How the 76ers, Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers can work big trade on Draft Day

The 2017 NBA Draft will hold a lot of surprises for teams but the main entertainment could involve three of the NBA’s most storied franchises. The Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are all in prime position to change the course of their franchises for years and get back on top.

The Celtics may be in the best position with a core of players that have already made their mark in the league. The current Celtics roster is one that is heavily favored to be the team that could knock the Cleveland Cavaliers off their throne in the Eastern Conference. With players like Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and Jae Crowder they have managed to put fear in most teams. However, thanks to the Brooklyn Nets they could be even better next season.

The Lakers have the young talent but they’re young. It will take them another season to jell and a few roster moves could not hurt as they need to get rid of some huge contracts. With D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle leading the way the Lakers could be heading to the playoffs next season if Magic Johnson can work some magic.

The 76ers are the team on the rise here. Years of trusting the process have paid off with valuable draft picks and unknown players like Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes. However, their big draw will be the frontcourt that will feature Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If the 76ers play their cards right this offseason they will make the playoffs for the 2017-18 season for sure.

And this is how all three teams can achieve the common goal of winning. It starts with the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Celtics have the Nets pick this year which could turn out to be the top overall choice. The Lakers are heading towards a top selection as long as it stays in the top 3 or else it goes to the 76ers. The 76ers will get a top selection of their own or the possibility of the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings as well. But here is when it gets tricky.

Let’s say the Celtics get the top pick. What do they do? Most experts and NBA Mock Drafts have the Celtis selecting Washington PG, Markelle Fultz. He can play both guard positions but the Celtics seem to be solid there with Thomas and Avery Bradley. Now, what the Celtics could do is look for a PF with that top pick since they won’t need to draft Fultz or UCLA  player, Lonzo Ball. A defensive and rebounding player to pair with Horford is a must. Another option the Celtics could take is to make a trade with a team like the Phoenix Suns for Tyson Chandler and place Horford at the 4 spot. A move like that gives them flexibility in the draft.

Wishful thinking is that the Lakers will fall into the 2nd slot which would allow them to select Ball, however, why would they do that with Russell and Clarkson still on the roster? Here’s where they could make some moves. If the Lakers want Ball then they could offer a package to the 76ers for Okafor that can include either Russell or Clarkson. The problem for the Lakers is that there are not any quality Centers worthy of a high pick in this Draft. Okafor will provide them with an inside presence but, this is only if they wish to go the route of a backcourt player. The amount of faith they have in Brandon Ingram is also key. It looks as if Clarkson is the odd man out, which will fit right into the 76ers plans.

The 76ers frontcourt is set for the future with Embiid, Simmons and Dario Saric. It’s their backcourt that needs the upgrade. I love T.J. McConnell but the 76ers need a playmaker that can hit from the perimeter consistently and get the ball to the bigs inside. A 2-guard that can slash is needed as well and that’s where Clarkson fits in. The 76ers position doesn’t matter this year, it’s either PG or SG for them but instead of drafting players they could make a pitch to the Lakers and Boston regarding Okafor.

Here is how all this can play out.

The Celtics take their top pick and draft Fultz, then trade Bradley to the 76ers for Robert Covington and a 2018 second round pick in which they will then trade that pick the Suns in exchange for Chandler. The Lakers select Ball then make a trade with the 76ers for Okafor while handing over Clarkson. The 76ers can then make the boldest move of the day by taking their top pick and Ben Simmons and offer them up to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George.

I know, it’s a lot to gather but each team will fill their respective needs. There’s no guarantee that the draft position will play out this way but it’s possible. The Celtics are loaded with talent and as they proved last year with their Lottery pick, they’re picking position fillers now, not stars. The Lakers may be high on Ball and will look to move Clarkson. The 76ers have what every team needs now. Picks. If the 76ers can land Bradley and Clarkson before their selection, then why not try to make a move on George who they can later offer to the Lakers for the price of a small country.

The NBA Draft is about talent, however, it’s also about future Draft positions as well. These trades are not as far-fetched as some may think and can possibly work if all three teams are willing to look at the bigger picture.

 




New York Knicks: The Fall From Grace Continues

As a longtime fan of the New York Knicks, I can easily break the franchise’s history down into four eras:
The Willis Reed/Walt Frazier one from 1969-1974, a run that included titles in 1970 and 1973.
The post-Reed/Frazier era from 1975-1985, a down cycle with just one 50-win season.
The Patrick Ewing era from 1986-2000, which was full of 50-win seasons. There were two trips to the NBA Finals, and the Knicks were consistently a Top Five team in the NBA.
The James Dolan Wasteland from 2001-present, with one playoff series win (2013), and a litany of awful decisions by the worst owner in the NBA.
The latest disaster by Dolan to bring in Phil Jackson was doomed from the start. It was a terrible decision, and anyone with two eyes could see it was going to be doomed to fail. Here we are three years into this reign, and it has been a massive failure, Jackson is in a feud with his biggest star in Carmelo Anthony. His admirable “Big 3” plan is blowing up in his face. The Knicks franchise is headed toward losing an entire generation of fans.
It is similar to when the Dallas Cowboys’ epic run in the 1990’s ended. For 20 years, they struggled mightily. That is exactly where the Knicks franchise is at right now.
Rock bottom has to be the Charles Oakley incident. Oakley is a beloved former Knicks player who has been angry at the direction of the franchise. He is particularly angry at the comically inept Dolan, A few weeks ago, Oakley went after the owner at MSG during a nationally televised game and ended up in handcuffs.
And here we are, the Knicks are the laughingstock of the NBA. Sports fans are linked to eras in which they grow up. For example, if you were born in Boston around the turn of the century, you have grown up not knowing what futility is for the New England Patriots. A 15-year dynasty is unheard of in pro sports these days.
For Knicks fans growing up in the 1980’s, like myself, Ewing was the man. For 15 years, the Knicks opened every season with the hope of getting to the Finals. The Celtics blocked them initially, then the Pistons, and then it was the Bulls and Michael Jordan. A Knicks fan could take solace in the fact the team was going to win 50-ish games. Knicks fans knew their team was going to the playoffs where they’d likely win at least one series. And, with a break here or there, the Knicks could get to the NBA Finals.
If you were born in or around New York in the year 2000, the polar opposite is true. There has been futility. It has gotten to the point that a Knick fan would even say this is “Find-another-team” futility.
It can be traced to one person in owner James Dolan. He essentially began calling the shots for the franchise in 1999. From Allan Houston’s terrible contract to Larry “Next Town” Brown, to Isiah Thomas, and now Phil Jackson, everything Dolan has done has gone wrong. I could go on for weeks on end about this, but I digress. It’s been a decade since David Stern made his famous remark about the state of the Knicks franchise, and nothing has changed.



NBA: Do not count out the New Orleans Pelicans just yet

The race for eighth is in full swing. If the NBA playoffs started today, the Denver Nuggets would be in the postseason while the 9-15 seeds watched from their televisions. That might not be the case for long. The Portland Trailblazers are one game back of Denver and the Mavericks are two games behind. Most will assume either of these teams will catch the Nuggets or they predict that Denver will retain the spot, but there is another team people should not rule out. The New Orleans Pelicans have a chance.

The Pelicans have not lived up to expectations, whether it be from injuries or chemistry. However, they are putting together a nice stretch to keep their playoff hopes alive. New Orleans has won five of their six games and Gentry believes this is the best basketball the team has played all season. He’s right.

The story all season has been how Anthony Davis is constantly having to carry the workload for the Pelicans. But the last couple of games have been different. Davis played tremendous basketball early in the month. However, a 30-point outing from Solomon Hill lifted the New Orleans Pelicans in a win over the Rockets. Also, a 41 point, 17 rebound performance from Cousins against the Grizzlies led them to a third straight win. Do not forget the late addition of Jordan Crawford. He has provided a nice punch for the Pelicans’ second unit and they have been 5-3 since his signing.

Here is the clear issue. The New Orleans Pelicans are four games behind the Nuggets for the eighth seed. Here is the positive. The Pelicans still play Denver three more times before the season ends. The Nuggets play eight of their last eleven games on the road. They are 13-20 on the road this season.

The Blazers present the greatest roadblock to the Pelicans. They have won seven of their last ten and their schedule is not all too bad the rest of the way. Their last game of the season will come at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. At this rate, it could determine who gets the final postseason spot.

Realistically, the Pelicans can only afford to lose two or three more games. Never doubt a team that has two of the best big men in the NBA. New Orleans is coming together at the right time. They are showing people what they are going to be like next season with Cousins. Do not look at next season right now. It is safe to say the New Orleans Pelicans are not out of the conversation for the eighth seed, even though they currently are the 11th seed with a record of 30-41.

Anthony Davis will continue to affect the game, whether on offense or defense. Cousins is finding his way on the team and the second unit is showing signs of life. People are already looking towards next season for the Pelicans. but do not count them out just yet. Playoffs are a real possibility.




Los Angeles Lakers: Priority No.1 is to stay away from Lonzo Ball and his father

The Los Angeles Lakers must be careful if they find themselves with one of the top picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Lakers are loaded in the backcourt and the Forwards positions, however, the middle is an area of concern for Luke Walton. With the Lakers already eliminated from the playoffs, their thoughts are now on the draft position.

If they should fall below the 3rd pick, then it heads to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Lakers will be stuck with who they have now. If it falls within the top 3 then it’s decision-making time for Magic Johnson and crew.

Rumors are spreading that the Lakers have some interest in hometown and UCLA PG, Lonzo Ball. If those are true, the Lakers are setting themselves up for a world of trouble. I have nothing against Ball and his skills but he’s a freshman, much like D’Angelo Russell was and what has Russell done to make the Lakers throw in the towel on him so fast? The other factor to consider in drafting Ball is his father, LaVar.

LaVar Bell cannot seem to keep his mouth shut since his son started making waves. It’s one thing to be a proud parent but it’s another to be that soccer parent arguing with refs at an 8-year old kid’s contest. This is Ball all the way. He’s already said Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry, he’s attacking LeBron James and has said that he would have shut Micheal Jordan down. There’s nothing wrong with trash talk, it’s a part of the game but he’s attacking people he will never face. This is his son’s time to shine and he’s destroying the moment.

However, the most damaging remark may have come at the expense of the Lakers. He has gone on record as saying his son will only play for the Lakers (he has later backtracked the story). Now, that’s just chest talk at the moment but we must not forget the strange things we have seen over the years. Remember Eli Manning and the San Diego Chargers organization? What about Steve Francis and the Vancouver Grizzlies or recently with Joey Bosa and his mother telling the NFL what’s best for her son. This is nothing new in the world of sports.

What the elder Ball fails to realize is that he’s setting his son up for failure with statements like this.

“Steph Curry’s pretty good,” he continued. “My son is young, he’s got time to grow. And you only consider him good because he’s won a couple championships. … He makes some shots at the right time. But he’s not as young as my boy. You not gonna be able to say this until my boy finishes playing his career; then they gon’ look back and say, ‘Man, how did LaVar know all this?’”

Good trash talk but now he’s put a target on Lonzo’s back. Once again, the kid is just a freshman in Collge and has yet to win anything. Once he gets into the league there will be players just aiming to shut him down. And the sad part is, it wouldn’t be his fault. LaVar wants his son to play for the Lakers and that’s great but do the Lakers need this type of negative publicity that will surely follow the Ball’s?

Magic is trying to turn the team around and with a dad like LaVar sitting courtside and in the media 24/7 what will happen if Walton pulls him from a game due to struggles or he feels his son is not getting enough playing time? What are the Lakers expecting to happen? This will not turn out good for a young squad and a President or GM in their first year on the job.

As good as Lonzo is, the Lakers best decision may be to avoid him at all cost.




Philadelphia 76ers: There’s no need to chase after Paul George next season

With news that the Indiana Pacers contacted several teams over the course of the NBA Trade Deadline regarding Paul George, we’re left wondering how is he still in Indiana? It’s simple, Larry Bird had no real intentions of trading him, he just wanted to see what teams were offering for next season. one of the teams mentioned in said discussions was the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was reported that the 76ers offered a choice of Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and two 1st Round picks. Wow. That’s a huge haul even for George. While some Philly fans are mad the deal didn’t happen, it will work out in the 76ers favor down the line.

Here’s why.

To begin with, George is an All-Star player, one of the best SFs in the NBA but taking him means taking on a huge contract that the team does not need. Can they afford it? Yes they can but why pay that money when you may have your own PG13 in Ben Simmons. We have yet to see Simmons full potential since he was hurt this year but by adding PG13 to the roster it may stunt the growth of Simmons and Joel Embiid.

George is a good player but look at the production the team has received from Covington and Okafor, plus 2 future picks and it doesn’t add up. As a 76ers fan, the noise from the gallery has been just wait until we get a superstar. Well, he’s already here and he’s cheap. George will cost the team close to $37M in the next two seasons. And, it’s no secret his desire to play for the Los Angels Lakers, another team that the Pacers were discussing a possible trade with.

Bryan Colangelo better back away from George and focus on the team he has in front of him. The 76ers are not that bad off. Who pictured this scrappy bunch winning 26 games and be right on the heels of a New York Knicks team that has star players? Why bring George into the fold when whatever you have now is working so well? Are the 76ers that hard up for a name player that they’re willing to mortgage the future of the franchise just for two seasons?

Those Draft picks could be what’s needed to turn a 26-win team into a 50-win team in a few years. And the best part is that the 76ers will have salary space to sign the necessary veteran players needed to groom the younger guys. Teams are so high-strung on brand names that they forget it takes a team to win in this league. LeBron James is a brand name but he didn’t win until he got with other big names.

The Pacers not taking that deal may have saved the 76ers team. Fans may not see it because they are tired of losing but what some fail to realize is they are actually ahead of schedule. Injuries have taken its toll on the team over the last three seasons and yet the team is still competitive as ever. What happens when they are able to floor the lineup that drafted and with these other guys gaining valuable experience, the 76ers will be the envy of most front offices.

Bird will come calling again after the season and right before the NBA Draft and try to get one of the team’s Lottery Picks. What Colangelo should do is look over his roster and who’s in the Green Room, smile and say “no thanks, Larry, but we’re good over here”.

 




NBA News: How to stop marquee players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry from taking rest days

The NBA season is a grind. It’s an 82 game schedule full of back-to-backs, practices and media request that can cause even the youngest legs to require rest. But, what happens when fans pay $100 for tickets to see players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry play but get to the arena and they have decided to sit.

Is this the luxury of winning?

I say that because you don’t see players like Ricky Rubio or Damian Lillard taking rest days. It may be due to their team’s record whereas teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs have their true focus on the playoffs. So, does that mean that the regular season is not as important? Do some marquee players not care if fans are spending their hard-earned money to come see them play only to get an update while they’re in the concession stand that James is not playing because he’s tired?

Why are you tired? What makes your job any different from us regular folk going to work 5-7 days out of the week then heading home to live our normal life? We don’t make millions of dollars to play a GAME. But, you’re telling me that playing Monday and Tuesday has you worn out? FOH.

The NBA has been under attack for a few years in reference to these rest days. However, it wasn’t until recently when ESPN started to get involved that Adam Silver began to take notice. He released a short memo to NBA owners that said:

There could be “significant penalties” for teams that don’t give proper “notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest,”

That’s all well and good but later on, ESPN touched on the real reason for the memo, and it wasn’t for the well-being of the fans.

As always, our aim is to serve NBA fans with the best matchups involving the league’s top stars and we share the fans’ disappointment. We understand this is a complex issue and we’re working closely with the NBA to best address it going forward from a media partnership standpoint”.

The fans are a huge reason for the backlash but the real truth of the matter is, it’s bad for business. ESPN and TNT has a deal with the NBA to showcase games. 9 times out of 10 it will be a marquee matchup. Take Monday night for instance when the Oklahoma City Thunder took on the Warriors. For any basketball fan not living under a rock that meant a Russell Westbrook and Curry showdown. How would the fans and TNT have felt if either of those players sat out due to fatigue?

This is the issue at stake here. It’s not the concerns and the wallets of the average Joe, it’s the bottom line in a marketing partnership. But, the question still remains on how to fix this.

Silver spoke of significant penalties for teams that do this but how can one really tell? Should the league have a doctor on hand for each team in case they try to pull a fast one? What difference does it make if the owners notify the league in advance that a player is sitting out? How does that fix the problem? I can call ahead to my job and tell them I’m not coming in or I can just not show up. Either way, I’m not there. Nothing they can do to stop me.

Here’s a solution.

You will never know if a player is faking an injury or not so that’s a lost cause trying to fight that battle. So, what you do is give each team a certain amount of rest days per season. Say each team gets 5 rest days. Doesn’t matter if it’s all in the same week or not, but 5 is the max. And for TV purpose for a game televised on TNT, ESPN or ABC they are not allowed to miss games unless there is a significant injury.

I get that travel across the country can take its toll but James, Curry, and Kawhi Leonard are no different from Westbrook and James Harden who had this to say:

“I’m a hooper,” Harden said. “I just want to hoop. I’ll rest when I’m done. I feel like my teammates and organization need me to go out there and do what I do. I get obviously paid for it, but it’s something I love. I enjoy the grind. I enjoy how hard it is. I think that makes you tougher. That makes you who you are.”

Harden takes the approach of a player willing to do what it take to win while LeBron offered his two cents:

I don’t think the NBA can do anything about it. At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest.

And it’s a long, strenuous season and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best as they can. You’re going to have back-to-backs. You’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights, but a coach’s job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game.

Nice words coming from the face of the league. All I got from that is screw you NBA and the fans. Yes, the big picture is a championship but it’s still based on entertainment. What if fans started to boycott games? What if they stopped buying your shoes or following you on Twitter or Instagram, then what? It’s a game you play in a packed arena, not in a secluded gym somewhere.

It will be hard if the NBA decides to crack down on players resting. I will end my rant with this. There are back-to-backs in the playoffs, what’s the difference? Why not rest then.




Chicago Bulls: Should Dwyane Wade be turned into a 6th Man upon return?

Before the season started I picked the Chicago Bulls as my darkhorse team in the Eastern Conference. I mean, how could I not? There was the addition of Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade to pair with Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez. The Bulls were loaded, on paper that is.

However, they struggled out the gate and then came the clashes. Rondo spoke out then Butler and Wade and before long, Rondo was coming off the bench. Add that to the trade of Gibson and now the season-ending injury to Wade and those same Bulls I was rooting for is no more. The sad part is, it could get worse.

Wade is pretty much on a one-year deal as he’s set to have a player option next season. If he doesn’t like the direction of the team and if they continue to have issues or Butler’s name keeps coming up in trade rumors then Wade may just leave. This has to concern the Bulls immensely as they will be left with a bipolar Rondo and that may force Butler to start trade demands.

Wade is the key here.

If Wade stays that will attract top-notch free agents like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul or Paul George just to name a few. But, if he decides to leave will that hurt his legacy? No. Wade has shown loyalty throughout his career and at his age and what he’s done in the NBA he deserves another shot at a ring with a contender.

Wade can still five you 20 a night but his body is showing serious signs of fatigue. If the Bulls were to make the playoffs Wade could return in time to fight for another ring but how much more can his body take? The best bet may be to reduce his playing time, or make him one of the best 6th men in the NBA the way James Harden used to be for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Wade has averaged 30 minutes this season, this lowest of his career and is shooting just 43 percent from the floor and taking only 5 free throw attempts per game. Both stats are career lows. Wade has made a career of getting to the line but as he has gotten older he has relied more on his perimeter game as his three-point percentage (.315) is the second highest of his career. Wade is not the player he used to be and that’s expected from a 35-year old.

A move to the bench may just be what the doctor ordered to prolong a stellar career. No player with his resume wants to hear that but he has to accept it.