NBA Draft steals

The best NBA draft prospects outside the lottery

Year after year, NBA front offices look for a diamond in the rough. Drafting is hard enough to pull off as it is, but some draftees fall under the radar.

Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all examples of non-lottery picks that have turned into stars. Some of the biggest steals fall in the draft.

It is up to the front offices to put the right guys in the right systems. Here are some of the best underrated players in the 2018 NBA draft class.

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

Projection: Late first round

The NBA loves a guy who can play inside out. Bates-Diop is one of the more offensively complete college players in this draft class. He went from being a good prospect his sophomore year to a great prospect his junior year.

He averaged 19.8 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game his junior season. He will have to be more of a small forward in his transition into the NBA. But with a 6-foot-7 frame and high release, he should have no problem shooting over defenders.

He scored 20 or more points in 15 of the 34 games he played in his junior season and scored under 10 just twice. He recorded 13 double-doubles and shot 48 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from the 3-point line and 79.4 percent from the free-throw line. Bates-Diop’s game transitions extremely well to the NBA.

He has a very polished offensive game and has the ability to guard almost anyone on defense. His draft stock is rising fast, as it should. Bates-Diop has one of the best all-around games in the 2018 draft class.

Omari Spellman, Villanova

Projection: Late first round

We go from a very proven college athlete to a young guy. Omari Spellman is a first-year player out of Villanova. He averaged 10.9 points and eight rebounds in his only season. Spellman also shot 47.6 percent from the field and shot a very impressive 43.3 percent from the 3-point line. His totaled just one less 3-pointer made than Bates-Diop, but shot less of them.

What makes Spellman interesting to NBA scouts is his athletic ability as well as his ceiling. In almost an opposite direction from Bates-Diop, going to the NBA now makes using the unpredictable an advantage. Spellman played so well with a group of stars and was a key part to a National Championship. It was his best move to advance to the NBA.

Spellman’s ceiling really falls within his athleticism. He has a 7-foot-2 wingspan even though he stands at just 6-foot-9. He is very explosive around the rim, but does not necessarily have an above-the-rim game. He has a great nose on the boards despite being undersized for his position.

He does not have a complete game in the sense that he is not a back-to-the-basket player. However, he is very comfortable away from the basket and is also comfortable facing the basket. Those two things translate extremely well to the NBA’s style of play.

Brandon McCoy, UNLV

Projection: Mid-second round

NBA Draft steals

Brandon McCoy (Photo from Review Journal)

Here is a guy that many people might not know of. Brandon McCoy is extremely skilled as a 7-foot-1 traditional center. He is 250 pounds and is a monster on the boards. He has not necessarily had his chances against Power-Five competition. However, against projected No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, he put up 33 points and 10 rebounds.

McCoy averaged 16.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his freshman season. He shot 54.5 percent from the field and 72.5 percent from the free-throw line.

In a way, he is similar to Dwight Howard when he came into the league. He is extremely strong, but is also offensively raw and does not have too much diversity in his game. He is very good in the pick and roll and is also very good with his back to the basket due to his size.

He does not have a fantastic face-up game. However, he did show he could make a three, he just never had the confidence to shoot in bulk.

McCoy has the ability to dominate the paint given the right system. He is extremely raw, but can still come into his own given some time. After all, he is only 19 years old.

Malik Newman, Kansas

Projection: Late second round

Malik Newman started at Mississippi State and finished at Kansas. If you look at the difference in statistics, he looks like a completely different person.

Since his Mississippi State days, he has improved all his statistics drastically. In one season, he went from shooting 68.7 percent from the free-throw line and improved all the way to 83.5 percent at the end of his sophomore season.

His sophomore year percentages were 46.3 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the free-throw line. He averaged 14.2 points, five rebounds and 2.1 assists. The thing that makes him most interesting is that during the back half of his sophomore season, his statistics skyrocketed.

Newman can be an important piece to any NBA roster. He reminds many of former Jayhawk Ben McLemore. He has a great jump shot and also has a ton of athletic ability.


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Lakers fantasy basketball

Lakers fantasy implications the rest of the season

For all of the fantasy basketball nuts out there, this is arguably the most exciting part of the year. As fantasy playoffs approach for head-to-head leagues and things are finally starting to fall into place for those doing rotisserie, player performance becomes just as important as ever.

Let’s dive into the fantasy values of the Los Angeles Lakers, who you might want to hold on to and who you might want to deal.


On a young team technically still fighting for a playoff spot, the Lakers have plenty to offer in terms of fantasy upside. Here are the Lakers that should be held onto for the remainder of the season.

Brandon Ingram 

Averages in the last week: 19 points, 57.1 percent shooting, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, one 3-pointer

Lakers fantasy basketball

Photo from

We should take this one with a grain of salt, because these averages come from just one game. Since then, he has been battling a groin strain and will be reevaluated in a week.

Regardless, one game can show just how much Ingram can contribute to the box score. Assuming the injury isn’t serious, Ingram should be a stud the rest of the way and demand the ball more than anybody on the team.

The young Kevin Durant comparison has a lot of weapons to offer. Unless an owner needs production immediately, riding out the injury and deploying him when healthy will definitely be advantageous.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 

Averages in the last week: 17.3 points, 54.3 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 2.7 3-pointers

Pope is known for his streaky play, but has actually been ridiculously good lately. While the rebounds and percentages won’t be this good the rest of the way, everything else should hover around what it is right now.

There were plenty of rumors that he would get less playing time in order to develop the younger guys, but considering he’s only 25 years old and the departure of Jordan Clarkson, he has been getting big minutes.

He should be a solid source of steals and triples the rest of the way, with a dash of inconsistency.

Julius Randle 

Averages in the last week: 23.7 points, 54.8 percent shooting, seven boards, 1.3 steals

The departure of Larry Nance Jr. has helped Randle in a big way. He has been as dominant as ever lately.

After a slow start to the season, he should be in for a big finish and will definitely help out anyone’s fantasy team.

Honorable mention: Kyle Kuzma

Drops and Deals

Depending on the size and competitiveness of your league, these are the players that could possibly be dropped or dealt in the near future:

Lakers fantasy basketball

Photo from ClutchPoints

Brook Lopez 

Averages in the last week: 12.7 points, 51.7 percent shooting, four boards, one steal, one block, 1.7 3-pointers

While these numbers are not horrible by any means, this is sadly some of the best of Brook Lopez that we have seen this season. His days of knocking down multiple triples per game and consistently contributing to the blocks category have come to an end in Los Angeles, and the maintenance days are inevitable for one of the older Lakers.

If you can sell high on him after a decent week, it wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Isaiah Thomas 

Averages in the last week: 23 points, 38.6 percent shooting, 6.7 assists, 2.7 3-pointers

While the points appear to be nice, the percentages and lack of defensive stats are not a whole lot to write home about. Thomas has not accumulated a single steal in his past five games. His defensive efficiency is hurting fantasy owners more than helping.

Unless you are taking percentages and only need points and a handful of assists for your team, Thomas probably isn’t your guy.

What about Lonzo?

Lonzo Ball 

Averages in the last week: 12 points, 46.2 percent shooting, five rebounds, 6.7 assists, three steals, 3.7 3-pointers

Lakers fantasy basketball

Photo from The Undefeated

Don’t worry, Lonzo Ball has not been forgotten.

Ball seems to lie somewhere in between the two categories listed above, as he is truly a surprise on most nights. Against the Blazers, for example, he was underwhelming with 10 points and not much else. However, he had an 18-7-11 line with six 3-pointers a few nights before against the Spurs.

As a rookie, inconsistency may as well be his middle name, and that is why he may be tough to hold onto. On the other hand, the upside is there and he can usually be treated as a poor man’s Russell Westbrook (inefficient with lots of stats across the board).

The 3-pointers are not sustainable, but everything else could definitely increase slightly. If you are a risk-taker in need of lots of stats across the board who can deal with inefficiency and inconsistency, Ball is the perfect player for you.


A lot can happen in the basketball world, especially on a streaky team like the Los Angeles Lakers. Every fantasy owner is different and has certain needs for their particular team.

But as a whole, the above analysis is a fair prediction of what the rest of the season could look like for each of the mentioned players. For those entering playoffs soon, best of luck, and may the best baller win.


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Lonzo Ball Isaiah Thomas

Can the new Lakers coexist?

An individual player’s talent and performance on the court is one thing, but being able to work together with other stars is a whole different topic. This is something that Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball has been faced with, as the arrival of Isaiah Thomas has put him in a place where he is forced to play with someone who was in the MVP conversation just a season ago. But how are two point guards on the same team supposed to coexist with each other?

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball Isaiah Thomas

Photo from ClutchPoints

Before the arrival of Isaiah Thomas, Lonzo Ball had seen plenty of ups and downs in his first NBA season with the Lakers. He started off quite inconsistent, and many overreacted when thinking if he was the right choice for the future of the franchise.

Others realized that it had only been a few games for the rookie and that there is a learning curve, and as a result, gave him a chance. For the most part, the people in this category were right.

Sadly for Ball, however, he caught the injury bug and was sidelined for over a month. It was bad timing, but better safe than sorry for the oldest Ball brother.

He returned after the All-Star break, and has played four games since. While three of these games were around his average performance, Ball came alive against the Spurs on Saturday with 18 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, two blocks and a career-high six 3-pointers. He padded the stat sheet in a big way, and one can only hope this is a sign of things to come for the youngster.

Isaiah Thomas

Lonzo Ball Isaiah Thomas

Photo from Inquisitr

Ball’s performance was highly impressive, but what made it more impressive was that he was able to be successful next to Isaiah Thomas’ great play.

In the same game against the Spurs, Thomas notched 21 points and seven assists in 29 minutes. He played a solid amount of minutes next to Ball, and this game was evidence that their coexisting success is possible.

It’s been a hot topic since returning from injury, but it’s unbelievable that Thomas has already been on two different teams this season after such a phenomenal season with the Celtics. Slightly ironic, the Celtics’ rivals received Thomas for two young players, and many felt he was disrespected in the trade.

He has the ability to play at an elite level, but just has not been able to do so consistently this year. Being the likable guy that he is and someone who is able to prove a point to the league, it is no secret that Thomas wants to find a home to play in. In addition, he isn’t in his early years. The 29-year-old has no time to be on two teams per season.

Thomas’ primary position has been at point guard, so the Lakers bringing him in with a supposed franchise-piece in Ball was an interesting move. However, the speculations about moving him before next season and basically all other possible rumors have been circulating since the point of the trade.

There is truly no knowing what jersey Isaiah Thomas will be wearing next season, but right now, he only has one thing to worry about: his play next to Lonzo Ball.

Is it a fluke?

Now of course, we are looking at a single game where both Ball and Thomas managed to play well. While we do know it is a feasible thing to occur, it must be taken into consideration if it is a sign of things to come, or rather just something that happens once or twice a month.  Statistically speaking, it is virtually impossible to predict this, as the two players have played a total of four games together so far.

As the season goes on, the sample size will be much larger, and it will be easier to determine how these two play together. Will they take turns going off and performing well while the other takes a backseat, or will we see solid and consistent play from them both on most nights?


It’s hard to envision both players having lines as they did against the Spurs on most nights. Yes, they did it against a defensively-focused team, which is quite impressive. But consistency from a young player and someone who just got traded is truthfully a lot to expect.

The most likely scenario is that fans will see big nights like this from both guys on occasion, but expecting one of them to perform at lower standards than the other should not be out of the ordinary. Of course, there are a lot of other things to depend on, but all in all, one should expect one of these guys to take a slight front seat in each given game, forcing Luke Walton to ride the hot hand.


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Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Will Isaiah Thomas be on the move again?

The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired former All-Star and crafty scorer Isaiah Thomas, but plenty of question marks lie in the chance of his return next season, his fit next to Lonzo Ball and most importantly, the future of the Lakers.

It is the morning of Feb. 8, 2018, and NBA fans all around the world are constantly navigating through various social media devices to see who is about to end up on a new team by the middle of the day. Plenty of surprises came our way, but arguably none more intriguing, to say the least, than the Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Isaiah Thomas.

What was this trade all about?

The trade involved sending Jordan Clarkson and high-flying act Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in return for Thomas, Channing Frye and a pick. While this did throw off many NBA fans, the Lakers are doing nothing except preparing themselves for the future.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

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The Lakers stood at a record of 23-31 before Thomas stepped foot on the floor for LA, clearly closer to tanking than playoff contention as expected from a young team. The potential is there though. Brandon Ingram is supposedly the next Kevin Durant. Kyle Kuzma has shown flashes of brilliance all season. And of course, there is the one and only Lonzo Ball.

They are young, talented and have the potential to be studs in just a couple years. So why get rid of two other young players when they are already developing the youngsters this season anyway?

Well, it had nothing to do with the talent levels of the newest Cavaliers. In fact, they were some of the best players to come off the bench in the whole league, and the defense (especially Nance’s) will definitely be missed from a defensively-weak Lakers team.

With this trade, Magic Johnson and the Lakers are making it clear that they are doing something that other teams like the Sixers and Timberwolves have already started doing quite well: preparing for the future.

What can Los Angeles do next season?

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Photo from

With this trade, Los Angeles now has enough cap space to sign two free agents to a max deal for the 2018-19 season. This is absolutely huge for the Lakers, as they have been eyeing players like Paul George, LeBron James and seemingly countless other big names since even before this season. Now all of the talk about a couple big signings could become a reality.

The most ambitious (and bandwagon) of Lakers fans are all dead set on James and George both coming to Los Angeles next season. Regardless of the rumors and speculations, there is truly no way of knowing what Los Angeles will do until they announce it themselves. Stay tuned for what should be a wild offseason.

Now what?

For right now, many of us are curious how the rest of the season will go for the Lakers. It’s a huge question mark if Isaiah Thomas will stay or not, but so far not so good for the former All-Star.

After a debut of 22 points and six assists in purple and gold, he has flopped since then, playing just five minutes against the Pelicans and shooting 3-for-15 against the Timberwolves. The biggest takeaway from all of this? All three games since Thomas’s arrival have been losses.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Photo from

Unfortunately, the issues don’t stop there. No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball is on the verge of returning from an MCL injury, and just so happens to play the same position as Thomas. There’s no doubt that Magic knows this and has ensured fans that Ball would be starting when he returns.

This leaves us with Thomas, who was an All-Star and third in the league in scoring last season, to come off the bench of a slightly below average Los Angeles team.

I know what you are probably thinking. Just a minute ago, I said I liked the trade for cap space purposes, but now I’m giving reasons why it doesn’t make too much sense.

To be crystal clear, the future of the Lakers absolutely benefited from this deal. However, despite many sources saying Thomas plans to stay in Los Angeles, it just does not seem likely. He has the talent and skillset to be a starter on so many teams, and backing up an inconsistent rookie like Ball is probably not where Thomas wants to be after averaging 28.9 points per game.


If I had to make some not-so-bold predictions about the Lakers’ roster next season, I would say it is one that lacks guys like Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Isaiah Thomas, but adds at least one superstar with Paul George being a feasible and likely candidate. What the Lakers have done with this trade was a very intelligent way to prepare for next season and beyond, but there is almost no doubt that Thomas will once again be wearing a different jersey.

It’s only speculation at this point, but we could see a whole new group of guys wearing purple and gold next season, and I’m already intrigued to see how everything falls into place.


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So are the Cavs good now?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently on a four game win streak and have looked revitalized after they blew up the roster at the trade deadline. The new additions at the deadline are all playing significantly better in Cavalier uniforms and have the Cavaliers growing momentum at the All-Star Break, and all looks well in The Land. However, The Cavaliers have only played a handful of games with their new roster.  Are the Cav’s good now?

Why the Cavs did get better:

Thomas only played 15 games before he was dealt to the Lakers. (Photo by News | USA)

Getting Isaiah Thomas out of the locker room is like removing a tumor. The team chemistry was significantly brought down by Thomas’ presence. He continuously denied any responsibility with the team’s struggles, and pointed fingers at other teammates. Thomas looked awful during his time on the court, Offensively he was inefficient and defensively he couldn’t stay in front of anyone. Getting the bad teammate out of the locker room has allowed the team to show chemistry on the court and healthy excitement off the court.

Thomas wasn’t the only bad player that was dealt either. Dwyane Wade was terrible with the Cavs and people who say otherwise have not watched him play. He’s shooting 45% from the field(3% off from his career average) and 33% from downtown, which is not good. Jae Crowder was a really good player on the Celtics with Brad Stevens, but he was awful on the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers brought in new young talent and did not get rid of the Brooklyn 1st round pick.

Jordan Clarkson has provided great energy since his arrival for the Cavaliers. (Photo by CavsNation)

The new additions have provided new life to the roster, Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson are playing fantastic with LeBron in charge and now. The Cavaliers have finally put young talent on the court and decreased the average age of the roster by 2 years. George Hill(31) and Rodney Hood(27) are both veterans, but they’re both bringing new life and energy to the roster. Hill is a very serviceable point guard and is a perfect role player to surround LeBron with. Hood has been a knock-down shooter even since he left Duke.

The emergence of the new players have also had a great effect on the other players as well. J.R Smith has played like a better version of himself despite a increased tendency to take questionable shots. LeBron has played well in the games with his new team, scoring 37 points against the Thunder. Even Cedi Osman has played increased minutes and is playing well as a starter. The Cavaliers will look very interesting once Kevin Love comes back, as the team will be complete with the new roster and 2nd best player back and healthy.

Final thought

The Cavaliers look like the team to beat in the East once again. If they build more team chemistry and learn how to play together, they could challenge either the Warriors or Rockets in the NBA Finals.

Why the Cavs did not get better:

The Cavs are not better than they were last year. The Cavs lost in five games to the Warriors and the Cavaliers had to have record breaking 3-point shooting to win game four to prevent a series sweep. The Warriors would have to have numerous injuries to key players for this to even become a series.

Cleveland lost their second best player from last year(Kyrie Irving) and the Cavs need a real second star with LeBron. Kyrie was the only player who actually made Cleveland significantly better other than LeBron.

Without Kyrie, will Cleveland win the East? (Photo by

You can look down the Cavs roster and say if he wasn’t on the roster, that wouldn’t change the success this team has in the playoffs. That includes Kevin Love. There is no player on this roster with irreplaceable value outside of James.

The Cavaliers gave up on Isaiah Thomas after 15 games. Not only did they trade him, they attached their first round pick for a backup point guard on a lottery team (Jordan Clarkson) and a backup big(Larry Nance) who are both overpaid. Thomas was not playing to the standard he played at last season, but they did not give him enough time to figure out a role with the team and get back into playing shape after his hip injury.

There were rumors of Thomas being rushed back and having no feel for the game. While Thomas is a free agent this summer, trading him at the deadline may be a huge mistake. Thomas is a creator on offense, and besides LeBron, no one else can create on a consistent basis.


Cleveland’s trading away of Crowder, Shumpert and Rose is unequiventy good. There was no solid contributions being made from any of them and they were dead weight. Receiving Hill and Hood was a great move, adding talent and getting younger. However, George Hill is just a role player and while Hood shows flashes of being a complete player, he’s still just a good role player.


Cleveland now has no team chemistry and the players have no experience playing with one another. They don’t have the talent or chemistry to challenge the Warriors, and could struggle getting out of the East. If LeBron has to carry his team throughout the first rounds of playoffs again, how will he play in the conference finals and finals?

Final Thought

LeBron won’t win a title without a second star player. The Spurs swept LeBron and the Cavs the year he carried them to the finals. One great player can not beat a great team by himself. Plus, LeBron needs more than role players if they want to even compete with Golden State. The Cav’s have no chance of winning the championship with the current roster they have.

NBA biggest storylines

Biggest storylines heading into the All-Star Break

The All-Star game serves as a reminder to observe the current NBA season as whole and the headlines that have circulated the NBA world. Here are the biggest storylines in the NBA to follow heading into the second half of the season.

Where do all the free agents sign this offseason?

Similar to last offseason, you can expect another exciting offseason with lots of high-profile free agents over the summer. The Lakers freed up cap room for two max contracts and are going to look to add to their young core.

The unrestricted free agents for this upcoming offseason include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Gordon, Clint Capela, Jabari Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Zach LaVine and Tyreke Evans.

There’s no doubt that some players on this list are going to stick with their current teams, but a fair share of these players could bolt towards new horizons and change the shape of the NBA. This summer may be a turning point for franchises in the association.

Isaiah Thomas on the Lakers?

NBA biggest storylines

How will Isaiah react to coming off the bench after last year’s All-Star performance? (Photo by Lakers Nation) 

Once again, Isaiah Thomas was traded, this time in a blockbuster deal to the Lakers. The now brief fiasco that surrounded himself and the Cavs is now over. The 5-foot-9 offensive star is a two-time All-Star and finished fifth in MVP voting last season.

However, he’s going to be coming off the bench for the purple and gold. Lots of attention follows the Lakers. Lonzo Ball and Thomas don’t play great defense.

It should be interesting to see how the Lakers backcourt plays out the rest of this season.

Can the Cavaliers win the East?

The East has gotten increasingly tougher, and the Cavaliers are not the same team they once were with Kyrie Irving. While LeBron James is still having a great year, it remains to be seen if all their newly acquired players can change the locker room attitude and subpar basketball that has plagued Cleveland.

The new-look Cavs looked great in their first game, blowing out the Celtics on the road. But one game doesn’t define a season. The Raptors, Celtics and Wizards are all going to challenge the Cavs this postseason, and the Cavs aren’t going to have home-court advantage.

Who will be the first pick in the draft?

NBA biggest storylines

Where will Trae Young fall in the draft? (Photo by USA Today)

In what looks to be another stacked draft class, including Trae Young, Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton, who will go first off the board?

While my favorite player in the pack is Doncic, it could be any of the names mentioned that get their names called first.

Is James Harden the MVP?

James Harden is averaging 31.4 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds per game while carrying the Rockets to the second seed in the Western Conference.

If Harden manages to stay healthy and continue on his torrid pace, it’s unlikely anyone can compete with him for the MVP trophy.

Can the Rockets beat the Warriors?

The Rockets have helped close the gap between the Warriors and the rest of the Western Conference. They’ve been nearly unbeatable when Chris Paul and James Harden are suited up and have the No. 2 offense in the league. The defense ranks in the middle of the pack at 15th. The Rockets have won the season series against the Warriors 2-1, and could end up with the first seed and home-court throughout playoffs.

If both teams manage to stay healthy, it’s likely these two will meet in the Western Conference finals. This Rockets team is going to be the first team to test the Warriors since Kevin Durant joined them.

Can the Warriors defend their title?

NBA biggest storylines

Will anybody beat the defending champions? (Photo from Billboard)

The Warriors have the best record in the NBA and an embarrassment of riches on their roster. Their bench play has not been up to par compared to years past. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala have had down years for the Warriors. Patrick McCaw, Javale McGee and Nick Young have been underwhelming all season as well. Jordan Bell has also hit the rookie wall. Without David West holding down the second unit, this team struggles without its starters in.

It’s likely the Warriors haven’t stayed focused after reaching the NBA Finals for three years in a row. The dog days of the regular season can cause great teams to lose their intensity. The Warriors consistently don’t show up for games, they show up for quarters. Nonetheless, due to the amount of talent on this roster, that has been enough to win.

The Warriors will likely find their intensity come playoff time. However, for now they look like they’re going through the motions.

What is next for LeBron James?

LeBron James is a free agent once again, and no one knows where he is going to go. James displayed how frustrated he was with the roster before the deadline.

How do the trades change his approach for free agency? The teams that seemingly are rumored to be plausible for him to move to are the Rockets, Lakers and 76ers. There is a very strong chance James leaves Cleveland, again.


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Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Evaluating Isaiah Thomas’ new role with the Lakers

On Feb. 7, Isaiah Thomas said in a postgame interview with ESPN that he was “tired of being traded.” Hopefully he wasn’t too tired of it, because one day later, the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped him off to Los Angeles.

In the most surprising trade of the deadline, Cleveland sent Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers. In return, they received dunk contest participant Larry Nance Jr. and expensive point guard Jordan Clarkson. Cleveland also traded away its first-round pick (not the Brooklyn pick), which should be relatively low.

Thomas has been underperforming in his contract year, coming off of a hip injury. It is now the Lakers’ job to figure out the best way to utilize him.

Bench player

Thomas began his Lakers tenure coming off of the bench against the Mavericks. Los Angeles utilized a backcourt made up of Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two players familiar with the system, instead of starting Thomas.

Thomas’ agent vehemently stated that he will not be a bench player for the Lakers. He even went as far as to say that Thomas would “demand” a buyout if Los Angeles made him a bench player for a significant amount of time.

All of this is understandable for a player who is trying to get paid in the offseason. Of course he wants to be seen as a franchise player, rather than a bench scoring option.

But considering his lack of production since his injury, it’s also understandable that the Lakers want to hedge their bets. In his 15-game sample size as a Cavalier, he averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists. That’s a huge drop-off from the 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game he contributed last season in Boston. It’s reasonable to question whether he’ll ever be the same player as he was in the 2016-17 campaign.


In his career year last year, Brad Stevens and the Celtics successfully hid Isaiah Thomas’ defensive shortcomings. This was due to the coaching and the overall defensive talent and commitment in Boston.

The Cavaliers, however, could not. In his time with Cleveland he posted the worst defensive rating for any player in the last 25 years. Being historically bad at defense is not a good look, even in a league that doesn’t put a premium on defense.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Darren Collison blows by Isaiah Thomas during his time with the Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

Whether or not he can improve this area of his game will have massive impact on Thomas’ new role. The Lakers are not in contention for a playoff berth, and it’s unlikely that they would sign him after the seasons’ end. Dumping Clarkson’s salary and receiving a pick positions Los Angeles to get two stars in the upcoming offseasons. Signing Thomas to the rich contract he’d likely ask for would work directly against that plan.

However, if he can somehow return to last year’s form and improve his awful defense, the Lakers’ focus could shift slightly. He could even be seen as a piece of their future. It’s all very doubtful, though.

Crowded backcourt

Although Lonzo Ball is currently out with an MCL sprain, the Lakers have all but committed to him as their point guard of the future. That doesn’t bode well for Thomas’ starting point guard aspirations.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during a game against the Wizards. (Photo by Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Los Angeles also has Tyler Ennis, Gary Payton II and Brandon Ingram, who can play the position. Couple that with the three shooting guards on the roster, and that makes for a very crowded field. Thomas will very much have to win his starting spot.

Thomas does have his potential going for him though. And the Lakers have enough young talent to mask his struggles somewhat. He also has veteran status, which is invaluable on such a young team.

Again, though, since the Lakers are not in playoff contention, they will be doing their best to give their young players time on the court.


Thomas will probably be a spot-starter for the Lakers moving forward. Walton will throw him in the starting rotation in games where offense will be the order of the night.

It makes perfect sense to bring him off of the bench for his first game as a Laker. He’s unfamiliar with the system, and will need an adjustment period before starting him is justified.

Thomas obviously needs more games removed from the hip injury before NBA teams and fans can judge him fairly. But during a contract year on a team where he is a luxury, Los Angeles can do whatever they want regarding his playing time.

Magic Johnson is a former point guard that has a reputation of building relationships with his players. That alone means Thomas will get some starts so he can try to improve his value as he attempts to lock up a new contract.


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Cleveland Cavaliers trades

Cleveland Cavaliers: What just happened?

Let me paint you a picture. It’s Feb. 7, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 31-22, have lost 13 of their last 20 and their chemistry is a mess. There seems to be no consistency and the new guys that have been integrated aren’t getting it done.

Now it’s Feb 8 and approximately two hours before the trade deadline. One or two guys on their entire roster seem safe from being moved. Dwyane Wade has been traded to Miami for a second-round pick. Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round draft pick have been traded for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Rodney Hood and George Hill have essentially been acquired in multiple team deals for Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder.

So what really did just happen? Are the Cavaliers still the team to beat in the East?

Buyers or sellers?

Coming into the trade deadline, many thought the Cavaliers would be buyers. What that essentially means is that they would put together a package of players in hopes to lure an All-Star level player as a trade partner. They sought out DeAndre Jordan to anchor the back of their defense and to possibly fix the defensive breakdowns they have been having.

That trade didn’t end up going through. Then they decided to evaluate their team based on their recent performances.

The Cavaliers found a way to both buy and sell. They received great players without giving up the team’s two top prospects. It was clear that Isaiah Thomas wasn’t meshing well with the Cavaliers roster. They wanted to move him and get a return for him.

What the Cavs are getting

Cleveland Cavaliers trades

George Hill (Photo by ESPN)

Rodney Hood is currently averaging 16.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He also has a PER of 15.56. He’s shooting 38.9 percent from three, 42.4 percent from the field and 87.6 percent from the free-throw line. He takes the role of starting shooting guard on a Cavs team that has been searching for production at the position.

George Hill’s season averages are 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, with a 14.15 PER. He’s shooting 45.3 percent from three, 46.9 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line. He now steps in as the probable starting point guard and will share those duties with Jordan Clarkson moving forward. There has been a supreme lack of production at the position ever since Kyrie left town.

Jordan Clarkson’s numbers are 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game with a 17.18 PER. He’s shooting 32.4 percent from three and 44.8 percent from the field as well as 79.5 percent from the free-throw line. Clarkson has had a little bit of a disappointing season this year. He was buried behind Lonzo Ball and has played less minutes this season because of it.

Lastly, Larry Nance Jr.’s stats are 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.5 bpg per game with a 19.55 PER. Nance is extremely athletic. He helps protecting the rim, like DeAndre Jordan would, but to a lesser scale. Nance shoots over 60.1 percent from the field and will be a valuable contributor for the Cavs off the bench.

Will the Cavs become a better team?

The Cavaliers will be interesting for a while now. With Kevin Love hurt, the team is already missing a piece, and with all these new faces in town, it is going to take a while to get accustom to all the different talents. In this situation, it is going to get worse before it gets better. There are a lot of players on this team that are new and don’t necessarily know how to play with each other.

This Cavaliers have 29 games left before the season ends. Barring something crazy, they will certainly make the playoffs. Essentially, the Cavs have 29 games to get accustom to each other before the games really matter and it comes playoff time.

There’s no doubt this Cavs team will be different. Ultimately, they will be better with new faces. This team can only improve on a steadily declining record.

What this means for LeBron

These trades make LeBron James’ decision this summer interesting. In this situation, James got both what he wanted as well as what he didn’t want. He was looking for the Cavaliers to bring in some big superstars instead of above average starters. This team got better as a whole, but still doesn’t have enough fire power to beat the Warriors.

The trade with the Lakers has also helped them free up cap space for this summer. It’s interesting how the Cavaliers have helped one of the teams rumored to be making a push for James. The Lakers now sit in a better situation and look much better as a possible landing spot for James.


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Lakers Acquire

Los Angeles Lakers acquire Isaiah Thomas in trade with Cavs

A crazy day at the NBA trade deadline as the Cavaliers and Lakers have made a trade at the deadline involving 29-year old point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Lakers acquired Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round pick, but it came at a price. Cleveland is receiving Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

Thomas was just quoted yesterday saying “I’m tired of being traded.” but Isaiah Thomas has struggled mightily this season. He is one of the worst defenders in the league, and his scoring has not been there like it was in Boston. In 27.1 minutes per game, Thomas is averaging just 14.7 points per game and 4.5 assists with a poor shooting percentage of .361 percent.

Part of Thomas’ struggles is his inability to find a role in Cleveland. In Boston, he was called upon to be the leading scorer, but the Cavs didn’t need that. Thomas struggled to fit into Cleveland, and a fresh start should be good for both places.

Lakers acquire

(Photo Courtesy of:

Isaiah is on the move to a team that is in the middle of a rebuild. The Lakers are the 11th place team in the Western Conference at 22-31. Los Angeles has young stars such as Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram; the Lakers will probably call upon Thomas to guide these young players.

In Cleveland, the additions of Clarkson and Nance should be a good fit for them. The Cleveland needs role players to stick around Lebron, and their styles of play should fit just that. Clarkson is a better defender than Thomas and score at a decent rate, in addition to that, Nance is a high flying young big man that can potentially set up exciting plays with Lebron James.



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Cleveland Cavaliers time to panic

Is it time for the Cavs to hit the panic button?

The Cavaliers have won the Eastern Conference Finals the past three seasons, and for the past three years, were the clear-cut favorite to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. They’ve had remarkable success in the postseason. Even when they were the second seed in the East, everyone knew who the team to beat was.

When LeBron James played with the Miami Heat, they were always first or second in the conference, and again, were the team to beat. However, the James-led Cavs this year are not in the top two spots in the conference. In fact, this is the lowest win percentage by one of James’ teams since 2007. Along with a poorer record than usual, there is well-documented tension within the locker room, swirling trade rumors and coach Tyronn Lue appears to be on the hot seat.

Will the Cavaliers reach the finals this year? What will happen when James hits free agency this offseason? Here are some of the reasons why Cleveland might soon be in panic mode.


Cleveland Cavaliers time to panic

James was animated on the sidelines during a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors (Photo from YouTube).

The Cavaliers rank dead last in points per possession, and this was a team expected to play better defense with the addition of Jae Crowder and subtraction of Kyrie Irving.

On the flip side, Boston has the best defense per possession, and they hold the lowest opponent field goal percentage (43.3 percent) in the league. The impact of a great coach is noticed in its defense. Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens all have their teams in the top five in opponent field goal percentage. Likewise, the Cavaliers rank 28th in the league with teams shooting 47.5 percent against them.

Jason Kidd was just fired because the Bucks, a team that has lots of capable defenders, are in the bottom tier of opponent field goal percentage. The Cavaliers have more than enough talent to play at a high level on defense, but it’s the coach’s job to build team defense, and Tyronn Lue has not done that.

If the saying, “defense wins championships” is true, the Cavaliers will have no business making it to the finals, let alone winning the finals.

Isaiah Thomas

While Isaiah Thomas is still slowly getting back into NBA shape, there is no question he lacks chemistry with the team and has digressed from last year. The 5-foot-9 point guard averaged just under 29 points per game last season, and shot 46.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from deep while finishing fifth in MVP voting.

This year, he’s averaging a mere 15.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting from the floor and 27.6 percent from 3-point range. His numbers and efficiency on offense are extremely down this year. Thomas has always been a below-average defender, partially due to his lack of height. Without him producing on offense, he’ll be unplayable in the playoffs.

If he doesn’t find his groove and get back to the player he was last year, then Cleveland will be in big trouble in the playoffs. The Cavs are 5-5 with Thomas on the court.

Besides the on-court issues, there are reports that Thomas criticized Kevin Love for not playing in a game because of an illness during a team meeting that included lots of finger pointing, and not a lot of solutions. Thomas has been involved with what seems to be subtle jabs back and forth.

It’s worth noting that last year, reporters couldn’t get any information from players on the Cavs, but this year, there has been a player who shares with the media the updates in the locker room. It’s a safe bet that one of the new additions is the one leaking information to the media, and Thomas is likely the player doing so.

Trade rumors

After playing other playoff contenders, it’s very apparent that Cleveland needs to make a trade to improve its roster before the playoffs. Essentially every player that could be moved in the NBA is on its radar, because the sense of urgency to make a deal is very high.

There’s been lots of rumors about George Hill and DeAndre Jordan among others being traded, and the Cavaliers desperately need to add talent, yet aren’t willing to part with any players who have value, or the first-round pick from Brooklyn.

Reports have leaked that players on the roster don’t think they can beat Golden State. Without the addition of a quality point guard or center to bolster its lineup, this team could be in for a disappointing postseason.

LeBron James

LeBron James is still playing at a very high level and is likely going to finish within the top three for the MVP voting. However, due to the headache he’s consistently causing his team, is his on-court talent worth the baggage he brings off the court?

Cleveland Cavaliers time to panic

Will James leave the Cavs this summer? (Photo by NBC Sports)

James is finally starting to look older on the court, and the years of heavy minutes and playing intense basketball until June is beginning to have an effect on him.

While he’s led the Cavaliers to lots of success in his career, there’s no doubt his relationship with owner Dan Gilbert could be better. Furthermore, the Cavaliers let go of former general manager David Griffin, who James was close friends with, which brings to question how solid of a bond James and the Cavs hold.

With James’ pending free agency, there is a growing belief that he is likely to bolt from the Cavaliers once again and surround himself with better talent as he ages. There’s a good chance this successful relationship between James and the Cavaliers will end soon.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the Cavaliers have the best player in the league and more playoff experience than any other team in the conference. However, there are other talented teams in the conference, and Boston could be the first team to really challenge Cleveland, especially if Gordon Hayward comes back this season.

It’s unlikely the Cavs can beat the Warriors with the poor chemistry and roster they currently have, and the Eastern Conference has increasingly gotten tougher. It may be time for the Cavs to hit the panic button.


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