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:

Advertisements
First Round Rookie Grades as the Season Comes to a Close

First Round Rookie Grades as the Season Comes to a Close

As we prepare for the 2018 NBA playoffs to get started in the coming weeks, let’s take a look back at the draft and grade what rookies taken in the first round have done so far.

 

 

The 2017 NBA draft board.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

 

30. Josh Hart – Los Angeles Lakers

Hart after making a 3.

Photo Credit/lakersnation.com

 

Joining the Lakers after a full career at Villanova, Hart has seen increased minutes as the year has gone on. The 22-year old has showcased above-average rebounding ability for a guard and a solid outside jumper. He’ll continue to share minutes with KCP for the remainder of the season once he returns from his hand injury.

Grade: B-

 

 

29. Derrick White – San Antonio Spurs

White in summer league.

Photo Credit/ralphiereport.com

 

White wasn’t expected to have a huge bench role for the Spurs but he’s been non-existent all season. To spend a first round pick on a 23-year old who’s not ready yet isn’t a win.

Grade: D

 

 

28. Tony Bradley – Utah Jazz

Bradley in a game against a EuroLeague team.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Drafted as a project after one year at UNC, Bradley has yet to find barely any floor time in his rookie year. Even with the Rudy Gobert injury, the team favored Ekpe Udoh over Bradley for minutes. He has the potential to be a solid NBA center but needs to improve offensively and get stronger.

Grade: C

 

 

27. Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers

Kuzma during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Kuzma has been almost perfect for the Lakers so far and is a building block for them at the forward position. His outside shooting ability, offensive versatility, and length make him an exciting prospect and could be a 20pt scorer in just a year or two. He’ll contend for ROTY in June.

Grade: A+

 

 

26. Caleb Swanigan – Portland Trail Blazers

Swanigan fighting for the ball with Nikola Jokic.

Photo Credit/oregonlive.com

 

Though he rarely gets minutes, Swanigan was a great pick late in the first, as the Blazers got some much needed help in the frontcourt with his toughness inside and another outside shot. Rebounding is clearly his best attribute, but his 3pt shot has a chance to develop and make him a solid rebounding-stretch 4. The Draymond Green comparisons are fair.

Grade: B-

 

 

25. Anzejs Pasecniks – Orlando Magic

Pasecniks at a Blazers press conference.

Photo Credit/blazersedge.com

 

Pasecniks is already 22 and isn’t expected to make an NBA debut anytime soon. To pass up on a player like Kuzma and opt for a draft and stash with an older player is an awful choice by the Magic front office and is a symbol of the moves the franchise has made and continues to make that hinder their chances of being successful again.

Grade: F

 

 

24. Tyler Lydon – Denver Nuggets

Lydon in a rookie photo shoot.

Photo Credit/denverstiffs.com

 

Lydon has been a disappointment for a Nuggets organization with an already deep frontcourt that doesn’t have many minutes for the rookie. The Syracuse product has found himself in the G-League much more than on the Denver roster so far.

Grade: D-

 

 

23. O.G. Anunoby – Toronto Raptors

Anunoby going to the basket.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Anunoby was a clear steal for Toronto. The rookie swingman has shown an ability to knock down threes at a solid rate and displayed defensive versatility with his unbelievable length. He’s being compared to All-Star players at the moment and is the clear future for Toronto at the 3.

Grade: B+

 

 

22. Jarrett Allen – Brooklyn Nets

Allen passing the ball.

Photo Credit/newsday.com

 

Allen looks to be another steal as he’s putting up All-Rookie type numbers while still only logging around 20 minutes per game. With the dealing of Tyler Zeller to the Bucks before the deadline, Allen holds the reigns as big man of the future for Brooklyn.

Grade: A

 

 

21. Terrance Ferguson – Oklahoma City Thunder

Ferguson against the Lakers.

Photo Credit/basketusa.com

 

With the season ending injury to Andre Roberson, that would seem to open up some more minutes for Ferguson. He’s an explosive athlete with an improving jumpshot but he’s raw and needs to get stronger to ever be a starter for OKC. Ultimately, the Thunder are trying to compete now while they have Anthony and George, and Ferguson isn’t ready to produce yet.

Grade: D+

 

 

20. Harry Giles – Sacramento Kings

Giles in a rookie photo shoot.

Photo Credit/dukebasketballreport.com

 

After being highly touted coming out of high school, Giles was a disappointment at Duke and still is one with the Kings. He has massive upside but has been ruled out for the season with lingering knee problems.

Grade: C-

 

 

19. John Collins – Atlanta Hawks

Collins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/peachtreehoops.com

 

Collins may be the biggest steal of the draft as he’s stepped in and already become one of the Hawks best players. His length, athleticism, and nose for the ball down low will turn him into a double-double big man with an All-Star future.

Grade: A+

 

 

18. T.J. Leaf – Indiana Pacers

Leaf dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

In limited minutes, Leaf has produced pretty well but still needs to develop more to see sufficient playing time in the Pacer frontcourt. Given some of the talents Indiana passed up on here, this isn’t a win.

Grade: C

 

 

17. D.J. Wilson – Milwaukee Bucks

Wilson backing down Patterson.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Wilson was a reach for the Bucks at 17. His length and versatility make him worth holding onto but he won’t be ready to make any impact for Milwaukee for a while.

Grade: D+

 

 

16. Justin Patton – Minnesota Timberwolves

Patton in a team photo shoot.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Patton has been another disappointment as he’s been thrown in and out of the G-League so far this year. He has great size and potential but after some injury issues early on, he hasn’t established himself at all yet.

Grade: D-

 

 

15. Justin Jackson – Sacramento Kings

Jackson driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/sacbee.com

 

There’s still a chance for Jackson to be the forward of the future for the Kings, but he’s been a little inefficient in his first year. He’s had steady production on the wing in limited minutes and should see increases in all his numbers as Sacramento plans to start sitting veterans more as the season goes on and into next year.

Grade: C+

 

 

14. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat

Adebayo boxing out Mahinmi.

Photo Credit/allucanheat.com

 

Adebayo has been great for Miami so far, complimenting Whiteside well in the frontcourt. In just around 20 minutes a game, Adebayo is making a case to be considered for the All-Rookie 1st team. Given that the Heat passed on fellow big man John Collins here, it wasn’t a perfect pick.

Grade: A-

 

 

13. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Michell running up the court.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Mitchell is currently one of the frontrunners for ROTY, leading the Jazz in scoring and keeping them on the fringe of playoff contention. After losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason, Utah knew they needed to find their new star and they’ve taken care of that quickly as Mitchell has a chance to put up over 20 a game in his first season with the Jazz.

Grade: A+

 

 

12. Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons

Kennard driving to the basket against Toronto.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Coming out of Duke, Kennard has been a reliable outside shooting option for Detroit as expected, but isn’t set to be the star that Mitchell is. Imagining Donovan Mitchell on a Pistons team with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond would be a possible home court playoff spot for Detroit. Kennard is an NBA level player and could start at shooting guard for the Pistons a few years down the road but given who Detroit missed out on, it’s a disappointment.

Grade: C+

 

 

11. Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets

Monk dribbling the ball up the floor.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

When the Hornets were on the clock with this pick, Monk seemed like the obvious choice, but the Kentucky product has been a massive disappointment for Charlotte. He’s been inefficient and sore in the Hornet backcourt. His rough start has led to him being underutilized, and Monk is a guy who needs the ball in his hands to excel. Again, Mitchell would have been the better choice at shooting guard here.

Grade: D

 

 

10. Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers

Collins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/blazersedge.com

 

Despite playing on little minutes, Collins has been solid so far with Portland and looks like a future starter for the Blazers. Getting stronger to go with his long frame and possibly developing a better jumpshot should be the next steps in turning him into a star.

Grade: B+

 

 

9. Dennis Smith Jr. – Dallas Mavericks

Smith Jr. handling the ball.

Photo Credit/hoopshype.com

 

Though still fairly inefficient, Smith Jr. has been great for Dallas and is surely their point guard for the future. His athleticism and scoring ability will turn him into a star. When he improves his shot selection and playmaking ability he’ll be a perennial All-Star.

Grade: A

 

 

8. Frank Nitilikina – New York Knicks

Nitilikina during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

Though Nitilikina has faced some tough criticism so far this season over not being as complete of a rookie guard as Smith Jr. or Mitchell, he’s shown some promise in his first year. Despite not getting starters minutes, the 19-year old Frenchman has displayed solid playmaking ability and has shot the 3 as well as most expected. Where he seperates himself from some of the other guards in the draft is his defensive potential. At 6’5″ with a 7-foot wingspan, Nitilikina can make several All-Defensive teams in his career.

Grade: B

 

 

7. Lauri Markannen – Chicago Bulls

Markkanen during warm-ups.

Photo Credit/sbnation.com

 

In the Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls were able to move up into the top 10 and grab Markkanen, who’s put himself into outside ROTY contention in Chicago. The Finnish big man is putting up solid numbers while stroking it from the outside at an acceptable rookie rate. His size, combined with his somewhat guard skills could make him an All-Star soon.

Grade: A

 

 

6. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

Isaac pump faking under the rim.

Photo Credit/basketballinsiders.com

 

Isaac has had a quiet first year in Orlando after being drafted sixth overall by the new Orlando front office. The Bronx native has dealt with a few injury hiccups and has even spent some time in the G-League lately. At his length and athleticism, potential still reigns as the number one attribute for Isaac. More minutes and a stronger body should get him into double digits in scoring next year.

Grade: B-

 

 

5. De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings

Fox dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Fox started the year coming off the bench for veteran G George Hill, but with the deadline trade of Hill to Cleveland, Fox is now running the Point in Sacramento. In a guard heavy draft, Fox went to a Kings team thirsting for a youthful PG and he seems to already be settling in as their most promising young player. Despite low numbers on the boards and a struggling outside shot, Fox has showcased All-Star potential and strong leadership for Sacramento.

Grade: B+

 

 

4. Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns

Jackson driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/nbcsports.com

 

After a fairly slow offensive start to the season, Jackson has since picked it up and been better than expected in his rookie year in Phoenix. While putting up over 10 points a game and rebounding at a fair rate, the Kansas product has played stingy D all year and should be an All-Defensive selection someday. Continuing to work on his jumper in the offseason will further develop him into a two-way star.

Grade: A-

 

 

3. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

Tatum dunking in a game.

Photo Credit/masslive.com

 

Danny Ainge made a great move last June to move down and still take the most polished player in the top 10. Tatum has been lights out from deep all year, shooting over 40% consistently throughout the year, near league’s best from beyond the arc. His length and versatility on offense made him a solid replacement for Gordon Hayward who went down on opening night. Tatum should make a smooth transition to the 4 next year when Hayward returns.

Grade: A+

 

 

2. Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/latimes.com

 

As expected, Los Angeles took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick and have gotten nearly exactly what they expected, an inefficient scorer with an innate ability to see the floor on offense, and length on defense. Ball has dealt with a few injury spells this season but has been out there for the Lakers most of the year. While his shooting has been a dry spot in his game, Lonzo has given the Lakers a future at point guard and a special passer, putting up around 7 assists a game. He’ll never lead the league in scoring but Ball has All-Star potential and could be a starter on a championship team in the Lakers future.

Grade: A-

 

 

1. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers

Fultz driving to the basket.

Photo Credit/philly.com

 

Fultz, the number one pick in the 2017 draft, has seen almost no court time all season. His nagging elbow injury hasn’t just kept him off the court but also completely transformed his jumpshot and has forced him to pretty much re-learn to shoot the basketball. If he’s able to get healthy he has the potential to be a top guard in the league and would add to the budding young stars in Philadelphia, but Fultz may not even return this year and it’s uncertain how he’ll fair adjusting to a different jumper while learning the NBA.

Grade: Incomplete

 

 

 

How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference:

 

How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference

How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference

With Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler recently tearing his meniscus, another NBA star has gone down to injury. How will Butler’s absence affect Minnesota and the rest of the West?

 

 

Butler after injuring his knee.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

 

Wolves superstar shooting guard Jimmy Butler will be out for 4-6 weeks due to a meniscus tear. Minnesota is currently battling with every team in the Northwest for first and may have just forfeited the division with this injury. How does Butler going down affect the Timberwolves and the rest of the league?


Possible First Round Trouble for Golden State or Houston

Curry guarding Butler.

Photo Credit/startribune.com

 

With the Warriors and Rockets currently neck-and-neck for first in the West, the rest of the conference is double-digits back of the two juggernauts. Seeds 3-8 are up in the air with San Antonio currently leading the pack. Without Butler, Minnesota may find themselves fall a bit, and a bit is a lot with the current state of the Western Conference playoff picture. Avoiding a tear of the ACL, Butler has the potential to be ready for the beginning of the playoffs, and if the Wolves have dropped down to 7 or 8 and get back Butler for a series with Houston or Golden State, that’s a tough start to the postseason for either team.

 

 

 

Race to the Finish in the Northwest Division

Westbrook dribbling against Minnesota.

Photo Credit/newsok.com

 

The Northwest currently has 4 teams in the playoff picture and a fifth challenging for one in Utah. Any one of Portland, Denver, OKC, and Utah could surpass Minnesota if they go on a run. A playoff appearance still isn’t a lock for the Timberwolves especially in this division. KAT will have to have an MVP caliber end to the year if they expect to finally clinch a spot in the postseason. Getting all 5 teams in the playoffs is definitely possible here which puts pressure on Minnesota to stay competitive without Butler. Though it’s hard to believe, Minnesota could finish the year last in the Northwest Division.

 

 

 

J-Crossover gets his shot

Crawford during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

It’s been no secret that Coach Thibodeau has overplayed his starters this season, opting to sit some talented bench players like Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, and Jamal Crawford more than most expected after Minnesota spent so much on their bench in the offseason. With Butler out of the lineup for a month or two, Crawford should be called up to the starting lineup and may be able to find his Clipper self as the season comes to a close. The ageless scorer can put up 30 on any team on any night which gives Minnesota life if Towns or Wiggins can’t carry the load. We saw Crawford lead Los Angeles when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were down last year, so the 37-year old is completely accustomed to stepping up when injury occurs. Though he was underutilized during the season, Crawford will finally get a chance with Butler down for now.

 

 

 

 

Why Paul George Would Ruin the Lakers:

 

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?

 

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 Small Forwards Heading into Next Season

The small forward position is one of the most star studded in the league today. Who makes the cut for the top 15 leading into the season?

 

Just Missed the Cut:

Evan Turner

Wilson Chandler

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Robert Covington

Joe Ingles

 

15. Trevor Ariza – Houston Rockets

Trevor Ariza taking the ball up the floor to make a play for the Rockets.

Photo Credit/www.thedreamshake.com

 

Ariza may see his role decreased a bit this season as Chris Paul and P.J. Tucker settle in Houston. However, his versatile defense will be counted on by Mike D’Antoni to keep opposing offenses in check to allow Harden and Paul to do their thing on the offensive end. The 32-year old shot 34% from the arc last year and will need to at least sustain that rate this season to give the Rockets any chance of dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the West. Expect another solid season from Ariza and possibly a couple DPOY votes.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 11.7   RPG: 5.7   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 9.8  RPG: 5.3  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.7

 

14. James Johnson – Miami Heat

James Johnson looking to drive past his defender into the paint to make a play for the Heat.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

With Kelly Olynyk now in Miami, I suspect Johnson will start at the three this season. He had a breakout year for the Heat in 16-17, putting up career highs across the board and being an advanced metrics superstar, having a more positive plus/minus than star teammate Hassan Whiteside, leading the team. Johnson’s defensive versatility and offensive playmaking ability make him extraordinarily valuable in today’s NBA. Miami came just short of a playoff appearance last season after turning it on post All-Star break and challenging for the 8 seed. If Johnson and his fellow teammates perform as they did last spring, the Heat should be in the postseason this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.8   RPG: 4.9   APG: 3.6   BPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: 13.9  RPG: 5.2  APG: 4.3  BPG: 1.0

 

13. Andre Iguodala – Golden State Warriors

Andre Iguodala celebrating after hitting a three-pointer.

Photo Credit/www.warriorsworld.com

 

Iggy will again be an important piece to a star-studded Warriors roster this season. The 33-year old is one of the best bench players in the league and always seems to find his game come NBA Finals. Iguodala’s perimeter D and ability to run the offense when he’s on the floor should log him 20+mins a game again and get him into the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 7.6   RPG: 4.0   APG: 3.4   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 6.9  RPG: 4.1  APG: 3.8  SPG: 1.2

 

12. Danilo Gallinari – Los Angeles Clippers

Danilo Gallinari taking a fadeaway jumper over a defender.

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Gallinari joins the Clippers after being involved in the Paul Millsap sign-and-trade. Los Angeles lost Chris Paul this summer and in an attempt to continue to contend in the West, they put together a trade with the Hawks and Nuggets to acquire Danilo Gallinari. The Italian forward spent the last three years in Denver starting at small forward on a young Nugget team. Gallinari’s size and scoring ability will be valuable for The Clippers this season as they attempt to sneak into the playoffs for the 7th straight time.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.2   RPG: 5.2   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.9  RPG: 5.7  APG: 3.8  SPG: 0.5

 

11. Rudy Gay – San Antonio Spurs

Rudy Gay during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/www.slamonline.com

 

Gay recently signed a two-year deal with the Spurs after spending the last four seasons with the Sacramento Kings. The Connecticut product will likely come off the bench for San Antonio and give Pop and the Spurs much needed scoring in the second unit. It’s possible we see him play some power forward beside Kawhi Leonard as well, which could be a scary duo. With the Rockets becoming so much stronger this offseason, San Antonio will need Gay’s offense to win the Southwest division again.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.7   RPG: 6.3   APG: 2.8   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.9  RPG: 5.5  APG: 3.1  SPG: 1.2

 

10. Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony taking the ball up the floor and directing the rest of the offense.

Photo Credit/www.blazersedge.com

 

We’ll have to wait and see whether Melo is still in the Big Apple come opening night, though as of now he’s an aging above-average starter on the most dysfunctional team in the league. The Anthony-New York homecoming years ago has obviously not ended up panning out ideally. It’s fair to say Anthony is a bit “overrated” at this point in his career, though some of the criticisms applied to him are somewhat ridiculous. Under the right system (Mike D’Antoni), I believe Melo could be one of the best stretch fours in the league where his spot-up shooting would be showcased and his defense would be less susceptible to being exposed. The smart move for the Knicks would be to trade Anthony. If he stays, expect a similar, inefficient year. If gone, he likely will see a number decrease, though will enjoy more team success away from New York.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.4   RPG: 5.9   APG: 2.9   SPG: 0.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 19.7  RPG: 6.5  APG: 3.1  SPG: 0.9

 

9. Jae Crowder – Cleveland Cavaliers

Jae Crowder celebrating after converting an and-one against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Photo Credit/www.celticsblog.com

 

Crowder was just traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a piece of the Isaiah-Kyrie deal. The forward out of Marquette shot an impressive 40% from deep last year and will be expected to bring that efficiency to the land. We all knew of Crowder’s elite defense before, but his jumpshot is really starting to come into fruition. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts at the 2 or backs up King James off the bench.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.9   RPG: 5.8   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 12.8  RPG: 5.9  APG: 2.7  SPG: 1.3

 

8. Andrew Wiggins – Minnesota Timberwolves

Andrew Wiggins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Wiggins enters his 4th NBA season on one of the most star-studded teams in the league. We’ll likely see the Kansas product put up 20+PPG for the third straight year in 2017-2018. The new big three of Butler-Towns-Wiggins should get the Wolves back in the postseason for the first time in a while. For Wiggins, he’s got all the tools to someday be an MVP but must improve his shooting percentages and turnover efficiency to get to the very top.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.6   RPG: 4.0   APG: 2.3   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 24.1  RPG: 4.7  APG: 3.9  SPG: 1.6

 

7. Otto Porter Jr. – Washington Wizards

Otto Porter Jr. pointing as he runs down the floor.

Photo Credit/www.thehoopdoctors.com

 

Porter recently signed a new 4-year max contract with the Wizards this summer. He’ll stay in Washington with star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal to try and avenge their game 7 loss in the 2016 playoffs. The Georgetown product had an incredibly efficient season in 16-17 as he shot over 50% from the field and improved his percentage from deep by nearly 7%. I think we could see an increase in his numbers next year and along with it see the Wiz grab another home court playoff spot.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.4   RPG: 6.4   AGP: 1.5   SPG: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.6  RPG: 6.9  APG: 2.4  SPG: 1.8

 

6. Gordon Hayward – Boston Celtics

Gordon Hayward attempting to drive around Hawks guard Shelvin Mack to get into the paint and make a play.

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

Like Porter, Gordon Hayward signed a 4-year max deal this summer, though in this case, Hayward signed with a new team. The Boston Celtics scored big on the Butler product as he will be reunited with his college coach Brad Stevens. As the Kyrie trade recently went down, The Celts now have a big 3 of Irving-Hayward-Horford to attempt to compete with Thomas and James in the East. Hayward seems to improve by the year and now finds himself with All-Star and playoff experience as he comes to Massachusetts. If Boston stays on its game we could see a new team representing the East in the Finals this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 21.9   RPG: 5.4   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.3  RPG: 5.8  APG: 3.7  SPG: 1.1

 

5. Paul George – Oklahoma City Thunder

Paul George driving by Julius Randle in a game against the Lakers.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

George was another star dealt this summer as he was moved from the Indiana Pacers to join Russell Westbrook in OKC and form a new dynamic duo in the West. The Thunder now look destined for another playoff appearance with their two stars. It’s likely we see George’s numbers decrease a little due to now having the reigning MVP on his team, though he’ll be happy to experience more team success and space on the perimeter in Oklahoma. It’s highly doubtful we see a down year efficiency-wise from PG-13 given he stays healthy.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.7   RPG: 6.6   APG: 3.3   SPG: 1.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.9  RPG: 6.7  APG: 3.2  SPG: 2.1

 

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo dribbling on the perimeter while he scans the defense.

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

In my opinion, Giannis comes into this season with the best chance to win the league MVP. The Greek Freak has had a tremendous start to his career as the Bucks risky pick has turned into a superstar. There’s really nothing he can’t do as his body type and play style fit perfectly into today’s NBA, leading his team in all major statistical categories. The 22-year old has elite playmaking ability at nearly 7 feet tall and of course has the ability to block shots and rebound at a high level at his size. If he’s able to improve his 3-pt% as he did last season, expect Giannis to be #1 on this list in just a few years.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.9   RPG: 8.8   APG: 5.4   BLK: 1.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 25.8  RPG: 9.7  APG: 6.3  BPG: 2.2

 

3. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard getting ready to shoot a free throw.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Leonard and the Spurs nearly took a game against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before the superstar suffered an injury. Expect the Klaw to come back strong and ready this season to attempt to help San Antonio take home another Southwest Division title. Leonard seems to improve year by year and his scoring numbers have only gotten better as his young career has gone on. Most don’t think of Kawhi as a three point shooter, though his percentages would suggest otherwise. He’s shot an impressive 41.2% from deep over the last two seasons, improving on offense while maintaining his stellar defensive play. I’m expecting Leonard to finish at least top 3 in MVP voting this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.5   RPG: 5.8   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.2  RPG: 6.1  APG: 3.4  SPG: 2.2

 

2. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors

Kevin Durant running up the floor on offense looking to make a play for the Warriors last season.

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

KD got his title this past June when the Warriors knocked off the Cavs to win their second title in 3 seasons. The Dubs look primed to do exactly that again this year, led by their big 4. Durant had arguably his most efficient season in 16-17, making use of the space in the middle of the floor and open shots that weren’t always there for him in Oklahoma City. He again showcased his one-of-a-kind scoring ability and also introduced us to his shot-blocking ability, logging several minutes at the 4 for Golden State. Durant and the Warriors come into this year as the heavy favorites again and barring injury, expect KD to have another MVP caliber season and lead Golden State to another championship.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.1   RPG: 8.3   APG: 4.8   BLK: 1.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.3  RPG: 8.2  APG: 5.0  BPG: 1.7

 

1. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavs Small Forward LeBron James driving to the rim around new teammate Isaiah Thomas.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Although the two guys listed above the King could easily hop into this top spot or already be there, LeBron is the best bet as the #1 small forward in the league. James shows every year why he’s one of the best to ever do it by posting stellar numbers across the board seemingly all year long while grabbing his team a top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. LBJ has some new teammates coming to Cleveland in Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. I’m sure he was fairly happy with the news they were getting an All-Star point guard and above average 3 in return for Irving. James will again be able to run the majority of the Cavs offense and find Thomas, Love, Smith, and Crowder out on the wing. After a messy and uncertain summer, Cleveland and LeBron look like they now have the team they’ll be going with this next season. Expect James to again have a tremendous year and for the Cavaliers to be the favorites in the East, though a second title seems like a stretch for this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 26.4   RPG: 8.6   APG: 8.7   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.9  RPG: 7.9  APG: 9.2  SPG: 1.0

 

 

Here are my top 15 shooting guard rankings:

Here are my top 15 point guard rankings:

10 NBA Players Bound for a Breakout Year this Season

Sometimes we see talented guys in the league held back by players in front of them in the depth chart or not being one of the top options on offense. Here are some players to look for as possible most improved candidates next season.

 

Avery Bradley – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit/www.clutchpoints.com

 

Bradley is now out of the stacked lineup in Boston and whether Detroit is a better situation for him or not, his numbers will likely jump. AB has shown time and time again his relentless on-ball defensive ability, but last season and playoffs displayed improved shooting and rebounding at just 6’2″. He’ll likely play along Reggie Jackson in the backcourt, and now should be the offensive go-to in terms of guards. The team of course has center Andre Drummond down low and he and Bradley should be the team’s new little-big duo, rather than Jackson.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 16.3   RPG: 6.1   APG: 2.2  STL: 1.2

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 18.7  RPG: 6.3  APG: 2.9 SPG: 1.6

 

D’Angelo Russell – Brooklyn Nets

Photo Credit/www.netsdaily.com

 

D’Angelo Russell is no longer a Laker. The young guard was traded to the Brooklyn Nets pre-draft after a messy beginning to his career in Los Angeles. Look for major statistical improvement for Russell now that he’s in New York. The Nets are currently in a rebuild and D-Loading is likely now the go-to scorer and biggest centerpiece for the team this year and going forward. A guard combo of Lin-Russell could be one of the best in the East in 17-18.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.6   RPG: 3.5   APG: 4.8   SPG: 1.4

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 17.9  RPG: 4.6  APG: 5.3  SPG: 1.4

 

Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

Photo Credit/www.nbahoopsonline.com

 

With the recent departure of Gordon Hayward from Utah, expect Rudy Gobert’s numbers to jump next season. The Frenchman finished top 3 in DPOY voting last season and has proven his innate ability to protect the rim and grab boards. Though last year was his best offensive season in the league, id look for increased scoring and touches for Gobert in 17-18, as Hayward and Hill will no longer be in Salt Lake shooting in volume.

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

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

 

Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks

Photo Credit/www.slamonline.com

 

I really think Kristaps can put up a double-double this season, assuming Carmelo Anthony is out of the Big Apple by opening night. With Melo gone, Porzingis will have the ball in his hands nearly every possession and will be the new leader of the team. As much as the new Knick front office apparently would love to keep Anthony, It’d be a bad move for Porzingis’ progression. With Kris being the flat out number one option almost always when he’s out on the floor, his numbers could skyrocket in his third year in the league.

16-17 Stats: 18.1   RPG: 7.2   APG: 1.5   BPG: 2.0

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

 

Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Turner lost his superstar teammate this summer in Paul George. The big man will be the new face of the Pacers entering his third year in the NBA. Indiana will most likely look to rebuild next season despite the East being wide open for teams.  Turner will certainly lead the Pacers now in the Post-PG era. The former Texas C has shown a rare ability for a big guy to shoot from the outside and has also become one of the best young shot blockers in the game. Look for him to be the centerpiece in Indianapolis in 2017-2018.

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

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

 

Dennis Schroeder – Atlanta Hawks

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

The Hawks lost their starting frontcourt this summer which handled a large load of the offense. With Millsap and Howard out of Atlanta, Dennis Schroeder will now be the top option for the team. He took over starting point guard duties last season for Jeff Teague, having the best year of his NBA career. If the German guard can stay healthy and improve his offensive efficiency and shooting percentages, expect a breakout year from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.9   RPG: 3.1   APG: 6.3   SPG: 0.9

Projected 17-18 Stats: 20.6  RPG: 4.2  APG: 6.7  SPG: 1.2

 

Dante Exum – Utah Jazz

Photo Credit/www.grantland.com

 

The Jazz lost PG George Hill to the Sacramento Kings earlier this summer, though traded for former Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio. Despite the Rubio acquisition, there should be plenty of playing time left for young Australian Dante Exum. Exum is labeled as pretty much a bust at this point in his career, struggling with injuries and not living up to his place on the 2014 draft board. With more opportunity and touches this season, look for Exum to have a solid year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 6.2   RPG: 2.0   APG: 1.7   SPG: 0.3

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 10.9  RPG: 3.7  APG: 4.1 SPG: 0.6

 

Brandon Ingram – Los Angeles Lakers

Photo Credit/www.ocregister.com

 

Ingram came off the bench for much of last season but showed great potential and improvement towards the end of the 82. His length and athleticism are astounding and before suffering a minor injury early on, showed quick slashing ability and an improved shot in summer league. Ingram should come right out of the gate as a starter this season over Luol Deng, and I’d look for him to challenge Brook Lopez as the team’s top scorer this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 9.4   RPG: 4.0   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.6

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 15.7  RPG: 6.3  APG: 3.4  SPG: 0.8

 

Bobby Portis – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

With Jimmy Butler out of Chicago, the Bulls will likely be starting up a full on rebuild this season. This should give Portis a leg up on other bigs such as Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez, and we could even see him start at some points in the year. He’s shown flashes of potential in his first few years with the Bulls, though hasn’t seen enough of the court to turn heads. We’ll see if he gets his chance this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 6.8   RPG: 4.6   APG: 0.5   BPG: 0.2

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 10.2  RPG: 6.7  APG: 1.1  BPG: 0.7

 

Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Embiid had a breakout rookie year last year after being riddled with injuries in his previous two seasons in the league. Though he was able to play some, he was on minute restrictions all season and eventually was shut down due to injury. Playing only 25 mins a game last season , Embiid was amazing and had some of the best offensive and defensive efficiency ratings in the league. With presumably more playing time in 17-18, Embiid could put up KAT like numbers.

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

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