NBA Trade Deadline

NBA Trade Deadline deals recap

The NBA Trade Deadline yesterday was absolute madness. Trades were happening left and right. Twitter was blowing up just as much as the Cavs roster. Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Sharania were dueling back and forth to see who could break news first. My colleague Ben Hendricks broke down the Cavaliers trades in another piece so if you want to read up on those go check his article out. Below are all of the minor trades that took place in the hours leading up to the trade deadline at 3pm Eastern Time.

*season stats in parenthesis 

Elfrid Payton to the Suns

Magic receive: 2018 2nd Round Pick from Memphis

Suns receive: point guard Elfrid Payton (13 ppg, 4 reb, 6.2 ast, 1.5 stl)

3-Team Trade involving Emmanuel Mudiay

Nuggets receive: point guard Devin Harris (8.5 ppg, 1.9 reb, 1.9 ast) and Knicks 2018 2nd Round pick

Knicks receive: point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (8.5 ppg, 2.2 reb, 2.5 ast)

Mavericks receive: small forward Doug McDermott (7.2 ppg, 2.4 re, 0.9 ast)

Nets and Pelicans swap players

Nets receive: small forward Dante Cunningham (5.0 ppg, 3.8 reb, 0.5 ast)

Pelicans receive: shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (2.7 ppg, 0.8 reb, 0.5 ast)

Bulls get Vonleh

Bulls receive: power forward Noah Vonleh (3.6 ppg, 5.1 reb, 0.4 ast), cash considerations

Trailblazers receive: rights to Serbian center Milocan Rakovic

Wizards try to get under the Luxury Tax

Hawks receive: shooting guard Sheldon Mac (3.0 ppg, 1.1 reb, 0.3 ast) *will get waived

Wizards receive: future 2nd round pick that is heavily protected

Luke Babbitt is heading back to Miami

Heat receive: combo forward Luke Babbitt (6.1 ppg, 2.2 reb, 0.7 ast)

Hawks receive: small forward Okaro White (3.3 ppg, 1.8 reb, 0.3 ast)

Bruno gets shipped to Sacramento

Kings receive: small forward Bruno Caboclo (0.0 ppg, 0.5 reb, 0.5 ast)

Raptors receive: shooting guard Malachi Richardson (3.5 ppg, 1.3 reb, 0.5 ast)

Pistons shore up point guard position

Pistons receive: point guard Jameer Nelson (5.1 ppg, 2.2 reb, 3.6 ast)

Bulls receive: rights to swap 2022 2nd Round picks, center Willie Reed *will be waived

Pistons get a 3 and D bench player

Pistons receive: small forward James Ennis III (6.9 ppg, 3.5 reb, 1.1 ast)

Grizzlies receive: power forward Brice Johnson (1.8 ppg, 1.4 reb, 0.1 ast), future 2nd Round pick

Hornets pick up another Center

Hornets receive: center Willy Hernangomez (4.3 ppg, 2.6 reb, 0.8 ast)

Knicks receive: power forward Johnny O’Bryant (4.8 ppg, 2.6 reb, 0.4 ast), 2020 2nd Round pick, 2021 2nd Round pick

The 2018 NBA Trade Deadline was an exciting one. It will be interesting to see how all these new pieces fit into their new teams.

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New Orleans Pelicans threat in the West

Are the Pelicans a real threat in the West?

With a decent record at 28-23, the New Orleans Pelicans have been able to hold onto a spot in the ultra-talented Western Conference playoff picture. However, the DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis experiment is on hold with Cousins out for the year with an Achilles injury.

Because of this injury, the Pelicans have become very active at the trade deadline and have acquired Nikola Mirotic in a four-player trade with Chicago. Let’s break down all of their recent actions surrounding NOLA and their move to bolster their lineup for a potential postseason run.

Losing DeMarcus Cousins

New Orleans Pelicans threat in the West

The Pelicans big 3 of Holiday, Davis and Cousins have combined to averaged over 70 points a game this season. (Photo by NBA.com)

Cousins’ injury is devastating, cutting his career-year short. Cousins was voted an All-Star starter and was a underrated MVP candidate averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

Unfortunately, It’s worth noting that many players who’ve suffered Achilles injuries haven’t been the same player after their injury. The list of players includes Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins and Wesley Matthews. While current Achilles operations are likely better than the procedure Baylor had in 1970, players continue to struggle after this injury. There is a very real chance Cousins won’t be the same player he was before his injury.

To make matters worse, Cousins is a free agent. While the 1-2 Combo with Davis has been great, there is a chance Cousins will want to go to a bigger market like Los Angeles or Boston.

Cousins’ injury does hold a huge red flag, and teams should really be careful if they want to sign him to the long-term max deal he will command this summer.

Trading for Nikola Mirotic

The Pelicans needed another strong player before Cousins went down, but now they desperately needed someone to help carry the load with Anthony Davis. It’s likely Mirotic will play the 4 and Davis can be moved to center. With Mirotic’s strong perimeter play, he could form a great combo with him on the outside and Davis on the inside. If they can keep Cousins after this year, Mirotic can play behind the two of them as a great sixth man or at small forward in small spans. However, playing him at the 3 exclusively seems unlikely.

In addition, this trade shows Davis, the face of the franchise, that they want to compete and win now. The sense of urgency of the franchise demonstrates that they are building around Davis, and the trade rumors will die down at least until this summer.

Trading away their first-round pick and Omer Asik

New Orleans Pelicans threat in the West

Asik has been very disappointing in New Orleans and extremely overpaid. (Photo by hoopsrumors.com)

While getting rid of their first-round pick is tough to swallow, especially in the talent-stocked draft class this season, the Pelicans are forgoing building for the future and are going to try to compete now. With that being said, their pick wasn’t going to be within the top 10 picks, so it’s questionable how valuable the pick is. 

Davis is still only 24 years old and hasn’t hit his prime yet. Mirotic is 26 years old, Jrue Holiday is only 27 years old and Cousins (if he re-signs and can return fully healed) is only 27 years old. The Pelicans do not need to build for their future, because their future is now.

As well as getting Mirotic, they were able to unload Omer Asik’s terrible contract onto the Bulls, which has been a major clog for their payroll. Asik may be the most overpaid player in the league, with three years left of a five-year, $57 million deal. He has averaged 1.3 points per game in the 8.6 minutes he plays.

To be blunt, Asik, is terrible and getting rid of his contract while receiving an efficient player like Mirotic is like trading garbage for gold. They threw in backup guards Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen, who are both way past their prime and weren’t really helping the team reach the playoffs.

Final Thoughts

The Pelicans’ front office has been very active at the deadline, and while missing out on Greg Monroe hurts for a team that could now use another center, they can seek solace knowing that Mirotic, Holiday and Davis should be enough talent to keep them in the playoffs this year.

If they can hold all the pieces together, they could be a real force as their core develops better chemistry and heads into their prime. They aren’t a real threat in the West this year, but they could be in the coming years.

 

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NBA Western Conference contenders

Ranking biggest threats to the Warriors in the West

It isn’t news that the Western Conference is absolutely stacked.

The Warriors are far and away the best team in the league, let alone the West. But as we saw in the 2016 NBA Finals, even the best team in NBA history can go down swinging. All it takes is four bad games in May or June and all the regular season success is a complete wash.

So let’s rank the biggest threats to Golden State’s dynasty before the All-Star weekend.

Honorable mention: New Orleans Pelicans

Until recently, the Pelicans could have ranked as high as No. 2 on the list of potential problems for the Warriors.

NBA Western Conference contenders

Cousins tore his achilles tendon Friday night against the Rockets. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

But with DeMarcus Cousins out for up to 10 months after his brutal achilles tear against the Rockets Friday night, those hopes are all but dashed. In fact, not many would be surprised if they miss the playoffs entirely.

 

Their strengths against Golden State were squarely rooted in Cousin’s and Anthony Davis’ ability to team up and take over the paint on both sides of the floor. A four-game series against those two could at least wear almost any team down, if not eliminate them. The Pelicans also have the second best shooting percentage in the league. That’s a potent combination.

Davis and open looks won’t be enough to take down the Warriors’ four All-Stars. Couple that with the team’s lack of playoff experience and fourth-worst turnover margin per game, and it’s a long shot at best.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves are perhaps the best story in the Western Conference.

They have a gritty head coach who rose up through the ranks despite not playing a minute in the NBA. Jimmy Butler is a top-tier trash-talker and can back it up with his play. Karl-Anthony Towns continues to emerge as a premiere offensive weapon. Taj Gibson is finally stretching the floor, Andrew Wiggins has insane potential and Jamal Crawford is one of the best sixth men in the history of the game.

As exciting as all of that is, it’s probably only good enough to steal a game or two away from Golden State.

Towns being able to stretch the floor will give Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee fits, but the depth of the Warriors bench is nothing short of historic. Minnesota’s bench has potential, but it won’t be able to keep Golden State in check. This squad has potential, and they will definitely make the Western Conference playoffs. But it is most definitely a few years away from dethroning the champs.

3. San Antonio Spurs

Counting out the San Antonio Spurs is like counting out the New England Patriots. Anyone who has watched the NBA since 1999 will tell you that. The NBA’s version of Bill Belichick can outcoach anyone in the league, seemingly at will.

NBA Western Conference contenders

Leonard, Diaw and Popovich gameplan against the Warriors. (Photo by Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

The Spurs’ problems are obvious. First of all, losing Kawhi Leonard is a massive blow to any title aspirations. He might be the most balanced two-way player in the league. At 100 percent, he is easily one of the NBA’s top five players. There is no set timetable for his return, but it’s entirely possible that he comes back in time for the playoffs.

 

The other things standing in the way are age and pace of play. The Warriors like to speed up the pace offensively and get in transition quickly on defense. That should not at all inspire confidence, considering the Spurs slower, more deliberate style of play. This was entirely too obvious when they were swept by Golden State in the Western Conference Finals last year.

But the playoff experience on the team is hard to ignore. Manu Ginobili is still playing well off of the bench at age 40, and Tony Parker can still contribute at age 35. The younger talent is stepping up, and, as previously stated, Leonard is an absolute game changer if he can make it back in time for the playoffs.

Gregg Popovich isn’t done until he’s done.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

An underachieving Thunder team is still a possible issue for Golden State.

The biggest discrepancy between the two teams is the coaching. At 29-20, a lot of the blame for OKC not living up to its full potential is falling on third-year head coach Billy Donovan. Some of it is for his unwillingness to shake up the starting lineup, but also because of his inability to break Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony of their ball-hogging habits.

NBA Western Conference contenders

Oklahoma City’s big three. (Photo by Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman)

We already know Steve Kerr can handle four All-Stars on one team, and has his team’s full support. Another thing he does exceptionally well is convince his players to move the ball. Golden State is first in the league in assists. The Thunder are 25th. That will undoubtedly swing the score in the Warriors’ direction.

 

However, Oklahoma City is first in steals, led by Westbrook and Paul George. Robbing Golden State of possessions is a massive key to beating them. Even though the “OK3” haven’t set the league on fire, it’s still hard to count out these players in any given game.

We all know Westbrook can take over a game at any given moment. George is shooting well and is a serious contender for Defensive Player of the Year. Anthony can still score with the best of them, he just needs to be willing to play off the ball more.

The second half of the season will be the real litmus test for this team. Don’t get excited, but don’t leave them for dead, either. As long as they get a decent seed in the Western Conference, they have an outside chance to pull off an upset.

1. Houston Rockets

This was an obvious choice.

The Rockets are first in both 3-pointers attempted and 3-pointers made. They’re third in free throws attempted and second in free throws made. They boast the NBA’s third-highest assist per game average. They are also second in points per game to, you guessed it, the Warriors.

Simply speaking, they are an incredible offensive group. Houston is the epitome of what the NBA has become in the 2010s. Led by one of the NBA’s best offensive minds, this team is easily the Warriors’ biggest roadblock.

During its first game this season, they beat Golden State by one point. On Jan. 20, the Rockets beat the Warriors by eight points. They were quick to tout their confidence in being able to overtake them in the playoffs. This may have been just a tactic, but one can’t deny it’s certainly possible. They are, after all, the only team that can keep up with the amount of threes Golden State can hit.

Until Friday night, the Rockets were unbeaten when Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela all suit up. Now 19-1 with its best players on the court, Houston knows what it has to do to win, and what they can adjust when they’re being overtaken.

Golden State does have a couple things on Houston, however.

Houston has to play Golden State’s game, which usually ends up being a disaster for anyone who tries it. Although they can probably match the Warriors for most of the game, if the shots stop falling, that spells disaster for the Rockets.

They also can’t rely on defense like the Warriors can. Since Houston plays so quickly, defense is essentially an afterthought. They can outscore most teams, so that’s not usually a problem. Golden State, however, is a completely different animal. Especially considering its bench depth.

It will be difficult. If they do take down Golden State, it will almost definitely have to be in seven games, meaning Houston will have to play the winner-take-all game in Oakland. But it is much more likely for them than the other 15 teams in the Western Conference.

With no more regular season matchups to watch, we’ll all just have to wait and see.

 

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NBA trade deadline moves

Five players who desperately need a new team

With the trade deadline less than a month away, it’s time for teams to assess their rosters and make a plan for the future. While some teams like the Cavaliers, Trail Blazers and Bucks are looking to add talent to their roster and gear up for the playoffs, other teams need to deal their players and begin to look to the future. Here are the players who need to move on to a new team.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

NBA trade deadline moves

Gasol has had a great career in Memphis, but his time as a Grizzly could be over soon. (Photo from Sports Hub)

While Marc Gasol has tons of ties to the city of Memphis, including attending high school there while his brother Pau played on the Grizzlies, it’s time for the front office to trade him away and start to rebuild. Gasol was consistently one of the best centers in the NBA, but he’s turning 33 this month. While he’s added a lethal 3-point shot into his repertoire, he is not the player he once was.

The Grizzlies do not have the young talent to challenge for a playoff spot. While their 13-28 record would’ve been a lot better if Mike Conley stayed healthy, their best case scenario would’ve been sneaking into playoffs at the eighth seed, only to lose in the first round to the Golden State Warriors.

The Grizzlies need to let Gasol play for a contender and start building for the future.

Potential Teams: Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis has played for the Pelicans for six years, averaging at least 20 points per game and 10 rebounds every year except his rookie season. The Pelicans have not won a playoff game since he’s been on the team, and it’s time to make a big move. Davis has also proven to be injury-prone, as he’s only played over 70 games in a season once.

Davis is a top-10 talent in the NBA, and he’s only 24. The reluctance to trading such a talent is understandable. However, the team is barely a playoff team (currently at the eighth seed) and are nowhere near competing with teams in the top of the Western Conference.

The addition of DeMarcus Cousins was a great move on paper, but the on-court performances haven’t been enough, and the dynamic duo of Cousins and Davis has been a failed experiment. Some reports believe that members of the front office prefer Cousins over Davis as the face of the franchise, and they should bring in pieces to build around Cousins.

With the threat of Cousins bolting to the Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Pelicans can’t keep the status quo.

Potential Teams: Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker has done everything he can to keep the Hornets afloat. However, the Hornets are not going to compete in the East with the roster they currently have. Walker is now 27 and is in his prime. He doesn’t want to be apart of a rebuild.

Walker is a star in this league, and he needs to be on a team that has talent to surround himself with. His talent is being wasted on a below-average team, and the Hornets need to accumulate draft picks and young players. Walker would be a perfect fit for a team desperate for a point guard, like his hometown team, the New York Knicks.

Potential Teams: New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets

Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls

NBA trade deadline moves

Mirotic will be a great addition to any playoff team this trade deadline. (Photo by NBC Sports)

The Bulls have launched into rebuild mode trading away Jimmy Butler this past offseason, and it’s time for them to trade Nikola Mirotic for more draft picks and young talent.

While Mirotic is having a great season as the No. 1 option on offense, the team is in full tank mode with a record of 16-27. The Bulls needs to start getting draft picks and young players to develop.

Mirotic has also expressed interest to moving to a contender, with reports this week that he still wants to be traded before the deadline.

Mirotic was punched in the face by Bobby Portis, a teammate, during a practice before the season started and was out for 2 weeks with a broken nose. The report exploited what appears to be a dysfunctional roster with lots of unhappy players. The growing feeling around the organization was that a trade was imminent after the incident. While they have yet to deal Mirotic, both sides would benefit from a deal.

Potential Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

Probably the most available player on this list, Jordan’s impending free agency and potential trade has been very publicized by the media this season. Jordan has been a great defensive center and vertical threat for the Clippers the past couple years and has spent 10 seasons as a Clipper. During his time, he’s made three All-NBA teams, one All-Star game and two All-Defensive teams.

Jordan has been dominant and is apart of a dominant interior duo with Blake Griffin, when he is healthy. Nonetheless, it’s time to move to Jordan because he will not stay with the Clippers past this season, and the market for quality centers is very scarce. Jordan almost left the Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks a few years ago, but the Clippers players locked him in his house and made him sign the contract.

A deal before this trade deadline would benefit both sides. The Clippers can address other needs and rebuild after an injury-riddled season. Jordan wants to go to a contender, and there’s multiple Eastern Conference teams that could desperately use his interior presence.

Potential Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors

 

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Making the case for every fringe playoff team

The NBA season is halfway over, which means it’s time to start evaluating potential playoff teams.

The top four seeds in each conference are virtual locks, due to overall talent and coaching. The fifth-seventh seeds will do some changing around as teams jockey for their playoff seeding. Although, close followers of the NBA probably wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons or the Trailblazers fell out of the playoff picture after overachieving slightly in the first half of the season.

As with any sport’s playoff, however, the most interesting storylines are the ones involving the teams on the bubble.

With that in mind, let’s look at each conference’s eighth seed and first two teams on the outside looking in.

Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers (21-19, No. 8 seed)

The Pacers have been just fine without Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been playing close to his ceiling, although they’re still overpaying for him. The other piece of the trade that sent George away, Domantas Sabonis, has also been playing nicely. He’s two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, and will probably end up setting career-high averages in every meaningful category.

While their offense has been clicking, their defense is some of the most below average in the Association. Not awful, just very mediocre. Their offense alone can win the Pacers enough games to keep them in the 8th spot. Lack of defensive consistency will have been their downfall if they fail to make the cut.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-19, first team out)

Philadelphia is one of the most exciting stories in the NBA this season. The “process” seems to have finally come to fruition, and we are finally seeing glimpses of what this long and arduous rebuild has wrought.

Even though the 76ers are a .500 team, don’t be fooled. They’re currently first in the league in rebounds per game, second in assists resulting made field goals, and sixth in points. A rested and re-energized team could ride that kind of momentum to a playoff spot after the All Star break. Plus, their first overall draft pick hasn’t even played five games yet.

NBA Playoffs

Embiid scores on Whiteside. (Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What will keep them out of the playoffs is their youth and inconsistency in their game to game performances. As the season drags on, the young players might start to slow down, which will only exacerbate their inconsistency issues. Those red flags usually mean a .500 team will stay a .500 team, but playing in a weak conference will definitely help.

New York Knicks (19-21, second team out)

The Knicks are a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court. They are ninth in points in the paint and second in points allowed in the paint. Yes, we’re talking about the New York Knicks.

The team is huge, size-wise. Porzingis, O’Quinn, Kanter and Noah are all either over or close to 7-feet. That length pays dividends over a long regular season, but could actually be a problem if they sneak into the playoffs. The East is full of jump shooting teams, which will stretch New York’s strengths too thin to make them truly effective.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (20-19, No. 8 seed)

New Orleans might very well be a better team than their record indicates. They’re second in points in the paint thanks to Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. They’re also second in the NBA in assists per game thanks to some great guard play both from starters and off the bench. Not to mention they have the second toughest schedule in the NBA (according to 2016-2017 team records).

Team defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Pelicans. Bottom five in opponents points in the paint per game doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the front court they have. They also give up the third most points in the league per game.

NBA Playoffs

Davis and Cousins during a game against the Spurs. (Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

It’s an especially strange case on New Orleans’ part. The chemistry and coaching is clearly there, as evidenced by the assist totals. But the defense is nowhere near where it should be, in spite of Cousins and Davis. Remember that Alvin Gentry was brought on to be a defensive mastermind, and the roster has only gotten better since he came to town. Maybe look for a coaching shake-up if the Pelicans miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers (18-21, first team out)

Doc Rivers’ team is hurting out west. The Clippers have been a staple of the Western Conference playoffs for the past six years, but the days of Lob City have finally come to an end. Chris Paul’s departure marked a culture change for the Clips, and the team has not found its stride just yet.

Los Angeles still has a great 3-point game. Beverley, Williams, Rivers and even Griffin can all pull up from distance. They also have great personnel for man-to-man defense. Those two things are golden in NBA playoff basketball. But, yet again, team defense is going to be the main hurdle between them and their playoff streak.

Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)

The new look Jazz are in a soft rebuild. After losing their number one scorer in Gordon Hayward, the Jazz were almost certainly take on a new identity. But picking up Ricky Rubio and finding a steal in Donovan Mitchell should have stopped the bleeding more than it has.

Their defense is some of the best in the NBA, all around. In fact, the Jazz are top 10 in almost every meaningful defensive category under Quin Snider. Against the trend, the offense is what will probably keep Utah out of the playoffs this year. Although, again, this is a new look team. And offense almost always comes together more quickly than defense. If they can keep up the defensive dominance, they won’t be out of the playoff picture for long.

 

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NBA Southwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Southwest Division

The Southwest Division has gained a superstar. Chris Paul joins the Rockets and James Harden to make the top of the division even better.

The San Antonio Spurs get a whole offseason to get Kawhi Leonard healthy, as well as having the best coach in the history of the NBA.

The Mavericks received a lottery pick and added Dennis Smith Jr. to a Dirk Nowitzki led team.

The New Orleans Pelicans get more time to have Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins mesh. They also added a pass-first point guard in Rajon Rondo, who hopes to help the two.

Finally, the Memphis Grizzlies look to improve on a solid season last year, but lose a few veterans who have contributed in the last few years.

Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Southwest Division this upcoming season.

Dallas Mavericks

2016-17 record: 33-49

2017-18 prediction: 36-46

The Mavericks have pretty quietly put together a solid starting lineup. Dennis Smith Jr. will solve one of the major problems that the team had.

The starting lineup of Smith, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel is a solid starting lineup. Smith is showing that he has big potential and can be a good point guard in the league.

Building with a core of Barnes and Smith could be lethal moving forward, but for the immediate future the Mavericks will be a fringe playoff team.

Houston Rockets

NBA Southwest Division preview

James Harden, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

2016-17 record: 55-27

2017-18 prediction: 56-26

The Houston Rockets gave up a lot, but they have another star to team up with James Harden. The west seems to be all about star power, and the Rockets have added some to their roster.

The west has been very strong and that is why they will hang around the same wins that they had last season.

Having good guard play is one of the many keys in having success in the NBA, and the Rockets have one of the best backcourts in the whole league.

Memphis Grizzlies

2016-17 record: 43-39

2017-18 prediction: 33-49

The Grizzlies didn’t add a bunch this offseason, but their main offseason move was the loss Zach Randolph.

With Chandler Parsons supremely underperforming comparatively to the contract that he signed, there is reason to believe that they have not gotten better this offseason.

Whether Randolph and Vince Carter leaving is a 10-win difference remains to be seen, but Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are basically the only options on offense now.

New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Southwest Division preview

Photo Courtesy of SB Nation.

2016-17 record: 34-48

2017-18 prediction: 43-39

The Pelicans finally get a whole season of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, which is enough to raise their win total from last season.

The big addition is Rajon Rondo. Rondo adds the ability to facilitate to the two big men and add to their output. They also added former Warrior guard Ian Clark to a very young bench.

Jrue Holiday is a solid guard as well. The Pelicans will rely heavily on their frontcourt and will potentially find their way to the playoffs because of them.

San Antonio Spurs

2016-17 record: 61-21

2017-18 prediction: 52-30

The west is a gauntlet and there’s no way around it.

The Spurs have nearly moved on from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and have handed the keys over to LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Dejounte Murray.

The Spurs seem to always be good with Gregg Popovich at the helm, and I don’t see it changing this season. A healthy Kawhi Leonard will be dangerous with solid pieces built around him.

The Spurs will be very good this season and will trade blows with the Houston Rockets at the top of the Southwest Division.

 

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Can Davis and Cousins lead the Pelicans to the postseason?

When the Pelicans initially made the blockbuster trade that brought All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans, the playoffs became a big topic of discussion.

New Orleans was 11th in the West at the time with a 23-34 record. Surely the All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and Cousins would push the Pelicans into the playoffs, right?

Not quite. The Pelicans only moved up one spot in the conference standings after the trade and finished with a 34-48 record. They only went 11-14 after Cousins arrived.

It is crazy looking back at the playoff talk. The Pelicans were supposed to reach the eighth seed and challenge the Golden State Warriors with the mismatches their frontcourt had created. How would Golden State’s backcourt deal with this obstacle?

Anthony Davis DeMarcus Cousins

The addition of Cousins did not go as planned last season. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The question we should have been asking ourselves is how are these slow-paced big men going to deal with the tempo Golden State plays at? Yes, the Pelicans no doubt have the best frontcourt in the NBA. However, they still lacked production from the rest of the roster and had some team chemistry issues.

They got 52 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks per game from the dynamic duo, but didn’t get much from the rest of the team.

Jrue Holiday is a former All-Star, but put up a mediocre 15 points and seven assists last season as the Pelicans’ starting point guard.

The next highest scorer on the team was Jordan Crawford at 14 per game.

As a team, the Pelicans scored 104.3 points per game (18th) and allowed 106.4 (17th). With Cousins on the roster, they scored 106.5 and allowed 106.3 per game.

Besides the fact that those numbers are below average, Cousins did not seem to do too much for the team.

Davis and Cousins’ resumes

What has Cousins done in his seven seasons in the league? He’s a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged a career 21.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Something is missing though, and that is a playoff appearance.

Now I know Cousins has not had much to work with as far as teammates go in his career, but the most games the Kings ever won with him on the roster was 33.

The same can be said about Davis. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his five NBA seasons. Davis has led New Orleans to one postseason appearance when they finished 45-37 in a very competitive Western Conference and were then swept by the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Other than that, Davis has only helped the Pelicans reach 34 wins in a season.

However, like Cousins, he also has not had much talent surrounding him. During the year they went to the postseason he had Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday as his supporting cast. It is by far the most talent Davis or Cousins has had around themselves.

Their circumstances are similar and have been difficult, but could Davis and/or Cousins just not have it in them?

Davis and Cousins are a whole lot of star power to be going 11-14 and missing the playoffs. The fact that they have one postseason birth in 12 years of combined experience is also interesting to think about. The fact that so many teams in the Western Conference boosted their talent is not going to make things any easier for the Pelicans.

The Warriors, Rockets and Spurs seem to be a lock for the top three seeds. The Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets will most likely finish four through six. That leaves teams like the Trail Blazers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Pelicans will be battling for the last two seeds.

How the Pelicans have improved

What has New Orleans done to get better? They resigned Holiday to a five-year contract and also added veteran Rajon Rondo. Rondo is by no means the player he used to be, but he did average almost 12 points and 12 assists per game two seasons ago when he was with Cousins in Sacramento. He assisted Cousins 237 times, which is the most he has had to one player in a season according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Anthony Davis DeMarcus Cousins

Davis and Cousins have been working out this summer in hopes of improving their team chemistry. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Davis and Cousins have also been working out together with a focus on team chemistry. The Pelicans definitely were not all on the same page considering their record after Cousins arrived. Davis told local reporters that chemistry is the biggest thing the former Kentucky Wildcats have been working on.

“He knows the things that I like to do, I know the things he likes to do, where he likes to score from, where I like to score from,” Davis said. “We know that we’re going to be two big focal points on every team’s scouting report, so we just wanted to get together and work out together and just figure out things we like to do.”

What if they can’t?

Will these moves be enough to push the Pelicans into the playoffs? They sure ought to.

If Davis and Cousins can’t gel together, that is going to be a big problem. Holiday and Rondo are also need to contribute and figure out how to get Davis and Cousins opportunities.

I’m not the type of guy to knock a player for never winning the Finals or even if they never play in the Finals. However, if Davis and Cousins can’t work together and lead this team to a postseason birth, that is a problem and going to put a damper on their legacy should they continue to miss the playoffs.

 

Featured image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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2017-18 season preview: Top five NBA front courts

 

The NBA has shifted to a more perimeter-oriented league, yet strong, versatile front courts can be the engine to a good team. When the playoffs roll around, having a front court that can consistently score is vital.

Here is where the top five NBA front courts of the 2017-18 season will rank.

Number Five: New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis: 28.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.1 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.
Demarcus Cousins: 24.4 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 23.3.
Solomon Hill: 7.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 9.1

Two tremendous big men with different playing styles teamed up mid-season and hit the ground running together. Solomon Hill has helped take pressure off both big men with solid wing contribution offensively and defensively.

Davis and Cousins get most of the attention here however. The numbers speak for themselves but Davis and Cousins will need to be the leaders in order for the Pelicans to be playoff bound this upcoming season.

Rondo and Holiday will provide a solid balance to give Davis and Cousins a lot of easy looks around the rim.

Number Four: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Frontcourts

Karl Anthony Towns guarded by Gorgui Dieng, Photo Courtesy of USA today.

Karl Anthony-Towns: 25.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg 2.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 26.0.
Gorgui Dieng: 10.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 14.2.
Jimmy Butler: 23.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 25.2.

The Timberwolves are obviously a team in question. Yes they have put together a great roster heading into the 2017-18 season, but games aren’t played on paper.

Butler is in the prime of his career, Towns is blossoming into one of the best young big men and Dieng is a double-double big man who plays great around the rim defense. If all three play great basketball, they would be higher on this list, but there is a lot of uncertainty with the new look T-wolves.

Dieng and Towns are both young enough that they could scuffle and pass first guard Ricky Rubio is no longer in town. The numbers of the three don’t lie, but Butler has never played a game with them, so we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.

Number Three: San Antonio Spurs

Lamarcus Aldridge: 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 18.7.
Pau Gasol: 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 20.2.
Kawhi Leonard: 25.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.

Possibly the best two-way player teamed up with two players who fit in the Spurs’ system and have provided solid output. Leonard has been an MVP-type player at almost all times for the Spurs and helps make Aldridge and Gasol better when he’s on the floor.

Kawhi is obviously the engine on this team and both Gasol and Aldridge provide a complementary role for him. With the back court pretty uncertain, the Spurs are going to lean on the front court for more production than normal.

Aldridge had one of his worst statistical years last year and some of that can be attributed to injuries of his teammates and just flat out Popovich’s system. He will be poised for a bounce back year that could help drive the Spurs deep into the playoffs.

Number Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Frontcourts

The Cavaliers front court, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Tristan Thompson: 8.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 15.3.
Kevin Love: 19.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 21.2.
LeBron James: 26.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 8.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.1.

Seventeen All-Star appearances between this front court and they are still number two. The Cavaliers have gotten great return from these three, however Thompson and Love have struggled at times in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are only as good as their front court output. Thompson is the x-factor in nearly every playoff series because if he plays the way that he has shown flashes of, the Cavaliers are nearly unstoppable.

LeBron is always going to stuff the stat sheet and Love has continued to prove his value as both a rebounder and streaky knock down shooter. However, more often than not, Tristan Thompson has gone missing when they need him most. If the Cavaliers want to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals, the front court needs to be the catalyst.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

Zaza Pachulia: 6.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.1.
Draymond Green: 10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.5.
Kevin Durant: 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.7.

The Kevin Durant experienced worked exactly as well as the Warriors would have hoped. Durant hit the ground running despite an injury mid-season and was the NBA Finals MVP. Durant proved his value as a two-way player in the Finals and came up clutch time after time.

Hate him or like him Draymond Green is a fantastic defender. He can guard all five positions and continues to stuff stat sheets. The Warriors are loaded and are the team to beat in the NBA, and the front court contributes heavily to that.

Realistically the Warriors should start Javale McGee, as he is a jolt of energy who provides much more both offensively and defensively than Pachulia. It ultimately doesn’t matter all that much when you have the best team in basketball.

Summary

Versatile wings are becoming increasingly more valuable in today’s NBA. Some of the best wings help contribute to the best front courts and it just so happens that some of the best wings find themselves on this list.

Each of the top five front courts are over 60.0 in player efficiency and contribute over 40 points and 20 rebounds at the very minimum.

Front court players are vital to postseason success, and we will see just how far the top five NBA front courts can take their teams in the 2017-2018 season.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of NBA.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

Fixing the NBA's Tanking Problem

Fixing the NBA’s tanking problem

Everyone is sick of seeing teams throw random D-League (now renamed G-League) players into the lineup towards the end of the season to help them tank. The same teams are the bad year in and year out. Teams like the Kings, Sixers and Magic continuously miss the playoffs in hopes of building through constant top five picks. Fixing the NBA’s tanking problem needs to be a priority.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban openly admitted to tanking last season.

“Once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything we could to lose games,” Cuban said in an interview with Dan Patrick.

He is one of the few who will admit it, but teams start their season off with this mindset which is where trust the process came from.

Adam Silver has talked about finding a solution to this major problem, but how do you fix NBA tanking? Last year, an article called Tank About It had an outside the box idea to fix tanking, but it wasn’t the most popular of ideas.

Since that wasn’t too popular of an idea here is another one: In life, we are rewarded when we do something well, not when we are the worst of the worst. Getting an “F” in a course doesn’t set oneself up for future success.

There should be an incentive for teams who try to succeed rather than just calling it quits by throwing in players that shouldn’t even be in the NBA. The way to fix the tanking problem in the NBA is by inverting the lottery and giving the teams who attempt to get a championship or make the playoffs an opportunity to take their team to the next level.

How It Works

Fixing NBA's Tanking Problem

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

The inverted lottery would work opposite of the current lottery system. The teams who are one or two great players away from contending for a playoff spot would have the best chance to win the lottery.

The Miami Heat finished the season 30-11 but missed the playoffs. They could have thrown in the towel when they started 11-30, but they didn’t. Their reward for continuing to fight was an end of the lottery pick. Miami only had a 0.5 percent chance of getting the first overall pick.

Phoenix made it totally obvious that they had given up on the season and had a 19.9 percent chance of winning the number one overall pick.

What this entire process says is that once you know you can’t compete, it is not only OK, but rewarding to throw away your season. The NBA will give you a top pick and that way you have a better chance at finding a franchise player and no longer stinking.

The problem with is that Philadelphia hasn’t made the playoffs in five years and some of the streaks are worse. Here are more teams who have long playoff droughts: New York (five seasons), Orlando (five seasons), Phoenix (seven seasons), Sacramento (11 seasons) and Minnesota (13 seasons).

How about rewarding a team who fought as hard as they could, like the Heat did, and inverting the lottery odds. An inversion of odds for the number one overall pick would have looked like this (without trades shown).

Miami Heat 25%

Denver Nuggets 19.9%

Detroit Pistons 15.6%

Charlotte Hornets 11.9%

New Orleans Pelicans 8.8%

Dallas Mavericks 5.3%

Sacramento Kings 5.3%

New York Knicks 2.8 %

Minnesota Timberwolves 1.7%

Orlando Magic 1.1%

Philadelphia 76ers 0.8%

Los Angeles Lakers 0.7%

Phoenix Suns 0.6%

Brooklyn Nets 0.5%

Change of Landscape

Fixing NBA's Tanking Problem

(Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)

Fans of bad teams are going to hate this idea but it would make the league more competitive. The worst position to be in the NBA is in the middle of the pack. Franchises stuck in the middle have no chance at competing for a championship. They also can’t get a player that can take them to the next level at the end of the lottery in the same way a top five pick can.

Teams would no longer throw in the towel, but instead fight even harder because the only way to get the top players from college is by fighting for a playoff spot.

The Heat had a great finish to the season and imagine them adding Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. Denver and Detroit both have good young guards and a franchise big man and still missed the playoffs. Adding Jayson Tatum or Josh Jackson to the wing could really make them a threat.

This would make the NBA more competitive, and thus, more exciting. There would be no reason to tank and teams would be forced to do everything they could to be a competitive team. This is an idea that most will probably hate, but would you hate it more than seeing teams tank?

There may never be a perfect answer on how to fix the tanking problem, but the inverted lottery creates incentive.

We all work better when there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

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