lucky this postseason

Series outlook: Vegas looks to get lucky this postseason

The Golden Knights have broken all expansion barriers and winning a playoff series is the next obstacle in their way. The Kings will be a very tough opponent for Vegas, and this series is sure to be one of the best ones of the first round. Like all playoff series’ in the NHL, the Knights will have to be a bit lucky this postseason to win.

Vegas Playing As A Team

What has made Vegas work, is their ability to work as one unit. Vegas does not have star power on the offensive or defensive end, but they all work very well together as a unit. The Knights had seven players score more than 40 points during the 2017-18 season which was among the top numbers in the league. For the Golden Knights to win in the postseason, it will be critical for them to stick to this formula.

Team Defense

Vegas plays excellent team defense. Their defensemen have done a great job all season of swarming the puck and forcing bad decisions. The Knights finished the season with the second highest takeaway total in the entire NHL. They also had a great takeaway to giveaway ratio at 1.1.

The Golden Knights were able to keep the goaltender relatively clean this season, and when you have a goalie the caliber of Fleury, it makes it very easy to win games. Because of this Andre-Fleury was able to have one of the best even-strength save percentages in the entire NHL with a ..931. He has this save percentage on the 10th least shot attempts in the whole NHL.

William Karlsson

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports)

Even though the Knights don’t have a superstar the one player you would pick to be the leader is William Karlsson. Karlsson’s career-high 78 points led the Golden Knights, and his 43 goals had him ranked third in the entire NHL.

Karlsson did have success against the Kings this season in the four games he appeared. Karlsson tallied three goals and one assist, along with a plus/minus rating of +3. The Knights are 2-1-1 in those games. If William Karlsson can continue to play well, the Golden Knights will have a very good chance at beating the Kings this series.

Kings Lockdown Defense

Like many of the Pacific division teams, the Kings play physical defense that results in low scoring battles. Los Angeles finished the season with a 2.43 goals against average which was good for the lowest total in the NHL.
Penalty Kill

The Kings had an incredibly good penalty kill in the 2017-18 season. They finished first in the NHL with an 85 percent success rate. The Kings are a team that doesn’t take too many penalties, but when they do they kill them very efficiently.

Vegas’ power play ranks ninth in the NHL so the Kings penalty kill will be put to the test, The Kings will have their hands full with Vegas’ power play, but holding them to five on five play will be their best shot.

Anze Kopitar

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Kopitar dominated the offensive side of the ice for the Kings this season. Anze finished the season with 92 points and the next closest player on the Kings had 61. Kopitar was consistently the best player on the ice and he proved it by being a force on the offensive end. In four games against the Knights this season Anze tallied two goals and three assists. If he can play at a high level against the Knights, this series could shift in LA’s favor.

Series Prediction

The Golden Knights have a good chance at winning this series, and it is because they match up very well. The Kings have a very good penalty kill, but when they play five on five, they tend to struggle. Vegas has had a balanced attack all season, and it is what will separate them from the Kings in this one.

If the Kings are going to take this one they are going to have to have to steal a win in the first game. I believe the momentum will be too strong to overcome if the Kings allow Vegas to win game one. The Kings have a very strong at home, but the Knights are a good road team that has good chance to neutralize Los Angeles’ strengths.

I like the Knights to win this series, but it will not come easy. This series will take a lot of both teams and will most likely go to seven games.

Vegas wins the series: 4-3

Featured image by USA Today

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Lakers Youth

Young studs on bad teams: Lakers vs. Kings edition

Last night, in a somewhat meaningless game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings, fans learned a lot about the talent that the youth on both teams will be bringing to the league for years to come.

In a season full of teams loaded with talent, it’ often easy to overlook the rebuilding teams.  The Lakers and Kings fit this description perfectly, and have young talent for what should be years to come.

In a thrilling 113-108 Lakers victory on Saturday evening, both teams had players show their best talent, racking in all sorts of statistical goodies.  Here are the six players (three per team) that performed best for each team:

Julius Randle:  12 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block (50 percent shooting) – Randle has shown flashes of greatness often this season, but ever since Nance Jr.’s departure, he has been more consistent.  It is a big question mark if he is one of the young guys that the Lakers hold on to when they try to get a big name before next season, but any team would be lucky to have what Randle offers.

Lakers Youth

Photo source: www.espn.com

Brandon Ingram:  13 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, one block – In comparison with Julius, Ingram is one of those untouchables for the Lakers; he will be wearing purple and gold for what seems like could be a while.  He’s had some rough patches as well, but his sophomore season has been going well so far, flirting with a triple double in this one.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:  34 points, seven boards, eight three-pointers (60 percent shooting) – Pope is 25 and is the oldest of this group, and the chances of him staying on the Lakers next season is quite low due to his one year deal expiring.  He’s as streaky as they come but, as shown by the above stats, when he’s on, it’s a sight to see.

Willie Cauley-Stein:  18 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks – After some rough patches earlier on in the season and plenty of inconsistency, Cauley-Stein has finally found his groove on a depleted Kings team where opportunity is not scarce.  He brings a little bit of everything to the box score every night and is very valuable to Sacramento.  I definitely see him doing big things as soon as this season.

Bogdan Bogandovic:  21 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block (50 percent shooting) – Many have called Bogdanovic the King’s best player, and it’s easy to see why.  He’s not just a scorer, and he has a sort of coolness about him that makes him look like he has been playing for a few years.  He could also be special really soon.

Buddy Hield:  21 points, eight rebounds, five three-pointers – Hield is known as a three-point threat, but has developed his game quite nicely on this Sacramento team.  The inconsistency is there, as it is with most young players, but he’ll continue to get plenty of touches post-All-Star Break and should be fun to watch.

Who Cares?

Lakers Youth

Photo source: www.sbnation.com

So why does this matter?  Well, all of these guys are young players who have already begun making names for themselves.  Granted, this is only a one game sample space, but it is undeniable that these guys can play.  And the biggest takeaway from it all is their average age:  23.5 years old.

In this simple breakdown of a game between two young and rebuilding teams, it is crucial to take as much good as you can away from it.  The six aforementioned guys all scored efficiently, padded their stats, or a little of both.  The talent in the NBA right now, especially considering how elite this year’s rookie class is, is at one of the highest ever.  Many NBA fans, myself included, are excited to see what’s in store for these guys and countless others that quickly emerge as young studs in the NBA.

My Best Fit 4: Four players drafted who are perfect fits for their respected teams

After an extremely hyped up 2017 NBA Draft, it is time to look at players who will gel right away with the teams they were selected by. The four players chosen have the chance to be immediate impact players, based on depth charts, and team needs.

THE FOUR

Lonzo Ball (LOS ANGELES LAKERS)

After sending former #2 pick D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn, it was clear that Lonzo Ball would be the guy for the Lakers. While getting many comparisons to Jason Kidd, Ball did not disappoint as a Bruin. As a freshman, Lonzo had over 50 more assists than Kidd did as a freshman at the University of California. An incredibly gifted passer, Ball’s 8.1 assists per 40 minutes ranked 2nd out of all players eligible for the draft. This will immediately help a Lakers team that finished 26th in assists during last year’s season. Shooting 73% from inside the three-point line, Ball’s scoring is often overlooked because of his ability to make plays on both ends of the floor. In fact, Ball’s unorthodox release led him to a very modest 41% from deep. Ball’s ridiculous vision is what sets him apart. Part of the reason for the Lakers struggles was due to the fact that they were 26th in turnovers. His 4.1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio proves how efficient he can be while running the show.

Lonzo controlling the Bruins offense (Sports Illustrated)

As a 6’6’” point guard, Ball’s physical gifts will be a blessing to guys like Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. While the Lakers are still a work in progress, Ball will make an immediate impact as the starting point guard. He turned a 15 win UCLA team into a 31 win squad, which included a Sweet Sixteen appearance. The guy is a winner and impacts the game in so many ways. Lonzo’s father, Lavar, predicted the Lakers to be back in the playoffs by next year. While this may seem like a stretch, never count out a team with Lonzo running the point.

 

De’Aaron Fox (SACRAMENTO KINGS)

One of the quickest players in the draft, Fox will immediately put up big numbers for the Kings. The constant John Wall comparisons are exactly what Sacramento fans want to hear. A Houston native, Fox averaged 16.7 points per game as a Wildcat. An explosive player who loves to attack the rim, Fox made nearly 60% of his shots in the paint. De’Aaron is also an elite rebounder and passer for his size. Per 40 minutes, Fox averaged 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds. His elusive pick and roll game will fit in nicely with Koufos and Cauley-Stein. Fox is developing as a playmaker and will help get Buddy Hield, and Rudy Gay (if resigned) good looks to keep the offense moving. His quickness, size and strength are major reasons as to why he will also be a great defender for the Kings. His 5.9 points per game on fast-break scoring was good enough to rank first out of all the power-conference players.

After making just 31% of his pull up jumpers, Fox has some work to do as a shooter. At only 19 years old, Fox is a gym rat who will continue to improve his ability to shoot the basketball. In the Sweet Sixteen, Fox led his Kentucky Wildcats with 39 points over Ball and the UCLA Bruins, proving his ability to shine when the lights are brightest. With impeccable athleticism and quickness, De’Aaron Fox will be special for the Kings. Don’t be surprised if his numbers are good enough for 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year.

 

Luke Kennard (DETRIOT PISTONS)

After 10 freshmen and one international player were chosen, sophomore Luke Kennard was selected by the Detroit Pistons. A lethal shooter, Kennard will have the chance to be the starting shooting guard for Detroit. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope most likely leaving as a free agent, Kennard can play a major role in the offense. Coming off finishing 28th in three-point percentage, Detroit needed shooters. So why not get the best shooter in the draft? During his sophomore campaign, Kennard averaged 19.5 points per game, which was the second most in the ACC, and shot 43.8% from deep. He also averaged 5 rebounds a game.

An athletic player at 6’6”, Kennard moves very well off the ball. He is also able to score off the dribble with ease. Kennard’s ability to pull up from all over the floor will be extremely beneficial to starting point guard Reggie Jackson. An intelligent player, Kennard will space the floor, knock down shots, and develop into a nice playmaker for Detroit.

 

Bam Adebayo (MIAMI HEAT)

Bam throwing it down with authority (KyForward.com)

At 6’10”, 250 lbs, Bam Adebayo will fit in perfectly with Miami. Although he is a physical giant, Adebayo moves well and is surprisingly athletic. He is a perfect fit for Goran Dragic on pick and roll plays. At Kentucky, Bam averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game on 59.9% shooting. Playing alongside Hassan Whiteside, who averaged 17 points and finished first in the league with 14.1 rebounds per game, Bam will not have worry too much about offense.

As a great defender, both in the paint and on the perimeter, Adebayo will help Miami move up the charts in rebounds, as they finished 15th in the NBA during the 2016-17 season. In fact, his 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes is among the best in the draft. His 1.5 blocks per game at Kentucky will help keep the Heat among one of the best shot blocking teams in the NBA. With a Dwight Howard build, look for Bam to become a more athletic and agile DeAndre Jordan.

 

BONUS

 Frank Jackson (NEW ORLEANS PELICANS)

Depending on whether the Pelicans keep Jrue Holiday, Jackson could be the sleeper of the draft. Surrounded by talent at Duke, Frank Jackson was often overlooked, but has the potential to be an elite offensive weapon for New Orleans. With Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, Jackson has little pressure to immediately impact the offense. An extremely efficient scorer, Jackson averaged 17.6 points per 40 minutes, on 47.3% shooting, during his only year at Duke. His 42-inch vertical leap is a key reason as to why he is such an explosive player. Jackson shot 48% on floaters, and his 39% shooting on three point shots makes him a threat as a perimeter player.

An incredible athlete, Jackson has the ability to turn into a Russell Westbrook type player. During the combine, Jackson finished first in the shuttle run, second in the max vertical leap, and third in the standing vertical leap.

Featured image by Sporting News

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The Philadelphia 76ers Only Have Two Stars, But Maybe That’s OK

As the season progresses, it’s becoming more evident that the Philadelphia 76ers simply don’t have enough of a core to build around. With the trade deadline less than two months away, it’s time for the team to start focusing on tooling for the future.

The Sixers have spent the past five years stockpiling assets at the top of the draft lottery. The result has been a logjam in the front court, and one that needs a solution before the trade deadline.

Monday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings serves as a decent benchmark for where this team is headed for the future. Former #3 draft pick Joel Embiid scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds with a plus/minus of +3. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor (fellow highly drafted big men) were rendered ineffective and the team was outscored when they were on the floor.

Throughout the game, Embiid flashed the talent that has made him one of the best young big men in the league. Defensively he guarded the paint and the perimeter, recording two steals and two blocks. In the post, he showed finesse and bullied Demarcus Cousins in the paint throughout the game. Outside the paint, he flashed his three point prowess and showed some breakaway speed on fast breaks. Better yet? He’s been doing it all season.

 

Joel Embiid Highlights from Dec. 26th 

 

Noel only played 3 minutes during the game, a testament to the pileup of big men in the roster. When Noel has seen the floor, he has struggled to score and rebound. He is a prominent defender who just can’t seem to put it together on this team.

Similarly, Okafor has also struggled throughout the season despite his promising rookie campaign last year. His post game remains impressive, but his inability to rebound and defend against many of the first units in the league would make it difficult to build a team around him.

Interestingly, his game compares well to a fellow third overall pick, Enes Kanter. Both big men are able to score well off the bench despite their inefficiency on the other end of the floor.

Many teams around the league could use a scoring presence like Okafor. Talent dry teams like the Brooklyn Nets could use his presence to help inject talented youth into their lineup. Teams like Portland and Boston could use him to build depth off of the bench.

The problem, however, is that Philadelphia has lost their leverage over the past few years. Nerlens Noel becomes a restricted free agent after this year and Okafor has only one more year left on his deal. The addition of Dario Saric and the impending return of Ben Simmons has created a need to clear space in the Philly frontcourt.

Realistically, Simmons and Embiid are the only future starters on this team and Simmons hasn’t even seen a minute in the NBA yet. Regardless, it’s hardly time to panic about the team’s future.

Saric, along with Robert Covington and Sergio Rodriguez, look like they could be a nice presence of the bench in the future. Hopefully, the team can capitalize off of Okafor and Noel before the deadline this year. Most importantly, the 2017 NBA draft approaches quickly.

This looks like yet another lost season for the Sixers in the “Trust the Process” era. Hope, however, lies in the draft.

This looks to be one of the most promising draft classes in years with a plethora of potential stars in the NCAA right now. Additionally, many of the highly ranked players are guards and wings which are holes the Sixers desperately need to fill. They will likely end up with two top ten picks this year and will no doubt be able to find playmaking and scoring at the top of the draft.

Another struggling season seems to be yet another embodiment of “The Process” for the woeful 76ers, but the future appears to be much brighter. A new year could bring a healthy Ben Simmons and a limitless Joel Embiid. February could open up the roster for more young stars. The Process just may be coming along.

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