2017 NBA Draft: My Top Ten Picks

As the NBA season concludes with the Golden State Warriors winning it all, lets shift gears and look to the future, and what better way to do that then evaluating the 2017 NBA Draft? This years class has the potential for greatness, with a bevy of skilled guards and a nice mix of versatile forwards, I don’t expect the rookie class of 2017 to disappoint. But who’s going where? Is Lonzo heading to L.A? Who are the Knicks going to get? Lets take a look.

1st Overall Pick, Philadelphia 76ers: Thanks to some last minute negotiation, the Philadelphia 76ers have once again landed the first overall pick, and it seems like Philly has their sights set on Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is one of the most highly touted players to enter the NBA in recent memory, and for good reason; in his lone year as a Husky, Fultz separated himself from the pack as not only an elite guard but as one of the best players in all of College Basketball. As a freshman, Fultz averaged 23 points, five rebounds, six assists, shot 47% from the field, a nice 41% from three, and averaged a player efficiency rating of 27.9. The 6’4″ 195 pound guard has good size for his position, is an efficient and skilled inside scorer, has a quick and consistent jump-shot, and has an extremely high basketball IQ. Fultz Mark fis also an elite-level athlete with an ability to rise above the rim with ease, an aspect of his game that will only enhance an already athletic Sixers roster. If drafted by the 76ers, I envision Fultz splitting time with Simmons as the lead ball handler on the squad, something he should be able to adequately do with his solid shooting ability. With that being said, there is a possibility for complications to arise for Fultz in Philly, as his playmaking and shot-selection could use improvement.

2nd Overall Pick, Los Angeles Lakers: For the second year in a row, the Lakers have finessed the second overall pick in the NBA draft…the only question is, who are they going to draft with it? As soon as the draft lottery concluded last month, everyone assumed the Lakers would be selecting Lonzo Ball out of UCLA with the second pick. With the way things are shaping up, I believe this was a safe assumption. Lonzo Ball is a big guard with a sweet outside shot and an ability to create offense for his teammates, and while Magic Johnson was never exactly a sharpshooter, I think that the new Lakers president of basketball ops wants the chance to mentor Ball. In his freshman campaign at UCLA, Ball put up some nice number; the face of Big Baller Brand averaged 14 points, six rebounds, nearly eight assists, shot a healthy 55% from the field, 41% from deep, and contributed 6.8 win shares to the team. And while many are enamored with Ball’s skill as a shooter and scorer, it is the Bruin’s ability to effect the game in multiple ways that will make him an NBA talent. Ball is an underrated passer with exceptional vision and a willingness to pass, a talent I belieLonzove will only be improved under the tutelage of Luke Walton and Johnson. If the Lakers do draft Ball, I hope and believe the young guard embraces whatever role his is thrust into as L.A. gears up for a rebuild. On the next level, I hope to see Ball mature physically so he can be a more adept defender and to see him transition into a more consistent shooter, as his shot proved to be somewhat streaky in college.

3rd Overall Pick, Boston Celtics: Another season and another year that Danny Ainge has proven why he is one of the best front office guys in the NBA. Ainge put together a team in Boston that not only made the Eastern Conference Finals, but a team that also had the number one pick in the draft before he unloaded it for the third pick and another future first round selection. But what will Ainge do with the third pick? I think I have an idea. With the third pick in the 2017 NBA draft, I think the best option for Boston would be to draft the wing scorer out of Duke in Jayson Tatum. As a freshman in Durham, Tatum had a nice season putting up 17 points a night, grabbing seven rebounds, getting two assists, and shooting 45% from the field and 34% from three. Tatum also boasted a 22.0 player efficiency rating and contributed 4.1 win shares over the season, showing how effective his play was for Coach K and the Blue Devils. Tatum is a big forward at 6’8″ with a deadly mid-range jump shot, solid athletic ability, underrated post moves, and a knack for getting buckets. His ability to play both the small forward as well as the small-ball four, coupled with his potential to space the floor with his shooting will be well utilized by a BosJay Tateton team that could use a go-to second option. In the NBA, Tatum should look to improve as a defensive player, as he often loses focus on defense and can allow easy baskets. Also, if Tatum is playing the four position in the League, I expect him to have difficulty guarding some stronger power forwards as a 205 pound rookie.

4th Overall Pick, Phoenix Suns: Once again the Phoenix Suns have found themselves selecting high in the lottery, but unlike some of the previous teams I’ve discussed, Phoenix’s decision is going to be a bit tougher. At this point in the draft, especially in this years class, there is still a nice selection of players the Suns can get, it simply depends on what they are looking for. The Suns have the possibility to draft point guard De’Aaron Fox and pair him up with fellow Kentucky guard, Devin Booker. I believe this could be a match made in heaven, as Fox is already a very solid defender at only 19 years old with a respectable wingspan of 6’6″, as well as a proven playmaker who has showcased an ability to efficiently run an offense. In his freshman year under Coach Cal, Fox averaged close to 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists, while shooting 48% from the field with a PER of 22.0. Fox was also a critical member of the Wildcats success, as he contributed 5.1 win shares over the course of the 36 game season. I have faith that if drafted by Phoenix, Fox will have a nice role on one of the more underrated young teams in the DeaaronNBA, helping the Suns eventually rise in the West. On the NBA level, Fox will need to continue improving his three point shot as he shot an abysmal 24% from deep over the course of his one year college career. As a side note, the next guy I will be talking about would also be a nice fit for Phoenix, and I can see him and Fox switching spots.

 

5th Overall Pick, Sacramento Kings: While I hope this is one of the last seasons the Kings are selecting in the lottery, I doubt it is. Regardless, Sacramento’s front office has a chance to get a player that can be a piece of their rebuild, a piece named Josh Jackson. Jackson is a 6’8″ small forward with elite level athleticism, a nice playmaking ability, has solid rebounding skills, and is a guy who is unafraid to make the hustle play. In my opinion, this former Jayhawk is not only one of the safest picks of the draft, but a player with one of the highest upsides in the draft. As a freshman at Kansas, Jackson averaged 16 points, a strong seven rebounds, three assists, averaged a player efficiency rating of 24.1, and contributed 4.9 win shares. The Kings are looking to rebuild around some of their young pieces, selecting Jackson with this pick would help tKansas Jayhawks - January 28, 2017his movement exponentially, as they add a player with excellent athleticism and a solid all-around game. It should be noted that in his lone year at Kansas, Jackson shot 37.8% from three, quelling any ideas people had about him not being able to consistently shoot. As an NBA player, Jackson should look to add moves to his offensive game, as creating offense against NBA wings is much harder than against college kids.

6th Overall Pick, Orlando Magic: This pick is quite possibly going to be a toss up, as the Magic are not the most reliable team when it comes to drafting. With that being said, I expect them to select FSU forward Jonathan Isaac with the sixth overall pick. The first thing you notice about Isaac is his length; at 6’10” 210, Isaac is a long, yet thin forward with solid athletic ability and a nice shooting form, an excellent combo in todays NBA. As a freshman at Florida State, Isaac averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, one assist, shot 50% from the field, 34% from deep, and boasted one of the better PERs in college hoops at 24.6. The Magic have been looking for a young versatile wing for years, if they select Isaac, I believe they will have found their guy. In the NBA, Isaac is going to need to work on being aggressive on both sides of the floor, add some weight to his thin frame, and improve on his defensive IQ.

7th Overall Pick, Minnesota Timberwolves: Unlike many of the previous teams on this list, I expect this to be one of Minnesota’s final years selecting in the lottery. And with the seventh pick in the draft, I think the Timberwolves would be striking gold selecting the forward from Arizona in Lauri Markkanen. As a seven footer, Markkanen posses an high level of agility that will help him both score and defend in the NBA. The Arizona product is also a big man that can score in a multitude of ways, whether this be scoring in pick an roll situations as the roller, or pulling up from the perimeter, Markkanen was one of the more versatile offensive players in all of the NCAA. As a freshman, Markkanen averaged 15 points, seven rebounds, and one assist, while shooting a stellar 42% from three shooting 4.4 deep balls per game. In 30 minutes a night, Markkanen was also very efficient, ending his collegiate career with a 25.0 player efficiency rating and an effective field goal percentage of 58%. The T-Wolves need a solid player at the power forward position, and with his ability to stretch the floor as well as score in a variety of ways, Markkanen would be a great fit. As he transitions into the Legaue, Markkanen will need to improve as a defensive player and rebounder in addition to adding muscle to his 230 pound frame.

8th Overall Pick, New York Knicks: As a New York native, I am genuinely excited about the options the Knicks have with this pick, barring any unruly and foolish actions by Phil Jackson. With the eighth selection in this years draft, the Knicks can either get dynamic scoring guard Dennis Smith Jr. out of NC State, or the Wildcat bucket in Malik Monk. For the sake of this mock draft and due to the needs of the Knicks, I will be selecting the former. Dennis Smith Jr. had an up and down year at NC State, as the Wolfpack struggled in the standings and Smith was plagued with questions regarding his character and shot selection. Regardless of all this, I am confident that Smith is a player ready for the NBA, and a player ready to help the Knicks. As a freshman, Smith averaged 18 points, six assists, four rebounds, recorded a PER of 23.1, and shot 35% from three. Smith is both one of the most explosive players in the draft, as well as one of the strongest guards in this class, a player that can blow by defenders as well as play the pick and roll effectively.  And though we did not see enough of it in his lone year at NC State, Smith is a solid playmaker with respectable vision capable of making a play when asked to do so. I can only imagine how great it will be to see Smith and Porzingis killing teams as a pick and roll duo…unless old man Jackson trades KP. In the League, Smith will need to improve as a playmaker, work on his decision making, and improve his defensive effort.

9th Overall Pick, Dallas Mavericks: As the Mavericks begin preparing for the post-Dirk years, this selection could prove to be critical. While it is possible Dennis Smith Jr. slips to the Mavs, it is a bit more likely Dallas’ front office selects Malik Monk with their ninth pick. If you’re a Mavericks fan, this should be a gift, as Monk is a solid overall player and one the best shooters in this entire class. In 32 minutes a game under Coach Cal, Monk averaged 20 points, two rebounds, two assists, a steal, and shot 39% from three while attempting 6.9 threes a game. Simply put, Monk is a bucket. A guy with an extremely quick first step, Monk is adept at both getting himself open for clean looks or driving to the rim with authority. As a freshman, Monk also displayed his passing ability on numerous occasions, hitting the open man or a diving cutter for an easy basket, an aspect of his game that will help him remain in the NBA for years to come. If drafted by Dallas, I can see Monk getting the start at either the point guard or off guard spot, or simply being the go-to-guy off the bench for a team in need of some offensive flare. One major weakness to Monk’s game is his small size at 6’3″ something that may prove to hinder him in a League filled with large experienced guards at both the one and two position.

10th Overall pick, Sacramento Kings: The tenth pick from the Kings is one that is majorly dependent on what they do with the fifth pick, but if they do select Josh Jackson earlier in the draft, I expect them to either take big man Zach Collins or French mystery man Frank Ntilkina. While Zach Collins is a safer pick than Ntilkina, the Kings already have a somewhat crowded front court with the emergence of Willie Cauly Stein as well as the developing Skal Labissiere. After doing some extensive research, I have come to the conclusion that Ntilkina should be the Kings pick at this point. Ntilkina has all of the physical tools to be a very good point guard at the NBA level, at 6’5″ with a wingspan over seven feet, Ntilkina has the tools to be an elite defender today. On Strasbourg IG, Ntilkina’s French team, the guard averaged close to six points, two rebounds, and 1.7 assists, while shooting 39% from three in only 19 minutes a game. While these stats do not blow you away, Ntilkina is a player that needs opportunity to thrive, something he will have plenty of in Sacramento. As a big guard, Ntilkina can shoot and make plays over shorter defenders, he is also already a strong defender, and his size will allow him to not only play but also guard multiple positions. While I do not see the Kings starting Ntilkina in his rookie year, if they select him, I expect them to allow him to develop into a versatile lead guard and eventually, a large piece of their future. As he enters the League, Ntilkina will need to improve as a playmaker, improve his shooting consistency, and work on his ability to effectively and efficiently run a complicated offense.

Good luck to all these guys tonight, and thanks for reading.

2017NBADraft

 

 

 

 

 

All Stats via BasketballReference.com/DraftExpress.com

All Images via Google

Question of the Week: Who is the 2016-’17 NBA ROTY

Rookie of The Year is one of my favorite awards, as it recognizes a first year player who who not only had a good first season but a player that shows potential for the future. While this years crop of rookies wasn’t stellar, a handful of rooks showed signs that they can be players in this League for a long time. The three finalists for this award did this and much more; from a second round pick who surprised to an injured big man who finally got a chance to shine, all the way to a sweet-stroking forward from overseas, these three rooks balled out. Let’s take a deeper look!

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: First off, it would be remiss of me if I did not point out the fact that Joel “The Process” Embiid was in fact drafted two years before he stepped on an NBA court to play. Therefore making the title of “rookie” somewhat tenuous in this big mans case. Nonetheless, Embiid was well worth the wait; in his first year of NBA action the center from Cameroon put up historic numbers, averaging a healthy 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a stifling 2.5 blocks and lead all rookies in player efficiency with 24.1. Embiid even etched his name in the history books with his play in his “rookie” campaign; per 36 minutes, “The Process” put up better stats in points, rebounds, and blocks than all-time greats such as Shaq, Hakeem Olajuwon, and David Robinson. Embiid also showed the league that he isn’t your typical center, as he shot an impressive 36% from three and a solid 78% from the stripe. But it joel ewasn’t all roses and daisies for Embiid in his first year; “The Process” needs to work on his ball security and his stamina, as he averaged a paltry 3.8 turnovers per game and was consistently gassed on court. With all that being said, Embiid’s “rookie” year was nothing short of awesome, as he showed with his much-improved jump shot and majestic post moves that he is willing to put in the work to become a potential superstar in the NBA. Joel Embiid has a legitimate chance of winning this award, and would be a lock for it if he had played more than a third of the Sixers games, but regardless of what happens on June 26th one thing is for sure, “The Process” is here to stay for a long time.

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks: If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the former UVA guard when the Bucks drafted him in the second round of last years draft. After witnessing Brogdon’s first year, it’s safe to say that Malcolm Brogdon has made me eat my words. In his rookie campaign, the 24 year old from Atlanta proved that he has all of the tools to not only make a name for himself in the NBA, but possibly be a crucial piece to a team on the rise in the Bucks. In 75 games, Brogdon put up ten points a night, four assists, three rebounds per game, shot 40% from deep, and proved to be a staunch defender as he grabbed 1.1 steals a game as well. Brogdon also showBrogdoned that he can run an offense when he got the start at point for Milwaukee in the Playoffs and kept his turnover numbers down (2.0 per game). Brogdon’s efficient and consistent play was critical in a solid year for the Bucks, as the team was better offensively when he was in the game, and suffered defensively when he wasn’t. While he doesn’t have a big time name or a super catchy nickname, Brogdon was quite possibly the most consistent rookie this year, something the young Buck deserves to be recognized for.

Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers: If you’re a Sixers fan, you have to be loving your chances at this award! A mystery man also drafted in 2014, Dario Saric entered the NBA with a splash in 2016-’17. The forward from Croatia proved that he is more than just project-player in 81 games for Philly; a player who benefited from a trade-deadline move, Saric really had a year after the All-Star break. After All-Star weekend’s festivities concluded, Saric seized his opportunity averaging 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, numbers that blew his pre All-Star break stats out of the water. Saric also displayed a sweet stroke in his first year, as he shot a solid 31% from three, 78% from the field, and maintained a field goal percentage above 40%. The 22 year old forward also displayed signs that he can be an effective two way pD-Sariclayer, as he posted a solid 106.9 defensive rating with an overall player efficiency rating of 12.84 (11th best among all rookies). If Saric can become a more consistent all-around player and improve his outside stroke as well as his finishing ability, I am confident he will be a large part of Philadelphia’s plans in the future. While I think it’s doubtful Saric brings home the ROTY trophy, his improved play over the course of the season should be recognized and noted, and hey anything is possible.

Prediction: While all three of these young finalists had respectable first years, I think Malcolm Brogdon is the most deserving of this award due to his consistent play throughout the entire season.

Honorable Mentions: Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks showed me that he is a hard-working big man who, with the right opportunity, will be a solid role player in this league. Phoenix Sun forward Marquese Chriss also had a very underrated season and should not be overlooked. Shoutout to some solid freshman campaigns from Lakers Center Ivica Zubac and Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Stats via ESPN.com/BasketballReference.com

All Images via Google

 

2017 NBA Finals Preview: The “Threematch”

Here we go again…For the third straight year, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are preparing for a World Championship showdown. Is anyone really surprised? The 73 win Warriors added a former MVP and one of the top five players in the NBA to their roster with the addition of Kevin Durant, anything short of a Finals appearance would have been a lost season. As for the Cavaliers, they still have a guy named LeBron James on their squad, meaning they had a strong chance of making it to the Finals from day one.

One major difference heading into the 2017 NBA Finals, is the fact that this years matchup has the most potential to be a modern day classic. For one, both teams are healthy going into tonight, a fact that enhances the overall quality of the series. Second, KD and LeBron are meeting in the Finals for the first time since 2012, a matchup that could be legendary if both stars perform. And finally, the tension between these two teams is electric, something I believe will lead to a very entertaining Finals experience. Yet the question still remains, which of these teams will be crowned Champions?

Overview: The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA, with a roster that boasts four All-Stars and a combined three MVP awards. And while it may not show in the win column, the addition of Kevin Durant has made this team better in nearly every aspect of the game. In his first year as a Warrior, the “Slim Reaper” put up 25 points a night, grabbedIMG_0344 a career high 8.3 rebounds, served up five assists per game, and shot a career best 53% from the field, and his contributions didn’t end there. Durant held the second highest player efficiency rating this year at 27.6, second to none other than his former teammate Russell Westbrook, while also improving as a defender, finishing the year with the sixth best defensive rating in the NBA. The effects of new-addition KD are obvious, as the 67 win Warriors lead the league in offensive efficiency, points per game, fast break points per game, assists per game, defensive efficiency, and steals/blocks per game. Simply put, GSW is a powerhouse team that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. But are they unstoppable? No. I am a firm believer in the fact that any team can be beaten on any given night, and there is no team better equipped to challenge the Dubs than Cleveland. LeBron is playing some of the best basketball of his career, averaging career highs in both assists and rebounds, once again silencing any talks of regression. But “King James” is going to have his hands full this go round, as effectively defending KD will be a grueling yet necessary task. Kevin Love is slowly but surely transforming into the player he was in Minnesota, averaging playoff career highs in field goal percentage, three point percentage, points per game, rebounds per game, and free-throw percentage. Love is a mismatch for Zaza Pachulia on both ends, and if he can outplay Draymond Green for the majority of IMG_0345the series when they are matched up, he will improve the confidence his teammates have in him while simultaneously enhancing the chance the Cavs have to win. As for “Chef” Curry and Kyrie Irving’s matchup, unless Irving checks the GSW guard with physical play and doesn’t allow Curry to get open off of screens, there is a good chance the two-time MVP goes off and lights up Cleveland this series.

Side Notes: 

  • Draymond Green has been talking a lot this past week, expect him to back it up.
  • If played meaningful minutes, Iman Shumpert could be a crucial piece to Cleveland’s success with his defense.
  • Iguodala has been struggling throughout the entirety of the Playoffs, I don’t see this changing as he is not 100% healthy.
  • Once again, J.R. Swish is going to need to step up on both sides of the ball in this series.
  • The me memory of last years Finals defeat should play a role in firing up the Warriors.

X-Factor for Cleveland: Tristan Thompson is going to need to take advantage of the relatively weak front court of the Warriors and refused to be bullied by Draymond Green on the boards.

X-Factor for Golden State: Klay Thompson has struggled throughout this postseason, he will need to regain his confidence and consistent stroke if he hopes to further increase GSW’s chance at redemption.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors in seven games…don’t @ me.

Question of the Week: Who is the 2016-’17 Defensive Player of the Year?

As we approach the unveiling of the NBA Awards recipients of the 2016-’17 season, we take a look at one of the more important awards of the year; the Defensive Player award. In the past, this award was often given to the best rim-protecting big man in the league, yet as the years have passed and the game has evolved, the DPOY award is now simply being given to the best defender the league has to offer.

The 2016-’17 DPOY candidates fit perfectly into this category, as the finalists boast a two-time DPOY winner, a guy who can guard all five positions on the top team in the league, and a quick footed shot-blocking beast in the paint. One of these defensive-gurus is taking home hardware this summer, the only question is who? Lets take an in-depth look at the finalists.

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: If you would have told me two years ago that Rudy Gobert would be an All-NBA Second Team player and a possible DPOY candidate four years into his career, I wouldn’t have believed you. Well here we are in 2017, and Rudy Gobert is setting this league ablaze, becoming and solidifying himself as one of the five best centers in the NBA with his stellar campaign this past season. Looking at Gobert’s all around performance in ’16-’17, he averaged career highs in almost every major statistical  category; Gobert put up 14 points, 13 rebounds, nearly two assists, and 2.6 blocks a night, while shooting 66% from the field. Gobert was Rudy Gobertalso able to raise his free-throw percentage from 57% to 65% this year, while maintaining his health and being ready for 81 of the Jazz’s 82 regular season games, a huge leap from only playing 61 games in 2015-’16. Focusing in on the “Stifle Tower’s” defense in ’16-’17, Gobert was astonishing; Gobert lead the league in defensive win shares (6.0), boasted the leagues third best defensive rating at 99.2, lead the league in both blocks per game as well as total blocks, and was crucial in preventing second chance points against the Jazz as Gobert finished the year fifth in defensive rebounds. A candidate for the award last year, Gobert was a different player in 2016-’17, a defensive beast that shut down offenses and anchored the Jazz on both ends of the floor, resulting in a much-needed Playoff berth for Salt Lake City. While Rudy Gobert may not yet be a household name, his dominant defensive ability will eventually get him there, making him a perennial contender for DPOY for years to come.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors: The second finalist for the DPOY award is none other than Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. Green is one of the more polarizing players in todays game, you either love him or hUSP NBA: PLAYOFFS-PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS AT GOLDEN S BKN GSW USA CAate him, regardless of where you stand on that subject, Draymond is in fact one of the premier defenders in the NBA. In 2016-’17, Green averaged 10 points, eight rebounds, a team high seven assists, a block, and two steals. Green was Mr. do-it-all for the Warriors once again this year, but it was his improved defense that should really be recognized. This past season, Draymond Green led the league in steals, boasted the fourth highest steal percentage in the league at 3.0, held the second highest defensive rating in the NBA (99.1), and was number one in the NBA in defensive plus/minus. The Warriors also en
ded the year with the best record in the league, thanks in large part to Green’s contributions on the defensive end, a fact I think will garner the Warriors forward some votes.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: NBA fans are particularly blessed in this day and age, as we have been able to see many forms of greatness over the past few years; from the otherworldly abilities of LeBron James to the farewell of an all-time great like Kobe Bryant, we as fans of this game should feel very fortunate. Another gift brought to us by the NBA, the meteoric rise of what looks to be a possible Hall of Fame player in Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, the second best all-around player in the NBA in my opinion, had a fantastic 2016-’17 season averaging a career high 25 points a night, six rebounds, a career best three and a half assists, while shooting 48% from the field and making 88% of his free-throws, another career high. The “ClaKawhi Dw” also maintained his reputation as lockdown defender number one in the NBA, as Leonard grabbed nearly two steals a game (was eighth in the NBA in steals as well as steal percentage), was among the top ten in the NBA in defensive rating, and contributed the sixth most defensive win shares in the Association at 4.7. Kawhi also posted a 27.62 player efficiency rating for the season, a personal best for the young forward as well as the third best in the NBA behind only Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard had a year for the ages this past season, embracing his role as go-to-guy for the Spurs while simultaneously maintaining his title of elite defender. I believe that this year, like the past two years Leonard won the award, is going to continue the trend of Kawhi being, a finalist for DPOY, and who knows, Kawhi may be taking home his third trophy come late June.

Prediction: While I expect Draymond Green to edge out the others for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, I hope voters note the tremendous impact Rudy Gobert had this season.

 

 

 

 

 

All stats via ESPN.com/Basketball-Reference.com

All images via Google.com

Question of the Week: Who is the 2016-’17 Sixth Man of the Year

Now that the Awards finalists for the 2016-’17 NBA season have officially been released, lets take a look at some guys who may be taking home hardware this summer. First up, the Sixth Man candidates! While this award isn’t the most glamorous, it is an important honor nonetheless that highlights the guys who provide a positive impact off the bench. Which of these three valuable bench-ballers do you think is going to be taking home the award this year? Check out my prediction down below.

Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets: A few years ago, Eric Gordon was being heralded as one of the next best shooting guards to grace the league. Unfortunately, Gordon was hit with numerous injuries over the past few seasons, derailing dreams of him becoming a perennial All-Star and possibly more. Here we are in 2017, and the narrative on Gordon has changed a bit: Eric Gordon, an excellent shooter backing up one of the best shooting guards in the league. After an ugly stint with New Orleans that saw the shooter decline with each season, Gordon made his way to Clutch City thisEric G past offseason, looking to improve a solid Rockets squad. At this point, it is safe to say Gordon succeeded in his goal. In his first year in Houston, Gordon put up some nice numbers, averaging 16 points, two assists, and nearly three rebounds as a reserve. Gordon was also cash from the three-point line, shooting 37% from deep and making 206 threes off the bench (the most threes off the bench since the three point era began in 1979-’80). Eric Gordon was crucial to the success of the Rockets, as his shooting and ability to
run an offense off the bench helped Houston maintain their high-octane offense while Harden rested. Whether Gordon wins the award or not, he has found a solid role for himself in Houston and will be a valued member of the team for years to come so long as he continues playing as he did in 2016-’17.

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors: Another season and another year Andre Iguodala is being considered for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Will the 33 year old wing finally take it home this year? In my opinion, there is a good chance Iggy finally brings home some hardware this summer. Looking at Iguodala’s stat line from 2016-’17, nothing pops out as amazing; he averaged slightly over seven points a night, grabbed three four rebounds, and dished out about three assists per contest. Yet when you take a deeper look into the 2015 FinalIggys MVP’s numbers, you can see where he has a case; Iguodala shot his best percentage from the free-throw line in seven seasons (70%), shot a career best from the field at 52%, and posted his best player efficiency rating in a Warriors uniform to date with 14.37. Iggy is also a member of the team with the best record in the NBA, something I believe will help his chances come June.

Lou Williams, Houston Rockets: Two years removed from his stint in Toronto, it would seem Drake’s favorite former Sixth Man has done it again. For two different teams, first Los Angeles and then Houston, Lou Will came off the bench and was quite simply a bucket. In 2016-’17 Williams averaged a combined career best 17.5Louuuuuu points, good enough to lead the league as a reserve scorer. Williams also shot 36% from three (38% in 58 games as a Laker), contributed two rebounds, three assists, and was among the top 15 players in the NBA when it comes to free-throw percentage. In his 11 years
as a pro, Lou Williams has showcased a consistent ability to score off the bench, something that I believe will keep him in the Sixth Man conversation for many years to come.

Prediction: While all there of these finalists are excellent candidates for the award, I personally believe Lou Williams will be crowned Sixth Man of the Year in June. I look forward to another Drake song based on Lou Will’s accomplishments in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Stats via ESPN.com/Basketball-Reference.com

All Images via Google.com

Playoff Preview: Western Conference

As the NBA Playoffs kick off this afternoon with some Eastern Conference games, lets take a look ahead at some of the Western Conference matchups that are soon to follow. Golden State Warriors v. Portland Trailblazers: Diving right into this Series, the Warriors are coming off of a great year and looking for a third […]

Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference

Now that the 2016-’17 regular season has officially concluded, lets take a look at some of the teams in the East looking to make a playoff push.

Boston Celtics v. Chicago Bulls: The Celtics have had an amazing year led by their diminutive star in Isaiah Thomas, finishing their ’16-’17 campaign at 53-29 and snagging the one seed. With the creative coaching of Brad Stevens, this Celtic team has ascended to the ninth best team in the league when it comes to offensive efficiency. Boston is also one of the best in the NBA when it comes to ball security, only committing 13.3 turnovers a game in comparison to their 25 assists per contest. Boston’s bench has been coming alive as of late, and I believe big contributions from Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson will be a necessity if they hope to avoid an upset in the opening round. The Bulls, on the other hand, had a less than stellar season, finishing with a .500 record of 41 wins and 41 losses. Addled by various injuries, internal issues, and a lack of perimeter shooting, Chicago was in a dogfight to make the post-season, but made itJimmy v IT.jpg nonetheless. With that being said, don’t count Jimmy Butler and the Bulls out just yet. Despite their current seeding at eight, Chicago is a hard-nosed team that thrives off of defensive-rebounding leading to fast break points (13.8 per game) against the Celtics (12.3). While only a small aspect of the game, if Chicago can come out aggressive in games and control the glass, they will give themselves a fighting chance against the Celtics smaller front court. The Bulls also have some favorable match ups on the defensive end with a versatile lineup filled with solid perimeter defenders such as the former Celtic Rajon Rondo, Dwayne “The Flash” Wade, and Jimmy Butler. If Chicago can contain Isaiah Thomas, through either trapping him or forcing him to take bad shots, Boston will be forced to find offense elsewhere.

X-Factors in this Series:  The X-Factor for the Bulls in this series will be veteran guard Rajon Rondo. If Rondo can be an effective defender and control the tempo of the game for Chicago, he will give them a legitimate chance at upsetting the Celtics. The Celtics X-Factor is going to have to be the defensive-minded forward, Jae Crowder. Crowder will most likely be matched up on Butler for a majority of the Series, and if he can contain the Bulls best offensive player, he will increase Boston’s chances of putting the Series away early.

Prediction: I expect this to be a dragged out low scoring series that will ultimately end with Boston winning in seven games.

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Indiana Pacers: Of all the Series set up in the East, this one has me most excited. There are just so many great storylines at play in this Series; the “slipping Cavaliers,” the rising Pacers looking to make a final push, and potentially exhilarating matchup between LeBron and Paul George. Cleveland had a storybook season last year, making it to the Finals and beating the reigning champion Warriors in seven games. And while the ’16-’17 regular season has not been as kind to the Cavs, who is to say they won’t dominate again in the post-season? Despite their losing record since the All-Star break, the Cavs are still one of the best teams in the NBA, and I honestly don’t think they will be tested in this opening Series. Ignoring the fact that playoff LeBron is an absolute monster, Cleveland has a lot of stats supporting their superiority to Indiana. On a basic note, the Cavaliers averaged 110.3 points per game in comparison to Indiana’s 105. 1, a clear indicator that the Cavs not only score more, but also get consistent three-point shooting. Cleveland also gets an average of three more rebounds per game than Indiana, a number I believe will be exaggerated due to the high-stakes nature of the post-season. On the other side of the Series, we have the upstart Pacers, another team who made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Indiana finished the 2016-’17 regular season at 42-40, ending the year strong on a five game win-streak. Unfortunately for all you Hoosiers out there, I don’t expect this winning to carry over into the post-season. While the Pacers are a relatively dominant team when it comes to scoring down low, 42 points in the paint per game, as well as the fact that they have a nice mix of young and veteran players, they are simply too inconsistent to win a seven game Series against a battle-tested team such as Cleveland. While I have no doubt Paul George will do his best to outgun LeBron and keNBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacersep his team close, at this point in both of their careers, James is still the better player and will ultimately win this matchup. Irving and Teague will duel, but I have a feeling the defense of George Hill will be missed when it comes to this point guard battle. Sharpshooter C.J. Miles will do his thing as the deep ball specialist on Indy, and the defense of Myles Turner will be an annoyance to Cleveland, but the sheer number of big men the Cavs have to throw at the young center will ultimately be too much.

X-Factors in this Series: The X-Factor for the Pacers in this two v. seven matchup will have to be their bench. With some bona-fide solid players as a second unit, Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson in particular, Indiana’s bench will need to provide some strong offensive power while their starters rest in order to push the Cavs. Kevin Love is the X-Factor for Cleveland in this first round matchup, as his rebounding will be a deciding factor in games.

Prediction: The Cavs should win this Series in five games, but I hope/expect to see an otherworldly performance from either Paul George or Myles Turner that will extend this first round battle to six games.

Toronto Raptors v. Milwaukee Bucks: While not as good as their 2015-’16 campaign, the Raptors have had a phenomenal year nonetheless, finishing the season as the three seed in the East at 51-31. The Raptors are a team in a good spot as they are getting healthy at the perfect time, and they seem to be improving the teams chemistry in recent weeks with the return of Kyle Lowry. A team that can beat you down with their offense, the 11th best field goal percentage in the league, Toronto is a team with not only lots of fire-power, but lots of pieces as well. DeMar DeRozan is one of the league’s best scorers, Serge Ibaka is still an elite-level defender, Kyle Lowry is a guard that can cook on both ends of the floor, Valanciunas is a solid rebounder and an improving post-up player, and the Raptor’s bench is one of the stronger ones in the NBA. On the season, Toronto has held teams to an average of 102.6 points a game, something that does not bode well for Milwaukee when you consider the fact that the Bucks only score an average of 103 points a game. But hold on before you count the young Bucks out just yet. Milwaukee has had a year of redemption after missingToronto Raptors v Milwaukee Bucks the post-season in an embarrassing showcase in ’15-’16, and I think they will find some success in this first round matchup. The Bucks are a fast team that thrives off of transition offense, they average 14 fast-break points per game, as well as a team that likes to pound it down low (48 points in the paint per game in comparison to Toronto’s 43). Milwaukee also benefits from a high-scoring bench that averages 39 points per contest. Looking at their lineup, Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo has had an absolute year, one worthy of the Most Improved Player award. Tony Snell has proven to be a great addition to the Bucks, as he provides a consistent 3-and-D option for Jason Kidd. The return of Khris Middleton has been a blessing for the Bucks, as his consistent shooting and strong defensive play is a reason the Bucks were so good in March. Rookie of The Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon has also been great for Milwaukee as a smart player and a quality passer/defender, but the Bucks would be foolish to depend on a rookie in a Series like this. When you add all of these factors together, the Bucks actually appear to have a chance; if Kidd and his team punch the ball down low and get the Raptors into some early foul trouble, they give themselves a strong chance to steal a game or two.

X-Factors in this Series: The X-Factor for Milwaukee is the low-post-load in Greg Monroe. A strong player who can score in the post as well as on face-up looks, Monroe will need to be an effective offensive player for the Bucks either coming off the bench or starting. Toronto’s X-Factor in round one is Kyle Lowry; Lowry has a reputation for disappearing in playoff Series, and if he wants to help his squad advance to the next round, he will need to assert himself defensively and allow DeRozan to be the focal point of the Raptors offense.

Prediction: The Bucks are young and scrappy, so I see them fighting out at least one win at home against the Raptors in what will ultimately be a five game Series in favor of Toronto.

Washington Wizards v. Atlanta Hawks: The Washington Wizards are one of the success stories of the 2016-’17 NBA season. A team that started off near the bottom of the East finally came together this year, and by utilizing everyone’s specific skills, eventually ascended to one of the top squads in their Conference. John Wall has had an outstanding year worthy of recognition, while fans were finally able to see how effective a healthy Bradley Beal can be. Otto Porter has finally taken that step forward, and has displayed an ability to be not only a solid third option, but a potentially elite three-point shooter. And the two bigs on the Wizards, Morris and Gortat, have remained consistently solid players on both ends of the floor, something that will be huge in Washington’s upcoming playoff push. The Wizards have a high octane offense and average about 109 points a game, but their defense will need to improve in the post-season, as they give up 107.4 points a contest as well. To go along with that high-octane offense, the Wizards get 16 fast-break points a game, a focus of their game I know will help them in this upcoming Series. While I wouldn’t exactly call the Hawks 2016-’17 a “success story,” they fought through a season of change and have made it to the post-season. But what type of noise will they make? The Hawks are a 43 win team that likes to play with a balance of both attacking from the perimeter as well as pounding the ball down low, creating a slowing tempo that can actually play to their advantage in this round one series. On the defensive side of the ball, the Hawks are a strong and physical team that is not afraid to body guys up when necessary(avg. 53.7 boards per game), a fact that I believe will be very apparent when playing the Wizards (avg. 50.6 rebounds per game). Taking a wider look at totto v paul millhe Series, the Hawks have a solid squad with an fringe All-Star in Paul Millsap, a rejuvenated Dwight Howard, and rising stars in both Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. With that being said, I believe that though the Wizards starting lineup is the superior one in the series. Marcin Gortat is a physical guy who won’t back down to Howard, and though Millsap outmatches Morris, the dynamic duo of Wall/Beal in the Wizard’s backcourt is still superior to the Schroder/Hardaway Jr. combo.

X-Factors in this Series: The X-Factor for ATL in this first round battle is going to have to be Kent Bazemore. Bazemore has struggled since the All-Star break for the Hawks, he is shooting an abysmal 70% from the free-throw line, has been losing minutes to Taurean Prince, and is shooting a lowly 40% from the field. If Bazemore does not get his game together and return to the form he was in last year as a defender and capable scorer, the Hawks could be in for a rough Series. The X-Factor for the Wizards is going to be Otto Porter Jr. I know John Wall and Bradley Beal will be ready when they are called on, but Porter has a bit of a habit of disappearing and missing assignments, something he will need to focus on in this years playoff festivities. I can see this first round matchup being a national stage for Otto to either shine or fade into darkness missing a golden opportunity.

Prediction: I believe that this Series has game seven potential due to the veteran nature of this Hawks team, but realistically, I see it going six games in favor of the Wizards.

2017-NBA-Playoffs-Preditions

 

 

 

 

 

All Stats via ESPN.com/TeamRankings.com

All Images via Google