The Detroit Pistons and Stan Van Gundy have parted ways. This comes after a disappointing season where Detroit fell short of the playoffs (yet again). Over the four years he spent in the front office, the Pistons have routinely made questionable signings and draft choices. Many fans are wondering, will the Pistons ever be able to return to contention?
After making the playoffs in only his second season, the arrow was pointing up in the Motor City. However, injuries and poor development of a legitimate backcourt ultimately led to Van Gundy’s fate. A 44-win season and first round exit in the playoffs of his second season was the highlight of his stint in Detroit.
AP Photo: Carlos Osorio
The roster under SVG has improved. The Pistons have two superstars, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin leading the way. Yet, the team is strapped for salary cap space and needs a lot of luck in the upcoming Lottery to retain their top-4 protected pick from the Clippers (Blake Griffin trade). Big contracts were given to Reggie Jackson (5 years, $80 million), Jon Leuer (4 years, $42 million), and Boban Marjanovic (3 years, $21 million) and have not yielded the return expected.
His three first round picks are all still giant question marks who may or may not be part of the Pistons future. Stanley Johnson (2015 pick #8) has not produced to the level a Top 10 pick should. Henry Ellenson (2016 pick #18) has had little opportunity to show his talent during the regular season. Ellenson has shown flashes of brilliance as he dominated the Summer League last year. Luke Kennard (2017 pick #12) could still develop into a great shooter. However, Donovan Mitchell, the should-be Rookie of the Year, makes that pick look ridiculous.
Where will the Pistons turn to for help next? Perhaps a former player in Jerry Stackhouse, whose name has been floating around the coaching carousel. Mark Jackson is another option to be the next coach. Many Pistons fans would absolutely love to see Mr. Big Shot himself, Chauncey Billups, return to help bring them back to the top of the league. The Pistons may even dig around in the college ranks to see if someone like Tom Izzo or Rick Pitino has any interest in coaching in the NBA.
Whoever it is will come into town with a great duo in the front-court and possibly a potential all star point guard in Reggie Jackson, if he can stay healthy. And that’s a big IF. The Pistons need to get back to their roots and realize what their identity is. Historically, championships have been won as a team with great chemistry. All three of the team’s NBA Championships have come without a single player on the All-NBA team.
This mentality has to be built again from the front office down to the end of the bench. Let’s hope Tom Gores can find the man to bring this personality back to Detroit Basketball.
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Throughout the regular season, we have seen excellent performances out of the first-year players. Now in the playoffs, we are getting a taste of what these rookies are capable of under the bright lights.
In Game 1 against the Miami Heat, Sixers star Ben Simmons was a rebound shy of a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his playoff debut. He joined Spud Webb as the only rookies to finish a playoff game with at least 17 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. He then followed up that performance with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in Game 2.
Jayson Tatum’s clutch plays helped injury-riddled Boston defeat the Bucks in Game 1. (Photo from CelticsLife.com)
Although his performance was not enough to overcome Oklahoma City and Game 1, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell put on a show in the loss. The 21-year-old had 27 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes of play. He is the first rookie since Tim Duncan to score at least 25 points on 50 percent shooting or better, while corralling 10 boards.
In an epic overtime thriller, Jayson Tatum stepped up big for the Celtics. The former Duke standout had 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals in Boston’s win over Milwaukee. Even OG Anunoby had a solid game off the bench for Toronto, finishing with 12 points in route to the Raptors victory over the Washington Wizards.
The league is getting younger, and these kids can really ball. The Rookie of the Year chase may be down to just Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, but let’s take a look at the rest of the field and how they fared throughout the 2017-18 NBA season.
Let’s start with the future of the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma, and the face of the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball. Possibly the most scrutinized rookie of all time, Ball, who had an up-and-down season, ended up with 13 double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles. Say what you want about the kid, but the only rookies to average 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds are Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Ben Simmons and Ball. Without Ball in the lineup, the Lakers went 11-19.
Saying Kuzma exceeded expectations would be an understatement. The 27th pick in the draft, Kuzma became one of eight rookies since 2001 (Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol) to average at least 16 points and six rebounds. He had five games with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds, which was the third-most by a rookie since 2011, behind Griffin and Towns.
Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, the future of the Lake Show. (Photo from NBC Sports)
Kuzma joined Jayson Tatum, Steve Francis and Shane Battier as the only rookies to score 1,100 points, 400 rebounds and 100 threes. Speaking of Tatum, the Celtics rookie finished second among rookies in win shares. Tatum was the complete package for Boston, and joined Towns, Dave Greenwood, Christian Laettner, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Larry Johnson as the only rookies to finish the season with 1,100 points, 400 rebounds, 100 assists, 80 steals, 50 blocks and a free-throw percentage greater than 80 percent.
What about the big men? Lauri Markkanen started the year on fire from deep. He set the rookie record for most threes in his first three career games. Only eight players this season ended the season with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 threes: LeBron James, Towns, Nikola Jokic, Dario Saric, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol and Markkanen. Atlanta’s John Collins was the fifth rookie since 2012 (Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis) to finish with 700 points, 500 rebounds and 80 blocks.
How about some standout individual performances? Against the Toronto Raptors, Miami’s Bam Adebayo finished with 16 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 15 rebounds and five blocks. The only rookies to do that since 1998 are Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol and Towns.
The 2016-17 Horizon League Player of the Year, Valparaiso’s Alec Peters, had quite the stat line in Game 82 for the Phoenix Suns. The former Crusaders star, who averaged 23 points and 10.1 rebounds his senior year, became one of eight players in NBA history to score 36 points with at least eight threes, while shooting less than 15 from deep and also adding nine rebounds. That list includes Ray Allen, Kevin Love, Vernon Maxwell, Jason Kidd, Russell Westbrook, Jason Richardson and James Harden. While most people have never heard of this kid, that is quite a list to be on.
Let’s take a look at the top two rookies from this past season.
If we were to re-draft the 2017 NBA Draft, Donovan Mitchell would go No. 1 overall, as he was clearly the best player in his draft class. Mitchell set the rookie record for most three-pointers made in a season (187), passing Damian Lillard (185) and Steph Curry (166). He led the Utah Jazz to a 48-34 record, averaging 20.5 points per game. He is one of seven rookies, joining Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Walter Davis, Pete Maravich, and Mitch Redmond, to average 20 points, three rebounds and three assists with a free-throw percentage better than 80 percent.
Mitchell’s seven 30-point games were the most by a rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011. In a game against the Suns, Mitchell caught fire, finishing with 40 points, six assists and five rebounds, becoming one of 14 rookies in NBA history to post a game with at least 40 points, five rebounds and five assists. This was Mitchell’s second 40-point game of the season, which put him in elite company with Griffin and Allen Iverson as the only three rookies since 1985 to have multiple 40-point games in their rookie season.
In all honesty, this is a one-man race. All respect to Mitchell, who clearly had a tremendous rookie season, but Ben Simmons is a once-in-a-generation type of player. Barring injury, this guy is a lock for the Hall of Fame. While that may sound crazy, Simmons’ rookie season was one of the best we have ever seen. The Australian finished with the third-highest win shares as a rookie since 2005, behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Ben Simmons has arrived and is ready to takeover the league (SI.com)
Simmons led all rookies in rebounds, assists and steals. He became the first rookie in history to finish with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 50 blocks and 50 steals. His 12 triple-doubles were second most in NBA history by a rookie, ahead of Magic Johnson, who had seven. Simmons joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to do average 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists during their rookie seasons.
He also had a few legendary performances. Against LeBron James and the Cavs, the 6-foot-10 point guard collected 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. He did this while shooting 70.6 percent from the field. The only players to put up those numbers in a game are Wilt Chamberlin and Nikola Jokic.
Simmons also had four 15-assist games, including one against the Hornets in which he scored 20 points and added eight rebounds. He joined James, Westbrook and Jokic as the only players since 2014 to have a game with at least 20 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds while shooting over 55 percent.
Can Simmons carry the Sixers all the way into the NBA Finals? Time will tell.
Featured image by SLAM Magazine
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Every NBA trade deadline, even crazy ones like this year, have teams that couldn’t get a deal done. This means the player and situation are forced to coexist until the end of the year excluding buyouts. Basketball is a business and sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. However, in these cases the teams should’ve focused on making a trade happen for these players.
The Grizzlies played a dangerous game, they sat Tyreke Evans for the past week and made it known they wanted a 1st round pick in return. No team bit on their bluff, and Evans will remain in Memphis for the remainder of the year. Evans will likely prevent Memphis from getting better odds in the lottery.
Evans is on a relatively cheap expiring contract without bird rights and Memphis believes that they can retain him with their MLE(Mid-Level Exception) despite other teams likely offering him much more. There is a very high chance that Evans leaves this summer, and the Grizz will end up empty-handed.
Memphis had multiple offers on the table including multiple second round picks, but no team was willing to fork over a 1st. Multiple Eastern Conferences teams had tried to prey Evans away including the Celtics, Sixers as well as Denver in the West.
The Clippers Big 3 of Chris Paul, Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin is now a thing of a past with Paul on the Rockets and Griffin on the Pistons. (Photo by ClipperBlog)
The Clippers are making a massive mistake in not trading Deandre Jordan. Here is a list of reasons why he won’t re-sign:
He was a free agent in 2015 and agreed to a deal with the Dallas Mavericks potentially breaking up the “Lob City” formed. However, the Clippers core at the time locked Jordan in his house before he was able to sign the deal with the Mavericks and convinced him to sign with the Clippers. He has shown resistance to staying with the Clippers before.
The Clippers begged and pleaded Blake Griffin to sign with them over this summer. They then proceeded to trade him to Detroit less than a year later. The Clippers show they have no loyalty to their stars, and Jordan won’t want the same to happen to him.
The Clippers are not a competitive playoff team. Deandre wants to play for a team that is heading for a rebuild.
The Clippers should realize that Jordan is at best 50/50 on staying with them and that they could easily get good young players and a draft pick instead of ending up with nothing if he leaves this summer.
The Clippers get to be on this list twice because it looks like they don’t know how to rebuild, or win in the playoffs. Lou Williams was one of the positive stories for the Clippers as he became the best 6th man in the league. He’s 3rd in the league in Isolation points per possession behind James Harden and Chris Paul and is averaging 23 points a game along with 5 assists.
For weeks, they were fielding offers for Sweet Lou and should’ve made a deal with a competitor for a pick and young player. Instead, the Clippers decided to sign him long-term with a 3 year deal. The Clippers are not close to competing in the Western Conference, and it’s delusional to think they could.
General managers have difficult decisions, there is likely multiple deals that almost happened every trade deadline and making any decision takes a lot of consideration for the future of the team. However, it feels like these players and teams would’ve been a lot better off if they made the deals happen instead of staying pat at the deadline.
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LeBron James’ contract is up at the end of the season. He’s officially fulfilled his commitment to Cleveland. He delivered a championship to the long-suffering city in the most exciting NBA Finals of the past 10 years.
So that begs the question of where is his next stop?
The most interesting thing about this debate is that many teams are in limbo until James narrows down his list. Some teams are trading away players to guarantee the cap space, while others are loading up to lure him to their city. Still, others are gauging his interest to make the most calculated moves to prepare for either eventuality.
The entire league is waiting with bated breath to see where The King wants to take his talents next. No matter where he goes, the move will shake up the foundation of the NBA for the length of his new contract. He’s been tied to many teams through the rumor mill, but here are the most interesting propositions.
Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news yesterday that the lakers are “shifting their focus to the 2019 free agent class.” That could mean a few things.
The most likely explanation is that James wouldn’t want to go to the Lakers without any bona fide stars on the roster. He’s carried teams to the playoffs and finals by himself before, and all signs indicate he’s on the quest for more rings.
LeBron James and Lonzo Ball share a postgame hug. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
If he signs there at the seasons’ end, James will be alone with Lonzo Ball and Larry Nance Jr., who are not huge draws. James might want the team to bring in some talent before he commits. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson are all names that appear to be on Magic Johnson’s shortlist.
It could also mean that Johnson isn’t positive he can reel in James at all, and that he doesn’t want to trade away assets and clear massive cap space to pull in someone who may not be interested.
Leaving the cap open also allows them to go in a different direction. The Lakers could pull two or maybe even three stars after next season, letting James go his own way.
James owns homes in Los Angeles, and it’s well-known that he wants to make a transition to Hollywood after his NBA career is over. Pair that with the Lakers’ storied history and their ability to draw in free agents, and it’s hard to believe the team would not go after him with everything they’ve got.
But consider the possibility that James goes to another team on a max deal, with an opt-out clause after the first year. If things don’t go according to plan in his new city, he could exercise that option. Assuming Johnson can pull in a superstar, then the door is open for James to put on the purple and gold.
It’s messy and complicated, but Magic Johnson has the star power to get this done.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio’s championship window is closing. The team is old, and their three best players’ contracts expire after next season.
There is one sure-fire way to get them to re-sign, possibly even for less money. That way includes signing LeBron James.
Gregg Popovich and LeBron James congratulate each other after Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)
A team including LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, coached by Gregg Popovich, is an instant title contender. Age and bench players be damned, that team could compete with any team in the league. Pau Gasol will be pushing 40 by the time his contract is up, but just ask Manu Ginobili how Coach Popovich can keep up old players’ efficacy.
Keep in mind that James has never had a coach anywhere near as good as Popovich. As he gets older and has to start becoming more of a system player rather than a one-man wrecking crew, coaching goes a long way.
This all hinges on the idea that James can draw in some young talent to one of the least exciting basketball cities in the country. Leonard and Aldridge would also have to re-sign. But their tradition of excellence makes it hard to completely count the Spurs out of contention.
The 76ers are a very interesting dark horse candidate to land LeBron James. They have a breadth of young talent and the most cap space in the NBA at over $75 million.
The potential to be very good for a long time could be a huge draw for James. It also would allow him to be a leader and a mentor to the young guys on the team. That would be a complete 180 degree turn from his current situation with the Cavaliers.
The problem here is that none of the players are established enough to prove to him that Philadelphia would put him in a position to win more titles. Ben Simmons is firmly in contention for Rookie of the Year, but he has an injury history, and the sample size is tiny.
The same goes for Joel Embiid. He’s been injured constantly and just played in back-to-back games for the first time on Feb. 2 and 3. Markelle Fultz is also injured and has seemingly forgotten how to shoot the basketball.
Again, the key here is the 76ers’ cap space. The contracts there are extremely manageable, and if the young players can stay healthy, they can be doubly useful, either as trade bait or pieces of the team’s success moving forward. The ability to sign players that James likes to play with has been a huge part of his decisions in the past. However, Philadelphia is still a couple of years away from being true contenders in the East.
New York Knicks
James has been in the Eastern Conference since he entered the NBA. Staying in the East would more than likely set him up for the most success moving forward. He knows every team in the league inside and out, but playing with a similar travel schedule will be more important as he gets older. The Knicks check that box.
James shoots over Kristaps Porzingis. (Photo by: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)
New York City is the Mecca of basketball. Playing at Madison Square Garden 41 nights out of the year would be beyond compare for someone who as aspirations to become the greatest NBA player of all time. Delivering a championship to New York could very well solidify that position.
Kristaps Porzingis is out for the year, and ACL tears are a notoriously difficult injury. But given his skill set, there is no reason to believe he won’t come back 100 percent. Porzingis would be a huge draw to James if he does indeed come back strong.
Apart from The Unicorn and the city, there is little else to convince anyone that James will be a Knick. The front office is a mess, and the team has little to no direction at the moment. James could fix the latter, but this move is unlikely at best.
Los Angeles Clippers
Another Los Angeles team has LeBron James sized aspirations.
Dumping Blake Griffin’s contract off of the payroll was a major first step towards landing The King. If the Clippers deal DeAndre Jordan as well, the cap space will be wide open for a max deal. Plus, the organization also just announced that they are re-signing Lou Williams. Williams and Patrick Beverley could create a sneaky-good backcourt, although the team would still lack talent.
But still, they are a Los Angeles team. The city alone guarantees people will want to play for the Clippers. If Paul George truly does want to play in Los Angeles, who is to say he has to play for the Lakers? George and James would more than fix the frontcourt issues. Also, delivering a championship to a team that’s never seen the Western Conference Finals could cement the status James is chasing.
However, as with the Lakers, trading away assets on the promise of potential signings might not be the way to go. James wants to win now and often. Jockeying to sign him may have just taken them out of the conversation.
Now for the most likely candidate. Houston may very well have the pieces to beat Golden State right now. Add LeBron James to the team and you have a competitive Western Conference again. The problem for the NBA, however, is that the NBA Finals would be little more than a formality.
James Harden guards LeBron James. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images)
Regardless, playing with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela would be huge for James. After all, playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh alone worked out well for him. The pieces the Rockets have are better than that Miami Heat team.
Some NBA fans, however, think playing with stars tarnished James’ legacy. He has made it clear he is uninterested in those opinions, but it could play a part in deciding not to play on a super team.
Also, to clear the cap space, the bench would more than likely suffer immensely. James won’t be able to average 36.8 minutes a game forever. Harden and Paul could lighten the load, but not significantly.
But James wants rings, as many as he can get. The move to Houston would give him the best chance to win more of them.
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Doc Rivers said in a pregame press conference before the Clippers’ matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers that the Blake Griffin trade “…came out of nowhere, and it came pretty quick.”
One moment, the Clippers were a potential playoff team with two of the premiere big men in the league. The next moment, they are almost certainly in rebuild mode with more valuable pieces that might be on the move.
Most NBA pundits are completely divided on the trade. Did Detroit give up too much? Did Los Angeles throw in the towel too early? Who does the deal benefit more?
Even though both teams are almost certainly indifferent to anyone’s opinion other than Griffin’s and the front offices’, let’s break down the winners and losers three days removed from the trade.
Winner: Los Angeles Clippers
Many might argue that the Clippers didn’t get enough for Blake Griffin. They might say that Los Angeles didn’t field enough offers for him, or didn’t wait long enough to see how desperate teams would become for Griffin’s services closer to the trade deadline.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were previously one of the best big man combinations in the league. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBA)
The fact is, Griffin is injury-prone, and the longer teams have to think about that, the higher the odds are that they will want to buy low. When you add up all the time that Griffin has missed in his seven-year career, he has missed almost two full seasons.
The key to the trade isn’t Tobias Harris or Avery Bradley. It’s the 2018 first-round and 2019 second-round picks they received from Detroit.
Sure, Griffin makes Detroit much more competitive, which will devalue the picks considerably. But if the Clippers commit to a rebuild, which they should, then stock-piling picks is the way to go. Find good players in the draft, and once it seems like the team can be competitive again, trade less valuable pieces away for the pieces they are missing.
This trade was a gamble, and no one should really believe that the Clippers are trying to stay competitive, or are going for a “soft rebuild.” However, hamstringing the team to pay Griffin in 2023 out of nothing more than loyalty, would be a mistake.
Loser: Doc Rivers
DeAndre Jordan holds Doc Rivers back. (Photo by Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
Becoming a non-factor in the Western Conference playoff picture almost definitely means Rivers’ time is up in Los Angeles.
His contract is up in 2019, and if the Clippers trade Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan, then they are set up for a disastrous 2018-19 campaign. This will allow the Clippers to cut ties with the head coach without a second thought.
The news isn’t all bad for Rivers, however. He’ll find another job, maybe even on another competitive team due to his player coaching abilities. However, not even getting Lob City to a Western Conference finals is a huge black mark on his record.
Either way, Los Angeles would be silly not to bring on a younger, more new-school coach after the 2019 season that fits better with the team’s new direction.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
Getting Blake Griffin now is a huge win for the Pistons’ future.
Since he is under contract until 2022, Detroit has time to build around Griffin and convince him to stay for less money if they manage to become legitimately competitive by the time his current contract expires.
It is also a huge incentive for Andre Drummond to stay after his contract is up in 2021. If the chemistry is there between the two players, then Detroit might be able to convince him to stay. Perhaps they could even have a life-long Piston on their hands.
Teams can absolutely turn things around in 3-4 years. The Griffin-Drummond combo makes Detroit an attractive free agent destination in the coming years. That alone could turn the Pistons from an afterthought in the East to a real threat, especially if LeBron James finds his way to the West.
The NBA is better off with at least one competitive team in Los Angeles. Now that it seems as if that ship has sailed for the Clippers (no pun intended), the NBA is in a tough spot.
The trade makes the road to the finals even easier for the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers could have caused them some problems with Griffin, but the last thing the NBA needs is to make the Warriors’ lives even easier.
The trade also does not make the Eastern Conference much more competitive. Regardless of the Cavaliers’ struggles as of late, it would be foolish to think they can’t turn it on in the playoffs and get back to the finals. The Boston Celtics will also almost definitely be in the Eastern Conference finals due to great depth and coaching. The Pistons will not be able to compete with either of those teams with only half a season’s worth of chemistry-building.
TBD: Blake Griffin
Finally, the man in the center of all of the drama’s fate is yet to be decided. Will this experiment work out in Detroit? Or will it be more of the same for Griffin?
Blake Griffin will have to find success in the Eastern Conference. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
It looks on the surface as if it might be just more of the same. Being paired with another impressive big man, surrounded by decent role players was the exact situation Griffin was just a part of in Los Angeles. Who is to say the Pistons won’t peter out in the second round like the Clippers did?
However, another great coach and having the ability to finally draw in free agents might set the Pistons apart from some of the other conferences in the East. It will all depend on if Griffin can finally stay healthy and find a different level of success in an easier conference.
It’s not a ridiculous exaggeration to say that this move will either set up Griffin for more success than he has previously had, or whether he will just go down as the greatest Clipper ever.
All the NBA can do is wait to see how Detroit’s front office will approach the coming years as the East gets tougher.
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The Clippers are only one game back from the eighth seed in the West. Lou Williams is playing outside of his mind. Blake Griffin is back from concussion protocol and Patrick Beverley says he could potentially play again this year. Not to mention, they’re one of the most injured teams in the league, all around, and they still beat the Warriors on Wednesday.
So why blow it up? Why not keep getting healthier and make one last meaningful run at the title while everyone has written them off?
Easy answer to an easy question; They won’t win a title in the West. They can’t. Not with this roster in this conference with this level of competition.
The Clippers are already teetering on breaking their streak of six straight playoff appearances. So here’s why they should wave the white flag and lean into the disappointment.
Lou Williams’ value will simply never be higher than it is right now. He’s averaging 31.6 points per game off the bench in his last 10 contests. He’s a virtual lock for Sixth Man of the Year, although he’s pretty much playing starters’ minutes. And he dropped 50 points on Golden State on Wednesday night, which is significant because the name of the game for 29 teams in the Association is to beat the Warriors at all costs. That’s something to, at the very least, take into consideration while going over a shopping list.
Lou Williams tries to score over Omri Casspi. (Photo by: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)
The Clippers also have two of the premiere offensive-minded rebounders in the league in Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan.
At 28 and 29-years-old respectively, are both in that sweet spot where the Clippers can trade them away without an iota of seller’s remorse. Historically, big players have started to have a downturn in their numbers around 30-years-old. So, the Clips can say that they held onto Griffin and Jordan in their prime, tried their very best to make it work and can sell very high to teams in need of their production.
Also, if they keep Beverley off the court this year and maintain an air of mystery around what he is capable of, then they can sell high on his defensive potential during the off-season.
Doc Rivers is a prolific players’ coach, and puts more stock in talent than schemes. This isn’t a knock against him in any way, and, in fact, it is what won him a championship in Boston.
The problem is that without transcendent talent on the floor, coaching has to be about schemes and patterns. Now that Chris Paul is a Rocket, Blake Griffin can’t seem to stay on the court for an entire season, and defensive wizard Patrick Beverley is probably done for the year, Rivers is not the right fit for the team.
Doc Rivers yells at an official while Deandre Jordan begins to hold him back (Photo by: Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
Trading away talent for picks and placeholders is an easy way to phase out Rivers and begin again with a clean slate. His contract is up after next season, so if the team commits to the rebuild, then next year’s record should be pretty bad. That’s an excuse to let Rivers go find his next job and lets the Clippers pick a new direction.
The Clippers don’t have a wealth of draft picks this year. In fact, as of now they only have one pick. Obviously, if they trade away stars and want to rebuild, that will (or should) result in more picks.
The 2018 draft should be pretty balanced and should feature some franchise-altering talent in the first round. That leaves two ways Los Angeles can play this particular game.
They can stockpile picks and see what sticks and what doesn’t, a-la the Philadelphia 76ers. Or, they can bear hug the tanking philosophy after trading away Williams, Griffin and Jordan and aim for a high pick. Once that pick is secured, they can flip it for more chances at less-valued players, or go for broke and try to draft a star.
Either way is equally risky and equally viable, but it should all depend on what they can get for their on-court talent.
Blake Griffin throws down a dunk. (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)
It’s not easy to say goodbye to Lob City. The Clippers were, genuinely, one of the most exciting teams in the NBA for a long period of time. They also successfully overshadowed a certain purple and gold clad team that shares their arena.
But with Chris Paul dropping dimes in Houston, an aging frontcourt and no real identity, it’s time to watch these players be great somewhere else. Steve Ballmer is, arguably, a top-10 owner in the league, so let’s all hope he won’t want to mortgage the future for another meaningless first round exit.
Two good teams in Los Angeles is good for the Association, and good for the fans. If this happens, however, there will be two pretty bad teams in Los Angeles, for what is probably the very first time. But this is a Band-Aid that needs to be ripped off. They still have the Dodgers, after all.
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The NBA season is halfway over, which means it’s time to start evaluating potential playoff teams.
The top four seeds in each conference are virtual locks, due to overall talent and coaching. The fifth-seventh seeds will do some changing around as teams jockey for their playoff seeding. Although, close followers of the NBA probably wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons or the Trailblazers fell out of the playoff picture after overachieving slightly in the first half of the season.
As with any sport’s playoff, however, the most interesting storylines are the ones involving the teams on the bubble.
With that in mind, let’s look at each conference’s eighth seed and first two teams on the outside looking in.
Indiana Pacers (21-19, No. 8 seed)
The Pacers have been just fine without Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been playing close to his ceiling, although they’re still overpaying for him. The other piece of the trade that sent George away, Domantas Sabonis, has also been playing nicely. He’s two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, and will probably end up setting career-high averages in every meaningful category.
While their offense has been clicking, their defense is some of the most below average in the Association. Not awful, just very mediocre. Their offense alone can win the Pacers enough games to keep them in the 8th spot. Lack of defensive consistency will have been their downfall if they fail to make the cut.
Philadelphia 76ers (19-19, first team out)
Philadelphia is one of the most exciting stories in the NBA this season. The “process” seems to have finally come to fruition, and we are finally seeing glimpses of what this long and arduous rebuild has wrought.
Even though the 76ers are a .500 team, don’t be fooled. They’re currently first in the league in rebounds per game, second in assists resulting made field goals, and sixth in points. A rested and re-energized team could ride that kind of momentum to a playoff spot after the All Star break. Plus, their first overall draft pick hasn’t even played five games yet.
Embiid scores on Whiteside. (Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
What will keep them out of the playoffs is their youth and inconsistency in their game to game performances. As the season drags on, the young players might start to slow down, which will only exacerbate their inconsistency issues. Those red flags usually mean a .500 team will stay a .500 team, but playing in a weak conference will definitely help.
New York Knicks (19-21, second team out)
The Knicks are a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court. They are ninth in points in the paint and second in points allowed in the paint. Yes, we’re talking about the New York Knicks.
The team is huge, size-wise. Porzingis, O’Quinn, Kanter and Noah are all either over or close to 7-feet. That length pays dividends over a long regular season, but could actually be a problem if they sneak into the playoffs. The East is full of jump shooting teams, which will stretch New York’s strengths too thin to make them truly effective.
New Orleans Pelicans (20-19, No. 8 seed)
New Orleans might very well be a better team than their record indicates. They’re second in points in the paint thanks to Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. They’re also second in the NBA in assists per game thanks to some great guard play both from starters and off the bench. Not to mention they have the second toughest schedule in the NBA (according to 2016-2017 team records).
Team defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Pelicans. Bottom five in opponents points in the paint per game doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the front court they have. They also give up the third most points in the league per game.
Davis and Cousins during a game against the Spurs. (Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
It’s an especially strange case on New Orleans’ part. The chemistry and coaching is clearly there, as evidenced by the assist totals. But the defense is nowhere near where it should be, in spite of Cousins and Davis. Remember that Alvin Gentry was brought on to be a defensive mastermind, and the roster has only gotten better since he came to town. Maybe look for a coaching shake-up if the Pelicans miss the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers (18-21, first team out)
Doc Rivers’ team is hurting out west. The Clippers have been a staple of the Western Conference playoffs for the past six years, but the days of Lob City have finally come to an end. Chris Paul’s departure marked a culture change for the Clips, and the team has not found its stride just yet.
Los Angeles still has a great 3-point game. Beverley, Williams, Rivers and even Griffin can all pull up from distance. They also have great personnel for man-to-man defense. Those two things are golden in NBA playoff basketball. But, yet again, team defense is going to be the main hurdle between them and their playoff streak.
Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)
The new look Jazz are in a soft rebuild. After losing their number one scorer in Gordon Hayward, the Jazz were almost certainly take on a new identity. But picking up Ricky Rubio and finding a steal in Donovan Mitchell should have stopped the bleeding more than it has.
Their defense is some of the best in the NBA, all around. In fact, the Jazz are top 10 in almost every meaningful defensive category under Quin Snider. Against the trend, the offense is what will probably keep Utah out of the playoffs this year. Although, again, this is a new look team. And offense almost always comes together more quickly than defense. If they can keep up the defensive dominance, they won’t be out of the playoff picture for long.
Featured image by ANTHONY GRUPPUSO-USA TODAY
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The Pacific Division is the home of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have the best team in basketball and everyone else is chasing them.
Three of the top five picks in the last draft find themselves suiting up in the Pacific division. The Suns and the Kings are currently in the midst of a rebuild but have formed solid foundations that look bright moving forward.
Finally, both of the teams in LA shook up their rotations in big ways this year by trading away one of their best players. The Pacific Division will be interesting due to the new faces in the division.
Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Pacific division for 2017-2018.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors celebrate, Photo Courtesy of USA Today.
2016-2017 record: 67-15
2017-2018 prediction: 64-18
This record doesn’t really show too much. The Warriors are the best team in basketball and they return nearly the same team. They add Nick Young and Jordan Bell (through the draft) this offseason to an already strong bench.
Ian Clark leaves the team but Patrick McCaw has emerged as a role player this summer and could possibly play some of the minutes that Clark did.
The record is pretty much up to Golden State here. Ultimately there’s an extremely high chance that the Warriors make the playoffs so it is just up to Steve Kerr on how many games they truly want to win in the regular season.
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will always take this team deep into the playoffs if they are all healthy.
Los Angeles Clippers
2016-2017 record: 51-31
2017-2018 prediction: 44-38
Chris Paul wanted out of LA, but the Clippers somehow managed to get a very solid return for him.
Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley lead the charge out of the backcourt while the Clippers also added Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker. They lose Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul but have an interesting set of Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan forming.
A starting lineup of Beverley, Rivers, Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan with Williams coming first off the bench could be very interesting and doesn’t strike you as a team that just lost a superstar.
If Gallinari and Griffin can stay healthy this team looks like they could find a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers
Jordan Clarkson, Photo Courtesy of LA Sports Hub.
2016-2017 record: 26-56
2017-2018 prediction: 36-46
The Lakers shook their roster up in a big way by getting out of the Timofey Mosgov contract. They also lost their best statistical player from last season in D’Angelo Russell.
However, in comes Brook Lopez, Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma and Ball were drafted by the Lakers this season and showed lots of promise in the summer league.
Brook Lopez is the big addition this offseason. An All-Star and proven low post scorer, Lopez adds something that’s rare in the NBA. The Lakers attempted to get away from their guard heavy rotation, thus getting rid of D’Angelo Russell to make way for Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson.
No one knows how good the Lakers will be but they will be much better than the product they had on the floor last season.
2016-2017 record: 24-58
2017-2018 prediction: 28-54
The Suns turned their lottery pick into another young player with lots of potential. They are not necessarily in win now mode but more waiting a few years for their young talent to develop.
The Suns have grabbed a lot of former Kentucky guards to bolster their young backcourt. Josh Jackson, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss show promise in moving the Suns in the right direction.
The Suns continue to draft players that they find value in and put them on the floor. The Suns are getting a good young core together and could be a playoff team in the near future.
2017 Sacramento Kings draft class, Photo Courtesy of Real Sport 101.
2016-2017 record: 32-50
2017-2018 prediction: 30-52
I don’t think the Kings have gotten worse at all, the Western Conference has gotten better. The Kings have mixed seasoned veterans in with great young talent.
Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, George Hill, Georgios Papagiannis, Harry Giles and Justin Jackson are just some of the talent that is in this loaded rotation.
The Kings are a team quickly on the rise and have done it specifically through the draft. With adding established veterans, the Kings are working to bridge the gap between putting a competitive product on the court as well as developing their younger guys looking to win in years to come.
Kings fans have a lot to look forward to moving forward, but for right now this is the Warriors division.
Featured Image Courtesy of philstar.com.
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Understandably, Clipper fans were shocked to have witnessed one of their popular stars dealt to a Western Conference rival. At the same time, front offices are now using the Golden State Warriors as the measuring stick for greatness and the Clippers aren’t measuring up.
The Chris Paul led Clippers were a top-four playoff team year in and year out, but nothing more. In a city where titles are the gold standard, just making the playoffs isn’t good enough.
The Clippers’ big three consisted of Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and since the three came together in 2011, the Clippers have won at least 60.5 percent of their regular season games.
Chris Paul in agony after a playoff loss, Photo Courtesy of the LA Times.
The Clippers have made the playoffs in all six of those seasons. They finished third, fourth or fifth in the Western Conference regular season standings each of those years.
Unfortunately, they are 2-3 in first round series as favorites and 3-3 in the first round overall since 2011. During this time the Clippers never even made it to the Western Conference finals.
The big three finished with a total playoff series record of 3-6 in their six years together. Out of 18 possible All-Star appearances, the three went to a combined 10. By all means there was a high bar set for the Los Angeles Clippers with the arrival of Jordan, Paul and Griffin, but the results did not meet fan expectations.
Banged Up Blake
Blake Griffin Injured, Photo Courtesy of Sports Grid.
Blake Griffin has been plagued by injuries.
Since coming into the league in 2009, he has missed a combined 103 regular season games or approximately 18 percent of the games over his years in the league.
To put this into perspective, he has played more than 67 games in just three of those seven seasons.
Griffin’s athleticism has also taken a hit because of all of his injuries. He is averaging two less rebounds and a point less per game then when he first came into the league as a rookie.
Without Griffin on the court, the Clippers were unable to progress as a team.
The NBA has been dominated by two teams for the last three years. Clipper fans have been disappointed by a team that has consistently under-performed. It makes sense to abandon the nucleus and attempt to put a more competitive product on the court.
Everyone in the Western Conference is chasing the Golden State Warriors. If the Clippers break up their big three, they could potentially be in great position to challenge the Warriors in the West in a few years. The time is now to put together a team that doesn’t just make the playoffs, but contends for a title.
Keeping a team together that has not achieved its potential makes little sense for ownership or players, when the goal is to win a championship.
Clippers Guard Austin Rivers, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.
With Blake Griffin also on the way out, and Deandre Jordan having already attempted to leave the team last year, the future seems uncertain for the Clippers.
The Golden State Warriors have shown us that they are a juggernaut for the immediate future. With recent mediocrity a constant for the Clippers, why not take a chance on being great in a few years?
Trading the big three for young talent appears to give the Clippers the best chance of turning things around. It may not be a winning formula for the immediate future, but the Clippers could be title contenders very soon.
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On Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade sent the NBA offseason mood from buzzing to bewilderment. In an offseason packed with rumors of blockbuster trades and splashing free agency leads, fans of the NBA finally got a trade to chew on.
Chris Paul will team up with James Harden in Houston, and the Clippers adjust to a new identity (Photo: Slam Online).
The haul for Paul is absolutely staggering. Rumors swirled that the Clippers were already going to lose both Paul and Blake Griffin in free agency this summer, so Los Angeles was already going to have to move on without their stars. The fact that the Clippers pull in what will end up being four players for a guy who was already planning to leave the team is stunning.
The Clippers essentially received fruit snacks, a Little Debbie, a bag of chips and an extra drink for a bologna sandwich they weren’t planning on eating at lunch anyway.
The Los Angeles front office basically watched the Rockets front office lob them an alley oop, only for LA to slam it right in the Rockets’ innocent face.
According to The Vertical, Chris Paul was so far out the door of Los Angeles that he’d already made his way into the Rockets’ headquarters. Paul and James Harden had previously talked about wanting to team up, so Houston landing the Wake Forest product this summer was extremely likely.
Although the Clips lose a superstar point guard in the trade, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that Paul was already going to leave, so the fact that he’s “included” in the trade doesn’t matter.
Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade
The Clippers receive what will turn out to be some solid pieces and a brand spanking new rookie in next year’s draft. Sam Dekker is a young guy who was overshadowed in a crowded backcourt in Houston. Patrick Beverly can be a solid starter for Los Angeles and move back to point guard. Lou Williams can do what he does best: Be a scoring threat while getting Sixth Man of the Year consideration every single year.
Patrick Beverley: A solid two-way guard
It’s no secret that Patrick Beverley will most likely never break out and become a star in the NBA, but that’s OK. The Arkansas product is as consistent as they come. Beverley is a two-time All-NBA Defensive team selection and can play both point guard and shooting guard with ease.
In five seasons, Beverley has averaged 9.3 points per game. Again, that’s not fantastic, but it’s still solid. Los Angeles has the seventh-most turnovers in the league last season, and Beverley only averaged 1.5 turnovers per game last season. This could be a big step in taking care of the ball for the Clippers.
The bottom line is that you know what you’re getting from Beverley. He won’t be a star in LA, and may not produce many fireworks, but he’s a solid player that will make the NBA his home for a long time. The Clippers can use a leader like Beverley in the locker room and on the court, and that’s what they’ll get.
Sam Dekker: The next Gordon Hayward (maybe)
Sam Dekker’s first full NBA season came last year. In 77 games, Dekker averaged 6.5 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field. Dekker may not seem like a big piece in the trade, but he could end up being a steal.
The 23-year-old wing man was drafted 18th in the 2015 NBA Draft. Dekker was one of the most consistent players in college basketball in his time with Wisconsin, and was the 19th ranked prospect in the nation in his 2012 recruiting class.
Sam Dekker could end up being a steal in the Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade (Photo: nba.com).
Dekker has received NBA comparisons to Gordon Hayward (cuz of course, lolz) for his versatility to play multiple positions, offensive prowess and ability to play above the rim.
Dekker’s per 36 minutes stats are encouraging. When using the metric, his points per game total jumped to 12.8. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.
The Clippers will use Dekker as a versatile bench player. Dekker, who’s known as a small forward, played 87 percent of his minutes as a power forward for Houston last season according to Basketball Reference’s play-by-play stats. This only helps Dekker in that he can play from shooting guard to power forward.
The Clippers already have more depth in the backcourt than the frontcourt with Austin Rivers and the aforementioned Williams and Beverly. If the Clippers can sign J.J. Redick, they’ll have a quality backcourt. Dekker will most likely see more time in the front court which is where Los Angeles needs the most help. Dekker is a diamond in the rough in the NBA, and could break out in LA. If he does, it will make this trade even sweeter for the Clippers.
Lou Williams: Sixth Man of the Year, every year
Lou Williams will take his scoring expertise to Los Angeles (Photo: The Undefeated).
The Clippers need to just let Williams come off the bench and do his thing. Williams has finished in the top ten in Sixth Man of the Year voting six times in his career, including winning the award two seasons ago.
Williams has continued to improve over the course of his NBA career. He reached his career-high in scoring last season, averaging 17.5 points per game in his age-30 season. Williams shot 43 percent from the field as well. Williams has steadily seen his scoring totals rise during his career, and might as well be on pace to win the MVP by his 40th birthday.
A score-first guard, Williams can provide a scoring presence that neither Beverley nor Dekker can provide. Williams averaged 27.5 points per 36 minutes last season, which shows that when he’s on the floor, he scores at will and with tenacity.
Williams adds to what is becoming a loaded backcourt for LA. He can be the score-first player the Clippers need, and could possibly lead the team in scoring next season.
Clippers win Big, Set Up For Future
By the time this trade has panned out, the Clippers ought to credit the Rockets with an assist on keeping LA a competitive team. Yesterday, Los Angeles looked as though it could be reeling, with losing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a real possibility. Now, Paul is gone, but the Clippers gain a lot from a trade rather than losing him in free agency.
Los Angeles’ backcourt becomes one of the ten-best in the NBA. The depth is incredible, and if the Clippers can resign J.J. Redick, it will be even better. Los Angeles will also get a chance to see Austin Rivers blossom as a starter. Rivers was a big time talent when Chris Paul missed time last season, so it seems the best is yet to come for Rivers.
Los Angeles now must focus on the frontcourt. Whether they resign Blake Griffin or sign another quality big man, shoring up the frontcourt needs to be the highest priority. If that happens, expect the Clippers to compete in the Western Conference next season.
Oh, and the Clippers will be welcoming a top-three pick to its roster after the NBA Draft this time next season.
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