Based on advanced data & analytics – here is our favorite picks of the day. After every pick, there is a Confidence ranking out of 10. The higher the number the more confident we are in the pick.
Dejounte Murray o20.5 pts (-130)
Confidence Ranking: 8/10
Been in the recent news after appearing on “All the Smoke” with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson – the biggest takeaway is he does in fact have that “dawg” in him. With the line set at 20.5 he has covered the line four times out of the last five games with big scoring outputs of 29, 30, 28 and 27. Earlier this year Vs the hawks he scored 19 points.
Below is Dejounte’s points over the last few games
Mikal has shown bright spots without Devin Booker and Chris Paul playing. He’s been asked to live up to his contract and although the Suns aren’t winning, Bridges has stepped up.
His last five games he has seen his reb/asst tick up. This is the recommended play over taking his lone stat of rebounds or assists, as it could swing either way (One game posted 9 assists & another posted 9 rebounds). Together, he should clear this line as he done 80% of the time over the last week and a half.
Below is Mikal’s R/A graph over the last 4 weeks
Other Plays to Watch
A. Sengun (HOU) vs MIN o18.5 points
Wendell Carter Jr (ORL) vs WSH o15.5 points
Kyle Kuzma (WSH) vs ORL o2.5 3s
Al Horford (BOS) vs TOR o5.5 rebounds
Data Driven by Edghouse. Go to Edghouse.com and sign up using code Kev20 to get 20% off
Based on advanced data & analytics – here is our favorite picks of the day. After every pick, there is a Confidence ranking out of 10. The higher the number the more confident we are in the pick.
James Harden o6.5 Rebs (-104)
Confidence Ranking: 8/10
I actually love everything Harden today, but this Clippers team is in need of Front-court help. Harden last three games vs LAC, he’s accumulated 38 rebounds. In his last five games, he reached 6 rebounds every game. In a matchup that is negative for Embiid, this should be enough signs pointed at another big performance for the Beard.
Also of note, Clippers ranks 8th vs rebounds/assists — the Beard is currently averaging 20.8 R/A – his line tonight is 16.5, this has a 100% hit rate over the last five games and a 100% hit rate vs the Clippers.
The last few Guards vs Clippers have surpass their lines including – Jamal Murray (12 R/A) & Luka (11 rebs).
Dame Lillard o38.5 P/A (points & assists) (-120)
Confidence Ranking: 9/10
Dame has been playing fantastic over the last 2 weeks, including a 50 pts against the Cavs. He shows good value vs a Nuggets team who struggles vs ball dominate guards. In the past we’ve seen Aaron Gordon be a primary defender but with the addition of J. Grant there should be no worry.
Denver ranks 29th and that’s all you need for one of the best guards in basketball. Over his last five games he’s averaging 44 P/A. He’s more than capable of getting this spot with points alone. Last four games vs Nuggets he averages 32.5 ppg. If he continues this hot steak (avg 38 ppg) you can feel real comfortable that he can generate 2 assists. (By the way he’s had over 5 assists in those games)
Data Driven by Edghouse. Go to Edghouse.com and sign up using code Kev20 to get 20% off
Miami Heat had a forgettable and quite frankly disappointing offseason. Momentum was not continued from a season that ended being one game away from the NBA Finals. The Heat only managed to resign Dedmon, Haslem, Oladipo (in a great deal) and give Herro a 4 year $130 extension while losing PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris. A summer where so many big names were available such as; Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant, John Wall, Collin Sexton, Malik Monk and so many more names the Heat struck empty on them all.
Some may look at the situation as if big changes were not needed to the roster seeing that they were only one game away from NBA Finals that even included some injuries for the Miami Heat. In a summer when almost every team in the eastern conference managed to improve their roster, the Heat only managed to lose PJ tucker and Markieff Morris while not replacing either set the team back quite a bit. Heat even had some questionable priorities when resigning Dwayne Dedmon during a time that much more productive players in his position signed for similar or even cheaper contracts. It’s understood by real basketball fans the importance of having Udonis Haslem apart of this team, however, Miami Heat going all out to recruit in earlier in free agency instead of putting that time and effort into bringing in new faces was something that made many people feel like Miami Heat felt like they are closer to being champions than they actually are. Not to overlook the good thing(s), Miami Heat was able to bring Oladipo back on two year deal worth $18 million.
After not getting any new additions during free agency the Heat made a decision that they might go on to regret sooner than later. Miami offered Tyler Herro an 4 year $130 extension to the reigning 6th man of the year. Does Tyler Herro deserve this contract? Absolutely! Miami just should not have been the team to give it to him if they have championship aspirations. Miami is in tough spot at this point, paying all three of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Lowry leaves them paying a combined $96 million next season and that is on top of having Duncan Robinson’s contract that has him earning nearly $17 million. If the truth is not being sugar coated, Miami Heat cannot afford to pay Duncan Robinson, Lowry and Herro that much and expect to be the last team standing. Do not get it wrong, those are three very good players and can contribute to a championship team but the amount of liabilities you have with those three on the court at the same time is too big of a burden for the Heat to overcome, and if you are not playing one of those players at the end or at all then you essentially wasted your money. Lowry still has flashes of being the allstar point guard that helped the Raptors secure their first franchise championship, however, his durability is unpredictable and quite frankly his consistency while on the court has not been up to par. Again, Kyle Lowry is a great player but as a point guard it does not seem like he elevates Bam’s game enough. A big factor is because he is not a huge threat in a pick & roll set as the ball handler and the P&R is where Bam thrives. In no way are Duncan, Kyle and Herro the players solely to blame for the Heat not being championship caliber.
Bam Adebayo is one of the more skilled players in the league, this is a 6’9 center/forward that occasionally brings the ball down for the Miami Heat and has the skillset to play either roles in a pick and roll set. Bam has increased his scoring average every year since coming into the league, however, his mentality on offense is not where the Heat needs it to be. Bam needs to consistently look to be an offensive force for the Miami Heat because an aggressive Bam is when the Heat are most dangerous. The Heat need a way to get Bam in the PF position more. He’s exerting too much energy on these bigger players defensively and does not have enough to be a consistent reliable offensive player on these bigger players. But in order to do this, Bam has to find a consistent jumper to maintain spacing for Jimmy Butler and teammates. In a perfect world Miami Heat would acquire Myles Turner, Richaun Holmes, Drummond, or Jakob Poeltl to start along center of Bam. However, If the Miami Heat are not willing to trade for a big then NBA free agents have some big time names available that could be essential role players for many teams. However, one thing Miami Heat does better than any team in the league is scouting and developing players they decide to roll the dice. With that being said, 6’11 rookie Nikola Jovic and 7’0 2nd year player Omer Yurtseven are two extremely talented bigs that have both shown the mobility, skill and mindset to find spot on the Miami Heat. In recent years the Heat’s achilles heel was their lack of size alongside occasional scoring problems.
Dejounte Murray, Collin Sexton, Monte Morris, John Wall, are a few guard names that were available this summer that Miami did not land but could really have benefited from acquiring. Between Lowry, Herro and Robinson the Miami Heat can truly afford to only keep one or two of their contracts if they want to add the missing pieces to win that championship they have been so close to in recent years. Miami Heat seem to pride themselves on being a loyal franchise and bringing back returning faces to figure it out together and get over the hump. However, I do not believe that is a reasonable option here. Miami Heat’s championship window is still open and if they truly want to bring a championship to South Beach, it is time for them for some big roster moves & for Bam to take the next step.
Below is a realistic list 50 players the Miami Heat should target via trade or consider bringing in from FA to address their size, scoring and/or star power issues.
Gary Trent Jr.
Marcus Morris Sr.
Derrick Jones Jr
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Tim Hardaway JR
* Miami Heat should keep an eye out for Jamal Murray, Kyrie Irving, Zach Lavine or Siakam becoming available
While it may come off as a bold prediction, but if any player can make a bold prediction come true then Dame is the guy. Blazers did not have the best offseason but certainly added some pieces that will fit in well with Dame; Jerami Grant, Drew Eubanks, Josh Hart, Gary Payton ll, Justise Winslow and rookie wildcard Shaedon Sharpe are amongst those names along with familiar faces like Jusef Nurkic, Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons who is on the rise to the level of an all-star level player. This blazers team has 3&D players that will create great floor spacing for Dame to work but are also the same players that can slash to the basket to finish strong at the rim. If the Blazers are serious about improving and being a contender I expect them to make a trade or hit free agency pool to add more key pieces. I expect Dame Lillard to have some rust to knock off and when he does knock that rust off, the league will be in trouble. Dame will be returning with a vengeance and will lead the Blazers to the playoffs while locking in his first MVP.
Luka & Embiid are two others that should be heavy favorites for MVP. Embiid who many feel who should have won MVP last year could right that wrong this year by securing MVP. However, Luka is the player I feel the league wants to win the most while Giannis name will always be in the mix and KD’s play will force the league to consider him as an MVP candidate.
DPOY: Bam Adebayo
Someone who should already have an DPOY award under their belt, Adebayo who is one of the very few players who can sit down and legitimately guard 1-5 . Bam has the defensive consistency, athleticism, versatility and IQ needed for a player who has a DPOY award on their career checklist. With the Heat losing Markieff Morris and PJ Tucker, Bam will have to take on an even bigger role on the defensive end which essentially will lead to him finally conquering DPOY award.
Other top DPOY contenders to watch out for are Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons. However, you are guaranteed to hear Giannis & Gobert’s name in the mix every year.
Most Improved Player: PJ Washington
Truthfully, I don’t believe PJ Washington will win it but I think he will be the player most deserving. The NBA has weirdly been giving the MIP to players like Ja Morant who had all-star like numbers the season before, however I think PJ Washington will be the “should have won” player. With the unfortunate loss of Miles Brides who was coming off a breakout season, Hornets will be looking to replace the production of Bridges and the player to do that will be PJ Washington. Washington career thus far could have been perceived as underwhelming, however that is not a result of lack of talent and PJ will have the perfect opportunity to prove that this year.
Two other players that I have just as likely to win MIP for the year are Anfernee Simons & Keldon Johnson. With the departure of Dejounte Murray and CJ McCollum, Simons and Keldon Johnson have shown more than ready to fulfill those allstar level roles. These two players rank amongst the highest in my list of young studs waiting to blossom at any point.
Rookie of the Year: Jaden Ivey
While their are a ton of players in this rookie class that could be the one to take home the ROY award, the name that sicks out is Jaden Ivey. Jaden Ivey finished his impressive NBA debt with 19 Points, 3 Rebounds, 4 Assists and 3 Steals. Ivey’s outstanding scoring ability could be a huge factor in his ROY chances after Detroit parted ways with Jerami Grant this offseason. Pistons could arguably be the team with the most young talent, therefore it could be become a usage rate problem for Ivey compared to other ROY contenders which could lessen his chances to win ROY. However, the vast amount of young talent could also work in Ivey’s favor helping him secure ROY on an improved Pistons roster. I would not be surprised if another stud rookie took home ROY, but nor should fans be surprised for Ivey to secure that award.
Keegan Murray, Benedict Mathurin, Banchero, and Jabari Smith are the other rookie names I expect to hear in the conversation at the end of the year during the tight race for ROY.
Shaedon Sharpe will be a standout rookie that will really solidify his spot in the league but still will not be considered for ROY.
Coach of The Year: Ty Lue
Ty Lue has consistently been one of the best coaches throughout the league in his first 6 season as head coach with a record of 209–140. No matter what roster Ty Lue has been presented with, he has overachieved. Coach of the Year has much to do with the success of your team and on paper no team has a better roster than the LA Clippers. If Paul George & Kawhi, John Wall can stay healthy, it is difficult to imagine Ty Lue will not coach his team to a top three seed.
However, if Miami Heat can figure out a way to be a top 3 seed with their constructed roster then we may see Erik Spolestra secure his long overdue COY award but it may also be an unexpected new face to win this award. Joe Mazzulla, Interim head coach of the Boston Celtics was thrown in the water after the unfortunate situation with Ime Udoka which resulted in him being suspended for the year. The Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led Boston Celtics have an opportunity to be a special team after bringing everyone back while having additions of Malcolm Brogdon, Blake Griffin and Derrick White.
6MOY: Christian Wood
With the uncertainty if reigning 6MOTY, Tyler Herro will remain coming off the bench after expressing his urge to start then I expect Christian Wood to take home this award. Christian Wood is easily a starter on almost any team in the league, however, his new team Dallas Mavericks decided to bring Wood off the bench which seems questionable initially but also makes sense. Wood ended his Dallas Mavericks debut with a stat line of 25 points & 8 rebounds off the bench in 23 minutes of play. While being the 6th man, Wood will likely be getting starter minutes and ending most if not every game on the floor. Wood playing alongside an MVP Caliber player such as Luka Donic will be a dangerous combination league wide and will assistance Wood in securing 6MOTY
Two other heavy favorites to win this award: Malcolm Brogdon, and Jordan Poole who seems like the fan/media favorite at this point.
Most Improved Team: LA Clippers
From top to bottom, LA Clippers undoubtedly have the most stacked roster in the league which is why I have them as most improved team and also my championship favorites. Yeah, Clippers were without the duo Paul George and Kawhi but even if they were healthy I do not think they would have taken home the championship last year. Bringing their whole rotation back from the past two years while adding the late additions of Norman Powell, Robert Covington before last season’s trade deadline already have the Clippers as favorites coming into this year. However, acquiring John Wall who is coming off a year of healthy rest and who is willing to split the minutes with Reggie Jackson if that means results in winning was the icing on the cake for me. Another move that I think the Clippers will eventually be praised for is the pickup of 7’0 Center Moses Brown as a rotational player who has shown glimpses of his high potential. If anybody can handle having a roster this stacked, I believe Ty Lue can and all these are why the Clippers will be the most improved team and championship winners at the year’s end. Including even the years of Lob City, this is the best roster the LA Clippers have ever had and anything less than a winning a championship this season should be viewed as a huge disappointment.
However, it is expected for the Pelicans to make a major jump in improvement from recent past years. After acquiring CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr from Portland via trade and the emergence of two-way role player Herb Jones and lead by Brandon Ingram the Pelicans showed they were on the verge of taking that next step. The excitement for these young team grew as Zion Williamson returned for the Pelicans opener and finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists in a win over the Brooklyn Nets. If CJ, Zion and Brandon Ingram and double-double machine Jonas Valanciunas can stay healthy while continuing to improve role players like Herb Jones, Devonte Graham, Larry Nance, and Trey Murphy lll then the Pelicans will be a dangerous opponent league-wide
Other teams I have for most improved: Timberwolves, Cavs and Kings
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.