Five things to be thankful for in the NBA

Everyone has something to be thankful for come holiday season. With Thanksgiving passing yesterday it’s time to reflect on the things we are thankful for in sports.

The NBA season has been filled with twists and turns. Many teams and players have created a different narrative to this year’s NBA. The teams that have dominated both conferences are not the ones on top. Players have both emerged and fallen from last season. However we are thankful for many things that make the NBA entertaining. Here are five of the things that have made the NBA the most interesting this season.

The 76ers’ young guys

If you haven’t watched Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington play you should. The three of them are making the 76ers more than exciting to watch. They are something to be thankful for due to the elevated play in the East. Having a team emerge with great young talent to compete every night with the top teams in the East is definitely something to be thankful for.

Simmons is averaging 19, 9 and 7 and Joel Embiid is averaging a double-double. Covington is shooting 46 percent from three while shooting just under eight a game. The 76ers are 10-7 and are sitting in the sixth spot in the East. Simmons has been terrific, taking defensive rebounds and turning them into points.

The Sixers have been off to a good start and are just a couple games back in the East. They should continue their pace and be a tough out for a top team in the East come playoff time.

The Gordon Hayward-less Boston Celtics

Well now the Cavaliers don’t like the superior team in the East. Gordon Hayward went down in the first quarter of the season and the Celtics rallied around that. They have the best record in basketball and have beaten the Warriors already this season.

Many thought the season was lost for the Boston Celtics without Gordon Hayward. Instead, they are continually proving they belong. They have the best defensive unit in the league right now and previously held the best offense in the NBA to 88 points. Finally the best team in the East doesn’t look like the Cavaliers, it only took a few years.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

Everyone loves a little conflict and soap opera. What Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have created is flat out chippy and fans can’t take their eyes off of it. Many cheer against Kevin Durant for his choice to join the Golden State Warriors and Russ has “poked the bear” in a sense.

Russell Westbrook has felt disrespected due to Kevin Durant’s decision and has made it an on the court conflict. It has made games that are normally not as interesting and turned it into prime time television.

A new villain has been created

NBA

Lonzo Ball, (Thewinningtake.com).

Lonzo Ball is a villain. Like it or not LaVar Ball has made fans not like his son but in a way it has made the NBA better. Teams look forward to playing the Lakers to watch the opposing point guard play him tough.

This is exactly what his dad wanted to do by making a below average Lakers team relevant and putting his son in the forefront because of it. People now are drawing attention to an 8-11 team with a point guard who is shooting under 32 percent.

I still find myself thinking about how thankful we are to have a person to cheer against every night. It’s like fantasy sports because it makes fans care about games that they wouldn’t normally. So in a way, LaVar deserves a thank you.

The Timberwolves in playoff position

Obviously it’s very early in the season but the Timberwolves look very good. They have a big three in Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. They are competitive every night and look poised to finally make the playoffs. We always cheer for things that don’t happen often right? Well the Timberwolves have been absent from the playoffs for a while.

It would be good for basketball to have a shake up in playoff teams. It gets boring seeing the same teams make the playoffs year in and year out. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. This could be the season that they finally break that extremely long drought. The Timberwolves round out the Thanksgiving list because they are finally relevant and create a tough playoff opponent for anyone they face.

 

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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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Lauri Markkanen

Why is nobody talking about Lauri Markkanen?

We all knew there was something special about this draft class. This group was just loaded with talent, so much so that Malik Monk fell to No. 11. A player of his caliber is almost always a top five selection.

Throw in Ben Simmons playing his first NBA season and the “rookie” class gets that much better. Simmons is the frontrunner for rookie of the year now, but there are so many other rookies having exciting seasons.

Jayson Tatum has stepped up in Boston to fill the hole left by Gordon Hayward. The third overall pick is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds a game and been a key part of why the Celtics have the best record in the NBA.

De’Aaron Fox is also looking impressive so far this season. The fact he is on the Kings has not kept fans from seeing his production. With averages of 12.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, it is a wonder he has only started two games. He also just hit a game-winning shot to beat Simmons and the 76ers.

Fox’s former teammate, Malik Monk is also looking nice. He started off slow, but is now averaging almost 10 points per game with the Hornets. He has had some explosive performances like his 25 points in 23 minutes against the Bucks and 21 points in 27 minutes against the Knicks.

The most talked about rookie in this class has definitely been Lonzo Ball, but not because he has been one of the top rookies in this class. Sure, the No. 2 overall pick has had some nice games like his almost triple-double in his second game, but he only has topped 10 points once since then.

Ball’s fellow rookie teammate, Kyle Kuzma, is also looking good. Kuzma is third amongst rookies in scoring at 14.8 points per game and is also grabbing 6.5 rebounds.

Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Mike James, John Collins, Josh Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovic are also averaging double figures in points per game. This class has been truly amazing.

I purposely left a name out of that list though, and you may not have noticed because of how little he has been talked about. That name would be Lauri Markkanen.

Quietly dominating

If you remember the draft, Markkanen was picked seventh overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but then was traded along with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler.

Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen has quietyly been the most successful player from this year’s draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

In his one season at Arizona, Markkanen averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from behind the arc.

He has put up similar stats in his 10 games with the Bulls, as he is averaging 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Those numbers are both good for second amongst rookies behind, you guessed it, Ben Simmons.

With all the hype surrounding Simmons, the struggles by Ball and Markelle Fultz and Tatum and Boston being so successful, Markkanen’s production has seemed to go unnoticed.

It more than likely has something to do with the fact that he is playing with the Bulls. With so little star power in Chicago, why would anyone talk about them? They also are second to last in the Eastern Conference. It is hard enough to get talked about in the East with all the stars playing in the West and getting all the attention.

Scouting report

Let’s take a look at what Markkanen’s draft profile said about him. According to Draft Express, Markkanen’s biggest strengths were his shooting ability and size.

He’s definitely a good shooter. Known as a stretch big at 7-feet, 230 pounds, Markkanen’s field goal percentage is 42.6 and his 3-point percentage is 36.1. Not bad numbers for a rookie big.

For comparison, Kristaps Porzingis had a 39.8 field goal percentage and 21.4 3-point percentage through his first 10 NBA games. Porzingis has obviously improved since then. But in today’s game, you have to be able to shoot around 40 percent from deep, and that percentage should only improve for Markkanen as his career progresses.

Markkanen’s size puts him right up there with guys Porzingis, Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki. Obviously they aren’t exact in height and weight, but they are all big men that can stretch the floor and open lanes for their teammates. You have to respect their shot because they all can hit 3-pointers.

One of the bigger weaknesses in his draft profile was his defense. His lack of weight and length prevents him from being physical inside and blocking shots. Guys like Porzingis and Anthony Davis got a whole foot of length more than him with their 8-foot wingspans.

This is not as big of a concern to me though. A lot of the rookies coming in had question marks about their defensive abilities. This is also something that can be improved over time.

I’m also not going to let something like length determine if a guy can be good in this league or not because Love and Nowitzki also don’t have significant length.

Of course you can’t make assumptions this early on in a rookie’s career. Fans love to declare guys future Hall of Famers or busts early on in the season. But you cannot judge a guy that early. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged less than seven points per game in his rookie season. Now he is the leading candidate for MVP in his fifth season.

Maybe Markkanen peaks at his rookie season. Maybe he continues to improve. Maybe we will see him in the 2020 All-Star game playing in front of his home crowd in Chicago. What we know for sure is he has exploded onto the NBA scene faster than his fellow members of this draft class.

So why is no one talking about Lauri Markkanen? I have no clue, but the numbers speak for themselves. This guy is ballin.

 

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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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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.

 

 

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Duke Blue Devils

Five former Duke Blue Devils who are poised for big NBA seasons

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

With Gordon Hayward now in Boston, Rodney Hood has the chance to take a major leap during the 2017-18 NBA season. Hood can score from anywhere on the floor and now will have the opportunity to be the primary playmaker in Utah’s offense. The soon to be 25-year-old is coming off a career best 37.1 3-point percentage.

Duke Blue Devils

Will Hood put up similar numbers to Gordon Hayward? (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Hood is an elite pick and roll player, whose usage rate will skyrocket this year. This is a guy who could average around 18 points per game. In a 3-point league, Hood can thrive, as he shot 44.7 percent on all corner 3-pointers. He also lowered his turnover percentage

Through three preseason games, Hood is shooting 65.4 percent from the field and an exceptional 75 percent from long range.

Justise Winslow, Miami Heat

Last season, Winslow appeared to be on the verge of a coming out party, until a bruised left wrist and shoulder surgery caused him to be sidelined for the majority of the season. In the 18 games he played in, Winslow looked good, averaging just about 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34.7 minutes per game. The biggest question mark is whether or not Winslow can shoot, as he shot 35.6 percent from the field last season.

Winslow is still just a kid. He will turn 22 in March, and still has plenty of time to develop his shot. In his one season at Duke, Winslow shot 48.6 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from three. Obviously, college and pro numbers cannot be compared, but Winslow has shown he has the ability to shoot at a high level.

Winslow is also down 10 pounds from last season and has been spending extra time getting shots up in the gym to round out his game. He is an elite defender and outstanding rebounder. If his shot develops, he has the chance to be a major factor in getting the Miami Heat back to the postseason.

Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Last season, Curry started 42 games and averaged 12.8 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting. His 42.5 percent shooting from three was good for eighth best in the league. Curry is an absolute sniper, who will be starting at shooting guard once he is fully recovered from his recent left tibia injury.

Duke Blue Devils

One of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, Seth Curry. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Curry is tired of being “Steph’s little brother” and is ready to make a legit name for himself. He is in a contract year, so look for Curry to prove all the doubters wrong and work towards a major contract. While a max deal is probably out of the question, this is still a player, who in the right system, could average around 20 points a game.

Per 36 minutes, Curry averages about 16, and that is through only 118 career games. He is an underrated defender and an extremely efficient free throw shooter.

The addition of Dennis Smith Jr. will be very beneficial for Curry’s game. An insanely athletic point guard, Smith will be able to get into the paint and open the floor up for Curry to knock down shots.

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Not only did Ingram grow to 6-foot-11, but he also changed his shooting mechanics and improved his leg strength. In his only Summer League game before getting injured, Ingram tallied up 26 points in 32 minutes. Although he could have played once he recovered from his leg cramp, Magic Johnson had seen enough. Magic told Ingram that he would be disappointed if he didn’t average 20 points per game. Post All-Star break, Ingram averaged 13.2 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting.

The sky is the limit for Ingram. Once he starts hitting shots, he could emerge as a top talent in this league. While off to a slow start in preseason, his teammates are by no means concerned. Brook Lopez, who was acquired this offseason via trade, said they know what Ingram is capable of and are confident in his abilities.

With a rather thin frame, Ingram looks a lot stronger than he did during his rookie season. Playing with Lonzo Ball, one of the most gifted passers we have seen since Jason Kidd, will only boost Ingram’s potential. Ingram told reporters that his confidence is sky high and so is Magic’s. The president of basketball operations believes Ball and Ingram will have great chemistry, comparing them to himself and James Worthy.

Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers

A highly criticized guard, mostly due to his father coaching him, Austin Rivers is ready to show that he is a legitimate starter at the NBA level. Whether it’s true or not that Doc Rivers showed favoritism by not trading Austin to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, all we know is one thing: Chris Paul is gone and it is Austin’s turn to make plays for the Clippers.

Duke Blue Devils

Austin Rivers is ready to prove the doubters wrong. (Photo from NBA.com)

Because of the fact that his father is his coach, Austin Rivers is often overlooked. This was a kid who was the player of the year in high school. He was also the top-rated player in the country by Rivals.com in 2011. At Duke, he made first team All-ACC.

In 29 games as a starter last season, Rivers averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 45.8 percent from the field and an elite 42 percent from three. If he starts this year, it is because he earned the right to.

Rivers wants the haters to know that if he scores 20 a game and locks down on defense, it is his doing and not his dad’s. No J.J. Redick and no Chris Paul means Rivers could shine in the Clippers’ offense.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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NBA's Gridiron Roster

The NBA’s gridiron team

Training camps have opened and football is in the air. As training camps get rolling there will be plenty of talk about what is happening on the gridiron. This means that basketball will be taking a backseat from now until February.

There is one more order of business left to discuss for basketball and its all for fun. Earlier this year, The Game Haus brought you the NFL’s Hardwood Roster which made an NBA roster out of NFL players.

It is time to reverse that and give you the NBA’s gridiron team. The only eligible players are current NBA players. Also, size is not going to translate the way it should just because basketball players are taller.

Offense

Left Tackle: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: If there is one NBA player who can protect a quarterback it is Draymond Green. Green is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. His playstyle shows his “I just want to win” mentality. Throwing him at left tackle is smart because he has proven to go that extra mile in order to win. He will rough up defensive ends all game long while making sure the quarterback stays off his back.

Left Guard: Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: The left guard position suits Randle because he has quick feet and is left handed. Guards need to be athletic and showcase an ability to pull on certain running plays. He is extremely explosive and if a play is called that requires him to pull, Randle will explode off the ball and create holes for any running back.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bSTeIhm86A)

Center: Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol is smart, tough and reliable. These are all qualities a team needs from their center. Gasol would be a great leader, thus setting the tone for the rest of the offensive line. Gasol is also a strong guy who could push around opposing defensive tackles.

Right Guard: Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder: Right guards need to be maulers in the run game. The first mauler that comes to mind in the NBA is Steven Adams. Adams is a tough, physical player who would excel at run blocking. He isn’t afraid to do the dirty work a team needs from an offensive lineman.

Right Tackle: DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: Cousins loves to play a physical style of basketball and that could translate well into the NFL. He also finished second in the NBA with 20 technical fouls in 2017. Cousins would be willing to do whatever it takes to win and protect the quarterback. If he is this rough in basketball, imagine what he could do in a contact sport like football.

Tight End: LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron was a stud wide receiver in high school. He is so big that he would have to be a tight end. It has been said for a long time that LeBron is a physical specimen. He would learn how to be one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. LeBron has also shown his freakish athletism when flying through the air for a dunk. In the red zone, not one person in this world would be able to stop him for a jump ball. Seeing LeBron play tight end would be like seeing Gronk hulking up.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/washington-fans-legitimatly-pissed-wizards-john-wall-wearing-cowboys-jersey/)

Wide Receivers: John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: John Wall is a wizard on the court. Yes, that pun was intended, but it is true. Wall is one of the fastest players in the NBA and that could translate as a wide receiver. He has also displayed uncanny athleticism with some of his finishes at the rim. That creativity would be fun in the open field.

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors: Imagine seeing DeMar DeRozan fighting for the ball in the air with defensive backs trying to stop him. DeRozan is a high flyer and that would translate to the gridiron.

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets: James Harden is known for his euro step and getting all the foul calls. Imagine Harden in the NFL getting pass interference calls. As the team’s third receiver, he could work the middle of the field and move the chains not only catching the ball but because of penalties too.

Running Backs: Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics: Running backs have to have the mentality that they are better than everyone else no matter their size. Isaiah Thomas is the perfect candidate for that. He is so agile and quick that with his small stature, he could fit through any hole. He would be the perfect scat back for an NFL team.

Steph Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors: The way that Steph Curry can make defenders dance is just silly. Who wouldn’t love to see that against defenders on the football field? Carrying the ball rather than having to dribble it would allow him to shake and bake defenders effortlessly. Curry would be breathtaking to watch on the football field.

Quarterback: Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: The summer league was just the beginning of what we are going to see from Lonzo Ball. His playmaking ability was Magic-esque. He can put the ball anywhere he wants to. A quarterback must be able to do the same. Lonzo has the perfect size for an NFL quarterback. He is the best choice for a quarterback because he has displayed amazing passing ability.

Defense

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/throwback-lebron-kevin-durant-played-football-game/)

Defensive End: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: The defensive end position has some of the most athletic players in all of the NFL. Kawhi is known for his world class defense and freakishly big hands. Throwing Kawhi on the end of a line and telling him to rush the passer could lead to a lot of sacks. Leonard would make a great edge rusher.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant is another freak athlete. If we follow the mold of selecting defensive ends, Durant is another player that can use his athletism to go get the quarterback. Durant would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Defensive Tackle: Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies: Defensive tackles have to be some of the most unselfish players on the team. The job description of a defensive tackle is to eat up blocks so that everyone else gets the glory. Z-Bo is the perfect candidate for a defensive tackle position. He will take up those blocks so the rest of the defense can eat.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets: Faried is just as perfect of a fit at defensive tackle as Randolph is. He will get down and dirty and do what ever the team needs to win. Faried has proven that he doesn’t need the spotlight on him. Any coach would sleep well knowing that Faried could eat up blocks so that the linebackers can run around knocking heads off.

Linebackers: Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen is one of the most lockdown defenders the NBA has ever seen. Kobe Bryant said he was the toughest defender he ever had to face. Allen has that grit all linebackers need to succeed. Any running back that has to meet Tony Allen in the hole is in for a big hit.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler is one of the best all-around players in the NBA but he made his name on defense. He has a tenacity about him that Chicago fans fell in love with. Early in his career, he showed no fear in going up against the best offensive players in the game. Throw Butler in at linebacker and you have a versatile defender who can come up to stuff the run or drop back and defend the pass.

Marcus Smart, SG, Boston Celtics: Certain linebackers are just pit bulls and Smart has that pit bull mentality. Any football coach could put him at linebacker and see instant toughness from the rest of the defense. Smart will get physical and isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with other giants. His passion is palpable and his teammates would feed off of him.

Cornerbacks: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers: Corners have some of the most difficult tasks in the game. Many people forget to list Lillard with the best point guards and the chip on his shoulder makes him fit the corner mold perfectly. Corners don’t always get the love when trying to stop the diva wide outs. In this passing era, Lillard would take it personally that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. 

Andre Roberson, SG, Oklahoma City: Roberson is the perfect candidate to play cornerback. Most times the saying about corners is “if they could catch they would play wide receiver.” Roberson has no offense at all and wo

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/draymond-green-warriors/)

uld fit this stereotype. He is long and receivers would get frustrated trying to match up with him.

Safeties: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City: This could come as a surprise to most people. Why not running back or wide receiver? The answer is because the best safeties do it all. They come up and stuff the run game. They also patrol the field looking to destroy receivers and intercept passes. The MVP would be an amazing safety if he played football. Offenses would definitely be game planning against Westbrook.

Avery Bradley, SG, Detroit Pistons: Bradley is another player that has made a name on the defensive side of the ball. Bradley will do a great job at being the last line of defense. He would put fear into any receiver who tries to come across the middle of his field.

Special Teams

Kicker: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: Draymond has been known to kick groins. This seems self-explanatory that he would be the team’s kicker.

Punter: Ricky Rubio, PG, Utah Jazz: Picking a punter is tough. If Steve Nash was still playing it would be easy to pick him. Ricky Rubio grew up playing soccer in Spain. He would have no trouble booting the football if the offense stalls.

Returner: Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Over the past couple of seasons we have been able to see Kyrie dazzle defenders and the world, with his moves. Irving would be an electrifying return man in the NFL. His moves have proven to break ankles on the hardwood so why wouldn’t that translate to the gridiron?

 

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Featured image courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

NBA summer league

Stop making a big deal about NBA Summer League

NBA fans are still continuing to find ways to get their fix of NBA action despite the fact the league is in its offseason.

There have been many big storylines so far. There has been a lot of noise made in free agency with signings like Gordon Hayward moving to the Boston Celtics. There have been many big trades like Chris Paul to the Rockets and Paul George to the Thunder. There have also been big extensions like James Harden’s new deal.

All the big contenders are looking to improve and give the Warriors and Cavaliers a run for their money.

The 2017 NBA Draft also drew a lot of attention. This new class of rookies is expected to be the most talented since the 2003 class that consisted of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Names like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball are expected to dominate the league for years to come.

Speaking of Lonzo Ball, he has also continued to stay in the league’s headlines since the draft. This is nothing new for the former UCLA point guard as his father Lavar has said plenty of insane comments about his son to put him in the spotlight.

However, Lonzo has been in the headlines recently not because of things his dad has said, but because of the numbers he is putting up in the NBA’s Summer League. He has already put up a triple-double and been looking like the star his dad claims he will be. There has even been talk about what type of shoes he performs best in. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Summer league means nothing

This is not a “hate on Lonzo Ball” article. I love the guy. I like his attitude and his style of play. He’s a good kid with a lot of potential.

What this article is really about is the summer league. NBA fans are so hungry for action that they are sitting around watching rookies and players from the D-League duke it out in what is basically a scrimmage.

Baseball junkies do this with spring training. NFL junkies do this with the preseason. They have waited so long to see their favorite sport in action that they are willing to watch scrimmages between backups and guys that are fighting for a spot on the team.

I’m also not hating on fans that watch spring training games or preseason football. You do you. What I am trying to point out is that you can’t make any assumptions or predictions based on what you see in preseason.

NBA summer league

Lonzo Ball has been looking like the player his dad says he is, but it is still just summer league. (Image by Getty Images)

In preseason sports, the starters hardly play. The backups dominate and sometimes fight for starting roles. There are undrafted players who are just hoping to earn a spot on the team. The competition is there since they are fighting for spots on the team, but the talent and skill sets aren’t.

The NBA’s Summer League is no exception. This is an opportunity for rookies from this year’s class to learn the NBA’s style of play. It is their chance to work with their coaches and learn about the offensive and defensive schemes.

It is also an opportunity for guys from the D-League to come up and show what they can do. There are also a handful of undrafted players fighting for a spot on the team, or at least a D-League roster.

This is the competition Lonzo Ball is playing. He is facing other guys he played against in college, guys that will hardly play in the NBA and guys that may never play in the NBA.

If Ball is even a tenth as good as his dad claims he is, then he surely should be dominating this competition. Shouldn’t he be able to handle the likes of Kay Felder? There is no LeBron James to face, no Steph Curry to worry about, no Russell Westbrook to guard and no James Harden to slow down. I also don’t hear anybody making noise about Bryn Forbes averaging 26 points per game for the Spurs.

Conclusion

Keep in mind what the summer league is all about. You can’t make any conclusions on rookies like Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum or even Ball. They aren’t playing any competition yet.

Why then does ESPN keep putting Ball’s stats in their top stories? I don’t know. My guess is because LaVar has captured the media’s attention and they are always going to continue to report on him, even when it is something as meaningless as summer league.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be going around bragging about the 40 points I put up in an intramural basketball game I played in at college. That is basically what preseason sports stats are like, especially summer league when no stars or even starters or sixth men can be found. So let’s cool it on the hype over Ball and wait and see what the kid does once the real competition comes his way.

 

Featured image retrieved from Sporting News

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Why Big Baller Brand will be a Major Success

Following the worst game of his life and a slip up in the Big Baller Brand shoes, Lonzo Ball was heavily critiqued on social media, most notably by WNBA star Elena Delle Donne.

After receiving heavy backlash for the tweet, Delle Donne responded with how she likes Lonzo and would never root against him, but she is not a fan of the shoes. Is Delle Donne right? Should Lonzo have just followed the path of previous prospects and signed with a major shoe company? In most cases I would say yes, but when your father is a marketing genius, the Big Baller Brand makes perfect sense.

The Dude can play

A night after his disappointing debut, Lonzo Ball showed Laker Nation why he was selected second overall. On Saturday night, in front of the first-ever sold out crowd in Las Vegas Summer League history, Ball messed around and got a triple double. Unfortunately, his 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists were not good enough for a Lakers win, as Boston picked up their second victory of the summer, winning 86-81.

Ol’ Triple Double Zo face! (BleacherReport)

Although Zo did not shoot particularly well, his flashy passes and playmaking abilities brought back memories of a young Magic Johnson. If you watched Saturday night’s contest, you realized a few things.

One, Lonzo Ball can play, and can dominate the game without scoring. Two, he is extremely entertaining to watch with his no-look passes and up-tempo style. Thirdly, the crowd went bananas whenever Lonzo did something even remotely cool with the ball.

Reminder: This was a game played on July 8, and means absolutely nothing, but fans still filled out the arena to see the face of BBB.

All in all, if you can play, and you’re on a big-market team like the Lakers, you will have no problem selling your own signature shoe. But why the high price?

There’s a reason for the $495 price tag on the ZO2’s

Right now, the five best-selling signature shoes are Lebron’s, Kyrie’s, Curry’s, KD’s and Harden’s. At retail price, none of these kicks costs more than $200, so why did the Ball family choose $495? One reason: You cannot go and get them in stores. Only a certain amount of ZO2’s were created. You cannot go into your local mall and grab a pair, which provides logic to the high price.

Some people might laugh at the lofty price, but for some reason, sneaker consumers are more attracted to the rarer, more expensive shoe. Marylouise Caldwell, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Sydney, explains that “People gravitate towards this kind of thing when they don’t have an affinity to more traditional tribes, such as professional groups, to give them status.” People become attached to a brand that is seen as high status throughout their peers.

Just take a look at outspoken music legend, and reality TV star, Kanye West. People line up for days to get their hands on Yeezy Boost 350’s. Like the ZO2’s, only a certain amount of Yeezy’s are made and released to the public. They will sell at stores for $260, and later on the internet for close to $2,000.

Why do people spend this type of money on shoes? To keep it simple, “It’s a way of proving they are a global citizen with their finger on the pulse”, Caldwell said. Because of its rareness, and meaning, people will flock to the ZO2’s, just like they do with the Yeezy’s. In fact, Kanye West and Lonzo’s father, LaVar, have more in common than you think.

LAVAR “THE GODFATHER OF BBB” BALL

The creator of Big Baller Brand, LaVar is arguably the most outspoken man in sports. Some may think he is absurd and disrespectful, mostly because he told FS1’s Kristine Leahy to “stay in yo lane” when she asked LaVar about shoe sales. But is there some weird intelligence behind this crazy man?

The more he talks, the more well-known he becomes. Love him or hate him, LaVar has gained insane popularity for himself, and his family, by talking crazy. All three of his sons (Lonzo, LiAngelo, LaMelo) have over one million followers on Instagram. LaVar was recently compared to the Kardashian’s after inking a reality TV show. You don’t just accidentally get compared to the most notable family in America. LaVar is playing all the pieces right, even from a business standpoint.

ZO2: SHO’TIME (sneakerfiles.com)

Using pre-orders to test the market is an intelligent strategy because it gives the brand a look at how many shoes they will need to produce, rather than committing to a high number to manufacture. Also, the shoes will not be available until around November. Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor at George Washington University, explains that “cutting pre-orders long before their November ship date allows the brand to control how much they must invest.”

All publicity is good publicity, and LaVar has made the most of the free marketing that he gets. He has given BBB an identity, which is crucial for a start-up company. You are not a big baller unless you rep the ZO2’s and BBB gear.

In a recent article with SLAM Online, LaVar took more of an inspirational approach to explaining the reasoning behind the BBB. He explained how the Ball family “just wants to inspire people and show them that there’s a different lane you can travel in. It’s OK to step out and do it another way. Only a select few will do it, but folks will start creating their own brands, like we’ve done with BBB, and more and more families will begin feeling comfortable with betting on themselves.”

LaVar and the Ball family are setting a precedent for upcoming prospects.

Of course, they have to “Ball”

The biggest factor in the company’s future, is Lonzo. If he plays well and makes the Lakers relevant again, the shoes will do great, and inspire upcoming athletes to go in their own direction.

(slamonline.com)

The other two B’s, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball, are following in the footsteps of Lonzo. LiAngelo, who this past year led all of California in high school scoring, is headed off to UCLA as a three-star recruit. “Gelo” is seen as the least talented in the trio of brothers but you may have heard of some other three-star recruits like Paul George, Steph Curry, and 2016-17 NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook.

The youngest, LaMelo, is currently the No. 1 point guard for the class of 2019.

A lot of pieces have to fall in place, but one thing is for sure: The Ball’s are entertaining and have the attention of millions.

Anytime someone does something new, people tend to freak out and react in a negative way. They said flicking a switch to activate light was crazy. They said putting wheels on metal and flying it in the sky was crazy. They said random people picking you up and dropping you off at destinations was crazy.

Creating your own brand, along with a $495 signature shoe before stepping on the court might be crazy, but it might also represent the future of the shoe business.

 

Featured image by Big Baller Brand

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My Best Fit 4: Four players drafted who are perfect fits for their respected teams

After an extremely hyped up 2017 NBA Draft, it is time to look at players who will gel right away with the teams they were selected by. The four players chosen have the chance to be immediate impact players, based on depth charts, and team needs.

THE FOUR

Lonzo Ball (LOS ANGELES LAKERS)

After sending former #2 pick D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn, it was clear that Lonzo Ball would be the guy for the Lakers. While getting many comparisons to Jason Kidd, Ball did not disappoint as a Bruin. As a freshman, Lonzo had over 50 more assists than Kidd did as a freshman at the University of California. An incredibly gifted passer, Ball’s 8.1 assists per 40 minutes ranked 2nd out of all players eligible for the draft. This will immediately help a Lakers team that finished 26th in assists during last year’s season. Shooting 73% from inside the three-point line, Ball’s scoring is often overlooked because of his ability to make plays on both ends of the floor. In fact, Ball’s unorthodox release led him to a very modest 41% from deep. Ball’s ridiculous vision is what sets him apart. Part of the reason for the Lakers struggles was due to the fact that they were 26th in turnovers. His 4.1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio proves how efficient he can be while running the show.

Lonzo controlling the Bruins offense (Sports Illustrated)

As a 6’6’” point guard, Ball’s physical gifts will be a blessing to guys like Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. While the Lakers are still a work in progress, Ball will make an immediate impact as the starting point guard. He turned a 15 win UCLA team into a 31 win squad, which included a Sweet Sixteen appearance. The guy is a winner and impacts the game in so many ways. Lonzo’s father, Lavar, predicted the Lakers to be back in the playoffs by next year. While this may seem like a stretch, never count out a team with Lonzo running the point.

 

De’Aaron Fox (SACRAMENTO KINGS)

One of the quickest players in the draft, Fox will immediately put up big numbers for the Kings. The constant John Wall comparisons are exactly what Sacramento fans want to hear. A Houston native, Fox averaged 16.7 points per game as a Wildcat. An explosive player who loves to attack the rim, Fox made nearly 60% of his shots in the paint. De’Aaron is also an elite rebounder and passer for his size. Per 40 minutes, Fox averaged 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds. His elusive pick and roll game will fit in nicely with Koufos and Cauley-Stein. Fox is developing as a playmaker and will help get Buddy Hield, and Rudy Gay (if resigned) good looks to keep the offense moving. His quickness, size and strength are major reasons as to why he will also be a great defender for the Kings. His 5.9 points per game on fast-break scoring was good enough to rank first out of all the power-conference players.

After making just 31% of his pull up jumpers, Fox has some work to do as a shooter. At only 19 years old, Fox is a gym rat who will continue to improve his ability to shoot the basketball. In the Sweet Sixteen, Fox led his Kentucky Wildcats with 39 points over Ball and the UCLA Bruins, proving his ability to shine when the lights are brightest. With impeccable athleticism and quickness, De’Aaron Fox will be special for the Kings. Don’t be surprised if his numbers are good enough for 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year.

 

Luke Kennard (DETRIOT PISTONS)

After 10 freshmen and one international player were chosen, sophomore Luke Kennard was selected by the Detroit Pistons. A lethal shooter, Kennard will have the chance to be the starting shooting guard for Detroit. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope most likely leaving as a free agent, Kennard can play a major role in the offense. Coming off finishing 28th in three-point percentage, Detroit needed shooters. So why not get the best shooter in the draft? During his sophomore campaign, Kennard averaged 19.5 points per game, which was the second most in the ACC, and shot 43.8% from deep. He also averaged 5 rebounds a game.

An athletic player at 6’6”, Kennard moves very well off the ball. He is also able to score off the dribble with ease. Kennard’s ability to pull up from all over the floor will be extremely beneficial to starting point guard Reggie Jackson. An intelligent player, Kennard will space the floor, knock down shots, and develop into a nice playmaker for Detroit.

 

Bam Adebayo (MIAMI HEAT)

Bam throwing it down with authority (KyForward.com)

At 6’10”, 250 lbs, Bam Adebayo will fit in perfectly with Miami. Although he is a physical giant, Adebayo moves well and is surprisingly athletic. He is a perfect fit for Goran Dragic on pick and roll plays. At Kentucky, Bam averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game on 59.9% shooting. Playing alongside Hassan Whiteside, who averaged 17 points and finished first in the league with 14.1 rebounds per game, Bam will not have worry too much about offense.

As a great defender, both in the paint and on the perimeter, Adebayo will help Miami move up the charts in rebounds, as they finished 15th in the NBA during the 2016-17 season. In fact, his 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes is among the best in the draft. His 1.5 blocks per game at Kentucky will help keep the Heat among one of the best shot blocking teams in the NBA. With a Dwight Howard build, look for Bam to become a more athletic and agile DeAndre Jordan.

 

BONUS

 Frank Jackson (NEW ORLEANS PELICANS)

Depending on whether the Pelicans keep Jrue Holiday, Jackson could be the sleeper of the draft. Surrounded by talent at Duke, Frank Jackson was often overlooked, but has the potential to be an elite offensive weapon for New Orleans. With Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, Jackson has little pressure to immediately impact the offense. An extremely efficient scorer, Jackson averaged 17.6 points per 40 minutes, on 47.3% shooting, during his only year at Duke. His 42-inch vertical leap is a key reason as to why he is such an explosive player. Jackson shot 48% on floaters, and his 39% shooting on three point shots makes him a threat as a perimeter player.

An incredible athlete, Jackson has the ability to turn into a Russell Westbrook type player. During the combine, Jackson finished first in the shuttle run, second in the max vertical leap, and third in the standing vertical leap.

Featured image by Sporting News

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