The NBA Draft is Thursday in the Barclays Center where teams will pass on future Hall of Famers like Stephen Curry, who went 7th and just won his 4th ring and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who went 15th to the Bucks. With a class with no pre-set heroes like Lebron James and Magic Johnson who both went 1st overall, who will standout in this years draft and for years to come.
Rashad and Keven have their top 10 picks (with no trades involved) selected, see how they have this year’s draft shaping out.
The all Association Most Valuable Player Award is an annual NBA award given since the 1955-56 to the best performing player of the regular season.It cannot be denied that the determining factors of who is the MVP and why this person should be MVP often changes. Unfortunately, MVP is usually given to the most outstanding player or the most exciting superstar of the year. While that should be included in the determination, it should not be the stand only reason. MVP determining factors should also include; the player most valuable to his team, impact, consistency, availability, circumstances, along with availability. If you took away that individual’s contributions and production, would the squad be in the same position? For many of these reasons and more is why Damian Lillard should have won his first MVP in the 2020-21 season or at least have came neck-to-neck with the winner.
Damian Lillard led the Portland Trailblazers to a 42-30 season and sixth in the west. This was pretty impressive considering his co-stars CJ McCollum and Jusef Nurkic jointly missed a huge portion of the season, CJ McCollum playing 47 games and Jusef Nurkic playing 37 games. Portland made a move before the deadline of 10 game less shortened season which brought in Norman Powell for the final 27 games of the regular season. Which left Lillard and Blazers 27 crucial games to make Norman Powell feel acclimated and help find his role with the team and making sure CJ McCollum and Nurkic find their rhythms after returning from injuries. Lillard finished the season averaging 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, leading Portland to finish second in offensive efficiency rating with an elite 117.1. When Lillard was not on the floor the Blazers scored 18.4 fewer points per 100 possessions which is historic-like stats. In February, due to injuries the Blazers were missing CJ, Nurkic and Zach Collins which would ideally seem like a recipe for a disaster month for the Blazers but Damian Lillard make sure that was not the case. During this 14+ game stretch Lillard played out of his mind, averaging a 31.6 points, 8.8 assists, and 4.4 rebounds on a 45.7/39.3/91.2 shooting split. Lillard had consecutive games of 30+ points/10+ assists games, making 38.4% of his 12 3PA and 92.8% from the free throw line while obtaining his highest usage rate and assist rate of his career. Imagine when the game was within five points in the last five minutes a player had a true shooting percentage of 82.7%. Damian Lillard did that. Lillard became the 18th player in NBA History to record at least 40+ points and 15+ assists in a game and tied his career-high in assists with 16 in a must-win game against a Pelicans team.
It can be said that Nikola Jokic was the more consistent player throughout the season but before we say that, can we talk about the circumstances? Damian Lillard’s availability has always been great and that did not change with Lillard missing only 5 games for the season. However, this came during time of Jokic having his best month and Lillard dealing with a list of nagging injuries hindering his play before missing his handful of games. When you look back at the season of LeBron, Steph, Giannis, Jokic and Embiid you have to take into account the availability of and the seasons their co-stars were having. Even consider the complete roster of these teams. Understanding that a player like Lillard who plays PG in a season with highest usage rate of the season is going to have a harder time to score because of opponents ability to trap, double or triple team Damian Lillard. Which is opposed to bigs like Embiid, Jokic and even Giannis who frequently catch the ball in positions for them to score quickly and avoid double teams.
All in all, Damian Lillard’s may just not fit the leagues narrative for MVP winner. They have already had their undersized mid-major MVP winner with Steph Curry, the quiet assassin with Derrick Rose, and the undersized loyal hooper leading his team to an overachieving season with Allen Iverson. Despite of who you think the MVP winner was, we have to question whether or not these voters are taking the time to watch the games and do their homework instead of the player the media is pushing for MVP. Lillard finished seventh in MVP tallying this season, garnering 38 total voting points. 4 point behind Luka and only 18 points ahead of Julius Randle. Regardless of what metric the MVP voters go by, Damian Lillard should have undoubtedly been a top 3 finisher in the MVP race and arguably is the MVP of the 2020-21 season.
When asked his 5-Year plan in terms of being in the league Anthony Edwards responded, “I want to go deep in the playoffs, definitely past the first round. In five years, I want to be the face of the league and have a couple of MVPs by then and have a ring. In five years, I would expect to go to the Finals for sure,” Edwards says. Whether or not he lives us to his personal goals it up to him, it is certainly not a far-fetched goal for a player of his caliber. However, we are here to talk about the player that could help him and the Timberwolves achieve their team goals in this 5-year window.
Dejounte Murray is everything T-Wolves need to start making consistent playoff pushes. A 6’4 two-way player who can be the true point guard to create for his co-stars but can also create a bucket for himself when needed. Murray shoots just good enough from three to play off the ball, with an 32% career average. It benefits tremendously having a player like Murray that can be your threat on the offensive end but still manage to make an All-Defensive team. Murray is currently averaging an career high 8.4 RPG which 7.1 comes from on defensive end and tacking on 2.0 SPG which is a testament to his 6’10 wingspan. 25 year old Dejounte Murray is having a career year, so good that he could arguably be an Allstar reserve this year. The key here is that Dejounte undoubtedly improves every year. Within the next three years, Anthony Edwards will likely be a top 10 player, KAT will continue to be one of the consistent top bigs in the league. It is unclear what Dejounte’s game will develop into but if they trend of the next three years match the previous three year trend then Dejounte will be one heck of a player. With all three players being under 26, ANT & Dejounte running the floor with KAT in the paint or spreading the court with his nice jumper in addition to them all being able to hold their own on the defensive end could mean for a scary trio for the league.
The Quarterfinals matchups start Monday night into Tuesday morning. I am so excited yet also sad that it is coming to an end. Iran, Nigeria, Czech Republic and the host country Japan are out of the tournament. A disappointing run from Nigeria, losing all 3 games after defeating USA & Argentina in exhibition play, plus a tough draw from Czech Republic having France and USA in their group play & Japan simply not having enough to defeat Argentina.
The stage is set. Here are the games for the Quarterfinals. Starting Monday Night (9 PM EST), Slovenia, led by Luka Doncic takes on Mo Wagner and the Deutschland squad. Spain’s last ride gets a bad draw with the United States. Italy vs France, then Boomers playing Argentina to end Tokyo’s night. As a prophet, this is how I think it will play out.
Slovenia(3-0) (-14) vs Germany (1-2) o/u 182.5
Luka Doncic (who is averaging 28.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 7 apg) is now 16-0 in the Slovenia jersey in his career. At this rate why wouldn’t they win Gold? Slovenia scored the most points in the 3 games so far totaling 329 points (109.7 ppg). With other talent like Mike Tobey and Vlatko Cancar look for Slovenia to take advantage of this opporutnity. Germany lone win came against Nigeria but they still made the quaterfinals. Mo Wager & Maodo Lo has been the bright spots for Germany, who are missing key pieces such as Dennis Schroder and Max Kleber. Averaging 86 points per game & allowing 91 points per game, all points to the over in this game. Slovenia is the best rebounding team and has the best player in the Olympics.
Pick: Slovenia by 14, Over 182.5
USA (2-1) (-12) vs Spain (2-1) o/u 179.5
The #2 Team in the world, according to FIBA arrives to the quarterfinals with their last chance to medal. Spain’s core is old and most likely we will see a different starting lineup in 2024 Olympics in Paris. I have Ricky Rubio as a Top 5 player in the Olympics and he hasn’t disappointed. The newly acquired Cavalier is averaging 21 ppg, 3 rpg, 7 apg and leads his team in efficiency. Rubio, The Gasol Brothers and company will give it one last shot but got the bad end of the stick after losing to Slovenia in their final group play. Consolation prize? The United States. After losing to France, the United States handed out 2 big blowouts: Iran by 54 and Czech Republic by 34. Averaging 119.5 points the last two games look for USA to build on the embarrassing lost to France. Kevin Durant has now surpassed Carmelo Anthony for most USA Olympic points of All-time, look for him to add to his legacy. We should see 3 more games of USA basketball, hopefully. Spains will show pride & USA will show dominance.
Pick: USA -12, over 179.5
Italy (2-1) vs France (3-0) (-8.5) o/u 168.5
Italy is well balance team that has numerous ways to put the ball in the hoop. Their strength is turnovers, meaning they are the best Olympic team in terms of NOT handing over the rock. That will be the key if they have success going forward. With 5 guys who can fill the ‘Pts” category, including Nico Mannion from the Warriors, look for them to bring a “Team” effort across the board. France, has been impressive the entire time. The game is all about matchups, they give me the most worry of advancing to the Final Four. Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert are my 7th and 8th player coming into the Olympics, they will need both stars to bring their A-game if they want any shot at winning gold. France is a great rebounding team and one of the most efficient, look for them to pull out a close victory vs Italy. Note: 2 games of France has hit the under (USA & Iran)
Pick: France ML, Under 168.5
Australia (3-0) (-8.5) vs Argentina (1-2) o/u 170.5
Argentina made the quarterfinals after knocking out the host country Japan with a 20 point win. Luis Scola and Facundo Campazzo of the Nuggets, lead the squad to perhaps their last run together as a duo. Argentina ranks 3rd in points but doesn’t stand out anywhere else. This team isn’t the team that won gold in 2004, actually nowhere near. They’re clearly the worse team left in the field. Australia is the perhaps the deepest team outside of the US. With NBA talent such as Joe Ingles, Matisse Thybulle and Aron Baynes they provide key roles alongside their superstar Patty Mills. Perhaps the most important piece is Nick Kay (14ppg & 6 rpg) who filled in for the injured Aron Baynes. Here are the Boomers ranks so far: 4th in scoring, 2nd in steals, 1st in Free Throw %, 3rd in rebounding, and 2nd in team defense. The Boomers were my pre-Olympic gold medal pick. Every game has hit the under for Australia, even Germany couldn’t push over the 170.5 mark. Will Argentina?
Pick: Australia -8.5, under 170.5
FINAL FOUR TEAMS
This will be my Final Four here: Slovenia vs France & USA vs Australia. Hard to see any of them lose, even having Boomers to win gold, I know it will be very difficult to beat USA again. The odds for winning gold has USA 1st at -210, Slovenia 2nd at +550, France & Australia tied for 3rd place at +900.
Bronze Medal Game
Australia vs France
This matchup saddens me deeply because I believe both teams have what it takes to win Gold. The loser coming in 4th place just doesn’t sit right with me. However, if USA stays on this hot scoring pace & Slovenia finds ways to put up points, the “defense win championship” theory comes into question. The winner will find themselves on the podium but for Bronze.
Gold Medal Game
Slovenia vs USA
The most anticipating matchup in Olympic sport history, the dominance of Team USA, winner of the last 3 Olympics vs Slovenia led by the arguably the best player in the world, Luka The Don. For all reasons above in this article, the world do not want to miss this no matter the time. USA has the talent but will it outweigh the chemistry of Slovenia? This game will clearly be high scoring and one, I believe will come down to the wire.
This was fun to do especially with so many opt outs and top countries not making the final cut. Teams like Serbia, that have the 2021 NBA MVP Nikola Jokic alongside Hawks starting SG Bogdan Bogdanovic & the mighty Greece team, where their leader is celebrating his first championship & Finals MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo are all missing out of 2021 in Tokyo. Other great players like Dennis Schroder couldn’t get insurance to play for Germany & other teams like Lithuania with Sabonis just didn’t qualify.
Teams in the Olympics
Japan (Host Country)
So here we go, ranking the top 10 Players in Tokyo 2021
10. Danilo Gallinari, Italy
He arrived late to the party due to the Atlanta Hawks making it to the Eastern Conference Finals but Gallo has been one of the most consistent international players the NBA’s ever had. In FIBA 2019, Gallo averaged 17.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg & 2.8 apg while shooting 50% from 3. Italy has more scorers now who can light up the scoreboard including the Warriors Nico Mannion, but look for the Italian veteran to prove he’s still the go to guy & the reason Italy could medal.
9. Tomas Satoransky, Czech Republic
The underdog role fits Tomas Satoransky perfectly. His 16 ppg during the qualifying round in Victoria, helped lead to upsets over Canada & Greece, including a game winner over Lu Dort. Along with Jan Vesely, look for Tomas to try and make a statement in a tough group with USA and France. Will the underdog become a hero and rise to the occasion? FIBA 2019 stats: 15.5 ppg, 8.5 apg & 5.6 rebs while shooting 48% from 3.
8. Rudy Gobert, France
The big man upfront, The Stifle Tower from the Utah Jazz, help leads a loaded France team looking to capture gold in the Olympics. Rudy Gobert is arguably the best defender in the WORLD, he’ll look to use his length to dominate the Olympics this go around. We last saw him help defeat Team USA in FIBA 2019, where he posted 21 points, 16 rebounds & 3 blocks. He’s the best big in the Olympics and he’ll prove that once again.
7. Evan Fournier, France
Just like his teammate, Evan Fournier is ready to bring France the gold. He poured in 22 pts vs USA in FIBA making France a dominating duo alongside other NBA players like Nicolas Batum & Frank Ntilikina. Fournier average 19.8 ppg, 4 rpg & 3 apg in 2019 and is poised for another great run. France takes on Team USA in their first game, Fournier will be counted on as the lead guy, to upset USA again.
6. Jayson Tatum, USA
Jayson Tatum is a top 15 player in the NBA so he has to make a top 10 list in the Olympics. This is the summer where Tatum take his defensive prowess to the next level. I mention on the Preach Kev Preach w/ Rashad Podcast Episode – Everything That Glitters Ain’t Gold – that Team USA needs to learn their roles. Tatum worked out with the late great Kobe Bryant and his role was defense. Taking the challenge to lock down France’s Evan Fournier & Czech Republic’s Tomas Satoransky in Group play is a task Tatum is made for.
5. Ricky Rubio, Spain
Man let me tell you about the one they call Ricky Rubio. As the Gasol brothers age out, Rubio remains the catalyst & most important player on the Spain team. This is Spain’s final opportunity to capture goal. If they do, it’ll all be up to Ricky. 16 ppg, 6 apg, 5 rpg from the FIBA World Cup shows all the confidence he’ll to return to the form or even better. Rubio’s game is exactly the way you want to model yourself in international play demonstrating great IQ & playmaking ability. Rubio led all scorers vs USA in the final friendly heading to Tokyo with 23 points.
4. Patty Mills, Australia
Superstar Patty Mills!!! That’s all I can say. He’s been a beast for the Boomers and if you watch international play, you’d know that by now. Australia has been disappointing the last few times out including when they had the opportunity to win Gold in 2019 but look for the team to look toward their best player to lead them to the promise land. Patty Mills has average 20+ points on the last 3 Boomer Teams (2019 FIBA, 2016 Olympics & 2012 Olympics), this is why we call him Superstar Patty Mills.
3. Kevin Durant, USA
I know what you’re thinking…THIRD? Well we know KD is arguably the baddest man on the planet, however his role is carved out for Team USA differently. He’s one of the best scorers in Team USA history and he’ll continue to do so, especially in the Carmelo Anthony role . KD is the Guard-Center of this team, which is a made up position, but he’s the tallest player on Team USA, aside from Mcgee and I think they’ll use him in numerous ways including controlling the glass which could take away from his superstardom we see in the NBA.
2. Damian Lillard, USA
Dame will take up the slack for Team USA. When in doubt, give the ball to Damian Lillard, he can make something out of nothing and he’ll be the key reason Team USA wins gold. Obviously, Team USA is loaded with talent, but he’ll still find away to lead the team in scoring and probably 3 pointers made. The Olympics is very guard centric right now and he’ll provide that as an elite option & probably the best Tokyo will see.
1. Luka Doncic, Slovenia
Are Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard better than Luka? It’s definitely a debate, but when it comes to International play, I’m taking Luka everyday and twice on Sunday. Luka won MVP at 18 and he’s carrying yet another team on his back. Slovenia has a shot and it’s all up to Luka. In the qualifying round Luka average 21 ppg, 11 apg & 8 rpg in 4 games, not to mention his historic triple double vs the mighty Lithuanian team in the Finals. Luka is the most exciting basketball player to watch in the world and honestly I don’t think that’s up for debate. Can’t wait to see how far Luka can take Slovenia.
Every year NBA players are on the move, looking to improve their chances on winning a NBA title. In the past, we had players team up to form unbeatable teams such as the Heat in the early 2010s, the Warriors on the back end & now a big three that just formed in Brooklyn. For the first two examples, they became champions and rightfully so. Lebron James & Kevin Durant took it upon themselves to make sure they could host the Larry O’Brien trophy and free themselves of that ever cloud of judgement from around the NBA and the world. Who needs to save themselves or need help saving? At the end of the day we should be shouting, ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, they’re free at last.
Sabonis, in his 5th season, has taken a step toward stardom. Easily the best player on the Pacers, he couldn’t get enough from his team, to secure their place in the playoffs. A 2x time all star with 13 career triple doubles, what’s not to like about him. He’s one of four players to average 20 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, joining elite company like Kevin Garnett, Wilt Chamberlin, and Oscar Robertson. As great as he’s been where do we really see the Pacers going? In his 4 years with the Pacers, they have 3 playoff appearances including 2 sweeps.
With the turmoil coming out of Indiana with coach Nate Bjorkgren, can we save Sabonis before it’s too late? Outside of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, is he not the 3rd best big in the league? At least its debatable, but I hope we can find a place for the Lithuanian Star.
First off, I’d like to say that Fox is from the University of Kentucky, which means he’s “damn sho” built different. What’s built different from the rest of the NBA, is the way the Sacramento Kings have been ran by the front office. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 season. That’s a 14 year drought and haven’t won a series since 2004. With all the lottery draft picks, one of them that was right from Day 1 was De’Aaron Fox. He’s known as one of the fastest players in the league, who constantly applies pressure to opposing defenses. In 2021, he took a big step in a positive direction, in career numbers leading to impactful success. In the month of March, Fox averaged 29 ppg and 7 apg following that up with great April (27 ppg and 7 apg). If it wasn’t for the greatness of the point guard position, I would be standing on the table singing, “ALL-NBA, ALL-NBA”.
What will the Kings do this offseason… well Luke Walton will return as Head Coach, all the more reasons that Fox needs saving. At this point there’s no reason to continue to wait on the development of Haliburton and Bagley and even though Fox signed a 5 year – 163 million contract, that wont start until next season, its time to wave the flag.
Well obviously, he’s only been around for 2 seasons (only played 85 career games), however he’s already to big for the Pelicans. This is a team that has already lost Jrue Holiday, but already have talked about trading Steven Adams & Eric Bledsoe this offseason but potentially losing a piece from the Anthony Davis trade, in Lonzo Ball. Most players that pan out usually stays with their team for 7 years because of the contract they can sign after year 4, this may very well be the case for Zion but what will he have to gain?
How far will the Pelicans go? As a small market, I have no faith that this team can surround him with the talent that he needs to make deep playoff runs, especially with losing 3 starters in the 2021 offseason. It is not easy to carry a small market team as a big men, Anthony Davis tried, Kevin Garnett tried, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, etc. When you look at bigs in big markets i.e. Joel Embiid, good things can happen. Free Zion, we don’t want him in New Orleans.
I may have spoke to soon when it comes to big men outside of Jokic and Embiid because KAT has something to say. KAT has made the playoffs once since entering the NBA and that was off the back of Jimmy Butler. I preach patience when it comes to KAT and the Timberwolves because I love the additions of Anthony Edwards and newly HC Chris Finch. The Wolves have made strives but to be fair the all 29 teams could use KAT in some shape or form. His only weakness is being a lock down defender but he’s a stat stuffer and can provide scoring on all 3 levels.
The wolves messed up their chances by winning a high percentage of their games in the 2nd half of the season as they do not hold the cards to their 1st round pick since it is Top 3 protected, that pick goes to the Golden State Warriors. As mentioned above, KAT is also from the University of Kentucky & has the tools but as a big needs help to contend in the West. There’s a free KAT available, even though he wants to stay in Minnesota, I may need to get on I-90 myself to move him out personally.
I know what you’re thinking, the Jazz are the No.1 seed in the West and have the best record in the NBA.
Karl Malone, John Stockton, Deron Williams were Jazz players who couldn’t win a title in Utah. To be fair, two of them ran into Michael Jordan and one ran into Kobe Bryant but that’s beside the point. The Jazz are a complete team from top to bottom with an incredible Head Coach in Quin Snyder. When you talk about other elite teams around the league, there’s usually more than 1 star. Mitchell relies on Bogdanovic, veteran Mike Conley and 6th man of the year Jordan Clarkson for scoring, while someone like Jayson Tatum on the other hand, has a budding star in Jaylen Brown to rely on. Donovan Mitchell is box office and if you ask me, Utah shouldn’t hold him down for too long with or without a deep playoff run, he could be first in line to ask out.
The NBA is in full swing! With only the Super Bowl remaining from the NFL, we have turned our attention to the second half of the NBA season where teams are preparing to make their respective playoff push. Both conferences feel wide open, where 1 move could potentially be the catalyst for a Finals run. Just last year, the Toronto Raptors acquired Kawhi before the season and Marc Gasol during the season which gave them the interior size, floor spacing and defense needed to make a run. As of today I believe there are 12 teams that should be examining the trade and buyout market for the missing piece to their team. Let’s examine each team and who could be available for each.
Los Angeles Lakers
Currently sitting at 36-9 and atop the West, the Lakers most glaring weakness is a playmaker who can get LeBron off the ball some and score. Iguodala was perceived to be their top target early this season but it now seems to be Derrick Rose. The Pistons asking price could be too high (possibly a player and 1st round pick) so the Lakers may pass. I would suggest looking at veteran Alec Burks on Golden State who’s averaging 16 points and only cost $2 million dollars or Jamal Crawford.
Utah has hit a surge having won 18 of their last 20 games, including 13 of their last 14. They are currently 2nd in the West at 31-13. Acquiring Bogdanovic over the summer, trading Exum for Clarkson earlier in the season, and having Conley back from injury has been huge. But is it enough to get out of the West? Potentially having to face LeBron, Kawhi, Harden or Luka I think the Jazz need some perimeter defense/toughness to slow these big time wings. Trevor Ariza would’ve been great here but with him no longer being available the best option would be Marcus Morris of the Knicks. He would fit small ball lineups as well as be able to play alongside Gobert.
Los Angeles Clippers
Despite the “load management” of Kawhi, Paul George dealing with injury, and not having fully gelled this team is still 31-14 and 3rd in the West. Pretty impressive! Making a trade wouldn’t disrupt the chemistry as it hasn’t rounded into form yet. The best way to sum up their weakness is interior size and wing depth with a little bit of scoring. It sounds like a lot but I think they could hope everyone gets healthy and go after Aron Baynes to fill the size need or they could try to solve it all by going after Markieff Morris. Morris is 6’8 roughly 240 pounds and would provide the necessary wing depth while also not being afraid to get in the trenches. If Memphis wasn’t in playoff contention I could see Jae Crowder being a potential target as well.
I love this team. Denver is the kind of team you buy league pass for because there is so much talent here. Plumlee recently got hurt but should return in a month and Gary Harris just hasn’t taken the leap yet and it could be time to cut bait via trade. Enter Jrue Holiday, he would fit alongside Jamal Murray and provide veteran presence. The Pelicans may be exciting with Zion coming to action but Jrue deserves to be in contention to win and I have no doubt he could help this 30-14 team potentially leap up to the 2 seed in this tight race. Trading for Jrue, favorable seeding and the stellar play of Michael Porter Jr. could land Denver in the Finals.
Luka Doncic has taken one of the more unprecedented 2nd year leaps in NBA history. What he is doing with the triple doubles, being a MVP candidate and having the Mavs 5th in the playoff race in his 2nd year is nothing short of phenomenal but he can’t carry them alone. Losing Dwight Powell to an Achilles injury has hurt their size greatly. The Mavericks made a predictable move by trading for Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors to recover from the Powell lost. Now the question is, with different teams best player at the wing position can the Mavs defend it? Maybe trading Courtney Lee, who has an expiring deal, might be on the block to make a move for a defender.
The window could slowly be closing for these guys. The competition around them has increased and they haven’t made a leap forward. With no contracts that can be traded and already not owning some of their picks they will be hoping for a generous buyout market.
The Eastern Conference
Having the best record in the NBA at 39-6 would make anyone say “what else do they need”. The answer could be nothing, only time will tell. The Brogdon departure may not show itself until the postseason if Bledsoe struggles shooting again. The Bucks will probably stand pact unless a small move for more shooting or defense presents itself.
Miami may be the surprise team of the NBA. Adding Jimmy Butler has been a great addition for them but is this team a contender as presently constructed? I don’t think so. They need a 2nd star but the catch is who could they obtain while also staying financially flexible. Demar Derozan and Lamarcus Aldridge fit this description. But would the Spurs be okay taking back Dion Waters and another players salary…I don’t think so. The Heat are young and may have to just enjoy this moment and see what happens come playoff time.
The defending champs are showing last year was not a fluke. They were 17-5 in games Kawhi sat and this year they are 30-14 good enough for 3rd in the conference. Siakam was named a starter for his first All Star appearance and Kyle Lowry has returned to All Star form as well. With 6 players averaging over 10 points Masai could be content to ride this thing out and see what happens but I think they should make a move for Bogdan Bagdonovic. An unselfish team player who brings 15 points a game with him. The dilemma here would be trade for him now or wait until free agency to sign him.
It is so great to see Kemba Walker on a winning team. It’s long overdue for him. But in order to complete the job Kemba and company will need Danny Ainge to get on the phone and try to acquire this team some size. You won’t make it out the East with the likes of Giannis, Embiid, Ben, and Sabonis dominating your team on the inside. You need a presence to combat that. With little financial flexibility the C’s may have to hope for a buyout of someone like Biyombo or go after Joakim Noah.
This team as presently constructed could be a problem come playoff time. Their biggest acquisition will be getting Victor Oladipo back healthy. If Oladipo hits the ground running look out! This is a team I would suggest don’t do anything drastic but if the right low risk high reward proposition presents itself look into it.
Philadelphia was busy over the offseason giving Al Horford a big contract, Tobias Harris max money and extending Ben Simmons. A lot of money has been committed to this core so the trade options are limited. The biggest need here is guard play who can space the floor for Embiid. Derrick Rose is the hot name here again and who wouldn’t want to see that guy on a contender after all he’s gone through career wise. Maybe give JR Smith or Jamal Crawford a call.
The trade deadline is set for February 6th at 3 pm this year, teams should go all in this year because next year the Warriors and Nets are expected to return healthy star players and create another obstacle to overcome in each conference. When you have a window like this year you must capitalize. The countdown is on, so hopefully your team’s GM is working the phones.
The FIBA World Cup is set to take place in China at the end of next week. The tournament will act as qualification for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and with the field expanding from 24 teams to 32, it will give more teams more opportunities to make a stronger case.
Qualified Teams for FIBA:
5 Teams From Africa (Angola, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia)
7 Teams From The Americas (USA, Canada, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezuela)
8 Teams From Asia and Oceania (China, Japan, Iran, Australia, South Korea, Jordan, Philippines, New Zealand)
12 Teams From Europe (France, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania)
So why Serbia? Let’s take a trip down memory lane. In the last World Cup, dating back to 2014, Team USA met Serbia in the World Cup Final in Madrid, Spain. Serbia was dealing with a very difficult group with the likes of powerhouses of Spain, Brazil and France. Serbia did defeat Iran and Egypt but lost to all three teams accumulating 7 points (2 points for wins & 1 point for a lost) and advancing to the next round. In the round of 16, Serbia faced the winner of Group B Greece, who went undefeated knocking off teams like Argentina and Croatia in the process. An impressive 18 point win was the spark they needed. The next round, they faced an opponent they lost to before, Brazil. An eight point lost earlier in the tournament now turned into a 28 point blowout led by Milos Teodosic with 15 points. Serbia made their way to the Final Four of the World Cup. Serbia couldn’t avoid yet another FIBA Powerhouse in France, a familiar opponent from just a few games back. France won the 4th quarter by 3 points and ultimately winning the game 74-73. In the Semifinals, after 2 big wins, this time would be different. Serbia was in control for majority of the game, taking a 14 point lead into halftime, as well as a 15 point lead into the 4th. Serbia hangs on,behind Milos’ 24 points, with a 5 point win making the World Cup Final for the first time since winning Gold in 2002, who went by the country Yugoslavia that grace the names of Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, and Vladmir Radmanovic. The question was who would Serbia be playing in the Finals? Of course that’s not really a question, as Team USA won every game by 20 or more points. This would be the case in the World Cup Final — Team USA won 129-96. Serbia took home Silver.
Nikola Jokic drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2014, in the 2nd Rd with the 41st pick, with not a lot of expectations turned out to be one of the best picks this decade. In the 2016 Olympics, the world got to see his growth to stardom. Just 2 years removed from the 129-96 lost to Team USA in the World Cup, Serbia find themselves in the same group as them, with 2 other good teams France and Australia. In similar fashion, Serbia lost to Australia and France by 15 and 1 respectively, but what was so shocking is that Serbia almost upset Team USA who hadn’t lost an international game since the assembling of the Redeem Team. With the star studded team that the USA presents, they almost slipped through the cracks and if not for a off the rim shot by Bogdan Bogdanovic (Kings) would have took a L. Either way Jokic put on a show at a very young age — posting 25 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in a nailbiting 94-91 lost.
Serbia still made the final round of 8 with another similar path of 2014 FIBA World Cup. Serbia escaped Croatia, then destroyed Australia, who they once lost to before and yet again find their way in another Final match with the Powerhouse of the USA. Very different outcome this time as USA wiped the floor with them coasting to a 3rd Straight Gold Medal winning by 30, leaving Serbia with another Silver Medal.
Internationally, basketball is getting better and better with a lot of new countries putting more and more teams in the NBA. Teams like Canada, Australia, Greece are all rising with their new talent. Serbia is right in the mix and with Jokic, arguably being the best big man in the league (averaging 20.1 ppg, 10.8 rpg, and 7.2 apg) has to chance to make a statement this upcoming World Cup. Losing Milos Teodosic would hurt for most teams but with a Top Ten player in the NBA and other NBA talent like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica of the Kings, new Mavericks Center Boban Marjanovic, and former Bucks player Miroslav Raduljica it is easy to see why FIBA World Rankings have them ranked #2 in the World, only behind the United States.
Why do I believe that Serbia will take Gold? Well a lot has to do with their rise as a team but also what Team USA will look like come August 31st. After numerous All Stars dropped out to prepare for the NBA Season, what this USA team lack is an identity. Most times, USA gather the best talent and it can overcome any problems that occurs. Chemistry will play a huge factor for Team USA. While most international countries have been playing together since they were young (Serbia is no different) the United States, with as much talent as we have that’s just hard to do.
Since I’ve been watching international basketball, USA at any given moment has the best player on the court. When USA takeS on Nikola Jokic, this would not be the case. Without a superstar or go to guy as of now, Serbia has the advantages to finally capture Gold.
I’m not the only person who agree. Serbian coach, Aleksandar “Sasha” Djordjevic said in a interview, “Let’s let them play their basketball and we will play ours and if we meet, may God help them.” Sasha has shown no sympathy for “the Americans”, as he referred to them in his interview, claiming this is what happens to most European teams.
With plenty of teams and opportunities, this very well may be Serbia’s chance at obtaining Gold. Look for Nikola Jokic and Co. to finally get the job done and win it all.