The first round of the 2018 NBA playoffs is underway, with plenty of competitive series still being played, and a few of those 4-0 or 4-1 series coming to an end in the last couple of days. There has been a plethora of competition for the most part, with the one-eight matchup in the East tied up and the second-seeded Celtics just barely getting a game up on the seventh-seeded Bucks to bring them to 3-2. Even the LeBron James-led Cavaliers have struggled against the Pacers, leading the series just 3-2. If the Cavaliers lose the series, it would raise a ton of debate over James’ spot on a squad next season.
The Golden State Warriors vs. the New Orleans Pelicans is the first second-round matchup ready to roll. Let’s predict what this series will bring and who will come out on top.
Golden State Warriors
(Photo from www.bluemanhoop.com)
The Golden State Warriors did not struggle too much without Steph Curry, defeating LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs 4-1. The Warriors were up 3-0 and could have swept for some extra rest time, but they did not bring much to the table in Game 4. Game 5 was a close one too, as the Spurs almost pulled off a comeback, but Kevin Durant was ultimately too clutch to handle.
In terms of a Curry return, there is no telling when exactly he will be back. Head coach Steve Kerr said a couple days ago that it would not be “anytime soon,” but he does appear to be progressing quite well. When the former MVP comes back, this team will return back to their regular unfair form.
In the Spurs series, Durant led the way with averages of 28.2 points on 48 percent shooting, 8.6 boards, 5.2 assists and a few defensive stats here and there. His numbers are up slightly, assuredly due to the absence of Curry, but his efficiency is down a bit. Regardless, 48 percent is nothing to be upset about, and he will be phenomenal as long as he is on the floor.
Klay Thompson stepped up as well, averaging 22.6 points on 52.9 percent shooting. He has always been ultra-efficient and is constantly a treat to watch. Without Curry, he gets more touches and more looks, and for whatever reason has increased efficiency more often than not. Watch out.
Draymond Green struggled with his shot, but with everyone else making seemingly everything, they do not even need many of his points. What he lacks in scoring he makes up literally everywhere else, as his rebounding especially has been fantastic this postseason.
As all basketball fanatics know, this is a team capable of basically anything, and the return of Steph Curry brings them that much closer to possibly being the best squad to ever grace the basketball court.
New Orleans Pelicans
(Photo from www.fansided.com)
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans are arguably the surprise of the postseason so far. They took down a very, very good Portland Trail Blazers team with what seemed like ease, sweeping them 4-0 and advancing sooner than anyone. Keep in mind that this is a Portland team that won 13 straight games at one point this season, and were hotter than anyone in the league. As soon as they reached the playoffs, they got a hint of Jrue Holiday, a dash of playoff Rajon Rondo and a heap of The Brow. You have to think this Portland team is going to look a bit different come next season.
Davis was up to his old tricks this series, averaging 33 points, 11.8 boards, 2.8 blocks and 1.8 steals with high efficiency. His excellence is almost taken for granted these days, and he could be the best player in the postseason barring any injuries. If James Harden does not win MVP for whatever reason, there is no way it does not go to AD.
Holiday and Rondo were the most pleasant of surprises, and were truly the difference makers in this series. Holiday came away with some amazing averages of 27.8 points, four rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, while Rondo surprised everyone with 11.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 13.3 assists. And there is good news for Pelicans fans: Holiday loves playing the Warriors as he averaged 24 points and some other goodies against them in the regular season.
This Pelicans squad is one without DeMarcus Cousins, and have quickly proven that they are the real deal. Their only problem? Their next opponent.
What the Pelicans have done this postseason is incredible, but they have a tough task ahead of them. Golden State is deeper, more experienced and has more studs. The season series was a 3-1 Warriors advantage, but there has only been one game played between them since the new year. The result was a six-point Pelicans win.
The Pelicans are a different team than what we saw before the All-Star Break, and this could be a competitive series. However, betting against the Warriors is usually not a good call, even with them not having the best 3-point shooter ever on their side.
The Pelicans will definitely put up a fight with their three big stars in the Portland series, but unfortunately they would really need a fourth guy to stand a chance against the defending champs. Each team should have a much tougher series this time around. The Pelicans should be able to steal some games and bring this series to a Game 6.
Prediction: Golden State in six
Featured image from www.heavy.com
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Late in a game against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 26, Pelicans star DeMarcus Cousins injured his left Achilles in the closing seconds of the battle. He was later diagnosed with a torn left Achilles, and as a result, underwent season-ending surgery. The four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA nominee was having the best season of his life. Up to that point, “Boogie” was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists. With all that production gone, the Pelicans playoff aspirations appeared in jeopardy.
With Anthony Davis leading the charge, New Orleans went 21-13 in Cousins’ absence and earned the sixth seed in the tough Western Conference. They were set up to face the Portland Trail Blazers, who appeared to have the edge on paper. Portland has made the postseason in each of the last five years, while New Orleans had not played in the playoffs since 2015, a year in which they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.
Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis combined for 88 points in the series-clinching game against Portland. (Photo from NBA.com)
According to USA Today, “not only did all four of USA TODAY Sports’ experts pick Portland, but all 22 of ESPN’s writers and all six from CBS Sports did as well.” Maybe these guys should stick to their day jobs.
After defeating Portland 131-123, “New Orleans became the first No. 6 seed (or lower) to sweep its first-round series since the NBA switched from its best-of-five format in 2003” according to USA Today. The Pelicans absolutely dominated Portland, who had no answer for any of New Orleans’ star players, or even their role players.
In Game 3, Nikola Mirotic had 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and three steals. The only other player in NBA history with 30 points on at least 80 percent shooting from the field with eight rebounds and multiple steals is Hakeem Olajuwon, who also did it against Portland back in 1987.
In the clinching game, Anthony Davis erupted for 47 points and 11 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday went for 41 and added added eight assists. Rajon Rondo joined the fun with seven points, seven rebounds and a game-high 16 assists.
Now let’s take a further look into the Pelicans “Big 3″ by examining the numbers.
Davis, for the third time in his six-year career, led the NBA in blocks per game with 2.6. He averaged a career-high 28.1 points and tallied up 11.1 rebounds with 2.3 assists. He now has four seasons averaging a minimum 24 points on at least 49 percent shooting from the field, 10 rebounds and a free throw percentage greater than 75 percent. The only player with more seasons matching those statistics is Karl Malone, who has five. Keep in mind, Davis is just 25 years old.
Yes, we know he is great in the regular season, but what about the postseason? The media has been telling us that he is terrible since he has never won a playoff game. Are they aware that basketball is a team sport and Davis actually played extremely well in the four losses to the Warriors?
Dating back to those 2014-15 playoffs, “The Brow” now has seven straight games with at least 22 points and 11 rebounds. Shaquille O’Neal holds the record with 11. In his eight career playoff games, Davis is averaging 32.3 points per game, which is second-best behind Michael Jordan’s 33.4.
Consecutive playoff games with at least 22 points and 11 rebounds
CONSECUTIVE NO. OF GAMES
His epic Game 4 performance put him in elite company. Davis became one of six players (Jordan, O’Neal, Paul Millsap, Elvin Hayes, Charles Barkley) to finish a playoff game with at least 45 points on 60 percent shooting, 10 rebounds and multiple blocks. Of course, Davis could not have done without some help from his guards.
This season, Jrue Holiday joined LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry as the only four players to average a minimum of 19 points on 49 percent shooting and six assists. Holiday, a former All-Star, played in 81 games this year and set career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and win shares.
After Saturday’s win, Holiday became one of 12 players in NBA history to score 40 points on at least 65 percent shooting with eight assists. The last to do it was his teammate, Rajon Rondo, who exploded as a Celtic in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship against the Miami Heat.
“Playoff Rondo” is not only the best version of the former Kentucky point guard, but it is quite possibly the second-best playoff point guard we have ever seen. Rondo had 17 assists in Game 1 against Portland. This was the fifth time he finished a playoff game with at least 17 assists and eight rebounds. The only other players with multiple 17-assist, eight-rebound games are Magic Johnson and Fat Lever.
No. of playoff games with at least 17 assists, 8 rebounds
NO. OF GAMES
In the series-clinching match, he added on 16 more assists, giving him 12 career with at least 15 assists in the playoffs, trailing only Magic Johnson (42) and John Stockton (27) for most all time. For his career in the postseason, which currently sits at 100 games, Rondo is averaging 14.2 points, 9.2 assists and six rebounds. The only other player in NBA history with at least 20 playoff games to average that stat line is Magic Johnson.
One more triple-double and Rondo will tie Jason Kidd for the third-most triple-doubles in NBA Playoff history.
No. of triple-doubles in the playoffs
NO. OF TRIPLE DOUBLES
Whether he is a headache for coaches or not, Rondo has had quite the career. A classic point guard, Rondo has had six seasons averaging 10 points, nine assists and four rebounds, which is the fifth most behind Jason Kidd (11), Magic Johnson (10), Oscar Robertson (nine) and Chris Paul (eight). He also has four seasons averaging 10 points, 11 assists and four rebounds, which is second to Magic Johnson.
“Playoff Rondo” is a scary sight for all opponents. (Photo from SlamOnline)
One of those four seasons occurred in 2015-16. As a member of the Sacramento Kings, Rondo averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, six rebounds and two steals. The only other player to average those numbers was Magic Johnson, who accomplished this back in the 1983-84 season. If you are constantly being mentioned in the same department as Magic Johnson, you are clearly a pretty good player.
In all likelihood, New Orleans will square off against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. On paper, they may appear like the underdog, but that is what the analysts said about them in the Portland series. After looking at these numbers, there is no way anyone can sleep on the Pelicans Big 3.
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The NBA playoffs are almost upon us. Scheduled to start on April 14, the playoff picture is anything but concrete.
Injuries, fatigue, rest and a general agreement that seeding doesn’t really matter once the playoffs start, are all signs that anything could happen. The top two teams in each conference are surely safe, but the three through eight seeds are most certainly up for grabs.
With that in mind, here are some predictions on how the playoff seeding might shake out.
No. 8 Seed – Miami Heat
Eight seeds are the hardest to predict, for obvious reasons. The Heat, however seem as if they’ll wrap up a spot in the playoffs.
The Miami Heat are an unexpected playoff contender this year. (Photo by Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)
Their closest competition is the Detroit Pistons. Considering both teams’ remaining schedule is very comparable, the safe bet here is Miami. They are a more complete team with a battle-tested coach.
The Pistons would have to win all 10 of their remaining games against teams with losing records, and chalk up some upset wins, too. Even then, the Heat would probably have to drop some games they’re supposed to win. It seems as if the Blake Griffin pickup won’t be enough this year.
No. 7 Seed- Washington Wizards
The Wizards are a solid team, featuring fundamental play and a tough coaching matchup. They currently sit as the East’s fifth seed, but their schedule is ridiculously difficult down the home stretch.
11 of the Wizards’ 17 remaining games come against teams with winning records. With star point guard John Wall still potentially up to four weeks away from returning to the lineup, the Wizards are going to drop games. Washington is 10-6 since Wall had knee surgery.
Bradley Beal can certainly pick up some slack with his fantastic shooting ability. But the Wizards will need more help than that to stay in the fifth slot, or rise in the standings.
No. 6 Seed – Milwaukee Bucks
With a pretty even schedule against winning and losing teams remaining, the Bucks should sit in the seven seed.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks look for a second straight playoff berth. (Photo by Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)
The young team, led by the Greek Freak, has been a mini-surprise in the 2017-2018 season. The Bucks fired their head coach in the middle of the season, causing some to leave the team for dead. But under interim head coach Jon Horst, they have found an identity.
That identity is give the ball to Antetokounmpo at every opportunity, sit back, and watch the fireworks. If teams find a way to guard Giannis, their three-point game is solid enough to rack up the wins necessary to play some springtime ball.
No. 5 Seed – Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers, who had the most games in the NBA after the All-Star break, still have 19 games remaining.
Their path to the playoffs, however, is shockingly easy. Only six of their next 19 games come against teams with a winning record. With the youth on this team, fatigue will more than likely not be a problem down the stretch.
One thing to keep an eye on, though, is the inexperience and injury history on the team. The major pieces on the 76ers have never played a minute of playoff basketball. The players who have been to the playoffs are veterans, which is a nice way of saying that they’re old.
But these are mainly problems they’ll face once the playoffs roll around. The push to secure seeding shouldn’t be an issue for Philadelphia.
No. 4 Seed – Indiana Pacers
There’s no reason to think that the Pacers can’t continue to surprise the league. Their schedule is undeniably tough going forward, but the team has continued to manufacture wins.
Victor Oladipo is the focal point here. His meteoric rise during the 2017-2018 campaign is the largest part of the team’s success. Bogdanovic, Turner and Jefferson are all solid role-players, but Oladipo’s 24 points per game are still catching opposing teams off guard.
No. 3 Seed – Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James and the new-look Cavaliers made it to the 2016 NBA Finals, despite not being the top seed. (Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)
When discussing why the Cavaliers won’t fall in the standings, it would suffice to just write the words, “LeBron James.”
Apart from James, though, the new pieces are fitting nicely in Cleveland. They have not lived up to the sky-high expectations formed just before the All-Star break, but that would have been nearly impossible. But, the team has been, without question, an upgrade from the previous iteration.
Cleveland’s schedule is fairly even going forward. Judging from their tumultuous season so far, the Cavs will probably lose some games they are supposed to win, and win some games they might be slated to lose.
With their experience, drive to prove themselves, and The King, the third seed is more than likely where they will stand going into the playoffs.
No. 2 Seed – Boston Celtics
The Celtics have the best coach in the league, by almost anyone’s measurement. Kyrie Irving is having a fantastic season, and their roster is complimentary to the team’s play style from top to bottom.
Offense has been a huge issue for Boston, recently. They currently sit at 16th in NBA offensive rankings. That’s hardly what one would expect from the team with the East’s second best record. But these shortcomings speak to the Celtics’ strengths more than anything.
The defense is fantastic. When watching Boston play, the team defense is undeniable. Coach Brad Stevens has a real commitment to the little things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. That is what will keep Boston at the second seed.
No. 1 Seed – Toronto Raptors
DeMar Derozan has led the Raptors to the East’s best record. (Photo by Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)
The decision on who would hold the Eastern Conference’s number one seed came down to who would win the remaining matchups between the Celtics and Raptors. The race for the top spot going into the playoffs could very well come down to those two games.
But, more faith needs to be put in the resume Toronto has built during the season.
The Raptors own the NBA’s fourth best offense and the third best defense. Coach Dwane Casey has clearly reached a new level. He’s reached these players and motivated them in a way that’s evident during every game.
The stars, Derozan and Lowry are clear leaders. Serge Ibaka has accepted his role as a third option. The bench is deep, and dangerous.
The schedule is tough, but the Raptors are tougher.
No. 8 Seed – Denver Nuggets
Yet again, the decision here came from examining remaining strength of schedule. The Los Angeles Clippers the Utah Jazz lose that particular race.
The young core of the Denver Nuggets has been incredibly effective this season. (Photo by Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)
Not to sell them short, however, the young talent on the Nuggets has definitely impressed. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic create a solid core that can keep them in any given game.
A paint-focused offense, and a serviceable defense should secure them a spot in the playoffs. It doesn’t hurt that Los Angeles has experienced roster shake-ups, and Utah is one of the streakiest teams in the league.
No. 7 Seed – Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota was once as high as the number three seed. But losing Jimmy Butler to a meniscus injury has plunged them into a potential bubble team. Being that the West is so highly contested, that has proved to be a killer.
Butler was averaging the most minutes in the NBA, contributing 22.2 points, 5 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. Having a star go down with an injury would be a problem for any team. But it seems like this particular loss couldn’t have come to a more impactful player at a more important time.
The Timberwolves should have him back by the time the playoffs roll around, which is great news. Thibodeau and the Timberwolves need to keep the ship afloat until then, however.
No. 6 Seed – Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have been trending downwards in the past 10 games. They are 6-4 in these contests, needing a 43-point performance by Westbrook in a come back win against the lowly Phoenix Suns.
The “OK3” have underachieved, but they can all still be a force to be reckoned with. (Photo by Layne Murdoch Sr./NBAE via Getty Images)
Having them at the sixth seed is merely a belief in their defense and star power. The “OK3” are a force to be reckoned with in any game. George, Anthony and Westbrook hardly ever all contribute at a high level within the same game. But, all three of them are capable of going off, even if it is at the expense of the other two’s stat line.
Billy Donovan, once a scapegoat for the team’s unimpressive showings, has seemed to figure out the right balance. The bench is irrelevant here, as having three Type-A personalities in the same starting lineup dictate how the contest will be played.
Faith needs to be put in these three players, as none of them will accept missing the playoffs entirely.
No. 5 Seed – New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis has been an absolute assassin in recent weeks. He’s had six 40-plus point performances since the beginning of February. All six of those games featured 10 or more rebounds.
Since DeMarcus Cousins went down, it’s no question that Davis has accepted is role as the number one, two and three options for the Pelicans. But it is a little ridiculous to think he can keep putting up these kinds of numbers every night.
If he has an off night, it’s hard to trust Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to will New Orleans to a win by themselves. With the kind of drive he’s been showing, however, Davis can keep them no lower than the number five seed.
No. 4 Seed – San Antonio Spurs
Similar to the Cavaliers, all one needs to say here is, “Gregg Popovich” to inspire confidence in the Spurs.
Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich will no doubt be the determining factors regarding the Spurs’ seeding. (Photo by Darren Abate/Associated Press)
Kawhi Leonard has only played in nine games since the beginning of the NBA season. He said in an interview on Wednesday that he hopes to return to the lineup this season. When asked for a specific timetable, he only said that he wants to return “soon.”
Soon means nothing, but if he does get the opportunity to return, don’t expect he’ll need an adjustment period. Kawhi is a premiere two-way talent that has been focused on playing since he left the lineup.
Airing on the side of a hiccup-less re-introduction to the starting lineup, the Spurs can hold their ground and even rise in the standings.
No. 3 Seed – Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard is now in the MVP conversation. CJ McCollum is capable of scoring 50 points if he has the ball enough. Aminu and Turner are solid wings that the team can lean on in the case of a shooting drought.
Portland notably upset the Warriors right before the All-Star break. They lost the first meeting, though, and have not been able to beat Houston yet. Anyone else in the league is on notice when playing the Trailblazers. The offense is great, the defense is quick, and the schedule is manageable.
No. 2 Seed – Houston Rockets
The Rockets embody the hope of every team that the Warriors can be overtaken in the Western Conference playoffs. And they still can.
The strength of schedule is, again, what makes the difference here. The Rockets play 12 teams with winning records, to the Warriors’ 11. Both teams play 7 teams with losing records. Since the schedules are so comparable, the trust has to be put in the defending champions.
Houston has an incredible three-point game, and the rest of the offense is only slightly less polished. The addition of Chris Paul has been revelation, and Clint Capela has risen to new heights. James Harden is running away with the MVP race.
But over their remaining games, the four Warriors All-Stars will intimidate opposing offenses slightly more.
No. 1 Seed – Golden State Warriors
As stated above, intimidation is the main reason the Warriors will probably sit in the West’s top spot heading into the playoffs.
Golden State are champions until they lose, and losing is the only thing at which the NBA can count on the Warriors being bad. Thinking that this particular team has grown complacent and aren’t concerned with owning the one seed, is a mistake.
Golden State still has the most impressive roster in the NBA, regardless of their record. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
All four of the team’s superstars are hyper-competitive, and Houston taking away their spotlight has surely made them hungrier to assert their dominance over the conference. The Rockets and Warriors are certainly on a collision-course, but the Warriors will probably still own the regular season.
Featured image by Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports
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With a decent record at 28-23, the New Orleans Pelicans have been able to hold onto a spot in the ultra-talented Western Conference playoff picture. However, the DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis experiment is on hold with Cousins out for the year with an Achilles injury.
Because of this injury, the Pelicans have become very active at the trade deadline and have acquired Nikola Mirotic in a four-player trade with Chicago. Let’s break down all of their recent actions surrounding NOLA and their move to bolster their lineup for a potential postseason run.
Losing DeMarcus Cousins
The Pelicans big 3 of Holiday, Davis and Cousins have combined to averaged over 70 points a game this season. (Photo by NBA.com)
Cousins’ injury is devastating, cutting his career-year short. Cousins was voted an All-Star starter and was a underrated MVP candidate averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
Unfortunately, It’s worth noting that many players who’ve suffered Achilles injuries haven’t been the same player after their injury. The list of players includes Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins and Wesley Matthews. While current Achilles operations are likely better than the procedure Baylor had in 1970, players continue to struggle after this injury. There is a very real chance Cousins won’t be the same player he was before his injury.
To make matters worse, Cousins is a free agent. While the 1-2 Combo with Davis has been great, there is a chance Cousins will want to go to a bigger market like Los Angeles or Boston.
Cousins’ injury does hold a huge red flag, and teams should really be careful if they want to sign him to the long-term max deal he will command this summer.
Trading for Nikola Mirotic
The Pelicans needed another strong player before Cousins went down, but now they desperately needed someone to help carry the load with Anthony Davis. It’s likely Mirotic will play the 4 and Davis can be moved to center. With Mirotic’s strong perimeter play, he could form a great combo with him on the outside and Davis on the inside. If they can keep Cousins after this year, Mirotic can play behind the two of them as a great sixth man or at small forward in small spans. However, playing him at the 3 exclusively seems unlikely.
In addition, this trade shows Davis, the face of the franchise, that they want to compete and win now. The sense of urgency of the franchise demonstrates that they are building around Davis, and the trade rumors will die down at least until this summer.
Trading away their first-round pick and Omer Asik
Asik has been very disappointing in New Orleans and extremely overpaid. (Photo by hoopsrumors.com)
While getting rid of their first-round pick is tough to swallow, especially in the talent-stocked draft class this season, the Pelicans are forgoing building for the future and are going to try to compete now. With that being said, their pick wasn’t going to be within the top 10 picks, so it’s questionable how valuable the pick is.
Davis is still only 24 years old and hasn’t hit his prime yet. Mirotic is 26 years old, Jrue Holiday is only 27 years old and Cousins (if he re-signs and can return fully healed) is only 27 years old. The Pelicans do not need to build for their future, because their future is now.
As well as getting Mirotic, they were able to unload Omer Asik’s terrible contract onto the Bulls, which has been a major clog for their payroll. Asik may be the most overpaid player in the league, with three years left of a five-year, $57 million deal. He has averaged 1.3 points per game in the 8.6 minutes he plays.
To be blunt, Asik, is terrible and getting rid of his contract while receiving an efficient player like Mirotic is like trading garbage for gold. They threw in backup guards Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen, who are both way past their prime and weren’t really helping the team reach the playoffs.
The Pelicans’ front office has been very active at the deadline, and while missing out on Greg Monroe hurts for a team that could now use another center, they can seek solace knowing that Mirotic, Holiday and Davis should be enough talent to keep them in the playoffs this year.
If they can hold all the pieces together, they could be a real force as their core develops better chemistry and heads into their prime. They aren’t a real threat in the West this year, but they could be in the coming years.
Feature image from ClutchPoints.com
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When the Pelicans initially made the blockbuster trade that brought All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans, the playoffs became a big topic of discussion.
New Orleans was 11th in the West at the time with a 23-34 record. Surely the All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and Cousins would push the Pelicans into the playoffs, right?
Not quite. The Pelicans only moved up one spot in the conference standings after the trade and finished with a 34-48 record. They only went 11-14 after Cousins arrived.
It is crazy looking back at the playoff talk. The Pelicans were supposed to reach the eighth seed and challenge the Golden State Warriors with the mismatches their frontcourt had created. How would Golden State’s backcourt deal with this obstacle?
The addition of Cousins did not go as planned last season. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
The question we should have been asking ourselves is how are these slow-paced big men going to deal with the tempo Golden State plays at? Yes, the Pelicans no doubt have the best frontcourt in the NBA. However, they still lacked production from the rest of the roster and had some team chemistry issues.
They got 52 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks per game from the dynamic duo, but didn’t get much from the rest of the team.
Jrue Holiday is a former All-Star, but put up a mediocre 15 points and seven assists last season as the Pelicans’ starting point guard.
The next highest scorer on the team was Jordan Crawford at 14 per game.
As a team, the Pelicans scored 104.3 points per game (18th) and allowed 106.4 (17th). With Cousins on the roster, they scored 106.5 and allowed 106.3 per game.
Besides the fact that those numbers are below average, Cousins did not seem to do too much for the team.
Davis and Cousins’ resumes
What has Cousins done in his seven seasons in the league? He’s a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged a career 21.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Something is missing though, and that is a playoff appearance.
Now I know Cousins has not had much to work with as far as teammates go in his career, but the most games the Kings ever won with him on the roster was 33.
The same can be said about Davis. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA team member and has averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his five NBA seasons. Davis has led New Orleans to one postseason appearance when they finished 45-37 in a very competitive Western Conference and were then swept by the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Other than that, Davis has only helped the Pelicans reach 34 wins in a season.
However, like Cousins, he also has not had much talent surrounding him. During the year they went to the postseason he had Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday as his supporting cast. It is by far the most talent Davis or Cousins has had around themselves.
Their circumstances are similar and have been difficult, but could Davis and/or Cousins just not have it in them?
Davis and Cousins are a whole lot of star power to be going 11-14 and missing the playoffs. The fact that they have one postseason birth in 12 years of combined experience is also interesting to think about. The fact that so many teams in the Western Conference boosted their talent is not going to make things any easier for the Pelicans.
The Warriors, Rockets and Spurs seem to be a lock for the top three seeds. The Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets will most likely finish four through six. That leaves teams like the Trail Blazers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Pelicans will be battling for the last two seeds.
How the Pelicans have improved
What has New Orleans done to get better? They resigned Holiday to a five-year contract and also added veteran Rajon Rondo. Rondo is by no means the player he used to be, but he did average almost 12 points and 12 assists per game two seasons ago when he was with Cousins in Sacramento. He assisted Cousins 237 times, which is the most he has had to one player in a season according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Davis and Cousins have been working out this summer in hopes of improving their team chemistry. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Davis and Cousins have also been working out together with a focus on team chemistry. The Pelicans definitely were not all on the same page considering their record after Cousins arrived. Davis told local reporters that chemistry is the biggest thing the former Kentucky Wildcats have been working on.
“He knows the things that I like to do, I know the things he likes to do, where he likes to score from, where I like to score from,” Davis said. “We know that we’re going to be two big focal points on every team’s scouting report, so we just wanted to get together and work out together and just figure out things we like to do.”
What if they can’t?
Will these moves be enough to push the Pelicans into the playoffs? They sure ought to.
If Davis and Cousins can’t gel together, that is going to be a big problem. Holiday and Rondo are also need to contribute and figure out how to get Davis and Cousins opportunities.
I’m not the type of guy to knock a player for never winning the Finals or even if they never play in the Finals. However, if Davis and Cousins can’t work together and lead this team to a postseason birth, that is a problem and going to put a damper on their legacy should they continue to miss the playoffs.
Featured image by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
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In soccer, getting and signing contracts is still the wild west. There is no salary cap. There’s no player’s union. Players have very little leverage and what ends up happening is the players get underpaid.
So while you see massive transfer figures going on this summer, remember that the players see none of that money. It’s just billion dollar clubs trading millions and the player can’t get a bit of the money he just made the club he was sold from. Money in soccer is bigger than ever before yet the players seem to be getting less of the pie as the pie is getting bigger.
How is it that the global game in a globalized society is falling behind the American league in Average salaries and in highest salaries paid out?
So when people say a player is valued at over $100 million, he gets none of that money. Players are getting less portion of the revenues and it can be seen when you compare it to the American leagues. While you see the average salary keep getting raised in baseball and basketball, in Soccer it’s barely a gap and it’s less than noticeable. All the money is ending up in transfer fees and in the hands of a billionaire instead of in the players who actually put in the hard work.
European Leagues compare to American Leagues
Even though Messi signed a mega contract this summer most players in La Liga make less than $1milion (image: Getty Images)
If you compare the English Premier League’s average salary with that of the other leagues it dwarfs the rest of Europe. In the United States, the NFL is considered the worst paying of the major sports with no guaranteed contracts and an average salary of $2.4 million, yet only one soccer league in the world passes it.
The EPL passes it with the average salary of $3.2 million. La Liga is the next closest falls behind with just $1.6 million.
What factors into these numbers is the TV rights money not being shared. In England, money is shared equally among teams in the league and its the reason is the only league close to the American ones.
In Spain Real Madrid and Barcelona get most of the money and it creates a massive difference with the clubs they are competing against. This explains why the league has the lowest median salary. While Barcelona and Madrid have two of the highest payrolls in all of sports, only eight Spanish teams boast an average salary of over a million. Barca or Madrid’s payroll is bigger than the bottom ten teams combined and money would be left over.
Top Salaries compared
Steph Curry makes $12 million more than any player in the EPL. (images: Getty Images)
Yet looking at these numbers, you want to think at least the highest-paid player’s contracts in soccer must be around the same as any other sport. Nope, and it’s not even close.
Paul Pogba is the highest-paid player in the EPL. He cost Manchester United over $100 million last transfer window and will make less money in his contract than Jrue Holiday. That’s right, one of the best soccer players in the world will make the same money as the starting point guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year.
So while of course, it is not like soccer players are not getting good money, but the transfer fees keep rising and the reach of the game is growing by the year. Why aren’t players receiving more of the pie? The EPL is the highest-paying soccer league in the world and even its top grossing players aren’t close to the money other athletes are getting.
The global sports, like soccer, should bring the most in terms of players wages and rights, yet they are trying to play catch up with American leagues’ systems. The worst part of it all is there really isn’t a soccer player’s union that fights for the rights of the players. So the money of everything will keep staying in the owner’s hand and the player will be stuck having no leverage and using rumors to get bigger deals done.
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Kyle Lowry may have just had the best season of his career. The 31-year-old point guard finished this season with averages of 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and seven assists per game. He also shot a career-high 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
The three-time All Star announced earlier this week that he would be opting out of his deal with Toronto to become a free agent this summer. This has raised several questions of where Lowry will be playing next season.
Lowry said his biggest priority for the future is getting a ring, according to Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic. If that is the case, that narrows down the search to only a few possibilities.
Kyle Lowry just had a career year in Toronto. (Photo by Tip of the Tower)
Lowry was due to make $12 million next season, but with his opt out he can receive a max contract. That may have been another factor in his decision to opt out. The Raptors can offer him the biggest contract, approximately five years for $205 million. Anyone else can only offer him four years for about $152 million.
The biggest rumored destination for Lowry so far is the 76ers. Lowry went to high school in Philadelphia and stayed in the state of Pennsylvania by playing college ball at Villanova. 76ers’ president Bryan Colangelo also made the trade for Lowry from Houston when he was the Raptors general manager. Many have reported that Philly will offer him a huge contract this summer.
Based on Lowry’s comment about winning a ring, this move makes no sense. The Sixers are young and in a rebuilding process. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are all young talent with plenty of potential. They also will be adding another lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
However, these guys are no match in the East. LeBron James and the Cavs are always the favorites. The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards serve as the biggest threats to the Cavs. If the young Philly core stays healthy with Lowry in the lead, they would most likely make the postseason as a low seed and be eliminated in the first round.
Lowry will also be 32 next season during the postseason, so he does not have much time to waste with a rebuilding process. However, no matter where Lowry goes, he is always going to have to deal with either Cleveland or Golden State.
The Spurs may be one of the best fits for Lowry. Lowry would be a great replacement to Tony Parker at point guard. Parker had surgery for a ruptured quadricep tendon and could be out up to eight months. With an injury like that at his age, he will most likely never be the same player he was.
Could Lowry be teaming up with Kawhi Leonard this summer? (Photo by Air Alamo)
The Spurs also have the best chance at challenging Golden State for a spot in the Finals. Since the 2010-11 season, the Spurs have finished first in the West three times, second three times and sixth just once. They are consistently contending and adding another All Star to their team would only help. Lowry along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge would be a scary big three.
In order for the Spurs to make this work, they would need to clear a bit of cap room. They most likely wouldn’t be able to resign backup point guard Patty Mills and they would need to hope Pau Gasol declines his player option for next season. The team had to clear a lot of room to sign Aldridge back in 2015 and they made it work without losing a beat.
The Pelicans are another team that could be enticing to Lowry. New Orleans made noise at the trade deadline with their deal for DeMarcus Cousins, but things haven’t quite worked out the way they planned yet. The Pelicans finished the season 11-14 after acquiring Cousins after having postseason expectations.
Lowry could help get the Pelicans into the postseason. The status of their current point guard, Jrue Holiday, is still uncertain. Holiday is also a free agent and averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists per game this season. Lowry would be an upgrade from Holiday should they let him walk. Lowry also would provide veteran leadership to the younger Anthony Davis and Cousins.
Money is going to be another factor in this decision as well. Right now New Orleans is paying a lot to Davis and Cousins and does not have much cap space to pay Lowry. They could let some guys go of course to make room like San Antonio would have to. Lowry also may have to take a pay cut if he wants to go to a big contender in the West.
Lowry and DeRozan have made Toronto a winner. Will they actually split? (Photo by Toronto Star)
Lowry could also just stay in Toronto. Assuming he stays, they still have the potential to be a top-five team in the East. He also could make the most money with the Raptors. He would be making the max and playing for a playoff team. He helped make Toronto a winner along with fellow star DeMar DeRozan and is loved by the Raptors’ fan base.
However, that is all the Raptors will be: a playoff team. Not a big contender, not a Finals team and no threat to James and the Cavs.
Serge Ibaka is also another free agent Toronto will have to consider resigning. It is going to be tough for Toronto to pay them both. Losing Ibaka would hurt some, but losing Lowry would be a big blow to the team.
It will be interesting to say the least. This summer is going to be a huge for free agency with names like Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Lowry all potentially on the move.
If a ring is what Lowry truly wants, San Antonio or New Orleans may be his best bet. He may also have to be willing to take a pay cut. That is a price he must be willing to pay if he wants a championship.
Featured Image by Sports Illustrated
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