NBA summer league

Stop making a big deal about NBA Summer League

NBA fans are still continuing to find ways to get their fix of NBA action despite the fact the league is in its offseason.

There have been many big storylines so far. There has been a lot of noise made in free agency with signings like Gordon Hayward moving to the Boston Celtics. There have been many big trades like Chris Paul to the Rockets and Paul George to the Thunder. There have also been big extensions like James Harden’s new deal.

All the big contenders are looking to improve and give the Warriors and Cavaliers a run for their money.

The 2017 NBA Draft also drew a lot of attention. This new class of rookies is expected to be the most talented since the 2003 class that consisted of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Names like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball are expected to dominate the league for years to come.

Speaking of Lonzo Ball, he has also continued to stay in the league’s headlines since the draft. This is nothing new for the former UCLA point guard as his father Lavar has said plenty of insane comments about his son to put him in the spotlight.

However, Lonzo has been in the headlines recently not because of things his dad has said, but because of the numbers he is putting up in the NBA’s Summer League. He has already put up a triple-double and been looking like the star his dad claims he will be. There has even been talk about what type of shoes he performs best in. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Summer league means nothing

This is not a “hate on Lonzo Ball” article. I love the guy. I like his attitude and his style of play. He’s a good kid with a lot of potential.

What this article is really about is the summer league. NBA fans are so hungry for action that they are sitting around watching rookies and players from the D-League duke it out in what is basically a scrimmage.

Baseball junkies do this with spring training. NFL junkies do this with the preseason. They have waited so long to see their favorite sport in action that they are willing to watch scrimmages between backups and guys that are fighting for a spot on the team.

I’m also not hating on fans that watch spring training games or preseason football. You do you. What I am trying to point out is that you can’t make any assumptions or predictions based on what you see in preseason.

NBA summer league

Lonzo Ball has been looking like the player his dad says he is, but it is still just summer league. (Image by Getty Images)

In preseason sports, the starters hardly play. The backups dominate and sometimes fight for starting roles. There are undrafted players who are just hoping to earn a spot on the team. The competition is there since they are fighting for spots on the team, but the talent and skill sets aren’t.

The NBA’s Summer League is no exception. This is an opportunity for rookies from this year’s class to learn the NBA’s style of play. It is their chance to work with their coaches and learn about the offensive and defensive schemes.

It is also an opportunity for guys from the D-League to come up and show what they can do. There are also a handful of undrafted players fighting for a spot on the team, or at least a D-League roster.

This is the competition Lonzo Ball is playing. He is facing other guys he played against in college, guys that will hardly play in the NBA and guys that may never play in the NBA.

If Ball is even a tenth as good as his dad claims he is, then he surely should be dominating this competition. Shouldn’t he be able to handle the likes of Kay Felder? There is no LeBron James to face, no Steph Curry to worry about, no Russell Westbrook to guard and no James Harden to slow down. I also don’t hear anybody making noise about Bryn Forbes averaging 26 points per game for the Spurs.

Conclusion

Keep in mind what the summer league is all about. You can’t make any conclusions on rookies like Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum or even Ball. They aren’t playing any competition yet.

Why then does ESPN keep putting Ball’s stats in their top stories? I don’t know. My guess is because LaVar has captured the media’s attention and they are always going to continue to report on him, even when it is something as meaningless as summer league.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be going around bragging about the 40 points I put up in an intramural basketball game I played in at college. That is basically what preseason sports stats are like, especially summer league when no stars or even starters or sixth men can be found. So let’s cool it on the hype over Ball and wait and see what the kid does once the real competition comes his way.

 

Featured image retrieved from Sporting News

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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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NBA Playoffs Awards (So Far)

After 25 days, the NBA Playoffs have gone by without too much surprise. The Cavs and Warriors have dominated and only one of the first round series went to seven games. Six teams remain standing, and here are the awards for the 2017 NBA Playoffs to this point.

Awards

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James

“Playoff LeBron” is no joke. The King has shown no mercy to the Pacers or Raptors as he has led the Cavs to a sweep in both series. So far this playoffs, he has compiled a stat line of 34.4 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, 7.1 assists per game, 2.1 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game. He has elevated his performance to yet another level.

Perhaps his most impressive statistics come with his efficiency. His field goal percentage currently sits at .557 percent and he is making more than 46 percent of his three point attempts.

MVP of the playoffs so far really could not go to anybody else. LeBron has absolutely dominated his opponents in the first two rounds despite the lackluster play of his supporting cast. He has put to rest criticisms of his regular season performance and undoubtedly changed the opinions of many regarding the Cavs chances against the Warriors.

Not to mention, he’s given us ridiculous highlights such as this one:

Many performers have stepped up during these playoffs, but Lebron is clearly in a class of his own.

Honorable Mentions: Kawhi Leonard, John Wall, James Harden

 

Sixth Man: Joe Johnson

Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Eric Gordon have all been fantastic presences off the bench for their teams. Iguodala has done a little bit of everything, and Williams and Gordon have added a great scoring presence on the Rockets bench. Sixth man of the playoffs, however, has to go to the guy that is the reason his team won their first series.

Iso Joe was incredible against the Clippers, bringing back memories of his prime. At least two of the Jazz’ wins have to be attributed to Joe Johnson. This game winner in game one pretty much says it all.

Although his time in the playoffs has come to an end, Joe Johnson earned this one.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams

 

Rookie: Taurean Prince

No other rookies have really had much of an impact in the playoffs besides Malcolm Brogdon and Taurean Prince. In six games against the Raptors, Brogdon put up 9 points per game while averaging 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest.

In six games against the Wizards, prince put up 11.2 points per game while averaging 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest.

Brogdon has has a promising year, and he capped it off with a promising first playoff appearance. He logged more than 30 minutes per game while the Bucks did their best as the underdogs. He also made a stellar 10 of his 21 three point attempts.

Prince did not have as good of a regular season as Brogdon. His minutes doubled during the postseason, and he was able to take advantage of the increase in playing time. It is his defense, however, that lands him the title of best rookie for the playoffs. Prince played great defense against wings and guards, and played with a high intensity throughout the series. During Game 4, he had this impressive block on John Wall:

This playoffs have been lacking in rookie performance. The only other player who had a chance to compete was Jaylen Brown, and his minutes have dropped significantly during the postseason. Brogdon and Prince both had impressive series, but Prince’s impact on his team lands him the top spot.

Honorable Mentions: Malcolm Brogdon

 

Coach: Mike D’Antoni

Coaching has not seemed to play a huge role in the playoffs so far. The Cavs are dominating the Eastern Conference, and Tyron Lue has let Playoff Lebron do much of the work. The Warriors are dominating the Western Conference, and Steve Kerr has been out with a back injury.

Meanwhile, high profile coaches like Billy Donovan and Doc Rivers struggled mightily in the first round. Even NBA wizard Greg Popovich struggled mightily with adjustments against the Grizzlies.

All Mike D’Antoni has had to do to get this title is continue the Rockets’ regular season success. D’Antoni has shown once again that his offense first scheme can be successful in the playoffs. And so far D’Antoni has gone toe to toe with Greg Popovich in the second round.

Special honorable mention has to be given to David Fizdale of the Grizzlies. As a rookie head coach, Fizdale and the Grizzlies kept up with the Spurs despite being overmatched. And, he gave us this instantly legendary press conference after Game 2:

However, until a truly remarkable coaching performance can upend this spot, it belongs to D’Antoni.

Honorable Mention: David Fizdale

 

Defensive Player: Draymond Green

This one really isn’t much of a contest. Draymond’s defense was insane against the Trailblazers. He switched effortlessly from centers to guards, and has now anchored a defensive unit to two consecutive sweeps. He has 21 blocks in 8 games so far (for comparison, Rudy Gobert has 11 blocks in 8 games.) End of discussion. Draymond is in a league of his own right now.

Honorable Mentions: Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, Lebron James

 

All-NBA Playoffs Teams

All-NBA First Team

John Wall: Wall has been absolutely unstoppable for the Wizards. He’s scoring more than 10 more points than his career playoff high while keeping his assist numbers steady. He’s been an elite playmaker and scorer, and his defense has been very solid.

James Harden: While his numbers are down from the regular season, James Harden has been great in the playoffs. He is averaging 30 points per game, and his team is two games away from the Western Conference finals. Although he hasn’t quite played to his potential, he’s still been one of the best guards.

Lebron James: See above.

Kawhi Leonard: Kawhi Leonard has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Spurs. He’s had to do just about everything to ensure victory so far, and he leads the playoffs in win shares as a result. His efficiency has also been remarkable. Kawhi and Lebron have been far and away the best two players of the playoffs.

Draymond Green: See above.

 

All-NBA Second Team

Steph Curry: The Warriors have breezed through their first two opponents, and Curry hasn’t had to play out of his mind to ensure success. Nevertheless, he’s put up some impressive stats and is shooting well from the field.

Chris Paul: Chris Paul could not have done more to help the Clippers win their series against the Jazz. After Blake Griffin went down, Paul stepped up. He ended up averaging 25.3 points and 9.9 assists per game. The Clippers may have fallen short, but Chris Paul deserves none of the blame.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: In his first playoff appearance, the Greek Freak continued to show the world that he is legit. 24.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Not bad.

Gordon Hayward: Hayward has put up an efficient 24 points a game while leading the Jazz to the second round. Though his fate was sealed against the Warriors, Hayward put up a great playoff season in a contract year.

Rudy Gobert: The center position is weak, so Gobert makes the second team despite missing games. Gobert played well on both ends of the floor for the Jazz while adding 11 points and 9 rebounds per game.

 

All-NBA Third Team

Russell Westbrook: Westbrook had a 47 percent usage rate. Sheesh. Nonetheless, he kept the Thunder close most games before getting gassed in the fourth quarter. And a playoff stat line of 37.8 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game and 10.8 assists per game can’t be ignored.

Mike Conley: Conley did everything he could to keep the Grizzlies close with the Spurs. He averaged 24 points per game while shooting 44% from the three point line. The Spurs were the better team, but Conley came out with something to prove in the series. Needless to say, he proved it.

Jimmy Butler: Butler didn’t have his most efficient series against the Celtics, but he was clearly the best player on the floor during the series. He played well on both sides of the ball, and kept the series much closer than it could’ve been.

Paul Millsap: The Hawks were outed in 6 games against the Wizards, but Millsap had a fantastic series. He put up his playoff career high in points per game with 24.3 while making more than 50% of his field goals. He also added his career high in assists per game.

Clint Capela: Capela has been a solid producer for the Rockets. In a playoff field that lacks in strong big men, he has put up more than 10 points and 8 rebounds per game. He also has 24 blocks in 9 games, and is third in the league in defensive win shares.

 

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Western Conference Playoff Preview

Western Conference Playoff Preview

The second season is finally upon us. It is the time of year that all NBA fans have been salivating for all season.

Can anybody upset the Warriors, or will they cruise to another finals appearance? Who will win the duel between Brodie and the Beard? Buckle up for a fun battle out west. Here is the Western Conference Playoff preview.

1 Golden State Warriors vs. 8 Portland Trailblazers

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: http://theargonautnews.com

The Warriors have been slowly waiting for the playoffs all season. Golden State finished with the best record in the NBA and will be trying to make their third consecutive finals appearance. Kevin Durant is back from his injury just around the same time Steph Curry has found his groove.

Portland has gone an impressive 11-4 over their last 15 games to push themselves into the playoffs as the eighth seed. The Trailblazers have a great backcourt, but the Warriors are just too loaded. There isn’t much Portland will be able to do to stop the Warriors’ high powered offense.

This will be a short series, and Golden State will be on to bigger and better things.

Prediction: Warriors in 4

2 San Antonio Spurs vs. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Western Conference Playoff Preview

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

It is hard to imagine a Spurs versus Grizzlies playoff series without Tim Duncan. These two franchises have gone at it many times in the past playoffs to provide some thrilling action for the fans.

This series is likely to play out similarly to their two previous postseason meetings in which the Spurs have swept the Grizzlies. Memphis has the same core that hasn’t gotten over the hump and this year they are barely above .500.

San Antonio is still a well-oiled machine led by the best two-way player in the league, Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich will have his team ready, and the Spurs will find themselves in the Western Conference Semi-Finals rather quickly.

Prediction: Spurs in 5 

3 Houston Rockets vs. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com/nba

This is easily the most exciting matchup of the first round in the Western Conference.

The storylines are never ending in this series. Russell Westbrook versus James Harden. The two players going head to head for the MVP go head to head in the playoffs. Westbrook is trying to lead his team against all odds. Harden will be trying to eliminate his former team. The hype is real for this one.

The Rockers went 3-1 against the Thunder, but three of the four games were decided by three points or less. Houston has the deeper team, but Oklahoma City has the advantage inside. Basketball slows down in the playoffs, giving the Thunder an advantage.

This will be a long and entertaining series. Westbrook is going to be gunning for heads in this year’s playoffs. His remarkable season will continue into the second round.

Prediction: Thunder in 7

4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5 Utah Jazz

Western Conference Playoff Preview

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

The Clippers are under more pressure than any team in the first round of the playoffs. They have not lived up to the hype in recent years and health has been one of the biggest excuses.

This is no excuse this year. The Clippers are healthy and experienced while the Jazz are inexperienced. Los Angeles also has the home-court advantage in this series.

The Clippers dominated the Jazz in the regular season, winning three out of the four matchups by a combined 42 points. Utah doesn’t have the firepower to win this series on paper, but Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward could play well enough to upset the Clippers. Chris Paul, Black Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will not last long in L.A. if they lose this series.

The experience will be the difference in this one, and the Clippers will avoid being bounced in the first round, but just barely.

Prediction: Clippers in 7

You can check out the Eastern Conference Playoff Preview here.

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Who Can Knock Off Golden State

Who Can Knock Off Golden State?

There seems to be a consensus that the Warriors and Cavaliers will be meeting in the NBA Finals. Whether it is actual analysis or just what people want to see, it is hard to find fans who believe it will be anyone else. Why would it be anybody other than those two teams? They have played against one another in back to back finals. Both teams have gotten even better this season. Most fans also want to see the grudge match considering both teams have beaten the other once. On paper, everything looks nice but basketball isn’t played on paper and there are teams who can upset the world and make it to the finals. This first edition will look at who in the west can upset the Warriors in the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

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

This isn’t really going out on a limb. The Spurs are the most obvious answer to who can beat the Warriors in the playoffs although they seem to be forgotten when it comes to finals talk. The Spurs are an amazing 45-13 and only four and a half games back of the Warriors. Mathematically they could even get the number one seed still. San Antonio also leads the season series 1-0 and there are still two more games to play against the Warriors.

Gregg Popovich will have this team ready come playoff time, and everyone in that locker room believes they can win the title. The Spurs have the second-best defense in the NBA holding teams to just 98.3 points per game. They also hold opponents to 44 percent shooting. It is going to take a good defensive team to beat the Warriors. What the Spurs do defending the three-point line is what gives them the best opportunity to win. San Antonio holds opponents to 34 percent shooting behind the arc. Keeping Klay Thompson and Steph Curry off the arc is the key to beating the Warriors.

The Spurs are extremely experienced in the playoffs. Their players know what it takes to win and have the mentality that they are overlooked and underappreciated. Kawhi Leonard may need to be legendary during their playoff run but they are one of the teams that can upset Golden State.

Houston Rockets

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

(Photo Credit: http://topbet.eu)

The Rockets are an interesting team. They played the Warriors in the playoffs last year as an eighth seed but only won one game in the series. As crazy as this sounds, the formula the Rockets have for beating the Warriors is trying to outscore them. They are probably the only team in the league who is comfortable playing the Warriors shot for shot. They have also split the season series each beating the other once with the Rockets winning the most recent contest.

Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy has been tremendous for Harden and the Rockets, as they are averaging 115.2 points per game this season. James Harden will need to play out of his mind for the Rockets to do pull off the upset, but he is capable of doing so. If the Warriors go cold Houston can shoot them out of the gym. It will take a group effort to beat Golden State but Houston has a team capable, even if it isn’t likely.

Utah Jazz

Who Can Knock Off Golden State

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

The Jazz are one team nobody really talks about. Most talk about the West involves the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets and Clippers. Interesting enough the Jazz sit at fourth in the Western Conference. Utah isn’t a high scoring team, they average about 100 points per game, but they shoot a high percentage. The Jazz rank 10th in field goal percentage shooting 46.4 percent per game.

What makes the Jazz good is that they are the best defensive team in the NBA. They hold teams to an average of 95.6 points per game. They are third best in defensive field goal percentage (43.8 percent) and 13th in defensive three-point percentage (35.7 percent). The Jazz play great defense and can slow the game down. In a series against the Warriors, they would need to play their best defense of the year and hope the Warriors go cold for one or two games. If they do that the Jazz could find themselves upsetting Golden State in a seven game series.

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NBA Mid-Season Awards

NBA Mid-Season Awards ’17

All-Star Weekend has finished up and more than half the season is gone. Teams are either preparing for the draft or preparing to push towards the playoffs. There have been some amazing performances this season. All-Star break has always been looked at as the mid-season and for those teams who make deep postseason runs, it still is. So catch your breath and lace your sneakers for the second half of the season. Here are Hagan’s Haus NBA mid-season awards.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’antoni- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Rocky Widner Getty Images)

This is the hardest award to pick out of all. There were a couple of strong candidates for this award including Washington head coach Scott Brooks and Utah head coach Quin Snyder. Both of those coaches are having great seasons but this award must go to Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets.

Last season the Rockets were the eighth seed in the playoffs after making the conference finals the previous year. This season they hold the third seed in a strong Western Conference and already have 40 wins after only amassing 41 last season. That type of improvement in just one season is impressive. The Rockets may not win the NBA Title but they have become a dangerous team in the west under D’Antoni.

 

6th man of the year: Eric Gordon- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: LM Otero, Associated Press)

There is no question that Eric Gordon is the sixth man of the year. His career was in shambles until this season. Gordon could not stay healthy and could not live up to his potential in New Orleans. Now as a sixth man Gordon provides a spark off the Rockets bench. He is shooting 38.9 percent from behind the arc. Gordon also has the fourth most made three-pointers in league with 184. This is also Gordon’s third best year in scoring. If he continues this he will easily win the sixth man of the year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Bradley Beal- Washington Wizards

This was a difficult award to assess but Bradley Beal is a good candidate for the award. Bradley Beal missed 27 games due to injury last season. He only started 35 of the 55 games he appeared in. This season, however, Beal has started all 51 games that he has played in.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

Beal is a part of a surging Wizards team that has won nine out of their last 10 and have taken the third spot in the Eastern Conference. They are only two games back of the Celtics for the two seed. Part of that surge is because Beal is having a career year. Beal is averaging a career high in points per game (22.2), assists per game (3.7), free throw percentage (81%) and field goal percentage (47%). Beal has come back strong this season and the Wizards are a threat because of it.

Most Improved: Giannis Antekokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

The Greek Freak just played in his first ever All-Star game at the age of 22. Giannis is also averaging a career high in points per game (23.4), blocks per game (2.0), steals per game (1.8), assists per game (5.4), rebounds per game (8.6), free throw percentage (79%) and field goal percentage (52.3%). Not only are those his career highs, he leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Giannis is clearly on his way to stardom and has improved vastly since last season. He has improved more than anybody else this season and one day may be an MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Mid Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Trust the process. No really, trust the process because Joel Embiid has been fantastic in his first year on the court. It has been a long wait for 76er fans to see Embiid in action but it has been worth the wait. He has started 31 games and is averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. His 78 percent free throw shooting is also impressive for a big man.

The 76ers have found a legitimate franchise piece to build around. Their only concern now is his history of injuries. If he can stay healthy the 76ers are in for some great years of basketball. Embiid is no question the rookie of the year and there is no competition. Trust the process.

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green- Golden State Warriors

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

Defensive player of the year was tough to pick. There is no clear cut favoite that stands out above the rest. Permiter defenders don’t typically get this award. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are both great defenders but are unlikely to win the award.

Draymond Green is a player who is deserving of this award. Green can defend all five positions on the court. His versitility makes him valuable and one of the best defenders in the NBA. He also ranks 14th with 1.5 blocks per game, and first in steals in the NBA with 2.1 per game. He is the best defender on the league’s best team and that has to account for something. He also recorded the rarest triple double in NBA history. It was the first ever triple double without scoring more than 10 points. Green’s triple double came from 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. In an era where scoring and offense are valued so highly, Green is one of the best defenders in the league.

Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook- Oklahoma City Thunder

How can you not love “Brodie”? He is every fan’s and team builder’s dream. He plays basketball harder than any athlete in the world plays their sport. Westbrook is an old-school competitor and all he really wants to do is win. Only one player in NBA history has averaged a triple-double. Westbrook is looking to become the second player ever to accomplish this in 70 seasons of the NBA.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

Many people argue that this era of the NBA is the most talented era of all-time. Players are more skilled than ever before which makes the nightly triple-double watch for Westrbook more spectacular.

Without Westbrook the Thunder would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. “Brodie” has a PER of 29.5 which is a career high and would be the 26th best PER in NBA history. Westbrook is averaging a career high in points per game (31.1), rebounds per game (10.5) and three-point percentage (33.8). He is also adding 10.1 assits per game to round out the triple-double. “Brodie” is carrying the franchise on his back to the playoffs.

Some may argue that James Harden should be the MVP and they wouldn’t be wrong. Harden is having an MVP caliber year but think about this. Westrbook is averaging a triple-double. That alone is absolutely amazing, but his team is also a playoff team. If averaging a triple-double over a season is not worth the MVP award then we need to take away the name “Most Valuable Player” and call it “Media’s Most Popular Player”. Russell Westbrook is the MVP.

 

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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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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Seven Stats or Less: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are one of the best teams in the league. Mike D’Antoni, a viable coach of the year candidate, has reinvented the offense and helped the team bounce back from a down year last season. Additionally, the front office made subtle moves that turned into fruitful returns for the team. General Manager Daryl Morey added Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to run with James Harden in an offensive juggernaut. That should not go unnoticed when discussing executive of the year. Harden is third in the league in scoring, first in assists and has a legitimate case for MVP. Third in the Western Conference with a record of 35-16, Houston has the potential to return to the Conference Finals and challenge the Golden State Warriors.

  1. The Houston Rockets are number one in the league in catch and shoot three-point attempts. They make them at an efficient 38 percent. The way the shots come in the scheme of their offense is close to unguardable as they have a top-two offensive rating, second only to the Golden State Warriors. Teams are going to have to be able to get out and contest these shots if they want a chance at slowing them down.
  2. The Rockets are adverse to the mid-range shot. They rank last in the league in those types of shots with 7.6 attempts. For perspective, the second ranked team in the Western Conference takes a league leading 25 mid-range shots a game. The lack of those shots are clearly a by-product of the Mike D’antoni offense.
  3. In the last six games, Houston has a 108.2 defensive rating.  They’ve allowed over 120 or more points in four of those games. 125 in a loss to Golden State, 127 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, 120 in a loss to the Boston Celtics and 120 in yet another loss to the Indiana Pacers. In the last six games Houston’s opponents are averaging 53 points in the paint and 15 fast break points — both higher than their season average. The defense might come back to hold them back in terms of postseason success if they don’t shore up some deficiencies.
  4. The Rockets have drawn the second most charges in the league at 1.04 per game. Patrick Beverly is third among guards in charges drawn. Montrezl Harrell is seventh among forwards. Charges are one of the best ways to stop the flow of an opponent’s momentum and also gain extra possessions.
  5.  James Harden isolates the fourth most of any player in the league. His 6.1 points from isolation leads the NBA. Harden averages 29.1 points a game, which is third most in the NBA. He’s one of the premier scorers in the league. His skills with the basketball coupled with his strength allows him to take his man either to the hoop or shoot over him.
  6. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are two of the only players to possess an assist percentage of at least 51 percent this season with a minimum of 45 games. Both players have a legitimate case for MVP, based on the historical context of their respective seasons.
  7. James Harden has two of the only three 50-point triple doubles in the league. Westbrook has the other one.

 

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Who Should Play in the NBA All-Star Game?

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

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

Starters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(courtesy of CSN Philly)

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

Bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starters

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

(courtesy of Clutch Points)

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

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

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

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

Bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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