Who is the next best player in the NBA?

On Tuesday night, we saw the underachieving Cleveland Cavaliers face off against the exciting and intriguing Milwaukee Bucks. More importantly, we saw the undisputed best player in the league, LeBron James, square off against potential MVP finalist, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Behind Kevin Love’s 32 points, 16 rebounds and LeBron’s 30 points, Cleveland defeated the Bucks 124-119. Despite the loss, Antetokounmpo poured in 40 points, knocking down 16 of his 21 attempts. The Greek Freak also added nine rebounds and four blocks.

Still, Antetokounmpo’s plus/minus was -7. He also turned the ball over eight times. With that said, even at age 32, LeBron James remains the best player in the NBA. With Father Time being undefeated, it is obvious that James will eventually be dethroned, most likely in two to three years.

Ben Simmons is coming for the top spot (CBS Sports)

Once LeBron stops being the best player on the planet, will Antetokounmpo take over as the sport’s biggest star? What about The Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, over in New York? Another case could even be made for the emerging Sixers star, Ben Simmons, who through 10 games is averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Simmons already has seven games of at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Through their first 10 games, both Jordan and LeBron only had four. If he keeps his averages up, he will join Oscar Robertson as the only other player to average 17 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in a rookie season.

The following is an NBA timeline of the greatest players since 1970. This list of names was originally created by Nick Wright, co-host of FS1’s First Things First. While this list is obviously up for debate, it is, in my eyes, an extremely accurate timeline of who was the best player in the league over the last 47 years.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970-71) – (1977-78)

Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., is probably the most accomplished players in the history of basketball, absolutely dominated the seventies. During this eight-year timespan, Kareem won five MVPs, was a two-time scoring champion, and had four seasons in which he averaged at least 27 points and 15 rebounds.

In just his second season (1970-71), the Bucks, behind Kareem and Oscar Robertson, swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. Kareem, who at the time still went by Lew Alcindor, was named Finals MVP. Throughout the 1970-71 playoffs, Alcindor averaged 26.6 points and 17 rebounds. During his 1974 MVP season, Abdul-Jabbar finished in the top five in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage.

Moses Malone (1978-1979) – (1982-1983)

Form 1978-83, Malone won three MVPs, and led the NBA in rebounding five times. For his career, Malone ranks seventh in points and third in rebounds. Malone is the offensive rebounding king, as he currently sits as the all-time leader in that department.

Moses Malone, one of the best rebounders we have ever seen (ESPN.com)

In the 1977-78 season, Malone missed 23 games due to injury, yet still led the league in offensive rebounding, and finished second in total rebounds per game. The following season, after gaining 15 pounds, Malone led the league in minutes, and averaged 24.8 points with 17.6 rebounds per game.

During the 1982-1983 season, his first year with the Philadelphia 76ers, Malone averaged 24.5 points and a league-best 15.3 rebounds per game. He was named All-NBA first-team, as well as first-team All-Defensive. He became the only NBA player to win back-to-back MVPs on two different teams, and his Sixers would go on to win the championship, in an easy four game sweep over Kareem and the Lakers. Malone was named Finals MVP, and outscored Abdul-Jabbar 72-30 in the four games.

Larry Bird/ Magic Johnson (1983-1984) – (1989-1990)

It’s hard to decide who was the better of the two, but Larry and Magic ran the 80s. In the 1983-84 season, Bird’s Celtics defeated Magic’s Lakers in the NBA Finals. The following year, the Lakers beat the C’s in six. In 1985-86 Boston reclaimed their spot on top, only to be defeated the following season by, you guessed it, the Lakers. From the ’79 playoffs, up until 1988, the Lakers and Celtics combined for eight NBA championships.

Throughout this extraordinary run, both Bird and Magic won three MVPs apiece, and the two legends combined for five Finals MVPs. Magic winning three, and Bird with two.

Michael Jordan (1990-1991) – (1992-1993)

To sum it up, the Bulls won three championships in a row, Jordan was named Finals MVP in all three of them. During this three-year span, “His Airness” also won a pair of MVPs, and led the league in scoring each year.

Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-1994) – (1994-1995)

Because of Jordan’s hiatus (Minor League Baseball), the NBA needed a new star. In stepped Hakeem, who led the Rockets to back-to-back titles. In 1993-94, “The Dream” averaged 27.3 points and 11.9 rebounds on 52.8 percent shooting. That same year, he became the first player in NBA history to be named MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year awards all in the same year.

The following season, on a mission for his second championship, Hakeem averaged 33 points in the 22 playoff games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, up against MVP David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs, Olajuwon put on a show. During that series, he averaged 35.3 points a game, and outscored Robinson by 40 points in the final two contests. In the Finals, Hakeem dominated a young Shaquille O’Neal, outscoring him in all four games.

Michael Jordan (1995-1996) – (1997-1998)

Just another three-peat, and three more Finals MVP trophies to add to his illustrious career. Again, Jordan led the league in scoring all three seasons, and tallied up two more MVPs.

Shaquille O’Neal (1998-1999) – (2001-2002)

“The Big Diesel”, Shaq was an absolute monster. Each year from 1998-2002, O’Neal led the league in field goal percentage. He only won one MVP, but helped the Lakers win three straight titles. Shaq averaged at least 25 and 10 in his first seven years with the Lakers. The guy was flat out incredible.

Tim Duncan (2002-2003) – (2004-2005)

In 2002, Duncan won his second consecutive MVP trophy, while also notching his second ring. In this particular three-year span, Duncan won a pair of titles, and earned Finals MVP honors in both. He averaged at least 20 points and 11 rebounds, while easily shooting over 50 percent in all three seasons.

Lebron James (2005-2006) – (??)

The King. (Billboard.com)

Who knows how long this run will last, but boy has it been special. LeBron has been an All-Star in 13 straight seasons, and has made the NBA Finals seven years in a row. It might as well be called the LeBron James Invitational at this point. LeBron is clearly the most talented player this game has ever seen.

To this point in his career, King James is a 4x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 3x NBA Champion, 6x All-Defensive, and also the 2007-08 NBA scoring champion. Keep in mind that when LeBron originally left the Cavs, they had the first pick in the draft. When Jordan left, the Bulls went from 57 wins, to 55.

Who is next?

 

Featured image by SI.com

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Harden

Will the woes continue for James Harden this postseason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Harden

Dan Lippitt getty images

Postseason woes

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

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

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

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

Solid roster

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

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

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

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

Western Conference finals or bust

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

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

James Harden

Bob Levey via getty images

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image taken by Bruce Hillyer

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

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

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

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

Celtics and Cavaliers

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

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

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

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

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

Rockets and Warriors

NBA opening night predictions

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

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

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

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

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

The Season as a whole

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image from www.12up.com.

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The most disrespected NBA superstar: Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley was selected with the second pick in the 2008 NBA draft, yet he hasn’t averaged more than 20 minutes per game since he was with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season. Now a member of the New York Knicks, Beasley is poised to show the world what he is truly capable of doing.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN, Beasley was asked about how other players feel about him. He claimed “I’m your favorite player’s favorite player.”

Beasley also stated that he believes that the Knicks can finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference this season. When asked about the roster, Beasley told reporters that not only himself, but Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all capable of putting up 25 points per game. Speaking of Melo, Beasley told reporters that “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that. I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

During the summer, Beasley told the New York Post that he is tired of getting disrespected. He claimed “Not being disrespectful. But I want my respect. For the last nine years, I’ve been a walking bucket, man. Anytime you want a point, I’ll give you a point, no matter what circumstances, who the player is defending me.”

In Beasley’s 509 career NBA games, he averages 12.6 points and 4.7 rebounds. So is he crazy to believe he is a “walking bucket” and can average 25 a game? After looking at the numbers, absolutely not. In fact, Michael Beasley is the most disrespected NBA superstar.

College Days

In 2007, Michael Beasley attended Kansas State for only one year, yet it was one of the best seasons we have seen at the collegiate level. Beasley averaged 26.2 points per game and led the nation with 12.4 rebounds per game. He did all this while shooting an incredible 53.7 percent from the field. His ridiculous numbers earned him first team All-America honors from the Association Press, as well as Big 12 Player of the Year.

One of the best NCAAB players of this generation (NBA.com)

Some other notable college achievements include:

  • 866 total points ranks third among all freshmen in NCAA history
  • Led the nation in double-doubles with 28
  • Had 13 games in which he scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds. (Led the NCAA)
  • Currently holds 30 Kansas State career, single season and freshman records.
  • Holds 17 Big 12 single-game and single-season records
  • Nominated National Freshman of the Year and First team All-American by multiple sources.

 

 

 

 

 

NCAA PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 25 PPG and 12 REBOUNDS WITH A 50 FG PERCENTAGE OR BETTER IN A SEASON (SINCE 1992)

NAME YEAR COLLEGE STATS
MICHAEL BEASLEY 2007-08 KANSAS STATE 26.2/12.4/.532
KURT THOMAS 1994-95 TCU 28.9/14.6/.548
JERVAUGHN SCALES 1993-94 SOUTHERN 27.1/14.2/.594

Since 1992, the only other freshmen to average at least 25 points and 10 boards was Kevin Durant in 2006-2007. This made declaring for the NBA an easy decision for Beasley.

NBA

After being selected second in the draft by the Miami Heat, Beasley was quick to find trouble. During that same summer, at the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, Beasley, along with some other rookies, were involved in a situation in which their hotel room fire alarm went off and police responded. Apparently, the room smelled like marijuana, which is a bad look if you are a player trying to make it in the association. Beasley was later fined by the Heat.

Beasley as a member of the Heat (TheSportsBank.net)

Still, Beasley found success on the court, averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during his rookie campaign. In the summer before his second season, Beasley spent time in rehab for stress-related issues. During his sophomore season, Beasley started 78 games and scored close to 15 points per game. In July of 2010, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two draft picks. This allowed the Heat to clear cap space and create their big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Beasley’s first season with Minnesota was tremendous. In 73 starts, Beasley averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Beasley was a top 20 scorer and played over 30 minutes a game. So at age 22, how did his numbers match up with the rest of the NBA?

Players, age 22 or younger, who have scored at least 3650 points, 120 3-point field goals, and 1300 rebounds (IN ORDER FROM TOTAL POINTS)

NAME TEAM(S)
LEBRON JAMES CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
KEVIN DURANT SEATTLE SUPERSONICS/OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
CARMELO ANTHONY DENVER NUGGETS
KOBE BRYANT LOS ANGELES LAKERS
TRACY MCGRADY TORONTO/ORLANDO
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPO MILWAUKEE BUCKS
ANTOINE WALKER BOSTON CELTICS
MICHAEL BEASLEY MIAMI HEAT/ MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Michael Beasley was on pace to be up there with the greats. Following his breakout year, Beasley was pulled over for speeding, and the cop found some marijuana, which led to a small fine. Two months later, he was involved in an altercation in which he shoved a heckler. Because of these off-court issues and an injury to his foot, Beasley only started seven games in his second year with the Timberwolves.

FROM TEAM TO TEAM

The next five years were an absolute roller coaster ride for Beasley. In 2012, Beasley signed an $18 million dollar deal with the Phoenix Suns, but only started 20 games. In a game off the bench against the Lakers, Beasley erupted for 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. An arrest for marijuana ultimately led to Beasley being waived, one year into his three-year deal.

Beasley in a 59 point outing for the Sharks in China (The Hoop Doctors)

From 2013-16, Beasley went from the Suns, to the Heat, to the Shanghai Sharks, back to the Heat, back to China (except this time for the Shandong Golden Stars) and finally, to the Houston Rockets. In 18 minutes a game off the bench, Beasley averaged 12.8 points. He was one of seven players, minimum 20 games, to average 25 points per 36 minutes. This list included Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden and Damian Lillard.

Last September, Beasley was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He appeared in 56 games and averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. Again, if he was given more playing time, he would have excelled. The following table illustrates players who averaged at least 20 points, and 7 rebounds, on 50 percent shooting or better.

2016-17 Per 36 mins, players with at least 20 points and seven rebounds on 50 FG percentage or better (Minimum 50 games)

NAME TEAM
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans
Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors
Lebron James Cleveland Cavaliers
Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves
Enes Kanter Oklahoma City Thunder
Giannis Antetokounpo Milwaukee Bucks
Javale McGee Golden State Warriors
Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets
Michael Beasley Milwaukee Bucks

 

Do you still think he is a bust?

Can someone give this guy some minutes? People who think Beasley is a bust need to really look into his numbers. He is up there with the best players in the league when allotted the appropriate minutes. In case you are wondering what players in his draft look like compared to him:

CAREER PER 36: (In order of FG percentage)

BROOK LOPEZ 20.8/8 TRB/.506FG

MICHAEL BEASLEY 19.3/7.2 TRB/.458FG

RUSSELL WESTBROOK 23.9/8.4 A/.433FG

KEVIN LOVE 20.3/12.7 TRB/.442FG

As you can tell, it’s not a talent problem. In fact, he is actually proven to be more efficient than both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, while still scoring around the same amount of points per 36 minutes.

IS THIS THE YEAR?

Now with New York, Beasley just wants a chance. Can you blame him? At 22, he was on pace to be up there with the best players in our game. Off-court issues and mismanagement have led to him only starting nine games since the 2013-14 season.

By the way, if he is not getting minutes because of his defense, then James Harden shouldn’t play either. Offense outweighs defense and Beasley is an electric scorer. If Michael Beasley is on the court, he is going to get buckets. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. Michael Beasley would be an All-Star in this league if he was given a legit shot.

At age 28, which most consider the prime of your athletic career, Beasley has lost 20 pounds by cutting out sugar and red meat. He concluded his recent ESPN interview by saying “I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

When diving into the numbers, it is obvious Michael Beasley has been extremely disrespected. This is a man who is capable of scoring on anyone, so let’s pray New York gives him that shot he not only has asked for, but deserves.

Featured image by Sporting News

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NBA Southwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Southwest Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dallas Mavericks

2016-17 record: 33-49

2017-18 prediction: 36-46

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

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

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

Houston Rockets

NBA Southwest Division preview

James Harden, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

2016-17 record: 55-27

2017-18 prediction: 56-26

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

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

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

Memphis Grizzlies

2016-17 record: 43-39

2017-18 prediction: 33-49

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

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

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

New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Southwest Division preview

Photo Courtesy of SB Nation.

2016-17 record: 34-48

2017-18 prediction: 43-39

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

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

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

San Antonio Spurs

2016-17 record: 61-21

2017-18 prediction: 52-30

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image Courtesy of philstar.com.

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biggest moves nba offseason

Most impactful moves from the NBA offseason

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

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

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

Minnesota Timberwolves

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

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

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

Houston Rockets

impactful moves nba offseason

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers

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

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

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

Oklahoma City Thunder

impactful moves nba offseason

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

Oklahoma City is looking like a threat again.

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

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

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

Denver Nuggets

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

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

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

Boston Celtics

impactful moves nba offseason

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA's Gridiron Roster

The NBA’s gridiron team

Training camps have opened and football is in the air. As training camps get rolling there will be plenty of talk about what is happening on the gridiron. This means that basketball will be taking a backseat from now until February.

There is one more order of business left to discuss for basketball and its all for fun. Earlier this year, The Game Haus brought you the NFL’s Hardwood Roster which made an NBA roster out of NFL players.

It is time to reverse that and give you the NBA’s gridiron team. The only eligible players are current NBA players. Also, size is not going to translate the way it should just because basketball players are taller.

Offense

Left Tackle: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: If there is one NBA player who can protect a quarterback it is Draymond Green. Green is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. His playstyle shows his “I just want to win” mentality. Throwing him at left tackle is smart because he has proven to go that extra mile in order to win. He will rough up defensive ends all game long while making sure the quarterback stays off his back.

Left Guard: Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: The left guard position suits Randle because he has quick feet and is left handed. Guards need to be athletic and showcase an ability to pull on certain running plays. He is extremely explosive and if a play is called that requires him to pull, Randle will explode off the ball and create holes for any running back.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bSTeIhm86A)

Center: Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol is smart, tough and reliable. These are all qualities a team needs from their center. Gasol would be a great leader, thus setting the tone for the rest of the offensive line. Gasol is also a strong guy who could push around opposing defensive tackles.

Right Guard: Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder: Right guards need to be maulers in the run game. The first mauler that comes to mind in the NBA is Steven Adams. Adams is a tough, physical player who would excel at run blocking. He isn’t afraid to do the dirty work a team needs from an offensive lineman.

Right Tackle: DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: Cousins loves to play a physical style of basketball and that could translate well into the NFL. He also finished second in the NBA with 20 technical fouls in 2017. Cousins would be willing to do whatever it takes to win and protect the quarterback. If he is this rough in basketball, imagine what he could do in a contact sport like football.

Tight End: LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron was a stud wide receiver in high school. He is so big that he would have to be a tight end. It has been said for a long time that LeBron is a physical specimen. He would learn how to be one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. LeBron has also shown his freakish athletism when flying through the air for a dunk. In the red zone, not one person in this world would be able to stop him for a jump ball. Seeing LeBron play tight end would be like seeing Gronk hulking up.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/washington-fans-legitimatly-pissed-wizards-john-wall-wearing-cowboys-jersey/)

Wide Receivers: John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: John Wall is a wizard on the court. Yes, that pun was intended, but it is true. Wall is one of the fastest players in the NBA and that could translate as a wide receiver. He has also displayed uncanny athleticism with some of his finishes at the rim. That creativity would be fun in the open field.

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors: Imagine seeing DeMar DeRozan fighting for the ball in the air with defensive backs trying to stop him. DeRozan is a high flyer and that would translate to the gridiron.

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets: James Harden is known for his euro step and getting all the foul calls. Imagine Harden in the NFL getting pass interference calls. As the team’s third receiver, he could work the middle of the field and move the chains not only catching the ball but because of penalties too.

Running Backs: Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics: Running backs have to have the mentality that they are better than everyone else no matter their size. Isaiah Thomas is the perfect candidate for that. He is so agile and quick that with his small stature, he could fit through any hole. He would be the perfect scat back for an NFL team.

Steph Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors: The way that Steph Curry can make defenders dance is just silly. Who wouldn’t love to see that against defenders on the football field? Carrying the ball rather than having to dribble it would allow him to shake and bake defenders effortlessly. Curry would be breathtaking to watch on the football field.

Quarterback: Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: The summer league was just the beginning of what we are going to see from Lonzo Ball. His playmaking ability was Magic-esque. He can put the ball anywhere he wants to. A quarterback must be able to do the same. Lonzo has the perfect size for an NFL quarterback. He is the best choice for a quarterback because he has displayed amazing passing ability.

Defense

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/throwback-lebron-kevin-durant-played-football-game/)

Defensive End: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: The defensive end position has some of the most athletic players in all of the NFL. Kawhi is known for his world class defense and freakishly big hands. Throwing Kawhi on the end of a line and telling him to rush the passer could lead to a lot of sacks. Leonard would make a great edge rusher.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant is another freak athlete. If we follow the mold of selecting defensive ends, Durant is another player that can use his athletism to go get the quarterback. Durant would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Defensive Tackle: Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies: Defensive tackles have to be some of the most unselfish players on the team. The job description of a defensive tackle is to eat up blocks so that everyone else gets the glory. Z-Bo is the perfect candidate for a defensive tackle position. He will take up those blocks so the rest of the defense can eat.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets: Faried is just as perfect of a fit at defensive tackle as Randolph is. He will get down and dirty and do what ever the team needs to win. Faried has proven that he doesn’t need the spotlight on him. Any coach would sleep well knowing that Faried could eat up blocks so that the linebackers can run around knocking heads off.

Linebackers: Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen is one of the most lockdown defenders the NBA has ever seen. Kobe Bryant said he was the toughest defender he ever had to face. Allen has that grit all linebackers need to succeed. Any running back that has to meet Tony Allen in the hole is in for a big hit.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler is one of the best all-around players in the NBA but he made his name on defense. He has a tenacity about him that Chicago fans fell in love with. Early in his career, he showed no fear in going up against the best offensive players in the game. Throw Butler in at linebacker and you have a versatile defender who can come up to stuff the run or drop back and defend the pass.

Marcus Smart, SG, Boston Celtics: Certain linebackers are just pit bulls and Smart has that pit bull mentality. Any football coach could put him at linebacker and see instant toughness from the rest of the defense. Smart will get physical and isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with other giants. His passion is palpable and his teammates would feed off of him.

Cornerbacks: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers: Corners have some of the most difficult tasks in the game. Many people forget to list Lillard with the best point guards and the chip on his shoulder makes him fit the corner mold perfectly. Corners don’t always get the love when trying to stop the diva wide outs. In this passing era, Lillard would take it personally that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. 

Andre Roberson, SG, Oklahoma City: Roberson is the perfect candidate to play cornerback. Most times the saying about corners is “if they could catch they would play wide receiver.” Roberson has no offense at all and wo

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/draymond-green-warriors/)

uld fit this stereotype. He is long and receivers would get frustrated trying to match up with him.

Safeties: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City: This could come as a surprise to most people. Why not running back or wide receiver? The answer is because the best safeties do it all. They come up and stuff the run game. They also patrol the field looking to destroy receivers and intercept passes. The MVP would be an amazing safety if he played football. Offenses would definitely be game planning against Westbrook.

Avery Bradley, SG, Detroit Pistons: Bradley is another player that has made a name on the defensive side of the ball. Bradley will do a great job at being the last line of defense. He would put fear into any receiver who tries to come across the middle of his field.

Special Teams

Kicker: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: Draymond has been known to kick groins. This seems self-explanatory that he would be the team’s kicker.

Punter: Ricky Rubio, PG, Utah Jazz: Picking a punter is tough. If Steve Nash was still playing it would be easy to pick him. Ricky Rubio grew up playing soccer in Spain. He would have no trouble booting the football if the offense stalls.

Returner: Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Over the past couple of seasons we have been able to see Kyrie dazzle defenders and the world, with his moves. Irving would be an electrifying return man in the NFL. His moves have proven to break ankles on the hardwood so why wouldn’t that translate to the gridiron?

 

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Featured image courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2017 season preview: Top five NBA backcourts

Many teams have All-Star guards, however few have two of them in the same backcourt. In today’s position-less NBA, most point guards and shooting guards are cut and dry.

Having two guards that can coexist with each other is unique, and can form a potential championship combination. Recent free agent signings and offseason trades have shaken up the list of top NBA backcourts.

Here are the top five guard duos going into the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Number Five: Toronto Raptors

top five NBA backcourts

Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.

DeMar Derozan: 27.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.1

Kyle Lowry: 22.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player efficiency rating: 22.9

It almost seems like year in and year out the Raptors backcourt gets overlooked.

Production wise, the numbers are extremely impressive. The Raptors averaged 106.9 points per regular season game this year. Derozan and Lowry combined for 49.7 of those points.

Both of the two were All-Stars in their 2016-17 campaigns and took advantage of a top heavy Eastern Conference.

Both Lowry and Derozan have a true shooting percentage of above 55 percent, which shows that they are both efficient scorers as well as volume scorers.

On a team that sometimes struggles offensively, the two needed to score as efficiently as they did. Scoring nearly 47 percent of their team’s points last year notches the Raptors’ backcourt at number five league wide.

Number Four: Portland Trail Blazers

top five NBA backcourts

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Damian Lillard: 27.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.2

CJ McCollum: 23.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.0

One of the youngest backcourts in the league is also one of the most impressive.

Lillard and McCollum came from Weber State and Lehigh University and have continued their climb ever since.

McCollum is coming off a season in which he earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and Lillard is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year.

Keep in mind that the average player efficiency rating for the 2016-17 season was around 14.9. Both McCollum and Lillard continue to prove themselves year in and year out, keeping their team treading above water.

The Trail Blazers struggle defensively, especially in the playoffs when teams tend to pay more attention to detail. When opposing teams lock down defensively, both Dame and CJ continue their scoring consistently. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lack of consistent defense is what keeps them from winning come playoff time.

Number Three: Washington Wizards

top five NBA backcourts

John Wall and Bradley Beal, Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

John Wall: 23.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 10.7 apg. Player efficiency rating: 23.3

Bradley Beal: 23.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.2

This past year’s playoffs are enough to argue that both Beal and Wall belong in the three spot or even higher.

Wall is a consistent double-double performer. Beal is a very good shooter who can catch fire at any moment and stay that way for a whole game.

Wall has become one of the top offensive threats in the Eastern Conference due to his change of pace and fearless ability to get to the rim.

Wall and Beal both turned in their second highest career plus/minuses which was over plus five for both of them.

They fought off elimination and were just a few minutes away from taking the Wizards to the Eastern Conference finals. Barring any physical setbacks, the Wizards led by this backcourt tandem should be right there at the top of the Eastern Conference yet again.

Number Two: Houston Rockets

top five NBA backcourts

Chris Paul and James Harden, Photo Courtesy of Business Insider.

Chris Paul: 18.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 9.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 26.3

James Harden: 29.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 11.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 27.4

They have yet to play a single minute together (not counting Olympic ball and All-star games). They are two ball-dominant guards and it very well might take a while to work.

But Chris Paul and James Harden could even be the best backcourt in basketball this upcoming season.

With the two highest player efficiency ratings in 2016, Paul and Harden are the best backcourt on paper. They have 14 All-Star seasons between the two of them.

Obviously games aren’t played on paper and the two have to figure out their playing style together. Harden has to go back to his old shooting guard role and Paul has to get accommodated to his new teammates.

The Rockets may not have put themselves on the same level as the Warriors by putting these two together, but they certainly closed the gap. Houston will skyrocket into a title contender with good play from a strong backcourt.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

top five NBA backcourts

Klay Thompson with Steph Curry in the background, Photo Courtesy of FoxSports.

Steph Curry: 25.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.7

Klay Thompson: 22.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg 2.1 apg. Player efficiency rating: 17.5

Anytime you have two league MVPs and six All-star appearances between a backcourt, it’s pretty impressive. Ultimately it comes down to success with these two.

The Splash Brothers are so electric that they draw attention and in turn make their teammates better. Klay has scored 37 points in a quarter and Steph seems to be open even when he isn’t.

Kevin Durant took a little bit of shine away from Klay Thompson this year, as you can see by his player efficiency rating, but success helps overcome that.

Both are automatic from behind the 3-point line, free throw line and make a team pay if they don’t lockdown defensively. The Splash Bsrothers will continue to torch opposing defenses for many years to come.

Honorable mentions

Most of you are probably wondering about Boston or Oklahoma City. Both Paul George and Gordon Hayward are small forwards that will play some shooting guard this year.

In fact Hayward might be the starting shooting guard for Boston all year. With Jae Crowder less versatile, Hayward could land himself in the backcourt with fellow All-star, Isaiah Thomas, which would be a strong argument for a spot on this list.

Oklahoma City is a little less likely of a backcourt. Andre Roberson is a solid shooting guard who plays excellent defense and has value being on the floor. If the Thunder went with a bigger lineup, then Russell Westbrook and Paul George would have a chance to share a backcourt together. If that happened consistently, the two would also find their way on this list.

Conclusion

Strong backcourts can be a winning formula in leading a team. If both guards are versatile and play well together, then there is no reason a backcourt can’t be lethal. The top five backcourts in the NBA have led their teams to deep playoff runs and have taken home many other accolades.

The 2017-18 season will be filled with close games and great teams. We will see how far some of the best backcourts lead their teams come playoff time.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of SI.com.

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

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

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

Patrick Beverley: A solid two-way guard

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

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

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

Sam Dekker: The next Gordon Hayward (maybe)

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

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

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

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

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

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

Lou Williams: Sixth Man of the Year, every year

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

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

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

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

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

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

Clippers win Big, Set Up For Future

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

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

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

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

 

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Rockets

Houston Rockets 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 25 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the needs and targets of the Houston Rockets 2017 draft.

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft Summary

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft

Mike D’Antoni has taken this team to new heights along with top players James Harden and Trevor Ariza. (Photo by the Houston Chronicle)

Under newly hired head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Houston Rockets had an incredibly successful year. The team finished 55-27, although their season was cut short after losing in six games to a talented and well-coached San Antonio Spurs team in the Western Conference semifinals.

D’Antoni moved superstar James Harden to the point position on offense, which further enhanced their offensive success. Harden averaged 29 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds per game on 44 percent field goal percentage. His ability to score and facilitate has continuously kept the Rockets in title contention.

Other impact starters included Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverly and Clint Capela, who were clearly the team’s best defensive players. Ariza and Beverly both averaged over one steal per game, while Capela averaged over one block.

The Rockets’ bench depth included two Sixth Man of the Year candidates, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, who averaged about 16 and 15 points per game respectively. Young guys like Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker showed that they can also be impact players as well.

The Rockets’ offense ranked first in three pointers attempted per game and second in points per game, showing that their offense needs no adjustments. On the other hand, their defense could use some tweaking, as they ranked 26th in points per game, 20th in blocks and 15th in defensive rebounding.

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft Picks & Needs

The Rockets traded their first round pick along with Corey Brewer to the Los Angeles Lakers in February in return for Lou Williams. This leaves Houston with only two selections in the upcoming draft, with both being in the middle of the second round.

First Round: N/A

Second Round: No. 43 (Via DEN), No. 45 (Via POR)

With defense being their glaring need, the Rockets will likely add a forward that can be a versatile defender as well as an above average rebounder.

Targets & Thoughts

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft

Jaron Blossomegame’s defense and athleticism would make him a perfect fit for the Rockets. (Photo by Draftexpress.com)

Pick #43: Jaron Blossomgame, Forward, Clemson

In his senior season, Blossomgame averaged 18 points, six rebounds and one block on 50 percent field goal percentage. He is a strong and athletic forward, who can use his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame to guard the two through four positions with ease. His explosiveness will allow him to be an exceptional rebounder and finisher near the basket.

He shot over 44 percent from three on more than three 3-pointers attempted per game in his junior season. His defensive and rebounding skills paired with his ability to hit the three makes him a great fit for Houston.

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft

2015-16 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, Isaiah Hicks, would be a steal in the second round for Houston. (Photo by TheScore.com)

Pick #45: Isaiah Hicks, Forward, UNC

Another senior, Hicks helped the North Carolina Tar Heels win a National Championship during the 2016-17 season. His per 40 minute averages were 20 points, 9 rebounds, one steal and one block per game.

In his junior season, he was awarded the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds per game on about 62 percent field goal shooting.

Hicks’ 6-foot-9, 245-pound frame allows him to be a menacing physical presence down low. Hicks would be a great fit in Houston as he would add a needed rebounding and defensive presence on the low block who also having enough athleticism to defend the perimeter.

Conclusion

With defense and rebounding as their blatant needs, the Rockets would be smart to add an older player out of the draft who can impact the game on the defensive end while also being able to attack the glass.

Jaron Blossomegame is a defensive stud whose athleticism will allow him to be a menace on the boards for a small forward. Isaiah Hicks would also fit the bill, as his defensive ability paired with his aggressiveness on the glass would make him a perfect piece for the Rockets moving forward.

 

Thanks for checking out the Houston Rockets 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 26 of our NBA Draftmas special to see what the Washington Wizards may do.

NBA Draftmas Day 23: San Antonio Spurs

NBA Draftmas Day 24: New Orleans Pelicans

 

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