Where Does Melo Go From Here?

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

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

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

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

Career Accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: AP Richard Drew)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Path to A Ring

Carmelo Anthony

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

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

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

Boston

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

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

Los Angeles

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

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

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

Cleveland

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

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

Conclusion

Carmelo Anthony

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

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

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

 

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Post Tournament)

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it is time to fully dive into the 2017 NBA mock draft. The NBA season is still unfolding, but many teams are starting to focus on the draft, especially the lottery teams.

The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first. He is the consensus number one pick. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft 2.0.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for a superstar. Fultz is the clear number one pick, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the west in two to three years. Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

It is difficult to predict what the Lakers will do. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is a lack of veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player. If they keep the pick, expect them to take the best available player, which would be Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top three prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. D’Angelo Russell is a great young player, but could you imagine a backcourt for the next 10 years of Russell and Ball? Sleep on that Hollywood.

4: ORLANDO MAGIC: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and that needs to change quickly. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but he needs more talent outside of Aaron Gordon.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become the missing piece in Orlando.

5: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: NEW YORK KNICKS: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

De’Aaron Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Fox would be the perfect fit in New York.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right handed players. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game. The Knicks need that more than ever.

7: SACRAMENTO KINGS: JONATHAN ISSAC PF FLORIDA STATE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Issac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

8: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a Dirk-like power forward. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could relate to Dirk easily and due to Dirk being a legend, would really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): DENNIS SMITH PG N.C. STATE

The Kings need a young explosive point guard. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Kings would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick if the Kings want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team while building around Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

12: CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MILES BRIDGES SF MICHIGAN ST.

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(http://www.sportingnews.com)

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Denver. Their young core is close to being a legitimate playoff contender, and Jackson would really help them.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. For most of the tournament, Jackson played great. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well polished and Denver would instantly get better by drafting Jackson.

14: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

15: MIAMI HEAT: TJ LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

TJ Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

16: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins is a bit of a project. If the Trailblazers take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset to build around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

17: CHICAGO BULLS: IVAN RABB C California

Robin Lopez is an average NBA center at best. The Bulls need a young center who can come in as a defender. Rabb is a solid defender who needs time to develop a back to the basket game.

18: ATLANTA HAWKS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images )

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future and Patton would be a great pick. He is a seven-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

19: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Kris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Kentucky a presense inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs alot of help, even though they have been playing well since the beginning of March. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room. Josh Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): Jordan Bell PF Oregon

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Jordan Bell was a second round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first, but it depends on who wins the lottery. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a Russell Westbrook type of player by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, but could be a huge steal.

Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one overall pick before he began having injury problems. We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

27: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

 

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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Trying to Figure Out the NBA Eastern Conference

We’ve eclipsed the midpoint of the season and one thing is abundantly clear: the NBA Eastern Conference is crazy. As in, don’t even try to figure out the power dynamics of the crazy conference. As in, the Philadelphia 76ers have a better record in 2017 than the Cleveland Cavaliers crazy.

Let’s start with those Cavaliers. The Cavs have lost five of their last seven games, and Lebron James recently called out his team for being “top heavy as sh**.” Not an incredible sign for the favorite in the East. They now only hold a three game lead in the conference, and don’t have a top five point differential in the league anymore.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the Cavaliers continue to struggle for too much longer. They’ll likely revert to the mean sometime soon and finish the East with home court advantage. Deeper in the east though, it just gets wackier.

The Atlanta Hawks looked to be ready to reload just weeks ago. Kyle Korver was traded to the Cavs, and Paul Millsap found himself the center of too many trade rumors to count. Now, they’ve won seven of 10 and are in the thick of the Eastern Conference race.

NBA Eastern Conference

John Wall (Photo courtesy: nicekicks.com)

The Wizards have has a similar rejuvenation of their season. After a 9-14 start, they’ve completely turned their season around. John Wall is having his best season ever, Bradley Beal has been productive and healthy, and Otto Porter Jr. has been a breakout star.

Not to mention, the Wizards look unbeatable at home. They have the second most wins in the league when they play at home.

Further down in the standings sit the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. They respectively hold the 7 and 8 seeds which is, quite simply, not sustainable. Neither team has a positive win differential, and on paper they look much worse than the younger teams that sit below them. Nonetheless, they sit in playoff spots. Can the star power of Paul George and Jimmy Butler be enough to grab a playoff spot?

That brings us to the wackiest part of the Eastern Conference. Currently seeded 9-15 in the conference are the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets, Heat and Magic are the only disinteresting teams of that group. All three should be focused on nothing but tanking for the rest of the year. Of course, the Nets have no pick to tank for, but that only makes them less interesting of a team.

The other four teams add an element to the Eastern Conference that will make it riveting to watch down the stretch. The Detroit Pistons are in a pretty unique spot. They are stuck in somewhat of a limbo between contending for a playoff spot and needing to add pieces for the future. Andre Drummond is a solid piece to build around though, and they figure to be somewhat of a threat down the stretch.

The Bucks on the other hand are one of the most talented young teams in the league. It would be shocking if they can’t grab one of the last spots in the playoffs by the end of the year. The Greek Freak and Jabari Parker have both had ridiculous breakout years, and the Bucks look just about ready to make the jump.

And for Toronto and Cleveland, the Bucks have to be the last team they would want to face in the first round of the playoffs. Besides a lack of experience, the Bucks figure to be one of the most dangerous teams come May. Look for them to be a threat to any team.

NBA Eastern Conference

Joel Embiid (photo courtesy: fansided.com)

The Knicks are another team that seems to be underachieving. Carmelo Anthony is aging, but is still a star. Derrick Rose is having a solid season. Kristaps Porzingis is breaking out in his second year in the league.

The Knicks haven’t quite seemed to put everything together though, and they have struggled to reach their potential. They are another team that would be a tough out in the playoffs. Though they are not as dangerous as Milwaukee, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose have both been there before. If they can find some synergy on the court, they too could threaten one of the final playoff spots.

The final team, and perhaps the most fascinating, in the East, is the Philadelphia 76ers. Not a year ago, they were the laughing stock of the league. They were historically bad. Even earlier this year they struggled immensely, especially with Joel Embiid off the court.

Recently though, the process has begin to show signs of life. Seven wins in 10 games has them closing in on some of the playoff teams. Even without Joel Embiid, they are showing an ability to contend and win games. And possibly as soon as February, they are going to have their number one draft pick back on the court.

Obviously the Sixers are not good enough yet to do any serious damage in the East. But who would have expected this? The laughingstock of the East no more, the Sixers have provided a much needed shakeup of the Eastern bottom dwellers. The second half of the season will no doubt be great as these teams duke it out, and the craziness is not likely to stop soon.

 

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Seven Stats or less : The New York Knicks

Four games into 2016-2017 NBA season and we know one thing for certain: the teams that we saw won’t be the same teams in six months. Heck, they won’t be the same teams in late December. The NBA season is about watching teams evolve and eventually evolve come the playoffs.

With that said, let’s have some fun with seven stats that will totally define this season for the New York Knicks.

This week it’s the Knicks because of the waves President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson made in the offseason. Are the moves paying off? Can we glean anything from the stats below? Maybe, or maybe the season is young and these aren’t cemented into the team yet.

  1. Kristaps Porzingis is shooting 37% from the three-point line on four attempts through four games. That’s pretty good. It’s no secret that Porzingis has the ability to shoot from beyond the arc, but its accuracy that makes the shot a weapon. He shot 33% last year. If he can somehow keep up that percentage, it will be big for the Knicks.
  2. Through four games, 73% of Derrick Rose’s shots have come in the paint. Rose also averages the third most points in the paint among point guards. He trails only Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard. This is good for a player that shot less than 30% from three. Scoring easy points will only help this bottom five offense.
  3. Rose is averaging a little less than two free throw attempts per game.  For context, Carmelo Anthony is averaging seven attempts. This isn’t something that is going to be a trend for the season. If Rose can maintain a healthy field goal percentage with such a high percentage of shots coming from the paint, defenses will load up on his bulldozing style of play. He’s sure to feel some contact.
    points-in-paint

    USA-Today Sports

  4. The Knicks are averaging 26 pull-up jumpers, which is good for fourth in the league. They are making them on a 35% clip. That’s not a stat that can stand. For those who don’t know, NBA.com defines a pull jumper as a shot that is taken with one or fewer dribbles. Clearly a result of the roster, but it would probably be best to pass and get better looks than hoisting up low percentage shots.
    dunkk

    USA-Today Sports

  5. Joakim Noah is averaging five assists. Derrick Rose is averaging two. Surprise, surprise, Rose isn’t a “set-up” point guard. That’s not a knock against him, but fans shouldn’t freak out about that. For one, it’s been four games. Secondly, he averages almost six assists for his career. Once he gets comfortable with the offense, he’ll be able to make the right reads and his passes will lead to scores.
  6. Porzingis is 4th in the league in contested shots at 14. This isn’t a surprise considering he’s 7’3 with a 7’6 wingspan. However, it really isn’t helping the overall team defense.
    kriataps-contest

    USA-Today Sports

  7. The Knicks have a 108.6 defensive rating, which ranks bottom three in the league. Obviously, the defense is going to have to get better if they want to have a chance to win close games. That’s something that they are going to get familiar with if they want to compete in the Eastern Conference.

 

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2016-17 NBA Season Preview: The Atlantic Division

NBA Season Preview Series by Danny w/the J: Atlantic Division

Daniel Richardson

Jay Louden

The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…

Philadelphia 76ers

1st overall pick Ben Simmons will sit out a god portion of the season with a knee injury; a trend among 76ers 1st round picks in recent years.

  • Offseason: The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Ben Simmons with the number one overall pick. The team also signed their 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Dario Saric. The number one pick embodies the whole offseason for the 76ers. Hopefully Simmons can turn into the player they need for them to begin winning again.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Drafting Ben Simmons and having Joel Embiid participate in any capacity will bring good things for this team. With that in mind, there are still holes in the roster.  Most obvious being the guard positions with the talent on roster skewed to the center position. The lack of shooting is almost cringe-worthy. The future of Jahlil Okafor on the team has the potential to be a distraction, but in all likelihood it won’t be. Brett Brown has shown to have a good handle on things in Philly so there shouldn’t be any surprises for him. The task is to take what he has and continue the climb back to prominence.

Jay: Simmons out for an extended period means this team will be just a bunch of draft picks with no direction. Philly is in for a similar season as the last and a shoo-in for the lottery. Philly needs to do what Minnesota did and hire a coach that can harness all the accumulated talent before they can have a sense of direction.

Daniel: No playoffs for this squad. Again. Sam Hinkie preached about trusting the process and it eventually got him fired. That’s what a martyr is, right? They got the number one overall pick in last year’s draft, and that’s what they’ll be playing for again this season. There isn’t any more doom and gloom for this team. They’ll still lose a lot but not nearly as much. I’m willing to predict a 25-57 season.

Boston Celtics

(Courtesy: Boston.com)

(Courtesy: Boston.com)

  • Offseason: The Boston Celtics Signed free-agent C Al Horford to a four-year contract. That was their offseason. Beantown was hoping for a star free-agent and they got a pretty big one.  They drafted Jaylen Brown with the third overall pick. The team added Gerald Green and Tyler Zeller also. Evan Turner opted to not return to the team and instead signed with the Portland Trailblazers.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Any starting lineup with Al Horford in it is going to be productive. He is the model big man and the Celtics now have him. How far they go with him is the mystery. They were the fourth seed last season and were taken out of the postseason by Horford’s former team, the Atlanta Hawks. With the rest of the east (outside of two teams) scrambling and without any continuity, the Celtics should have no problem vaulting themselves into top two conversations. The defense and offense both stand to take a jump. This team is a legitimate problem.

 

Jay: Top 5 seed in the east. I like Brad Stevens as coach and I think they will be a good team in the east. The Celtics will be fun to watch.

Daniel: Isaiah Thomas and Horford pick and rolls will be potent, mostly because of Horford’s ability to move the ball from side to side. Teams are going to have a hard time trying to stop this team from scoring with the shooting they possess. 50+ wins is just the floor for them.

Brooklyn Nets

(Courtesy Sportingnews.com)

(Courtesy Sportingnews.com)

  • Offseason:  The Brooklyn Nets drafted Caris LeVert with the pick they received from the Indiana Pacers for Thaddeus Young.  The biggest deal for the team was the signing of Jeremy Lin to a multiyear contract. Other additions were Luis Scola, Randy Foye, Greivis Vasquez, former top Pick Anthony Bennett, and power forward Trevor Booker.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Nets have a new coach in Kenny Atkinson and have a roster filled with a bunch of veteran guys. Atkinson has spent a very healthy amount of time in Atlanta with a relatively competent front office and helped run a very formidable offense two years ago. Could he bring that culture to the Nets? Maybe. Brook Lopez is older and Jeremy Lin, who might’ve had his best season since Linsanity with the Charlotte Hornets, will be tasked with manning the offense. In other words, anything is possible.

Jay: The Nets will be on the outside looking in at best come playoff time, but won’t get in the playoffs. The team will be able to score, but I question their ability to defend with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Sean Kilpatrick and others, who are offensively gifted, but defensively challenged.

Daniel: No playoffs for the Nets I’m afraid. The roster doesn’t exactly exude confidence, nor does it possess a lot of talent. With teams in this division getting better and in the east in general, the Nets have a long way to go to compete.

Toronto Raptors

Toronto is looking to build off the success they had last year with their core still in tact

  • Offseason: With a fairly successful season coming into the offseason, there wasn’t much to be done. DeMar DeRozan signed a multi-year extension and Jared Sullinger was added to the fold also. Undrafted rookie Fred Van Vleet signed a contract with the Raptors.
  • Outlook 2016-17: Toronto fans can sit and relax. Coming off an Eastern Conference Finals berth and taking the Championship Cavaliers to six games, this team is on an upward trajectory. Kyle Lowry had an optimal showing as backup point guard in Rio with Team USA. The only thing the Raptors have to do is maintain a level of concentration and poise that can keep them ultra-competitive.

Jay: The Raptors lost Bismack Biyombo so their defense will be challenged, but they will still make the playoffs thanks to Lowry, DeRozen and Jonas Valanciunas and get somewhere in the 2-4 seed range.

Daniel: Toronto will probably have to compete with Boston for the number two seed in the East. They could have a 53-29 season which seems just about right for them.

New York Knicks

Porzingis giving Dirk a taste of his own 3-point medicine at MSG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Offseason: Busy is the word for the Knicks this offseason. The effectiveness is yet to be seen though. The Knicks added Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, and Derrick Rose. They also traded away Robin Lopez and former first round pick Jerian Grant. Lance Thomas was resigned to a deal as well. Derrick Williams signed elsewhere with the Miami Heat.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: With all of the players added in the offseason, it would be a complete travesty to forget about Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is the present and the future of the Knicks, and he has to be involved in the games. Standing around and watching Jennings, Carmelo Anthony, and Rose dribble the ball for 18 seconds on offense isn’t going to motivate him to compete on the other end. The fanfare for this “super-team” needs to die down and our attention needs to shift to KP.

Jay: If Melo wants to eliminate his me-first image, it’s this season. Heading out of Rio as the veteran and leader, he needs to continue this position and play a passing role along with the rest of the team. Porzingis can develop into the next Dirk Nowitzki (or dare I say even better?). The team has to recognize that they’re all past their prime and if they want to win in the near future, KP is their Big Ticket. If all goes right, the Knicks wind up the 7th seed in the east.

Daniel: Anywhere from a 6th -8th seed is possible for this team. Jeff Hornacek is a pretty good coach, and the roster has some competence to it. The front office commitment to the Triangle Office is still mind-boggling, but it would be wise to watch and see what happens with that. Is it crazy of me to predict a 44-38 season?

 

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2016 NBA Off-season Summary

An Offseason to Remember

 

The summer of 2016 introduced the new NBA salary cap, which in turn paid loads of money to multiple NBA players. This offseason also created a Hall-of-Fame caliber team with Kevin Durant making the fantasy move to the Golden State Warriors. And as per usual, in the Summer Leagues, unproven NBA rookies showcased their talents and gave the basketball community a progress report on where they’re at in their development.

Players Getting Paid

People may not have liked some of the events in this offseason, but it set a precedent for what fans should expect next season when the salary cap increases again. This free agency period paved the way for the NBA’s elite to earn twice as much as they were getting paid with role and bench players, like Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and Mike Conley Jr., all cashing in on their newly increased value. Mike Conley’s signing drew a more significant uproar among free agents not named Kevin Durant. Conley, who averaged 15 points (on 42% shooting), 6 assists, and 3 rebounds in the 2015-16 NBA season (only played 56 of the 82 regular season games), didn’t exactly post All-Star caliber numbers, and yet, by the previous salary cap’s standards, will be making the most money per year since Michael Jordan at around $30.6 million dollars for the next 5 years; that is more than just All-Star money, it’s global icon money. But with the new, larger salary cap in place, and an even larger cap next off-season, fans should expect the ridiculous looking deals to keep on coming, especially when Steph Curry becomes a free agent next year. Also, some food for thought: free agent LeBron James has yet to sign a new deal with the Cavaliers under this new salary cap. One can surmise it will be at least around the $28 million per year mark like Kevin Durant will be making with the Warriors this upcoming season. Speaking of which….

KD to the Bay

No doubt the most noticeable move in the NBA since LeBron famously took his talents to South Beach, Kevin Durant dropped the proverbial bomb on the basketball community (not just in OKC) this off-season by signing with the defending Western Conference Champion, Golden State Warriors. Durant going to the Warriors shook the NBA in a similar, if not more severe, way than when LeBron went to the Heat. The Bay Area will now house the best three shooters on the planet. The Warriors may look invincible on the offensive end, but signing KD meant they had to blow up a good portion of their depth and start over. Their center and rim protector, Andrew Bogut, had to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks along with now fellow-ex Warrior and small forward Harrison Barnes, who signed Dallas’ offer sheet as a restricted free agent since the Warriors couldn’t match the offer to keep Barnes while adding Durant. The Warriors also lost Marreese Speights to the Clippers, Festus Ezeli to the Trailblazers, Brandon Rush to the Timberwolves and Leandro Barbosa to the Suns. The Warriors were able to retain Ian Clark, Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo and also added veterans Zaza Pachulia, David West and rookie draftees Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones. Simply put, their interior defense will come into question against a good team, but as of now in the off-season, no team looks like they can handle the onslaught of perimeter shooting that Golden State possesses for that to be a problem.

The NBA Summer League Showcases

Going into the NBA summer leagues, a few names were on everyone’s mind. Heading out of the summer leagues, a few more names were added to that mental list. Ben Simmons was probably the most common name coming out of the draft and into the summer league. Being the first overall pick of the draft by the 76ers, Simmons didn’t disappoint his expectations, showcasing the as-advertised court vision college scouts were raving about and seeing why fans and fellow rookie Denzel Valentine were comparing him to 4-time MVP LeBron James. I echo that comparison based on his passing ability, hard drives to the basket, and unwillingness to shoot a pull up jumper at that age due to lack of efficiency at it; hopefully we will continue to get better at it. Ben Simmons was definitely the right choice for the 76ers to make with the first pick and I expect he will have a much greater impact on a game than former first round picks Okafor and Noel have in Simmons’ rookie year; the 76ers will be better this year, if only by a handful of games, they will be better.

Other names on everyone lips were those of NBA sophomores like Emanuel Mudiay, Larry Nance Jr. and DeAngelo Russell. The trio showed a maturity and confidence on the court against NBA rookies knowing what pace and intensity they had to play with at times. The biggest stride, I thought, was made by DeAngelo Russell, who was the best player on the Lakers’ summer league team, not the lottery pick, Brandon Ingram, who looked like he needs to gain about 20 pounds or so in order to not be pushed around so easily by the better competition; granted Ingram is able to create his own shot, but putting on some weight will help him. Overall, the summer league always hints at what we can expect in years to come from the crop of rookies and sophomores.

Biggest Winners of the NBA Offseason

  • Warriors. They got KD. Even though they had to get rid of key bench players to do it, they got the big free agent to form the super team. Clear winner. They also added David West who will contribute a much needed interior toughness to a depleted bench.
  • Timberwolves. Minnesota hired former Bulls head coach and defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau as head coach to lead this young core of talent into a new era without Garnett (even though he is still with the team) and without Love. The T-wolves also drafted the versatile guard Kris Dunn out of Providence which only adds to the team’s potential.
  • 76ers. I know right? Why on earth would the 76ers be winners here? They got rid of their GM and drafted the clear number one pick of the NBA draft. I believe Simmons makes the 76ers that much better to call them a winner in the offseason. The regular season, however…. Eh maybe not yet.
  • Bucks. Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon add similar potential to that of the T-wolves; summer league showed me they are on pace to be at the very least, quality NBA players. Jason Kidd ought to lead the Bucks to the playoffs this year and hopefully make the Eastern Conference more interesting.
  • Knicks. Despite not having any draft pick in this year’s draft, Phil Jackson did make some moves. Trading for Derrick Rose, who’s on the last year of his contract, was a good move since it got rid of an aging Jose Caulderon, an unproven Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez. The Knicks put themselves in a good position next off-season for other free agents and a draft pick or two, all awhile making themselves a team to keep an eye on with the additions of Brandon Jennings and Joakim Noah. I’m not saying they’ll be winners and get to the postseason, but they are not losers in the off-season.

Biggest Losers of the NBA Off-season

  • Kings. They draft and trade for two big men when they already have three, and one of the three is an NBA All-Star named Demarcus Cousins. What is Divac doing?
  • Bulls. They sign Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. Two guards that can’t hit perimeter shots and prefer to have the ball in their hands in order to create offense. Add that to a budding star in Jimmy Butler who practically ran Derrick Rose out of the organization and who also can’t hit consistent perimeter shots and you have a very isolation oriented offense. Did I forget to mention that coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t really command the team well in his first season?
  • Rockets. Hiring Mike D’Antoni was the Rockets first mistake in the offseason; D’Antoni is notorious for not employing any type of high level defense, if any defense at all. The Rockets were already one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year, so this isn’t a good move at all. The Rockets next mistake was letting their best defender and rim protector in Dwight Howard go in free agency. Then they added shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Defense will be the team’s downfall.
  • Heat. Miami failed to keep Dwayne Wade, the franchise’s most valuable player in its history. Seeing him leave South Beach will take some time getting used to. They managed to keep Whiteside, but couldn’t land Durant. The Heat also let Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Luol Deng go. Miami should now be in full rebuild mode. Pat Riley needs to hope that Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow become players the Heat can market closer to the levels that Minnesota and Milwaukee are presenting themselves at; young, hungry and talented.

With NBA news now going quiet until LeBron announces his new deal with Cleveland, baseball season in full swing and football preseason preparing to kickoff, the NBA won’t be short of any story-lines when the season starts in October. I can’t wait to sit back and watch it all unfold.

Why Not the Knicks? Well…

Does Anyone Want to Play for the Knicks?

 

It has been over three seasons since Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks won their last playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 2013 playoffs. It has been closing in on 20 years since the Knicks’ last NBA Finals appearance. And it has been over 40 years since their last championship with, as many Knicks’ fan will affectionately swoon at the mention of, the likes of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. New York is considered by some to still be the Mecca of basketball and Madison Square Garden is the hallowed ground on which it stands. 13-time champion (two as a player, 11 as a coach), Phil Jackson has been the president and head of all basketball operations for the last two years and yet, no free agent seems to want to come to the Big Apple. Why? In a city that doesn’t seem to have the time for the slow process that is rebuilding a team, expectations are astronomical and, let’s face it, downright stupid. The reasons for Knicks fans’ suffering could take a long time to add up, but I will just talk about the four reasons I’ve compiled that have attributed to the last couple years to save some time.

Courtesy of Sporting News.

The Owner is Too Involved and Under Too Much Pressure

Leading up to the arrival of Phil Jackson as head of basketball operations and President, owner James Dolan has often had a hand in some of the big trades and acquisitions of players and coaches throughout his reign, most notably the deals that brought Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony from their respective Western Conference teams to the Knicks; deals in which the Knicks gave up draft picks and a handful of players. Since Melo and Amare came to the Knicks, they made the playoffs 3 times with Stoudemire battling injury in 2013; Dolan’s Knicks would have to eat most of Stoudemire’s contract due to injury during his time there. It was clear that these moves did not pay off as the duo of Stoudemire and Anthony just weren’t meshing well and the head coach for half of their partnership, Mike d’Antoni, wasn’t getting the job done with the pieces that the team had. After firing d’Antoni, keeping Mike Woodson on as head coach and being somewhat competitive in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Dolan decided to fire the defensive-minded coach at the beginning of the Phil Jackson era. However, prior to Jackson’s hire, Dolan made decisions on which free agents or trades to go after and sign to help Carmelo bring a championship back to the Garden, and let’s just say they weren’t exactly what the Knicks needed, as they were without draft picks as a result of these failed trades and acquisitions.

Courtesy of USA Today.

Phil Jackson is the President of the Knicks… Not the Coach

One of Jackson’s first moves as President was the hiring of recently retired NBA veteran and former Los Angeles Laker Derek Fisher as the new head coach of the Knicks. This being Fisher’s first coaching job ever and not having a .500 season or better after his first season, it should surprise many that he only lasted about a season and a half (40-96 record over that span). This off-season, Jackson seemed hell-bent on keeping interim head coach Kurt Rambis, another ex-Laker, on as the permanent head coach. This didn’t seem like a wise move to anyone in the basketball community, so Dolan, being an active owner, insisted Jackson look elsewhere and Jackson then hired former Suns coach, Jeff Hornacek. I am not sure what to expect from the new hire, but the feeling remains the same; the feeling that Phil Jackson should come down from the front office and coach this team himself. Whatever health concerns there may be about Phil traveling around the country, the belief is that only Phil Jackson can properly teach and execute the triangle offense, which he has consistently preached that these Knicks can employ. Phil Jackson as a coach, would make the Knicks a more attractive destination for the more attractive free agent. When a man has coached teams to 11 championships, there is not a player in the league that wouldn’t at least consider New York an option if that man is coaching.

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Melo Isn’t the Superstar Player He’s Paid to Be

The Knicks’ star came into the league with the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (those 3 would later team up and win two championships together), with Anthony being the player without a ring. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, going into that draft, were often compared to each other, both being around 6’8” and the ability to take over games in a multitude of ways. Since then, the two players’ paths have vastly differed and their true abilities shown. LeBron has won Rookie of the Year, three titles, four MVPs, and a scoring title. Melo, on the other hand, has won one scoring title and has only made one conference final; in fact he’s only made it past the first round of the playoffs once and is now being paid upwards of $122 million dollars over five years. Anthony’s game is much different from the two superstars who have dominated the league during his time; those two superstars being LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. While critics of James have said he doesn’t have the scorer’s mentality or killer instinct that the Mamba and even Melo appear to have, he has had a greater effect on the game with his passing and vision that Carmelo has only dreamed of having by scoring. Speaking of scoring, it seems that the majority of Anthony’s efforts are put towards scoring rather than playing defense; LeBron nearly won Defensive Player of the Year a couple of years and even Kobe, who’s been touted as “selfish” on the offensive end, and who I would liken Anthony’s game more than LeBron, wasn’t a blow by on the defensive end.

I look at Carmelo Anthony’s game, at age 32, as a wanna-be Kobe; He has to have the ball in his hands to affect the game and he believes he can score on every possession no matter how cold of a night he is having, which is all well and fine if the team can pick up the slack, but Anthony’s teams usually haven’t been able to. Carmelo Anthony (41% FG, 21.4 FGA, 32% 3FG, 7.3 reb, 2.8 assists, and 25.7 pts for his playoff career) seems to have needed an all-star point guard that knew how to run an offense and play defense whenever his teams have been successful in the postseason; Chauncey Billups (Nuggets in ’08) and Jason Kidd (Knicks in ’13) both played with Anthony whenever he made it past the first round of the playoffs. And for some reason, the Knicks felt that this player, whose numbers don’t backup the talent, was a guy who could be built around to win a championship, a guy who they signed to a $122-129 million dollar five year contract and locking themselves down for any cash to offer quality free agents. Melo needs to adjust his game in order to draw free agents like LeBron has done in the latter portion of his career. Kobe, who’s offensive game and mindset I liken Carmelo’s to, could no longer draw free agents to LA because Phil Jackson was no longer the coach (discount injured and soft Dwight Howard), which attributes to Phil’s ability to draw players as a coach, not a GM (see above). In my opinion, the type of contract Anthony is under is reserved for younger MVPs and champions like LeBron or Kobe, none of which Anthony is or, the way it’s heading, will ever be.

Was New York Ever the “Mecca”?

In the sports world, a Mecca of a particular sport would have a rich history filled with banners, titles, MVPs and housed some of the greatest sports moments ever. Madison Square Garden may be in the most famous city in the world, but it doesn’t house the historic franchise a sports fan would revere as one of the greatest ever. The Knicks have two NBA titles (1970 and 1973). That’s better than none, but when other franchises like Boston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Chicago have at least twice as many (almost nine times as many if you’re Boston, eight if you’re LA), it begins to look like a foot note on the history of the game. One moment that the Garden did play host to and that all Knick fans will point out was the Finals game in which Willis Reed came out of the tunnel, bum ankle and all, to lead the Knicks to their title victory. Okay, so that’s one moment. Where are the other highlights on the NBA finals reel? I can count only one moment that is engraved in Knicks lore and, I believe, has made fans delusional about the idea that New York is the Mecca of basketball. The team has also not produced one league MVP in its history; not Walt Frazier, not Willis Reed, not Patrick Ewing. No one in the history of the New York Knicks has ever earned the title of MVP, so why should Madison Square Garden and the Knicks be considered the Mecca of basketball? Sure, the city has a history of producing some of the game’s greats and has the famous Rucker Park, but the franchise that represents the city has done nothing that says to the world, “This is the franchise people come to see”. The minute the city and Knick fans stop calling themselves “The Mecca” will be the moment when they begin to turn things around for the better; a “nothing is given, everything is earned” mentality has to set in. Prove to the world that New York is “The Mecca” and the allure and aura will return to the Garden once more.

Courtesy Slamonline.

What Now?

With all the dysfunction within the organization, here’s what the Knicks have going for them: The Knickerbockers drafted the Latvian phenom, Kristaps Porzingis, with the 4th pick in the 2015 draft last year. The 7’3” 19 year old stretch center finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to Karl Anthony-Towns; not bad for an unproven European import. In stretches during the season, the young player showed passion and energy for the game by blocking shots, throwing down putback dunks and draining perimeter shots. Hopefully, his role on the team will grow rather than shrink with the newly acquired point guard, Derrick Rose.

Speaking of the new Knick, Rose is reaching the end of his contract he signed originally with the Bulls before blowing out both of his knees, so he will be coming into the 2016-17 season with something to prove and a new deal to earn; if not with the Knicks, then elsewhere. I am sure Anthony is excited to play with the former All-Star and MVP, even if he hasn’t been the same since achieving those awards. Carmelo Anthony will, however, have to learn how to move without the ball to get a good portion of his points since Rose, being the point guard, has to make the decisions on the court and Rose may not always pass to Anthony as often as Anthony is used to being given the ball. And with Porzingis’ frame still relatively thin, it’s reasonable to expect 3 point and mid-range shooting to be a key component of his game; a lot of pick and pop with Rose, dishing to Melo on the wings whenever the mismatch is in Kristaps’ favor in the post, and vice versa.

Courtesy CBS Sports.

The Knicks are also interested in signing Chicago Bull Joakim Noah, who played with Rose in Chicago. This move probably won’t sit well with the New York media considering Noah has had injury problems in the last couple seasons with his feet and knees; at this point he might as well be as fragile as Rose. Depending on if the Knicks do sign Noah and what kind of contract they sign him to, Noah, when healthy, can offer the Knicks a defensive backbone, smart passer and an emotional leader. Removing health from the equation, signing Noah would be a good move.

With a new big three and a new coach in place at “the Mecca”, hopefully, for New Yorkers and Knick fans everywhere, they can begin to make strides towards playoff and eventually title contention. But the team needs a couple of things to happen to earn the title of “Mecca” back: Jackson needs to seem a little more invested in the franchise if he isn’t going to coach. Carmelo needs to look to pass more, raise his basketball IQ and play more consistent and better defense (play like the player he is being paid to be). Dolan needs to let Phil do his job. The fans need to stay behind their team no matter how bad they look, while at the same time putting pressure on the organization to be competitive, not just sign free agents, but to go out and perform to the best of their ability. Everything else will fall into place should those things happen and the Knicks will become relevant again, this time for a longer spell and, who knows, they may even win a championship along the way.

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