The Best Remaining NBA Playoff Teams

The Trailblazers, Pacers and Thunder have become the first three teams to be sent home from the NBA playoffs. The Cavaliers and Warriors both swept their first-round opponents. The Rockets also sent Oklahoma City home, leaving 13 remaining teams.

As the playoffs have started, teams have started to reveal their true abilities. Playoff LeBron James has elevated the Cavs to another level, while the Celtics have struggled to capture their magic from the regular season. As teams begin to take playoff form, their championship potential has started to become unearthed.

Tier 1: The Elite

The top tier of NBA playoff teams consists of teams that have proven that they can win the title. They aren’t contenders, but rather the teams nobody would be surprised to see hoist the trophy come June.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The defending champions obviously have to be on this list. James has entered playoff mode. It’s evident by his massacre of the Pacers this week, and seems to once again be an unstoppable force. He has more depth than he had last season, and they have played well even without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love so far.

The path through the East shouldn’t be incredibly difficult this year, and the Cavs will most likely once again find themselves in the NBA championship. Seeing them repeat would hardly be a surprise.

Golden State Warriors

Even though Steve Kerr may miss the entirety of the playoffs, the Warriors still remain the favorites this year. They have two of the five best players in the league on their team, along with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green behind them. JaVale McGee is also having an incredible postseason so far.

The Warriors are one of the most dangerous teams in the league on both sides of the floor, so it is no surprise that they are one of the two elite teams in the league right now. They are undoubtedly the championship favorites right now, assuming they can stay healthy.

Tier 2: The Contenders

The second tier of NBA playoff teams consists of teams who have a chance to dethrone the Cavs or Warriors. They are the teams that have a chance to win the championship despite being the underdogs.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets have proven themselves as a legit team so far. James Harden leads the most dangerous offense in the league right now and can put up points in a hurry. The Rockets are a serious threat to pull off an upset, especially with the way Patrick Beverly has played so far.

The biggest flaw of the Rockets this postseason is that they might have a tough time guarding long wing scorers. Guys like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and LeBron James would pose matchup problems for the Rockets, and they would likely have to get through each of those players to win the championship. Their offense still makes them a threat and they remain a contender in the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs

Although they have struggled with the Grizzlies so far, the Spurs will be a contender as long as they have Kawhi Leonard healthy and Gregg Popovich calling the shots. Leonard looks like the best player in the playoffs not on the Warriors or Cavs and has had a ridiculous series.

The elite coaching of Pop combined with the elite defense of Leonard and the Spurs could pose a huge problem for the Warriors. If they can take the Warriors off of their rhythm, they could make a run at the championship.

Tier 3: The Outside Shot Teams

These teams are the last teams that have a shot at the title. They aren’t contenders, but with a little bit of luck they could end up having a shot at the NBA Finals.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors came out slow against the Bucks, but have since started to regain their form. They are one win away from taking the series from the young Bucks.

The Raptors’ backcourt remains the strongest part of the team, and also their biggest weakness in the playoffs. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have continued their trend of weak play during the playoffs as they have struggled immensely.

If Lowry and DeRozan can consistently play like superstars, the Raptors may have a chance at taking down the Cavs. Otherwise, all they have is an outside shot.

Los Angeles Clippers

This team could have ranked in the second tier if Blake Griffin was healthy. However, it is unlikely that Chris Paul will be able to carry this heavy of a load through the entire playoffs.

Paul has played phenomenally so far, but it will be tough to keep up this level of play up if they face the Warriors. The Warriors will also have an extended period of rest, while the Clippers will be playing two to three more games this round. If Paul can reach yet another level, they may have a chance. For now, they remain an outside shot team.

Utah Jazz

With the emergence of clutch time Joe Johnson, the Jazz have been putting up quite a fight against the Clippers. A healthy Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward will also make this team a tough out.

Like the Clippers, the Jazz simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Warriors in the second round. Both teams have a big defensive stopper in the frontcourt and scoring ability in the backcourt and wing. However, they will likely fall victim to the Warriors’ powerhouse.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards came out hot at the beginning of the series, but have since struggled against the Hawks. The Wizards have given the Cavs some trouble in the past, so it’s not crazy to think they might have an outside shot in a series against them.

The Cavs would likely have a tough time guarding the pick-and-roll between John Wall and Marcin Gortat. If the Wizards can exploit that, they may be able to put up points against the Cavs. Ultimately though, they simply don’t have a solution for LeBron James. Like most other teams in the East, James creates too many matchup problems for a small team like the Wizards to defend. They have a chance, but it’s a small one.

 

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Where Does Melo Go From Here?

Nothing seems to be going right in the life of Carmelo Anthony at the moment. Phil Jackson recently gave a press conference in which he said, “I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”

He is unwanted and, according to Jackson, unneeded in New York.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there are reports coming out that he and his wife of seven years will be getting a divorce after rumors that he got a stripper pregnant.

Carmelo’s life and career are at a crossroads. The question that begs to be answered is, where does Melo go from here?

Career Accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: AP Richard Drew)

Carmelo is a legend at Syracuse University. In the 2002-03 season, Carmelo led the Orange to their first national championship. He averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was also named the tournament’s most outstanding player that season. His future was bright and he was picked third overall in the 2003 NBA draft.

Carmelo has also been a successful international basketball player. One could argue he is the most successful basketball olympian in United States history. Melo has a record of playing on four Olympic rosters, and a record three gold medals. Melo also holds the record for most points scored in a USA Men’s Olympic game with 37 against Nigeria in 2012.

He is first all-time in each of the following: games played (31), career points (336), rebounds (125), field goals made (113), field goals attempted (262), 3-pointers attempted (139), free throws made (53) and free throws attempted (71). He is also second all-time in 3-pointers made (57).

Carmelo’s NBA career hasn’t led to as much hardware, but he has still had a great career. Melo is a 10-time all star, has been named to an All-NBA team six times and was the scoring champion in the 2012-13 season.

One of his best accomplishments in the NBA was when he led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Championship in 2009, but fell to Kobe and the Lakers 4-2.

Carmelo has scored 24,156 career points in 15 NBA seasons. He has over 3,000 assists and over 6,000 rebounds, but a championship is what eludes him. The Knicks have openly said he will be better off chasing that ring somewhere else, but where?

The Path to A Ring

Carmelo Anthony

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

Melo has few options if all he is looking for is a ring. Those options include the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

It would be foolish for the Knicks to release Carmelo Anthony, but it may be their only option. Melo is under contract until July of 2019 and has a no-trade clause. He will veto any trade that is not to a championship contender, or a trade that leaves the new team without the pieces needed to win that elusive title. If the Knicks really want to part ways with Melo, they may have to just cut him.

Boston

The Celtics would be a great fit for both Melo and the team. Boston managed to get the No. 1 seed in the east despite only having one major option on offense in Isaiah Thomas.

Adding Anthony would bring in an easy 20 points per game and veteran leadership to a team that tied for the third youngest team (25.6) in the NBA. Both Melo and the Celtics would help one another in trying to win a ring.

Los Angeles

One team that is often mentioned in Anthony rumors is the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is loaded with talent, but fails to make an impact in the history books.

Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are close friends who both need to validate their careers with an NBA championship. Neither wants to go down in history like Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, John Stockton or Karl Malone.

If Anthony is cut, this would be his ideal spot. A team with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could only get better by adding Anthony. The Western Conference is loaded, but this makes the Clippers a legitimate threat rather than just a bump in the road out west.

Cleveland

The last team that Melo could sign with, if cut, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Melo is just as close with LeBron as he is with Chris Paul. Cleveland may win a title this year, but if they don’t, it’s because they ran into a Warriors team that loaded up with Kevin Durant. The answer to that would be to get Anthony and his scoring. He would take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron.

The Cavs are in less need of Melo than Melo is of the Cavs. Signing with Cleveland would prove that all Melo wants is that trophy. He wouldn’t be in the spotlight or the face of a franchise, which is something Melo has never experienced. Signing in Cleveland would all but guarantee him that ring he so desperately wants.

Conclusion

Carmelo Anthony

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

As Carmelo enters the twilight of his playing days, he is focused on one thing: winning. Knowing that  the Knicks no longer want or need him will make him seek a team that does want him.

He will also need a distraction from his personal problems, and finding another team can help with that. It is hard to see where Carmelo goes from here, but one thing is for certain: his playing days in New York are over.

 

 

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Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

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

There are so many questions left to be answered in the second season of the Eastern Conference. Will the Cavs fall, thus ending LeBron’s finals streak? Will the Celtics prove to be the best of the East? Could another team like the Raptors, Wizards or Bucks come out?

It will be fun to watch it all play out. Here is the preview of the Eastern Conference first round.

1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Chicago Bulls

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics and Bulls have had some amazing playoff series in the past. There was the time Michael Jordan dropped 63 points in a loss or the time they put on an epic seven-game series in 2009 that featured a total of seven overtimes.

These two teams split the season series, each winning two games. Chicago plays really well against winning teams and especially well on national television.

However, in a seven-game series, the better team is going to win. Boston averages 108 points per game, which is seventh-best in the NBA. Chicago on the other hand averages almost 103, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. Chicago will make it tough, but the Celtics’ defense will stifle the Bulls in the end.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7 Indiana Pacers

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Stop with the talk about how bad the Cavs have played. Like many past teams, they were just pacing themselves. The regular season means nothing to a team who has been to two straight finals, or to a player like LeBron James who has been to six straight finals.

Watch the switch get flipped in the playoffs. Indiana has a chance to steal a game or two with a superstar like Paul George, but that is it.

The Cavaliers will pick up the defense. With a healthy LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, their offense will keep them on course. Averaging 110 points per game leaves a little room for error on the defensive end.

LeBron-led teams have proven time and time again that they buckle down in the playoffs. Until proven otherwise, that will happen again this year.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

3 Toronto Raptors vs. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto versus Milwaukee is one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round. Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo will get a chance to shine on a national stage. The Greek Freak is the first player in NBA history to end the season in the top 20 of all major statistical categories.

Giannis is a great player, but lacks experience and a team that can do damage in the playoffs. The Bucks haven’t made the playoffs consistently in recent years, while the Raptors are heading into the playoffs for their fourth consecutive year. Toronto also reached the conference finals for the first time ever in franchise history last season, and they have improved their depth this year.

Toronto won over 50 games this season and finished the season winning eight of their final 10. The Raptors are hot and the better team, which is why they win this series without much of a worry.

Prediction: Raptors in 5

4 Washington Wizards vs. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington has had one of their best seasons in franchise history. They finished 49-33, which was the third most wins they have ever had. Scott Brooks has not gotten the respect he deserves for how well he has done with the Wizards.

Washington has the best chance of upsetting the Cavs in the playoffs, but they must get past Atlanta first. The Wizards went 3-1 versus the Hawks this season. If the Wizards want to repeat that success they had in the regular season, they will need their stellar backcourt to lead them there.

The Wizards will win this series because John Wall and Bradley Beal combine to average 46.2 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 14.2 assists per game. Atlanta’s backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be outmatched in this series and that will be the difference.

Prediction: Wizards in 6

You can check out the Western Conference Playoff Preview here.

 

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NBA eLeague

The NBA and Take-Two Are Changing esports

The NBA and Take-Two (Makers of NBA 2K) are teaming up to change esports in a major way starting in 2018. The NBA and Take-Two have partnered to create a professional, competitive NBA eLeague.

Traditional sports games have fallen behind in the world of esports. Games like League of Legends, Pokemon, Halo, Counter-Strike and Dota2 have had been dominating competitive gaming and are already paying gamers million of dollars.

The NBA is trying to take a piece of that pie. There is so much money to be made from gaming that traditional sports need to innovate before they get left behind.

The NBA and Take-Two are trying to set the trend for these traditional sports. This bold leap could change the gaming industry like never seen before.

So what exactly will this NBA eLeague be and how will it run?

How Will it work?

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: https://geekiversedotcom.com)

The eLeague, as Adam Silver has called it, will be a professional gaming league run by the NBA and its franchises. Each NBA team will be in control of their own 2K virtual basketball team.

For example, the Chicago Bulls will have the eBulls and the team will manage its roster just as they do for the on-court basketball team. There will be general managers and a salary cap.

All 30 NBA teams will be involved and this season will mirror the real season. Gamers will be paid a salary to practice, train and compete for their respective teams and the only difference is they will be training with a controller instead of their body.

These teams will be through a real draft, similar to the traditional NBA draft. Each team will have five professional gamers on its roster. They won’t be playing with LeBron James, Steph Curry or Kevin Durant but instead they will play with their custom created avatars that they work on to improve.

One area of concern most people come up with is how can they do this if everyone is going to just be a 99 overall player who can do everything? NBA2K has already fixed this issue in their latest version of the game.

archetypes and badges

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit:https://www.youtube.com)

NBA 2K17 really wanted to make sure that each player had their own specialty. In previous years a player could make a point guard who could be 6-foot-7 and earn all badges to become the most unstoppable player of all-time.

There are three solutions they came up with to halt this.

The first is with archetypes. For all examples in how this works, we will stick to looking at point guards.

When you create your player you can pick a position. Once you select the position you wish to play, you must pick an archetype. The archetypes for point guard are the following: playmaker, sharpshooter, lockdown defender, shot creator and slasher.

Depending on the type of point guard you decide to become, you will have only five badges you can upgrade. That is the second part of the solution: the number of badges one can upgrade. In NBA 2K there are dozens of badges a player can get that makes them better.

One of those badges is the pickpocket badge. To unlock the pickpocket badge, a player must get a certain amount of steals within a season. The pickpocket badge makes a player more effective at stealing the ball.

As you can see in the picture with the sharpshooter, pickpocket is not one of these upgradeable badges for that archetype. What that means is that the pickpocket badge must stay at the bronze level.

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: YouTube)

If the sharpshooter archetype gamer unlocked the limitless range badge then they could upgrade it from bronze to silver then to gold. Once a player has a gold badge they can upgrade it to the hall of fame level. Hall of fame badges allow a player to be great at that skill.

By allowing gamers to only have five upgradeable badges, they have stopped people from becoming players that are great at everything and 99 overall.

The third way NBA 2K17 has made it difficult to become 99 overall is by including park reputation.

Park reputation is a tier system in which can only be aquired by playing at MyPark. There are five levels to each tier. The tiers are as follows: rookie, pro, all-star, superstar and legend.

A player can only get to 95 overall before the game will not let them upgrade anymore. To earn more upgrades, one must reach levels one, three and five of the superstar tier at MyPark. The amount of games and time it takes to reach those tiers is extremely straining and does not come easily.

These three additions have really helped NBA 2K level the playing field and made a game that requires multiple different skill sets, rather than just a bunch of players who can do all. This is something NBA teams will have to look at when constructing teams for their NBA eLeague.

2K HAS ALREADY TESTED THIS

There is a mode in NBA 2K called Pro-Am that allows all these different gamers to take their custom players play in five on five games similar to an NBA contest. These teams become really competitive and are an example of how an NBA eLeague team would look. NBA 2K have already held two major tournaments over the past two years to test how this would work in a legitimate format.

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit:http://www.usatoday.com/sports/)

The first one was called the Road to the Finals which took place in 2016. This year NBA 2K held the All Star Tournament which would gave 250 thousand dollars to the winning team Still Trill.

Over two million people streamed the final game, according to NBA 2K, proving that there is a market for competitive traditional sports games. The tournament showed is that these skilled players are capable of drawing a lot of viewers.

There are over 110,000 teams on Xbox alone in the Pro-Am game mode. The teams and players are already around waiting to be picked up by NBA franchises.

Why This Will Change eSports

NBA eLeague

(Photo Credit: Matthew Hagan)

The potential of this idea is unlimited. Currently, getting the NBA to be involved is monumental for the growth of NBA 2K as an esport. The NBA is the first professional league in the United States to create their own esports league.

The success with the two tournaments that NBA 2K have already run proves that there is huge interest in this game. Eventually the NBA eLeague could expand to more teams than just 30. There could be hundreds of teams in each region of the world. Eventually there could be regional championships that lead to a world championship.

An eLeague allows people who could never play in the NBA a chance to become NBA stars. This includes people who have disabilities and are unable physically play the sport. It doesn’t matter your size, weight, or gender, anybody who is good enough on the sticks can end up being drafted to an NBA eLeague team. That is something that no other professional sport can offer.

This is just the beginning for the NBA and Take-Two. Once the money begins to flow they will realize they need to expand the field. Before you know it there will be an NBA2K Hall of Fame and a list of new NBA eChampions.

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It’s on the Haus: Dirk Nowitzki Scores 30K, Gonzaga Basketball Wins, Bruce Chen’s Shoes and an Unruly Gorilla

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports and esports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program, or going to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports and esports happenings, all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

It’s been a while. If you want a feel for how this series works, take in the last article in the wonderful world of sports news.

Dunking Deutschman Reaches 30K

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored his 30,000th career point in the most Dirk way possible in the Mavs’ 122-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Nowitzki becomes the sixth player in NBA history to reach the landmark and the first since Kobe Bryant did it in 2012.

Good for the Dunking Deutschman. He seems to be one of the more well-liked players in the association, even with a detrimental photoshoot to start his career.

LeBron James stopped his dinner to take a video congratulating Nowitzki. In my house, pulling out your phone during dinner is a cardinal sin, but apparently things work differently when your the most famous Sprite endorser in America.

Dirk has just one NBA Finals championship, which is criminal. It’s not fair for someone who changed the game, and maybe if Mark Cuban spent less time ridiculing potential entrepreneurs on television and more time not wasting one of the GOATs in NBA history, Dirk would have more rings.

I scored 21 points in a jayvee basketball game one time, so who’s the real basketball expert here, Mark? No further questions.

Zags Clinch Tourney Spot

The Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team was already going to make the NCAA Tournament, but just for good measure, they won their conference tournament. The Bulldogs beat the St. Mary’s Gaels 74-56 last night, marking the third time the Zags have beaten St. Mary’s by double-digits this season.

Gonzaga is now 32-1 and in prime position to pursue its first ever national title. However, I’m not here to talk about basketball.

Now, what exactly is a Gael? Well, it’s hard to say. Even though I have the almighty power of Google at my disposal, I’m not going to look it up. Rather, brainstorm with me.

I know there’s such a thing called gale force winds. That has something to do with the bodies of water, and also isn’t spelled correctly. Gazelle sounds sort of like gael, but I figure it’s not the same thing.

I’ll have my intern look into interviewing all athletes on St. Mary’s various sports teams to see if they even know what it means, but I doubt they do. But hey, not knowing is all the fun, right?

What Are Those?

Dirk Nowitzki Gonzaga Basketball Bruce Chen's Shoes Phoenix Suns Mascot

Bruce Chen’s kicks, courtesy of Cespedes Family BBQ’s Twitter account.

Remember the year 2015, when the phrase “what are those” was made into a annoying teen’s favorite meme? Neither do I. That’s not the point. The point is that Bruce Chen, an MLB pitcher and member of China’s World Baseball Classic team, wore some killer shoes in his appearance yesterday in the WBC.

I commend Chen for making this bold fashion statement. When you’re 39 years old and you don’t need traction, you choose to wear comfortable shoes. Who are we as common nonathletic citizens to judge?

Chen tossed 2 and 2/3 innings in the game, but China lost the game 6-0. Maybe if the entire roster chose to wear business casual footwear to the game, the Chinese would’ve earned the dub.

 

Gorilla Makes a Scene, Avenges Harambe’s Death

The Phoenix Suns’ matchup with the Washington Wizards was full of fireworks, most notably being the Suns’ mascot’s shenanigans during the fourth quarter.

My apologies on the terrible cheesy music that was coupled with the video. The piece of media comes from CBS Sports, so please direct your complaints to them.

At first glance, it seems as though the man inside the gorilla is high as a kite. However, upon further review, it appears as though the gorilla actually saved a player from potential injury, as the friendly animal picked up some kind of object off the floor.

All I’m saying is this guy better watch his back. Remember the last time a gorilla tried to save an innocent person from certain implosion? Yeah, that gorilla, known as Harambe by locals, is deader than Jokim Noah’s jumper.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. I see symbolism here, and I see the world getting this gorilla situation right.

 

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

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

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

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

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Injuries are Shaking up the NBA

Injuries always end up taking its toll on the NBA season. The 2016-2017 season is no exception. As the season comes to a close, injuries are taking an even bigger toll on teams. They are giving a better idea of what the race for the championship might look like.

Key NBA Injuries This Season

Rudy Gay

NBA injuries

Rudy Gay (Photo courtesy: slamonline.com)

Rudy Gay was the first to fall to the injury bug. Gay was beginning to look like a prime trade target for a lot of teams who needed perimeter scoring. The Raptors and Thunder both looked like teams that could use his scoring presence on the outside. Gay fell victim to a season-ending torn Achilles in the midst of another solid season.

The Kings were never going to be a serious title threat, but Gay looked like a piece that could completely transform a fringe team. His presence could have vaulted the Thunder into another level, or made the Raptors contenders in the East. Nevertheless, his season is over.

The Gay injury was seemingly the first domino in the NBA injury season. Zach Lavine tore his ACL and ended his season shortly after.

Zach Lavine

Lavine took a serious leap this season and was another potential trade asset at the deadline. He became a deadly scorer for the Timberwolves this season and remained one of the most explosive and athletic players in the league. The Timberwolves title hopes were almost nonexistent even before the injury to Lavine, but the injury was still a serious blow to the young team.

Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker was the next to fall. Parker’s injury is perhaps the most disheartening of any of the injuries we have seen this year.

After missing much of his first season due to a torn ACL, Jabari started to show some of the potential that he had promised in college. He looked as if he was a blossoming star next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Another ACL injury means Parker will likely miss the next 12 months and possibly set back the progress he’s made since his first injury.

The injury to Parker is especially disheartening to the Bucks. Shooting guard Khris Middleton missed most of the year due to an achilles tear and just recently returned to the lineup. The combination of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Parker would have been something to behold. Perhaps it would have been enough to vault the Bucks into the playoffs. Now their playoff hopes are much more up in the air.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

The Sixers have a pair of young stars that have been plagued with injuries this year. Just a month ago the Sixers were turning their season around and looked like they might have a chance at the playoffs. Since then, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have both been ruled out for the rest of the year.

Like the Timberwolves and Bucks, the injuries to young stars have taken a huge toll on the Sixers. They have struggled to pick up momentum without Embiid, and they will lose time that they could have developed chemistry.

The final three, and possibly most significant, injuries are to stars at their conferences. Namely, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry. These injuries are bound to have massive implications on the playoffs hunt.

Kevin Love

The Kevin Love injury leaves the Cavaliers in a unique position. They still have the best player in the world in Lebron James and a star point guard in Kyrie Irving, but they have to decide whether it is still worth chasing the number one seed. Resting Lebron and Kyrie down the stretch might be a good move for the playoffs, but they could slip in the standings because of it.

If Love misses time in the playoffs, a strengthened Eastern Conference could give them trouble. The Celtics, Raptors and Wizards have all significantly improved this season. Even though the Cavs are still huge favorites, any one of those teams could give them a run for their money if injuries plague them down the stretch.

Kyle Lowry

NBA injuries

Kyle Lowry (Photo courtesy: grantland.com)

The Lowry injury is also a huge blow to the Raptors. The Raptors went all in on solidifying their starting lineup at the deadline. Losing their starting point guard for the rest of the season hurts. Even making the Eastern Conference Finals will be incredibly difficult if they don’t have Lowry in the playoffs.

Kevin Durant

As for Kevin Durant, there is little information about the severity of his injury. If he misses significant time, it could be devastating to the Warriors who don’t have much bench depth.

Editor’s note: Kevin Durant will miss at least four weeks due to a bone bruise and sprained MCL in his knee according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Durant could return before the end of the regular season, but his return is in question.

The injury bug will continually be something to watch down the stretch as we find out how some of these injuries shake up the league.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Expect An Exciting End to the NBA Trade Deadline

With the recent blockbuster trade that sent Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, the Trade Deadline has started to heat up in the NBA. What deals can still happen in the next few days?

There has been some speculation that the Cousins deal actually depreciated the market. Teams may be less inclined to give up a bundle of assets since the Pelicans gave so little for a superstar. The current state of the NBA lends well for some trades to still happen however. There are a few names in particular that seem to be hitting the market.

NBA Trade Deadline

Brook Lopez (Photo courtesy: twitter.com)

The Nets seem to be the biggest seller at this point. Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic have both been floating around trade talks for a good while now. Finding an appropriate destination for them is a different story.

Lopez was often linked to the Pelicans who have obviously satiated their need for a big man with Cousins. The Pelicans’ deal seriously hampers the chances of a Lopez deal happening. Although he was linked in trade talks with the Pacers, it seems unlikely that the Pacers’ first round pick will be enticing enough to get Lopez.

Bogdanovic is another story. He would be a perfect fit in Oklahoma City as they need a wing threat. He also could fit in Washington as a bench scorer, which is something the Wizards desperately need. It’s yet to be seen whether either of those deals could materialize, but Bogdanovic is much more likely to move at the deadline.

The most recent development of the day is the linking of Blake Griffin to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are one of the few teams that have the assets to grab a superstar (assuming Vlade Divac is done giving them away), and if anyone was going to make a huge splash it would be Boston. With Kevin Love injured, the Cavaliers may try and leverage their assets for a chance at a title push this year.

The bottom line is that even though the Cousins trade undoubtedly will make General Managers more wary about being on the wrong side of a deal, the atmosphere for big trades may have been increased. The parity in the league right now is as high as it has been in a long time, and teams may try to take advantage of a perceived window of opportunity.

The four best teams in the East (The Cavs, Celtics, Wizards and Raptors) all have a shot at winning the East after the Kevin Love injury. Although the Cavaliers remain the favorites, an upset is more likely than it has been since Lebron Left Cleveland in the first place. In the West, the Pelicans trade allows for significantly more parity, and the chances of a playoff upset increase astronomically.

The next few days could reflect those sentiments. Look out for at least a few deals to be made, and maybe even a blockbuster.

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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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“From Our Haus to Yours”

How Social Issues are Becoming Entrenched in the NBA

Recently, social issues and politics have become especially prominent in the NBA. Basketball has always found itself intrenched in cultural issues, but over the past year it has become increasingly noticeable.

One prominent social issue that came to light earlier this year was regarding the use of marijuana in the NBA. Frequently outspoken coach and former player Steve Kerr made headlines when he admitted to using marijuana to help with his back pain. Kerr, 51 years old, also mentioned that hopes the NBA will soften its stance on marijuana. Interestingly, the NBA already refrains from testing for marijuana during the offseason.

The NBA has a much more lenient position on pot usage than the MLB and NFL. The NFL is notoriously strict on players who test positive for marijuana and bans players for a full season after testing positive three times.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Kerr specifically spoke out against the NFL’s policies.

“If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin,” Kerr said.

Former NBA player Jay Williams said that he believes 80% of NBA players use marijuana. He also expressed his support for leniency on marijuana also citing the benefits of marijuana over painkillers.

Marijuana has proven to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of NBA personalities expressing their beliefs. This became especially clear in the months surrounding the 2016 election.

On November 6th, in Cleveland, LeBron James spoke out at a rally for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Rather than spark a controversy, his endorsement brought support from his peers on both sides of the aisle.

Milwaukee Bucks center Spencer Hawes, a known conservative, spoke out on James’ endorsements in October. Hawes was asked whether James’ comments regarding Clinton made him uncomfortable in an interview with Sporting News, eliciting this response:

No, I like it. Obviously, I don’t agree with LeBron there. And that’s fine. But the ability to not agree and put that in one compartment and not judge someone’s entire character based on how they view the world or what their political beliefs are, that’s what makes us great. So yeah, I disagree with LeBron. I would love to have a discussion with him or anybody that wants to talk about it. But at the end of the day, there’s two parties, there’s two ways of doing things. Each one has been in power many times over again, and we’re still where we are.

The political statements from big NBA stars only continued after the election. Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan van Gundy all made huge political statements in the days following the 2016 election.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of Rolling Stone)

The NBA’s social involvement does not end with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In 2014, across the league, players showed their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Led by stars Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, many players wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe” during warmups. The NBA broke their protocol and decided not to fine the players who wore the shirts.

In another politically charged act, the NBA pulled the All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this year. This came in response to the “bathroom bill” that had been passed in the state. The NBA also became the first professional American sports league with an active openly gay athlete when Jason Collins came out in 2013.

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of USA Today)

This article from Bleacher Report explains how Donald Trump was causing turmoil in NFL locker rooms because of political divides. Similarly, the NFL was the focus of a huge nationwide media controversy as a result of Colin Kapernick kneeling during the national anthem earlier this year. The political statements that come out of the NFL have simply not been received kindly by fans and the media alike.

As we can see from the comments from Hawes and those three coaches, the NBA has clearly had a much better reaction to the social issues that have become so deeply entrenched in this sport.

Additionally, while some more mediocre players in other sports leagues have spoken up, marquee players in other leagues have been mostly silent about social issues. Meanwhile, some of the biggest stars in the NBA have been politically outspoken.

Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are undoubtedly the two biggest 21st century basketball stars and both have been remarkably outspoken about social issues. Additionally, stars such as Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and many others have let their voice be heard. And, as mentioned, three of the top coaches in the league spoke very strongly about their political beliefs this year.

So, what allows the NBA to foster so much more activism than other American sports leagues?

NBA Social Issues

(Courtesy of NBA Lead)

One of the key factors is commissioner Adam Silver. Silver has fostered an environment in the NBA that has allowed players to be comfortable expressing their beliefs politically and on social issues.

Since becoming the commissioner of the NBA, Silver has set the tone for creating a welcoming environment and has hastily stood up for the things he believes in.

Silver delivered a lifetime ban to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments. He instituted the removal of the All-Star Game from Charlotte earlier this year. And earlier this year, Silver expressed outright that NBA players were free to use their celebrity to express their political views.

Silver has emphasized the importance of sports bringing people together and he has certainly not been afraid to put his beliefs to action. Silver also remains an incredibly liked commissioner, proving a sharp contrast to the commissioners of other sports leagues such as Gary Bettman and Roger Goodell.

The NBA’s ability to intertwine relevant social issues and sports has proved successful so far. With one of the most liked and respected commissioners in sports at the moment, it seems likely that they will continue to succeed. And as long as it’s working, why not?

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