The NBA is back! Which means we’re allowed to judge basketball players on whether we think they’re good or not.
As we sit on our couches and allow ourselves to get distracted, we will hopefully find a way to come together.
Sports have a funny way of bringing people together. We’ll argue and debate about things that are all opinion based and basically don’t mean anything.
And honestly, that’s the best part. So let’s start judging.
With 22 teams making the bubble, we know they can’t all be winners. In fact, if this was the “regular” regular season, we would have probably written off half of these teams anyway.
So let’s rank them!
22. Washington Wizards
There is no Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, and of course John Wall. Why is this team here?
No disrespect Ish Smith and Thomas Bryant, but I’ll just say Good Luck. Hope you guys have fun!
21. Phoenix Suns
They’re 6 games back with only 8 games to play. They need 4 teams ahead of them to end up with a worse winning percentage than them. And they’d have to to be within 4 games of the 8 seed. And then they’d have to beat that 8 seed twice to get into the playoffs just to play the Lakers.
But at least there’s a chance...
20. Brooklyn Nets
This team could’ve had a chance to get to the Finals had they been healthy. Fully healthy. We all knew that next season was going to be their real chance.
But they still have Caris LeVert who now has some dope braids, and they signed the timeless Jamal Crawford. So at least we’ll have something to watch.
19. San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge is not in the bubble because of the shoulder surgery he went through recently. So it’ll be on the rest of the young roster to step up in his place.
It’ll definitely be interesting to see how much guys like Dejounte Murray, Drew Eubanks, Bryn Forbes, Jakob Poetl, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV have worked on their game. This will be a good chance for them to get ready for next season.
18. Sacramento Kings
They are healthy. They have youth. They are ready. However, they still have Luke Walton.
I have no doubt that the trio of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic will be ready to prove their worth. They have some talent sprinkled throughout the roster that could make them the surprise team to make a run at the play-in tournament.
As long as they can stay healthy and don’t leave the bubble *cough Richaun Holmes cough* they should be fun to watch.
17. Orlando Magic
Watching their highlights from the season, they actually had a very productive year. This team is now going to be in the playoffs for the second year in a row, which is no small feat for a very young team in a small market.
But now they have the chance to play at home, sorta. The development of Markelle Fultz has been very up and down, but the highs have been incredible. It’ll be interesting to see if the absence of fans helps him with his nervousness.
They’ll be in the playoffs barring some miracle with the Wizards or Nets.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant is the rookie of the year, let’s end that discussion right now. He has brought life back to the franchise and has given them a chance to make the playoffs in his first season.
They we’re hoping to have Justice Winslow help out their young core, but an injury in bubble practice will prevent that from happening. This team has a bright future, but I could easily see a couple scenarios where they drop out of that 8 seed and lose it in a play-in tournament.
15. Utah Jazz
This one may come as a surprise as we have them ranked lower than two teams who are currently not in the playoff standings. However, there are way too many outlying factors that have made us lose complete faith in this team for this season.
The relationship between Rudy Gobert and his teammates may forever be tarnished for selfishness when making fun of a virus that ultimately caused the season to be suspended. It would have happened either way, but it was the way he acted that caused distain in the locker room.
But more importantly, they lost Bojan Bogdanovic for the season due to his wrist surgery. If you look at every big shot they needed this season, he was the one hitting them. He was the second leading scorer on the team with 45% shooting from the field and 41% from three. They’re not replacing that.
14. New Orleans Pelicans
JJ Redick has never missed the playoffs in his 13 year career, and that is in serious jeopardy this year. But their depth of young talent, mixed with their veterans in JJ, Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors gives them a chance to make a run at the play-in tournament.
Brandon Ingram showed the basketball world multiple times this season that he could be very close to a major breakthrough. He made his first All-Star appearance has given him the confidence he needs to become a legitimate superstar.
Oh yeah, and they have Zion Williamson. So that’ll be fun I guess.
13. Portland Trail Blazers
No team has benefited more from the lay-off than them. They are currently in the 9 seed and are within range to play in the play-in tournament. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against Damian Lillard in a 2-game series against a team like the Memphis Grizzlies.
They now have a mostly healthy squad, outside of Rodney Hood. Carmelo Anthony changed his diet and looks in great shape. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic are both back from injuries and seem to be fully healthy.
The return of those guys, mixed with the fact that they just made the Western Conference Finals last year makes it hard to get against them. I believe we will be seeing this team in the 8 seed when the playoffs come.
12. Indiana Pacers
They made a lot of great moves in the offseason that have shown that Nate McMillan’s system works. TJ McConnell, TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, and Malcolm Brogdon have come in and made a huge impact. Especially in the absence of Victor Oladipo.
Damontas Sabonis made his first All-Star appearance, and has been the steady force they’ve needed to keep themselves in the mix among the top teams in the East.
With or without Oladipo, it seems like this team is still just one move away from taking that leap into the elite teams. But they’re definitely close.
11. Dallas Mavericks
They have produced one of the most efficient offenses the game has ever seen. Scoring 116 points per game is good enough for third in the league.
Thanks to the versatility of Luka Dončić, and the shooting ability of Kristaps Porzingis, opposing teams have had a hard time defending them. They are third in the league in turnovers per game and fourth in rebounds per game.
So all of those extra possessions are giving them the opportunity to get more buckets than their opponents. This team could really shock someone in the first round.
10. Miami Heat
This team is very dangerous, which is why they’ve cracked our top ten for the bubble. Jimmy Butler has this team playing at a high level every night. They don’t take any nights off.
Bam Adebayo is likely going to win Most Improved Player, as he made his first ever All-Star appearance. The youth of Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro will give them a competitive edge because you would think these guys would be primed to play at a high level after this layoff.
The moves to get Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder we’re pushed as adding experience, but they may have just traded for the names. They could end up anywhere from getting bounced in round one to making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
9. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic should be seriously considered for first team All-NBA. No center in the NBA can do what he does with his passing ability. He controls the offense from anywhere on the court.
They had a chance last year to make the Western Conference Finals and just got outplayed in a super competitive 7-game series against the Blazers. They’ll need Jamal Murray to make a leap, and quickly.
They have incredible depth, but that depth is very young. We may still be one year away from their big break.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
How about that Chris Paul, huh? People really wanted to write him off, but this season has been quite the opposite. Playing with this new group has revitalized him and has had him playing just as great as we’ve ever seen.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does not play like a 22-year old guard. The kid was the youngest player ever to record a game with 20 points and 20 rebounds.
This group has proven night in and night out that they are one of the best teams in the league. They can play at a high level at both ends of the floor. If we see them play the Clippers or Rockets in the playoffs, be ready for some major revenge games from Chris Paul.
7. Boston Celtics
This team should be higher, but the lingering injury to Kemba Walker should not be taken lightly. It’s one of the major reasons why the Hornets traded him away.
The play from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown has given the Celtics a chance at jumping all the way up to the 2 seed in the East. They both played at an All-Star level, and can give anyone buckets in isolation.
But their lack of size may be their downfall once the game slows down in the playoffs. If they get a rough draw in round one like the Heat or the Sixers, making the Eastern Conference Finals will be a tough task.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
This team had extremely high expectations in the offseason. The dream of them just being bigger than every other team and using that to dominate hadn’t exactly worked out great throughout the regular season. But they were never really fully healthy.
The lay-off has given them the chance to get healthy, and they currently have no injury concerns. They have moved Al Horford to the bench, and have taken some of the pressure off of Ben Simmons to create every play.
If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, this team can make the NBA Finals. But their lack of three-point shooting will continue to be a glaringly obvious flaw.
5. Toronto Raptors
This team overcame every expectation of them. Just about everyone assumed that losing Kawhi Leonard would be a death blow. We thought they’d still make the playoffs, but as a 6 or 7 seed.
Yet here they are, currently in the 2 seed and looking to build off of last seasons championship run. This franchise has found a way to get the best out of their talent for years, and Nick Nurse is in the running for Coach of the Year.
The bubble environment will hurt them in terms of not getting that incredible home court advantage that they would’ve had. It’s vital for them to get that 2 seed so they can create themselves a path to the Eastern Conference Finals once again.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Fourth?! Are you kidding me?! Listen, everything is up in the air right now. None of this is normal. So in this bubble environment, I have them behind what I see as the top three teams in the league. Which all happen to be Western Conference teams.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be the MVP once again. With Kawhi and Lebron both gone, he may finally lead his team to the Finals. They should be the best team in the East, but they still need to prove it.
We see them as the favorites in the East, but in a 7-game series we still see them losing to these next three teams.
3. Houston Rockets
They didn’t quite have the season they thought they were going to have. But that’s what led them to making a major move and doubling down on their style of play. Play fast and shoot threes.
Playing with James Harden has unlocked a different kind of Russel Westbrook. An efficient Westbrook, something we’ve basically never seen. He has played the de facto “center” for their team, and he has flourished.
James Harden has shown time and again that his offensive game is nearly unstoppable, but the playoffs have not been so kind to him. But to be fair, he went up against a pretty unstoppable team in the Warriors a lot. With them gone, we could see a major run from his team.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
How is Lebron James still playing at an MVP level in his 17th season? He leads the league in assists per game with 10.6. That’s just ridiculous.
His ability to stay healthy this season has given them the 1 seed and cleared a way for them to make a deep playoff run, and maybe even another title for the King.
The addition of Anthony Davis has made them one of the best defensive teams in the league. The late addition of guys like JR Smith and Dion Waiters may give time the stand still shooters they’ve been needing to create more versatility on the offensive end.
And while they are one of the favorites to win the title, we are giving a slight edge to the other LA team.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
I have said since before the season started that it is really hard for me to see a situation where Kawhi Leonard is getting beaten in a 7-game series against anyone. What he did last season was one of the greatest runs we have ever seen in postseason history.
He took everything over. And made it look kinda easy. Including one of the greatest game winners we have ever seen.
This Clippers team has not had much time together, as they have battled minor injuries to just about everyone on the team. But they’ve also all used a lot of “Rest days” in preparation for a deep playoff run. Four months of rest should seemingly be enough to make sure they’ll all good now.
The Warriors once had a “Death Lineup” and the Clippers have the chance to have their own with Kawhi, Paul George, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, and Montrezl Harrel.
But at the end of the day, this come down to Kawhi and Kawhi alone. If anyone can convince me that there is evidence that shows that this guy can’t get it done in a playoff series, then I’ll listen. But until then, I’ll keep picking him to deliver.
Every time I hear that phrase "Home is what you make it" I automatically think of the movie Joe Dirt. So if you know, you know.
For 22 NBA teams, the Orlando Bubble in Disney World is going to be their home for the next 2-3 months. It's an experiment that is extremely innovative and quite frankly, one of the safest environments we have seen any corporation create for their employers during this pandemic.
All for the sake of entertainment. Will it be worth it? We'll see.
But it just gives all of us another reason to sit our ass on the couch and do our part to prevent the spread of COVID.
As the scrimmage's have begun, it has been difficult to watch the games without also keeping in mind everything that is going on in the world.
We are still battling a global pandemic. We are still fighting racial injustice. It's an election year. The murderers of Breonna Taylor have yet to be put on trial.
So while all of that is happening, we have these guys putting themselves at risk of the virus for the sake of entertainment, and also a shit ton of money. But they're not the only ones. In fact, they're head and shoulders above every other sports league in terms of health and social awareness.
They've put themselves in this bubble environment that has worked out pretty well so far, as we have only seen a handful of cases to begin with, and then 0% as they have progressed. Every single media member, player, coach, staff, and all NBA personnel went through a quarantine protocol to begin this journey.
Whereas the MLB is just taking their chances by playing in front of no fans, while their players and coaches are still traveling. The NFL just flat out doesn't give a flying fuck about anyone or anything but money (That's nothing new). And the NHL is still finishing the final touches on their plan.
So why go through all this just to play basketball?
Since Adam Silver has become the NBA Commissioner, he has listened to his players association, the fans, and his team of innovators to progress the game in a way that is second to none. The NBA is the most important and influential sports league in the world, and it's not even close.
And as someone who was extremely against them playing because of the situation our country is in, I finally get it. I understand why they're playing.
Of course they're playing for the money. These guys got families, and while it's easy for a casual fan to say "These guys make millions of dollars," it's simply not the case for a good portion of the league. You've got your 15% of guys making up about 50% of the salary across the league, and then about 60% of the league making around the league average of $8 million, and then an entire 25% of the league making near the minimum salary. And that's just players.
We have to consider coaches, media, staff, and anyone else employed through the NBA. And in a time where all the politics are about is "Opening up the economy" The NBA has done it in such a safe way, that there is no comparison.
What other billion dollar corporation could really do something like this?
And while they could easily just put on a show for the fans and make their money, they've gone like ten steps further. Blasting Black Lives Matter on the courts. Letting the players voice their opinions on social issues. Giving their athletes and coaches a platform.
Using innovation to bring in fans via Zoom. Putting microphones underneath the floor of the court so you can hear every squeaky footstep.
I just kinda wanted to give y'all a little perspective. This will be the only article like this. Going forward, it's back to strictly basketball talk. We gotta reward ourselves with some sense of normalcy.
All season, I was shouting "Why isn't Jamal Crawford on a team?!"
As I watched guys like Jeff Green and Danuel House come off the bench for the Houston Rockets.
I watched Rodney Hood go down for the season, and the Portland Trail Blazers just be fine with Mario Hezonja playing big minutes off the bench.
I watched the Miami Heat lose a trade just so they could overpay Andre Iguodala.
No disrespect to any of those guys. Whether you think they're better players or not, I'd much rather be watching Jamal Crawford playing on a competitive team.
Watching him ball out on the Phoenix Suns last year just felt like such a waste.
So as I got the text in my phone from my rapper friend 5.A.M (Had to namedrop to build my clout) that Crawford had signed to the Brooklyn Nets, I was like Here we go again...
But then I realized that I'm going to be able to watch him, even if it only is for 12 games. So I later replied...
But fr, Jamal Crawford is in The League Tho!
Now listen, I know he's 40 years old. But I don't care about that. I watched him play for a very long time, and this dude has consistently been consistent his whole career.
He comes off the bench, he can give you anywhere from 12-30 points in limited time. He could literally swing whole games for his teams.
He was never the superstar of the team, he didn't need to be. He is a genius of his craft, he knows exactly what he offers.
We're talking about a guy who averaged double-digit scoring off of the bench from 2002-2018. If that doesn't impress you then you're just a hater.
I'll prove that you're a hater right now.
At 39 years old, on the final game of last season, Jamal Crawford scored 51 points. He did it on 60% field goal shooting, went 7/13 from three, 8/9 from the free throw line, had 5 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and a block and played 38 minutes. At 39 years old.
Just think about that. Name five guys in the league that can do that right now. Then name five guys that could do it off the bench with that efficiency. Then name five players over 35 years old.
YOU CAN'T! Because it's just him!
I don't have much to say here honestly.
I'm glad basketball is coming back. Although I don't think it should health wise, however there's money to be made so who am I to say?
Plus, I'm gonna watch. So people like me are the whole reason they're doing this. So thanks guys. I really do appreciate you guys going to hoop and entertain us in a tough year.
Anyway, I wish he would've gotten signed by a contender. The Rockets would've been nice.
But whatever, at least I'll get to see him play again.
Since I've had kids, I've realized that sometimes their pure souls have more answers than we do. I find myself learning lessons from my oldest one.
Most of the time it's about treating others nicely and with respect. I remember one specific time when he started picking up some trash on the playground. I told him "AJ, don't touch trash." He said, "I have to keep the park clean. Because this is everyone's park, we all play here."
A three year old told me what's really going on. I couldn't argue with that logic.
In a time of such uncertainty in our world, we can learn a lot from the youth in the world who is trying to make a difference.
The Ball family has given people a lot of reasons to talk about them. Most of the time, people don't have many nice things to say.
Say what you want about their father Lavar. Say what you will about LiAngelo and the mistakes he made in college. Say what you will about Lonzo and possibly never living up to the hype the media created for him.
You can choose whichever words you'd like, but know one thing, that is a family that sticks together and has nothing but love for the game of basketball and everyone in the basketball community.
That was proven once more when the youngest son, LaMelo Ball decided to purchase the Illawarra Hawks. The Hawks are the Australian team he played for as he prepared himself for the NBA.
As one of the top prospects, and a child of a wealthy family, he doesn't have to worry about money in a time like this when so many people around the world are struggling financially.
This includes his former teammates and everyone in that organization who make livable wages, but nothing like NBA players.
It would be easy for any young athlete or person to distance themselves from this situation and think about how to move forward in their own lives. But instead, LaMelo wanted to help give back to the organization and city that showed him an incredible amount of love in his one season out there.
He already donated one month's salary to relief funds for the fires that affected so many families across Australia. And this most recent move just shows how basketball has helped him help people.
The United States has long dominated the world in basketball. But we have seen many young superstars such as Giannis, Doncic, and Embiid come from across the globe.
The game continues to grow worldwide, but it still isn't the most popular sport in the world. Moves like this one from LaMelo will not only help grow the game, but will also create opportunities for young athletes to take their talents across the globe and know they'll be taken care of by someone who has been there before.
Kids coming straight out of high school who don't believe that college will be the right route for them on the path to the NBA can use the same technique that Lamelo did to not only help them grow as basketball players, but also help them financially without the NCAA breathing down their neck.
In a time where most people are looking out for themselves and their families, this 18 year old kid decided to look out for other people's families in their time of uncertainty.
His teammates, coaches, and staff of the Illawarra Hawks know that this kid thought about them when he could've easily came back home and put them in the back of his mind.
Not every kid coming out of high school will be able to make this kind of difference, but he's laying the ground work for how young athletes can compose themselves going forward.
Owning a business at 18 while still pursuing your other dreams is an incredible feat. We can all learn from this selfless move.
Maybe you're struggling right now, but I guarantee you there are thousands of other people in the world going through a lot of worse things. If you're reading this, you're blessed.
So say what you want about the kid on the basketball court, but you know it's bigger than basketball.
Kyrie Irving is the biggest conspiracy theorist in the NBA. His shoes have the All-Seeing Eye on it in the middle of a pyramid.
So when he made his power move to go to Brooklyn with Kevin Durant, I'm sure he had everything planned out in his mind with how this was all going to turn out.
He has been laying the ground work for the Nets front office to make the moves in the offseason to build the team he and Kevin want it to be built.
And with the news of Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn Nets agreeing to separate ways in the middle of a playoff season, the writing was already on the wall for this outcome.
Here's a tall tale of how things have shaken out for the Nets.
Earlier in the season, Kyrie made major comments about the roster. He talked about how they aren't quite a championship roster yet, and named the players on the roster who in his mind are championship material.
Leaving out a lot of young guys on the roster who have been a part of their rebuild, and helped them to the playoffs last season. He was very strategic in his choice of words, very Lebron-like when he Lebron James made his return to Cleveland.
This season was going to be a wash from the start, knowing that they weren't going to have Kevin Durant due to injury. And the questions around Kyrie's injury are still confounding and confusing. He came into the season healthy, and then he got injured. Then the team was playing well without him, and he suspiciously made a return from his injury.
Then he realized he wasn't going to make it onto the All-Star team, and he was "injured" yet again. And when the media would ask the team about Kyrie's injury, they had very few answers. Whereas Kyrie was making statements that hinted that the team wasn't taking his claim of injury seriously.
The Nets were hovering around that 7-8 seed range and the announcement was made that Kyrie would be out for the rest of the season. And just a few days later, Kyrie was voted on by the players to become the new Vice President of the NBA Player's Association.
So he was going to use this time off to go on his Presidential-like tour, and spread his agenda for the future throughout the league.
Without Kyrie and Kevin, it was going to be hard to prove to new free agents that Brooklyn is the place to go for a championship. So the only other move to add pieces would be through trade. But who was going to want guys from a team that can't even reach .500?
The next step was to build up some of their young players so that they could become tradable assets. They began to give Caris LeVert more opportunities to thrive. Make him think that he's going to be their third piece on a championship roster.
They made sure he had his biggest gamer of his career against the Boston Celtics on national television, and then have him follow it up with his first career triple-double.
Kyrie then went to the front office and told them that they must use his high level of play down this final stretch to show other teams that he can be a main piece in a blockbuster trade. The front office then sent a message to Kenny Atkinson that he was to extort Caris for a trade this summer.
Kenny had enough. He was tired of all the drama that came with being Kyrie's head coach and decided that it would be best if him and Brooklyn went their separate ways.
This only accelerated Kyrie's grand plan.
The summer of 2020 has come and the Brooklyn Nets have announced they're shopping everyone on the roster except Kyrie, Kevin, and Deandre Jordan.
The package looks something crazy like Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarret Allen, and future draft compensation. Teams like the Wizards, Thunder, Knicks and Cavs show growing interest.
As news spreads that the Nets are big name hunting, they hire Ty Lue to be their new head coach. Someone who Kyrie played for and that is respected by Kevin from their Finals matchups.
But none of that matters because Kyrie has already gotten into Giannis' head. After falling in game 7 to the Philadelphia 76ers and failing to make the Finals once again, Kyrie calls Giannis directly.
As Giannis sit in his car, sulking in his loss, Kyrie offers him a new future. a big city, a new stadium, and a chance to play with two players and a coach who know what it takes to win a championship.
The next day, Giannis goes to the front office and tells them that he will not be signing his extension next offseason. This leaves Milwaukee scrambling for answers. Do they let this guy walk for nothing, or get a haul for him?
The Bucks oblige, getting all those players from the Nets, multiple draft picks, and force the Nets to add a third team in the deal so they can attain even more assets.
Kyrie's plan has come full circle. He has again found a way to get a team of superstars around him that will not only help him move towards another championship, but more importantly, a couple of guys who can carry the load for him.
He can now return to making the biggest shots when it matters most, and blaming the bench players when things go wrong.
They say everything is bigger in Texas. And a first round matchup between these two teams could be huge.
With a possibility that these two teams end up as the four and five seeds in the Western Conference, someone has to go home in the first round.
So we ask Who Sucks Less? The Houston Rockets or the Dallas Mavericks.
The Houston Rockets have had big expectations going into every season for the last four years. They have continued to reinvent themselves and their roster.
Their addition of Russell Westbrook in the offseason was definitely a polarizing move to say the least. Questions to whether or not him and James Harden could make it work as two ball-dominant superstars are still being asked.
And while they were hoping they could run more pick and roll with Clint Capela, it simply just didn't work out. They decided to double-down, scratch that, they tripled-down, actually wait, they quadruple-downed on their choice to play small ball. They traded Clint Capela for Robert Covington and essentially decided they were just going to run PJ Tucker out there at the "Center" position.
I put "Center" in quotes because the traditional idea of what a lineup looks like has completely changed. Even with teams that have big centers, they are still pretty useless in today's game if they can't shoot jump shots.
Kobe had a quote once that said positions were only created so the casual fan could follow along anyway.
The Rockets are currently 5th in the Western Conference at 35-20 and have posted one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Looking at those numbers, it's hard to say that what they've built isn't working. The only thing you can say is that you don't like watching their style of play. Five guys spread out wide and they basically run two plays. One is isolation with either Russ or Harden, and the other play is off-ball screens in an attempt to find an open three point shooter.
And when their shots aren't falling, they put their heads down, drive to the basket, and then shoot a million free throws. If someone has a stat for most real time spent at the free throw line, please send that our way. I'd love to see those numbers.
It is yet to be seen whether or not this small ball style will be successful in the playoffs. James Harden has had his own struggles in the playoffs, while Russ has been bounced from the first round everytime since Durant left him.
These guys can shoot the hell out of the ball, but can they win it all?
The Dallas Mavericks didn't have quite the same expectations heading into this season. This was supposed to be a season where they created some hype and built something for the future. But Luka Doncic has been even better than advertised, and is already in the conversation for MVP-candidacy.
Mark Cuban did what he had to do to get Doncic the sidekick he needed to help this team improve when he traded for Kristaps Porzingis. I have no idea what the New York Knicks were doing, but they didn't get shit for a guy who has to potential to return to his All-Star form in the near future.
Kristaps has been good, not great, but luckily they haven't needed him to be. Rick Carlisle is showing why he continues to be one of the smartest basketball minds in the league.
This roster doesn't wow you with talent, but from top to bottom they are full of guys who just don't suck. And when you have a bunch of dudes who don't suck, you can be good under the right leadership. And Doncic has fit perfectly in that role.
They lead the league in so many offensive categories, and it would be easy to say that it's because of Luka and Kristaps. But there have been a couple of stretches where they have been without one or the other or both.
Their depth of shooters and underappreciated ball handlers has made their offense flow whether Luka has been on the floor or not. Guys like Jalen Brunson and JJ Barea are your cookie-cutter point guards. Guys who can get the ball moving when the going gets tough.
And they're not just all shooting. Maxi Kleber and Willie Cauley-Stein give them the size they need to give their potent offense second-chance points.
But if they need a bucket in the clutch, they can let Luka go to work or he can find a shooter in Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Dorian Finney-Smith, Justin Jackson, or Tim Hardaway Jr.
Going into this article, I assumed that I would side with the Houston Rockets simply because of their experience and the fact that they have the superstar power.
But when I look at the rosters from top to bottom, it makes it hard to choose. Let's assume they face each other in the first round for just a second.
Luka and Harden essentially will cancel each other out because their games are eerily similar. The Mavericks get the edge in size because not only do they have Kristaps who can go to work in the post, but they have other big men who can give them rebounds in the clutch.
From an aesthetically pleasing perspective, the Mavericks also get the edge because they whip the ball around like it's a hot potato. And much of that has to do with their coaching advantage as well.
But the outlier that would be the difference is Russell Westbrook. This guy plays like his hair is on fire, and he doesn't give a damn how big his opponent is, he will "Put that shit right into his chest."
The Mavericks would have no answers for a guy who has changed his game for the better in this new system he's in. Especially if it came down to a free throw shooting contest. I don't think I have ever seen a guy who is more clutch from the line than Russ.
So if we're asking Who Sucks Less, we're going to have to go with the Houston Rockets.
For anyone who is a fan of NBA All-Star Weekend, Saturday has to be your favorite day.
Whether you're a fan of the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, or the Dunk Contest, there is definitely something for everybody.
We're going to make our picks.
NBA Skills Challenge
I love how the Skills Challenge has transformed over the years. It used to just be for guards and guys who play under the rim.
But with so many big men who can handle the ball and shoot it from anywhere, they have reinvented who qualifies for this tournament.
This year for the big men we've got Bam Adebayo, Domantas Sabonis, and Pascal Siakam. All guys who are up for the Most Improved Player award this season.
For the guards we have Patrick Beverly, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Runner-Up: Bam Adebayo
I had a friend send me a short story of Adebayo's pre-draft workout with the Miami Heat. They ran him through some drills and asked him how many three pointers he could make from the corner and he said 60%.
The Heat scouts thought he was crazy, and then he proceeded to make 62% of his threes after 50 shots.
This guy has a different type of mentality and has continued to show constant growth. He plays huge for a 6'9" guy, but also plays very fast and can pass the ball extremely well.
He'll be the best of the big men, but he's going to fall just short to our winner.
Winner: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai has been one of the best untold stories of this NBA season. In just his second season, he is going to be starting for his second different playoff team.
The whole thing about this competition is that whoever actually tries to win will usually win. And Shai, in his All-Star Saturday debut, will be going all out.
And if he's trying, he's winning.
NBA 3-Point Contest
This contest will not be the same without Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, or Klay Thompson, as they are all out with injuries. But it will open it up for some young guys to make a name for themselves.
Five out of the eight participants are in this for the first time. Trae Young, Duncan Robinson, Davis Bertans, Devonte' Graham, and Zach Lavine will all be looking to make their mark.
Devin Booker and Buddy Hield are looking for their first trophies, while Joe Harris will be looking to defend his title.
Runner-Up: Trae Young
There's not much to say about Trae when it comes to bombing threes. We all know what he can do.
But with him participating in the Rising Stars game and starting in the All-Star game, he won't have too much time to focus on this contest.
Winner: Davis Bertans
I don't think there is a less known guy in this field than Davis Bertans. But I swear, I have never seen this guy miss a three point shot.
This contest is perfect for him as he is one of the best spot up three point shooters in the league.
He has no pressure on him, and everything to prove. A perfect combination for an upset victory in the championship round.
NBA Dunk Contest
The premier event of the weekend is always boom or bust. There's never a time where you're like "It was ok." It's either memorable or it's not.
This year's field has to potential to be pretty forgettable. But there are some factors that could make it interesting.
We've got Dwight Howard, Pat Connaughton, Aaron Gordon, and Derrick Jones Jr.
We may be able to scratch Dwight and Pat as the two who won't be in the finals. But we know Dwight is going to have a Kobe tribute dunk, and that will most likely be the most memorable dunk of the weekend. Get your tissues ready.
Runner-Up: Aaron Gordon
It was hard for me to pick him as the runner-up because he's already competed in this contest twice. You would think he would have the upper hand in experience.
But he may have used up all of his best dunks in his loss to Zach Lavine. But I hope he comes up with something innovative and forward thinking, again.
Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.
The man they call "Airplane Mode" can fly above his competition, literally. He looks so weightless when he is gliding through the air.
He will have to come up with some creativity a lot better than he did when he brought out that small wooden airplane the last time he was in this contest. I have a feeling he's got something up his sleeve.
And in a recent interview, he said he's never lost a dunk contest even when he's lost. Thats all the confidence I needed to hear to pick him.
The All-Star game is just a couple of weeks away, and we're already ready to hand out a few awards.
Most teams have played about 50 games. So unless some dramatic things happen, we know for the most part who is going to be in the running for these awards.
Sixth Man of the Year
In the Hunt: Montrezl Harrel
The Los Angeles Clippers have been as intriguing as we thought they would be, but for all the wrong reasons. There's been rumors that there is some turmoil in the locker room. And it seemingly began when Harrel challenged his team to be better.
This guy has been a leader off of the bench both vocally, and in the scoring department. He is second amongst players who qualify for this award in points per game off of the bench with 19. And he is fourth in rebounds per game with 7.
Runner-up: Dennis Schroeder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have exceeded all expectations this season. And Schroeder has done nothing but get buckets all season.
He hasn't missed a single game all season, and is averaging 19.1 points per game which is best amongst bench players. He has been a much better fit alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than he was with Russell Westbrook. He could still make a run at this award depending on how our winner finishes the season.
Winner: Derrick Rose
How can you not be a fan of Rose this season? The guy has found a way to reinvent who he is and has been healthy all season. The Detroit Pistons would be impossible to watch without him.
He is averaging 6 assists per game which is first amongst players off of the bench. But it has been his efficiency that has elevated his play. Rose is shooting nearly 50% from the field, and has picked his spots near the basket that has helped his team win games in the clutch.
He has a couple game winners already this season, which will give him the narrative vote as well.
Rookie of the Year
In the Hunt: Eric Paschall
The Golden State Warriors have been absolutely terrible. But they have had one bright spot with Paschall. He has been fun to watch, and a very pleasant surprise for this organization.
He is averaging 13.5 points per game in just under 27 minutes. His ability to stretch the floor as a big will give the Warriors a reliable bench player once they get healthy again.
Runner-Up: Kendrick Nunn
This guy was on nobody's radar before the season for the Rookie of the Year race. But the Miami Heat and Erik Spoelstra have developed Nunn into one of the most consistent scorers amongst rookies.
While only shooting about one free throw per game, he is still second amongst rookies with 16 points per game. If he can find a way to get to the basket and draw contact, he could develop into one of the best young scorers in the league.
Winner: Ja Morant
This guy has been everything as advertised, plus more. He has not only filled the stat sheet, but he has been electrifying when it comes to his highlight ability.
He can create a play out of just about nothing. You'll think he's got nowhere to go with the ball, and he'll find a way to zip it to an unsuspecting teammate. He is averaging 19 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game. Unless he gets injured, this guy has this one in the bag.
Most Improved Player
In the Hunt: Devonte' Graham
This award is definitely in reach for all three guys on this list. Graham has made a leap in his sophomore season that has given the Hornets hope for the future.
He is fourth in the NBA in three pointers made with 173. He went from averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists in 14.7 minutes last season to averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 assists in 35.2 minutes. Quite a jump for a guy on a rookie contract.
Runner-Up: Domantas Sabonis
The Indiana Pacers have an All-Star this season, and it's not Malcolm Brogdon or Victor Oladipo. Sabonis has continued to improve every year he has been in the league. Which is probably the only reason I am not ready to give him the award.
If you view the award as someone who has gradually improved into a star, then he would be your guy this season. But in our case, we look at it purely from one season to the next. And this next guy has had the biggest jump between these three.
Winner: Bam Adebayo
This is one of the few things we have admittedly got right this season. Bam Adebayo has been one of the best surprises of the season, and much of it is thanks to the Heat for giving him Jimmy Butler. You don't see very many 6'9" guys playing as big as he does.
It's a wonder as to why this guy didn't make the USA team last summer. He didn't miss a single game last season, and this year hasn't been any different. He is the most dependable player every night for the Heat on both ends of the floor. Thank goodness they were able to dump Hassan Whiteside.
Defensive Player of the Year
In the Hunt: Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons challenged himself in the offseason to become one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. He has been successful as he is on his way to his first All-Defensive First Team selection.
He leads the NBA in Steals per game, Deflections, and Loose Balls Recovered. His dedication to being as long as possible on the defensive end has given the 76ers the intensity they need to continue their run towards the playoffs.
Runner-Up: Rudy Gobert
There is nothing new to see here with Gobert. He is consistently one of the two or three best defenders in the NBA every season.
His dedication to denying anything in the paint finally awarded him his first All-Star appearance. Reminding us that the you can still make a living as a Defensive guy.
Winner: Anthony Davis
Before the season, Davis said he wanted to be the Defensive Player of the Year. And up until this far into the season, he has rose to the occasion. His Lakers are first in the Western Conference, and have held opponents to under 100 points 14 times.
He is third in the NBA in Blocks per game with 2.6 and is also averaging 1.5 steals per game. Games missed due to injuries may hinder his chances of winning this award, but when he's been healthy he has been the best defensive player in the league.
Most Valuable Player
In the Hunt: Lebron James
I can't remember the last time Lebron didn't get an MVP vote. He even got one last year when he was injured for most of the season.
In his 17th season, he has still continued to find a way to be one of the most dominant forces in the NBA. His first ever full offseason has served him well as he is leading the Lakers to a potential one seed in the Western Conference. He has become an even better passer as he leads the NBA in assists per game with 11.
Runner-up: James Harden
In 20 years, we're going to look back at Harden's per game stats for this five year stretch and wonder how it is that he only won one MVP.
The guy is having one of the greatest scoring seasons in NBA history as he is averaging 35.7 points per game. He's made more free throws than anyone else in the league with 481 compared to Damian Lillard who is second with 340. This guy can kill you in a number of ways offensively, and most nights he's pretty much impossible to slow down.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
This award has been essentially a two-man race for these last two seasons, and it looks like Giannis will be defending his title.
The Bucks are on pace to win 70 games this season, and it's all because of him. They were without Khris Middleton for a while, and that still didn't matter. He is first in the NBA in Defensive Rating, Defensive Win Shares, Usage, Player Efficiency Rating, and is second in scoring with 30 points per game.
It seems like this guy is never going to slow down. He plays hard on every single play on both ends of the floor. He is not only the Most Valuable Player for his team, but he is also the Most Valuable Player for the entire NBA.
I wrote this article years ago, just a few days after Kobe's final game.
I was looking for the ways to write something about his tragic passing, but words will never do his, or Gianna's life justice.
Maybe in due time. But for now, we'll let his life speak for itself.
RIP Kobe. RIP Gianna.
As a child growing up, Allen Iverson was my favorite player. So I hated Kobe Bryant. I challenged everything any of his fans ever said about him and his greatness.
I even gave credit to other players on his teams instead of him just to try to prove my point even further. But that was all hate, because I always knew how great he was. Kobe Bryant was great for basketball.
His play on the court was unmatched by many who challenged him for the bulk of his career.
I had so many Kobe memories. The first one I had of him was when he beat Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals, which started my hatred. I remember him hitting game winner after game winner.
It felt like every night he played he did something clutch. Dunking on Dwight Howard. The alley-oop to Shaq. Banking in a game winner against Wade. Scoring 81 points in a single game. Beating the Celtics in the Finals. Scoring 60 points in his final game.
And my favorite Kobe game in my memory might have to be when he beat the Suns in 2006 on two clutch plays.
But of all the memories, there are none that stand out bigger for many people then his alleged rape case. Being young, I didn't really understand fully what had happened, but all I knew was that the media was making Kobe out to be a bad person because of a mistake he had made in his personal life.
The allegations are obviously very serious, and in no way do I condone anything that he was accused of doing. But what I do know is that everybody makes mistakes, even you. Some of us just make bigger mistakes than others.
Kobe Bryant was a great basketball player on the court, regardless of the mistakes he made in his life. We can't judge people based on their mistakes, but we can help them learn from their mistakes and push them to be a better person.
When the world was against Kobe, he challenged himself to be better. We must remember that we are all human, and none of us will ever get this life thing perfect. Instead of tearing people down, we need to build them up to be better.
We are all the same race, and we all must share our earth and our time together in the most positive way possible in order to improve as one large community. So next time you see someone make a mistake, pick them up, don't tear them down.
The Eastern Conference is finally reaching parity when it comes to comparing them with the Western Conference.
They have 6 solid teams that all have a chance to make the NBA Finals, and it would be 7 if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were healthy.
Let's dive in.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
Points Per Game: 30 (Career High)
Rebounds Per Game: 12.9 (Career High)
Usage: 37.9% (Leads NBA)
For a second year in a row, Giannis will be the captain of the Eastern Conference. This guy is the best player in the world as of right now, and only continues to improve.
He has career highs in multiple categories, while playing the least minutes per game since his rookie season at 30.6. I don't really know what else to say, it's Giannis.
Points Per Game: 23.4
Rebounds Per Game: 12.3
Free Throw Percentage: 83.7% (Career High)
Similar to Paul George, Embiid has missed exactly 15 games this season. But when he's on the floor, he is still one of the top 10 players in the NBA. He has had trouble adjusting to the new roster that the Sixers have surrounded him with, but he has still been extremely efficient.
He is the leader on the Sixers in terms of Defensive Win Shares, and he's 8th across the whole league. Theres no question as to what this guy means to them on the defensive end of the court.
Points Per Game: 20.2
Assists Per Game: 6.4 (Career High)
Rebounds Per Game: 7 (Career High)
Jimmy said it best when he said "People act like I'm not a good basketball player." When he forced his way to Miami, the media wanted to slam him for going to a "worse" team while saying all he wanted to do was win.
Well guess what, that's exactly what he's done. He's taken on the role as leader of the Miami Heat franchise and has taught this young group what it means to share the ball and play defense at a high level. He's playing some of the best offensive basketball of his career, and his leadership is at an all-time high.
I'm not really sure why he's listed as a "Frontcourt" player, but it works because he made it to our starting rotation.
Points Per Game: 22.1
Free Throw Percentage: 86.6% (Career High)
Field Goal Percentage: 44.6% (Career High)
Kemba Walker has transitioned so smoothly into this Boston Celtics roster. His percentages are up, but all of his numbers are down. And that's only because for the first time in his career, he is being blessed by not having to do absolutely everything for his team.
He is the best guard in the Eastern Conference right now, especially because of the fact that Kyrie Irving can't find the floor to save his life. This kid is a no-brainer.
Points Per Game: 16
Steals Per Game: 2.2 (Career High and Leads NBA)
Assists Per Game: 8.5 (Career High and Second in NBA)
Even with the glaring hole in Ben Simmons' game, he has still been one of the best guards in the NBA. Without Joel Embiid on the floor, Simmons has led the Sixers to the highest pace of play in the NBA. His ability to find his teammates in the perfect spots has helped them open up the floor for the transformed roster.
But it's not his offense that landed him this starting spot, it's his defensive ability. As a 6' 10" point guard, his length has made it extremely difficult for opposing guards to play against him. He leads the league in Steals, Steals Per Game, Loose Balls Recovered, and is second in Deflections.
Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves
Points Per Game: 16
Rebounds Per Game: 10.5
Blocks Per Game: 1.2
(All Career Highs)
Nobody has benefitted more from the Jimmy Butler trade than Bam Adebayo. He leads the team in points off of screens, and is third in the NBA with 520. But the thing that I love about this guy is his resiliency.
He was great at Kentucky, but still slid to 14th in the draft. And even as a lottery pick, he found himself in the G-League for most of his first season. He got cut from the USA Basketball this past summer. And yet, here he is.
Points Per Game: 17.8
Rebounds Per Game: 12.9
Assists Per Game: 4.3
(All Career Highs)
The Indiana Pacers have had trouble staying healthy this season, on top of already not having Victor Oladipo. But they still find themselves in the race for the 2 seed in the East. Much of it has to do with two guys, including Sabonis.
He has been one of those guys when the clock is winding down and they need a bucket, he has gotten it for them. He is one of the most technically sound players in the NBA, and will be rewarded by making his first ever All-Star appearance.
Points Per Game: 23.7
Rebounds Per Game: 7.4
Free Throw Percentage: 81.7%
(All Career Highs)
Each of these last three guys we've talked about could potentially find themselves in the starting spot over Embiid depending on how the media and players vote. Pascal has missed 11 games, but has been incredible when he's been on the floor.
In his first year as the leader of the Toronto Raptors, he has had them playing even better than most people had anticipated. And he may somehow be the Most Improved Player two years in a row.
Points Per Game: 17.4
Assists Per Game: 7.4
Free Throw Percentage: 93% (Leads NBA)
(All Career Highs)
You might be starting to notice a trend for all these first time All-Stars as they are all setting career highs for themselves. Brogdon has found a role as a leader on this Pacers team, and has been nothing short of amazing in Oladipo's absence.
Expect him to only get better when he gets to play alongside Victor.
Points Per Game: 19.5
Free Throw Percentage: 88.9%
Field Goal Percentage: 50%
(All Career Highs)
There was a couple guys I wanted to put in over Middleton. But the Bucks are the best team in the league so far, and only giving them one All-Star just doesn't seem right. His high efficiency should get him into his second All-Star game.
Points Per Game: 29.2
Assists Per Game: 8.6
Field Goal Percentage: 44.7%
This kid's stat lines has been off the charts this season. Even without John Collins and Kevin Huerter for most of the season, he has still found ways to put up great numbers on the offensive end of the floor. His size makes it difficult for him on the defensive end, but he makes up for it with his ability to score and share the ball.
Points Per Game: 27.2
Assists Per Game: 6.3
Free Throw Percentage: 83.7%
(All Career Highs)
This is the second guy on this list of reserves that wouldn't be making his All-Star game debut. It has been a difficult season for the Washington Wizards, but this guy has been their bright spot. His high level of offensive play has helped the Wizards to 5th in the NBA in Points Per Game with 114.
Maybe Next Year Kid
Points Per Game: 25
Rebounds Per Game: 4.7
Three Point Percentage: 38.8%
(All Career Highs)
Zach Lavine has done everything right this season when it comes to making a case for the All-Star game. He has improved his game all-around, he is top five in three pointers made, and he has come up in the clutch time and time again for the Chicago Bulls. There's just too many guys playing slightly better than him.
But the All-Star game is in Chicago, so don't be surprised if he makes it in.
Points Per Game: 18.6
Assists Per Game: 17.7
Three Point Percentage: 38.6%
Nobody expected this kind of jump in his sophomore season from this kid. His numbers are eerily similar to those of Kemba's in his second season in Charlotte. So here's to hoping he can bring relevance back to the Hornets soon enough.
Points Per Game: 20
Rebounds Per Game: 6.8
Field Goal Percentage: 49.1%
(All Career Highs)
This kid has not stopped improving since he came into the league. He got that brand new shiny contract from the Boston Celtics in the summer, and has earned every penny. If there's an incentive for making the All-Star game, let me hold a dollar.
Points Per Game: 21.5
Rebounds Per Game: 6.9
Field Goal Percentage: 43.4%
Either him or Jaylen Brown might make the All-Star game, but not both. So it's really just about who the media and fans value more. We could see him getting in over Brown simply due to popularity.
(Other notable names: Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Tobias Harris, Derrick Rose, Nikola Vucevic)
So that's it! Your 2020 All-Star rosters according to us. Make sure to hit us up and let us know where we went wrong.
And all you first time All-Stars, don't get too comfortable. Kevin Durant will be back next season.
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