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

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Josh

“From Our Haus to Yours”

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.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

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

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Avery!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

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

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Arjun!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

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

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

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)

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Josh

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Are Paul George’s days in Indiana coming to an end?

Despite being down 3-0 in the series vs the Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul George has shown what an incredible talent he is. The Pacers came out firing in Game 3, but ultimately blew a 25-point lead which leaves them on the brink of elimination.

In a game that they had to win, Paul George came up big with 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. For all the criticism he has received over his comments about his teammates, George has stepped up this playoff series. He’s averaging 32.3 PPG against the Cavaliers, even with LeBron James guarding him for the majority of the games.

The writing is on the wall for Indiana, as history tells us they will be eliminated by Cleveland. This season we heard some trade rumors for Paul George to teams such as the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. It seems very possible that these talks might come up again due to George’s frustration with the team and management. Not to mention, there have been many rumors about his desire to play for his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Image result for Paul george 13

Could we see Paul George team up with another star? (Joshua Dahl/USA TODAY Sports).

After spending multiple playoffs coming up short in the Eastern Conference, there is a very strong chance that “PG13” tries to team up with another star-caliber player.

His drive to win a championship was made clear before the start of the season, however those dreams will not come into fruition with the Pacers.

Although they are struggling out of the gate so far this postseason, the Boston Celtics would be an outstanding fit for the team and George.

Pairing him up with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford can possibly make them a NBA Finals contender. It also helps that Boston has the assets to acquire him due to their abundance of draft picks and young players, such as Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

 

Image result for paul george isaiah thomas

Paul George needs help from another star, and Isaiah Thomas could be that star (Getty Images).

The NBA has evolved into a league driven by super-teams. The idea of having a “Big Three” has become a reality for several teams.

If Paul George has any chance of winning his first championship, he needs to move on to a team with other stars.

It would cost him to ditch his dream of playing for the Lakers. That also means he won’t be able to lead the team that drafted him to the promised land.

Regardless of what the media might think of George possibly wanting out of Indiana, he doesn’t owe the team anything. The management of the Pacers should be at fault.

 

They had several years to build a competent roster around their franchise player. Instead, the team provided him with mediocre players and fired a good coach in Frank Vogel. On Sunday, it might be Paul George’s last game as a member of the Pacers, however, expect him to show up like he’s been doing. After all, George has shown up for Indiana ever since the team drafted him in 2010. Unfortunately for him, the organization has failed him yet again.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Chris!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

The second season is finally upon us. It is the time of year that all NBA fans have been salivating for all season.

There are so many questions left to be answered in the second season of the Eastern Conference. Will the Cavs fall, thus ending LeBron’s finals streak? Will the Celtics prove to be the best of the East? Could another team like the Raptors, Wizards or Bucks come out?

It will be fun to watch it all play out. Here is the preview of the Eastern Conference first round.

1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Chicago Bulls

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics and Bulls have had some amazing playoff series in the past. There was the time Michael Jordan dropped 63 points in a loss or the time they put on an epic seven-game series in 2009 that featured a total of seven overtimes.

These two teams split the season series, each winning two games. Chicago plays really well against winning teams and especially well on national television.

However, in a seven-game series, the better team is going to win. Boston averages 108 points per game, which is seventh-best in the NBA. Chicago on the other hand averages almost 103, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. Chicago will make it tough, but the Celtics’ defense will stifle the Bulls in the end.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7 Indiana Pacers

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Stop with the talk about how bad the Cavs have played. Like many past teams, they were just pacing themselves. The regular season means nothing to a team who has been to two straight finals, or to a player like LeBron James who has been to six straight finals.

Watch the switch get flipped in the playoffs. Indiana has a chance to steal a game or two with a superstar like Paul George, but that is it.

The Cavaliers will pick up the defense. With a healthy LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, their offense will keep them on course. Averaging 110 points per game leaves a little room for error on the defensive end.

LeBron-led teams have proven time and time again that they buckle down in the playoffs. Until proven otherwise, that will happen again this year.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

3 Toronto Raptors vs. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto versus Milwaukee is one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round. Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo will get a chance to shine on a national stage. The Greek Freak is the first player in NBA history to end the season in the top 20 of all major statistical categories.

Giannis is a great player, but lacks experience and a team that can do damage in the playoffs. The Bucks haven’t made the playoffs consistently in recent years, while the Raptors are heading into the playoffs for their fourth consecutive year. Toronto also reached the conference finals for the first time ever in franchise history last season, and they have improved their depth this year.

Toronto won over 50 games this season and finished the season winning eight of their final 10. The Raptors are hot and the better team, which is why they win this series without much of a worry.

Prediction: Raptors in 5

4 Washington Wizards vs. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington has had one of their best seasons in franchise history. They finished 49-33, which was the third most wins they have ever had. Scott Brooks has not gotten the respect he deserves for how well he has done with the Wizards.

Washington has the best chance of upsetting the Cavs in the playoffs, but they must get past Atlanta first. The Wizards went 3-1 versus the Hawks this season. If the Wizards want to repeat that success they had in the regular season, they will need their stellar backcourt to lead them there.

The Wizards will win this series because John Wall and Bradley Beal combine to average 46.2 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 14.2 assists per game. Atlanta’s backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be outmatched in this series and that will be the difference.

Prediction: Wizards in 6

You can check out the Western Conference Playoff Preview here.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Why Choosing a School Does not Affect NBA Aspriations

Ben Simmons took a lot of heat for his decision to attend LSU for his mandatory year of service after high school. He pledged himself early and the promise was solidified with the hiring of his godfather as an assosciate head coach. Due to the NBA regulation, one-and-done situations like that of Simmons, have become common for top recruits. Frequently, players are committing to schools that would not be considered among the best in the nation. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes are no exception. Washington has grabbed two 5-stars in those classes and Western Kentucky landed 5-Star Center Mitchell Robinson. Analysts have criticized players like Simmons for making the decision to go to a non-powerhouse basketball program. The truth is that it does not matter what people say, the results matter.

The main goal of almost any athlete in basketball is to reach the pinnacle of the sport: the NBA. Any decision that a player makes could be an impact one. In any other career path where you choose to attend school can certainly make all the difference. Are young men in the sport making a poor decision by choosing a less than spectacular program? While it is a big decision, the fact is that a player’s college choice is not as impactful as we make it out to be in terms of professional progression.

Past NBA Examples

There have been dozens of precedents for players coming from smaller schools and programs being successful in the NBA. Their success is one piece of evidence that college is not the leading factor in professional development in the sport.

One of the better examples would be four time all-star and four time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace. Wallace went undrafted out of Division II Virginia Union, and previously was at Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace had an NBA aspirations, NBA drive and NBA talent. Players in his situation slip through the cracks for being extremely raw at recruitment time or undersized for their position.  He went from being a 6 foot 9 under recruited center to one of the leaders on the 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Finals squad.

There are plenty of examples like that of Wallace from the past: Steve Nash (drafted 15th overall, Santa Clara), Karl Malone (dafted 13th overall, Louisiana Tech), John Stockton (drafted 16th overall, Gonzaga), and many others.  These are not role players in the Association. Rather, these are current or future Hall of Famers. However the league has changed over even the past decade. With a dilution of talent, does this assertion hold up currently?

Current NBA Examples

While the league is, in fact, filled with may players from powerhouse schools, some of the league’s best have come from small, mid-major, and power conference schools not exactly well known for their NBA talent production.

Kawhii Leonard was a 4-star recruit before selecting San Diego State.  Granted he did have Steve Fisher as his guide through the years, the results of his career thus far have been astounding. After being selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. All-NBA First team and NBA Finals MVP also rank among the best of his accomplishments thus far.

Paul Millsap’s combination of power and finesse led to him being drafted out of Louisiana Tech. (Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Paul Millsap has put together an overwhelming NBA career. He was not a highly touted recruit. He did shine at Louisiana Tech, but was still only drafted in the middle of the second round. Millsap is a three time NBA All-Star.

Damian Lillard is one of the best examples out there. He was a 3-star recruit and was not even ranked among the top 50 point guards of his class. Portland took him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After a stellar first season with the Trailblazers he became the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. The two time All-Star shows much promise for the years to come in his career.

The league contains a plethora of other examples. Two play on the same team in Stephen Curry (drafted 7th overall, Davidson) and Klay Thompson (drafted 11th overall, Washington State). Paul George (drafted 10th overall, Fresno State), James Harden (drafted 3rd overall, Arizona State) and C.J. McCollum (drafted 10th overall, Lehigh) also all went to smaller schools or non-traditional basketball powers.

The 2016 NBA All-Star Rosters fully embody the notion presented here.  The East Roster has 14 members, with Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler unable to play due to injury.  50% of the East’s roster went to non-traditional basketball powers or smaller schools (Fresno State, USC, Louisiana Tech, Washington, Georgia Tech, and two from Marquette). Marquette made the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, but that actually proves the point further.  Wade made that run for the school, along with help of course, and did not end up at a more traditional basketball power.  He is now a perennial All-Star.

The West All-Star roster mimics the trends of the East.  58.3% of the West’s roster attended a smaller school or non-traditional power (Davidson, San Diego State, Arizona State, Wake Forest, and two from Texas). Some would argue that Texas and Wake Forest players do not belong in this category, however, neither school has a championship and Kentucky has more Final Fours this decade than either program has in its history.  They are hardly basketball powerhouses. However, the All-Star rosters indicate that players do choose these schools and still end up amazing professional talents. Therefore, a trip to UK, UCLA, Duke or North Carolina is not the only path to NBA excellence.

Schools that Guarantee a Draft Spot

Granted that all eligible UK players in the past year entered their names in the draft, there is plenty of proof that powerhouse schools do not guarantee being drafted or NBA success. There is a laundry list of players that enrolled at big schools with their sights set on the pros yet did not blossom for one reason or another.

Marquis Teague is a prime example, being the top point guard in his class in 2011. Teague played a roll in Kentucky’s 2012 National Championship run. Since entering the league in 2012, he averages less than ten minutes per game. Accruing a pedestrian stat line of 2.3 points per and 1.4 assists, he is leagues from the promise that his recruitment showed.

Cheik Diallo did not fill the promise that he had coming into Kansas. (Photo Courtesy of kusports.com)

Even though he has not debuted in the NBA yet, Cheik Diallo (Kansas) is another example. Coming in as a top ten recruit, scouts and coaches thought only the best for him. In his one season at Kansas he averaged a whopping 3.0 points per game in 7.5 minutes of floor time per game. The Pelicans selected Diallo in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it was not until the second round of the draft.

Dozens of other names fit the criteria of players enrolling at a big school that did not work out for one reason or another. Cliff Alexander (Kansas) had academic issues, but did not even come close to expectations. Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland) was a top 15 recruit but Duke dismissed him and after that no team drafted him. The list goes on and on. Top recruits just do not get a guaranteed pass for attending basketball powerhouses.

The Reality behind the Myth

So why does it not always work? Why do guys come in highly touted with all of the promise in the world but exit without fulfilling expectations? The simple answer would be that players are just overrated as recruits. There is more to it thank that, though.

To begin, NBA talent is NBA talent.  This may seem like a simple assertion, but it has broad consequences. Some players do come in raw and due to their college experience, develop into NBA greats. Even then, that usually has little to do with what school they select. Occasionally a coach takes on a protege and turns them into something that they were not before. This is extremely rare and does not come without the player putting in the effort anyway. Most times a player’s work ethic is what ultimately turns them into a star, if they come in with untapped potential.

Additionally, players’ talent can be diluted in programs where there are many a star. At a program with less talent, there is less keeping a player from standing out head and shoulders above the competition as a superstar. At a bigger program, players can take a back seat post injury or to new blood. The next man up mentality is much easier to believe in when there is another five star recruit to fill a void.

So there are several reasons why going to a powerhouse can actually hinder a player from their NBA dreams. In fact, perhaps the best thing for them to do to enter a league full of isolation play is to isolate themselves from other stars.

If LeBron James took a Year Off: Who’s Ready?

LeBron James. 12-time all Star, 3 NBA championships, 3 MVPs, 10 all-NBA teams. The six straight finals, the two championships with the Miami Heat and the one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This past NBA finals saw James almost single-handedly take a championship back from the clutches of the Golden State Warriors. Over 40,000 minutes played over his 13 year illustrious career. 8,383 playoff minutes.

USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports

His place set at the table of NBA deities. If he decided to take a year off, would anyone blame him? Outside of GM David Griffin, there shouldn’t be any backlash or drop in Q rating. He probably wouldn’t take up baseball a la Michael Jordan. But what would most likely take away from the shock and intrigue from his departure would be which team would take the title as the number one seed from the Cavs. It’s not a stretch to assume that the Cavs would no longer be the prohibitive favorites to repeat as champions.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

 

No team that assumed that role would be the favorites either. There isn’t a team in the league without James that has the ability to knock off the Warriors especially now that they’ve added Kevin Durant. No harm in trying though. There are 3 teams in the Conference that have the talent to take the next shot at the Dubs.

 

Honorable mention

Cleveland Cavaliers- one would have to assume that James left a winning culture behind. With Kyrie Irving coming off his first Ring, and maybe a successful Olympics there is a chance he will take a leap in his leadership role and help keep the team competitive and out of the lottery. Irving and Love should be a formidable offensive combo.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

That’s how they would have to operate, outscore the other team. The defense would be sub-par at best. With LeBron off the court last season the team’s offensive rating dropped 13.9 points to an anemic 101.6 points. Coach Tyronn Lue has to devise a plan to keep the offense flowing and productive. If none of these things happen, the Cavs would be back competing for a different number one.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

 

Most likely to succeed

Boston Celtics- Fans of the Celtics are extremely optimistic about their team even with Lebron still in the league. But for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll also extend some glass half full perspective. They added Al Horford, an all-star with great IQ and a well above average jack-of-all trades. Passing, shooting, defense. Although he only shot 34% from 3 with the Atlanta Hawks last season he made 84% percent of his attempts at the rim. With Isaiah Thomas penetrating the defense and getting to the rack, there should be plenty of close range shots for Horford.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Horford has great defensive instincts. He knows where to be and has to the ability to get there on time. He’ll be thirty years old when the season starts so while a slight decline would be expected, he should have just enough athleticism left to be a rim protector. Additionally, he would fit right in as the team’s leader. This Celtics squad is starved for someone to be the alpha. Thomas is the leading scorer, but is he ready to spearhead a contender?

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Toronto Raptors- Last year’s eastern conference runner’s up should have enough experience and continuity to take the number one spot. They had a record regular season, winning over 50 games for the first time in franchise history. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan was extremely formidable. Both averaging over 20 points per game in the regular season. Jonas Valanciunas also had a plus season for them as well. The playoffs however saw their backcourt struggle.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Derozan’s lack of 3-point shooting in the regular season didn’t hurt as much (1.8 attempts per game) in the playoffs though his paltry 15% shooting from behind the arc was flat out embarrassing. Lowry’s very noted struggles only add to the fact that maybe when the expectations are high, he wouldn’t be able to lead them past his competitors. Nevertheless, with no James to have to overcome it could relieve some of the tension and lead to a more carefree environment for them.

 

Dark horse squad

The Indiana Pacers team that challenged James’ Heat teams are no more. Roy Hibbert is no longer an all-star type player and no longer plays for the Pacers. David West, the team’s enforcer and veteran leader is playing for pennies for the Warriors. George Hill, the underappreciated point guard that manned the backcourt now plays for a budding Utah Jazz team. Frank Vogel, the head coach that manned an almost impenetrable defense was fired and now Coaches the Orlando Magic.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

The only Major piece left is Paul George. The forward averaged a career high in points last season at 23 ppg only a season after missing 76 games due to a horrific leg incident during a FIBA exhibition game. It would be up to George to take a hold of this roster and lead it back to championship contender status. Jeff Teague was an excellent addition to the team as he adds playoff experience and change of pace at the point guard position. Thaddeus Young, another offseason addition adds some needed athleticism in the frontcourt. Al Jefferson, while not in the mold of Larry Bird’s plan to play faster, would give them some luxury scoring.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the young, talented Myles Turner. His defensive upside is right on par with already budding offensive arsenal. With a playoff series under his belt already in his rookie season, there wouldn’t be any surprises for the young, versatile forward.

 

This is all hypothetical. Should James take a year off to rest on his laurels, although unlikely, someone has to step up and challenge the teams in the Western Conference. Each of the teams mentioned could challenge a LeBron led team. And they’ll have to, which may be harder than in years past now that is seemingly no pressure on James. They can only hope he would consider taking an extended vacation.