The Raptors Need to Blow it Up

Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have finished off Toronto in the Eastern Semis, the front office has some thinking to do regarding the team’s future. Here’s 3 reasons why the Raptors should flip their situation in the offseason:

 

 

 

 

 1. Lack of a Real Superstar:

Derozan and Lowry on the bench.

Photo Credit/newsok.com

 

Despite DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry both making All-Star teams in their time with the Raptors, neither have ever fully catapulted themselves to superstardom for an extended period of time. The two thrive in the regular season but don’t have the juice to get it done in the postseason, year in and year out. Lowry is also now 32 years old and after a down year in terms of numbers could be looking at a shortened future as a top point guard in the league. For DeRozan, after an awful 8 point outing and late game benching in game 3 along with another poor effort on Monday, it’s even more possible the team looks to part ways with him. They’ve had years to fix their playoff woes and have yet to find a stride in the spring.

 

 

 

2. O.G. Anunoby:

Anunoby driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/raptorshq.com

 

After emerging as one of the steals of the NBA Draft during the regular season, Anunoby was much better than the box score showed in this year’s playoffs. His insane length on the defensive end combined with his offensive athleticism and surprising shooting ability makes him the most exciting young player on Toronto’s team. He’s not ready to take on a role as a lead scorer for a team but he should be a bigger part of the offense next season as the coaching staff expands his game over the summer. Taking on the task of being LeBron James’ primary defender as a rookie in the playoffs certainly will help develop him as a defender and get him ready for his sophomore year. He’s not a sure thing but he has the potential to be a Kawhi-like forward. Unlike most teams, Toronto can trade their lead guys and still have superstar talent on their team.

 

 

 

 

3. The Rise of Philly and Boston 

Tatum dunking on Embiid.

Photo Credit/cleveland.com

 

It’s clearer now than ever that Philadelphia and Boston are on the come up in the East with multiple superstars on each team. This is just another reason Toronto has to think practically about their future. If these two teams haven’t already surpassed the Raptors in talent, they’ll be there in no time with both being contenders in the offseason with already elite teams. It’s likely we see the C’s and Sixers as the top two seeds in the East next season even if the Raptors don’t clean house. This would put Toronto into 3rd in their division at best and could begin their downfall to total mediocrity, which is exactly where you don’t want to be as a franchise. The Raptors should trade starters in the summer, experiment with young players as go-to guys next year, and build through the draft before delving into the middle of the pack in the East.

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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:

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:

 

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?

 

Powell, Harris Reach Deals

Norman Powell and Gary Harris have recently agreed to terms with their respective teams, each staying home for 4 years. Are these young guards worth what they’ll be making over the next several seasons and how will the extensions affect the futures of key players on both rosters?

 

Norman Powell dribbling the ball.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors: 4 years – $42 Million

Powell was a summer league star back in his rookie season. Having earned a spot on the Raptors then, he’s now earned a contract that will pay him just over $10 million a year over the next 4 seasons. This Toronto signing comes just after the re-signing of veteran point guard Kyle Lowry over the summer. Powell has continued to impress as his young career has gone on, providing relief for Derozan and Lowry off the bench. His usage should go up this season as Lowry ages and Delon Wright’s time to emerge as a capable playmaker decreases. The UCLA product put up over 8 PPG last season and has continued to improve on the defensive end which is in large part what got him this kind of money. It’s possible we see him come up as a possible candidate for an All-Defensive team in the coming years. This is a fair deal on both sides but if Powell continues to defend the way he has over the beginning of his career this could be a steal for Toronto.

Signing Grade: B


 

Gary Harris passing the ball.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets: 4 years – $84 Million

Gary Harris currently sits as one of the most underrated players in the NBA. His youth and efficiency is often overlooked for more volume shooters and big names. Not only has he continued to improve season by season but he shoots some of the best percentages in the league. The former MSU star shot an amazing 50.2% from the field along with 42% from 3 last season. Despite not being the go-to guy or putting up excessive shots per game, he’s made himself one of the most important players in Denver. The way Harris spaces the floor on offense gives Nikola Jokic room to make plays in the middle and you can really stick him out there with any backcourt partner. Despite his size at 6’4″ his versatility is apparent as he is successful in several lineups put out by Michael Malone. Of course, the emergence and now extension of Harris means Jamal Murray’s future as a shooting guard may be unlikely, but watch out for a Mudiay trade thrusting Murray into the role of future point guard. If he’s able to improve his defense, watch out for Harris in the All-Star game in a few years.

Signing Grade: A+

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:

 

Top 15 Shooting Guards Heading into Next Season

At this time in the league, some say there’s a disparity in star shooting guards. We’ll see who’s at the top of the list for the guys at the 2 leading into the 17-18 season.

 

Just missed the cut:

Seth Curry

Eric Gordon

Buddy Hield

Victor Oladipo

Evan Fournier

 

 

 

15. Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

You won’t see Danny Green put up 20 or more too often or be the number one option on any given night, though his relentless defense and sweet 3 point jumper get him into the top 15. The Spurs wouldn’t be nearly as good without Green. He’s one of the best backcourt defenders in the league and spreads the floor tremendously for LaMarcus Aldridge to work down low. Being on the Spurs will stunt Green’s numbers, but he’s definitely a huge piece for San Antonio.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 7.3   RPG: 3.3   APG: 1.8   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 8.1  RPG: 3.2  APG: 1.9  SPG: 1.6

 

14. Gary Harris – Denver Nuggets

Photo Credit/www.denverpost.com

 

Harris will presumably fight for minutes with Jamal Murray this season, though I expect both of them to play 20+. Harris has tremendous offensive ability with a great jumper and solid quickness off the dribble, shooting above 50% from the field last season. If he improves his defense this year I think we could see him attain the starting shooting guard spot in Denver for good and spring himself into the top 10 on this list.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.9   RPG: 3.1   APG: 2.9   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.3  RPG: 3.4  APG: 3.1  SPG: 1.5

 

13. J.J. Redick – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.usatoday.com

 

Redick appears to be just the player and shooter that the young Sixers need. It’s assumed he’ll join rookie guard Markelle Fultz in the backcourt this season and will be expected to spread the floor for Joel Embiid to score and make plays in the paint. Redick will likely go down as one of the best 3 point shooters in NBA history and his range from deep will make him money well into his 30’s. He’ll be an important piece for a possible Philly playoff team this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.0   RPG: 2.2   APG: 1.4   SPG: 0.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.7  RPG: 2.1  APG: 1.8  SPG: 0.6

 

12. Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.twincities.com

 

LaVine was another young guy involved in a superstar trade this offseason. The UCLA product was sent to Chi-Town on draft night as the main piece in the Jimmy Butler-Timberwolves acquisition. He and Kris Dunn now join Dwyane Wade in the Bulls backcourt, though sources say the veteran guard and the Chicago front office will likely agree on a buyout in the coming months. If this happens, the reigns to the team will be turned over to LaVine, and he will be the new star of the Bulls. We’ll see how he handles the new freedom and spotlight of Chicago this season. His defense remains in question.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.9   RPG: 3.4   APG: 3.0   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.3  RPG: 4.1  APG: 4.7  SPG: 1.2

 

11. Dwyane Wade – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.businessinsider.com

 

According to CBS Sports, Wade is eyeing a return to Miami or a reunion with LeBron James in Cleveland if bought out by the Bulls. As of right of right now he is still in Chicago and if things stay the same he’ll be in a position battle with Zach LaVine for the starting job, unless Hoiberg sees LaVine fit to play the point. Over the past few years we’ve seen Flash slow down a little bit, losing some jump and quickness, though his basketball I.Q. is still amazing and he’s able to provide leadership to the young guys. We’ll see what uniform D-Wade is sporting come opening day.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.3   RPG: 4.5   APG: 3.8   SPG: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7  RPG: 3.9  APG: 4.1  SPG: 1.2

 

10. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Booker is coming off of a breakout year last year, putting up over 22 a game and setting a career high of a whopping 70 points against the Boston Celtics. Defense continues to be the area Booker struggles in. With a better defensive efficiency rating he could’ve easily made his way into the top 6 on this list. There’s no questioning his shooting ability and star potential, but with the freedom of being the only guy in Phoenix last year came the laziness on defense. This problem must be tended to by Earl Watson to turn Booker into a superstar.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.1   RPG: 3.2   APG: 3.4   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.4  RPG: 3.6  APG: 3.7  SPG: 1.2

 

9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Los Angeles Lakers

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Caldwell-Pope joins the Lakers this year on a one-year contract. He’ll likely beat out Jordan Clarkson to start at the shooting guard position and play alongside Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. Caldwell-Pope brings some of the best backcourt defense in the league as well as an improving offensive game and jumpshot. Being in new scenery this season, we’ll see how the new role affects him and whether the Lakers decide to re-sign Caldwell-Pope next summer.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.8   RPG: 3.3   APG: 2.5   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 15.2  RPG: 3.4  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.7

 

8. Nicolas Batum – Charlotte Hornets

Photo Credit/www.cbssports.com

 

Batum enters this season with a young guy in Malik Monk who’ll challenge him for minutes at the 2, though I’d expect the Frenchman to retain his starting position. He’s showcased his superb all-around game over the last few years and proven he can be used to guard the 2 and 3 and play multiple positions on offense. If Batum can avoid excessive shooting slumps and use his versatility to his advantage, look for another solid season from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.1   RPG: 6.2   APG: 5.9   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.9  RPG: 6.6  APG: 6.3  SPG: 1.4

 

7. Avery Bradley – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit/www.usatoday.com

 

Bradley comes into Detroit as Caldwell-Pope’s replacement and in my opinion, an improvement. We knew years before that Bradley was a tremendous lockdown defender but this year and especially in the postseason without Isaiah Thomas, showcased his improved offensive game and shooting ability. If he carries over that game and mentality to the Pistons, they’ll love him in Auburn Hills. If all goes well for Detroit next year, Bradley and Drummond could turn into a dynamic duo in the East.

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

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

 

6. Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards

Photo Credit/www.prioritysports.biz

 

Beal is currently in possibly the best backcourt in the East consisting of himself and John Wall. Both are 20+ point scorers, however Beal is clearly the better long range shooter. The Florida product has a career mark of 40% from deep and at just 23, can become a guy who shoots a plus 40% year to year. At 6’5″, Beal has the potential to become a better and more attentive defender to help the Wiz potentially get to a conference finals. We’ll see if he can keep his shooting percentages up while improving his D this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.1   RPG: 3.1   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 3.4  SPG: 1.2

 

5. C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

Like Wall and Beal, McCollum forms a pretty formidable backcourt himself with Damian Lillard. The former Lehigh star had a career year last year and comes into this season eyeing another playoff appearance with the Blazers. McCollum put up a career high in points last year and improved his shooting percentages significantly. He’s never been a great defender but he must continue to hold his own against most matchups in order to continue to be a co-leader in Portland and get them back to the postseason in a stacked Western Conference.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.0   RPG: 3.6   APG: 3.6   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 24.1  RPG: 3.7  APG: 3.8  SPG: 1.1

 

4. Jimmy Butler – Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo Credit/www.csnchicago.com

 

Butler joins the Wolves this season after being traded from the Chicago Bulls on draft night. It’s likely we see a slight drop in his personal numbers this year, though he will most likely find more team success now that he’s in Minnesota. We saw the keys to the franchise be handed over to him in Chicago over the last few years, and now he’s the leader of a young Timberwolves team who could make their first playoff appearance since the Kevin Garnett era. The thought of a Butler-Wiggins-Towns big three sounds great, but will it pan out?

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.9   RPG: 6.2   APG: 5.5   SPG: 1.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7  RPG: 5.9  APG: 5.8  SPG: 2.0

 

3. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Klay could easily be number two on this list, but given his recent playoff slump I think this is the spot for him. We all know of his tremendous outside shot which could go down as the second best in history, but his defense is really what separates him from those just below him in this list. Despite what some metrics say, Thompson can lock down several guards, point or shooting, across the league and can slow down even the craftiest of players such as Kyrie Irving. This, along with his superb ability to play off the ball efficiently on offense put him at #3 in the rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.3    RPG: 3.7   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 2.2  SPG: 1.1

 

2. Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors 

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Derozan made major improvements in his game last season, solidifying his place as a top 3 shooting guard in the league. His points per game jumped nearly 4 points and he improved his rebounding, appearing in his 3rd All-Star game along the way. Derozan’s biggest flaw is clearly shooting from the outside. His 3-pt% dropped over 7% to an atrocious 26.6% from deep. If the Raptors are to have any shot at all at dethroning the Cavs in the East, Derozan must improve that shot as he enters his prime. I’d expect similar numbers this year, but if that 3-pt% drops anymore the California native may be moving back in the rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 27.3   RPG: 5.2   APG: 3.9   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.9  RPG: 4.7  APG: 4.3  SPG: 1.2

 

1. James Harden – Houston Rockets

Photo Credit/www.nbahoopsonline.com

 

Though Harden started at point guard for the Rockets last season, with Chris Paul headed to H-Town this year I decided to list him as a shooting guard. The Arizona State product had the best season of his career last year and could’ve easily taken the MVP over Westbrook in my opinion. The Beard put up numbers we haven’t seen in years and led what looked to be a messy Rockets roster all the way to third in the West. Now with Paul by his side, Harden could see his numbers drop just a tad, but none the less he’s the best shooting guard in the league and will have another MVP-like season this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 29.1   RPG: 8.1   APG: 11.2   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 28.3  RPG: 7.4  APG: 9.6  SPG: 1.8