March Madness Special: Top Ten Prospects Still in The Dance

In honor of the glorious event that is March Madness, I’m going to be taking a break from the NBA and focusing on some of the young stars in college. In this edition, I’m taking a look at some of the best players who have not only made it to the Tournament, but are still dancing as well. Here we go!

Josh Jackson, Kansas Jayhawks: Entering his college career as a highly touted recruit, it is safe to say that Jackson has lived up to expectations, and perhaps even exceeded some. Jackson is averaging 16 points, three assists, and a healthy seven rebounds per game for Kansas; Jackson also gets a steal and a block a game, and is turning the ball over 2.3 times per contest. Coming into his freshman year known as an athletic wing with an outstanding leaping ability, there were critics who believed Jackson was simply an athlete with a hitch in his shot. Well based on his performance this year and thus far in the Tournament, Jackson has silenced these critics and has proven he is a flat out scorer with the ability to do much more than just that. Jackson shot 38% from three during the season and over 51Josh Jackson% from the field, yet his abysmal 55% from the free throw line is concerning. Overall, Jackson is most definitely a player with loads of potential and numerous superb performances backing this up, I think it is very possible Jackson goes number one overall in June. I also see him and Kansas continuing their run in March.

*Miles Bridges, Michigan State Spartans: Having not watched a lot of MSU play during the season, it has been a treat watching the young Miles Bridges ball during the Tournament. A big 6’7″ 230 pound forward, Bridges is a player that has a lot more game than meets the eye. In his lone season at MSU, Bridges has averaged 16.7 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and swats one shot a game, while turning the rock over two times. And while Bridges may resemble a power forward, he shoots the ball like a guard, as he is shooting threes at a 39% clip. Bridges is an athletic strong player with a knack for being an on-court leader, making mid-range shots and a respectable rate, and can play much larger than his height suggests. I believe that if Bridges continues to focus on his shooting mechanics and improves on his defensive consistency and intensity, he will be a great player in the NBA. If he declares this June, Bridges should be a lotto pic, even though his Spartans didn’t make it to the Sweet 16.

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky Wildcats: For years, Kentucky has produced excellent players who find a way to continue being studs in the Association. I am confident this years class of Wildcats won’t disappoint. In Fox, John Calipari has a 6’5″ guard with the ability to both attack the rim as well as consistently make plays for his teammates. In his freshman year as a Wildcat, Fox averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and five assists, while swiping the ball once a game, and turning it over twice. A stat that should be noted for Fox: while he turned the ball over 47 times all year, he had 157 assists, triple the number of times he coughed it up. And when you watch Fox, it is apparent that he is always looking for his teammates, sometimes to a fault. One major downside to Fox’s game, his weak three point shot, as he shot the deep ball at a 23% clip this past season. Nonetheless, I am confident in Fox and his ability as well as mentality; if the young Wildcat decided to declare for the draft, expect him to go within the top seven picks. I also envision more March success for Fox and the Wildcats, as I am confident they will make the Final Four.

Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins: Despite all of the nonsense Ball’s father may spew, his son is one heck of a ball player. During his debut season at UCLA, the former Chino Hill’s star had a nice year; Ball averaged 14 points a night, six rebounds as a guard, and over seven assists, while stealing and turning the ball over twice. Entering this season, I believed Ball was overrated. I am not ashamed to say that I was wrong. Ball is a magician with the rock, placing pin-point passes into his teammates hands with shocking precision, and though I didn’t believe his unorthodox shot would translate to college, his 41% three point shot is impossible to doubt. Ball is also a vocal guy on the court, often directing plays and calling out ball screens wherever they appLonzoooear, something I believe will translate well in the League. Ball does need to work on his free throw percentage which is in the mid sixties, as well as become a more consistent player on a nightly basis in terms of ball security. When he declares, expect Ball to be a top five pick. And even though there have been many upsets this March season, I think the Bruins advance after tonight.

Frank Mason III, Kansas Jayhawks: Possibly one of the best players in all of college basketball, this guard on the Jayhawks is cold. A two year starter for Kansas, the senior guard has really stepped up this year; Mason III averaged 13 points last year, that has gone up to 21 in his senior campaign. He also contributes five assists a night, four rebounds at 5’11”, and steals the ball 1.3 times per contest. A player with a knack for getting buckets, Mason III is a hard man to stop on offense as he is so quick off ball screens, moves well without the ball, and is an adept ball handler. Mason’s shooting is also shocking, as he shoots the three at a startling 48%, nearly as well as his field goal percentage which is at 49%. While Mason III may not be a lotto pick, predominantly because of his 5’11” frame, I am confident he will make a name for himself in the League.

Jayson Tatum, Duke Blue Devils: Although I may not be a fan of Duke, you gotta love this kid Tatum. A 6’8″ Forward from Saint Louis, since his return from injury, Tatum has made Duke the frightening powerhouse they once were. After missing eight games to injury, Tatum came in and put on a show during his freshman campaign: averaging 17 points, nearly eight boards, two assists, and a block and a steal. Tatum also turned the ball over two and a half times. An athletic player with a solid stroke from outside (33% from three), Tatum is a guy who can put up big numbers any given situation. He is a strong player at 205 pounds who has the ability to play in the post, drive the lane, and has shown an ability to go coast to coast after a defensive rebound. If he declares for the draft, I guarantee Tatum will be a top five pick, I also have a sneaking suspicion that this may be Duke’s year…

Justin Jackson, North Carolina Tar Heels: A lanky kid from Texas, Justin Jackson is the silent killer of the NCAA. Now in his junior year,averaging 18 points, close to five rebounds, two assists, and only one turnover a game, Jackson has truly developed in his three years under Roy Williams. Jackson is also more aggressive on both sides of the court than he used to be, something that can be noted in his five steals in tonights win over Arkansas. Now the go-to guy for UNC, Jackson has stepped up to the challenge and become an excellent shooter from three, raining in deep buckets at a 38% clip. While I am unsure whether Jackson will declare or not, if he puts on weight and stays aggressive, I have faith that he will be a solid role-player in the NBA. I see the Heels making it to the Elite Eight.

Malik Monk, Kentucky Wildcats: If there was one player I would define as a straight up scorer in college hoops, it would have to be Malik Monk. This is the guy who went off for 47 back in December, and the same guy who averaged 20 points during his freshman year.  In addition to his 20 points, Monk also averaged two assists and rebounds, while shooting 82% from the stripe, and 39% from three. Oh yes, Malik Monk is an absolute bucket. A guy who is athletic enough to get around defenders, split defenses wiMonk manth his ball handling ability, while also dangerous enough from outside to attract attention from his teammates, Monk has a bright future. Monk is also clutch, not in the sense that he hits a lot of game winners, but in the sense that he makes timely buckets, something that was highlighted earlier today with his big three against Wichita State. While a great player, who will no doubt go top five come June, Monk needs to do more than just score as two assists and rebounds is simply not enough on the next level.

TJ Leaf, UCLA Bruins: The leading scorer on the Bruins, TJ Leaf is yet again another excellent player on the stacked Bruins. The 6’10” forward from Cali is about as diverse a player as they come, as he has an uncanny ability to both be an effective post player as well as a consistent and efficient outside scorer. In his freshman year at UCLA, Leaf averaged 16 points, a nice eight rebounds, and 2.4 assists per contest, while turning over the rock about once a game. Yet the impressive thing about Leaf is, at 6’10”, he shot the three at a superb 46% clip, going 26-56 throughout the year. Leaf is a big kid with excellent footwork, solid court vision, and a willingness to do the little things on the court. Although, I would like to see Leaf become a more aggressive defender and work on upping his free throw percentage. If he declares come June, I think Leaf should be a lotto pick.

Luke Kennard, Duke Blue Devils: While I was considering placing Edrice Adebayo from Kentucky at this spot, I think the Wildcats have had enough representation here, and this kid Kennard absolutely deserves some due. As a sophomore in Durham, Luke Kennard has broken the idea that he is only a sharpshooter with his play this year; Kennard is now averaging 20 points per game this year (up nine points from his freshman year), five rebounds, two assists, and shoots the lights out (44% from three and nearly 50% from the field). A deceptive player, Kennard is more athletic than he may appear as he possesses the ability to not only get his shots off running around screens, but also after shifty dribble moves he uses to create space for a nice mid-range jumper. And at only 6’6″, Kennard is a very solid rebounder who is not afraid of contact, something that will serve him well in years to come. Though I have a feeling Kennard may remain under Coach K for one more year, if he were to declare for this years draft, he’d go in the first round for sure. NCAA-March-Madness

 

2017 NBA Trade Deadline Review

February is one of the most exciting times in the NBA. The month encapsulates All-Star weekend and all of its joys, as well as the exciting and pressure packed Trade Deadline only a few days later. While All-Star weekend is more for the fans and to show appreciation for some outstanding players, the Trade Deadline is where real moves are made and contenders are discerned. Lets take a look at some of the moves made today.

Boogie Cousins to NOLA: On Sunday evening, nothing short of a blockbuster trade was made. In a deal sending DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to New Orleans in return for Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, as well as 2017 first and second round picks to Sacramento, a contender was made. Looking at the deal from the side of the Kings, they receive a young guard with a lot of potential in Buddy Hield, a very solid veteran player in Evans, and a nice backup piece in Langston Galloway. This was clearly a deal for the future in regards to Sacramento, as they will most likely struggle through the rest of this season on their way to hopefully drafting a nice player in the 2017 NBA draft. And while the Kings gear up for the future, it is the Pelicans who won the deal. Adding a player who averages 28 and 10 is no small feat, and when you couple that with another guy averaging 27 and 11, the possibilities are endless. I firmly believe that if head coach Alvin Gentry can install an efficient offense built around his two studly bigs in Davis and Cousins, while surrounding them with shooters and penetrating guards, this team will wreak havoc on the Association. It should also be noted that when healthy, Omri Casspi is a deadeye from three, around 40%, and that is a factor that only strengthens this team. Beware NBA, the Pelicans are coming.

The Raptors improve: Last week, Toronto made a move that sent Terrence Ross and a 2017 first round pick to Orlando in return for defensive big Serge Ibaka. Then earlier today, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri struck again by moving Jared Sullinger and two second round picks to the Suns for the defensive minded PJ Tucker. Both of these moves clearly display Toronto’s desire to not only compete for the East, but perhaps even make it out. By adding Ibaka, a stretch four who is an elite inside defender, they bolster both their offense as well as their defense. They also only gave up a streaky Terrence Ross and a first round Clippers pick, which shouldn’t be worth much. Looking at their PJ Tucker move, the Raps got rid of a player who rarely suited up for them in Sullinger, while adding a player with to ability to match physicality with a team like the Cavs. Only downside I see in this for Toronto, is the fact that they lost a lot of picks, something that can hurt in the future. As for Orlando, they did dump some salary while also gaining an athletic and young player, making it a respectable trade for them.

OKC gearing up: One of the larger trades of the day involved two teams fighting to stay in the playoff race in the respective conferences; the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC and Chicago linked up for a deal that sent Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second round pick to the Thunder in return for backup guard Cameron Payne, shooter Anthony Morrow, and young big Joffrey Lauvergne. This was a big deal because of what it represents for both teams. By adding a veteran big man and underrated post player in Gibson, the Thunder are clearly making a push for the postseason. The addition of Doug McBuckets supports this, as he is being swapped for a struggling shooter in Morrow. I think both of these guys will help the Thunder continue to compete, and I am confident they’ll see a lot of time. The Bulls also made a solid deal as they added a nice backup guard in Payne, as well as a nice offensive player in Lauvergne.

Mavs swipe Nerlens Noel from 76ers: In an afternoon deal sending second year forward Justin Anderson, defensive guru Andrew Bogut, and a very protected first round pick to Philly for Noel, Mark Cuban and the Mavs pulled a fast one. This trade is okay for Philadelphia as they get a defensive minded young player in Anderson, and a pick, but they failed to flip Bogut for another asset and he will most likely be bought out and join a playoff bound squad. This trade was a major win for the Mavericks, as they add a strong and mobile defender in Noel, who is only 22 years old. This is perfectly in line with what the Mavs will have to do as Nowitzki ages and the franchise must endure an overhaul. On a side note, a duo of Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel could be scary in coming years.

The Rockets ready for takeoff: The Rockets made multiple moves leading up to the three PM deadline; acquiring Six Man Lou Will, leads league in points off bench, only strengthens a strong Rockets bench. Corey Brewer wasn’t doing much for the Rockets this year anyways and a guard tandem of Eric Gordon and Williams off the bench would scare any NBA team. The Lakers get another vet who can defend, as well as a first round pick in an excellent draft class.Earlier today, the Rockets also traded KJ McDaniels to the Nets, a player who was not significant to the Rockets team. This is a good move for Houston because they are freeing up about three million in cap space. This move doesn’t mean much for a struggling Nets team, but I do believe McDaniels will continue to be a quality defender in Brooklyn. Finally, the Rockets also traded point guard Tyler Ennis to the Lakers for more established backup guard, Marcelo Huertas. This is another small deal that will mean more for the Rockets, as the Lakers are mostly just adding youth and shooting in Ennis.

Smaller Moves: Roy Hibbert is now a Nugget. Ersan Ilyasova is going to finish his solid year in Atlanta after being swapped by the Sixers for Tiago Splitter and their second round picks. The Hawks also moved stretch-four Mike Scott to Phoenix for cash considerations.

 

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All-Star Snubs and Shocks

As All-Star Weekend events are finalized and the teams are set, I figure it is time for me to take a look at some of the players who didn’t quite make the cut for the NBA’s wildest weekend as well as some of the more shocking news surrounding All-Star 2017. Here we go.

Snub-Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: While this may come as a shock to some, I believe that Rudy Gobert was snubbed for this years All-Star game. The Stifle Tower is having a strong year, averaging career highs in minutes, rebounds, points, and free throw percentage, while blocking 2.5 shots a game and has become a reliable third/fourth option for the Jazz’s offense. More importantly, Gobert has officially become the defensive anchor for the Utah Jazz, and is one of the reasons the Jazz are 32-19 and in rudy-gthe Playoff hunt for the first time in a long time. Through 51 games this season, Rudy Gobert has contributed 4.0 wins just on his defense alone, while this stat may not seem like much, it should be noted as it illustrates the impact Gobert has had in 2016-’17. Rudy Gobert is averaging 13 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2.5 blocks, shooting 65% from both the field and the free throw line, and has a player efficiency rating of 22.30. I would have selected Rudy Gobert over DeAndre Jordan.

Shock: Russell Westbrook isn’t starting the 2016-’17 NBA All-Star game… Well now that I have recovered from my initial shock,  I may as well speak on this injustice. Russell Westbrook is one of the three best point guards in the NBA, quite possibly the best, as he is averaging a triple double of 31 points, ten rebounds, and ten assists. Disregard the fact that no one has averaged a triple double for a season since Oscar Robertson did it decades ago, and look at the simple truth that Russell Westbrook is having a vastly superior year to the starting PG in theruss West, Wardell Stephen Curry. Many will say that Curry was rewarded for his teams record, something I completely disagree with simply because of the fact that the Warriors already have three other All-Stars on the team. Is that not reward enough? Plus, Westbrook has lead a weak Thunder team to a respectful 29-22 start in the West, where’s his reward?

Snub-Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: Another year and another All-Star snub for Mike Conley Jr. Simply put, while Tony Allen and Zach Randolph may be the heart of the Grizzlies, and where Marc Gasol adds his flare and flash to Memphis, there is no question that Conley is the leader in the Grindhouse. An efficient player with solid stats of, 19 points per game, four rebounds, six assists, 1.3 steals, and 39% from three, Mike Conley has been a consistent floor general in this league for the past three seasons. Taking on a larger role as a scorer for Memphis, averaging career high point total, cap-conleyConley is reaching his potential as a great all-around point guard in this league. He has been extremely efficient, a PER of 21.9, and has contributed a total 5.2 win shares to the Grizzlies, no small feat. I just believe that its time to recognize a guard in the West on a smaller market team who deserves to the recognition for their play. If I was to swap someone out for Conley, it would be Klay Thompson without a doubt.

Other Shocks: DeMarcus Cousins isn’t starting for the West? I understand Anthony Davis is having himself a year, but when will Boogie get his due, the guy is the best big man in the NBA! Paul Millsap is an All-Star after having a slightly above solid start to the year, but Joel Embiid is a revelation for a somewhat-respectable Sixers team and still catches the snub? There is something wrong with that picture. Gordon Hayward is finally an All-Star! This was definitely a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

Stats via ESPN.Com/Basketball-Reference.com

Images via Google.com

 

2017 All-Star Game Starter Predictions

As the official list of 2017 NBA All-Star starters is set to be released tonight at 7 PM, let’s take a look at the list of guys I believe will be starting in New Orleans.

Eastern Conference:

Guard 1, Isaiah Thomas: To keep things short and sweet for the little fellow, Isaiah Thomas has absolutely been balling this year. Thomas is having an MVP caliber year, averaging nearly 29 points, six assists, 2.7 rebounds, and shooting the best percentages of his career from both the free throw line as well as the field. Thomas has been the clear leader for Boston this year, and his fourth quarter heroics is the biggest reason the Celts are 26-16 and the three seed in the East.

Guard 2, DeMar DeRozan: Joining Thomas in the backcourt for the East should be Toronto Raptor swing man DeMar DeRozan. Simply put, DeRozan has been balling this year. He is averaging a career high 28 points, four assists, and a career high 5.4 rebounds, while shooting a nice 47% from the field and draining 84% of his free throws getting to the line about eight times a game. DeRozan came into this year with a mission, return to the Eastern Conference Finals, and he is well on his way to achieving it as the Raptors are 28-14 and the second best team in the East. It should also be noted that DeRozan has had over 15 30+ point scoring games and has had three games where he’s poured in at least 40. Oh yeah, I think this is a safe pick.

Forward 1, Jimmy Butler: While Chicago has had its issues this season, there is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy Butler should be starting in this years All-Star game. The Butler is averaging 25 points (four more than last year), serving up a career high five assists a game, and pulling down a career high 6.8 rebounds. Most importantly, Jimmy Butler is the reason the Bulls are winning games. He is contributing 7.7 win shares, third in the NBA behind Westbrook and Durant,  and without him I have no clue where the Bulls would be this year.

Forward 2, LeBron James: The King of the East is at it again in 2016-’17, putting up big numbers and leading his team to the top of the Eastern Conference. James is averaging a strong 25 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, to go along with a steal a game, and is shooting 37% from downtown. James has been doing this for years now, and considering how efficient he has been this year, it looks like he’ll continue doing it for years to come. The Cavaliers are best in the East as expected with a healthy 29-11 record.

Forward 3, Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak has put the NBA on notice this year, and I believe it will pay off in the form of a start at the 2017 All-Star Game. Averaging nearly 24 points, five assists, close to nine boards, along with two steals and two blocks a game, all while shooting a beautiful 53% from the field, Giannis has been a beast in the seasons first half. Antetokounmpo is also third in the NBA when it comes to player efficiency, something that should not be taken lightly. Finally, The Greek Freak also has his Bucks on the cusp of a playoff berth, a big factor that I believe will help the young player. Milwaukee is currently 20-21 and ninth in the East.

Western Conference:

Guard 1, Russell Westbrook: This pick is easy as DangeRuss has been feasting on the league all season long. The guy has 21 triple doubles, is leading the league in points, and has made an OKC team with little expectations a six seed team in a tough Western Conference. Westbrook is averaging 30.6 points, ten rebounds, and just over ten assists, while leading the league in PER with a 29.6, and is having one of his best years shooting the three. One of the frontrunners for the MVP race, Westbrook is getting this starting spot, my only question is how far will he lead his Thunder this post-season. OKC is 25-19 and tied for sixth place in the West.

Guard 2, James Harden: In my opinion, Harden should have been the League MVP in 2015, and the fact that he was left off of all three All-NBA teams last year was unfair. Well 2016-’17 looks to be the season The Beard corrects all of this as he is playing well enough for that MVP trophy this year, and anyone who thinks he isn’t a first team All-NBA player will be sorely mistaken come spring. Harden is averaging 29 points, eight rebounds, and is dishing up a league high 11.6 assists per game. Harden also has a strong player efficiency rating of 28.07 and is also leading the league in free throws attempted. But it is not just the Beard balling in H-Town, as the team is 33-12 and sitting as the three seed in the West right now.

Forward 1, Kevin Durant: The former OKC superstar has been a beast in Oakland till this point. He is averaging a strong 26 points, eight rebounds, nearly five assists, and is turning the ball over a career low 2.3 times per game. It is fair to say that Warrior ball suits the Slim Reaper, and I am confident he will be the starting SF for the Western Conference. Durant and the Warriors are sitting on the NBA’s best record at 36-6.

Forward 2, Kawhi Leonard: While I wanted to give this position to Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, I believe it will go to Kawhi of the Spurs predominantly because of his superior team record. With that being said, Kawhi has been cooking all year long. The Claw is averaging a career and team high 25 points, five rebounds, and 3.1 assists, while stealing the ball twice per game, and blocking it once and a half per contest. Kawhi has also been very efficient, as he is shooting 48% from the field, 41% from three, and has the second best PER in the Association. The Spurs and Kawhi are having a hell of a year, and I hope he is rewarded as a starter in the All-Star Game. The Spurs are the West’s second best team at 32-9.

Forward 3, DeMarcus Cousins: One of my favorite players in the NBA today, Boogie Cousins is an absolute monster. In my opinion, he is a top five player in the NBA on a horrible team with poor management, but that does not stop Boogie from balling. Cousins is averaging a career high 28 points, a career high 4.4 assists, adding ten rebounds a night, and shooting not only 51% from the field, but has one of the NBA’s better three point percentages at 37% from deep. While the Kings have had some struggles, 16-25 this year, Cousins has been phenomenal and deserves to start in the All-Star Game in New Orleans. I only hope Zaza Pachulia doesn’t beat him out.

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Davis, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward

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Stats via ESPN.com/Basketball Reference.com

Image via Google.com

 

Deserving First Time All-Stars in 2017: Eastern Conference

With 2017 rolling around and NBA All-Star voting kicking off, let’s take a look at some Eastern Conference players who deserve to be recognized for their play in the first part of the season.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker has come a long way since being a key member of the 2011-’12 Bobcats (debatably worst team in NBA history). Walker is coming off of a nice 2015-’16 season in which he recorded career highs in scoring and three point percentage, yet was still snubbed for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. I believe 2017 will be a different story for Kemba. Averaging a career high 22.7 points, slightly over five assists, four rebounds, and shooting nicely from the floor (46%) and exceptionally well from three at (40%). More importantly, Kemba has transformed himself into a true leader for the Hornets. He is more vocal than past yekembaars, and seems to be more willing to pass instead of dribble for half of the shot clock. The Hornets are also fourth in the East at 19-15, and Kemba is leading the show on all fronts, something well recorded in his career high player efficiency rating of 22.7. It will not be easy for Kemba to make the All-Star squad, as there are a lot of great guards in the East on teams with larger markets and more well-known names (Isaiah Thomas, John Wall, Dwayne Wade).  But when you look at his steady improvement and growth as a player, there is no doubt in my mind that Kemba  should be an All-Star in 2017.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: Known as the “Greek Freak” to most, Giannis Antetokounmpo is making a name for himself in the 2016-’17 season. After being drafted as the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, no one had any great expectations for this lanky Nigerian kid from Greece. Maybe he would turn out to be a nice role player who would be on a few teams in his career, always in the hunt for a ring. Well it’s safe to say Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken control of his destiny and is showing all he has to offer the NBA this year; Antetokounmpo is averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals, shooting a career high 53% from the field, and with a player efficiency rating of 28.9. This 22 year old, yes he is onNBA: Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucksly 22, is setting the league ablaze in a campaign that is nothing shy of spectacular. The Bucks are 16-16 and sitting on the seven seed in the East; if Milwaukee can improve this record to a few games above .500 and the “Greek Freak” continues putting up “freakish” stat lines, I believe he will be a lock for the Eastern All-Star team.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: I have been a fan of Bradley Beal’s all-around offensive game since his playing days at Florida, so it only feels right for me to vouch for his appearance in the 2017 NBA All-Star game. It doesn’t hurt that his play in 2016-’17 has been phenomenal thus far. As John Wall’s backcourt mate in DC, Beal is putting up a career high in points at 22 a game, a career high 3.6 assists, nearly three boards, and is shooting a career high 45% from the field and a strong 39% from downtown. Beal has come out this year looking strong offensively and is a big factor Washington is sitting as the six seed in the East after a rough start to the season. Beal has shown a kbrad-bealiller instinct this year, stepping up his offensive game to another level that compliments John Wall’s abilities so well and may even push the Wizards into the playoff race. If Beal can return from his injured ankle and be effective and efficient, has a 19.6 PER for the season thus far, while helping the Wizards win games, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be an All-Star. It should be noted that due to the high chances of Beal’s teammate John Wall getting voted into the All-Star game, this could hurt Beal’s chances as coaches may be reluctant to vote two Wizards into the All-Star game event.

 

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: Last year New York fans thought that the Porzingod should be an All-Star, something that I did not agree with at all. But in 2016-’17, Porzingis is averaging a nice 20 points per game (six more than last year), eight boards, one assist, two blocks, and is shooting the lights out from three at 40% (up from his 33% mark last year). Porzingis has also been efficient this year, as he is making 45% of his shots from the floor and has a player efficiency rating of 18.8. Kristaps Porzingis is emerging as a player who has all of the tools to be a perennial All-Star in this league; he is confident, skilled, athletic and long, and can shoot from anywhere on the court at an efficient clip. The only thing I see holding Porzingis back from getting his first of many All-Star nods, is the Knicks lowly record.

Craig Sager: Remembering a Legend

The world was robbed of a great man this week. Craig Sager was a husband, a father, a good man, an excellent journalist, an inspiration to many, and a true legend in his field. Sager was a man who lived life as he worked, with an undying passion and a deep enthusiasm for everything he was involved in. As a young man, Sager covered sporting events as a reporter for a small station called WXLT, predominantly covering MLB games and small local sporting events. But where Sager will most be remembered is the time he spent covering NBA games on the sidelines as a member of Turner Sports. A born entertainer, Sager covered these basketball games with an astounding passion that was only rivaled by his equally shocking suits. Sager’s memorable halftime and post game interviews were always full of laughter and excitement, as everyone who came into contact with Sager enjoyed him and the energy he brought to work. In 2014, Sager was diagnosed with cancer, news that shocked and saddened the sports world. Yet Sager too attacked this diagnosis with his everlasting flare and fire, beating it into remission later on that year. Unfortunately, Sager’s cancer returned in March of 2016,this time, Sager was given three to six months to live. At the ESPY Awards Show in July of 2016, as he accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, Sager pulled one of his signature moves in one of his signature suits, giving one of the most impassioned and meaningful speeches I have ever witnessed. Speaking on the importance of time and the value of persevering through obstacles, Sager’s spirited speech was one that encapsulated perfectly the type of man he was, a fighter. Unfortunately, Sager succumbed to his disease, passing away at 65 on December 15th, 2016. But if there is one thing I can guarantee, it is that Craig Sager will not soon be forgotten. Craig Sager will live on in the memory and the hearts of the many he has touched throughout his passionate life, because legends never die, and that is exactly what Sager was.

Thank you, and Rest Easy Craig Sager.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biographical Information via Wikipedia

Question of the Week: Who’s the Best Player on the Knicks?

The New York Knicks have had a rough couple of years, having missed the playoffs for the past three seasons, losing two beloved players in J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and watching their superstar Forward Carmelo Anthony addled with injuries. But with a legitimate team in Madison Square Garden, consisting of a rising young big man in Kristaps Porzingis, a reborn point guard in Derrick Rose, and a steady veteran scorer in Carmelo Anthony, I think the Knicks are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The only question now is, who’s the best player on this up-and-coming NY team? At the quarter point of the season, I say the answer is still Melo.

Derrick Rose: The Chicago born PG made his way to the big apple in a big offseason trade, and since his arrival, Rose has been good for the Knicks. The former MVP is averaging a solid 17 points, five assists, a career high 4.2 rebounds, and is shooting a solid percentage from the floor at 44%. More importantly, Rose has looked both comfortable and confident on the floor, more than can be said for him in his last couple of seasons. Rose has also been a solid floor general for the Knickerbockers, as he is averaging the fewest turnovers of his career since his MVP campaign in 2010-’11. But is Derrick Rose the Knicks best player? I say no. Derrick Rose is not the player he once was, something that is not his fault, but a fact nonetheless; Rose is a solid starting point guard in this league, but he is not much more than that. His inability to shoot the three with any consistency, 25% this year, while not debilitating is a detriment to the Knicks, and his sub-par assist percentages at 23% need to increase as well. Rose is a good player, he is a good teammate and a valuable member of the Knicks, but he is not their best player.

Kristaps Porzingis: This is where the debate gets exciting. Kristaps Porzingis came into New York as an unknown kid from Latvia that looked too skinny and too goofy to be any good; yet with his exciting play and unwillingness to turn on the people of NY in his rookie campaign, KP has become a beloved figure in all of New York. The story is only getting better, as it seems that Kristaps’ game is growing as his popularity is. The Porzingod is averaging a nice 21 points (seven more than last year), seven boards, one assist, a block and a half, and is shooting the lights out from three at 40% (up from his 33% mark last year). There is no doubt that Porzingis is getting better, but is he the best player on the Knicks? I still say no, at least not yet. While Porzingis is knocking on the door of becoming the best baller on the NYK, he is not yet there. The Latvian big is well over seven feet tall, yet averages a mere seven rebounds a game, this needs to improve for Porzingis to be considered a more well-rounded player. Porzingis’ passing is also not excellent, as I would like to see him getting at least two assists a game as he develops; finally, Porzingis has taken a slight step backwards defensively this year, and he must correct this for the sake of the team. Kristaps is going to be a great player, and is a very good one now,  but until he fully develops he will be second fiddle on the Knicks for a bit longer.

Carmelo Anthony: Melo is only attempting 4.7 free throws per game, he has a plus minus of -0.6, and is only averaging 2.6 assists…is he really the best player on the Knicks? Yes. On this Knicks team, at this point in Carmelo Anthony’s basketball career, he is doing exactly what he needs to do for the team and is a large reason the Knicks are sitting as the seven seed in the East at the quarter point in the season. Melo is putting up 22.6 points a night, averaging six rebounds, two assists, stealing the ball once a night, and is shooting 43% from the field and 34% from deep. None of these stats are outstanding, but they are big when taken into context regarding the state of the Knicks. As the team leader, Melo is doing his job when it counts; he is averaging a career best 1.9 turnovers a game, has a player efficiency rating of 19.4, and most importantly, is the guy the Knicks go to when the games on the line. As the closer on the Knicks, Melo has been doing his job this year, and as the teams leader, he has controlled the locker room and helped the new team create a good chemistry in the early parts of the season. Carmelo Anthony is in the latter half of his storied career, but he is still a great player and has a lot to offer this team, something I believe he has proven so far in 2016-’17.

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Stats Via ESPN.com/BasketballReference.com

Images Via Google