NBA takeaways

Eight thoughts about the NBA season minus LeBron James

The NBA is off to a wonderful, yet somewhat surprising start. The Celtics have won 16 straight games, the Pistons are third in the Eastern Conference and the Oklahoma City Thunder are under .500 despite building a super team in the offseason. Here are a few early season takeaways.

1. Is Lonzo Ball going to be good?

Going into the draft, the Lakers knew they were not drafting Lonzo Ball for his scoring ability, but his shot has been just awful. On shots from 0-3 feet from the basket (essentially layups), Ball is shooting 45.5 percent. His abysmal 22.8 3-point percentage is the worst in the NBA.

NBA takeaways

Hopefully Lonzo can figure out the whole shooting thing (Photo from ClutchPoints)

Instead of panicking, let’s look at some other famous guards. Russell Westbrook shot 47.6 percent from 0-3 feet, and 27.1 percent from three during his first year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. John Wall shot 40.9 percent from the field as a 20-year old in Washington, which is not as poor as Lonzo’s 31.3 percent, but is still weak.

Now for the positives. His assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty solid, and he already has two triple-doubles. Only 12 other guards have eclipsed multiple triple-doubles during their rookie seasons. That list consists of Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan, Chris Paul, Walt Frazier, Tim Hardaway and Kevin Johnson. It also includes Michael Carter-Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Art Williams and Elfrid Payton.

Long story short, he could be great, but he also could be a major bust. He appears somewhat passive, and walking away from a fight that involved his teammates makes me question his toughness. Only time will tell, but in BBB we trust. Through 17 games, Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The only other rookies to average at least seven boards and seven assists were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

2. Ben Simmons is super talented

You can already tell that, barring injury, Ben Simmons will be in the Hall of Fame. He is a lock for NBA Rookie of the Year, averaging a ridiculous 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. The only other rookie to average at least 18-8-7 was the great Oscar Robertson. He is the modern day Magic Johnson, and NBA fans should be ecstatic.

The kid can do it all. He is special in half court, full court, open court, heck, he would probably be good in a court of law. The best part is a guy who has no jump shot is shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Simmons dominates inside, shooting 73.5 percent from 0-3 feet. I pray each and every day that he stays healthy for the remainder of the season.

3. Joel Embiid is so fun for the NBA

On Monday night, we watched Embiid swat Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, then proceeded to talk trash while Mitchell was down. This prompted Mitchell to shove Embiid, who flopped and drew a technical foul as he fell down to the floor.

In a game against the Clippers, Embiid had 32 points and 16 rebounds, while taunting Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The following night, Embiid put up his historic 46-15-7-7 stat line and proceeded to taunt Lonzo and LaVar Ball on social media.

Embiid is a national treasure, and like his teammate Simmons, needs prayers every night to stay healthy. He has a chance to be an all-time great, both on and off the court.

4. Brad Stevens is a magician and Kyrie Irving is special

The Celtics are off to an amazing start at 16-2, but the MVP of their team is not on the court. He is patrolling from courtside and calling out the plays.

Head coach Brad Stevens is the obvious choice for Coach of the Year and rightfully so. Without Gordon Hayward, Boston is riding a 16-game winning streak, and sits atop the Eastern Conference. Their defense has been phenomenal, ranking second in opponent field goal percentage, third in opponent threes allowed and fifth in total steals. Offensively, Boston is first in total rebounds and third in free throws made.

NBA takeaways

16 and counting (Photo from NBA.com)

When the Celtics were sitting at 14 straight, Stevens, in a postgame interview, noted “We gotta play a lot better.” That is a clear sign of an elite coach.

Kyrie Irving is shooting worse from the field, from three and from the line compared to last season. Luckily, Irving looks to be back on track after two dominating performances. Against the Hawks, Irving had 30 points while shooting 10-12. On Monday, Uncle Drew had his best game as a member of the Celtics. In an eight-point win against Dallas, Irving had 47 points (16-22), six assists and was +21 for the game.

He is also the most clutch player in the NBA. In the final five minutes with the score within five, Irving, in 38 minutes, has 65 points (24-39), 10 assists, zero turnovers, and a plus-minus of +40. Momma there goes that man.

5. Victor Oladipo looks like an All-Star

After being the punchline in the Paul George trade, the former No. 2 overall pick is having quite the season in Indiana. Oladipo is averaging 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, while shooting 44.7 percent from long range. All of a sudden, Oladipo is an offensive threat, and has the Pacers above .500.

6. Dwight Howard is a Hall of Famer

On Monday night, Howard had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. This was his 49th 20-point, 20-rebound game, which is the most of any player since 1983. Yes, that is more than Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal.

NBA takeaways

Dwight Howard will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame (Photo from USA Today)

This past March in an interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, Howard was asked about whether or not he thinks he will be the Hall of Fame. He responded by saying, “No doubt. It’s kind of got swept under the rug because the perception of all the things that happened in Orlando. All of the media stuff. If you look at basketball itself, and I don’t ever talk about myself, but winning three Defensive Player of the Year trophies has never been done. Leading the league in rebounding six straight years. All that kind of stuff, I think that deserves it.”

Although he actually has only led the NBA in five total seasons rather than six straight, the eight-time All-Star should walk into the Hall of Fame with ease. It’s so funny because he has had such an awkward career, from dominating in Orlando, to flopping with the Lakers and bouncing from the Rockets to the Hawks and now the Hornets.

Yes, he has probably underachieved, but Howard’s numbers will put him up with the all-time greats when all is said and done.

7. What is going on in OKC?

Of course it takes time to adjust to playing with other All-Stars, but this Thunder team is sketchy. They are 7-9, and Russell Westbrook is shooting worse from the field and free-throw line than last year. He also has less assists per game despite having more talent around him.

Carmelo Anthony is shooting 42.2 percent, which would be the worst field goal percentage of his career. They are constantly letting teams back into games after the first quarter, and have now lost two straight despite being ahead by 20 points in both contests. Hopefully this team figures it out and can compete with Golden State come June.

8. James Harden is the MVP at this point in the season

Harden leads the league in points and assists per game. He is shooting 45 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from deep and 86.4 percent from the line.

Houston leads the Western Conference at 13-4, and Harden was dominating without Chris Paul, the team’s second best player, who was dealing with an injury. He dropped 56 points against Utah, and another 48 against the Suns.

 

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Al Horford: The Celtics’ most important piece right now

The Boston Celtics have now successfully rattled off 15 straight wins. They are without one of their best players in Gordon Hayward and have had injuries to many rotation guys along the way. They just held the NBA’s best offensive team to 88 points in a 92-88 win over the Golden State Warriors and seem to be meshing well as a team.

The Boston Celtics have the longest win streak after a 0-2 start and are looking to extend it with each passing game.

Balanced play

Al Horford

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, (Thesource.com).

The Boston Celtics have had a balanced attack nearly every night. They have seven players averaging 9.1 points per game or above. They have only had one player score over 30 points in a game and that was Kyrie Irving against the Hawks on Saturday night. The Celtics continue to have a rotation of players who have all led the team in scoring this season.

The most important turn around for the Boston Celtics have been solving their rebounding woes. Last season the Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. This season they are tied for second in the NBA in rebounding and average nearly 48 per game. The difference is drastic.

Last season they were getting out-rebounded by 2.3 rebounds per game. This season they are +5.6 on the boards. They average 7.9 more rebounds than their opponents this season compared to last. They clean up the highest defensive rebound percentage in the NBA at nearly 82 percent of all shots. The difference this season hasn’t necessarily been Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis like many thought. The rebounding battle has been Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford’s battle to win every night.

The three of them combine for 44 percent of the Celtics rebounds on average. Horford has increased his rebounding from 6.8 a game to 8.8 a game from last season to this one. Jaylen Brown in his increased role has jumped from 2.8 rebounds a game to 6.6 this season. There has been a continuous effort to cut down on giving teams extra possessions on offense. The Celtics have capitalized and in turn it is helping the Celtics win games.

Al Horford: The glue guy

Al Horford has had a career season this season and he has done it efficiently. Horford is averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. He is also chipping in 4.5 assists and has a 20.1 player efficiency rating. Horford is shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. He is doing all this on just over 10 field goal attempts a game.

Every one of the statistics that was previously listed was either slightly or well above his career average. The most impressive statistic for to signify Horford’s importance is when he’s off the floor. The Boston Celtics are just a shade under 12 points per 100 possessions worse when Horford is off the floor. For comparison, when Kyrie Irving is off the floor the Celtics are three points worse when he is off the floor on average.

Al Horford is the most valuable Celtic on offense because he affects the game more than just scoring. Horford is involved more in the offense and is benefiting from touching the ball more on a possession to possession basis. Horford is one of the longest tenured Celtics and is both a vocal leader as well as a guy who can lead by example.

 

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Best team Eastern Conference

The best team in the East

The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA at 8-2 after a huge win against the Thunder with an insane 18-point comeback. The Celtics have the perfect team to perform well in the regular season with a core of young talent that will finish atop the Eastern Conference.

The new-look Celtics

The Celtics currently hold the best record in the entire NBA. With the favorite Cleveland Cavaliers falling apart, it’s hard to see another team challenge the Celtics for the No. 1 seed.

One of the biggest reasons for the Celtics’ success is how Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have been playing. These three are all playing with fire this season, averaging more than 20 minutes per game, which is only going to help them improve in the long run.

Best team Eastern Conference

Photo from NBC Sports

The bench is filled with solid impact players, especially big guys like Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis, which is something they have been missing in the last few seasons. While Baynes is an established player who the Celtics cooped up in free agency, Theis is a rookie from Germany that has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 5.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and almost a block per game.

Kyrie Irving is getting it down on both ends of the floor and showing all the critics how good his defense really is by leading the entire league in steals this season. Irving has found himself in Brad Stevens’ constant ball movement offense. He’s been able to create so many different looks compared to his time in Cleveland.

Have the Celtics figured out their rebounding problem? Currently, the Celtics are fifth in the league in rebounds, which has been a weak point in recent years. It seems like there is a sense of urgency in defensive rebounding, especially with Tatum and Brown.

Al Horford has been picking up his game as of late, consistently finishing with around 15 points and ten rebounds per game. He just looks like he has more drive than last season. I feel like he’s attacking the paint way more than settling for his patent free throw jumper.

Overall, the entire defense looks really strong. They have held their last eight opponents to under 95 points in each game. If the Celtics keep up this defensive intensity, they might even be able to finish with the best record in the league.

What’s up with Cleveland?

The oldest team in the League is struggling early to secure wins in the early part of the season. The Cavaliers made a bunch of different acquisitions this offseason, but none of them seem to be paying off in regular season play.

Best team Eastern Conference

(Photo from Cavs Nation)

The Cavaliers have been battling through a few injuries this season as well, most recently losing Tristan Thompson to a calf injury that should keep him out for a month. This is a devastating loss for a team that already struggled in rebounding and interior defense.

Currently, the Cavs are 4-6, losing five of their last six games. They rank in the bottom four of the East and just lost to the Atalanta Hawks, the worst team in the entire Eastern Conference.

The team has so many old flashy names, but that doesn’t necessarily make a good team. You need to have roles filled, and the Cavs are lacking in a lot of key areas right now.

I do think once Isaiah Thomas comes back, the team will have more structure and chemistry, but that won’t be until around the All-Star break possibly. Can the Cavs figure it out in time and stay around the top of the East where they belong? Or will they fall to the bottom and have to claw back in the second half of the year?

 

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Boston Celtics: Youth leading the way

The Boston Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. What seemed like a log jam at small forward and shooting guard a month ago has now grown thin with the injuries to Hayward and Smart. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have played key roles in life without Hayward.

The Celtics are one possession away from beating the Cavaliers and being 3-1 even without one of their All-Star guards. So how are they doing it? How are they surviving without Hayward? Well many of the young guards are being thrust into important roles and are coming out successful so far.

Brad Stevens

Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens on the Celtics bench (Photo: Business Insider)

Stevens is obviously one of the youngest coaches in the league so it’s only fitting that he’s one of the most important parts of the team. One of Brad Stevens’ biggest attributes is his ability to mesh a bunch of players with different skill sets together. Stevens has really shown that off throughout the first week of the season. Players like Shane Larkin are averaging 15 minutes and Aron Baynes is even starting games.

Stevens has shown that his coaching isn’t built solely around stars. Kyrie Irving’s statistics are down from last season. It’s completely understandable knowing he isn’t playing alongside LeBron James but it’s also a product of Brad Stevens’ offense. Stevens uses less isolation and more off-ball screens and more off-ball movement.

Kyrie’s numbers have improved in certain aspects. He is getting more assists per game and is turning the ball over less as well. Stevens offense makes Kyrie’s 21 percent decrease in points per game understandable.

Jayson Tatum

A month ago Jayson Tatum was going to be battling with Jae Crowder, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown for minutes. As a rookie he is now starting and playing 34 minutes a game. 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from three.

He has been both efficient as well as a scoring option to take the pressure off Kyrie and Jaylen. Many rookies don’t play three quarters of a game on average. Stevens has enjoyed his versatility as well as his ability to grab rebounds as a power forward.

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown has transformed his offensive game in just a season. He is being more aggressive and almost has to be in this offense. He like Tatum is shooting 48 percent and is second on the team with 18.8 points per game.

Brown has also increased his three point percentage by three percent since last season. He has been his best when he’s gotten out in transition and attacked the lane and with many of the Celtics sets being with four guards, he has the option to almost every time he’s on the floor.

Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier

Every year there are extra minutes that no one knows where they go. Excluding Terry Rozier in this one but Shane Larkin has been receiving those minutes. Averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 assists in 14.7 minutes a game Larkin has provided a spark off the bench that wasn’t originally expected. Larkin has been benefiting from Marcus Smart’s injury and taking full advantage of his minutes.

Terry Rozier for long stretches in the last two years has looked to be the Celtics most consistent rebounder. This season he has a 5.3/1 assist to turnover ratio which is best on the team and 5.8 rebounds as a 6-foot-2 point guard. He is one of the first Celtics off the bench and has gotten Brad Stevens trust.

As a backup guard, not turning it over and providing energy and effort are two of the most important things and Rozier has done both of those things throughout the first week of the NBA season.

The Celtics have been hit with an injury bug to start the season with Morris, Smart and obviously Hayward. As they move forward their rotation will continue to differ being that Daniel Theis will be starting as of Thursday night. Look for the Celtics to continue to improve and for Brad Stevens to continue to put great rotations together moving forward.

 

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Biggest overreactions in the NBA so far

The NBA has now been in full swing for just over a week now, and there are already plenty of storylines. Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome injury in Boston’s first game against Cleveland. Ben Simmons is looking like a No. 1 overall pick. The Suns are already a mess. Then there is the Lonzo Ball talk, mostly from his dad.

A lot of the main headlines and early performances have caused major overreactions in the league after most teams have played just four games. Let’s break down some of the major overreactions that have occured after the NBA’s first full week.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is MVP

Fans and analysts were predicting LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to be in the MVP race this season. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo is suddenly the frontrunner for MVP.

NBA overreactions

Giannis Antetokounmpo has received a lot of love so far this season. (Photo by Tom Lynn, AP)

Kevin Durant said in a YouTube video that Antetokounmpo could be the best player ever if he really wanted to. That is quite a prediction from the NBA Finals MVP.

The Greek Freak through four games is averaging 36.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He is definitely a top 10 player in this league, but let’s slow down on those MVP talks.

Anthony Davis also had a hot start like this last season. After the first four games, Davis was averaging 37 points, 13 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals and three blocks per game.

The MVP talks came then too. But remember, the NBA is a long season. Players go through hot and cold stretches. By the end of the season, Davis’ season averages were 28 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. Those are impressive numbers, but they aren’t like the ones he started off with. When it was all said and done, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard were the MVP finalists.

This is not made to be a knock on Davis or Antetokounmpo, but a lot can change through a season. DeMar DeRozan scored at least 30 points in his first 12 games last year with an average of 33 points per game during that stretch. He ended the season averaging 27.3. Lets see how the other 95 percent of the season goes for the Greek Freak, or just half of it.

Any Lonzo Ball reaction

Lonzo Ball went from being a Rookie of the Year favorite before the season started, to a bust after his first game, to owning the Phoenix Suns, to whatever his dad recently said about him.

It is crazy how much of a roller coaster the comments have been towards the Lakers’ point guard. He is currently averaging 11.5 points, nine rebounds and nine assists per game.

I’m going to stick with my prediction of Ball for now. We all know he isn’t going to lead the Lakers to 50 wins, a playoff appearance and make a run at MVP like his dad predicted for this season, but it is reasonable to believe the No. 2 overall pick can average 13 points and six assists and help the Lake Show to maybe 30 wins.

That was my prediction at the beginning of the season and I’m not changing my mind after three games. You shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions about Ball’s career either.

Kyrie Irving is overrated

Irving made headlines with his trade to the Celtics this offseason and all the drama that followed it. Irving also will be taking on a bigger burden than he may have realized now that Gordon Hayward is out.

NBA overreactions

Kyrie Irving’s Celtics career is not starting off like he hoped. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It definitely hasn’t been a pretty first couple games for the new Celtic. His 20 points, six assists and 2.3 steals per game may seem nice, but he is shooting an atrocious 37.5 percent from the floor. In other words, he is shooting a lot for a little, but don’t give up on him yet.

Remember that Irving is learning to play with a new team in a new system. The fact that he is the point guard makes it that much more difficult. As mentioned before, he does not have Hayward to help him out either.

He is working with Al Horford and young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. He is also still learning to be a main guy after working alongside LeBron James for the last several years.

We all know Irving can play. We have seen his performances in the NBA Finals the past two seasons. Irving is dealing with nothing more than a rocky start.

The Memphis Grizzlies are for real

After a 3-1 start with wins over the Warriors, Rockets and Pelicans, it appears that the Grizzlies were overlooked in the preseason.

A roster that features only two stars with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley has beaten some of the NBA’s best teams so far. The Warriors of course are favored to win the title again, the Rockets made noise with the Chris Paul trade and the Pelicans are expected to do damage with the duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Forward James Ennis III and second-round pick Dillon Brooks have both had nice starts to the season as well. The Grizzlies expect their hot start to continue with games against below-average opponents like the Mavericks, Hornets and Magic in their upcoming schedule.

Should we expect the Grizzlies to stay at the top of the might Western Conference? Probably not.

The Warriors, Rockets, Pelicans, Thunder and Nuggets are all off to cold starts this season. Those are all teams we expect to be in the playoffs this season. Those cold starts are definitely a fluke, just like the Grizzlies’ hot start is most likely one. Their lack of star power is going to make it difficult for them to compete with these kinds of teams down the stretch.

 

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The Celtics’ season is not over

A tragic event occurred on Tuesday night. The Celtics new star forward, Gordon Hayward, suffered a brutal injury to his ankle.

Many people are counting this year as a complete loss for the Celtics, and while it is certainly not ideal, the Celtics could still make something out of this. Obviously, the Celtics rally in the second half was electric. Call me an optimist, but I saw enough from that second half team to be able to say they could yet be a top two seed in the Eastern Conference.

When it comes to personnel, I am only going to break down players I think will play an integral role in replacing Hayward in Boston.

Coaching

Brad Stevens

There is a legitimate argument to be made that this man is a better head coach than Steve Kerr, which would make him the second best head coach in the league. That exemplifies just how good he is at his job. While the GM’s of the league may think otherwise, I would say Brad Stevens is the best coach in the league at making adjustments, and he’s only getting started.

The team defense he has designed has even been able to hide Isaiah Thomas on that side of the ball, so Kyrie Irving’s lack of defensive skill should be no problem. With more offensive weapons at his disposal, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with on that side of the ball.

Personnel

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart was the biggest surprise to me on Tuesday, as he stepped up on the offensive end once Hayward left. His post work looked very good, like a budget Chris Paul almost. Not to mention his high effort, high-level defense and pretty decent court vision. A stellar performance from the young man, the Celtics are gonna need a lot more where that came from.

Jaylen Brown

Welcome, Jaylen Brown. A fantastic performance from the second-year man, leading his team in scoring with 25 points. His outside shot still needs work, however, his athleticism really overshadowed his lack of an outside shot.

He looked fierce in this outing as he carved up the inside, with 14 of his 25 points coming off of layups or dunks. His defense was also pretty good in this one, as he was putting up a good fight on every possession, and came away with two steals. He can step and make a difference in Boston.

Marcus Morris

While Gordon Hayward is gone, Marcus Morris should be back soon. Morris is a solid defender, and decent 3-point shooter, with a career 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. He is a great asset, especially for a team like the Celtics, as floor spacing for Kyrie Irving is key. He also brings that toughness when defending on the low block that someone like Al Horford just doesn’t seem to have.

Jayson Tatum

His offense looked very good in the second half of this game after a shaky start. I hope he blossoms quickly, as he has a similar skillset to Gordon Hayward, and could be a great sixth man, or a decent starter.

Aron Baynes

He showed some real value on Tuesday, playing decent interior defense, and grabbing quite a few offensive rebounds. He could log some serious minutes.

This Celtics roster cannot take another injury. With one more hit, even to a role player like Aron Baynes, could be enough to kill them. Though at the moment, I think they still have all they need to seriously challenge for the East crown, even if they will almost certainly fall short.


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NBA injuries

Eight NBA players that absolutely, positively, cannot get injured

After watching Gordon Hayward go down with a gruesome ankle injury, it got us thinking. Who in the NBA can absolutely, positively, not go down with a serious injury?

Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons, the favorite for Rookie of the Year, is an Australian prodigy with an immense amount of talent. After being shut down last year because of a foot injury, Simmons is more motivated than ever. While being the best rookie would be nice, Simmons is focused on being the best player in the NBA.

Physically, Simmons is perfect for the “positionless” trend in the NBA. His size, athleticism and length are unparalleled to many. A gifted passer, Simmons has been called upon by Philadelphia to be their starting point guard. Keep in mind that he is 6-foot-10.

The NBA needs this man to stay healthy. He is one of the most hyped up players in a while, even drawing comparisons to LeBron James, due to his selfless style and high basketball IQ. In five preseason games, Simmons averaged 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

Joel Embiid

The GOAT on social media (Twitter.com)

Not only is Twitter better with a healthy Joel Embiid, but the NBA is a joy to watch when this man is on the court. Recently, we saw Embiid get into a Twitter fight with Miami Heat star Hassan Whiteside. The exchange was over a preseason game. I can’t even imagine what this guy is capable of over an entire season, both on and off the court.

In just 25.4 minutes per game last year, Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. His season was sadly cut short due to a left knee injury.

Recently, the 76ers told Embiid that he will be on minutes’ restriction to start the year. Embiid had a few harsh words to say on the decision, but you can’t not love this guy. He is absolutely hysterical and backed up his clown behavior with incredible numbers in his first 31 career games.

The 76ers could easily make a playoff run with Simmons and Embiid healthy. I will be praying to the basketball gods on a nightly basis to keep Embiid on the floor and all over social media. The NBA needs personalities like this, which is why Embiid’s health is so crucial.

Lonzo Ball

Big Baller Brand for life! If Lonzo were to get hurt, that means less LaVar. Is this a world you would want to live in? Actually, don’t answer that. Seriously though, the Lonzo Ball hype train has been full for months and itching to take off.

Because of his father’s comments, Lonzo is walking into the league with a target on his back. He is considered to be extremely calm and laid back, yet players already don’t like him. People are tired of hearing about him and he has yet to play a minute of meaningful basketball. Can he shoot? Will he get bullied? Does he have what it takes to bring the Lakers to the playoffs? LaVar believes so, but we can only wait and see.

If Zo were to get injured, we wouldn’t be able to see what shoe he will predominately be rocking on the court. If you watched any of the Summer League, you would know that the cameras were more focused on Ball’s footwear than the actual game.

Kyrie Irving

Headlining the biggest breakup saga of the summer, Irving is ready to be the man, and the point guard he knows he can be. Without Irving, the East would be a total joke. The only team that poses a threat to LeBron and the Cavs in the East is Kyrie’s Celtics.

Can Kyrie keep the Celtics afloat? (Photo from SI.com)

Say what you want about Washington and Toronto, but if Hayward comes back, the Celtics are the only team that could give the Cavs a run for their money. The NBA needs Uncle Drew on the floor.

Kyrie vs. Lebron in the Eastern Conference finals is a dream waiting to happen. We don’t really know exactly how they feel about each other, but we do know that they are not on talking terms.

The rivalry between Boston and Cleveland was growing, but now it has risen to another level. Irving could also make a serious run at MVP, so we can only pray as his injury history is rather suspect.

Lebron James

An NBA without LeBron James doesn’t seem possible, as he has never missed a significant amount of time, but you just never know.

LeBron, the obvious face of the NBA, is so vital it is not even funny. He now has beef with Kyrie, which gives the Eastern Conference some serious drama. And, of course, James and the Cavs always have their eyes on Golden State.

This season, James is looking to become the youngest player to reach 30,000 points. He will turn 33 in December and needs 1,213 points to eclipse 30,000. The youngest to 30,000 is currently Kobe Bryant, who accomplished this at 34 years and 104 days.

James could also become the first forward to ever achieve 8,000 career assists. The NBA would probably burn down if this man was out, but I really don’t think the basketball gods would let that happen.

Russell Westbrook

Mr. Triple-Double, Russ is a must-see on TV. He is arguably the most exciting player to watch, and now has serious talent around him. They told Russ it wasn’t possible to average a triple-double in today’s NBA, and he responded with a simple “why not?”

It’s not just his style of play that is exciting. Westbrook’s fashion game is out of this world. The man never wears an outfit twice, and has quite a peculiar taste in clothing. His postgame interviews are always a joy to watch, as he has no problem with making a reporter look foolish.

Also, the KD vs. Russ battle just got more interesting with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Could we see these two duke it out in the Western Conference finals?

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Last season, the “Greek Freak” led the Bucks in scoring, assists, rebounding, steals and blocks. Antetokounmpo became the first player to ever finish top 20 in all five major statistical categories. He’s arguably the most lovable guy in the league.

Recently, Kevin Durant spoke extremely high of him, claiming Antetokounmpo could be the “best player to ever play if he really wanted to.” Durant would go on to say that Antetokounmpo is his favorite player to watch.

The best part is that he is only 22 years old. The sky is the limit for this kid. While Milwaukee won’t win the championship, they could be an interesting team. In a lot of insiders’ minds, Antetokounmpo is a dark horse for MVP. He has an incredible backstory and is the most innocent guy in the league.

Kristaps Porzingis

How great would it be if basketball was relevant again in New York? The “Unicorn” has a chance to make this happen. With Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony out of town, Porzingis has the opportunity to become a star in the Big Apple.

NBA injuries

Will the Unicorn make New York relevant? (Photo from ESPN.com)

Much like Antetokounmpo, Porzingis is young at age 22 and extremely likable. On at least two occasions, the Knicks star has slid into the “dm’s” of Instagram models. While the conversations may not have went as Porzingis hoped, you have to respect the game.

It’s a rebuilding year for the Knicks, but expect Porzingis to elevate his game. Last season, he averaged 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and two blocks a game. If Porzingis were to go down, people might forget that New York has professional basketball in their state.

 

 

Featured image by NY Daily News

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Hayward

Gordon Hayward fractures ankle in season opener

Tuesday night the Boston Celtics traveled to Quicken Loans arena to face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With less than seven minutes left in the first quarter of the season opener, Gordan Hayward suffered a horrific injury.

Hayward fracture

After attempting to catch an alley-oop from Kyrie Irving, Hayward collided with LeBron James and Jae Crowder. The small forward landed on his leg, which folded under his body.

The instant Hayward hit the floor the six-foot-eight guard slid over and grabbed his leg. With six minutes and 40 seconds left in the first quarter, players from both teams were showing immense concern for their fellow NBA brother.

The medical staff would place an air cast on his foot to secure the fractured ankle.  After the training staff and medical staff secured Hayward, he was carted off of the court where he was met by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and others.

Aftermath

Fans gave Hayward a standing ovation as he was carted off to the locker room for further evaluation.

Hayward’s injury sucked the energy out of the Quicken Loans Arena and from both teams. After the devastating injury, Celtics center Al Harford was encouraging Irving to keep pushing, while Jaylen Brown was caught with his mouth open searching for words.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had to pull his troops together and encourage them to move on. Later you would see Irving huddling with Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum.

Moments later the former Butler Bulldog would receive X-rays from both team staffs. The Celtics arranged for the former Jazz forward to be flown back to Boston.

During the post-game interview, Boston coach Brad Stevens explained to the reporters that Hayward had a dislocated tibia and a fractured left ankle.

Despite a heroic comeback, the Celtics would lose to 102-99.

The 27-year-old signed a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics during the summer. This is a horrific blow for the Celtics.

The franchise was expecting to implement a one-two punch with Irving and Hayward. The two would lead a team with young talent.

Despite this injury, it’s nice to know that the league supports one another. Throughout the coverage of the injury, other players sent well wishes, thoughts, and prayers for the small forward.

Cleveland head coach Tyron Lue tweeted his well wishes to Hayward.

Featured image taken by Gregory Shamus 

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2017 Eastern Conference predictions: 76ers and Celtics

With what feels like the most compelling offseason in NBA history, there will be no lack of storylines to follow this season. There is a ton of grey area when it comes to how things are going to shape up in the Eastern Conference so here are two bold predictions for the East this season.

Philadelphia 76ers make the playoffs

2017 Eastern Conference predictions: 76ers Celtics

(MetroUS)

Trust the process has been the motto in Philly for what feels like an eternity and fans in the area haven’t seen a winning product since the 2011-2012 season where they made it to the conference semi-finals. Since then there has not been any hope or optimism surrounding the franchise besides receiving the number one pick a few a times, but this year feels much different.

The 76ers have been plagued with injuries and mismanagement for five seasons but the process is finally coming to fruition. With what seems to be a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons the world will be able to see how this team of high picks will be able to play together. There have been reports of minutes restriction for Embiid but for this case were assuming he will start.

Being in the Eastern Conference gives this young team a chance to be in contention for a playoff spot and they’re going to sneak into the eight or seven spot. With players like Dario Saric and Robert Covington stepping up last season and the influx of the young guns like Fultz, Simmons and Embiid, this team is much more interesting.

After finishing in the bottom of the barrel last season, they have a chance to completely turn around the entire identity of the franchise. Adding free agents like J.J. Reddick and Amir Johnson brings important veteran leadership to one of the youngest teams in the league that will have a huge impact on them moving forward.

With many teams in the Eastern Conference getting worse like the Pacers, Knicks, Bulls and of course the Nets, there is no reason to think that the 76ers don’t have a shot to make the playoffs this season and finally give Philly fans something to be proud of.

Celtics No. 1 seed again

2017 Eastern Conference predictions: 76ers Celtics

(Sporting News)

After the blockbuster trades and the huge free agent signings, the Celtics are poised to be one of the top dogs of the Eastern Conference. After the Celtics managed to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, they are in an even better position to repeat that this year as well.

There are only three other teams that are in the discussion for the No. 1 seed: The Cavaliers, Raptors and Wizards. The reason  the Celtics have the best chance is simple. They got better while everyone else more or less stayed the same besides the Cavs.

The reason the Cavs won’t be able to win the Eastern Conference this season is because the injuries to Isaiah Thomas, and the fact that they really don’t care where they end up. I still think a fully healthy Cavaliers have the edge in playoffs against the Celtics, so they just don’t care whether they’re the first or second seed.

Don’t get me wrong, I would not be surprised if the Cavaliers still manage to get the one seed, but with Isaiah out until the All-Star break and the Cavaliers being one of the oldest teams in the league, they won’t be taking every game as seriously as other teams.

The Cavs basically want to get one of the top three seeds and will plan for the playoffs because the regular season is essentially a formality to them. Knowing LeBron, he will be looking to send a message when they play the top teams in the league but he won’t mind taking a few games off like he did last season.

Featured Image Courtesy of NBA.com

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NBA opening night predictions: Celtics vs Cavs, Rockets vs Warriors

It’s been a while since we have had regular season basketball. On Tuesday night, the NBA regular season kicks off. The two games slated are the Boston Celtics on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets on the road taking on the Golden State Warriors.

These two matchups have a possible conference final feel to them to tip off the season. They also have a little bit of bad blood in them as well.

The NBA season has finally returned and with a lot of Allstars changing teams this season should make for an interesting one.

Celtics and Cavaliers

Everyone knows about the bad blood between Kyrie and the city of Cleveland. That is going to be the best kick off to the season that could possibly happen. Kyrie gets to travel to Cleveland and hear all the boos and possibly lead his new team in a win over his former team.

The Celtics and Cavaliers finished one and two in the East last season and if these teams didn’t already know each other before, they certainly do now.

Both of the teams’ new guards are feeding into the fire as well. Isaiah Thomas said he may never talk to Danny Ainge again. Kyrie Irving has been quoted numerous times comparing the two cities now that he has found a new home.

So what does this mean for this game? It means that it will be chippy for sure, there will be a lot of booing of Kyrie Irving and there will probably be some technical fouls. All in all it will be a tough game that is a perfect way to open up the NBA season.

I think that the Cavs still win this one by near double-digits. The crowd will be fired up and LeBron James still seems to be frustrated with the way Kyrie left things. The Cavaliers take a statement win at home. These two teams will continue to give us great matchups moving forward.

Rockets and Warriors

NBA opening night predictions

James Harden guarding Steph Curry, Photo Courtesy of Trashtalk.co.

The Rockets acquired All-Star guard Chris Paul this summer from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets have now built a starting lineup that many think can compete with the loaded Golden State Warriors.

In a possible Western Conference finals matchup, both the defending champs and a team predicted in the top five in power rankings square off. The Warriors add different pieces to their bench and can deliver blows to the Rockets.

The Rockets traded Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley and depleted their depth. They look to get big minutes out of their key guys heading into this season. Look for Eric Gordon to carry the bench scoring load as the season moves forward and be a front runner for the Sixth Man of the Year again.

Ultimately I think the season starts off with the Warriors winning by around 16. The Warriors are too deep and the Rockets are a team that will take a little time to gel. It’s also extremely difficult to win at Oracle and there’s no doubt it will be rocking on opening night.

The Season as a whole

Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap and others have switched conferences, which will create the most exciting season in recent memory.

The young players who have entered the league are creating a large amount of buzz. Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are all set to take the NBA by storm.

Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers who haven’t made the playoffs in a few years are set to make a playoff run. A shifting of the power has made it more interesting and a less predictable narrative.

This new season will be one of the best and Tuesday night we get to kick the season off. Look for a lot of entertaining games and a lot less rest from star players. In summary, the NBA is back and it’s not a moment too soon.

 

Featured Image from www.12up.com.

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