NBA Playoff Races

NBA Playoff Races

There is only a month remaining in the NBA season, and the NBA playoff races are heating up. There are so many questions left to answer. Who will get the one seed in the West? Who will be the eighth seeds in both the East and West? There are so many seeds undecided and positioning is going to very important in who will make deep postseason runs. Here is what to watch for in the final four weeks of the season.

Western Conference: First Seed

NBA Playoff Races

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There is still much to be decided in the West. The race for the first seed has really picked up since Kevin Durant got injured. The Warriors lead has vastly shrunk.

Their lead for the first seed is down to just a game and a half over the Spurs with 14 games remaining. This is an important race for the path to the conference finals and then having home-court in the conference finals.

Neither team has to worry about their first round matchup as both should win in short, easy series. The team who gets the second seed would likely see a tough series versus Houston in the second round. That is what both San Antonio and Golden State want to avoid. Both teams want to go into the conference finals as rested as possible.

Golden State and San Antonio will meet on March 29. It will be a huge game in deciding who wins the number one seed.

The Spurs and Warriors both have nine home games remaining. San Antonio has six away games while the Warriors have five. Both teams’ remaining opponents have a win percentage of 53 percent.

It will be a close finish and will come down to the final days of the season. Golden State will hold on to that number one seed as the season ends.

Western Conference Race for 8th

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the spot for the eighth seed in the West with a record of 33-35. Portland (30-37), Dallas (29-38) and Minnesota (28-39) all still have a shot to get the eighth seed.

This four team race is really close to becoming a two-team race between Denver and Portland. Denver has been playing much better lately and looks like a playoff team. They only have five home games remaining and that could be the factor that costs them that playoff spot.

Portland, on the other hand, has 10 games remaining at home and their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of 49 percent. The Trailblazers will end up getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference with all those home games remaining against subpar teams.

The Rest of the West

NBA Playoff Races

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

Golden State and San Antonio are fighting for first and second. Denver or Portland will get the eighth seed. That leaves seeds three through seven.

The third seed is pretty much locked into Houston. Utah, Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City and Memphis mathematically can catch them, but it would take a total collapse by Houston to do so. Utah is the current four seed, but only four games separate Utah, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Memphis.

Russell Westbrook is close to breaking the single-season triple-double record and the Thunder are 29-6 when Westbrook gets a triple-double. Predicting he breaks the record means the Thunder will win at least eight more games. If that happens the Thunder will end up in the four or five spot.

Utah will get the spot the Thunder do not get, meaning they will also be the fourth or fifth seed. The Clippers will finish with the sixth seed and Memphis will remain as the seventh seed.

The East’s Top Half

The Eastern Conference is divided in half in terms of playoff seeding. Teams seeded one through four can end up in any one of those spots while teams five through eight will end up in the bottom half of the seeding.

The Cavaliers are in the top spot with a record of 45-22. The Celtics are two and a half back, the Wizards are three and a half back and Toronto is six and a half games back of the top spot. There should be a few changes in the top four seeds in the final weeks.

The Celtics remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 44 percent. They also have nine home games remaining while the Cavaliers have nine road games remaining. it is safe to predict the Celtics being only two and a half back will finish as the first seed and the Cavs will finish as the second seed.

The Wizards have 10 road games remaining and all that travel will catch up with them. The Raptors remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 47 percent. The top of the east will finish as follows: First Boston, second Cleveland, third Toronto, and fourth Washington.

The Rest of the East

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams seeded fifth through 10th are separated by just five games. There are four spots for six teams.

Currently, it stands as Atlanta as the fifth seed with a record of 37-31. They will make the playoffs without question.  The Pacers are 35-33 and being above a .500 win percentage will be enough to get in as well.

That leaves Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami and Chicago fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds. Chicago has lost Dwayne Wade for the remainder of the year with an elbow injury. They were struggling with Wade and won’t be able to win enough games without him in the final month to make the playoffs.

Milwaukee is an exciting team with a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will lead them to a playoff appearance this season. Their remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 49 percent.

That leaves Miami who is 33-35 and Detroit who is 33-36. Both are fighting for the final remaining playoff spot. Miami started the season 10-31 and has since been on fire. No pun intended, but they have been heating up.

These teams have one more meeting against each other and that could be the deciding factor. The Pistons do have the easier remaining schedule of the two teams. This race is hard to predict, but in the second half of the season, the Heat have been the much better team.

The Heat will end up making the playoffs and Detroit will be the odd team out in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first, but it depends on who wins the lottery. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

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

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a Russell Westbrook type of player by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, but could be a huge steal.

Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one overall pick before he began having injury problems. We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

27: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

 

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D'Angelo Russell Future Star

D’Angelo Russell Future Star?

When young players enter the NBA, fans expect them to become stars immediately. If at 19,20 or 21 years old they aren’t dominating the game, many people start to think of them as busts. The fact is they need time to gain experience in the professional game. It requires patience that many fans don’t have.

Players must go through the long, draining NBA regular seasons that last from October to April. These players are still kids barely out of college and usually aren’t ready for full NBA seasons until they have experienced a few.

One of the players often mentioned as not living up to his potential has only been in the NBA two seasons. That player is Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Laker Nation

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org)

The Lakers’ fanbase is one of the most impatient in all of sports, but for good reason. The Lakers franchise was founded back in 1947 in Minneapolis and moved to Los Angeles in 1960. In their franchise’s illustrious history, the Lakers have played in 31 NBA Finals and captured 16 championships, which is second most all-time.

Los Angeles is used to great players and winning teams. The team has had some of the most legendary players in the history of the game like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Winning is all the Lakers have ever known, which is why they have such an impatient fanbase. From the 1948-1949 season until the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers had only missed the playoffs five times. It is absolutely incredible to think about that level of consistency over six decades.

The recent Laker seasons have had nothing to do with winning. Over the past four seasons, including this one, the Lakers have gone 84-225. L.A. will miss the playoffs four consecutive seasons after this one. In their first 65 years, they missed the playoffs five times and are now about to miss the playoffs four straight. It is understandable that Laker fans are frustrated.

The departure of Kobe Bryant has left the Lakers searching for a star to carry the franchise. They do not have to look far for that star because they have already drafted him.

star Point Guards in their early years

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

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

D’Angelo Russell, also known as D-Lo, is already off to a great start to his young career. Russell is going to be constantly overshadowed by Karl Anthony-Towns, who was the first overall pick in the same draft class.

Towns has gotten most of the attention due to his unbelievable play so far. However, Russell’s first two seasons in the NBA are right on par with some of the NBA’s star point guards.

To really understand the projection Russell’s career should take, we must look at how he compares to these star guards in their first two seasons in the NBA.

The first comparison will be to Damian Lillard. Lillard averaged 19.9 points, 6.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 37.2 minutes per game in his first two seasons . Lillard is one of the best guards in the league now and was off to a great start due to the high minutes he was playing.

The next comparison is MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. After two seasons in the league, Westbrook averaged 15.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Just as Lillard averaged high minutes, so did Westbrook with 33.4 minutes per game.

The last guard for comparison will be Wizards star John Wall. Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Wall’s minutes were right on par with Lillard’s as he averaged 37 minutes per game.

These three guards are all considered top guards and leaders of their respective teams. How close is D’Angelo Russell to following in their footsteps?

D’Angelo Russell: The Future Star

The first thing noticeable about how Russell stacks up with these other guards is in minutes played. D’Angelo Russell is playing far fewer minutes than the other guards mentioned above. Russell has averaged just under 28 minutes a game (27.8) in his first two seasons. Compared to Wall and Lillard, that is 10 minutes less per game.

D'Angelo Russell Future Star

(Gif Credit: http://thedoublescreen.com)

Considering he is playing far fewer minutes, his stats are still pretty similar to theirs.

This season, Russell is averaging 14.9 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Per 36 minutes, those numbers jump to 19.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds. If Russell was playing more, he would be averaging around the same numbers as these stars were in their second seasons.

Along with the solid numbers, Russell has proven he can hit big shots. He has made the saying “ice in my veins” famous all because he pointed to his arm when he hit a clutch 3-pointer as you can see in the gif to the left.

Russell not only has the pressure of living up to the hype of the second overall pick in the draft, but also has to follow the legendary Kobe Bryant. He is taking over a franchise that for the last 20 seasons was led by a man who won five NBA Championships.

There is a long list of stars to live up to in Hollywood, but Russell just needs more time. He is just 21 years old, but the future looks bright. The current star point guards in the NBA were once doing exactly what he is doing now so be patient and don’t worry Lake Show. D’Angelo is on his way to becoming the next Laker star.

 

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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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Injuries are Shaking up the NBA

Injuries always end up taking its toll on the NBA season. The 2016-2017 season is no exception. As the season comes to a close, injuries are taking an even bigger toll on teams. They are giving a better idea of what the race for the championship might look like.

Key NBA Injuries This Season

Rudy Gay

NBA injuries

Rudy Gay (Photo courtesy: slamonline.com)

Rudy Gay was the first to fall to the injury bug. Gay was beginning to look like a prime trade target for a lot of teams who needed perimeter scoring. The Raptors and Thunder both looked like teams that could use his scoring presence on the outside. Gay fell victim to a season-ending torn Achilles in the midst of another solid season.

The Kings were never going to be a serious title threat, but Gay looked like a piece that could completely transform a fringe team. His presence could have vaulted the Thunder into another level, or made the Raptors contenders in the East. Nevertheless, his season is over.

The Gay injury was seemingly the first domino in the NBA injury season. Zach Lavine tore his ACL and ended his season shortly after.

Zach Lavine

Lavine took a serious leap this season and was another potential trade asset at the deadline. He became a deadly scorer for the Timberwolves this season and remained one of the most explosive and athletic players in the league. The Timberwolves title hopes were almost nonexistent even before the injury to Lavine, but the injury was still a serious blow to the young team.

Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker was the next to fall. Parker’s injury is perhaps the most disheartening of any of the injuries we have seen this year.

After missing much of his first season due to a torn ACL, Jabari started to show some of the potential that he had promised in college. He looked as if he was a blossoming star next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Another ACL injury means Parker will likely miss the next 12 months and possibly set back the progress he’s made since his first injury.

The injury to Parker is especially disheartening to the Bucks. Shooting guard Khris Middleton missed most of the year due to an achilles tear and just recently returned to the lineup. The combination of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Parker would have been something to behold. Perhaps it would have been enough to vault the Bucks into the playoffs. Now their playoff hopes are much more up in the air.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

The Sixers have a pair of young stars that have been plagued with injuries this year. Just a month ago the Sixers were turning their season around and looked like they might have a chance at the playoffs. Since then, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have both been ruled out for the rest of the year.

Like the Timberwolves and Bucks, the injuries to young stars have taken a huge toll on the Sixers. They have struggled to pick up momentum without Embiid, and they will lose time that they could have developed chemistry.

The final three, and possibly most significant, injuries are to stars at their conferences. Namely, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry. These injuries are bound to have massive implications on the playoffs hunt.

Kevin Love

The Kevin Love injury leaves the Cavaliers in a unique position. They still have the best player in the world in Lebron James and a star point guard in Kyrie Irving, but they have to decide whether it is still worth chasing the number one seed. Resting Lebron and Kyrie down the stretch might be a good move for the playoffs, but they could slip in the standings because of it.

If Love misses time in the playoffs, a strengthened Eastern Conference could give them trouble. The Celtics, Raptors and Wizards have all significantly improved this season. Even though the Cavs are still huge favorites, any one of those teams could give them a run for their money if injuries plague them down the stretch.

Kyle Lowry

NBA injuries

Kyle Lowry (Photo courtesy: grantland.com)

The Lowry injury is also a huge blow to the Raptors. The Raptors went all in on solidifying their starting lineup at the deadline. Losing their starting point guard for the rest of the season hurts. Even making the Eastern Conference Finals will be incredibly difficult if they don’t have Lowry in the playoffs.

Kevin Durant

As for Kevin Durant, there is little information about the severity of his injury. If he misses significant time, it could be devastating to the Warriors who don’t have much bench depth.

Editor’s note: Kevin Durant will miss at least four weeks due to a bone bruise and sprained MCL in his knee according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Durant could return before the end of the regular season, but his return is in question.

The injury bug will continually be something to watch down the stretch as we find out how some of these injuries shake up the league.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA Mid-Season Awards

NBA Mid-Season Awards ’17

All-Star Weekend has finished up and more than half the season is gone. Teams are either preparing for the draft or preparing to push towards the playoffs. There have been some amazing performances this season. All-Star break has always been looked at as the mid-season and for those teams who make deep postseason runs, it still is. So catch your breath and lace your sneakers for the second half of the season. Here are Hagan’s Haus NBA mid-season awards.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’antoni- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Rocky Widner Getty Images)

This is the hardest award to pick out of all. There were a couple of strong candidates for this award including Washington head coach Scott Brooks and Utah head coach Quin Snyder. Both of those coaches are having great seasons but this award must go to Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets.

Last season the Rockets were the eighth seed in the playoffs after making the conference finals the previous year. This season they hold the third seed in a strong Western Conference and already have 40 wins after only amassing 41 last season. That type of improvement in just one season is impressive. The Rockets may not win the NBA Title but they have become a dangerous team in the west under D’Antoni.

 

6th man of the year: Eric Gordon- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: LM Otero, Associated Press)

There is no question that Eric Gordon is the sixth man of the year. His career was in shambles until this season. Gordon could not stay healthy and could not live up to his potential in New Orleans. Now as a sixth man Gordon provides a spark off the Rockets bench. He is shooting 38.9 percent from behind the arc. Gordon also has the fourth most made three-pointers in league with 184. This is also Gordon’s third best year in scoring. If he continues this he will easily win the sixth man of the year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Bradley Beal- Washington Wizards

This was a difficult award to assess but Bradley Beal is a good candidate for the award. Bradley Beal missed 27 games due to injury last season. He only started 35 of the 55 games he appeared in. This season, however, Beal has started all 51 games that he has played in.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

Beal is a part of a surging Wizards team that has won nine out of their last 10 and have taken the third spot in the Eastern Conference. They are only two games back of the Celtics for the two seed. Part of that surge is because Beal is having a career year. Beal is averaging a career high in points per game (22.2), assists per game (3.7), free throw percentage (81%) and field goal percentage (47%). Beal has come back strong this season and the Wizards are a threat because of it.

Most Improved: Giannis Antekokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

The Greek Freak just played in his first ever All-Star game at the age of 22. Giannis is also averaging a career high in points per game (23.4), blocks per game (2.0), steals per game (1.8), assists per game (5.4), rebounds per game (8.6), free throw percentage (79%) and field goal percentage (52.3%). Not only are those his career highs, he leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Giannis is clearly on his way to stardom and has improved vastly since last season. He has improved more than anybody else this season and one day may be an MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Mid Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Trust the process. No really, trust the process because Joel Embiid has been fantastic in his first year on the court. It has been a long wait for 76er fans to see Embiid in action but it has been worth the wait. He has started 31 games and is averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. His 78 percent free throw shooting is also impressive for a big man.

The 76ers have found a legitimate franchise piece to build around. Their only concern now is his history of injuries. If he can stay healthy the 76ers are in for some great years of basketball. Embiid is no question the rookie of the year and there is no competition. Trust the process.

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green- Golden State Warriors

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

Defensive player of the year was tough to pick. There is no clear cut favoite that stands out above the rest. Permiter defenders don’t typically get this award. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are both great defenders but are unlikely to win the award.

Draymond Green is a player who is deserving of this award. Green can defend all five positions on the court. His versitility makes him valuable and one of the best defenders in the NBA. He also ranks 14th with 1.5 blocks per game, and first in steals in the NBA with 2.1 per game. He is the best defender on the league’s best team and that has to account for something. He also recorded the rarest triple double in NBA history. It was the first ever triple double without scoring more than 10 points. Green’s triple double came from 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. In an era where scoring and offense are valued so highly, Green is one of the best defenders in the league.

Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook- Oklahoma City Thunder

How can you not love “Brodie”? He is every fan’s and team builder’s dream. He plays basketball harder than any athlete in the world plays their sport. Westbrook is an old-school competitor and all he really wants to do is win. Only one player in NBA history has averaged a triple-double. Westbrook is looking to become the second player ever to accomplish this in 70 seasons of the NBA.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

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

Many people argue that this era of the NBA is the most talented era of all-time. Players are more skilled than ever before which makes the nightly triple-double watch for Westrbook more spectacular.

Without Westbrook the Thunder would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. “Brodie” has a PER of 29.5 which is a career high and would be the 26th best PER in NBA history. Westbrook is averaging a career high in points per game (31.1), rebounds per game (10.5) and three-point percentage (33.8). He is also adding 10.1 assits per game to round out the triple-double. “Brodie” is carrying the franchise on his back to the playoffs.

Some may argue that James Harden should be the MVP and they wouldn’t be wrong. Harden is having an MVP caliber year but think about this. Westrbook is averaging a triple-double. That alone is absolutely amazing, but his team is also a playoff team. If averaging a triple-double over a season is not worth the MVP award then we need to take away the name “Most Valuable Player” and call it “Media’s Most Popular Player”. Russell Westbrook is the MVP.

 

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January NBA Playoff Predictions

As we head into the new year, here are the NBA playoff predictions for who will grab the 16 spots in the NBA playoffs this spring.

East

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs will most likely rest their starters heading down the stretch. The Raptors will most likely make a push for the top spot, and could make it close. The easier schedule will let them grab the top seed in the East. Projected win total: 62

NBA Playoffs

DeMar DeRozan (Photo courtesy: chch.com)

2. Toronto Raptors: The superstar backcourt in Toronto, coupled with their depth, makes them almost a lock for one of the top two seeds. They’ll most likely push Cleveland for home field advantage towards the end of the year. The tough schedule down the stretch will have them fall into second. Projected win total: 58

3. Boston Celtics: Boston looks to be a prime candidate to make a big splash at the trade deadline. Either way, the streaking Celtics will grab the third seed and home court in the first round. As their young backcourt and wings continue to develop the team will only continue to improve. Projected win total: 52

4. Milwaukee Bucks: The rise of the Greek Freak and Jabari Parker will propel the Bucks passed the Hawks and Hornets and give them home court advantage in the first round. Their schedule gets easier as the season progresses as well. Look for them to grab a few key wins in the next few months. Projected win total: 44

5. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks might be sellers at the deadline, but either way they look to rise up in the weak Eastern Conference. The Hawks backcourt may prove to be their downfall in the stretch run. If they can get some solid guard play at the deadline, they may rise even further up the conference. Projected win total: 42

6. New York Knicks: The Knicks will benefit from any easy schedule over the next few months. If Derrick Rose can continue to adapt to the offense and get Kristaps Porzingis more involved in the offense, this team can compete with anyone. Projected win total: 41

7. Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets will drop down the stretch as they face more Western Conference opponents. The pace of the Hornets is unsustainable and they will likely fall in the muddled East. There are so many average teams in the East that it could go any way, but the Hornets will drop down to 7th. Projected win total: 41

8. Washington Wizards: The Wizards will ride their trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter to the last spot in the East. The Wizards bench may be one of the worst in the league right now. But the return of Ian Mahimi an the hopeful improvements of Trey Burke will help this team grab the last seed. The weak Eastern Conference will also help them sneak in with a sub-.500 record. Projected win total: 38

West

1. Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors will remain the top seed in the West. They’ll face stiff competition from the two teams below them. But, ultimately, they are just too good. It’s hard to see the Warriors losing more than six or seven more games this year as they just don’t face enough tough competition. Projected win total: 70

NBA Playoffs

James Harden (Photo courtesy: nba.com)

2.  Houston Rockets: The Rockets have weathered through their tough schedule this far. In the second half, their schedule gets even easier. The Rockets will spend much of the next two months beating up on the weak Eastern Conference teams before holding on to grab the two seed. The Rockets will also pursue the 2nd seed more aggressively than the Spurs will. Projected win total: 62

3. San Antonio Spurs: Greg Popovich will most likely rest some of his starters down the stretch. The seeding doesn’t really matter for these yearly powerhouses. They are just too good to slip much past the 3rd seed though. Projected win total: 58

4. Utah Jazz: Look for the Jazz to make some small moves at the deadline. Home field advantage will be more important to the Jazz as well. Their depth will allow them to chase the four seed more aggressively. Projected win total: 52

5. LA Clippers: The Clippers look to be potential players at the trade deadline. But, their health will make it tough for them to keep up in the second half of the year. Hopefully when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are back on the same floor they will be able to push back up the standings. Projected win total: 50

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: No doubt, Russell Westbrook’s push for averaging a triple-double will allow the Thunder to win enough game down the stretch. Also, after these six teams there is a severe drop-off in talent in the west. The combination of Westbrook, Steve Adams, Victor Oladipo and Damontis Sabonis will lead the Thunder to the 6th seed. Projected win total: 48

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis has the firepower to compete with anyone, but injuries will make it tough for them to compete with the better teams in the East. Look for them to slump down the stretch as they try to get healthy for the playoffs. Projected win total: 44

8. Denver Nuggets: The 8th seed in the West is a mess. Currently, Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento, Portland and Los Angeles are fighting for it. Denver, ultimately, will grab the last seed in the West assuming one thing. They need to grab a piece at the trade deadline. Denver has to be the biggest player at the trade deadline. They must deal one of their big men to give this team the final push it needs to become a playoff team. If they do, they will get the 8th seed. Projected win total: 36

 

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NBA Season Preview Series by Danny with the J: Southeast Division

The 2016 NBA season is rapidly approaching and with the wild offseason over, the time has arrived for assessing the status of teams heading into training camp and predicting what fans can expect out of their respective teams. Disclaimer: We in no shape or form claim to know everything about basketball, but we do confess our love for the game and will make statements for each team built on sound arguments. With that in mind, let us begin…

Atlanta Hawks

  • Offseason: The Hawks added Atlanta native and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in center Dwight Howard and point guard Jarret Jack in free agency. However, the Hawks lost 4-time NBA All-Star Al Horford to the Celtics as an unrestricted free agent. Atlanta also traded away Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers in a 3-team deal that gave Atlanta the number 12 pick overall in the draft, which was used on Baylor small forward Taurean Prince by way of the Utah Jazz (the third team in the Teague-trade). Atlanta also drafted DeAndre Bembry out of St. Joseph with the 21st pick and Isaia Cordinier in the 2nd round (44th overall) who had played for French club Denain ASC Voltaire last season.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Trading Jeff Teague meant that the Hawks were ready to hand the keys of the car to backup point guard Dennis Schroder, who is entering his third year in the league and letting Horford go in free agency allowed the Hawks the cash to spend to bring in Dwight Howard. As far as predicting their season, the Hawks look to be in playoff contention, but it will be a tight race in the division.
    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks handles the ball against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Jay: The Hawks make the playoffs if Dwight Howard returns to DPotY form; they lost Horford who is a solid defender and Howard’s defensive prowess was hard to find at times in Houston. Hopefully the Hawks treat him better than James Harden did.

Daniel: The Hawks have a playoff pedigree, and adding a player that has been to NBA Finals shouldn’t hurt in theory. However, the fit between Paul Millsap and Howard will be interesting to watch develop. Millsap, in my opinion is the best player, but they need Howard to provide some semblance of elite level defense if they want home court in the playoffs. While there might be a drop-off in play-making and floor leadership with Teague gone, Schröder definitely could add a change of pace with his fast-twitch, sneaky aggressive game.

Charlotte Hornets

  • Offseason: The Hornets had a busy offseason. They resigned Nicholas Batum to a new deal, traded the 22nd pick, Malachi Richardson, to the Sacramento Kings for Marco Belinelli, and used free agency to let some players go and new ones come in. Charlotte signed Roy Hibbert, Ramon Sessions, Christian Wood and Brian Roberts. The Hornets also lost Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson to free agency.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Hornets, like most teams in the eastern conference still have a long way to go to compete with Cleveland for eastern conference champ, but like the Hawks, they are in playoff contention. Frank Kaminsky is still in development, Kemba Walker is still as underrated as ever and they still need a third piece that can take away pressure from Walker to create offense and wreak havoc for opposing teams on the defensive end of the floor.
    Courtesy of www.nydailynews.com

    Courtesy of www.nydailynews.com

Jay: Charlotte misses the playoffs on top of the All-Star game being relocated. Kaminsky does take a noticeable step in development, but it isn’t enough to get past Atlanta or Washington.

Daniel: Losing Lin was HUGE. Time and time again Lin could either relieve Walker during the games when the defense would load up on him or his shot just wasn’t there. Then there were the times, namely during the playoffs, when they could play off each other and serve as an above average tandem in the backcourt. With Lee gone also, the depth of this team took a hit. Adding a dinosaur of a big man in Hibbert could end up being a net zero of a move. Trading him by the trade deadline is the best case scenario. Without adding anything or hurting the team, his presence should go unnoticed. Kaminsky could take a step, but it won’t be enough to help them gain playoff contention.

Washington Wizards

  • Offseason: Bradley Beal was resigned to a large extension according to the previous standard set by last year’s salary cap; much like other NBA teams did with their “indispensable” guys. The Wizards’ notable free agent losses include Ramon Sessions, Nene, Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson. Outside of Ian Mahinmi, there weren’t any other noteworthy free agent pickups. Washington didn’t have a draft pick, but they did hire former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: The Wizards have new coach with a similar group of guys. Something they seemed to have been missing in the past couple of seasons. Can they finally take the division from Atlanta or Miami?
    courtesy of USA Today Sports

    courtesy of USA Today Sports

Jay: I say they make the playoffs. John Wall puts up better numbers and dare I say puts himself in the MVP discussion as a dark horse? They’re talented. I hope Brooks can put it together.

Daniel: If Bradley Beal can stay on the court he could have a special season. The one thing about Brooks is that he rides his stars, for better or worse. The ball should be in Wall and Beal’s hands for most of each possession. If Brooks can bring some ingenuity, (something he’s never been known to consistently possess) this backcourt, with the pieces around them, can be an Eastern Conference contender.

Orlando Magic

  • Offseason: The Magic helped shakeup the basketball landscape this offseason by trading away Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova and their number 11 pick, which turned into Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga), to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka. The Magic also drafted center Stephen Zimmerman out of UNLV. Orlando had a busy free agency period as well; they brought in Bismack Biyambo, Jeff Green and DJ Augustin. Orlando also let go of Brandon Jennings and traded Shabazz Napier to Portland.
  • Outlook 2016-17: Magic fans can be excited for this season; Ibaka paired with Nikola Vucevic looks pretty appetizing to watch along with Aaron Gordon being the modern human highlight reel.

Jay: Playoffs aren’t far from Orlando. It’ll come down to the final 10 games of the season, but they will miss the playoffs this year. They will be respectable though. They will look to be one of the more competitive teams in the east in spite of not making the playoffs. The team doesn’t have the coaching to get there in my opinion.

Daniel: New head coach Frank Vogel has manned a top ten defense for the last five seasons. That’s what they are going to have to hang their cap on. They have the athletes to be an absolute wall defensively in the interior. Shooting will be a problem. Ibaka is an elite shooter but he HAS to be fed the ball. Sophomore Mario Hezonja has shown signs of developing into a reliable shooter and offensive threat. The point guard position with Elfrid Payton is going to be intriguing as he may be starting caliber.

courtesy of orlandosentinel.com

courtesy of orlandosentinel.com

Miami Heat

  • Offseason: A new era has begun in Miami; Dwayne Wade is gone, Whiteside is the new face of the Heat, and there is a bunch of young developing talent. The Heat added Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams along with retaining Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. The team unfortunately didn’t have a draft pick this year.
  • 2016-17 Outlook: Chris Bosh has yet to be cleared to play by Miami team doctors, so until then, Heat fans should get used to seeing Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and Derrick Williams running the floor. Young is the best way to describe this group that is most likely to be around after veterans like Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem are gone.
    nba.com

    nba.com

Jay: I wouldn’t expect playoffs this season. Maybe next season if Richardson, Johnson and Winslow take large steps in their development by the season’s end, but not this season with Bosh not cleared to play.

Daniel: Ummm, what happened with the Heat? No Wade, and they gave “Bumpy” Johnson a 4/$50 million a year contract. Pat Riley has to be sick to his stomach with the events of the last 2-3 seasons. The Bosh ordeal has just been saddening. They had a nice year last season, but it won’t be as pleasant for the “Timberwolves East.”

The Race for Kevin Durant

(Credit:Scott Visy)

(Credit:Scott Visy)

Free agency is right around the corner and we all know who the biggest fish is in this year’s offseason. It is Kevin Durant. The obvious question is, does he resign with Oklahoma City or does he decide to venture off into another city to chase that elusive title? If he decides to leave where will he go? He could pick any destination in the entire NBA that he wanted. Teams would do everything to make room to sign him. Could he go to Los Angeles to be apart of the Lakers glorified and rich history? Does he go to Los Angeles to start the creation of a legacy for the Clippers? Does he find he way to San Antonio to play under one of the greatest coaches ever? There are rumors he will head to the bay in Oakland to play for Golden State or to south beach to play for Miami as well.

He could go to New York to play in the greatest arena in the world, Madison Square Garden, and the city dying for a great basketball team. Another likely scenario could be the nation’s capital, which happens to be Kevin Durant’s hometown team. He has shot down all of the rumors about playing for the Wizards saying he has no desire to do so, but it is hard to believe that to be true.

There are pros and cons for each destination and it may be difficult to predict where Durant goes but one thing is for sure; summer ’16 is the race for Kevin Durant.

Durant can go to two teams in Los Angeles. Many players want to play in the city of angels because of the Hollywood lifestyle and the great year-round weather. The Lakers have a long history of legendary players and countless championships. Durant could really thrive in purple and gold. The fans would love him and he could be the next great Laker. One of the cons is the pressure he would have to try and live up to following Kobe. It would be a tall task for any player to take on. Kobe has left a shadow in Los Angeles almost as big as the one Jordan left in Chicago. Another con is the young, inexperienced roster. Going to play for the Lakers would be another rebuild that may take three to four years, and Durant is not at the point of his career where he wants to patiently wait and rebuild and this could be the biggest reason he snubs the Lakers this summer.

If Los Angeles is the city he really wants to be in, he can still play there with the Clippers if the Lakers aren’t enticing enough for him. It would allow him to play for Doc Rivers and possibly with Chris Paul. A major issue is that the Clippers will always be the little brothers to the Lakers, even if they win a title and for that to change they need to win 17 titles. They will never be able to get out from under the Laker’s shadow, Los Angeles is, and will always be a Laker town.

A popular rumor on where Kevin Durant might end up is in Golden State. Playing with Steph Curry would be intriguing for anyone, but the major appeal is that Golden State is on the verge of coming off back to back championships along with breaking a record for wins in a season.  Another reason Durant may want to play in the bay is that Steve Kerr has proven to be a phenomenal coach.  One issue though, is this move would not make sense for Golden State, because to pull this off they would have to do a sign and trade which would mess up the current roster that has been very successful and is still relatively young. Why would they want to mess up the chemistry of this highly successful team? I don’t think they would nor should they. I know in my introduction I said he could pick any destination, but this is the one exception.

Miami has said that one of their biggest goals this offseason is to get a sit down with Kevin Durant. Miami has a lot to offer as a city, with the night life and amazing beaches. Pat Riley is also a legendary basketball mind. He would also get to play in the eastern conference which may allow him an easier path to the finals. With all that said, it is unlikely Durant follows in LeBron’s footsteps and takes his talents to south beach.

Along with all these places Durant can go to he can also play for New York, San Antonio and his home, in the nation’s capitol, but there is only one place for him this summer. Kevin Durant will stay in Oklahoma City. Why would he go anywhere else? He has a team with an extremely talented roster that features big men, shooters and a top five player in the NBA in Russell Westbrook. It will be hard to find a team more suited for a title than the current one he is on. He needs to fight through adversity and continue on the mission he started with the Thunder. It also makes sense financially for him to sign a two year deal with an option in the second year. The reason it is smart for Durant to take this option is because he would be able to opt out in the second year of the deal and then sign a contract worth approximately 200 million dollars.

At the end of the day it will be hard for Durant to find a franchise that is capable of giving him better pieces than the Thunder already have to win a championship. Oklahoma City also allows him the opportunity to make the most money and for these reasons, Kevin Durant will stay in Oklahoma City this summer.

Pre-Lottery Mock Draft 1.0

Nov 16, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) slam dunks against the Kennesaw State Owls during the first half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 16, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) slam dunks against the Kennesaw State Owls during the first half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports


  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons F LSU: He will be the number pick in the draft due to his potential and upside. He needs time to develop and grow but will be a great player in the NBA. He is not as NBA ready as some of the other players but over time may be the best player drafted over the past 10 years.
    Duke's Brandon Ingram (14) shoots over Buffalo's CJ Massinburg during an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    Duke’s Brandon Ingram (14) shoots over Buffalo’s CJ Massinburg during an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram F Duke: Brandon Ingram is going to jump right into the NBA and start scoring. He will make a quicker impact than Ben Simmons does and has just as high as ceiling. Ingram has the talent to go number one overall but he will be available at number two.
     (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

    (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

  3. Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown F California: The Celtics are loaded with young talent and I foresee them trading this pick. Whoever they trade with will trade up to draft Jaylen Brown who at  6’ 7” can really shoot. He spent time working out with Draymond Green which will really help him in becoming a good NBA player. He should also turn into a very talented defender in the NBA.
    (photo credit: Ciamillo-Castoria)

    (photo credit: Ciamillo-Castoria)

  4. Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender F Croatia: The Suns need some front court help to go along with their talented guards. Dragan Bender is this year’s Porzingis. He is a stretch four at 7’ 1” who’s stock is going to benefit from scouts being wrong on Porzingis. He has a decent 3 point shot and is getting strong. Being only 18 really helps him because he could mold into a very good player.
    Photo ANDREW DOUGHTY

    Photo ANDREW DOUGHTY

  5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Buddy Hield G Oklahoma: Buddy can score from anywhere at anytime on the floor. He is deadly from behind the arc and has developed a great all around scoring game that will translate well into the NBA. Some say his size is going to hurt him, but if we looked at size to determine ability Isaiah Thomas wouldn’t be an all star. The Timberwolves can continue to build a dominate core that will grow into a championship caliber roster.
    (Source: Getty Images)

    (Source: Getty Images)

  6. New Orleans Pelicans: Jamal Murray G Kentucky: Jamal Murray is one of the best players in this draft that is flying under the radar. He has superstar potential and a very good three point shot. The Pelicans need a player who can create pressure on the defense and take away some of the pressure from Anthony Davis. Murray would be a great option for the Pelicans.
    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

  7. Denver Nuggets: Kris Dunn G Providence: The Western Conference is ruled by good backcourts. If the Nuggets want to become a playoff contender they should follow that blueprint. Last year they drafted Emmanuel Mudiay and so far it seems to be a very good pick. Pairing Kris Dunn with Emmanuel Mudiay would create a young and talented backcourt that the Nuggets could build around. Some scouts even see Dunn as a top five pick so if that is true this is really a steal for Denver at pick seven.
    (AP Photo Morry Gash)

    (AP Photo Morry Gash)

  8. Sacramento Kings: Henry Ellison F Marquette: Something tells me DeMarcus Cousins will find himself on another team either during or after the draft. If that does happen they will desperately need front court help and Ellison will be able to provide that with his ability to stretch the floor. Even if Cousins is not moved this would be a good pick to solidify their front court.
     (photo by Chris Reynolds)

    (photo by Chris Reynolds)

  9. Toronto Raptors: Skal Labissiere F Kentucky: Skal has the talent to be a top three pick but had a little underwhelming season with Kentucky. He has a good shot but needs to get stronger for the NBA game. This pick would give the Raptors a deeper front court that could help them take deeper steps into the playoffs.
    (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

    (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

  10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jakob Poeltl C Utah: The Bucks already have a team that is long and drafting 7’1” Poeltl will just add to that. The Bucks tried signing Greg Monroe to help their front court but the signing has proved to be underwhelming. Poeltl is already talented defensively and his offensive game is sure to improve. He would fit in with the current Bucks really well.
    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

  11. Orlando Magic: Denzel Valentine F Michigan State: Many scouts want to compare Valentine to Draymond Green and that is understandable. He has proven to be a good leader and a talented perimeter shooter but he lacks the quickness to be a higher pick. If he turns into the player he was in college the Magic will have a great player for a long time.
    Dec 1, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 1, 2015; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

  12. Utah Jazz: Brice Johnson F North Carolina: The Utah Jazz are on the cusp of returning to the playoffs but just need more talent. Brice Johnson had a tremendous year for North Carolina. He is very athletic and a high percentage shooter. He needs to bulk up some for the NBA but that should happen over time. Brice Johnson could be the piece the Jazz need to make a playoff spot next season.
    (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

    (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

  13. Washington Wizards: Domantas Sabonis F/C Gonzaga: Sabonis reminds me of a more offensively talented Joakim Noah. Good rebounder with tons of energy and passion. He will give you everything he’s got 100% of the time. The Wizards may not have a desperate need for him but he will be the best player available and the Wizards would be smart to draft him.
    (Photo: Kelly Kline, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    (Photo: Kelly Kline, Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

  14. Chicago Bulls: Thon Maker F/C Australia: The Bulls front office sometimes doesn’t know what they are doing. There really is no consistency in how they draft and there aren’t many small forwards in this draft worth drafting at pick 14. The Bulls may trade down but I see them taking a very talented, yet unknown, Thon Maker to possible replace Joakim Noah and/or Pau Gasol. He is a freak athlete at 7’1” who has great handles for his size. He could turn out to be the best player in the draft, or the worst, only time will tell.
    ISTANBUL, TURKEY - APRIL 07: Furkan Korkmaz, #10 of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Top 16 Round 14 game between Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Abdi Ipekci Arena on April 7, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/EB via Getty Images)

    ISTANBUL, TURKEY – APRIL 07: Furkan Korkmaz, #10 of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2015-2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Top 16 Round 14 game between Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Panathinaikos Athens at Abdi Ipekci Arena on April 7, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Aykut Akici/EB via Getty Images)

  15. Denver Nuggets: Furkan Korkmaz: G Turkey: International players are always tough to judge because of the level of competition they play against but Furkan Korkmaz is a natural scorer. He is 6’7” so he may even be able to play some small forward as well. His offensive game is completely well rounded and because he is so good offensively, his defensive game is behind. He may be a bit of a developmental project but has a lot of upside and Denver has the time to wait for this pick to develop.
    (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

    (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

  16. Dallas Mavericks: Tyler Ulis G Kentucky: It has been quite a while since the Mavericks have had a legitimate point guard and drafting Ulis would give them that. The common knock on Ulis is that he is too small. If you watched any Kentucky games you know he made up for his size in his ability to create for his teammates and score. He is gritty and a team leader and Dallas would get a quality player if they drafted Ulis.
    Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Malik Beasley (5) dunks the ball past Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) during the first half at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 9, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Malik Beasley (5) dunks the ball past Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) during the first half at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

  17. Memphis Grizzlies: Malik Beasley G Florida State: Memphis is a team that grinds out games and plays a tough, physical defensive game. They usually struggle with having a go to scorer. Beasley would provide an excellent scoring option for the Grizzlies. Some scouts say his weakness is creating for others but with Mike Conley Jr. at the point he would not have to create for others. He would be a perfect fit with the Grizzlies.
    By Brendan F. Quinn

    By Brendan F. Quinn

  18. Detroit Pistons: Caris LaVert G Michigan: The Pistons took a big step under Stan Van Gundy this year by making the playoffs. Now they need to add depth to take another step in the playoffs. LaVert would be a viable option off the bench and could develop into a long time starter.
     Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

    Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

  19. Portland Trailblazers: Stephen Zimmerman C UNLV: Zimmerman is a very talented seven footer. He has above average handling ability for his size and has a very consistent mid-range jumper. He was plagued with injuries throughout the year that did not allow him to become a dominant player. He needs to hit the weights because he is skinny and will get pushed around in the NBA. With all that being said, he’s only 19 years old and could develop into a potential all star in the right system with the right coaches.
    (Feb. 5, 2016 - Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

    (Feb. 5, 2016 – Source: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

  20. Indiana Pacers: Demetrius Jackson G Notre Dame: Jackson has a nice burst of explosion and has a great assist to turnover ratio. He is polished and has develop and will be one of the older players drafted. Because of his age you expect to get a more mature player who is capable of dictating an offense. The Pacers need more offense and Jackson is the type of player who can create that.
    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  21. Atlanta Hawks: Taurean Prince: F Baylor: Atlanta needs a player who can defend against other teams’ best players in the playoffs. With Teague, Horford and Millsap the Hawks have plenty of scoring. In reality, they need someone to slow down LeBron if they want to get further in the playoffs. Prince has great length and good defensive instincts. He would be a great fit with the Hawks.
    Washington forward Marquese Chriss breaks away for a dunk as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl watches in the second half as the University of Washington Huskies take on the Utah Utes at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle Sunday January 24, 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

    Washington forward Marquese Chriss breaks away for a dunk as Utah forward Jakob Poeltl watches in the second half as the University of Washington Huskies take on the Utah Utes at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle Sunday January 24, 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

  22. Charolette Hornets: Marquese Chriss F Washington: Charolette is a difficult team to predict so I think they will take the best available player and many scouts think Chriss will go in the top 15 but I don’t think he will go that high. He is very athletic and will dunk on anyone. He has a good wingspan that may allow him to become a good defender.
    Dec 9, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Deyonta Davis (23) reacts to a dunk against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks during the first half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 9, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Deyonta Davis (23) reacts to a dunk against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks during the first half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

  23. Boston Celtics: Deyonta Davis F Michigan State: Davis is big and has been molded by Tom Izzo. His game may grow in the NBA but as of now he is an offensive liability. Time will tell if he can develop his offensive game but he is NBA ready on the defensive end.
    (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com)

    (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com)

  24. Miami Heat: Damian Jones F/C Vanderbilt: Hassan Whiteside is going to be a free agent and it is unknown if he will stay with the Heat. Damian Jones is a very athletic seven footer who was instrumental in the success of Vanderbilt. The Heat need some front court help so they should go Jones.
    Maryland guard Melo Trimble (2) goes up for a basket during the first half. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)

    Maryland guard Melo Trimble (2) goes up for a basket during the first half. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)

  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Melo Trimble G Maryland: The Clippers will look to add depth because they might not be able to find a true impact player this late. Melo would be a good second option to have behind Chris Paul as he is a good ball handler and free throw shooter.
    (Dec. 15, 2015 - Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

    (Dec. 15, 2015 – Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

  26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Patrick McCaw G UNLV: McCaw was UNLV’s leading scorer and at 6’7” he has great size for the NBA. He can play on the ball and off the ball. His versatility and athleticism is what teams will be intrigued by. He is also good for at least one steal that leads to a breakaway dunk per game as he did it regularly while at UNLV.
    CZBG, Stefan N.

    CZBG, Stefan N.

  27. Toronto Raptors: Timothe Luwawu G France: Luwawu is a bit of an unknown from France but he stands at 6’7” which is great for a guard. He is quick off the dribble and a good three point shooter. The Raptors would love to get a player who could be versatile.
    (Photo: Brad Fedie , 247Sports)

    (Photo: Brad Fedie , 247Sports)

  28. Cleveland Cavaliers: Diamond Stone C Maryland: The Cavaliers will take a big man who can run the floor well for a seven footer. He has long arms and is great at grabbing rebounds.
    Associated Press

    Associated Press

  29. San Antonio Spurs: Gary Payton II G Oregon State: Tony Parker isn’t getting any younger and the Spurs need to look at developing his replacement. Payton is just like his dad when it comes to getting his hands a ball defensively and Popovich will love that. He is also very explosive and athletic and he could be a great piece to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
    FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2015, file photo, Connecticut's Daniel Hamilton, left, shoots over New Hampshire’s Jaleen Smith, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Storrs, Conn. Isaac, 21, and Daniel, 19, are still the younger brothers, but they are no longer little and have been making names for themselves this season on opposite coasts _ Daniel at UConn and Isaac at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

    FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2015, file photo, Connecticut’s Daniel Hamilton, left, shoots over New Hampshire’s Jaleen Smith, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Storrs, Conn. Isaac, 21, and Daniel, 19, are still the younger brothers, but they are no longer little and have been making names for themselves this season on opposite coasts _ Daniel at UConn and Isaac at UCLA. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

  30. Golden State Warriors: Daniel Hamilton G UCONN: Hamilton will fit the Warriors’ system of versatile athletes. He is not a great three point shooter and may take time to develop which is why the Warriors would be a great fit for him. They don’t need him to be good right away right away.