NBA Northwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Northwest Division

The Northwest Division has a different look to it this season. Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap jump into an extremely competitive division.

This division has the potential to bring three or four teams to the playoffs. A tough division has gotten even tougher in just one offseason.

Here are the win predictions and preview for each team in the Northwest Division.

Denver Nuggets

2016-17 record: 40-42

2017-2018 prediction: 46-36

The Denver Nuggets have absolutely gotten better this summer. Paul Millsap adds to an already boarderline playoff team. Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris are the leaders on this team. The young talent is there to make a run.

Tyler Lydon is another addition from this summer and a good scoring option off the bench.

Despite being in a tough Western Conference, the Nuggets have a good chance to make it to the middle tier in the west.

Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Northwest Division preview

Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. (Photo Courtesy of Foxsports.com.)

2016-2017 record: 31-51

2017-2018 prediction: 49-33

Jimmy Butler is coming to town, as well as Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. The Timberwolves may be the fifth best team in the Western Conference, but they have a lot to put together to get to that point.

A season is long and grueling, so rotations need to be figured out quickly. The Timberwolves have a very different lineup heading into this season, so it will take a little while to get everyone used to playing with each other.

If the Wolves can put it together, they will be much better than people expect. Barring anything crazy, this will be the year the T-Wolves make the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2016-2017 record: 47-35

2017-2018 prediction: 50-32

Paul George tops off a great summer for the Thunder. He joins Patrick Patterson to add to a strong starting lineup.

One of the biggest parts of this offseason for the Thunder was getting out of the Victor Oladipo contract. They freed up money moving forward and that is a large asset for adding players moving forward.

George gives this team a win-now look, but not just anyone can play with Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder have gotten better this summer and more importantly match up better. To have another scoring option in the Western Conference means that there’s a possibility for a longer playoff run in Oklahoma City.

Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Northwest Division preview

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. (Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.)

2016-2017 record: 41-41

2017-2018 prediction: 38-44

As much as the Trail Blazers are intriguing, they still don’t have a dependable big man. Jusuf Nurkic has been good in his limited use on the team, but he isn’t reliable yet.

The Trail Blazers are a fringe playoff team, but the Western Conference is a gauntlet. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can only carry them so far without a dependable third option.

Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins are two solid young big men who have a bright future, but for the time being, the Trail Blazers are on the outside looking in.

Utah Jazz

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Jazz may have lost their best scorer, Gordon Hayward, from last season, but they did add Jonas Jerebko and Ricky Rubio, as well as draft pick Donovan Mitchell.

Jerebko is an underrated player who can stretch the floor and Mitchell looks like the most overlooked player in this draft after this summer. Even though the Jazz lost one of their best players, they still are in the hunt for a playoff birth this season.

Rudy Gobert will shine and Joe Johnson will find a way to add to the scoring that Hayward left behind. The Utah Jazz will be competitive this upcoming season.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of NBA.com.

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3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

The Olympics are always one of the most captivating sporting events in the world. World-class athletes compete for their name, honor, eternal glory and country. One of the reasons the Olympics are so special is because they take place every four years. There are a large majority people who think many of the events are old and outdated. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken a major step in adapting the summer Olympics to grasp the attention of younger fans. The IOC has officially added 3-on-3 Olympic basketball as an event starting in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. There are many questions as to how this will work and how players will be selected to participate. First, let’s take a look at the rules of this new event.

Rules

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

All official rules for the event can be found here but these rules are the most notable.

First, the court will be 15 meters wide and 11 meters long but a traditional basketball court may be used as well.

Each team will consist of four players, three who play on the court and one available substitute.

The first possession of the game will be determined by a coin flip. Scoring will consist of traditional “playground” rules meaning anything inside the arc will count as one point and all “three pointers” will count as two points.

Teams can also score points from the free throw line. A team will enter the penalty after six team fouls and a player can not foul out.

The game will last 10 minutes unless a team reaches 21 points before time runs out. If the court has a shot clock then the team will have 12 seconds to shoot the ball.

Most of these rules are pretty common to anyone who has played pickup basketball games at a park or recreation center.

USA Selection

It is going to be challenging to predict how the USA Basketball Federation will select its players. Some speculate they will select college players but fans want to see the United State’s best basketball players playing in this event. NBA players have created massive buzz by playing pick up games during the NBA offseason and they have dominated them with spectacular plays.

Who wouldn’t want to see players like Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others play basketball with so much space?

Selecting the traditional basketball team is already difficult. There are so many great players in the NBA who don’t make the roster. The 3-on-3 roster will be made up of players who are capable of dominating with their iso skills. The team should consist of a dominant ball handler, an exception wing and a rebounding beast although there may be other strategies to assembling this team.

Possible USA Teams in 2020

Here are three possible combinations that could dominate for team USA in 2020.

Team 1:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie will be 28 years old in 2020 and just entering his prime. This 3-on-3 competition is perfect for a player like Kyrie. He is one of the greatest ball handlers of all time and it is near impossible for anybody in the NBA to guard him one on one. In this competition, Kyrie would have so much space to cross up anybody the world can throw at him. Kyrie also can make the most insane layups through traffic so doing it with all this open space should be a piece of cake.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Age is important to look at for these events and Durant will be 31 at the time of the 2020 Olympics. He will still be one of the best scorers in the world. Pairing Durant with Kyrie would create nightmares for the rest of the world. Without adding the third player this team is already the best in the world. At 6-foot-10, Durant can shoot over anyone they put in front of him. He is a great ball-handler as well. If Kyrie can’t get to the rim during a game, Durant sure can but either way both of these players would be unstoppable.

Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans: Durant will be the old man compared to Anthony Davis. During the 2020 Olympics, Davis will be the ripe young age of 27. The Brow, as Davis is known, is already considered to be the next big superstar of the NBA. In his first five seasons, Davis has career averages of 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Davis is capable of doing anything on the court but in this competition, all he will need to do is defend and rebound.

Reserve

Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi would be the clap god of this competition. His defense would shut down almost everyone in the world. In 2020, he will just begin to enter his prime at the age of 28. Kawhi has developed into a world-class player and if he continues to develop further, he may even become the best player in the world. It would be fun to see what other skills Leonard would display in this competition

Team 2:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Steph Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors: The baby-faced assassin would be 32 at the time of the 2020 Olympics but shooting is the last thing to go for basketball players. Curry is one of the best dribblers in the world and with all the space in 3-on-3, he could pull jumpers from anywhere. If Kyrie didn’t want to play, Steph would be the next best option.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Buckets is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. His ability to defend one-on-one is top notch. Butler is known as a hard worker who does the right things. 3-on-3 would allow  Butler to showcase skills that most people don’t know he has. Jimmy Buckets would be a great option for the 3-on-3 Olympics.

Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves: Towns will be only 24 years old in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics. There is a chance by that time Towns is a top three player in the world. This is why it will be hard for the committee to narrow it down to just four players. Towns was recently showing off impressive handles in a 3-on-3 tournament in Denmark. He is on his way to becoming a dominant player and would be awesome in this competition.

Reserve

Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green is passionate and emotional. His trash talk alone may destroy some of the competition. Draymond does it all on the court, he can pass, shoot, rebound and defend. Other basketball players seem to love playing with Draymond and this competition would be no different.

Team 3:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA: A 6-foot-6 point guard who is on his way to superstardom. It is almost impossible to go a day without hearing about Lonzo Ball, his father or the rest of the Ball family. Ball is going to be a top three pick and a franchise centerpiece. His passing ability is phenomenal and he was a game changer for UCLA. In 2020, Ball is going to be just 22 years old and possibly one of the best point guards in the world. He would be a possible option when it is time to make this selection.

Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and was named to his first All-Star Game this season. Hayward averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season. He is a very skilled forward and would shine in this event.

DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: Cousins is considered the best center in the NBA. He is able to handle the ball and shoot from anywhere on the court. Not many players in the world can defend him and defense becomes harder with more space. Cousins will be in contention for selection, but his bad reputation may be his Achilles heel.

Reserve

John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: Everybody do the John Wall. Wall was so big at Kentucky he got his own song and is finally entering his prime in the NBA. He is one of the fastest point guards on the planet. Wall plays both sides of the ball extremely well and many NBA fans would love to see what he could do in this competition.

World’s Best Teams

Spain:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio is a talented passer who would be the pick for the Spanish national team. Rubio has experience in the NBA against the world’s best players and in this 3-on-3 tournament, he could hold his own.

Nikola Mirotic, PF, Chicago Bulls: In the 2014-2015 season, Nikola Mirotic finished second for rookie of the year behind Andrew Wiggins. Mirotic has a career average of 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Just like Rubio, Mirotic has much needed NBA experience to compete at a high level and in 2020 will be in his prime.

Serge Ibaka, PF, Toronto Raptors: Serge Ibaka would be the rebounder and rim defender for the Spanish 3-on-3 national team. He has played Olympic basketball and plenty of other important NBA games in his career. The stage would not be too bright for him and he could help anchor Spain as one of the best teams in the world.

Greece:

Tyler Dorsey, PG, Oregon: Not many people know that Tyler Dorsey has played for the Greek national team. This past season he helped lead Oregon to the Final Four while averaging 14.6 points per game and shot 42.3 percent from the three-point line. Dorsey is going to be the best guard option for Greece.

Alex Antetokounmpo, F, Dominican High School: Alex Antentokounmpo is the youngest of all the Antentokounmpo brothers. He is just 15 years old but Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antentokounmpo says he is the best of all the Greek Freaks. Alex will be 18 years old in 2020 and if Giannis is right then he has to be one of the players chosen for the 3-on-3 team.

Giannis Antentokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks: The original Greek Freak is going to win a league MVP one day. His historic season put him on a list by himself of players who finished in the top 20 in the NBA with points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Greece will have one of the best 3-on-3 teams solely because of Giannis. Greece will be exciting to watch in the 2020 Olympics.

Australia:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

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

Patty Mills, PG, San Antonio Spurs: Patty Mills is a backup point guard in the NBA but the best option for the Australian national team. Mills would provide tons of experience and leadership to the team along with solid outside shooting.

Dante Exum, PG, Utah Jazz: Dante Exum hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations he had when he was drafted fifth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. That is mostly due to injury but as he gets older and healthier Exum should become a much better player. At 6-foot-6 Exum has excellent size as a guard and would be a superb option for the Austrailian national team.

Joe Ingles, SF, Utah Jazz: Ingles is a solid rotation player for the Jazz. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game last season. Ingles shot 44.1 percent from the arc this year as well. Australia wouldn’t have much size but lots of NBA experience to be competitive.

France:

Frank Ntilikina, PG, SIG Strasbourg: Frank Ntilikina is going to be a lottery pick in this year’s draft due to his amazing potential. At just 18 years old, he has been named the French League Best Young Player twice. Ntilikina is a pass first point guard with a high I.Q. He is going to be an exciting player and huge French star.

Nicolas Batum, SF, Charlotte Hornets: Batum is one of the best players from France. He is a good defender and like many international players has a lot of NBA experience. If France had to pick it’s best 3-on-3 Olympic team then Batum would be an easy pick.

Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert had somewhat of a breakout season. He is one of the best rim defenders in the world and a great rebounder as well. Gobert is the best French basketball player and for the 3-on-3 tournament, he would be a lock.

Canada:

3-on-3 Olympic Basketball

(Photo Credit: Sam Forencich/Getty Images)

Jamal Murray, PG, Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray is a young, exciting Canadian player in the NBA. The Nuggets rookie was selected seventh overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Murray started 10 games and averaged 9.9 points and 2.1 assists this season.

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins is expected to become the best Canadian basketball player ever. He would have to become better than Steve Nash to do so but the potential is there. Wiggins is super athletic and in a 3-on-3 tournament he could put on an exciting show. Andrew Wiggins would only be 25 years old in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and still on the cusp of entering his prime.

Tristian Thompson, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristian Thompson is an NBA champion and one of the best offensive rebounders in the world. Canada would pick Thompson to be the big man on their 3-on-3 roster. He already has a role in which he isn’t expected to score so this would be a familiar and comfortable role on this team.

Conclusion

The 3-on-3 Olympic Basketball event could become one of the most popular Olympic events. Traditional basketball is already one of the most popular but the 3-on-3 format opens up the court and allows players to truly display some exceptional skills. The United States will have dozens of possibilities when forming the roster and no matter who they decide to select will be the favorites to win the gold. Countries like Canada, Spain, France and others will be extremely talented as well and could challenge the United States for 3-on-3 supremacy.

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NBA Playoffs Awards (So Far)

After 25 days, the NBA Playoffs have gone by without too much surprise. The Cavs and Warriors have dominated and only one of the first round series went to seven games. Six teams remain standing, and here are the awards for the 2017 NBA Playoffs to this point.

Awards

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James

“Playoff LeBron” is no joke. The King has shown no mercy to the Pacers or Raptors as he has led the Cavs to a sweep in both series. So far this playoffs, he has compiled a stat line of 34.4 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, 7.1 assists per game, 2.1 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game. He has elevated his performance to yet another level.

Perhaps his most impressive statistics come with his efficiency. His field goal percentage currently sits at .557 percent and he is making more than 46 percent of his three point attempts.

MVP of the playoffs so far really could not go to anybody else. LeBron has absolutely dominated his opponents in the first two rounds despite the lackluster play of his supporting cast. He has put to rest criticisms of his regular season performance and undoubtedly changed the opinions of many regarding the Cavs chances against the Warriors.

Not to mention, he’s given us ridiculous highlights such as this one:

Many performers have stepped up during these playoffs, but Lebron is clearly in a class of his own.

Honorable Mentions: Kawhi Leonard, John Wall, James Harden

 

Sixth Man: Joe Johnson

Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Eric Gordon have all been fantastic presences off the bench for their teams. Iguodala has done a little bit of everything, and Williams and Gordon have added a great scoring presence on the Rockets bench. Sixth man of the playoffs, however, has to go to the guy that is the reason his team won their first series.

Iso Joe was incredible against the Clippers, bringing back memories of his prime. At least two of the Jazz’ wins have to be attributed to Joe Johnson. This game winner in game one pretty much says it all.

Although his time in the playoffs has come to an end, Joe Johnson earned this one.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams

 

Rookie: Taurean Prince

No other rookies have really had much of an impact in the playoffs besides Malcolm Brogdon and Taurean Prince. In six games against the Raptors, Brogdon put up 9 points per game while averaging 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest.

In six games against the Wizards, prince put up 11.2 points per game while averaging 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest.

Brogdon has has a promising year, and he capped it off with a promising first playoff appearance. He logged more than 30 minutes per game while the Bucks did their best as the underdogs. He also made a stellar 10 of his 21 three point attempts.

Prince did not have as good of a regular season as Brogdon. His minutes doubled during the postseason, and he was able to take advantage of the increase in playing time. It is his defense, however, that lands him the title of best rookie for the playoffs. Prince played great defense against wings and guards, and played with a high intensity throughout the series. During Game 4, he had this impressive block on John Wall:

This playoffs have been lacking in rookie performance. The only other player who had a chance to compete was Jaylen Brown, and his minutes have dropped significantly during the postseason. Brogdon and Prince both had impressive series, but Prince’s impact on his team lands him the top spot.

Honorable Mentions: Malcolm Brogdon

 

Coach: Mike D’Antoni

Coaching has not seemed to play a huge role in the playoffs so far. The Cavs are dominating the Eastern Conference, and Tyron Lue has let Playoff Lebron do much of the work. The Warriors are dominating the Western Conference, and Steve Kerr has been out with a back injury.

Meanwhile, high profile coaches like Billy Donovan and Doc Rivers struggled mightily in the first round. Even NBA wizard Greg Popovich struggled mightily with adjustments against the Grizzlies.

All Mike D’Antoni has had to do to get this title is continue the Rockets’ regular season success. D’Antoni has shown once again that his offense first scheme can be successful in the playoffs. And so far D’Antoni has gone toe to toe with Greg Popovich in the second round.

Special honorable mention has to be given to David Fizdale of the Grizzlies. As a rookie head coach, Fizdale and the Grizzlies kept up with the Spurs despite being overmatched. And, he gave us this instantly legendary press conference after Game 2:

However, until a truly remarkable coaching performance can upend this spot, it belongs to D’Antoni.

Honorable Mention: David Fizdale

 

Defensive Player: Draymond Green

This one really isn’t much of a contest. Draymond’s defense was insane against the Trailblazers. He switched effortlessly from centers to guards, and has now anchored a defensive unit to two consecutive sweeps. He has 21 blocks in 8 games so far (for comparison, Rudy Gobert has 11 blocks in 8 games.) End of discussion. Draymond is in a league of his own right now.

Honorable Mentions: Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, Lebron James

 

All-NBA Playoffs Teams

All-NBA First Team

John Wall: Wall has been absolutely unstoppable for the Wizards. He’s scoring more than 10 more points than his career playoff high while keeping his assist numbers steady. He’s been an elite playmaker and scorer, and his defense has been very solid.

James Harden: While his numbers are down from the regular season, James Harden has been great in the playoffs. He is averaging 30 points per game, and his team is two games away from the Western Conference finals. Although he hasn’t quite played to his potential, he’s still been one of the best guards.

Lebron James: See above.

Kawhi Leonard: Kawhi Leonard has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Spurs. He’s had to do just about everything to ensure victory so far, and he leads the playoffs in win shares as a result. His efficiency has also been remarkable. Kawhi and Lebron have been far and away the best two players of the playoffs.

Draymond Green: See above.

 

All-NBA Second Team

Steph Curry: The Warriors have breezed through their first two opponents, and Curry hasn’t had to play out of his mind to ensure success. Nevertheless, he’s put up some impressive stats and is shooting well from the field.

Chris Paul: Chris Paul could not have done more to help the Clippers win their series against the Jazz. After Blake Griffin went down, Paul stepped up. He ended up averaging 25.3 points and 9.9 assists per game. The Clippers may have fallen short, but Chris Paul deserves none of the blame.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: In his first playoff appearance, the Greek Freak continued to show the world that he is legit. 24.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Not bad.

Gordon Hayward: Hayward has put up an efficient 24 points a game while leading the Jazz to the second round. Though his fate was sealed against the Warriors, Hayward put up a great playoff season in a contract year.

Rudy Gobert: The center position is weak, so Gobert makes the second team despite missing games. Gobert played well on both ends of the floor for the Jazz while adding 11 points and 9 rebounds per game.

 

All-NBA Third Team

Russell Westbrook: Westbrook had a 47 percent usage rate. Sheesh. Nonetheless, he kept the Thunder close most games before getting gassed in the fourth quarter. And a playoff stat line of 37.8 points per game, 11.6 rebounds per game and 10.8 assists per game can’t be ignored.

Mike Conley: Conley did everything he could to keep the Grizzlies close with the Spurs. He averaged 24 points per game while shooting 44% from the three point line. The Spurs were the better team, but Conley came out with something to prove in the series. Needless to say, he proved it.

Jimmy Butler: Butler didn’t have his most efficient series against the Celtics, but he was clearly the best player on the floor during the series. He played well on both sides of the ball, and kept the series much closer than it could’ve been.

Paul Millsap: The Hawks were outed in 6 games against the Wizards, but Millsap had a fantastic series. He put up his playoff career high in points per game with 24.3 while making more than 50% of his field goals. He also added his career high in assists per game.

Clint Capela: Capela has been a solid producer for the Rockets. In a playoff field that lacks in strong big men, he has put up more than 10 points and 8 rebounds per game. He also has 24 blocks in 9 games, and is third in the league in defensive win shares.

 

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Western Conference Playoff Preview

Western 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.

Can anybody upset the Warriors, or will they cruise to another finals appearance? Who will win the duel between Brodie and the Beard? Buckle up for a fun battle out west. Here is the Western Conference Playoff preview.

1 Golden State Warriors vs. 8 Portland Trailblazers

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: http://theargonautnews.com

The Warriors have been slowly waiting for the playoffs all season. Golden State finished with the best record in the NBA and will be trying to make their third consecutive finals appearance. Kevin Durant is back from his injury just around the same time Steph Curry has found his groove.

Portland has gone an impressive 11-4 over their last 15 games to push themselves into the playoffs as the eighth seed. The Trailblazers have a great backcourt, but the Warriors are just too loaded. There isn’t much Portland will be able to do to stop the Warriors’ high powered offense.

This will be a short series, and Golden State will be on to bigger and better things.

Prediction: Warriors in 4

2 San Antonio Spurs vs. 7 Memphis Grizzlies

Western Conference Playoff Preview

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

It is hard to imagine a Spurs versus Grizzlies playoff series without Tim Duncan. These two franchises have gone at it many times in the past playoffs to provide some thrilling action for the fans.

This series is likely to play out similarly to their two previous postseason meetings in which the Spurs have swept the Grizzlies. Memphis has the same core that hasn’t gotten over the hump and this year they are barely above .500.

San Antonio is still a well-oiled machine led by the best two-way player in the league, Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich will have his team ready, and the Spurs will find themselves in the Western Conference Semi-Finals rather quickly.

Prediction: Spurs in 5 

3 Houston Rockets vs. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder

Western Conference Playoff Preview

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

This is easily the most exciting matchup of the first round in the Western Conference.

The storylines are never ending in this series. Russell Westbrook versus James Harden. The two players going head to head for the MVP go head to head in the playoffs. Westbrook is trying to lead his team against all odds. Harden will be trying to eliminate his former team. The hype is real for this one.

The Rockers went 3-1 against the Thunder, but three of the four games were decided by three points or less. Houston has the deeper team, but Oklahoma City has the advantage inside. Basketball slows down in the playoffs, giving the Thunder an advantage.

This will be a long and entertaining series. Westbrook is going to be gunning for heads in this year’s playoffs. His remarkable season will continue into the second round.

Prediction: Thunder in 7

4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5 Utah Jazz

Western Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Clippers are under more pressure than any team in the first round of the playoffs. They have not lived up to the hype in recent years and health has been one of the biggest excuses.

This is no excuse this year. The Clippers are healthy and experienced while the Jazz are inexperienced. Los Angeles also has the home-court advantage in this series.

The Clippers dominated the Jazz in the regular season, winning three out of the four matchups by a combined 42 points. Utah doesn’t have the firepower to win this series on paper, but Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward could play well enough to upset the Clippers. Chris Paul, Black Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will not last long in L.A. if they lose this series.

The experience will be the difference in this one, and the Clippers will avoid being bounced in the first round, but just barely.

Prediction: Clippers in 7

You can check out the Eastern Conference Playoff Preview here.

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Haus Specials: NBA Game Winners

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks

With the Knicks up by 14 at the start of the fourth quarter, it looked as if New York would come away with the win. Giannis Antetokounmpo had other plans. He scored 12 points in the final quarter, making three of his six shots. This insane step-back jumper sealed the deal. Greek. Freak.

Philadelphia 76er vs New York Knicks

Trust the Process. The Philadelphia 76ers have awed fans this season with their feisty, rejuvenated play. They’ve been competitive and fun. They played that same way against the Knicks. It was a four-point game in the Knickerbockers’ favor. Carmelo Anthony’s scoreless fourth quarter didn’t help and set the stage for a backbreaking game winner.

Utah Jazz vs OKC Thunder

Division Rivals. Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert. Russell Westbrook triple double. This game had it all. A seesaw affair with 16 lead changes made for an entertaining game. However, it was clunky at some points. Westbrook missed all of his shots in the third quarter. The last frame saw big shot after big shot though. Russ had the biggest one, hitting a mid-range jumper to put the Thunder up for good with 1.7 seconds left.

Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors

Waiters Island is now open for vacation purposes. Dion Waiters scored over 30 points for a second consecutive game. This one tied his career high with 33 points. He may have hit the biggest shot of his career, holding off the Warriors and ending their seven-game win streak. Happy Birthday Dion.

 

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Changing the Hack-a-Shaq Rule is a Flagrant Foul

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a statement during the 2016 playoffs about banning the hack-a-Shaq strategy, saying, “Not only is that something that is bad for our network partners, but for all of the fan research we have shows that the fans hate it.” (reports ESPN).

This would be a terrible move for the game of basketball. Sure, the casual fan may hate it, but what they should really be irritated about is the player shooting the free throws who can’t make them. There are a couple of good things that a rule forbidding this strategy would bring to the game, but I believe that the effects of this rule drastically change the game of basketball long term for the worse.Positives
1) As commissioner Silver alluded to, it makes for hard to watch basketball. Fouling the opposition’s weakest free throw shooter in order to interrupt the flow of the game, and forcing the weak link to make two shots from the charity stripe, makes for very boring basketball I will admit. A rule discontinuing this strategy would keep the game in motion and force opponents to beat the other team without resorting to hack-a-(insert bad free throw shooter here).
2) A rule created to prevent hack-a-Shaq tactics could bring back the importance of the old school NBA centers. In recent memory, old school type centers have not gone very high in the draft, as the game has evolved into a faster paced game of shooting and life above the rim. Traditional centers are known to play ten feet from the rim with their back to the basket, which half of the time results in them going to the free throw line due to the large amount of physicality a player experiences as they get closer to the rim. A rule change would keep NBA centers like Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and other centers shooting sub 60% from the line, from being benched in tight game situations, making for more competitive and undisputed outcomes.

Negatives
1) A rule change would only help about a handful of players, all of them centers. That’s like introducing a 4 point line for sharp shooters like Steph Curry, when no more than a handful could make that shot on a consistent basis. Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond all attempted over 450 free throws in the 2015-16 NBA season, and all of them shot below 50%; Drummond and Jordan were both top 5 in the league in free throw attempts and shot 36% (Drummond) and 43% (Jordan). All three of those guys were on playoff teams this past season, hence why Silver wants to eliminate the tactic all together; it affected the NBA’s ratings. There were no more centers or players at other positions in the past season that attempted more than 400 shots and shot below 60% from the charity stripe; the next 3 centers that had the most free throw attempts, while shooting below 60%, shot 225 free throws (Rudy Gobert 57%, John Henson 59%, and Nerlens Noel 59%). In a league that has over 400 players, to accommodate for only a handful of players seems rather pitiful and sad.
2) Enforcing a rule of this nature would take away importance of a fundamental of basketball skill; shooting. Creating a rule banning the strategy would send a message to all future NBA hopefuls that shooting free throws isn’t as important as putting on a show, which would allow for more bad free throw shooters. Sure, shooting free throws will still be important in crunch time moments, but let me give you a scenario: under the proposed rule change, with the poor free throw shooting centers in the game, who is most likely to be involved in the offense to try and win the game? As soon as the ball would get anywhere near their hands, they can expect hard contact and force the referee to call a foul to send the player to the line and, based on his bad percentage from that part of the court, will miss one if not both of those shots. When that happens, fans will wonder “why did the coach have him in the game in such a tight situation?” The opposition will still find a way to expose the weakness of these players which makes for bad television and makes fans feel like their team didn’t play their best, because their team put in a bad free throw shooter at such a pivotal moment in the game. The fans will then notice after a while that many younger players will shoot poorly from the free throw line. Teams and coaches have often planned for and against other teams whether or not they have a bad free throw shooting center on their team; they know that the player is a liability and doesn’t give them the best chance to win. The result of the rule would be a lack of importance on practicing free throws and shooting form.

I apologize to Adam Silver, but I am calling a flagrant foul on him for what would be the first huge mistake in his reign as commissioner. I know what some of you may be thinking; “Oh you’re just afraid of change,” when actually, I am not, I just know what makes for great basketball, and missing so many free throws is a stain on the purity that can be shown on the court. The bottom line is: Make your free throws so fans don’t pity you and a commissioner has to try and bail you out.

The Game Haus Play Of The Week – 3/28/16

Although March Madness focuses on the NCAA, we must not forget the professional level of basketball and that is the NBA. Without the NBA, athletes from top basketball programs would not be able to work toward a lifelong dream of playing for such a team to further expand their career. Needless to say, these NBA teams are currently playing for a playoff spot that will begin April 16, 2016 for a chance to reach the NBA Finals.
Sure, these athletes of the NBA are highly talented individuals and are very skilled at what they do. However, most of them are very cautious on the court to not only prevent themselves from injury, but from blocking a shot that is well out of their range. After all, sometimes a particular shot by a player is more than just points on the scoreboard. In fact, it is a sense of trash talking that is very well respected by players and fans that continues to add further appreciation to the sport of professional basketball.
Without further adieu, The Game Haus Play of the Week is just that. It involves two athletes who are utilizing their athletic skills to the best of their ability. One player is trying to increase their teams’ lead while the other is trying to prevent that exact revelation. Nevertheless, it makes for an extraordinary play. Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves came out of nowhere down the lane to simply land a dunk on Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. Wiggins was successful as Gobert stepped back to accept his fate. It is without a doubt an impressive dunk.
In case you missed it, here it is:
https://youtu.be/nDAcxvH8pek
If you would like to talk more about this amazing dunk, come meet me and others in the forum.To nominate a play of the week, please post your entries on our FacebookTwitter and Instagram Pages. Perhaps your selection will get chosen for next week’s “Play of the Week.”

Congrats to Carter McEachern for choosing this week’s play of the week.