Joel Embiid and the rising 76ers

It’s pretty early in the season, but the Philadelphia 76ers are off to a good start. They are 8-6 and have been led by young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Ben Simmons has been showing that being a point forward is very possible in the NBA. Joel Embiid is showing that he can play with just about anyone. In a league that is shifting away from traditional centers, Joel Embiid is showing just how complete his game is.

Joel Embiid’s Early Career

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, (Si.com).

I guess it would be fair to say that all of his career is also his early career due to him being in just his second playing year in the league. To be fair, Embiid has been a star for the 76ers in almost every game he’s played in.

Given he has only played 43 games in his NBA career Embiid notched a career high Thursday night against the Lakers. He had 46 points on 14/20 shooting, had 13 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks. He dominated a weak interiored Laker team and was extremely efficient while doing it.

He is also continuing to prove he can hurt a team in more ways than one. This season he is shooting 58 percent from inside the arc. That statistic is over eight percent better than last season and shows that he can hurt you from inside as well as from outside. Embiid has struggled with his outside shot as of this season. Last year he shot 34 percent from three and this season he is sitting right at 24 percent. If he can get back to his consistent shooting ways then he is in for an even bigger impact.

The Last Few Games

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, (ESPN).

In his last two games, Embiid is averaging 39 points on 25-40 shooting which is good for 62.5 percent. He is 25-35 from the free throw line in that span and has grabbed 31 rebounds. He also has nine assists and eight blocks. Embiid has done a little bit of everything for his team and it has earned them wins in the last two games.

In wins this season Embiid has averaged 27 points and is shooting 59 percent. In losses this season, he has averaged 17 points and is shooting just 40 percent from the field. In translation, the versatile big man has been very important to this young teams success.

Team Outlook

As of right now, the 76ers only go as far as Embiid and Simmons take them. They have a lot of good role players to mix and match around them, but the NBA is all about star power. Until Markelle Fultz gets healthy and Dario Saric picks up his play a little, Simmons and Embiid have to carry most of the load.

One guy who does not get enough credit is Robert Covington. Covington is shooting 50 percent from three this season and he attempts seven a game. He’s averaged 17 points per game and he and J.J. Redick have helped open up the lane for both Simmons and Embiid to do their damage.

The 76ers are a very dangerous ball club. They have the ability to play with anyone and beat anyone on any given night. With Embiid and Simmons leading the way, the 76ers are in good position to make the playoffs. Barring any serious injuries, the 76ers should end up in the 5-7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With Embiid playing at borderline MVP quality, the 76ers could shake up the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

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

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

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

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

Celtics and Cavaliers

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

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

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

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

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

Rockets and Warriors

NBA opening night predictions

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

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

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

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

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

The Season as a whole

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

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

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

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

 

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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 season preview: Pacific division

The Pacific Division is the home of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have the best team in basketball and everyone else is chasing them.

Three of the top five picks in the last draft find themselves suiting up in the Pacific division. The Suns and the Kings are currently in the midst of a rebuild but have formed solid foundations that look bright moving forward.

Finally, both of the teams in LA shook up their rotations in big ways this year by trading away one of their best players. The Pacific Division will be interesting due to the new faces in the division.

Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Pacific division for 2017-2018.

Golden State Warriors

Pacific Division

The Warriors celebrate, Photo Courtesy of USA Today.

2016-2017 record: 67-15

2017-2018 prediction: 64-18

This record doesn’t really show too much. The Warriors are the best team in basketball and they return nearly the same team. They add Nick Young and Jordan Bell (through the draft) this offseason to an already strong bench.

Ian Clark leaves the team but Patrick McCaw has emerged as a role player this summer and could possibly play some of the minutes that Clark did.

The record is pretty much up to Golden State here. Ultimately there’s an extremely high chance that the Warriors make the playoffs so it is just up to Steve Kerr on how many games they truly want to win in the regular season.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will always take this team deep into the playoffs if they are all healthy.

Los Angeles Clippers

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 44-38

Chris Paul wanted out of LA, but the Clippers somehow managed to get a very solid return for him.

Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley lead the charge out of the backcourt while the Clippers also added Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker. They lose Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul but have an interesting set of Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan forming.

A starting lineup of Beverley, Rivers, Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan with Williams coming first off the bench could be very interesting and doesn’t strike you as a team that just lost a superstar.

If Gallinari and Griffin can stay healthy this team looks like they could find a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

Pacific Division

Jordan Clarkson, Photo Courtesy of LA Sports Hub.

2016-2017 record: 26-56

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Lakers shook their roster up in a big way by getting out of the Timofey Mosgov contract. They also lost their best statistical player from last season in D’Angelo Russell.

However, in comes Brook Lopez, Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma and Ball were drafted by the Lakers this season and showed lots of promise in the summer league.

Brook Lopez is the big addition this offseason. An All-Star and proven low post scorer, Lopez adds something that’s rare in the NBA. The Lakers attempted to get away from their guard heavy rotation, thus getting rid of D’Angelo Russell to make way for Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson.

No one knows how good the Lakers will be but they will be much better than the product they had on the floor last season.

Phoenix Suns

2016-2017 record: 24-58

2017-2018 prediction: 28-54

The Suns turned their lottery pick into another young player with lots of potential. They are not necessarily in win now mode but more waiting a few years for their young talent to develop.

The Suns have grabbed a lot of former Kentucky guards to bolster their young backcourt. Josh Jackson, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss show promise in moving the Suns in the right direction.

The Suns continue to draft players that they find value in and put them on the floor. The Suns are getting a good young core together and could be a playoff team in the near future.

Sacramento Kings

2017 Sacramento Kings draft class, Photo Courtesy of Real Sport 101.

2016-2017 record: 32-50

2017-2018 prediction: 30-52

I don’t think the Kings have gotten worse at all, the Western Conference has gotten better. The Kings have mixed seasoned veterans in with great young talent.

Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, George Hill, Georgios Papagiannis, Harry Giles and Justin Jackson are just some of the talent that is in this loaded rotation.

The Kings are a team quickly on the rise and have done it specifically through the draft. With adding established veterans, the Kings are working to bridge the gap between putting a competitive product on the court as well as developing their younger guys looking to win in years to come.

Kings fans have a lot to look forward to moving forward, but for right now this is the Warriors division.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of philstar.com.

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biggest moves nba offseason

Most impactful moves from the NBA offseason

NBA free agency is just about in the books. There are still a few unsigned players on the market like Nerlens Noel and Ty Lawson, but for the most part all the biggest names are signed.

Some teams majorly improved their roster and playoff chances. Others sat back and watched it happen.

Today we will look at which teams made the most impactful signings. What I mean by impactful is how much better their additions and losses make them.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota is not messing around this offseason. They have gone out and signed Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague. Their biggest move was trading for Jimmy Butler. These guys will join Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins for a scary roster.

To acquire Butler, they had to give away Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. However, Butler and the other free agent signings have made this roster a playoff team. They could easily finish as a fourth or fifth seed in the competitive Western Conference after finishing 13th this past season.

Minnesota is by far the most improved team in the NBA. Just wait until Towns and Wiggins reach their full potential.

Houston Rockets

impactful moves nba offseason

The Houston Rockets now have the most talented backcourt in the NBA with James Harden and Chris Paul. (Photo by SEAN M. HAFFEY / GETTY IMAGES)

The Rockets went out and grabbed Chris Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute from the Clippers. However, they had to give up key contributors like Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams to get them.

The team now has a roster that features James Harden, Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Mbah a Moute and Nene. If Paul stays healthy, they won’t miss Beverly and Williams too much.

On paper, it looks like the Rockets have clinched the No. 2 seed in the West. If they can add another player this offseason they will for sure have it. Their backcourt of Harden and Paul is going to be impossible to stop.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles did not really make a bunch of big signings, but they were involved in one of the biggest trades this offseason. They have also gone through a lot of changes in their roster and for that reason are included in this list of most impactful offseason moves.

To recap, they added Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, and Danilo Gallinari. They also lost Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Raymond Felton, Luc Mbah a Moute and Paul Pierce.

The Clippers will more than likely struggle to make the postseason after losing Paul. However, they added a bunch of key role players. The star power is not really there, but I could see them finishing with the seventh or eighth seed despite their losses.

Oklahoma City Thunder

impactful moves nba offseason

Paul George will take a lot of pressure off Russell Westbrook. (Photo from SLAM Online)

Oklahoma City is looking like a threat again.

Their trade for Paul George gives Russell Westbrook a star teammate to work with. Now Westbrook will not have to do all the work himself, and the Thunder now look like a potential fourth or fifth seed in the West.

They lost Victor Oladipo and Taj Gibson this offseason, but the addition of George makes them too good to worry about those losses.

OKC needs to do everything they can to keep Westbrook and George together in the next offseason. For now, lets see how this duo performs.

Denver Nuggets

A lot of people think Denver can make the playoffs now with the addition of Paul Millsap to their young roster.

The team has a lot of young talent with Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Wil Barton and Kenneth Faried. They also added promising guard Trey Lyles to the roster. Millsap is a veteran these young guns can learn from and do great things with.

After missing the playoffs by one game last season, the Nuggets are now a playoff team, possibly a fifth or sixth seed in the west.

Boston Celtics

impactful moves nba offseason

Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward are reunited again. (Photo from Butler Athletics)

The Celtics made a lot of great moves this offseason. They added one of Brad Stevens’ former players at Butler with Gordon Hayward and also acquired Marcus Morris. They also added Jayson Tatum in the draft with their third overall pick.

The team did lose Avery Bradley in the trade for Morris though. They also lost Kelly Olynyk, another one of their role players.

However, the additions make Boston look like they can keep the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season. Of course that all depends on what the Cavs do with Kyrie Irving and how much Cleveland actually cares about their performance in the regular season.

 

Featured Image by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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Los Angeles Clippers big three: It was time to part ways

The team who was once proclaimed “Lob City” lost one of its members Wednesday morning when Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets.

Understandably, Clipper fans were shocked to have witnessed one of their popular stars dealt to a Western Conference rival. At the same time, front offices are now using the Golden State Warriors as the measuring stick for greatness and the Clippers aren’t measuring up.

The Chris Paul led Clippers were a top-four playoff team year in and year out, but nothing more. In a city where titles are the gold standard, just making the playoffs isn’t good enough.

Recent History

The Clippers’ big three consisted of Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and since the three came together in 2011, the Clippers have won at least 60.5 percent of their regular season games.

Los Angeles Clippers big three: time part ways

Chris Paul in agony after a playoff loss, Photo Courtesy of the LA Times.

The Clippers have made the playoffs in all six of those seasons. They finished third, fourth or fifth in the Western Conference regular season standings each of those years.

Unfortunately, they are 2-3 in first round series as favorites and 3-3 in the first round overall since 2011. During this time the Clippers never even made it to the Western Conference finals.

The big three finished with a total playoff series record of 3-6 in their six years together. Out of 18 possible All-Star appearances, the three went to a combined 10. By all means there was a high bar set for the Los Angeles Clippers with the arrival of Jordan, Paul and Griffin, but the results did not meet fan expectations.

Banged Up Blake

Los Angeles Clippers big three: time part ways

Blake Griffin Injured, Photo Courtesy of Sports Grid.

Blake Griffin has been plagued by injuries.

Since coming into the league in 2009, he has missed a combined 103 regular season games or approximately 18 percent of the games over his years in the league.

To put this into perspective, he has played more than 67 games in just three of those seven seasons.

Griffin’s athleticism has also taken a hit because of all of his injuries. He is averaging two less rebounds and a point less per game then when he first came into the league as a rookie.

Without Griffin on the court, the Clippers were unable to progress as a team.

Why Now

The NBA has been dominated by two teams for the last three years. Clipper fans have been disappointed by a team that has consistently under-performed. It makes sense to abandon the nucleus and attempt to put a more competitive product on the court.

Everyone in the Western Conference is chasing the Golden State Warriors. If the Clippers break up their big three, they could potentially be in great position to challenge the Warriors in the West in a few years. The time is now to put together a team that doesn’t just make the playoffs, but contends for a title.

Keeping a team together that has not achieved its potential makes little sense for ownership or players, when the goal is to win a championship.

Moving Forward

Los Angeles Clippers big three: time part ways

Clippers Guard Austin Rivers, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.

With Blake Griffin also on the way out, and Deandre Jordan having already attempted to leave the team last year, the future seems uncertain for the Clippers.

The Golden State Warriors have shown us that they are a juggernaut for the immediate future. With recent mediocrity a constant for the Clippers, why not take a chance on being great in a few years?

Trading the big three for young talent appears to give the Clippers the best chance of turning things around. It may not be a winning formula for the immediate future, but the Clippers could be title contenders very soon.

 

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Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade: Clippers get assets for free

On Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade sent the NBA offseason mood from buzzing to bewilderment. In an offseason packed with rumors of blockbuster trades and splashing free agency leads, fans of the NBA finally got a trade to chew on.

The Clippers ship nine-time All-Star Chris Paul to Houston and receive Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and a 2018 first-round pick. The pick is top-three protected for the draft next June.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Chris Paul will team up with James Harden in Houston, and the Clippers adjust to a new identity (Photo: Slam Online).

The haul for Paul is absolutely staggering. Rumors swirled that the Clippers were already going to lose both Paul and Blake Griffin in free agency this summer, so Los Angeles was already going to have to move on without their stars. The fact that the Clippers pull in what will end up being four players for a guy who was already planning to leave the team is stunning.

The Clippers essentially received fruit snacks, a Little Debbie, a bag of chips and an extra drink for a bologna sandwich they weren’t planning on eating at lunch anyway.

The Los Angeles front office basically watched the Rockets front office lob them an alley oop, only for LA to slam it right in the Rockets’ innocent face.

According to The Vertical, Chris Paul was so far out the door of Los Angeles that he’d already made his way into the Rockets’ headquarters. Paul and James Harden had previously talked about wanting to team up, so Houston landing the Wake Forest product this summer was extremely likely.

Although the Clips lose a superstar point guard in the trade, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that Paul was already going to leave, so the fact that he’s “included” in the trade doesn’t matter.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

The Clippers receive what will turn out to be some solid pieces and a brand spanking new rookie in next year’s draft. Sam Dekker is a young guy who was overshadowed in a crowded backcourt in Houston. Patrick Beverly can be a solid starter for Los Angeles and move back to point guard. Lou Williams can do what he does best: Be a scoring threat while getting Sixth Man of the Year consideration every single year.

Patrick Beverley: A solid two-way guard

It’s no secret that Patrick Beverley will most likely never break out and become a star in the NBA, but that’s OK. The Arkansas product is as consistent as they come. Beverley is a two-time All-NBA Defensive team selection and can play both point guard and shooting guard with ease.

In five seasons, Beverley has averaged 9.3 points per game. Again, that’s not fantastic, but it’s still solid. Los Angeles has the seventh-most turnovers in the league last season, and Beverley only averaged 1.5 turnovers per game last season. This could be a big step in taking care of the ball for the Clippers.

The bottom line is that you know what you’re getting from Beverley. He won’t be a star in LA, and may not produce many fireworks, but he’s a solid player that will make the NBA his home for a long time. The Clippers can use a leader like Beverley in the locker room and on the court, and that’s what they’ll get.

Sam Dekker: The next Gordon Hayward (maybe)

Sam Dekker’s first full NBA season came last year. In 77 games, Dekker averaged 6.5 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field. Dekker may not seem like a big piece in the trade, but he could end up being a steal.

The 23-year-old wing man was drafted 18th in the 2015 NBA Draft. Dekker was one of the most consistent players in college basketball in his time with Wisconsin, and was the 19th ranked prospect in the nation in his 2012 recruiting class.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Sam Dekker could end up being a steal in the Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade (Photo: nba.com).

Dekker has received NBA comparisons to Gordon Hayward (cuz of course, lolz) for his versatility to play multiple positions, offensive prowess and ability to play above the rim.

Dekker’s per 36 minutes stats are encouraging. When using the metric, his points per game total jumped to 12.8. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The Clippers will use Dekker as a versatile bench player. Dekker, who’s known as a small forward, played 87 percent of his minutes as a power forward for Houston last season according to Basketball Reference’s play-by-play stats. This only helps Dekker in that he can play from shooting guard to power forward.

The Clippers already have more depth in the backcourt than the frontcourt with Austin Rivers and the aforementioned Williams and Beverly. If the Clippers can sign J.J. Redick, they’ll have a quality backcourt. Dekker will most likely see more time in the front court which is where Los Angeles needs the most help. Dekker is a diamond in the rough in the NBA, and could break out in LA. If he does, it will make this trade even sweeter for the Clippers.

Lou Williams: Sixth Man of the Year, every year

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Lou Williams will take his scoring expertise to Los Angeles (Photo: The Undefeated).

The Clippers need to just let Williams come off the bench and do his thing. Williams has finished in the top ten in Sixth Man of the Year voting six times in his career, including winning the award two seasons ago.

Williams has continued to improve over the course of his NBA career. He reached his career-high in scoring last season, averaging 17.5 points per game in his age-30 season. Williams shot 43 percent from the field as well. Williams has steadily seen his scoring totals rise during his career, and might as well be on pace to win the MVP by his 40th birthday.

A score-first guard, Williams can provide a scoring presence that neither Beverley nor Dekker can provide. Williams averaged 27.5 points per 36 minutes last season, which shows that when he’s on the floor, he scores at will and with tenacity.

Williams adds to what is becoming a loaded backcourt for LA. He can be the score-first player the Clippers need, and could possibly lead the team in scoring next season.

Clippers win Big, Set Up For Future

By the time this trade has panned out, the Clippers ought to credit the Rockets with an assist on keeping LA a competitive team. Yesterday, Los Angeles looked as though it could be reeling, with losing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a real possibility. Now, Paul is gone, but the Clippers gain a lot from a trade rather than losing him in free agency.

Los Angeles’ backcourt becomes one of the ten-best in the NBA. The depth is incredible, and if the Clippers can resign J.J. Redick, it will be even better. Los Angeles will also get a chance to see Austin Rivers blossom as a starter. Rivers was a big time talent when Chris Paul missed time last season, so it seems the best is yet to come for Rivers.

Los Angeles now must focus on the frontcourt. Whether they resign Blake Griffin or sign another quality big man, shoring up the frontcourt needs to be the highest priority. If that happens, expect the Clippers to compete in the Western Conference next season.

Oh, and the Clippers will be welcoming a top-three pick to its roster after the NBA Draft this time next season.

 

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2017 NBA Draftmas

2017 NBA Draftmas: Teams with no picks

It is the final edition of this year’s 2017 NBA Draftmas. This edition will focus on all the teams that do not have picks in tomorrow’s NBA Draft.

Summaries

Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have made the playoffs in seven straight seasons with their only conference finals appearance coming in 2013. Last season, Memphis finished 43-39 and lost to the Spurs 4-2 in the first round.

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Grizzlies are like the Atlanta Hawks of the West because they are a consistent playoff team that will be competitive but won’t win the Finals.

Memphis is known as a physical, slow-paced defensive team ranking third in the NBA in points allowed per game at 100 points per game.

Offensively, the Grizzlies shot a league-worst 43.5 percent from the field but ranked 17th in three-point shooting at 35.4 percent.

Memphis is stuck in the middle of the league, which is the worst spot to be in. They aren’t good enough to win a title but are too good to get decent draft picks.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles is in a similar situation as Memphis in which they are stuck in the middle and can’t win a title but are too good to get new young talent. The Clippers have made the playoffs for six straight seasons but have never made it to the conference finals.

Last season they finished 51-31 and lost to the Jazz 4-3 in the first round. Los Angeles doesn’t have the money to acquire any big free agents currently and they have no draft picks. To make matters worse, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can leave in free agency.

The Clippers were a very good offensive team shooting 47.5 percent from the field, second-best in the NBA. Los Angeles also shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Clippers were a solid defensive team only giving up 104.4 points per game which ranked 12th in the NBA.

The state of the Clippers isn’t as positive as it seems and the best days may be behind them.

Cleveland Cavaliers

In the past couple of days, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization has been rocked by news. Former General Manager David Griffin is no longer with the team and LeBron James was not happy about it. Rumors are flying that they will be trying to acquire Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

Everyone knows the Cavs’ story. They have been to three straight NBA Finals, winning the 2016 NBA Championship after coming back from a 3-1 lead.

This season they finished the season 51-31. The entire franchise is built around LeBron and as long as he is there they have a chance to make it to the Finals. Without any picks, in the NBA Draft, they must sign free agents or make trades to improve the team, but they are pretty limited in what they are able to do.

Golden State Warriors

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The defending champions are sitting pretty. Not only did the Warriors just win a championship but they have won two of the last three championships. Their core is still solid with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and of course, Kevin Durant.

Andre Iguodala may leave but the Warriors are confident Patrick McCaw can fill that role. The Warriors are in prime position to continue competing for titles. As long as they keep the peace amongst one another they will be fine. Their roster may need some fine tuning to the bench but there is nothing to worry about for the Warriors.

Needs

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies biggest need is a small forward or shooting guard who can impact the scoreboard. Scoring is a big issue for the Grizzlies and these two positions, in particular, need an upgrade the most.

Memphis could also look to add a power forward that could take over for Zach Randolph. Randolph is aging and losing the ability to be a dominant player. If Memphis wants to improve they need to address it as soon as possible.

Los Angeles Clippers

If Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leave they will need a complete rebuild. If the Clippers can keep these two players then what they need badly is a small forward. Their current small forward is Wesley Johnson and the entire depth at the position is lacking. Acquiring a capable small forward could send the Clippers to the next level.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs need a bench capable of not fading in the Finals. Cleveland’s role players played well all year but when it mattered most they came up small. Shooting guard and center could be improved but there isn’t much separating the Cavs from the Warriors.

Golden State Warriors

The defending champs need to make sure they have a rim protector and bench depth. If they continue to keep a bench that can contribute when the stars need rest then they will win the championship again next season.

Conclusion

None of the four teams listed have any picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. All four teams are playoff caliber teams and if they want to make their team better they will either have to trade into this year’s draft, trade for players in the NBA or sign free agents.

The Game Haus, thank you for following us through this year’s edition of NBA Draftmas. From our haus to yours, thank you and enjoy the 2017 NBA Draft.

 

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Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft Profile

On the 22nd day of Draftmas, The Game Haus presents the Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft profile.

Summary

Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Utah Jazz had a pretty impressive season in which they won 51 games, the most since the 2009-2010 season. Utah also won their first round matchup against the Clippers 4-3. Unfortunately, they ran into the Warriors who were too much to handle as the Jazz got swept. It was still a very successful season and Utah now has some success to build upon.

The number one offseason goal for the Jazz is to keep All-Star forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward has a player option that he could decline making him an unrestricted free agent. Many believe he will decline it to test his market and make a possible move. Losing Hayward would be a vital blow to the future success of the Jazz.

Utah was not a great scoring team as they ranked 28th in the NBA in points per game averaging 100.7 per game. Despite not scoring a lot of points, the Jazz shot 46.6 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three, both ranking ninth in the NBA. Their low ranking in points per game is attributed to their pace which was the slowest in the NBA at 93.62. Their offense is very efficient and it works for their players.

Utah was the best defensive team in the NBA if you look at points allowed per game (96.8). The Jazz forced opponents to shoot just 44.3 percent from the field, ranking second in the NBA. They must improve in forcing turnovers as they ranked dead last in the league with 11.5 per game.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No. 24, No. 30

Second Round: No. 42, No. 55

Whether or not Gordon Hayward stays or goes, the Jazz need another capable wing player. Obviously, if Hayward leaves it becomes more critical but they need more depth. At pick 24 there should be a few wings available for the Jazz.

Another need is a point guard who can become a star. George Hill could not come to a contract agreement with the Jazz and is looking for a max deal. The Jazz are smart to not give Hill that kind of contract and will need to replace him in the draft. Dante Exum was drafted fifth overall to be the star point guard but injuries have derailed that plan. Exum has shown a few flashes but if the Jazz continue to wait on the development of Exum they risk team progression. If they can find a point guard in this draft they like the Jazz should jump on him.

Besides needing a wing and point guard there isn’t much the Jazz need. Creating depth is what can turn this team from a playoff team to a legit contender and that is what the Jazz will accomplish in this year’s draft.

Targets & Thoughts

Pick #24: Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft

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

Caleb Swanigan doesn’t fit the need at the wing or the point, but at this point in the draft there won’t be much value for those positions. The next best option is to create depth and drafting Swanigan would be a home run for the Jazz. Swanigan’s motor is unmatched by anyone else in this class. He is a rebounding machine averaging 12.5 per game in just 32.5 minutes per game. Swanigan was awarded Big Ten Player of the Year for his efforts this season.

Pick# 30: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova

Josh Hart is the heart of Villanova and their amazing tournament runs as of late. Hart can add to the depth the of the Jazz if they end up keeping this pick. There is a high chance they decide to trade it. Last season, Hart averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 51 percent shooting. He also shot 40.4 percent from three. Hart would fit right in with the Jazz and become a solid role player immediately.

Pick # 42: Nigel Williams-Goss, PG, Gonzaga

Nigel Williams-Goss was a major key in Gonzaga reaching its first ever national championship game. He was a leader and floor general for the Bulldogs. Williams-Goss stuffed the stat sheet averaging 16.8 points, 6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Williams-Goss is a sleeper pick who could develop into a starting point guard one day and even if he doesn’t he can be a solid backup option for Utah.

Pick #55: Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson

This is the pick that the Jazz will throw at the wing position. Jaron Blossomgame has a solid all around game. He was a four year player at Clemson and improved his field-goal percentage every season. With some NBA coaching he could become a very good bench player.

Conclusion

The Jazz are a good team on both ends of the floor. Keeping Gordon Hayward is priority number one this offseason and if they don’t it will set them back a few years. If they manage to keep Hayward then the Jazz will continue to get closer to the Finals.

Utah has a lot of flexibility by having four picks in this draft. They could trade up or down and make this team even better going forward. Utah is on the cusp of contending for a title and this draft may give them the pieces that get them there.

Thanks for checking out the Utah Jazz 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 23 of NBA Draftmas to see what the San Antonio Spurs are going to do.

Draftmas Day 21: Toronto Raptors

Draftmas Day 20: Brooklyn Nets

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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers: Overrated

The NBA playoffs are leaving basketball fans bored. Aside from the hype surrounding the Warriors’ and Cavaliers’ third-straight finals matchup, there isn’t much going on to talk about. There is one hot topic most are afraid to admit that needs to be brought to light.

There is always an argument that when a team is good, or bad, the reason is the players or the coaches, and of course, it usually is a combination of both.

Doc Rivers won a title due to the future Hall of Famers he was coaching. Aside from those players he had in Boston, for most accounts, he has been average at best as an NBA coach yet people will constantly list him as a top tier coach.

Doc Rivers is the most overrated coach in the NBA.

Orlando Magic

Doc Rivers Overrated

(Photo Credit: http://www.celticslife.com)

Doc Rivers’ head coaching career started in Orlando. While the head coach of the Magic, Rivers had an overall record of 171-168. That is just a 50.4 winning percentage. In the playoffs with Orlando, he went 5-10, which is far from impressive.

Rivers had some really great players while in Orlando too. Players by the name of Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace, Mike Miller, Grant Hill, Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant and Shawn Kemp. Wallace, Miller and Grant were all eventual champions. A few players on this list are even Hall of Famers.

To be fair, McGrady, Wallace and Miller were relatively young. Ewing, Grant and Kemp were at the very end of their careers. He also had to deal with these players getting injured frequently.

Even so, he finished only three games above .500 in the regular season with Orlando. There was no postseason success and in 2003, he was fired after a 1-10 start. His lack of success in both the regular season and playoffs with Orlando would force him to sit out of coaching until Boston came calling.

Boston celtics

Doc Rivers Overrated

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

Doc Rivers had the most success as a coach in Boston. Rivers amassed 416 wins with the Celtics. He also lost 305 games making his win percentage in Boston 57.7 percent. That percentage dropped to 55.7 in the playoffs with the Celtics as he went 59-47.

Until the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to pair with Paul Pierce, many called for Rivers to be fired. All three of these core players will be in the Hall of Fame one day and that is the reason Rivers was able to lead the Celtics to two Finals appearances, capturing one championship.

Without this caliber of players, Rivers is just an average coach at best and even then he doesn’t win 60 percent of the games he coaches.

He also left Boston when it was time for a rebuild. Doc Rivers didn’t want to put in the work with young players and develop the team into a winner. He was looking for a team with star players to make his job as easy as possible which is why he waited for what he felt was the perfect opportunity.

Los Angeles Clippers

Doc Rivers Overrated

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/doc-rivers/)

Rivers’ ideal spot was with the Los Angeles Clippers after leaving Boston. Now, some may argue he was traded to L.A. and it wasn’t his choice but the trade was just so the Celtics could receive something in return because he truly loved the city and the organization. He had every intention of forcing his way to the Clippers.

Why would Doc Rivers want to go to a franchise that had only nine playoff appearances since 1970 and has never made it to a conference finals? The answer to that is a roster loaded with talent.

Their current core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was already there. The roster also included the following: Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups (five-time All-Star, Finals MVP, and NBA champion), Jamal Crawford (three-time Sixth Man of the Year), Caron Butler (two-time All-Star), Grant Hill (seven-time All-Star) and Lamar Odom (Sixth Man of the Year and two-time NBA Champion).

They were very deep and experienced before Rivers arrived. Vinny Del Negro led the Clippers to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons prior to Rivers arriving. Del Negro was taking the Clippers just as far as Doc has. He went 128-102 which was a winning percentage of 55.7 percent and can’t even find a job.

While Rivers has been in L.A., he has gone 217-111 in the regular season. He has underachieved in the playoffs going 18-22 with a team many considered one of the most talented in the NBA. The Clippers are the first team to blow series in five straight playoffs under Rivers. He isn’t succeeding because he is overrated and isn’t a top tier coach.

What This Means For the Los Angeles Clippers

Overall in Doc Rivers’ career, he is 804-584. His winning percentage is 57.9 and ranks ninth among active NBA coaches and 41st all-time. Despite having rosters constantly loaded with All-Stars, Hall of Fame caliber players, and in some cases, champions, he can’t win more than 58 percent of his games.

In the playoffs, he gets worse. He is 82-79 all-time, winning just 50.9 percent of the games he coaches. That is ninth among active coaches and 38th all-time.

Everyone wants to know why the Clippers can’t get over the hump. After another disappointing season, questions rose on what they should do with the roster and the core of the team.

The answer is rather simple. Doc Rivers is average at best and that is why the Clippers continue to remain average. The Clippers don’t have to blow up their roster yet, they just need a better coach.

 

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