the Finals. Cleveland’s role players played well all year but when it mattered most they came up small. Shooting guard and center could be improved but there isn’t much separating the Cavs from the Warriors.

Golden State Warriors

The defending champs need to make sure they have a rim protector and bench depth. If they continue to keep a bench that can contribute when the stars need rest then they will win the championship again next season.

Conclusion

None of the four teams listed have any picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. All four teams are playoff caliber teams and if they want to make their team better they will either have to trade into this year’s draft, trade for players in the NBA or sign free agents.

The Game Haus, thank you for following us through this year’s edition of NBA Draftmas. From our haus to yours, thank you and enjoy the 2017 NBA Draft.

 

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