Jonathan Isaac Boston Celtics

Why the Boston Celtics will draft Jonathan Isaac

With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, and the Boston Celtics moving back from the first overall selection to the third, many questions have risen about whether General Manager Danny Ainge will use the draft pick or trade it in a package for a superstar.

As you can see by the title, I believe they will keep the pick and draft Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac, and here is why.

Team needs

Jonathan Isaac Boston Celtics

Boston has a logjam at the guard position. (Photo by Getty Images)

Boston has a logjam at the guard position. All-NBA guard Isaiah Thomas had a career year, averaging about 29 points and six assists on 46 percent from the field. He earned the nickname “The King of the Fourth Quarter” after a 15-game span in January in which he averaged 13.6 points in the fourth quarter alone. Even with his defensive issues, he is clearly the Celtics’ franchise player.

Shooting guard Avery Bradley is a two-time All-Defensive player. He has improved his field goal percentage from last season by about two percent while also increasing his total rebounds by over 100. One can make an argument that he is the Celtics’ “best” overall player because of his prowess on both sides of the floor.

On the bench, Boston has Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.

Smart is a physical defensive guard who can rebound and play make. His jump shooting is still poor, but it has been constantly improving. In this season’s playoffs, Smart shot about 40 percent from three, which is a huge jump from his 28 percent mark during the regular season.

Terry Rozier, similar to Smart, is not a great jump shooter, but excels at rebounding and playmaking. His per 36-minute stat line is about 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game. Rozier and Smart are great depth guards who add a needed level of toughness and defense.

With all of these guards on the roster for the foreseeable future, there was clearly no need for the Celtics to draft Washington’s freshman guard Markelle Fultz, who is widely recognized as this year’s top talent in the draft.

The glaring weakness for the Celtics is their rebounding and defense, as they ranked 27th in total rebounds, 23rd in total blocks and 18th in total steals. Ideally, the Celtics will add a versatile scoring wing who can improve their defense and rebounding.

The perfect fit

In today’s position-less NBA, a 7-foot wing player that can shoot, attack the rim and guard multiple positions is invaluable.

Isaac’s length and athleticism will allow him to guard the one through four positions with ease. Stronger forwards may be able to bully him in the paint, although because many NBA teams are transitioning to playing small ball, his versatility will undoubtedly translate.

Ainge also loves the combination of size and ability that players like Kevin Durant possess, and Isaac fits that exact mold. Granted, Isaac’s college numbers (12 PTS, 7.8 TRB, 1.2 AST, 1.2 STL and 1.5 BLK) are far inferior to Durant’s (25.8 PTS, 11.1 TRB, 1.3 AST, 1.9 STL and 1.9 BLK), although they both have similar 6-foot-11 210-pound frames, while shooting over 35 percent from three and 50 percent from the field.

Danny Ainge has his guy

Jonathan Isaac Boston Celtics

Jonathan Isaac is the perfect fit for Boston. (Photo by FSView)

Isaac was the very first prospect brought in by the Celtics this offseason and according to an SBNation report, Isaac “won’t work out for teams picking after No. 4”. This is interesting considering Isaac is projected to be picked outside of the top five by the majority of draft experts.

One theory by Boston Sports fan Mike Lichtenstein, who appeared Monday on The Felger & Massarotti sports radio show, is that Ainge promised Isaac that the Celtics are going to move back in the draft and take him with the third selection. This would explain why Isaac has only worked out for two teams, twice with the Phoenix Suns who have the fourth pick and once with the Celtics.

Boston then brought in Fultz for a workout, although clearly they have no interest in him after trading the first overall pick to Philadelphia.

The player that most people believe the Celtics will select is Josh Jackson, although he has refused to work out for the Celtics. In my opinion, this rules him out as an option for Boston.

Making this trade with Philadelphia would be foolish if Boston expects to take Jackson anyway, as multiple reports have the Lakers showing interest to take him with the second overall pick.

Last season, Ainge spent the third overall pick on Jaylen Brown, even though he was projected to be a late top ten selection, showing that he has no problem getting his guy. I believe this year it will be a similar case.

Isaac to Boston seems inevitable.

There is a lot of speculation that the Celtics will draft Duke freshman Jayson Tatum, although his lack of defensive prowess and offensive efficiency make Isaac seem like a much better fit.

 

Featured Image by CelticsBlog.com

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Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Boston Celtics 2017 NBA draft profile

Welcome to the first day of The Game Haus’ NBA Draftmas. We held an NFL Draftmas for the NFL Draft and wrote a draft profile for every NFL team. We will be doing the same with the NBA draft, starting with the Boston Celtics, who have the first pick.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft Summary

The Boston Celtics have been improving over the last several years. In the last three years, they have finished with the seventh, fifth and first seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Despite being the top seed, it is highly unlikely they get past the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. Clearly Boston has some things they can improve on.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Photo by Sporting News

Offensively, the Celtics finished seventh in the league in points at an average of 108 per game. They also controlled the ball very well. They tied for third most in assists per game with 25.2 and were also third in the league with an assist-to-turnover ratio of two.

Defensively, Boston was in the middle when it came to opponent points per game. They ranked 15th at 105.4 for a point differential of 2.6, which ranked eighth in the league.

One thing they could have done better is rebound the basketball. Only three teams had less rebounds per game than the Celtics’ 42 per game. There were also plenty of opportunities for rebounds as the Celtics ranked 16th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 45.4 percent. This is uncharacteristic of a Brad Stevens team. 

One other thing to look at is individual play. Isaiah Thomas was the Eastern Conference’s top scorer at 28.9 points per game. After him, they do not really have a second scorer to rely on. Avery Bradley averaged 16.3 a game, but is more known for his defense. Al Horford averaged 14, but has never been a big-time scorer in his career. Most of the league’s top teams have two guys capable of putting up a ton of points, and Boston lacks a second.

Through the draft, Boston should try to add another scoring option and some help with rebounding.

Celtics’ Picks and Needs

The Celtics have four picks in this draft.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Photo by www.sportslogos.net

First Round: No. 1 (from Brooklyn)

Second Round: No. 37 (from Minnesota via Phoenix), 53 (from Cleveland) and 56 (from L.A. Clippers)

The first overall pick is going to be used to get an impact player and a second scoring option for Thomas to work with. The other three could go multiple directions. These are some guys the Celtics could benefit from drafting.

Scorer: Most top teams have two scorers with 20-points-per-game potential. Boston does not have that.

Rebounder: Boston ranked low in rebounds with plenty of opportunities to grab some. Possibly something they can address in the second round. 

Celtics’ Targets and Thoughts

Let’s take a look at the options Boston has with their first-round pick.

Pick #1: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington

Almost every mock draft you read has Fultz going first, and there is a reason for that. The 6-foot-4 point guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in his one year at Washington. He also shot 41.3 percent from the 3-point line.

Fultz has the scoring ability Boston needs. In time, he can develop into an impact player that can help score alongside Thomas.

Boston Celtics NBA Draft

Photo by 247 Sports

Thomas is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. While he does not seem interested in leaving at the moment, Boston needs to do everything they can to keep him. Giving him more weapons on offense surely helps them. In the event that Thomas does leave, Fultz should be ready to take over as the franchise player.

The other option with the pick is to trade it. Some analysts believe Boston needs to build a team to win now that can defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rumors have swarmed in the past about Boston trading for a superstar like Paul George or Jimmy Butler as well.

However, it may be better to let Fultz develop within the young team. The Cavs are a lot older than Boston. Isaiah Thomas is 28. Avery Bradley is 26. Al Horford is 30. Last year’s third overall pick Jaylen Brown is 20. Gerald Green is their oldest player at 31.

The bottom line is Boston is young. They can afford to wait three to four years for their guys like Brown and Fultz to develop into studs next to Thomas, Horford and Bradley. By then the Cavs should be on the decline. Trading for a superstar now wouldn’t be the worst thing to do with the first overall pick, but trying to beat the Cavs right now in the postseason seems nearly impossible.

Fultz is the best option. Drafting anybody else would be selling themselves short and trading the pick does not make sense when looking at the bigger picture.

Conclusion

Boston has two options with the first pick. They can trade it for an impact player now, or draft one like Markelle Fultz. It all depends on how confident they are in Fultz and if they are willing to let their young team develop and wait for the Cavaliers to get old so they can overtake them. They do already have a point guard, but there is not anybody else that compares to Fultz’s talent. Playing him at shooting guard alongside Thomas would make a scary backcourt.

Thank you for joining us on our first day of TGH NBA Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the draft profile for the Los Angeles Lakers!

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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

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

2: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

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

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

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

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

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

3: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

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

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

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

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

4: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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

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

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

5: Sacramento Kings: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

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

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

6: Orlando Magic: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

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

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

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

7: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

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

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

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

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

2017 NBA Mock draft

(Photo Credit: WILLIAM HOWARD/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

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

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

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

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

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

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

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

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

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

11.CHARLOTTE HORNETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

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

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

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

12: DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

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

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: Zach Collins F Gonzaga

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

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

15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

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

16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

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

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

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

17: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

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

18: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

19: ATLANTA HAWKS: IVAN RABB C CALIFORNIA

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

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

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

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

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

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

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

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

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

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

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

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

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

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.

Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.

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

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Jarrett Allen C Texas

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image by Yahoo Sports

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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens is the biggest key to Boston’s success

When you look at the Boston Celtics’ roster, a couple names will stand out.

First there is Isaiah Thomas, the NBA’s third highest scorer. The two-time All-Star point guard is the clear leader in Boston. Everything starts and ends with him.

Then there is Al Horford, a 10-year veteran and four-time All Star. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder. There was a lot of excitement among Boston fans when they signed him this past summer. He averaged 14 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his first season with the team.

The last name that might stand out to you is Avery Bradley. He is more known for his defense, but has improved his scoring over the years.

There aren’t really any weapons on this Boston team besides those guys. A 12-point gap exists between their leading scorer and second-highest scorer in terms of points per game. No one averages even seven rebounds a game on their team.

However, the Celtics ranked seventh in points per game. They also move the ball very well, evidence by their 25.2 assists per game, which ranked fourth in the league. They take care of the ball as well with the ninth fewest turnovers in the league at only 13.3 per game.

All of these things have contributed to Boston getting to the top of the Eastern Conference this season. The Celtics do not look intimidating on paper, so how did they do it?

Brad Stevens took Butler to back-to-back title games. (Photo by Zimbio)

The answer is Brad Stevens. Stevens has done so much for the organization in the four seasons he has been with the team. He took them from nothing and turned them into contenders.

Before Stevens came to Boston, he was working his magic with the Butler Bulldogs. In his six seasons with the team he went 166-49 and brought Butler to the National Championship game in back-to-back seasons. They may not have won either of them, but Stevens put Butler on the map.

Stevens has been known for his young age. When initially hired at Butler, he was the second-youngest coach in NCAA Division I basketball. Later on he became the third-youngest coach in NCAA Division I history to have a 30-win season. He was also the second-youngest coach to make an NCAA Championship game and youngest coach to make two Final Fours.

When Stevens signed with Boston, he was the league’s youngest active coach at 36 years old. The young genius did not have much to work with when he first came to Boston in 2013. Yes, the team went 41-40 the season before, which was good enough for the seventh seed in the playoffs.

However, the team made a blockbuster trade with the Nets and lost key contributors like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. They received Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks this season.

Looking back, Boston obviously won this trade because of the draft picks, but the players they received were not much to be happy about. Joseph was waived not too long after the trade and the four remaining players averaged a combined 18.6 points per game in their first season in Boston. Neither of those guys are on the team today.

The starting lineup featured guys like Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green. Green lead the team in scoring at just 16.9 points per game. Star point guard Rajon Rondo only played in 30 games due to an injury he suffered in the season before. It was a tough first year for Stevens in Boston as the team finished 25-57.

In Stevens’ second season, he improved the Celtics to a 40-42 record. It was not a winning record, but it was 15 more wins than the previous season and was good enough to get Boston back to the playoffs. They suffered a first-round sweep to the Cleveland Cavaliers, so there was still a lot of room for improvement.

The Celtics finished 48-34 in the next season, but still couldn’t get past the first round of the playoffs. They lost to the Hawks in six games. At least it was not a sweep like the previous season. This year, they finally got past the first-round.

Brad Stevens

Imagine how much better Stevens will get as he continues to gain experience. (Photo by The Boston Globe)

Now in his fourth season, Stevens has the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They finished first in the East with a 53-29 record. Only the Cavs stand in their way of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. It is going to be a tough task considering LeBron James has been in the Finals the last six seasons.

Regardless of the end result, look at what Stevens has done with the team. He took them from one of the worst teams in the East to the top seed. Stevens should be right up their in the league’s top coaches along with Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. It might finally be time for Stevens to win NBA Coach of the Year.

Stevens has the Celtics at the top of the East despite only having one All Star this season. The second-seeded Cavs have three and the third-seeded Raptors have two.

Stevens has had a short career in coaching so far with only 10 years between college and the NBA. He is also only 40 years old. He is so young and has had so much success already in the time he has had. Imagine what he can become in the future with the amount of experience Popovich has had. Also imagine what he could do with a few more star players.

They will be adding to their bright future in the offseason as they just won the NBA draft lottery. They will also have the Nets’ draft pick next season. Stevens is going to continue to get young talent to work with veterans like Thomas, Horford and Bradley for the upcoming years. It is going to be interesting to see if Boston will ever take down the Cavs.

Featured Image by NBA.com

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2017 Eastern Conference Finals

2017 Eastern Conference Finals Preview

After 82 regular season games and two playoff series, it is time for the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals preview. The East is down to two teams fighting for a birth in the NBA Finals. The top-seeded Boston Celtics edged out the Washington Wizards 115-105 in game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have cruised to the Eastern Conference Finals going a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs thus far. Cleveland swept both the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors. Similar to their Western Conference rival, the Golden State Warriors, the Cavs seem to be on a mission to get to the Finals for a third straight matchup. The Celtics will have different plans as they try to knock off LeBron James and the Cavs.

Celtics vs. Cavaliers

Photo by SB Nation

The Celtics are making their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2012 in which they lost to LeBron and the Heat 4-3 in an epic seven-game series. The Cavs won the regular season series 3-1. Most recently, they demolished the Celtics on their home court 114-91, hurting the confidence of Boston.

If the Celtics want to win this series, it is going to take a lot of great performances by Boston’s key role players. In game 7 against the Wizards, Kelly Olynyk had a career game, shooting 10-14 for 26 points. If he can duplicate that type of game consistently, then the Celtics will win the series.

The Celtics have gone as Isaiah Thomas has gone all season. He alone cannot carry the C’s past James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. If Boston wants to win this series, they will need big games from Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown.

In the regular season, the Cavaliers dominated the glass. That has been the achilles heel of the Celtics all season. Of the 16 playoff teams, Boston is 13th, averaging only 38.3 rebounds per game while the Cavs are averaging 41.4. Any time the Celtics win the battle of the boards will go a long way in securing a win.

The Celtics are a good team, but will not have enough to truly threaten the Cavs in this series. Boston’s home-court advantage will extend the series longer than the Cavs may like, but it won’t be enough. Cleveland is averaging 114.5 points per game this postseason, and Boston can not outscore them over a seven-game series.

Until a team in the East actually proves they can beat a LeBron-led team in a seven-game series, there is just no logical reason to expect it.

Prediction: Cavs in 6

 

Featured Image by All U Can Heat

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LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball is The Worst Thing In Basketball

LaVar Ball is one of the most disliked, if not the most disliked person in sports right now. It’s safe to say that LaVar Ball has rubbed some feathers with people over the past year.

He’s said some absurd things for sure. Like how he thinks his son Lonzo is better than Steph Curry and could do more on the Warriors and contribute more than Steph does. And then came the Jordan comments.

Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time (arguably), LaVar said he could beat one-on-one in his hay day. LaVar averaged 2.2 points in one year at Washington State, the same year Michael Jordan averaged 35 in the NBA and won defensive player of the year.

The comment was one thing, but the fact that LaVar Ball actually meant it and continues to stand by it, is another.

LaVar Ball

LaVar and his son Lonzo after a game last season (Photo/ Richard Mackson).

And now we have the new Lonzo Ball shoes, which are set at $495 a pair as well as flip flops, which are set at $220 a pair.

From a business standpoint LaVar Ball is extremely smart, even though he may not be making the decisions because of that reason. It seems like he’s making decisions based on the fact that he believes his sons are the greatest basketball players of all time.

But he does get people talking about his son’s and now his shoes.  If the shoes where in the $200 range people wouldn’t be talking about them as much as they are now.  So from a business standpoint LaVar Ball is pretty smart, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t obnoxious.

No player has come into the NBA with their own shoe brand, so Lonzo is the first to do that. But, the reason for that is because Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all passed on endorsement deals. Which will make Lonzo, the potential top pick in the draft, a rare exception as many top three picks get endorsement deals.

And it might very well be safe to say it’s because of his dad because LaVar did meet with all three companies to try and get a deal done. None of them bought in.

Longtime Nike executive George Raveling said LaVar Ball was “the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.”

It’s true, LaVar Ball is the worst.

What makes it so sad and annoying is not the Jordan comments or the laughable price for his shoes, but how he could be affecting his son’s draft stock.

Lonzo is quiet and doesn’t say much, which is kind of strange, as his father doesn’t stop. Like father, like son doesn’t really apply here. When asked about his father all Lonzo had to say was, “No, I’m not embarrassed. I know how he’s going to act. I just go out there and play. Let him be him.”

For the most part the sports universe has no problem with Lonzo as a whole. Sure, people dislike him for different reasons but nothing like his father.

LaVar Ball

Lonzo (left) is the oldest among the three Ball brothers. LiAngelo (Right) is the second oldest and Lamelo (middle) is the youngest. (Photo/ Google Images).

The draft order has yet to be set but the Boston Celtics are the favorite to get the number one overall pick. Many have argued that Lonzo should be the number one pick, but then that would entail having to deal with his father. The Celtics, who already have all star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, will most likely have Lonzo play behind of along side Thomas.

If you draft Lonzo Ball, you get LaVar and most teams don’t want LaVar.

We’ll have to see where Lonzo lands but if he lands anywhere besides Los Angeles it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

And don’t think this is going to end anytime soon. Even if Lonzo was to get injured and never play again, which we hope doesn’t happen because he seems like a good kid and a good teammate, there are two more Ball kids. And they both already committed to UCLA, which means more LaVar.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s a reason why Michael Jordan hasn’t responded to any of LaVar’s comments.

He’s not worth Jordan’s time.

 

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LeBron James

The Second-Best Player in the Eastern Conference

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

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

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

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

Kyrie Irving

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

Kyrie Irving

Photo by Kentucky Sports Radio

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

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

Paul George

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

Paul George

Photo by USA Today

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

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

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

Isaiah Thomas

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

Isaiah Thomas

Photo by The Boston Globe

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

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

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

John Wall

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

John Wall

Photo by CBS Sports

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

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

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

Giannis Antetokounmpo

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

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Photo by Sporting News

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

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

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

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

The Final Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

(Featured Image by Huffington Post)

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Where Does Melo Go From Here?

Nothing seems to be going right in the life of Carmelo Anthony at the moment. Phil Jackson recently gave a press conference in which he said, “I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”

He is unwanted and, according to Jackson, unneeded in New York.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there are reports coming out that he and his wife of seven years will be getting a divorce after rumors that he got a stripper pregnant.

Carmelo’s life and career are at a crossroads. The question that begs to be answered is, where does Melo go from here?

Career Accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: AP Richard Drew)

Carmelo is a legend at Syracuse University. In the 2002-03 season, Carmelo led the Orange to their first national championship. He averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was also named the tournament’s most outstanding player that season. His future was bright and he was picked third overall in the 2003 NBA draft.

Carmelo has also been a successful international basketball player. One could argue he is the most successful basketball olympian in United States history. Melo has a record of playing on four Olympic rosters, and a record three gold medals. Melo also holds the record for most points scored in a USA Men’s Olympic game with 37 against Nigeria in 2012.

He is first all-time in each of the following: games played (31), career points (336), rebounds (125), field goals made (113), field goals attempted (262), 3-pointers attempted (139), free throws made (53) and free throws attempted (71). He is also second all-time in 3-pointers made (57).

Carmelo’s NBA career hasn’t led to as much hardware, but he has still had a great career. Melo is a 10-time all star, has been named to an All-NBA team six times and was the scoring champion in the 2012-13 season.

One of his best accomplishments in the NBA was when he led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Championship in 2009, but fell to Kobe and the Lakers 4-2.

Carmelo has scored 24,156 career points in 15 NBA seasons. He has over 3,000 assists and over 6,000 rebounds, but a championship is what eludes him. The Knicks have openly said he will be better off chasing that ring somewhere else, but where?

The Path to A Ring

Carmelo Anthony

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

Melo has few options if all he is looking for is a ring. Those options include the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

It would be foolish for the Knicks to release Carmelo Anthony, but it may be their only option. Melo is under contract until July of 2019 and has a no-trade clause. He will veto any trade that is not to a championship contender, or a trade that leaves the new team without the pieces needed to win that elusive title. If the Knicks really want to part ways with Melo, they may have to just cut him.

Boston

The Celtics would be a great fit for both Melo and the team. Boston managed to get the No. 1 seed in the east despite only having one major option on offense in Isaiah Thomas.

Adding Anthony would bring in an easy 20 points per game and veteran leadership to a team that tied for the third youngest team (25.6) in the NBA. Both Melo and the Celtics would help one another in trying to win a ring.

Los Angeles

One team that is often mentioned in Anthony rumors is the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is loaded with talent, but fails to make an impact in the history books.

Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are close friends who both need to validate their careers with an NBA championship. Neither wants to go down in history like Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, John Stockton or Karl Malone.

If Anthony is cut, this would be his ideal spot. A team with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could only get better by adding Anthony. The Western Conference is loaded, but this makes the Clippers a legitimate threat rather than just a bump in the road out west.

Cleveland

The last team that Melo could sign with, if cut, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Melo is just as close with LeBron as he is with Chris Paul. Cleveland may win a title this year, but if they don’t, it’s because they ran into a Warriors team that loaded up with Kevin Durant. The answer to that would be to get Anthony and his scoring. He would take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron.

The Cavs are in less need of Melo than Melo is of the Cavs. Signing with Cleveland would prove that all Melo wants is that trophy. He wouldn’t be in the spotlight or the face of a franchise, which is something Melo has never experienced. Signing in Cleveland would all but guarantee him that ring he so desperately wants.

Conclusion

Carmelo Anthony

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

As Carmelo enters the twilight of his playing days, he is focused on one thing: winning. Knowing that  the Knicks no longer want or need him will make him seek a team that does want him.

He will also need a distraction from his personal problems, and finding another team can help with that. It is hard to see where Carmelo goes from here, but one thing is for certain: his playing days in New York are over.

 

 

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

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

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

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

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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February NBA MVP Rankings

It’s February, which means there are only about two months left in the NBA season. It’s been one of the strongest seasons in terms of individual performances in recent memory.

With so many outstanding performances this year, it’s important to try and sort out who is in the front running for the 2017 MVP award.

Tier 1: The guys who actually have a shot

1. Russell Westbrook: James Harden is currently the most popular pick for MVP in the eyes of many fans, but Westbrook has a small edge here for a few reasons.

For starters, Westbrook is essentially a lone wolf in terms of scoring on the Thunder. Their starting lineup consists of Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Steve Adams. No one besides Westbrook is a serious help on offense.

Westbrook is carrying this team to the playoffs right now.February NBA MVP Rankings

James Harden has a team built to score around him. The proficiency of their three point shooters also spaces the floor and gives him enough space to score and distribute the way he does.

Nothing against Harden and the incredible season he has been putting up, but Westbrook’s season is just more impressive. Additionally, the historical precedent is enough to justify putting Russell Westbrook in the top spot.

He would be just the second player in the history of the NBA to average a triple-double. How can someone having that unprecedented of a season not get the MVP?

Understandably, the guy below him on this list is having a historic season of his own. The gravity of averaging a triple-double over a season simply cannot be understated. The fact that he has been a much more formidable defender than the other two point guards in tier 1 helps his case immensely.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of NBA)

2. James Harden: What have we been missing all these years with Harden not playing point? The race is so close between Harden and Westbrook right now.

Harden is leading the league in assists and is third in points per game. Westbrook is leading the league in scoring and third in assists per game. Harden’s Rockets having a far superior record to the Thunder will most likely be used as reasoning for putting Harden ahead of Westbrook.

Harden’s superior team around him is impossible to ignore however.
It would be unsurprising if either of these players won the award this year. A strong argument can clearly be made for both. Right now, the season long triple-double give Westbrook the slightest of advantages. Let the stretch run begin.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

3. Lebron James: Voter fatigue is a real thing. LeBron has been dominating the league for so long now, that he can put up ridiculous stats without attracting much attention.

He is averaging more than 25 points per game this year while adding more than eight assists and rebounds. Those would both be tied for his career high. He’s also boosted his 3-point average and is hitting at his best rate since 2011. His play has been a notch below Harden and Westbrook, but you can’t ignore what the King has been doing in Ohio this year.

It’s likely that the recent debacle with Charles Barkley will negatively impact his standing with MVP voters as well. Lebron would have to go on a tear to catch up with the two guys in front of him. Unlikely? yes. But impossible? No.

Tier 2: Guys with an outside shot

4. Isaiah Thomas: The last pick in the 2011 draft continues to impress this year. Not to mention, he has been the undisputed belt-holder of the “best in the fourth quarter” award.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of The Boston Globe)

19 of his 44 points came in the fourth on Wednesday. That was in the midst of a ferocious fourth quarter comeback. He has been a man possessed for the last few months and he has lead the Celtics to the second spot in the East.

Only one thing keeps Thomas from vaulting into the top tier. His defense is some of the worst in the league. According to ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus ratings, it is in fact the worst among point guards.

He’s become somewhat of a revolving door for opposing offensive players as they blow by him to get easy buckets. Quite simply, Isaiah Thomas does not have much of a chance at grabbing an MVP award this year. His scoring isn’t quite at the level of Harden’s and he has been playing some of the worst defense in the league. It won’t be this year for Isaiah Thomas.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of JordanDaily)

5. Kawhi Leonard: In typical Spurs fashion, Kawhi Leonard has been quietly dominating the league. He’s not the flashiest guy in the league. He doesn’t make the headlines that other superstars do. At this point, it’s pretty clear that he is the best two-way player in the league.

Offensively, he has taken a huge leap. He is now averaging 25.5 points per game with 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He’s the perfect player for that system as well.

The Spurs lost a lot of leadership and talent with the departure of Tim Duncan, but Kawhi has evidently filled that role. They’re clearly one of the three best teams in the league this year, and Kawhi has let them remain a contender.

Perhaps most impressive is his 3-point shooting. He came into the league as a poor shooter, but is shooting 40 percent from down town. He is scoring more that he ever has while remaining a huge defensive force.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of Sporting News)

6: Kevin Durant: Kevin Durant recently talked about how he would start to let Steph Curry run the offense and take a step back. Durant’s season, however, has been one of the best of his career. It has certainly been his most efficient as a result of having Klay Thompson and Steph Curry spread the floor around him. Despite his cold streak recently, he is sporting a slash line of .541, .377 and .875.

He hasn’t had to shoot as much as he had to in OKC, but he is doing more with his touches than before. Not to mention, he’s averaging more than eight rebounds and eight assists. If he didn’t have another MVP candidate on his team, Kevin Durant would be much higher on this list.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

7. Stephen Curry: Just one year removed from being the unanimous MVP, Steph has seen diminished production with his diminished touches. Not to mention, he has been heating up lately and has been taking control of the offense.

Since Durant’s comments about letting Steph play his game, Curry has put up 43 and 39 points, while adding five and nine rebounds, and six and eight assists.

If Steph can continue to play at that level, he will undoubtedly rise up the ranks. It will be impossible for him to even come close to his astronomical numbers that he put up last season, but Curry can certainly make his way into the conversation for MVP. As of now, he finds himself on the fringes with a long shot.

Tier 3: Great seasons, but no shot

8. Anthony Davis: Anthony Davis deserves to be on a better team. For the fifth straight year, Anthony Davis is on a subpar team. He is also putting up ridiculous numbers for the fifth straight year.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of For The Win)

Davis is putting up career highs with 27.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He is tying his career high in assists with 2.2 per game as well.

There have been four players in NBA history who have put up 28 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Shaquille O’Neal did it three times, Bob McAdoo did it three times, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it once. That’s some elite company.

There’s absolutely no chance that Davis is going to win the MVP award based on the fact that he’s on a terrible team. Even if the Pelicans are able to play their way into the eighth seed in the West, it’s unlikely that The Brow will get serious MVP consideration. It is a shame. Get this man on a better team!

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of CSN)

9. John Wall: John Wall has been on an absolute tear lately. Of the 16 games in 2017, John Wall has nine double-doubles. He now has 28 double-doubles on the season.

Wall has been the engine on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He’s done so by averaging a career high in both points, assists, and steals. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and he has established himself as one of the best point guards in the league.

His uptick in production hasn’t effected his efficiency either. He is scoring at the best rate of his career while taking more shots per game.

John Wall has earned this spot on the list this year by turning the Wizards into a contender in the East. He is solid on both ends of the floor and continues to improve in his bigger role.

February NBA MVP Rankings

(Courtesy of AP)

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak has made it clear that he is going to be a force in the league for years to come. He is the only player leading his team in every stat category, and has dazzled all year with freakishly athletic highlights.

Giannis, like Anthony Davis, has no shot at winning this award simply because of the team that he plays on. The Bucks have a chance at getting one of the lower seeds in the Eastern Conference, but it’s not likely to give him a chance at the award.

It’s not likely it will matter. Giannis will see his name on many top-ten lists in years to come and might just have his name engraved on an MVP trophy someday. This is not his year though.

 

 

 

 

 

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