Cleat Geeks

The LAbron Effect

Lebron James is the star the Lakers have been searching for since Kobe left. After years of free agent failure and getting rejected by stars like Lamarcus Aldridge, Demar Derozan and Kevin Durant it’s all finally happening, things are really looking up in LA. Magic Johnson spent roughly three hours on Saturday night just after free agency tipped off at James’ house, closing the deal and he delivered his promise to bring a star back to Los Angeles. Lebron has been welcomed to LA by everybody with open arms from Kobe Bryant to Kyle Kuzma.

 

The impact of Lebron goes deeper than what he himself brings to the table though, not only does adding him launch the Lakers into the playoffs but LA is now the most appealing destination on the market with the combination of adding James and having cap space. Shortly after Lebrun’s signing the Lakers brought back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, then also brought in Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Javale Mcgee all on one year deals. While none of those signings make or break Los Angeles, they add some much needed depth and give them flexibility to trade some of their youth for another superstar *cough* Kawhi Leonard *cough*. Bringing in two, two-guards leads me to believe Josh Hart is going to be part of a deal San Antonio for Kawhi. Leonard announced that he had no interest playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, which takes LA’s biggest competition away. Also reports came out stating Kyle Kuzma is off limits, add that in with Lonzo having a torn meniscus, it only leaves Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Ivaca Zubac left as young assets the Lakers could part with. A combination of those three and some picks should be enough to get a deal done at this point, San Antonio will understandably not want to trade Kawhi to their rival Lakers but with no leverage taking away assets from Los Angeles would be more beneficial to them than letting him leave next year for free. Trading for Leonard would benefit the Lakers by acquiring his bird rights. Kawhi also is rumored to sit out next season if he remains a Spur, as time passes it gets worse for the Spurs. The Lakers are in a great spot, I’m happy they didn’t fold when rumors came out Lebron didn’t want to Los Angeles without at least one other star there already. Demarcus Cousins is still on the market and plans to meet with the Lakers so I wouldn’t rule him out either. With Julius Randle signing to the Pelicans Cousins to Los Angeles is looking even more likely. The future has been bright in Los Angeles for a few years now but it just got a whole light brighter when Lebron signed… I have a very good feeling they aren’t done yet though, stay tuned for moves from the Lakers.

Free Agency Fantasy: Lebron to NOLA

For the first time in four years, the basketball world doesn’t know which team LeBron James will be suiting up for the next season. Lebron’s been the best basketball player in the world for at least eight years and has spent each one of them terrorizing any Eastern Conference opponent that walks in his path. The King has made a fifteen season claim for the legacy of putting together the greatest basketball career the NBA has ever seen, and the next chapter of his chase of Michael Jordan begins on July 1 when free agency opens. Nobody other than Lebron himself really knows what his interests are as far as possible destinations are concerned, but teams such as the Lakers, Rockets, 76ers, and more are speculated to be serious contenders. One team that nobody is talking about that would be a great fit for King James is the New Orleans Pelicans.

There are two main reasons that this pairing works. The first is pretty obvious. LeBron James paired with another top five player in the world in Anthony Davis is a tremendous support system and a huge upgrade from Kevin Love at the power forward position. Anthony Davis would give 2011 Dwyane Wade a run for his money for being the best player to ever team up with Lebron. Following a season where James struggled mightily in finding a consistent supporting cast, joining another superstar would lift a tremendous burden off of his shoulders. The levels to joining superstars in New Orleans are twofold. Demarcus Cousins is a free agent this summer, and his return to the Pelicans organization is questionable. Lebron James signing with the New Orleans Pelicans would ensure the return of Boogie and would hold together the second greatest power forward-center duo of all time for at least a few more years. Anthony Davis singlehandedly took the Pelicans to the Western Conference semifinals. The addition of Lebron James and Demarcus Cousins to an already competitive team could lead to a championship trophy.

 

The second biggest reason that Lebron should go to the Big Easy is because he can easily get away with resting on defense. Lebron James was the best defender on all of his Cleveland teams, but he was the equivalent of 2017-18 Russell Wilson for his offenses. Lebron could not afford to expend an excessive amount of effort on the defensive end, because he had to save it to carry the offensive load. In New Orleans, however, Lebron would have the privilege of playing alongside one of the league’s best defenders in AD. Playing with an elite defender would no longer cause Bron’s team defense to suffer as heavily while he paces himself.

Not everybody is going to be thrilled about the Pelicans fantasy. There’s no guarantee that Lebron will ever win a championship again. If that’s the case, staying in the East and reaching the NBA Finals as many times as possible may be better for his legacy. In the interest of NBA history, Lebron going to Philadelphia isn’t ideal because it could stunt the growth of Ben Simmons. Simmons has the chance to join Kareem, Magic, Bird, and Shaq in a rare class of great immediate success in the league. But that’s an article for another time. Also, fans might be turned off by the idea of having such little talent surrounding the “Big 3” in order to be able to afford everyone. Some of the current Pelicans will have to be traded prior to a theoretical acquisition of LeBron James. The roster would likely have to take the shape of Lebron’s Miami Heat teams that featured a few superstar caliber players and some cheap three-point specialists. Could that lineup take down Golden State? It’s definitely possible.

Lebron James will not be suiting up for the New Orleans Pelicans next season. In all likelihood, he’s going to either stay in Cleveland, prepare for life after basketball in LA, or go to a team that’s already set up for title contention without him. But watching Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Demarcus Cousins all playing on the same team sure would be a blast. 

Do The Cav’s Need To Get Another Star By Sunday? If So…..Who?

Do the Cleveland Cavaliers have a chance to keep LeBron James? That is up for debate until free agency starts on July 1. The Lakers seem to be the favorites to land King James and it looks as if the Cavaliers would have to make a major off-season move to keep their star.

Per Ken Berger of Bleacher Report, the Cavaliers are looking at a deal that would bring Hornets guard Kemba Walker. A league source took it a step further when it comes to the Cavaliers keeping James and the source said, “is the only way LeBron stays.” However, Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak has said that he wants Walker to be a “focal point” of the team in the future.

The issue the Cavaliers have is that besides drafting Collin Sexton with their first pick, there are not many other assets that would attract the Hornets to give up Walker. James’s deadline whether to opt in or out of his last year of his contract is Friday, which could signal his plans by then.

Walker, 28, is slated to be a free agent at the end of next season, unless the Hornets sign him to a contract extension. However, the Hornets are not in a great place to sign Walker to an extension as the team is on the verge of exceeding the 2018-19 luxury tax threshold, even with Walker being owed $12 million. In short, the team has little choice but to let his contract expire before deciding his future next summer. From that point forward, Walker can sign with the team for five more years, or four elsewhere. If he decides the latter, Kupchak gets nothing in exchange.

It is hard to figure out what Walker wants to do, but I’m not sure he will win as long as he is with the Hornets. Furthermore, he has a better chance to win in a place such as Cleveland. He is one of the most talented point guards in the NBA, but does not get much notoriety because of where he plays. His scoring game has improved in the last couple seasons, scoring over 20 points a game and averaging over five assists a game. If Walker does not end up in Cleveland, the chances of the Cavaliers keeping King James are just about next to zero. In addition to his improving scoring game, his ability to dazzle the crowd with his sick moves are so exciting to watch. He has the moves of a street-ball player and if he had been known better, he would be sought by more teams.

The Hornets should trade Walker because they are going nowhere in the near future and the team they have assembled is not talented enough to make headwinds in the eastern conference. Whether I think he will be traded, I would assess the odds at less than 50%. The Hornets are adamant that they will have to get 100% of what they want in return for trading their superstar. Anything is possible, stay tuned.

James’ Decision To Opt Out

Don’t think that since James decided to opt out, that means that Cleveland is no longer an option for his services. Had James opted in on Friday, the Cavaliers’ brass would have considered that a bad sign, as they believed that his biggest motivation to do so would be in order to accommodate a trade to another team that didn’t have the cap space to sign him outright, such as the Houston Rockets.

By declining his option, James positioned himself to be able to choose where he’ll play next and Cleveland, his basketball home for 11 of the past 15 seasons, remains a strong possibility. Remember, the Cavs, can offer him a five-year, $209 million contract. James can also sign a short-term deal with Cleveland, something he has done each year since returning in 2014.

How To Get Kawhi To LA

Kawhi Leonard has made it very clear he wants to be a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. A LA native, Kawhi wants to come home and rock the purple and gold. Sounds great right? No so fast, the Spurs have said that they don’t want to trade him out West but there is hope Laker fans. Trading for a player of Kawhi’s caliber is difficult, especially with one of your rivals but the Lakers do have some leverage. He only has one year left on his deal, and has made it known he’s not worried about the five year $219 million dollar contract the Spurs could offer him and has said the Lakers are where he wants to go. Teams will be hesitant to unload assets for a rental. The Kawhi-Spurs relationship took a turn for the worse this past year. At the start of the season it was announced he had an unknown injury and there was no timeframe, he eventually returned to only play nine games on and off and throughout the year. After that rumors stemmed he gave up on his team, that he wasn’t really hurt and the Spurs doctors cleared him. While throughout the season it was all speculation, on June 15th multiple sources including Chris Haynes of ESPN confirmed he wanted out. It’s going to be hard for the Spurs and Lakers to find some middle ground a third team will need to be involved but here are a few scenarios that both teams could benefit from.

Sun’s

Lakers: Kawhi Leonard, Troy Daniels, Bryan Forbes

 

Suns: Lonzo Ball, Luol Deng

 

Spurs: Jared Dudley, TJ Warren, Marquese Chriss, Kyle Kuzma, 2019 LAL 1st

 

Although it hurts to see Kuz and Lonzo go, LA is free from Luols terrible contract and get the star the Lakers have been searching for since Kobe left. Not only is Kawhi the star LA has been searching for, he makes the Lakers a much more appealing landing spot for Lebron, Paul George or even Demarcus Cousins. He also provides a safety net if they can’t land another star.

 

The Suns were infatuated with Lonzo Ball, they would have loved for him to fall to them at number 4 in last year’s draft. This is their chance to get their guy, taking on Deng’s contract is rough but the addition of Lonzo gives them a nice youthful starting five to look forward to in Lonzo Ball, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Dragan Bender and DeAndre Ayton.

 

Although they would hate to keep Kawhi in the West it’s likely no team other than the Lakers can/will offer them a solid haul for Kawhi. Kuzma looked like the steal of last years draft and would flourish under Greg Popovich. TJ Warren is a solid player who is only 24 and could slide right into Kawhi’s spot, people overlook he averaged 19.6 ppg in Phoenix last year. Chriss is a former top ten pick with a lot of potential. Greg Pop has a knack for getting the best out of players and could develop Marquese into a future starter. Dudley is tagged along for cap reasons but could provide some veteran minutes off of the bench. Also they get the Lakers 2019 first which would likely be in the 20’s but the Spurs tend to draft very well.

 

                       Mav’s

Lakers: Kawhi Leonard

 

Spurs: Brandon Ingram, JJ Barea, Dorian Finney-Smith, Mo Wagner, 2019 LAL 1st

 

Mavericks: Luol Deng, Kyle Kuzma

 

The Lakers get their guy but give up their best young player Brandon Ingram. Bringing in Kawhi would definitely improve their chances with Lebron and if they sign him Ingram would be expendable anyway so it’s not the end of the world to let him go.

 

Spurs get a potential perennial all star in Brandon Ingram back. He took a major step his second year and could easily take one next year and be an all star. Mo Wagner is a sniper, his shot is very smooth and stretch bigs are the future of the league. Playing behind Lamarcus Aldridge could greatly benefit his development learning from one of the best stretch bigs in the league. Dorian Finney-Smith is young rotational player and JJ Barea is a solid backup PG.

 

                       Hawk’s

Lakers: Kawhi Leonard

 

Spurs: Brandon Ingram, Dennis Schroeder, 2019 LAL 1st

 

Hawks: Luol Deng, Kyle Kuzma

 

The Lakers give up a very similar package as their deal with the Mavericks. They do retain Mo Wagner this time, as the Hawks give the Spurs a starting point guard.

 

San Antonio may have their future point guard in Dejounte Murray but he can slide up to shooting guard and pair up with Dennis Schroeder. Schroeder is a vet that helps keep the Spurs competitive while Ingram is still growing and gives them a nice mix of vets and youth.

 

It’s not a secret the Hawks are looking to move on from Dennis Schroeder. They made it very clear when they drafted Trae Young with the 5th overall pick. While they are in rebuild mode it is a good idea to take on a bad contact to receive some assets back. Kyle Kuzma, John Collins and Trae Young is a young core the Hawks should be excited about.

 

Getting a deal done will be a challenge but involving a third team is definitely the only way for it to happen. With teams hesitant to deal for a rental, I expect the Spurs to take back some assets rather than letting him walk next year for nothing.

 

Are The Warriors A Dynasty…….Now?

The Warriors easily won their third championship ring in four years as they swept a best-of-seven series against the Cavaliers, and the debate is well underway, are the Warriors a dynasty? In a nutshell, it is as clear as the new white Curry 5 sneakers.

The Warriors had to defeat the Rockets in seven games to get to the finals, but the end of the western conference finals helped catapult them over the top. Even LeBron James was impressed with the Warriors during the finals. “They’ve got four Hall of Famers on their team in Klay, Dray, Steph and KD,’’ said James.

BJ Armstrong, who played along Michael Jordan for the first three-peat said that the Warriors are on the cusp of being considered a dynasty. “They’re right there,” Armstrong said. “For them to have a sustained level of excellence like they’ve had, I don’t take that for granted and I think anyone who’s played or observed this game knows how difficult that is for one, let alone to be here four times and have an opportunity to win three speaks for itself.”

Curry was on the Warriors when they won an abysmal 26 games in his rookie season in 2009 and while it took a few years, he was able to predict what the future would hold.

I would characterize the Warriors as better than an NBA team, they are closer to being a street-ball team if not a street-ball team already. They are so good that to beat them, you can not make many mistakes and expect to beat them. Opposing teams can play as perfect as possible and the Warriors will still find a way to inch out a win. When Curry makes insane shots, it is fair to ask, is this man human and that is one of the ways how you can describe the Warriors since they became a dynasty.

A keen observer would think that as the playoffs come around that eventually the Warriors may lose some of their basketball swag and start to struggle in some key stats such as points scored and three-point field goal percentage. That has not happened. Curry got injured for a few weeks towards the end of the season and there was some concern, would he be able to play to his full potential once the playoffs came around. While he missed the first round, Curry continued his consistent play in the playoffs. He averaged over 25 points a game, while dishing out 5 assists a game and he played some solid defense as he averaged nearly 2 steals a game.

For some teams that win a championship in any sport, it is so easy to conclude, we are satisfied with winning one or two championships, but that is not how the Warriors roll. The Warriors could have easily won their fourth consecutive ring and if that had happened, there would be no plausible reason why they are not a dynasty. In the 2000’s the Warriors had some real bad teams and while they have won six championships, their overall record in 72 seasons is still below .500.

During the western finals, there was some concern whether the Warriors would be able to advance, but they were able to play through their mistakes and they caught fire at the right time. After game one of the finals, there was little doubt that the Warriors would win another ring.

It has been well chronicled that the western conference is extremely competitive and the ability to go into hostile environments such as Houston and San Antonio and come out stronger than before is nothing short of impressive. For some players, going into hostile environments will eventually catch up, but it does not scare anyone in a Warriors jersey, it motivates them even more. There is no debating whether the Warriors are a dynasty, they have been consistent for a sustained period of time and have not lost any of their greatness along the way.

2018 NBA Mock Draft

Round 1

  1. Phoenix Suns – C Deandre Ayton (Arizona)

Phoenix has a great variety of Guards in Elfrid Payton, Trevor Booker, and Josh Jackson but they are very underutilized at the bigger positions. Deandre Ayton is one of the most dominant offensive Center in the NBA Draft since Karl-Anthony Towns was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2015 NBA Draft. C Tyson Chandler is 35 years old and the Suns are getting ready to move on to repair their team that is ranked 21st in points per game (103.9) and 30th (last) in points allowed per game (113.3).

  1. Sacramento Kings – PF Marvin Bagley III (Duke)

The Kings need help all-throughout the court but the frontcourt is an area that needs to be addressed the most. More talent and productivity needs to be added as well for Sacramento. Bagley will supply efficient playmaking on both sides of the ball as well as become a very productive product with PG De’Aaron Fox. Adding Bagley gives the Kings the ability to spread throughout the court and create more scoring situations.

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  1. Atlanta Hawks – SG/SF Luka Doncic (Real Madrid, Spain)

Of the teams with early picks in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks have many options (especially with three 1st round picks) to take but they also can’t afford any mishaps. The Hawks need talent and productivity at every position on their team. Although C Mohamed Bamba (Texas) would be an excellent player for the organization, the Hawks need a consistent yet explosive offensive scorer like Luka Doncic. Last season, Atlanta was ranked 25th in the league in points per game (103.4).

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  1. Memphis Grizzlies – SF Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri)

Of the top needs for the Memphis Grizzlies in this Draft, they need a Wing, a playmaker, and a consistent scorer. These are all things they can take care of in one pick by selecting Michael Porter Jr. who has huge potential despite his injury history. Porter only played in 3 games last season in his freshman season at Missouri due to a lower back injury. If Porter is healthy, the Grizzlies might quickly take him, especially with Memphis eagerly shopping SF Chandler Parsons.

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  1. Dallas Mavericks – C Mohamed Bamba (Texas)

Among the teams in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks were one of the guiltiest teams in terms of tanking. They saw the potential of the huge talent that this 2018 NBA Draft has to offer. Even though the Mavericks were 12th in the league in points allowed per game (105.4), they could use paint defending the paint. Bamba is one of the best defenders in this Draft with his huge size at 7-1 and his incredible wingspan of 7-10. Bamba accounted for 3.8n blocks per game while at Texas last season. He would also move Dirk Nowitzki at his natural Power Forward position.

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  1. Orlando Magic – PF/C Jaren Jackson (Michigan State)

The bad news for the Orlando Magic is that they need help all across the board. The good news is that they could potentially get a steal in selecting Jackson with the 6th overall pick. Jackson is one of the best overall players in this 2018 NBA Draft and not be dropping very far. The Magic need high caliber talent as well as someone who can improve their scoring offense that is ranked 24th in the league (103.4). They also need help accounting for rebounds as they were ranked 26th in rebounds accounted for per game (41.6).

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  1. Chicago Bulls – SF Mikal Bridges (Villanova)

Chicago is desperately for a change in the right direction. One of those changes is effectiveness from being the 3-point arc. While a case can be made for Oklahoma PG Trae Young, the Bulls might be better off with Villanova’s Mikal Bridges. Last season with his National Championship winning team, Bridges accounted for 17.7 points per game while shooting for 43.5% from behind the 3-point arc. It also helps that Bridges is multi-purposeful by being able to play multiple positions.

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  1. Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Trae Young (Oklahoma)

The Cavaliers have not been the same ever since they lost they traded away PG Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics.  A lack of productivity from the Point Guard position was the downfall of the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors. Adding a player in Young, who accounted for 27.4 points per game and 8.8 assists per game last season will improve the Cavs performance dramatically. SF LeBron James is also very favorable to Young so this could be a big plus for James to stay with Cleveland.

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  1. New York Knicks – PG Collin Sexton (Alabama)

While Jarrett Jack is not a bad playmaker for the Knicks, they can’t refuse the intensity and scoring potential of Alabama’s Collin Sexton. The former Crimson Tide is a nature scorer and a player that can score on the spot thus getting the intense pressure of PF Kristaps Porzingis. Last season, the Knicks could not figure out who to start at Point Guard between Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers – SF Kevin Knox (Kentucky)

The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the most improved teams in the NBA by accounting for a 28-54 record in the 2016-2017 season to becoming the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 52-30 record. One position that they know they can improve on is the Small Forward position where Robert Covington is good but they have been eying to acquire Kevin Knox with the 10th overall pick. Knox will fit into the young and talented 76ers based on his natural playmaking ability.

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  1. Charlotte Hornets – SG/SF Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers – PF/C Wendell Carter (Duke)
  3. Los Angeles Clippers – PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky)
  4. Denver Nuggets – SF/PF Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
  5. Washington Wizards – C Robert Williams (Texas A&M)
  6. Phoenix Suns – SG Jerome Robinson (Boston College)
  7. Milwaukee Bucks – SG Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova)
  8. San Antonio Spurs – G/F Chandler Hutchinson (Boise State)
  9. Atlanta Hawks – C Mitchell Robinson (USA)
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves – SG Lonnie Walker (Miami)
  11. Utah Jazz – SG Kevin Huerter (Maryland)
  12. Chicago Bulls – PF/C Omari Spellman (Villanova)
  13. Indiana Pacers – PG Aaron Holiday (UCLA)
  14. Portland Trailblazers – SG Khyri Thomas (Creighton)
  15. Los Angeles Lakers – PG Elie Okobo (France)
  16. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Troy Brown (Oregon)
  17. Boston Celtics – C Moritz Wagner (Michigan)
  18. Golden State Warriors – SF Melvin Frazer (Tulane)
  19. Brooklyn Nets – G/F Jacob Evans (Cincinnati)
  20. Atlanta Hawks – PG Jalen Brunson (Villanova)

 

Round 2

  1. Phoenix Suns – PG De’Anthony Melton (USC)
  2. Memphis Grizzlies – PF Kieta Bates-Diop (Ohio State)
  3. Dallas Mavericks – SG Anfernee Simons (High School)
  4. Atlanta Hawks – G Grayson Allen (Duke)
  5. Orlando Magic – SG Gary Trent Jr. (Duke)
  6. New York Knicks – SF Isaac Bonga (Germany)
  7. Sacramento Kings – SF Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky)
  8. Philadelphia 76ers – F/C Chimezie Metu (USC)
  9. Philadelphia 76ers – G Shake Milton (SMU)
  10. Brooklyn Nets – G Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami)
  11. Orlando Magic – G/F Dzanan Musa (Cedevita, Croatia)
  12. Detroit Pistons – G Jevon Carter (West Virginia)
  13. Denver Nuggets – SF Rodions Kurucs (Latvia)
  14. Washington Wizards – G/F Rawle Alkins (Arizona)
  15. Brooklyn Nets – SF/PF Kevin Hervey (UT-Arlington)
  16. Houston Rockets – G Issuf Sanon (Union Olimpija)
  17. Los Angeles Lakers – C Brandon McCoy (UNLV)
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves – PF Raymond Spalding (Louisville)
  19. San Antonio Spurs – PG Landry Shamet (Wichita State)
  20. Indiana Pacers – F Kenrich Williams (TCU)
  21. New Orleans Pelicans – PG Devonte’ Graham (Kansas)
  22. Utah Jazz – SF/PF Justin Jackson (Maryland)
  23. Oklahoma City Thunder – F Gary Clark (Cincinnati)
  24. Dallas Mavericks – PG Tony Carr (Penn State)
  25. Charlotte Hornets – SF Arnoldas Kulboka (Lithuania)
  26. Philadelphia 76ers – G/F Svi Mykhailiuk (Kansas)
  27. Oklahoma City Thunder – PF Alize Johnson (Missouri State)
  28. Denver Nuggets – SG Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky)
  29. Phoenix Suns – SF George King (Colorado)
  30. Philadelphia 76ers – C Thomas Welsh (UCLA)

Alabama’s PG Collin Sexton Likely Top 10 Pick In 2018 NBA Draft

In one season, Sexton became a Basketball legend in Tuscaloosa

The NBA has now concluded, now the first objective for each team in the offseason to accomplish is to fill their biggest position need in the 2018 NBA Draft on June 21st. Among some of the top prospects in this NBA Draft is former Alabama Crimson Tide Point Guard Collin Sexton. The 2017-2018 SEC Freshman player of the year is looking to take his explosive and dynamic skills as an all-around player and shooter into the NBA.

In his one year at Alabama this past College Basketball season, Sexton has accounted for 19.2 points per game on a .447% field goal percentage, 3.8 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game, and .85 steals per game. Sexton has been a highly reliable and an explosive scorer for the Crimson Tide as he helped lead Alabama to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012. He also helped the Crimson Tide get their first win in the tournament since 2006 when they took down the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 1st round with an 86-83 score. The Tide would go on to lose in the 2nd round of the Tournament to the eventual NCAA National Champions in the Villanova Wildcats with an 81-58 score.

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One of Sexton’s best games as a member of the Crimson Tide was against the 14th ranked team in the nation (at the time) the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Sexton accounted for 40 points on a 12-for-22 field goal percentage, shooting 4-for-7 from the 3-point line, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal. It is not common for the Alabama Crimson Tide to have a great basketball team. It is even more uncommon that the Tide would do surprisingly well in the tournament. This started after the 5-star Point Guard and 5th overall best player in the 2017 high school recruiting class choose Alabama over other top basketball schools in the nation. Sexton knew the second he chose Alabama, he would one of the best players to ever come from Crimson Tide program. He is currently ranked 11th in Sports Illustrated’s big board of prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft.

 

Attributes that Sexton brings into the NBA

Sexton doesn’t just bring in his tremendous shooting ability, he also brings in his explosiveness and mentality to excel in every phase of the game whether it’s defense, play-calling or going for the rebounds. Sexton is one of the shortest players in the 2018 NBA Draft at 6’1 but with him accounting for almost 4 rebounds per game shows the drive he possesses to win. What is even more impressive on top of his physical toughness is his mental toughness. There were many moments where Sexton would either be seen only in the classroom or in the weight room at Alabama. Sexton was determined to outmatch opposing teams physically and mentality. His fire mentality and intensity is a huge plus for a very talented offensively player, especially for one who has a high-continuous motor.

His smaller size at 6’1 matched with a surprisingly large wingspan and tremendous athleticism/explosiveness makes him a player likely to be selected in the top 10 of the 2018 NBA Draft. Sexton has been compared to many players in the NBA but one player that comes to mind due to his playmaking abilities is 2016-2017 season NBA MVP in Oklahoma City Thunder PG Russell Westbrook. Just like Westbrook, Sexton is an explosive and dynamic player who shines the brightest in the biggest games. In the 2nd round of the SEC Conference Tournament this year, Sexton and the Crimson Tide lead a huge 81-63 upset victory over the #19 Auburn Tigers (1st seed of the SEC). In the game, Sexton accounted for 31 points on a 10-for-16 field goal percentage (.625%), shooting 6-for-8 (75%) from the 3-point arc, and 7 rebounds. Sexton is a film junkie and loves to outmatch and expose his opposing team.

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Collin will need to address many areas of his game as he transitions into the NBA. One of the biggest attributes for him to address is his 3.8 rebounds/3.6 assists ratio. He is a very good rebounder when he is not shooting the ball but the problem with him being the main of offensive input at Alabama was that he was consistently taking the shots and not getting the chance to rebound. Another big indication of Sexton being the main source of points for the Crimson Tide is that he does not account for a high number of assists. Sexton is not selfish with the ball but at the same time, he was cognitively aware of the main talent production with the Alabama Crimson Tide. When the games mattered, he took the ball into his own hands. In the NBA, there could be a learning curve for Sexton to become more of a passing Point Guard and be the playbook leader by setting up the plays and passing the ball to other worthy players. Technically, scouts will give a negative mark for not having clear game footage of his Point Guard playing ability (non-shooting) as compared to the NBA. This is a flawed comparison to judge on, considering that Golden State Warriors PG Steph Curry was judged the same way while at Davidson. Sexton is more capable of adjusting to playing scenarios in the NBA (on both sides of the court) than other top Point Guard prospects in this 2018 NBA Draft.

 

Teams of interest in Collin Sexton for the 2018 NBA Draft

There are many teams looking to draft Sexton in the 1st round with some coming into the top 10. Among some of the teams interested are the Orlando Magic (6th overall pick), the Chicago Bulls (7th overall pick), the Cleveland Cavaliers (8th overall pick), the New York Knicks (9th overall pick), and the Los Angeles Clippers (12th and 13th overall pick).

The Orlando Magic are certainly looking into every aspect of improving their team that has problems keeping the young talent they select in the Draft. PF Aaron Gordon is a bright spot for their team but they will need support from the smaller positions considering they finished the 2017-2018 NBA season ranked 24th in the league in points per game (103.4). PG Elfrid Payton was traded to the Phoenix Suns before the NBA trade deadline and right now, D.J. Augustin is projected to start at Point Guard. The Magic have brought in multiple Points Guards including Oklahoma’s Trae Young to workout with them. The Chicago Bulls are looking for their new face of the franchise still after the surprising trade of SG Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. There are reports circulating that the Bulls are looking into every position on their team. There are even rumors that the Bulls are not impressed with the progression and Summer workouts of their starting PG in Kris Dunn despite accounting for 43 starts (in 52 games), 13.4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, 6 assists per game, and 2 steals per game.

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The New York Knicks have a variety of weapons at Point Guard but they are limited to their own skill settings. Emmanuel Mudiay is a great defender but has only accounted for an average of 8.8 points per game and 3.9 assists per game in the 22 games played for the Knicks (acquired through trade during the season). Trey Burke has accounted for 12.8 points per game and 4.7 assists per game in the 36 games played for New York this season while being called up from the G-League in mid-January. Sexton would be a great all-around player for the Knicks as well as complement PF Kristaps Porzingis on the court. If Sexton were to slip to 12 or 13, it will be highly doubtful that the Los Angeles Clippers will pass on him due to their need for an offensive playmaker at Point Guard with 2016-2017 NBA defensive player of the year in PG Patrick Beverley coming off a knee injury. Clippers need a great scorer Point Guard to possibly start or provide help for 6th man of the year candidate SG Lou Williams. Sexton would a great teammate with SF LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers as he could bring in his intensity and his ability to make smart plays. Cleveland needs a Guard that is both mobile and capable of self-creating scoring situations. All of this though is dependent on whether LeBron James stays or leaves Cleveland again due to free agency. Sexton did have a workout with the Cavs on Saturday, the day after they were swept in the 2018 NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors.

Can Houston Win Game 6 Down 1?

The Houston Rockets are one win away from making the NBA finals but will have to do it without Chris Paul as he injured his hamstring in-game five. This means that James Harden will have to flip the playoff narrative that he runs out of energy and does not show up in the clutch. In the Rockets game five win, Harden was not much of a factor, scoring just 19 points while shooting 5-21 from the floor. Nearly half of his points came from the foul line and it is clear that Harden will have to take his game to the next level if the Rockets are to close out the series on Saturday at Oracle.

In the 2016-2017 playoff season in-game 6 of the western conference semifinals, Harden was missing in action against the Spurs, shooting 2-11 from the floor and turning the ball over six times. He had six turnovers in game five against the Warriors, the Rockets were kind of lucky to win that game although their defense frustrated the Warriors offense.

As the series goes back to Oracle, Eric Gordon will start for Paul. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said the injury will not alter the way they go about their game. At the same time, he noted that the rotation could expand to eight or nine players. In game five, Gordon scored 24 points and he could be the overlooked key factor in-game six.

“We’re extremely confident, as usual, from top to bottom,” Harden said. “This is nothing new to us. Whether it’s myself or Chris or anybody else that has sat out a few games or whatnot, guys have stepped in and contributed very well.”

In the regular season, the Rockets went 15-6 without Paul and one of the major differences between the Rockets of this year and previous teams has been their defense. The Rockets finished in the top 10 in points allowed, yielding just under 104 points a game, whereas last year, they were in the bottom five in the NBA. Paul has averaged close to 20 points a game in this series and where will the Rockets get those points from in his absence?

The loss of Paul is big, but if the Rockets can play the tough defense they have played in this series and the entire season, they have a chance to dethrone the world champions. Harden will need to score at least 30, but any Rockets player who enters the game knows all points will mean so much.

Many are saying the Warriors are a slam dunk to win game six, I am not 100% convinced. Even with the Rockets issues facing them, the Warriors need to get back to their game in-game six by moving the ball and creating shots in the fast break. If the Rockets are within striking distance deep into the game, they have a chance. In game four, the Rockets were down by 12 in the third quarter and came back in Oracle arena. If game six resembles game three, the Rockets have no chance. The Rockets need to force turnovers like they did in-game five, it’s imperative to get the crowd subdued and to plant a seed of doubt. It is easy to make predictions on paper, but how the game trends, whether in the Warriors or Rockets direction will be key to who wins game six. The Rockets will come out ready to play even without Paul and there is so much on the line besides playing without one of the Rockets best players on the court, but the injury has taken center stage.

NBA Playoff Greatness Jordan Or James?

He wears #23 in honor of one of the best NBA players of all time. One of LeBron James defining moments of this year’s playoffs was when he made a game winning shot in-game 5 of the first round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. There is a bigger point to understand when the playoffs come around and the moments never get tired.

James has played over 200 playoff games and is scoring just under 30 points a game, while dishing out 7 assists a game and is shooting just shy of 49% from the floor. Michael Jordan remains the only enduring test of James’ greatness and catching Jordan will be a monumental climb that is almost impossible. James should not focus on trying to dethrone Jordan’s playoff success, instead he should focus on what has made him successful on the NBA’s biggest stage.

The two terms, greatest vs. the best, sound very similar, but are none of the same and they are not wholly exclusive. Depending on the sport, the same person can take both roles. Best is largely about the ability of playing the sport when the stakes are at its highest. Best is more of a short-term, that can change after two or three years, where greatest is a legacy statement. While Jordan had arguably the greatest NBA career, it was made possible by his supporting cast.

There have been discussions about comparing James to Jordan and one of the distinct differences between the two is that James has taken his teams on his shoulders, especially in a Cavaliers jersey. In 2007, the Cavaliers made it to the finals against the Spurs, the odds of the Spurs winning that series were extremely high, but without #23 on the court or #23 playing at 50%, the Cavaliers would probably have not made the finals that year. In short, James has cemented his legacy by playing on a different planet with not as much talent to compliment him. To no one’s surprise, James rarely takes any time off in playoff games as he has been on the court for 40 or more minutes on average in all but two playoff seasons.

No matter how much he plays up to the moment, James will never be able to withstand the criticism of leaving the Cavaliers in 2010 to join a team that needed one player to win a ring never-mind two. There have been complaints that the NBA regular season doesn’t mean much and most of this revolves around James. However, this has been a brilliant strategy because he doesn’t play too many minutes in the regular season and while he wore a Heat jersey, LeBron was the de facto general manager.

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James plays basketball on a different planet and gives his team a chance even a remote chance to win a series almost single-handedly. What is even better is that in 2016, he won the Cavaliers a ring in-game 7 of the NBA finals by blocking a shot late in a tied game that was the momentum changer.

He knows his critics and some of their criticisms are fair, but you can not take away that James has been able to make the most of what has been given to him. He has had to carry a heavy load on his back in the playoffs and that has served as a motivator behind his playoff greatness.

NBA: Is There A Solution to Tanking?

Image result for trust the process nbaTanking has been a polarizing topic in the NBA for quite some time. The most notable instance of tanking was the Philadelphia 76ers, who essentially built their roster to lose games, while acquiring high end talent in draft classes. They used the slogan “Trust the Process,” and their quick turnaround for success has caused other teams to consider tanking, as well.

There are multiple team throughout the 2017-18 season that have made moves that suggest they are taking the tanking approach in their rebuild. It seem as if the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, and New York Knicks all took steps towards tanking last season.

The NBA already has multiple rules in place to stop tanking, including a reform that will start for the 2019 NBA Draft.

 

Current Rules

The NBA Draft Lottery is not a rule that simply makes for great television during the off-season. It was put in place to try to limit teams from tanking. The draft lottery allows each of the 14 teams that missed the playoffs to have a chance at the first overall pick. This was expected to deter teams from tanking because it does not guarantee that the worst team (record-wise) will get the first overall pick.

There is another rule that was recently passed that prevents NBA teams from benching healthy players throughout the season. While this rule is great in theory, it is tough to prove that a player is not healthy. The Chicago Bulls were a team that was warned about this, as they benched Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez late in the season. The Bulls promptly gave the duo limited minutes, while also claiming at times they were injured. Ultimately, the NBA’s threat fell through, as they determined that the Bulls were not tanking.

The league has also stated that they are willing to fine owners that are found guilty of tanking. The most notable case is when the NBA fined Mark Cuban $600,000 for telling his players that losing is their best option to become relevant again. The main issue here is that Cuban likely does not care too much about that fine. He also openly talked about tanking on Julius Erving’s podcast, which resulted in the fine. Other NBA owners likely have learned from Cuban’s mistakes, and will never openly speak about their situation.

The Stepien Rule is a rule that does not necessarily focus on tanking, but rather attempts to prevent teams from mortgaging their futures in bad deals. The issue with this rule is that it inadvertently promotes tanking. The Stepien Rule generally prevents teams from trading first round picks in consecutive seasons. If they were able to do this, though, they would have no reason to tank, as a worse record would not help them in the NBA Draft. Teams would also be able to make more deals involving firsts for veteran players at the trade deadline, which ultimately could be the difference between them making or missing the playoffs.

 

2019 NBA Draft

The NBA Board of Governors passed a new draft lottery system for the 2019 NBA Draft. There will be new percentages for each of the 14 teams, in terms of the number one overall pick, a top-three pick, and a top-five pick. These percentages are listed below:

As you can see above, the team with the worst overall record is no longer the sole favorite for the first overall pick. The teams with the three worst records have the same odds (14%) to get the first overall pick, although the worse the record, the more likely they are to stay in the top-five of the draft. Furthermore, the teams with better record are all given higher odds to jump into the top-five of the NBA Draft (aside from Team 14).

Will this prevent tanking, though?

The easy answer – likely not. Simply put, teams will likely continue to see that their best chance to land an elite level player is through the worst record in the NBA. This system no longer simply rewards the team that is the best at tanking, but rather rewards a few teams that are tanking. The top-five teams are the only teams in the system that feature a 10% or higher chance to get the first pick. They also feature higher percentages for a top-three and top-five pick.

This system would likely work better if only one or two teams in the NBA were tanking. Instead, it somewhat puts the eight or so teams that are tanking on a similar playing field. For instance, if one team was significantly worse than every other team, the better teams may give up on tanking that season because they are unlikely to receive the first overall pick. That is not the case anymore, though, as there are two more opportunities to receive the same odds as the worst team in the league.

 

Possible Solution

My brother, Jason, and I have been talking for days trying to come up with a solution to tanking the in NBA. We have come up with a fairly radical system that we personally believe would help eliminate tanking altogether.

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First, the NBA needs to get rid of the draft lottery. While it is a fun night with fans hoping their team can jump to the first overall pick, it does essentially nothing to prevent teams from tanking. The new lottery system likely will not help much, rendering it useless in this situation.

This part of the draft order will no longer feature the 14 teams that did not make the NBA Playoffs. Instead, it will only feature the bottom-10 teams in the league. The top-10 picks in the NBA Draft will be determined by record from the worst 10 teams in the league. They will be given picks in reverse order. For example, the worst team in the NBA will receiver the 10th overall pick, while the best of that group of 10 teams will receive the first overall pick. While it is not generally popular to give a better team a better pick, it is one of the only certain ways to stop teams from tanking.

The bottom-10 teams in the NBA will also lock after 70 games. This is a way to prevent the 19th team from “tanking” near the end of the season to the 20th spot, which would guarantee them the first overall pick. These 10 teams will play out their final 12 games with the best overall record receiving the first overall selection. Below is an out of how this would look:

This is a complex system, but puts an emphasis on winning at the end of the season. In this scenario, the Phoenix Suns were able to win their final 12 games, which earned them the first overall pick. This would cause teams to stop benching players late in the season, as they would need their stars to win games.

I understand this is a drastic change to how the NBA handles tanking at the moment. The sad truth is that tanking will never truly go away until the NBA rewards teams for winning (outside of a championship).

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