Making the case for every fringe playoff team

The NBA season is halfway over, which means it’s time to start evaluating potential playoff teams.

The top four seeds in each conference are virtual locks, due to overall talent and coaching. The fifth-seventh seeds will do some changing around as teams jockey for their playoff seeding. Although, close followers of the NBA probably wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons or the Trailblazers fell out of the playoff picture after overachieving slightly in the first half of the season.

As with any sport’s playoff, however, the most interesting storylines are the ones involving the teams on the bubble.

With that in mind, let’s look at each conference’s eighth seed and first two teams on the outside looking in.

Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers (21-19, No. 8 seed)

The Pacers have been just fine without Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been playing close to his ceiling, although they’re still overpaying for him. The other piece of the trade that sent George away, Domantas Sabonis, has also been playing nicely. He’s two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, and will probably end up setting career-high averages in every meaningful category.

While their offense has been clicking, their defense is some of the most below average in the Association. Not awful, just very mediocre. Their offense alone can win the Pacers enough games to keep them in the 8th spot. Lack of defensive consistency will have been their downfall if they fail to make the cut.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-19, first team out)

Philadelphia is one of the most exciting stories in the NBA this season. The “process” seems to have finally come to fruition, and we are finally seeing glimpses of what this long and arduous rebuild has wrought.

Even though the 76ers are a .500 team, don’t be fooled. They’re currently first in the league in rebounds per game, second in assists resulting made field goals, and sixth in points. A rested and re-energized team could ride that kind of momentum to a playoff spot after the All Star break. Plus, their first overall draft pick hasn’t even played five games yet.

NBA Playoffs

Embiid scores on Whiteside. (Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What will keep them out of the playoffs is their youth and inconsistency in their game to game performances. As the season drags on, the young players might start to slow down, which will only exacerbate their inconsistency issues. Those red flags usually mean a .500 team will stay a .500 team, but playing in a weak conference will definitely help.

New York Knicks (19-21, second team out)

The Knicks are a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court. They are ninth in points in the paint and second in points allowed in the paint. Yes, we’re talking about the New York Knicks.

The team is huge, size-wise. Porzingis, O’Quinn, Kanter and Noah are all either over or close to 7-feet. That length pays dividends over a long regular season, but could actually be a problem if they sneak into the playoffs. The East is full of jump shooting teams, which will stretch New York’s strengths too thin to make them truly effective.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (20-19, No. 8 seed)

New Orleans might very well be a better team than their record indicates. They’re second in points in the paint thanks to Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. They’re also second in the NBA in assists per game thanks to some great guard play both from starters and off the bench. Not to mention they have the second toughest schedule in the NBA (according to 2016-2017 team records).

Team defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Pelicans. Bottom five in opponents points in the paint per game doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the front court they have. They also give up the third most points in the league per game.

NBA Playoffs

Davis and Cousins during a game against the Spurs. (Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

It’s an especially strange case on New Orleans’ part. The chemistry and coaching is clearly there, as evidenced by the assist totals. But the defense is nowhere near where it should be, in spite of Cousins and Davis. Remember that Alvin Gentry was brought on to be a defensive mastermind, and the roster has only gotten better since he came to town. Maybe look for a coaching shake-up if the Pelicans miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers (18-21, first team out)

Doc Rivers’ team is hurting out west. The Clippers have been a staple of the Western Conference playoffs for the past six years, but the days of Lob City have finally come to an end. Chris Paul’s departure marked a culture change for the Clips, and the team has not found its stride just yet.

Los Angeles still has a great 3-point game. Beverley, Williams, Rivers and even Griffin can all pull up from distance. They also have great personnel for man-to-man defense. Those two things are golden in NBA playoff basketball. But, yet again, team defense is going to be the main hurdle between them and their playoff streak.

Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)

The new look Jazz are in a soft rebuild. After losing their number one scorer in Gordon Hayward, the Jazz were almost certainly take on a new identity. But picking up Ricky Rubio and finding a steal in Donovan Mitchell should have stopped the bleeding more than it has.

Their defense is some of the best in the NBA, all around. In fact, the Jazz are top 10 in almost every meaningful defensive category under Quin Snider. Against the trend, the offense is what will probably keep Utah out of the playoffs this year. Although, again, this is a new look team. And offense almost always comes together more quickly than defense. If they can keep up the defensive dominance, they won’t be out of the playoff picture for long.

 

Featured image by ANTHONY GRUPPUSO-USA TODAY

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New York

New York Knicks: Life after Carmelo Anthony

After three years of the Phil Jackson era and finally trading Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks finally get to move on.

Despite making the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the offseason, the Knicks acquired some key pieces during the summer. New York management signed notable names such as Jarrett Jack, Tim Hardaway Jr., Michael Beasley and Ramon Sessions.

New York is moving on

On Sep. 23, New York traded Melo to the Oklahoma City Thunder, in return for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick. If you’re a Knicks fan or Spike Lee, you should be happy with the additions made by management.

In order for New York to turn the table, they need to use this season to experiment. With the removal of the dark cloud known as Phil Jackson, it’s safe to say that head coach Jeff Hornacek can throw away the triangle offense.

Last year Melo averaged 18.8 shot attempts per game, which affected the younger players on the roster.

Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis will have a big year and play with a chip on his shoulder due to the fact that his name was included in multiple trade reports. The franchise needs to build the team around the 7-foot-3 forward.

Porzingis has put up amazing numbers in the two years that he has played in the big apple. Last season the 22-year-old averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and one assist. With the Eastern Conference wide open, the Knickerbockers could still make a run at the eighth seed.

The supporting cast

Adding Beasley is huge if he can stay on the court and away from off-court activities that jeopardize his eligibility. Last year the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 9.4 points, three rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field.

With the former Syracuse star out the door, Beasley should have the green light at the small forward position.

In addition to Beasley, the organization brought in a familiar face in Tim Hardaway Jr. A lot of people questioned management for giving him a two-year $71 million deal. The former Atlanta Hawk provides you with instant scoring, flashes of defense and athleticism. Let’s not forget about the pickup of Sessions.

Sessions, numbers may not stand out, but the way he runs a team reminds me of a drum major at a marching band performance. The former Charlotte Hornet will make sure that players are in the right place at the right time.

The 31-year-old guard isn’t a prolific shooter so you don’t have to worry about the ball sticking at the top of the key. In addition to his facilitating, he will make a great mentor for the younger player’s especially Frank Ntilikina.

The Knicks front office should be pleased with the addition of a shooting threat in McDermott and a skilled big man in Kanter. Both players could make a case for a starting spot or serious minutes off the bench.

This year’s starting lineup could include Ramon Sessions, Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah. The bench rotation will probably consist of Jarrett Jack, Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and Lance Thomas.

The Knicks have options, which is something we have not heard in a long time.

Bold prediction alert: expect the team to sneak into the playoffs as the 8th or 7th seed. #BookIt

 

Featured image taken by Michael Tipton

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(courtesy of Forbes)

The Swift Downfall of the Chicago Bulls

There exist only three certainties in the world: death, taxes, and the implosion of Rajon Rondo. I can’t imagine anyone is too surprised after his latest escapades. If anything, it’s surprising that it took this long for him to blow up on his new team.

Rondo went in on his teammates on Instagram with this tirade early on Thursday night:

[su_quote]My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.[/su_quote]

This comes after a post-game rant from Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade that called out their Bulls teammates following a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls appear to be in a freefall after exceeding expectations at the start of the year.

More than anything, this instagram rant seems like Rondo’s way of saying he wants to be traded. This is not the first time Rondo has had some regrettable antics (ahem) but this is probably the most destructive act of his career. After all, the Bulls are still in playoff position and have one of the leagues premier players in Jimmy Butler.

It’s hard to blame this all on Rondo though, as the Bulls’ season was bound to unravel at some point. They signed Rondo and Wade over the summer to try and make a push this season after losing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Signing washed up stars may not have been the ideal move for this team however.

The Bulls roster this year consists of Jimmy Butler in his prime, Wade and Rondo as they decline, and a myriad of young budding players including Michael Carter-Williams, Denzel Valentine and Doug McDermott. With that mix of upcoming and declining talent, their pace was simply unsustainable.

It’s hard to predict what comes next for the Bulls. Rondo will almost certainly hit the trade market sooner rather than later. All eyes have to be on Jimmy Butler. Butler has been the center of rumors for a while now. In past years he was often linked to the Boston Celtics. Is it finally time for the Bulls to part with their superstar. For the next few years it will be hard to get past the Cavaliers in the East, so a rebuild may not be the worst idea.

Only time will tell what will happen to the team, but one thing is for sure. They’re dysfunctional, and they’re a mess. It’s unlikely that they retain their playoff spot, and it’s almost unthinkable that they could do any damage in the playoffs. Like it or not, the Bulls have hit their fall from grace. And thanks to Rondo, it’s not gonna be pretty.

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Seven Stats or less : The New York Knicks

Four games into 2016-2017 NBA season and we know one thing for certain: the teams that we saw won’t be the same teams in six months. Heck, they won’t be the same teams in late December. The NBA season is about watching teams evolve and eventually evolve come the playoffs.

With that said, let’s have some fun with seven stats that will totally define this season for the New York Knicks.

This week it’s the Knicks because of the waves President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson made in the offseason. Are the moves paying off? Can we glean anything from the stats below? Maybe, or maybe the season is young and these aren’t cemented into the team yet.

  1. Kristaps Porzingis is shooting 37% from the three-point line on four attempts through four games. That’s pretty good. It’s no secret that Porzingis has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc, but its accuracy that makes the shot a weapon. He shot 33% last year. If he can somehow keep up that percentage, it will be big for the Knicks.
  2. Through four games, 73% of Derrick Rose’s shots have come in the paint. Rose also averages the third most points in the paint among point guards. He trails only Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard. This is good for a player that shot less than 30% from three. Scoring easy points will only help this bottom five offense.
  3. Rose is averaging a little less than two free throw attempts per game.  For context, Carmelo Anthony is averaging seven attempts. This isn’t something that is going to be a trend for the season. If Rose can maintain a healthy field goal percentage with such a high percentage of shots coming from the paint, defenses will load up on his bulldozing style of play. He’s sure to feel some contact.
    points-in-paint

    USA-Today Sports

  4. The Knicks are averaging 26 pull-up jumpers, which is good for fourth in the league. They are making them on a 35% clip. That’s not a stat that can stand. For those who don’t know, NBA.com defines a pull jumper as a shot that is taken with one or fewer dribbles. Clearly a result of the roster, but it would probably be best to pass and get better looks than hoisting up low percentage shots.
    dunkk

    USA-Today Sports

  5. Joakim Noah is averaging five assists. Derrick Rose is averaging two. Surprise, surprise, Rose isn’t a “set-up” point guard. That’s not a knock against him, but fans shouldn’t freak out about that. For one, it’s been four games. Secondly, he averages almost six assists for his career. Once he gets comfortable with the offense, he’ll be able to make the right reads and his passes will lead to scores.
  6. Porzingis is 4th in the league in contested shots at 14. This isn’t a surprise considering he’s 7’3 with a 7’6 wingspan. However, it really isn’t helping the overall team defense.
    kriataps-contest

    USA-Today Sports

  7. The Knicks have a 108.6 defensive rating, which ranks bottom three in the league. Obviously, the defense is going to have to get better if they want to have a chance to win close games. That’s something that they are going to get familiar with if they want to compete in the Eastern Conference.

 

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Why Not the Knicks? Well…

Does Anyone Want to Play for the Knicks?

 

It has been over three seasons since Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks won their last playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 2013 playoffs. It has been closing in on 20 years since the Knicks’ last NBA Finals appearance. And it has been over 40 years since their last championship with, as many Knicks’ fan will affectionately swoon at the mention of, the likes of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. New York is considered by some to still be the Mecca of basketball and Madison Square Garden is the hallowed ground on which it stands. 13-time champion (two as a player, 11 as a coach), Phil Jackson has been the president and head of all basketball operations for the last two years and yet, no free agent seems to want to come to the Big Apple. Why? In a city that doesn’t seem to have the time for the slow process that is rebuilding a team, expectations are astronomical and, let’s face it, downright stupid. The reasons for Knicks fans’ suffering could take a long time to add up, but I will just talk about the four reasons I’ve compiled that have attributed to the last couple years to save some time.

Courtesy of Sporting News.

The Owner is Too Involved and Under Too Much Pressure

Leading up to the arrival of Phil Jackson as head of basketball operations and President, owner James Dolan has often had a hand in some of the big trades and acquisitions of players and coaches throughout his reign, most notably the deals that brought Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony from their respective Western Conference teams to the Knicks; deals in which the Knicks gave up draft picks and a handful of players. Since Melo and Amare came to the Knicks, they made the playoffs 3 times with Stoudemire battling injury in 2013; Dolan’s Knicks would have to eat most of Stoudemire’s contract due to injury during his time there. It was clear that these moves did not pay off as the duo of Stoudemire and Anthony just weren’t meshing well and the head coach for half of their partnership, Mike d’Antoni, wasn’t getting the job done with the pieces that the team had. After firing d’Antoni, keeping Mike Woodson on as head coach and being somewhat competitive in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Dolan decided to fire the defensive-minded coach at the beginning of the Phil Jackson era. However, prior to Jackson’s hire, Dolan made decisions on which free agents or trades to go after and sign to help Carmelo bring a championship back to the Garden, and let’s just say they weren’t exactly what the Knicks needed, as they were without draft picks as a result of these failed trades and acquisitions.

Courtesy of USA Today.

Phil Jackson is the President of the Knicks… Not the Coach

One of Jackson’s first moves as President was the hiring of recently retired NBA veteran and former Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher as the new head coach of the Knicks. This being Fisher’s first coaching job ever and not having a .500 season or better after his first season, it should surprise many that he only lasted about a season and a half (40-96 record over that span). This off-season, Jackson seemed hell-bent on keeping interim head coach Kurt Rambis, another ex-Laker, on as the permanent head coach. This didn’t seem like a wise move to anyone in the basketball community, so Dolan, being an active owner, insisted Jackson look elsewhere and Jackson then hired former Suns coach, Jeff Hornacek. I am not sure what to expect from the new hire, but the feeling remains the same; the feeling that Phil Jackson should come down from the front office and coach this team himself. Whatever health concerns there may be about Phil traveling around the country, the belief is that only Phil Jackson can properly teach and execute the triangle offense, which he has consistently preached that these Knicks can employ. Phil Jackson as a coach, would make the Knicks a more attractive destination for the more attractive free agent. When a man has coached teams to 11 championships, there is not a player in the league that wouldn’t at least consider New York an option if that man is coaching.

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Melo Isn’t the Superstar Player He’s Paid to Be

The Knicks’ star came into the league with the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (those 3 would later team up and win two championships together), with Anthony being the player without a ring. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, going into that draft, were often compared to each other, both being around 6’8” and the ability to take over games in a multitude of ways. Since then, the two players’ paths have vastly differed and their true abilities shown. LeBron has won Rookie of the Year, three titles, four MVPs, and a scoring title. Melo, on the other hand, has won one scoring title and has only made one conference final; in fact he’s only made it past the first round of the playoffs once and is now being paid upwards of $122 million dollars over five years. Anthony’s game is much different from the two superstars who have dominated the league during his time; those two superstars being LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. While critics of James have said he doesn’t have the scorer’s mentality or killer instinct that the Mamba and even Melo appear to have, he has had a greater effect on the game with his passing and vision that Carmelo has only dreamed of having by scoring. Speaking of scoring, it seems that the majority of Anthony’s efforts are put towards scoring rather than playing defense; LeBron nearly won Defensive Player of the Year a couple of years and even Kobe, who’s been touted as “selfish” on the offensive end, and who I would liken Anthony’s game more than LeBron, wasn’t a blow by on the defensive end.

I look at Carmelo Anthony’s game, at age 32, as a wanna-be Kobe; He has to have the ball in his hands to affect the game and he believes he can score on every possession no matter how cold of a night he is having, which is all well and fine if the team can pick up the slack, but Anthony’s teams usually haven’t been able to. Carmelo Anthony (41% FG, 21.4 FGA, 32% 3FG, 7.3 reb, 2.8 assists, and 25.7 pts for his playoff career) seems to have needed an all-star point guard that knew how to run an offense and play defense whenever his teams have been successful in the postseason; Chauncey Billups (Nuggets in ’08) and Jason Kidd (Knicks in ’13) both played with Anthony whenever he made it past the first round of the playoffs. And for some reason, the Knicks felt that this player, whose numbers don’t backup the talent, was a guy who could be built around to win a championship, a guy who they signed to a $122-129 million dollar five year contract and locking themselves down for any cash to offer quality free agents. Melo needs to adjust his game in order to draw free agents like LeBron has done in the latter portion of his career. Kobe, who’s offensive game and mindset I liken Carmelo’s to, could no longer draw free agents to LA because Phil Jackson was no longer the coach (discount injured and soft Dwight Howard), which attributes to Phil’s ability to draw players as a coach, not a GM (see above). In my opinion, the type of contract Anthony is under is reserved for younger MVPs and champions like LeBron or Kobe, none of which Anthony is or, the way it’s heading, will ever be.

Was New York Ever the “Mecca”?

In the sports world, a Mecca of a particular sport would have a rich history filled with banners, titles, MVPs and housed some of the greatest sports moments ever. Madison Square Garden may be in the most famous city in the world, but it doesn’t house the historic franchise a sports fan would revere as one of the greatest ever. The Knicks have two NBA titles (1970 and 1973). That’s better than none, but when other franchises like Boston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Chicago have at least twice as many (almost nine times as many if you’re Boston, eight if you’re LA), it begins to look like a foot note on the history of the game. One moment that the Garden did play host to and that all Knick fans will point out was the Finals game in which Willis Reed came out of the tunnel, bum ankle and all, to lead the Knicks to their title victory. Okay, so that’s one moment. Where are the other highlights on the NBA finals reel? I can count only one moment that is engraved in Knicks lore and, I believe, has made fans delusional about the idea that New York is the Mecca of basketball. The team has also not produced one league MVP in its history; not Walt Frazier, not Willis Reed, not Patrick Ewing. No one in the history of the New York Knicks has ever earned the title of MVP, so why should Madison Square Garden and the Knicks be considered the Mecca of basketball? Sure, the city has a history of producing some of the game’s greats and has the famous Rucker Park, but the franchise that represents the city has done nothing that says to the world, “This is the franchise people come to see”. The minute the city and Knick fans stop calling themselves “The Mecca” will be the moment when they begin to turn things around for the better; a “nothing is given, everything is earned” mentality has to set in. Prove to the world that New York is “The Mecca” and the allure and aura will return to the Garden once more.

Courtesy Slamonline.

What Now?

With all the dysfunction within the organization, here’s what the Knicks have going for them: The Knickerbockers drafted the Latvian phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, with the 4th pick in the 2015 draft last year. The 7’3” 19 year old stretch center finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to Karl Anthony-Towns; not bad for an unproven European import. In stretches during the season, the young player showed passion and energy for the game by blocking shots, throwing down putback dunks and draining perimeter shots. Hopefully, his role on the team will grow rather than shrink with the newly acquired point guard, Derrick Rose.

Speaking of the new Knick, Rose is reaching the end of his contract he signed originally with the Bulls before blowing out both of his knees, so he will be coming into the 2016-17 season with something to prove and a new deal to earn; if not with the Knicks, then elsewhere. I am sure Anthony is excited to play with the former All-Star and MVP, even if he hasn’t been the same since achieving those awards. Carmelo Anthony will, however, have to learn how to move without the ball to get a good portion of his points since Rose, being the point guard, has to make the decisions on the court and Rose may not always pass to Anthony as often as Anthony is used to being given the ball. And with Porzingis’ frame still relatively thin, it’s reasonable to expect 3 point and mid-range shooting to be a key component of his game; a lot of pick and pop with Rose, dishing to Melo on the wings whenever the mismatch is in Kristaps’ favor in the post, and vice versa.

Courtesy CBS Sports.

The Knicks are also interested in signing Chicago Bull Joakim Noah, who played with Rose in Chicago. This move probably won’t sit well with the New York media considering Noah has had injury problems in the last couple seasons with his feet and knees; at this point he might as well be as fragile as Rose. Depending on if the Knicks do sign Noah and what kind of contract they sign him to, Noah, when healthy, can offer the Knicks a defensive backbone, smart passer and an emotional leader. Removing health from the equation, signing Noah would be a good move.

With a new big three and a new coach in place at “the Mecca”, hopefully, for New Yorkers and Knick fans everywhere, they can begin to make strides towards playoff and eventually title contention. But the team needs a couple of things to happen to earn the title of “Mecca” back: Jackson needs to seem a little more invested in the franchise if he isn’t going to coach. Carmelo needs to look to pass more, raise his basketball IQ and play more consistent and better defense (play like the player he is being paid to be). Dolan needs to let Phil do his job. The fans need to stay behind their team no matter how bad they look, while at the same time putting pressure on the organization to be competitive, not just sign free agents, but to go out and perform to the best of their ability. Everything else will fall into place should those things happen and the Knicks will become relevant again, this time for a longer spell and, who knows, they may even win a championship along the way.

Dwyane Wade Leaving the Heat?

Courtesy of CBS Sports.com

Courtesy of CBS Sports.com

Is it actually possible that Mr. Miami, Dwyane Wade, could leave the Miami Heat? Even after one of his best seasons in the last five years? Wade played 74 games, the most in five years, averaged 19 points, four assists, and four rebounds. But in NBA Free Agency anything can happen.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Wade and the Heat are not seeing eye-to-eye in negotiations on a new contract. I could see why Miami may want to part ways with Wade. Of course, Pat Riley has to try and get Kevin Durant. At this point in the NBA, Kevin Durant is a better option. The Heat have nine free agents this year, that includes Wade, Luol Deng, and Hasaan Whiteside, among others.

All three could possibly leave especially, Whiteside. The Lakers are courting Miami center Hasaan Whiteside. Whiteside may want to leave the Miami Heat for a team that will give him the max. This would allow him to be the foundation piece for a great organization like the Lakers. Other teams have been told that Wade is up to listen to offers from other teams. We don’t know exactly which teams are in consideration but I can think of a two teams.

One team of course is the Cleveland Cavaliers. After this postseason his good friend, LeBron James, won his third title, tying Wade. If Wade really wanted to team up with James, the time is now. The Cavs could trade some players to clear some more money for Wade and he could fit right into the shooting guard spot for the Cavs. Think about that potential lineup in Cleveland: Kyrie Irving at the 1, Wade at the 2, LeBron James at the 3, Kevin Love at the 4, and Tristan Thompson at the 5. They could still have J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson coming off of the bench.

The Cavs would run through the East with even more ease than last year. But, this is all wishful thinking because I really don’t think the Cavs could ever get enough money. Trying to pay Irving, James, Love, Thompson, and Wade, unless Wade takes a significant pay cut would be hard. Wade will most likely not want to do that. But, if Dan Gilbert and the Cavs can clear that cap space, Wade will definitely be pursued.

Another team is the Chicago Bulls. It’s Wade’s hometown and he could give the Bulls something to cheer about after Derrick Rose was traded to the Big Apple to play for the Knicks. We all know how much NBA players love winning for their hometown. Even though the Bulls received a good starting point guard in Jose Calderon in the Rose trade, they need more offense. Wade could be there go to at the 2 and move Jimmie Butler to the 3. If they wanted to they could move Wade to the 1, move Calderon to the bench, and keep Butler at the 2.

More importantly, Wade could be the leader in Chicago after their heart and soul, Joakim Noah is ready to leave the Bulls organization. In Chicago, Wade could mentor Butler and incoming Michigan State guard/forward Denzel Valentine.  The Bulls are a work in progress in terms of competing for the NBA Championship, but with Wade they can speed up the process.