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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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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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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10 Things to Watch For in the NBA in 2017

2016 comes to a close as one of the most exciting basketball years in the history of the NBA. From Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s last seasons, to Russel Westbrook’s triple doubles, to the ridiculous Finals series, this year was full of memorable moments that will go down in NBA history. However, a new year brings new possibilities. Here are the ten best things to look forward to in the NBA in 2017.

10. Trust The Process?: Will Joel Embiid win Rookie of the Year? Can Ben Simmons make his long awaited return? Will the Sixers end up with two top ten picks? Can Dario Saric make the leap to consistent NBA starter? The New Year brings loads of questions for the NBA’s perennial doormat and not many clear answers. It will be interesting to see whether the 76ers will be able to escape the NBA’s cellar in 2017.

9. 2017 NBA Draft: This draft is considered to be one of the most talented ones in recent years. Markelle Fultz remains the prize at the top of the draft, and names like Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson highlight an unusually deep lottery pool. The lottery looks to be a mix of familiar teams (Philadelphia) and newcomers (Miami and Dallas) as teams try to find a future superstar. Summer league will no doubt be a spectacle this year as well.

8. 2017 Trade Deadline: The trade deadline this year will be full of stories, especially with the loaded draft coming up. Greg Monroe looks to be a possible big-name trade candidate. Portland, a team with a weakness in the frontcourt, may look to target Monroe or one of the big men from Philadelphia. Rudy Gay remains a big name for teams in need of a three-and-D wing presence. For teams with a need a guard, Goran Dragic and Will Barton look to be high end options on the market. With a talented draft class this year, teams may be less likely to part with picks. But the plethora of young talent around the league makes this deadline an especially interesting one.

7. MVP Race: This year brings one of the best MVP races we’ve seen in years. Right now, James Harden and Russell Westbrook look like the favorites. However, the award usually goes to a player on either the one seed or the two seed. Can the Rockets or Thunder grab that distinction? If not, voters may be compelled to look to former winners Lebron James and Kevin Durant, who have each put together noteworthy seasons. This MVP race is one of the most wide open in recent memory and looks to go down to the final weeks of the season.

6. The Greek Freak’s Takeover: Giannis Antetokounmpo has been incredible this year as his astronomical rise to stardom has continued. He’s taken the NBA by storm over the past calendar year by showing a Magic-esque ability to play every position on the court. He’s a freak athlete, a superb defender, and a great distributor. If he can develop a jump shot, the league better watch out. The Greek Freak’s continual rise to superstardom will no doubt be something to marvel at in the coming year.

5. Free Agency: This summer an exploding cap, combined with stars hitting the market, will make for an eventful free agency. Steph Curry is the biggest name as he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, and many other players have player options that they can exercise to become free agents this summer. Madness will no doubt ensue as free agency opens this summer and teams have a historic amount of money to spend. Watch for a shakeup of the power balance in the league.

4. New All-Stars: 2017’s NBA All Star Game could play host to a slew of first time All-Stars. Second year guys Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis look like they have a decent chance of making their first appearance. More established league stars such as Giannis, Kemba Walker, and Hassan Whiteside have a chance at making their debuts. All-Star weekend should be a blast to watch as some young guys get a shot at making their NBA All Star Game debut.

3. Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs: The new-look Warriors are capable of putting out a lineup that looks seemingly impossible to stop. Meanwhile, their Western conference foes seem to have taken a step back compared to last year. This Warriors team lacks rim protection and depth, and it’s fair to wonder whether that will come back to haunt them in the playoffs. The Warriors will need their superstars to step up if they want to make it through to the Finals again this year.

2. Russell Westbrook Chases History: Russell Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double, a feat nobody has accomplished in over 40 years. Can the Oklahoma City star continue his dominance in 2017? With a motor that seems to never stop, the answer could be yes. A triple-double season may even be enough to secure the MVP on a low-seeded playoff team. Westbrook has truly been something to behold, and his dominance of the NBA will be something to watch in 2017.

1. The Cavaliers Title Defense: Lebron James and Kyrie Irving kicked it up a notch on Christmas Day. They outperformed the Warriors in the stretch and buried them on a Kyrie buzzer beater. Is the trio of Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin Love enough to beat the juggernaut in Golden State? Well, having the best player in the world doesn’t hurt. The NBA playoffs will no doubt be a appointment television as Lebron tries to win his fourth title for Cleveland.

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Seven Stats or Less: Minnesota Timberwolves

The series is back and this week the stats are coming in the flavor of Minnesota Timberwolves. With the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as head coach in the offseason, the thought was that he was right man to put the young, super-talented team over the top and have them in contention for a post-season spot. That – in short – has not happened. This season is, and should have always been, about progression and development.

Earlier in the season, there were reports of Thibs becoming impatient with the season and was looking to make a trade. Ricky Rubio has struggled, and fans began to clamor for his trade. That would have been unwise. A trade with the motive of “win-now” has derailed a many franchises a la the New Orleans Pelicans. On to the stats.

  1. The Minnesota Timberwolves are top ten in the league when it comes to points from the roll man in the pick and roll. Overall, they aren’t very effective in these sets, scoring less than a point per possession. Karl-Anthony Towns is an elite mid-range shooter, and an OK 3-point shooter. Additionally, he’s more than athletic enough to take his man to the hoop and throw one down. The Timberwolves should employ the pick and roll more with KAT to capitalize more on his talents. He’s currently third in the league in points scored as the roll man; that’s something Coach Thibodeau should assess going forward.
  2. The Wolves are 24th in the league in attempts in transition. At about 10 attempts per game, the Wolves have to find a way to get the easy scores when the defense can’t get stops. The team is bottom five in defensive efficiency and transition attempts go hand in hand with defense. Shore up the D and the transition opportunities should begin to make themselves known.
  3. Zach Lavine and Andrew Wiggins both sit in the top five in the league in minutes averaged per game. From his time in Chicago, Thibs was notorious for playing his players – especially his stars – heavy minutes and that’s what he’s continuing to do in Minnesota. The large minutes load isn’t translating into team success so far. So the question for the future becomes – will the load catch up to the young stars when the wins and potential become exclusive?
  4. KAT is fifth in the league in double-doubles with 20 double-doubles. Right now, per game, Towns is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds. He’s still only 21 years old with so much left to add to his game. The future is bright for the young, second-year pup.
  5. Ricky Rubio, in the team’s last five games, is averaging almost 10 points and 9 assists per game. Rubio is also hitting the mark from deep at a 50% clip on about 3 attempts per game.
  6. In those games, the Wolves are 3-2 with quality wins over Atlanta and Chicago – both of those games on the road. Is it Rubio related? In wins this season, he averages 9 points and almost 9 assists. So, maybe? With only two of their next five opponents over .500, it’s important for them to play well and try to snatch a few morale-boosting wins.
  7. The lineup of Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, Lavine, Towns, and Wiggins in 34 minutes played is one of the teams only plus lineups. It’s a little late in the season to use the “small sample size” disclaimer, but it might apply here. Jones averages less than 15 minutes a game – which is right about where he should be. Possibly, over playing the 2015 first round pick heavy minutes at this point might do more harm than good. However, in a season that should have been about development in the first place, and with lottery pick Kris Dunn underperforming, it might be best to some light tinkering with the lineups.

Who Should Be Considered For The Postseason AP All-American Teams?

There is a lot of talent dispersed throughout the NCAA this year. Knowing that, it is difficult to call anyone a “snub” for not making the AP Preseason All-American team. The guys that did not make it are simply non-selections.  Composed of Grayson Allen, Ivan Rabb, Josh Hart, Monte Morris and Dillon Brooks there is not much room to debate the merit of these picks. There are still plenty of players out there that could be All-Americans by season’s end.  The AP will name a 2nd and 3rd team at the end of the year leaving space for ten more players.  So who will make those teams? Which players have the possibility of slipping into the first team, replacing one of the current five?

London Perrantes, Virginia, (G)

London Perrantes is a very complete ball player.  He is the perfect guy to be at the helm for Tony Bennett’s Cavalier squad. Perrantes is the only returning double digit scorer from the 2015-16 Elite Eight team. While there were notable losses, Austin Nichols is an excellent gain. He provides some scoring while being the defensive specialist that is key to Bennett’s teams. He was 6th in the AAC in defensive rating in 2014-15 before sitting out last season as a transfer.

Being a deep threat is just one of the things that London Perrantes brings to the table. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

Being a deep threat is just one of the things that London Perrantes brings to the table. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

Nichols and the rest of the Cavalier roster is full of talented rebounders and defenders meaning that yet again they will only need to score 65 points to win a game. Perrantes went from 6.4 points per game to 11.0 in 2015-16. Additionally his PER escalated from 12.3 in his first two seasons to 18.2, so he can be quite efficient. Without any other returning elite scorers there should be another jump in the scoring element of his game. That is not all that Perrantes does for his team, however. He also provides 4.4 assists per game coupled with 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and a three point average of nearly 49%. Between his efficiency, magnitude of importance on his team and his all-around ability the senior is a lock for a great season.

Melo Trimble, Maryland (G)

Melo Trimble is Coach Mark Turgeon’s guy this year.  The junior is the one saving grace from the mass exodus of Terp talent. He needs to prove that he has NBA ability so it behooved him to remain at school. Trimble’s numbers dropped across the board. Especially prevalent was a 10% decrease in his three point shooting mark from 41% to 31%. This is just a pure lack of precision but his overall field goal percentage dropped as well. Some of that can be attributed to the additional talent on the team inside meaning some of his easy baskets were taken away in favor of Diamond Stone. However his usage percentage was nearly identical to his freshman mark of 25%, but his win shares dropped, mirroring the drop in efficiency seen across the board.

This year, he is the big man on campus and must show that he is worthy of a first round pick. That is exactly why he should be on the All-American watch list: that is what his team needs him to be. He can accomplish this by creating shots for himself, actually hitting those shots that he creates and by assisting others in opportunities for scoring. The Terrapins have a five player freshman class coming in including marksman Kevin Huerter. Huerter’s deep threat should open up the spacing on the floor for Trimble to create for himself or he can run some pick-and-roll in a two man game with Damonte Dodd. Trimble was good last year, but with improved efficiency he can catapult himself into the All-American race.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (F)

Jaron Blossomgame decided to return for his senior campaign at Clemson. (Photo courtesy of tigernet.com)

Jaron Blossomgame decided to return for his senior campaign at Clemson. (Photo courtesy of tigernet.com)

The Clemson Tigers did not experience much roster change this offseason. The three leading scorers and three of the top four rebounders are returning. As it so happens, Jaron Blossomgame led the team in both categories and was rumored to skip his senior season to go pro.

At 18.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds (which was actually a lower number than previous years), Blossomgame was statistically near the top of the ACC in several categories. He was third in the conference in scoring, shooting 51% from the field, he hit a 27.1 PER, good for second in the conference, showing his ability to be efficient with his touches.

Blossomgame finished the year with 5.6 win shares in the 31 games that Clemson played. His presence is critical to his team and will be the deciding factor in Clemson’s season. Blossomgame’s talent will shine through and put him on a fast track to cracking the All-American team.

Moses Kingsley, Arkansas (F)

The senior tripled his minutes for the Razorbacks last year. Simply put: he filled the stat sheet. Nearly averaging a double-double with 15.9 points per game and 9.3 rebounds, Kingsley showed a multi-faceted attack. He also tacked on a steal and an assist per game. He was third in the SEC in PER with a whopping 27.4 in 2015-16.

Despite all the offensive numbers, Kingsley actually is also statistically efficient on the defensive end. He rebounded on 23.3% of the opportunities he had on defense which was good enough to be third in the conference. Kingsley also was fourth in the SEC in defensive box plus minus and eighth in defensive rating, allowing 97.1 points per 100 possessions. It is also no small detail that his 76 blocks were good enough for second in the conference.

As a junior, his program asked him to step up and he did just that. This year should be no exception for the stat-stuffer.

Freshman Candidates

An interesting factor this year is age. Even with a very talented freshman class, there are still plenty of players that made the decision to remain at school. Despite the overwhelming amount of talented upperclassmen, the freshman star power cannot be ignored. In past years, the end of season team has featured freshman. 2015-16 saw only Ben Simmons (2nd) and Jamal Murray (3rd). The AP selected two freshman, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, to the first team in 2014-15. Karl Anthony-Towns earned second team honors. Since 2006-07 a freshman has made either the AP voted a freshman to either the first or second team. Between their prevalence in the past and the depth of this class we really should consider them as a legitimate threat to overtake the upperclassmen on these lists.

There is a plethora of guys that could make this list: Josh Jackson is the best player in the class in the eyes of some and a freak athlete. Lonzo Ball is a prolific passer and can score the ball well. Harry Giles Jr., if healthy, could put up both scoring and rebounding numbers. D’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are both freakish athletes for Kentucky. Markelle Fultz is a player that seems to be moving up scouts and analysts draft boards. He is a good lead ball-handler and can create his own shot. Fultz is an NBA talent and will likely be one of the best players in college, undoubtedly considered for the All-American team.

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

NBA Season Preview Series by Danny w/the J: Northwest 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…

Portland Trailblazers

  • Offseason: Having lost to the Warriors in the playoffs, the Blazers were busy in free agency and added some nice pieces. Evan Turner, ex-Warrior Festus Ezeli, and Shabazz Napier (via trade) were the biggest additions to the Portland squad. The team was also able to re-sign Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard. Portland also acquired draft rights to Maryland SF Jake Layman from the Magic in the Napier trade.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Blazers look to repeat the result of last year’s regular season; a playoff berth. With the additions they have made, perhaps they won’t have to get hot towards the end of the season or put the onus Lillard and McCollum.
    USA-TODAY

    USA-TODAY

Jay:  The Portland Trailblazers are well-coached and play with a lot of heart. I expect them to make the playoffs in the 6-8th seed range. Napier will be a good backup to Lillard and Turner a good scorer off the bench so Aminu, Crabbe and others can focus on the defensive side of the ball.

Daniel: The Trailblazers may have played over their heads last season.  Its going to be tough to repeat last season’s success with teams having had all off-season to figure them out. A 37-45 season wouldn’t be much of a surprise. I say that with the utmost respect.

Denver Nuggets

  • Offseason: The Nuggets weren’t too busy in free agency, but they used their draft picks on Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Spanish import Juan Hernangomez, and French import Petr Cornelie. However, the Nuggets only have signed Jamal Murray at this point.
    via sircharlesincharge.com

    via sircharlesincharge.com

  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Nuggets were poor last year so the only way to go is up. Emmanuel Mudiay seemed much more mature in the NBA Summer League this past summer so it is assumed he will take another step in his development. Kenneth Faried has to look to erase last season’s poor performances and dominate with the energy and tenacity that he knows he possesses.

Jay: Nuggets won’t make the playoffs but Mudiay and Faried will be something to keep an eye on throughout the season. I don’t expect Murray to do much this year as a rookie, but in the latter half of the season, he’ll be someone to look at and see where his development is heading.

Daniel: The Denver Nuggets, like a lot of teams in the league, are in a purgatory of sorts. They’re not good enough to make the playoffs or bad enough to compete for a high lottery pick. The only thing for them to do is make sure Mudiay continues his growth and development. Whether it be veteran players or playing time. It’d be in their best interest to also take the time and find an identity as a team as well. 30-52.

Minnesota Timberwolves 

USA-Today Sports

USA-Today Sports

  • Offseason: End of an era in Minnesota and the NBA; Kevin Garnett has retired along with Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. But it is also the dawn of a new age in Minnesota. The Twolves hired Thom Thibideau and drafted point guard Kris Dunn out of Providence to add to the team’s young and talented roster.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Thibs has a young and hungry team that has three first round picks on it. Granted, they are still young, but Thibideau is a coach that has proven to get the most out of his players and speed up their development. The wolves re face in the first round.

Jay: I like the Wolves this year. Playoffs is my expectation for the young team and everything else is a bonus.

Daniel: The playoffs would be overachieving I think. Young and talented are apt descriptions of the Wolves. Are they mature enough to handle the grind of competing for a spot in the playoffs? Probably not. That’s OK because I have faith that Thibideau will plant the right seeds, so that when their time comes they’ll be able to take full advantage.

Utah Jazz

  • Offseason: The Jazz were somewhat busy this offseason, acquiring Joe Johnson in free agency, Boris Diaw and George Hill via trade (separate trades), and rookie draftees Joel Bolomby, Marcus Paige, and Tyrone Wallace, although none of the draft picks have been signed yet. Trey Burke now plays for the Washington Wizards.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Jazz missed the playoffs barely last year but were respectable for a team that was eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season. They will be in a similar situation this year, pushing for playoff contention. Hard to say whether or not they will make it.

Jay: I don’t see the Jazz making the playoffs this season. Yes, they’re competitive, but they don’t have the players to make a run at or in the playoffs.

Daniel:  The additions of George Hill, and Joe Johnson will bring that veteran presence to this young, gifted squad. Hill also brings talent at the guard position to the table. The consensus is that the Jazz will be a top seed in the west and that’s a terribly presumptuous prediction.  However, they could indeed sneak in as a 7th to 8th seeded team.

USA-Today Sports

USA-Today Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offseason: The Oklahoma City Thunder made splashes this offseason, regardless of whether or not they were negative or positive, they made splashes. Durant went farther west, Ibaka was traded east for depth in Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and a young rookie draftee in Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder, however, also lost Dion Waiters to free agency. The Thunder also drafted shooting guard Daniel Hamilton. OKC has yet to sign either rookie, but has signed Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that gives them more time to appease the superstar into staying rather than leaving like his former partner in crime did.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Westbrook is one of the favorites to win the MVP as he will most likely carry the Thunder to the playoffs, averaging near triple-double figures. Fans cannot expect the team to make a deep run in the playoffs however, due to the lack of talent.
    USA-Today Sports

    USA-Today Sports

Jay: Westbrook will be MVP, the Thunder will get in the playoffs as a 4 or 5 seed. The team and Russ will be fun to watch this season.

Daniel: Kevin Durant took his transcendence elsewhere, but in his wake he left Russell Westbrook and 14 other hungry and eager players. The goal of the season has to be trust. Trust has been a talking point for the team, but hardly practiced among the Thunder. The idea that Westbrook is going to run roughshod over the league is a fun one, but not ideal. Incorporating the talents of his teammates into a concrete scheme that is no doubt the better option. Although, this current Thunder squad is no doubt going to go through some changes going forward.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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There has been plenty of rookies tearing it up this season. Photo by USA Today

It’s that time of year again everyone, the All-Star break. It is a little past the halfway point of the season but the 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, gather yourself and lace your sneakers for the second half of the season.

There has been great basketball so far and it is only going to get better as teams fight for seeding and prepare for the road to the NBA Finals. Here are my mid-season awards.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)- Last year Boston finished with a sub .500 record and only had 40 wins. At the All-Star break Boston is currently the 3 seed in the East and has 32 wins. Many believed they would be better but nobody expected them to be this good. Brad Stevens is doing a phenomenal job and has made the jump from college to the pros better than most.

Honorable Mention: Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors)- The Raptors are currently the 2 seed in the East and improved some from last year. If they can catch the Cavaliers, Dwane Casey would deserve to be the Coach of the Year over Brad Stevens.

Most Improved Player: CJ McCollum (Portland Trailblazers)- CJ McCollum has seen a 20 minute per game increase in his minutes and he is flourishing because of it. His scoring has improved and he went from 6.8 points per game (ppg) to 20.7 ppg which is nearly a 14 point improvement. A big reason for that scoring improvement is, in part, due to his work ethic to improve his free throw shooting by nearly 10%  from 69.9% last year to 79.7% this year. Along with his scoring he has improved his assists per game by 3.2 per game, and his rebounds are up by 2.1 per game. Nobody has come close to improving as much as McCollum.

6th Man of the Year: Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder)- Enes Kanter could start for most teams in the NBA but has found a role with the Thunder as the 6th man. He is averaging 11.9 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. He is the best player coming off the bench this season and if the Thunder want to knock off the Warriors Enes Kanter has to continue being a dominant force off the bench.

Defensive Player of the Year: Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)- Hassan Whiteside is the one of the very few players in the NBA capable of getting a triple double with blocks.  The only other player who is capable is Anthony Davis. Hassan Whiteside is a terror inside and is blocking nearly four shots per game. What his stats don’t show is the amount of shots he alters. His presence on the interior is unmatched and he is the best rim protector in the NBA.

Honorable Mention: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)- Anthony Davis is close to becoming a superstar. Everyone loves how he plays and the potential he has but what a lot of people forget is that he is just as fun to watch on defense. He suffocates defenders and makes it miserable for whoever he guards. He could easily win this award but Whiteside has the edge.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)- Want to know what makes Towns the unanimous Rookie of the Year? When you watch him play you think he is a long time veteran. As a rookie he is averaging a double double with 17.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game. He joined Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James and Chris Webber as the only players to have a game with 35 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in a game under the age of 21. This is probably the easiest award to hand out.

Honorable Mention: Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks)- Porzingis was booed mightily on draft night and almost everyone said he would be a bust. Phil Jackson was ridiculed but is actually looking like a genius. Porzingis is already getting nicknames like Godzingis for his stellar play. He started off hot but has cooled down lately which is understandable due to the fact that he is 19 years old and only played in Europe. The NBA season is long and grinding and he will learn how to keep his body in shape for a full 82 game season. If he can find magic in the second half of the season he can close the gap between himself and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Most Valuable Player: Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)- Reigning MVP, and NBA champion Steph Curry has nothing to prove and nobody to compete against for the MVP Trophy. There is no competition, the race is over. At the All-Star break the Warriors are an unfathomable  48-4. They are cruising towards the record set by the 1995-96 Bulls of 72 wins in a season and being the best player on the best team that breaks that record is guaranteed the MVP trophy. Along with his team accomplishments, Steph Curry leads the league in scoring with 29.8 ppg, which is even more impressive when he sits out of a lot of fourth quarters. He is also averaging 6.6 assists per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and his player efficiency rating (PER) is 32.18 which would be a new NBA record. The current record is held by Wilt Chamberlain with a PER of 31.82 in the 1962-63 season. No player holds a candle to this resume, nobody else is in the running.