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 There are a large majority people who think many of the events are old and outdated.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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Raptors

Toronto Raptors 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 21 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the draft needs and targets of the Toronto Raptors.

Summary

Raptors

Kyle Lowry may throw a wrench in Toronto’s plan to compete for a title next season. (Photo by Nathan Denette of The Canadian Press)

The Raptors have remained one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for the last four seasons. Their combined record during that time is 204-124. Under head coach Dwayne Casey, Toronto has a .548 winning percentage while ranking top 10 in points per game each year.

Their success has been overshadowed by the LeBron James era of basketball, as they have failed to reach the NBA finals despite finishing first in the Atlantic Division three out of the last four seasons. Due to the fact that overcoming the Cavaliers, as well as the super team in the west that shall remained unnamed, it seems as though Toronto’s championship window is slowly closing.

With star point guard Kyle Lowry, and newly acquired forwards Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker possibly leaving in free agency, the Raptors may have a multitude of needs to address in the draft.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No 23

With only one pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Raptors will need to find a diamond in the ruff with their 23rd pick. If Kyle Lowry leaves, they will have a huge hole at the point guard position, although Corey Joseph and Delon Wright could be enough to keep them competitive. If Serge Ibaka or P.J. Tucker were to leave, there would be a severe hole at the forward position, as Ibaka and Tucker, along with center Jonas Valanciunas, were the heart and soul of their defense this season.

Targets & Thoughts

Raptors

Semi Ojeleye has been overlooked due to playing in the AAC. (Photo by Centraltrack.com)

Option 1

Pick #23: Semi Ojeleye, Forward, SMU

Ojeleye, a former Duke Blue Devil, is a freak athlete who carried his SMU team to the NCAA tournament. He averaged about 19 points and seven rebounds per game, which was good enough to award him with the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year award (AAC).

Ojeleye is flying under the radar as the AAC has been labeled as having lesser talented competition. Also, he is considered a bit undersized at 6-foot-6, but his 240-pound frame and rebounding ability suggest he is more than ready for the jump to the NBA. The junior would be a great fit in Toronto, as he is an inside-outside scoring threat who is also no slouch on defense.

The Junior’s basketball IQ sets him apart. He did a great job of limiting turnovers and playing to his strengths. Even as the best player on his team, he rarely forced the issue, and simply did his job. I believe Ojeleye can be one of the most impactful players in this draft class, as he is extremely versatile, smart, and can be used as a mismatch against almost every NBA team.

Option 2

Pick #23: Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Power Forward/Center, Kentucky

Another freak athletic specimen, freshman Adebayo has gotten incredible praise from his coaches, teammates and opponents alike. Kentucky coach John Calipari said that he projects Adebayo to “be kind of like Karl (Towns) and even Anthony (Davis)”.

Like Towns and Davis, Adebayo’s per 40-minutes stat line consisted of over 17 points and 10 rebounds on over 56 percent from the field. Although I do not project him to be anywhere close to the offensive or defensive star that Towns or Davis have become, I do project him to be a highly skilled forward with plenty of room to grow.

He struggled defensively, as he only averaged 1.5 blocks per game with a defensive rebounding percentage of only 17.2 percent, which are a bit underwhelming for his 6-foot-10 250-pound frame. Both Towns and Davis managed to average over two blocks per game, with Davis averaging an astounding 4.7, while they both had a defensive rebounding percentage of over 22 percent.

Since Adebayo is only 19, he has plenty of time to develop his defense, rebounding and low post play. The transition to the NBA could be difficult, but if he is put in the right situation, he could develop into quite the two-way player.

Raptors

Ike Anigbogu is being severely overlooked due to not starting in a single game in his freshman season. (Photo via Twitter)

Option 3

Pick #23: Christopher Ike Anigbogu, Center, UCLA

Anigbogu has flown under the radar as he did not start a single game in his freshman season at UCLA. His incredible athleticism, defensive ability and strength has drawn interest from multiple NBA teams. His per 40-minutes stat line includes 14.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.

Anigbogu has an incredible amount explosiveness for his 6-foot-10 250-pound frame. He managed to bring down 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. His rebounding ability alone could be a huge asset to the Raptors who ranked 18th in the NBA in rebounding. His potential is through the roof as he is only 19-years-old. He has been a highly touted prospect since being ranked the number one high school center in California after averaging about 17 points and 10 rebounds in his senior season.

Conclusion

The Raptors have been one of the most successful teams over the last four seasons, although they clearly need to add a versatile difference maker in order to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals. If Kyle Lowry leaves, it will be interesting to see what the Raptors will do to fill the void, although with the assumption that he resigns, I expect the Raptors to add a versatile big man that can be an impact player off of the bench behind Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka.

Semi Ojeleye can impact a game very similarly to Ibaka, as he has a profound inside-outside offensive game, while also being an above average rebounder and defender. Bam Adebayo is a highly touted athletic freak who excels at facing up toward the basket on offense. Ike Anigbogu is another athletic freshman with tons of potential, who can immediately impact the game on the offensive and defensive boards.

 

Thanks for checking out the Toronto Raptors 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 22 of our NBA Draftmas special to see what the Utah Jazz may do.

 

NBA Draftmas Day 19: Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Draftmas Day 20: Brooklyn Nets

 

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Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Potential Destinations for Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry may have just had the best season of his career. The 31-year-old point guard finished this season with averages of 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and seven assists per game. He also shot a career-high 41.2 percent from 3-point range.

The three-time All Star announced earlier this week that he would be opting out of his deal with Toronto to become a free agent this summer. This has raised several questions of where Lowry will be playing next season.

Lowry said his biggest priority for the future is getting a ring, according to Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic. If that is the case, that narrows down the search to only a few possibilities.

Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Kyle Lowry just had a career year in Toronto. (Photo by Tip of the Tower)

Lowry was due to make $12 million next season, but with his opt out he can receive a max contract. That may have been another factor in his decision to opt out. The Raptors can offer him the biggest contract, approximately five years for $205 million. Anyone else can only offer him four years for about $152 million.

The biggest rumored destination for Lowry so far is the 76ers. Lowry went to high school in Philadelphia and stayed in the state of Pennsylvania by playing college ball at Villanova. 76ers’ president Bryan Colangelo also made the trade for Lowry from Houston when he was the Raptors general manager. Many have reported that Philly will offer him a huge contract this summer.

Based on Lowry’s comment about winning a ring, this move makes no sense. The Sixers are young and in a rebuilding process. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are all young talent with plenty of potential. They also will be adding another lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

However, these guys are no match in the East. LeBron James and the Cavs are always the favorites. The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards serve as the biggest threats to the Cavs. If the young Philly core stays healthy with Lowry in the lead, they would most likely make the postseason as a low seed and be eliminated in the first round.

Lowry will also be 32 next season during the postseason, so he does not have much time to waste with a rebuilding process. However, no matter where Lowry goes, he is always going to have to deal with either Cleveland or Golden State.

The Spurs may be one of the best fits for Lowry. Lowry would be a great replacement to Tony Parker at point guard. Parker had surgery for a ruptured quadricep tendon and could be out up to eight months. With an injury like that at his age, he will most likely never be the same player he was.

Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Could Lowry be teaming up with Kawhi Leonard this summer? (Photo by Air Alamo)

The Spurs also have the best chance at challenging Golden State for a spot in the Finals. Since the 2010-11 season, the Spurs have finished first in the West three times, second three times and sixth just once. They are consistently contending and adding another All Star to their team would only help. Lowry along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge would be a scary big three.

In order for the Spurs to make this work, they would need to clear a bit of cap room. They most likely wouldn’t be able to resign backup point guard Patty Mills and they would need to hope Pau Gasol declines his player option for next season. The team had to clear a lot of room to sign Aldridge back in 2015 and they made it work without losing a beat.

The Pelicans are another team that could be enticing to Lowry. New Orleans made noise at the trade deadline with their deal for DeMarcus Cousins, but things haven’t quite worked out the way they planned yet. The Pelicans finished the season 11-14 after acquiring Cousins after having postseason expectations.

Lowry could help get the Pelicans into the postseason. The status of their current point guard, Jrue Holiday, is still uncertain. Holiday is also a free agent and averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists per game this season. Lowry would be an upgrade from Holiday should they let him walk. Lowry also would provide veteran leadership to the younger Anthony Davis and Cousins.

Money is going to be another factor in this decision as well. Right now New Orleans is paying a lot to Davis and Cousins and does not have much cap space to pay Lowry. They could let some guys go of course to make room like San Antonio would have to. Lowry also may have to take a pay cut if he wants to go to a big contender in the West.

Kyle Lowry Free Agency

Lowry and DeRozan have made Toronto a winner. Will they actually split? (Photo by Toronto Star)

Lowry could also just stay in Toronto. Assuming he stays, they still have the potential to be a top-five team in the East. He also could make the most money with the Raptors. He would be making the max and playing for a playoff team. He helped make Toronto a winner along with fellow star DeMar DeRozan and is loved by the Raptors’ fan base.

However, that is all the Raptors will be: a playoff team. Not a big contender, not a Finals team and no threat to James and the Cavs.

Serge Ibaka is also another free agent Toronto will have to consider resigning. It is going to be tough for Toronto to pay them both. Losing Ibaka would hurt some, but losing Lowry would be a big blow to the team.

It will be interesting to say the least. This summer is going to be a huge for free agency with names like Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Lowry all potentially on the move.

If a ring is what Lowry truly wants, San Antonio or New Orleans may be his best bet. He may also have to be willing to take a pay cut. That is a price he must be willing to pay if he wants a championship.

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear-cut favorites to win the Eastern Conference and make it to the Finals. It makes you think: Who can knock off Cleveland in the East? Most assume that the Warriors and Cavaliers will meet for a third-straight Finals but that assumption could be dangerous. There are teams who could beat the Cavs and mess up everyone’s dream matchup.

The first version of this short series looked at who could knock off Golden State. If you haven’t read it you can check it out here.

LeBron James has led his team to the Finals for six straight years. It is safe to say the road to the Finals goes through Cleveland. Because it has been so long since a team not featuring LeBron has been to the Finals, it is hard to see anyone beating Cleveland in the East. Here are a few teams with the shot to dethrone the Eastern Conference Champions.

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston is just three games back of the Cavaliers for the number one seed and have one more game remaining against the Cavs. Getting that first seed could be the all-important factor in the Celtics’ chances of upsetting Cleveland as the home team has won every game this season. The Cavs have won two of the three games but all have been close contests.

In all three games, Isaiah Thomas has scored 30 points or more. They match up well all along the wing with valuable minutes coming from Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown. Boston’s depth gives them a shot at the upset.

To beat Cleveland in a seven game series, Boston will need its frontcourt to play well. It is the weakest area of the team and they have the fourth worst rebounding differential (-3.6) in the NBA. In their recent win over Cleveland, they won the rebounding battle 47-41.

Getting home court can be helpful but the key to Boston upsetting Cleveland will be in the frontcourt play and they will have to win that rebound battle with a healthy Kevin Love who did not play in the last matchup.

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Like a few other teams in the NBA, the Raptors are dealing with injuries. Kyle Lowry is a key player for Toronto and without him the Raptors have no shot at upsetting the Cavs. With that said, Lowry should be back in time for the playoffs.

Last season the Raptors faced the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals but lost the series 4-2. The Raptors struggled in the front court in that series.

The addition of Serge Ibaka was one of the most important in-season deals this year. Ibaka not only gives the Raptors a presence in the frontcourt, but he can stretch the floor on offense. He is a shot blocker on the defensive end and has lots of playoff experience.

Another addition that will help the Raptors chances of upsetting the Cavs is the addition of P.J. Tucker. Tucker provides a spark off the bench and impacts the game in multiple ways. It remains to be seen where this team will finish in the standings but this team should not be taken lightly. DeMar DeRozen needs to be a superstar for them to win a series against Cleveland as well.

They got off to a horrible slump against the Cavs last year but with those two additions they are a better team then they were last season. The Cavs cannot take them lightly or this season the Cavs will be sent home early.

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

John Wall and Bradley Beal are both having their best seasons of their careers. It can be argued that they have the best backcourt in all of basketball. Yes, as good as Golden State’s backcourt. Wall is second in assists per game with 10.9. Both guards average 22 points per game. These two stars carry the Wizards but the role players are they key to upsetting the Cavs.

Marcin Gortat is a veteran who plays big inside the paint. He could give the Cavs problems in a seven game series. Along with Gortat, the Wizards get big contributions from Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, and Kelly Oubre Jr.

The Wizards are also getting a career year out of Otto Porter who is averaging a career-high in minutes (33.8), field goal percentage (52.6%), three-point percentage (45.7%), free throw percentage (80%), rebounds (6.6), steals (1.6), blocks (0.6), and points (14.1).

This team has been playing well, especially at home were they are 25-9. Washington also signed veteran point guard Brandon Jennings will have a big impact off the bench when giving Wall some rest. They also traded for Bojan Bogdanovic who has played in five games with Washington and most recently dropped 27 points on the Raptors. As he finds his role with the Wizards he will become a valuable player. These two additions together will be huge in their pursuit of the Eastern Conference Championship.

It will take a team effort but with how well the Wizards play at home all they need to do is steal a game on the road. If they steal a game in Cleveland and John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter continue their amazing season they will upset Cleveland.

 

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Domantas Sabonis is Found Money for OKC

Domantas Sabonis, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rookie, is a malleable piece for the team and the Thunder are molding him into a fine player.

The much talked about trade between the Orlando Magic and the Thunder involved an undervalued component. The Thunder received the 11th pick from the Magic and Sabonis made his way to OKC. The rookie player wasn’t expected to produce much, but in his unforeseen role he isn’t shying away from the challenge.

At 20 years old, Sabonis didn’t come in wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Playing professionally for Lithuania in this past year’s Olympic Games, and of course being the son of Hall Of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, the game doesn’t seem to be too big to handle for the young forward out of Gonzaga. Not to mention, getting the starting nod from head coach Billy Donovan seems like an underrated part of his development.

Only averaging a little over 20 minutes a game, this a win-win situation for the team going forward and for Sabonis’s maturity. He’s rarely ever on the floor without Westbrook or another starter – he’s logged more than 500 minutes of his time on the floor with Westbrook, upwards of 85% of his floor time. That much time on the court with the starters helps in his improvement of good habits and poise.

He is only averaging about one turnover a game, another by-product of Donovan’s sublime deployment of Sabonis.

When he is on the court he’s effective. Sabonis is averaging ten points, two assists, and six rebounds per 36 minutes — shooting 44% from the field and 42% on three-point shots. In two years at Gonzaga, Sabonis attempted all of 14 threes. He’s had 13 attempts already in December in only six games. This further shows how the Thunder are using Sabonis’ potential to mold him into the much coveted factotum power forward.

Sabonis’ confidence in his shot and his role is steadily growing. His six shots per game usually come in the flow of what the Thunder are doing on offense. His relatively low usage percentage indicates that as such.

Interestingly, every three point shot made by Sabonis has been assisted by another player.

Sabonis, however is going to have to begin to take more shots in the post. His predecessor at the starting four spot, Serge Ibaka, never was really able to gain a reliable post game that the Thunder could go to when the offense was stale. Sabonis is taking less than one post shot a game. With 65% of his shots coming from 10-16 feet, adding an arrow into his offensive quiver would be wise.

The lefty Sabonis would also be wise to develop the ability to use either hand to some degree. It seems as if he has an obvious affinity for his left side. That can lead to a pretty simple scouting report.

The Thunder have an important piece going forward in Sabonis. With his skill set and level of potential, Domantas has the rare chance of being a special player. It’s up to the front office, coaches, and teammates to make sure that his development doesn’t hit any snags and progresses smoothly. The onus is also on Sabonis to take advantage of his potential and his opportunity to add his name to Sabonis folklore.

Don’t Sleep When There is Thunder

All of the talk of the NBA season has been about Kobe’s last year and the Golden State Warriors. Even secondary to these topics, the San Antonio Spurs were the huge topic of conversation due to their chance to go undefeated at home during the regular season. If people still couldn’t find anything to talk about they would shift to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference in these NBA Playoffs. There is one team that everyone has been overlooking, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder boast a talented roster that has been overlooked all season long. Photo courtesy thunderclutchpoints.com.

There has been many different ways the Thunder have been disrespected this year, and not just by what people like to talk about when they think of the NBA. Enes Kanter got snubbed for the Sixth Man of the Year award, which was given to Jamal Crawford. Crawford averaged 14.2 points per game and 2.3 assists per game, while Kanter averaged 12.7 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game, which is a staggering number considering he was coming off of the bench. The Sixth Man of the Year rarely goes to big guys, but this is surely a case where Kanter should have won the award.

Russell Westbrook is a superstar. Photo courtesy youtube.com.

Another way the Thunder has been disrespected came at the hands of one of the most vocal owners, Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks. He said that Kevin Durant was the only superstar player on the Thunder after his Mavericks lost to Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs. This was clearly a knock of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook had a great season this year and probably would have won the MVP if Stephen Curry wasn’t hitting three-pointers from every corner of the gym. Westbrook has averaged 23.5 points per game, 10.4 assists per game and 7.8 rebounds per game, to complete a historically good season. While people haven’t been paying much attention to Durant because of the talk of the other great teams in the league, Westbrook has also been overlooked because of these teams, giving both players a gigantic chip on their shoulders.

Why is everyone sleeping on this team? The Warriors, Cavaliers and Spurs have shown that while they are good they aren’t unbeatable. The Thunder won 55 games this season and should be getting a little more credit for that. The only thing people bring up when talking about the Thunder is there inability to close out games late. This is a huge issue, but they managed to get the three seed in the difficult Western Conference despite these struggles. Durant has shown over his career that he is more than capable of being clutch.

With all of this criticism and disrespect shown towards the Thunder this year, there is a giant chip on their shoulder. Durant and Westbrook are still one of the best combinations in all of basketball and can beat any team when playing in a seven game series. Throw in other quality players such as Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow, Dion Waiters, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Randy Foye, Nazr Mohammed, Cameron Payne and Enes Kanter, and you have a team that creates huge match-up problems. With those players, it really takes some nitpicking to criticize this team.

Anyone who says Kevin Durant doesn’t have heart, doesn’t know basketball. Photo courtesy nba.com.

The Thunder are down 1-0 due to a terrible loss by 32 points at San Antonio in their first game of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Then they got shown more disrespect by the national media. Durant and Westbrook are not players that I would want to make angry. Westbrook plays with enough ferocity that he doesn’t need any more motivation. Durant has been criticized all year, with ESPN’s Cari Champion saying he didn’t have the heart to be a top five player in the league. Anyone who would say that hasn’t followed the NBA or Durant’s story well enough, and that’s putting it in a nice way. Now is the time that he will step up, along with Westbrook, and lead the Thunder to victory. So Spurs, Warriors and Cavaliers, don’t get rattled when the thunder booms.