Phoenix Suns 2018 NBA Draft profile

The NBA Draft is under a month away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day the Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. We will start off with the team that has the number one overall pick, the Phoenix Suns.

Summary

Devin Booker Dribbling for suns

Devin Booker (Photo by valleyofthesuns.com)

Phoenix had the worst record in the NBA at 21-61 this season and were able to win the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery. They are a long way from competing in the Western Conference but have some nice young pieces to build for the future.

The Suns have a star in Devin Booker, who averaged 24.9 points per game and also helped create for his teammates from the shooting guard position with 4.7 assists per game. With their next leading scorers being T.J. Warren (19.6 ppg) and Josh Jackson (13.1 ppg), they are set on the win for years to come.

This season the Suns traded away Eric Bledsoe and now need to replace him. They did trade for Elfrid Payton, but his career hasn’t come to fruition yet. With time he could be a solid starting point guard for the Suns, but he currently isn’t under contract for the 2018-2019 season, as their is a club option that needs to be picked up. Brandon Knight returns next season as the teams highest paid player. He can run the point and score in bunches when given the opportunity (proven in his 2015-16 campaign in Phoenix). Phoenix however still may want to improve the point guard position in this draft.

The interior play of the Suns has not been great, with a lot of aging veterans and young draft picks that haven’t worked out. That will be a place that is addressed again in the draft, it’s just a matter of when.

On defense, Phoenix had the worst unit in the league allowing 113.3 points per game. The only major stat where they ranked in the top half of the league as a team (between points allowed, points scored, rebounds and assists), was rebounds per game, in which they ranked 12th.

This team will not likely be a great contender next season but can be vastly improved in the draft.

Phoenix Suns Draft picks and needs

The Suns have four picks in the 2018 NBA Draft.

First round: No. 1, No. 16

Second round: No. 31, No. 59

If the Suns want to compete they need to improve their defense, point guard play and interior play. With the number of picks they have in this draft, Phoenix should be able to address the point guard and interior, although improving the defense could be a long process.

The draft will tell how they feel about Brandon Knight returning to the fold and Payton’s status as the team’s point guard. If they draft a big with their first pick, Knight and Payton will likely still be key parts of the team and its future. If they take a point guard, or rather a play-making player from Real Madrid who needs to have the ball in his hands to be successful, Knight and possibly Payton will likely be traded, as there will be limited minutes for one, if not both, of them.

Targets

Pick No. 1: DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

DeAndre Ayton Arizona screaming

DeAndre Ayton (Photo by zonazealots.com)

There is mounting buzz that this pick may be used in a trade to acquire Karl Anthony Towns. If that’s a possibility and not too much more is needed to give up to the Timberwolves, the Suns need to take the deal immediately. These profiles will not predict trades though.

Picking Ayton would immediately improve the interior play of the Suns. He physically dominated college competition with his scoring and rebounding. Ayton can also stretch the floor as he shot 34.3% from deep. Devin Booker has already mentioned that it would be cool to team up with Ayton. Those two could create a great one-two punch for the future. The starting lineup next season could look like this: Knight, Booker, T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, DeAndre Ayton.

Pick No. 16: Anfernee Simons, PG, USA

Simons is able to go to the NBA Draft after playing a year at a prep school. This is an uncommon route and NBA teams will have to find out if taking the gamble of him not playing against good competition in college, or overseas, is worth it. He would have been one of the best point guards in the freshman class but now gets to take his chance in the pros.

The Suns can take the risk on a point guard like Simons with their second pick because they took Ayton with their first pick and have Knight returning. Simons could sit behind Knight or Payton (or even Tyler Ulis if need be) and learn while picking up spot minutes.

Pick No. 31: Grayson Allen, SG, Duke

Another way that the Suns can improve is their three-point shooting. They ranked last in the league in that category and need to have more shooters as threats so opposing defenses can’t pack in the defense, or just focus on Booker. Spreading the floor would also help take some pressure off of Ayton.

Allen has been the most polarizing figure in college basketball for the last four seasons with his spectacular play and his immaturity. He has tripped players, been a catalyst in a National Championship Duke team and has been a constant player covered in the media. He can play on or off ball but the most important thing is he can stretch the floor, hitting 38% of his shots from three-point range in his college career.

Pick No. 59: Sagaba Konate, PF, West Virginia

Konate can provide some depth for the frontcourt and could benefit from some time in the G-League if he decides to keep his name entered in the draft. He has had a good combine, doing what he does best: blocking shots and rebounding the ball. His measurements are what hurt his stock, as he’s just 6’7,5″ in shoes. At best he’s a bench/role player in the NBA, but getting that late in the second round is welcomed.

 

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2018 NBA top draft picks

Predicting the top 5 NBA lottery teams and draft picks

The tanks are still chugging along despite the league’s best efforts. But who will get the first pick in the NBA draft?

With the draft’s lottery system, it is literally, not figuratively, impossible to predict with certainty who will walk away with the No. 1 pick. What we can do, however, is predict how the NBA’s cellar dwellers will use their first-round choices.

It’s been a very interesting year in college basketball, especially for projected top-five picks. Michael Porter Jr. is finally back on the court after being sidelined since Nov. 10. Trae Young’s stock continues to fall. Deandre Ayton is still embroiled in a pay-for-play controversy.

Will that stop NBA teams from taking chances on them? Does potential outweigh other glaring issues? Or is it simply about making the easy choice, not letting them fall to competitors?

The most important month of college hoops is here, so we’ll have a clearer picture of where the top talents land very soon. But let’s take a look at potential landing spots as they stand today.

Here, we’re focusing on the top five picks and landing spots as they pertain specifically to NBA teams. For a complete first-round mock draft, see this article by our own Joe DiTullio.

1. Memphis Grizzlies – Marvin Bagley III (PF, Duke)

Memphis has lost 17 games in a row. They sat out Marc Gasol during Saturday’s game against the Magic. They want the No. 1 pick, and they’ll probably get it.

2018 NBA top draft picks

Marvin Bagley III is projected to go as high as No. 1 in the NBA draft. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

The Grizzlies badly need some great wing players. They also need big men to protect the rim, considering Gasol might potentially be on his way out.

The latter is just a guess, but considering Memphis’ tank is in fifth gear, it wouldn’t be shocking if they decided to move on from Gasol. He’s a premiere scoring big man whose talents are being wasted on a team this bad. He could also be the missing piece for a fringe team, returning some great picks in a potential trade.

Being that they need a big and a wing, why not split the difference and go with a power forward with tremendous upside?

Bagley is averaging 21.1 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Devils. Those kind of numbers are perfect for replacing Gasol, if they need to. If Gasol stays with the team and Bagley pans out, that would make for a terrifying frontcourt combination.

Guard play is not an issue for Memphis, and small forwards litter the NBA right now. Bagley is the right choice if the Grizzlies can secure a pick high enough to draft him.

2. Atlanta Hawks – Luka Dončić (PG/SG, Slovenia)

Most mock drafts have the Hawks landing the third through the fifth pick. Considering their schedule, however, they might surprise the league and land much higher. Regardless of their position, the pick should remain the same.

The Hawks’ backcourt is a mess. They somehow have too many guards and not enough at the same time.

That’s where Real Madrid’s Slovenian stud comes into play.

Dončić is a 6-foot-8 guard who can play the point or the shooting guard. He is averaging 17.0 points and 4.5 assists per game. At just 19 years old, he has plenty of room to grow into his game in the fast-paced, guard-heavy NBA.

The real draw here is the fact that he’s a combo guard. Getting two players for one pick is an underutilized strategy in the NBA draft. The height is also eye-opening. Ask Philadelphia how drafting 6-foot-10 point guard Ben Simmons is working out for them.

Spending top-five draft picks on international players isn’t the sexiest strategy, but it can pay dividends. Kristaps Porzingis is already a star. The jury is still out on Thon Maker and Dragan Bender, but they need more time to develop.

International players can often stretch the floor in a way American players cannot in their first years in the league. With the way the league uses the 3-point shot today, that’s only good news for the team who gets Dončić.

3. Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton (C, Arizona)

Watching Phoenix play, it’s hard to argue that they don’t want to win. The team plays hard, but the talent just isn’t there. They had a lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 2, and fell only due to Russell Westbrook’s 43-point performance. Their remaining schedule is only mildly difficult, but expect them to finish second or third in the lottery standings anyway.

2018 NBA top draft picks

Ayton dunks during a game against Arizona State. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzelez/Associated Press)

Cases could be made that Ayton should go No. 1. It would make sense considering his numbers. Plus, in a league so in love with the jumper, a true center can still be a game changer.

Averaging 19.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, the offensive production is more than solid. What should get the Suns excited, though, is his rim protection. At just under two blocks per game, the defense should translate well to the NBA game. Erasing low post shots is not something players unlearn.

Two-way potential is not undervalued, but there still is not too much of it in today’s game. On top of that, Phoenix seems intent on staying young. This is a no-brainer, to the point where if the Suns run into some bad luck in the lottery, it’s feasible that they would have another team draft Ayton for them. Ayton is worth trading for on NBA draft night.

4. Sacramento Kings – Michael Porter, Jr. (SF, Missouri)

The Kings play 10 of their remaining 16 games against potential playoff teams. The Nets also play 10 of their 16 games against these kinds of teams. Expect Sacramento to make less of an effort to pull off some upsets, considering Brooklyn traded their first-round pick away.

The Kings need help at every position on the floor. The talent is just not there for Sacramento. With this in mind, they should go for a small forward, which is arguably the most important position in the NBA right now.

Michael Porter, Jr. has played in only one game since Nov. 10 as mentioned above. In it, he scored 12 points on 5-for-17 shooting. That’s clearly not enough to help him sneak into the top three NBA draft picks just yet.

Porter is a massive question mark going into the tournament. The back injury he suffered in the season opener against Iowa State and subsequent surgery have clearly slowed his step. Don’t expect this to stop Vlade Divac, objectively one of the worst general managers in the NBA, from going after him, though.

His upside is huge, but his draft stock will ultimately depend on what he ends up doing in the NCAA tournament.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers, via Brooklyn Nets – Mohamed Bamba (PF, Texas)

We just established that Brooklyn does not get to keep their pick in the 2018 NBA draft due to playoff-or-bust trades made by the Brooklyn brass in previous years.

This means that the Nets will do everything they can to devalue the pick. They also have more talent than some of the other teams on this list, which should help, but not enough to move it out of the top five.

2018 NBA top draft picks

Mo Bamba executes one of many blocks during his short Texas career. (Photo by Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports)

Cleveland’s future is entirely dependent on whether or not LeBron James decides to stay in Cleveland. Airing on the side of caution, however, it’s a smart bet for the Cavaliers to spend their pick on James’ position.

A 7-footer that doesn’t have to live underneath the basket would be a huge pickup for Cleveland. Bamba’s 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game would go a long way in replacing James. Much like the Grizzlies’ Gasol situation, it would also be a fantastic addition if The King decides to stay.

Also, 3.7 blocks per game is huge, even if the offensive talent in the NCAA is much weaker than the NBA. Don’t expect him to keep that number as high as it is during his only year of college, but expect the intimidation factor to be higher than some other rookies’.

 

Featured image by Billy Hurst/USA Today Sports

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NBA tanking problem

Race to the bottom: The NBA’s tanking problem

NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo to all 30 teams on Feb. 21 warning against tanking for a better draft pick. It is a problem that has been heavily discussed in recent years and has been the first real test for the fourth-year commissioner.

In the memo, Silver says that if the NBA receives any evidence of teams tanking, “that conduct would be met with the swiftest and harshest response possible from the league office.” He also acknowledges that rebuilding is a “legitimate strategy to construct a successful team,” but wants to separate rebuilds from purposefully not competing.

NBA tanking problem

The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are two of the worst teams in the league, putting them in the tanking conversation. (Photo by Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It will be a very subjective process, regardless of how the NBA wants to frame their criteria. The teams at the bottom of the standings simply do not have the talent to compete. Couple that with the fact the best teams in the league continue to get better, it makes sense for them to prepare for the future. It just does not make sense for them to try to compete for something they won’t be able to accomplish.

So, why not just lose now and build up a roster while hoping the juggernauts lose steam? Silver’s memo answers that question with a figurative, “because I told you so.”

Disparity

The gap between the top teams in each conference and the middle-to-bottom has never felt wider.

The one seed and eight seed in each conference are separated by 12 to 15 games. That’s a big, but not huge, margin. However, with so few games left before the playoffs, it’s a gap no five to eight seed could hope to close, especially considering the talent on the teams at the top.

NBA tanking problem

The Phoenix Suns have the worst record in the Western Conference and could secure the first pick in the draft. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Ignoring the actual records, though, it’s the reputation and on-court play of the teams that makes the gap seem cavernous. Does anyone think the Heat stand a chance the Raptors? Or that the Clippers could hold off James Harden and the Rockets?

And those are the teams that are actually in the playoffs. The Kings had no shot at anything resembling a playoff spot this year. The Suns probably never even dreamt of playing in late April. So, in the already brutal Western Conference, why not lean into the inevitable? Those teams could be playing their hardest and make moves at the deadline to get better, but still end up no better than 11th place.

The point here is when we already know what the conference finals will probably look like, there isn’t shame in fading into the background. Teams can give their young talent minutes and swipe up cheap contracts while preparing for their push several years down the road.

Dallas Mavericks

The easiest example to point to in the tanking discussion is Mark Cuban’s Mavericks.

The same day Silver’s memo allegedly went out, Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 for admitting his organization was adopting the tanking philosophy. Cuban said on Dr. J’s podcast that he told his staff over a dinner that, “losing is our best option.”

This is no doubt what made Silver say, in no uncertain terms, that losing on purpose will not be tolerated. He made an example of Cuban and then apparently wasted no time in telling all 30 teams about it.

Silver did mention, though, that the league office has no reason to believe the Mavericks are, in fact, losing on purpose. But talking about it was reason enough to come down hard on the billionaire owner.

Benefits

It’s obvious that the worst teams in the league are getting the short end of the stick if the NBA does find a way to impose harsh punishments on tanking. But who do these new standards benefit?

NBA tanking problem

Dirk Nowitzki has expressed his frustration with the Mavericks’ losing ways. (Photo by Mike Stone/Reuters)

The most obvious answer is the teams that finish in the middle of the pack, namely the 7-11 seeds. They can still compete for a playoff spot, while not damaging their chances of getting a high pick in the draft lottery.

The bottom four to six teams, however, have nothing to worry about as long as they lose “legitimately.” This is where the new rules and standards start to have a gray tint. How will the NBA front office differentiate between an honest rebuild and purposefully putting a bad product on the floor?

This could come by examining minutes. It could come by paying close attention to coaching and strategies near the end of games. It could even involve inspection of the pieces being traded away in the middle of the season.

Silver’s memo was not specific on the strategies of identifying true tanking. They probably need to be heavily discussed in the offseason first.

Legitimacy

The NBA brass have valid points when it comes to deterring teams from racing to the bottom. It absolutely hurts the league when anywhere from four to eight teams give less effort than they should.

By laying down against teams that would probably beat them anyway, these teams are willingly letting the disparity between the top and the bottom grow further. It gives the top seeds even more of a head start while they look to lock up a home-court advantage. Also, it hurts the NBA’s bottom line. If your team is bad, then you will likely not tune in to as many games as you would if they were only a game or two out from a playoff spot.

That translates into lost ticket sales, lost ad revenue, lost merchandise dividends, etc. Bad teams normally know they are going to be bad going into the season, but improving competition in any way is good for the NBA.

Tanking is a comment on the current state of affairs in the league. It separates the owners that are geared towards the future success of the franchise from the ones who are happy enough giving their fans at least a couple games of playoff basketball to watch.

Some teams are always going to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league competitively. That’s how it works in every sport. But along with the new push to identify and punish tanking, Silver and the NBA might consider finding more ways to close the gap between the very best and the merely competitive.

 

Featured image by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

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NBA’s biggest second half storylines

The All-Star break has finally come and gone. The second half of the NBA season starts Thursday evening.

This is the part of the regular season NBA fans look forward to. Some teams will be jockeying for seeding, and others will make the push to squeak in to the playoffs. These are the games that feel like they mean something, apart from potential playoff matchups.

So let’s dive right in to the NBA’s biggest second half storylines.

Games remaining

Okay, it’s misleading to call it the second “half.” This NBA season was heavily front-loaded in a way it hasn’t been in years. This could be the reason Jimmy Butler decided not to play a minute in the All-Star Game. That, plus the fact that he’s leading the league in minutes per game.

NBA Second Half

Jimmy Butler got the rest he asked for, but is catching flack for taking up an All-Star roster spot. (Photo by Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

Every NBA team’s remaining schedule averages out to feature 25.3 remaining games. So 56.7, or 69 percent, of this season’s games were played before the All-Star break. All research indicates players actually enjoy playing the majority of their games before the break. This gives them the opportunity to rest up for the playoff push.

This rest is absolutely more important to some teams than to others. Take into account injuries, fatigue and minutes played, that short break could make the difference between an eight seed and watching the playoffs from the couch.

Longest and shortest remaining schedules

The Philadelphia 76ers, currently the the seven seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs have the most games left to play at 27. The Minnesota Timberwolves only have 21 games. It’s interesting that these two teams would be the extremes, considering their structures.

The 76ers are not only young, but they are notoriously injury-prone. This is the first season that Embiid has been able to stay on the court, Ben Simmons has finally been able to play after missing all of last season, and it is still very much up in the air whether or not Markelle Fultz can make his debut this year. But if they stay healthy, that youth and lack of fatigue could propel them upward in the standings.

The Timberwolves play hard, and they play often. As previously stated, Butler leads the league, playing 37.3 minutes per game. Karl-Anthony Towns plays 35.1 minutes, Andrew Wiggins plays 36.1 minutes, and the 32-year-old Taj Gibson plays 33.6 minutes. This is due not only to lack of bench depth, but also Tom Thibodeau’s starter-reliant coaching style.

Depending on one’s point of view, this either gives NBA fans more or less to look forward to.

Dallas Mavericks troubles

Over the All-Star weekend Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on Dr. J’s podcast, “losing is our best option.” At 18-40, it certainly seems as if they are embracing the “tanking” philosophy. For those who are unaware, “tanking” is the not-so-subtle art of losing to secure a better pick in the draft.

Adam Silver, NBA commissioner and outspoken enemy of tanking, doled out a huge penalty for the statement on Wednesday. Cuban was fined $600,000 for “conduct detrimental to the league,” supposedly for the comment and as a retroactive punishment for lack of effort on the season.

NBA Second Half

Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 on Wednesday. (Photo by Getty Images)

Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing for which the Mavericks and Cuban are under fire. News also broke Thursday night about a sexual harassment and misconduct scandal within the organization. There have been multiple reports of inappropriate behavior, along with Cuban admitting that he kept on a Mavericks reporter after “two separate incidents of domestic violence.”

The fallout from the misconduct allegations has yet to be seen, but it’s something to keep an eye on regarding the future of the franchise. It will also be interesting to see how many games Dallas wins after being exposed for exhibiting low effort.

Cavs-Warriors Part IV?

Cavaliers

The Cavaliers were re-energized by a huge roster shake-up at the NBA trade deadline. Going into the second half, they are on a four game win streak. One win came with the pre-deadline roster, one came with a short-handed roster before the newly-acquired players were eligible to play, and two came with the new look roster.

The team is slightly younger, more defensively-minded and much quicker than its previous iteration. Two games is hardly a sample size at all, however. Common sense says they should continue to trend upwards, but they only have 24 games to build playoff-level chemistry.

Their main competition on the road to the NBA Finals are the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics. These teams have the number one and number two records in the East, respectively. Cleveland made short work of both of these teams in last year’s playoffs. Toronto, however has grown as a team, and Kyrie Irving went from playing against Boston, to playing for them.

NBA Second Half

Golden State’s Draymond Green coaches the Warriors during their game against the Suns. (Photo by AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Warriors

Golden State has been having some struggles of late. They are currently the number two seed in the West. They are second to the Houston Rockets, their main competition. The Warriors are 7-5 in their last 12 games; hardly what fans have come to expect from a team with this much talent.

As a method of engaging his team, Steve Kerr even let his players coach during a win against the cellar-dwelling Phoenix Suns. This decision garnered much criticism from NBA players and pundits alike. They lost their next game against the Portland Trailblazers, despite Kevin Durant’s 50 points.

It’s a safe bet to pencil these two teams in for an historic fourth straight finals matchup. However, they both have more to prove before switching that pencil in for a pen.

Major awards

The second half of the season is where the NBA awards races really start to take shape. These awards are hotly contested this season, and it might just come down to the wire before voters decide for whom they will cast their ballot.

MVP

James Harden is currently the front-runner for the NBA MVP award. Fitting, since he was second in voting last year, but had the misfortune of being up against Russell Westbrook’s historic season.

LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant are also in contention. The voting will come down to their teams’ records and, of course, each player’s individual contribution. To see a more in-depth breakdown of the race, see the dedicated article here.

Rookie of the Year

This award is essentially a two man race.

Donovan Mitchell is averaging 19.6 points per game for the surging Utah Jazz. They have won 11 in a row in a push for the Western Conference’s eighth seed. He’s playing heavy minutes and contributing 3.5 rebounds and assists per game. But, what’s got the attention of the NBA is his athleticism. Winning the dunk contest as a replacement will also probably sway voters. If he continues scoring in the second half and dish out more assists, this award might be his.

His main competition is the 76ers’ Ben Simmons. Simmons is good for 16.4 points, 7.3 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per night. The points are obviously lower than Mitchell’s but the assist and rebound numbers are impressive for a rookie. Those numbers can and should come with the territory of being a 6-foot-10 point guard, however.

The problem is, in a league so in love with the three-pointer, he never shoots the long-range shot. He has taken just 10 threes, and has made none of them. Another potential reason Mitchell could sneak ahead in the polls is that his assist numbers are so low because he has one of the league’s best passers, Ricky Rubio, playing point guard on his team.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kevin Durant is squarely in contention for Defensive Player of the Year honors. His stats aren’t massively impressive, but the effort that does not show up on the stat sheet are the real reason he is in the conversation. Durant averages 0.8 steals per game, and 1.9 blocks per game with the Warriors. Being on a premiere defensive team also helps his cause.

NBA Second Half

Paul George, contender for Defensive Player of the Year, guards Victor Oladipo. (Photo by Getty Images)

Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the biggest roadblock between Durant and Defensive Player honors. George leads the league in steals, which is arguably the most important defensive stat. Robbing teams of possessions is a major key to winning games, and George does it more than any other player. His blocks sit at just 0.5 per game, but consider that he does most of his defending around the three-point line. That doesn’t lend itself to racking up blocks.

Coach of the Year

The obvious candidates for this award are Toronto’s Dwane Casey and Houston’s Mike D’Antoni.

They both are the owners of the best records in their conference. This is significant because neither of their teams were expected to be the number one seed going into the second half of the season. The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors were supposed to have those honors. But neither coach need to own the one seed going into the playoffs to win the award.

D’Antoni’s Rockets have a prolific offense, and he has also managed to seamlessly integrate Chris Paul into the offense. The defense on his team is an afterthought, but it always has been on D’Antoni-coached teams. Casey’s Raptors own a top-10 defense and a top-10 offense. The roster has stayed intact through a tumultuous trade deadline, and the chemistry on the team shows from top to bottom.

Erik Spoelstra is also making his case for Coach of the Year. Miami currently sits at the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. With a less-than-stellar roster, if he can continue to manufacture wins through pure coaching, expect to hear his name when this award is mentioned.

Featured image by Winslow Townson/Associated Press

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Three-Point Contest

2018 JBL Three-Point Contest preview

The upcoming JBL Three-Point Contest will take place during NBA All-Star Weekend on February 18th in Los Angeles, CA at the Staples Center. It was originally introduced in 1986 with Boston Celtics legendary small forward Larry Bird winning the inaugural contest. He is also tied with former Chicago Bulls shooting guard Craig Hodges for the most wins in the event with three each.

The rules of the event are pretty simple. Eight contestants compete against each other to see who the best shooter is. There are five shooting racks placed around the three-point arc. Four of these five racks contain four regular basketballs worth one-point and one multi-colored ball worth two points. One rack is filled with all multi-colored money balls, called the “money rack”. This rack is placed at the shooters discretion at one of the five locations on the arc. All of these balls are worth two points. Each shooter gets one minute to shoot as many of the 25 balls as they can, starting from one side of the court all the way to the other.

The order of the shooters is selected randomly, the only exception being that the returning champion will go last. The top three scores from the first round advance to the finals, where they shoot again to see who the winner is.

Now let’s meet our eight contestants:

Eric Gordon

Houston Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon will try to repeat as champ after winning last year contest over Boston Celtics’ point guard Kyrie Irving. The nine year veteran out of Indiana is one of the best bench scorers in the NBA, averaging 19.1 points per game.

The 2016-2017 Sixth Man of the Year winner has made 146 three’s on the year, which is sixth-most in the NBA currently. He is shooting 33.6 percent on three’s this year for the Rockets, who are second in the Western Conference currently.

Devin Booker

The Phoenix Suns’ shooting guard is currently putting up career high numbers, averaging 24.1 points per game. The third-year player from Kentucky is one of the best scorers in the league, currently 12th overall, ahead of ahead other stars such as Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, and Victor Oladipo.

Last year he had a 70 point game in TD Garden in a loss to the Boston Celtics. He was the 11th player of all-time to score 70 or more points in a game.

The young star is making 2.6 three’s a game while shooting 38.1 percent from deep. He previously competed in this contest as a rookie in 2015-2016, losing in the final round to Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.

Klay Thompson

The two-time NBA champ is back competing in the JBL Three-Point Contest for the fourth year in a row. The 2015-2016 winner is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA. He routinely guards the best guard on the other team while also averaging 20.3 points per game. He is leading the association in three-point percentage at 45.2. He is averaging 3.3 three’s a game for the pace and space Golden State Warriors. He is second in the league with 170 three’s made, only trailing Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

He has already cemented himself as one of the best shooters of all time with his picture perfect stroke and will try to win another trophy. He is tied for the record for most points scored in a round with teammate Stephen Curry with 27 out of the possible 34 points. He did that back in 2015-2016.

Bradley Beal

The star shooting guard for the Washington Wizards is back in the contest for second time, originally competing in the 2013-2014 contest that Italian legend Marco Belinelli won. He is averaging a career high in points this year, scoring 23.8 points per game for a Wizards team that has somewhat struggled so far this year.

He is shooting 37.4 percent from the three-point line so far this season, and has made a total of 126 three’s. Beal is also a first-time All-Star this year in now his sixth season out of Florida.

Paul George

One of the best small forwards in the NBA, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder seem to have figured things out after a rough start to the year, sitting in 5th place in the Western Conference. George is currently leading the league in steals with 2.2 per game while also continuing to score well, averaging 21.7 points per game. He is fourth in three-pointers made with 160, and is 15th in percentage at 42.3 percent.

He has been one of the best swingman in the league since getting drafted 8 years ago from Fresno State in the 2010 NBA Draft. This will be his second time competing in the contest.

Wayne Ellington

Wayne Ellington has been known to be one of the best bench three-point specialists in the league since entering it in 2009 as a 1st round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the past two years with the Miami Heat, the ninth-year shooting guard has really exploded.

After making career high 149 three’s last year, Ellington has already broken it with 159 threes this year, fifth overall in the NBA. He is also averaging a career high 11.3 points per game while shooting 39.8 percent from beyond the arc. He has been a very good role-player for a surprising good Miami Heat team, who are currently sitting seventh in the East.

Kyle Lowry

The four-time All-Star point guard for the Toronto Raptors will be competing in his third straight three point contest. He has lost the previous two years, in 2016 to Klay Thompson and last year to Eric Gordon. Kyle Lowry has steadily improved his game over his 12 year career, going from back-up to starter to star.

The all-around point guard is averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from deep. He has made a total of 140 three’s on the season. He and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan have helped lead the Toronto Raptors to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference so far this year.

Tobias Harris

The recently acquired small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers is having a career year, averaging 18.2 points per game between the Clippers and the Detroit Pistons. He is also shooting a career high 41.1 percent from downtown. He is also a player who has improved more and more each year at different aspects of his game.

After riding the bench his first year and a half in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was shipped to the Orland Magic in the J.J. Redick deal. The Magic put him in the starting lineup and he has become a really good small forward since. He has made 116 three’s on the year, which is already a career high. This is his first time competing in the contest.

Luca’s Prediction: Wayne Ellington

Three-Point Contest

Waynee Ellington celebrates after hitting a 3 (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

This might seem like a surprise pick in a stacked field, but Wayne Ellington has a quick release and shot to win this contest. I believe he will continue adding on to a career year and take home the 2018 JBL Three-Point Contest trophy.

 

Featured photo by NBA.com

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Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

What the Greg Monroe pickup means for Boston

The Boston Celtics and veteran center Greg Monroe agreed to a one-year contract on Feb. 2. This deal, while expected since the Suns waived him on Feb. 1, is potentially an Eastern Conference-shaking move.

On the surface, this trade fills a hole on the offensive end of the court and does not hamstring the Celtics whatsoever defensively. Dig a little bit deeper, however, and one has to question getting bigger is what will push Boston over the edge to win the East, or give them what they need to beat Golden State.

Here is a breakdown of how Monroe will be able to contribute to the East’s best team going forward.

Rebounds

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe attempts to swat away Wesley Johnson’s shot as a member of the Pistons. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Monroe has been a pretty prolific rebounder since he entered the league during the 2010-11 season.

 

During his seven-year NBA career, Monroe has averaged 8.7 rebounds per game. His rebounds for the current season are down to 7.4, but considering he has only played 25 games, mostly with one of the worst teams in the league this season, that isn’t too surprising.

The Celtics are already in the top 10 in rebounds per game this season. If Monroe continues to contribute 7-8 per game, which all career consistency numbers indicate he will, it could easily propel Boston to top three in the league.

Minutes

The real question concerning Monroe’s role with the Celtics will be the number of minutes per game he ends up getting.

Boston is already a long team. With Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes, playing time might be stretched a little thinner than the true center is used to.

In his career, Monroe has averaged a little less than 30 minutes per game. Considering both the young and established big-man talent on the Celtics’ roster, a bench role would make sense for him, being that the team has been successful up to this point.

During his 25 games this season, Monroe has averaged 21.8 minutes per game. That number should stay about where it is, if not dip a little, depending on his production on an already stacked team.

Offensive production

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe was waived by the Suns on Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press)

Surprisingly, Boston is 23rd in terms of points per game midway through the season. This obviously has not hurt them too much, considering they have the best record in the Eastern Conference. This has to do with the team’s commitment to defense.

 

But defense alone will not be enough to win in the playoffs. That’s where Monroe steps in.

In the 2017-18 campaign, Monroe has 10.4 points per game. Again, that is down from his 13.9 career points per game, but being on a more complete team will help that number rise quickly. His minutes and role on the Celtics are still in question, but expect that number to get better as he plays more.

His 2.2 offensive rebounds per game this season will also create more opportunities for points. If all goes according to plan, the Celtics should finish at least in the top 20 in terms of points per game after the pickup. When a team plays defense like Boston does, that will go a long way.

Defensive production

For a 6-foot-11 center, Monroe’s defense is not quite as solid as one might expect. His career 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game leaves a bit to be desired on that end of the court.

However, he has never played on a team like the Celtics, or under a coach as talented as Brad Stevens. If he buys into Stevens’ system and gets solid playing time, those numbers should climb.

The Celtics are fifth in defensive rebounds per game. Adding a rebounder like Monroe is only going to help rob opposing teams of possessions when he is on the court. That alone should be enough to justify the pickup, despite his defensive struggles.

Summary

Greg Monroe Boston Celtics

Greg Monroe goes up for a block during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Photo by Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports)

Being that Monroe’s contract is a one-year, $5 million deal, this is very much an experiment for Boston. A low-risk, high-reward experiment, but an experiment nonetheless.

 

If Boston can figure out how to use him off of the bench, this move only puts them in a better position to further its grasp on the East. A bench role could take some getting used to for the big man, but if he buys into the system, he can be a huge piece moving forward for an already talented team.

After the Suns waived Monroe, it was really a no-brainer for the Celtics to pick him up. And being able to play for a contender should only further his motivation, provided he finds his niche in the system. If he finds his stride and accepts his role, it could also go a long way in being able to re-sign him for relatively cheap after the season ends.

With his first game in green coming Sunday, NBA fans should know pretty soon after what kind of impact he can make on the Eastern Conference.

 

Featured image by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

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Devin Booker records

How good can Devin Booker be?

Devin Booker has accomplished quite a bit in his young NBA career. On Monday, the Suns’ guard turned 21. It is incredible what Booker has done in his young NBA career already.

The numbers

In his rookie season, Booker scored his 1,000th career point at the fourth youngest age behind just Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Booker also became the second teen to record back-to-back 30-point games along with James. He also became the sixth teenager to top 1,000 career points along with Bryant, James, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. Booker finished his rookie campaign with 1,048 points.

Booker continued to dominate in his second season. He had a stretch of 16 straight games where he scored at least 20 points. He became the youngest player in NBA history to accomplish that, passing James.

Devin Booker records

Devin Booker joins elite company with his accomplishments in his young career. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE)

Who could forget his 70-point performance against the Celtics? Booker set the franchise record for points in a game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He also became the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 points in a game. It also made him the third youngest player to score at least 50 points in a game behind just James and Brandon Jennings.

How about the 28 points he scored in the fourth quarter against the Mavericks? Booker finished the night with 39 points and set the franchise-record for most points in the fourth quarter.

By the end of the season, Booker finished with three quarters of at least 27 points, while the rest of the NBA only came up with two. That made him the first player since Bryant in 2005-06 to do so.

Booker is continuing his record-setting play this season as well. In his last game Saturday before turning 21, he scored 34 points. That was his 21st career 30-point game, which is the third most in NBA history before turning 21, behind just James and Durant.

Another impressive accomplishment by Booker is that his 2,897 career points are the fourth most for a player before turning 21. Only James, Durant and Anthony had more. Bryant comes in fifth with 2,755. Mind you Bryant came into the league out of high school and played 40 more games than Booker before turning 21.

Now don’t think I’m saying Devin Booker is going to be better than Kobe Bryant. Bryant is an all-time great, but that is what makes Booker’s accomplishment so incredible.

This guy is a star in the making. He is in good company with all of his records and accomplishments so far.

Why doesn’t Booker get more credit?

There is one thing about some of these records though that puts a knock on Booker. The 70-point game, the 28-point fourth quarter and the 21st career 30-point game were all in losing efforts.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Suns are one of the NBA’s biggest laughing stocks. They reinforced this reputation by firing their head coach Earl Watson after just three games this season. Watson was the team’s interim coach last year, and Phoenix decided to keep him on and sign him to a three-year deal. After losing the first three games this season, the Suns decided to give up on Watson.

Besides the coaching situation, the Suns also lack experience. The Suns are the youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24.5, including six players 21 or younger. Even Watson, at the time of his promotion to head coach, was the second youngest head coach in the NBA.

There is also the Eric Bledsoe drama. The team’s starting point guard apparently tweeted that he doesn’t want to be with the team anymore. Since the Tweet, Bledsoe has not played in a game since.

Defense is also one of Phoenix’s struggles, as they have ranked 28th, 30th and 29th in all three of Booker’s seasons. You aren’t going to win too many games with numbers like that.

The Suns currently sit at 2-4. These losing ways are a big reason Booker is overlooked. One of the games most dominant scorers is on one of the worst teams. The situation the Suns are in would be difficult for even LeBron James to fix, much less Booker.

Playing in the Western Conference also doesn’t help. With so many great teams like the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs and star players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Durant, players like Booker tend to get less attention.

Why talk about a 21-year-old kid from one of the league’s worst teams when Harden and Westbrook were putting up triple-doubles almost every night last season? If Booker was in the East, he’d definitely get more recognition and would be one of the conferences top players along with James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and John Wall.

How good will Booker be?

Devin Booker records

Stay tuned for what is still to come from this record-breaking young gun. (Photo by Anthony Gruppuso – USA TODAY Sports)

What can we expect from Booker in the future? You can bet he is going to continue dominating on the offensive end of the floor. According to the numbers, Booker should end up being on the same level as James, Durant, Anthony and Bryant.

The Suns offense only will help Booker, as the Suns have a reputation for lighting up the scoreboard that goes back to when Steve Nash was running the team. If Bledsoe ends up getting traded, that will only give Booker more opportunities to put up points as the clear go-to guy on the team.

This kid has a bright future, and I can’t wait to see how his career plays out. Keep an eye on him, and don’t let the Suns atrociousness distract you from his performance and success.

This team is still young. Maybe things will begin to turnaround for Phoenix once players like Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender spend a few more seasons in the NBA.

Could this be “The Process” 2.0? Only time will tell, but for now, Booker is one of the league’s premiere players whose limit is higher than the sky.

 

Featured image by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

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The most disrespected NBA superstar: Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley was selected with the second pick in the 2008 NBA draft, yet he hasn’t averaged more than 20 minutes per game since he was with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season. Now a member of the New York Knicks, Beasley is poised to show the world what he is truly capable of doing.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN, Beasley was asked about how other players feel about him. He claimed “I’m your favorite player’s favorite player.”

Beasley also stated that he believes that the Knicks can finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference this season. When asked about the roster, Beasley told reporters that not only himself, but Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all capable of putting up 25 points per game. Speaking of Melo, Beasley told reporters that “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that. I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

During the summer, Beasley told the New York Post that he is tired of getting disrespected. He claimed “Not being disrespectful. But I want my respect. For the last nine years, I’ve been a walking bucket, man. Anytime you want a point, I’ll give you a point, no matter what circumstances, who the player is defending me.”

In Beasley’s 509 career NBA games, he averages 12.6 points and 4.7 rebounds. So is he crazy to believe he is a “walking bucket” and can average 25 a game? After looking at the numbers, absolutely not. In fact, Michael Beasley is the most disrespected NBA superstar.

College Days

In 2007, Michael Beasley attended Kansas State for only one year, yet it was one of the best seasons we have seen at the collegiate level. Beasley averaged 26.2 points per game and led the nation with 12.4 rebounds per game. He did all this while shooting an incredible 53.7 percent from the field. His ridiculous numbers earned him first team All-America honors from the Association Press, as well as Big 12 Player of the Year.

One of the best NCAAB players of this generation (NBA.com)

Some other notable college achievements include:

  • 866 total points ranks third among all freshmen in NCAA history
  • Led the nation in double-doubles with 28
  • Had 13 games in which he scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds. (Led the NCAA)
  • Currently holds 30 Kansas State career, single season and freshman records.
  • Holds 17 Big 12 single-game and single-season records
  • Nominated National Freshman of the Year and First team All-American by multiple sources.

 

 

 

 

 

NCAA PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 25 PPG and 12 REBOUNDS WITH A 50 FG PERCENTAGE OR BETTER IN A SEASON (SINCE 1992)

NAME YEAR COLLEGE STATS
MICHAEL BEASLEY 2007-08 KANSAS STATE 26.2/12.4/.532
KURT THOMAS 1994-95 TCU 28.9/14.6/.548
JERVAUGHN SCALES 1993-94 SOUTHERN 27.1/14.2/.594

Since 1992, the only other freshmen to average at least 25 points and 10 boards was Kevin Durant in 2006-2007. This made declaring for the NBA an easy decision for Beasley.

NBA

After being selected second in the draft by the Miami Heat, Beasley was quick to find trouble. During that same summer, at the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, Beasley, along with some other rookies, were involved in a situation in which their hotel room fire alarm went off and police responded. Apparently, the room smelled like marijuana, which is a bad look if you are a player trying to make it in the association. Beasley was later fined by the Heat.

Beasley as a member of the Heat (TheSportsBank.net)

Still, Beasley found success on the court, averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during his rookie campaign. In the summer before his second season, Beasley spent time in rehab for stress-related issues. During his sophomore season, Beasley started 78 games and scored close to 15 points per game. In July of 2010, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two draft picks. This allowed the Heat to clear cap space and create their big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Beasley’s first season with Minnesota was tremendous. In 73 starts, Beasley averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Beasley was a top 20 scorer and played over 30 minutes a game. So at age 22, how did his numbers match up with the rest of the NBA?

Players, age 22 or younger, who have scored at least 3650 points, 120 3-point field goals, and 1300 rebounds (IN ORDER FROM TOTAL POINTS)

NAME TEAM(S)
LEBRON JAMES CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
KEVIN DURANT SEATTLE SUPERSONICS/OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
CARMELO ANTHONY DENVER NUGGETS
KOBE BRYANT LOS ANGELES LAKERS
TRACY MCGRADY TORONTO/ORLANDO
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPO MILWAUKEE BUCKS
ANTOINE WALKER BOSTON CELTICS
MICHAEL BEASLEY MIAMI HEAT/ MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Michael Beasley was on pace to be up there with the greats. Following his breakout year, Beasley was pulled over for speeding, and the cop found some marijuana, which led to a small fine. Two months later, he was involved in an altercation in which he shoved a heckler. Because of these off-court issues and an injury to his foot, Beasley only started seven games in his second year with the Timberwolves.

FROM TEAM TO TEAM

The next five years were an absolute roller coaster ride for Beasley. In 2012, Beasley signed an $18 million dollar deal with the Phoenix Suns, but only started 20 games. In a game off the bench against the Lakers, Beasley erupted for 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. An arrest for marijuana ultimately led to Beasley being waived, one year into his three-year deal.

Beasley in a 59 point outing for the Sharks in China (The Hoop Doctors)

From 2013-16, Beasley went from the Suns, to the Heat, to the Shanghai Sharks, back to the Heat, back to China (except this time for the Shandong Golden Stars) and finally, to the Houston Rockets. In 18 minutes a game off the bench, Beasley averaged 12.8 points. He was one of seven players, minimum 20 games, to average 25 points per 36 minutes. This list included Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden and Damian Lillard.

Last September, Beasley was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He appeared in 56 games and averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. Again, if he was given more playing time, he would have excelled. The following table illustrates players who averaged at least 20 points, and 7 rebounds, on 50 percent shooting or better.

2016-17 Per 36 mins, players with at least 20 points and seven rebounds on 50 FG percentage or better (Minimum 50 games)

NAME TEAM
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans
Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors
Lebron James Cleveland Cavaliers
Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves
Enes Kanter Oklahoma City Thunder
Giannis Antetokounpo Milwaukee Bucks
Javale McGee Golden State Warriors
Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets
Michael Beasley Milwaukee Bucks

 

Do you still think he is a bust?

Can someone give this guy some minutes? People who think Beasley is a bust need to really look into his numbers. He is up there with the best players in the league when allotted the appropriate minutes. In case you are wondering what players in his draft look like compared to him:

CAREER PER 36: (In order of FG percentage)

BROOK LOPEZ 20.8/8 TRB/.506FG

MICHAEL BEASLEY 19.3/7.2 TRB/.458FG

RUSSELL WESTBROOK 23.9/8.4 A/.433FG

KEVIN LOVE 20.3/12.7 TRB/.442FG

As you can tell, it’s not a talent problem. In fact, he is actually proven to be more efficient than both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, while still scoring around the same amount of points per 36 minutes.

IS THIS THE YEAR?

Now with New York, Beasley just wants a chance. Can you blame him? At 22, he was on pace to be up there with the best players in our game. Off-court issues and mismanagement have led to him only starting nine games since the 2013-14 season.

By the way, if he is not getting minutes because of his defense, then James Harden shouldn’t play either. Offense outweighs defense and Beasley is an electric scorer. If Michael Beasley is on the court, he is going to get buckets. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. Michael Beasley would be an All-Star in this league if he was given a legit shot.

At age 28, which most consider the prime of your athletic career, Beasley has lost 20 pounds by cutting out sugar and red meat. He concluded his recent ESPN interview by saying “I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

When diving into the numbers, it is obvious Michael Beasley has been extremely disrespected. This is a man who is capable of scoring on anyone, so let’s pray New York gives him that shot he not only has asked for, but deserves.

Featured image by Sporting News

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NBA season preview: Pacific division

The Pacific Division is the home of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have the best team in basketball and everyone else is chasing them.

Three of the top five picks in the last draft find themselves suiting up in the Pacific division. The Suns and the Kings are currently in the midst of a rebuild but have formed solid foundations that look bright moving forward.

Finally, both of the teams in LA shook up their rotations in big ways this year by trading away one of their best players. The Pacific Division will be interesting due to the new faces in the division.

Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Pacific division for 2017-2018.

Golden State Warriors

Pacific Division

The Warriors celebrate, Photo Courtesy of USA Today.

2016-2017 record: 67-15

2017-2018 prediction: 64-18

This record doesn’t really show too much. The Warriors are the best team in basketball and they return nearly the same team. They add Nick Young and Jordan Bell (through the draft) this offseason to an already strong bench.

Ian Clark leaves the team but Patrick McCaw has emerged as a role player this summer and could possibly play some of the minutes that Clark did.

The record is pretty much up to Golden State here. Ultimately there’s an extremely high chance that the Warriors make the playoffs so it is just up to Steve Kerr on how many games they truly want to win in the regular season.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will always take this team deep into the playoffs if they are all healthy.

Los Angeles Clippers

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 44-38

Chris Paul wanted out of LA, but the Clippers somehow managed to get a very solid return for him.

Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley lead the charge out of the backcourt while the Clippers also added Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker. They lose Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul but have an interesting set of Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan forming.

A starting lineup of Beverley, Rivers, Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan with Williams coming first off the bench could be very interesting and doesn’t strike you as a team that just lost a superstar.

If Gallinari and Griffin can stay healthy this team looks like they could find a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

Pacific Division

Jordan Clarkson, Photo Courtesy of LA Sports Hub.

2016-2017 record: 26-56

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Lakers shook their roster up in a big way by getting out of the Timofey Mosgov contract. They also lost their best statistical player from last season in D’Angelo Russell.

However, in comes Brook Lopez, Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma and Ball were drafted by the Lakers this season and showed lots of promise in the summer league.

Brook Lopez is the big addition this offseason. An All-Star and proven low post scorer, Lopez adds something that’s rare in the NBA. The Lakers attempted to get away from their guard heavy rotation, thus getting rid of D’Angelo Russell to make way for Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson.

No one knows how good the Lakers will be but they will be much better than the product they had on the floor last season.

Phoenix Suns

2016-2017 record: 24-58

2017-2018 prediction: 28-54

The Suns turned their lottery pick into another young player with lots of potential. They are not necessarily in win now mode but more waiting a few years for their young talent to develop.

The Suns have grabbed a lot of former Kentucky guards to bolster their young backcourt. Josh Jackson, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss show promise in moving the Suns in the right direction.

The Suns continue to draft players that they find value in and put them on the floor. The Suns are getting a good young core together and could be a playoff team in the near future.

Sacramento Kings

2017 Sacramento Kings draft class, Photo Courtesy of Real Sport 101.

2016-2017 record: 32-50

2017-2018 prediction: 30-52

I don’t think the Kings have gotten worse at all, the Western Conference has gotten better. The Kings have mixed seasoned veterans in with great young talent.

Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, George Hill, Georgios Papagiannis, Harry Giles and Justin Jackson are just some of the talent that is in this loaded rotation.

The Kings are a team quickly on the rise and have done it specifically through the draft. With adding established veterans, the Kings are working to bridge the gap between putting a competitive product on the court as well as developing their younger guys looking to win in years to come.

Kings fans have a lot to look forward to moving forward, but for right now this is the Warriors division.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of philstar.com.

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Fixing the NBA's Tanking Problem

Fixing the NBA’s tanking problem

Everyone is sick of seeing teams throw random D-League (now renamed G-League) players into the lineup towards the end of the season to help them tank. The same teams are the bad year in and year out. Teams like the Kings, Sixers and Magic continuously miss the playoffs in hopes of building through constant top five picks. Fixing the NBA’s tanking problem needs to be a priority.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban openly admitted to tanking last season.

“Once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything we could to lose games,” Cuban said in an interview with Dan Patrick.

He is one of the few who will admit it, but teams start their season off with this mindset which is where trust the process came from.

Adam Silver has talked about finding a solution to this major problem, but how do you fix NBA tanking? Last year, an article called Tank About It had an outside the box idea to fix tanking, but it wasn’t the most popular of ideas.

Since that wasn’t too popular of an idea here is another one: In life, we are rewarded when we do something well, not when we are the worst of the worst. Getting an “F” in a course doesn’t set oneself up for future success.

There should be an incentive for teams who try to succeed rather than just calling it quits by throwing in players that shouldn’t even be in the NBA. The way to fix the tanking problem in the NBA is by inverting the lottery and giving the teams who attempt to get a championship or make the playoffs an opportunity to take their team to the next level.

How It Works

Fixing NBA's Tanking Problem

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

The inverted lottery would work opposite of the current lottery system. The teams who are one or two great players away from contending for a playoff spot would have the best chance to win the lottery.

The Miami Heat finished the season 30-11 but missed the playoffs. They could have thrown in the towel when they started 11-30, but they didn’t. Their reward for continuing to fight was an end of the lottery pick. Miami only had a 0.5 percent chance of getting the first overall pick.

Phoenix made it totally obvious that they had given up on the season and had a 19.9 percent chance of winning the number one overall pick.

What this entire process says is that once you know you can’t compete, it is not only OK, but rewarding to throw away your season. The NBA will give you a top pick and that way you have a better chance at finding a franchise player and no longer stinking.

The problem with is that Philadelphia hasn’t made the playoffs in five years and some of the streaks are worse. Here are more teams who have long playoff droughts: New York (five seasons), Orlando (five seasons), Phoenix (seven seasons), Sacramento (11 seasons) and Minnesota (13 seasons).

How about rewarding a team who fought as hard as they could, like the Heat did, and inverting the lottery odds. An inversion of odds for the number one overall pick would have looked like this (without trades shown).

Miami Heat 25%

Denver Nuggets 19.9%

Detroit Pistons 15.6%

Charlotte Hornets 11.9%

New Orleans Pelicans 8.8%

Dallas Mavericks 5.3%

Sacramento Kings 5.3%

New York Knicks 2.8 %

Minnesota Timberwolves 1.7%

Orlando Magic 1.1%

Philadelphia 76ers 0.8%

Los Angeles Lakers 0.7%

Phoenix Suns 0.6%

Brooklyn Nets 0.5%

Change of Landscape

Fixing NBA's Tanking Problem

(Photo Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)

Fans of bad teams are going to hate this idea but it would make the league more competitive. The worst position to be in the NBA is in the middle of the pack. Franchises stuck in the middle have no chance at competing for a championship. They also can’t get a player that can take them to the next level at the end of the lottery in the same way a top five pick can.

Teams would no longer throw in the towel, but instead fight even harder because the only way to get the top players from college is by fighting for a playoff spot.

The Heat had a great finish to the season and imagine them adding Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. Denver and Detroit both have good young guards and a franchise big man and still missed the playoffs. Adding Jayson Tatum or Josh Jackson to the wing could really make them a threat.

This would make the NBA more competitive, and thus, more exciting. There would be no reason to tank and teams would be forced to do everything they could to be a competitive team. This is an idea that most will probably hate, but would you hate it more than seeing teams tank?

There may never be a perfect answer on how to fix the tanking problem, but the inverted lottery creates incentive.

We all work better when there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

 

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