The Rise of The Miami Heat

The Miami Heat have somehow played their way into the NBA playoff picture. It seemed like the Heat were lottery bound after a dismal 11-30 start. They now sit at 34-36 and are in the thick of the playoff race.

The turnaround started in the backcourt. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have been dominant in the second half of the season, which has been a huge factor in the epic turnaround.

Dragic is now averaging 20.3 points and six assists per game, and Waiters is putting up 15.8 points and 4.3 assists. The Heat should continue to contend down the stretch even with Waiters’ injury. Tyler Johnson should be able to fill Waiters’ role nicely until he is able to return from his injury (which he anticipates will be before the end of the season).

Another key to their success has rested in the continual rise of Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is averaging his career high in points and rebounds (16.7/14.2) and he leads the league in the latter category. Whiteside received a huge deal over the summer that many people were critical of. It seems as if the deal is paying off for the Heat.

Many were harshly critical of how disengaged Whiteside was last season. He was often accused of taking plays or even entire games off and not giving his full effort. That problem seems like it has been fixed, and his teammates claim that he is able to bounce back quickly and stay engaged in the game. He may be averaging less per game than he did during the Heat’s 11-30 start, but he has shot more efficiently from the field and improved from the free throw line. He also has a distinctly improved plus/minus.

Now sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, it is time for the Heat to make their final push for the playoffs. The final push, however, will be one of their toughest of the season. The March 28 matchup against the Detroit Pistons, who are the current eight seed, may prove to be crucial.

On top of that, they finish the season with games against the Celtics, Cavaliers, Raptors (twice), and Wizards (twice). It’s going to be tough for the Heat to make it to the playoffs considering the brutal final push. However, they can’t be counted out. Either way, it’s been an impressive feat that they’re still in the conversation this late.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Some Crazy (And Not-So-Crazy) Possible Trade Deadline Move

As the trade deadline approaches, it’s time to start thinking about some of the moves teams could make. With so many teams in the no-mans-land of not being elite, but not quite being terrible either, this trade deadline has the potential to be exciting. For the same reason, it also could lack intrigue and big moves.

Teams with young talent and no chance at a title may try to acquire picks or more young players. Teams on the cusp of being elite may try to bolster their roster. Here are some crazy (and not-so-crazy) deals teams should try to strike as the deadline approaches.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Rudy Gay

Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings

Alex Abrines

Kyle Singler

Andre Roberson

Cameron Payne

The Thunder get a deadly scoring threat to pair with Russel Westbrook. The Kings clear up cap space and are able to acquire more young talent (especially in Cameron Payne). Payne has a ton of potential and is wasting it as a backup in Oklahoma City. A change of scenery and a chance to get more minutes could do wonders for the second year player.

 

Sacramento Kings:

Goran Dragic

Miami Heat:

Rudy Gay

Ben McLemore

This move would be making the exact opposite decision for the Kings. In the above move, they would be gearing for the future. This move would allow them to make a run at the 8th seed this year with a consistent point guard threat. They would also acquire their point guard for the net few years. For the Heat, they would free up cap space, allowing them to make a run at a big free agent this year. They might even be able to leverage some kind of future pick from the Kings.

 

Portland Trailblazers:

Marcus Smart

1st Round Draft Pick (From Philadelphia)

 

Philadelphia 76ers:

CJ McCollum

 Boston Celtics:

Nerlens Noel

Now these start to get a little crazier. The Sixers have a stockpile of picks, and could use one of them to land an offensive star. With McCollum, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the Sixers would have their core to build around. The Trailblazers have been disappointing this season, and may decide it’s time to refocus their team. With a high draft pick and Marcus Smart, they could kick-start that rebuild. The Celtics could use Noel or Okafor on their team, but Noel would add a defensive presence that would be vital to this team. It wouldn’t make them an immediate contender, but it certainly would help.

Sacramento Kings:

Amir Johnson

Marcus Smart

1st Round Pick

Boston Celtics:

Demarcus Cousins

If the Celtics try and leverage their 1st round pick, that they can swap with the Brooklyn Nets, they may become an immediate contender for the Eastern Conference title. They are one star player away from being a title contender, and Boogie Cousins could certainly be that star. For the Kings, they could start their rebuild with a top 5 pick and a solid young player in Marcus Smart. They may require more to even consider this deal (Jae Crowder or Jaylen Brown) but a trade of the Kings’ star may be beneficial for both teams.

 

Charlotte Hornets:

Brandon Knight

 Phoenix Suns:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Frank Kaminsky

1st Round Pick

The Hornets need to help Kemba Walker in the back-court if they want to succeed in the East. Brandon Knight may be the solution. Knight’s value is as low as it has been in years, and for a pair of young players and a pick they may be able to snag the guard. He is still a solid player and fully capable of making this team relevant in the Eastern Conference.

 

So, how many moves will we see go down at the Trade Deadline? Who will be the winners and losers? With so many talented players in the rumor mill, we can only hope it will be an eventful one.

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Isaiah Thomas: The Superstar We Nearly Overlooked

Isaiah Jamar Thomas. The  60th pick in the 2011 NBA draft is having a season that no NBA fan would call irrelevant. The 5’9” guard is showing the world why executives who drafted players such as Kyle Singler, Jon Leur and Shelvin Mack before him were erroneous picks.

Isaiah Thomas

The Boston Celtic hasn’t had the easiest road to where he is now – among the league’s elite. Traded twice in his now five-year career, it seemed as though Thomas would never be valued as an elite talent.

The Sacramento Kings reportedly wanted Darren Collison to possess the starting role over Thomas, and Thomas was averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists at the time of the trade. Isaiah was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Alex Oriakhi and a 7.3 million dollar trade exception in a sign-and-trade deal. For context, Oriakhi has never played a game in the Association, and now has a career in the Euro League.

Isaiah Thomas

Why would any team trade a player like Thomas? Clearly he had the potential to be something special. That is a question many would ask again at the 2014-2015 trade deadline.

Shortly after signing a four-year, 27 million dollar contract in the desert, the diminutive guard was on the move again, this time to the Boston Celtics. Amidst reports of derision among the crowded backcourt in Phoenix, the Suns front office sent Goran Dragic to the Miami Heat in a separate deadline deal.

Finally, Thomas landed on a team that appreciated his services and reaped the benefits of that trust. This relationship has propelled the Celtics to be a force, not only in the Eastern Conference, but the entire league.

During that 14-15 season, Boston won 40 games and squeaked into the postseason as the seventh seed. Isaiah finished second in Sixth Man voting that year. In his first playoff series, Thomas led the team in scoring with 17.5 points and assists with seven per game. He didn’t start a game that series. The team however, lost in four to the eventual conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

In his first full season with the team, Thomas had 24.8 points almost seven assists per 36 minutes, while shooting 46% from the field and 35% percent from three. He went on to start a career-high 79 games. The team won 48 games, and secured a fifth seed in a log-jammed conference. Thomas, deservedly so, played in his first All-star Game.

This season has seen the point guard take his game to even higher heights. He’s fourth in scoring at 28 points per game, and one of only seven players to score 50+ points this season. Elite players such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry have yet to record a 50-point game this season. He is also in the top ten in free throw attempts at nearly nine a game. Additionally, he’s hitting them at a career high 90% rate.

Isaiah Thomas

It’s not all about individual success either. With the addition of Al Horford in the offseason and the emergence of Avery Bradley, this Celtics team currently sits third in the East and is on pace for a 50-win season.

Isaiah saw 59 other players taken before him that talent loaded 2011 draft. Of players drafted in 2011, Thomas ranks fourth in minutes played this season and leads that draft in scoring. He’s well on his way to his second All-Star appearance as he is leading his team to a great season.

For Isaiah, he relishes the opportunity he has and thoroughly enjoys it per Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

…I’m like, man, I play for the Boston Celtics. I’m the franchise player for the Boston Celtics. Like, it doesn’t make sense.”

Isaiah may not have been appreciated for what he was early on, but now we see him for what he is — the superstar we don’t deserve, but are as grateful as anyone to have.

 

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