The NBA’s Next – Set Me Free Players

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.

C Domantas Sabonis, Pacers

20.3 ppg, 12 rpg, 6 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.5 bpg, 53.5 FG%, 32.1 3pt%

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.

G De’Aaron Fox, Kings

25.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 blk, 47.7 FG%, 32.2 3pt%, 71.9 FT%

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.

PF Zion Williamson, Pelicans

27 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg, 61.1 FG%, 29.4 3pt%, 69.8 FT%

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.

C Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

24.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.1 bpg, 48.7 FG%, 38.7 3pt%, 85.9 FT%

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.

G Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

26.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 43.8 FG%, 38.6 3pt%, 84.5 FT%

I know what you’re thinking, the Jazz are the No.1 seed in the West and have the best record in the NBA.

“History repeats itself, but in such a cunning disguise that we never detect the resemblance until the damage is done”

Syndey J Harris

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 Trade Deadline

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.

Western Conference

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 Jazz

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.


Denver Nuggets

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.

Dallas Mavericks

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.

Houston Rockets

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

Milwaukee Bucks

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 Heat

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.

Toronto Raptors

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.

Boston Celtics

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.

Indiana Pacers

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 76ers

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.

Why Serbia is Destined To Win Gold

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.

Nikola Jokic (Serbia) being guarded by Draymond Green (USA) in the Gold Medal Game

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.

Teammates Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Jokic in an exhibition game

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.