Chi’s Oct. 21 NBA Betting Guide

After going 5-1 on Friday night I thought I would make a quick post going over the Saturday night games. I’m going to start doing these either every Friday, Saturday or Sunday so keep look out!

 

Chi’s Best Bets:

Pacers @ Heat: (Heat -9)

The Pacers are entering Miami tonight after a tough loss to the Trailblazers. Both teams are going to be missing their big men, with Hassan Whiteside and Myles Turner both out for tonight’s tilt.

With the centers out the games will come down to whose back court shows up, Victor Oladipo and Goran Dragic will have to battle it out for this one.

Since the best players on each team are out I have no reason to believe this won’t be a close game. With all the injuries, the Pacers will cover or win outright, so take the Pacers and the points.

Chi’s Pick: Pacers +9

 

Pistons @ Knicks: (Pistons -2)

After Tobias Harris’s 31 point explosion in game one for the Pistons, he seemed to cool off a bit against the Wizards, putting up a modest 15.

Where the hell has Andre Drummond been this year? He has under 10 points in his first two games but he has managed to grab over 10 rebounds a game. If Detroit wants to make moves this season Drummond needs to get more involved with the offense.

In the Knicks’ opener, Porzingis put up huge numbers with 31 points and 12 boards, but is he enough to will the Knicks to victory?Image result for porzingis (ESPN.com)

Chi’s Pick: Pistons -2

 

Spurs @ Bulls: (Spurs -10.5)

Image result for Danny green (Hoops Nation)

This game is the only best bet of the night where your hoping for a absolute blow out. The Bulls may very well be the worst team in the league this year.

With the departure of Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade there is not much to be excited about when looking at this Bulls team. While the Spurs have been the model of consistency in the league.

I think the Spurs will get the job done by more than 11, and for all you daily fantasy people take a look at Danny Green in this game to go off.

Chi’s Pick: Spurs -10.5

Trail Blazers @ Bucks: (Bucks -3)

Giannis Antetokounmpo is wasting no time to build his resume for MVP this season averaging 35.5 points in his first two games this season.

With C.J. McCollum out tonight the Trailblazers will be fighting an uphill battle from the start. Damian Lillard will have to go crazy for them to have a chance against the upstart Bucks.Image result for giannis antetokounmpo (NBA.com)

This line makes no sense to me as the Bucks look clearly better, so I for one will be hammering the Bucks -3 tonight.

Chi’s Pick: Bucks -3

 

The Other Guys:

76ers @ Raptors: (Raptors -9.5)

Chi’s Pick: 76ers +9.5

 

Magic @ Cavaliers: (Cavaliers -11.5)

Chi’s Pick: Cavaliers -11.5

 

Mavericks @ Rockets: (Rockets -12.5)

Chi’s Pick: (Mavericks +12.5)

 

Warriors @ Grizzlies: (Warriors -8.5)

Chi’s Pick: Warriors -8.5

 

Kings @ Nuggets: (Nuggets -11)

Chi’s Pick: Kings +11

 

Thunder @ Jazz: (Thunder -4.5)

Chi’s Pick: Thunder -4.5

 

Suns @ Clippers: (Clippers -13)

Chi’s Pick: Suns +13

 

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Gordon Hayward free agency: Where he will land

Gordon Hayward began his recruiting tour as of July 1. The three stops he will be making are: Miami, Boston and of course the team who drafted him, Utah.  It is currently a toss-up on where Hayward will land.

Hayward is now the biggest free agent name out there so teams are gunning for him. Here’s what each teams’ advantages and disadvantages are for Gordon’s decision.

Gordon Hayward free agency

Utah Jazz

Hayward’s former team provides less of a threat than you would think.

Gordon Hayward free agency

Photo Courtesy of Torn By Sports.

Hayward is drawn to Utah because it is the place where his wife is and his kids have grown up. He has been in Utah all of his seven years in the league.

However, Hayward openly said that if George Hill was signed by the Jazz, he would strongly consider coming back.

Ricky Rubio was then traded for in the following days leaving Hill on the outs. Hayward then proceeded to opt out of his contract with the Jazz in response.

Ultimately for Hayward it might be time to leave behind Utah and the loaded Western Conference.

Miami Heat

Gordon Hayward free agency

The Miami Heat are the team that could possibly use Hayward the most. The Heat had the lowest point total of any position at Small Forward last year.

They have an established point guard in Goran Dragic and low post threat in Hassan Whiteside. They are just lacking the consistent shooter on the outside that could be provided with the signing of Hayward.

A draw for Hayward to the Heat is that there aren’t any state income taxes, meaning Hayward’s contract would technically be worth more because he doesn’t lose as much money to taxes.

He also would be coached by NBA champion, Erik Spoelstra, which is the only coach of the three that has won an NBA title.

The Heat seemed to be a sleeper to land Hayward originally, but I think they are more appealing than originally thought.

Boston Celtics

Gordon Hayward free agency

Photo Courtesy of Logo Eps.

The Celtics are the most visually appealing to Hayward. If he wants to contend for a championship, the Celtics are the team to sign with.

They are the reigning one seed in the Eastern Conference and just added Jayson Tatum, the number three draft pick.

Hayward would be playing alongside All-Star Isaiah Thomas as well as other key players.

He also has a strong connection to head coach Brad Stevens. Stevens coached Hayward at Butler University for two years and had extreme success going 59-11 together, and finishing runner-up in the 2009 National Championship.

One of the only negatives is Jae Crowder is still around. Splitting time with a solid player in Crowder may be hard to overcome for Hayward.

Where Hayward Will Land

Realistically, if Hayward really likes it in Utah then he might not go anywhere. If he is interested in contending and winning for a legendary city, then Boston is his place.

When it’s all said and done, the Celtics have the best team on paper and seem to be a great fit for him. In a league that’s all about getting paid, and winning rings, Hayward will likely take a little less money to be with a team that’s ready to contend right away.

Hayward will have to move past the fact that he doesn’t like Tom Brady, because when it’s all said and done he might just be sharing the spotlight with him.

 

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Heat

Miami Heat 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day 13 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the draft needs and targets of the Miami Heat.

Summary

Miami Heat 2017 Draft

Chris Bosh’s future as a part of the Miami Heat is in jeopardy. (Courtesy of Hot Hot Hoops)

The Heat finished the 2016-17 season with a 41-41 record, just missing the playoffs as the nine seed. Miami ranked 21st in offense and fifth in defense under head coach Erik Spoelstra, who has a .609 winning percentage through nine seasons with the team.

The Heat need to drastically improve their offense, although with the centerpiece of Hassan Whiteside, they have plenty of hope moving forward.

Whiteside has blossomed into a superstar since being waived three times by two NBA teams. The 7-footer averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks per game this season.

Along his side stands 6-foot-3 point guard Goran Dragic, who also had his best career season to date, averaging 20 points and six assists per game. Miami has a great duo in Whiteside and Dragic, although we cannot overlook their talented wing players.

Tyler Johnson, Justice Winslow, James Johnson and Josh Richardson all look to be returning next season, while Dion Waiters is in search of a long-term deal under the new collective bargaining agreement. Waiters averaged 16 points per game last season and would be a significant loss.

Rotoworld.com reports that Chris “Bosh’s lawyers and the players’ union had tentatively agreed to a resolution that would clear Bosh’s money off of Miami’s books and allow him to sign elsewhere.” It looks likes the Chris Bosh situation is finally coming to an end, which means the Heat will be able to resign Waiters and address their power forward needs through the draft or with a trade.

Miami Heat 2017 Draft Profile Picks & Needs

Miami has only one pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

First Round: No. 14

The Heat have a glaring need at the power forward position. With a pick in the middle of the first round, they will have a multitude of options to fill the void.

Targets & Thoughts

Miami Heat 2017 Draft

John Collins would be a perfect fit next to star Hassan Whiteside. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Option 1

Pick #14: John Collins, Power Forward/Center, Wake Forest

Collins is a 6-foot-10, 225-pound big man with incredible athleticism and strength. He excels at scoring and rebounding as he averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

The Demon Deacon was ranked 16th in the nation in offensive efficiency, 10th in offensive rebounding percentage and 17th in overall offensive rating.

These statistics show that he is an elite offensive player. He would be a perfect fit next to Whiteside, as he is an effective scorer from both the post as well as from mid-range.

Also, by adding his offensive rebounding next to Whiteside, the Heat would become arguably the most dominant offensive rebounding team in the league. If Miami is lucky enough to land Collins, they will have found a dominant offensive big man who can significantly increase their offensive efficiency.

Miami Heat 2017 Draft

Harry Giles, if healthy, could be the steal of the draft. (Courtesy of SI.com)

Option 2

Pick #14: Harry Giles, Power Forward/Center, Duke

Giles is somewhat of an unknown commodity. He averaged only a tick over 11 minutes per game in his freshman season, as he was recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee that occurred in the fall of 2016. Although this was not his first knee surgery, as he tore his ACL, MLC and meniscus in the same knee back in 2013.

Before the injury concerns, Giles was being compared to players like Kevin Garnett because of his size, athleticism, rebounding and offensive and defensive ability. The 6-foot-10 freshman has elite quickness and explosiveness for his size, even after the multiple knee surgeries.

His offensive game is extremely versatile as he possesses a great presence in the post while also being able to step out and hit a 15-footer with ease.

His size, strength and athleticism will allow him to defend multiple positions, only increasing his overall versatility. If Giles’ injuries are behind him, he will be the steal of the draft.

Other possible options include TJ Leaf (UCLA), Bam Adebayo (Kentucky) or Ivan Rabb (CAL)

Conclusion

With Chris Bosh’s NBA future in jeopardy, the Miami Heat have a serious hole at the power forward position. With a mid-first round pick, the team will have a few different options to select from.

John Collins is an elite offensive player who can make an immediate impact at the next level. Harry Giles’ injury history is very serious, although his size, athleticism and skill set will make him an incredible mid-first round pick.

Either of these options would significantly improve Miami’s roster and most likely propel them into the playoffs.

Thanks for checking out the Miami Heat 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 14 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Portland Trailblazers may do.

 

NBA Draftmas Day 11: Detroit Pistons

NBA Draftmas Day 12: Denver Nuggets

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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.

 

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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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Who Should Play in the NBA All-Star Game?

The NBA All-Star starters have been released, but not without its share of controversy. Russell Westbrook will be coming off the bench this year despite his historic start.

In anticipation of the final all-star lineups, here’s who should be playing in the exhibition this year. Keep in mind, that the starting lineup allows for two guards and three frontcourt players.

Starters

Isaiah Thomas: Kyrie Irving has the starting spot this year, but Isaiah Thomas is more deserving. Thomas has been on a roll this year for Boston. He is currently third in the NBA in scoring (outscoring James Harden) while shooting at a .461/.384/.907 clip. Thomas is the star and best player of the third best team in the East. Without a doubt, he deserves this spot.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak made the All-Star game as a frontcourt player this year, but the stats say otherwise. According to Basketball Reference, he has played over 60% of his minutes at shooting guard. So, I’m putting him in as a guard. Either way, the Milwaukee Bucks star has undoubtedly earned his spot in the starting lineup this year.

In fact, he has solidified his spot as one of the premier players in the game right now. For one, he is the only player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Let that sink in. He is leading his team in every major statistical category. On top of that, he is top-25 in the league in every one of those categories, and top-10 in points, steals, and blocks.

Giannis has been doing a little bit of everything for one of the most exciting teams in the Eastern Conference this year, and he is well deserving of an All-Star starting spot.

Jimmy Butler: The decision to put Jimmy Butler in my lineup was not an easy one. You can easily justify putting Demar Derozan in as a guard, and shifting Giannis to a frontcourt spot. Butler and Derozan have both been having monster seasons for their respective teams. On top of that, they have been having remarkably similar years.

Derozan has a slight edge in points, Butler has a small edge in rebounds, and they are almost exactly even in assists. Butler gets on my starting lineup, however, because of an edge in three point shooting and defense.

Butler has been a much better three point shooter than Derozan this year, which allows his team to spread the floor more when he is on the court. He also has a sizable edge in blocks and steals over Derozan. I wouldn’t say the voters made a horribly wrong choice in nominating Derozan, but Jimmy Butler gets the nod in my starting lineup.

LeBron James: LeBron is the best player in the league. He is top ten in the league in scoring and assists. What is a rather pedestrian year for one of the greatest players of all time still easily allows him a spot in the All-Star starting lineup. Oh, and he’s got a three point shot again.

Joel Embiid: The real All-Star game starting lineup has no true center. In fact, the lineup doesn’t even have a real big man. Yes, the game is changing and centers have become less and less important. But, Joel Embiid has been the best big man in the league this year, and possibly the most important player to his team’s success.

(courtesy of CSN Philly)

The Sixers have been on an absolute tear lately, and they can largely attribute that success to Embiid. They are a completely different team when he is on the floor. He leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks; and on top of that he is playing with a minutes restriction. It has been a weak year for Eastern Conference big men, and Embiid has been the most impressive. Call me crazy, but he deserves this spot.

Bench

Demar Derozan: The Raptors have been great this year, and Demar Derozan has absolutely been on fire. Critics might say he is a relatively one-dimensional player, but man can this guy score. He’s sixth in the league in scoring, trailing only James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, and Demarcus Cousins. He has been one of the best guards in the league and absolutely deserves a spot on this team.

Kyrie Irving: The East is stacked when it comes to point guards, but Kyrie is a no-brainer for this year’s All-Star game. Isaiah Thomas makes my starting lineup over Irving simply because he has more of a load to carry, but both guards are having great years for their teams.

John Wall: The Wizards have been scorching hot lately, after a dismal start to the season, and John Wall has sparked their success. Wall has cracked the top-15 in scoring, is third in the league in assists, and first in steals. He is one of the best pure point guards in the league, and he’s having a career year. He’s earned this.

Kevin Love: After Embiid, Kevin Love has been the best big man in the East this season. He’s rebounding at a ferocious rate again, and he’s hitting threes at his highest rate in years. After a healthy offseason where he’s been able to rehabilitate, Kevin Love has returned to being one of the premier power forwards in the league.

Hassan Whiteside: Whiteside has been the classic “good stats on a bad team” player this year. His eye-popping stats are less meaningful because of how abysmal the Heat have been. Regardless, it’s hard to keep a player with 17 points per game and 14 rebounds per game out of the All-Star game. The weak big men in the East this year only further his case.

Kristaps Porzingis: Putting aside his injuries, the Latvian stud has seen no signs of a sophomore slump. He’s been the best player on the Knicks when he’s healthy, and has continued his dominance on both ends of the floor. Another beneficiary of the weak frontcourts in the east this year, Porzingis is deserving of one of the East’s spots.

Kyle Lowry: Behind Derozan’s great season, Kyle Lowry has become somewhat under appreciated for the Raptors. He has a slash line of .470/.429/.824 while averaging 22 points and 7 rebounds per game. He may not have the same recognition has Demar Derozan, but he is deserving of a spot in the lineup nonetheless.

Starters

Russell Westbrook: Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double. I’ll Repeat: Averaging a TRIPLE-DOUBLE. As in, Russell Westbrook is doing something that hasn’t been done in 40 years. He is first in the league in scoring. He is second in the league in assists. He is eleventh in rebounds. It is absurd that Westbrook won’t be starting in this year’s All-Star game.

(courtesy of Clutch Points)

James Harden: 28.7 points per game. 11.6 rebounds per game. 8.2 rebounds per game. Harden is having an equally (if not more) impressive season than Westbrook. Harden and Westbrook are having the two best seasons in the NBA this year and should be starting in the All-Star Game for the Western Conference.

Kevin Durant: KD is having an incredibly efficient season (.544/.400/.862) and has already become the go-to guy on the Golden State Warriors. He has shown no real signs of a big adjustment period with is new team and has continued to be one of the best scorers in the NBA.

Kawhi Leonard: Kawhi has somehow quietly had a ridiculously good season. So is life playing for the San Antonio Spurs. Obviously, he is one of the best defenders in the league. The difference this year has been in his continued improvement on the offensive end. He’s scoring more than he ever has and is absurdly close to a 50/40/90 season.

Anthony Davis: If not for the struggles of his team, Anthony Davis would most likely be right up there with Harden and Westbrook in the MVP conversation. Seriously. The Brow is continuing his ascension to the top of the league, and is single-handedly keeping this team relevant. He’s fourth in the league in scoring, and seventh in rebounding. At this point, it’s hard to say he’s not the best big man in the league. Despite the deterioration of his team around him, Anthony Davis has done as much as anyone to earn his spot as a starter this year.

Bench

Steph Curry: Last year, Steph Curry had the best season of anyone in the league. This year, he’s not even having the best season on his own team. His shooting percentage and three point percentage may be way down, but he’s still averaging 24.6 points per game. He’s nowhere near the level of the unanimous MVP we saw last year, but it’s impossible to leave him off this team.

Demarcus Cousins: Behind Anthony Davis, Boogie has been the best big man in the league this year. Not to mention, he’s hitting threes at a 37.5% clip. Like Davis, he’s on an abysmal team and single-handedly keeping them relevant. No doubt, he makes the team.

Damian Lillard: Despite the Trailblazers’ fall from grace, Lillard has still had an All-Star-worthy year. His defense has been atrocious this year, but it’s simply too hard to keep a guy with 26 points and six rebounds per game out of the All-Star game.

Gordon Hayward: Gordon Hayward has been the most important and best player on the fifth-best team in the Western Conference. He has seen an uptick in scoring and in efficiency. Sure, he may not be a bona fide star in the league yet, but his season this year has been no joke.

Mike Conley: Conley has earned his max contract this year for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies aren’t a true contender in the top-heavy West, but Conley has made them competitive and fun to watch with his great season. 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game to go along with solid efficiency numbers warrant a first All-Star game for the Memphis star.

Karl-Anthony Towns: Towns and the Timberwolves haven’t quite lived up to his incredibly lofty expectations for this season. Despite that, he has undoubtedly had a great season so far. 22 points and 12 rebounds per game warrants an All-Star game spot despite his teams immense struggles.

Draymond Green: This last spot was the hardest to fill on the roster, but I decided to reward Draymond and the Golden State Warriors. They have clearly been the best team in the league this year so far, and Green has been a key part of that. He is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, and he has continued to do a little bit of everything for the Warriors. He scores when he needs to, he rebounds, he distributes, and he plays defense as well as anyone in the league. Draymond makes the roster based off of his contributions to his team over his stats.

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Who Should Start in the NBA All-Star Game

The 66th NBA All-Star game is set to be played Feb. 19 at 8:00 p.m. in New Orleans. Fans began voting for All Stars on Christmas day and can do so through NBA.com, the NBA app, Twitter, Facebook, or by Google search. Fans can submit one ballot a day on any of these platforms. Voting ends Jan. 16, so there is plenty of time for fans to cast their ballots.

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of Sporting News

There is a lot of argument over how voting is done and which players should be playing. Every fan has heard from someone that the All-Star game is just a popularity contest anymore. It is all offense and no defense. It is full of high flying dunks, deep three-point shots, and entertainment for the fan.

This season, the NBA changed the voting process and will allow fans to account for just 50% of the All-Star vote. The other 50% will be from NBA players and the media, each accounting for 25%. Time will tell if this new method will change the way players are selected. In the mean time, these are the guys I will be voting for.

Eastern Conference Starting Lineup

Kyrie Irving

If Kyrie has not yet proven he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, I don’t know what more he can do. He has proven how clutch he is with game-winning shots over his last two matchups against Golden State. He is second among Eastern Conference point guards in points per game (24), first in field goal percentage (48%), and second in three-point percentage (42%). He is also averaging nearly six assists a game. He is incredible when it comes to playing iso and has the best ball handling in the NBA.

Demar DeRozan

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of Yibada

DeRozan has shown a lot of improvement from last season. He is leading the East in scoring with just about 28 points a game. He has been a big part of the Raptors offense and is why they are second place in the Eastern Conference. His field goal percentage is also the highest it has been since his rookie season, and he is averaging almost three times the amount of shot attempts. No other two-guard compares to DeRozan in the East.

Lebron James

King James is the most obvious choice in the East lineup. The best player in the NBA is once again in the MVP talks like he is every season and his numbers back it up. Lebron is averaging 25 points, eight rebounds, and almost nine assists per game. He has the Cavs at the top of the Eastern Conference and that looks like it will not change anytime this season. Lebron is a sure lock in the All-Star game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Better known as the “Greek Freak,” Antetokounmpo is not only making a case as the league’s most improved player, but also an All-Star starter. The 22-year-old forward would be first in rebounds and assists for his position in the East if it wasn’t for Lebron James. He is also third in scoring for his position in the conference. With numbers like 23 points per game, nine rebounds, and nearly six assists, the Greek Freak should be seeing his first All-Star game action as a starter.

Hassan Whiteside

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of ESPN

Whiteside is probably the least likely of these selections to make the starting lineup. In this new small-ball era, popularized by Golden State, centers are a dying breed in the NBA. Last season no player over 6-foot-9 made the starting lineup. If this trend continues to grow, Whiteside may never get a chance to start. Whiteside is also better known for his defense rather than his offense, which is not popular amongst All-Star voters. Here is the argument for Whiteside.

His numbers per game are 18 points, 15 rebounds (first in the NBA), and just over two blocks (fourth in the NBA). The points are a career high for Whiteside, whose field goal percentage is also fourth in the east at 55%. Whiteside has the range to shoot jumpers, can catch lobs, and block shots as he said earlier in the season. He is no doubt the best center in the East and should earn a spot in this lineup.

Western Conference Starting Lineup

Russell Westbrook

The triple-double king and league’s leading MVP candidate should be as sure of a lock as Lebron James is in the East. The NBA’s leading scorer at nearly 32 points a game is also averaging 11 assists (second in the NBA) and 10 rebounds. No player has put up numbers like this since Oscar Robertson. Not much more to say about Westbrook, who knows how to put on a show for the crowd as well.

James Harden

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of Sporting News

Harden is showing this season that he is an All-NBA caliber player. Being left off the teams last season must have been all the motivation he needed. Harden is putting up MVP-like numbers with 27 points per game (fifth in the NBA) and is first in assists with 12. He is also averaging eight rebounds a game. Perhaps the most improved aspect of Harden’s game is his defense. You can tell from watching him that he is putting a lot of effort on both sides of the ball.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is pretty much just picking up where he left off last season. After moving over to Golden State, he quite possibly became the league’s most hated player. The same thing happened to Lebron James when he moved to Miami and it didn’t keep him out of the All-Star lineup. It should not keep Durant out either. He is averaging 26 points per game and nearly nine rebounds, which is a career high. Durant is still at the top of his position in the Western Conference.

Anthony Davis

NBA All-Star Game

Courtesy of USA Today

The league’s leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year is playing the best season of his life. Davis is averaging almost 30 points (second in NBA) and 12 rebounds (seventh in NBA) per game. Not to mention he is leading the NBA in blocked shots. Davis should also be hearing his name in the MVP talks, but the incredible players like Westbrook, Harden, and James have overshadowed him. Not to mention the fact he is on the Pelicans, one of the worst teams in the NBA. Nevertheless, Davis is a lock in the West lineup.

Demarcus Cousins

Unsportsmanlike conduct and bad attitude often overshadow the fact that Cousins has been the best center in the NBA for the last several years. This year he is no doubt at the top again. Cousins is third in the NBA in scoring (29 points per game) and also averaging just over 10 rebounds a game as well. No other center compares.

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Second Round Predictions Part II

Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel

Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks- This is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Championship in which Cleveland swept Atlanta. The Cavaliers have had tons of rest and are the better team. The loss of DeMarre Carroll does not make the Hawks better or give the Hawks a better chance than last year. Last year it was so much of a cake walk for the Cavs that I don’t think the Hawks have a real shot at winning unless the Cavs run into injuries. With that being said it would take four perfect games from Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Jeff Teague to win this series. The Cavaliers will win this series and the only question is in how many games.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers in 5

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat- Let me be the first to say it is fun to watch Dwayne Wade again. I see the old Wade, the Wade pre-LeBron. He is a much more exciting player without LeBron. He is the unquestioned leader for the Heat. He provides so much experience, heart and leadership for a team that is mostly young and talented. Luol Deng has lots of playoff experience as well that has been very beneficial to the Heat. It has given them a reliable all around player. Hassan Whiteside has been a beast defensively as well. The Heat look poised to win the series but the Raptors will not go down without a fight. It took them longer than expected to eliminate the Pacers but after a superstar performance from Demar DeRozan and a surprise performance from Norman Powell in game seven the Raptors advanced and will look to knock off the Heat. This could be a long series as well but an exciting and intriguing one. This series has a chance to be the best series of the second round. It is definitely a difficult series to pick. Sorry Toronto, I really want to see LeBron go to battle against Wade and the Heat.

Prediction: Miami Heat in 6

NBA Mid-Season Awards

kris

There has been plenty of rookies tearing it up this season. Photo by USA Today

It’s that time of year again everyone, the All-Star break. It is a little past the halfway point of the season but the All-Star break has always been looked at as the mid-season and for those teams who make deep postseason runs it still is. So catch your breath, gather yourself and lace your sneakers for the second half of the season.

There has been great basketball so far and it is only going to get better as teams fight for seeding and prepare for the road to the NBA Finals. Here are my mid-season awards.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)- Last year Boston finished with a sub .500 record and only had 40 wins. At the All-Star break Boston is currently the 3 seed in the East and has 32 wins. Many believed they would be better but nobody expected them to be this good. Brad Stevens is doing a phenomenal job and has made the jump from college to the pros better than most.

Honorable Mention: Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors)- The Raptors are currently the 2 seed in the East and improved some from last year. If they can catch the Cavaliers, Dwane Casey would deserve to be the Coach of the Year over Brad Stevens.

Most Improved Player: CJ McCollum (Portland Trailblazers)- CJ McCollum has seen a 20 minute per game increase in his minutes and he is flourishing because of it. His scoring has improved and he went from 6.8 points per game (ppg) to 20.7 ppg which is nearly a 14 point improvement. A big reason for that scoring improvement is, in part, due to his work ethic to improve his free throw shooting by nearly 10%  from 69.9% last year to 79.7% this year. Along with his scoring he has improved his assists per game by 3.2 per game, and his rebounds are up by 2.1 per game. Nobody has come close to improving as much as McCollum.

6th Man of the Year: Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder)- Enes Kanter could start for most teams in the NBA but has found a role with the Thunder as the 6th man. He is averaging 11.9 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. He is the best player coming off the bench this season and if the Thunder want to knock off the Warriors Enes Kanter has to continue being a dominant force off the bench.

Defensive Player of the Year: Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)- Hassan Whiteside is the one of the very few players in the NBA capable of getting a triple double with blocks.  The only other player who is capable is Anthony Davis. Hassan Whiteside is a terror inside and is blocking nearly four shots per game. What his stats don’t show is the amount of shots he alters. His presence on the interior is unmatched and he is the best rim protector in the NBA.

Honorable Mention: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)- Anthony Davis is close to becoming a superstar. Everyone loves how he plays and the potential he has but what a lot of people forget is that he is just as fun to watch on defense. He suffocates defenders and makes it miserable for whoever he guards. He could easily win this award but Whiteside has the edge.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)- Want to know what makes Towns the unanimous Rookie of the Year? When you watch him play you think he is a long time veteran. As a rookie he is averaging a double double with 17.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game. He joined Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James and Chris Webber as the only players to have a game with 35 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in a game under the age of 21. This is probably the easiest award to hand out.

Honorable Mention: Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks)- Porzingis was booed mightily on draft night and almost everyone said he would be a bust. Phil Jackson was ridiculed but is actually looking like a genius. Porzingis is already getting nicknames like Godzingis for his stellar play. He started off hot but has cooled down lately which is understandable due to the fact that he is 19 years old and only played in Europe. The NBA season is long and grinding and he will learn how to keep his body in shape for a full 82 game season. If he can find magic in the second half of the season he can close the gap between himself and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Most Valuable Player: Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)- Reigning MVP, and NBA champion Steph Curry has nothing to prove and nobody to compete against for the MVP Trophy. There is no competition, the race is over. At the All-Star break the Warriors are an unfathomable  48-4. They are cruising towards the record set by the 1995-96 Bulls of 72 wins in a season and being the best player on the best team that breaks that record is guaranteed the MVP trophy. Along with his team accomplishments, Steph Curry leads the league in scoring with 29.8 ppg, which is even more impressive when he sits out of a lot of fourth quarters. He is also averaging 6.6 assists per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and his player efficiency rating (PER) is 32.18 which would be a new NBA record. The current record is held by Wilt Chamberlain with a PER of 31.82 in the 1962-63 season. No player holds a candle to this resume, nobody else is in the running.