Tokyo’s Final Road To Gold

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.

Winner: Australia

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.

Winner: USA

Top 10 Players in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics

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)
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Nigeria
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • USA

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.

THE NEW ALLSTAR WEEKEND EVENT?

Every year we see NBA free agency filled with talents that have us wondering, “how is he not signed” and wondering why our favorite teams are not filling these voids. I think I figured out the solution to this problem.

During All-star weekend the NBA should have a game that features the top available free agents and there are two ways this could happen or free agents that drew the most interest from the NBA Teams

-3 Game Tournament. 4 Teams of 10. Team A Vs Team B, Team C Vs Team D and those winners play one another. You get to see 40 players between those two teams & 8 coaches between the teams. 

OR

2 Teams of 12-13 Players

Benefits of this addition?

-NBA gets the other event they have been looking to add to All Star Weekend which will add more revenue to the weekend.

  • NBA gets the other event they have been looking to add to All-Star Weekend, which will add more revenue to the weekend.
  • Fans get a competitive meaning event to enjoy to begin All-Star Weekend
  • Teams get to checkout players that could potentially fill gaps and improve their team post All-Star weekend.
  • We have these players working their tails off during the summer waiting for their opportunity; they do not truly have a platform to showcase their improvements.
  • As of now, the most exciting event we have is the 3PT contest with the dunk contest constantly becoming a hit or miss, I feel that this will bring the viewers back while drawing new viewers to check out this event.

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.

Kev’s 2020 NBA Mock Draft

The Draft Lottery was surprising, for one it was done virtually and secondly, we seen two teams rise up — the Charlotte Hornets (picking 3rd) and the Chicago Bulls (picking 4th) and of course watching the Knick fans be disappointed yet again (falling from 6th to 8th). It’s weird that the first mock draft is in August but Covid-19 had other plans. See where these young tantalizing prospects are headed in the Prophet Mock Draft ⬇️

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA.com

SG – Anthony Edwards, UGA

Edwards is the perfect fit for the T’wolves. With KAT and DLo, a tough-nosed player would help them toward making the playoffs. At 6’5 225 he already has a man body at such a young age. This trio could grow together and make some noise in a tough Western Conference.

2. Golden State Warriors

New York Times

C – James Wiseman, Memphis

Wiseman had to be dismissed from school but that won’t dismiss him from being a top pick. Warriors have duct tape the Center position with the likes of Mcgee and Chriss, imagine if they can get an elite Paint Patroller. He’ll get easy baskets in this system as he continues to work on his game.

3. Charlotte Hornets

USAToday.com

PG – Lamelo Ball, Australia

The Last Ball brother is here, LaMelo. We watched him grow up before our eyes and I believe he’s ready to take the league by storm. At 6’8 he can score from anywhere. The move to Australia was the best thing for him and it allowed him to mature. We seen the OKC Thunder pull off a 3 Guard set and be successful. Ball-Graham-Rozier could give teams hell.

4. Chicago Bulls

The Jerusalem Post

SF – Deni Avdija, Israel

THE player in the draft — Yes Deni is my #1 player on the board. I believe the top 3 teams could regret passing on the Israel Star just like teams did with Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Deni is an all around talented wing with great size, elite versatility and he can play from shooting guard to power forward. The Bulls luck up here to put him along side scoring machine Zach Lavine and Finland Star Lauri Markkanen.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Athletic

SG/SF – Devin Vassell, FSU

Too much in the front court to get a big like Toppin or Big O and they spent high draft capital on the backcourt the last few drafts (Sexton in 2018, Garland in 2019). A defensive wing is necessary— enters Vassell. A 2-way player that can help the Cavs in so many ways. At 6’7 he has the length to be your prototypical ‘3 and D’ and can relieve some pressure of the backcourt of the Cavs.

6. Atlanta Hawks

RealG

SF – Isaac Okoro, Auburn

I love Okoro’s game, he also preaches versatility and he fits the prototype of an NBA small forward. Being 6’6 220 lb. with great athletic ability, the sky is the limit. For the Hawks, they didn’t get the wing spot right last year. Okoro has the ability to be 2-Way and can even help a small ball role by sliding Hunter to the 4. Hawks need to hit and not waste Trae Young’s talent.

7. Detroit Pistons

Sir Charles in Charge

PG – Killian Hayes, France

Rebuild is key for Detroit. Killian Hayes could be the best PG in the class while being able to play either guard position. Has great IQ and I believe he has the tools to run a NBA high powered offense. Derrick Rose is the starting PG but not only can Killian learn from him but they can play together seamlessly.

8. New York Knicks

Soaring Down South

PG – Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

Narrow frame but he’s fierce. The Knicks will continue to draft a Point Guard until they get it right. Tyrese is a 6’5 long-armed PG with a great assists to turnover ratio. I know they have plenty of guards but the jig is up for Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina.

9. Washington Wizards

Factory of Sadness

PF/C Obi Toppin Dayton

The National Player of they Year has found himself in a good situation. Bradley Beal and John Wall throwing you alley-oops? The Wizards would allow Obi to play his natural position at the 4. Yea he can be a tweener but in a positionless NBA, it won’t matter. Can Obi be a 20-10 guy like John Collins? The Eye test says yes.

10. Phoenix Suns

Wreck’Em Red

G – Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech

All I know is defense when I see Ramsey. I wonder if he’s related to Jalen Ramsey because he’s bringing the clamps just like his big cousin. The Texas Tech Freshman is a combo guard that can play either position and has the length to play small ball 3. Any chance I can help Devin Booker I will. Yea he can play defense, but the offense is just as impressive, he shot 43% from 3pt last season, he’ll look to improve.

11. San Antiono Spurs

Los Angeles Times

C – Onyeka ‘Big O’ Okongwu, USC

Big O, the 2nd Chino Hill Star in the Draft. The Spurs have a lot of guards right now and Jakob Poeltl may be something but Onyeka can be a elite rim protector right now. He’s slightly undersize but plays big like John Collins and Montrez Harrell. These young guards like Murray and White would love to have him as the defensive anchor and the Spurs organization should feel the same.

12. Sacramento Kings

Nova Athletics

F – Saddiq Bey, Villanova

Not going to lie, Saddiq Bey is my favorite player in this class. He can do it all, a Jack of all trades, the only thing is, he doesn’t do anything at an elite level, but that’s alright. For the Kings, getting a front court scorer who can play both positions will help out Bagley, Fox, Buddy and Boggie. His high energy can maybe upstart and propel Kings to the next level.

13. New Orleans Pelicans

Tennessean.com

SG/SF Aaron Nesmith Vanderbilt

Pelicans will lose wing players in free agency. They can make it easy on themselves if they surround the star players with shooters. Nesmith was one of the best in the country. I mean 52% from 3pt is unheard of. Maybe we can’t expect that but shooters like Nesmith will always be valued and always find a home.

14. Boston Celtics

Duke Athletics

C – Vernon Carey, Duke

REBOUNDING AND SIZE!!! Come on Boston it’s finally time, that’s been the weakness for years. For Carey, he’s just the opposite of weak. With his strength for both ends of the floor, he can also put the ball in the basket. 6’10 270 says it all. Come on Boston, beef up the front line for once.

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.

The Championship Theory

Without a doubt the Summer of 2019 will go down as the most epic in NBA history. Over $3 Billion dollars was doled out to players within the first 24 hours of free agency. Superstars such as Kevin Durant changed coast going from Golden State to Brooklyn, Jimmy Butler was signed and traded to South Beach and later in the week like a thief in the night Kawhi returned to the United States by signing with the Clippers.

And that wasn’t all, Paul George was traded from OKC to join Kawhi in LA which lead to Russell Westbrook being dealt to Houston to team up with his good friend James Harden. These moves along with countless others now have everyone wondering who will win the NBA Championship this upcoming season. For the first time in nearly a decade the NBA season doesn’t feel like a foregone conclusion. But maybe it is! After analyzing each team, their off-season moves, and using my 2 key indicators (the age of your superstar and the position he plays) I feel we can accurately predict the next champion.

When it comes to building a championship team I firmly believe that “Wings win you Rings”. More times than not the key cog that fuels a championship run will be a player listed as Small Forward (SF) or Shooting Guard (SG) and ranges from about 6 feet 5 inches tall to 6 feet 9 inches tall. Jalen Rose is famous for noting that “positions were created so that a novice can follow the game” but history has shown us that with the exceptions being Isiah Thomas and Steph Curry point guards/small guards do not lead to championships (Sorry Dame).

Yes, Magic Johnson was listed as a Point Guard and won championships but let’s note that he’s 6’9 and he walked into the perfect situation playing alongside Kareem. So Magic does fit into the wing category. It is also worth pointing out that great big men don’t win titles without an elite wing alongside them. But 2 great wing players (Mike and Scottie, LeBron and Wade) can win together.

Now let’s talk age. The most consistent themes are ages 22, 23, 27 and 32

At age 22 Shaq, Tim Duncan, LeBron and Kawhi all made their first NBA Finals. Duncan (1999) and Kawhi (2014) were victorious capturing Finals MVP while Shaq in 1995 and LeBron in 2007 were swept. 

At age 23 Kareem (1971), Hakeem (1983), Dwight Howard (2009) and Kevin Durant (2012) made their first NBA Finals. 

At age 27 Michael Jordan, LeBron, Shaq, and Isiah Thomas all captured their first NBA titles. Kawhi Leonard and Larry Bird won their 2nd ring and were selected as Finals MVP. Clyde Drexler made his first of 3 NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki also made his first Finals appearance at age 27.

At age 32 the aforementioned Clyde Drexler won his first title playing alongside Hakeem who the previous year won his first title at 32. Dirk also makes this category for defeating the highly touted Heatles in their first year together winning his first championship. Championship glory eluded Kareem for 9 years until he won again at this age.

Let’s compare this with the odds makers favorites for this season – Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Sixers and Rockets. 

LeBron will turn 35 this season. He’s playing like he’s still in his prime years but how long can he hold up. His running mate Anthony Davis will be 26 this year which coincidentally is the same age Steph Curry won his 1st title and Duncan won his 2nd title. This bodes well for the Lakers titles hopes. However, with King James’ mileage it’s possible he begins to wear down as the season goes on. 

Harden will turn 30 and Westbrook 31. I like these 2 players, they are box office but at their age, defense not being their greatest attribute and no dominant big to lean on I can’t see them winning the title. 

The Bucks have Giannis who is continuing to ascend. He’ll be 25, he’s still getting better and is arguably the best player in the East. It has been proven having the best player in the Eastern Conference can get you to the Finals. But with no costar also in his prime I think the Bucks fall to this next team.

The Sixers have Embiid and Ben Simmons who will be 25 and 23. These guys are entering their primes. With an expected ascension in their games, being motivated from how the playoffs ended for them and entering that age window where players start to win I expect the Sixers to be in the 2019-2020 NBA Finals. But who will they face….

Kawhi Leonard will be 28 and Paul George 29 respectively. Both guys have dealt with injuries throughout their careers but these ages are typically considered athletes “prime years”. Championship winners usually consist of 2 guys in their primes. Again think MJ and Scottie or LeBron and D-Wade 2012. PG and Kawhi are elite 2 way wings both coming off career years. These guys check both boxes of playing the right position and prime age. Don’t be surprised if the Clippers take home their first Larry O’Brien trophy. 

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.