The beginning of Ben Simmons

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

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

Ben Simmons Debut

Ben Simmons

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Forward

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

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

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

Translating College to Pros

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

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

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

 

Featured Image from NBA.com.

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Watch out for the Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are a team on the rise. They have built their team through previous drafts and now have added All-Star forward, Paul Millsap.

If the Nuggets were in the Eastern Conference, they would be getting a lot of attention. However in a loaded Western Conference they are overshadowed by already established talented teams.

What we have here is a team full of talent with an established leader looking to make it in a stacked Western Conference.

Emerging Talent

Denver Nuggets

Emmanuel Mudiay, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

As of this week, former Michigan State guard Gary Harris signed a four-year, $84 million contract extension. Harris has jumped into the starting shooting guard role for the Nuggets. He’s coming off his most efficient season in the league shooting 42 percent from three and 59 percent from the field overall. Averaging 14.9 points for the Nuggets, he is quickly turning into a consistent and lethal perimeter threat.

Nikola Jokic averaged nearly a double-double in 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in 73 games for the Nuggets. His most interesting statistic is that he averages 4.9 assists showing that he can set the table for others as well as create for himself.

Emmanuel Mudiay has matured his game in the two years of him being in the NBA. He has dropped his turnovers per game from 3.2 to 2.2 in just a year. He has also increased his assists per game from 3.9 to 4.8 as well. These two statistics show that he isn’t forcing things and adapting to the speed of the NBA. He also managed to shoot 11.4 percent better from the free throw line. This makes him more valuable because he can be on the floor in close games without hurting the team.

Jamal Murray provided instant offense for the Nuggets. In 22 minutes a game, he averaged 9.9 points and shot 33 percent from three. As a combo guard he can help give some rest to both Mudiay and Harris if they need it without skipping a beat.

Incoming Help

Paul Millsap decided to join the Denver Nuggets this offseason. Millsap adds versatility, the ability to stretch the floor as well as handle the ball when he needs to.

Millsap provides a leader and a proven All-Star to a young team filled with talent. For his career, he is a near double-double player who thrives in pick and pop situations.

The Nuggets have lost their highest scorer from last season in Danilo Galinari and as they look to transition into a legitimate playoff team they are looking for a new leading scorer. Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic look to take back courts by storm and lead this young Nuggets team deep into the playoffs.

Previous Performances

There’s no doubt that the Nuggets have gotten better this summer. Paul Millsap helps a team that drastically needed a leader. The young talent has another year under their belt and the biggest strength of the Nuggets has proven to be their depth at power forward and center.

The Nuggets went 8-22 against Western Conference playoff teams last season. Last season they finished third in the NBA in scoring at 111 points per game.

However the problem came on the defensive end where it matters most. The Nuggets landed at 27th in the NBA in defensive points allowed.

They allowed 111.2 points per game which is less than their points for average. The Nuggets finished above the Lakers, Nets and Suns who all had much worse records than the Nuggets finished with. They were the third worst in defending the 3-point line and in an league where there are so many prolific shooters it could cost them important games down the stretch.

The solution here is Paul Millsap. Defending the paint and pick and rolls are vital to winning games in the NBA. Paul Millsap is very well known for doing both of those things. On a team that needs defensive help, Millsap will fit in seamlessly and pick the Nuggets up when they need it most.

The Denver Nuggets will be in a dogfight for what looks like the last few spots in the Western Conference. I like them to surprise some people and finish in the sixth spot coming out of the West. I think they have the talent and now have the leadership with Millsap. Look for the Nuggets to win around 48 wins and give a team a run for their money come playoff time.

 

Featured Image from Nugglove.com.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. Now that the Finals are over, the entire basketball community will be focusing on the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22. This is a prime opportunity for teams to either deepen their roster or build playoff caliber teams. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0.

1: Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are working on a trade so that the 76ers can select Markelle Fultz. Even if the trade doesn’t get finalized Fultz will be the number one overall pick in this draft.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Los Angeles is not going to pass on a player who will make those around him better and has the star power that Lonzo Ball has. These rumors floating around about the Lakers falling out of love with Lonzo is all a smokescreen. The truth of the matter is that the first two picks have been decided and they are just trying to keep people interested and on their toes.

3: Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas

This pick is just like the first overall pick. It is likely going to be Boston drafting in the third position and they will take Josh Jackson. This is a sign that the Celtics may put all their faith in Isaiah Thomas as their point guard. Jackson can fit right into the culture they are building in Boston and he will help them get closer to compete for a championship.

4: Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke

The Suns are just unlucky. Phoenix was supposed to have a top three pick but fell to fourth when the lottery took place. Now they are going to miss on Josh Jackson by one pick. Jayson Tatum is flying under the radar but will be a very good NBA player.

Tatum has a polished isolation game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Tatum will be a solid second option to Devin Booker.

5: Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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

Reports coming out of Sacramento say that the Kings are absolutely in love with De’Aaron Fox and are even willing to trade both the fifth and tenth pick to move up just one spot to get him.

Fox should be around at five and the Kings can draft their franchise point guard. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox would be a promising backcourt that would help the Kings get closer to the playoffs.

6: Orlando Magic: Johnathan Issac, F, Florida St.

Orlando has been terrible ever since Dwight Howard left. Johnathan Issac has been recently compared to Kevin Durant, but he is not the scorer that Durant is. Issac will bring tons of athleticism to the Magic. He has proven he can play an all-around game but has been very inconsistent. If developed correctly, Issac can become one of the best two-way players in the NBA and an All-Star.

7: Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Timberwolves are already loaded with young talent and in a perfect world, Tom Thibodeau would like to acquire more veterans in the locker room. Minnesota might be looking to make a trade in the future and will take the best available player which will be Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring machine capable of going off at any moment. He is the best scorer to come out of college since Kevin Durant and will easily average 20 points per game in the NBA.

8: New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

New York has always been a city of immigrants. The Knicks are going to follow that mold it seems, as they already have Kristaps Porzingis and are in love with Frank Ntilikina.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 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.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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

Dennis Smith is arguably a top five player in this class. The Mavericks have a chance to find their franchise point guard who can help lead them back into the playoffs. Smith can score, pass and rebound with the best of them while in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

10: Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

The Kings currently have two core pieces in Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they take Fox earlier in the draft then it becomes an even better core. Lauri Markkanen could then take this team to even better heights.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen would fit alongside Cauley-Stein because he can stretch the floor.

Getting Fox and Markkanen would make the Kings one of the best young teams in the NBA.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville

Donovan Mitchell was projected to be a late-first round pick around a month ago but has lately been flying up draft boards. Teams who have worked Mitchell out have been really impressed by the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. Mitchell is a shot creator and that is something the Hornets need. Charlotte could create a dangerous backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Kemba Walker.

12: Detroit Pistons: Harry Giles, PF, Duke

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 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.

Giles has had a lot of injuries but if he can get healthy he has the skill and potential to be the best player in this draft class.

13: Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: Miami Heat: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

The Heat were 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.

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

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS, PF, WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON, C, CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: Chris Machian- The World Harold)

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: Milwaukee Bucks: Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous. The talent they already have and can acquire with Adebayo will allow the Bucks to get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard fits the new style of the NBA. He is a pure shooter and can be a valuable scorer in the NBA. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise but as a sidekick to Paul George, he could thrive. George wants the Pacers to add talent so they can compete for a title adding Kennard would help go a long way in the Pacers effort to keep Paul George when he becomes a free agent.

19: Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Dwight Howard is aging and no longer a top center in the NBA. The Hawks must prepare for the future and that could be in the form of Jarrett Allen. Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

20: Portland Trailblazers: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need help and Justin Jackson would fit perfectly with this team. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Blazers back into the playoffs.

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

Jackson needs to add weight but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished.

21: Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

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

OG Anunoby will improve the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor immediately. In college, Anunoby was able to defend all five positions and that kind of versatility will make him a valuable player.

He also shot 36 percent from three in his career and will help take some pressure off of Russell Westbrook.

22: Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, C, California

The Nets will not be good for a long time which means they can be patient with the development of Ivan Rabb. He has lots of potential to grow offensively.

Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and that is what the Nets will try and bottle up and turn into a consistent output.

23: Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany

Isaiah Hartenstein is a bit of an unknown but is an old school big man. He plays an extremely physical style and is a great rebounder. Hartenstein is also a great shot blocker and the Raptors really need an inside presence. He has very little experience but the success of Kristaps Porzingis helps Hartenstein.

Isaiah Hartenstein will need a lot of developing on his offensive game but with the Raptors current roster, he can fill the role of rebounder and rim protector without having to rush his offensive development.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN, PF, PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the 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. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia

Terrance Ferguson has been very hyped up as of late. He attacks the basketball and can also be a spot up shooter. Ferguson will need to develop defensively but would be a good fit with the Magic who need some more scoring.

26: Portland Trailblazers: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU

Semi Ojeleye is an athletic freak. Ojeleye can handle the ball, shoot threes, create his own shot and get to the rim. Semi Ojeleye is going somewhat underrated in this draft because of his lack of perimeter defense. The Blazers have enough picks to take a shot on Ojeleye to continue building the depth needed to compete in the West.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL, PF, OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0

(Photo Credit: http://247sports.com)

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

28: Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is a leader and a winner, and the Lakers could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. Hart doesn’t have to be a starting shooting guard to make a big impact. Every team needs a bench scorer and Hart can fill that void for the Lakers as they continue to build towards a championship.

29: San Antonio Spurs: Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana

Any player that the Spurs take should celebrate as if they won the championship. The Spurs will develop Thomas Bryant into a solid NBA starter. Bryant is an excellent rebounder and has a knack for getting offensive boards. He has some decent low post moves and with Gregg Popovich coaching him up he can turn decent into dominant.

30: Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse

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

Second Round

31: Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon

32: Phoenix Suns: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida St.

33: Orlando Magic: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.

34: Sacramento Kings: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia

35: Orlando Magic: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan

36: Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon

37: Boston Celtics: Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor

38: Chicago Bulls: Devin Robinson, F, Florida

39: Philadelphia 76ers: Derrick White, G, Colorado

40: New Orleans Pelicans: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

41: Charlotte Hornets: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina

42: Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort, F/C, France

43: Houston Rockets: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah

44: New York Knicks: Frank Jackson, SG, Duke

45: Houston Rockets: Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA

46: Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia

47: Indiana Pacers: LJ Peak, SG Georgetown

48: Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso

49: Denver Nuggets: Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson

50: Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, PF, Australia

51: Denver Nuggets: Alberto Abalde, SF, Spain

52: Washington Wizards: Cameron Oliver, PF, Nevada

53: Boston Celtics: PJ Dozier, SG, South Carolina

54: Phoenix Suns: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

55: Utah Jazz: Sindarius Thornwell, SG, South Carolina

56: Boston Celtics: Aleksandear Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

57: Brooklyn Nets: Edmund Summer, PG, Xavier

58: New York Knicks: Sterling Brown, SG, SMU

59: San Antonio Spurs: Monte Morris, PG, Iowa St.

60: Atlanta Hawks: Wesley Iwundu, SG, Kansas State

 

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Atlanta Hawks 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Atlanta Hawks 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Welcome to day 18 of Draftmas where we will take a look at the Atlanta Hawks 2017 NBA Draft profile.

Summary

Atlanta Hawks 2017 NBA Draft Profile

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

The Atlanta Hawks are one of the most consistent franchises in the NBA. Atlanta has made the playoffs for 10 straight seasons. Last season, they finished with a 43-39 record which earned them the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta lost to Washington in the first round 4-2. The Hawks have some really good players, most notably, Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap but they are missing that go-to star who will take the team to the next level.

In those 10 straight playoff appearances, they have never been able to reach the Finals, and have only reached the conference finals once which was in the 2014-2015 season. Head coach Mike Budenholzer is a product of Gregg Popovich which means he has the Hawks playing team basketball predicated on ball movement. This is evident in their 10th overall ranking in assists, averaging 23.6 per game.

This is why the Hawks are still consistently good without that superstar player. If Atlanta wants to become a legitimate contender they need to find that star whether it is via free agency or the draft.

Atlanta’s strengths are on the defensive side of the court. The Hawks ranked 10th in points allowed per game (104), seventh in steals per game (8.3) and fifth in opponents field goal percentage (44.4 percent).

Offensively is where the Hawks struggle the most. They ranked 28th in both turnovers (15.8 per game) and free throw percentage (72.8 percent). Atlanta ranked 18th in field goal percentage (45.1 percent) and 23rd in three-point percentage (34.1 percent).

One of the remaining bright spots for the Hawks was their rebounding, they ranked ninth in the NBA averaging 44.3 rebounds per game.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No. 19

Second Round: No. 31, No. 60

The Hawks need to find some scoring in this draft. It will be highly unlikely that they find a franchise star late in the first round so scoring has to be their number one priority.

Atlanta could also look to draft a big at either center or power forward. Dwight Howard is past his prime and there may be better options at his position. Paul Millsap is also on the back half of his career and there were trade rumors surrounding him last season.

Atlanta needs more depth at their small forward position as well. It may not make sense to draft a small forward since that is the position they drafted last year in Taurean Prince but they need another rotation player at that spot.

The last need for the Hawks to become a better team is by adding depth at the point guard position. Dennis Schroder is an average point guard and adding a second point guard to either compete against or spell him would improve the Hawks.

 

Targets & Thoughts

Atlanta Hawks 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: http://www.courier-journal.com)

Pick #19: Bam Adebayo F/C Kentucky

Many of the top shooting guards will be drafted by the time the Hawks are on the clock. Atlanta will look to take the best available big man remaining and around pick 19 that would be Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo. Adebayo averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his first season at Kentucky.

Bam Adebayo is very athletic and loves to play an aggressive style of basketball. His goal is to posterize everyone in his path. Bam is also one of the best offensive rebounders in this draft class.

He will need some more development on offense as all of his game is predicated on playing near the rim. To become a solid NBA starter he will need to work on a midrange game as well.

Defensively, Adebayo is a stud. He has shown the ability to be a fierce rim protector along with the versatility to switch screens and defend quick guards as well.

Bam may not be a dominant force in the NBA but as he develops he can become a solid starter capable of replacing either Dwight Howard or Paul Millsap as they leave Atlanta.

Pick #31: Sindarius Thornwell SG South Carolina

Early in the second round, the Hawks could find a gem at the shooting guard position. Sindarius Thornwell was the best player for South Carolina during their Final Four run. Thornwell can score in all sorts of ways. Inside, outside, off screens, in transition and even spot-up shooting.

Sindarius averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game and a player efficiency rating of 30.3. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from behind the arc.

Thornwell has some flaws defensively but his offense could help Atlanta right away. He has a chance to be the next second round gem in the NBA.

Pick #60: Kobi Simmons PG Arizona

Kobi Simmons will be a late second-round pick who may struggle to make the roster. As the final pick in the draft, the Hawks will take a chance on a possible backup point guard. He has a lot of potential but only averaged 8.8 points and 2.0 assists while at Arizona. Simmons also only shot 39.7 percent.

Simmons has tons of athleticism but lacks basketball I.Q. If he can tap into the potential scouts have raved about since he was in high school he has a chance to become a solid backup point guard in the NBA.

Conclusion

Atlanta has made the playoffs for 10 straight years but can’t seem to get over the hump. The Hawks need to continue acquiring talent and building depth. The strength of the team is on defense and the Hawks must improve their offense by adding shooters and scorers.

The number one goal is to get a shooter but if one isn’t available at pick 19 they should go after big men for depth. If the Hawks can do these things they can close the gap on the top teams in the East. They may not win a championship next year but you can guarantee they will make the playoffs.

Thanks for checking out the Atlanta Hawks 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 19 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to do.

Day 17 Draftmas: Indiana Pacers

Day 16 Draftmas: Milwaukee Bucks

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Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft

Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft Profile

The Game Haus brings you day 15 of NBA draftmas to focus on the Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft profile.

Summary

Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft Profile

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

Fans in Chicago have been protesting John Paxson and Gar Forman for years due to the moves they have made within the front office. There is a common conception that as long as these two men are leading the Bulls, there will be no chance at winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Chicago had one of the most up and down seasons in the NBA. The signings of Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo during the offseason had created high expectations.

The Bulls never got on a roll and played .500 basketball all season long. There was a trade around late February that sent fan-favorite Taj Gibson, role player Doug McDermott and 2018 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return, the Bulls received Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow. This trade left the fanbase, and the rest of the NBA, confused on the direction of the Bulls.

Head coach Fred Hoiberg spent most of the season trying to find a lineup he liked. This left Rajon Rondo in limbo as his role changed from starter to bench player to not seeing the court and back to the starter in April.

Even with all the drama in the Windy City, the Bulls finished the season 41-41 to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the playoffs, the Bulls put the Celtics on the ropes winning both road games to take a 2-0 series lead. Rajon Rondo had been magnificent in the first two games averaging 11.5 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game. The Bulls looked efficient and effective as Rondo led the team.

During Game 2, Rondo broke his thumb and it was clear in Game 3 that the Bulls could not win without him. Boston went on to win four straight to take the series and eliminate the Bulls from the playoffs.

Chicago needs to improve its offense by adding some shooting. The Bulls ranked 23rd in scoring (102.9 points per game), 25th in field-goal percentage (44.4 percent) and 24th in three-point percentage (34 percent).

Defensively, the Bulls ranked sixth in points allowed per game giving up just 102.4 points per game. Chicago was in the middle of the pack in field-goal percentage ranking 14th shooting 45.6 percent.

Chicago can become a really dangerous team if they add some more efficient shooters.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No. 16

Second Round: No. 38

Chicago has been searching for a starting small forward ever since Luol Deng left. The Bulls can try and find that player in this draft. Jimmy Butler can play small forward but is really a shooting guard. Denzel Valentine may be able to take on this role as he develops but it is not a certainty he becomes a starter.

The Bulls also need a backup point guard. Rajon Rondo’s injury highlighted that in the playoffs.

What the Bulls need more than anything is outside shooting. As mentioned earlier, Chicago struggled shooting the ball both from the field and from behind the arc. If they can find an efficient scorer at pick 16 then the Bulls need to jump on him quickly.

Robin Lopez is also a decent center but the Bulls could improve there as well. Depending on how the draft plays out, the Bulls may look to take a young center with a lot of promise.

One thing is for certain, Chicago will have many options available to them at pick 16 and depending on what they do, it will show the fans the direction the Bulls are truly heading.

Targets & Thoughts

Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit:Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

Pick #16: Justin Patton C Creighton

Most of the players the Bulls truly want will likely be gone by the time they are on the clock. This will give Chicago a chance to make a minor splash. Justin Patton doesn’t fit their need of improved outside shooting but it does give them a young center capable of becoming a star.

Patton has the potential to be a dominant NBA center. He is listed at seven foot and 230 pounds. In his one season at Creighton, Patton averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 67.6 percent. He also added 1.9 blocks per game while only averaging 25 minutes per game.

Patton had a player efficiency rating of 25.3 and win shares of 4.3. He could come in and be a solid bench player as a rookie before he eventually becomes a starter. Patton is just 20 years old and still needs time to develop but the potential is there.

Pick # 38: Dwayne Bacon SF Florida State

Dwayne Bacon is all over the place in mock drafts. Most have him going late-first or early-second round and if he falls to the Bulls, they won’t hesitate to take him. There won’t be a good enough shooter remaining to help the Bulls biggest need.

Bacon has good size and length to impact both ends of the floor. At Florida State, in his sophomore season, Bacon displayed aggression on offense and was most comfortable in transition. He could give the Bulls much needed athletism and explosion.

Conclusion

Chicago is in the worst spot to be in the NBA, which is being mediocre. The front office needs to commit to either trying to win a title or rebuilding the team. They seem content with simply making the playoffs. Gar Forman and John Paxson have publicly stated they will be building around Jimmy Butler.

The Bulls play solid defense and need to improve offensively if they want to become contenders. Drafting Justin Patton would give the Bulls a good, young center with the potential to become a star. Selecting Dwayne Bacon would give the Bulls much-needed athletism.

Thanks for checking out the Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 15 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Milwaukee Bucks are going to do.

Day 14 Draftmas: Portland Trailblazers

Day 13 Draftmas: Miami Heat

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2017 NBA Finals

2017 NBA Finals Preview

The 2017 NBA Finals are set and the wait is finally over. The world gets to see the Golden State Warriors matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third-straight year in the Finals.

It is the grudge match of all grudge matches. Everyone has been waiting for this series since the season tipped off on Oct. 25, 2016. Some have been waiting for this since Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in July.

This third fight between the Warriors and Cavs will be bigger than the “Thrilla in Manila”.

How They Got Here

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: REX Shutterstock)

The Golden State Warriors went 67-15 this season following a record-breaking 73-win season in 2016. Golden State also broke the record for most wins over a three-year span.

This Warriors team is actually better than last year’s team thanks to the signing of Kevin Durant. The Warriors took it easy in the regular season because their goal all year was to meet the Cavs in the Finals.

Golden State made quick work of their playoff opponents. They swept all three opponents in a tough Western Conference. What the Warriors have done this postseason has been impressive and they sent a message. Winning the Finals is an obsession to them and nothing else is considered acceptable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had it as easy as the Warriors. Cleveland went 51-31 and finished as the second seed in the East. The Cavs really struggled in the second half of the season. After Jan. 1st the Cavs went 26-24. They looked bad defensively and some started to question whether or not they were capable of another Finals run.

All those questions were put to bed quickly once the playoffs started. The Cavs easily swept the Pacers and Raptors before meeting the top-seeded Celtics in the conference finals. Cleveland then wiped Boston off their home-court in embarrassing fashion. Boston stole game three but all that did was delay the inevitable. Cleveland went on to finish the next two games easily to reach the finals for the third straight year.

Round One: Cleveland Hurt

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The first year these two teams met in the Finals was in 2015. Kevin Love had been hurt in the first round and would miss the remainder of the playoffs.

Game 1 of the Finals dealt another injury to a Cleveland star. Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap in the first game of the series during overtime. Golden State would win that game and win the series 4-2 to capture its first title in 40 years.

Many called the Warriors title tainted claiming that they would not have won the championship had the Cavaliers been healthy. They were champions without respect and it was their mission to prove they were worthy of the crown.

LeBron had failed to bring a title to Cleveland and many were wondering if it was the right move to leave Miami. The criticism was high despite him averaging 35.8 points per game, 8.8 assists per game and 13.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 38.9 percent from the field. Just as the Warriors were determined to prove they were worthy of the crown, LeBron was determined to bring a title home.

Round Two: Suspension Sparks A Comeback

2017 NBA Finals

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

Cleveland and Golden State would meet again in the 2016 Finals for a rematch. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were both healthy for this matchup and many thought the Cavaliers would prove they were truly the better team. Coming into the Finals the Cavaliers had only lost two games in the East.

The Warriors had a much tougher road in the West. They had to comeback from being down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. Throughout the playoffs, Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala were dealing with nagging injuries. They played through those injuries but were not at full strength and expanded tons of energy just to get to the Finals.

In the beginning of the series, none of that seemed to matter. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead and had the largest combined margin of victory in NBA Finals history. Cleveland would win Game 3 and Golden State won Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. In that game, Draymond Green was assessed a flagrant foul, setting his playoff total to four, resulting in a suspension for Game 5. No team had ever come back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.

Cleveland was able to win Games 5 and Game 6 to force an epic Game 7.

After six games the teams were tied in games won and total score. It was as close as a series as it could ever be and the final game of the year would truly decide a champion.

In Game 7, LeBron James blocked a late layup attempt by Andre Iguodala that set up a game-winning 3-pointer by Kyrie Irving. The Cavs won Game 7 93-89 and ended a 52-year championship drought in the city of Cleveland.

The Warriors had lost in the Finals and believed that had Iggy been healthier he would have dunked the ball. Golden State fans also believed that Curry wasn’t healthy and that if Draymond had not been suspended they would have won Game 6 and the series.

Round Three: Bragging Rights

2017 NBA Finals

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

Fast forward to now and here we are set for round three. The Warriors added superstar Kevin Durant to help them get back to the Finals for a third-straight season. The Cavaliers added minor pieces but have made it back to defend their title.

Golden State ended a 40 year drought and Cleveland ended a 52-year drought.

As mentioned earlier the Warriors enter the Finals 12-0 and the Cavaliers enter the Finals 12-1. Both teams sprinted to the Finals as fast as possible, and as rested as possible.

In round three, there are no excuses. Both teams are healthy and both teams will be rested. It is time to put up or shut up. It is time to make a mark on history.

Who’s era is it really? Without trying to predict too far ahead, it is unlikely these teams meet for a fourth straight Finals appearance.

Cleveland comes into the Finals averaging 116.8 points per game while Golden State comes in averaging 118.3 points per game. Both teams are great offensively but the team who plays the best defense will win this series.

There are so many fun matchups the world gets to see in this series as well. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson versus Kyrie Irving. Draymond Green versus Tristan Thompson, LeBron James or Kevin Love.

The most intriguing though is when Kevin Durant and LeBron James match up against one another. Two of the best players in the world will fight it out to be called the champion.

This series will go down in history. At the end of the day, the Warriors are going to win because they have just too much firepower. They lost last season by four points in Game 7. Adding Kevin Durant to the mix will just be too much. All eyes are on the Finals to see who really is the best between these two franchises.

The new greatest rivalry in sports will write the newest chapter this summer, changing legacies forever.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors 4-2

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft V. 3.0 (Post-Lottery)

The lottery has finally passed and the draft order is now officially set. As the Finals approach, so does the draft season. All but the final four teams are focused solely on the draft, which means The Game Haus is too.

This mock draft will take a look at where players may go in late June. Also, if you loved Draftmas for the NFL draft, be on the lookout for the hardwood version of Draftmas coming soon here at The Game Haus.

For now, here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft, version three.

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Boston is in great position after winning the lottery. It is also obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college, but I.T. is a proven commodity. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything yet in the association.

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

2: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

LaVar Ball and the rest of his family got exactly what they hoped for in the lottery. The Lakers came away with the second overall pick. LaVar has made it clear that he wants his son to be the next Laker great. He has even said that his son, Lonzo, will not work out for the Celtics. Lonzo is from L.A., and not only is it his dream, but he believes it’s his destiny, to rock purple and gold.

There are also rumors swirling that teams are putting together trade packages in hopes of acquiring D’Angelo Russell, who may be on his way to bigger things. You can read about how well he has actually progressed as a player here.

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

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

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. The Lakers have a difficult decision ahead of them, but pairing Ball with Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle could lead to more parades in Hollywood.

3: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

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

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

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

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

4: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the West in two to three years.

Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

5: Sacramento Kings: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

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.

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

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

6: Orlando Magic: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for five straight years in a very weak Eastern Conference. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but they need more talent outside of Aaron Gordon. At this point, the best thing the Magic can do is pick the best available player, which in this position would be De’Aaron Fox.

Fox doesn’t get the hype that Fultz or Ball get, but is definitely going to be a force in the NBA. Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

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

7: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

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

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside.

Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

8: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith JR PG N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock draft

(Photo Credit: WILLIAM HOWARD/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

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

The Zen Master needs to make the most out of this pick to win back the love of the Knicks’ fan base, and Dennis Smith could bring that love to the Big Apple.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile, left-handed player who can score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

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

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

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): JONATHAN ISaAC PF FLORIDA STATE

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

11.CHARLOTTE HORNETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, loves him some Tar Heels. Justin Jackson would be a terrific fit in Charlotte. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has never lived up to the hype of a second overall pick. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Hornets back into the playoffs.

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

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished. Charlotte would improve by drafting Jackson.

12: DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 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.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: Zach Collins F Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.

Collins is a real good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.

14: MIAMI HEAT: T.J. LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat were 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.

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

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.

Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.

17: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

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

18: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard.

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

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

19: ATLANTA HAWKS: IVAN RABB C CALIFORNIA

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future, and Ivan Rabb is the future at center.

He has lots of potential to grow offensively. Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance.

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

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

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own.

Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs. Filling the small forward spot is of utter importance to the Thunder.

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

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs a lot of help, even though they played better late in the year.

Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA. Every team needs that type of player, and the Nets can’t get a franchise-changing player in the early 20s. They will have to settle for finding solid role players until they can get a franchise changing player.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

If Kyle Lowry is truly leaving, then Toronto is going to need a point guard. At this point in the draft, there aren’t any point guards capable of starting.

The Raptors may have to let Cory Joseph be the guy and draft a wing player here. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player, allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the 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. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner, and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room.

Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. If they put together a backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Josh Hart, the Magic could make the playoffs as early as next season.

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

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA off the bench. Anything more than being a role player would be a huge win for the Blazers.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL PF OREGON

Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.

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

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

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Jarrett Allen C Texas

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been average at best since signing with the Spurs. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can play as Robin to Leonard. Jarrett Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.

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

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team. The Jazz continue to build depth at hopes of a deeper postseason run.

 

Featured Image by Yahoo Sports

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

LeBron James

The Second-Best Player in the Eastern Conference

Most NBA fans will say the Western Conference is better than the Eastern Conference, and it certainly would look that way if you look at the players.

In the West, there’s the MVP race between Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There are also other top talents like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Chris Paul and more. There is argument about who is the top player in the competitive West.

In the East, one man stands alone at the top, and that is LeBron James. James is the NBA’s best and has been untouchable in the East.

The bigger question is who is the East’s second best player? This could be debated between a few stars. Here is a breakdown of some of the top talent in the East.

Kyrie Irving

A lot of Cavs fans might argue the next best behind James is his sidekick Kyrie Irving. Irving definitely has a nice resume. This season he averaged 25.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 40.1 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Kyrie Irving

Photo by Kentucky Sports Radio

Irving has proven to be a clutch performer, evidenced in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season and on Christmas day. He handles the ball better than anyone else in the league and is one of the best at playing iso.

However, Irving’s ability to lead the Cavs without James remains in question. Everyone knows how bad the Cavs’ record is when James sits. Irving may not be able to lead the Cavs, but he compliments James very nicely. The two of them make a great duo.

Paul George

PG-13 just might be the biggest star James has blocked from the NBA Finals. James’ teams have been in the Finals in all seven of George’s NBA seasons and have beaten George all four times they’ve met in the postseason.

Paul George

Photo by USA Today

George has had some nice numbers. This season he averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 39.3 percent from 3-point range. George has been playing his best basketball since coming back from his leg injury two years ago. George is also known for his solid defensive play.

George does have a few weaknesses to him. Unlike Irving, George lacks the clutch gene. In the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter, George is 0-15 on go-ahead shot opportunities since he came into the league, which ranks worst in the NBA. George said during their series with the Cavs that he thinks he should be the guy taking those final shots. However, he still hasn’t proven he can make those shots.

George also has few assists. If he wants to be on James’ level, that is something he is going to have to improve on.

Isaiah Thomas

Kenny Smith and Colin Cowherd have already said they believe Thomas is the second-best player in the East. His breakout season has him averaging 28.9 points per game (highest in the East) and 5.9 assists. Thomas also rocked a 26.59 player efficiency rating, which was good for second-best in the East.

Isaiah Thomas

Photo by The Boston Globe

Thomas is also second in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring behind Westbrook. Thomas plays until the end of the game and has had many clutch moments throughout the season.

The biggest weakness for Thomas is his defense. It has been talked about all season long. The 5-foot-9 point guard has the lowest defensive real plus-minus in the NBA at -4.08.

Thomas can definitely score a lot, but so can a lot of other players. Thomas is going to have to prove he can be at least average on defense if he wants to challenge James.

John Wall

John Wall had his best season yet this year. The Wizards point guard had career highs in points (23.1) and assists (10.7) per game. The assists, along with his two steals per game, were tops in the Eastern Conference.

John Wall

Photo by CBS Sports

He helped lead the Wizards to the fourth seed in the East after missing the playoffs last year. Wall is a playmaker and the most true point guard in the East.

One obvious issue Wall has in his game is the amount of turnovers he commits. Wall was third in the NBA and first in the East for total turnovers. Harden and Westbrook were first and second in this stat and each had over 100 more than Wall. A lot of the NBA’s stars also rank high in turnovers due to the amount they handle the ball, so it isn’t a huge concern that Wall ranks third on this list.

Wall has made several small improvements to his game. You couldn’t even tell he had surgery on both of his knees in the offseason because it slowed him down in no way. He can only continue to get better from here, especially if he can cut down on his turnovers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the biggest candidate for Most Improved Player. He also has a case for the East’s second best player.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Photo by Sporting News

The Greek Freak is similar to James in the way that he dominates almost all the major stat category on his team. He lead the Bucks in points (22.9), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), steals (1.6) and blocks (1.9) per game. His regular season totals in those five categories also ranked in the top 20 in the NBA, making him the first player in history to finish in the top 20 in all the five major categories.

He is definitely a freak of nature. He is listed at 6-foot-11 and 222 pounds. He can play every position on the court. Oh, and he is just 22 years old and just finished his fourth season, which was his best yet. The sky is the limit for Antetokounmpo.

In order for him to get to the next level, he is going to have to improve in some areas. One of those is shooting. The Greek Freak can definitely improve on his jump shot overall, including 3-point shooting and free throws. He improved in both 3-point and free-throw shooting this season, but it can get better.

He can also do a better job handling the ball as he finished ninth in turnovers. He joins Wall and a lot of other stars that finished high in this category.

The Final Verdict

Caron Butler and Charles Barkley both called Wall the second best in the East earlier this week. I’m going to join them.

The second best in the East has to be Wall. He’s fast and can score and pass at a high level. He shares the Wizards’ backcourt with Bradley Beal perfectly. They’ve seemed to put their past differences aside and are playing great basketball together. Wall has Washington back to where they have been in the past few years and has them on a rise to stardom.

ESPN’s First Take recently debated if Wall is now the best point guard in the NBA based on his performance this postseason. I’m not ready to give him that title, especially with guys like Westbrook, Harden and Curry still dominating. However, I’m willing to call him the best point guard in the East as well as the East’s second-best player.

It is going to be exciting to see Wall’s full potential as he enters the final prime years of his career. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greek Freak tops Wall in the next few seasons to take this title away from him.

I’m not even going to attempt to guess at which point LeBron James will slow down. Analysts keep predicting it and he keeps proving them wrong.

(Featured Image by Huffington Post)

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NBA Playoff Races

NBA Playoff Races

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

Western Conference: First Seed

NBA Playoff Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Conference Race for 8th

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

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

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

The Rest of the West

NBA Playoff Races

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

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

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

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

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

The East’s Top Half

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

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

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

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

The Rest of the East

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

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

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

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

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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