Mbah a Moute

The Fresh Prince of Cameroon

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the stalwart defensive combo forward for the Houston Rockets, is a prince. Let me repeat that: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a PRINCE. Now LeBron may call himself the King, but he isn’t a prince. I watched the Rockets play the Cavaliers on ESPN on Saturday, February 3rd, and ESPN displayed a graphic that stated that Mbah a Moute is a Prince in his home country of Cameroon. I was shocked, as I feel like this is something that should be discussed more in length as it’s not everyday that you find out an NBA player is also a prince. It is time to put some respect on Prince Mbah a Moute’s name.

Mbah a Moute was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 1986. Although he was raised and lives in Yaoundé, he has a really close relationship with the town of Bia Messe. This is the town where his father, Camille Moute a Bidias, is the chieftain and where Luc is a Prince. His father is also a government official who is the General Manager of the National Employment Fund of Cameroon. Being a prince isn’t all that what you might expect, Mbah a Moute says.

Mbah a Moute

The family of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute cheers him on at a UCLA game in 2007 (Wally Skalij/Getty Images)

“I don’t really have any power, I just go to different meetings and traditional events, I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to make any decisions. That’s all my Dad.”

Mbah a Moute per ESPN

He grew up playing soccer, and didn’t touch a basketball until he was twelve years old. He taught himself how to shoot and dribble by playing at a street hoop on a lamp post. After playing for a little over two years, he made the Cameroon national youth team at 15 years old.

After being discovered while playing for the inaugural NBA Basketball Without Borders camp in Africa, he was able to get noticed enough that he got a scholarship to go play at Montverde High School in Florida. He then received a scholarship to go play at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. There, he played with fellow successful NBA players Russell Westbrook, Aaron Afflalo, Jordan Farmer, Kevin Love and Darren Collison. He accomplished the rare feat of starting in three straight Final Four’s in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.

When he came over to America, he knew only a few words of English and still had a very raw offensive game. This didn’t stop him from excelling on the defensive end, usually guarding the other teams best player while at UCLA. He also led the Bruins in rebounding his freshman year. The Bruin fans loved his energy and passion, and even dedicated a fan section to him by calling themselves the “Cameroon Crazies”. This is a knockoff of the Duke Blue Devils fan section and dedicated to his home country of Cameroon.

He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the seventh pick of the second Round of the 2008 Draft. As a second round pick, he wasn’t expected to contribute much, if play at all. He quickly became a fan favorite in Milwaukee for his defensive effort and his rebounding ability. After sending his first 5 years with the Bucks as a great wing defender, he bounced around in the 2013-2014 season playing for the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves, not getting much playing time with either team. He signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2014-2015 season. Even though they were one of the worst teams in the NBA, he had a career year scoring the ball averaging 9.9 points per game while also gathering 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He then spent two years with the Los Angles Clippers. This is when he finally developed into a serviceable three point shooter, shooting 37.3 percent from three over those 2 seasons.

This past off-season, Mbah a Moute signed with the Houston Rockets, where he has continued his development into a 3 and D player. He has hit a career high 1.1 threes a game and has made them at a 36.5 percent clip. He has helped Houston turn into one of the better defensive teams in basketball with a 106.9 defensive rating, while also having the best offensive teams in the league with a 115.6 offensive rating. The Rockets are currently 2nd in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors.

Mbah a Moute at a Basketball Without Borders Camp practice (CNN)

Mbah a Moute has career averages of 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals per game on 45.3 percent from the field and 33 percent from downtown.

Mbah a Moute is the 2nd player ever to play in the NBA from Cameroon. The first was 7-0 center named Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje. He played only 44 games over three years for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2001-2004 before fizzling out the league. In his work with the Basketball Without Borders program, he helped discover Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center and social media icon Joel Embiid and Toronto Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam, both of whom are also from Cameroon.

Mbah a Moute has one of the most interesting backstories in the NBA, and no matter how it turns out, he still is a Prince. Not many people in the world can say that.

 

Featured photo by: Getty Images

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LeBron James new team

Weighing LeBron’s most likely landing spots

LeBron James’ contract is up at the end of the season. He’s officially fulfilled his commitment to Cleveland. He delivered a championship to the long-suffering city in the most exciting NBA Finals of the past 10 years.

So that begs the question of where is his next stop?

The most interesting thing about this debate is that many teams are in limbo until James narrows down his list. Some teams are trading away players to guarantee the cap space, while others are loading up to lure him to their city. Still, others are gauging his interest to make the most calculated moves to prepare for either eventuality.

The entire league is waiting with bated breath to see where The King wants to take his talents next. No matter where he goes, the move will shake up the foundation of the NBA for the length of his new contract. He’s been tied to many teams through the rumor mill, but here are the most interesting propositions.

Los Angeles Lakers

Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news yesterday that the lakers are “shifting their focus to the 2019 free agent class.” That could mean a few things.

The most likely explanation is that James wouldn’t want to go to the Lakers without any bona fide stars on the roster. He’s carried teams to the playoffs and finals by himself before, and all signs indicate he’s on the quest for more rings.

LeBron James new team

LeBron James and Lonzo Ball share a postgame hug. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

If he signs there at the seasons’ end, James will be alone with Lonzo Ball and Larry Nance Jr., who are not huge draws. James might want the team to bring in some talent before he commits. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson are all names that appear to be on Magic Johnson’s shortlist.

It could also mean that Johnson isn’t positive he can reel in James at all, and that he doesn’t want to trade away assets and clear massive cap space to pull in someone who may not be interested.

Leaving the cap open also allows them to go in a different direction. The Lakers could pull two or maybe even three stars after next season, letting James go his own way.

James owns homes in Los Angeles, and it’s well-known that he wants to make a transition to Hollywood after his NBA career is over. Pair that with the Lakers’ storied history and their ability to draw in free agents, and it’s hard to believe the team would not go after him with everything they’ve got.

But consider the possibility that James goes to another team on a max deal, with an opt-out clause after the first year. If things don’t go according to plan in his new city, he could exercise that option. Assuming Johnson can pull in a superstar, then the door is open for James to put on the purple and gold.

It’s messy and complicated, but Magic Johnson has the star power to get this done.

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio’s championship window is closing. The team is old, and their three best players’ contracts expire after next season.

There is one sure-fire way to get them to re-sign, possibly even for less money. That way includes signing LeBron James.

LeBron James new team

Gregg Popovich and LeBron James congratulate each other after Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

A team including LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, coached by Gregg Popovich, is an instant title contender. Age and bench players be damned, that team could compete with any team in the league. Pau Gasol will be pushing 40 by the time his contract is up, but just ask Manu Ginobili how Coach Popovich can keep up old players’ efficacy.

Keep in mind that James has never had a coach anywhere near as good as Popovich. As he gets older and has to start becoming more of a system player rather than a one-man wrecking crew, coaching goes a long way.

This all hinges on the idea that James can draw in some young talent to one of the least exciting basketball cities in the country. Leonard and Aldridge would also have to re-sign. But their tradition of excellence makes it hard to completely count the Spurs out of contention.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are a very interesting dark horse candidate to land LeBron James. They have a breadth of young talent and the most cap space in the NBA at over $75 million.

The potential to be very good for a long time could be a huge draw for James. It also would allow him to be a leader and a mentor to the young guys on the team. That would be a complete 180 degree turn from his current situation with the Cavaliers.

The problem here is that none of the players are established enough to prove to him that Philadelphia would put him in a position to win more titles. Ben Simmons is firmly in contention for Rookie of the Year, but he has an injury history, and the sample size is tiny.

The same goes for Joel Embiid. He’s been injured constantly and just played in back-to-back games for the first time on Feb. 2 and 3. Markelle Fultz is also injured and has seemingly forgotten how to shoot the basketball.

Again, the key here is the 76ers’ cap space. The contracts there are extremely manageable, and if the young players can stay healthy, they can be doubly useful, either as trade bait or pieces of the team’s success moving forward. The ability to sign players that James likes to play with has been a huge part of his decisions in the past. However, Philadelphia is still a couple of years away from being true contenders in the East.

New York Knicks

James has been in the Eastern Conference since he entered the NBA. Staying in the East would more than likely set him up for the most success moving forward. He knows every team in the league inside and out, but playing with a similar travel schedule will be more important as he gets older. The Knicks check that box.

LeBron James new team

James shoots over Kristaps Porzingis. (Photo by: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

New York City is the Mecca of basketball. Playing at Madison Square Garden 41 nights out of the year would be beyond compare for someone who as aspirations to become the greatest NBA player of all time. Delivering a championship to New York could very well solidify that position.

Kristaps Porzingis is out for the year, and ACL tears are a notoriously difficult injury. But given his skill set, there is no reason to believe he won’t come back 100 percent. Porzingis would be a huge draw to James if he does indeed come back strong.

Apart from The Unicorn and the city, there is little else to convince anyone that James will be a Knick. The front office is a mess, and the team has little to no direction at the moment. James could fix the latter, but this move is unlikely at best.

Los Angeles Clippers

Another Los Angeles team has LeBron James sized aspirations.

Dumping Blake Griffin’s contract off of the payroll was a major first step towards landing The King. If the Clippers deal DeAndre Jordan as well, the cap space will be wide open for a max deal. Plus, the organization also just announced that they are re-signing Lou Williams. Williams and Patrick Beverley could create a sneaky-good backcourt, although the team would still lack talent.

But still, they are a Los Angeles team. The city alone guarantees people will want to play for the Clippers. If Paul George truly does want to play in Los Angeles, who is to say he has to play for the Lakers? George and James would more than fix the frontcourt issues. Also, delivering a championship to a team that’s never seen the Western Conference Finals could cement the status James is chasing.

However, as with the Lakers, trading away assets on the promise of potential signings might not be the way to go. James wants to win now and often. Jockeying to sign him may have just taken them out of the conversation.

Houston Rockets

Now for the most likely candidate. Houston may very well have the pieces to beat Golden State right now. Add LeBron James to the team and you have a competitive Western Conference again. The problem for the NBA, however, is that the NBA Finals would be little more than a formality.

LeBron James new team

James Harden guards LeBron James. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images)

Regardless, playing with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela would be huge for James. After all, playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh alone worked out well for him. The pieces the Rockets have are better than that Miami Heat team.

Some NBA fans, however, think playing with stars tarnished James’ legacy. He has made it clear he is uninterested in those opinions, but it could play a part in deciding not to play on a super team.

Also, to clear the cap space, the bench would more than likely suffer immensely. James won’t be able to average 36.8 minutes a game forever. Harden and Paul could lighten the load, but not significantly.

But James wants rings, as many as he can get. The move to Houston would give him the best chance to win more of them.

 

Featured image by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

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the flyers

The Flyers are flying right now

The city of brotherly love has much to be excited about this time of year. Football and basketball in Philly have met expectations. Hockey on the other hand is exceeding expectations.

The Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl.

The 76ers are in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers have soared into a playoff spot with 34 games to play.

The Flyers lost ten consecutive games from November and into the beginning of December. Many had them outside the playoff picture for the remainder of the season. However, Philly’s hockey club has roared back winning their last four and eight of their last 10 coming into Thursday. They sit in third place in one of the toughest divisions in hockey (the Metropolitan). There is still a long way to go before the playoffs, but Philadelphia has a lot to be excited about these days.

What’s been the difference for their hockey team??

Superstar Talent

Every contending team in the NHL has at least one player who lights it up on a nightly basis. Fortunately for this group, Philly has two.

the flyers

Photo from Zimbio

Claude Giroux (30):

14 goals, 42 assists – 56 points (tied with Steven Stamkos for fourth in the NHL)

22 Power play points – +9 rating

48 games played

Jakub Voracek (28):

9 goals, 46 assists (league leader) – 55 points (tied with Phil Kessel and Johnny Gaudreau for fifth in the NHL)

23 Power play points – +7 rating

48 games played

Ratings of nine and seven may seem modest, but having those on a team with just a +4 goal differential is actually quite impressive. Giroux will be the lone Philly representative at the All-Star game in Tampa on Sunday. The Flyer captain will attempt to lead his club back to the postseason after coming up short a year ago. Philadelphia is locked in that third place position, but Columbus and Pittsburgh (two current wildcard teams) are both just one point behind them (as of 1/24/18).

Young, but seasoned

The Flyers are led by their two superstars in their prime, but also possess two 25 and younger talents. These two players are playing at All-Star levels..

the flyers

Photo from Getty Images

Shayne Gostisbehere (24):

9 goals, 24 assists – 33 points (tied for fifth among all NHL defensemen)

18 Power play points – +2 rating

44 games played

Sean Couturier (25):

26 goals (leads team), 23 assists – 49 points (third on team behind Giroux and Voracek) – 48 games played

10 Power play points – +18 rating (leads team)

These two stars for Philadelphia may be young, but combine for 650 games of experience. We have talked numerous times about the youth movement in this league. Couturier and Gostisbehere are prime examples of the youthful leadership almost all contending teams have. The play of these Flyers will be a key element to this team’s success moving forward in their run to the playoffs.

MOOOOOOOSE

Philadelphia has been looking for a reliable goaltender for quite some time. Fortunately, at least for the foreseeable future, they have found it in Brian Elliott..

the flyers

Photo from NHL.com

Brian Elliott “Moose” (32):

19 wins and has picked up points in 26 of 37 games

2.77 goals against average w/a save percentage above 90 at .908

Elliott has carried a team (St. Louis) all the way to the conference finals in recent years. He has the capability of carrying the Flyers to the postseason and giving them an opportunity to win once they are there.

Philly’s backup has been reliable as well making their goalie tandem formidable.

Michal Neuvirth (29):

5 wins and has picked up points in six of 11 games

2.23 goals against average w/a .928 save percentage and one shutout

The Flyers have only scored 140 goals (lowest total for playoff team in East) this season, which makes solid goaltending imperative. They will not make the playoffs without it.

Battle and grind always

NBC Sports Philadelphia had its hometown team finishing with 96 points and a spot in the 2018 postseason at the beginning of the year..

They also had the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup, so really anything can happen as usual.

The Flyers are a very respectable 13-5-5 against current playoff teams and 3-0-1 against first place teams..

No one would be surprised if they were to go on and make it to the postseason at this point.

Philly is looking to avoid back-to-back seasons without making the playoffs since 1992-1994..

You have to battle, you have to grind.

 

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Blow it up: Why the Clippers should embrace a rebuild

The Clippers are only one game back from the eighth seed in the West. Lou Williams is playing outside of his mind. Blake Griffin is back from concussion protocol and Patrick Beverley says he could potentially play again this year. Not to mention, they’re one of the most injured teams in the league, all around, and they still beat the Warriors on Wednesday.

So why blow it up? Why not keep getting healthier and make one last meaningful run at the title while everyone has written them off?

Easy answer to an easy question; They won’t win a title in the West. They can’t. Not with this roster in this conference with this level of competition.

The Clippers are already teetering on breaking their streak of six straight playoff appearances. So here’s why they should wave the white flag and lean into the disappointment.

Trade chips

Lou Williams’ value will simply never be higher than it is right now. He’s averaging 31.6 points per game off the bench in his last 10 contests. He’s a virtual lock for Sixth Man of the Year, although he’s pretty much playing starters’ minutes. And he dropped 50 points on Golden State on Wednesday night, which is significant because the name of the game for 29 teams in the Association is to beat the Warriors at all costs. That’s something to, at the very least, take into consideration while going over a shopping list.

Clippers

Lou Williams tries to score over Omri Casspi. (Photo by: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

The Clippers also have two of the premiere offensive-minded rebounders in the league in Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan.

At 28 and 29-years-old respectively, are both in that sweet spot where the Clippers can trade them away without an iota of seller’s remorse. Historically, big players have started to have a downturn in their numbers around 30-years-old. So, the Clips can say that they held onto Griffin and Jordan in their prime, tried their very best to make it work and can sell very high to teams in need of their production.

Also, if they keep Beverley off the court this year and maintain an air of mystery around what he is capable of, then they can sell high on his defensive potential during the off-season.

Coaching

Doc Rivers is a prolific players’ coach, and puts more stock in talent than schemes. This isn’t a knock against him in any way, and, in fact, it is what won him a championship in Boston.

The problem is that without transcendent talent on the floor, coaching has to be about schemes and patterns. Now that Chris Paul is a Rocket, Blake Griffin can’t seem to stay on the court for an entire season, and defensive wizard Patrick Beverley is probably done for the year, Rivers is not the right fit for the team.

Clippers

Doc Rivers yells at an official while Deandre Jordan begins to hold him back (Photo by: Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Trading away talent for picks and placeholders is an easy way to phase out Rivers and begin again with a clean slate. His contract is up after next season, so if the team commits to the rebuild, then next year’s record should be pretty bad. That’s an excuse to let Rivers go find his next job and lets the Clippers pick a new direction.

The draft

The Clippers don’t have a wealth of draft picks this year. In fact, as of now they only have one pick. Obviously, if they trade away stars and want to rebuild, that will (or should) result in more picks.

The 2018 draft should be pretty balanced and should feature some franchise-altering talent in the first round. That leaves two ways Los Angeles can play this particular game.

They can stockpile picks and see what sticks and what doesn’t, a-la the Philadelphia 76ers. Or, they can bear hug the tanking philosophy after trading away Williams, Griffin and Jordan and aim for a high pick. Once that pick is secured, they can flip it for more chances at less-valued players, or go for broke and try to draft a star.

Either way is equally risky and equally viable, but it should all depend on what they can get for their on-court talent.

Clippers

Blake Griffin throws down a dunk. (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s not easy to say goodbye to Lob City. The Clippers were, genuinely, one of the most exciting teams in the NBA for a long period of time. They also successfully overshadowed a certain purple and gold clad team that shares their arena.

But with Chris Paul dropping dimes in Houston, an aging frontcourt and no real identity, it’s time to watch these players be great somewhere else. Steve Ballmer is, arguably, a top-10 owner in the league, so let’s all hope he won’t want to mortgage the future for another meaningless first round exit.

Two good teams in Los Angeles is good for the Association, and good for the fans. If this happens, however, there will be two pretty bad teams in Los Angeles, for what is probably the very first time. But this is a Band-Aid that needs to be ripped off. They still have the Dodgers, after all.

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Making the case for every fringe playoff team

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

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

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

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

Eastern Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBA Playoffs

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

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

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

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

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

Western Conference

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

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

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

NBA Playoffs

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

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

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

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

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

Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)

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

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

 

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Five things to be thankful for in the NBA

Everyone has something to be thankful for come holiday season. With Thanksgiving passing yesterday it’s time to reflect on the things we are thankful for in sports.

The NBA season has been filled with twists and turns. Many teams and players have created a different narrative to this year’s NBA. The teams that have dominated both conferences are not the ones on top. Players have both emerged and fallen from last season. However we are thankful for many things that make the NBA entertaining. Here are five of the things that have made the NBA the most interesting this season.

The 76ers’ young guys

If you haven’t watched Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington play you should. The three of them are making the 76ers more than exciting to watch. They are something to be thankful for due to the elevated play in the East. Having a team emerge with great young talent to compete every night with the top teams in the East is definitely something to be thankful for.

Simmons is averaging 19, 9 and 7 and Joel Embiid is averaging a double-double. Covington is shooting 46 percent from three while shooting just under eight a game. The 76ers are 10-7 and are sitting in the sixth spot in the East. Simmons has been terrific, taking defensive rebounds and turning them into points.

The Sixers have been off to a good start and are just a couple games back in the East. They should continue their pace and be a tough out for a top team in the East come playoff time.

The Gordon Hayward-less Boston Celtics

Well now the Cavaliers don’t like the superior team in the East. Gordon Hayward went down in the first quarter of the season and the Celtics rallied around that. They have the best record in basketball and have beaten the Warriors already this season.

Many thought the season was lost for the Boston Celtics without Gordon Hayward. Instead, they are continually proving they belong. They have the best defensive unit in the league right now and previously held the best offense in the NBA to 88 points. Finally the best team in the East doesn’t look like the Cavaliers, it only took a few years.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

Everyone loves a little conflict and soap opera. What Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have created is flat out chippy and fans can’t take their eyes off of it. Many cheer against Kevin Durant for his choice to join the Golden State Warriors and Russ has “poked the bear” in a sense.

Russell Westbrook has felt disrespected due to Kevin Durant’s decision and has made it an on the court conflict. It has made games that are normally not as interesting and turned it into prime time television.

A new villain has been created

NBA

Lonzo Ball, (Thewinningtake.com).

Lonzo Ball is a villain. Like it or not LaVar Ball has made fans not like his son but in a way it has made the NBA better. Teams look forward to playing the Lakers to watch the opposing point guard play him tough.

This is exactly what his dad wanted to do by making a below average Lakers team relevant and putting his son in the forefront because of it. People now are drawing attention to an 8-11 team with a point guard who is shooting under 32 percent.

I still find myself thinking about how thankful we are to have a person to cheer against every night. It’s like fantasy sports because it makes fans care about games that they wouldn’t normally. So in a way, LaVar deserves a thank you.

The Timberwolves in playoff position

Obviously it’s very early in the season but the Timberwolves look very good. They have a big three in Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. They are competitive every night and look poised to finally make the playoffs. We always cheer for things that don’t happen often right? Well the Timberwolves have been absent from the playoffs for a while.

It would be good for basketball to have a shake up in playoff teams. It gets boring seeing the same teams make the playoffs year in and year out. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. This could be the season that they finally break that extremely long drought. The Timberwolves round out the Thanksgiving list because they are finally relevant and create a tough playoff opponent for anyone they face.

 

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Joel Embiid and the rising 76ers

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

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

Joel Embiid’s Early Career

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, (Si.com).

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

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

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

The Last Few Games

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid, (ESPN).

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

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

Team Outlook

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

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

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

 

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Philadelphia 76ers’ brotherly love For esports

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers bought Team Dignitas and became the first North American sports franchise to buy an esports team. Earlier this year they became one of 17 teams that’ll participate in the NBA 2K League, the first esports league of its kind. Now, almost a week ago, the 76ers announced a partnership with HyperX, a gaming accessories company. The 76ers are incorporating esports into their company in efforts to further grow the industry.

Sixers Training Complex. Courtesy of NBA.

HyperX partnership

HyperX became the first endemic esports/gaming brand to partner with an NBA team. They will become the official headset partner of the Philadelphia 76ers and also sponsor Team Dignitas as well. HyperX also hasn’t shied away from sponsoring NBA players such as Gordon Hayward and De’Aaron Fox. The Business Wire reports, “During the 2017-2018 NBA season, HyperX will participate with the 76ers in a range of in-game activation elements, including courtside and in-arena LED ring signage and branding, exposure on scoreboard, concourse activations and HyperX giveaway nights.”

If you’ve been to an NBA game before, imagine a HyperX commercial during timeout breaks or ads during broadcasts. The HyperX partnership can potentially lead other gaming companies to develop their own partnerships with other teams as well. For example what if, Fremont-based, Corsair Components partner with the Golden State Warriors and their upcoming 2K League team? The HyperX and 76ers partnership will become a catalyst for more opportunities to come to the NBA.

Fan engagement

HyperX has untapped options to gain more exposure and normalize esports to the public. Scott O’Neil, CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, spoke with SportTechie about their efforts to innovate fan engagement. O’Neil said, “Some of the improvements they made to the game and the way they’re engaging their fan base, I think it’s a great way to tie fans back and forth through esports and the real game.” Another example is Nike’s NBA Connected Jersey where you gain exclusive content by simply tapping your smartphone on the tag of the jersey.

Every year technology continues to improve and reaches its way to innovate marketing. The 76ers can deliver creative fan engagement with their own fans and introduce them to esports with their own 2K League team. The idea can go both ways as you can also introduce esports viewers to the NBA. By increasing viewership, they create more streams of revenue and opportunities to expand between the two industries.

Getting other teams involved

Chad Biggs, Senior VP of Marketing Partnerships of the Philadelphia 76ers, believes more teams will take interest. “I don’t believe it undermines the league. We have some very strong teams. It will make a very competitive league and more teams will follow,” Biggs said in response to teams not participating from an interview from SportBusiness. Many teams want to view the success of the NBA 2K League’s first season before they want to jump in. After all the NBA and its teams are a business and, for some, esports is still considered a risk.

NBA teams know their business and can utilize their resources to translate into esports. O’Neil also commented, “You started to see a lot of my peers enter the space thinking, ‘OK, we understand how to sell tickets, we understand broadcast deals, we understand sponsorship.’” The Philadelphia 76ers has shown their admiration and potential for esports to create a connection between esports and traditional sports.


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The beginning of Ben Simmons

It finally happened, the Vegas front runner for the NBA Rookie of the Year played his first professional game. Ben Simmons has taken the NBA by storm with his flashy plays and supreme athleticism.

What has been a long awaited debut has been well worth the wait. So now it’s time to trust the process and see how far it takes the Philadelphia 76ers.

Ben Simmons Debut

Ben Simmons

Simmons out in transition. Photo Courtesy of 6ABC.com.

Ben Simmons, a converted point guard, is providing a spark for the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s hard to say that the point-forward position has been brought back but it’s hard to doubt Simmons’ ability in the open court. Simmons has the ability to take a rebound down and bring it the length of the floor and create an easy basket.

Despite a loss, Simmons finished his debut with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to go along with two steals and a block. In translation, he stuffed the stat sheet. Simmons led the team in assists, minutes played, offensive rebounds and steals and finished second on the team in total rebounds.

He can impact the game in more ways than scoring and he showed that opening night. Despite losing to the Washington Wizards, the 76ers played some good basketball on the offensive end. They created open shots and scored 115 points which will win you a lot of games.

What won’t win games is their lack of defensive stops when the game gets tough. In the second half, the 76ers were outscored 64-56, when the game gets toughest teams need important stops to win games.

Moving Forward

The 76ers may have lost to the Wizards, but it was only by five. This was a matchup between a team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference versus a team that finished 28-54.

The 76ers were impressive opening night and Ben Simmons was one of the major reasons for that. In his 35 minutes, he attacked the rim with regularity, gave up good shots to get great ones and looked extremely comfortable running the break.

He is a pure playmaker and he’s already looking like he can handle the bright spotlight and more of a point guard role.

Translating College to Pros

In 33 games at LSU, Ben Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists. Based on his college career and his first NBA game, this is what Ben Simmons does. In college he was given a team with much less talent comparatively to the team he has in Philadelphia.

The numbers will only get better for Simmons as he gets both increasingly more comfortable and plays against lesser opponents. Lesser opponents includes more traditional big men who he can beat off the dribble or small players who he can take into the post and score over.

The 76ers have been waiting a long time for this, and despite a loss, they are in a great position for the near future. They have some great young talent and look to position themselves in the top part of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

 

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The top five usage percentage seasons in NBA history

These players took “putting a team on their back” to the next level. With the NBA season starting tonight, let’s take a look at the all-time single season leaders in terms of usage rate. According to RotoGrinders, usage rate is “defined as an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.” To put this into perspective, in 2004-05, Jermaine O’Neal’s usage rate was 36.22 percent. This means that 36.22 percent of the time Jermaine was on the floor, plays ended with O’Neal either shooting the ball, turning it over, or getting to the line.

 

5. Allen Iverson 37.78 (2001-02)

The year after winning NBA MVP and reaching the Finals, “The Answer” did all he could to get his Sixers back to the promise land. In just 60 games of play, Iverson led the NBA in scoring (31.4), steals (2.8), and minutes per game (43.7). 2001-02 marked the fourth year in a row in which Iverson led the league in usage rate.

The 76ers other four starters, Matt Harping, Eric Snow, Derrick Coleman, Dikembe Mutombo, all averaged under 16 points per game. Mutombo, who, like Iverson, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was 35 years old. Due to this weak starting lineup, Iverson took almost 28 shots per game, which ended up being his career high. He had nine games in which he scored at least 40 points, including a monster 58 points, 6 assists game against the Rockets. Iverson’s 42 shots in the win over Houston is good for 14th all time in terms of most field goal attempts in a single game.

In the first round of the 2001-02 playoffs, Philadelphia was eliminated in five games against Boston. Was Iverson gassed? Although he averaged 30 points per game in the playoffs, Iverson shot a rough 38.1 percent from the field. Following the series loss to Boston, Iverson was criticized by coach Larry Brown for missing practices. We all know how Iverson dealt with this one.

 

4. Michael Jordan 38.29 (1986-87)

Following the season in which Jordan missed 64 games due to a broken foot, MJ would go on to have one of the best scoring seasons the game has ever seen. While averaging 37.1 points per game on 48.2 percent shooting, Jordan joined Wilt Chamberlin as the only two players to score 3,000 points in a season. He would also go on to become the first player in NBA history to record 200 blocks and 100 steals.

Young MJ, circa 1986 (NBA.com)

Jordan, who was just 23 years old, took an absurd 2,279 total shots, which is good for sixth all time. Since 1980, the only other player to eclipse 2,000 shots in a season is Kobe Bryant, who achieved this in 2005-06. MJ played in all 82 games, leading the league in minutes, player efficiency rating, and win shares. Even with this historic season, Jordan came up short in MVP voting. Magic Johnson was named NBA MVP, after averaging 23.9 points and 12.2 assists per game.

Before playing with guys like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, and Dennis Rodman, Jordan struggled to bring Chicago deep into the playoffs. Even in this record setting 1986-87 season, Jordan and the Bulls only won 40 games, and were swept by Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Just a reminder for those who think Jordan is the undisputed GOAT: At age 22, Lebron James led Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Eric Snow to a 50-win season and a trip to the NBA Finals.

 

3. Russell Westbrook 38.37 (2014-15)

Before the start of the 2014-15, Westbrook’s former superstar teammate, Kevin Durant, was diagnosed with a Jones fracture in his right foot and was out the first 17 games of the season. Durant would end up playing in only 27 games, as he would eventually be shut down for the season due to foot surgery.

This meant “The Brodie” was ready to ball. In the season opener, Westbrook went off for 38 points in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. After being sidelined due to a fracture in his hand, Westbrook erupted. In a win over the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook tallied up 17 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists. He became only the fifth player in NBA history with a stat line of 15-15-15 in a game.

In the 2015 NBA All Star game, Westbrook recorded 41 points, and was named the All-Star MVP. In a three game stretch in February, Westbrook became the first player since Lebron James to record three straight triple-doubles. This was a historic February for Westbrook, as he finished the month with a stat line of 31.2/10.3/9.1.

In 67 starts, Westbrook led the Thunder to 40 wins, while recording 31 double-doubles, and 11 triple doubles. Unfortunately, The Thunder missed out on the playoffs. This was only a preview of what was to come for Russ.

 

2. Kobe Bryant 38.74 (2005-06)

In the 2003-04 season, the Lakers were upset by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. Phil Jackson did not return, and Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. The following year, the Los Angeles Lakers won only 34 games, and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Bryant missed out on the NBA All-Defensive Team, and fell to the All-NBA Third Team.

81. (BleacherReport)

The “Black Mamba” had a lot to prove during the 2005-06 season. With Phil Jackson back as coach of the team, Bryant was able to carry the Lake Show back into the playoffs. On December 20th, 2005, in a game against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant scored 62 points in just three quarters. He became the first player, since the shot clock was added, to outscore a team going into the fourth quarter.

On January 22nd, 2006, Kobe scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. This still stands as the second most points in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlin’s 100-point performance in 1962. Fortunately, Kobe was not done dominating. In the same month Bryant scored 45 or more points in four straight games. He would go on to average 43.4 points per game in the month of January, which is the highest for any player not named Wilt Chamberlin.

Bryant set the Lakers single-season records for most 40-point games (27) and total points in a season (2,832). He led the league in scoring, with 35.4 points per game, and finished 4th in MVP voting. Still, the Lakers were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

 

1. Russell Westbrook 41.65 (2016-17)

When KD was hurt, we saw a preview of what was possible for Westbrook. When Durant was officially gone, as he chose to sign with the Warriors, Russ did what he wanted. His 42 triple-doubles is now a league record, and he currently sits at fourth place for most triple doubles in NBA history. Trailing only Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Jason Kidd.

During this illustrious season, Westbrook racked up three 50-point triple doubles, which is most all-time. He finished the year with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. Russ joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players to average a triple-double for an entire season.

Even with his unforgettable season, the Thunder were eliminated in the first round by the Houston Rockets. In the five games, Westbrook had a stat line of 37.4/11.6/10.8. He was named the NBA MVP, and now has Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to help propel the Thunder to the next level.

Do you see a trend here? When players’ usage rates are this high, the team is never successful in the postseason. One guy cannot do it all. Of the top 20 usage rate seasons, none of the players went on to win the championship in that same year.

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