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NBA 2022-2023 Season Preview

By Sam Morris

Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.

October 18, 2022

2021-2022 Season

Last NBA season ended with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA title 4 games to 2 over the Boston Celtics for their 4th title in the last 8 years. It was also Curry’s first time in those 4 championships that he has won the NBA Finals MVP. The Celtics were denied their chance to break their championship tie with the Los Angeles Lakers as both teams have won 17 championships. There are many interesting storylines for this upcoming season including offseason trades, off-court drama, new head coaches, and potential future stars. The following article predicts power rankings from worst to best for each NBA team in the upcoming 2022-2023 season NBA that started on October 18th.

Ranking System

To make this power ranking as statistically accurate as possible, I have assigned a point value based on each team’s ranking. To get to this point value, the team’s 5 starters and 3 best reserves’ points per game (PPG), assists per game (APG), and rebounds per game (RPG) from the 2021-2022 season have been added up to get a total value for each player. These stats can be found on ESPN.com by clicking on each team and then going to their depth chart and selecting the individual player. For example, James Harden averaged 22.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 10.3 APG last season so his total value in this power ranking is 40.0. The top 8 players’ values from each team were then added to create the team’s total point value for the power ranking which is displayed in italics next to the team’s name. Additionally, if a player was injured the majority or entirety of last season, then his value reverts to his averages from his last played season. If a team uses a rookie in their top 8 rotation this season, the rookie’s value will be given through his projected averages for this season. Below, each team’s portion of the power ranking will be a playoff prediction, the biggest takeaways of the team’s offseason, the team’s 2021-2022 record, and how many players they have in the top 100 in the league which was also calculated using the same point value system above

30. Indiana Pacers (143.9)    2021-2022 Record: (25-57)

Top 100 Players: (57) PG Tyrese Haliburton (15.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 8.2 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Drafted Bennedict Mathurin 6th overall to help rebuild as they lack depth and defense after trading Sabonis to the Kings.

29. Utah Jazz (144.5)   2021-2022 Record: (49-33)

Top 100 Players: (99) SG Jordan Clarkson (16.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.5 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

-Offseason Takeaway: The Jazz offseason was pretty simple, they traded away Donavon Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert to start a complete rebuild.

28. San Antonio Spurs (145.7)    2021-2022 Record: (34-48)

– Top 100 Players: (79) PF Keldon Johnson (17.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Drafted Jeremy Sochan 9th overall to help with shooting, will probably still be one of the worst Spurs’ teams Popovich has ever coached with very little firepower besides Johnson.

27. Houston Rockets (147.9)    2021-2022 Record: (20-62)

– Top 100 Players: (91) PG Kevin Porter Jr. (15.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.2 APG)

(71) PF Jabari Smith, Jr. (#3 Overall Pick – Auburn)

(66) SG Jalen Green (17.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.6 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Slipped to third in the draft after having the worst record, but still got their preferred prospect in Smith. Green and Smith should be a dynamic young duo on a team with little to no depth.

26. Oklahoma City Thunder (159.3)    2021-2022 Record: (24-58)

– Top 100 Players: (62) SG Josh Giddey (12.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.4 APG)

(32) PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.9 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: #2 overall pick Chet Holmgren should make this team one of the more interesting and potentially dangerous young teams soon with Giddey and SGA in the backcourt; however, his injury will make this team even less of a contender than they already were in the loaded Western conference.

25. Charlotte Hornets (167.6)    2021-2022 Record: (43-39)

– Top 100 Players (56) SG Terry Rozier (19.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.5 APG)

(30) PG La Melo Ball (20.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 7.6 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Miles Bridges’ arrest has halted negotiations for a deal with the Hornets and will take a toll on this team that was trending in the right direction last season. Statistically, they still have one of the worst defenses in the league.

24. New York Knicks (172.8)    2021-2022 Record: (37-45)

– Top 100 Players: (77) PG Jalen Brunson (16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.8 APG)

(51) SF R.J Barrett (20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 APG)

(50) PF Julius Randle (20.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 5.1 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Barrett is coming off the best season of his career, but Randle regressed from his 2020-2021 comeback season. The Knicks brought in Brunson and his dad as an assistant coach to help in the backcourt but the chemistry between these three players will need time to gel.

23. Washington Wizards (175.0)    2021-2022 Record: (35-47)

– Top 100 Players: (58) PF Kyle Kuzma (17.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.5 APG)

(47) C Kristaps Porzingis (20.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.3 APG)

(23) SG Bradley Beal (23.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 6.6 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Beal resigned with the Wizards in the offseason which solidifies veteran leadership and skill for a young team otherwise. If Porzingis can stay healthy as their interior post player, the Wizards could make the play-in. However, that is a big-if as he has never played a full-season in his career.

22. Sacramento Kings (177.1)    2021-2022 Record: (30-52)

– Top 100 Players: (93) SF Harrison Barnes (16.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG)

(42) PG De’Aaron Fox (23.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5.6 APG)

(33) C Domantas Sabonis (18.9 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 5.2 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Drafting Keegan Murray 4th overall could be an X-factor for the Kings’ front court that already has a rising star in Sabonis. Also signed Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk to help with depth. The Kings will likely improve greatly from their previous record but will have a tough time making the play-in.

21. Detroit Pistons (177.9)    2021-2022 Record: (23-59)

– Top 100 Players: (96) PF Bojan Bogdanovic (18.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG)

(85) SF Saddiq Bey (16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.8 APG)

(73) SG Jaden Ivey (#5 Overall Pick – Purdue)

(49) PG Cade Cunningham (17.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.6 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Miss

– Offseason Takeaway: Drafted Jaden Ivey 5th overall to create an explosive young backcourt with their previous #1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. Also signed Bogdanovic from the Jazz to get veteran leadership since their starting 5 is the youngest in the league with an average age of 23.6. Will likely battle with the Magic for the last play-in spot in the East and should be a very interesting young core in the following year as they also drafted center Jalen Duren 13th overall from Memphis.

20. Denver Nuggets (178.8)    2021-2022 Record: (48-34)

– Top 100 Players: (54) PG Jamal Murray (21.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.8 APG)

(1) C Nikola Jokic (27.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 7.9 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Loss in the Play-In Tournament

– Offseason Takeaway: Murray and the extremely inconsistent Michael Porter Jr. will both be back from injuries this season and will need to help the 2021-2022 MVP Nikola Jokic to bolster this offense if they want to make it out of the play-in tournament. Additionally, Jokic is rated 1st on this power ranking in total value as he nearly averaged a triple double last season. His value alone is a 48.8, which would be 33.9% of the Pacers 143.9 total value as an entire team

19. Orlando Magic (180.9)    2021-2022 Record: (22-60)

– Top 100 Players: (97) SF Franz Wagner (15.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG)

(67) PG Cole Anthony (16.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.7 APG)

(65) C Wendell Carter Jr. (15.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.8 APG)

(53) PF Paolo Banchero (#1 Overall Pick – Duke)

– Playoff Prediction: Loss in the Play-in tournament

– Offseason Takeaway: Drafted Banchero #1 overall in the 2022 draft to go with their young core of Anthony, Wagner, and Suggs. They could make the play-in tournament this season and their talent is ahead of some of the lower-level teams in the Eastern conference. However, they are still a couple years away from being a contender if their young talent become stars.

18. Portland Trail Blazers (181.6)    2021-2022 Record: (27-55)

– Top 100 Players: (89) SG Anfernee Simons (17.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.9 APG)

(75) SF Josh Hart (14.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.1 APG)

(70) PF Jerami Grant (19.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG)

(68) C Jusuf Nurkic (15.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.8 APG)

(21) PG Damian Lilliard (24.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 7.3 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Loss in the Play-in tournament

– Offseason Takeaway: Lilliard said he wants to be a Blazer for life this offseason. The Blazers also signed Jerami Grant and drafted Shaedon Sharpe 7th overall. They have a talented starting lineup but lack a true second star to pair with Lilliard, following CJ McCollum’s departure to New Orleans.

17. Dallas Mavericks (182.5)    2021-2022 Record: (52-30)

– Top 100 Players: (94) SG Spencer Dinwiddie (13.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.2 APG)

(39) C Christian Wood (17.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 5.3 APG)

(4) PG Luka Doncic (28.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 8.7 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter final exit

– Offseason Takeaway: The Mavs got smoked by the Warriors in the Western Finals last year. Despite adding Wood in the offseason as a dependable double-double threat, they have lost both Porzingis and Brunson to lower-level Eastern conference teams in search of bigger pay days. Like Jokic with the Nuggets, Doncic will have to carry the team on his back until the trade deadline where hopefully owner Mark Cuban can maneuver a trade to obtain a second star like so many other western conference teams have.

16. Phoenix Suns (183.2)    2021-2022 Record: (64-18)

– Top 100 Players: (52) PG Chris Paul (14.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 10.8 APG)

(48) C DeAndre Ayton (17.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.4APG)

(16) SG Devin Booker (26.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.8 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter final exit

– Offseason Takeaway: The Suns are coming off back-to-back seasons in which they have been the 1 seed in the Western Conference. They also were rumored to add Kevin Durant this offseason, but the deals fell through. Paul is going into his age 37 season and the depth around him and Booker has deteriorated with McGee, Kaminsky, and Aaron Holiday all on different rosters this season. They could make a run but need a consistent Paul to continue to play at an all-star level.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (184.6)    2021-2022 Record: (46-36)

– Top 100 Players: (63) PG D’Angelo Russell (18.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.1 APG)

(43) SG Anthony Edwards (21.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.8 APG)

(35) C Rudy Gobert (15.6 PPG, 14.7 RPG, 1.1 APG)

(14) PF Karl-Anthony Towns (24.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.6 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter final exit

– Offseason Takeaway: The Timberwolves traded multiple role players and draft picks to get Gobert so they will have one of the best rebounding and defensive teams in the league when he is paired with Towns. However, their speed, depth, and agility will all take a hit this season because of the trade.

14. Memphis Grizzlies (186.8)    2021-2022 Record: (56-26)

– Top 100 Players: (83) SF Dillon Brooks (18.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.8 APG)

(82) SG Desmond Bane (18.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.7 APG)

(9) PG Ja Morant (27.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.7 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter final exit

– Offseason Takeaway: The Grizzlies lost De’Anthony Melton to the Sixers and as a result will be weaker defensively and in depth. The season’s success will depend on how much of a superstar Morant will become in his age 23 season and whether Bane and Brooks continue their upward trajectory. The Grizzlies are an unpredictable team as they could have a deep playoff run or get bounced in the quarters.

13. Los Angeles Lakers (186.9)    2021-2022 Record: (33-49)

– Top 100 Players: (45) PG Russell Westbrook (18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.1 APG)

(19) C Anthony Davis (23.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.1 APG)

(5) PF LeBron James (30.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.2 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Semifinals

– Offseason Takeaway: Rated 0.1 point higher than the Grizzlies, the Lakers have the oldest starting lineup in the league with an average age of 31.2. LeBron said this offseason he wants to play wherever his sons play before he retires, so the Lakers may be on a short window to win another championship during LeBron’s tenure on the team. Westbrook will have to figure out how to blend his game with LeBron’s and Davis’ or he might be traded by the deadline.

12. Chicago Bulls (187.3)    2021-2022 Record: (46-36)

– Top 100 Players: (92) PG Lonzo Ball (13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.1 APG)

(38) C Nikola Vucevic (17.6 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.2 APG)

(26) SG Zach LaVine (24.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.5 APG)

(12) SF DeMar DeRozan (27.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.9 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Loss in the Play-in tournament

– Offseason Takeaway:  Bulls signed Andre Drummond to help bolster their depth at the Center position. They have a lot of talent on the wings but will need their stars to stay healthy as Lonzo and LaVine are constantly getting injured.

11. Miami Heat (188.1)    2021-2022 Record: (53-29)

– Top 100 Players: (72) PG Kyle Lowry (13.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 7.5 APG)

(44) SG Tyler Herro (20.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG)

(31) C Bam Adebayo (19.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.4 APG)

(28) PF Jimmy Butler (21.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.5 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter finals exit

– Offseason Takeaway: After Kevin Durant said he wanted out of Brooklyn, the Heat were the other major market team besides the Suns having talks with Durant during the offseason. While the Durant deal didn’t work out, they are still one of the most formidable teams in the East that has a lot of talented teams at the top of this power ranking. They would be higher on this list, but Lowry and Butler’s production will likely go down as they age, and their bench is not as great defensively as similar teams like the Raptors and Bucks; the Heat bench consists primarily of wing shooters like Duncan Robinson and Victor Oladipo.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (188.8)    2021-2022 Record: (51-31)

– Top 100 Players: (46) PG Jrue Holiday (18.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.8 APG)

(37) SF Khris Middleton (20.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.4 APG)

(2) PF Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.9 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.8 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter finals exit

– Offseason Takeaway: The Bucks didn’t really make any offseason moves so they could get passed up by some teams that traded for stars, like the Hawks and Cavs . Antetokounmpo will likely continue to dominate and if Middleton and Holiday back him up like they did last season, they will be a top 10 team this year.  

9. Toronto Raptors (190.3)    2021-2022 Record: (48-34)

– Top 100 Players: (100) SG Gary Trent Jr. (18.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.0 APG)

(95) SF O.G Anunoby (17.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.6 APG)

(60) PF Scottie Barnes (15.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG)

(36) PG Fred VanVleet (20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.7 APG)

(18) C Pascal Siakam (22.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 5.3 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter finals exit

– Offseason Takeaway: As mentioned in the Heat’s power ranking, the Raptors have an extremely deep bench that is good defensively with players like Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa. Adding Otto Porter Jr. from the Warriors only helps their depth even more. Their success this season will depend on whether last year’s rookie of the year Scottie Barnes can take his game a step up and if Siakam can continue his production.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (194.2)    2021-2022 Record: (36-46)

– Top 100 Players: (41) C Jonas Valanciunas (17.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 2.6 APG)

(34) PG C.J McCollum (22.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.1 APG)

(25) SF Brandon Ingram (22.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.6 APG)

(24) PF Zion Williamson (27.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.7 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Semifinals

– Offseason Takeaway: The Pelicans will likely be one of the most improved teams this season if they can stay healthy. Zion is finally back and pairing him for the first time with a dynamic guard like McCollum will be interesting. Ingram has become a superstar while Herb Jones and Valanciunas supply even more defense to go along with the rebounding ability of the 6’6 280-pound Williamson. They are not quite top 5 because their bench is not nearly as good as some of the top tier teams, and we have yet to see Zion play a full season.  

7. Brooklyn Nets (196.2)    2021-2022 Record: (44-38)

– Top 100 Players: (64) PF Ben Simmons (14.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 9.9 APG)

(17) PG Kyrie Irving (27.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.8 APG)

(6) SF Kevin Durant (29.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.4 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Quarter finals exit

– Offseason Takeaway: It feels like everything the Nets do is in the offseason and off the court. Arguably the biggest story of the entire off season was Durant asking to be moved from Brooklyn just weeks after he practically begged Sean Marks and the front office to let Kyrie stay on the team. Durant eventually re-signed with Brooklyn after no deals could get done with Phoenix or Miami. Kyrie will be able to play this season because of the retracted vaccine mandates, Joe Harris will be coming back off his season long injury last season, and Ben Simmons will also be able to play for the first time in over a year as he is coming off his mental health hiatus and back injury. The Nets also boosted their bench with Royce O’Neale and have kept Patty Mills and Seth Curry under contract. Like the previous years when James Harden was on the team, the Nets have a ton of talent, but also a ton of questions over team chemistry.  

6. Cleveland Cavaliers (196.4)    2021-2022 Record: (44-38)

– Top 100 Players: (98) SF Caris LeVert (17.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.3 APG)

(78) PF Evan Mobley (15.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.5 APG)

(61) C Jarrett Allen (16.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.6 APG)

(27) PG Darius Garland (21.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 8.6 APG)

(20) SG Donovan Mitchell (25.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.3 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Semifinals

– Offseason Takeaway: The Cavaliers signed Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz in the off-season’s blockbuster trade. What they lost in Markkanen and Sexton were two starters that will easily be replaced by one of the leagues best shooting guards. Pairing Mitchell with one of the most improved players of last season in Darius Garland will make for one of the league’s most talented backcourts. The Cavs also have a great wing shooter in LeVert, while Mobley, Allen, and Love will make for a great rebounding and defensive frontcourt.   

5. Atlanta Hawks (196.6)    2021-2022 Record: (43-39)

– Top 100 Players: (90) C Clint Capela (11.1 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.2 APG)

(74) PF John Collins (16.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.8 APG)

(22) SG DeJounte Murray (21.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 9.2 APG)

(7) PG Trae Young (28.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 9.7 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Conference Semifinals

– Offseason Takeaway: The Hawks traded away Kevin Huerter to Sacramento which will affect the depth of their shooting but when you have Trae Young and DeJounte Murray, the Hawks’ shooting is still pretty solid. With Murray as the SG, the Hawks finally have a solidified second star to pair with Young and they could make a deep run this season.

4. Boston Celtics (198.4)    2021-2022 Record: (51-31)

– Top 100 Players: (81) SG Malcolm Brogdon (19.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.9 APG)

(40) PG Marcus Smart (19.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG)

(29) SF Jaylen Brown (23.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.5 APG)

(10) PF Jayson Tatum (26.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.4 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Eastern Conference Finals

– Offseason Takeaway: Coming off a season where the Celtics reached the NBA Finals but lost 4 games to 2 to the Warriors, the Celtics added Blake Griffin in the offseason. This addition isn’t what’s significant however, it is the fact that the Celtics have kept the exact same starting lineup and top 4 bench players as last season’s finals team. Brown and Tatum should continue to improve as one of the league’s most dynamic duos and statistically the Celtics should be able to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference again. The coaching situation in Boston is the biggest question mark. With Ime Udoka getting fired in the offseason for having a consensual sexual relationship with a staff member, the momentum from last season will shift into the hands of new interim head coach Joe Mazzula who has spent only 3 seasons in the NBA as an assistant for Boston.  

3. Philadelphia 76ers (199.4)    2021-2022 Record: (51-31)

– Top 100 Players: (88) PG Tyrese Maxey (17.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.3 APG)

(69) SF Tobias Harris (17.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.5 APG)

(8) SG James Harden (22.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 10.3 APG)

(3) C Joel Embiid (30.6 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 4.2 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Eastern Conference Champions, NBA Finals runner-up

– Offseason Takeaway: James Harden took a pay reduction in the offseason to stay with the Sixers and to keep their team strong as it allowed the front office to keep P.J Tucker and Tobias Harris. Harden’s narrative over the past few seasons was that he was a particularly selfish player with the Nets and Rockets and this move has changed a lot of critics’ minds about him. If Harden really commits to staying in shape, his production will likely go up from last season where he posted his lowest PPG since his 2011-2012 season when he was still a part of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This year is perhaps the most important year for the Sixers to reach the NBA Finals in the Embiid era as contracts will began to expire and Harden will continue to age. Embiid is at his prime right now and led the league in PPG last season, something that Harden did 3 years consecutively from 2018-2020. The Sixers also have one of the better defensive teams with Matisse Thybulle and P.J Tucker along with Embiid’s ability to block shots.

2. Golden State Warriors (202.8)    2021-2022 Record: (53-29)

– Top 100 Players: (86) SF Andrew Wiggins (17.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.2 APG)

(76) SG Jordan Poole (18.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.0 APG)

(59) SG Klay Thompson (20.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.8 APG)

(13) PG Stephen Curry (25.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.3 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Western Conference Finals

– Offseason Takeaway: Well, it’s been an interesting offseason for Golden State to say the least. The Warriors were last year’s NBA Champions, winning the title for the 4th time in the last 8 years with the big three of Curry, Thompson, and Green. Curry also broke Ray Allen’s 3-point record last season and comes into the season with the same starting lineup as last year. What’s scary about the Warriors is that they have 4 young bench players all between the ages of 20-23 who are all capable of starter-level production on most teams. This includes the former Michigan SG Jordan Poole who averaged 18.5 PPG off the bench last season. Poole saw a significant increase in playing time with Thompson’s injury in the first half of the season and took advantage of that opportunity and has solidified his role as a dominant shooter and wing in this explosive offense. However, in an offseason practice, Poole and Green got into an argument when Poole was bragging over his new 4-year 140-million-dollar extension. Green punched Poole and was suspended for the team’s preseason. Despite Poole stating that they have resolved the conflict and will move forward, the team’s chemistry will be a question going forward.

1. Los Angeles Clippers (204.2)    2021-2022 Record: (42-40)

– Top 100 Players: (87) SF Norman Powell (19.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.1 APG)

(84) PG Reggie Jackson (16.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.8 APG)

(55) PG John Wall (20.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.9 APG)

(15) SG Paul George (24.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.7 APG)

(11) SF Kawhi Leonard (24.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 7.2 APG)

– Playoff Prediction: Western Conference Champion, NBA Finals Champion – Offseason Takeaway: The top team in the preseason power rankings is the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers made the play-in tournament last season before getting bounced by the Timberwolves. However, that was without a healthy Paul George and without Kawhi Leonard. Now both superstars will be back on the court with a team that has added John Wall and resigned Norman Powell. The Clippers’ depth is impressive with 8 players over 10 PPG last season on their roster. Their depth is so good that Powell and Wall will likely be backups and are both top 100 players in the league in this power ranking. Jackson, George, and Leonard all provide quality playoff experience and high-level talent, where Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac provide size and veteran leadership in the front court. The Clippers’ bench goes even deeper with Robert Covington being an elite defender and Luke Kennard and Terance Mann being elite level wing shooters. Overall, the Clippers have the right combination of star power, leadership, and depth to win this year’s NBA Championship in a year where the top half of teams on this list seem like viable contenders.


Way Too Early Playoff Seeding Predictions for the 2022-2023 NBA Season

By Kalen Lumpkins

Kalen is a fourth year BGSU student from Toledo, Ohio. He is a sports management major with a minor in journalism. His primary sport interests include football and tennis, but he also has an interest in a wide variety in other sports, from baseball to hockey. His dream job outside of college is to be a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

October 18, 2022

Maxwell Media Watch

It is finally that time of the year for basketball fans. After an insane off-season, it is understandable that fans are eager to see how this year will play out. There are plenty of lingering questions that are set to be answered this season as well. Can the Warriors dynasty continue their dominance? How will the Celtics do without Ime Udoka on the sidelines? Can the Lakers bounce back? Who will be MVP? It is a long season, so we are not going to have these answers immediately. However, if you want something to base your season predictions on, I am here to help. Without further ado, here is how I see the NBA regular season playing out.

Eastern Conference Standings

  1. Boston Celtics (58-24)
  2. Milwaukee Bucks (56-26)
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (55-27)
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)
  5. Brooklyn Nets (49-33)
  6. Miami Heat (47-35)
  7. Atlanta Hawks (44-38)
  8. New York Knicks (42-40)

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  1. Boston has had a roller coaster offseason after their Finals loss to the Warriors. They signed a much-needed playmaking guard in Malcom Brogdon and filled what seems to be the only hole in the Celtics roster. They also signed a quality shooter in Danilo Gallinari, but then the forward tore his ACL a few weeks later. Jaylen Brown was almost traded in a package deal offer for Kevin Durant that fell through, so there could be tension between him and the front office. Add-on the widely known suspension of Ime Udoka, and you have a team that is riddled with questions going into the season. Despite all the drama, I expect Brogdon’s presence to greatly improve the Celtics’ gameplan, including getting better looks for Jayson Tatum. The Celtics leader was shut down by Golden State in the finals, and that is surely still on his mind. Expect an MVP caliber season from #0 (Tatum) and expect interim coach Joe Mazzulla to continue to emphasize their defensive approach. 

2. Speaking of MVPs, the two-time award winner Giannis Antetokounmpo did everything he could to bring the Bucks to another Finals, but the absence of Khris Middleton proved too much as they fell to Boston in game 7 of the second round. Despite the loss, Milwaukee decided to run it back by bringing 16 of the 20 players that were on their roster last season. The Bucks have proven that they can win when they are healthy. It’s getting healthy that seems to be the problem. Middleton is recovering from wrist surgery, Joe Ingles is still battling his ACL tear, Brook Lopez missed some preseason games because of an ankle injury among other injuries. When this team is not 100%, it shows, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Bucks dropped from 1st to 13th in points allowed at the rim after injuries to Lopez and George Hill. Despite the struggles, having Giannis on the team hides the defensive struggles. We will see how he elevates his game this season, and the continuation of Mike Budenholzer’s defensive schemes should keep Milwaukee in the championship picture.

3. The East was the most competitive it has been in years last season, with the second, third and fourth seed all posting 51-31 records. One game made the difference for these teams last year, and it begs the question of what last year could have been for the Sixers. After a (somewhat) dominant series against the Raptors, Philly would lose steam and fall to Miami in the second round. Joel Embiid missing time of course did not help, but the biggest flaw for the Sixers was the presence of James Harden. Or lack thereof. In the series, he averaged just 18 PPG on 40% shooting. We did see a flash of ‘prime’ Harden in Game 4, where he scored 31 points and carried Philly to even the series in Embiid’s absence. The key to this year for the Sixers will be James Harden performing on a consistent basis, and I think he will surprise everyone and show that he still has it. Embiid will be, well Embiid, and these two factors will make the Sixers a legitimate threat to the Celtics and Bucks.

4. Last season was a success for the Cavaliers, despite losing two games in the play-in tourney and ultimately missing the playoffs. The big three of Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley made Cleveland a force on defense while also controlling the paint. The Cavs can find success in the East with these three, but a missing piece needed to be filled for them to be championship contenders. Flash forward to today, and they may have filled that void with the signing of Donovan Mitchell. The addition of the former Jazz star means that Cleveland now has a presence in the paint, outside the key and beyond the perimeter, and I think opposing defenses will have a hard time covering all three parts of the court per game. Depth will be an issue, especially come playoff time, but the ceiling of the Cavs with those four on the floor is highest among teams that missed the post season last year.

5. The Brooklyn Nets beat the Cavaliers in the first play-in tourney game last season to become the 7-seed to set up what could have been one of the best playoff series of all time against Boston. Long story short, it was not, as they would get swept by the Celtics instead. And that is when turmoil almost happened in Brooklyn. Both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant stated their displeasure with the organization and almost went to different teams. While both players ended up staying, it remains to be seen how they will perform on a team they may or may not want to be a part of the following season. Best case scenario is that the team strives, and the additions of Ben Simmons and Seth Curry pay dividends. Worst case scenario is that the Nets do not improve, and Brooklyn loses two of the best players in NBA history for nothing in return. I expect something in the middle with the Nets as the 5-seed going against the Cavs.

6. The Heat finished last season one game from the NBA Finals but fell to the Celtics in game 7. In that series, it was clear that there was not a consistent threat in Miami offensively besides Jimmy Butler. I expected the Heat to go to work to find that piece, like a Donovan Mitchell or even Jalen Brunson, but ended up with an uneventful offseason. Due to this, I expect a drop of quality for the team. They will still make the playoffs as a 6-seed, but until there’s a true number two in Miami, they will not get over the hump.

7. Atlanta is coming off an underwhelming year of their own after making the Eastern Conference Finals the season before. John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic are becoming quality pieces for the Hawks, but I think Trae Young has yet to take that next step in his game. He is an unstoppable force when his shots go in but his decision making still needs to improve. For example, when they were down against Miami in their playoff series, Young would try shots from the logo to spark something for the offense. In general, he has had far too many ugly games in important situations, and I think that trend will continue this year. The Hawks could have a title contending team, but that will be determined by Trae Young’s play.

8. For the Knicks, where Trae Young is still public enemy #1, they will look to improve on last year’s letdown after making the playoffs the prior season. New York was able to pick up help for Julius Randle with the acquisition of Jalen Brunson. I still think Brunson needs to prove himself, but players like R.J Barrett and Obi Toppin will take some pressure off the former Dallas star. Expect the Knicks to improve this year and become possibly one of the top 5 seeds in the 2023-24 campaign.

Western Conference Standings  

  1. Golden State Warriors (65-17)
  2. Denver Nuggets (59-23)
  3. Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
  4. Memphis Grizzlies (52-30)
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves (50-32)
  6. Phoenix Suns (47-35)
  7. New Orleans Pelicans (46-36)
  8. Dallas Mavericks (43-39)

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  1. After putting together one of the best offensive clinics in NBA history, the Warriors are prepared to run it back as the defending champs for the fourth time in eight seasons. All seemed to be well in San Francisco, until Draymond Green decided to punch Jordan Poole during a practice. Green said after the incident that both will take a professional approach and continue to focus on the team. The impact of the punch to the team remains to be seen, but this group, especially the big three (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Green) have been through enough to overcome this situation. With that being said, I expect the Warriors to continue to be an offensive juggernaut, and I cannot see any team in the West being able to win four games against this team.  

2. It has been an unfortunate couple of postseasons for the Nuggets. With injuries to Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray lingering in the past two seasons, Denver would be eliminated twice in the first round, winning just one game across both series. This season, however, they come at (mostly) full strength. We all saw what Jamal Murray can do after watching his play in the bubble, while Porter Jr. brings back his defensive prowess. Staying healthy will remain the focal point for the Nuggets, but at full strength they can be a large challenge on both sides of the ball. Oh, and Nikola Jokic will be going for his third straight MVP trophy. Expect Denver to have a breakout season.

3. Even though the Clippers missed the postseason, last year was still a success for LA in my eyes. Being able to win 42 games without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard shows how good this team can really be with the big 2 on the floor. This team also has depth behind Kawhi and PG as well, with players like Reggie Jackson, Terrance Mann, and new signee John Wall. Being a balanced team on both sides of the ball, the Clippers are going to be a force to be reckoned with. I think people are overlooking this squad, and I truly believe that they are the biggest threat to Golden State in the west when healthy.

4. The Grizzlies had one of their best seasons in franchise history last year, and Ja Morant’s huge elevation in his game is a part of the reason for that. What would have happened in their series with the Warriors had Morant not missed time will be the biggest ‘what if’ for Memphis fans, but I expect them to be able to rebound and keep the same defensive identity they did last year. The absence of Jaren Jackson Jr. to start the season will be noticed, but when he returns, this team will have a chip on their shoulder. I also do expect Ja Morant to be an MVP finalist.

5. The Grizzlies’ first round opponent last season was the Minnesota Timberwolves and they put on a phenomenal series. The Timberwolves would fall short, and it was mostly because of poor decision making. Players like Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns tried to play too much ‘hero ball,’ attempting to carry the team instead of creating quality shots. In other words, the maturity levels between the Grizzlies and Timberwolves were as bright as day. This year, however, I expect the players to take a step forward mentally and become a top five offense on the league. I still think that defense is a concern, despite Minnesota’s bust in free agency, but the players performing more as a team will make up for the flaws on the other side of the ball.

6. I do not think anyone expected game 7 in the Western Conference second round to turn out the way it did. Especially no one in Phoenix. After being on the wrong side of one of the biggest blowouts in NBA postseason history, the Suns are looking to get back to the NBA Finals like they did two seasons ago. The Suns are bringing pretty much everyone back from last season, including a huge signing with Deandre Ayton. However, it seems that opposing teams have been able to figure out Monty Williams’ gameplan quicker than a couple seasons ago. Devin Booker will make sure to keep the Suns in contention, but I predict a decrease in quality for the Suns this season.

7. On paper, the Pelicans can become one of the most improved teams in the league and a legitimate championship contender. In reality, the floor and ceiling for this team solely depends on the health of Zion Williamson. That has not proven to be a good thing to bank on given that he has only played 85 games in three seasons, including missing the entirety of the 2021-22 campaign. Without Zion, the Pelicans held their own by making the playoffs and taking the Suns to six games. The additions of CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram have proven to be gold, but there still seems to be a missing piece and intensity that only Zion can fill. I have New Orleans as the 7-seed because even if Zion misses significant time again, I expect the players to know what to do and still be a quality team. If Zion plays for a majority of the season, however, the Pelicans can surprise many.

8. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, I expect them to have the biggest drop off from last year. Luka Doncic will be, well, Luka Doncic again, but my major concern with Dallas is the lack of a second option. Jalen Brunson used to be the backup for Luka, but he is now in a Knicks jersey. The return of Tim Hardaway Jr. will provide some shooting help, but other players will have to step up if the Mavericks want to return to glory. Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood will have to produce on a nightly basis to help Luka out, but I just do not see that happening. The Mavs will have to be busier come next free agency.

The NBA season is set to kick off on October 18 when the Philadelphia Sixers face the Boston Celtics at 7:30 PM.

Leicester City: The Greatest Sports Story. Ever.

 

By Nate Flax

As the clock hit the 96th minute of the Tottenham – Chelsea match, the entire soccer world realized that the greatest underdog story in sport history had concluded. After trailing 2-0 at halftime, Chelsea came back to draw with the second place Tottenham Hotspur, thanks to a brilliant 80th minute equalizer by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. As the final whistle blew to end the heated London Derby, Tottenham’s title hopes were dashed and for the second year in a row, a new Premier League champion was decided at Stamford Bridge. However, this time it wasn’t one of England’s heavyweight contenders, but instead a club that had been written off before the season even started.

Leicester City

Located right in the heart of England, world-famous clubs, always surrounded Leicester with Manchester just to the North and London to the South, but until this year, very few that did not follow the BPL closely even knew a soccer club existed there, even though the team was founded in 1884 (132 years ago). The Leicester City Foxes were simply insignificant, finishing at the bottom of the table the year before and had only received promotion into England’s top league the year before that. They entered the season 5000-1 odds to win the title this year and featured a team that had cost just £80 million to put together (to put in perspective Manchester City spent £80 million on one transfer alone earlier in the year). Billy Beane’s Moneyball scheme wouldn’t stand a chance against this. Other recent previous 5000-1 odds as explained by ESPN’s Paul Carr included 16-year-old Paul Chaplet’s chances at this year’s Masters (where he shot 21 over par and finished dead last) and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ chances to make the playoffs with a month left in the season and their record sitting at 14-35. The odds for Elvis Presley being found alive were also 5000-1.

Being written off before the season even started, Leicester really had no chance of failing any expectations given to them, quite frankly because there were no expectations to start with. But that’s when everything clicked. Led by Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy, and seasoned manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes outdid themselves by continuing to be that pesky opponent that just wouldn’t give up even though they seemingly had no business competing with powerhouses like Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Yet somehow, with Chelsea holding Tottenham to a draw, Leicester City sat seven points clear on top of the table with just two games to play, making it impossible for anyone to catch them, and crowning them the kings of England. With the third smallest budget in the Premier League, the Foxes became the first team not named Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea in 21 years to win the title, and just the sixth to win out of 48 that have tried since 1992. After a season that proved that money can’t always guarantee a crown, Leicester City concluded the fairy tale of a season that underdogs could previously only dream of.

LeBron’s Social Media shouldn’t be Media…

By Nate Flax

For the last week or so, the sports world has paid extra close attention to future Hall of Famer, LeBron James. While it’s no surprise that James is once again in the spotlight, the reasoning behind his recent hype is quite frankly ridiculous. After a blowout win against the Denver Nuggets, a reporter, seemingly against all his journalistic instincts, asked LeBron why he had unfollowed the Cleveland Cavaliers’ twitter page to which James replied with a very blunt “Next question.” The brief interview immediately went viral, being broken down by blogs, twitter, and just about every show featured on ESPN. Sure, James’ reaction could have been better and more polite, but did it really deserve a00week-long critique?

Since the infamous decision to return to Cleveland after abandoning the team for the Miami Heat, things have not gone as planned for James and the Cavaliers. His glorified return was spoiled by a loss in the NBA finals to the Golden State Warriors, and the team can’t seem to avoid locker room drama. The twitter fiasco only added to a long line of recent off the court problems for the Cavs, as well as more rumors of another LeBron James departure from Cleveland. James shrugged off the unfollow as simple preparation for the playoffs, an understandable mindset for a man who has made it a mission to bring a championship to his hometown.

It was not as if preparing for the playoffs was not already on James’ mind. A new entrance song as well as a cut down on all social medias were already announced as part of his plans to get set for the postseason. Even if the unfollow spree the superstar went on that week was not about prepping for the post season, it doesn’t really matter who he follows. As Sporting New’s Jordan Greer put it, “LeBron follows Victor Cruz, so is he going to play for the Giants? He also follows Bun B. Time to start that rap career. Or maybe James doesn’t need to follow the Cavs on Twitter because, you know, he’s physically there with his squad. It’s not necessary to receive your news and updates online when you can just say “Hey, Kyrie, are you going to play tonight?”

Though the Cavs are probably the lone bright spot in Cleveland sports, its ridiculous to blow such a minor, non-basketball issue, into a week-long drama show. Let the man do his job and be the brilliant basketball player he is without over analyzing every off the court action he makes and appreciate the greatness without creating a story where there isn’t one.

Kyrie Irving Faces Biggest Challenge in Basketball Career

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By Matt Stevenson

May 1, 2015

Last Sunday the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Boston Celtics and knocked them out of the playoffs in Game 4 of the series. A great first playoff series win for this young Cavaliers squad, but it came with a major repercussion.

Kevin Love left the game in the first quarter and it was scary. Not knowing what specifically happened at first glimpse, the live broadcast shows Cavaliers Forward Kevin Love getting tangled up with Celtics Kelly Olynyk while scrambling for the ball. Immediately after, Love sprinted right to the locker room without stopping to talk to anyone. After several replays, it was clear his shoulder was indeed dislocated.

A debate on whether it was intentional or not has taken the social media world by storm. The game itself was incredibly physical with technicals and ejections being issued.

Cavaliers Center, Kendrick Perkins, set a hard screen on Celtics Forward, Jae Crowder, that sparked some shoving and much trash talking. However, later in the game Crowder and Cavs Guard J.R. Smith got into it while positioning themselves for a rebound.

The video shows Crowder shoving Smith pretty hard (definitely foul-worthy). J.R. Smith retaliated though by flailing his arm, with a closed fist, and connected with Jae Crowder… right in his face.

Accidental? Maybe. Suspension? Definitely. How long? Nobody knows.

So Kevin Love is reportedly out for the rest of the playoffs. J.R. Smith is for sure getting suspended and it could potentially be a few games. After sweeping the Celtics on Sunday, we wait for the Bulls as they look to close out their series with the Bucks.

This means the Cleveland Cavaliers are without two of their starters and the two other members on the team, besides LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, that can be consistently relied upon to create their own shot. This takes away a huge element of the Cavs game as they rely heavily on Love and Smith to hit 3’s and space the floor.

This may be one of LeBron’s biggest challenges in his career, without a doubt. But I think this focus’ more on Kyrie Irving.

Kyrie Irving will be expected to score a lot, as LeBron will be busy defending the variety of players Chicago has such as Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson, and Mike Dunleavy.

Two other key players for this series that must step up to win are Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert. Defensively they need to show up, but offensively Shumpert needs to hit perimeter shots and Thompson needs to continue his offensive rebounding giving Cleveland second chance points.

Is Kyrie Irving ready to accept the challenge and put the stamp on the “Superstar” label? This series will indeed determine that as he faces a Bulls team which is finally healthy and has been labeled as the Cavaliers only threat all year in the Eastern Conference, WITH Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.

This Round 2 series of the NBA Playoffs between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls will be the first big test of Kyrie Irving’s young career. Is he ready? We’ll find out this weekend. GO CAVS!

Kevin Love Rocks Cleveland Indians Hat in Hospital

Kevin Love

By Matt Stevenson

April 30, 2015

Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Celtics series ended in a sweep, but Cavaliers fans lost more than they won. 3 time All-Star Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder after getting tangled up with Celtics Kelly Olynyk and will miss 4-6 months after a successful surgery and, more importantly, the rest of the playoffs.

Much debate has been brought up amid the injury if Love, who has a player option with the Cavaliers, can opt-out of his current contract and become a free agent. 3 years of trade rumors when Love was on the Minnesota Timberwolves were consistently held up due to the lack of commitment teams were getting on Love resigning with any team he could be traded to.

The price to trade for Kevin Love was simply too high with no guarantee he would stick around for the long haul.

The Cavaliers ended up trading the 2014-2015 first overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, in a package with other first rounders and even the 2013-2014 first overall pick, Anthony Bennet, for Love. The Cavaliers executed the trade with a firm belief that Kevin Love would opt-out of his contract upon the end of this season, only to resign with Cleveland for a 5 year maximum contract worth about $120 million dollars.

The regular season had its ups and downs, but nobody received more criticism than Love. It was a daily topic on any media outlet whether it was ESPN, Bleacher Report, or even the local Cleveland news stations (and Minnesota’s as well I’m sure).

Kevin Love was left out of LeBron James’ Instagram photos, he was called out publicly by LeBron on Twitter claiming he needs to “Fit-In” and him clearly not having the same chemistry as the rest of the team on or off the court.

Kevin Love had the roughest season out of ANY player in the NBA this season in regards to the criticism from the media.

The reports of him leaving Cleveland because he doesn’t want to retain the lesser role, in which he currently does with the Cavaliers, is a legitimate argument. In the next round if the Cavaliers don’t do well, will Kevin Love be motivated to burn the Cavaliers? As the fans and organization would learn his worth through a devastating playoff exit, he might feel even more offended and motivated to leave Cleveland.

But then the morning after his surgery, Kevin Love posted a simple picture on Instagram, the same app that has been used to exclude him from the Cavaliers. It’s a picture of him giving a thumbs up with an enormous smile on his face. The reason the photo is important is because he is wearing a Cleveland Indians hat.

This is not just a hat. It’s a symbol. Kevin Love is thanking the Cleveland fans for the love and support we’ve given him through the awful injury he endured. I believe this is a message to the fans of Cleveland that he is, indeed, staying put in Cleveland for years to come.

2015 NBA First-Round Playoff Preview

2015NBAbracket1stround

By Matt Stevenson

April 18, 2015

Although I say this every year, I AM BEYOND EXCITED FOR THE 2015 NBA PLAYOFFS! The amount of legitimate contenders this year has separated this year’s playoffs from the rest, and significantly so.

The Eastern Conference finally has several power houses that can make the first two-rounds somewhat interesting for the first time since Boston’s Big Three left. Then, of course, we have the usual for the Western Conference. This conference is once again more loaded than your Aunt Ruth’s potatoes! A Clippers-Spurs first round match as well as Mavericks-Rockets is awesome.

I think three questions are critical to answer for the Eastern Conference: Can LeBron and the Cavaliers continue their dominance? Can Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler coincide for a deep playoff run? Will the Atlanta Hawks prove to be a real threat to the future of the Eastern Conference?

In the first round I think the two-seeded Cavaliers win every single positional battle and will breeze through Boston, although I think Boston will take one game, Cavs in 5. The Atlanta Hawks earned the first seed with an incredible display of teamwork in the regular season, also breaking the franchise record with over 60 wins. The obliterated the Brooklyn Nets in the season series 4-0 and I expect nothing less. Although I’m a huge Joe Johnson fan, and Brook Lopez is playing the best basketball he has since he got paid, Atlanta has everything going for them. Hawks 4-0. Boy, what if we would’ve seen a Pacers-Hawks first-round matchup though? Last year’s 1 vs 8 seed went to 7 games between the two and was great basketball.

Raptors against the Wizards is an interesting matchup, as both have more of the “complete team” philosophy. However, the Wizards just haven’t been able to click the way thought they could while the Raptors are playing tough basketball. Kyle Lowry is proving his max contract worth this season when healthy. I thought them nabbing Paul Pierce really could make them threats to any team in the East. Raptors in 6. The last first round matchup in the East is the Bulls vs Bucks. This series is simple for me, Jason Kidd has proved to be a good coach willing to get to players. But without significant depth like the Bulls have (not to mention they have experience as well) the Bucks won’t last. Derrick Rose will get the go to be himself again I think and create a spotlight on the Bulls as reporters will start to get nutty with the idea of a Cavs-Bulls second round matchup. Bulls in 4.

So in the Eastern Conference we have a second round matchup between Chicago and Cleveland and Toronto and Atlanta as most expected. I predict the Cavaliers will prevail in this conference as LeBron, Kyrie and K-Love will prove to be too much to handle for the rest of the field.

Now the fun part, attempting to dissect the Western Conference. This is much like March Madness as it might be easier to decipher my picks by flipping a coin, but I will indeed choose off my knowledge of the game. I see only one matchup that will be done in 4 and that is the Warriors vs Pelicans. I love love LOVE Anthony Davis, but he’s going up against the most dangerous shooting team in NBA history. But this shooting team can also beat them in every other way because they can stick David Lee, Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut on Davis. Warriors in 4. Grizzlies vs LaMarcus Aldridge’s Blazers can be a great series, however I think it will be done quickly. No Wesley Matthews or Batum for the Blazers therefor relying on who? Alonzo Gee… LaMarcus Aldridge is one of my favorite players in the league but him and Lillard can’t get it done by themselves against an experienced Grizzlies team. Memphis in 5.

Now my two favorite matchups in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Houston Rockets taking on rival Dallas Mavericks is an exceptionally great first rounder to watch. The Rockets won the season series 3-1, but I have a bad feeling about this. There is one key factor in this series, Rajon Rondo. If Rondo can finally mesh with the Mavs (which he hasn’t so far) they have the best starting line up top to bottom. But of course, what about James Harden? He is my pick for MVP and with Dwight Howard they are a scary team. But they don’t have the guards to defend Dallas’. Scoring won’t be a problem for Harden, as it never is. But I think Dirk Nowitzki has a favorable matchup, as does Rondo. Oh yes, Chandler Parsons who darted Houston for Dallas last summer is going to show his previous franchise why they should have paid him. With two great guards in Monte Ellis and Rondo and the absence of lock down defender Patrick Beverly, I’ll take the Mavs in 7.

Perhaps the most exciting first round matchup in NBA history in my opinion, the young and freakishly athletic Clippers host the defending Champion Spurs. Chris Paul said last week, the window is closing for the Clippers to figure it out and he is salivating for that trophy. I think he gives the Spurs problems and will make Tony Parker go to work. Griffin and Jordan pose threats to the Spurs as well and I think they will do a surprisingly good job defending Duncan. But the X Factor is Kawhi Leonard will come through. JJ Reddick and Jamal Crawford aren’t going to stop him, and Matt Barnes is too old to play significant minutes against Leonard. He’s in a contract year, and the Spurs know Duncan and Ginobili may very well retire this season. Pop and the Spurs get it done, in miserable fashion,  by a series at 4-2.

So in the Western Conference we look forward to a Warriors vs Grizzlies and Spurs vs Mavericks. Talk about great basketball. However, in this conference I pick the Warriors to head to the NBA Finals. Although I am a firm believer in the philosophy that just shooting doesn’t win championships, the Warriors are young, fresh and healthy. In which is the Spurs’ weak point because I don’t see the Spurs having the guards to defend the Splash Brothers along with the athletic Livingston off the bench.

So Cavs and Warriors in the NBA Finals and as a Cleveland fan I’m going Cavs. The time has come and it’ll be a great year for Cleveland. The NBA playoffs are finally among us, and they are going to generate much excitement across the sports world. The first round has incredible potential regarding match ups and it will spark the greatness to follow.

NBA MVP Race During the Final Stretch

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By Matt Stevenson

April 6, 2015

The NBA MVP race is coming down to the wire with a 5-star cast. LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry are all playing at a phenomenal rate as the season winds down.

Harden and Westbrook both have led their teams despite losing valuable teammates such as Dwight Howard for Harden, and Kevin Durant for Westbrook. LeBron James showed his worth during his 2 week break as the Cavs went 1-7 during that stretch and have looked damn near flawless since. Then, of course, there is Steph Curry who seems as if he’s making memes out of everyone he faces up against. All 4 are having incredible seasons and it is difficult to pick and choose only one player in such a competitive season.

For Steph Curry, his Golden State Warriors currently possess the 1st seed in the Western Conference and also hold the NBA’s best record at 62-13, 6 games ahead of the next best record held by the Atlanta Hawks. Shooting nearly 44% from 3 point range and 59% from the field, Curry is in the top 5 for each respective category.

The super splash brothers have been a force to be reckoned with, but that’s what many are holding against Steph Curry.

Curry has an unbelievable amount of talent around him, arguably the best surrounding crew in the whole NBA. Kay Thompson and Draymond Green are both deserving of max contracts while David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut are no scrubs either. This team has big time players with experience and is a dangerous team to face down the stretch.

So Curry might have easily had the best season with team success as well as individual success, but the talent around him may end up hurting him in the end.

Next lets talk about the king himself, LeBron James. As mentioned earlier we noticed how awful the Cavaliers played when LeBron was out for his two-week break and how good they were when he returned. Arguably the most dangerous team in the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers have successfully defied the laws of throwing together a new team and staff while actually winning.

It doesn’t happen often. Steve Kerr of the Warriors is a rookie coach as well, however he went into a system under previous Golden State Coach Mark Jackson that had the same players with great team chemistry. This Cavs team has a rookie Head Coach in David Blatt, except he doesn’t know the NBA like Kerr does. Oh, and only 3 players from last years team are even on the current roster.

However, there are some scratches on the surface to LeBron’s MVP case. Similar to Curry, LeBron has a gifted roster full of talent and potential. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love obviously are two of the top players in the league, despite the disappointing season of Love. JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson are also worthy of mentioning as the great talent this Cavs team holds. Finally buying into David Blatt’s system, this Cavs team truly is a Championship contender and may even be the favorite.

In Houston all I hear is “Fear the Beard” from the Rockets fans. This man has really put the pressure on Oklahoma City to win soon as they traded possibly the best scorer in the league. His versatility is hard to compare as he is not afraid to take a shot on any part of the court. It seems like he has a 40-point game each week and his team currently holds the 2 seed in the brutal Western Conference.

Oh yeah, by the way this is without All-Star Center Dwight Howard and starting Point Guard Patrick Beverly. An injury plagued roster and losing the 3rd counterpart in Chandler Parsons from last season would assembly doom this Houston Rockets team, similar to how the Thunder currently hurt. Except Hardens Rockets are winning. Consistently winning despite the injuries are something all other MVP candidates can’t compete with.

But wait, Russell Westbrook is on a more injury prone team with last years NBA MVP, Kevin Durant, out for the season along with injuries to pretty much half of the roster. Although true, there is one big difference between Harden and Westbrook… Harden is sitting in the 2 spot in the West while Westbrook and the Thunder and fighting for their playoff lives. 11 triple-doubles by Westbrook is as incredible as it gets on an individual standpoint, however they aren’t always getting his team wins.

There have been point guards, recently and in past-time that have put up similar numbers yet still won. Jason Kidd did it in New Jersey in the early 2000’s while the big “O” Oscar Robinson did it as well back in the old days. If Westbrook and his Thunder don’t make the playoffs, it’s hard to even mention him in the discussion.

After this long post, I think it’s safe for me now to make a decision on my MVP for this season and I’m going to have to go with James Harden. As a biased Cavaliers fan, it hurts to give it to someone else aside LeBron, but Harden hasn’t had the talent LeBron and Curry have all year while still putting up incredible numbers as well as winning. This is no landslide this year and as a matter of fact, this is the tightest MVP race the league has seen in recent time.

This exhilarating MVP race is just the beginning of a post-season in which has me extremely excited due to the amount of legitimate contenders. Of course, the MVP is announced during the playoffs so as this exciting season winds down we look forward to the NBA playoffs. James Harden gets my vote, but it will definitely be a close one.

The Social Media Age and Teammate Interaction

By Kaleb Page

February 12, 2015

Right now as you read this very post, you are probably getting a notification from one of your social media sites about something. Which hopefully you ignore and continue to read this post, but in today’s day and age social media surrounds everything we do. This surrounding by social media can be a good thing but equally bad as well.

While it provides us all with a connecting platform that in the past was never there and ultimately providing opportunities we never could have imagined; there is still an underlying point that can be crossed for the worse. Posting negative things, calling out people behind a keyboard, etc. has been something I’m sure all of us have seen.

Athletes are no different and many are very active with different social media outlets. That is why when a comment is made by a big figure in sports on social media, everyone critiques it. No different was it when LeBron James tweeted a statement in response to something said by his teammate Kevin Love.

This whole season for the Cavaliers it has been a continuing process to see what will be the optimal lineup and style this team will play with. It seems like since the recent additions of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov the team has found a sense of direction. Along with that it seems like the ‘jelling’ is starting to solidify into a strong team that is enjoying its basketball.

However one player has been up and down trying to find his all-star form. That player is starting power-forward Kevin Love who even though is playing well, still is not hitting on all cylinders. In the preseason Love mentioned something about trying to ‘fit-out’ with this team as he was unsure his role and place in the team. Then after a loss to the Indiana Pacers this past Saturday, Love was interviewed and said that it was one of the toughest situations he had to deal with. Thus, on Saturday night a tweet by James was sent out with some advice:

“Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts”-LeBron James (@KingJames)

Quite the public remark to be made by ‘the King’ and one that saw its fair share of debate from those on every sports outlet imaginable. From ESPN to Fox Sports the debate raged on with if James was out of line and what will this relationship look like moving forward. After the media ran away with the tweet, James responded back saying that the media essentially needed to relax and if he has a problem with a teammate he tells them to their face.

Personally I think James would be someone to actually go up to a player and give his thoughts, but I think this tweet is nothing more than a call out to Love. A call out to basically say the team needs you (Love) to step up and be that dynamic big-man you were out in Minnesota. A public motivation point put out by James may be what wakes up Love, but only time will tell.

As for now it looks like King James is sending the message, get on board as the stretch run of the NBA season is approaching.

The Cavs Make Moves

By Kaleb Page

In this early stage of the NBA season the Cleveland Cavaliers have had not even close to the start everyone including themselves had expected. With a record of 19-16 this is still a team searching to find what it is and what it wants to hang its hat on night in and night out. As I said it is still very early so things can change and even with injuries to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James this team still is second in their division and fifth in the eastern conference.

For the GM of the Cavaliers David Griffin, managing this team that has so much potential is a huge task. With Irving and James down and the Cavalier faithful starting to wonder what is up with this team in recent weeks; Griffin needed to find something to re-energize not only the team but the fans as well. On Monday night that opportunity presented itself in a trade.

Prior to the game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers starting shooting guard Dion Waiters was pulled from the line-up. It was then soon broadcast all over the sporting world that a three team deal had been made. This deal would send Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cavaliers, and the Knicks get three players who have non-guaranteed contracts they can dump at the end of the season to further open up their cap space. Along with the players in the deal, the Thunder are giving the Cavs a protected future first-round draft pick and they are also sending a 2019 second-round draft pick to the Knicks.

Quite the deal that happened on a Monday night in the NBA. This move for the Cavaliers was dissected by ESPN’s Tim Legler and he made it clear that this trade really benefits everyone involved. In his break down on SportsCenter, Legler mentioned that this trade addresses a need the Cavs have when it comes to team defense, and with a guy like Shumpert who adds length along with a defensive mindset to the starting line-up; the Cavs made a great deal. He also went on to mention that the swap of Smith for Waiters is a slight upgrade even though both players do have similar playing styles.

With that said I would have to agree with Legler on this trade being really beneficial for the Cavaliers. When you can get a young guy like Shumpert, who is a rising player in the league known for his perimeter defense, it helps improve what the team is lacking right now. Even though Smith is somewhat a loose cannon no matter what team he is on, he has proven to be an offensive weapon capable of going off at any time. It will be interesting to see if these two pieces are able to pay dividends for this team that expects to be in the finals when it is all over.

I would add though that this might not be the end for the Cavaliers as far as deals go. Even though the deal is great, it does miss the hole that is still their post defense. It is hard to find anyone on the market to fill the void left when Anderson Varejao went down, but the team does need to find some type of presence to shore up the back-end just like it did with this trade that added help to the perimeter.