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My thoughts on every major* move in the 2017 NBA Offseason

What. A. Freaking. Offseason. With the breaking news of Kyrie Irving being traded to Boston, the final domino (minus the odd small-scale signing here and there) has fallen, meaning I can finally give my takes on all of the important moves that took place in the past few months.

*I put an asterisk on the word major because some of the moves that I will talk about wouldn’t conventionally be considered major, but I’m still going to talk about them because it’s my blog and I do what I want.

This will be the first in a series of my offseason posts, with the following being more predictive orientated. The end of the summer is an exciting time for only one reason; the NBA season is fast approaching and I am once again very pumped to share my thoughts and opinions on the upcoming year with you.

Note: These moves are in no way ranked, and are in no particular order.

 

Kyrie Irving traded to Boston / Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn 2018 1st unprotected to Cleveland

The most recent transaction is a huge shakeup in an otherwise boring Eastern Conference. The storylines are endless with this blockbuster trade, starting with the opening night matchup against LeBron and co. in Kyrie’s old stomping ground. Cavs/Celtics was already a great game to start the season off, but now with the two swapping star point guards it will be an absolute treat. Isaiah being moved from Boston is tough, other than David Ortiz he was the most loved athlete in Boston in recent memory; playing through injury in the Playoffs, along with playing just days after the tragic death of his sister, he was beloved in Beantown. Unfortunately, basketball is a business, and the upgrade to Irving is worth moving a fan-favourite. Irving is younger, less injury-prone, and a (very slight) defensive upgrade. Jae Crowder is a solid defensive player, and gives the Cavs another wing option to throw against the main competition; the Golden State Warriors. Ante Zizic might become something down the road, and the 2018 Brooklyn pick, which might not be as high a pick as it seemed only a few years ago, is a good trade piece for them if they decide to move it. Overall, I’d say this was a fair trade for both sides.

Chris Paul sign-and-trade to Houston / Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrel to L.A. Clippers

Lob City finally comes to an end. It’s crazy to think that the Chris Paul-iteration of the Clippers never made the Conference Finals, (thanks to a tough call during the 2014 Thunder series, and an amazing Josh Smith/Corey Brewer lead comeback in 2015 against the Rockets) but here we are. Chris Paul is going to Houston to team up with James Harden, creating one of the best backcourts in the league. My first thought on this move was that there’s only one basketball, and both of these guys love to hold it. However, Harden and Paul have been playing together a lot this summer, and putting team U.S.A. guys together is never a bad idea. Mike D’Antoni’s offence just got scarier, and the passing ability in this backcourt is phenomenal. Meanwhile for the Clippers, they got a pretty good package for the 32-year old Paul. Patrick Beverly is a bulldog on defence, Lou Williams, while undersized, is a scoring machine, and a perennial 6th-Man of the Year candidate. Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrel are the young, future pieces, and both are rotation-ready players with a lot of athleticism. Overall, if I were the Rockets I would have loved to hold onto either Dekker or Harrel, but teaming up Paul with Harden makes them a real contender, and the Clippers had to change it up after years of Conference Semi-Final losses.

Danilo Galinari traded to L.A. Clippers / Jamal Crawford to Atlanta / Picks to Denver

Continuing on with the Clippers, the other big move they made this summer was bringing in Danilo Galinari from the Nuggets. Galo had a rough summer, breaking his hand during EuroBasket when he punched an opponent. That makes back-to-back years of top Clippers players breaking their hands while punching someone, (Blake Griffin punching the Raptors equipment manager) which I find absolutely hilarious. Back to the deal itself though, Jamal Crawford is still a solid scorer off the bench, but he is getting up their in age, so dealing him along with a couple picks for a proven small forward was a good idea The small forward position has been the bane of the Clippers organization during the GM-Doc era, and the addition of Galo creates a really good forward trio; Galo, Griffin, and Jordan. For Denver, they are a younger team that had to get rid of Galinari eventually, and receiving more future picks that will fit their timeline was a smart move. For Atlanta, receiving Crawford is a non-factor, clearly evident by them waiving him almost instantly. Overall, the Clippers gaining Galo keeps them in the Playoff race out West, the Nuggets move up further in the total asset standings, and the Hawks are going to be really bad for a while.

Jimmy Butler traded to Minnesota / Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen to Chicago (Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson sign with Minnesota)

I’m still shocked that Gar Pax and the Bulls organization dealt their star player to the head coach that they fired just a few years ago. But, this trade did happen, and the T-Wolves came out as clear winners. Jimmy Butler reuniting with Thibs is great for the entire franchise, not just because of his talent, but his ability to be a coach on the floor for his younger teammates; primarily Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This Wolves team was supposed to make the jump last season, but now with Butler showing his new teammates the way, they are almost a sure-lock to make the Playoffs. On the flip side, a team that is poised to be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls. Trading a star is hard, generally you don’t get a fair return on said star player, and that’s exactly what happened in this trade for the Bulls. Zach LaVine is an exciting player with a good amount of potential, but he will be coming off an ACL injury which tends to alter the explosiveness of a player. For LaVine, this could be challenging to return from, as he is one of the most explosive guards in the league. Looking at the other returns, Kris Dunn came into the NBA with many expecting big things, however in his rookie year he didn’t show any promise whatsoever. Lauri Markkanen is an intriguing prospect, garnering comparisons to a young Dirk Nowitzki (very lofty goals, but the easiest connection when comparing a tall, European big man who can shoot is to the German Nowitzki). Fortunately for Chicago fans, Markkanen has been killing it at EuroBasket this year, but his lack of rim protection as a 7-footer makes him a tough play at the center position. Overall, Minnesota wins this deal. Zach LaVine will garner a hefty pay increase come extension time, a tough thing to do with a young player coming off a major injury. Kris Dunn, as of now, has to be considered a miss of a pick, especially with notable players being selected after him; Jamal Murray, Thon Maker, and even 2nd-round stud Malcolm Brogdon. He still has a lot of defensive upside, but this year could be make-or-break for Dunn. Lauri Markkanen could be something, but in the end this isn’t impressive enough of a package for Jimmy Butler.

(While talking about Minnesota, they further upgraded their starting lineup with the signings of Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Teague is an above-average point guard, and Gibson brings another Thibs defensive-disciple to the organization. Spacing-wise this new starting lineup has some question marks, but the defensive versatility and ability can be near the top of the league.)

Paul George traded to Oklahoma City / Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis to Indiana

I was shocked about the Jimmy Butler trade, but the Paul George-to-OKC trade has me shook. George being traded wasn’t surprising, but Sam Presti and the Thunder coming out of the woodwork to absolutely fleece the Pacers was, and still is, insane. Paul George is a top-10 player, and even though his value was low due to his contract being up in one year, partnered with his presumed desire to become a Laker, getting him for pennies on the dollar is wild. Pennies on the dollar sounds like I’m downplaying Oladipo and Sabonis, and it sounds like that because that’s exactly what I’m doing. Oladipo is a decent player, but he’s one of those players with a body and game style that doesn’t fit a certain position. Even though the league is trending/has trended towards position-less basketball, he’s still an awkward fit. He can’t shoot well enough, isn’t big enough to guard the Klay Thompson’s/Jimmy Butler’s of the world, and isn’t a good enough playmaker to play the point. He’s athletic, has amazing bounce, but as the focal point of a trade to land a superstar? No chance. Onto Sabonis, I actually quite like him. He can’t play defence to save his life, but he is only going into his second season. His outside shooting to start last season off showed a lot of promise, until Russell Westbrook started chasing triple-doubles and Sabonis was clearly afraid to shoot, struck with the fear of missing and incurring Beast-brook’s wrath. Overall, the Thunder got away with highway robbery in this trade. If David Stern was still running the league, this would’ve been a Chris Paul-Lakers-veto type of situation. Good luck to Sabonis and Oladipo, hopefully the latter going to Indiana University will make it easier for the fans to accept their new second option, behind Miles Turner.

Gordon Hayward signs with Boston

First Thibs and Butler, now Stevens and Hayward; it’s the season of reunions. Gordon Hayward going to Boston before the Kyrie trade made them arguably the best regular season team in the East in my opinion. Now with a big three of Irving, Hayward, and Horford, I think they’ve solidified their #1 spot going into the Playoffs. Hayward is somewhere in the top 5-7 wings in the league, and he’s a safe bet to make the Eastern All-Star team. Losing Crowder and Bradley hurts Boston’s defence, but I can’t wait to see a lineup with Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Hayward, and Horford; Brad Steven’s offence will be beautiful to watch. Overall, A+ signing for Danny Ainge, finally inking a star player to a contract to wear Celtics green.

Paul Millsap signs with Denver

Hawks fans, this is going to be a tough year for you. Last offseason Horford walked for nothing, and this season Millsap did the exact same thing. Paul Millsap joining the young Denver Nuggets is a fantastic move for both sides. The Nuggets were horrible defensively, spearheaded by their terrific passing big man, Nikola Jokic, and pairing up the young stud with the switchy and stretchy Millsap makes sense on all fronts. Millsap doesn’t fit their timeline, but his mentorship to guys like Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Emmanuel Mudiay will be crucial in their future success; long past the 3-year contract Millsap signed. Overall, A+ signing for the Nuggets, this team could be a top-5 League Pass team this season.

Dwight Howard signs with Charlotte

Oh Dwight, what happened. If you told me back in 2009 that Dwight Howard, at the time an MVP-calibre player on a fantastic Magic team, would have played on the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks, and now Hornets, by 2017 I would have called you ridiculous. But, here we are, and the artist formerly known as Superman is teaming up with Kemba Walker in Charlotte. The best part is that the Hawks traded the 31st pick, along with Howard, for Marco Belinelli, the worst Plumlee, and the 41st pick. Yes, the Hawks moved down in the draft, and basically just got Belinelli to get rid of Dwight. This move is very meh to me, I think Charlotte would’ve had a bounce back season this year with or without Howard, and he doesn’t make a huge impact on their potential success. I actually think that Cody Zeller will close more games at center than Dwight will, and how do you think that’ll make him feel? Howard’s biggest flaw is that he still thinks he’s fantastic, which is just not true unfortunately. Overall, this move is a negative for Charlotte. They have to pay Dwight and his constantly injured back 23.5 million for the next two years. Ouch.

D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov traded to Brooklyn / Brook Lopez to L.A. Lakers

This is the best possible thing to happen to D’Angelo Russell. After the Nick Young-Snapchat fiasco, Russell was a pariah in the Lakers locker room, and playing for the Lakers in general puts a massive spotlight on you as a player, nevertheless as a 2nd overall pick. Going to a Nets team that has no expectations allow Russell to just go out and ball, something that he will do. Russell is my early choice as Most Improved next season, and as the number 1 option on a bad Nets team he’ll get as many shots as he likes. Meanwhile, for the Lakers, this was a fantastic move. Giving up on a young guy with potential in Russell is tough, but they knew that Lonzo Ball was their guy, and now he has nobody in his was of the starting job at point. Also, dumping Timofey Mozgov’s horrendous contract aids in their pursuit of two max-level players next year. Oh, and they acquired Brook Lopez, along with the rights to 27th pick Kyle Kuzma, a solid center who has been increasing his shooting range, and a young wing player who showed tremendous upside at Summer League alongside his “light skinned brother” Lonzo Ball. Overall, great move for both teams. The Nets acquire a young building block, and potential franchise-guy in Russell, and take on Mozgov’s salary to reach the salary floor; while the Lakers get a starting-calibre center in Lopez, open up starter minutes for their new 2nd-overall pick point guard, and potentially get the steal of the draft in Kuzma.

Avery Bradley traded to Detroit / Marcus Morris to Boston

In a league with a salary cap, eventually teams with too many good assets have to trade away key pieces because they can’t afford to pay them. This is exactly what happened in Boston, where they traded All-Defensive level shooting guard (outrageously not voted to the team last year even though it was well deserved) Avery Bradley to Detroit in exchange for Marcus Morris. This move was only made because of the cap situation, Avery Bradley is a great starting guard, however his stellar play priced him out of the Celtics equation. In contrast, Marcus Morris, a sneaky good defensive option against top wing players, is slated to only make 10 million over the next two years; allowing them to eventually sign Gordon Hayward. Overall, this trade helps both sides, albeit in different ways. Boston managed to acquire a premier talent in Hayward, while decreasing their cap expenditure; whereas Detroit made the decision to go with Avery Bradley as their future at the 2-guard position instead of retaining Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signs with L.A. Lakers

Speaking of KCP, his signing with the Lakers speaks more about the Lakers future plans than himself. KCP is a great young guard with two-way abilities, and instead of signing a longer term deal at a potentially lower price per year, he signed a 1-year deal worth 18 million. As I stated above, this speaks more to the Lakers plans for next offseason, rather than how they view him as a player. Signing him for just one year gives them the flexibility to pursue two max-level players next summer, something that would’ve been discussed in his meeting with his agent, Rich Paul. That name is well known in basketball circles and to fans because he is also the agent , and best friend, of LeBron James, a player whom the Lakers have a keen desire to go after next summer. KCP could be cashing in on a slightly larger than expected pay-check this season so that he could ideally, in the Lakers eyes, take a pay-cut to bring in LeBron and one other star player next season. Overall, this is a great signing for the Lakers, and for KCP. He is still young, at just 24 years of age, and becoming a UFA at 25 he could garner large offers in other situations if he doesn’t decide the pay-cut to stay in the purple and yellow next season is worth it for him. The Lakers maintain flexibility, and add a solid shooter to pair up with the pass-first Lonzo Ball.

J.J. Reddick signs with Philadelphia

Speaking of players signing lucrative 1-year deals, J.J. Reddick did exactly that when he signed with the “Trust the Process” 76ers for 23 million dollars. Similarly to the KCP situation, this is a fantastic move for both sides. J.J. Reddick has never made large money in his eleven year career, totalling a net salary of 55 million over that time. For the 76ers, he gives them flexibility for next season when rookie extension time comes for players like Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, along with veteran leadership for an extremely young team. J.J. Reddick is one of the best shooters in the league, and will provide amazing spacing for the driving-style of Markelle Fultz, his new backcourt mate. The 76ers, as a young team, don’t have a lot of large contracts on their books, and this move allows them to hit the salary floor. Overall, congratulation to Reddick for making nearly half of his career earnings in one year, and great move for the 76ers, the ability for Reddick to teach Embiid, Simmons, Saric, and Fultz the pitfalls of the NBA will be crucial to their future success.

Rudy Gay signs with San Antonio

This move puzzled me at the time it happened, and it still puzzles me today. The Spurs are a rigid organization, and Rudy Gay just doesn’t seem like a Spurs-ian type of player. The overall fit of Gay on this roster is also pretty odd, his outside shooting is average at best, and it’ll be interesting to see how happy he is coming off of the bench. The Spurs, like all other teams in the league, are looking up at the Warriors, and this move does give them another good-sized wing player to attempt to matchup with Steph, KD, and company. If I was running the Spurs, I would personally rather have Jonathan Simmon at 6 million a year than Gay at 8.5 million, but I digress. Coach Pop is amazing, the Spurs are a machine of consistency, and this could end up being the best year of Gay’s career, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Kelly Olynyk signs with Miami

I watched Kelly Olynyk play for South Kamloops High at my local high school’s Western’s basketball tournament, saw him drop over 150 points during the span of three games, and now he’s signed a 4-year, 50 million dollar deal down in Miami. A 7-foot white Canadian guy living in Miami, he’s going to stand out just a bit. Congratulations Kelly, I never would have thought you’d become the player you are today, but now you’re the starting forward for a solid Eastern Conference Playoff squad. Now, to talk about the move itself for Miami, I really like it. Hassan Whiteside is one of the top rim-protectors in the game, and he’ll have to rotate over often to assist Kelly on the defensive end, but Olynyk’s outside shooting ability will add valuable spacing to a team lacking pure shooters. Olynyk can also play as a “small”-ball (he’s 7 feet, not super small but his 3-point shooting fits the small-ball definition) center in certain lineups. Overall, great deal for Olynyk and the Heat, and a huge win for Canada basketball.

George Hill, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter sign with Sacramento

I have mixed feelings about these signings for Sacramento. The Kings have been a dumpster fire for a while, I’ve shared my thoughts about them a multitude of times over the past couple years, but it looks like they are slowly turning the ship around. Once Cousins was traded, it was clear that the Kings were going young with Buddy Hield, and 4 first-round picks in the 2017 Draft, where they selected stud point guard De’Aaron Fox, junior wing Justin Jackson, former top recruit Harry Giles, and senior point guard Frank Mason III. Besides Giles who is still recovering from an ACL tear, the other 3 rookies would probably have played significant minutes this season, but that all changed in the free agency period. Bringing in veterans to a young team, especially an organization like the Kings who have been a nightmare for a while, is a fantastic thing. However, I’m an advocate to throwing young players into the fire when the opportunity is available. At times, this can be problematic, such as when players don’t live up to expectations and crumble. On this idea, I’m of the thought that a player’s confidence is crucial, but if they crumble and can’t fight to show they still contain potential, then bringing them along slowly wouldn’t have changed this outcome. In the Kings case, drafting Fox was one of the best draft-fits from the entire draft. At the time, the Kings had no real direction,  no clear option at the point, and Fox was clearly taken to be the future at point for Sacramento. Bringing in a veteran guard to show Fox the way behind the scenes in practice is ideal, but a player like George Hill will push Fox to the bench and restrict his minutes early on in his career. The Kings, in my eyes, should be playing for more draft picks, and for the future. Players like Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter will add wins to their total, pushing their potential draft picks further back. The Hinkie-76ers process was tough for Philly fans, but now they have multiple top-3 picks on their roster, and have a bright future to look forward to. The Kings signing players of such an ilk brings them closer to the middle, arguably the worst place to be in sports. The veteran leadership is solid, the draft picks were awesome, but instead of garnering a top-3 pick, that pick could end up being more in the 5-7 range, which is a huge change. Overall, A grade for bringing in quality vets and players, but an F for thinking about the future.

Tim Hardaway Jr. signs with New York

After signing Hardaway Jr. to the most universally panned contract of the offseason, the Knicks might be the new Kings in the dumpster fire rankings. 4-years, 71 million for a player whose best NBA career moment was a shootout with Dion Waiters in the Rookie-Sophomore game during All Star Weekend is absolutely outrageous. The best tweet after this signing came from Bobby Marks, @BobbyMarks42, who tweeted, “Tim Hardaway Jr. was traded for Jerian Grant who was traded for Derrick Rose who was renounced so NYK could sign Hardaway Jr. for $71M.”. Yes, the Knicks traded Hardaway Jr. for two players who are no longer on the roster, just to then sign Hardaway Jr. to a ludicrous contract. Even Hardaway Jr. himself was reportedly surprised about the contract offer, I can only imagine the Hawks management laughing and falling off their chairs when that offer came in. Hardaway Jr. did average a career high in points last season at a whopping 14.5 points per game, but who’s going to pass him the ball in New York? Rookie Frank NTIlikina? Ramon Sessions? Ron Baker? (I actually love Ron Baker, but you understand what I’m getting at.) Carmelo Anthony and his hoodie will be bought out at some point, Joakim Noah will spend another year injured, smoking a ton of weed (no chance he doesn’t, I see you Joakim), and Porzingis probably has a board at home where he’s counting down the days until he can leave. Overall, Hardaway Jr. is a decent player, massively overpaid, and the Knicks media are going to have a great year putting forward depressing storylines.

 

 

 

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Weekly Dimes (Apr. 6 – 12)

The season has come to a conclusion, and with that comes the end of the 2016/2017 Weekly Dimes. This season has been incredible, filled with amazing storylines and historic moments, and those should continue on into the Playoffs. Now to the Dimes; this week determined who made the final Playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, provided further MVP-fodder for the Westbrook MVP case, and saw an athlete from another sport suit up for an NBA team. I want to say that I enjoyed writing this weekly post throughout the season, it gave me more reason to follow the season closely, and it did not disappoint. Stay tuned for Playoff matchup previews, and other post/offseason articles, along with the 2017/2018 Weekly Dimes next October!

 

1) Russell Westbrook gets 42nd triple double, surpasses Oscar Robertson

MVP. That is all I have to say.

…Alright, that isn’t all I have to say. Russell Westbrook’s incredible season was capped off with the 42nd triple double, and even better it came in a clutch come-from-behind victory over the Denver Nuggets; capped off with a game-winning deep three from Russ, eliminating Denver from postseason contention in the process. It’s been said my many media members; Russ won this regular season, and that game-winner will be a focal point of any 2016-2017 regular season highlight reel for decades to come.

2) Nets  Celtics secure top lottery odds

The Brooklyn Nets cemented themselves as the worst team this season, therefore giving themselves a 25% chance of winning the top spot in the NBA Draft lottery. This means the Nets will be able to draft their franchise cornerstone player…wait, the Nets traded what for Pierce and Garnett? Oh, well this Nets season was a waste. Boston fans rejoice, the Celtics (thanks to a horrible deal) have a 1 in 4 chance of landing the #1 pick in the draft! Yes, a team that has a viable chance of making the NBA Finals this year could draft first overall. The Celtics are in an enviable spot, however with the consensus top-two prospects being point guards, they’ll have to make a decision this offseason regarding Isaiah Thomas’s future within the organization. How the team fares in the Playoff’s will help to make this decision; if they make a deep run while being lead by Thomas, there’s no way they move on from him. However, if they were to be bounced early, I could see them trading Isaiah and moving forward with Smart as the starting guard, with either Fultz or Ball being the future starting guard. The Celtics are the most intriguing team to follow this summer in my opinion, it’s rare in sports to see a team this good have as many options as they have.

3) Bulls and Pacers secure last Playoff spots in East

The 7th and 8th seeds out East came down to the final day, with the Bulls, Pacers, and Heat vying for the final two spots. The Bulls and Pacers held their own fate, both just needing to win to continue with their season. Meanwhile Miami needed to win, and have at least one of the other two teams lose. Unfortunately for Miami, the story of the second half of the season, the Bulls and Pacers both finished the season with a W. The Heat have to be incredibly happy with how their season turned around; they started out 11-30, and finished 30-11 in the second half. Coming into this season if you had asked me if the Heat would be in the mix for a Playoff seed on the final day of the season, I would have laughed in your face. But with Goran Dragic having a comeback season of sorts, Hassan Whiteside continuing to grow, and the average value of a property on Dion Waiters island going through the roof, they have a pretty bright future ahead.

4) Waiting until the NBA Awards Show to learn who the MVP is

While learning about who wins all the awards is interesting, none is better than the MVP, especially this season. This would be a topic of discussion no matter what, because the awards won’t have the same appeal being announced after the Playoffs have come to a conclusion. But on top of that, the top two candidates are facing off against each other in the first round. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to watch Westbrook and Harden go at it knowing which one was deemed the MVP of the league, especially if that MVP is Harden? Russell Westbrook, who goes balls-to-the-wall every single time he steps on the court, would somehow crank it up another notch and play with an incredible intensity. Instead, the topic of who the MVP is will continue for another couple of months, somewhat overshadowing the Playoffs themselves.

5) Jerry West doesn’t want to be featured as the logo anymore

Jerry West isn’t scared to speak his mind, and he made headlines when he came onto ESPN’s The Jump, and said that he didn’t want his likeness to be featured on the NBA logo anymore. It’s an interesting discussion, no other league logos have a clear resemblance to a past player. Personally, I think that being chosen as the logo that represents the league would be an incredible honour, however West stated that he does not like having attention drawn to him. Adam Silver and the league office have a dilemma to deal with, and if they were to find a new player to model the logo after it would be intriguing to see who they consider.

6) Cavaliers blow back to back double-digit 4th quarter leads

Coming down the stretch, teams hopefully have their rotations sorted out, and are feeling good coming into the postseason. This is not the case for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs ended their season with four straight losses, including two straight overtime losses to Atlanta and Miami; both games in which they had double digit leads coming into the fourth quarter. Betting against LeBron is a fools errand, the guy has made six straight NBA Finals, and even with this recent losing stretch, they are still the favourites to make it out of the Eastern Conference. However, it will be interesting to see how LeBron and company show up in the first round against Indiana, Paul George is a tough matchup to deal with.

7) Brook Lopez becomes Nets all-time leading scorer

If the Nets hadn’t traded every pick they own for the next century to Boston, getting 25% of the ping pong balls would be the best part of their season. But, they did make that trade, therefore Brook Lopez, perennial trade rumour bait, becoming the franchises all-time leading scorer is the success of their season. Sorry Nets fans, must’ve been a tough year. At least Caris LeVert looks good?

8) Tony Romo suits up for Dallas Mavericks

If it hadn’t been for Adam Silver not honouring Romo’s contract, there’s a good chance that he would’ve played in the Mavericks final game. Tony Romo did a lot for Dallas in his time as the Cowboys starting QB, and now with his move to broadcasting Mark Cuban and the Mavs decided to honour Romo. When I first read this I thought it was the dumbest PR move ever, however upon further reading I learned that Romo was actually a fantastic high school basketball player, and he had offers to play Div. 1 basketball. Commissioner Silver clearly saw this as a farce, therefore not honouring the contract, and that probably was the best option; can’t set a precedent for other teams to honour people who don’t belong on a professional basketball court.

9) Timberwolves rebranded logo

Minnesota’s season ended a few weeks back once they were eliminated from Playoff contention, but this past week they announced plans to rebrand the team, and released the new logo. The only problem is, the new logo isn’t all that different from their old logo. It appears like the same colour scheme as the Seattle Seahawks, and I’m not a big fan of the lime green on an NBA jersey. The Twitter-verse ripped the logo apart, quite appropriately, and besides the great hype video that came with the announcement, it does not add much excitement to their great future.

10) Cavaliers cut Larry Sanders, sign Edy “Walter” Tavares for Playoffs

You’re on a team with a very good shot at reaching the NBA Finals, and on the last day of the season the team cuts you. Is there anything worse than that as an NBA player? Apparently the decision was made when Sanders missed the team bus the day before, which is fair for a player who was clearly going to be on a short leash. It’s a sad story for Sanders, a player who just a few years ago appeared to have a bright future ahead. Hopefully for him this isn’t the end of his story, and another team takes a swing on him in the offseason, but it doesn’t seem highly likely.

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Weekly Dimes (Mar. 23 – 29)

We’re on the verge of April, and that means there are only a few weeks left in the regular season; with roughly 6 or 7 games left for each franchise. Playoff spots are being locked up, and now we just have to wait and see how the standings shake out at the end of the day. Now, to get into the past week, we saw some historic performances and moments, along with some interesting (sometimes laughable) storylines.

 

 

1) Devin Booker scores 70 points

Booker, at age 20, is now one of 6 players to score at least 70 points in an NBA game, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, and Elgin Baylor. That is an elite class, and Booker is still years away from hitting his full prime. This game, even though it somehow ended in a loss, was a good sign for the Phoenix Suns and their fans, and was a necessary “victory” for their season.

2) Russell Westbrook records highest scoring triple-double of all time

After seeing what he’s doing this year, if someone asked me who I thought would be the person to break the scoring record with a triple-double, Russell Westbrook would be my pick; just slightly edging out Harden. And look what happens, he drops 57 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists, all in a com-from-behind victory over the Magic. Throw in the fact that he hit an outrageous three-pointer to force overtime, this was one of the best all-around offensive displays the NBA has ever seen.

3) Celtics take #1 seed out East

As of right now, the Cavs and Celtics are tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Celtics did hold that position for a couple days this week. This is important because it appears as though the Cavs are in a slight decline, and the Celtics have a good shot at securing home-court advantage throughout the first three rounds. The Cavs, on paper, should be able to kick it up another notch come the postseason, and home-court advantage shouldn’t be a huge deal for them, but if they continue to play so poorly defensively, a game 7 in an opposing gym could be a problem.

4) Warriors with 3 consecutive 60+win seasons

While the Warriors were clearly on the upswing while being coached by Mark Jackson, Steve Kerr deserves a ton of credit for the past three Warriors seasons. The crazy part is that I wouldn’t be surprised if they won 60+ games for another three season after this, if not more.

5) Kings pursuing Sam Hinkie to come in above Vlade

I think I almost spat out what I was eating when I saw this headline. The Kings are an abysmal organization, I have made this clear numerous times in my past writing, but if they bring in Sam Hinkie it would be the best decision they could ever make. After trading Cousins, the Kings will be a basement-dwelling team for many years to come (sorry Buddy Hield, I like you and I feel sorry for you, but you can’t lead this team to the postseason), so getting the tank-master himself, Hinkie, would be a great idea. The fans may not accept it, just as the Philadelphia fans didn’t early on, but now seeing how they have accepted “the process” in Philly it could be time for “the process” V 2.0. Vivek Ranadive, if you won’t sell the team, then you have to make this decision. Vlade Divac has no idea what he’s doing, and if you ever want to not be a joke, this is the move.

6) Lance Stephenson returns to Indiana Pacers

“Born Ready” is back in Indiana, where at one point he was a near-All Star. This is a feel good story, Stephenson hasn’t clicked since leaving the Pacers for a huge contract in Charlotte, he’s bounced around on a few minimum deals, and now he’s signing with Indiana for 3 years, 12 million dollars. When I first heard this news, I was shocked to hear how much he signed for, but Larry Bird must think he can return to form in a comfortable situation.

7) Suns play youngest starting 5 in NBA history

Tyler Ulis, 21. Devin Booker, 20. Derrick Jones Jr., 20. Marquese Chriss, 19. Alex Len, 23.

Even though we’re in the midst of March Madness, this is actually an NBA team’s lineup, and not a college lineup. Besides Alex Len, the other four guys could still be suiting up for a college basketball team. Speaking of college teams, only one of the Sweet Sixteen teams had a younger starting 5 than the Suns; the Purdue Boilermakers came in with a 114 day-less average.

8) Joakim Noah suspended for illegal substance

When I first saw this, I instantly thought Noah had spent the weekend smoking pounds of marijuana. I mean, come on, look at the guy, there’s no way anyone could convince me that he has never dabbled in the green, his hair alone screams “I’m 420 friendly!”. Apparently it was a testosterone booster that was found in his system, one of the many PED’s that is banned by the NBA, therefore he received a 20-game suspension. This news makes his signing last offseason even worse, his production has been horrible and now with his suspension it appears as though his time as a rotation player is coming to a close.

9) Jusuf Nurkic scores career-high in first game vs. Denver

“Have a happy summer”, that is what Portland big man Jusuf Nurkic said towards his old team, the Denver Nuggets, in a postgame interview after a dominating 33 points, 16 rebound performance. Nurkic was clearly unhappy in his time in Denver once Jokic beat him out for the starting center spot, but ever since his trade to Portland he has been a man possessed. The Blazers are 13-7 since acquiring him, nothing to call home about, but enough of a winning percentage to place them a game ahead of the aforementioned Nuggets for the eighth, and final Playoff spot in the West. Is this the beginning of a new rivalry out West? Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers, Jokic vs. Nurkic, Serbia vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10) JJ Barea drops Blake Griffin

This was the worst flop I’ve ever seen. For those who don’t know who JJ Barea is, he is a diminutive point guard for the Dallas Mavericks; he is reported at 6 feet, but he’s just barely pushing 5’10”. So for a guy his size to knock down Blake Griffin, 6’8″, is absolutely laughable. Both Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavs, and Rick Carlisle, head coach of the Mavs, ripped Griffin apart for the absurdity of his flop, stating what most of us would think, that there’s no way someone 10 inches shorter than you should be able to take you down. Blake Griffen, you and the Clippers are known to flop, and whine, and bitch, and this latest incident isn’t helping you out.

2017/2018 NBA Standings Predictions – Eastern Conference

End-of-season predictions time, and I’ll start with the frankly less interesting Eastern Conference. The West is absolutely loaded, but the East still saw a few shakeups coming into the season. Star players have headed West; Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap, and the consensus top-two teams traded point guards in Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. Playoff teams from last year are headed for the lottery, whereas past lottery teams are set to make the jump into the postseason. Here are my thoughts on how the Eastern Conference will shake out come the end of the season*.

* All predictions are being considered with 100% health

 

15. Atlanta Hawks

Projected starters: Dennis Schroder, Marco Belinelli, Kent Bazemore, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon

Key bench players: Taurean Prince, John Collins, Mike Muscala

Its insane to think that just a few years ago the Hawks were the top seed with 60 wins, and four of their five starters made the Eastern All-Star team; Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford, with DeMarre Carroll being the lone absentee. Fast forward to now, and none of those players are on this roster. Horford and Millsap leaving for nothing definitely hurt the franchise, but the lack of significant moves is why I have this team as the worst in the East. Currently on the roster, the best player is probably Kent Bazemore, which is an absolutely laughable thing to say, with Schroder not developing into much as of yet. Taurean Prince has shown flashes on the wing as a defensive stopper, and rookie John Collins wowed at Summer League with some very impressive slams, but neither of them will be able to add wins this year. Atlanta has the ugliest jerseys in the league, and their games this season will be just as bad.

14. Chicago Bulls

Projected starters: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Dwyane Wade, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez

Key bench players: Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Bobby Portis

Bulls fans, you better hope Zach LaVine returns well from his ACL injury and shows potential as a number one option on the offensive end, or else the Jimmy Butler trade could be one of the worst trades in recent history. Kris Dunn still has defensive upside, but showed absolutely nothing in his first year with Minnesota; he was actually one of the worst guards in the entire NBA. Lauri Markkanen is intriguing, but he won’t be stopping anyone on the defensive end of the floor. Dwyane Wade, as many have reported, will probably be bought out before the halfway point of the season, which will make this squad one of the youngest in the league. I like Bobby Portis a lot, him and Markkanen could be a fun front-court duo down the road if he can improve his rim-protection skills. The biggest story surrounding this team the whole year won’t be focused on the court, instead on the GoFundMe page Bulls fans set up to protest against front office executives Gar Forman and Bill Paxson; not a good sign for this team going into the season.

13. New York Knicks

Projected starters: Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr., Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez

Key bench players: Ramon Sessions, Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley

It will be interesting to see how the Knickerbockers rebound in the post-Phil Jackson era, but with their current talent and makeup I don’t see a big turnaround quite yet. The signing of Tim Hardaway Jr. was the worst of the summer, and he’ll be the scapegoat for the team’s woes if he can’t find his scoring touch early on. Kristaps Porzingis will have another wasted year unfortunately, if only he had been picked over Jahlil Okafor by the 76ers. Willy Hernangomez is a really nice young big man, and that front-court duo with Porzingis is promising for their future. Carmelo Anthony should be bought out, but who knows if that will actually happen. Other offseason signings, Ramon Sessions and Michael Beasley, don’t install a lot of hope for Knicks fans. Enjoy Porzingis now New York, because if this ship doesn’t turn around soon he’s as good as gone.

12. Orlando Magic

Projected starters: Elfrid Payton, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic

Key bench players: Jonathan Simmons, Mario Hezonja, Jonathan Isaac

It shows how poor the East is when Orlando, who I’m incredibly low on, is my 12th seed. I’ll start by talking about the things I like for the franchise; good coaching with Frank Vogel, love the rookie Jonathan Isaac (even though I hate the fit next to Aaron Gordon, more to come in a bit), and Jonathan Simmons is a stud. Ok, now that’s over, onto the negatives. Elfrid Payton, a player I was way too high on as a rookie, is looking like he’ll never acquire a jumpshot. Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier on the wing just isn’t enough to scare any teams, and what is Aaron Gordon? Tons of people around the league seem to be super high on him, but I’m just not sure. I see Shawn Marion, a player who was incredible for the early 2000’s Suns, but that team was led by playmaker extraordinaire Steve Nash, a slight (super sarcastic if you can’t tell) step up from Payton. Gordon can’t shoot, is an awkward size, and even though the NBA is going in the direction of position-less basketball, he’s an awkward fit for this team. Vucevic is a good low-post scorer, but can’t rebound to save his life, and playing Gordon next to him doesn’t provide a solid counterpart for Vucevic’s weaknesses. Drafting Jonathan Isaac was a great move, he will make a fantastic stretch-4 with rim protecting abilities, however that forces Gordon to play the 3, a position he can defend well, but offensively he becomes a spacing nightmare. Mario Hezonja is in a make-or-break year, and it appears the chances are low of him making a major impact. Unfortunately for the Magic, they might be just good enough to pick outside of the top-5 once again.

11. Brooklyn Nets

Projected starters: Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Timofey Mozgov

Key bench players: Caris LeVert, DeMarre Carroll, Trevor Booker

This may sound crazy, but I really do think the Nets are only the 5th-worst team in the East, and here’s why. Reason number one, the Nets don’t have their own draft pick, therefore they have no reason to tank. Throw in the fact that the LeBron-led Cavaliers hold said pick, they would have incentive to make that pick as bad as possible by performing at their best. Reason number two, D’Angelo Russell has everything to prove. Being a 2nd overall pick that gets traded early in their career, along with the Snapchat fiasco surrounding him and Nick Young, everyone seems to be sleeping on him as a player. In Brooklyn, he will have the keys to the car, and all the shots he wants. Reason number three, Kenny Atkinson is a really good coach, and was part of the Linsanity run in New York. Teaming back up with Jeremy Lin, and having a good passing guard in Russell, this offence should have decent ball movement. Acquiring Allen Crabbe was a good flier-move, while attaining DeMarre Carroll was mainly for the future 1st and 2nd picks. Caris LeVert I’ve liked ever since his days at Michigan, and this year should provide solid rotation minutes for him.

10. Indiana Pacers

Projected starters: Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner

Key bench players: Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, Domantas Sabonis

The Pacers got significantly worse following the Paul George trade, but they still possess enough talent to not be a bottom-dweller in the East. Oladipo and Sabonis is a weak package for the superstar George, but they will still provide decent production for this Pacers team. Myles Turner is one of the premier young big men in the league, and is already one of the best rim protectors around. Cory Joseph is a fantastic backup floor general, and getting him for basically nothing is an added bonus. Thaddeus Young is forever underrated, but like the rest of this team is a middling-type of player. And being in the middle in sports is one of the worst places you can be.

9. Detroit Pistons

Projected starters: Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Key bench players: Ish Smith, Luke Kennard, Jon Leuer

The Pistons should easily be a Playoff team in an extremely weak Eastern Conference, but the past couple years don’t completely make me a believer. Reggie Jackson is a good scorer, yet the team seems to be much better when Ish Smith is running the show. Avery Bradley is a step up form Caldwell-Pope, and I’m still a huge fan of Stanley Johnson; maybe too much so. Andre Drummond can’t shoot free throws, and it appears like that skill may never emerge, but he is only 24 years old. Stan Van Gundy is one of my favourite coaches in the league, I still believe his brother Jeff needs to get back into the coaching ranks, but as we saw with Doc Rivers in L.A., it’s tough to be both a coach, and President of Basketball Operations. Rookie Luke Kennard from Duke has two paths to take in my eye; either he becomes a J.J. Reddick-type of player with a solid role as a shooter, or Doug McDermott, a player who has yet to carve out his own role. The Pistons very well may end up higher in the standings than this, but I see more potential with other teams right around the same win-range.

8. Philadelphia 76ers

Projected starters: Markelle Fultz, J.J. Reddick, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

Key bench players: Justin Anderson, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor

One such team with a higher potential in my mind than the Pistons are the 76ers. Now, I know what you’re thinking, no chance Philadelphia is ready to make the jump. They’re too young, full of injury concerns, and it’s too challenging to make such a significant leap in one year. Hear me out though, this 76ers team has all the current, and future talent that they need, there’s no more reason to play for the bottom. Fultz, Simmons, and Embiid, barring injury, have the potential to all be franchise-type players. Throw in Saric and the criminally underrated Covington, and you have the makings of an incredible franchise. Trading Nerlens Noel was a necessary move, and getting Justin Anderson, along with future picks, was a decent return. Justin Anderson is rangy off the bench, with favourable defensive upside. Jahlil Okafor’s trade value is incredibly low, so hopefully he’ll show enough this season for another team to take a gamble on him. He doesn’t provide a lot of value for this Philly team with Richaun Holmes on the center depth chart. Nik Stauskas has to get bigger, and T.J. McConnell is actually really good. If the 76er’s Big-3 can play close to 200 games combined, this team can sneak into the Playoffs.

7. Charlotte Hornets

Projected starters: Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard

Key bench players: Michael Carter-Williams, Malik Monk, Cody Zeller

Charlotte finished a disappointing 5 games below-.500 last season, but this should be a bounce-back year for Buzz City. Newcomers Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard will have a lot to prove, especially the artist formerly known as Superman. Howard should be slated into the starting lineup on opening day, but Cody Zeller will contend for that spot all year long. Kemba Walker is an All-Star calibre guard with fantastic pick-and-roll skills, and if Dwight can show even a sliver of his old-self, they will form a great partnership. Malik Monk is currently plagued with an ankle injury, but once he returns he should make an immediate impact off the bench. Nic Batum is still a solid two-way player, Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot form makes me want to vomit, but his defensive ability is impressive, and William’s is a good stretch-4 for this team that does really lack outside shooting.

6. Miami Heat

Projected starters: Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justice Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside

Key bench players: Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo

Miami started last season 10-31, but turned it around at the halfway by going 31-10, narrowly missing the postseason. The Heat were one of the hottest teams by the end of the year, and with only additions to the squad, they should come out of the gates hotter this time around. The returning core of Dragic, fresh off a EuroBasket MVP, Waiters and Whiteside is one of the best trios in the Eastern Conference. Justice Winslow will need to show more this year, Danny Ainge and the Celtics offered multiple picks for the chance to pick him, and he has yet to fully show his potential. Slimmer James Johnson is an absolute beast, and Josh Richardson might end up starting over Winslow at some point. The two major additions the Heat made were signing Kelly Olynyk to a 4-year, 50 million dollar deal, and drafting Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. I’ve already written about how happy I am for Kelly, but from the teams perspective it was a really good move. Kelly provides valuable floor spacing, along with playmaking skills; as he was a point guard back in high school. Bam has the opportunity to instantly become a rotation player on a Playoff-bound team, and he gets to hone his skills under Whiteside, a center with a similar style to Bam’s. Waiters Island, coined by Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons, is becoming increasingly popular and rent prices are incredibly high, but I will never sell my beachside condo.

5. Washington Wizards

Projected starters: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat

Key bench players: Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi

The Wizards are tough for me; on one hand I see John Wall as the best point guard in the Conference, teaming up with sharpshooting Bradley Beal to create one of the best backcourts in the league, they should easily be a top-4 seed in an underwhelming Eastern Conference. But, on the other hand, I look at this roster, and see nothing more than two fantastic guards, a pretty good wing, and not much else. This team could end up being the 3rd seed, it could also be the 7th seed, the only thing I feel confident about is that Washington will be playing basketball in the postseason. They’ll be hoping for a breakthrough year for Kelly Oubre, but leaning on a center duo of Gortat and Mahinmi is a tough pill to swallow. Jodie Meeks hasn’t been heard from in a long time, Tim Frazier is average at best, and Markieff Morris took a step back once he was traded from Phoenix. The Wizards will be okay, they’ll be in the Playoff pack, but finishing higher in the standings may take a bit of Wizard-ing magic.

4. Milwaukee Bucks

Projected starters: Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Thon Maker

Key bench players: Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, Greg Monroe

Even with Jabari Parker missing the first bit of the season, I see big things for the Bucks. Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon has firmly supplanted himself in the starting lineup, Khris Middleton is one of the best 3-and-D players the league has to offer, and Thon Maker, however old he is, appears to be a foundational piece in the middle for Milwaukee. Oh, and they also have this guy who’s well known as the Greek Freak, you’ve probably heard of him. Giannis very well could contend for MVP this season, and I can’t wait to see how he’s expanded his game during the offseason. The Bucks are constructed very well for the future; they’re young, long and can switch at every position on the defensive end. Dellavedova is a solid backup guard, Tony Snell is almost a Khris Middleton-lite, and Greg Monroe appears to have accepted his role as a backup post big. Rashad Vaughn is an interesting piece, he may not see a lot of floor time, but he’s shown flashes in the past. John Henson is a player that I always thought deserved more of a chance, but at this point he might be a player to dump halfway through the year. This is the year that the Bucks should win their first-round Playoff matchup.

3. Toronto Raptors

Projected starters: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Key bench players: Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam

The Raptors lost Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll in the summer, but quickly replaced them with an in-house option, and a piece by trade. Cory Joseph is one of the best backup point guards in the league, but losing him gives Delon Wright the ability to step up and show what he can do. Carroll had to be dumped due to his horrendous contract, and bringing in C.J. Miles is a huge improvement. Miles will surely slot into the starting small forward spot due to his outside shooting and defensive capabilities, but look for Norman Powell to usurp him by the end of the season. Powell is one of the young guys in the league that I am crazy high on, and he’ll get plenty of opportunities this season to prove me right. Bringing back Lowry and Ibaka keeps them a contender in the East, while DeRozan is going to come into the year angry after being ranked the league’s 36th best player by Sports Illustrated. I’m still not a fan of Valanciunas, and he really needs to prove himself this year with Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira waiting in the wings. Bruno Caboclo is still two years away from being two years away, but draft pick OG Anunoby, once back from injury, should slot in for rotation minutes right away.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

Projected starters: Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson

Key bench players: Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, Jeff Green

The LeBron’s are always a media circus, and this year will be no different. Is Isaiah Thomas going to be able to play this season? How will Derrick Rose fare if he has to play starter minutes? Can Jeff Green finally make his mark on a team? These are fair questions, but are a distraction to a team that is vying for a championship. On paper, and without Thomas’s injury, this team is better than it was last year. Isaiah and Kyrie are similar enough, Derrick Rose is a huge upgrade to the abysmal Deron Williams, while Jae Crowder and Jeff Green add significant wing depth. But will it work? There are a lot of personalities on this team, and I’m still weary on how good of a coach Ty Lue is. Kevin Love will have to show more of his old Minnesota-self, especially if Thomas misses a lot of time. Jae Crowder is a phenomenal piece in a potential Finals rematch with the Warriors, but this year might be the Cavs toughest road back there.

1. Boston Celtics

Projected starters: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Al Horford

Key bench players: Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Aron Baynes

The Celtics only have four returning players, and generally one would think that they would take a step back. But this organization, built by Danny Ainge and coached by Brad Stevens, is so strong that I think they’ll be better than last years squad. They aren’t nearly as deep as previous years, but their top-heavy talent is strong enough to push for 60 wins. Gordon Hayward is thought of as a great small forward, but he’s still underrated at his position, and teaming him up with Irving and Horford creates one of the most formidable three-man units in the association. Jaylen Brown, another of my favourite young guys, is due for a breakout year, and Jayson Tatum will be vying for Rookie of the Year. Marcus Smart has apparently lost weight, and his bulldog mentality on defence makes him one of the premier guard defenders out there. Aron Baynes is a dependable backup big man, but this team will be looking to play small-ball a majority of the time. Marcus Morris is one of the best LeBron-defenders in the league, and will allow Hayward to guard the other team’s lesser threat. Look out Cleveland, Boston could very well make the Finals this year.

Weekly Dimes (Mar. 30 – Apr. 5)

In our second-last Weekly Dimes post of the season, we see high scoring games, the return of a key player out East, and another laughable Sacramento Kings story. The eight seeds in both conferences are still up for grabs, and by next weeks post we’ll officially know the Playoff matchups. Next week will be the last regular post of the season, however there will be lots of stuff to write about come the postseason, along with the offseason and draft. Stay tuned for more!

 

1) Russell Westbrook gets 41st triple-double of season, ties Oscar Robertson’s record

Four games left, two against Denver, and one each against Phoenix and Minnesota. Four chances to beat what seemed to be an unbreakable record, set back in the 1962 season by Oscar Robertson. Seven times this season Russell came either one rebound, or one assist short of a triple-double, and if he had capitalized on half of those he would’ve made history about a week and a half ago. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to find a basketball fan who doesn’t want Russell to succeed and break this record.

2) Orlando Magic’s whiteboard goes viral

NBA organizations start thinking about offseason plans way before the season ends, and big boards with such plans probably exist for most teams. What does not happen for any other teams, however, is a photo of such a board being tweeted out accidentally. This is exactly what happened in Orlando, when an international player who had just signed for the Magic, had his photo taken in front of a whiteboard covered in different names. The whiteboard included players the Magic could trade for, or sign in the offseason, along with a breakdown of hybrid and big targets. The Magic’s season has been abysmal, and this won’t give their fanbase any hope for a competent product in the near future.

3) Tracy McGrady elected to NBA Hall of Fame

13 points in 33 seconds, that’s what I instantly think of when I see the name Tracy McGrady. But that doesn’t tell his whole story. Two time scoring champion, seven time All Star, seven time All NBA, and the 2001 Most Improved Player award. T-Mac had an incredible career, and I do wish we could’ve seen him and Vince Carter take the Raptors to new heights at the time.

4) Derrick Rose tears meniscus

Fourth knee surgery since 2012. Yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds. Unrestricted free agency will be interesting this season, for many reasons, but one of them being who offers Rose a contract, and for how much. It’s hard to see the 2011 MVP starting for many teams in the league today, and this draft is introducing at least four quality starting point guards. I hope this isn’t all she wrote for D-Rose, but next season will probably be make-or-break.

5) Patrick Ewing accepts head coaching job at Georgetown

Ewing as a potential NBA head coach has been talked about profusely over the past couple of years, and no teams gave him a call. Now his alma mater is giving him a shot, and it’ll be interesting to see how they do under his tutelage. Ex-NBA players-turned coaches are generally point guards, but he is spoken about highly around NBA circles. Congratulations to the “Hoya Destroya”, hopefully some of that can rub off on your players.

6) Lance Stephenson’s late-game antics

Indiana-Lance is back to his old ways. Late in a blow-out versus the Raptors, Lance decided to take a lay-up with time winding down, breaking the unwritten rule of dribbling out the clock. This did not impress the Raptors players as they let him hear it as he walked back to the bench, but in typical Lance fashion, he calmly walked between them and didn’t seem to give a crap. Got to give him props somewhat for that.

7) Kyle Lowry returns

Raptor fans rejoice! Even though the Raptors have been playing better lately with Cory Joseph starting than before, having Lowry at the helm gives them a shot to go deep in the postseason. Now Lowry will have about 5 games to get back into game shape, and as long as there are no setbacks, the Raptors will be full-strength come Playoff time.

8) Four 40 point games on Sunday

Russell Westbrook: 40 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists

LeBron James: 41 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists

Paul George: 43 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists

Stephen Curry: 42 points, 8 assists, 9/13 3PTM

Sunday night basketball did not disappoint this week; Stephen Curry got his rhythm back, Westbrook added to his triple-double tally, and the battle of LeBron/George was incredible. Remember when 40 point games were outrageous? Welcome to 2017.

9) Chicago Bulls have won 20 straight home games when featured on TNT

This is the craziest stat I have ever heard, I’m dead serious. The Bulls are not good, they are fighting for the final Playoff spot, and yet they dominate games that are televised on TNT. In the TNT games this season, the Bulls have victories against Boston (twice), San Antonio, Golden State, and Cleveland. Yeah, they beat arguable the top four teams in the league. Maybe this is a 2007 Warriors/Mavs situation, but instead the Cavs will be upset by the Bulls.

10) Vivek Ranadive tried to reach out to Cousins two weeks after trade

Vivek, once again you’re showing the world why you are a terrible owner, and professional. He told the media, along with Cousins, that he was not being traded just days before trading him, all without telling him! Cousins found out during a post-game interview, and now Vivek thinks he can reach out and talk to him? Even if this was one of the nicer players in the league, there’s a good chance that player doesn’t pick up the phone. Get a clue Vivek, or else nobody will want to come play for you.

Weekly Dimes (Mar. 16 – 22)

The dimes come in a day late this week, but with the NBA season coming down to the wire, and the first half of March Madness, you’ll just have to cut me some slack. This past week gave us a couple brawls, and some high scoring nights, all while teams are scrapping and clawing to reach Playoff positions. Toss in a bonus dime with some college basketball flavour, this week’s post has some fun storylines.

 

Bonus dime: My top 5 NCAA prospects (not including international players)

  1. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
  2. Josh Jackson, SF/PF, Kansas
  3. Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
  4. Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State
  5. Moe Wagner, C, Michigan

Lonzo Ball just dominates games, I can’t stop watching him, even when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. His court vision and passing skills are top notch, and even though his shot form is gross, he splashes threes from the outside. Josh Jackson’s game is only slightly better than his hair, which is awesome. His size projects him to be able to guard 3’s and 4’s at the next level, he has a nice outside shooting stroke, and lots of athleticism to attack the rim. Bridges might not enter the draft this season, but if he chooses to he’ll be able to help out a team immediately. Bridges is exactly what every NBA team needs in 2017; a 3-and-D guy, except Bridges comes with a really high ceiling. Jonathan Issac is an athletic freak, he’s just under 7 feet with a great shooting stroke, and the ability to defend the rim at a high level. Finally, Moe Wagner, the German darling from Michigan. Wagner probably won’t hear his name called at the draft, but he won’t forget his career-high 26 points against Louisville in the big dance.

1) Serge Ibaka/Robin Lopez throw hands

I missed this game, and when I first heard that there was a fight between Ibaka and Lopez I thought it would be the same as always in the NBA, two guys engaged in a yelling/shoving match. But once I saw video of what happened, I was stunned. Fisticuffs are not thrown in the NBA like they were in the past, and that is because the league has done everything it can to “clean” up the league. What was more surprising is taht the two only received a one-game suspension each. Lopez initiated the scuffle, and should have received more games than Ibaka, but both should have missed more than one game. Playoff implications certainly had a say in the matter, and this fight did not help to settle the bad blood between the Bulls and Raptors.

2) Resting while healthy becoming an issue

The Warriors stars (minus Durant) sitting while healthy, and the Cavaliers sitting LeBron and Kevin Love alongside the injured Irving populated a lot of the headlines this past week. This is a tough situation to choose a side on, the fan of the game in me wants guys to play every game in the season, and to give their all. However, sitting games has shown to lengthen players careers, which is a positive in the long-run. The issue with these two teams sitting their star players is that it took place during nationally televised games; and such games are marketed with star power. This is something Adam Silver and the league will look into profusely this offseason, and you can expect a no sitting-while-healthy rule during televised games.

3) LeBron goes at LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball, is he a marketing genius or just an idiot that needs to shut the hell up? I can’t say for sure, I lean on both sides of the fence, but some of the things he says are absolutely out of control. Such a thing is when he spoke about how his kids are in a better position to succeed than LeBron James’s kids. Now, first off, Lonzo Ball is for real, while the other two Ball kids futures are still up in the air. But as a father, like LeBron pointed out, you should not talk about someone else’s family in that way. Plus, LeBron James Jr. looks like he’s going to be a stud, and he is pretty well set up for success. LaVar, all I ask is from you is silence once Lonzo is in the league. Let him thrive and become the star I believe he can be. (I know damn well he won’t ever shut up, as long as people put cameras in his face he doesn’t have a reason to. I just hope.)

4) Harden with two straight 40-point triple-doubles, seven this season

MVP. MVP. MVP. The Beard is doing things we haven’t seen before, all while leading an all-offence Rockets team to a top-3 seed in the West. A 40-point triple-double is an amazing feat, nevertheless getting seven in the season, but these outrageous stat lines have become norm for Harden.

5) Ex-NBA Star Brandon Roy names High School Basketball Coach of the Year

Easily the feel good story of the week. Brandon Roy was an absolute stud in his career as a Trail Blazer, a career that was unfortunately cut short by his knee injuries. Roy was one of my favourite players, and seeing him succeed as a high school coach makes me incredibly happy for him. It would be amazing to see him work his way up to an NBA coaching gig, but if he chooses to stay in his position then his career has to be seen as a success.

6) D’Angelo Russell youngest Laker to score 40 in a game

Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, all Laker greats that dropped 40 (at least) in a game during their professional careers. Russell is part of this Lakers rebuild, and putting his name in with those greats is a good sign for the organization. The Lakers are still trying to figure out if Russell is a part of their future, but games like this show glimpses of his high upside. He certainly has the style to fit in the L.A. culture, and his playmaking skills are necessary in an up-tempo offence like theirs.

7) Bucks 11-2 since Middleton’s return

No Jabari Parker, no problem. Khris Middleton is one of the most underrated players in the league, and his return to the Bucks has seen them rise to the 6th seed out East. With him and Giannis, the Bucks have two young wings that both can guard anyone 1 through 4. They won’t make much noise this postseason, but look out next year, and the years to come.

8) Chandler Parson’s out for remainder of season

This isn’t that big of a story, Parsons hasn’t played much this season to start with (and when he has played he’s been less than mediocre). I just wanted to include it because it’s interesting to see how far he’s fallen since being on the rise during his time in Houston.

9) Russell Westbrook first in history to notch triple-double while not missing from the floor or free-throw line

This triple-double story is amazing, but comes second to Harden’s this week. And unfortunately for Russ, he’ll also be coming second in the MVP race. It was potentially open for a while, but in the past ten games or so, Harden has pulled away.

10) Shaq says world is flat, later walks back statement

Thank you Shaq for walking it back and saying you were joking, if only because you received backlash on social media or something. But I’m so sick of this being a storyline. The Earth is round. Plain and simple. Anyone who thinks otherwise, stop making yourself sound dumb.

Weekly Dimes (Mar. 9 – 15)

Roughly 15 games left, just under a month before the postseason begins and the race for the Playoff seeding is getting hotter by the day. In recent years the standings haven’t been this up in the air, and key injuries grow the intrigue even further. Coming down the stretch we’ll see more massive stat-lines, and clutch moments from big-game players as teams turn their focus to the postseason and their potential matchups.

 

 

1) Russell Westbrook gets 33rd triple double of season

Westbrook’s amazing season continues, and the accolades continue to pile up. Russ officially has the second most triple doubles in a season, passing Wilt Chamberlain. The best part about his latest triple double is that he heard chants of MVP…in Brooklyn. Only in Brooklyn would the fans chant MVP for a player on the opposing team.

2) LaMarcus Aldridge’s heart scare

Luckily LaMarcus is already back on the floor, but news of a heart arrhythmia is always bad news; whether minor or major. Aldridge sat out two games while receiving scans on his heart, and it appeared as if the Spurs were about to take a major blow to their roster. But luckily for both Aldridge and the Spurs, the tests came back clean and he has returned to game action.

3) Vince Carter scores 24 points at 40 years old

8 for 8 from the floor, including 6 for 6 from downtown, Vincanity threw it back at 40 years old. As a starter he went for 24 points against the Bucks, a team fighting for a spot in the postseason. Throw in the footage of of Vince throwing down a windmill during pre-game warmups and it doesn’t seem as if he’s slowing down anytime soon.

4) First season in 35 years without a coach being fired mid-season

Sounds like this is fake right? Wrong, every season since 1982 has had a head coach fired during the season, and at this point in the year it seems incredibly unlikely that a coach would be fired with so few games left. If a coach had to be fired, I would probably put my money on Alvin Gentry in New Orleans, or Fred Hoiberg in Chicago; but those firings seem more likely in the offseason.

5) Larry Sanders signs with Cavaliers

Back in 2013 Larry Sanders was one of the best up-and-coming centers in the league on a Bucks team that would be incredibly good if he had just stuck to basketball instead of focusing on a music career and marijuana. Watching him play garbage time minutes with the Cavs it’s clear that he’s a shell of his old self, but if he can provide just a little rim protection he can be a worthy contributor for the East-favourite Cavaliers.

6) Elfrid Payton with three triple doubles in the past week

When Elfrid Payton was first drafted, I was so incredibly high on him; higher than his beautifully quaffed hair. However it became clear that his shooting stroke was broken, and his defensive talents haven’t fully translated to the professional game. This past week has been impressive for him, however his Orlando team has lost 4 of their past 5 games. So congratulations Elfrid, you’re finally showing your potential on a team that is terrible.

7) Ricky Rubio drops 10 assists in first quarter

This isn’t all that surprising for a player with such amazing passing skills, but Rubio’s first quarter against the Wizards was a franchise record for the Minnesota point guard. Throw in another franchise record by finishing with 19 assists, Rubio has stepped up his production in the past month. With Kris Dunn off to a slow start in his NBA career, it looks as if Rubio will be sticking around for a while.

8) Lakers shut down Deng and Mozgov for rest of season

Personally I think the Lakers are worse when they play Mozgov over the young Zubac, but the Lakers are so bad they’ll lose no matter who they throw out on the court. Deng sitting out the rest of the year allows Ingram to play more minutes, and going young allows the organization to see who is worth keeping around long term.

9) Jusuf Nurkic posts career high 28, 20, 8 and 6 blocks against Philly

Nurkic was buried on a Denver team that hopes to be in the 8th spot come the end of the season, and ever since being freed with a trade to Portland he has played incredibly well. Just months ago he was receiving DNP – Coaches Decision, and now he’s going for 20/20 games. I believe Denver made the correct decision in choosing Jokic over him, but Nurkic is still a stud big man.

10) Porzingod’s incredible block/snatch

Play of the week by far. Kristaps Porzingis goes up for the block against Spencer Dinwiddie and, well, it’s hard  to describe, but he snatched the ball out of mid-air, brought it behind his back, and came down with it. There are a lot of unicorns in the 2017 NBA landscape, but the original is the one, and only, Porzingod.