As we enjoy an all day marathon of NBA games on Martin Luther King day, we remember how grateful we are for the life we're living. We live in the greatest country on Earth, and we get to watch the greatest basketball league on Earth.
The All-Star game is a popularity contest, but it is also an opportunity for everyone to appreciate the best basketball players in the world.
Just thinking about how incredibly difficult it is to get to this point for these young men is inspiring.
Hey now, you're an All-Star. According to us, at least.
Western Conference All-Stars
Points Per Game: 26.6
Blocks Per Game: 2.4
Free Throw Percentage: 86.1% (Career High)
The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten exactly what they've needed from Anthony Davis to be successful. His defensive presence has helped the Lakers become one of only two teams to hold opponents under 100 points at least 14 times this season (Philadelphia 76ers).
He's playing some of the best basketball of his career alongside Lebron James. He has proven that he is one of the best two-way players in the league.
Points Per Game: 25.2
Rebounds Per Game: 7.6
Assists Per Games: 11 (Career High and Leads NBA)
Lebron James has taken on a new style of play as he progresses into the next phase of his aging career. He is sharing the ball better than ever, and has taken a step back to allow Anthony Davis to take the reigns.
But that doesn't mean he's taking a step back in terms of dominance. Although he is averaging the least points per game since his rookie season, he is accounting for even more points because of his assist rate. The top vote getter gets to draft his team, and it looks like it will be between him and Luka Doncic for top in the Western Conference.
Points Per Game: 26.9
Rebounds Per Game: 7.3
Assists Per Game: 5.1 (Career High)
When Kawhi Leonard is playing, he is the best player in the NBA. He is the best two-way player in the game and could possibly go down as one of the greatest by the time his career is over.
It looks like we're going to have an all-LA front court in the West.
Points Per Game: 36.9 (Career High)
Assists Per Game: 7.4
Free Throw Attempts Per Game: 12.4
This guy is the easiest lock of them all. The way he's played the last three seasons has made it to where you can not just pencil him in, but you can use a Sharpie.
It looked like for a while that he could possibly average 40 points per game for a season, but he has slowed down a bit. And by "slowed down" I mean he's only averaging 33 points per game in his last ten games. Just a little perspective for you.
Points Per Game: 28.9
Assists Per Game: 9
Rebounds Per Game: 9.7
Even the biggest Doncic believers could never have thought the kid would have this much success this fast. He's doing what he did when he was a professional overseas, plus more. He makes the game look so easy.
His off nights look like 19-10-8 and his best nights look like 39-12-10. This guy could possibly be the top vote getter in just his second season in the league, and he's more than deserving of the honor.
Western Conference Reserves
Points Per Game: 19.4
Rebounds Per Game: 10
Assists Per Game: 6.3
He'd probably be a starter if the front court starters weren't so loaded with star talent. Regardless, he's in.
Points Per Game: 15.4
Blocks Per Game: 1.9
Rebounds Per Game: 14.5 (Career High)
We all saw Gobert cry last year when he didn't make the All-Star game. Don't cry this time bud, you finally made it.
Points Per Game: 25.6
Rebounds Per Game: 6.7
Three Point Percentage: 40%
This kid has career high's in just about every category you can think of. Not putting him into the All-Star game would be an all-time snub.
Points Per Game: 23.5
Free Throw Percentage: 90.9% (Career High)
Rebounds Per Game: 6
Even though Paul George has played just 26 games this season, there's really no reason for the media and players not to vote him in. When he's playing, he is one of the best two-way players in the league right now.
Points Per Game: 17
Assists Per Game: 6.4
Free Throw Percentage: 90%
What Chris Paul has done with the Oklahoma City Thunder has been phenomenal. Many people were writing him off once he got traded, but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to be one of the best ball handlers the game has ever seen.
Points Per Game: 27.9
Assists Per Game: 7.6
Threes Made: 154 (Third in NBA)
It has been a difficult season for the Portland Trail Blazers, but Damian has still done everything in his power to keep his team afloat amid an injury plagued season. His 61-point performance on MLK Day may have solidified his votes from the media.
Points Per Game: 25.3
Assists Per Game: 7.3
Rebounds Per Game: 7.9
With the last roster spot, we gave it to Russ. But it wasn't such an easy decision. His turnover rate made it hard for us to decide between him and one other guy. But it's ultimately his ability to affect the game in multiple ways that gave him the edge.
Maybe Next Time Kid
Points Per Game: 24.7
Assists Per Game: 4.3
Rebounds Per Game: 4.2
This was such a hard decision to keep this kid off of the All-Star game roster. He was the only guy on this list we could see getting in. But it is what it is when it comes to being invited to play with the best players in the world.
Points Per Game: 19.8
Rebounds Per Game: 5.4
Assists Per Game: 3.1
This kid has done nothing but continue to improve in every game he plays in. He recently became the youngest player ever to have a 20 rebound triple-double. And he's a guard. This kid has a bright future.
Points Per Game: 26.8 (Career High)
Assists per Game: 6.4
Field Goal Percentage: 51% (Career High)
The addition of Ricky Rubio has helped Booker grow into a smarter player who has become much more decisive with picking his spots on the floor. His 51% field goal percentage shows his maturity for his age. But his historically bad defense keeps him from taking the leap this season.
(Other notable names: Karl-Anthony Towns, Lamarcus Aldridge, Demar Derozan, D'Angelo Russel, Ja Morant)
The official All-Stars will be revealed on January 23rd, so we'll see if the fans, media, and players agree with us.
And all you young guys on this list, don't enjoy it for too long. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be back next year.
Did you know that his real name is Temetrius Jamel Morant? Yeah, I didn't either until I went onto his Basketball-Reference page.
Whatever you want to call him, just make sure you call him a certified hooper.
Before the season started, everyone had big expectations for Ja Morant. Most of us expected him to be one of the top 3 for Rookie of the Year. With Zion Williamson being injured, and RJ Barrett's play not translating to wins, Ja has stood out against his competition.
We do have a couple of guys in Miami who can still make a run. Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have both played great in their roles.
Nobody expected the Memphis Grizzlies to be good this season, let alone in the playoff race.
The Grizzlies are 13-5 in their last 18 games with Ja on the court, and are currently sitting alone in the 8 seed.
But can Ja sustain this level of play and lead his team to the playoffs in just his first year in the league? Let's look at his numbers.
So what do these numbers tell us? All of his numbers are up, except for points per game. But for a point guard, that's not such a bad thing.
His improvement on efficiency has already translated to victories. Shooting the ball at a high rate from the free throw line is always going to be a plus. Especially for a kid who plays so fast, and isn't afraid to drive to the basket.
The help he's gotten from guys like Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Dillon Brooks has helped boost his assist numbers. But it's his ability to share the ball that has boosted the confidence of his teammates.
But the thing that stands out the most is his confidence within himself. He's always been a kid who believes in his ability to make any play on the court. And we saw it shine in their most recent game against the Houston Rockets when he went toe to toe with James Harden.
Since we're talking about efficiency, this was one of his most efficient games yet. And one of his most highlight worthy as well.
He was 10/11 from the field, with his only miss coming on a three that was at the end of the shot clock. His 90% field goal percentage was the best he's shot all season, including going 3/3 from the free throw line.
The first clip you see in the video above shows exactly how confident he can be. Harden sags off of him and he drills a deep three in his face. And as he makes his way back to the defensive end he shouts "I'm here! Tell that mother fucker about me!"
And then we see in the final two minutes, Harden again sags off and allows Ja to hit a clutch stepback three to seal the victory. On another play, Harden tries to play up on him and go for the steal and Ja shakes him and sets up Clarke for an alley-oop.
This game encapsulates everything that this kid can be. An efficient scorer who shares the ball and can get the crowd going with his explosive playmaking ability.
The kid is incredible, and he's only going to get better. It'll be interesting to see how long they can ride this winning streak which is currently at six games.
But even if they don't make the playoffs, the Grizzlies still have plenty to be excited about with Ja. The only question they should be asking themselves is, What can't this guy do?
When the Philadelphia 76ers made the splashy moves in the offseason, everyone knew that shooting was not going to be their strength. They do have guys who can shoot such as Josh Richardson, Mike Scott, Mathisse Thybulle, James Ennis, Furkan Korkmaz, and Al Horford at times.
Their strength was going to be in their size. Richardson is their smallest starter and he's 6' 6". So we assumed they would be able to be great on the defensive end and juggernauts in the paint offensively.
But as this season is reaching it's halfway point, we have seen little to no effort from the Sixers to impose their size on their opponents. We have seen flashes of what this team could be, but only against the Celtics, Raptors and Bucks. They have seemingly been sleep walking through this season.
So with a report coming out that the Sixers are looking to make a trade to add shooting, it brings up many questions.
Everyone's favorite thing to talk about with the Sixers is whether or not Ben Simmons will finally begin to shoot jump shots. Here's a little news flash, He's not. So until he does, don't hold your breath.
This has not only caused questions from the media, but from one particular guy in the locker room as well. All season, Joel Embiid has been harping on the fact that he wants his teammates to shoot more. That them shooting will make his job easier.
But people are blindly agreeing with him because he has the potential to be one of the most dominant forces in the league. And I use the word "potential" because he hasn't reached that status yet, regardless of what he has accomplished thus far into his career.
Obviously, he's talking about Ben when he's talking about shooting. But that isn't Ben's strong suit. If Joel doesn't like it, then he is going to be the one who is going to have to figure out to play alongside Ben, and not the other way around.
Simmons has already made an All-Star team and signed a max contract playing the way he does, so good luck getting him to change his ways.
Instead of breaking down Ben's game and talking about his weaknesses, let's take a look at Joel and how his play has negatively affected his teammates this season.
Just take a look at those numbers. He is on pace to shoot 800 jump shots this season. How does a guy who leads the league in post-ups, have that much of a discrepancy in jump shots to shots near the rim?
Now it is possible that this is all Brett Brown's fault. Maybe he's telling Joel to shoot more jump shots. But that just doesn't make any sense. Joel is a force in the paint and should be living there, similar to the way Shaq did. Forcing guys to either double team him in the post or foul him.
The difference here is that Joel is an exceptional free throw shooter, so shooting jump shots all day is helping nobody.
Now I understand his frustration with not having a great team of shooters. It does make his job harder because he will receive double teams. But that's what happens when you're this talented, you will get double teamed. It's on him to figure out how he can be better in those situations.
You don't blame your teammates for their lack of shooting, you find a way to make it work. You don't cry every time you go on a losing streak, you work more with your teammates in practice and in the film room.
There's no reason to come out to the media and feed into everything that will be talked about on that trash network ESPN. All you're doing is adding fuel to the fire.
But if that's what he wants to do, then maybe it's time to make a decision on Joel.
All the talk has been about adding a shooter. But until the Sixers prove they can play with the roster currently constructed, adding another piece just makes it all the more difficult.
I personally don't think they should make any moves at all. This may sound crazy, but the only trade that should be considered should be with Joel.
Let's speak hypothetically for a second about a team built around Ben Simmons. He is one of the best dribble and drive players this league has ever seen. He can get to the basket at will against many guards in the league, or he can drive and kick it out to anyone on a dime.
So the ideal team to build around Ben would be a team full of shooters. Joel has not stopped talking about his buddy Jimmy Butler since his departure, so let's send him there in this scenario.
A trade for Joel would demand a lot, but the Heat have the pieces to do it. They could send Joel and a couple of draft picks (Heat have virtually none) for Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, and Derrick Jones Jr. It sounds like a haul, and it is, but that's what it would have to take for both teams to make an even trade financially.
Joel would be in the spotlight of Miami, and he would be playing alongside his best friend in the league. Their city would love his big personality, and Joel would give them a show.
The Ben and Joel duo has worked so far when you look at how much success they've had so quickly. But it's the internal disfunction that may be what tears them apart.
Elton Brand has made some good trades in his young tenure, but making a trade for a shooter this season doesn't seem like the right answer. Let this team that you've constructed play itself out this season. If they lose to the Bucks or Lakers or Clippers then so be it. Sometimes you just aren't good enough to win a championship.
But if it comes down to a trade in the offseason, I'd look to build around Ben Simmons and not Joel Embiid.
Merry Christmas Basketball Nerds!
We've nearly reached the new year, and most teams pretty much have their identities.
Let's look at our Surprises, Disappointments, and Things to Keep an Eye on.
- Devonte' Graham
If you created a list of players that would make a leap this season, Devonte' Graham probably wouldn't have even been on there. But his play has helped the Charlotte Hornets find themselves just one game back of the playoffs.
He has made himself the leader in just his second season, on a team full of guys who have been in the league for multiple years. But his vocal leadership has been backed up by his play.
- Ben McLemore
The Houston Rockets have somehow unlocked the talents of Ben McLemore. In his last 15 games, he has had three 20+ point performances, shot 39% from three, 45% from the field, and has made an incredible 48 three-pointers.
It seems as if the Rockets have found another guy they can bring off the bench and add more scoring. And maybe Ben has finally found the right fit for himself.
- Portland Trail Blazers
This is the second time they have gotten on this list. We usually try to switch things up, but not much has changed with these guys. They have played better with Carmelo Anthony in the lineup, but it still hasn't been enough.
To be fair, injuries to Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood have killed their chances of being one of the top teams in the West. But they still have Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, which should lead to a better record than 14-18.
- Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have been the most inconsistent team in the NBA. Even with the recent returns of Marvin Bagley III and De'Aaron Fox, they have still not really found their footing.
Over their most recent stretch, they've achieved wins over the Nuggets, Rockets, and Mavericks. But they've also suffered losses to the Knicks, Bulls, Grizzlies and Wolves. Their current five game losing streak matches their longest of the season, so let's hope they can figure it out quickly.
Things to Keep an Eye on
- East vs. West
During the 2010's the Western Conference playoff race was a dog fight. However, with disappointing play from more than half of the conference, the Western Conference has taken a step back. Only 6 teams have a winning record in the Western conference.
The East has taken a step forward this season and has just one team without a winning record in the playoff race. Both conferences have two heavyweight contenders and a couple of teams on the fringe of being contenders. We'll see how things shake out.
- The Trades!
We finally had our first movement since the Chris Paul trade before the season when Jordan Clarkson got shipped to the Utah Jazz. It'll be interesting to see which teams are buyers as we approach the deadline.
With a clear cut four or five championship contenders, I would be surprised to see any of those teams on the fringe make any kind of desperate moves. But we may see teams like the Blazers, Wolves, or Spurs make a move to help them in a playoff push.
I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more sellers than buyers. Teams trying to get rid of contracts to get some future assets in return. The Cavs, Suns, Pelicans and Bulls all have talent that they could give up on to build toward the future. Especially since the playoffs are a distant thought for those franchises.
During the Philadelphia 76ers rebuild, they allowed their first round picks to take the first year off.
Ben Simmons took the first year off.
Joel Embiid didn't play until two years after getting drafted.
And Markelle Fultz spent most of his first year working on his "mechanics,"while just playing in 14 games.
The Sixers allowed their young guys time to heal properly before throwing them onto the court. The Pelicans and Zion could take a page out of their book on managing health for longterm gain.
The New Orleans Pelicans came into the season with positive vibes, and a hope that they would be in the playoff race. But they weren't the only ones.
They are scheduled to play the 10th most nationally televised games in the NBA this season. And we picked them to be a team in the playoff race by the end of the season.
With a 6-21 record and 13 straight losses, they have essentially played themselves out of the playoffs. So what's next?
They have a ton of assets that they can sell. All the way from the bottom with guys like Josh Hart and E'Twuan Moore to the top of their roster with guys like Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday. They have many draft picks coming in the future thanks to David Griffin.
So there's really no rush, right? If the plan is to establish New Orleans as a new destination for free agents, then Zion Williamson being healthy should be their top priority.
Zion has yet to play in a regular season NBA game, and we have already begun to see the injuries pile up.
The freak shoe explosion accident at Duke. The knee injury in the Summer League. And then the torn meniscus in the preseason that required surgery.
These little flashes of "Injury Prone" are not quite a red flag, but we're at least on a yellow in the color spectrum. Big guys like him who are freakishly athletic as he is hardly ever get a chance to succeed.
To be fair, we may have never seen anything like the mix of athletic ability and size of Zion at that age. So maybe he can just heal faster than other human beings, who knows.
But why risk it if you're New Orleans? If Zion has made up his mind about playing, then that's one thing. But we have not seen him or heard him make any kind of "I am definitely playing this season" statement.
And with the Pelicans being as bad as they are, there's really no point to let him play. They have a guy who has the potential to be a top ten player in the NBA, if not better. Throwing him out there to play for a bad team after having surgery, doesn't seem like the best business decision.
At this point, if I am running the Pelicans, I'm wrapping Zion in bubblewrap and asking him to stay home until the 2020 season.
Two teams sitting at 13-10 couldn't be any different. The Utah Jazz and the Brooklyn Nets both have dreams of improving on their play from last season.
Both teams suffered first round exits in five games. Both teams made a lot of splashy moves during the offseason to bolster their roster. And both teams have coaches with really greasy hair.
But one team should clearly be better than the other, but their records haven't reflected such opinion thus far.
Who Sucks Less? Utah Jazz or Brooklyn Nets
The Utah Jazz have had the blessing of health throughout this young season. Like with any team that adds new pieces, it will take some time to get everyone to play well together.
But there is cause for concern as Mike Conley has yet to show that he can return to his All-Star form. Over the past couple of seasons, he has suffered injuries that have slowed him down. But with one of the most talented roster he's had in a while, you'd think the game would come easier to him.
Conley has never had a season where he shot worse than 42% and this season he is shooting an abysmal 37% from the field. He's forcing less turnovers than ever. He's averaging just 4.6 assists per game, which he hasn't done since his first two seasons of his career.
It's pretty clear to see what is slowing the Jazz down, and keeping them from being more successful. Now it is still very early in the season, but it's still alarming.
The Jazz still have a top ten defense thanks to Rudy Gobert in terms of opponents field goal percentage and points allowed per game. But they are bottom of the league in turnovers forced, which has made it hard for them to get easy points.
The Brooklyn Nets couldn't have had things go much worse for them so far this season in terms of health. They came into the season knowing they would be without Kevin Durant. But they didn't expect their next two best players in Kyrie Irving and Karis Lavert to miss significant time with injuries.
Yet, while being decimated by injuries, they have found a way to win nine of their last twelve games. Much of it has had to do with their interior defense.
Since November 16th (first game without Irving and Lavert) the Brooklyn Nets are 3rd in field goal percentage allowed within 9 feet of the basket. Holding their opponents to just 56% from 0-5 feet and an incredible 26% from 5-9 feet.
Guys like Taurean Prince and Garrett Temple have both seen in increase in minutes, and have played well in their roles. Efficiency has been the key for Prince, who is shooting 40% from the field as well as the three. And Temple is 5th in the NBA in total blocks amongst guards since November 16th.
The narrative has been that the Nets are playing better without Kyrie because he's not playing. But the offensive stats prove otherwise. Their scoring, assists, field goal percentage and points off of turnovers are all down since his absence.
People can continue to downplay Kyrie and label him whatever they want. But the fact of the matter is, he raises the ceiling for this Nets team.
So Who Sucks Less?
We have one team in the Utah Jazz trending in the wrong the direction with a fully healthy squad.
And we have the Brooklyn Nets trending in the right direction while being hit with the injury bug.
At this time, I'll say that the Utah Jazz still suck less, even though things haven't been looking great.
They could easily go 7-3 over their next ten games and find themselves all the way up to the 2 seed in the Western Conference. Their top ranked defense will carry them throughout the season, and will eventually wear teams down.
So congratulations Utah Jazz, you suck less than the Brooklyn Nets!
Black Friday has come and gone. Which means it's just about time to put the presents under the tree.
But you don't have to wait for Christmas to get the gift of basketball. Just keep watching.
Here's some more Surprises, Disappointments, and Things to Keep an Eye On.
- Spencer Dinwiddie
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week just keeps on hooping. With the injuries to both Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie has had to carry the load offensively. And things are going more than good.
The Brooklyn Nets have 6 out of their last 8 games and have got themselves over .500 for the first time all season. Dinwiddie has averaged 24.5 points per game on 42% shooting. He has been in the top three in voting for Sixth Man of the Year for the past two seasons. And if he keeps this up, he'll be back in that same group again.
- Luka Doncic
Even for the most trusting Doncic believers, his play has been above everyone's expectations. At just 20 years old, he has already catapulted himself into the MVP conversation.
For the entire month of November, he averaged 32.4 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, and 10.2 assists on 49% shooting! Those numbers are no flash in the pan, this guy is for real.
- John Collins
At the beginning of the season, the Atlanta Hawks looked like an improved team. They were healthy and had some new veteran additions. But the lengthy suspension brought down on John Collins due to a failed drug test has left the Hawks without their second best offensive player and their best defensive player.
Since his suspension, they have allowed a league worst 124 points per game while going 2-13. It may be safe to say that Collins getting suspended was the most disappointing thing to happen to any team so far this season.
- San Antonio Spurs
Who thought it was possible that a Gregg Popovich led team could lose 8 straight games? But this squad did it, and they're 2-8 in their last ten games dropping them to 7-14.
They have the talent to be a good team, but they just haven't been able to put it together. It's always easy for everyone to say "The Spurs are done," whenever they are met with any kind of adversity. Yet, they always prevail.
It'll be interesting to see what the next steps for this team are. Whether it's a trade, or moving someone like Lonnie Walker into the starting lineup to provide a spark.
Things to Keep an Eye On
- Ben Simmons
Simmons, for the last two seasons, has spoken frequently about how he takes pride on the defensive end of the floor. He has made it a point that he strives to be on the NBA All-Defense team, and this season may give him his much awaited debut.
He leads the NBA in steals, second in deflections, and second in loose balls recovered. What he lacks in shooting, he covers more than enough on the defensive end. His high level of defensive play has helped the Sixers to fourth in defensive rating.
- Race for the 8 seed
Yes, we are only 20 games into the season. But it's never too early to start paying attention to playoff races. In the Western Conference, just 2 games separate the 8 seed from the 14 seed.
The Golden State Warriors are the only team that looks like they've already payed themselves out of the chance to make the postseason. Funny how things change so quickly, huh?
I was recently having a basketball conversation with my mom, and as she was referring to her favorite basketball team who had just defeated my favorite team she said something that inspired me.
"I always pray for us to suck less."
Changed my whole perspective on winning and losing. Well, not really. But it definitely gave me inspiration for our new series I'll be doing periodically called "Who Sucks Less?"
So congrats Bulls and Hawks, y'all up first.
The Chicago Bulls have been a train wreck since Jimmy Butler left. But not like a huge train wreck where people die. More like a train that's brakes gave out, so it's just like coming to a very loud screeching stop. But since the brakes don't really work, it's taking like 3 hours for the train to actually stop.
They seem like they're somewhere between coming to a full stop, and slowing down, but also maybe moving forward. I don't really know, and I don't think they do either.
This season they have been blessed with health. All of their young guys and players they acquired in the Butler trade have been able to play. Their head coach Jim Boylen just got a new contract, so the team is operating completely under his style now.
But let me make things clear on how I feel about Jim Boylen, he sucks. He has the tenacity and passion of Bob Knight, without any of the coaching skills to back it up.
Their five-man lineup of Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter, and Tomas Satoransky has played over 132 minutes on the floor together, while no other lineup has played more than 64 minutes together.
A lineup of their five best players in Coby White, Lavine, Porter, Markkanen, and Carter Jr. has yet to play the floor together. Not even for one second. How is this possible?
Much of it is due to the use of Coby White. According to Basketball Reference, he has played 2% as a point guard, 49% at shooting guard, 48% at small forward, and 1% at power forward. Coby White should never play in the forward position, for any reason. Even in the smallest possible lineup, he would still be the third smallest guy on their team.
Boylen openly preaches about defense and hustle, and one bright spot for the Bulls has been their ability to force turnovers. They are first in the league total steals, which has led them to 8th in the NBA for points scored in Transition with 20.8 per game.
Their offense in the half court, however, has been bottom ten thus far. They are 22nd in points per game and 29th in field goal percentage.
So with all these discouraging numbers, the question is how do they fix themselves?
They have a decent roster offensively, and they've been able to get those guys to play very well on the defensive end. The coaching staff needs to utilize the players to their maximum potential by getting them into positions where they can thrive.
Coby White needs to play more point guard, and should never be playing any forward position. Otto Porter needs to be used, just in general. Markkanen is great at stretching the floor, so let him stretch it. Thaddeus Young should be playing big minutes in the fourth quarter for that veteran presence.
There's a million different things they can do to improve, but with Boylen on the sidelines not much will change.
Let's shift our attention to the Atlanta Hawks, who are sitting at 4-13. The Hawks had some expectations this year to at least be better than last season, and so far that has not been the case. They are getting mopped off the floor as of late, and it doesn't seem like things are going to change.
After an encouraging 3-3 start, they have dropped ten of their last eleven games. Much of it had to do with Trae Young experiencing a setback with setback with a minor injury, and John Collins getting suspended. Kevin Huerter also just suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out a few weeks.
So besides those first five games, they haven't had their three best players all on the court at the same time.
New head coach Lloyd Pierce has done the best he can with what he has. The players seem to like playing for him because he gives them the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
But those mistakes are starting to pile up. They are giving up the fourth most points off of turnovers in the NBA with 20.1 points per game. While also committing the second most turnovers with 17.7 per game. A recipe for disaster.
And while Trae Young is making a big leap this season, it's been the other young guys who haven't been able to keep up.
Rookies Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter are still learning as they go, but just haven't been what the Hawks have needed. They are averaging combined 19.9 points per game between the two of them, and have been getting torched on the defensive end of the floor.
Jabari Parker has been healthy and has shown flashes of good and bad. He has been extremely efficient with his shooting at 51%, but has shot just 27% from three point range. He is committing 3.5 fouls per game, which has kept his minutes down.
Evan Turner and De'Andre Bembry have been decent additions, but haven't moved the needle for them. Their starting big man is Alex Len, who has been more recently outplayed by their backup center in Damian Jones.
There's much room for improvement for this team, but the mix of injuries and youth may give this team a very low ceiling for this season.
It looks like they may be digging themselves a hole too big to get out of by the time they get John Collins back.
So let's answer the question Who Sucks Less?
The Bulls have the talent to fight for the 8 seed, but their coaching staff may just hold them back from everything they're capable of. And the Hawks are too depleted and young to even give themselves a chance.
So at this moment in time, the Bulls suck less. If only for the fact that their roster shows more potential to be better. And they may just form a mutiny again against Boylen that may actually get him canned.
So congratulations Bulls, You Suck Less!
With one minute and twenty-nine seconds left in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, the cameras made their way towards the Oklahoma City Thunder bench. James Harden had each of his arms wrapped around Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant, as they watched their championship hopes tick away.
This moment would be forever known as the last time we saw those three together in their Thunder uniforms.
Everyone assumed they would be the team of the future with those three guys. But James Harden's bad play in the Finals ultimately cost him his spot on the Thunder. They traded him to the Houston Rockets, and has gone on to become the best offensive player in the game.
Leaving Westbrook and Durant searching for their next Finals appearance together, which would never come. Durant moved on to the Warriors. The Thunder tried to reinvent themselves with Paul George. But that never really worked as they never made it out of the first round.
This slow regression into mediocrity all started with the Harden trade. But they now have an opportunity at redemption.
The failure to win a single playoff series led to Paul George searching for more. In the age of player empowerment, he was able to force his way out and to the team he wanted. The Los Angeles Clippers paid a large price for PG13.
The Thunder acquired Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and first-round draft picks from 2021-2014, and another one in 2026.
This power move from George left Westbrook asking himself what the next step in his career was going to be. He and the Thunder agreed to find a way to help each other find success, separately.
He was traded to the Houston Rockets and finally got his reunion with his buddy James Harden. But the Rockets had to pay a hefty fee.
The Thunder continued their summer haul by acquiring Chris Paul, four more first-round picks, and additional cash.
So with all this movement the only question remaining is What's the next move?
The consensus opinion was that the Thunder were building for the future. When you take a look at this roster, you realize that they are one trade away from being a serious playoff team. But they are also one trade away from leaning into tanking for the future.
Chris Paul in his 15th season is as efficient as ever. He is playing less minutes and shooting the ball less than ever in his career. Yet he is still averaging 17 points per game, while shooting 46% from the field and 43% from the three-point line.
He is simply refusing to fall out of relevance. He is still a Top 40-50 guy in the league, and he could possibly be one of the three best point guards in the Eastern Conference.
With Paul playing just as efficient as ever, he has become a player we may see sought after at the trade deadline. Even though his contract will exceed $40 million starting next season, it may be worth it for a team who is looking to maximize his potential over the next couple of seasons.
He could raise the ceiling of the Milwaukee Bucks while they have Giannis. He could make the Miami Heat a contender to reach the Finals in the East. Or he could make the Los Angeles Lakers nearly unbeatable.
Or maybe they want to keep Chris Paul. They have an unlimited amount of trade assets that they could use to get what they need to build around him.
They already have their big man in Steven Adams, and a solid backup in Nerlens Noel. But they would need a high volume scorer to make this work.
The Blazers have been struggling early on this season. We could possibly see a trade for CJ McCollum that would compliment CP3 extremely well.
The Warriors are in the market for bench players and future assets. Maybe a trade for D'Angelo Russel could give them the shot creator and closer they need.
Or maybe they'd be willing to wait this season out, and make a play for Bradley Beal in the offseason.
It's possible that the next move is to not make a move at all. They make like this team that they have currently constructed.
In their last three games, we've seen them beat the Philadelphia 76ers, and take the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers to the wire in close losses.
This is not a bad roster, it's actually pretty good. So the decision to build with their 15 draft picks that they have over the next 6 seasons isn't a bad idea either. With the flattened odds in the NBA Draft Lottery, they could try to win with this squad, while still having a legitimate chance at top picks.
And making a continuing effort to be a winning team is always a good pitch to free agents. Being able to show that the product on the floor isn't a facade just to move higher in the draft. But a culture dedicated to always putting the best effort on the floor. Just look at the Miami Heat and how it worked for them in getting Jimmy Butler.
There's really an unlimited amount of possibilities with this Thunder organization.
Flash back to that moment again of their Big 3 watching their championship hopes drift away. It was the end of an era that never really started. Mostly because they never let it get to its full potential.
So the Thunder now have a chance at redeeming themselves, and making the most of their past failures. They can build from the ground up, build around what they have, or maintain a steady course.
The Sacramento Kings had a curious offseason to say the least.
It all started with the firing of Dave Joerger and hiring of Luke Walton. The front office and Joerger had a difference of opinion on playing time for their young guys, Marvin Bagley in particular.
Then came the odd signings. Paying guys like Richaun Holmes, Dewayne Dedmon, Corey Joseph, Trevor Ariza, Harrison Barnes, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Not that those guys aren't good, but they all got their contracts before their budding superstar in Buddy Hield.
Instead of worrying about getting accustomed to each other on the court, the Kings were already met with distractions when Hield came out to the media and began bad-mouthing the front office. And for good reason.
But he eventually got paid (less than what I think he could've gotten next summer in free agency) and everyone was happy again.
But having everyone on the floor wasn't enough to get them out to the start they would've liked.
After showing promise last season, the Kings had expectations from many as a team that could possibly contend for the 8 seed in the Western Conference. But an 0-5 start, and injuries to Marvin Bagley and De'Aaron Fox made it look like the season was already a lost cause.
They were allowing 115 points per game while committing over 17 turnovers per game. They were at the bottom of the league in terms of Fastbreak points, and they were getting inconsistent play from guys like Hield, Fox, and Bogdanovic.
Luke Walton looked overwhelmed and already had people wondering how long he would last in Sacramento. But knowing how much the front office has invested in him, another change at the coaching position shouldn't be expected.
They scored over 100 points just twice during that stretch. Their offense was abysmal.
But all streaks come to an end. The Kings grinded out their first win with a 102-101 home victory over a very good Utah Jazz team. And that taste of victory may have been all they needed to get going.
The Kings have won five of their last seven games, with their two losses coming on the road against the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers. Those two losses were by a combined six points. And their most recent victory was against the Boston Celtics, that ended their ten game winning streak.
So the question is, have the Sacramento Kings started to figure it out?
During this stretch, they have scored 110 points per game, allowed just 104 points per game, and are committing 4 turnovers less per game than they were during that five game losing streak.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has seen an uptick in minutes per game from 24 to 29, and his scoring has gone from 9 points per game to 18. Buddy Hield was shooting just 35% from the field, but shot 46% over this last stretch.
It's possible that the first five games of the season were an anomaly and this team we've seen over this recent stretch will be more similar to what we'll see the rest of the season.
A few questions still remain. Can they maintain their hot shooting we have seen from them in these last seven games? The Kings have shot an Efficient Field Goal Percentage of 56% compared to 47% in the first five games.
How will they integrate Marvin Bagley and De'Aaron Fox into the lineup without messing with the flow of this current offense?
Will the front office stay out of it's own way and allow Luke Walton and the coaching staff do what is best for the team?
At 5-7 they have found themselves right back in the mix of the way-to-early playoff standings. And Kings fans can breathe a little bit easier after that horrific start.
They’ve taken on the Benjamin Button approach to this season. They started off dead, and now they’re showing some signs of life and youth. Maybe by the end of the season they won’t be so curious after all.
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