How the 2019 NBA Free Agency Will Change the NBA For Years to Come

The 2019 NBA Free Agency will begin tonight at 6pm EST, and already there is plenty of shakeup in the league. Kyrie Irving has left the Boston Celtics to go to Brooklyn on a 4-year, $141M max contract, and Kemba Walker has immediately replaced him in Boston, also signing a max contract. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler will be going to Miami in a sign-and-trade, and Kevin Durant joins Kyrie by going to Brooklyn. Despite that, there are plenty more free agents whose status is up in the air, and here is what I believe will happen to them, and the rest of the NBA:

D’Angelo Russell Prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves

This one is a bit more complicated because the Timberwolves have to trade away Andrew Wiggins to free up the cap, but it makes a lot of sense. Karl Anthony-Towns has talked for months now about the possibility of getting a big name free-agent to Minnesota, and he has often thrown out D’Angelo Russell as the guy he wants. The problem with this is that you have to trade Wiggins, but in order to get back players that have the same worth as Wiggins AND still sign D-Lo, you probably need to find a third team interested. It may take a bit longer than expected and could force Russell to look towards teams like the LA Lakers and Phoenix Suns, who already have the cap and don’t need to make big roster moves. As of right now though, Minnesota seems very confident that Wiggins is drawing interest from teams, and that they can get a deal done soon. Also, although the Warriors want to try to force Brooklyn into a sign-and-trade KD for D-Lo trade, that is not happening. Sorry Warriors, but the dynasty is over.

Kawhi Leonard Prediction: LA

As you can see here, I did not specify which Los Angeles team, but I am confident that it is between one of the two LA teams. The only problem that the Clippers have in this case is the fact that KD and Jimmy Butler are likely to snub the Clippers for other teams, and Kawhi wanted to go to the Clippers along with another superstar. That being said, if guys like Tobias Harris or Khris Middleton show up and want to play for the Clippers, than odds are Kawhi would too. On the other hand, it would only seem fitting that Kawhi went to play with LeBron and the Lakers after all the drama from last offseason, where he said he would only play for the Lakers, and that he would consider sitting the season with any other team. Obviously that was not the case and Kawhi went on to win the championship with Toronto, but if you made all that drama to go to be a Lakers, why not just be a Laker?

Klay Thompson Prediction: Stay with Warriors

This is a no-brainer. There is seriously no reason for Klay to leave, and for the Warriors not to offer Klay the 5-year, $190M max contract. Klay is one of the best shooters of all-time, one of the best 3-and-D players ever, and simply a Warrior-for-life. Thompson has been there in the clutch for Golden State so much, especially for Stephen Curry, who is 0-8 on game-winning shots in the playoffs, but Klay continues to catch fire in the clutch. This should have been the first major free agency deal that was made.

Danny Green Prediction: LA Lakers on a Pay Cut

Danny Green is by no means a superstar player in any stretch of the imagination, but he may be one of the greatest role players of all-time. He’s been to 3 NBA Finals, won 2 of the 3, and has been the best shooter on both of those teams (San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors). He is also a guy that wants to win and will do whatever it takes. If that means taking a pay cut and potentially joining Kawhi Leonard, Green will do it and take the mid-level exception contract (a $4.8 million contract per year, which means that he is the one legal, non-minimum veteran contract that the Lakers can use before they go over the salary cap). Even if Kawhi doesn’t go to LA, LeBron will convince him to come join the new superteam.

How Does the NBA Change Now?

The NBA will take a swing in which the East and West will be much more balanced and much more competitive, with it being as wide-open as it has ever been in recent memory. Teams like Miami and Boston have remade themselves into contenders, Milwaukee stays as-is, Toronto could fall massively, Brooklyn is the best team in New York for good, and Philadelphia still stays relevant. As for the Western Conference, Golden State has clearly fallen with the loss of KD and the injury to Klay Thompson, but with LeBron already beginning to create himself the team he wants, it will all depend on Kawhi as to whether or not he takes over the Western Conference for years to come. Not saying that teams like Denver, Portland, and OKC cannot contend, but LeBron always finds a way to get by those teams in the playoffs, like he did in the Eastern Conference. The NBA season will be as wide-open as ever.

What About the Rookies?

Guys like Zion and RJ probably won’t even be talked about anymore with all these familiar faces in new places, as the league is in its prime in terms of the number of contending teams, and guys like Zion and RJ are not in that position. The only rookie-led team that will make a splash is Atlanta, and even that may take a few years to do.

 

Warriors-Raptors: (Finally) An Entertaining NBA Finals

The Golden State Warriors will now make their 5thstraight NBA Finals appearance tonight, though for once, they will not have to face the Cleveland Cavaliers or LeBron James. James leaving Cleveland left the Cavs with one of the worst records in the NBA, and a new team to finally take over the throne of the Eastern Conference. Once LeBron left, it became a race between the Toronto Raptors, who had traded for Kawhi Leonard this past summer, the Boston Celtics, who had just made the Eastern Conference Finals and challenged LeBron the season before on his way to his 8thstraight NBA Finals appearance, and the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and during the season traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. No one expected the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokuonmpo, to have an MVP-caliber season and lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would play Toronto. Toronto, however, having been down 2-0 to start the series, won the next 4 to take the series in 6 and go to the NBA Finals. The Warriors had a somewhat difficult path to the Finals this year, with a near first-round scare from the LA Clippers. The Warriors had a 1-0 lead in the series and were looking to make it 2-0 when they were up by 31 in the 3rdquarter, but lo and behold, the All-Star-less Clippers won that game. Then, when the Warriors were up 3-1 and looking to close it out in their building, the Clippers won again. Since then, the Warriors beat the Rockets in what was a surprisingly short series against the Rockets, where they won in 6 games (short considering how the Rockets were expected to take the series to 7), and then they swept the Portland Trail Blazers. Along the way, they ended up losing DeMarcus Cousins in the first round, who will be back tonight, and Kevin Durant in the Western Conference Semifinals, who will be out for at least tonight and Game 2 (I do not expect him to be healthy and playing this series). Here is what I think will happen in this intriguing NBA Finals.

The Series Depends on Kevin Durant

In the last 32 games that Golden State has played without Kevin Durant and with Stephen Curry, they have a 31-1 record. The last 32 games with them both, the Warriors are 21-11. Yet despite all the crazy thoughts and ideas that people have, saying that the Warriors are better without Kevin Durant as opposed to with him, they are definitely better with Durant in the lineup. With Kevin Durant, there is less movement without the ball by the players, and more movement with the ball, which stems from Durant’s ability to create separation from defenders and get open shots. Durant being there allows for Golden State to play slower, but play more effectively, and put more value into each possession, with his bonafide scoring ability. While I do not expect Durant to play, but if he does, and he does before Game 7, the Warriors will be overwhelming favorites to win the series.

Marc Gasol Will Outplay Demarcus Cousins

It has been no secret that Demarcus Cousins’ injury history has finally taken a toll on him, and that should be an area where Toronto should have the advantage. The Warriors have the advantage right now at shooting guard with Klay Thompson being better than Danny Green, point guard with Curry being better than Kyle Lowry, and then power forward and small forward matchups are close to even, with Draymond Green and Pascal Siakam being rather evenly matched, and Kawhi and KD being evenly matched as well. But what can give Toronto a huge boost is the defensive prowess and improved shooting of Marc Gasol, who can also tire out Demarcus Cousins very quickly due to his lack of movement and speed due to his injuries. I fully expect Raptors Coach Nick Nurse to use Gasol as the second scoring option behind Kawhi, and I fully expect Gasol to take advantage.

The Warriors Bench Needs to Play Valuable Minutes… and Make Valuable Use of Them

The Warriors bench, I think everyone can agree, is certainly not better than that of Toronto, led by Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell, but the Warriors do have experience in NBA Finals games. The bench, led by Andre Iguodala, who has been with the Warriors for all of the past 5 years, will need guys like Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Damian Jones to match up with the likes of Ibaka, VanVleet, and Powell. As good as Curry, Green, and Thompson have been these playoffs, this is the NBA Finals, and these guys will need rest each game, so these guys better be ready. I know Toronto’s guys will be considering how much they have relied on this postseason. Golden State’s bench better match that.

Drake Will Frustrate Golden State

The NBA’s greatest fan currently is certainly going to be a big discussion point in these Finals. Drake was arrogantly called out by Bucks Coach Mike Budenholzer in the Eastern Conference Finals and said Drake was a ‘distraction’. So, are guys like Spike Lee, who has been at Knicks games for 20+ years, not? Just because Drake is a passionate, flamboyant fan, does not mean that he is a distraction. That being said, the world is full of petty people, and Golden State will feel frustrated by the antics he pulls during this series.

Despite All That…

The Warriors will probably still win. Simply put, there is no way that Kyle Lowry and Danny Green can stop Curry and Thompson. IF Durant does not come back and IF Toronto doesn’t lose any home games, they will win in 7. My expectation is that Golden State will lose Game 5 at Toronto, go back home, and win in 6. So yes, my prediction is Warriors in 6, but I sure hope I am wrong, and it is Raptors in 7. This will be a great and entertaining series, and certainly a series where you cannot count Toronto out.

 

Why NBA Fans Should Chill Out… And Why They Should Not

The Golden State Warriors seemed to have ruined the season for many NBA fans on July 2nd, when they had signed Demarcus Cousins, the league’s best center, to a 1-year, $5.3 million deal. Now, many people, including myself, originally thought that this was terrible for the NBA, yet after thinking over it for the past few days, I have some words to say to all worrying NBA fans out there, as well as Demarcus Cousins:

Why Everyone Should Chill Out

Seriously, everyone should chill. Yes, they got Boogie Cousins, which makes the Warriors look almost unbeatable on paper, but then again, he is coming off of an Achilles injury which kept him out for the last 34 games of the regular season and the playoffs, yet they went to the 2nd round, including sweeping the 3-seed Portland Trail Blazers, exceeding expectations. The biggest reason for this was because the Pelicans could finally play high-tempo basketball, something that Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has been a master at his whole coaching career. Rajon Rondo and Solomon Hill were inserted into the starting lineup, Jrue Holiday was moved to Shooting Guard, Nikola Mirotic played at Power Forward, and of course Anthony Davis played Center. The offense gained fluidity through going up-tempo. What am I trying to say here? Cousins is going to slow down Golden State. He is a slow player, he cannot shoot, he doesn’t spread the floor, he’s a post player who can rebound, as shown by his 25 points and 12 rebounds per game last season. This isn’t Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic, a Center that can shoot the 3, this is Demarcus Cousins, and this is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors live and die by the 3. We have seen this since the start of the Cavs-Warriors rivalry, that is how they play, that simple. The deadlier part about that is that they play fast, up-tempo basketball, so while they seem like simply a 3-point shooting team, the fastbreaks they are able to create make things more and more un-guardable. Now, tell me, do you think that Steve Kerr and the Warriors would want to see Boogie not be able to run halfway up the court after grabbing a rebound, while Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson are all the way at the 3-point line? By the time Boogie gets back in transition, the flow of the offense is disrupted, the fastbreak is stopped, and the Warriors are about 7-8 seconds into the shot clock. Now, think about this for a second. The Warriors do this for a few possessions, they let up points on the other end, Steve Kerr calls timeout, and lets Demarcus hear it. How would Demarcus, the league’s biggest crybaby (besides Draymond Green, who is his new teammate), feel about that? Well, the same thing that has happened to Demarcus the past few years. He cries. He leaves next season once his one year deal is over. Oh, and another thing, he gets injured a lot, so maybe he won’t be so happy if he misses some time and doesn’t get his money’s worth. Oh wait, he didn’t get his money’s worth. He denied $40 million over 2 years from the Pelicans just so he could not have to do anything and still win a ring, because they will most likely still win this year. Now, regardless of if they win it all or not, it could still be a failed experiment because Demarcus didn’t like being under the scrutiny of slowing down the fast-paced offense of the team. He has the option to leave, but after seeing him make a move like this, no team in the NBA would want him, unless they’re desperate, which Demarcus would not want to be a part of. Also, Kevin Durant is a free agent next summer, and the New York Knicks are already planning to target him in free agency, and with Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler planning to team up in the East (Kyrie wants to play for the Knicks, and Jimmy wants to be wherever Kyrie is), and Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Knox already with the Knicks, Durant would definitely consider it, and he would earn the respect of so many back, as he is essentially taking the path of earning his right to win a ring instead of it being given. Durant signing the 2-year extension this year proves he wants to prove himself as a team leader elsewhere, and he knows that the Warriors will always be Steph Curry’s team, even though KD is better. Klay Thompson could also leave for the Los Angeles Lakers, where his father Mychal played and won many championships in his career. Klay could certainly decide to continue his legacy there. There is a legit chance that KD and Boogie at least could leave the Warriors next season (Klay has voiced his love for the Warriors throughout his career, so leaving would be a 50-50 chance for him), and that the dynasty could be over, and teams like the Lakers, Celtics, 76ers, and Knicks, are all ready to take over the NBA.

Demarcus, How Can You Be So Ignorant?

Demarcus, how can you be so ignorant that you leave a team that was good enough without you to sweep the Blazers, get a win against the Warriors in the 2nd round, something the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t do in the NBA Finals, and still leave them for a team that swept the NBA Finals? How can you be so ignorant that you leave a top-5 player in the NBA (Anthony Davis), the man that hyped you up all season and all offseason, the man that literally wore your jersey for the All-Star Game because he was so sorry for you and that you weren’t there? How can you be so ignorant that you simply don’t want to be the best, and that you just want to be part of the best (Golden State)? How can you be so ignorant that Pelicans fans looked up to you, admired you, bought their jerseys, got hyped up, went to games for you, and had hope for the team, and you still left them? How can you be so ignorant that even if you didn’t want to stay in New Orleans, that you couldn’t just go to a team where you could put yourself in position to beat Golden State? How can you be so ignorant that you take your talents to a team that doesn’t need or care about you at all? How can you be so ignorant that you said you wanted to win yourself when you left the Sacramento Kings, and yet you go to the team where you need to do no work to win a ring? How can you be so ignorant that you force a team to trade valuable assets for you so you can just be injured and not play, and then you leave them thinking they aren’t good enough because you cannot stay healthy? Demarcus Cousins, you do not deserve to ever get more than the $5.3 million that you will get this year, you do not deserve to be worth more than that money, and you do not deserve to go to the playoffs and win rings. Everything you do from this point forward is not deserved or earned, it is given to your pathetic, narcissistic self for thinking that leaving a team where you put up max-contract-worthy stats, and you had a great team and players, and you left them for what potentially already was the greatest team ever assembled. Kevin Durant went from OKC to Golden State to try to win, and yes, it was messed up, because he was on a team that was so talented that they could’ve beaten that Golden State team, and he could’ve won the Finals, and even if he lost he could’ve stayed and proved himself, yet he was a backstabber who decided to take an easy way out. The difference between you and Kevin Durant is that Durant had proven himself as the 2nd best player in the NBA, and Durant, while he may not have earned his rings, earned respect across the league, and elevated the Warriors to be one of the greatest teams ever, yet you have done nothing. Being the best Center in the league means nothing if you cannot even make the playoffs yourself, and if you cannot stay healthy and get your attitude right to be part of a team like that. You are officially the most ignorant and least likeable player in any sport, and you didn’t take PEDs to break the record book, you didn’t commit any crazy crimes, no, none of that. You simply just are too weak to do anything by yourself. Period.

Why We Shouldn’t Chill Out

They will win the Finals regardless and he did absolutely nothing to deserve it, and the entire Golden State Warriors starting lineup has 5 All-Stars, that’s why. They can win this year, but this is the beginning of the end one way or another.

LeBron’s GOAT Status Currently, and Free Agency Predictions

James is coming off an NBA Finals loss which, let’s face it, no one really cares about that much. Essentially, LeBron played what Fortnite gamers call ‘Solo Squads’, and the Warriors had a bit too overpowering of a squad. LeBron James, despite being 3-6 in the NBA Finals, is still the Greatest Player of All-Time, and he will most likely be a free agent. LeBron is going to be the talk of the summer once again, as he is approaching ‘The Decision 3.0’ in this year’s free agency. Here is my stance on where he lies as the GOAT, and where he could go in free agency this summer:

LeBron’s GOAT Status

LeBron James is really the only person besides Michael Jordan who is in the GOAT conversation, and deservedly so. Why wouldn’t the most complete NBA player to ever play the game not be in the GOAT conversation? Now, that being said, many critics are rather dogmatic and harsh in their judgement of LeBron James, but there are many things those people are missing out. First off, Michael Jordan is 1-9 in all playoff series when he did not have another superstar on his team. LeBron James has been to 2 NBA Finals with no superstars (2007 and this year, and no, Kevin Love is not a superstar). Second, Michael Jordan is 6-0 in Finals, yet he always had the NBA’s best team. LeBron, however, has only been the favorite in 2 Finals (2011 vs. Dallas Mavericks, and 2013 vs. San Antonio Spurs, according to FiveThirtyEight. He went 1-1 in those Finals). So, to say that Jordan is better because he is 6-0 is a bad argument to make, because LeBron has rarely been the favorite. On top of that, Jordan has been swept out of the playoffs twice, and unlike LeBron, has lost in the first round of the playoffs, so saying that LeBron has ‘easier competition’ is also a faulty statement. Third, LeBron is the much more complete player, as he isn’t simply ‘just a scorer’, or ‘just a perimeter defender’ as Michael Jordan was. LeBron can do much more to rebound, pass, play inside on both ends, and guard and play all positions on either side of the ball. Lastly, LeBron has never had the amount of talent that Jordan has had, as Jordan could afford to take a 2-year ‘retirement’ and still see his Chicago Bulls make the playoffs both years. Only LeBron’s Miami Heat teams could’ve made the playoffs without him. Sure, they both had superteams, but Jordan always had the more deep and dependable superteams as opposed to LeBron. All in all, the arguments for LeBron as the GOAT trump that of Jordan, and show that his ability to often just take terribly assembled teams to the Finals is remarkable, and the fact that Jordan always had a well assembled team to work with speaks volumes to the differences in their Finals records, yet also their individual talents and efforts. The only thing that could really take LeBron out of the GOAT conversation is if he were to go to the Golden State Warriors in free agency, which, considering the current Warriors position, they may have to trade all their superstars except for KD and maybe Steph Curry to get him, and even then, they will be guaranteed many Finals victories due to the presence of LeBron.

LeBron’s Free Agency Options

LeBron James has a lot of leverage as far as where he can go once he opts out, due to the how much money he can get per year, and the sign-and-trade ability that he possesses, as exemplified by the way Chris Paul used it last season to get to the Houston Rockets. The teams that are in the running for LeBron are: LA Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Golden State Warriors. Here is how I see each team in terms of those most likely to get him, sleeper teams, the best fit for LeBron, and who LeBron will eventually go play for:

The Teams Most Likely To Land LeBron

Los Angeles Lakers

Now, this seems to be the favorite to land LeBron by seemingly everyone, not just the Vegas odds-makers, or the fact that LeBron has two homes in LA. However, the Lakers need to do a few things to convince LeBron first. They must trade their big cap-space clingers, like Luol Deng and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, so that LeBron can have the ability to tell Magic Johnson how he wants the roster to be tinkered. The last thing he would want is to run into a situation that he did in the 2010-11 season, when the ‘Big 3’ had really no one else on the team, which resulted in their shock NBA Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 6 games. LeBron wants to be able to get the roster up-and-running immediately, which he has improved upon doing since that season. LeBron also will want Paul George. The Lakers are the only team in the NBA that has enough cap for TWO max-contract players, and Paul George can be the second guy. While many say George is a lock to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for his hometown of SoCal, George has talked many times about the fact that he may want to stay in OKC, citing that playing with Russell Westbrook has made him a better player and person. Even if PG stays with OKC, Kawhi Leonard, the superstar Small Forward of the San Antonio Spurs, has asked for a trade to the Lakers, and will be granted the trade soon. The trade will probably end up being Brandon Ingram and Luol Deng for Kawhi. Now, assuming that PG’s heart is set on going back home, LeBron to LA would be a virtual guarantee. LeBron, along with PG, and Kawhi, and the young pieces that LA already has, they will bring themselves back to NBA Finals contenders, as it would put them on a level to beat the Golden State Warriors, and win the Finals many times over.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia is enticing to LeBron James because of the heights that they reached this season. They went to the Eastern Conference Semifinals with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leading the way. With LeBron’s presence, he can elevate the level of play from Embiid and Simmons, along with other role players like JJ Redick, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, and make this team NBA Finals contenders. This roster already has pieces that LeBron would love to play with, as it has a scoring and shot-blocking center (Embiid), a creator (Simmons), and many spot-up shooters (Redick, Covington, Saric). LeBron probably fits best with the Sixers compared to any of his other suitors. The only piece LeBron may look to trade or replace is Markelle Fultz. The 76ers also have the 10th pick in the NBA Draft which is a week from today. Don’t be surprised if LeBron has Philly take a guy like Mikal Bridges or Colin Sexton, scorers who can either start or come off the bench. LeBron can easily take this team to the Finals, and they could knock off Golden State.

San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard wants to be traded to the Lakers, so no chance LeBron goes there.

Houston Rockets

Roster-wise, why wouldn’t LeBron want to go here? James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela are three of the best players at their positions, and the Rockets role players are some of the best in the business. So, why can’t LeBron just go there? Cap space. Houston backup Power Forward Ryan Anderson was signed in 2016 to a 4-year, $80 million contract in 2016, and if he isn’t traded, the Rockets should say goodbye to their chances at getting LeBron. LeBron would probably have to do a sign-and-trade deal like Chris Paul did, but it all comes down to whether or not the Cavs, or possibly any other team, would want Anderson. If Anderson is traded before LeBron makes ‘The Decision’, LeBron could go there and not have to go through the mess of a sign-and-trade deal, but considering Anderson is 30 years old, and really not bringing value to many teams anymore, the Rockets window to get LeBron is closing faster than ever.

Boston Celtics

I’m convinced that Celtics GM Danny Ainge wants to trade Gordon Hayward for LeBron in a sign-and-trade, but would Cleveland be willing to get ‘just Hayward’ for him? It seems as though Ainge will not want to trade Kyrie Irving and instead convince him to stay in 2019, when he can make $80 million more than what he would make this year if he extends his contract, which he declined to do. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wants to build a ‘championship roster’ without LeBron, so he may get greedy in the sign-and-trade, even if he does get Hayward. Plus, Kyrie ran away from Cleveland and their management to lead a team, so he may not want LeBron to come to Boston. I would, however, give Boston a higher chance to get LeBron than Houston.

Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron does not want to stay with this embarrassment of an organization. Unless he gets 1-2 superstars, such as Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins through sign-and-trade deals. I doubt that even then, LeBron would be convinced to stay, though, especially after how he took this terrible team to the Finals. Yes, this would make them miles better, but would they beat Golden State? Still not very likely.

Miami Heat

LeBron could get a reunion back with the Heat and his BFF Dwyane Wade, but it would take a trade. Center Hassan Whiteside, and possibly Small Forward Justise Winslow, would have to be traded for Cousins, Kawhi, or Demar Derozan, which all seem unlikely, but Heat Team President Pat Riley, who may be the best in the business, could make it work. The Heat have great pieces, like Philly and Boston do, to be NBA Finals contenders if LeBron goes there. They could be the sleeper team in the LeBron sweepstakes for sure.

Golden State Warriors

No. Just no. Kevin Durant said no. GM Bob Myers wants Anthony Davis from the Pelicans instead. They don’t need LeBron, and they would have to trade too much to get LeBron, so why would they even bother? Also, why would LeBron want to ruin his legacy by going to a team that doesn’t need him to earn their rings? So, the answer is no.

Where Will LeBron Ultimately Go?

LeBron to LA will become a reality. With PG, Kawhi, and young stars like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, how can LeBron turn down the opportunity to play with this team. The roster also is very flexible, meaning that LeBron can make many trades to better the roster, and give himself valuable bench players. He had the luxury of doing this with the Miami Heat by getting himself Birdman (Chris Andersen), Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier. In Cleveland, he got himself Kevin Love, JR Smith, and Kyle Korver. Expect LeBron to get more role players like this. The Lakers also have the 25th pick which they could utilize in a trade to get a role player of LeBron’s liking, if he wishes to have the Lakers trade it. On top of the basketball reasons, if the whole ‘family could determine his decision’ rumor is indeed true, then LeBron to LA makes sense, especially since LeBron wants to get more well-known in Hollywood, so, why not LA?

Is Lonzo Ball a Big Baller?

Lonzo Ball is the most coveted rookie ever to be drafted since LeBron James not just because of his father Lavar, but because of the fact that he is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most accomplished teams in the history of the NBA. Ball has had huge expectations since his days at UCLA, thanks to his father. He said Lonzo would bring UCLA a championship. That dream ended in the Round of 16 of March Madness due to De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point outburst. He said that Lonzo would be drafted by the Lakers, which happened as we all know. Then there are some things that we have to wait and see before we can say they are true, such as if he is better than Stephen Curry, and that he will take the Lakers to the playoffs this year. Here is what I think about the potential of Lonzo Ball, and his shoe game.

Lonzo’s Potential

Lonzo Ball is the most gifted passer I have ever seen since Steve Nash. Much like Nash, Ball is a pass-first team player who is willing to sacrifice his scoring to set up others for easier scoring opportunities. While he was at UCLA, he averaged 7.6 assists per game, which broke UCLA records for assists in a season, and also propelled him into the top spot in the nation’s assist leaders. At UCLA, Lonzo averaged 14.6 points per game, which led his team. So far in the Summer League, he is averaging 16.4 points per game, and 9.2 assists per game, showing his innate ability to be a scorer and a distributor. While the scoring numbers may be slightly inflated due to the fact that he is playing against players fighting for a spot on an NBA roster, his ability to create opportunities for those same players on his team speaks volumes to his ability as a team leader. Lonzo already has proven that he is a Big Baller, but now he has also shown his potential to lead a team, be selfless, create scoring opportunities for himself, and be a good on and off-ball defender. He has the potential to be as good as Magic Johnson by the end of his career, as well as an NBA champion. Also, expect the #2 banner to up in Staples Center by the time Lonzo’s career is all set and done (as said by Magic Johnson).

Lonzo’s Shoe Game

Lavar Ball not only has put tremendous pressure on Lonzo to be one of the greatest players ever, but he has also started a shoe line under his family company’s name, Big Baller Brand. Shortly after Lonzo and UCLA were knocked out of the March Madness Tournament, Lavar tried to get Lonzo a shoe deal with either Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour. All three of the brands said no, which led to him creating the shoe line under the Big Baller Brand name. The ZO2 was unveiled, but to make Lonzo’s shoe stand out from the competition, Lavar priced it at $495. When interviewed about it, he said ‘if you can’t afford the shoes, you’re not a Big Baller.” In his first two Summer League games, Lonzo wore his Big Baller Brand shoes, but in his two latest games, he has worn the Nike Kobe AD, Adidas Harden 1 Lifestyle, and Under Armour Curry 4 (they were given to him by Curry). Lonzo said in an interview from TNT’s David Aldridge “when you’re a big baller, you can wear whatever you want,” showing the fact that he is still looking for a deal from the big companies, and by wearing their shoes is using this as a tactic to get the shoe deal. Lavar Ball told ESPN that since Lonzo is independent, “[he] is not forced to wear any brand as long as it’s okay with the NBA.” I think this is a great strategy and sooner than later, Lonzo will land himself a shoe deal with one of the major shoe brands.

 

Sources:

 

What the Finals Loss Means to the Legacy and Future of LeBron James

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Golden State Warriors in 5 games in the NBA Finals, proving me wrong about the buildup of the Golden State Warriors team. However, one thing that has not and will not change for me is my opinion towards the legacy of LeBron James. LeBron played his heart out, averaging a triple-double in the NBA Finals (33.6 points per game, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), becoming the first player to average a triple-double in the NBA Finals. LeBron has 3 wins and 5 losses in NBA Finals, but his legacy is still as steady as Michael Jordan’s. Jordan went 6-0 in the NBA Finals, but was 6-7 getting there. LeBron is 8-4. What’s better, getting to the Finals, or just getting to the playoffs? Yeah, getting to the Finals, even if you lose. LeBron is the one who has made himself and others so good that he is guaranteed to make it to the Finals, just ask any team in the Eastern Conference. This year, his Cavs were outplayed by a much more superior Warriors team in the Finals. Sure, LeBron had All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but Golden State has 2 MVPs (Steph Curry and Kevin Durant), 3 of the greatest 3-point shooters ever (Steph, KD, and Klay Thompson), a Defensive Player of the Year candidate (Draymond Green), and a Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala), just to beat LeBron and Cleveland. To me, that just proves how much talent is needed to beat a perfectly assembled LeBron James team. Now, let us take a look at the legacy of James, and his future.

LeBron’s Legacy

LeBron James, as we mentioned, is 3-5 in Finals, but let us look at the wins and losses more closely. In 2007, LeBron James single-handedly took his Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. LeBron, who was 22 at the time, was on the rise of being the ‘best player on the planet’, was playing stellar, but the San Antonio Spurs were too much in the NBA Finals, as he got swept. Then again, when you are only 22, your 2nd best player is named Jamario Moon (who was pretty bad, actually), and you are playing 3 Future Hall-of-Famers, expect to be swept. In 2011, when he became a member of the Miami Heat, he disappeared, not playing like himself, not wanting the ball, losing in 6 games. In 2012 and 2013, he became the ‘best player on the planet’, winning back-to-back championships over the OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. 2014, in the rematch against the Spurs, the Spurs got their revenge. 2015, in LeBron’s return to the Cavs, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both got injured, and LeBron fought his way on his own to take the Warriors to 6 games, but needed help to win. 2016 and 2017 were split with Golden State, with a 7-game thriller (Warriors blew a 3-1 lead), and losing in 5 games this year. Overall, you cannot blame him for the losses to Golden State. This year, he played his heart out and got beat by a superior team, and in 2015, he did the same, but didn’t have his star counterparts. LeBron really is 3-3 (in terms of wins and losses responsible for in NBA Finals), but the fact that he has gotten there with more success than Jordan (not to mention that LeBron has always gotten past the first round, whereas Jordan has been swept in the first round), speaks volumes to his ability to lead a team to success.

LeBron’s Future

LeBron James won’t be getting much more talent for this Cavs team anytime soon without trading Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, or Tristan Thompson. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are options, but just Kevin Love for them isn’t enough. I think he should play it out next year, get to the Finals, maybe acquire better role players, and then test free agency in 2018.

LeBron fulfilled his lifelong promise of bringing a championship to Cleveland in 2016, so he has every right to leave the Cavs (again). Reports from Bleacher Report and CBS Sports say that James has considered going to Los Angeles, as he has a house there, and is looking to pursue ventures outside of basketball, and Hollywood is the best place to do it. He has been linked to LA for quite a few years now, dating back to 2007. Kobe Bryant decided to ask for a trade from LA, letting his ego get in the way as he wanted to win desperately. The trade never happened, but it put into perspective for the rest of James’ career that LA would be a possible place to go. If he is to leave, he is to go to either the Lakers or the Clippers. Both teams have great opportunity to beat the Warriors with James. The Lakers can get Paul George or Jimmy Butler (they should be able to get one of the two this year), they can draft Lonzo Ball who has huge superstar potential, and they can trade D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson for another superstar (of George and Butler, whichever one they do not get). LeBron could even build his dream superteam of his best friends Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, and get them to play with him in LA. This would allow him to have a young team with veteran leadership around him, and allow him beat Golden State. Since LeBron can beat the Eastern Conference with his eyes closed, he can win many more championships.

With the Clippers, if they keep Chris Paul and Blake Griffin this year, they will have their Big 3 with them and DeAndre Jordan. Then they can lure James in, who has a great relationship with Paul, acquire another guy like Carmelo or Wade, and then get more role players, and LeBron can have a team that can beat Golden State, and win championships. Either way, he will have more success down the road going to LA than in Cleveland, so it makes sense that he leaves (sources say he wants to and will leave in 2018). Who knows, maybe LeBron will have more rings than Jordan after all, and become the GOAT.

Sources of Info:

 

The THRILLogy Continues: Cavaliers-Warriors Part III

On June 4, 2015, the Golden State Warriors played the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, with the Warriors looking to put a storybook ending to their odds-defying season. On June 16, 2015, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers played Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals, with the Warriors winning the game and the NBA Finals that year. June 2, 2016, they met for the 2nd consecutive Finals. This one came down to 7 games, with Cleveland winning their first NBA Finals ever, and bringing the city of Cleveland their first championship in a professional sport in 52 years. On June 1, 2017, they will meet again for the 3rd straight year, the first time in NBA history that the same two teams have played each other three consecutive years. Here is some history of the last 2 NBA Finals, and my prediction for who wins it this year:

The History of the THRILLogy

2015: The Golden State Warriors had a league-best 67-15 record, while the Cleveland Cavaliers returned to the playoffs with a 53-29 record in LeBron James’s first year back with the team since leaving for the Miami Heat in 2010. The teams split their season series 1 game apiece, and had an easy path to the NBA Finals. The Warriors won the Finals in 6 games despite LeBron nearly averaging a triple-double in large part due to the fact that Cleveland’s second star, Kyrie Irving, injured his knee in overtime in Game 1, making the Warriors job on defense easy, having one less guy to worry about, since Kevin Love had gotten injured earlier in the playoffs (both would be out for the rest of the playoffs). This win showed the versatility of the Warriors, as league-MVP Stephen Curry had a rough series, but guys like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala stepped up (Iggy was the Finals MVP). This also showed that LeBron James, as inhuman as he played that series (averaging 35.8 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game, and 8.8 assists per game), could not lead the team alone, and if the Cavs were healthy, they could win again if they made it back.

2016: Golden State played even better in the regular season, finishing with a 73-9 record, the best regular season record ever (most wins in a regular season). Stephen Curry averaged 30.1 points per game, 6.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game on his way to winning back-to-back MVPs, and becoming the first player ever to win the league MVP unanimously. LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love combined to score an average of 61 points per game to lead their team. Both teams strolled through their conferences, and met again in the Finals. As we know, Golden State blew a 3-1 lead, and the rest is history.

This Year

Cleveland and Golden State started off well, and the Warriors continued it, as they got Kevin Durant in free agency on July 4th. Cleveland ended the season after the All-Star Break with a losing record, and people began to doubt them. The Warriors went 12-0 on their way to the Finals, and Cleveland went 12-1. Now, they meet again and are much better teams. This is the toughest test of LeBron James’ career, but with him on the team, LeBron can easily make this a series. James will outplay Durant, Kyrie will outplay Curry, Tristan Thompson will outplay Zaza Pachulia, and Kevin Love will outplay Draymond Green. So it comes down to Klay Thompson vs. JR Smith, and the benches. The Cavaliers bench has a lot more versatility than the Warriors bench, by acquiring Kyle Korver and Deron Williams in February, and on the Warriors side Klay has been very erratic. Last year, the Cavaliers left guys like Harrison Barnes open on shots to be able to play other guys on defense. This year, that guy will be Klay, as he is only shooting 36%. In the end, LeBron outplaying Durant is the biggest part of the reason that I believe Cleveland will repeat. Cleveland in 7. LeBron is the MVP, possibly the GOAT, and KD goes from potential all-time great to a guy who is a superstar with no credentials who made a weak move to leave the OKC Thunder to go to Golden State, the team that prevented him from going to the NBA Finals last year.

 

Western Conference Finals: Can Anyone Beat Golden State?

The Golden State Warriors have been nothing short of golden this year, but my hatred towards the team and towards all its players not named Steph Curry, JaVale McGee, or Kevin Durant, lives on. Golden State has gone 8-0 so far to start the playoffs, and play a blue-collared juggernaut team in the San Antonio Spurs, who are coming off back-to-back 6 game series. Here is what I believe will happen in order for the Spurs to be able to beat Golden State, and why it may or may not happen.

How San Antonio Can Beat Golden State

Start Jonathan Simmons to Limit Steph Curry

The Spurs started Jonathan Simmons in Game 6 of their last series against the Rockets to limit James Harden. Simmons did just that, and also added 18 points in 31 minutes of play. Simmons is a 6’6” rookie out of Houston who can score, defend, and handle the ball, and last year, he paid $150 to just to try out for the D-League. Now, he is starting in the NBA Playoffs, and against a team with so much offensive firepower like Golden State, that should only continue. Steph Curry, however, has been shooting just under 47% these playoffs, and has been a matchup nightmare these playoffs, as he is averaging 3 turnovers a game, compared to Harden averaging 5.4, so Simmons will have his hands full.

Note: James Harden went 1-5 and had 6 turnovers when guarded by Simmons in Games 5 and 6. 

Keep The Warriors Fans Out of the Game

Oracle Arena, the home of the Warriors, is one of the loudest stadiums in the entire NBA, and probably the hardest to play in. San Antonio, led by head coach Greg Popovich, figured out a way to move the ball against the Rockets in the last series to keep the crowd out of the game. The Warriors, however, have been playing great defense this season, limiting the ball movement of teams and forcing players into bad shots. The Spurs run a lot of pick-and-roll, off-the-ball movement to free guys up, but Golden State has been limiting that all season. San Antonio will have to get players open quickly, not use up too much shot clock, and get quick baskets.

Kawhi Leonard Has to be Fresh and Healthy

The biggest advantage the Warriors will have is that they can attack Kawhi Leonard all they want knowing he won’t be as healthy as he normally is, meaning Kevin Durant could get some very easy baskets off of him. The key will be to have Coach Popovich utilize the bench well enough to the point where Kawhi can get his rest, and the Warriors don’t explode and go on a game-clinching scoring outburst like they are capable of. Leonard has been everything the Spurs could’ve hoped for in these playoffs, averaging 27.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 4.7 apg. The teamwork will be key if the Spurs want to have any chance of winning the series. The only problem for the Spurs is that Kawhi isn’t unstoppable like LeBron James, especially when he isn’t healthy.

The Verdict

Many people who know me know that since the season started, I said the Spurs would beat Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, but after weighing in the stats, the wins and losses, the things I said the Spurs will have to do in order to win, and everything in between, I had to ask myself some important questions. Will the Spurs get swept? No. Can they win the series? Yes, and the reasons above prove how and why they can win, but the only problem is that Golden State knows how to win, even when Steph is limited, when the fans are out of the fame, and the opposing teams’ best player is on fire. If the Spurs win, it has to go to 7 games, but this series will be over in 6, with Golden State winning in 6.

Stats from:

http://stats.nba.com/leaders

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/05/jonathan-simmons-spurs-nba-playoffs-starter-kawhi-leonard-150-pay-d-league-tryout-story-rockets-game-6

 

Who Should Win NBA MVP 2016-17: BEASTBrook, or The Beard?

It has been clear since July 4th, 2016 that Russell Westbrook was going to do something no one else had ever done in the NBA before. That was the day that Kevin Durant, his best friend and teammate, betrayed him, the team, and the city, for the team that prevented them from going to the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors. This season, the team entered as a possible lottery-draft-pick team, but Westbrook’s record-breaking season has propelled his team into the playoffs, which includes becoming the Triple-Double King. James Harden, on the other hand, has been waiting since last April, as his team failed to make the playoffs as an underwhelming yet star-studded team last year. Harden took it upon himself to be a team-first player and drive his team to the playoffs. Along the way, he has had career high numbers in points, rebounds, and assists. So, who should win the MVP?

Who Will Win and Why?

Westbrook has just been incredible to say the least, and has turned a team that should be in the bottom five in the NBA into a playoff team. While his team may be worse than Harden’s, and the fact that they may not get through the first round, this is an individual award. The numbers do not lie with Westbrook. He has 42 triple-doubles, a record that has been broken after 55 years. He’s averaging 31.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 10.4 APG in just 34.4 minutes on average per game. He has career-high free throw percentages, attempts, and makes (84.5%, 10.5 attempts per game, 8.9 makes per game). He is the only player in NBA history to average 40-12-11 in a 3-game span. He is the only player in NBA history to record at least 100 points, 30 boards, and 30 assists in the first 3 games of the regular season. He is the only player in NBA history to have a triple-double and have a perfect shooting game (field goals and free throws). He is the only player in NBA history with five straight 30-point triple-doubles in a season. He has the record for most points with a triple double in a game with 57. Lastly, he is the second player ever to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robertson 55 years back.

Harden doesn’t have any number to compare. Harden is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists (29.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 11.2 APG). He has led the team to a top-10 offense in NBA history. He helps his team lead the game in time of possessions with his ability to draw the defense to himself. He assists on 27 points per game, and scores 29 points per game, as he and Isaiah Thomas are going to be the first players to do so. He also has led his team to an NBA record for 3-pointers attempted, and made. In terms of defense, Harden has been better, but he doesn’t really play much defense besides contesting shots, as he contests around 4 more shots than Westbrook. However, Harden has set an NBA record for most turnovers in a season (he broke his own record from last year), and even though his team is more effective, Harden’s Rockets are only 2.7 points better per 100 possessions with Harden on the court, whereas Westbrook’s Thunder are 13.1 points better per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the floor.

Now, after Westbrook broke the record for most triple-doubles in a season, Harden made an interesting comment about MVP. He said “I thought winning is what this is all about,” signifying and pleading his case for MVP. However, while his team is 8 wins better than Westbrook’s Thunder, his comment is incorrect. If it was really ‘all about winning’, then we should be talking about Kevin Durant and Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, or Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics. However, the MVP is the Most Valuable Player award, not most Most Winning Player award. In the end, I believe that Russell Westbrook will win the NBA MVP over James Harden, as Harden really hasn’t done enough as an individual to be great and help his team out.

Harden and Westbrook are meeting in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but I do not believe that the result will determine the outcome of the MVP race at all. Westbrook will play his heart out in the playoffs and dazzle us just like in the regular season (and yes, his triple-doubles will continue). Harden needs to get a 100-point triple-double to win MVP in my opinion, because he is too far behind Westbrook to make his case. Even a 100-point game could be too little, too late, but the Harden vs. Westbrook matchup will be entertaining for sure.

Resources:

All stats and data from FiveThirtyEight, ESPN, Wikipedia, CBS Sports, Slam Online, and the Washington Post.

 

2016 NBA Finals Game 6: All or Nothing? Or Everything?

The NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors looks like they have become interesting again, as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 41 points each in their win to force a Game 6 back in Cleveland. However, the scuffle between Warriors PF Draymond Green and Cleveland superstar LeBron James in Game 4 might’ve just ruined the series for Golden State, as the Cavs are clawing back.

Tonight: Game 6

Tonight, very simple. Draymond Green will lose the game single-handedly for the Warriors. He is the reason Cleveland has all the momentum on their side to force a Game 7 back in Oakland, and he will be afraid. Every time he has the ball, the fans will be booing him, and anytime he is the primary defender, people are probably going to be chanting ‘Kick LeBron,” just so he can get ejected and lose his mind. I think the tactic from Cavs fans could work, because LeBron and Kyrie are IN THE ZONE! If someone like Kevin Love, JR Smith, or even Tristan Thompson can get it going, it’ll be a relaxing flight back to Oakland for the Cavs.

Who Wins Game 7?

I think Cleveland wins Game 7, making a historic comeback down 3-1 in the series. I just do not see a way that Draymond can calm himself down and not put more pressure on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Also, their Center Andrew Bogut is done for the series, so Green has to rebound the ball and be aggressive on the glass. I do not like the Warriors’ chances of winning this series.

The Offseason

LeBron fulfils his promise of crowning Cleveland ONCE, and goes back to Miami and fulfils his promise of winning even more, as he said on July 10th, 2010.