The Boston crowd is stunned. Rajon Rondo is being lifted in the air by Lebron James. Both players winning once again on Boston's floor, but together this time. And both donning the Los Angeles Lakers jerseys of all things. They are joined in celebration by the same group of players who started the season with them as the trade deadline passed just hours before game time. They all look happy... for now.
So how did we get here?
When Lebron James made his announcement to join the Los Angeles Lakers, he was going to make sure they became the best show coming out of Hollywood. We knew this was going to be the case, but we still weren't prepared for everything that has happened throughout this season.
Starting the season 0-3 the questions began to arise very early. Does this team have the talent to make the playoffs? Can Lebron raise the level of play amongst the Lakers youth quickly? Will they ever win a game?
They got their first win against the lowly Phoenix Suns. A win is a win as they say, and they say many things. The Lakers didn't get above .500 until 13 games into the season. But once everyone began to learn their roles on the squad, they hit a bit of a hot streak.
They began to climb the playoff ladder, and found themselves looking at possibly having home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They went 18-9 over a stretch that started on Halloween and ended on Christmas. And what would follow would be more tricks than treats, and a lot of coal on their stockings.
Lebron James sustained a "minor" groin injury on Christmas Day. But I always says that for a man, there is no such thing as a "minor" groin injury. His team went on to demolish the Golden State Warriors in front of 20,000 stunned Oakland fans. And with the entire world watching, they brought the drama to everyone's television screens.
But without Lebron, the team would simply be full of guys probably feeling like they were the stars of The Truman Show. Every player was evaluated relentlessly. Each night, the question was who was going to be the hero or the scape-goat. Who was going to be the player that separated himself from the rest of the pack? Who was going to prove to Lebron that they were deserving of remaining off the team until past the trade deadline. And then... it happened.
Rich Paul, (Lebron's best friend slash agent) spoke on behalf of his client Anthony Davis and requested for trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Los Angeles Lakers were the obvious desperate trade suitor. With nobody on the team proving anything other than the fact that they are good enough to play on a mediocre team with a 7-10 record, we assumed that nobody on the team was safe...
*Deep narrators voice* Because they weren't.
It is easy to imagine what was going on through these guys' minds every single day. Knowing that their career as a Los Angeles Laker could end at any given moment. Knowing that their play on the court was being evaluated so meticulously not only by their own ownership, but other team's ownership, and everyone in the basketball world.
The game before the trade deadline may have been the most telling of them all. Lebron's teammates kept their distance from the thrown, and came together as a group to form a mutiny so strong that it catapulted them to Lebron's worse loss of his career.
A 42-point blowout by the Indiana Pacers seemed to be the final stamp on this group. With less than 24 hours to go on the trade deadline, each player probably had their minds prepared for any possible scenario. But what would happen next would be the biggest plot twist of them all.
The trade deadline came and went, and not a single Lakers starter was traded. In fact, besides a couple of small moves, the Lakers remained relatively quiet at the trade deadline. So naturally, with all of these questions finally being answered, the next question would be... Will it work?
They had a date with the Celtics in Boston, and there could have been a million different ways this could have ended. The Lakers could have gotten blown out in a second consecutive game, and everyone would've continued to question the management. They could have found a way to lose a tough game, and someone other than Lebron would have been the one to blame. But the way it actually finished seemed like planned chaos.
The final two minutes of the game were intense, and both teams had a counter for every jab. With no timeouts remaining and the Lakers down by one, everything that had gone on over the first half of the season was forgotten.
Rajon Rondo caught a loose ball out of the air and elevated in slow motion, much like he used to for all of those years in Boston. He created a moment so ironic, that it defined the entire Lakers season. The ball went through the net as the time expired, and the entire Lakers teams came together as one to celebrate the victory. For a moment, they looked like a team with the same goal in mind; Win.
And while their season has been like a bumpy old-school wooden roller coaster, we can now see that best television is yet to come. The Los Angeles Lakers are captivating, and if you blink you might miss something.
You guys know how I feel about about basketball. It's the best sport in the world, and All-Star Weekend is the funnest weekend of the season. Getting all of the best players in the entire world together for some great challenges. And there is nothing better than watching the greatest players in the game display their talents (mostly offensively) for 48 minutes.
For now, we at least know who will be starting the game for each conference. The votes are broken down this way: Fans 50% Media 25% Players 25%. Let's see if the fans, media, and players got it right!
Obviously. We're talking about a guy who is playing in his 15th All-Star game, with his third different team, his first in the Western Conference, and his second year in a row as "Team Captain." Although he has missed the last month of the season due to injury, there was no way he wasn't going to be voted as a starter. It would be like eating cereal without milk.
You can go on the street and ask anybody who the most popular basketball player on the planet is, and I'm sure at least 80% of those people are going to say Lebron James. Even people who have never watched an NBA game have heard of Lebron James. So yeah, he's starting. And it is to no surprise.
This guy has been nothing short of spectacular this season. His name has been drug through the mud by the fans and the media because of his decision to take his talents to the Bay Area. However, he is easily a top-3 player in the world and he was a lock to be a starter this year.
He has been available for every game this season on the best team in the league. And we all know that availability is the greatest ability. He has made the game look so easy, and there have been nights where he has gone for 40+ and made it look routine. This was another easy choice.
The Chef will be cooking once again in front of his hometown in Charlotte. This homecoming will be a beautiful one, as he will be able to play alongside Lebron James for the first time in his All-Star career. It is going to be fun to see what these guys have in store for us as a tandem. Possibly a small preview of the next Olympics.
Curry is the second best player in the world, and this choice was another no-brainer. You could've put whoever next to these three guys and it would've been a stacked lineup. But instead, in only gets better.
Hands down, the best offensive player in the game right now is already my early favorite to win All-Star MVP. This guy has been on an absolute tear. And this selection comes one night after he drops 61 points in Madison Square Garden.
This game is made for a guy like him. Nobody is going to play defense until the 4th quarter, by then he'll probably have about 40 points. I would not be surprised if he breaks the record for most points in an All-Star game, and I hope he does.
Those first four guys were obvious locks. If any of them weren't starters, there might have been a re-vote. However, this last spot was up for grabs. Typically, you get two guards, two forwards, and a center. But the last couple of years the voting has been slightly different, where we get two "Frontcourt" players and three "Backcourt" players.
If we had to choose a center, if would've been either Anthony Davis or Nikola Jokic. But the way the voting is designed now allowed for us to get the 5th best player into the starting lineup. This guy has been unbelievable since signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and has done nothing but take the reign as a leader of his hot team. He has been the best defensive player in the game up to this point in the season, and neither of those other guys I previously mentioned deserved this spot over him. The fans, media, and players definitely got this starting lineup right.
Every time I spell his last name, I have to to pronounce it out loud like four times to make sure I got it right. This guy man. Among the players vote, he was the top vote-getter and much deserved. In his third All-Star game, he will represent the East as the "Team Captain."
If it wasn't for James Harden's recent hot streak, he would be leading the race as the MVP. His play has made the Milwaukee Bucks look indestructible on their way to the first spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Look for him to play hard on both sides of the ball in this game as he will want to assert his dominance as the next face of the NBA.
His first season with the Toronto Raptors has looked extremely promising. His swap for Demar Derozan has had the Raptors looking just as good as the Bucks as the best team in the East. He is playing as well as we remember he once could when he was healthy.
He hasn't had the greatest availability, as he has missed multiple games due to injury or rest. But this is how it is with Kawhi, he makes his own schedule. But when you're this good, you do what you want. These two guys are going to take this game a lot more seriously than anyone in the West, as they will look to prove that the East is not any less talented.
The biggest troll in the NBA, both on and off the court. He has been the best center in the league all season, and to see what he has done with health on his side has been magnificent. We're talking about a guy who can do everything on the basketball court on both sides of the ball. He has got every move in his bag.
Hakeem Olajuwan with a Euro-step. Shaq with a free-throw shot. Tim Duncan with three-point range. Yao Ming with Twitter fingers. This guy is going to have some fun with it, and don't be surprise if we get an Instagram Live story in the middle of the game.
Uncle Drew isn't going to be the captain of the East, but he is definitely going to be the vocal leader. This lineup is stacked with guys who probably care just a little bit more about actually winning this game. It has been an up and down year for Kyrie in terms of his image. But his play on the court has been the best of his career.
The Boston Celtics have struggled with and without him on the court, but his individual play makes him more than deserving for this spot. He is easily the best point guard in the East. Hopefully we see someone in the game try to shut down his handles, and they get dropped like a rock. We need some Vine-worthy content.
The odd man out. No disrespect to Kemba. I love his game, and I have since his crazy championship run at UConn. However, he wouldn't even be an All-Star reserve in the West. So to see him as a starter in the East is a bit surprising. His great start to the season may have been enough to get him this starting nod, well yeah obviously it did.
His team is under .500, but this is an individual accomplishment. The game is in Charlotte, so this could be why he got more votes during this time. I am excited to see the hometown crowd go crazy for him when they announce his name.
But there are a couple guys who are definitely more deserving. Bradley Beal has averaged over 30 points per game since John Wall went down with injury, and his play has put his team back into playoff contention. Ben Simmons has averaged 16.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists, with a shooting percentage of 58%. Not to mention he has had 8 triple-doubles and 31 double-doubles. So the fans, media, and players got this last spot wrong. However, it is pretty dope that Kemba got this spot for the Charlotte crowd.
This game is going to be dope. I'm sure there will be a lot of wide open pull up threes, lanes for some crazy dunks, and fastbacks with multiple alley-oops. It won’t be East vs. West, but Team Lebron vs. Team Giannis. Stay tuned for how the draft turns out! I’ll definitely keep y’all posted and will let you know the rules to how the draft works!
Typically, I'm a pretty positive guy. I find myself waking up way too early most mornings and fantasizing about the nap I'm going to take later in the day. Just thinking about that glorious nap helps me get through the day. No matter how crappy of a day I may be having, I find that little tiny bit of happiness to look forward too. But most of the time I don't actually get to take that nap because... life. But I never doubt the fact that I will take that nap, eventually.
If I ever were to doubt the fact that I was going to take that nap later in the day, then my whole day would be terrible. My attitude would be horrible. I'm just saying all of this because I need to remind myself sometimes to treat everything like I treat my nap dreams, Don't doubt it.
In basketball, I tend to believe in guys a little bit longer than most others. I like to think that guys continue to have more upside as they grow in their career. However, I also tend to give up on guys if they have a down season or show some signs of regression. And then I make bold claims that eventually just make me sound stupid.
D'Angelo Russel is making me eat my words this season. I loved his game when he was at Ohio State. He never looked like any moment was too big for him. His early years with the Los Angeles Lakers proved that wasn't scared of the bright lights. His "Ice in my veins" celebration is one of the best in the game.
But once he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, I started to cool off on him. His first season as a Net was a little underwhelming, but it was mostly because he was injured for most of the season. I started to wonder how long it would be until he considered going to China to play professionally. But his healthy return this year has given all of his doubters plenty of reasons to keep their mouths shut.
In my Mid-Season Awards article, I put him as a player in the running for Most Improved. Russel has already matched his game total from last season with 48 games played. He is posting career highs in points, field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throw percentage, and assists. But its not his numbers that have made him a guy to root for, its his leadership and love for his teammates that has changed the way his peers view him. Because for a minute there, his image took a hit.
You guys may or may not remember, but in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers he got into a little social media trouble that caused a rift between him and his teammates. His teammate at the time Nick Young was dating rapper Iggy Azalea, and Russel caught Young admitting that he cheats on his SnapChat and posted the videos. Many thought this would stain his image forever, but this moment now seems like a small mistake made by a young kid. But aye, it ain't his fault Swaggy P was doing things he wasn't supposed to be doing lol.
The Brooklyn Nets were lacking a leader over their rebuilding stage the last few seasons. In just his fourth season, he was become the vocal leader of the team. Not only leading by example on the court, but also being one of the most encouraging teammates even from the sidelines.
The game I'm thinking of in particular is their game from a few weeks back against the Houston Rockets. He was having a poor shooting night, which led to him not playing in some key moments down the stretch in an overtime thriller. He took a backseat to his teammate Spencer Dinwiddie. But instead of making a fuss for being benched, he was visibly the most vocal player on the bench. Standing right next to head coach Kenny Atkinson. cheering on his team and coaching them from the sideline.
After the big win, he was the first player to run out onto the court and celebrate Dinwiddie's clutch performance. Theres something to be said about a guy who is willing to put ego aside when it comes to moments like this. He knew his play was not putting his team in the best position to win, so he played his role from the bench.
With Victor Oladipo going down for an extended period of time, a guard spot has opened up for the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves. And with his career play at an all-time high in just his fourth season, its possible that Brooklyn can have their first representative in over 5 years.
We're not even ten days into 2019 and I'm already in my feelings. I was reading this book called Skippyjon Jones to my son last night. It's about a cat who wants to be anything in the world, except for a cat. His imagination gets him into some hilarious situations.
There was a part where he was having a standoff with a gang of Mexican Chihuahuas, and he was trying to convince them that he's actually a dog. And for some reason, I started tearing up. Not because of the story. but because I started thinking about how one day, he won't want me to read him books anymore. He'll be reading books to himself, not needing me for anything. I only helped give him the gift of life! Ugh. I guess that's not enough for kids these days. SMH.
After wiping away my two tears, my son got up and started playing with his cars. I was watching the end of the Philadelphia 76ers game, and when they showed their current record my tears began to flow again. I realized we're already halfway through the NBA season. Which mathematically means, there's only half of a season left. Which emotionally for me means that my heart is half-empty. But what's most importantly, is that my heart is still half-full.
So instead of sitting here in misery and sulking in the fact that time is still linear, I figured we could celebrate what we've seen so far this season. It's time for some Mid-Season awards!
Most Improved Player
When Paul George was traded for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, most people had said that the Oklahoma City Thunder won the trade. And with George deciding to stay in OKC, they did. However, that doesn't mean the Indiana Pacers lost. Last year Victor Oladipo won this award, and halfway through this season, his buddy who traveled with him in the trade is keeping the award in Indiana.
His jump in numbers is staggering when you compare this season and last season. He is only playing one more minute per game, but he has been extremely efficient in his time on the floor. Sabonis is averaging 14.9 points per game (11.4 in 2017-18), 3 assist per game (2 in '17-18), 9.6 rebounds (7.7 in '17-18), 62% on field goals (51% in '17-18), and an incredible 71% from three-point range (35% in '17-18).
All of these numbers are indicative of the way the team has used him this season. He is visibly much bigger and stronger than he was just a year ago. Those NBA weight rooms are working well for him. He's taking most of his shots from within 10 feet of the rim, and less than 13% of his shots are coming from three-point range. His play has helped his team maintain the 3rd spot in the East, and if he keeps it up he will help them stay there.
IN THE RACE: D'Angelo Russel, Pascal Siakam, Jamal Murray
Sixth Man of the Year
During the offseason, Derrick Rose said that he wants to be the first player in NBA history to win a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and the Sixth Man of the Year award. He was already the youngest to ever win the MVP, and now he can fulfill the rest of his goal. His play off of the bench this season has rejuvenated his career, and has made all those who love his game appreciate it once again.
This time around, the highlights are coming with him playing less than 30 minutes per game. He is shooting with the best efficiency since his sophomore season in 2009-10 with 48.6% from the field. He is also averaging the most points per game since his 2011-12 season with 18.9.
His best performance came on an emotional night when he dropped a career-high 50 points against the Utah Jazz early in the season. It reminded everyone of what Rose once was, and what he still can be on any given night: Electric. Now that I'm looking at these numbers, he could also be a candidate to win Most Improved Player. Maybe we'll leave that goal for him for next season.
IN THE RACE: Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrel, Spencer Dinwiddie
Defensive Player of the Year
The last guard to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year was Gary Payton in 1996. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Paul George could bring the award back to the backcourt. In a season where the Thunder are without their best defender in Andre Roberson, George has thrived.
He leads the league in steals per game with 2.2, which is also the best he's ever had in his career. He also has a career-high with 0.6 blocks per game. This is all a benefit of his teammates. The Thunder are number one in the NBA in Defensive Rating, thanks to guys such as Steven Adams and Russel Westbrook.
But most of their success falls on the shoulders of George. Defensive Win Shares is an Advanced stat that takes into account a player's contribution to team wins based on their defense. Paul George is one of the best in the league with 2.9 which also leads his top-ranked defense. Should he keep this up, his nickname may soon be The Mitten or Glover or Guy Who is Good at Defensive Things.
IN THE RACE: Russel Westbrook, Miles Turner, Rudy Robert, Robert Covington
Rookie of the Year
The Ben Simmons Rookie of the Year memes have been hilarious. Maybe this year they'll give it to Donovan Mitchell instead. But even if those guys were somehow eligible, we might still be giving the award to Luka Doncic. This teenager has been even better than his biggest believers may have thought he'd be at this point in his young career.
His professional basketball experience has proven to be what has separated him from the rest of the pack. His late game performances have been great for any player in the NBA, let alone a rookie. His stepback threes have been electrifying, and has already given defenses fits. His ball handling skills have helped him embarrass two top defensive players in Paul George and Rudy Gobert.
His numbers speak for themselves as he is averaging 19.6 points per game, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. He's got the Dallas Mavericks looking like a fringe playoff team, and at worst, a team with a bright future due to their young star. The Rookie should also be receiving some All-Star consideration, I'm just sayin'!
IN THE RACE: NONE. LITERALLY NO ONE ELSE.
Most Valuable Player
Usually by the halfway point in the NBA season, there is a clear front runner for the MVP award. We have been lucky enough this season to have two front runners in Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. The former is trying to establish himself as a solidified superstar, while the latter is trying to go back-to-back with the most coveted individual award the league has to offer.
I could play the fence and say they are both the respective MVP's so far, but I'll pick a side. James Harden is incredible, his run over the last 20 games or so has been historic, and he is an Arizona State alum. However, halfway through the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the MVP. This is not to say that things could change over the next few months. But for now, it is The Greek Freak's award to lose.
His new coach, Mike Budenholzer, has opened up his game to heights we have been waiting for. He is second in the league in Win Shares with 6.7, only behind Anthony Davis. He is first in the league in defensive plus-minus. His team has the best record in the NBA because of his play. And he is - wait a second, damn it. As I'm sitting here thinking about it, I'm changing my mind. I am gonna straddle the fence, because James Harden is freakin' amazing.
Harden is first in *clears throat* three-pointers made, free throws made, free throws attempted, total points, points per game, usage percentage, plus-minus, offensive plus-minus, minutes per game andddd value over replacement. Yeah... Let's keep it going, he is top-5 in win shares, player efficiency rating, assists, and *wait for it* STEALS! Yes, he is top-5 in a defensive category. That alone should make him the MVP.
But to top it all off, he has already had the top "MVP moment" of the season. On the road against a fully healthy squad in the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets were without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon and they were down 20 points in the second half. None of this mattered because Harden put the team on his back and hit crazy shot after crazy shot, which led to his 44 point triple-double consisting of 10 three's. None more memorable than his shot that won the game for them in overtime that silenced the crowd.
Say what you want about the guy's game, but he is clearly the best offensive player in the league who has also improved on his defensive play.
IN THE RACE: Lebron James, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving
I miss Derrick Rose in his prime. The Chicago Bulls were one of the best teams in the league at the height of his career. They created a young and gritty contender for the Miami Heat when they had their Big 3.
The Bulls now see themselves as a part of trio of teams that will be the worst in the league next season. If only they had a genie to wish for one player that could turn them into contenders again.
I wouldn't say I'm a genie, more of a dreamer.
I was looking for a nice picture that would encapsulate the team that they will be putting out on the floor next season. But this ended up being the most revealing picture I could find.
This would be their only chance at winning games. Tackling players. Too bad it is not legal.
However, we don't care about rules here. But there is one guy that could make this team instantly a contender without breaking said rules. Let's dive into the Bulls roster and style of play first and ponder who would be the perfect fit.
Fred Hoiberg hasn't done much since he made the jump from coaching college basketball. But in all fairness, he hasn't had much to work with. It is difficult to win a championship without one of the three best players in basketball, let alone get to the playoffs without a superstar at all.
The Bulls have made a decision to try to build the team through youth and depth. Similar to with how the Atlanta Hawks are trying to build their team, the number one ingredient is patience. But even in failure, they have made a few moves to try to make themselves a destination in the near future.
The acquisition of Zach Lavine is going to be a homerun. They took a chance on a young and injured budding star, and it looks as if it will be favorable for them. In the 27 games that he did play, he was the teams leading scorer in terms of points per game with 16.7.
Free agency went about as well as it could for a team that won just 25 games last season. Jabari Parker was once looked at as the future of the Milwaukee Bucks. Until the future of the Bucks actually showed up and proved to be a terrible fit for both Parker and the team.
So he chose to go back home to Illinois to try to play for a new contract in a place that looks to be a perfect fit. With him and Lavine both heading into their 5th season, they will be the veterans on a young team. Last season they were 9th in terms of Pace of Play, which is pretty interesting considering the fact that they were terrible at everything else.
Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen both add versatility and shooting to their respective positions. And the most recent draft pick in Wendell Carter Jr. makes their young squad filled out at every position. But there is one position they haven't filled, The Killer.
Kevin Durant could not only fix the Chicago Bulls, but he could fix his own legacy at the same time. Similar to how when Lebron was done in Miami, he chose to go to a terrible Cleveland team and bring a championship to a city that hadn't seen one in decades. Sure he can do it with a great squad, but can he do it with anyone?
The Bulls really are a squad full of anyone's, but Kevin Durant is 100% ungaurdable. And his two Finals MVPs solidifies his rank as one of the top three players in the world. And a move to the Eastern Conference would make him instantly the best player amongst his conference opponents.
As the Warriors and Bulls were completely on opposite ends of the spectrum, one thing they were similar in was Pace of Play. The Warriors were slightly faster than the Bulls as they were good enough for 5th in the league. So the transition of style would be no issue for Durant.
Durant shot an unbelievable 51% from the field last season and 42% from three-point land. Pairing him with another lengthy forward in Lauri Markkanen would stretch the defense in ways unimaginable. Markkanen broke the record for fastest player ever to make 100 three-pointers. Having two 7 foot guys who can shoot three's at an efficient rate would create headaches for opposing defenses.
The biggest question mark for this team would be the point guard position. But Durant was one of the best players in the NBA last season in isolation. So essentially, in a worst case scenario, Durant could just run the entire offense. And if that is a team's worst case scenario, they have a pretty could chance of being legitimate contenders.
The team who led the league in attendance last season would have their best player since MJ. And the crazy Chicago fans would show nothing but love for KD. Kevin Durant could fix the Chicago Bulls, but unfortunately he wouldn't be able to fix DRose's knees *crying emoji*
I miss how KD used to make me feel...
With Lebron choosing to go to the Los Angeles Lakers, it got me thinking about which players could instantly turn non-playoff teams into winning teams. We’ll go through each team that didn’t make the playoffs last season and add one superstar that could help them get to the playoffs in the 2018-19 season. Since Lebron and Lakers already linked up, we’ll leave them out. But all you other crappy teams, get ready to live out your fantasy.
The Atlanta Hawks are going to be the worst team in the NBA next season. They may get some competition from the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, and Orlando Magic. But don’t worry, they’ll be the terrible-est.
But they don’t need a superstar, they traded for Carmelo Anthony... HA! The highest paid player on their team won’t play for them this season, or ever. So who could in theory fix this terrible team? Well first, let’s dive into their style of play.
The Hawks are looking to start from scratch, and that starts with a new head coach in Lloyd Pierce. Pierce was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers for the last 5 seasons, pretty much the entire existence of The Process. He helped build a playoff team through the use of analytics, developing three-and-D players, and (most importantly) patience.
It is going to take a lot of patience with this young squad, but youth could actually be a positive when paired with the right superstar. Besides Vince Carter, the most experienced player on the team next season will be Jeremy Lin who is heading into his 9th season.
I’m a Lin supporter, but he’s not exactly the veteran guy to build a team around. And for a team that was dead-last in attendance last season, he won't exactly move the needle.
With the last three draft picks of Taurean Prince, John Collins, and Trae Young, it’s obvious that the team is trying to build a corps of athletic wings and guards who can space the floor. This youth will lead to some very fast-paced play. And with the anchor on the defensive end in Kent Bazemore, they will need a big time scorer who can control the court on the offensive end.
With a squad full of young and underdeveloped players, the only thing that could help this team is one of the top two players in the world. And with Lebron out of the question, Steph Curry is the only answer. The Eastern Conference doesn’t have any of the top 5 players in the world, so the addition of Steph would instantly make them one of the 3 best teams in the East.
Only 6 other teams shot more three-pointers than the Hawks last season. With the addition of Steph and Trae Young, this number would only increase. They also played at a pace of play that was fast enough for 9th in the league.
Three-point shooting and speed is what made this team last year, and in order to make them successful they would have to continue to do the same things. Just at a much higher level of efficiency.
Its obvious to say that you can add Steph Curry to any team and they will be good enough to be a playoff team. But this team is bad, like real bad. On paper and in real life. But it’s the winning culture that he would bring that would be the driving factor in pushing this team to the top.
The two-time MVP and three-time NBA Finals Champion instantly raises the level of play for the entire organization. If Trusting The Process is something you believe in, this would be the complete opposite of that. This would be like a cheat code in a video game.
The Warriors are an incredible team even without Steph... but are they really? His On/Off numbers are staggering considering the teammates he has on the floor when he's off the court. The Offensive Rating is the stat that jumps off the page, as the Warriors were 122.8 with Steph on the floor compared to 107.9 with him off.
The Hawks as a team were 25th in the league last season in Offensive Rating, and only The Baby Faced Assassin could do anything to fix that. Trae Young showed his range in college and in the NBA Summer League. If you could pair that up with a guy who can make half-court shots routinely in Steph Curry, they could fix the Atlanta Hawks.
Steph Curry once dropped 30 in a half in the NCAA tournament...
As we go through life, we start realizing characteristics about ourselves that help define our self-wealth. We begin to reach acceptness of who we are and why we exist. We learn about what it is like to grow within our own mind and use our knowledge to help our future. I have reached acceptness with what has defined me, and I can admit that Yes, I am a real life basketball nerd.
As I sit here and watch NBA Las Vegas Summer League, I realize that I have an addiction. I can’t remove myself from basketball for a single day of my life, it’s fucking annoying how much I love basketball. My wife probably thinks I’m some fucking basketball dweeb.
And it may be so. But I can’t stop. I never could. I have loved basketball my entire life. My mom was very intrigued by the game of basketball, and I learned to watch the game through her eyes. She loved all the legends, but she would get excited over things like guys setting good screens, or a nice give and go, or the energy a guy may bring to the floor.
It was all about the respect for the game. Anyone who played the game, she showed love to if they played the game the right way. Her eye for the little things on the court was passed onto me, and I am thankful for that. I see the game and the impact it has on the world and the opportunities it creates for so many people’s family, and I love it. I enjoy watching others succeed, because honestly I don’t think Mother Earth can sustain any more hate. She might explode.
It all started when my mom put me in a YMCA basketball league, I think I was like 6 or 7. But it’s one of the oldest memories I have that is still so vivid in my mind. My mom is on the sideline watching me play basically recess basketball with 18 year old volunteer coaches. My memory is so clear that I can recite it play by play.
My mom going hard in the paint
My team misses a basket, I retreat back to defense as I have seen Charles Barkley do in my very young life. He was my idol at the time. As far as I was convinced, he was the best player in the world. I tried to emulate the things he did on the court, so I prided myself in guarding my opponent as tight as possible. I wanted to be the “hustle guy.”
The 2018 NBA season has already begun. The NBA Draft has passed, Free Agency is already crazy, and the Las Vegas Summer League is already heading into the second round of their tournament. As the young rookies are now facing NBA level talent, the hot takes are already flying in July. The NBA has essentially become a 12 month a year show, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The hottest hot take brewing in Las Vegas right now is the imminent failure that is on the horizon for Trae Young. The Atlanta Hawks took a chance on him instead of Luka Doncic who has already proven that he can play professional basketball. This was definitely a risk, there is no discrediting that. But such a risk shows that the Hawks believe in what Young could potentially be, and not what he is right now.
Trae was arguably the best player in college basketball for most of the year. Even with an Oklahoma team that did not have any double digit scorers outside of him, he still managed to average 8.7 assists thanks to his passing ability. His offensive game was incredible, almost unstoppable when he was making his 35 foot pull-up jumpers.
But his shooting percentage and turnover rate are both alarming, but it is to be expected of a guy who was the entire offense for his team. His game will have to improve, there is no doubt about that. But such is true with every player who has ever played the game. This season is definitely going to be rough, but man it will be fun.
The biggest challenge he will have to face is the comparisons he has drawn since high school. Too many people have compared him to Steph Curry, when that is totally unrealistic. Nobody is Steph Curry. Curry himself isn’t even always as good as he could be. So to compare any player to him is just silly. Trae Young is not Steph Curry, and he never will be and I don’t know why anyone ever thought he could be.
But that balloon he has been put in has so much pressure that it is near exploding. Yet all we have seen him do is stay humble and continue to work on his game in just the few Summer League games we have seen. After taking a night off due to soreness, his last two games included a pair of 20+ point performances, 14 total assists, and two wins leading them into the second round of the tournament.
This first season will be all about working to sharpen his game, as the Hawks will be nowhere near a playoff run. This could be the perfect scenario for the kid who may be the second best balding rookie ever according to my best bud Sam. I like the hot takes, I hope they keep coming. The kid is going to be one of the most exciting young players in the league, and if you got the NBA League Pass, you’ll be watching.
Trae Young could be the 4th Migo, they need a light skin anyway...
Sometimes in life, we reach points where we feel like we're stationary and not progressing to the future. We're working on our craft but it feels like it's getting us nowhere. Maybe all we need is either a fresh start or a restart. With this first NBA trade of the summer, two teams got their wishes granted.
On June 26th, the Los Angeles Clippers traded Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards for Marcin Gortat. This is the first domino to fall in what will be one of the craziest off-seasons since the Miami Heat created their Big 3.
If this trade were on the Richter scale it would be a 3.5 which is defined as "Often felt by some people, very rarely causes damage." Now although this trade may not move the needle for interest, it is going to change the future of two teams and shows which direction they are both going. Let's look at this from both sides.
The Clippers: A Restart
Best Case Scenario: Acquiring Marcin Gortat all but guarantees that the Clippers are ready to move on from Deandre Jordan. They are in full tank mode. Jordan opts in and allows the team to trade him to the Dallas Mavericks for some bench players and a future draft pick, basic a salary dump by the Clippers.
The Clippers then have a roster full of young undeveloped players, a coach who's best days are behind him, and an owner who has seemingly made just about every bad move possible since he took over for that racist guy they had before. They are set up perfectly to start their own version of a Sixers-style tank job.
They will lose a lot of games over the next 3-4 years and acquire as many young players and assets as possible which eventually leads to them being good again. This sounds terrible but it would actually be the best way for them to restart, seeing as how they have been a franchise for over 30 years and have never even made it to the Western Conference Finals. A restart is not only an option, but it is necessary.
Worst Case Scenario: Doc Rivers believes he has a roster that can win now, and although he is wrong, he will still try his best to make it happen. Deandre Jordan opts in and decides to try to make it work one more time in LA. The team stays perfectly healthy throughout the season and wins 42 games and still misses the playoffs.
Marcin Gortat and Lou Williams play great off the bench all season and they use it as a ploy to try to get free agents to come play in Los Angeles. Carmelo Anthony still believes he is a top 25 player in the NBA and the Clippers do as well, and they sign him to a huge contract all but sealing their fate in mediocrity over then next 5 years.
They will still lose a lot of games, but will only get mid-level talent in the future NBA drafts. They remain the same team they have been for 30 years and will continue to play in the Lakers shadow.
The Wizards: A Fresh Start
Best Case Scenario: This move is a sneaky good one for the Wizards. It was pretty obvious all season that John Wall and Marcin Gortat didn't like each other, yet they were still able to trade him away and get a player better than him. I think people believe that Austin Rivers isn't a good player for the fact that he played with his dad, and because he was expected to be the guy on a Clippers team that wasn't all that good to begin with.
Austin Rivers played well, and has improved every year of his career. He is a guy that can play on both ends of the floor and has a high motor all the way to the final minutes of every game. John Wall and Bradley Beal need help scoring the basketball, and by putting Austin Rivers at the small forward position, they could improve their offense immensely.
The trio works on both ends of the floor and the Wizards shoot up to the 3 seed next season. They make it to the second round and maybe even the Eastern Conference Finals depending on where Lebron goes. This fresh start trade could essentially be the steal of the summer.
Worst Case Scenario: Scottie Brooks hasn't been known to get the best out of a good trio of scorers, and next season won't be any different. He attempts to make Austin Rivers the backup shooting guard and tries to plug him as the Sixth Man. Either, or both, John Wall and Bradley Beal gets hurt and Rivers steps up and plays well in their absence.
The playoffs roll around and the Wizards are the 6 seed with all of their guys now healthy. Brooks puts Rivers back on the bench and the entire camaraderie of the team is thrown off. Wall and Beal try to play iso ball again and Rivers is stuck trying to pull the team through in crunch time.
They lose in the first round to the Pacers, Brooks gets fired, and Rivers has had enough of this one year experiment. The Wizards are stuck with John Wall and Bradley Beal and an empty list of coaches who want to go there. Marcin Gortat subtweets about the Wizards and petty NBA Twitter wins again.
I can't believe Doc Rivers traded his own son lmaoooo
The NBA season is now sadly over, but it allows us time for reflection. We can look back on the season as a whole, starting from draft day, to free agency, to trades, to summer league, to preseason, regular season, and the inevitable Finals that was very predictable yet somehow was still not predicted by everyone (@ me). As I have looked back on everything that happened in the 2017-2018 season, there is one thing that stood out to me above all others. This may be the deepest NBA Rookie class we have ever seen.
Ok, now before you guys get all crazy let me clarify that I said deepest not best or most talented. This draft contained a steady level of talent from the first pick to deep into the second round. Yes, the 1984 rookie class had 4 Hall of Famers in Akeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton.
And yes, 2003 may be the best challenger to this debate with the deep level of talent it brought to the NBA including 4 future Hall of Famers in Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. That rookie class also had Mo Williams, Kirk Hinrich, TJ Ford, Mickael Pietrus, Luke Ridnour, David West, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Steve Blake, Willie Green, Zaza Pachulia, Matt Bonner, Kyle Korver, and Mr. I'm Always in the NBA Finals James Jones. *Takes deep breath* WHEW! Ok 2003 was crazy, but this year will also go down as one of the greatest we've ever seen.
The First Team
By now, I'm sure all of you have seen the votes for First and Second Team All-Rookie for this season. The First Team not only had five great players, but five guys who are looking to change the game completely.
Lauri Markkanen [Chicago Bulls] is a 7-foot center from Finland who broke the NBA record for fastest player to make 100 three-pointers and shot 85% from the free throw line.
Kyle Kuzma [Los Angeles Lakers] was the second leading scorer amongst rookies and put up numbers that no Lakers rookie has since the Black Mamba.
Donovan Mitchell [Utah Jazz] led all rookies in scoring, led his team to 48 wins, went toe-to-toe with Russel Westbrook in round one and won, and broke the record for most three pointers made by a rookie with 187.
Ben Simmons [Philadelphia 76ers] (the redshirt rookie) dominated the floor in every way possible, putting up numbers that have not been reached by a rookie since Oscar Robertson.
And the guy who had the best rookie season from day one all the way until Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals was Jayson Tatum. He stepped up and went shot for shot with Lebron James when his Celtics team was decimated with injuries.
The Second Team
The Second Team could've easily been the First Team for most other seasons.
Dennis Smith Jr. [Dallas Mavericks] was the wild card of this year's rookie class, as he showed flashes of unbelievable athleticism for a point guard, making every night his living highlight reel.
John Collins may be the least sexy name on here, but this guy did all the little things right on a Hawks team that couldn't do anything right.
Lonzo Ball [Los Angeles Lakers] didn't live up to the incredibly high expectations, but he has shown his relentlessness and durability as he played more minutes per game than any other rookie.
Josh Jackson made the Suns fun to watch, which is a very hard thing to do. His strong play towards the end of the season gave us a taste of what we might see next year.
Bogdan Bogdanovic [Sacramento Kings] probably has the best name in the NBA right now. But seriously, this guy was letting it fly from three all season, he is learning how to create his own shot off the dribble, and he won the Rising Stars Challenge MVP.
For all of the occasional NBA watchers out there, you may not know a lot of these names now, but this talented group of guys is built to be franchise players, champions, and journeymen for the rest of their careers. We can't talk about the rookie class without talking about the number one pick in Markelle Fultz. The somewhat disappointing season turned into a not so disappointing one when he finally got to play. He put in some good minutes off the bench, even turning in a triple-double in one of his few games. His upside is still incredibly high, and it'll be interesting to see how he responds after a full NBA offseason.
De'Aaron Fox [Sacramento Kings] is a guy that I got to see in person a few times this year. His explosiveness and ability to get to the rim for a point guard made him hard to guard but fun to watch.
Frank Ntilikina was just picked by the wrong team at the wrong time. The New York Knicks have not done anything for this kid's development so far, but with his size and his ability to shoot the ball efficiently, he can definitely improve under the right coaching.
Zach Collins [Portland Trailblazers] helped lead Gonzaga to their first National Championship game as a freshman. The 7' center has the potential to be Damian Lillard's main big man if he is given more responsibility next season.
Malik Monk [Charlotte Hornets] finished off the season with a strong month of April where he shot 48% from the field. He has the opportunity to be one of the league's most versatile wingmen if he can continue to improve his jump shot.
Bam Adebayo [Miami Heat] came in and took Hassan Whiteside's job for a big portion of the season. His size and strength made it incredibly hard for opposing teams to keep him off the boards, and his nose for the ball made it even more difficult for guys to shoot over him.
Justin Jackson [Sacramento Kings] showed flashes of athleticism when he actually got to play. Just a quarter of his shots came in the form of dunks or lay-ups. At 6'8" if he can improve his driving ability, it will only make it that much harder to guard him.
Terrance Ferguson [Oklahoma City Thunder] is a high flyer from Australia. He made some incredible dunks throughout the season that put him on House of Highlights. If he steps in a couple feet from the three-point line, he could have a very effective mid-range game that could change his career.
Jarret Allen [Brooklyn Nets] came into the league and did exactly what he did in college, rebound and defend. Every team needs a guy like him, and he will find himself on an NBA squad for a very long time.
OG Anunoby [Toronto Raptors] was given a lot of responsibility this season and he delivered all year long. He had the tallest task of them all when he was asked to guard Lebron James in the playoffs, but that will only help him for the future.
Josh Hart [Los Angeles Lakers] was a name that was brought up when discussing Rookie team snubs. He was an extremely efficient shooter all season, as he shot over 43% in 6 out of the 7 months in the season.
Dillon Brooks [Memphis Grizzlies] was the clutchest late game scorer in college when he was at Oregon. With the injury to Mike Conley, he was able to log big minutes and shot 44% from the field and 35% from three-point range.
Sterling Brown [Milwaukee Bucks] isn't just Shannon Brown's brother, he's much more. At 6'5" he was able to get more than half of his shots up from within 16 feet of the basket. And he also was a victim of police brutality, but we'll get into that another day.
Jordan Bell [Golden State Warriors] was a steal, as he was by far the best defender in the draft last season. He showed what he could do on the biggest stage of them all, showcasing the depth of this draft.
That was a lot, huh
This isn't just another rookie class. This isn't just a list of NBA players who played good and even great at times. This is a group of guys that are going to change the game of basketball. Look, I know the Finals sucked, but don't let that distract you from the fact that the season was still incredible and that the NBA is the best league in the world. When it's all said and done, this will be the best rookie class in NBA history, and you are all witnesses to it.
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.