D'Angelo Russell Future Star

D’Angelo Russell Future Star?

When young players enter the NBA, fans expect them to become stars immediately. If at 19,20 or 21 years old they aren’t dominating the game, many people start to think of them as busts. The fact is they need time to gain experience in the professional game. It requires patience that many fans don’t have.

Players must go through the long, draining NBA regular seasons that last from October to April. These players are still kids barely out of college and usually aren’t ready for full NBA seasons until they have experienced a few.

One of the players often mentioned as not living up to his potential has only been in the NBA two seasons. That player is Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Laker Nation

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org)

The Lakers’ fanbase is one of the most impatient in all of sports, but for good reason. The Lakers franchise was founded back in 1947 in Minneapolis and moved to Los Angeles in 1960. In their franchise’s illustrious history, the Lakers have played in 31 NBA Finals and captured 16 championships, which is second most all-time.

Los Angeles is used to great players and winning teams. The team has had some of the most legendary players in the history of the game like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Winning is all the Lakers have ever known, which is why they have such an impatient fanbase. From the 1948-1949 season until the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers had only missed the playoffs five times. It is absolutely incredible to think about that level of consistency over six decades.

The recent Laker seasons have had nothing to do with winning. Over the past four seasons, including this one, the Lakers have gone 84-225. L.A. will miss the playoffs four consecutive seasons after this one. In their first 65 years, they missed the playoffs five times and are now about to miss the playoffs four straight. It is understandable that Laker fans are frustrated.

The departure of Kobe Bryant has left the Lakers searching for a star to carry the franchise. They do not have to look far for that star because they have already drafted him.

star Point Guards in their early years

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

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

D’Angelo Russell, also known as D-Lo, is already off to a great start to his young career. Russell is going to be constantly overshadowed by Karl Anthony-Towns, who was the first overall pick in the same draft class.

Towns has gotten most of the attention due to his unbelievable play so far. However, Russell’s first two seasons in the NBA are right on par with some of the NBA’s star point guards.

To really understand the projection Russell’s career should take, we must look at how he compares to these star guards in their first two seasons in the NBA.

The first comparison will be to Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 19.9 points, 6.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 37.2 minutes per game in his first two seasons . Lillard is one of the best guards in the league now and was off to a great start due to the high minutes he was playing.

The next comparison is MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. After two seasons in the league, Westbrook averaged 15.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Just as Lillard averaged high minutes, so did Westbrook with 33.4 minutes per game.

The last guard for comparison will be Wizards star John Wall. Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Wall’s minutes were right on par with Lillard’s as he averaged 37 minutes per game.

These three guards are all considered top guards and leaders of their respective teams. How close is D’Angelo Russell to following in their footsteps?

D’Angelo Russell: The Future Star

The first thing noticeable about how Russell stacks up with these other guards is in minutes played. D’Angelo Russell is playing far fewer minutes than the other guards mentioned above. Russell has averaged just under 28 minutes a game (27.8) in his first two seasons. Compared to Wall and Lillard, that is 10 minutes less per game.

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Gif Credit: http://thedoublescreen.com)

Considering he is playing far fewer minutes, his stats are still pretty similar to theirs.

This season, Russell is averaging 14.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers jump to 19.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. If Russell was playing more, he would be averaging around the same numbers as these stars were in their second seasons.

Along with the solid numbers, Russell has proven he can hit big shots. He has made the saying “ice in my veins” famous all because he pointed to his arm when he hit a clutch 3-pointer as you can see in the gif to the left.

Russell not only has the pressure of living up to the hype of the second overall pick in the draft, but also has to follow the legendary Kobe Bryant. He is taking over a franchise that for the last 20 seasons was led by a man who won five NBA Championships.

There is a long list of stars to live up to in Hollywood, but Russell just needs more time. He is just 21 years old, but the future looks bright. The current star point guards in the NBA were once doing exactly what he is doing now so be patient and don’t worry Lake Show. D’Angelo is on his way to becoming the next Laker star.

 

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

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

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

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

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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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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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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It’s Time to Take the Washington Wizards Seriously

After a putrid start to the 2016-17 NBA season, many people wrote off the Washington Wizards. They lacked depth, their star players weren’t performing well, and their coaching transition seemed to be going anything but seamlessly. Fast forward to today and they have completely reversed course.

Once again, it’s time to take the Wizards seriously. They’re not yet a contender in the East, but they have become a dangerous team as they start to hit their stride.

Obviously, the team revolves around John Wall. After a slow start, Wall is averaging career highs in points, steals and assists. NBA teams need star power to succeed, and Wall is delivering that power better than ever.

Wall’s importance to the team was on display Tuesday night as they faced off against the Chicago Bulls. The Wizards set up an iso to the right side, and Wall buried a deep jumper to put the Wizards ahead in the final seconds of the game. Wall’s leadership and clutch factor have been brought into question over the years as the Wizards have struggled to live up to their potential. Clearly, Wall is ready to push those notions aside.

(courtesy of Washington Post)

A healthy Bradley Beal has also contributed to the success of the Wizards this year. Fresh off a max contract, Beal has lived up to the lofty expectations that he faced this year. Beal’s talent is rarely called into question, but his health struggles have posed a problem for the Wizards over the years. Those issues are starting to be put to rest. Beal is pouring in 22.5 points per game for the Wizards and has been a force during their recent surge.

The third personnel piece that has led the Wizards to success is third-year forward Otto Porter Jr.  Porter has had a breakout year averaging 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Even so, his stats undervalue the impact that he’s had on this team. He has been an explosive scorer and has come up big during important moments.

Marcin Gortat rounds out the starting five for the Wizards, which has played well over the Wizards’ hot streak. The problem remains in the bench. The Wizards have thrown in a litany of unknown and poor bench players to backup their solid starting lineup. The recent success of the team has come with a significant uptake in their starters minutes. Beal, Wall, and Porter have each averaged almost 40 minutes a game during the streak.

This might signify an impending downtick in production for the Wizards. It’s easy to think that this might not be sustainable and that the team is due for another slide soon. The Wizards will rely on the improvement of role players like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Trey Burke if they want to continue their success. They will also need to seamlessly transition Ian Mahimi into their lineup when he is healthy enough to play.

(courtesy of Washington Times)

Either way, it’s hard to see this team falling too far. Coach Scott Brooks has a reputation for bringing out the best in star players, and he’s done exactly that for the Wizards this year. As long as John Wall continues to score and distribute at such an extraordinary rate, expect the Wizards to succeed. With strong coaching and a great starting five, the Wizards are set up to be a dangerous team into the playoffs. It’s time to start taking them seriously.

 

 

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA Season Preview Series by Danny with the J: Southeast Division

The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…

Atlanta Hawks

  • Offseason: The Hawks added Atlanta native and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in center Dwight Howard and point guard Jarret Jack in free agency. However, the Hawks lost 4-time NBA All-Star Al Horford to the Celtics as an unrestricted free agent. Atlanta also traded away Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers in a 3-team deal that gave Atlanta the number 12 pick overall in the draft, which was used on Baylor small forward Taurean Prince by way of the Utah Jazz (the third team in the Teague-trade). Atlanta also drafted DeAndre Bembry out of St. Joseph with the 21st pick and Isaia Cordinier in the 2nd round (44th overall) who had played for French club Denain ASC Voltaire last season.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Trading Jeff Teague meant that the Hawks were ready to hand the keys of the car to backup point guard Dennis Schroder, who is entering his third year in the league and letting Horford go in free agency allowed the Hawks the cash to spend to bring in Dwight Howard. As far as predicting their season, the Hawks look to be in playoff contention, but it will be a tight race in the division.
    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Jay: The Hawks make the playoffs if Dwight Howard returns to DPotY form; they lost Horford who is a solid defender and Howard’s defensive prowess was hard to find at times in Houston. Hopefully the Hawks treat him better than James Harden did.

Daniel: The Hawks have a playoff pedigree, and adding a player that has been to NBA Finals shouldn’t hurt in theory. However, the fit between Paul Millsap and Howard will be interesting to watch develop. Millsap, in my opinion is the best player, but they need Howard to provide some semblance of elite level defense if they want home court in the playoffs. While there might be a drop-off in play-making and floor leadership with Teague gone, Schröder definitely could add a change of pace with his fast-twitch, sneaky aggressive game.

Charlotte Hornets

  • Offseason: The Hornets had a busy offseason. They resigned Nicholas Batum to a new deal, traded the 22nd pick, Malachi Richardson, to the Sacramento Kings for Marco Belinelli, and used free agency to let some players go and new ones come in. Charlotte signed Roy Hibbert, Ramon Sessions, Christian Wood and Brian Roberts. The Hornets also lost Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson to free agency.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Hornets, like most teams in the eastern conference still have a long way to go to compete with Cleveland for eastern conference champ, but like the Hawks, they are in playoff contention. Frank Kaminsky is still in development, Kemba Walker is still as underrated as ever and they still need a third piece that can take away pressure from Walker to create offense and wreak havoc for opposing teams on the defensive end of the floor.
    Courtesy of www.nydailynews.com

    Courtesy of www.nydailynews.com

Jay: Charlotte misses the playoffs on top of the All-Star game being relocated. Kaminsky does take a noticeable step in development, but it isn’t enough to get past Atlanta or Washington.

Daniel: Losing Lin was HUGE. Time and time again Lin could either relieve Walker during the games when the defense would load up on him or his shot just wasn’t there. Then there were the times, namely during the playoffs, when they could play off each other and serve as an above average tandem in the backcourt. With Lee gone also, the depth of this team took a hit. Adding a dinosaur of a big man in Hibbert could end up being a net zero of a move. Trading him by the trade deadline is the best case scenario. Without adding anything or hurting the team, his presence should go unnoticed. Kaminsky could take a step, but it won’t be enough to help them gain playoff contention.

Washington Wizards

  • Offseason: Bradley Beal was resigned to a large extension according to the previous standard set by last year’s salary cap; much like other NBA teams did with their “indispensable” guys. The Wizards’ notable free agent losses include Ramon Sessions, Nene, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson. Outside of Ian Mahinmi, there weren’t any other noteworthy free agent pickups. Washington didn’t have a draft pick, but they did hire former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Wizards have new coach with a similar group of guys. Something they seemed to have been missing in the past couple of seasons. Can they finally take the division from Atlanta or Miami?
    courtesy of USA Today Sports

    courtesy of USA Today Sports

Jay: I say they make the playoffs. John Wall puts up better numbers and dare I say puts himself in the MVP discussion as a dark horse? They’re talented. I hope Brooks can put it together.

Daniel: If Bradley Beal can stay on the court he could have a special season. The one thing about Brooks is that he rides his stars, for better or worse. The ball should be in Wall and Beal’s hands for most of each possession. If Brooks can bring some ingenuity, (something he’s never been known to consistently possess) this backcourt, with the pieces around them, can be an Eastern Conference contender.

Orlando Magic

  • Offseason: The Magic helped shakeup the basketball landscape this offseason by trading away Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova and their number 11 pick, which turned into Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga), to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka. The Magic also drafted center Stephen Zimmerman out of UNLV. Orlando had a busy free agency period as well; they brought in Bismack Biyambo, Jeff Green and DJ Augustin. Orlando also let go of Brandon Jennings and traded Shabazz Napier to Portland.
  • Outlook 2016-17: Magic fans can be excited for this season; Ibaka paired with Nikola Vucevic looks pretty appetizing to watch along with Aaron Gordon being the modern human highlight reel.

Jay: Playoffs aren’t far from Orlando. It’ll come down to the final 10 games of the season, but they will miss the playoffs this year. They will be respectable though. They will look to be one of the more competitive teams in the east in spite of not making the playoffs. The team doesn’t have the coaching to get there in my opinion.

Daniel: New head coach Frank Vogel has manned a top ten defense for the last five seasons. That’s what they are going to have to hang their cap on. They have the athletes to be an absolute wall defensively in the interior. Shooting will be a problem. Ibaka is an elite shooter but he HAS to be fed the ball. Sophomore Mario Hezonja has shown signs of developing into a reliable shooter and offensive threat. The point guard position with Elfrid Payton is going to be intriguing as he may be starting caliber.

courtesy of orlandosentinel.com

courtesy of orlandosentinel.com

Miami Heat

  • Offseason: A new era has begun in Miami; Dwayne Wade is gone, Whiteside is the new face of the Heat, and there is a bunch of young developing talent. The Heat added Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams along with retaining Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. The team unfortunately didn’t have a draft pick this year.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Chris Bosh has yet to be cleared to play by Miami team doctors, so until then, Heat fans should get used to seeing Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and Derrick Williams running the floor. Young is the best way to describe this group that is most likely to be around after veterans like Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem are gone.
    nba.com

    nba.com

Jay: I wouldn’t expect playoffs this season. Maybe next season if Richardson, Johnson and Winslow take large steps in their development by the season’s end, but not this season with Bosh not cleared to play.

Daniel: Ummm, what happened with the Heat? No Wade, and they gave “Bumpy” Johnson a 4/$50 million a year contract. Pat Riley has to be sick to his stomach with the events of the last 2-3 seasons. The Bosh ordeal has just been saddening. They had a nice year last season, but it won’t be as pleasant for the “Timberwolves East.”