NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions

NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions

With the 2018 NBA playoffs set to start today, what are the first round matchups and who will be moving on to the conference semifinals?

 

 

Durant and Curry after last year's playoffs.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

 

Eastern Conference:

(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards

Derozan and Wall during a free throw.

Photo Credit/raptorshq.com

 

The first place Raptors will take on Washington in the first round this year. Toronto, who’ve never been the number one seed in the postseason, will be looking for more than just a first round win this year. The story here is the matchup of the two elite guards for each team. The experienced and talented backcourt tandems will look to better the other. While Toronto is much deeper than Washington, the Wizards may find a spark in their team with John Wall’s return. Still though, despite their postseason troubles, the Raptors will take this one.

Prediction: Toronto Raptors; 4-1

 

 

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Pacers

James backing down Oladipo.

Photo Credit/zimbio.com

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their regular season struggles yet again this season, barely hanging on to a home playoff spot in the East. Right behind them, the revamped Indiana Pacers stunned the whole league as Victor Oladipo came home and turned in his first All-Star year in the league. While it’s tempting to pick the Pacers to make the upset and defeat the defending conference champions, the Cavs still have LeBron James and it’d be surprising to see a young team take down The King still in his prime. Cleveland may struggle but they should be fine here.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers; 4-1

 

 

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat

Simmons chasing down a ball in front of Whiteside.

Photo Credit/nbcsports.com

 

Finally back in the playoffs, Philly will need Ben Simmons to carry them through the first round without Joel Embiid. The team recently reinforced their back court by getting Markelle Fultz back from injury who could even start beside Simmons against the Heat. If Simmons stays on the roll he’s on, they’re gonna be hard for Miami to stop. While the Heat are again in the postseason, they have no real star expect for possibly Goran Dragic but that’s a stretch. While Whiteside may be a top NBA center, Erik Spoelstra doesn’t play him like one. Although, without Embiid this round, he could be a factor. Either way, the Sixers should handle this easily.

Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers; 4-0

 

 

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis and Horford fighting over a rebound.

Photo Credit/celticsblog.com

 

This will be one of the more interesting matchups of the playoffs. Though Boston again looked elite this year, they’re now without their two All-Stars, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Though they’re still one of the deepest teams in the playoffs, Giannis and the Bucks have a talented enough offensive lineup to take down the Celtics. Al Horford now becomes the best player on Boston’s available team and several young stars will have to step up for the Celtics to have a chance. Never doubt Brad Stevens but with Antetokounmpo playing like an MVP along with Middleton and Bledsoe, Milwaukee is the favorite here.

Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks; 4-2

 


 

Western Conference:

(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

Butler driving on Harden.

Photo Credit/cbsaustin.com

 

After getting Jimmy Butler back just a few games ago, Minnesota downed the Nuggets Wednesday to clinch a postseason birth for the first time since KG was there. While making it is an accomplishment in the West, they’ll be running into a buzzsaw in Houston in the first round. With likely MVP James Harden and future hall of famer Chris Paul, It’ll be a tough series for the Wolves. Karl- Anthony Towns will need to show he has an ability to excel against Clint Capela down low and Andrew Wiggins will have to shoot above 40% from 3 for the Timberwolves to have a chance. Even then, it’s unlikely they get past The Beard.

Prediction: Houston Rockets; 4-1

 

 

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Utah Jazz

Mitchell guarding Westbrook.

Photo Credit/thehoopdoctors.com

 

After OKC barely grabbed a home postseason spot at the four seed, they’ll attempt to take down rookie standout Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. While the Thunder have the big names and star power, Utah has quietly crept up the Western Conference standings in the toughest division in basketball and has the shooting, defense and chemistry to make some noise in the postseason. If Mitchell catches fire and Gobert continues his dominance on the defensive end, winning the matchup with Steven Adams, look for the Jazz to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Utah Jazz; 4-3

 

 

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans

Lillard shooting a layup over Davis.

Photo Credit/oregonlive.com

 

After MVP caliber seasons from both these team’s stars, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, the two will duke it out in the first round of the playoffs. With the loss of Boogie Cousins earlier in the year, Davis will have to do it all for the Pelicans and hope Jrue Holiday can handle backcourt duties. For Portland, they’ll rely on their two offensive weapons in the backcourt, Lillard and McCollum, to carry the load. With the roll the Blazers have been on, it’s tough to see New Orleans having enough on offense or being able to stop Portland’s explosive guards.

Prediction: Portland Trail Blazers; 4-2

 

 

(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

Durant driving to the basket against the Spurs.

Photo Credit/cbssports.com

 

With no Curry or Leonard, the excitement that would’ve come with this series after last year’s controversial matchup isn’t as strong. San Antonio always seems to have a shot in every series they play, but they don’t have the offensive firepower to compete with Golden State. Lamarcus Aldridge is by far their best scorer but he isn’t versatile enough to concern Warriors defenders. As long as KD and Klay can catch fire at times and Golden State can prevent sneaky runs by the Spurs they should breeze through this one.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors; 4-0

 

 

 

Luka Doncic Scouting Report Here:

Marvin Bagley III Scouting Report Here:

DeAndre Ayton Scouting Report Here:

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Expendable Players for Each Team at the Deadline

With the trade deadline now just hours away, who are some of the guys on each team who could be in a new jersey come their next time on the court.

 

 

Griffin at his introductory Pistons press conference.

Photo Credit/detroitnews.com

 

 

Atlantic Division: 

Smart during a dead ball

Photo Credit/usatoday.com

 

Brooklyn Nets: DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris

After a bad stint in Toronto, Carroll has played his way into starters minutes in Brooklyn and despite his overpriced contract, should be an option for contenders. Harris is no star for the Nets but he’s been a surprising bright spot for the young team, stroking it from deep almost as good as anyone in the league. With a low salary at $1.5 million, any contender would be happy to have Harris’ sharpshooting in a offense-driven league.

New York Knicks: Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley

Lee is having likely the best season of his career and with Hardaway Jr. set as the future 2 in New York, look for the veteran to possibly be moved. Despite his tunnel vision and lack of defense, Beasley is one of the best bench scorers in the league, something several teams are looking for.

Philadelphia 76ers: Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot

The Sixers are likely to stand pat at the deadline this year having already moved Okafor to Brooklyn, but if there was a moveable piece on the team that could attract buyers, Luwawu is the most likely candidate.

Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas

Valancunias’ playing time has been dropping over the past few years and with the coming up of young big men Poeltl and Nogueira, the Raps could deal him, though with the season they’re having it’s likely he’s in Toronto until at least the summer.

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier

The Celtics could make a number of moves on Thursday but Smart is the most likely player to be headed out of Boston. It’s highly unlikely Rozier is going anywhere as Danny Ainge loves the young guard but if a superstar deal is in place it’s possible he’s involved.

 

 

Pacific Division:

Randle and Clarkson after a play.

Photo Credit/sportingnews.com

 

Sacramento Kings: George Hill

The Kings may opt to move their veteran point guard to acquire a few assets and move forward with De’Aaron Fox for the future.

Phoenix Suns: Alex Len

After several years in Phoenix, Len has yet to fully grab hold of the starting job. He’s not being thrown around in too many trade rumors but he’s a possible trade piece for the Suns.

Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson

Randle and Clarkson have been involved in rumors for months but Magic and the Lakers haven’t come up with a deal yet. The two could garner attention from several teams and result in some young assets and draft picks for LA.

Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Avery Bradley

DJ and Lou should be moved by LA by today along with possibly Avery Bradley in a different deal. The Clippers could end up with some high draft picks to get their rebuild on if they sell a few of their older starters.

Golden State Warriors: Javale McGee

Though it’s likely McGee stays with the Warriors given rookie Jordan Bell’s current injury, he’s been on the trade block for a while and may be in a different uniform in a few days.

 

 

Southeast Division: 

Walker, Howard, and Batum on the bench.

Photo Credit/swarmandsting.com

 

Atlanta Hawks: Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova

Both these players have shooting ability that any team would love to have and should be on the move if the Hawks are smart.

Orlando Magic: Everyone

The Magic are loaded with talent but have yet to fully find an identity. Aaron Gordon is clearly their most valuable piece but even he shouldn’t be untouchable at this point. With  new front office in place Orlando should be selling at the deadline.

Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Nic Batum

Though at this point it seems unlikely, Charlotte could move their top 3 players in an attempt to gain a top draft pick or a few young players. Michael Jordan doesn’t seem keen on the idea but it’d be smart for the mediocre franchise to shift in a different direction.

Miami Heat: James johnson, Justise Winslow

It’s likely one of these forwards are moved at the deadline. The Heat would receive more for Winslow but could dump the contract of Johnson while he’s still moveable.

Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre Jr. 

The Wizards are another team that will probably be quiet tomorrow but with Otto Porter ahead of him for the future and the fact he’s still on his rookie deal, the Wizards should listen to offers for Oubre.

 

 

Central Division: 

Photo Credit/factoryofsadness.com

 

Chicago Bulls: Justin Holiday

The Bulls have already made the trade they needed to make by moving Mirotic recently. If they were to deal someone else, Holiday is a possibility with Zach Lavine just coming back.

Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

Detroit has also made a recent trade with the acquisition of Blake Griffin. The team should now listen to offers for Stanley Johnson as the young forward hasn’t exactly panned out how they wanted it.

Indiana Pacers: Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young

These are two veterans who can still contribute as starters or off the bench. The Pacers are actually looking at a playoff spot this year but with some young stars ready to step up they may deal some older players if the right offer comes.

Milwaukee Bucks: Mirza Teletovic

Teletovic isn’t a highly desired player but his shooting ability could make him available for a low 2nd round pick at a deadline deal with a contender.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Everyone but LeBron

The Cavs have clear problems right now and to fix it, no matter what direction they decide to go in, anybody but the King should be available.

 

 

Southwest Division:

Evans dribbling.

Photo Credit/sbnation.com

 

Dallas Mavericks: Wesley Matthews

Despite his contract, several teams may be interested in a 3 and D guard who can come off the bench or start for a contender.

Memphis Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans, James Ennis III

The Grizzlies have recently stated that they’d like to keep Marc Gasol rather than dealing him, but they should listen to offers for these two cheap but valuable forwards, especially Evans.

New Orleans Pelicans: None

After the Cousins injury, New Orleans has already transformed their roster a bit and it’d be a surprise to see them move anyone else unless a drastic change in direction would be in place.

San Antonio Spurs: Danny Green

The Spurs rarely make mid-season trades but reports are that they are currently in talks with the Clippers to try to acquire Avery Bradley with Danny Green and a pick.

Houston Rockets: Ryan Anderson

There’s speculation that Houston is interested in George Hill, but the deal seems to have not gained much traction. They would likely need a 3rd team if they wanted to move Anderson’s contract and bring in a different player for the playoffs.

 

 

Northwest Division: 

Mudiay dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson

Hood and Favors are both players that could bring in a first rounder for the Jazz and allow them to fully start the Mitchell-Gobert era. Johnson has reportedly been looking for an exit from the team, but expect him to be more likely bought out in a few weeks rather than traded at the deadline.

Portland Trail Blazers: Shabazz Napier

Napier is having the best season of his career and has been in trade rumors for months. If Portland does deal him they can expect a lot in return.

Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Kenneth Faried

The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league and could benefit from letting go of some of these bench players that could get them multiple draft picks or talent in return. They’ve been in some talks with Cleveland about sending a few key role players to the Cavs if the Nets pick is in play.

Oklahoma City Thunder: None

OKC is an expensive team with key players that they won’t trade right now so it’s unlikely to see them move anybody even if they wanted to.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammed

After a few years in Minnesota, Muhammed has yet to develop much and will be out of Minnesota by the summer if not now. He’s a good scorer who could benefit a contender off the bench if the Wolves find a partner to take him at the deadline.

 

 

 

With Boogie Out, do the Pelicans Move Davis?

 

What Wade Brings to the Cavs

Dwyane Wade has recently made his preseason debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers. What does the aging Hall of Famer have to contribute to the Cavs this season?

 

Dwyane Wade receiving his jersey at his first Cavs press conference.

Photo Credit/www.cavsnation.com

 

The reunion of Dwayne Wade and LeBron James is finally here as Flash comes to join his old teammate in Cleveland. The possibility of a Wade-Cavs signing became more and more likely as the summer went on due to an offseason of confusion and new faces in Chicago. In wake of the Kyrie Irving trade and Isaiah Thomas injury, Wade’s most important regular season minutes with Cleveland could come early in the year. We know he brings a big name and finals experience, but what else does the guard give to the Cavaliers new backcourt?

 

Dwyane Wade shooting a free throw.

Photo Credit/www.youtube.com

 

Wade had a solid year last year for the Bulls, averaging over 18 PPG and hitting some big buckets late on occasion. Expect his slashing and scoring ability to carry over to Cleveland where iso ball is encouraged. The problem with the addition is that the Cavs had just recently gotten a guard in Derrick Rose who’s strengths are fairly similar to Wade’s. The biggest problem for Cleveland due to this may be outside shooting in the backcourt. With IT4 out until possibly February, it will be up to Rose, Wade, and Smith to fill in minutes at the guard. J.R. is a marksman, but when he’s not on the floor what shooting do the Cavaliers have to space the floor for LeBron, outside of Korver and Love? Though Wade had a career year last season from 3 (for him) shooting 31%, he’s never been reliable from deep. With the Warriors being able to put 5 guys on the floor shooting over 30% from the arc, Cleveland may still need to make a move for a shooter during the season.

 

Wade with teammate LeBron James.

Photo Credit/www.cavsnation.com

 

One interesting role Dwyane may have to play for Cleveland early on is playing at the point. He has some experience at the 1 from his early days in Miami with Shaq. As Isaiah Thomas remains out with a hip injury, the Cavs may opt for Wade and Rose to consume all the minutes at PG over giving Kay Felder a chance with a roster of expiring superstar contracts, assuming Felder makes the team. If Wade stays healthy his contributions and presence will only be positive for Cleveland, but it will likely not push them all the way to the top.

17-18 CLE Stats Predictions:

PPG: 16.7   RPG: 3.8   APG: 4.6   SPG: 1.2   BPG: 0.5

 

Melo Looking More Desperate to Get Out of New York

According to USA Today, Carmelo Anthony is now open to waiving his no-trade clause for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder. What are some scenarios that could see Melo out of New York and how will it affect the roster of a potential new team?

Melo during a dead ball.

Photo Credit: newsday.com

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Players possibly on the move in trade: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert

If the Cavs are able to bring Anthony to Cleveland, it’d mean giving up on Tristan Thompson or more likely Kevin Love. The loss of a top 3 power forward in Love or your best only rim protector in Thompson would already make this a touchy move. It’s been known for most of the offseason that Iman Shumpert is on the trade block so we may see him back in the Big Apple in this trade also. Losing an important piece(s) to the team just to bring in an aging starter would just be worse for Cleveland at this point. Unless they can pull off a move where they acquire one of the Knicks young talents along with Anthony or make a three team trade work, the Cavs should stay out of this one.

Would-be Trade Grade: D-

Anthony’s projected stats with team:

PPG: 19.3   RPG: 6.1   APG: 2.8   SPG: 0.7


Oklahoma City Thunder

Players possibly on the move in trade: Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, Andre Roberson, Patrick Patterson

Although his contract would match up with Anthony’s to allow OKC to make a trade, it would be foolish of the Thunder to move Steven Adams. With their elite front office I don’t see them giving up on their young center here. As Melo would likely start at power forward in Oklahoma City, it’s possible Sam Presti may center a package around Enes Kanter. This would make sense financially and allow the team to keep some of their defensive studs on the roster to compliment their offensive-minded big 3. Like the Cleveland case, this trade may just hurt the Thunder’s chances more than help. 3 ball-dominant guys and not much shooting around them makes for a clogged lineup and possible chemistry issues. Stacking up stars on your team doesn’t make you the Warriors. The Thunder would be smart to hang on to what they’ve got now and let another team risk it with Anthony.

Would-be Trade Grade: C

Anthony’s projected stats with team:

PPG: 16.9   RPG: 5.7   APG: 2.2   SPG: 0.8


Portland Trail Blazers

Players possibly on the move in trade: Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Al Farouq-Aminu, Meyers Leonard

Carmelo hasn’t publicly stated yet that he would waive his clause for Portland, though there is current speculation that he would accept a move to join Dame and C.J. A Blazer trade for Anthony would almost certainly mean parting ways with the awful contracts of either Harkless or Turner. Adding Melo to one of the best backcourts in the league and young talent in the post would get Portland into the playoffs in the Western Conference. If the Blazers are able to use picks and a solid wing with a financially steep contract to steal Anthony from the Knicks, it could be a positive move for Portland.

Would-be Trade Grade: B-

Anthony’s projected stats with team:

PPG: 17.4   RPG: 6.8   APG: 3.1   SPG: 0.9


Houston Rockets

Players possibly on the move in trade: Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon

The Rockets still remain the number one option for Melo. He and his camp have made it clear Houston is where he wants to be. This would also be the best fit for player and team. The Rockets will almost inevitably have to give up stretch 4 Ryan Anderson to acquire Anthony via trade which should then place Carmelo at the power forward position. I believe that on a team like Houston with world class playmakers, James Harden and Chris Paul, Anthony spotting up on the perimeter would slightly resemble his play style on Team USA where he’s thrived throughout his career. On defense, guarding a slower, less ball dominant player would help him immensely and allow for him to save energy for the offensive end. If the Rockets are able to swing a trade for Anthony before another team does, Melo could help them get a Southwest division title this season.

Would-be Trade Grade: A

Anthony’s projected stats with team:

PPG: 18.7   RPG: 6.5   APG: 3.3   SPG: 0.9

 

Here are my top 15 center rankings:

Top 15 Centers in the NBA Heading into Next Season

Top 15 Centers in the NBA Heading into Next Season

The center position has seen a decrease in importance as the years have gone on. Let’s look at some of the best guys at the 5 as the season draws closer.

 

Just missed the cut:

Tristan Thompson

Mason Plumlee

Tyson Chandler

Marcin Gortat

Nikola Vucevic

 

15. Clint Capela – Houston Rockets

Clint Capela with teammate James Harden in game.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Capela will start at center again this season after taking over for Dwight Howard last year. With new star teammate Chris Paul coming to Houston to play with MVP candidate James Harden, along with several skilled shooters, Capela’s main job will be to protect the rim and provide a presence inside. The 23-year old Swiss big man has become the Rockets best defender and after a semi-breakout year last year, his strengths are just what Houston needs to compete with Golden State this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.6   RPG: 8.1   APG: 1.0   BPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.1  RPG: 9.3   APG: 1.2   BPG: 1.7

 

14. Steven Adams – Oklahoma City Thunder

Steven Adams in the post against rival Houston Rockets.

Photo Credit/www.foxsports.com

 

Adams remains the third option for the Thunder following the trade for Paul George. The former Pitt star broke out during the 2016 postseason but didn’t completely live up to expectations last year. Adams defensive I.Q. and elite jump hook make him a big piece for Oklahoma City as they attempt to grab another West playoff spot this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 11.3   RPG: 7.7   APG: 1.1   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 10.8  RPG: 8.3  APG: 1.4  SPG: 0.9

 

13. Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond getting ready to shoot a free throw.

Photo Credit/www.slamonline.com

 

Drummond and the Pistons had a down year last year and need to rebound this year if the core is to stick around for much longer. Van Gundy and co. traded for Avery Bradley this offseason, resulting in the loss of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Bradley and Drummond have the potential to be one of the East’s top small-big duos if Drummond is able to improve his notoriously awful free-throw percentage and mediocre defense.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.6   RPG: 13.8   APG: 1.1   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.3  RPG: 13.9  APG: 1.0  SPG: 1.2

 

12. Dwight Howard – Charlotte Hornets

Dwight Howard being guarded by Myles Turner in the post.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Dwight Howard has progressively gotten worse and worse as the past few years have passed. He’s still a double-double center and can hold his own on the defensive end, though his offensive efficiency and importance to his team have lessened.  The league wide play style nowadays doesn’t fit Howard’s and his footwork in the post definitely doesn’t help him at his age. It’s possible Howard sees a lift in his game this season with Charlotte, but don’t expect him to ever bring back his Orlando days.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.5   RPG: 12.7   APG: 1.4   BPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 12.9  RPG: 11.8  APG: 1.3  BPG: 1.7

 

11. Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers

Myles Turner driving to the basket on Kelly Olynyk.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Turner enters this year as the new #1 option for the Pacers after the Paul George trade. He and Victor Oladipo will have the keys to the franchise as their rebuild begins. Turner’s 3-pt shooting ability coupled with his shot blocking ability make him a rare talent in the league. As the Texas native looks to have more opportunities on offense this season, he could emerge as an Eastern Conference All-Star candidate this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.5   RPG: 7.3   APG: 1.3   BPG: 2.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.3  RPG: 9.4  APG: 1.7  BPG: 2.6

 

10. Brook Lopez – Los Angeles Lakers

Brook Lopez at his Lakers press conference after the trade.

Photo Credit/www.latimes.com

 

Lopez comes home to LA this season to join the young Lakers. The big man will be expected to bring his outside scoring ability and leadership to Hollywood. The former Stanford star became the Nets all-time leading scorer last year and is improving his long distance jumper year by year. If Lopez is able to sustain that 3-pt% and possibly become a more prominent rebounder, he should be the go-to guy in Los Angeles this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.5   RPG: 5.4   APG: 2.3   BPG: 1.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 18.9  RPG: 7.6  APG: 3.1  BPG: 1.5

 

9. Al Horford – Boston Celtics

Al Horford driving on Derrick Rose.

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

Horford is now the third piece of the new big 3 in Boston along with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The big man won two National Championships at Florida and enjoyed a successful career in Atlanta before going North to Boston last year. Horford is a bit undersized at the center position and it shows in his rebounding numbers. He makes up for it with his playmaking ability and shot from deep. He’ll need to use both of these skills next season to give the Celtics a chance to get passed the Cavaliers and to the Finals for the first time since the Paul Pierce era.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.0   RPG: 6.8   APG: 5.0   BPG: 1.3

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.2  RPG: 7.3  APG: 4.6  BPG: 1.1

 

8. DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers

DeAndre Jordan boxing out Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Jordan and his partner down low, Blake Griffin, will be without their point guard and leader this season as Chris Paul left for Houston earlier this summer. Jordan has climbed to the top of the league over the past few years and made his first All-Star appearance last season. His defense, especially his shot blocking ability have made him the player he is, though his offense is limited and he’s rarely used in plays on that end. With the departure of Paul, Jordan may see an increase in his individual numbers but the Clippers look to be on the outside looking in in the Western Conference.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.7   RPG: 13.8   AGP: 1.2   BPG: 1.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.1  RPG: 13.9  APG: 1.1  BPG: 2.0

 

7. Hassan Whiteside – Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside dunking over Karl Anthony-Towns.

Photo Credit/wwwyoutube.com

 

Whiteside became the leader of the Heat last season after Dwyane Wade made the decision to go home to Chicago. Whiteside has emerged as a top NBA center over the past few seasons after not being able to get his feet under him early in his career. Nearly leading Miami to the postseason last year, look for another big statistical year from him. Expect another double-double year from Whiteside and likely a playoff spot for the Heat in the weak East.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.0   RPG: 14.1   APG: 0.7   BPG: 2.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7  RPG: 14.3  APG: 0.9  BPG: 2.6

 

6. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies

Marc Gasol being guarded by his brother Pau.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Gasol enters this season without his usual frontcourt partner Zach Randolph. The 7-foot Spaniard isn’t big in the rebounding category, but he makes up for it with his playmaking and defense. He’s helped lead Memphis to 7 straight playoff appearances and become one of the best centers in the league, surpassing his brother. If Gasol continues to make plays out of the post and maintains his percentage from deep, look for a similar season from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 19.5   RPG: 6.3   AGP: 4.6   BPG: 1.3

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.6  RPG: 7.2  APG: 4.1  BPG: 1.4

 

5. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic taking the ball up the floor against the Indiana Pacers.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

After making the All-Rookie second team in 2015-16, Jokic burst onto the scene this year as really a point-center. The Serbian big man has been a second round steal for the Nuggets and become their star this past season. What separates him from most other guys in the middle are his guard skills at his size. He can handle the ball well at 6’10” and make plays out of the post for guys on the perimeter. He’s got a new partner now in Paul Millsap and with an improving young team around him, look for Jokic to take Denver back to the playoffs.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 16.7   RPG: 9.8   APG: 4.9   SPG: 0.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 18.7  RPG: 11.1  APG: 5.9  SPG: 1.0

 

4. Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

Rudy Gobert blocking a shot against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Gobert is now the man in Utah after Gordon Hayward’s departure to Boston back in the summer. His efficiency on both ends of the floor get him this high on the list. The Frenchman is a tremendous low post scorer and has also become one of the top 3 defenders in the league after finishing as a finalist for the DPOY award this past season. Gobert needs to be even greater this season to give the Jazz any shot at the postseason, though it doesn’t look too good for Utah right now.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.0   RPG: 12.8   APG: 1.2   BPG: 2.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.3  RPG: 13.7  APG: 1.1  BPG: 2.8

 

3. DeMarcus Cousins – New Orleans Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins being guarded by Heat center Hassan Whiteside.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Boogie and AD enter this season as the clear cut top frontcourt in the league and will have the highest expectations of each of their young careers. Cousins has been developing a three point jumper over the past few seasons. He’s not automatic from deep, but his range could come in handy for a Pelicans team in need of shooting. Cousins’ playmaking ability is also a huge and unique part of his game that will benefit some of the new backcourt players this season in New Orleans. Boogie must continue to show versatility on offense and play energetic defense to help get the Pels back to the postseason in the final year of his contract.

16-17 Stats (NOP): PPG: 24.4  RPG: 12.4  AGP: 3.9  SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.3  RPG: 11.8  APG: 4.1  SPG: 1.4

 

2. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid taking a jumpshot over Thunder center Steven Adams last season.

Photo Credit/www.philly.com

 

Embiid broke out last season after not playing a game his first couple years as a member of the Sixers. The wait paid off for the Cameroonian big man. He’s now the leader and star of a young, talented team with Philly poised for the playoffs this year. Embiid’s advanced metrics were crazy last season and his offensive and defensive efficiencies were some of the best in the league. While climbing to the top of the league, Embiid still wasn’t 100% and played on limited minutes before being shut down for the year. Embiid will come back even stronger and better this season for the Sixers and thats scary news for the rest of the East.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.2   RPG: 7.8   APG: 2.1   BPG: 2.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.6 RPG: 10.2  APG: 3.3  BPG: 2.8

 

1. Karl Anthony-Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl Anthony-Towns driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/www.cbssports.com

 

KAT comes in at number one on this list. Since he’s been a rookie, Towns has shown the whole league his ability to dominate on the offensive side of the ball and lead the young Timberwolves. Now that he has veteran guard Jimmy Butler in Minnesota with him, Towns will look to make the next step with teammate Andrew Wiggins and take the Wolves all the way back to the postseason. Towns greatest attribute is his ability to get his shot off easily and efficiently down low, and occasionally stretch the floor with an improving 3-point jumper. The Kentucky product majorly improved last season, increasing his points and rebounding totals, showing his rookie year wasn’t a fluke. Defense is a facet of KAT’s game that is solid right now, but if there’d be a part of his game he could improve, emphasis on defense would be it. If Towns’ cleans up a few things in his game and keeps up his work ethic, he could be the league MVP soon.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.1   RPG: 12.3   APG: 2.7   BPG: 1.3

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.6  RPG: 13.9  APG: 3.4  BPG: 1.8

 

Here are my top 15 point guard rankings:

Here are my top 15 shooting guard rankings:

Here are my top 15 small forward rankings:

Here are my top 15 power forward rankings:

 

Top 15 Power Forwards in the NBA Heading into next Season

The power forward position features some of the most versatile guys in the NBA. Who cracks the top 15 heading into the season?

 

Just missed the cut:

Patrick Patterson

Taj Gibson

Jon Leuer

Thaddeus Young

Larry Nance Jr.

 

 

 

15. Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried hammers down a one-handed dunk for the Nuggets.

Photo Credit/www.autodo.info

 

Faried was involved in some underground trade rumors earlier in the summer but it looks as though he’ll begin the season in Denver. The Morehead State product hasn’t exactly improved much since his first few years in the league but remains a guy who could be an important energy guy for a playoff team, and with the Nuggets improvements this offseason, it looks like he has the opportunity to have that role off the bench. Look for slightly worse numbers this year from Faried, but he will surely be an important piece for Denver behind Paul Millsap.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.5   RPG: 8.7   APG: 1.2   BPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 8.2  RPG: 7.6  APG: 1.4  BPG: 0.7

 

14. JaMychal Green – Memphis Grizzlies

JaMychal Green attempts a layup over Spurs guard Manu Ginobili.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Green is currently in a sticky situation heading into next season. He and the Grizzlies didn’t come out of the summer with a contract extension as Memphis tested the market, winning big by now being able to bring Green back for next year on an RFA contract and giving themselves a year to decide whether to give him a long-term deal next summer. The 27-year old is coming off easily his best season as a pro and with Zach Randolph out of Memphis, could be set for an even bigger year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 8.9   RPG: 7.1   APG: 1.1   SPG: 0.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.7  RPG: 8.3  APG: 2.4  SPG: 0.9

 

13. Ryan Anderson – Houston Rockets

Ryan Anderson celebrating after hitting a 3.

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

Like Green, Anderson was involved in some trade rumors this summer, mostly related to Carmelo Anthony. Assuming he’s in Houston at the start of the season, he’ll likely start again at the power forward position and be another floor spacer for James Harden and Chris Paul. Anderson shot an impressive 40.3% from deep last season and will be expected to carry that percentage into this year and help the Rockets grab a home playoff spot in the West.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.6   RPG: 4.6   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.9  RPG: 5.2  APG: 1.1  SPG: 0.3

 

12. Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers

Julius Randle takes a jumpshot over Spurs guard Tony Parker.

Photo Credit/www.lakersnation.com

 

Randle will start at the 4 again this year ahead of Larry Nance Jr. The new-look Lakers now feature a new point guard in Lonzo Ball and will look to further develop talented starters in Brandon Ingram as well as Randle. The 22-year old is currently in the best shape of his young career and after coming off another strong rebounding year, could become a top 10 power forward by midseason.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.2   RPG: 8.6   APG: 3.6   SPG: 0.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.1  RPG: 9.7  APG: 3.9  SPG: 0.8

 

11. Gorgui Dieng – Minnesota Timberwolves

Gorgui Dieng attempts a left-handed layup above the rim.

Photo Credit/www.minnpost.com

 

Dieng enters this year as the Wolves likely starting power forward over Taj Gibson. Coming out of Louisville, his athleticism and defensive potential were his calling cards, though over the last few seasons he’s showcased an improving 3-point shot and with a Minnesota team expecting to contend this season, Dieng will need to keep his percentage from deep up close to 40%. The T-Wolves aren’t exactly a bad team from behind the arc, but if you look at other top teams around the league, the shooting ability in Minnesota is a bit below average. If Dieng can become almost a stretch 4 for the team, he could be looking at a starting job alongside KAT in the frontcourt for years to come.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 10.0   RPG: 7.9   APG: 1.9   BLK: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 9.6  RPG: 8.1  APG: 2.4  BLK: 1.6

 

10. LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs

LaMarcus Aldridge high-fiving Kawhi Leonard in a game against the Sacramento Kings.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Aldridge has just moved farther and farther down this list over the past couple years. He’s still a valuable piece for the Spurs and likely the second most valuable player in San Antonio, but he’s not the perennial All-Star he used to be. Aldridge’s defense has never been a strength of his, much like his playmaking ability. For the former Texas big man to stay out of the rumor mill and help San Antonio keep a top spot in the West, he needs to post tremendous mid-range shooting numbers and be stronger inside on offense.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.3   RPG: 7.3   APG: 1.9   BLK: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 15.8  RPG: 7.1  APG: 1.9  BLK: 1.0

 

9. Serge Ibaka – Toronto Raptors

Serge Ibaka celebrating after a play against the Cavaliers.

Photo Credit/www.thestar.com

 

Ibaka came to Toronto in a midseason trade from the Orlando Magic. He joined Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan to form a big 3 in the East and the team was able to keep the crew together to contend again this year. Ibaka came into the league as an elite defender and shot blocker and still carries those attributes, though over the past few years he’s improved his three point shot immensely. The Spanish big man shot around 40% from deep last season and has become one of the best stretch 4’s in the NBA. If he keeps his defensive intensity and 3-pt% up expect the Raptors to be a top team in the East again.

16-17 Stats (TOR): PPG: 14.2   RPG: 6.8   APG: 0.7   BLK: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 13.9  RPG: 7.1  APG: 0.8  BLK: 1.6

 

8. Harrison Barnes – Dallas Mavericks

Harrison Barnes attempts a jumpshot against the Bucks last season.

Photo Credit/www.mavsmoneyball.com

 

Barnes had a career year last season in his first campaign with the Mavs as he posted nearly 20 points a contest and was arguably the most important player in Dallas. After years in Golden State playing at the 3 for the Dubs, Barnes logged several minutes at the 4 for the Mavericks this past season. His size, athleticism, and shooting ability seem perfect for a modern day NBA power forward, and Rick Carlisle used him there efficiently. With a young Mavs team around him, I can only see Barnes going up and again setting career highs this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 19.2   RPG: 5.0   APG: 1.5   SPG: o.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7  RPG: 6.2  APG: 1.9  SPG: 1.1

 

7. Jabari Parker – Milwaukee Bucks

Jabari Parker sets to take a free throw in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

After a strong start with Milwaukee this past year, Parker suffered a season ending injury, the second big road block he’s had to go through in his young career. Despite another hiccup, expect him to come back strong and ready to help Giannis lead the Bucks this season. The Duke product has proven himself to be a young star as he continues to showcase his efficient scoring ability and all-around game while Milwaukee continues it’s rise in the East. If IT4 is out for an extended period or the new Boston stars can’t figure it out right away, watch out for Parker, Giannis, and the Bucks as a possible dark horse in the East.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.1   RPG: 6.2   APG: 2.8   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.3  RPG: 6.7  APG: 3.2  SPG: 1.4

 

6. Paul Millsap – Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Millsap comes to Denver this season after a sign-and-trade during the summer. He joins Nikola Jokic in the Nugget frontcourt to form a dynamic duo in the West. After several years with the Hawks in Atlanta, Millsap heads back West and it looks as though Denver is primed for a playoff appearance this season. The 32-year old power forward’s offensive versatility and outside shooting ability make him a perfect fit and if he’s able to keep up his All-Star level play this year, look for Denver at the top of the standings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.1   RPG: 7.7   APG: 3.7   SPG: 1.3

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7  RPG: 8.1  ARPG: 4.2  SPG: 1.3

 

5. Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis flying in for a dunk.

Photo Credit/www.hoopshabit.com

 

With Carmelo Anthony’s future still uncertain, it’s unclear whether Porzingis will be fully handed the keys to the franchise this season or not. Whether Melo is in a Knicks jersey come opening night or not, expect Kris to put up career highs across the board this year. The 22-year old Latvian has been working out with Dirk Nowitzki this summer and has also showcased his skills for his National team during the offseason. If Hornacek makes Porzingis the number one option flat out this season, look for him to make his first All-Star appearance in the NBA.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.1   RPG: 7.2   APG: 1.5   BLK: 2.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.3  RPG: 10.7  APG: 2.1  BLK: 2.2

 

4. Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin being guarded by Jazz' Joe Johnson.

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Griffin recently signed a new 5-year deal with LA this summer shortly after the departure of Chris Paul. Blake and DeAndre still form one of the best front courts in the league and with new guys around the perimeter, the Clippers could possibly find a way back to the postseason, though the chances aren’t great by the looks of it. Griffin was absent from the All-Star game last season and struggled with injuries again. Despite this, the former OU star maintained solid numbers and did enough to get the Clippers a home playoff spot in the West. It’ll be an adjustment for Griffin this year as he learns to play again without Paul at the point, but look for similar numbers from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 21.6   RPG: 8.1   APG: 4.9   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.4  RPG: 8.7  APG: 4.3  SPG: 0.8

 

3. Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love talking with teammate LeBron James during dead ball.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

With Kyrie out of the Land and Isaiah Thomas likely out for an extended period, Love will start the season as the #2 option for the Cavs. After a few down years to start his career in Cleveland, Love came into his own last season and tallied the votes to be an All-Star starter before getting hurt. It was his first double-double average since joining the Cavs and many began to find more confidence in the UCLA product. If LeBron puts more trust in K-Love this year and Love is able to sustain his percentage from deep while avoiding injury, the Cavs are likely the favorite in the East again.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 19.0   RPG: 11.1   APG: 1.9   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.3  RPG: 10.7  APG: 1.8  SPG: 0.9

 

2. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors

Draymond Green celebrating after a play against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Green helped his Warriors get their 2nd NBA title in 3 years back in June. The Dubs are again expected to dominate and are favorites for the Ship in 17-18 as well. Green may be the least talented of the Golden State big 4 but you can make an argument that he’s the most important. While he won’t give you 20 points a night, the 27-year old can guard all 5 positions and play point guard on offense at 6’7″. Green has the ability to put up a triple double on any given night and posted the second best plus/minus in the league last year only behind teammate Stephen Curry. Look for Green to again help lead the Warriors this season and be in the conversation for DPOY.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 10.2   RPG: 7.9   APG: 7.0   SPG: 2.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.7  RPG: 8.8  APG: 7.5  SPG: 2.2

 

1. Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis throws down a dunk over Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Photo Credit/www.complex.com

 

Unlike previous years, Davis starts this season with high expectations. He and his frontcourt partner Demarcus Cousins are the best pair of big men we’ve seen in years and with newly re-signed point guard Jrue Holiday, should challenge for a playoff spot this year. The Pelicans didn’t live up to expectations post All-Star break last season but now that they’ve had time to gel, all the pressure is on them to compete in the stacked Western Conference. AD carries a set of skills that are rare to see in a big man as he’s able to use his length and athleticism to dominate on defense and offensive versatility to put up big numbers on that side of the floor. After logging a career high 28 points a game last year and taking home the All-Star game MVP in New Orleans, look for huge numbers again from him and better team success from the Pels.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 28.0   RPG: 11.8   APG: 2.1   BLK: 2.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.6  RPG: 11.9  APG: 2.7  BLK: 2.8

 

Here are my top 15 small forward rankings:

Here are my top 15 shooting guard rankings:

Here are my top 15 point guard rankings:

 

Digging Deeper with Daniel: 8/27-9/3 Seattle trades for Richardson

Seattle trades with the Jets for Sheldon Richardson

This is fairly new news as I am writing this. The Seahawks have traded Jermaine Kearse and a 2018 second round pick to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson. I like this trade for both teams. The Jets add some talent to their offensive arsenal which sorely needed help. This should also help for whenever they decide to draft a quarterback. The Jets also gain some valuable draft capitol, which is a big deal or a rebuilding team. The Seahawks also add a really good player to their defensive line, which helps bolster their roster for another playoff run.

The Fight

One of the most hyped up fights of all time went down this week between Mayweather and McGreggor with a 10th round TKO by Mayweather. My boxing knowledge is very limited, so here is Cap’s take on the fight and MJ’s take.

Kyrie Irving trade FINALLY OFFICIAL!

Finally after so much drama, Kyrie Irving has been traded to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, the Net’s 2018 first round pick, and a second round pick. This long saga is finally over after weeks of speculation.

Joe Haden signs for the Steelers and Martavis Bryant returns

This is an incredibly over-hyped signing by Pittsburgh in my opinion. Joe Haden has not played well at all for the last two seasons. Perhaps he can regain his Pro-Bowl form, but nothing has shown me that he will do that. Martavis Bryant was also cleared for full activity, which is huge for the Steelers as a number 2 option behind Antonio Brown.

Ezekiel Elliot Controversy

The NFLPA is now going against the NFL in an attempt to allow Ezekiel Elliot to play in all Cowboys games this season. The NFLPA is taking legal action against the NFL over this case. There seems to be increasing tension between the NFL and the NFLPA as the NFLPA has told it’s members to save up for a strike in a few years.

Featured image credit to fieldgulls.com