biggest moves nba offseason

Most impactful moves from the NBA offseason

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

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

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

Minnesota Timberwolves

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

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

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

Houston Rockets

impactful moves nba offseason

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers

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

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

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

Oklahoma City Thunder

impactful moves nba offseason

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

Oklahoma City is looking like a threat again.

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

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

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

Denver Nuggets

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

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

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

Boston Celtics

impactful moves nba offseason

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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2017 season preview: Top five NBA backcourts

Many teams have All-Star guards, however few have two of them in the same backcourt. In today’s position-less NBA, most point guards and shooting guards are cut and dry.

Having two guards that can coexist with each other is unique, and can form a potential championship combination. Recent free agent signings and offseason trades have shaken up the list of top NBA backcourts.

Here are the top five guard duos going into the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Number Five: Toronto Raptors

top five NBA backcourts

Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.

DeMar Derozan: 27.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.1

Kyle Lowry: 22.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player efficiency rating: 22.9

It almost seems like year in and year out the Raptors backcourt gets overlooked.

Production wise, the numbers are extremely impressive. The Raptors averaged 106.9 points per regular season game this year. Derozan and Lowry combined for 49.7 of those points.

Both of the two were All-Stars in their 2016-17 campaigns and took advantage of a top heavy Eastern Conference.

Both Lowry and Derozan have a true shooting percentage of above 55 percent, which shows that they are both efficient scorers as well as volume scorers.

On a team that sometimes struggles offensively, the two needed to score as efficiently as they did. Scoring nearly 47 percent of their team’s points last year notches the Raptors’ backcourt at number five league wide.

Number Four: Portland Trail Blazers

top five NBA backcourts

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Damian Lillard: 27.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.2

CJ McCollum: 23.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.0

One of the youngest backcourts in the league is also one of the most impressive.

Lillard and McCollum came from Weber State and Lehigh University and have continued their climb ever since.

McCollum is coming off a season in which he earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and Lillard is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year.

Keep in mind that the average player efficiency rating for the 2016-17 season was around 14.9. Both McCollum and Lillard continue to prove themselves year in and year out, keeping their team treading above water.

The Trail Blazers struggle defensively, especially in the playoffs when teams tend to pay more attention to detail. When opposing teams lock down defensively, both Dame and CJ continue their scoring consistently. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lack of consistent defense is what keeps them from winning come playoff time.

Number Three: Washington Wizards

top five NBA backcourts

John Wall and Bradley Beal, Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

John Wall: 23.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 10.7 apg. Player efficiency rating: 23.3

Bradley Beal: 23.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.2

This past year’s playoffs are enough to argue that both Beal and Wall belong in the three spot or even higher.

Wall is a consistent double-double performer. Beal is a very good shooter who can catch fire at any moment and stay that way for a whole game.

Wall has become one of the top offensive threats in the Eastern Conference due to his change of pace and fearless ability to get to the rim.

Wall and Beal both turned in their second highest career plus/minuses which was over plus five for both of them.

They fought off elimination and were just a few minutes away from taking the Wizards to the Eastern Conference finals. Barring any physical setbacks, the Wizards led by this backcourt tandem should be right there at the top of the Eastern Conference yet again.

Number Two: Houston Rockets

top five NBA backcourts

Chris Paul and James Harden, Photo Courtesy of Business Insider.

Chris Paul: 18.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 9.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 26.3

James Harden: 29.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 11.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 27.4

They have yet to play a single minute together (not counting Olympic ball and All-star games). They are two ball-dominant guards and it very well might take a while to work.

But Chris Paul and James Harden could even be the best backcourt in basketball this upcoming season.

With the two highest player efficiency ratings in 2016, Paul and Harden are the best backcourt on paper. They have 14 All-Star seasons between the two of them.

Obviously games aren’t played on paper and the two have to figure out their playing style together. Harden has to go back to his old shooting guard role and Paul has to get accommodated to his new teammates.

The Rockets may not have put themselves on the same level as the Warriors by putting these two together, but they certainly closed the gap. Houston will skyrocket into a title contender with good play from a strong backcourt.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

top five NBA backcourts

Klay Thompson with Steph Curry in the background, Photo Courtesy of FoxSports.

Steph Curry: 25.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.7

Klay Thompson: 22.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg 2.1 apg. Player efficiency rating: 17.5

Anytime you have two league MVPs and six All-star appearances between a backcourt, it’s pretty impressive. Ultimately it comes down to success with these two.

The Splash Brothers are so electric that they draw attention and in turn make their teammates better. Klay has scored 37 points in a quarter and Steph seems to be open even when he isn’t.

Kevin Durant took a little bit of shine away from Klay Thompson this year, as you can see by his player efficiency rating, but success helps overcome that.

Both are automatic from behind the 3-point line, free throw line and make a team pay if they don’t lockdown defensively. The Splash Bsrothers will continue to torch opposing defenses for many years to come.

Honorable mentions

Most of you are probably wondering about Boston or Oklahoma City. Both Paul George and Gordon Hayward are small forwards that will play some shooting guard this year.

In fact Hayward might be the starting shooting guard for Boston all year. With Jae Crowder less versatile, Hayward could land himself in the backcourt with fellow All-star, Isaiah Thomas, which would be a strong argument for a spot on this list.

Oklahoma City is a little less likely of a backcourt. Andre Roberson is a solid shooting guard who plays excellent defense and has value being on the floor. If the Thunder went with a bigger lineup, then Russell Westbrook and Paul George would have a chance to share a backcourt together. If that happened consistently, the two would also find their way on this list.

Conclusion

Strong backcourts can be a winning formula in leading a team. If both guards are versatile and play well together, then there is no reason a backcourt can’t be lethal. The top five backcourts in the NBA have led their teams to deep playoff runs and have taken home many other accolades.

The 2017-18 season will be filled with close games and great teams. We will see how far some of the best backcourts lead their teams come playoff time.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of SI.com.

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Why Kyrie Irving’s message to the Cavs makes sense

Just when you thought the NBA offseason was done, Kyrie Irving shocked the basketball world. As you might have heard, this past Friday, Irving requested a trade from the Cavs, in hopes to find a bigger role. Apparently, Irving would like to play in a situation where he is more of the guy, and not just LeBron James’ sidekick.

Kyrie is tired of playing Robin to LeBron James’ Batman, and has voiced that Minnesota, New York, Miami or San Antonio would be his preferred destinations.

So why does leaving a team coming off three straight Finals appearances make sense? Well, when you play with LeBron, and are on pace to be one of the best scoring point guards this game has ever seen, leaving is actually the most intelligent option.

HOW LEBRON PLAYED A ROLE IN KYRIE’S DECISION

Of course, everyone is so quick to say that LeBron is a problem everywhere he goes, and that he is the reason for Kyrie wanting out. If going to seven straight Finals is an issue, then please sign me up.

The relationship between James and Irving is not the problem (cavaliersnation.com)

LeBron’s past is what influenced Kyrie to take his talents elsewhere, not his relationship with James. James set a precedent back in 2010 when he originally left the Cavs to play for the Miami Heat. After four straight Finals appearances, he then showed again just how powerful the best players in the world can be by going back home to Cleveland.

These past few years, Kyrie has realized a few things. Number one, the Cavs didn’t get any better and showed no signs of doing anything to defeat the Warriors. Number two, the Cavs ownership has built the team under “win now” circumstances, which has destroyed the Cavaliers future. Instead of holding onto Andrew Wiggins, they demanded they get Kevin Love. After winning the championship, the Cavs gave horrible contracts to Tristan Thompson and JR Smith.

Quite frankly, LeBron has already delivered on his promise, which was to bring a championship to Cleveland. James continues to pride himself on never losing leverage, which is why he is yet to commit long term to the Cavaliers. This is not about the relationship between LeBron and Kyrie, but instead, about players looking ahead and realizing what the future will reveal.

How Cleveland’s antics forced Kyrie into this situation

Barring injury, the Warriors will again be NBA champions. You really think a 33-year-old James will want stick around in Cleveland after back-to-back Finals losses? Especially in a city that no free agent wants to even take a look at? Say what you want, but there is absolutely no chance LeBron stays with a team of veterans, and an ownership who refused to make moves to help defeat Golden State. In my mind, James will end up with the Lakers or Sixers, two young talented teams who James can lead into the playoffs.

Knowing LeBron’s past decisions and the fact that Cleveland is not a draw for top free agents, why in the world would Kyrie want to continue to play for the Cavs? If LeBron leaves, he would be stuck with a team of veterans with bad contracts.

Some people might wonder why Irving wouldn’t just play this season out and get one more swing at the Warriors. Irving, who has two seasons left until he can opt out of his deal, realizes how hard it is to get traded when you only have one season left on your contract. Just ask Paul George.

Teams either need a long term commitment, or pray that they can sell the player on their future plans. With two years left, Irving is already drawing interest from over a dozen teams. Speaking of George, the Cavaliers’ talks with him and Jimmy Butler are what most likely sparked Irving’s decision to want to play elsewhere.

The final straw

The final straw for Kyrie was when he found out that he was mentioned in trade talks for Jimmy Butler and Paul George. Why would he want to stay with a franchise that tried to trade him this summer? Do the Cavs actually think either of those players gives them a better chance than Kyrie, who has outplayed Steph over the past two Finals?

All this madness explains exactly why Kyrie Irving would want out of Cleveland. The team didn’t get any better, LeBron will most likely leave after this year and they even tried to trade him. Yes, the same 25-year-old who made one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history.

Now that the Kyrie era in Cleveland appears over, let’s take a look at just how good this kid is.

THE BEST SCORING POINT GUARD OF ALL TIME?

Possibly the greatest NBA Finals shot (NBA.com)

Only three guards, before their age 25 season have scored more than Irving: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury, who Irving has already passed in win shares. Yes, Kyrie ranks fourth all time in scoring, for guards, before their age 25 season. He is on pace to be the best scoring point guard ever, and is extremely efficient.

For three out of his first five seasons, Irving averaged at least 21 points/5 assists/3 rebounds on 45 percent shooting or better. The only point guards with more seasons of those numbers are Jerry West, Steph Curry and Magic Johnson.

It’s scary because we probably haven’t even seen the best version of this guy.

His postseason numbers are what really sets him apart. At only 25, Kyrie already has two postseasons of averaging at least 25 points /4 assists on 46 percent shooting from the field, and 87 percent from the line. No other point guard has done this more than once, and the only other player to accomplish this more than Irving was Larry Bird, who did it four times during his Hall of Fame career.

Is his playoff success just during the early rounds? Of course not. While only playing in two Finals, Irving already has three games with at least 30 points/3 assists /3 rebounds on 55 percent shooting or better, which is most ever by a point guard.

PLAYERS WITH NBA FINALS GAMES WITH AT LEAST 30/3/3 ON 55% SHOOTING OR BETTER

PLAYER  # OF GAMES
MICHAEL JORDAN 7
SHAQUILLE O’NEIL 7
LEBRON JAMES 5
KEVIN DURANT 4
DWAYNE WADE 4
KYRIE IRVING 3

 

Kyrie is also the only player in NBA Finals history to score at least 40 points on 70 percent shooting or better.

Like his decision or not, Kyrie Irving is going to go down as the best scoring point guard of all time. With already one ring on his hand, Irving has put himself in the conversation for best point guard ever. While eclipsing Magic will be hard, Irving could easily solidify himself as number two.

Where will Irving end up? (weartesters.com)

When all is set and done, Irving, barring injury, could easily put up more points than any other true point guard. With one championship already, he will go down ahead of Steve Nash and John Stockton, two players who were unable to win a title.

All he is chasing is Isiah Thomas, not the one who is the worst defender in the league, but the Pistons’ star who won two titles, and Steph Curry, who Irving can dominate.

If Irving can win at least one MVP, and get back to being a champion, watch out.

Maybe the Cavaliers should have thought about how good he is, rather than shopping him around for players who wouldn’t help get them by Golden State. Maybe they should have focused more on the future, but then again, there is a reason why the 2016-17 NBA championship was their first in franchise history.

 

Featured image by gospelherald.com

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NBA Playoff system: time to change

Preview:

In recent history, teams with below .500 records have found a way to slide into the NBA playoff race.

Teams with better records in the other conference have gotten penalized due to their geographical location and not their overall record.

It appears as though the West is turning into a gauntlet and the talent in the East is top-heavy.

Many people around the NBA have talked about moving to a different playoff system. The alternate system would take the top 16 teams with the best records to the playoffs.

Recent History:

NBA Playoffs

Photo Courtesy of Above the Rim

Since 2007, there have been nine teams under .500 teams in the playoffs. All nine of those teams have come from the Eastern Conference.

In the eleven years, two different times there were multiple under 41 win teams in the playoffs.

Eight of the nine teams that made the playoffs with an under .500 record had a worse record than a team who didn’t make the playoffs in the other conference.

The NBA would benefit by having a more competitive postseason and would also make regular season games more competitive.

 

Stars Changing Locations:

All-Stars: Paul Milsap, Paul George and Jimmy Butler are all on the move to the Western Conference.

Many teams in the West now have multiple All-Stars and former All-Stars on their given teams. The Rockets, Warriors, Pelicans, Spurs, Clippers and Thunder all have two or more guys who have been All-Stars in the last three years. Just the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors have that in the Eastern Conference.

Its not just the shifting of the talent in between the two conferences. It’s also the depth in talent that’s different.

The Change:

NBA Playoffs

Photo Courtesy of Grantland.

At the end of the day, the best 16 teams should be able to compete for a championship.

For a team to have the 15th best record and not make the playoffs doesn’t make sense.

With the Western Conference as strong as it is, the East is going to have a tough time holding their own.

There’s a good chance Western Conference teams with good records could get snubbed come playoff time.

It’s time to do away with Conference seeding and give the best teams a chance to win an NBA Championship.

 

Feature Image by Chat Sports

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Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

What it will take for the Cavs to beat the Warriors

If the Cleveland Cavs keep the same team they have going into the future, nothing is going to change for them. They will continue to make the NBA Finals because of how great LeBron James is, but will keep losing to the Golden State Warriors.

The team they have in place simply is not good enough to take on all of Golden State’s star power. The addition of Kevin Durant made it that much more difficult to beat the team who previously won 73 games in the regular season.

Durant was the obvious x-factor and MVP of the Finals and there was nothing Cleveland could do to stop him. It took a record night for the Cavs to steal one game against the Warriors when they won 137-116.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

Kevin Durant has made it nearly impossible for the Cavs to compete in the NBA Finals. (Photo by USA Today Sports/Kyle Terada)

Golden State put up scores of 113, 132, 118, 116 and 129. Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the series while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from behind the arc. The Cavs’ defense had no answer for Golden State’s offense.

This makes it absolutely necessary for Cleveland to make a splash in this offseason. They need to get younger and more talented, which is crazy to think considering all the talent they already have between James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The Cavs have to face reality. James is 32. J.R. Smith is 31. Richard Jefferson is 36. Channing Frye is 33. They aren’t getting any younger.

This class of free agents is loaded with talent. It features names like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry and Paul Millsap. The only problem is that all of those guys are going to be seeking max contracts, and Cleveland has almost no money to spend. Their free agents are Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Derrick Williams. That does not free up a ton of cap space to make the splash they need.

Not all of those guys will fit in with Cleveland either. Griffin is injury prone. Curry will stay with Golden State. They don’t need any of the other point guards either because Irving is already ball-dominant as it is. Moving him to the other guard and not getting the ball in his hands would hurt him and the team.

James is going to have to convince some guys to come to Cleveland for cheap. Either that or the Cavs will have to make a big trade. They were in talks to get Jimmy Butler, but he got moved to Minnesota.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

Paul George can help the Cavs get past Golden State. (Photo by Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

They have also been in talks about getting Paul George. With George becoming a free agent soon, there is some risk involved in getting him. Indiana isn’t going to just give their face of the franchise away either. The Cavs are going to have to make it a sweet deal that will most likely have Kevin Love involved. The Cavs really don’t want to lose stars like Love either though.

It has been reported that Indiana does not want Love anyway. They are looking for young players and draft picks, which is something Cleveland can’t offer.

Not having David Griffin in the front office is going to hurt the team as well. He was so good at making trades. The Cavs won almost every deal he made. Not having Griffin to work his magic is going to make a trade for a star a little tougher.

It was reported that Cleveland was in a blockbuster trade that would send George and Carmelo Anthony their way. However, none of the teams involved wanted Kevin Love.

George may be Cleveland’s best bet. If they are going to bring him to Cleveland, they need to find a third team who would be willing to take Love and give Indiana draft picks and young players. After they trade Love, they will need to sign another free agent so they have four stars to compare to Golden State’s four stars.

Trading for George and signing another star is going to be what it takes to beat Golden State. Otherwise, Cleveland will continue to lose in the finals.

I know what you’re thinking. Why does LeBron James need another superstar? Super teams are hurting the NBA. Why doesn’t the NBA do something about this new era?

Well, this is reality. James is facing far better competition than Michael Jordan ever faced in the Finals. To win titles, you have to do what it takes to win. This is simply what it takes to win in this era of the NBA. If you aren’t a super team, you have no chance. Cleveland and Golden State is also a rivalry that could be comparable to the Celtics and Lakers when it is all said and done.

How the NBA can fix its super team problem is another story for another day though. But the bottom line is the Cavs need to get better and younger if they want to compete with Golden State in the upcoming years.

 

Featured Image by Getty Images

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2017 NBA Draftmas

2017 NBA Draftmas: Teams with no picks

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

Summaries

Memphis Grizzlies

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

2017 NBA Draftmas

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers

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

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

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

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

Cleveland Cavaliers

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

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

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

Golden State Warriors

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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

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

Needs

Memphis Grizzlies

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

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

Los Angeles Clippers

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

Cleveland Cavaliers

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

Golden State Warriors

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

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Pacers

Indiana Pacers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 17 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the draft needs and targets of the Indiana Pacers.

Summary

Pacers

The Pacers will go as far as Paul George and Myles Turner will take them. (Photo by Cluthpoints.com)

The Pacers are in a state of stagnation as they have been eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for two straight seasons. Under new head coach Nate McMillan, the team ranked 15th in points per game and 16th in points allowed.

They are carried by superstar forward Paul George, who is a three time All-NBA and All-Defensive player. Many questioned whether George would be able to return to his All-Star caliber form after a gruesome leg injury in 2014, although he has proved doubters wrong by returning in better shape than ever. He has averaged upwards of 23 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in his last two seasons. With two years and a player option left on his contract, the Pacers window to win now is closing. With rumors swirling about the possibility of George opting out to join his home town Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers must do whatever it takes, whether it is bringing in veterans, or drafting the proper rookies, in order to retain him.

The most talented young piece Indiana possess is center Myles Turner. The 21-year-old was selected with the 11th pick in the 2015 NBA draft and has proven himself as an impact player at the next level. He played and started in 81 games in which he averaged about 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game on 51 percent shooting. Turner has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor as he can work the post just as well as he can hit the three ball. His offensive versatility will be key for the construction of the Pacers lineup moving forward.

Other key players include Glenn Robinson III and 10-year veteran Thad Young. Robinson III has emerged as one of the most explosive players in the NBA, although his jumper has flown under the radar as he shot about 47 percent from the field and most notably 39 percent from three. Young took a step back on the stat sheet after averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015-16 and only 11 points and six rebounds in 2016-17, although his field goal percentage rose significantly. His offensive role with Indiana has been diminished, but he is still an integral piece of the Pacers on both ends of the floor.

Notable free-agents include floor generals Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks, sharpshooter C.J. Miles and physical big man Lavoy Allen. If the Pacers were to lose all four of these players, they would have some gaping holes to fill.

Picks & Needs

Indiana has two picks in this years’ NBA draft, including one in the first and one in the second round.

First round: No. 18

Second round: No. 47

If the Pacers were to lose both Teague and Brooks, they would be in desperate need of a point guard. With the loss of Miles, there is an opening for Robinson III to receive more minutes, although they will have lost a supreme three-point shooter in the process. Finally, if Indiana moves on from Lavoy Allen, they will seemingly put Al Jefferson, Kevin Seraphin or Rakeem Christmas in a more defined bench role.

Targets & Thoughts

Pacers

Luke Kennard is arguably the best pure scorer int he 2017 NBA draft. (Photo by SI.com)

Pick #18: Luke Kennard, Guard, Duke

Kennard would be a perfect fit at the two-guard position in Indiana. He can replace C.J. Miles as their go-to three-point specialist and Monta Ellis as their athletic slasher. Unlike Miles, Kennard can legitimately create his own shot. In his sophomore season, he averaged 13 field goal attempts per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and a miraculous 44 percent from three.

The all-time leading scorer in Ohio high school basketball history (yes he passed LeBron James) is a lethal scorer who can be the Robin to Paul George’s Batman. I’m extremely surprised that Kennard has not been mentioned among the top-10 picks in mock drafts, as he seems to be one of the most NBA ready players. He was ranked first in the ACC in minutes played, points produced, offensive rating, offensive plus minus and win shares in 2016-17. If the Pacers were lucky enough to land the consensus All American, their offensive ranking would surely jump into the top ten.

Pacers

Two-time Naismith Award winner Frank Mason will be a steal in the second round. (Photo by Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Pick #47: Frank Mason, Guard, Kansas

With the possible losses of both Teague and Brooks, point guard may be a severe need for the Pacers. Wooden Award winner Frank Mason has been projected as a mid-second round pick due to his lack of size and potential, as he is a 5-foot-11 23-year-old, although he would be a great fit in Indiana. His size failed to hold him back from becoming one of the elite point guards at the college level, and I don’t believe it will hold him back moving forward.

The two-time Naismith Award winner averaged about 21 points, five assists and four rebounds in his senior season. He also led Kansas to two straight Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA tournament. His leadership and offensive ability will make him an above average floor general at the next level.

 

Conclusion

The Pacers may need to replace point guards Jeff Teague and Aaron Brooks, making senior Frank Mason a perfect fit in the second round. Also, with the assumed departure of C.J. Miles, Indiana will need to add a three-point specialist, like Luke Kennard, to force the defense to spread the floor.

A guy like Kennard can create more floor space and passing options for Paul George on the drive and Myles Turner at the high post. If the Pacers land either of these two All-Americans, they will be in a great position moving forward, with or without George.

Thanks for checking out the Indiana Pacers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 18 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Atlanta Hawks may do.

 

NBA Draftmas Day 15: Chicago Bulls

NBA Draftmas Day 16: Milwaukee Bucks

 

Featured Image by Wikipedia.com

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What does the future hold for the Celtics?

After a gutsy buzzer-beating win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, the Celtics lost Game 4 Tuesday night and find themselves down 3-1. However, they have simultaneously built a great basketball team that also has a very promising future.

The Celtics were the top seed in the Eastern Conference this year, so clearly they’ve built a team that can compete in the NBA. Their collection of assets also puts them in a unique position. Their roster is full of young guys budding with potential, and they have a number of quality picks over the next few years to build with.

The general assumption was that the Cavaliers had a stronghold on the Eastern Conference for the years to come, but Sunday’s game may have flipped that narrative on its head. Obviously, the Cavaliers are the better team. More than likely, the Cavaliers will advance to the NBA Finals with their commanding 3-1 lead. The difference between the teams is smaller than we thought though.

Boston Celtics Future

The future is bright in Boston. (Photo by Hoops Habit)

The Celtics have an interesting mix of proven talent and young players on their team. They’re starting lineup shows that foundation of proven talent. Isaiah Thomas has respectively proven himself as a top-tier offensive guard. Avery Bradley has done the same on the defensive side. In the frontcourt, Al Horford and Jae Crowder are proven talents as well.

Their stars have been great, but it is the production from their young guys that has proven to be the difference in these playoffs. Kelly Olynyk was crucial in delivering a Game 7 victory against the Wizards last week. Marcus Smart ended up being the difference Sunday night in the hard-fought victory.

The Celtics still don’t know what they have in guys like Smart, Olynyk, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. To make things more interesting, they have the top pick and this year’s draft and own the Nets’ pick in 2018.

The team will likely arrive at a crossroads this summer. They could try and turn the top pick into a star such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Or, they can use the draft pick (likely to pick Markelle Fultz) and continue their long term goals.

Something else to consider would be the team’s chances of taking down the Cavs in the near future. If the Celtics don’t think they can make the Finals while LeBron James is still in his prime, preparing for the future might be the best option. Would a superstar put them on the same level as the Cavs?

Most likely, the addition of a star player would not be able to stop LeBron in the coming years. Despite his anomaly of a game Sunday, he returned to form in Game 4. He has been having a historically dominant playoff run and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near his decline either. Not to mention, he has dominated the Eastern Conference for the past seven years of his career.

If the Celtics do decide to plan for the future, another key decision must be made regarding Isaiah Thomas. Thomas will likely warrant a max deal next summer, so the Celtics will have to either re-sign or replace him.

The Celtics looked much more formidable against the Cavs with Thomas on the bench Sunday. Sure, he is one of the large reasons the Celtics have made it this far. But is he the best option at point guard in the future?

Despite his offensive prowess, Thomas is quite a liability on the other side of the floor. Would waiting for someone like Fultz to develop be a better option for the Celtics? It would be difficult to commit such a large portion of the cap to a starting player that is so detrimental to the team’s defense. Much of the Celtics’ success is due to the fact that they are paying their star player barely more than $6 million per year. Because of that, they have been able to build a much better team around him.

It remains unclear what route the Celtics will take in their future plans. Either way, it’s hard to see them not being a strong contender within the next few years. Whether they add a superstar to their team or build around their young players and picks, the future looks incredibly bright for the Boston Celtics.

 

Featured Image by USA Today

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Los Angeles Lakers 2017 Draft Profile

Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day two of 2017 NBA Draftmas is here for the Los Angeles Lakers 2017 draft profile. It is time to break down one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Summary

Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Lakers are currently in their worst era in franchise history. They have missed the playoffs in four straight seasons. L.A.’s overall record over the past four seasons is 91-237.

It isn’t all bad for the Lakers as they have the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. They also improved their win total by nine games from the previous season.

There is a lot of young talent and a promising young head coach. Rumors are also swirling that they will be the eventual landing spot for Paul George.

The Lakers’ biggest problem is youth and as Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram continue to grow, wins will follow.

Los Angeles was a middle of the road team in scoring averaging 104.6 points per game which ranked 17th in the NBA. They shot 45 percent as a team, ranking 21st in the NBA. The Lakers also ranked 22nd in three-point percentage making 34.6 percent of their three-point attempts.

In order for the Lakers to improve, they will need to become a better offensive team. Experience and maturity for their young core will help improve their offense.

Defensively, the Lakers were pretty bad. They gave up 111.5 points per game which ranked them 28th in the NBA. They allowed opposing teams to shoot 48.3 percent from the field, which was the worst in the NBA. Los Angeles ranked 26th in three-point percentage allowing opposing teams to shoot 37 percent from behind the arc.

The Lakers need to improve defensively more than anything.

Picks & Needs

The Lakers have two picks in the draft, both in the first round.

First Round: No. 2, No. 28 (Via Houston)

At this point, the Lakers just need to get more talent that can help them win games. Their strategy in the draft should be to take the best available player. Their second pick should be used on a defender that can help improve the team’s low defensive rankings.

Targets & Thoughts

Los Angeles Lakers 2017 Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Pick #2: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Lonzo Ball is somehow stuck in his father’s shadow. Ball has to take tons of heat because of his father’s mouth. The pressure on Ball as he enters the NBA is already enormous and that pressure to succeed continues to grow every day.

His calm demeanor makes him extremely attractive as a franchise player given the circumstances. He has embraced the questions about his father. Ball has openly claimed his dream is to lead the Los Angeles Lakers.

On and off the court he seems completely unphased. It shows that no matter what happens he will be able to perform and if the Lakers are smart they will take Lonzo Ball and let him become the face of the franchise.

Lonzo Ball makes everyone around him better. Many have compared him to Jason Kidd and it is a pretty good comparison. He averaged 7.6 assists per game and helped the Bruins improve their record from 15-17 to 31-5.

His unique jump shot has been criticized but it works for him. In his one season at UCLA, Ball shot 55.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from behind the arc. One area he must improve in is his free throw shooting. He shot a below average 67.3 percent from the free throw line.

Lonzo has all the tools to be a hometown star. There are a million reasons the Lakers should take Ball but the biggest reason is that he can lead them back to the playoffs.

Pick #28: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

The Lakers must acquire players capable of playing great defense. OG Anunoby is one of the top perimeter defenders entering the 2017 NBA Draft. He has the size, length, quickness and athleticism to become a lockdown defender in the NBA. Anunoby averaged 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game last season. The Lakers will have plenty of offensive weapons on the roster. Drafting Anunoby will give Los Angeles a solid bench player capable of coming in to make a defensive impact.

Conclusion

The Lakers have the second overall pick for the third-straight season. If they take Lonzo Ball, the Lakers will have created one of the best young rosters in all of the NBA. Ball will improve all the players around him, therefore making the Lakers team as whole, better.

With their second first round pick the Lakers need to find some defense. They could go with a solid perimeter defender or a rim protector. Don’t be surprised if the Lakers fight for the eighth seed next season due to this year’s draft class.

 

Thanks for checking out the Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day three of NBA Draftmas to see what the Philadelphia 76ers are going to do.

NBA Draftmas Day 1: Boston Celtics

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LeBron James

The Second-Best Player in the Eastern Conference

Most NBA fans will say the Western Conference is better than the Eastern Conference, and it certainly would look that way if you look at the players.

In the West, there’s the MVP race between Russell Westbrook and James Harden. There are also other top talents like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Chris Paul and more. There is argument about who is the top player in the competitive West.

In the East, one man stands alone at the top, and that is LeBron James. James is the NBA’s best and has been untouchable in the East.

The bigger question is who is the East’s second best player? This could be debated between a few stars. Here is a breakdown of some of the top talent in the East.

Kyrie Irving

A lot of Cavs fans might argue the next best behind James is his sidekick Kyrie Irving. Irving definitely has a nice resume. This season he averaged 25.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 40.1 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Kyrie Irving

Photo by Kentucky Sports Radio

Irving has proven to be a clutch performer, evidenced in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season and on Christmas day. He handles the ball better than anyone else in the league and is one of the best at playing iso.

However, Irving’s ability to lead the Cavs without James remains in question. Everyone knows how bad the Cavs’ record is when James sits. Irving may not be able to lead the Cavs, but he compliments James very nicely. The two of them make a great duo.

Paul George

PG-13 just might be the biggest star James has blocked from the NBA Finals. James’ teams have been in the Finals in all seven of George’s NBA seasons and have beaten George all four times they’ve met in the postseason.

Paul George

Photo by USA Today

George has had some nice numbers. This season he averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 39.3 percent from 3-point range. George has been playing his best basketball since coming back from his leg injury two years ago. George is also known for his solid defensive play.

George does have a few weaknesses to him. Unlike Irving, George lacks the clutch gene. In the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter, George is 0-15 on go-ahead shot opportunities since he came into the league, which ranks worst in the NBA. George said during their series with the Cavs that he thinks he should be the guy taking those final shots. However, he still hasn’t proven he can make those shots.

George also has few assists. If he wants to be on James’ level, that is something he is going to have to improve on.

Isaiah Thomas

Kenny Smith and Colin Cowherd have already said they believe Thomas is the second-best player in the East. His breakout season has him averaging 28.9 points per game (highest in the East) and 5.9 assists. Thomas also rocked a 26.59 player efficiency rating, which was good for second-best in the East.

Isaiah Thomas

Photo by The Boston Globe

Thomas is also second in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring behind Westbrook. Thomas plays until the end of the game and has had many clutch moments throughout the season.

The biggest weakness for Thomas is his defense. It has been talked about all season long. The 5-foot-9 point guard has the lowest defensive real plus-minus in the NBA at -4.08.

Thomas can definitely score a lot, but so can a lot of other players. Thomas is going to have to prove he can be at least average on defense if he wants to challenge James.

John Wall

John Wall had his best season yet this year. The Wizards point guard had career highs in points (23.1) and assists (10.7) per game. The assists, along with his two steals per game, were tops in the Eastern Conference.

John Wall

Photo by CBS Sports

He helped lead the Wizards to the fourth seed in the East after missing the playoffs last year. Wall is a playmaker and the most true point guard in the East.

One obvious issue Wall has in his game is the amount of turnovers he commits. Wall was third in the NBA and first in the East for total turnovers. Harden and Westbrook were first and second in this stat and each had over 100 more than Wall. A lot of the NBA’s stars also rank high in turnovers due to the amount they handle the ball, so it isn’t a huge concern that Wall ranks third on this list.

Wall has made several small improvements to his game. You couldn’t even tell he had surgery on both of his knees in the offseason because it slowed him down in no way. He can only continue to get better from here, especially if he can cut down on his turnovers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the biggest candidate for Most Improved Player. He also has a case for the East’s second best player.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Photo by Sporting News

The Greek Freak is similar to James in the way that he dominates almost all the major stat category on his team. He lead the Bucks in points (22.9), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), steals (1.6) and blocks (1.9) per game. His regular season totals in those five categories also ranked in the top 20 in the NBA, making him the first player in history to finish in the top 20 in all the five major categories.

He is definitely a freak of nature. He is listed at 6-foot-11 and 222 pounds. He can play every position on the court. Oh, and he is just 22 years old and just finished his fourth season, which was his best yet. The sky is the limit for Antetokounmpo.

In order for him to get to the next level, he is going to have to improve in some areas. One of those is shooting. The Greek Freak can definitely improve on his jump shot overall, including 3-point shooting and free throws. He improved in both 3-point and free-throw shooting this season, but it can get better.

He can also do a better job handling the ball as he finished ninth in turnovers. He joins Wall and a lot of other stars that finished high in this category.

The Final Verdict

Caron Butler and Charles Barkley both called Wall the second best in the East earlier this week. I’m going to join them.

The second best in the East has to be Wall. He’s fast and can score and pass at a high level. He shares the Wizards’ backcourt with Bradley Beal perfectly. They’ve seemed to put their past differences aside and are playing great basketball together. Wall has Washington back to where they have been in the past few years and has them on a rise to stardom.

ESPN’s First Take recently debated if Wall is now the best point guard in the NBA based on his performance this postseason. I’m not ready to give him that title, especially with guys like Westbrook, Harden and Curry still dominating. However, I’m willing to call him the best point guard in the East as well as the East’s second-best player.

It is going to be exciting to see Wall’s full potential as he enters the final prime years of his career. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greek Freak tops Wall in the next few seasons to take this title away from him.

I’m not even going to attempt to guess at which point LeBron James will slow down. Analysts keep predicting it and he keeps proving them wrong.

(Featured Image by Huffington Post)

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