2017-18 Rookie of the Year Preview

Last seasons rookie class took a big hit with Ben Simmons missing the entire season and Joel Embiid getting hurt about halfway through the season. It was definitely one of the least exciting Rookie of the Year votes in recent memory, but this season is going to be much different. I mean, when Malcolm Brogdon (who I love) wins the award and Buddy Hield finishes fourth, after basically not existing in New Orleans until the All-Star break, behind Joel Embiid, who literally missed half of the season, it’s a bad year. But we move forward. The top 5 this year is a great class and should make this a great race as long as everyone stays healthy.

1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia Sixers

Last seasons expected winner of the award is expected to be back with a force this season, and he’s got some talent around him. Embiid proved what he could be last season in his limited time, and if he stays healthy, will help Simmons and fellow rookie Markelle Fultz bring the Sixers back to prominence. I will go ahead and say, Fultz isn’t on the list. If anyone wins it from the Sixers, I believe it will be Simmons, and I think there’s a chance that if both perform well, they’ll split some votes anyway. Either way, it’s clear the Sixers were smart to Trust the Process.

2. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks

A lot of the ROY award is attributed to who gets opportunities. Simmons and Fultz are going to start, and the same can be said about most of the players on the list. Smith Jr. is in that category. Yogi Ferrel was a fun experiment, but DSJ is the future and if he can embrace coach Rick Carlisle’s system, he could become a force quickly in the league. He has better talent around him than they do in Philadelphia and if he plays his cards right, he could be going on stage to receive the award in June.

3. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

The last starter that I believe has a real chance at winning the award, Ball displayed his potential in Summer League. I would expect to see similar stat lines in the season (low scoring triple doubles and double doubles) and if the Baby Lakers make a bit of a jump, expect to Lonzo in the conversation at the very least.

4. Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets

Monk is not a starter this year, and barring injury, which isn’t unlikely given Michael Kidd-Gilcrest’s history, won’t crack the starting lineup. However, he is a dangerous offensive player and could earn a lot of minutes coming off the bench. If he can light people up on the second unit and work his way into 20-ish minutes a night, Monk could jump into the conversation.

5. Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns

The way I see it, there’s a slim chance Jackson wins the award. But it’s a chance. He’ll have to come in playing lockdown defense on the perimeter, stabilizing the Suns defensive efforts. In addition, he’s going to have to be an aggressive scorer in an offense surrounded by talented scorers and prove that he has put in the work in the offseason on that end. He doesn’t necessarily need to be draining three’s and knocking down mid range jumpers, but he does have to show glimpses of at least becoming, one day, a version of DeMar DeRozen. But it is a long shot to be sure.

2017-18 NBA Most Improved Player Preview

One of the most unpredictable awards is also my second favorite (behind Rookie of the Year). I love this award because there is nothing better than a player making the leap from good to great and making himself someone to be taken seriously. Or maybe he just got more minutes this season. Either way. Regardless, I am really intrigued by all five players on my list and think they could all be making a jump this season.

1. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Ingram is so raw that there is a lot of room to grow for him. That helps. What else helps is having someone with the vision and pass-first mentality of Lonzo Ball as your new point guard. The Baby Lakers are going to be a lot of fun to watch and they could even win a handful of games if the young guys gel around Brook Lopez. What might be crazier is I have three players from last years Lakers on my list.

2. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Jaylen was raw last year as well, but come the playoffs, he showed flashes of his potential on defense in particular. He has the defensive potential to be one of those few players that could bother Lebron (although by the time Brown gets to that point, James won’t be peak Lebron anymore). I think the Celtics best move is to start Brown this season, so I think the combination of additional minutes plus more development could launch Jaylen to the MIP award.

3. D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

(Former) Laker #2. I love Russell’s potential and given his fresh start in Brooklyn, I’d like to see the Nets turn the keys over to him and let him fly. The Lakers weren’t big on Russell as everyone knows by now, and it was obvious that they weren’t letting him reach his full potential. I still expect big things from D’Angelo.

4. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers

And Laker #3. Normally this is an award directed toward younger (yes I know Randle is only 22) players, mostly second year players. But I’ve been hearing that Randle has put in crazy work this offseason and could be a monster this year. I really hope so. Randle seems like one of the genuinely great people in the league and I’d love to see him make that leap into a real force at the 4.

5. DeAndre Bembry, Atlanta Hawks

Bembry was turning some heads last season, before the Hawks lost Tim Hardaway Jr., Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard and went into full rebuild mode. He won’t start, but the Summer League standout will earn significantly more minutes this season and if he continues to impress, could sneak away with the award.

2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year Preview

Similar to the Most Improved Player award, there are two different methods for how coaches win the award. Either they are the coach of a good team that exceeds a bit and maybe plays its way into a seed or two higher in the playoffs, or they go from having a bad or mediocre team to surprising people and either making the playoffs or ending up in the top four of their conference. Fittingly, there’s a mix of both on the list this year, although the coaches with better teams usually have a better chance of winning. With that said…

1. Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

For years, Boston has been playing above its head, which most attribute to coach Brad Stevens. Now, Stevens has some real talent. The acquisition of Gordon Hayward was huge obviously, and with the trade completed for Kyrie Irving, the Celtics will be extremely formidable on the offensive side of the ball. They can take a real shot at throwing Cleveland off the throne and establish themselves going forward as the team to worry about in the East.

2. Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets

If Houston was coming back with the same team as last year, D’Antoni wouldn’t have made the list. He’s done a great job with the Rockets, but coaches never win the award twice in a row. No seriously, it hasn’t happened. However, if anyone has a chance at it, it might be D’Antoni. The Rockets added Chris Paul for basically nothing this summer, and they could challenge Golden State for the wins record in the regular season. Golden State could rest more this season and not worry about giving up home court to Houston. I think if Houston finishes the regular season with the best record in the NBA, D’Antoni could be the first back to back winner of the award.

3. Brett Brown, Philadelphia Sixers

If the Sixers stay healthy this season, they will probably make the playoffs. If they make the playoffs, even with a middling record, Brown will be getting a lot of love from the media for the job he’s done there. Whether you want to give him the credit for having 98 top 3 picks in the last few seasons is debatable, but the Process will finally be paying some dividends for the fans in Philly.

4. Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

Here is your alternative to the scenario with the Houston Rockets. Golden State could come out on fire, ready to make a run at back-to-back championships, and light everyone up. I’ll keep this short and sweet. If the Warriors set the record (again) for wins in a season, Kerr stands a good chance at winning the award.

5. Jason Kidd, Milwaukee Bucks

I might as well have put Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name instead of Jason Kidd’s. Kidd is a fine coach, but the only reason he has a chance at this award is because of the Greek Freak. If the team makes a leap this season, playing it’s way into a 3rd or 4th seed in the East, Kidd could potentially win the award. It’s not likely but stranger things have happened. (Mike Brown and Byron Scott have Coach of the Year awards in the last ten years)

2017-18 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Preview

There are a lot of factors when determining the Defensive Player of the Year and not all of them totally make sense. Like rebounding. I’m not saying big men shouldn’t be included in the award, but if all you can do is block shots and rebound, that doesn’t necessarily make you a plus defender (see: Hassan Whiteside). But these things factor in regardless, so it’s not really up to me. If I were in charge of the voting process, I would weigh things like deflections, steals, blocks and versatility over other factors, but here we are. So looking at this seasons DPOY candidates, you’ll see more versatile defenders, as well as a big men.

1. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Yes, it’s boring to pick the same players for the awards every year. But Draymond is the glue in Golden State and before Kevin Durant got into town, I believe he was was the best player on the Warriors overall. He can guard any position, has active hands in passing lanes and is a great communicator. Green could have won this award six times in a row and I would still be arguing he should win it this season.

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi was (obviously) asked to do more on the offensive end for the Spurs last year and that led to a drop in his advanced defensive statistics. His usage rate went up by more than 5 percentage points but he lost almost a full defensive win share, as well as his steal and block percentages lowering. I say all this to say that Kawhi is still an elite level defender, but he may be sacrificing his defensive numbers and awards for MVP’s and championships. Not a bad trade off if you ask me.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Allow me to go stat nerd for a minute. Giannis finished last season seventh in block percentage, sixteenth in defensive rating, ninth in defensive win shares and fourth in defensive box plus/minus. All that while being just outside the top 20 in usage rate. Why does that matter? The only players above him in usage while also being consistently listed in the top 20 of those other categories are Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. That’s it. Thats next level shit. As I said in my MVP preview, Giannis is headed for superstardom, and the DPOY could be his bridge to that.

4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

As noted above, Westbrook is an extremely underrated defender. The production he puts out on the offensive end combined with his defensive metrics lead me to confirm what most people have been saying for awhile. He is a cyborg, sent here to determine how many minutes and how much effort can be exerted by an NBA player before people get truly suspicious. We aren’t there yet though, because as far as I know, they haven’t started testing him for these things.

5. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Ah yes, our resident block and rebound specialist. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gobert. But I can’t unsee Steph Curry putting him into a literal washer and turning the spin cycle on high. I mean Rudy literally looks like he was dancing or on ice skates. Or both. I digress…

That play doesn’t stop Gobert from being the best shot blocker in the league and an amazing rebounder. With Gordon Hayward moving on to Boston, look for Gobert to take the definitive leader role and try to take Utah back to the playoffs.

REVISITED: Why the Cavs-Celtics Trade is STILL Perfect

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics completed, somehow, the craziest trade of the offseason tonight. The Cavaliers are sending Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, and a 2020 2nd-round pick.

When the Irving stuff first started getting leaked, I saw a tweet from FS1’s Jason McIntyre basically laying out this trade, but with Guerschon Yabusele instead of Zizic. I loved the idea then, so to see it play out is really interesting. Here’s why both teams won this trade.

Cleveland won the trade because…

Kyrie was unhappy, wasn’t going to resign with Cleveland in two years, and was going to make the whole season super awkward for everyone. The Cavs needed to dump him, and they needed to maximize what they were going to get for him. I believe they did that. Thomas is injured, and unlikely to resign with them, but he isn’t the key to this deal. Crowder is on one of the best contracts in the league and the Celtics really liked Zizic as a role player, possibly as a replacement for Al Horford as he ages. But the real prize is the Brooklyn pick. Even with the Nets looking much more competent for this upcoming season, they will still probably yield a top seven pick, and this years draft is extremely talented up top. If the Cavs can turn an unhappy Kyrie into Zizic, a vet in Crowder to put around Kevin Love, and can get a guy like Luka Doncic in the draft, they will set themselves up for the future. This is a big deal because it’s clear by this move that the Cavaliers believe Lebron James is going to Los Angeles after this year. Even the 2020 pick could prove valuable in a rebuild. Best case scenario, James is happy Irving is gone and decides he wants to stay. Worst case scenario, he leaves and you’ve got a young core that you can start to rebuild around.

Boston won the trade because…

The best player in the trade ended up on Boston’s roster. Plain and simple. Boston is signaling that they’re gunning for the Finals this season, and it’s broken that terrible cycle they were in of gathering assets AND trying to contend. They finally decided to be aggressive, and it will pay off for them, even if they don’t resign Irving. Also, they clear up some of the logjam at the wing spots by dumping Crowder, even if it meant losing his contract. We still aren’t sure if he and Gordon Hayward were going to gel anyway.

Ultimately, both teams did well given the circumstances, and this trade helps the league by stealing the spotlight right before we head into football season.

2017-18 NBA MVP Preview

After Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double last season, this MVP race may seem tame in comparison, but I think we’re in for a changing-of-the-guard season from the superstars in the league. The Lebron-era stars are starting their turn toward the end of the their careers and there is some serious talent coming up from the younger players. I think there will be a lot of familiar faces this season, but we’ll start to see some of the younger players sneaking into the conversation. Also, I think given the controversy, if you want to call it that, surrounding last years vote, and with the addition of Paul George to the team, Russell Westbrook has almost no shot at winning the award this year. He’s not on my list. So without further ado…

1. James Harden, Houston Rockets

The runner-up to last seasons award is coming for blood. Or as much blood as someone who scored 10 points, had 7 assists and 6 turnovers in an elimination game in the playoffs can go for. Despite that, Harden is the best player on a team that should at least challenge the Warriors for the best record in the league, and that’s saying something. He got decently close to a triple double average himself last season, and with Chris Paul able to feed him more and Harden trying to run the offense full-time, he should get plenty of opportunities to score in bunches. Harden is my pre-season favorite to win the award next season.

2. Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

I get it. He’s 32, going on 33 this season, with a lot of miles on his body that not even an Instagram video can prepare you for. He’s feuding (or not) with Kyrie Irving and his camp, he’s probably already got eyes for Los Angeles, etc.

But the thing to always remember with Lebron is, he is the best player to ever play the game, and when he gets irritated, he can prove any point he wants on the court. He’s already thinking about Los Angeles? I’d argue he’s gunning for one final “fuck you” to Dan Gilbert on his way out. He’s going to be 33 this season? He’s also an alien and a player with the durability and stamina of which we’ve NEVER seen in the NBA.

So keep talking all that shit about Lebron being on the downside of his career. He’ll prove you wrong.

3. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Durant showed what he was capable of in the postseason for the Warriors. I don’t care if he doesn’t like the Slim Reaper nickname, it is the most accurate name for him. He went full Reaper to close the Cavaliers out in the finals and he should continue to dominate as he hits the prime of his prime. The MVP award isn’t just about composite numbers necessarily, it’s also about the flair, the swagger you bring to the table and if playoff KD shows up for the regular season, it’s a wrap.

4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Listen. Kawhi is 26 years old. He’s only played 6 NBA seasons. We haven’t even started peak Kawhi yet. This is ridiculous. Leonard is the glue holding San Antonio together after Tim Duncan retired two years ago, and he will need to make an even further leap (mostly offensively) if he wants to challenge the Warriors. I think Rudy Gay is going to be a difference maker for the Spurs, but if they want to challenge the Warriors out West, not only will LaMarcus Aldridge need to pull his head out of his ass, but Kawhi will have to go to an otherworldly level.

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

I’ve been on the Greek Freak bandwagon almost since he came into the league, so this isn’t a totally unbiased selection, but this offseason, most of the talk around the 22 year old hasn’t been about IF he would win an MVP, but how MANY MVP’s he would win. Giannis is one of the NBA unicorns, and while I don’t think he will win it this season, if he starts hitting his jumper and the Bucks make a surprise run to the top of the Eastern Conference, he could bring home the hardware.

Washington Wizards 2017-18 Offseason and Preview

Offseason Signings

Signed: Jodie Meeks, Mike Scott, Donald Sloan

Resigned: Otto Porter Jr.

Received in Trade: Tim Frazier

Offseason Losses

Free Agents: Bojan Bogdanovic, Trey Burke, Brandon Jennings

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. John Wall
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Otto Porter Jr.
  4. Markieff Morris
  5. Marcin Gortat

Updated: 8/20/17