If you didn’t watch the Celtics/Raptors game last night then you are a fartface who deserves to be grounded for a week.
Sorry. That was my adrenaline from last night’s game talking, not the two cups of coffee I had this morning.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a Boston Celtics fan. But, I sincerely try my hardest to be unbiased when observing the game I love. The only thing worse than a partisan basketball writer is a partisan basketball writer who is a #casualfan (which is my new favorite NBATwitter hashtag, by the way.)
The Cs looked great in the first half of last night’s game, but waned in the second half. They missed the same midrange jumpers they were hitting in the first two quarters. Their effort on the glass fell back to Earth and they should not have gotten so switch-happy when defending Kawhi (Jaylen Brown did a great job, let that man do his thing!)
Yet, one tiny nugget of NBA goodness stood out to me. One play. One brief moment that makes you say, “Oh, if they nail down this set, then they could have something dangerous here.”
So, what is the set I’m talking about?
Play – Horns Give
1. Al Horford: Passing big man extraordinaire who can roll for lobs or pop for treys.
2. Kyrie Irving: Goes by “Uncle Drew,” one of the best at-rim finishers in the game, sniper.
3. Gordon Hayward: Underrated wing who can beat you multiples ways one-on-one.
Brad Stevens waited until the second quarter to break out this bad boy. But do not be fooled, the Celtics have been working variations of this play for a while now. So, what happened?
1. The pass: In most horns sets, the ballhandler uses the high screener for a pick and roll. Not today. Kyrie places a nice, high pass to Horford on the right elbow.
2. The movement: After the pass, Kyrie cuts left to use another high screen from Hayward, this time on the left elbow.
3. The fake: Except, Kyrie does not really use this screen, because Hayward never sets it. Hayward feigns the screen and cuts to the right block instead.
4. The result: The tall Horford simply passes over his defender to get Hayward the ball down low. Hayward makes a quick pivot and spins away for an 8-foot jumper over Kawhi. Boom.
Why is this so special?
This trio of personnel is more than incredibly talented, they are incredibly multifaceted.
Horford can pop to shoot threes, or roll for a lob to the hoop. Either way, Serge Ibaka must stay draped over him. This opens up the floor. Horford is also one of, if not the best, passing big man in the game. In this play, he can be used as the screener, scorer, or passer, making him a triple threat.
Irving is one of the most underrated players in the League when moving off the ball. Last season, Irving finished in the 81st percentile for off-ball movement, scoring 1.15 Points Per Possession (PPP.) Given his deep range, Irving must be stuck to defensively as well.
Hayward is the key, however. In his last full season (2016-17) Hayward finished better than both Lebron and KD in field goal percentage in the post. During that same year he shot 39 percent on catch and shoot 3-pointers, making his popability a threat. What is most special, though is Hayward’s ability to cut.
During the 2016-17 season, Hayward finished in the 84th percentile on cuts. He scored a stupidly efficient 1.44 PPP during that time as well. The dude can kill you in several ways when involved in these types of sets.
What will we see going forward?
During last year’s preseason, we saw some of this action being tested out. This horns set started the same way. Irving begins by passing to Horford at the elbow. Then he cuts left, but this time Hayward does not fake a screen. Instead, he comes to get a dribble handoff (DHO) from Horford.
Hayward drives then kicks the ball back out to Horford, who popped. Horford, being the brilliant facilitator he is, finds Kyrie in a gap down low, and Kyrie drains the jumper. Watch below.
In this next clip, the trio involved is Hayward, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes. Use your imagination to swap Irving for Rozier and Horford for Baynes.
This time, Hayward gets the give. Rozier, in the role of Irving, cuts to the hoop after he makes the pass to Hayward. Next, Baynes screens for Hayward and rolls to the hoop. By doing this, Baynes sucks the defense towards the rim, and allows Hayward to drain an easy pull up J.
We’re only two games into the season, but Hayward has looked lethal on his pull ups. And guess what? Last season, Irving scored a wild 1.58 PPP on cuts, which placed him in the 95th percentile. Oh, and Horford shot 41 percent on catch and shoot triples last year.
So, what’s the ultimate point I am trying to get across? The Celtics will use this play to peak effectiveness because each variety of it results in a high percentage shot. Maybe it will be Hayward taking a pull up. Or Kyrie cutting to the hoop. Or Horford pops for a 3-pointer.
Regardless, NBA defenses should start planning for this play now, because it will only get better with practice.
The starting lineup does not seem to be hitting their stride- quite yet. By both the starters and bench alike, there is some hesitation and some unnecessary passing done by both units. Kyrie is not known for his facilitation and setting others up. A score-first point guard is an asset when he is hitting his shots, but when cold, can bring an offense down tremendously. However, it is only the second game of the season and the chemistry presumably will be drastically better come late in the year.
Throughout the game, and especially in the second half, it seemed the Celtics struggled with how to defend the Leonard-led offense. This comes with the aforementioned chemistry issues, but both placing Tatum on him and double-teams did not seem to slow him down considerably. Leonard makes opportunities for everyone on the court, instead of previous Raptors teams where it was a back-court heavy approach, and this may be a problem for the Celtics.
Boston brought themselves very close in the end but ultimately was the reason for their demise. Jayson Tatum picked up two charging fouls against Kyle Lowry, and the Celtics offense began to miss shots late. The Raptors took advantage of the momentum created as a result, and made key shots that kept both Boston out of it and the crowd into it.
Play of the Game: With 2:53 left in the game, Kyrie Irving weaved through the defense towards the paint only to pass it behind him to a wide-open Al Horford. The center, at the top of the key, drained the clutch three to bring the team within two.
Serge Ibaka had one of his best games in recent memory. He seems to gel well with his new role with the team, looking very comfortable on the court. Ibaka scored 21 tonight, but provided a presence defensively and remained active on the boards. Leonard missed a two-pointer late that Ibaka rose up for a putback to keep the Raptors ahead.
The Raptors lack a real center on the roster, splitting time between
Jonas Valanciunas and Pascal Siakam. It seems to still be working well for Toronto, as they still remain active on the boards and do not allow an excessive amount of points in the paint. This is especially true against a team like Boston, who lacks a strong, physical center- with Horford being known more as a scorer.
The acquisitions of both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have already proven to be great for this Raptors team. Leonard, obviously, allows for the team to run a more efficient style then they have ran in previous years. He makes his teammates better, and that includes the other former San Antonio player. Danny Green thrives off the opportunities given to him within the offense, and both bring a championship mentality to the Toronto locker room.
Play of the Game: With 1:14 left in the game, Jayson Tatum drove hard to the basket being pursued by both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Tatum threw hit shot up, only to be blocked hard by both Raptors players, to kill any momentum Boston was creating late.
After the Kawhi Leonard trade that sent him to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, the Thunder dumped Carmelo Anthony on the Hawks in order to lighten their luxury tax bill. With free agency for the most part behind us, teams will start revving up trade talks before training camp starts. The question is, now that Leonard has been dealt, who is the next star player to find himself in a new city.
Possible trade partners: Blazers, Wizards, Pacers
Best trade offer: Love to the Blazers for Evan Turner, Anfernee Simons, future first-round pick (top 10 protected).
The Blazers are over the luxury tax and need to make a deep run in the playoffs to make it worth wild. The western conference has gotten stronger this offseason and the Blazers are being left behind. Adding Love, who grew up in Oregon, would give the Blazers a third star to pair with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Turner hasn’t been an ideal fit with Lillard and McCollum and has negative trade value. Pairing him with the high upside Simons and a first round draft pick should be enough to get the Cavaliers to trade away the 30 year old, injury prone Love.
Just because the Cavaliers recently signed Love to a contract extension, that doesn’t mean they won’t trade him if the right offer comes along. The extension is a win-win for Love and the Cavaliers. For Love, he has locked up an additional $120 million dollars. For the Cavaliers they have a star player on the roster long term if they choose to do a quick rebuilding. However, if the team struggles and they decide to take the long term rebuilding approach, a new team will like that Love is locked up through the 2022-2023 season. Assuming the Cavaliers trade Love, the Blazers can offer back a solid package. Turner has only two years left on his deal and is a good locker room guy. Simons is a 19 year old kid with some athleticism and upside to him, that should get plenty of minutes on a rebuilding team. The first round pick would give the Cavaliers another asset to help rebuild around Simons, Larry Nance Jr., and Collin Sexton.
Possible trade partners: Knicks, Nets, Suns
Best trade offer: Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky to the Knicks for Joakim Noah, Kevin Knox, future first-round pick (top seven protected).
For the Knicks, this is the kind of move that pushes all the chips all in for a chance to make a run as the top team in the eastern conference starting in 2019. Finally being able to shed Noah’s contract for the 2019 offseason, the Knicks will have a projected $46 million dollars in cap space with the cap holds for Walker and Kristaps Porzingis. Both Lamb and Kaminsky are free agents after the season and should be renounced. The Knicks can use the cap space to add a third star in free agency and still have enough room left over to add another starting caliber player, then resign Walker and Porzingis using their bird rights. While giving up the first round pick and the promising Knox is a tough pill to swallow, getting rid of Noah’s $19.3 million dollar salary for the 2019-2020 season is critical.
Given all the bad contracts on their roster, the Hornets best course of action might be to trade Walker for young assets, bad contracts and rebuild long term. Taking back Noah’s contract isn’t ideal but they could work towards a buy out in order to save some money. Like Knox, Miles Bridges had an impressive summer league and looks like a future impact player. The Hornets would likely have two lottery picks next year to go along with Malik Monk, the 11th pick in the 2017 draft, Bridges and Knox that can help jump start their rebuilding process. The best part about this deal for the Hornets is it keeps them out of the luxury tax; which is critical for a rebuilding team.
Possible trade partners: Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Nets
Best trade offer: Butler to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, future first-round pick (top three protected).
With the reports that Butler is frustrated with the young Wolves players and won’t resign with the team this coming offseason, they should look to move him for the right package. So, who wouldn’t love to play on the wing with LeBron James in Los Angeles. If the Wolves fear they will lose Butler next summer they could look to trade him for a younger player and an expiring contract given their long term cap issues. With both Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns up for contract extensions next season, the Wolves will be very deep in the luxury tax penalty in 2019. Caldwell-Pope is a 3&D guy who can help this season and is on an one year deal. Ball is only 20 and while his rookie season was a disappointment to some, maybe a change of scenery will help. For the Wolves, Butler didn’t really fit their long term plans while a trio of Ball, Towns and Andrew Wiggins (all 23 or younger) could turn into the next great big three.
Now the James is a Laker, the team’s mindset has totally changed. Ball is no longer the focal point of the team. The Lakers can finally have enough with LaVar Ball and ship Lonzo off to Minnesota much easier now; especially if it lands them a star player. Butler would be able to play off the ball better than Ball and guard the other team’s best player. The Lakers would now have two star players and several of their young players still on the roster, setting them up for a big summer in 2019 where they could add a third star.
Possible trade partners: Celtics
Best trade offer: Towns, Jeff Teague for Kyrie Irving, Aron Baynes, Robert Williams, Kings 2019 first-round pick (top one protected).
Reportedly, Butler wants to team up with Irving, his best friend, this offseason. Also reportedly, Butler has grown frustrated with the young Wolves players. If the Wolves want to keep Butler long term, getting Irving would certainly help. While giving up Towns is tough, the Wolves would get back two big men in the trade, a likely top five pick and the multi time all-star Irving. Baynes would provide some size and veteran leadership, while Williams is a raw and athletic 20 year old kid. If the Wolves can resign Butler and Irving next summer and add a nice prospect with the Kings 2019 first round pick, this trade will be a steal for them.
The report that Butler wants to team up with Irving next season has to be concerning for the Celtics as well. However, the Celtics won 55 games and went to the eastern conference finals last season despite Irving missing 22 games in the regular season and not playing a minute in the post season. The combination of Teague and Terry Rozier would give the Celtics solid enough production to replace Irving. The biggest factor for the Celtics is they would have control of Towns as he is a restricted free agent next season. The Celtics have struggled at times rebounding the ball when Al Horford is playing at center. Meanwhile, Towns’ has averaged 11.7 rebounds per game for his career. Lastly, Horford can become a free agent after the season and at 33 years old, the Celtics may not be so inclined to give him a long term deal at a big salary given they have to think about locking up Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum in the coming years.
This is it. We can do this, ladies and gentlemen. Free agency is winding down, the NBA draft has been done for what seems like ages, and summer league is wrapping up as well.
Now more than ever, we need thought provoking NBA content. Well, say no more fam.
1. Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young
When I first glanced at this roster, I threw up a little in my mouth. But then I took a deep breath, dry heaved some more and decided to look again. Things aren’t as bleak as they seem.
Trae Young, John Collins, Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter. The Hawks have the start of something promising or at the very least, intriguing. Is anyone on this roster truly untouchable? Probably not. Still, with management trading back and still drafting Trae Young, all signs point to him as being the least likely to be traded.
2. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum
The rookie standout is the obvious answer here. Do the Celtics want to trade any of their core? Nope. Still, I cannot imagine Danny Ainge trading Tatum for any realistic option out there right now. (Anthony Davis cannot come to the Cs via a DPE rule.)
Tatum’s duel with LeBron in the game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final is something we could see in a 30 for 30 one day. The kid is that special.
3. Brooklyn Nets – Jarrett Allen
Just when I thought I was done throwing up…
All jokes aside, the Nets are finally headed in the right direction. They own their future picks and have acquired then developed some good prospects. Spencer Dinwiddie revived his career in Brooklyn, and other reclamation projects await.
Jarrett Allen has looked like a good gamble so far. There is a reason he only played 20 minutes per game last year but, his per-36 minutes suggest a bright future lies ahead.
So this is the question: What makes Miles Bridges more untradable than Malik Monk?
Monk had a disappointing rookie season. Sure, he showed flashes during the last month or so of the season. Yet, Monk proved to be more of a project than what scouts originally thought.
Bridges may not project as the safer long term prospect however, he has a two-way ceiling higher than Monk’s. Offensively, Bridges looks to be equally as dynamic as Monk, despite these two having different skill sets. It is on the defensive side of the ball where Bridges separates himself, as he has the potential to defend four positions on the court.
5. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr.
I struggled with this selection as well. Lauri Markkanen set rookie records for three-pointers last year. Plus, Coach Hoiberg ran a bunch of the offense through him, something that displayed Markkanen’s playmaking ability. So why did I side with Carter Jr here?
Lauri Markkanen may learn NBA defensive spacing but, he simply lacks to physical tools to be an effective two-way player. With the game getting quicker, I can imagine future playoff scenarios where Markkanen gets played off of the court. Who does Markkanen guard when a team like the Sixers trots out Embiid, Simmons, Redick, Fultz and Covington. Carter Jr won’t ever get played off of the court. His three-point stroke and playmaking look to be just as good as Markkanen’s as well.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton
Has anyone made an “I wanna Sexton you up” meme yet? No? Great.
Cleveland has players that are the opposite of untouchable. They should be looking to gain value for Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and others. Yet, Sexton remains untouchable. The former Alabama guard is a locker room blessing. Sexton can reset the culture in Cleveland while becoming their point guard of the future. Cedi Osman was in contention here as well.
7. Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond
If I were the GM of the Detroit Pistons, Andre Drummond would not be untouchable. That does mean I would be looking to unload him however, I prefer my centers to be able to switch pick and rolls, as well as space the court. Yet, Drummond is probably the most unlikely player Detroit is willing to part with.
Blake Griffin was a Stan Van Gundy guy, not someone new management particularly wanted. I am not suggesting his trade value is high enough to warrant a move but, crazier things have happened. This summer, Drummond has posted videos on his Instagram account draining threes. Perhaps he will bring this skill to the Pistons this year, and truly earn this hypothetical untouchable title.
8. Indiana Pacers – Victor Oladipo
I won’t get into too much detail about this because Josh Eberly of HOOPmag already did it for me:
Perimeter players in the 3PT era, 25 or under to be All-Defense 1st & All-NBA in the same year:
Victor Oladipo Kawhi Leonard Paul George Chris Paul LeBron James Ron Artest Kobe Bryant Jason Kidd Gary Payton Michael Jordan Sidney Moncrief Dennis Johnson
Why not first time All-Star and former All-NBAer Goran Dragic? Dragic can opt out of his contract after next season and will be a 33-year-old point guard. If anything, Miami should be tryingto ship Dragic off to a fringe contender looking for that next piece.
Bam Adebayo came to mind here but, paint protecting rim runners are becoming easier and easier to find nowadays. 24-year-old defensive wings who drain 37% of their threes and hit 45% from the field are not easy to find, however. Throw in Richardson’s cheap contract and Miami has a piece they should hold onto.
10. Milwaukee Bucks – Giannia Antetokounmpo
Ask Tim Hardaway Jr to explain this one.
11. New York Knicks – Kristaps Porzingis
Want to know how many NBA players shot 39% from deep last year while also blocking 2.4 shots per game? One. Don’t overthink this one, people. Kevin Knox will be an awesome player and is on a cheap deal. Frankie Smokes is already an elite perimeter defender with promising offensive development. Still, KP is the way to go here.
12. Orlando Magic – Mo Bamba
Rookies seem to be dominating this list, and I do not know if I am comfortable with that.
Aaron Gordon took a step forward with his three-point shooting ability last season yet, he still has so much more to develop if he wants to truly take advantage of his elite athleticism. With both Bamba and Jonathan Isaac looking great in summer league, I would move off of Gordon for a top-20 pick.
Jonathan Isaac has shown promise lately however, he does not have the ceiling that Bamba has. Bamba is the most boom or bust player of this bunch, but Orlando needs a star and Bamba is worth making untouchable.
13. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons
Let the debate begin!
I love Embiid’s game and potential. In my opinion, he has a higher ceiling than Simmons. Embiid could be an MVP and DPOY winner. Yet, I like my untouchable players to be on the court. Out of 328 possible regular season games, Embiid has played 94 of them. Folks, he has only played in 28 percent of his games. Unfortunately, 7’1″, 260 lbs centers tend to progress towards injuries, not away from them.
Ben Simmons has an MVP ceiling as well. At one point during his career he will be the best passer in the game. Defensively, he can be elite too. Simmons has all the tools to be transcendent and a gambling man will bet that Simmons will find a way to fix that jumper. Factor in his health, and Simmons is my pick here, although I would not trade either.
14. Toronto Raptors – No one
Why should anyone on this roster be untouchable? Toronto is at a crossroads. With LeBron out of the East, they need to take a risk and go all in.
I have been a fan of the “DeMar for Kawhi” fake trades. Kawhi is simply a better player than DeMar DeRozan and would raise Toronto’s chances of winning. If the team can package Lowry and other assets for an upgrade, do it. Could they need to sell off OG and other young prospects for an experienced difference maker? Go for it.
If not now, when? Toronto has a very small window to win. If there is a move out there that makes them better for even one season, they must do it.
15. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal
Surprised you, right?
Bradley Beal had a better year than John Wall last year, straight up.
I will take Beal’s numbers here over Wall’s any day of the week. Plus, Washington should be looking to move off of Wall’s contract. John Wall will be paid $37 million dollars in 2019-2020. Compare that to Beal who will be making $10 million less! Remember when I was throwing up earlier…
…John Wall will be making $43 million when he is 31-years-old! That type of money cripples franchises from making other important acquisitions. The point guard position is the saturated one in the game today, making Wall expendable in the long term. Bradley Beal is the guy to hang onto.
Before we get into the “Top 25 Players in the NBA,” I need to preface by saying this is if everyone is healthy in the league. For example, I did not lower Kawhi Leonard’s rank because he barely played last season. So, here it is, my “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#25: Ben Simmons
I have already prepared myself for the reactions to the 25th ranked player in my “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. People are going to say that Simmons is already a top-20, or even top-15 player in the NBA. However, why? I am not saying that Simmons is not going to be a top-10 player in the league one day, but I do not understand how people already have him ranked so high.
Simmons had a very good rookie year in the NBA. Averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game, Simmons ran away with the Rookie of the Year. What makes Simmons’ stats even more impressive is the fact that he did not make a single three last season. With the way the modern NBA is trending, having a non-shooting ball-handler is uncommon.
While Simmons did not make any threes last season, that did not slow him down. Take a look at the GIF below.
It never seemed to matter how far off Simmons’ defender played him last season. Simmons would always find a way to get to the basket and finish at a high clip. Converting on 69.8% of his shots at the rim, Simmons was well-above the 63.1% league average. Just because Simmons is currently ranked 25th in my rankings, it will not be long before he slides into the top-15, and the top-10 in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#24: LaMarcus Aldridge
NBA fans often forget how dominant LaMarcus Aldridge really is. Remember his days in Portland? The dude was a walking double-double. Then, he gets out of the spotlight in San Antonio and people forget about him. Aldridge is still one of the most dominating big men in the NBA.
Averaging 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, it is time to acknowledge how talented Aldridge is. LMA led a Kawhi-less Spurs team to the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference. Yes, Gregg Popovich is a mastermind, but teams do not make the playoffs in the West without talent on the court.
Aldridge’s 29.1% usage rating last season was the highest it has been in his career with San Antonio. Aldridge made it work too. Developing his game to continue to fit the modern NBA, Aldridge posted the highest offensive rating of his career. Fans often forget about how good Aldridge is, it is time to continue to acknowledge that fact.
#23: Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic is one of my favorite players to watch in the entire NBA. His skill set for a center is wildly unheard of, but wildly productive. I mean, come on, how many NBA centers can make this pass?
Jokic’s basketball IQ and passing ability alone make him one of the top centers in the NBA. However, there is so much more to his game. With averages of 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game, Jokic brings it all to the table.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in his game last season was his three-point shooting. The Joker attempted a total of 280 threes last season, connecting on 39.6% of the attempts. Jokic has made it a point of emphasis to continue to adjust his game to stay up-to-date with the modern NBA.
Last season, 27.7% of Jokic’s attempted field goals were from three-point territory. The season before, just 16.3% of his shots were from three. This is a good sign for the Nuggets and their big man. Jokic has been able to adapt and stay productive while the league changes. This is why Jokic is in my top-25 and why Denver just inked him to a max contract.
#22: DeMar DeRozan
Another season has gone by and another season has ended for DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors at the hands of “The King.” After going into the playoffs as the top seed in the East, the Raptors did not even manage to win one game against Cleveland in the second round. However, this does not alter DeRozan’s playing ability.
Last season marked the fifth straight year that DeRozan posted at least 20 points per game. Recording 23 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game, DeRozan solidified himself as one of the game’s top two guards. Having his usage rate drop from 34.3% in the 2016-17 season to 29.6% in the 2017-18 season, DeRozan remained effective attempting the most threes in his career, and connecting at the second-highest clip on those shots in his career.
In addition, DeRozan posted a 9.6 win share stat, making him one of the most valuable players in win shares in the league. Most of the stats speak for themself. DeRozan gets to his spots on offense, and he takes advantage of his matchup. There was little debate in my mind when deciding if DeRozan belonged in the “Top-25 Players in the NBA” list.
#21: Rudy Gobert
Mark Rudy Gobert down as one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Gobert is not a flashy player by any means, which is why he is seldomly mentioned in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” conversation. Just because Gobert is not a three-point shooting five does not mean he is not one of the best centers in the league.
Gobert does most of his damage on the defensive side of the ball. Averaging 2.3 blocks per game last season, Gobert solidified himself as one of the best paint-protectors in the league. However, there is more to his game than his defense. Gobert recorded 13.5 points per game last season while shooting 62.2% from the field, a career-high. Yes, most of these points came on dunks or lobs from the “Spanish Unicorn,” but that is where Gobert does his damage.
It is mind boggling why Gobert is not talked about more often. His stellar 122 offensive rating and 99 defensive rating should put him in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” with few questions asked.
#20: Victor Oladipo
Who would have thought that one year ago at this time that we would have Victor Oladipo in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA”? What a year it was for Oladipo with the Indiana Pacers. Oladipo silenced all his haters averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Vic led the Pacers, who were a projected lottery team, to the fifth seed in the East and took LBJ and the Cavs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
I had trouble finding a spot for Oladipo in the rankings because of how unexpected last season was. But, when you look at all the numbers as a whole, he definitely deserves to be in the top-20. In addition to his gaudy offensive numbers, Oladipo averaged 2.4 steals per game, ranking him first in the NBA last season. The winner of the Most Improved Player is bound for another successful 2018-19 season. His determination to win was on full display right after the game seven loss to the Cavs. The first thing he did after the game was text his trainer asking him when the work started up again.
#19: Paul George
Well, Thunder fans, PG13 is there to stay. Congratulations. One year after you traded for a “rental,” the team has convinced a top-20 player in the NBA to stay in Oklahoma City. Now, Thunder fans may be wondering why George ranks lower than others have him in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. Averaging 21.9 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, PG13 had an interesting season adjusting to the OK3.
In my opinion, George hasn’t been the same since his gruesome injury with Team USA. He has not been as explosive and does not show the same burst he showed in those playoff battles against LeBron and the Heat. This was to be expected based on the injury, but that is the biggest reason he is 19th in the rankings. In addition, George has never been a great clutch player, often underperforming in crucial situations.
This season, George shot 42.2% from the field in the fourth quarter. In addition, he shot 38.3% from three in the fourth quarter. Now, do not get me wrong, 38% from three is not a bad number, but it is lower than his 40.1% from three throughout the season. Finally, who can forget game six of the playoffs last season against the Utah Jazz. In an elimination game, George juiced just five points. Paul George is a great player, I am not trying to say he is not, but for me 19 is where PG13 belonged on the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” list.
#18: Karl-Anthony Towns
The Big KAT had a terrific third season in the NBA, and now he is going to get paid. Karl-Anthony Towns is reportedly in negotiations with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a five-year, max contract. Towns made his first all-star appearance last season and he is not looking back.
Documenting 21.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per game, Towns was one of the most versatile offensive bigs in the NBA. Notice how I said offensive, because his defense is a whole different discussion. Towns shot 42.1% from three-point range last season, the highest percentage of any Wolves player. Ranking 14th in the NBA in percentage from downtown, Towns has adjusted his game with the modern NBA.
Helping lead the Wolves to their first playoff series in over a decade, Towns had a disappointing playoff series. Averaging just 15.4 points per game and shooting under 50% from the field and under 30% from three, Towns had a less than pleasing first playoff series of his career. However, in games three, four, and five of the series against the Rockets, Towns was back to averaging 21 points a night. He struggled mightily in the first two games, but seemed to overcome his struggles and put it past him.
As one of the most versatile bigs in the NBA, Towns already ranks in the top-20. But, it will not be long before he is in the conversation for the top-10 in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#17: Klay Thompson
Mark me down as a firm Klay Thompson believer. What he does every night for the Golden State Warriors is invaluable. Thompson is one of, if not the best, shooter in the NBA. Averaging 20 points per game last season on 44% shooting from three-point range, Klay solidified himself as the best third option in the NBA. Imagine what Klay could be doing as the first option on a team? He is a free agent in 2019, could we see him as a first option?
Getting past his future with the Warriors, when we look at Klay Thompson’s game, it is nothing but good things. We all know about his stellar shooting and his ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the court, but what some people do not know about is his defensive ability. Watch below as Klay Thompson absolutely locks down Paul George as the shot clock expires. Not many people can hang with a top-level offensive player like PG13, but Klay Thompson can.
#16: Joel Embiid
Trust the Process. Well, the process is working. It will not be long before Joel Embiid is a top-10 player in the NBA. Playing in 63 games last season, the Kansas big man averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds per game. Embiid did work in every facet of the game shooting over 48% from the field and recording 1.8 blocks per game. However, there is still work to do if Embiid wants to be a top-10 or top-5 player in the NBA.
The first thing is development from three. In his “rookie” season in the NBA, Embiid shot 36.7% from three, a very respectable percentage for a big man. However, last season, that percentage dropped to 30.8%. There is potential for Embiid to have his downtown shooting percentage climb, and he will need it to climb to take the next step.
In addition, speaking in general terms, Joel Embiid has the mindset and attitude of a top-level NBA player. Embiid cares about one thing and one thing only: winning. Whether you like it or not, Embiid’s trash talking on the court helps him gain an edge and it causes problems for opponents. Joel Embiid is on his way. Even though I do not have him ranked as my top center, it should not be long before “The Process” claims that spot in “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
I already know it is coming. People are going to think I am crazy for putting Cousins ahead of Embiid. Since these rankings are not taking injuries into the picture, Cousins still ranks as my top center. People forget of how dominant Cousins is. Players feed the ball down low and Boogie gets a bucket, it is usually as simple as that.
Cousins was having a career-year before going down with injury last season. Posting 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game, Cousins looked primed to appear in his first playoff series. Unfortunately, the NBA Gods had different ideas. But, the injury does not take away from the player Cousins is. DeMarcus Cousins is, plain and simple, dominant. His footwork on the low-post and his continued development from three make him the most effective center in the NBA and 15th in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings.
#14: Draymond Green
There are fans of the NBA who cannot stand Draymond Green, and I am in the same boat. However, I respect him as a player and the energy that he brings to the game. It hurt me to put him 14th in these rankings, but it was what he deserved. Green affects the game in so many ways that the Warriors would not be the same without him. He does it on offense, defense, leadership, and of course, in trash talking.
There is not a player in the NBA that I can think of who plays with more energy than Draymond Green. Green is pure heart and effort every time the ball goes up in the air. Yes, his passion for the game can get him in trouble from time to time, but his passion is usually used positively. Green averaged 11 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game last season. However, it is what does not show up in the box score that makes Green a difference maker. Green’s 105 defensive rating and 6.1 defensive win shares make him one of the top defenders in the NBA.
Another part of Green’s game that makes him so good is his ability to play the five. The Warriors made the small-ball lineup a thing, using Green at the five. This death lineup is what makes the Warriors so good. Teams can try to put Green in a pick-and-roll when he is at the five, but Green has the ability to switch onto guards and shut them down. It is unfair at times and part of the reason he ranks 14th in my “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#13: Damian Lillard
“Dame Dollar.” “Big Game Dame.” Whatever you want to call him, Damian Lillard is a special talent. While he has never found much success in the postseason, Lillard is one of the best guards in the NBA. His shiftiness and sudden explosion make him a must-watch. Filling it up with 26.9 points and 6.6 assists per game last season, Lillard had arguably his best season in his career.
Lillard made 227 threes last season, just two less than his career-high, which he posted in 2015-16. Dame kept defenders guessing last season. If the defense came up and pressed Lillard, he would explode past them and finish at the rim. If the defense laid off, Lillard would pull up from Mars and drain a long three in your face. Don’t believe me? Check out his game-winner against the Lakers below and think again. There’s no reason that Lillard should not be in the top-15 of any “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings.
#12: John Wall
Why is everyone starting to hate on John Wall? He gets hurt for one season and everyone is starting to act like he is falling off. No way. Not a chance. John Wall is still one of the most dominant and explosive points guards in the association. Even after injury last season, Wall managed to post 19.4 points and 9.6 assists per game. No, he was not his normal self, but that is expected coming off an injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
No matter what anyone says, there shall be no John Wall slander. Wall is one of the toughest covers in the entire league, and when he brings out the gang signs, it is over. The speedster has never been a great three-point shooter or defender, and he might never be. However, the way he attacks the rim and creates for his teammates, Wall deserves to be 12th in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#11: Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Buckets. All kinds of rumors are surrounding Butler and the Timberwolves this summer. There have been recents reports that Butler will not re-sign with the Wolves. There has been reports that he is unhappy with the effort shown by Karl Towns and others. If you need a refresher on the whole situation, I broke it down in an article. Anyways, on to Butler as the player. Butler is the second-best two-way player in the NBA (behind Kawhi.) There are no words to describe his value to the Timberwolves last season. Without him, the Wolves would have been in the lottery and nowhere near a playoff team.
To further prove that point, Butler missed 23 games last season. The Timberwolves were 10-13 without Butler last season. With him, the Wolves were 37-22. Butler was one of just a handful of Timberwolf players that decided to play defense last season. Butler’s defense was so good that the Wolves held opponents to 7.2 points lower in offensive rating when Jimmy was on the floor. Jimmy, along with other veterans like Taj Gibson, was the main reason the Wolves did not allow 150 points per game.
In addition, Jimmy got his buckets. His 22.2 points per game led the Timberwolves. Furthermore, Butler was who the Wolves went to when the team was in dire need of a basket. Butler was the go-to man down the stretch and led the Timberwolves to the playoffs.
#10: Chris Paul
What could have been. That will be the question in NBA and Rockets fans head for the months leading up to the 2018-19 season. The Rockets were one game away from defeating the “undefeatable” Golden State Warriors. Then, Chris Paul went down with an injury at the end of game five that kept him out of game six and seven. Paul’s value to the Rockets was much more than scoring, finding teammates, and defending. Paul was a leader on and off the court for Houston.
Multiple times throughout the season, the Rockets looked like they would fall apart during a game; however, they held on. Why? Chris Paul. Paul kept the team together in games that were spiraling out of control. Paul got the team buckets when they needed them most, and he controlled the game like a true floor general. While CP3 posted his second-lowest assist total of his career, the ball was out of his hands a lot. People wondered how he and James Harden would co-exist. And to put it lightly, I think they did just fine.
Chris Paul seems to fit in nicely with whoever he plays next to. He is the true definition of a great leader and a great teammate. The only thing preventing CP3 from being ranked higher than 10 is the other unearthly players sitting higher in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#9: Kyrie Irving
Another great “what if” story from the NBA last season. The Boston Celtics took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics did so without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. So, Boston fans everywhere are dreaming over what could have been for the team last season if even Irving stayed healthy. In his first season post-LeBron, Irving averaged 24.4 points and 5.1 assists per game. His handles and offensive wizardry continued to dazzle in Beantown.
I have Irving ranked as my third best point guard, behind Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry. However, at just 26-years-old, Irving is bound to soon be the top point guard in the league. It is amazing what Irving is doing at such a young age. If injuries stay out of his way, top-5 is on the way for the former Duke guard in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#8: Giannis Antetokounmpo
For the longest time, the Greek Freak was on his way. Well, it is official, he has arrived. Now the best player in the East with LeBron gone, Antetokounmpo is just what his nickname says “a freak.” Giannis recorded 26.9 points and 10 rebounds per game last season. Every season that he has been in the NBA, Antetokounmpo has made a jump in PPG from the previous season. If that continues, it will not be long before Giannis is averaging 30 PPG.
In addition to his ridiculous scoring numbers, Giannis is a terrific passer and defender. Averaging 4.8 assists per game last season, Giannis made defenses pay when they doubled him. On defense, he recorded 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. His length and athleticism makes him a top-five two-way player in the NBA. Before you start debating whether Giannis should be ranked as the top player in the Eastern Conference without LeBron, chew on this:
#7: Russell Westbrook
For the second season in a row, Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double. I do not care what you think of stat-padding or anything of that nature, averaging a triple-double is impressive. The amount of energy Westbrook puts forth every night is next to none. Westbrook plays with a similar intensity as Draymond Green. Ever since Kevin Durant left the Thunder, it seems like that energy has doubled. Westbrook is out to prove something, and he wants to prove it with a championship.
Ranked as my number two point guard on the list, it is Westbrook’s explosiveness and offensive abilities that get the job done. Averaging 25.4 points per game last season, Russ shot 44.9% from the field. His 5.5 offensive win shares makes you realize just how great Russ is on that side of the ball. If Westbrook could develop a 36-40% three-point shot he would be virtually unstoppable. The only chance teams have of stopping Russ is letting him shoot and hoping he misses. Because once he gets to the rim or on the fastbreak, it is game over.
#6: Kawhi Leonard
The summer of LeBron was quickly flooded by the summer of Kawhi. After requesting a trade out of San Antonio, fans have been on the edge of their seats waiting to find out where Leonard will land. Leonard has been on the record saying he wants to be in Los Angeles, but there might not be a deal that makes sense for the Spurs/Clippers/Lakers. Wherever Leonard lands, the team will be getting the top two-way player in the game.
After basically sitting out an entire season, it is easy to forget just how good Kawhi is. He is nicknamed “The Klaw” for a reason. Kawhi absolutely shuts down the opposing team’s best player each and every night. He has made a living on the defensive side of the ball. His defense is what got him into the NBA. Kawhi was never a great offensive player coming into the league, but his defense was enough to get him a spot.
Since he has been in the league, Kawhi has developed his offense. Kawhi is now one of the biggest offensive threats in the NBA. His ability to knock down shots and over power people on the way to the rim make him such a scary matchup. If Kawhi Leonard played last season, and we were able to see his further improvement, he very well could have made the top-5 in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#5: James Harden
Yes, your eyes are not lying. I have the MVP ranked fifth in my “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. James Harden is great, that is not a question, but there are just players that do more than Harden. Harden makes his living on the offensive side of the ball, and in particular, at the free-throw line. Harden attempted over 10 free-throws per game last season. His 8.7 points per game that come from the stripe accounted for 28.6% of his total points.
There is no doubt there is a skill in getting to the free-throw line, but sometimes the way Harden gets to the line is hard to watch. His flopping and wild body movements draw the refs into a ton of whistles when there is really no contact. This, along with his sub-par defense, which is recently improved, made Harden land in the five hole in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA.”
#4: Steph Curry
The former two-time MVP and unanimous MVP has a great story. The sharpshooter was labeled as “too small” coming into the draft. People thought that he was just a cinderella story that went to Davidson, and they predicted Curry would fall off the map. Well, Golden State took a chance on Steph, and boy has it paid off. Curry takes the most threes out of anyone in the NBA. Curry attempted 501 threes last season in just 51 games, that is almost 10 threes a game. And, while he attempts those 10 threes a game, he connects on 42.3% of them.
Hats off to Steph Curry. The NBA has arguably changed because of guys like Curry who attempt threes in bunches. Curry has no problem pulling up and shooting from anywhere on the court. He is one of the deadliest offensive players the NBA has ever seen. Widely regarded as one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA, there was little doubt to put Curry in the four spot in the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings.
#3: Anthony Davis
When DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury last season, most thought the Pelicans playoff hopes were over. Anthony Davis had different ideas. Davis averaged 28.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game last season. He continued to develop his game to fit the modern NBA, shooting 34% from three. In addition to the offensive work he put in, Davis showed his worth on defense too. Recording 2.6 blocks per game, Davis made any player think twice before testing him in the paint.
Davis has the potential to be one of the all-time greats. Yes, I said it. At just 25-years-old, Davis is showing how good he can be. If Davis can continue to develop his three-pointer and start winning more playoff games, he will be first on the list before too long.
#2: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is great. There is no other way to put it. What KD does on a nightly basis is unheard of. The two-time champ is the best pure scorer the game has ever seen. Durant fills it up in so many different ways. He will take you off the dribble and finish at the cup. Durant will explode by you just to stop and pop from mid-range. Or, he will not worry about dribbling at all and just take a 30-foot bomb that he knocks down with ease.
There are so few words as to how one would describe Kevin Durant and the way he can score. So, I am going to leave it as that. As the best pure scorer the NBA has ever seen, KD will go down as an all-time great.
#1: LeBron James
LeBron James tops off my “Top 25 Players in the NBA” list. When I said it was hard to describe Kevin Durant? It is even harder to describe LeBron James. What LBJ did this past season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading the team back to their fourth straight finals appearance is only supposed to be possible in movies. LeBron James single-handedly dragged the Cavs to the finals, and that is an understatement. And if it was not for J.R. and his foolishness in game one of the NBA Finals, who knows how that series plays out.
LeBron James is simply great. Perhaps the greatest to ever play the game. Now, in Los Angeles, LABron will continue to cement his legacy as the best player in the NBA.
Thanks for checking out the “Top 25 Players in the NBA” rankings. Share the article and let me know what you think in the comments below!
Oblivious is the word I would use to describe someone who does not already know which two teams will be competing against each other for a championship ring. If you are that oblivious, well, read the title again. The absolutely loaded Golden State Warriors will have minimal interference once again to reach the finals for a 5th consecutive year, especially after signing DeMarcus Cousins to a 1-year/$5.3 million dollar contract that absolutely stunned the basketball world. Representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals will be the star-studded, young-gunning, electric Boston Celtics. The Boston Celtics just came off a successful year just barely missing the finals after having four players out due to injury including Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Shane Larkin, and Daniel Theis. Permitting injury, the Boston Celtics will sail across smooth waters to the finals with the return of their all-stars and the absence of LeBron in the East along with the Philadelphia 76ers having a non-impactful offseason.
Shall we get into some analytical data now? I know data is either loved or hated, but in this instance since the two teams only play each other twice a year and also will not meet in the playoffs until the finals, it is important to have data to use to measure the two teams side by side.
Listed above are a few stats to compare side by side defensively and offensively. As you can see from the data it’s a story of two tales: One team being the best in the league defensively versus a team that is the best offensive team in the league. Now let’s take a look at last year’s season series against one another.
The series split 1-1 with notably Boston missing a key piece in Gordon Hayward in both games. Game one, the Boston Celtics held the Golden State Warriors to 88 points. 88 points. 88 points. Do you get it yet? 88 points. Game 2 Boston did lose but within a 4-point game and also holding GSW under their average rating of 113.6. Now let take a look at individual matchups.
Looking into the series we can only assume we will have a gritty matchup that can potentially go seven games deep which I believe any fan of the game would enjoy. If you are still oblivious, then you have not realized that I obviously believe the Boston Celtics have the potential to handle the back-to-back champs Golden State Warriors.
Kyrie Irving will absolutely give Steph Curry the works. If you believe the small statured Steph Curry can play defense against a more athletic and shifty PG then you are oblivious. Unlike Steph, Kyrie has the ability to share the ball more frequently and even have an opportunity of grabbing a rebound. Kyrie Irving can cook anyone in the league and most definitely Curry. Kyrie can shoot from wherever on the floor and has the ability to drive to the hoop without getting the ball smacked into the stands which is usually the outcome when Curry decides to take one to the hole.
Quick note on DeMarcus Cousins. Everyone is freaking out about Boogie signing with GSW, but according to multiple reports and Cousins, he will not be available to play due to his Achilles injury until possibly January or February which is right before the playoffs. Who is to say Cousins will even be the same or an impact at all. Having possibly one month to gel with a team that is already molded will be tougher than most fans tend to believe. I have all the respect for Boogie but, realistically thinking you have to take in the fact that one month into a season and then playoff time will be hard work for Steve Kerr to get Cousins worked into or even at worst Boogie will not be physically in shape to handle the pace of GSW after being out for over a year.
Kevin Durant is great. That is all I will say since he needs no introduction or analysis. KD is great.
Jayson Tatum on the other hand is molding into some monster that no one ever saw coming. During his rookie year, he showed to be one of the most clutch, poised, 19 year old man I’ve ever seen play. I honestly believe, and these aren’t just my heads talking, that Jayson Tatum will be a top 10 player to ever play the game. The guy is mixed with the blood of Kobe, the body of LeBron, (without the extra weight which according to reports has been putting on along with a significant increase in strength gained) and the mind of Albert Einstein, yeah, the one who created the theory of relativity. Jayson Tatum is a player to marvel at, and within the moment will play above all the greats including Kevin Durant. He dunked over 12 people this past season, and I can only see that increasing with notable players being on his poster including Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and The King which Tatum has dethroned, LeBron James. Jayson Tatum will be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA Finals with the possibility of being a 30+ Pts a night type of player.
Genius is the word that comes to mind when you think of Brad Stevens who was just snubbed the COTY award after leading his team of rookies and kids a few minutes away of the NBA Finals after missing two all-stars and two role players. Brad Stevens in the Finals will be equivalent to Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. The man is brilliant including his style of play with entrusting his team to morph into a defensive unit of soldiers who will score on every single ATO.
All in all I believe that the teams have not changed much from the previous year after the signing of DeMarcus Cousins because I believe he will not be as much of a factor as he was in New Orleans. Boston was well suited to match-up with the Warriors and with players returning to full health the Boston Celtics have the jump on everyone besides Kevin Durant. The Boston Celtics defensively will rattle the Golden State Warriors defensively and players like Irving, Tatum, and Hayward will score 25+ points in each of these Finals games.
Just wait, the 2019 NBA Finals Matchup between Boston and Golden State will result with a game seven victory for Boston, adding another banner to TD Garden which already holds the single most banners held by any team in the history of NBA.
73-9 Golden State bums could not even pull of a championship after losing just 9 games and got their tails whipped by a peaked Cleveland LeBron James team. Do I care that they potentially signed a future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Cousins? PSHHHHHH NO! If anyone in the great city of Boston thought the season was shot and to chalk it up to a 3-peat for the Golden State Sell-Outs then you are not thinking logically enough.
Our lord and Savior Scary Terry just confirmed that the Celtics will beat the Warriors via facetime with Barstool Sports President Dave Portnoy. Do I believe Mr. Rozier? Yes, yes I do. Scary Terry had his first start last season and as Ice Cube once rapped long, long ago he “F***ed around and got a triple-double.”
The Celtics are a force to be reckoned with. Nobody currently but, Rozier and I believe the Celtics can win the finals. The Celtics have some odd force that always comes around when faced with adversity. Similar to old man strength or adrenaline induced fear. Just minutes away from a finals appearance, the Celtics were missing Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Shane Larkin, and Daniel Theis. Celtics also had two players playing with significant injuries AKA Jaylen Brown with his nagging hamstring, and Marcus “DOPY” Smart’s hand after punching glass after losing a close game and one of his instagram girlfriends called him out on the social media site.
The 2018-2019 Boston Celtics will have a starting lineup of one of the best offensive scoring point guards in the league Kyrie Irving. A veteran that at anytime, anywhere, anyhow will come through for you Al Horford. An all-star who can score from the top of the key to the paint and play some great defense Gordon Hayward. A third-year man Jaylen Brown who not only will dunk on you but will also look off into space while doing so. And last but certainly not the least Jayson “THE REAL KING” Tatum who will obliterate you at the rim and has the potential to be 30-plus points a night guy. I mean the man dethroned LeBron James after the most insane poster I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Is this line-up better than the Curry, Green, Durant, Thompson, Cousins? Of course not. But, who cares about the starting line-up, lets see what the second unit looks like.
The Boston Celtics second unit will be the greatest second unit to ever play and be the best defensive unit in the entire league. At the one you will have the lanky score at any moment Scary Terry. At the two you will have one of the greatest defensive players I have ever seen play the game and is only 24 years old Marcus Smart. At the 3 you will have the grittiest yell in your face, make fun of your momma Marcus Morris not to be confused with twin brother Markieff Morris. At the 4, but really a 5 you have one of the most fearless and best defending centers Aron Baynes. And to round it off at the 5 you will have the weight room maniac Robert Williams who was just picked up 27th overall by the Celtics in the first-round of the 2018 NBA Draft. The GSW second unit consist of only one guy which is Andre Iguodala. The rest of the second unit consist of Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook, Damion Jones and Shaun Livingston. Sounds like an easy roster for the Celtics defensive unit to handle with ease.
Who is to say these Warriors are even compatible? All I know is that Brad Stevens and the healthy defensive minded Celtics will keep GSW scoring below 100 points and be fiercely competitive to win an NBA Finals which will be the first one since 2008 when the Celtics were sporting the big three: Paul Peirce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and for consideration Rajon Rondo beating the Kobe Lakers.
Do you believe the Boston Celtics can beat the Warriors? Young gun, aim at your head, Terry Rozier sure thinks they can, as do I. Do not fear NBA lovers, the Boston Celtics will save everyone.
The 2018 NBA Draft is fast approaching. With just over a week until the Suns are officially on the clock with the first overall selection, the trade rumors will be out in full force. Last year, there were Jimmy Butler trade rumors, there were Paul George trade rumors and there were top picks in the draft trade rumors. This year should be no different. It is expected to be one of the most active off-seasons in the NBA, and that will start on draft night. So, what kind of deals would make NBA fans lose their minds? Let’s get into “Three Shocking NBA Draft Day Trades.”
Disclaimer: These trade ideas are for fun and there is practically no chance these trades would actually happen.
1. The Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves pull off a blockbuster deal
Suns get: Karl-Anthony Towns
Timberwolves get: #1 pick, T.J. Warren
This trade idea stems from recent reports of Karl-Anthony Towns’ potential discomfort with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After that report, former teammate of Towns in college, Devin Booker went right to recruiting, posting a picture of Towns in a Suns jersey. Although this trade will never happen, it is an interesting trade on paper. The Suns would get Towns to pair with Booker, a combo that would be unstoppable on the offensive end. The Suns would also be getting that second star player, which teams need to be successful in the modern NBA. And for the Timberwolves, it isn’t all bad either. They would get the first overall pick in the draft, which they would likely use on DeAndre Ayton to fill the hole that was left by Towns. And in T.J. Warren, they would acquire a high-quality backup wing for their bench that can provide a big-time scoring punch.
While the trade won’t happen, if the Timberwolves for some reason decide to move on from KAT, this would not be a bad option to go to.
2. Celtics and Spurs pull off a one-for-one swap
Celtics get: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs get: Kyrie Irving
Boy, NBA fans around the league would absolutely lose their minds if this trade went down. Kawhi Leonard has been a part of trade rumors a lot in the last six months because of his odd injury situation, and the growing disfunction between him and the Spurs organization. In addition, Kyrie Irving’s name is starting to float in the rumor mill. There was a recent interview that Irving took part in when he wouldn’t commit to Boston past this season. And if you know Danny Ainge, nobody is ever safe from being traded (see Isaiah Thomas last summer.) If it comes to it, this trade would be smart for both teams. The Spurs were on Kyrie’s reported wishlist last summer, and Kyrie would provide Pop and the Spurs a star point guard to build the franchise around. For the Celtics, how deadly would a Kawhi and Tatum wing combo be? That is the definition of a frightening duo on the wing: a young and blossoming star matched with the best two-way player in the NBA? Good luck.
However, unfortunately for NBA fans, it looks as if this trade won’t even be talked about. Leonard is reportedly going to sit down with the Spurs and hammer out their differences so Kawhi can sign the supermax deal to stay with the franchise. In addition, it is likely that Boston will also keep Kyrie this summer. Boston made it to the Eastern Conference Finals without him last season, so that has to have the team wondering how far they can go with him.
3. Hornets and Cavs make a last-minute mega-deal
Hornets get: #8 pick, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr.
Cavs get: Kemba Walker
This deal would be a last-ditch effort for the Cleveland Cavaliers to keep LeBron in town. Getting a point guard like Kemba Walker would at least have to make LeBron think twice before leaving town. Walker would provide the Cavs with another All-Star that can fill it up at any instant. Pairing Walker with LeBron and Love would certainly give the Cavs a shot to go back to the NBA Finals next season. However, even without LeBron, a team with Walker and Love would have a great case to be a playoff team in the weaker Eastern Conference. For the Hornets, the trade would be a complete reset. Taking on Clarkson would not be ideal for Charlotte, but it would be necessary to make this deal work. Nance Jr. is a piece that has the potential to be a very solid backup and potential starter down the line. At just 25 years old, there is value in getting Nance Jr. for Charlotte. Then, the major piece in the deal would be the eighth overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Hornets could either pair that selection with their 11th pick and try to move up in the draft. Or, they could stay at eight and take a very high-quality youngster.
This is probably the most likely of the three trades to happen. The trade would need two things to go right in order for it to happen. First, the Hornets would have to decide they are going all in on a rebuild. Second, the Cavs would have to decide they are going all in to convince LeBron to stay. However, in the end, both teams will likely go in different directions.
While none of these trades will likely go down next week, these trades would completely change the landscape of the NBA, something fans love.
It’s 2018. The NBA is loaded with stars and great athletes. Some teams have multiple stars, while other teams have no stars. But, in just five short years, everything could be different, including who the top players in basketball will be. In five years LeBron James will be 38 years old, he will have slowed down by then, right? Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Russell Westbrook will all be 34 years old. James Harden will be 33 years old, and it will be time for the next generation of basketball to step in.
5. Kyrie Irving: Age in five years: 30
“Young Mamba” and “Uncle Drew.” These are just two of Kyrie Irving’s nicknames used by NBA fans around the world. Kyrie Irving is currently 25 years old, and he is averaging 24.8 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 3.7 RPG this season with the Celtics. Irving was traded from Cleveland to Boston over the summer in hopes of leading his own team to a championship. Being just 25 years old, and improving every season, Irving has the potential to turn into one of the league’s top five players. In order to get there, Irving will not only need to continue to put up points, but he will need to become an all-around player on the defensive end. When Irving is on the floor this season, the opponents hold a five-point better offensive rating than when he’s on the bench. If Irving can improve on the defensive side of the ball, he will be an even greater force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns: Age in five years: 27
The first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft is coming off of his first NBA All-Star selection in this year’s game, and it will not be his last, that’s for sure. Towns is averaging 20.4 PPG, 12.2 RPG, and 2.4 APG this season while shooting a career-best 41.4% from three-point range. Towns has helped the Wolves hold a winning record, and he is trying to lead Minnesota (without Jimmy Butler) back to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Towns has all the potential in the world, he just needs to be better at using that potential. For example, KAT likes to have the ball in his hands, and if he doesn’t get the ball in his hands enough, he starts to take wild shots and become disengaged on defense. If Towns can learn to be more patient with the ball and find the open man when he gets double-teamed, he has the potential to be the face of the NBA in no time. Towns has the passing potential, which he shows off on the dime to Taj Gibson below, he just needs to be more patient and use that skill set.
3. Kawhi Leonard: Age in five years: 31
What a season it has been for the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard, but not necessarily in a good way. Kawhi Leonard has played just nine games this season because of an injury, and according to several reports, tensions between him and the Spurs are growing. In all likelihood, Leonard and the Spurs will work it out. Meanwhile, all tensions aside, Leonard is already one of the best players in the NBA at 26 years old. He averaged 25.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG last season and was in the race for MVP. Leonard is perhaps the best two-way player in the NBA, and at just 26 years old, Leonard will keep improving like he has every season. Once Leonard gets back on the court, he will be back to his normal self, and in five years, he will be a top-five player in the NBA.
2. Anthony Davis: Age in five years: 29
My oh my. What a run it has been for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans of late. New Orleans has won eight straight games, and they sit in the fourth spot in the Western Conference. After DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury a little over halfway through the season, it looked like all hope was lost for the Pelicans. But, Davis put together an unforgettable month of February where he averaged 35.0 PPG, 13.0 RPG, and 1.5 APG. He was named Western Conference player of the month for February, and most importantly, he still has the Pelicans in the playoff hunt. By the way, Anthony Davis is just 24 years old. In five years, Davis will be in the prime of his career, and still destroying the competition night in and night out. More likely than not, Davis will wrap up an MVP award before his career is all said and done. Look out NBA.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Age in five years: 28
The Greek Freak is having his best season as a professional basketball player. However, the Milwaukee Bucks are 34-29, seventh in the Eastern Conference. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 4.9 APG, unreal numbers for a 23-year-old. Giannis’ game continues to improve every season, and if he can add a three-point shot this offseason, he will be able to take his game and his team’s play to an entirely different level. In order to be considered the top player in the NBA in five years, Antetokounmpo will need to lead the Bucks to an NBA Finals victory, which he has the capability to do, but doesn’t have the experience yet to do it. In the coming seasons, if Antetokounmpo can continue to improve his game, we will not only be talking about where he ranks in terms of the best NBA players for that season, but his name will come up when talking about some of the best players to ever play the game.