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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It’s on the Haus: Dirk Nowitzki Scores 30K, Gonzaga Basketball Wins, Bruce Chen’s Shoes and an Unruly Gorilla

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports and esports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program, or going to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports and esports happenings, all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

It’s been a while. If you want a feel for how this series works, take in the last article in the wonderful world of sports news.

Dunking Deutschman Reaches 30K

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored his 30,000th career point in the most Dirk way possible in the Mavs’ 122-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Nowitzki becomes the sixth player in NBA history to reach the landmark and the first since Kobe Bryant did it in 2012.

Good for the Dunking Deutschman. He seems to be one of the more well-liked players in the association, even with a detrimental photoshoot to start his career.

LeBron James stopped his dinner to take a video congratulating Nowitzki. In my house, pulling out your phone during dinner is a cardinal sin, but apparently things work differently when your the most famous Sprite endorser in America.

Dirk has just one NBA Finals championship, which is criminal. It’s not fair for someone who changed the game, and maybe if Mark Cuban spent less time ridiculing potential entrepreneurs on television and more time not wasting one of the GOATs in NBA history, Dirk would have more rings.

I scored 21 points in a jayvee basketball game one time, so who’s the real basketball expert here, Mark? No further questions.

Zags Clinch Tourney Spot

The Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team was already going to make the NCAA Tournament, but just for good measure, they won their conference tournament. The Bulldogs beat the St. Mary’s Gaels 74-56 last night, marking the third time the Zags have beaten St. Mary’s by double-digits this season.

Gonzaga is now 32-1 and in prime position to pursue its first ever national title. However, I’m not here to talk about basketball.

Now, what exactly is a Gael? Well, it’s hard to say. Even though I have the almighty power of Google at my disposal, I’m not going to look it up. Rather, brainstorm with me.

I know there’s such a thing called gale force winds. That has something to do with the bodies of water, and also isn’t spelled correctly. Gazelle sounds sort of like gael, but I figure it’s not the same thing.

I’ll have my intern look into interviewing all athletes on St. Mary’s various sports teams to see if they even know what it means, but I doubt they do. But hey, not knowing is all the fun, right?

What Are Those?

Dirk Nowitzki Gonzaga Basketball Bruce Chen's Shoes Phoenix Suns Mascot

Bruce Chen’s kicks, courtesy of Cespedes Family BBQ’s Twitter account.

Remember the year 2015, when the phrase “what are those” was made into a annoying teen’s favorite meme? Neither do I. That’s not the point. The point is that Bruce Chen, an MLB pitcher and member of China’s World Baseball Classic team, wore some killer shoes in his appearance yesterday in the WBC.

I commend Chen for making this bold fashion statement. When you’re 39 years old and you don’t need traction, you choose to wear comfortable shoes. Who are we as common nonathletic citizens to judge?

Chen tossed 2 and 2/3 innings in the game, but China lost the game 6-0. Maybe if the entire roster chose to wear business casual footwear to the game, the Chinese would’ve earned the dub.

 

Gorilla Makes a Scene, Avenges Harambe’s Death

The Phoenix Suns’ matchup with the Washington Wizards was full of fireworks, most notably being the Suns’ mascot’s shenanigans during the fourth quarter.

My apologies on the terrible cheesy music that was coupled with the video. The piece of media comes from CBS Sports, so please direct your complaints to them.

At first glance, it seems as though the man inside the gorilla is high as a kite. However, upon further review, it appears as though the gorilla actually saved a player from potential injury, as the friendly animal picked up some kind of object off the floor.

All I’m saying is this guy better watch his back. Remember the last time a gorilla tried to save an innocent person from certain implosion? Yeah, that gorilla, known as Harambe by locals, is deader than Jokim Noah’s jumper.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. I see symbolism here, and I see the world getting this gorilla situation right.

 

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10 Things to Watch For in the NBA in 2017

2016 comes to a close as one of the most exciting basketball years in the history of the NBA. From Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s last seasons, to Russel Westbrook’s triple doubles, to the ridiculous Finals series, this year was full of memorable moments that will go down in NBA history. However, a new year brings new possibilities. Here are the ten best things to look forward to in the NBA in 2017.

10. Trust The Process?: Will Joel Embiid win Rookie of the Year? Can Ben Simmons make his long awaited return? Will the Sixers end up with two top ten picks? Can Dario Saric make the leap to consistent NBA starter? The New Year brings loads of questions for the NBA’s perennial doormat and not many clear answers. It will be interesting to see whether the 76ers will be able to escape the NBA’s cellar in 2017.

9. 2017 NBA Draft: This draft is considered to be one of the most talented ones in recent years. Markelle Fultz remains the prize at the top of the draft, and names like Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson highlight an unusually deep lottery pool. The lottery looks to be a mix of familiar teams (Philadelphia) and newcomers (Miami and Dallas) as teams try to find a future superstar. Summer league will no doubt be a spectacle this year as well.

8. 2017 Trade Deadline: The trade deadline this year will be full of stories, especially with the loaded draft coming up. Greg Monroe looks to be a possible big-name trade candidate. Portland, a team with a weakness in the frontcourt, may look to target Monroe or one of the big men from Philadelphia. Rudy Gay remains a big name for teams in need of a three-and-D wing presence. For teams with a need a guard, Goran Dragic and Will Barton look to be high end options on the market. With a talented draft class this year, teams may be less likely to part with picks. But the plethora of young talent around the league makes this deadline an especially interesting one.

7. MVP Race: This year brings one of the best MVP races we’ve seen in years. Right now, James Harden and Russell Westbrook look like the favorites. However, the award usually goes to a player on either the one seed or the two seed. Can the Rockets or Thunder grab that distinction? If not, voters may be compelled to look to former winners Lebron James and Kevin Durant, who have each put together noteworthy seasons. This MVP race is one of the most wide open in recent memory and looks to go down to the final weeks of the season.

6. The Greek Freak’s Takeover: Giannis Antetokounmpo has been incredible this year as his astronomical rise to stardom has continued. He’s taken the NBA by storm over the past calendar year by showing a Magic-esque ability to play every position on the court. He’s a freak athlete, a superb defender, and a great distributor. If he can develop a jump shot, the league better watch out. The Greek Freak’s continual rise to superstardom will no doubt be something to marvel at in the coming year.

5. Free Agency: This summer an exploding cap, combined with stars hitting the market, will make for an eventful free agency. Steph Curry is the biggest name as he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, and many other players have player options that they can exercise to become free agents this summer. Madness will no doubt ensue as free agency opens this summer and teams have a historic amount of money to spend. Watch for a shakeup of the power balance in the league.

4. New All-Stars: 2017’s NBA All Star Game could play host to a slew of first time All-Stars. Second year guys Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis look like they have a decent chance of making their first appearance. More established league stars such as Giannis, Kemba Walker, and Hassan Whiteside have a chance at making their debuts. All-Star weekend should be a blast to watch as some young guys get a shot at making their NBA All Star Game debut.

3. Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs: The new-look Warriors are capable of putting out a lineup that looks seemingly impossible to stop. Meanwhile, their Western conference foes seem to have taken a step back compared to last year. This Warriors team lacks rim protection and depth, and it’s fair to wonder whether that will come back to haunt them in the playoffs. The Warriors will need their superstars to step up if they want to make it through to the Finals again this year.

2. Russell Westbrook Chases History: Russell Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double, a feat nobody has accomplished in over 40 years. Can the Oklahoma City star continue his dominance in 2017? With a motor that seems to never stop, the answer could be yes. A triple-double season may even be enough to secure the MVP on a low-seeded playoff team. Westbrook has truly been something to behold, and his dominance of the NBA will be something to watch in 2017.

1. The Cavaliers Title Defense: Lebron James and Kyrie Irving kicked it up a notch on Christmas Day. They outperformed the Warriors in the stretch and buried them on a Kyrie buzzer beater. Is the trio of Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin Love enough to beat the juggernaut in Golden State? Well, having the best player in the world doesn’t hurt. The NBA playoffs will no doubt be a appointment television as Lebron tries to win his fourth title for Cleveland.

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Sudden Change is a Huge Part of the NFL’s Charm

As I was looking at the NFL playoff picture earlier this week, the stories of two teams jumped out at me. Both are examples of another characteristic that differentiates the NFL from any other sport in America. We are barely a month into the NBA season and teams like the Mavericks and Nets are already pretty much done. Similarly, the Braves and Twins were toast before the calendar in the long baseball season even flipped to May. In college football, losing a single game is the end of national title hopes for many teams.

The NFL is a whole different ballgame though. There are two teams this year that are almost unrecognizable from the start of the season. Here is a look at each sudden turnaround.

Miami Dolphins

I was in attendance to watch this team struggle to break 200 yards of total offense in a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati. The loss dropped them to 1-3. At that point, I was not sure they would win another game. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked lost and rookie head coach Adam Gase seemed to be in over his head.

A spark on the ground from little known running back Jay Ajayi completely changed this team’s fortunes. Ajayi was not even on the active roster when the season began. He rattled off a string of 100+ yard games and led them on a hot streak.

NFL

photo from washingtontimes.com

Even with last Sunday’s blowout loss at Baltimore, Miami still sits at 7-5, and just a game out of the final AFC wild-card spot. Tannehill is a more than adequate starting quarterback when he does not have to make plays all on his own. The ground game of Ajayi has helped control the clock and keep the defense fresh as well.

Whether they make the playoffs or not, Dolphins fans have gone from hopeless to hopeful in about two months. All it took was some very small changes in personnel and philosophy. Again, to see such a dramatic turnaround so quickly in any other sport is extremely rare, but in the NFL, the Dolphins are not the only great turnaround story this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quite a few folks thought Tampa Bay may be a pleasant surprise heading into the season. Despite the optimism, a 1-3 start that included a home loss to the hapless Rams seemed to be a death nail for their season.

NFL

photo from news965.com

Unlike the Dolphins, it is difficult to pinpoint the roots of this turnaround, but somewhere along the line everything started to click. The play of young quarterback Jameis Winston stabilized under the guidance of rookie head coach Dirk Koetter. He committed just a few less turnovers and started to carry this team to a few wins, all while dealing with a revolving door of starters at running back.

However, the big story in Tampa Bay is the defense. Over the last three games, the Chiefs, Chargers, and Seahawks have all been held under 25 points. That is as impressive a three-game stretch as you will ever see from a defense, particularly when you consider that the Kansas City game was on the road.

The line backing and secondary groups have some of the most low-profile good football players in the entire NFL. I am talking about guys like Lavonte David and Bradley McDougald.

The Bucs are holding down the last NFC playoff spot. They are also very much alive in the NFC South division race. Much like in Miami, even if Tampa Bay does not make the playoffs, this season has to be considered a massive step in the right direction.

Falling Franchises

Turnarounds in the NFL can be just as quick and dramatic in the other direction. The Eagles and Vikings were surprise hot starters this year and are now sinking faster than the Titanic, but that sudden nature is part of what makes the NFL so fascinating. There are a few of these stories every year.

Reversals in NFL fortune can take place over the long haul too. Two years ago, the Raiders flirted with going winless. They are now legitimate Super Bowl contenders behind Derek Carr. The Broncos were 4-12 in 2010 before John Elway came back into the picture as an executive. They have not missed the playoffs since.

So, if you like where your team is at, enjoy the view while it lasts. If you are an unhappy fan, all it takes is a few good moves to get things going in a good direction. Even the Browns will be good someday… I promise.

 

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A Mid-Summer Dream: Watch the NBA Summer League

 

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

After the confetti has fallen and the champagne showers have completed it’s on to the NBA draft. The Woj bombs, the draft day trades, and the “anticipation” of the number one overall pick keeps us engaged for about 30 minutes of the two-hour showcase.

The free agency frenzy can be entertaining. Everyone is glued to Twitter and the ESPN affiliates just to find out what sources has to say next.

But the real summertime gem is the NBA Summer League. This is usually reserved for basketball junkies to have something to chew on. It takes a certain amount of convincing to get a casual fan to tune in. Here are five reasons that you should.

Ummm, It’s Still Basketball

The summer league allows the uber basketball fan to enjoy some competition. The games usually lack sustenance. And the games at times can be unpalatable. However, what the games lack in nuance they make up for in enjoyment. There’s something about watching otherwise unknown NBA players sense their opportunity and having the desire and competitive drive to go out and take it. Oklahoma City Thunder Guard Cameron Payne is far from an unknown. Hitting a game-winner in this fashion is sure to boost his confidence. This wasn’t just a lucky shot after a last minute heave. That was a shot that was beget from sublime execution in crunch time from the players. To a basketball puritan there is nothing greater. Exciting right?

First Look at Special Potential 

The NBA Draft Lottery is always an intriguing part of the draft. Days, even weeks before the draft each pick is scrutinized and debated. The expectation of course is on the top picks, but there are some later lottery picks that can steal the show. Whether it’s a record setting three-point barrage or a total obliteration of the competition, summer league is your first chance to see a player present the prologue to his career. Last year in the Las Vegas Summer League, 14th overall pick Devin Booker put on an absolute show with 31 points and nine rebounds. His well-documented shooting ability was on full display. Once he got his chance during the regular season, all that witnessed his breakout had no choice but to think back to that performance.

Exciting Finishes

Per NBA.com, the rules of Summer League are as follows: Two minute overtime period, each team is allowed one timeout, each team is allowed one advance, penalty begins on the second team foul, the second overtime period is sudden death (first team to score a point wins). Sudden Death.

Can this be moved to the NBA? The very idea of Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard with the ball in their hands in such a situation is something hoop-heads can only dream of. Watching it play out in Summer League is the next best thing, and it doesn’t take way from the excitement.

Close-knit Environment
One of the best things about summer league is the intimacy of the event, specifically the Orlando Summer League. It’s just pure unadulterated basketball. The pomp and circumstance of a regular season NBA game is amazing, but the setup of summer league matches the time of year.

Devin Booker (1) put on a show in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Courtesy of USA Today Sports

Devin Booker (1) put on a show in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Courtesy of USA Today Sports

The exceptionally low-key environment augments that the focus is all on the players and the action of the game. When the ball-handler calls out an offensive set, you can almost see the wheels turning as the players are trying their best to execute. The audibility of defensive coverages gives you an inside track of sorts.  You can’t get much closer to the game than in summer league.

Even if they lose, Teams still have a chance at the Championship 

The Summer League at its heart is still a competition. Each player on a team is competing for, not only a roster spot, but also a championship. The two previous champions have been the Sacramento Kings in 2014 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2015 of the Las Vegas Summer League.

Each team has the opportunity to accrue points as the tournament goes along. There are 8 points available from each game. Four points for winning the game, and 1 point for each individual quarter won. The two teams that have accumulated the most points will play in the championship game. This adds to the drama of the tournament in nail-biting fashion. Winning a matchup doesn’t guarantee a place in the championship game.

All in all the Summer League is the biggest basketball event of the summer outside of USA Basketball. It’s something to look forward to when the headliner games run dry. But I’m sure you don’t need much convincing by now.

Pre-Lottery Mock Draft 1.0

Nov 16, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) slam dunks against the Kennesaw State Owls during the first half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 16, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) slam dunks against the Kennesaw State Owls during the first half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports


  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons F LSU: He will be the number pick in the draft due to his potential and upside. He needs time to develop and grow but will be a great player in the NBA. He is not as NBA ready as some of the other players but over time may be the best player drafted over the past 10 years.
    Duke's Brandon Ingram (14) shoots over Buffalo's CJ Massinburg during an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    Duke’s Brandon Ingram (14) shoots over Buffalo’s CJ Massinburg during an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram F Duke: Brandon Ingram is going to jump right into the NBA and start scoring. He will make a quicker impact than Ben Simmons does and has just as high as ceiling. Ingram has the talent to go number one overall but he will be available at number two.
     (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown F California: The Celtics are loaded with young talent and I foresee them trading this pick. Whoever they trade with will trade up to draft Jaylen Brown who at  6’ 7” can really shoot. He spent time working out with Draymond Green which will really help him in becoming a good NBA player. He should also turn into a very talented defender in the NBA.
    (photo credit: Ciamillo-Castoria)

    (photo credit: Ciamillo-Castoria)

  4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender F Croatia: The Suns need some front court help to go along with their talented guards. Dragan Bender is this year’s Porzingis. He is a stretch four at 7’ 1” who’s stock is going to benefit from scouts being wrong on Porzingis. He has a decent 3 point shot and is getting strong. Being only 18 really helps him because he could mold into a very good player.
    Photo ANDREW DOUGHTY

    Photo ANDREW DOUGHTY

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield G Oklahoma: Buddy can score from anywhere at anytime on the floor. He is deadly from behind the arc and has developed a great all around scoring game that will translate well into the NBA. Some say his size is going to hurt him, but if we looked at size to determine ability Isaiah Thomas wouldn’t be an all star. The Timberwolves can continue to build a dominate core that will grow into a championship caliber roster.
    (Source: Getty Images)

    (Source: Getty Images)

  6. New Orleans Pelicans: Jamal Murray G Kentucky: Jamal Murray is one of the best players in this draft that is flying under the radar. He has superstar potential and a very good three point shot. The Pelicans need a player who can create pressure on the defense and take away some of the pressure from Anthony Davis. Murray would be a great option for the Pelicans.
    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

  7. Denver Nuggets: Kris Dunn G Providence: The Western Conference is ruled by good backcourts. If the Nuggets want to become a playoff contender they should follow that blueprint. Last year they drafted Emmanuel Mudiay and so far it seems to be a very good pick. Pairing Kris Dunn with Emmanuel Mudiay would create a young and talented backcourt that the Nuggets could build around. Some scouts even see Dunn as a top five pick so if that is true this is really a steal for Denver at pick seven.
    (AP Photo Morry Gash)

    (AP Photo Morry Gash)

  8. Sacramento Kings: Henry Ellison F Marquette: Something tells me DeMarcus Cousins will find himself on another team either during or after the draft. If that does happen they will desperately need front court help and Ellison will be able to provide that with his ability to stretch the floor. Even if Cousins is not moved this would be a good pick to solidify their front court.
     (photo by Chris Reynolds)

    (photo by Chris Reynolds)

  9. Toronto Raptors: Skal Labissiere F Kentucky: Skal has the talent to be a top three pick but had a little underwhelming season with Kentucky. He has a good shot but needs to get stronger for the NBA game. This pick would give the Raptors a deeper front court that could help them take deeper steps into the playoffs.
    (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

    (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

  10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jakob Poeltl C Utah: The Bucks already have a team that is long and drafting 7’1” Poeltl will just add to that. The Bucks tried signing Greg Monroe to help their front court but the signing has proved to be underwhelming. Poeltl is already talented defensively and his offensive game is sure to improve. He would fit in with the current Bucks really well.
    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

  11. Orlando Magic: Denzel Valentine F Michigan State: Many scouts want to compare Valentine to Draymond Green and that is understandable. He has proven to be a good leader and a talented perimeter shooter but he lacks the quickness to be a higher pick. If he turns into the player he was in college the Magic will have a great player for a long time.
    Dec 1, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 1, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

  12. Utah Jazz: Brice Johnson F North Carolina: The Utah Jazz are on the cusp of returning to the playoffs but just need more talent. Brice Johnson had a tremendous year for North Carolina. He is very athletic and a high percentage shooter. He needs to bulk up some for the NBA but that should happen over time. Brice Johnson could be the piece the Jazz need to make a playoff spot next season.
    (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

    (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

  13. Washington Wizards: Domantas Sabonis F/C Gonzaga: Sabonis reminds me of a more offensively talented Joakim Noah. Good rebounder with tons of energy and passion. He will give you everything he’s got 100% of the time. The Wizards may not have a desperate need for him but he will be the best player available and the Wizards would be smart to draft him.
    (Photo: Kelly Kline, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    (Photo: Kelly Kline, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

  14. Chicago Bulls: Thon Maker F/C Australia: The Bulls front office sometimes doesn’t know what they are doing. There really is no consistency in how they draft and there aren’t many small forwards in this draft worth drafting at pick 14. The Bulls may trade down but I see them taking a very talented, yet unknown, Thon Maker to possible replace Joakim Noah and/or Pau Gasol. He is a freak athlete at 7’1” who has great handles for his size. He could turn out to be the best player in the draft, or the worst, only time will tell.
    ISTANBUL, TURKEY - APRIL 07: Furkan Korkmaz, #10 of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Top 16 Round 14 game between Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Abdi Ipekci Arena on April 7, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/EB via Getty Images)

    ISTANBUL, TURKEY – APRIL 07: Furkan Korkmaz, #10 of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Top 16 Round 14 game between Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Abdi Ipekci Arena on April 7, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/EB via Getty Images)

  15. Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz: G Turkey: International players are always tough to judge because of the level of competition they play against but Furkan Korkmaz is a natural scorer. He is 6’7” so he may even be able to play some small forward as well. His offensive game is completely well rounded and because he is so good offensively, his defensive game is behind. He may be a bit of a developmental project but has a lot of upside and Denver has the time to wait for this pick to develop.
    (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

    (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

  16. Dallas Mavericks: Tyler Ulis G Kentucky: It has been quite a while since the Mavericks have had a legitimate point guard and drafting Ulis would give them that. The common knock on Ulis is that he is too small. If you watched any Kentucky games you know he made up for his size in his ability to create for his teammates and score. He is gritty and a team leader and Dallas would get a quality player if they drafted Ulis.
    Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Malik Beasley (5) dunks the ball past Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) during the first half at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Malik Beasley (5) dunks the ball past Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) during the first half at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

  17. Memphis Grizzlies: Malik Beasley G Florida State: Memphis is a team that grinds out games and plays a tough, physical defensive game. They usually struggle with having a go to scorer. Beasley would provide an excellent scoring option for the Grizzlies. Some scouts say his weakness is creating for others but with Mike Conley Jr. at the point he would not have to create for others. He would be a perfect fit with the Grizzlies.
    By Brendan F. Quinn

    By Brendan F. Quinn

  18. Detroit Pistons: Caris LaVert G Michigan: The Pistons took a big step under Stan Van Gundy this year by making the playoffs. Now they need to add depth to take another step in the playoffs. LaVert would be a viable option off the bench and could develop into a long time starter.
     Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

    Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

  19. Portland Trailblazers: Stephen Zimmerman C UNLV: Zimmerman is a very talented seven footer. He has above average handling ability for his size and has a very consistent mid-range jumper. He was plagued with injuries throughout the year that did not allow him to become a dominant player. He needs to hit the weights because he is skinny and will get pushed around in the NBA. With all that being said, he’s only 19 years old and could develop into a potential all star in the right system with the right coaches.
    (Feb. 5, 2016 - Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

    (Feb. 5, 2016 – Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

  20. Indiana Pacers: Demetrius Jackson G Notre Dame: Jackson has a nice burst of explosion and has a great assist to turnover ratio. He is polished and has develop and will be one of the older players drafted. Because of his age you expect to get a more mature player who is capable of dictating an offense. The Pacers need more offense and Jackson is the type of player who can create that.
    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  21. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince: F Baylor: Atlanta needs a player who can defend against other teams’ best players in the playoffs. With Teague, Horford and Millsap the Hawks have plenty of scoring. In reality, they need someone to slow down LeBron if they want to get further in the playoffs. Prince has great length and good defensive instincts. He would be a great fit with the Hawks.
    Washington forward Marquese Chriss breaks away for a dunk as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl watches in the second half as the University of Washington Huskies take on the Utah Utes at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle Sunday January 24, 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

    Washington forward Marquese Chriss breaks away for a dunk as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl watches in the second half as the University of Washington Huskies take on the Utah Utes at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle Sunday January 24, 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

  22. Charolette Hornets: Marquese Chriss F Washington: Charolette is a difficult team to predict so I think they will take the best available player and many scouts think Chriss will go in the top 15 but I don’t think he will go that high. He is very athletic and will dunk on anyone. He has a good wingspan that may allow him to become a good defender.
    Dec 9, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Deyonta Davis (23) reacts to a dunk against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks during the first half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 9, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Deyonta Davis (23) reacts to a dunk against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks during the first half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

  23. Boston Celtics: Deyonta Davis F Michigan State: Davis is big and has been molded by Tom Izzo. His game may grow in the NBA but as of now he is an offensive liability. Time will tell if he can develop his offensive game but he is NBA ready on the defensive end.
    (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com)

    (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com)

  24. Miami Heat: Damian Jones F/C Vanderbilt: Hassan Whiteside is going to be a free agent and it is unknown if he will stay with the Heat. Damian Jones is a very athletic seven footer who was instrumental in the success of Vanderbilt. The Heat need some front court help so they should go Jones.
    Maryland guard Melo Trimble (2) goes up for a basket during the first half. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)

    Maryland guard Melo Trimble (2) goes up for a basket during the first half. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)

  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Melo Trimble G Maryland: The Clippers will look to add depth because they might not be able to find a true impact player this late. Melo would be a good second option to have behind Chris Paul as he is a good ball handler and free throw shooter.
    (Dec. 15, 2015 - Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

    (Dec. 15, 2015 – Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

  26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Patrick McCaw G UNLV: McCaw was UNLV’s leading scorer and at 6’7” he has great size for the NBA. He can play on the ball and off the ball. His versatility and athleticism is what teams will be intrigued by. He is also good for at least one steal that leads to a breakaway dunk per game as he did it regularly while at UNLV.
    CZBG, Stefan N.

    CZBG, Stefan N.

  27. Toronto Raptors: Timothe Luwawu G France: Luwawu is a bit of an unknown from France but he stands at 6’7” which is great for a guard. He is quick off the dribble and a good three point shooter. The Raptors would love to get a player who could be versatile.
    (Photo: Brad Fedie , 247Sports)

    (Photo: Brad Fedie , 247Sports)

  28. Cleveland Cavaliers: Diamond Stone C Maryland: The Cavaliers will take a big man who can run the floor well for a seven footer. He has long arms and is great at grabbing rebounds.
    Associated Press

    Associated Press

  29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II G Oregon State: Tony Parker isn’t getting any younger and the Spurs need to look at developing his replacement. Payton is just like his dad when it comes to getting his hands a ball defensively and Popovich will love that. He is also very explosive and athletic and he could be a great piece to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
    FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2015, file photo, Connecticut's Daniel Hamilton, left, shoots over New Hampshire’s Jaleen Smith, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Storrs, Conn. Isaac, 21, and Daniel, 19, are still the younger brothers, but they are no longer little and have been making names for themselves this season on opposite coasts _ Daniel at UConn and Isaac at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

    FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2015, file photo, Connecticut’s Daniel Hamilton, left, shoots over New Hampshire’s Jaleen Smith, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Storrs, Conn. Isaac, 21, and Daniel, 19, are still the younger brothers, but they are no longer little and have been making names for themselves this season on opposite coasts _ Daniel at UConn and Isaac at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

  30. Golden State Warriors: Daniel Hamilton G UCONN: Hamilton will fit the Warriors’ system of versatile athletes. He is not a great three point shooter and may take time to develop which is why the Warriors would be a great fit for him. They don’t need him to be good right away right away.

The Second Season

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) fouls Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) fouls Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Has there ever been a better final day of the the regular season in NBA history? The Warriors broke the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season. The Warriors beat the Grizzlies by a score of 125-104 to finish the season 73-9. Steph Curry finished with 402 made three pointers this season which is also an NBA record. He also scored 46 points to make sure the Warriors broke the win record. Impressive isn’t even enough to describe what the Warriors were able to do. It is truly an amazing feature but it doesn’t even hold a candle to what happened in Los Angeles for Kobe’s final game.

Hollywood couldn’t write a script as great as Kobe wrote for his final performance in Staples Center. The show that Kobe put on reminded us of Kobe in his prime while chasing championships. It was magical. It was mesmerizing. He poured his heart and his soul into his final game in the same way he did for his entire career. It was poetic.

60 points in his final game; it is the most ever for a player in their final game. It was the most points in the NBA scored the entire season. It was the 25th 50 point game of his career. He never ran. Not when times got hard instead he fought through. When the injuries tried to stop him he fought back to make sure he went out on his own terms. There is only one quote to sum up up Kobe and his performance, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

It was a perfect way to end the regular season and get us all ready for the NBA’s second season. Now that the regular season is over let’s take a look at all the first round playoff matches and who will win.

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons: Do not sleep on the Pistons. They are a well coached team with lots of talent. Andre Drummond will get his first action in the playoffs and Reggie Jackson has some experience with the Thunder. LeBron James does not want to be one of the few players to lose to an eight seed but it is possible. The Pistons won three of the four matchups in the regular season which will give them the confidence in the playoffs to pull a possible upset. Although it is possible, I don’t see the Pistons beating the Cavaliers in a seven game series.

Cleveland wins series 4-2

(2) Toronto Raptors vs (7) Indiana Pacers: The Raptors are in the perfect position heading into the playoffs. They are a quiet two seed who nobody is talking about or picking to do much in the playoffs. They had 56 wins which is a franchise record. The Pacers are a surprise team in the playoffs this year. Paul George is a star and Myles Turner is an up and coming star as well but the Pacers are not equipped to make a run this year. The Raptors had much success against the Pacers this year and this series will be no different.

Toronto wins series 4-1

(3) Miami Heat vs (6) Charolette Hornets: The Heat are one of the teams perceived to have the capability to dethrone the Cavaliers as the Eastern Conference Champions. They have the talent to do so but the Hornets will be no easy out. The teams split in the regular season and I believe this series has a chance to be one of the most competitive first round series. I see this series going seven games but Dwayne Wade will lead the Heat to a series win.

Miami wins series 4-3

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs (5) Boston Celtics: The young Celtics are scrappy and play with a certain toughness that leads to success. Atlanta has a lot of playoff experience but they usually don’t go far into the playoffs. This Hawks are one of the best passing teams in the league as they were second in the NBA in team assists with an average of 25.6 per game. The Celtics are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers so it will be a clash of styles and strengths. This will be a highly competitive series and the regular season was won by the Hawks. This time will be different.

Boston wins series 4-2

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs (8) Houston Rockets: The Golden State Warriors just broke the record for most wins in a season. The need 16 wins to go back to back. This is the chance to defend their title which is always harder than getting the first championship. They will play against James Harden which will be no easy task but the Warriors play a true team game. James Harden is good enough to possibly steal a game and it will be in Houston if it happens but the Warriors are determined to win. They will.

Golden State wins series 4-1

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies remarkably made the playoffs through an up and down season filled with injuries. Memphis would barely have a chance to beat the Spurs with Mike Conley Jr. playing but with him out the chances are even more slim. The Spurs are a well oiled machine that has no chance of breaking down against the Grizzlies.

San Antonio wins series 4-0

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (6) Dallas Mavericks: The Thunder are the third best team in the West and an afterthought to contend for the title. The stigma is that its going to be Spurs vs Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder have to prove to themselves they can win the West and it starts with beating the Mavericks. The Thunder swept the Mavericks in the regular season and I don’t see the Mavericks upsetting the Thunder in this series.

Oklahoma City wins series 4-1

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Portland Trailblazers: The Clippers are a great team with great talent but talent can only take you so far. The Trailblazers surprised the entire league with how good they have been. Damian Lillard is probably the most underrated player in the NBA and the fact that the Trailblazers made the playoffs should attest to that. The Clippers are going to be the clear favorite in this series but I won’t count out the Trailblazers completely. We have seen in the past that Lillard can hit game winners in the post season. The Rockets have experienced this. The Clippers should pull this series out but I am not totally confident in their ability to beat Portland in a seven game series.

Los Angeles wins series 4-3

NBA Playoff Races Heat Up

( Boston, MA,01/22/16) Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) screams after the foul as the Celtics take on the Bulls at the Garden. Friday, January 22, 2016. (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

( Boston, MA,01/22/16) Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) screams after the foul as the Celtics take on the Bulls at the Garden. Friday, January 22, 2016. (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill)

There are only 10 days remaining in the regular season in the NBA. The world will be watching the Warriors to see if they can beat the Bulls record of 72 wins in a single season. We will take a look at the biggest games remaining in the western and eastern conferences involving the playoffs and the Warriors remaining games in their historic chase of the Bulls.

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers @ Indiana Pacers (Wednesday, April 6)- This game is important for four teams in the east. Detroit holds the 7th seed and Indiana holds the 8th so both teams will be fighting to get the higher seed to avoid the Cavaliers but both must also watch their back as the Bulls and Wizards both could catch them and knock them out of the playoffs. The Cavaliers are looking to tune up before the playoffs and this would be a good game to set the tone against their possible playoff opponent because if the playoffs started today, this would be the matchup.
  2. Chicago Bulls @ Miami Heat (Thursday, April 7th)- Miami has already clinched and is sitting at sixth in the east. They will look to finish the season strong because they are only .5 a game back from being the three seed. That would give them home court advantage in the first round. Meanwhile the Bulls need to win virtually every game remaining and see the Pacers or Pistons lose. This game is big for both teams in regards to the playoffs.
  3. Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors (Friday, April 8)- This game is similar to the Cavs vs Pacers in that it is important for the Pistons, Pacers, Bulls and Wizards in just making the playoffs. As for the Raptors they can still catch Cleveland for the number one seed in the east and it would be a huge confidence booster if they were able to finish the season with the best record in the eastern conference. They are just three games back so it is possible. This game is big in the playoff seeding.
  4. Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks(Saturday, April 9)-  The Hawks sit at fourth and the Celtics sit at fifth. This game will go a long way in deciding which team gets home court advantage in the first round. These teams are very evenly matched and having home court could be the difference from going to the second round or going fishing.
  5. Charolette Hornets @ Boston Celtics( Monday, April 11)- Half a game separates these teams and the Celtics still can get as high as the three seed and the Hornets can drop as far as the sixth seed. This game will go a long way in determine spots three through six in the east.
  6. Miami Heat @ Boston Celtics(Wednesday, April 13)- Like I have discussed the three through six spots are crowded and only separated by half a game. This game is on the last day of the regular season and this game could be the difference from holding home court or not. This could also be a preview of a first round series. This will be an exciting game on the last day of the regular season and it has playoff seeding implications to just make it better.

Western Conference

  1. Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks (Wednesday, April 6)- The Rockets sit a game back of the seventh and eighth seed. The Mavericks hold the seventh seed so a win by the Rockets could jump them into the playoffs while knocking the Mavericks out of the playoffs. That is what makes this game so important in the chase for the playoffs. It could be win or don’t get in.
  2. San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors (Thursday, April 7 @ GS and Sunday, April 10 @ SA)- The Spurs are sitting four games back of the Warriors for the first seed and with two games remaining against the Warriors it is still possible that the Spurs get that first seed if they win both of those games. This is also a hopeful Western Conference Finals preview for many basketball fans.
  3. San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks( Wednesday, April 13)- This game is again important for the Mavericks, Rockets and even the Jazz. Only two of those three teams can make the playoffs and the Spurs may be in a position to rest their players for the playoffs and if that is the case it could be an easy win for the Mavericks which in turn could spell doom for the Jazz or Rockets.

Warriors Record Chase:

The Warriors only have six games remaining but must go 5-1 in those games to break the Bulls record of 72 wins.

April 5 v.s Minnesota Timberwolves- This should be a non issue for the Warriors. The Timberwolves have nothing to play for and this will just be another win on the Warriors schedule. Warriors win this one easily and get to 70-8 with four games remaining.

April 7 v.s San Antonio Spurs- The hardest thing to predict is if Popovich will rest his players or not. The Spurs still can get the first seed but Popovich has a history of not caring about seeding and just caring about health. He may decide to rest his stars to gain some kind of competitive advantage for the playoffs. The Warriors win this one in a very close game to get to 71-8 with three games remaining and two wins away from the record.

April 9 @ Memphis Grizzlies- This could be a trap game for the Warriors who sometimes struggle with physical teams. It is also hard to play in Memphis. They may be looking ahead to their next game which would be against the Spurs. I think the Grizzlies upset the Warriors in this one sending them to a record of 71-9 with two games remaining and still two wins away from breaking the record.

April 10 @ San Antonio Spurs- This is where things get interesting for the Warriors. The Spurs are trying to remain undefeated at home and with the Warriors coming off a game the previous night this could really be a bad game for them. The last time they played in San Antonio they shot bad and so did Curry. I think the Spurs will defend their home court and the Warriors will sit at 71-10 with one game remaining and will not be able to break the record but still may tie it.

April 13 v.s Memphis Grizzlies- The Warriors will rest their stars after being denied the record of 73 wins. The only thing they will be concerned with is being healthy for their title defense and winning a second straight championship. Because of that the Grizzlies will beat less than 100 percent Warriors team and the Warriors will finish 71-11.

It would be fun to see a team break a record as difficult to break as the 96′ Bulls but it seems like the end of the Warriors schedule is a bit tougher than they would like. I know a lot of people think they will break the record but seeing Curry break Jordan’s record of wins in a season just seems impossible. It may happen it may not but one thing all basketball fans can agree on is that it is going to be exciting to watch what happens.

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