New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

The Pelicans are for real

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.

New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

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.

THE BROW

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

*Still Active

PLAYER CONSECUTIVE NO. OF GAMES
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL 11
KARL MALONE 8
ANTHONY DAVIS 7*
KEVIN GARNETT 7
HAKEEM OLAJUWON 7

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.

The Jruth

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.

Rondo

“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

PLAYER NO. OF GAMES
MAGIC JOHNSON 14
RAJON RONDO 5
FAT LEVER 2

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

PLAYER NO. OF TRIPLE DOUBLES
MAGIC JOHNSON 30
LEBRON JAMES 20
JASON KIDD 11
RAJON RONDO 10
LARRY BIRD 10
WILT CHAMBERLAIN 8

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.

New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

“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.

 

Featured image by ClutchPoints

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NBA MVP candidates

2017-18 NBA MVP candidates

Another wonderful NBA regular season is in the books, and with the Golden State Warriors appearing to be a bit more vulnerable heading into the postseason, unlike recent years, the playoffs should be a joy to watch.

Wednesday’s slate of games gave us a good mix of drama and history. The Minnesota Timberwolves edged out the Denver Nuggets in overtime, 112-106, to clinch their first playoff berth since 2004. They will take on the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

NBA MVP candidates

Why not average a triple-double for the second consecutive season? (Photo from ESPN)

Markelle Fultz, whose shot appeared to be broken during his rehab, became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. At 19 years and 317 days old, Fultz tallied 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in just 25 minutes. The 130-95 win over Milwaukee was the Sixers 16th straight victory. Philadelphia owns the third seed, and will take on the Miami Heat.

Russell Westbrook became the first player in history to average a triple-double in multiple seasons. Heading into Wednesday’s finale needing 16 boards, Westbrook corralled 20 and also added 19 assists. Whether his teammates let him get a few extra boards or not, this is quite the achievement for The Brodie.

Although most would say the Thunder underperformed considering it took them until Game 81 to clinch a spot in the playoffs despite being relatively injury-free the whole season, they finished as the fourth seed and will take on the Utah Jazz. This means that, for the first time since 2012-13, Carmelo Anthony will be back in the playoffs. In 66 career playoff games, Melo is averaging 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. While he may look a tad washed up, “Playoff Melo” could surprise some people.

There are a lot of great storylines heading into the postseason, but today, we will be focusing on the NBA MVP candidates. Let’s take a look back at their seasons and what this past year meant for their overall careers.

James Harden

The overwhelming favorite, James Harden looks to finally win his first MVP trophy. He led the Houston Rockets to a 65-17 record, and scored a league-high 30.4 points per game. His field goal percentage was his best since 2013-14. Harden had the highest win share, which, according to Basketball Reference, is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. This is the second year in a row in which Harden led the NBA in this category, and the third time in four years.

Harden joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant and Rick Berry as the only players to average 30 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 85 percent or better from the free-throw line. The addition of Chris Paul was obviously huge, as the Rockets finished with the 11th highest rated offense in NBA history.

This season marked Harden’s sixth in which he averaged at least 25 points, five assists and four rebounds, while shooting at least 84 percent from the line. This puts him ahead of Jordan for the most all-time. Below is a table which illustrates the top players in this particular category.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25 POINTS, FIVE ASSISTS, FOUR REBOUNDS, WITH A FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE HIGHER THAN 84 PERCENT

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
JAMES HARDEN 6
MICHAEL JORDAN 5
LARRY BIRD 4
OSCAR ROBERTSON 4
STEPHEN CURRY 3
KEVIN DURANT 3

Harden is on a Hall of Fame pace, but needs to show up in the playoffs, as he has tendencies to shrink under the big lights. Only time will tell. Houston has a tough task ahead of them in the first round against the Timberwolves with a healthy Jimmy Butler.

Lebron James

NBA MVP candidates

Bow down to the King. (Photo from NBA.com)

For the first time in his legendary career, LeBron James played all 82 games. The King led the league in total points, field goals made and minutes during his 15th season at age 33.

 

His 9.1 assists per game were the most in his career, eclipsing last year’s average of 8.7. James also averaged 8.6 rebounds, which is tied for the most he has ever averaged in a season.

James became the first player ever to average 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on 54 percent shooting or better. He had 10 triple-doubles in which he shot 50 percent or better, which was more than anyone in the league.

2017-18 was The King’s 14th season in which he averaged 25 points, six rebounds and six assists per game. The next closest is Oscar Robertson with nine. Michael Jordan only had three seasons.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25-6-6

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
LEBRON JAMES 14
OSCAR ROBERTSON 9
LARRY BIRD 4
MICHAEL JORDAN 3

While he may not catch Jordan in titles, James, by the numbers, is clearly the best basketball player to ever walk the planet. When you think of a complete player, you want someone who can efficiently score, pass and rebound the basketball.

Below is a table of players who, while shooting 50 percent or better, averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists across an entire season. No one else in the history of the sport has done this more than once, and James just did it for the fifth time.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25-7-7 ON 50 PERCENT SHOOTING OR BETTER.

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
LEBRON JAMES 5
LARRY BIRD 1
MICHAEL JORDAN 1
OSCAR ROBERTSON 1

Anthony Davis

When DeMarcus Cousins went down, it appeared the Pelicans’ playoff chances were in jeopardy. Instead of panicking, New Orleans went 48-34, which was their best record since the rebrand. They finished the season strong, winning nine of 13, and earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

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 along 11.1 rebounds with 2.3 assists. Davis also shot 82.8 percent from the charity stripe, joining Bob McAdoo as the only two players in NBA history to average at least 28 points and 11 rebounds while shooting better than 80 percent from the free-throw line, as well as posting a field goal percentage of at least 50 percent.

Below is a list of players who averaged at least 24 points and 10 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 49 percent or better, and a free-throw percentage of at least 75 percent.

NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 24 POINTS AND 10 REBOUNDS PER GAME WHILE SHOOTING AT LEAST 49 PERCENT FROM THE FIELD AND 75 PERCENT FROM FREE-THROW LINE

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
KARL MALONE 5
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR 4
ANTHONY DAVIS 4
CHARLES BARKLEY 3

Although he has yet to win a playoff game, Anthony Davis is on a historic pace to be one of the best bigs of all time. The Pelicans face the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

 

Featured image by ClutchPoints

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Three teams you do not want to face in the playoffs

The chances of an upset in an NBA playoff matchup is dependent upon various things, inclusive of matchups, recent play, and countless other numbers that only the tip-top analysts understand how to compute. But, with the off chance that there is an upset, it is always a ton of fun to try and figure out who is capable of it and who could possibly fall victim to it. Below I will look at three playoff teams capable of an upset and how they could possibly outperform their higher-seeded opponents.

Photo source: www.ftw.usatoday.com

Washington Wizards

The loss of John Wall for a couple months definitely hurt the Wizards here, but his return to action can only help the Wizards succeed in the playoffs. He looked a bit rusty in his last game with just nine points and eight turnovers, but he and his Wizards still have four more chances this regular season to shake off any rust.

If you recall last year, Washington competed with the first-seed Boston Celtics in a thrilling seven-game series and had every opportunity to overtake them, but ultimately fell short. This season, they have the same starters, with Kelly Oubre contributing key plays and numbers when teams decide to go small. Bradley Beal was finally an All-Star, Markieff Morris has been pretty good, and John Wall could be ready to return to his high-speed self.

The Wiz are in a three-way tie for sixth in the Eastern Conference with the Heat and Bucks, and any of these three teams could end up in any of those slots. If the Wizards fall to the eighth seed, they face a Raptors team that has yet to see Kyle Lowry be himself in the playoffs. If they fall to the seventh seed, it’s time for redemption as they will face the short-handed Boston Celtics, who they are definitely capable of beating with their current squads. The sixth seed would give them LeBron and the Cavs or Joel and the Sixers in the first round, which wouldn’t necessarily be the best case scenario. Keep in mind the Sixers have won eleven straight (a few without Embiid), and the Cavs have a player named LeBron.

I think the Wizards upsetting either the Raptors or the Celtics could definitely happen here, with the Celtics being their most probably victim. Regardless, whatever first-round matchup involves Washington should be a fun one.

Denver Nuggets

Denver is a team that has faced plenty of injuries this year as well, but they approach a playoff run with a fairly healthy and very deep squad. They have guys at literally every position that can produce crucial plays and numbers to the game, including guys like Will Barton and Trey Lyles who can get hot as soon as their shoes touch the hardwood. They have some phenomenal defenders in Millsap, Harris and Murray, and plenty of offense run through Nikola Jokic. Paul Millsap recently returned from injury, but the team is still without Gary Harris.

The Nuggets have not been at full strength yet this year, and it looks like they will be when the playoffs approach. They currently sit in the ninth seed, so the playoffs are not a sure bet. However, with the fourth-seed Jazz and Spurs just two games ahead of them, they could knock anyone out of the playoffs with a nice run.

We could see Denver playing anyone, like the Rockets, Warriors, or Blazers. While it is doubtful that any team will get past Houston or Golden State except themselves, a Denver-Portland first-round match would be a very exciting one, with the Nuggets having as good of a chance as anyone.

Photo source: www.detroitbadboys.com

Utah Jazz

With plenty of weapons for success, Utah is slowly becoming that one team that no one will want to play in the first round. They have gone 7-3 in their last ten, including three straight victories, and are seeing plenty of guys contribute. Similar to the Nuggets, this is a pretty deep team, with guys like Jae Crowder and Dante Exum stepping up while the starters take a break.

The story for Utah here, however, is the starting lineup. Joe Ingles is a playmaker and a huge three-point threat, and his uptick in minutes sans Gordon Hayward have thrust him into an important role for this team. Ricky Rubio has had his ups and downs this season, but his 31-6-8 line against the Lakers Tuesday night leads me to believe the past is behind him. Donovan Mitchell is the stud that he has proven to us and is ready to lead this team despite only being able to legally drink a beer as of last September.

The Jazz are in the fourth seed right now, so them remaining here wouldn’t be considered an upset, but no one knows what is happening in the Western conference right now.  I truly believe that they can handle almost any team in the West, excluding the Rockets and Warriors, and could make a decent run in this thing.

While the playoffs are crazy and nothing is set in stone, upsets are something that all fanatics of the game love to see.  These three teams I have discussed have just as good of a chance, if not better, to upset their higher-seeded opponent, and it should be interesting to see how it plays out. April 14thsure cannot come soon enough.

NBA Northwest Division preview

NBA season preview: Northwest Division

The Northwest Division has a different look to it this season. Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap jump into an extremely competitive division.

This division has the potential to bring three or four teams to the playoffs. A tough division has gotten even tougher in just one offseason.

Here are the win predictions and preview for each team in the Northwest Division.

Denver Nuggets

2016-17 record: 40-42

2017-2018 prediction: 46-36

The Denver Nuggets have absolutely gotten better this summer. Paul Millsap adds to an already boarderline playoff team. Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris are the leaders on this team. The young talent is there to make a run.

Tyler Lydon is another addition from this summer and a good scoring option off the bench.

Despite being in a tough Western Conference, the Nuggets have a good chance to make it to the middle tier in the west.

Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Northwest Division preview

Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. (Photo Courtesy of Foxsports.com.)

2016-2017 record: 31-51

2017-2018 prediction: 49-33

Jimmy Butler is coming to town, as well as Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. The Timberwolves may be the fifth best team in the Western Conference, but they have a lot to put together to get to that point.

A season is long and grueling, so rotations need to be figured out quickly. The Timberwolves have a very different lineup heading into this season, so it will take a little while to get everyone used to playing with each other.

If the Wolves can put it together, they will be much better than people expect. Barring anything crazy, this will be the year the T-Wolves make the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2016-2017 record: 47-35

2017-2018 prediction: 50-32

Paul George tops off a great summer for the Thunder. He joins Patrick Patterson to add to a strong starting lineup.

One of the biggest parts of this offseason for the Thunder was getting out of the Victor Oladipo contract. They freed up money moving forward and that is a large asset for adding players moving forward.

George gives this team a win-now look, but not just anyone can play with Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder have gotten better this summer and more importantly match up better. To have another scoring option in the Western Conference means that there’s a possibility for a longer playoff run in Oklahoma City.

Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Northwest Division preview

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. (Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.)

2016-2017 record: 41-41

2017-2018 prediction: 38-44

As much as the Trail Blazers are intriguing, they still don’t have a dependable big man. Jusuf Nurkic has been good in his limited use on the team, but he isn’t reliable yet.

The Trail Blazers are a fringe playoff team, but the Western Conference is a gauntlet. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can only carry them so far without a dependable third option.

Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins are two solid young big men who have a bright future, but for the time being, the Trail Blazers are on the outside looking in.

Utah Jazz

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Jazz may have lost their best scorer, Gordon Hayward, from last season, but they did add Jonas Jerebko and Ricky Rubio, as well as draft pick Donovan Mitchell.

Jerebko is an underrated player who can stretch the floor and Mitchell looks like the most overlooked player in this draft after this summer. Even though the Jazz lost one of their best players, they still are in the hunt for a playoff birth this season.

Rudy Gobert will shine and Joe Johnson will find a way to add to the scoring that Hayward left behind. The Utah Jazz will be competitive this upcoming season.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of NBA.com.

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2017 season preview: Top five NBA backcourts

Many teams have All-Star guards, however few have two of them in the same backcourt. In today’s position-less NBA, most point guards and shooting guards are cut and dry.

Having two guards that can coexist with each other is unique, and can form a potential championship combination. Recent free agent signings and offseason trades have shaken up the list of top NBA backcourts.

Here are the top five guard duos going into the start of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Number Five: Toronto Raptors

top five NBA backcourts

Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry, Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports.

DeMar Derozan: 27.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.1

Kyle Lowry: 22.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player efficiency rating: 22.9

It almost seems like year in and year out the Raptors backcourt gets overlooked.

Production wise, the numbers are extremely impressive. The Raptors averaged 106.9 points per regular season game this year. Derozan and Lowry combined for 49.7 of those points.

Both of the two were All-Stars in their 2016-17 campaigns and took advantage of a top heavy Eastern Conference.

Both Lowry and Derozan have a true shooting percentage of above 55 percent, which shows that they are both efficient scorers as well as volume scorers.

On a team that sometimes struggles offensively, the two needed to score as efficiently as they did. Scoring nearly 47 percent of their team’s points last year notches the Raptors’ backcourt at number five league wide.

Number Four: Portland Trail Blazers

top five NBA backcourts

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Damian Lillard: 27.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.9 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.2

CJ McCollum: 23.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.0

One of the youngest backcourts in the league is also one of the most impressive.

Lillard and McCollum came from Weber State and Lehigh University and have continued their climb ever since.

McCollum is coming off a season in which he earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and Lillard is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year.

Keep in mind that the average player efficiency rating for the 2016-17 season was around 14.9. Both McCollum and Lillard continue to prove themselves year in and year out, keeping their team treading above water.

The Trail Blazers struggle defensively, especially in the playoffs when teams tend to pay more attention to detail. When opposing teams lock down defensively, both Dame and CJ continue their scoring consistently. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lack of consistent defense is what keeps them from winning come playoff time.

Number Three: Washington Wizards

top five NBA backcourts

John Wall and Bradley Beal, Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

John Wall: 23.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 10.7 apg. Player efficiency rating: 23.3

Bradley Beal: 23.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player efficiency rating: 20.2

This past year’s playoffs are enough to argue that both Beal and Wall belong in the three spot or even higher.

Wall is a consistent double-double performer. Beal is a very good shooter who can catch fire at any moment and stay that way for a whole game.

Wall has become one of the top offensive threats in the Eastern Conference due to his change of pace and fearless ability to get to the rim.

Wall and Beal both turned in their second highest career plus/minuses which was over plus five for both of them.

They fought off elimination and were just a few minutes away from taking the Wizards to the Eastern Conference finals. Barring any physical setbacks, the Wizards led by this backcourt tandem should be right there at the top of the Eastern Conference yet again.

Number Two: Houston Rockets

top five NBA backcourts

Chris Paul and James Harden, Photo Courtesy of Business Insider.

Chris Paul: 18.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 9.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 26.3

James Harden: 29.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 11.2 apg. Player efficiency rating: 27.4

They have yet to play a single minute together (not counting Olympic ball and All-star games). They are two ball-dominant guards and it very well might take a while to work.

But Chris Paul and James Harden could even be the best backcourt in basketball this upcoming season.

With the two highest player efficiency ratings in 2016, Paul and Harden are the best backcourt on paper. They have 14 All-Star seasons between the two of them.

Obviously games aren’t played on paper and the two have to figure out their playing style together. Harden has to go back to his old shooting guard role and Paul has to get accommodated to his new teammates.

The Rockets may not have put themselves on the same level as the Warriors by putting these two together, but they certainly closed the gap. Houston will skyrocket into a title contender with good play from a strong backcourt.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

top five NBA backcourts

Klay Thompson with Steph Curry in the background, Photo Courtesy of FoxSports.

Steph Curry: 25.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg. Player efficiency rating: 24.7

Klay Thompson: 22.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg 2.1 apg. Player efficiency rating: 17.5

Anytime you have two league MVPs and six All-star appearances between a backcourt, it’s pretty impressive. Ultimately it comes down to success with these two.

The Splash Brothers are so electric that they draw attention and in turn make their teammates better. Klay has scored 37 points in a quarter and Steph seems to be open even when he isn’t.

Kevin Durant took a little bit of shine away from Klay Thompson this year, as you can see by his player efficiency rating, but success helps overcome that.

Both are automatic from behind the 3-point line, free throw line and make a team pay if they don’t lockdown defensively. The Splash Bsrothers will continue to torch opposing defenses for many years to come.

Honorable mentions

Most of you are probably wondering about Boston or Oklahoma City. Both Paul George and Gordon Hayward are small forwards that will play some shooting guard this year.

In fact Hayward might be the starting shooting guard for Boston all year. With Jae Crowder less versatile, Hayward could land himself in the backcourt with fellow All-star, Isaiah Thomas, which would be a strong argument for a spot on this list.

Oklahoma City is a little less likely of a backcourt. Andre Roberson is a solid shooting guard who plays excellent defense and has value being on the floor. If the Thunder went with a bigger lineup, then Russell Westbrook and Paul George would have a chance to share a backcourt together. If that happened consistently, the two would also find their way on this list.

Conclusion

Strong backcourts can be a winning formula in leading a team. If both guards are versatile and play well together, then there is no reason a backcourt can’t be lethal. The top five backcourts in the NBA have led their teams to deep playoff runs and have taken home many other accolades.

The 2017-18 season will be filled with close games and great teams. We will see how far some of the best backcourts lead their teams come playoff time.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of SI.com.

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Summer League Stars: statistics mean nothing until they play poorly

Playing well in the summer league is expected for most first-round draft picks. They are the top talents competing and therefore should put up star numbers. When stars underperform against less competitive talent than the players they will see in the regular season, it raises red flags.

Many first-round picks who were expected to dominate summer league scuffled. Even though it is “just summer league”, the talent is only going to get better and more competitive moving forward. The sample size in summer league is only a few games, but who’s to say that the regular season statistics get better?

Here’s a couple players who caused some concern after their summer league performances.

Lottery pick:

Summer League

Zach Collins, Photo Courtesy of Hoop Habits.

Many were surprised to see Zach Collins taken as high in the draft as he was. Regardless of where he was selected, he underperformed even for a late first-rounder.

Collins only played in three games this summer but averaged 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in just over 23 minutes of game play. He shot 26.1 percent and went just 6-for-23 from the field overall.

Coming out of Gonzaga, he was valued for spreading the floor and shooting 47.6 percent from three, but has sputtered and has been missing those same opportunities this summer.

The good news is Collins will be one of the few lottery picks who plays better as a deferred option. At Gonzaga, he played just 19.3 minutes per game, and although the potential was high, it was clear he wasn’t going to be a team’s number one option.

Collins will increase his productivity and will shine as a rim protector for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Late First Round

Summer League

Tyler Lydon, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Lydon has struggled the most of anyone this summer. In 121 summer league minutes, Lydon had just 12 points and shot just 4-for-20.

Lydon does almost all his work with under two dribbles, whether it’s in the post or from the perimeter. He works off of other people because he struggles to create shots for himself.

One statistic that is alarming is that Lydon shot 2-for-15 from three. As a strong catch and shoot threat, for Lydon to shoot just 13 percent from three is not promising.

Moving Forward

Summer league isn’t judgement day, and there’s still plenty of time for players to save themselves from being a bust.

With players just beginning to adjust to the NBA style of play, hiccups are expected. At the same time, almost every star in the last two NBA Drafts has performed which sets the precedent for others to put up star numbers.

All NBA fans enjoy speculating about the players they see in summer league, yet some of the players in the league aren’t even 19 years old yet. There is still time for almost every player to grow into the players that NBA teams believe they will be.

Summer league statistics don’t mean a thing when the regular season starts, but thus far, a few players have yet to live up to their draft slot.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

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It’s on the Haus: Ezekiel Elliott in trouble, Carolina Panthers fire GM, NBA Summer League championship and Jeremy Lin’s comments

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program or come to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports happenings all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus. Today’s SEO focus keyword for your viewing pleasure: Ezekiel Elliott Carolina Panthers GM NBA Summer League Jeremy Lin

Last edition: Spurs win, Trail Blazers’ new logo, LaVar Ball talked again and Matt Harvey

Ezekiel Elliott was #Wildin at a club

Ezekiel Elliott Carolina Panthers GM nba summer league Jeremy Lin

Will Ezekiel Elliott be able to hurdle the NFL’s punishments? Well, it’s hard to say (Photo: ESPN.com).

Reports surfaced yesterday morning that Ezekiel Elliott was straight getting after it in a Dallas night club on Sunday night. A 30-year-old man was reportedly assaulted in the club and suffered severe enough injuries to earn him a trip to the hospital. Although the man could not identify who assaulted him, Elliott is suspected to be part of the incident.

No arrests were made in connection to the incident, but the NFL is looking into if Elliott deserves to be reprimanded.

Although we’re yet to see a report that Elliott was in fact part of the altercation, every news outlet is treating the situation like he was. Elliott is already under fire for a domestic violence incident that the NFL still hasn’t ruled on, and he’s also been spotted in a marijuana dispensery and had too much fun in New Orleans (Google it if you aren’t learned).

This new situation won’t bode well for the man who finished third in MVP voting and second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting last season. If I were a betting man (let the record show I am not), I’d put money on Elliott missing time in 2017.

But at least Dez Bryant, a standup citizen in his own right, came to bat for Elliott yesterday afternoon. Bryant became a proud keyboard warrior and lit up a troll on his Twitter account, causing the troll to delete the tweet that sparked the outburst from Bryant.

This is quite a hairy situation, and Elliott most likely will not come out unscathed.

NFL players React to carolina panthers firing gm dave gettleman

The Carolina Panthers fired former general manager Dave Gettleman on Monday morning, and no one knows why. Gettleman took Carolina to its first Super Bowl since 2004 just two seasons ago.

Former Panthers running back and current NFL free agent DeAngelo Williams crossed Carolina off his list of teams he wouldn’t play for next season thanks to the firing, per his personal Twitter account.

Steve Smith, who spent the first 13 of his 16 NFL seasons with the Panthers, shunned the organization for letting go Gettleman. Although Smith rallying around his former general manager is respectable, he needs to work on his Twitter game. Hashtagging your own name, Steve? Really? And fix your grammar while you’re at it.

Former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman used emojis to convey his message like any self-aware millennial would.


The overwhelming majority of keyboard warriors on Twitter were surprised that Gettleman had been let go, and even though the Panthers just went 6-10 last season, Carolina still reached the Super Bowl with a 15-1 record in 2015.

Adam Schefter expects Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden and Panthers director of personnel Don Gregory to be in the running for the now vacant position.

NBA Summer League Results

The NBA Summer League sucks. It causes people to overreact about rookies and scrubs who will never make an NBA roster for more than 10 days as fans vulture for any news they can during the offseason. The summer league is filled with lackluster play and lacks any noteworthy talent. You don’t believe me? Look at this tweet from a very handsome man:

However, it’s my job to report to you that the Los Angeles Lakers have the least scrubby of all the scrubs in the NBA Summer League. The Lakers won the summer league final last night, 110-98.

Good for Los Angeles, I guess. The majority of the players that played in last night’s final will never see NBA minutes that mean anything, so I really don’t care that Jayson Tatum lit up players that wouldn’t make my intramural basketball team during the summer league.

We’re reaching for news about Lonzo Ball’s freaking shoes, folks. Let’s put the summer league behind us and never ever look back.

Jeremy Lin to be drug tested today

Jeremy Lin and his Brooklyn Nets went 20-62 last season, good for dead last in the entire NBA. Clearly all that losing has gone to his head.

Ezekiel Elliott Carolina Panthers GM nba summer league Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin probably doesn’t know up from down after making asinine comments about the Nets yesterday (Photo: Charles Wenzelberg).

In an Instagram Live post yesterday (follow me on my new Insta account, btw), Lin declared his Nets would make the playoffs this season.

“We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else tells me,” Lin said according to Kyle Boone of CBS Sports.

Lin said himself and newly acquired D’Angelo Williams would do some “serious damage” in Brooklyn, and because of Lin’s claims, I’m gravely concerned for his mental health. Lin has played in 17 playoff games in his entire seven-year career, so his experience in getting past the regular season is about as much as Floyd Mayweather’s in quantum physics.

The Nets lost their leading scorer and best player in Brook Lopez in a trade to the Lakers, but have acquired the aforementioned Russell and DeMarre Carroll, among others. In short, there’s virtually no playoff-caliber talent on this roster. There’s no way the Nets make the playoffs this season, and Lin thinks he can blatantly lie in Taiwan and get away with it.

Lin may be off the hook for now, but he shouldn’t be surprised when the NBA asks him to urinate in a cup for his puzzled thoughts.

 

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Caleb Swanigan NBA Summer League: Progressing to NBA big man

Caleb Swanigan is a rookie out of Purdue University. Swanigan is a 6-foot-10, 250-pound traditional big man. He is the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and yet still seems to be undervalued.

Swanigan has been dominating the less desired competition in the NBA Summer League. He is proving that he can adapt his game to the current NBA style.

As a traditional big, Swanigan has been working to extend his consistent range past the three-point line. As Swanigan continues to improve his game, the NBA will find out just how good the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year is.

NBA Summer League

Caleb Swanigan NBA Summer League

Caleb Swanigan working in the post. Photo Courtesy of Lohud.com.

Obviously summer league statistics don’t tell too much of a story, but Caleb Swanigan has been dominating regardless. In his five games this summer, Swanigan is averaging 14.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. He has three double-doubles and is shooting 42.6 percent from the field.

Swanigan has grabbed the second-most rebounds of any player this summer and has complemented Zach Collins very well when Collins has been on the floor. Swanigan has proven that he can beat you in many different ways both this summer and in his two years at Purdue.

Since his freshman year of college, Swanigan has been trying to get himself more NBA ready. Swanigan shot just 29.2 percent from three on 72 attempts his freshman season at Purdue. In his sophomore season, he followed that by shooting 44.7 percent on 85 attempts from the 3-point line.

Showing how quickly and well he adapted to the talent in the Big Ten, Swanigan turned in some big time numbers in his sophomore season.

In a league where big men are shifting to being more versatile and perimeter oriented, Swanigan is showing just how much of an all-around threat he can be.

Portland Trail Blazers Tandem

Caleb Swanigan NBA Summer League

Caleb Swanigan, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

The Trail Blazers drafted two big men in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. Both big men have different games that work well together.

Swanigan is a primarily low post threat, with an ability to pick and pop and make a mid-range jumper. Collins is a good passer, also with the ability to step out and hit a mid-range jumper. Both can rebound the ball well and have high energy. Collins protects the rim very well with his size and long arms.

With the Trail Blazers’ guards as good as they are, having two big men develop could make them perennial playoff contenders. Swanigan has been improving and adapting nearly every year he has played basketball and with the NBA waiting for him, there is a lot of time to prove how good he really is.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of NBA.com.

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Portland Trail Blazers 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day 14 of NBA Draftmas features the Portland Trail Blazers. This team has one of the best backcourts in the NBA, but that is about all they have. Let’s take a look at how their season went.

summary

Portland has made the playoffs four straight years now. However, their win total has dropped in each of those seasons.

In the 2013-14 season, they finished fifth in the West with a 54-28 record and lost to the Spurs in the conference semifinals. This past season they finished 41-41, which was good for eighth in the conference and lost in the first round to the Warriors.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

Portland has a strong backcourt, but weak frontcourt and defense. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Key players from the 2013-14 squad like LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are no longer on the team. Losing that much talent will definitely hurt a team.

Guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum remain as the team’s top stars. They helped Portland average 107.9 points per game, good for eighth in the NBA. Lillard averaged 27 and McCollum averaged 23.

What really hurt Portland was their defense. They allowed 108.5 points per game, which ranked 25th in the league. That left the Blazers with a -0.6 point differential, which ranked 18th in the league. They also only ranked 23rd in forced turnovers at just 12.4 per game.

Portland needs defensive help. They also need to strengthen their frontcourt. Maurice Harkless and Noah Vonleh are not starting-caliber players. A defensive-focused big man who can help chip in some points would be a great addition for Portland.

picks & needs

Portland has three first-round picks in this draft and none in the second.

First round: No. 15, No. 20 (from Memphis), No. 26 (from Cleveland)

Second round: none

Portland has a great opportunity to improve their defense and frontcourt. With three first-round picks, surely they can get some guys who can help the team get more wins and a higher seed in the playoffs next season.

targets & thoughts

Pick #15: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

Jarrett Allen will boost Portland’s frontcourt and defense. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Jarrett Allen was one of the few bright spots on a struggling Texas Longhorns’ roster.

The Longhorns finished 11-22 overall, including 4-14 in the Big 12. Despite the awful season, Allen stood out with averages of 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Allen has tremendous size and length. He stands 6-foot-11 with a wingspan of 7-foot-5 and a standing reach of 9-foot-1. He weighs in at 235 pounds, but should fill out over time.

There is plenty of defensive potential for Allen, who showed flashes of that at Texas. He is a rim protector and a great finisher off pick and roll.

His offensive game still needs work. However, Lillard and McCollum should be able to take care of the points for the time being as they have already. Allen’s size and defensive ability make him a great pickup for Portland. Overtime he can work on his offense and add some muscle.

Pick #20: Harry Giles, PF, Duke

I know Portland does not want another potential Greg Oden situation, but hear me out.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

Harry Giles is a risky pick, but has such a high reward. (Photo by Andrew Dye/Winston-Salem Journal)

Giles was the No. 1 recruit in his class. He definitely has some talent to him. If it were not for two torn ACL injuries, he would be a projected top five pick no doubt. The injuries caused him to take a hit in the amount of action he got last season, so we don’t know what Giles is fully capable of. His 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game certainly don’t reflect his level of talent.

Portland can definitely afford to take a chance with one of their first-round picks since they have three of them. Giles is light on his feet, agile and has incredible length and size. He is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and 9-foot-1 standing reach.

Giles is a Joel Embiid type of talent that is going to fall to the middle of the first round. The only question, like Embiid, is can he stay healthy? If he can, Giles could be the steal of the draft. Portland should take a chance on Giles.

Pick #26: P.J. Dozier, SG, South Carolina

Dozier is a guy that can come in and give Lillard and McCollum a break in the backcourt. The former Gamecock averaged 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

Portland Trail Blazers NBA draft

P.J. Dozier also would improve Portland’s defense and provide a break for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. (Photo by Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

Dozier has all the tools to be a great defender. His 6-foot-11 wingspan will smother most guards. He is also super athletic, evidenced by his performance at the NBA Combine. Dozier finished in the top 10 in the no-step vertical (34 inches), max vertical (39 inches) and court sprint (3.15 3/4 seconds).

Offensively, Dozier has some work to do. His outside shot is below average and he shot an atrocious 59.7 percent from the free throw line. His 2.2 turnovers per game also make his assist to turnover ratio unimpressive.

Dozier has some work to do in order to become a consistent offensive weapon. His defensive ability still makes him a good pickup for Portland.

conclusion

Portland needs to improve defensively, and they can do so with their three first-round picks. Jarrett Allen has tremendous size and defensive upside. Harry Giles is a risky pick that could lead to a high reward if he stays healthy. P.J. Dozier can also come in and give Lillard and McCollum a break when they need it and also brings defensive presence.

Thanks for checking out the Portland Trail Blazers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 15 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Chicago Bulls are going to do.

Day 13: Miami Heat

Day 12: Denver Nuggets

Featured Image by www.underconsideration.com

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It’s on the Haus: Spurs win, Trail Blazers’ new logo, LaVar Ball talked again and Matt Harvey

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program or come to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports happenings all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

San Antonio Spurs Score More Points Than Houston Rockets

The San Antonio Spurs won a pivotal Game 5 against the Houston Rockets last night, taking a 3-2 series lead with their 110-107 win. The game needed an overtime period to decide the winner, and James Harden choked. Harden was 1-6 from the field, including 0-5 from behind the arc and also had four turnovers in what ESPN Stats & Info called “clutch time”.

It’s about time that the NBA feeds us fans a good playoff game. I’m tired of watching teams win in easier fashion than I dumped my AB calculus exam in high school (I got a one, which is either good or bad, depending on your worldview).

The game was a thriller from the tip to the final buzzer. The series heads to Houston for Game 6, and the Rockets will need to take each of the next two in order to advance to the Western Conference finals.

Now, that I’ve made my obligatory actual news post, let’s get onto the more important and pressing news from the day.

Portland Trail Blazers Dump Old Logo for Basically the Same Thing

The Portland Trail Blazers’ marketing scrubs are getting paid six figures for this garbage?

Spurs Portland Trail Blazers LaVar Ball Matt Harvey

 

I know the internet is no place for crude language, so excuse my next sentence.

What the frickin’ heck, Portland? My 18-month-old niece is as creative as this new logo. I know I’m one of the more crucial logo pundits this side of the internet, but this is terrible. The only differences I see are that the red is now on top and the lines are a little differently shaped.

This is an outrage, and I will not stand for it. Luckily, I’m typing this while sitting, so let’s move onto the next topic.

LaVar Ball Continues to Say Questionable Words

LaVar Ball insinuated that his son, Lonzo, is more accomplished than Michael Jordan in his appearance on Fox Sports 1’s Undisputed on Monday.

When co-host Shannon Sharpe questioned how LaVar thinks anyone will buy his son’s shoe when MJ couldn’t sell his for $100, LaVar symbolically laid in front of a steamroller with his reply.

“Cause he ain’t Lonzo Ball, that’s why,” LaVar said. “This is a new era called the Ball era.”

There’s really no analysis to give here. There’s no reason to break down what LaVar said, because we’ve heard it all before.

I truly feel bad for Lonzo and all the Ball sons. Their dad won’t shut up, and he doesn’t even have the decency to talk calmly about Lonzo. Lonzo Ball will live a career that is unprecedented to this point, and will be endlessly ridiculed if he turns out to be a bust in the NBA.

Even if all the Ball sons are busts, they’ll be able to live off the 263 pairs of shoes they sold for the next ten years.

Matt Harvey Can’t Stop and May Never Stop

The New York Mets duped Matt Harvey out of his scheduled start last Sunday and suspended him for three games retroactive to Saturday. Harvey skipped the Mets’ game on Saturday after being inflicted with a migraine during the day.

Spurs Portland Trail Blazers LaVar Ball Matt Harvey

Photo: (JIM MCISAAC/GETTY IMAGES)

On Tuesday, Harvey held a press conference to talk about his whereabouts. Harvey revealed he was out past curfew on Friday night and hit the green for some golf on Saturday morning. Harvey expressed remorse for his actions and said he was ready to put the incident behind him.

Harvey has put himself in between a rock and a hard place with all his shenanigans in his time with the Mets. He’s got a 5.14 ERA this season after posting a 4.86 ERA last season. The Mets won’t cut lose the 28-year-old, but his leash has got to be as short as it’s ever been.

And while we’re here, can we talk about why Harvey went golfing in the morning after being out past curfew the night before? My sources couldn’t tell me when a typical curfew is for MLB teams, but a half-hearted search on your favorite search engine database will probably give you the answer.

I love my sleep, as do all respectable humans. Why in the world would Harvey stay out late, lose sleep and then decide to go golf of all things the next morning? There’s not many things to sacrifice sleep over, but golfing is definitely not one of them.

 

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