Tag Archives: Houston Rockets

NBA Trade talk trumps the Draft

jimmybutllerpodcast

Last week, the NBA world went a little unhinged. Not only did the loaded 2017 draft take place but in the days before, during the show and after, there has been some crazy trade talks as teams do all they can to hunt down the seemingly-untouchable Golden State Warriors.

In all honesty, I felt for the draftees that night that were upstaged by those already in the league. It’s like getting a big birthday cake that your older brother has already taken a huge slice of.

Regardless, with so much news to wade through, here’s a look at what the big talking points in terms of deals done or being discussed could do to the franchises involved.

 

Jimmy Butler heads to Minnesota

Really, Chicago? You couldn’t eek a little more out for a three-time All Star?

On draft night, the Bulls moved their best player in Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In return, the windy city gained a quality starter in Zach LaVine, a prospect in Kris Dunn and they swapped the sixteenth choice for the seventh pick of the draft which became Lauri Markkanen.

The first of those is coming off a torn ACL, the second had a below-par rookie season and the third was essentially a jump up nine steps to get a real boom or bust project. Some fans have already started a petition against the front office and no wonder, the team are now in full rebuild mode but took less of a deal than they were offered last year by the same team.

As for Butler, he goes to a growing team and into a quality coach he already knows in Tom Thibodeau. Alongside the duo of Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, plus a great distributor in Ricky Rubio, the 27-year-old can become the emotional leader on a young squad that could be even pushing for contention in a few years’ time.

 

Lakers dump DeAngelo Russell

Money makes the NBA world go around and for it to finally spin in the Los Angeles Lakers’ direction, they needed to burn some dead cash.

They did so by sending Timofey Mozgov’s massive contract to the Brooklyn Nets, with DeAngelo Russell tagging along in order to make room for new recruit Lonzo Ball. In return, the gold and purple gained Brook Lopez and the 27th pick of the draft, Kyle Kuzma.

A quality first move from the new management team of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, creating cap space for next year in order to chase the likes of Paul George or even LeBron James. It also gives away a player they weren’t developing for one of the better centres in the league, who has expanded his range impressively last season and could even be enticed to stay on and be part of a contender in Lopez.

Brooklyn has to feel decent as well, giving them a potential project in Russell. The former second overall pick will be less under the spotlight at the Barclays Centre and if he can discover his level, the Nets might finally have some kind of piece to build a future around, eventually.

 

Is Phil Jackson trading Kristaps Porzingis?

Someone check on Phil Jackson and make sure he’s not a New York Knicks hating degenerate in disguise.

After skipping an end of season meeting due to frustration, Porzingis is now at least shoppable in the eyes of the former Zen Master. Jackson reportedly was active in finding what deals would be available to ship the Latvian because the 11-time NBA championship winning coach wants to play dictator and all his peons must follow suit.

The kid genuinely wants to play for the Knicks, he loves New York and is a real quality player, yet here we are. The way they’ve treated Carmelo Anthony recently has soured enough people on having Madison Square Garden as their free agent destination and things like this will only exacerbate that fact.

Seriously, if he’s hurting your image because of your ineptitude yet all other 29 teams in the league give you a call to see what you wanted as per The Vertical, then it’s not him that’s in the wrong. The only thing Jackson has done right in the Big Apple is the Unicorn and if he gives him up, the Knicks should throw him out.

 

Could Paul George be a Cavalier?

The great thing about the NBA is that sometimes, something absolutely bonkers happens.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in discussions with the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets that would see Paul George match up with Lebron and Kevin Love head to Colorado.

It didn’t go through and the talks were tentative, but this is the insanity that reigns now that the Warriors are all powerful. Other teams are still pining for George, the Lakers and the Houston Rockets being suitors, but there’s still a nervousness knowing he might only be a one-and-done player for anyone outside of LA.

Does he really make the Cleveland Cavaliers that much better, especially if they lose Love? That’s a hypothetical that may never be answered. At least it looks like someone might help ease the pain on the Pacers that 24 will not be theirs for much longer.

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Winners and losers of the NBA’s trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline is like their transfer deadline day, only things happen and less dildos are thrown by supporters outside stadiums. In this more civilised yet slightly more complex set-up, it can lead to some teams changing their seasons after the All-Star break while others decide to blow things up now ready for the summer.

So, with all that in mind, who came out smelling of roses and who had the scent of rolling around in a pig sty? Here’s a look at the winners and losers from last week’s deadline.

 

Winners

Houston Rockets

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Lou Williams was a super pick-up for the attack-minded Rockets. Source: The Undefeated.

If you want to see what a playoff team needs to do to give themselves an extra push at the trade deadline, you only need peer through the doors of the Toyota Center. They solidified their bench by adding Lou Williams, who could still be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year alongside new teammate Eric Gordon, while moving KJ McDaniel’s slightly weighty wage to make that much-needed room to breathe in the buyout market.

To say this team really need another shooter is like saying Scrooge McDuck needs more gold but then again, you can’t argue with a couple more doubloons to add to the collection. With the Golden State Warriors worrying about Kevin Durant’s health and the San Antonio Spurs not quite as powerful as before, the Rockets now see their chance to contend against the best in the Western conference.

They are fun, exciting and might have just elevated themselves into a real contender.

 

Toronto Raptors

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If Ibaka returns to form, this goes from a decent to a fantastic move. Source: NBA

With an almighty scuffle looking to break out at the top of the Eastern Conference, it was the Toronto Raptors that looked to try and steal a march on everyone else. Adding Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker to their ranks gives them more depth up front and should make the better on defence too.

If they can get the Spaniard back playing to his potential, Ibaka could be a steal and could even be a bargain come the summer to sign on a longer deal. Tucker has put in some solid displays for the Phoenix Suns this season and with other teams sniffing around, the Raptors will be delighted to have snapped him up too.

The injury to Kyle Lowry has probably killed any momentum towards the top of the playoff order but the Raptors will not be sorry come the postseason when the gloves come off.

 

Losers

New York Knicks

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The Rose experiment hasn’t worked and they should have done more to get Rubio through the door. Source: Daily Knicks

It seems like the Knicks can’t trade anyone away at the moment. They tried to kick Carmelo Anthony out the door and just when they thought they had found Derrick Rose a home, the Minnesota Timberwolves slammed the door in their face.

In all honesty, they needed to push harder to get Ricky Rubio in and start this new era at Madison Square Garden. Finally, someone would have passed the ball on this team and maybe they could be moving forward but instead, Phil Jackson will keep fighting Melo and owner Jimmy Dolan will keep fighting the fans in what really is becoming a real miss.

Sorry, Kristaps.

 

Boston Celtics

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The Celtics are pretty good but could have been sensational if they had nabbed either George or Butler. Source: Business Insider

This is a little harsh, since they are still a pretty good team, but could they not get us so excited if it wasn’t going to happen? The Celtics were amping everyone up that they may pull off a blockbuster move for either Paul George or Jimmy Butler, yet neither managed to come to the TD Garden.

Either would have been a quality addition that would have pushed Boston into the upper-upper echelon of the NBA but they were thwarted. The Indiana Pacers wanted more than they were willing to play, while the Chicago Bulls are under some kind of spell that tells them the playoffs now are more important than their impending and almost certain rebuild.

A toast to what could have been, Boston, but don’t get our hopes up again.

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Are James Harden and DeMar DeRozan legitimate MVP candidates?

Toronto Raptors beat Indiana Pacers in game five 102-99 in their first round NBA playoff series

DeRozan has become an offensive machine and could be a dark horse for MVP. Source: The Undefeated

After the first month or so of the NBA season, there are already whispers about the MVP award. With Kevin Durant unsurprisingly impressing in his new surroundings at the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James doing things only the king does and Blake Griffin rebounding on the best team in the league, there are a fair few candidates putting themselves forward.

Two that have really caught the eye are two that could be there if they keep this kind of form going. DeMar DeRozan has elevated his already great offensive game for the Toronto Raptors and James Harden is simply adding to his special tool-set down with the Houston Rockets.

DeRozan is playing some of the best basketball of his life and it’s a marketed step up from someone who is already at an All-Star level. The 27-year-old is averaging 30.9 points per game, over seven points better than his career-best set last season and is a solid .491 from the field overall.

Those are some great numbers highlighted by the fact he takes just under two three-pointers a game. With a game that is only getting more shooter-happy, it’s great to see a midrange guy showing his excellence on offence from inside the arc.

USP NBA: PLAYOFFS-HOUSTON ROCKETS AT GOLDEN STATE S BKN USA CA

Source: For The Win

That is also emphasised by his ability to get to the line when he does slash into the paint. DeRozan averages 9.6 free throws per game and is .807 from the line so far, solid numbers that help pad what has been an outstanding scoring run so far from him.

Another player who is great at getting to the line is fellow early season MVP candidate James Harden, who has taken the move to point guard like a duck to water. He’s averaging 28.6 points per game, a relative standard for a high-volume scorer like him, but his league-leading 12.4 assists per contest highlights the influence he’s having on his entire team this season.

Add to that some solid rebounding (7.8 per game) and a solid .365 from beyond the three-point line and you have a stat-padder ready to take on anyone in the NBA. He’s probably the best player in the entire league at getting to the free throw line, leaving teams off balance as whether to close him or to stand off him.

When they attack, he punishes them with speed and a likely foul, which a .810 FT shooter tends not to miss. If they stand off, he rises and shoots from anywhere with his beautiful arching shot that seems to touch the roof on occasion before gliding through the hoop. There is a reason many tipped him to be a dark horse in this year’s MVP race.

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Westbrook is a bigger front-runner than the two, they both need to emulate his influence. Source: Bleacher Report

However, they are both without initial deficiencies that will hold them back unless they expand their game. DeRozan is simply a scorer and while ok on defence, he isn’t quite doing enough to keep his team winning while Harden can fall asleep when holding off the opposition.

Comparing them both to another big MVP candidate in Russell Westbrook just proves that both will need that bit more to legitimately chase that title this season. He’s better than both on average at scoring, he’s hit 10.4 assists per game and 9.6 rebounds, almost a triple-double a game.

All of their teams have similar records, all are doing a great job but Westbrook is doing literally everything he can to push his team on almost single-handedly. There’s no doubting their quality and the real positive is that there is plenty of time for them to help push their games to the next level along with their teams, which will only strengthen their candidacy.

Both are going to be All-Stars this year if they keep going and both of their teams should be shoo-ins for the playoffs. The real question is, can either of them push themselves to the point where they can be considered in the running for the MVP award? Only time will tell on that one.

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Has the East finally conquered the West in the NBA?

The Cavaliers lead the charge but the rest of the East has improved.  Source: Bleacher Report

The Cavaliers lead the charge but the rest of the East has improved. Source: Bleacher Report

It has been a running joke for almost the past decade that the Western Conference has held complete dominance over the Eastern equivalent in the NBA. Despite the East winning four of the last 10 NBA Finals, they have been demolished in terms of regular season wins and inter-conference games by those that play a little later here in the UK.

However, the balance of power looks to have shifted this year and in striking fashion.

The Eastern Conference have 10 players over .500 this season, similar to what we saw in the West last season, after just five teams managed that total in 2014/15. Whether that record continues will yet to be seen but adding to that, the team with the best record last season, the Atlanta Hawks, are currently outside of the playoff places despite going 14-12.

So how has this happened? The simple maths tells you that teams that struggled with injuries or chemistry last year have managed to pull it together. Other than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were excellent last season too and could get better, most teams have had something that has changed their season.

Going down the confernce standings, the Chicago Bulls have a new coach that emphasises on offence and that’s getting the best out of the likes of Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. It hasn’t been a rousing success, they are still waiting for Derrick Rose to return to MVP-like form that he may never reach and Jochaim Noah to find himself, but Chicago were pretty good last year too.

Paul George, a certainty for comeback of the year.  Source: Fox Sports

Paul George, a certainty for comeback of the year. Source: Fox Sports

The Indiana Pacers have been dramatically changed by returning All-Star Paul George, who is really playing on an MVP level.  He’s averaging 26.2 points per game, fifth best in the NBA, along with 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists. George put the power forward experiment to bed quickly and he’s proving why they should have never considered it in the first place.

Miami have all their pieces they traded for fit and ready to play. They have gelled well, they play some serious defence again and they have enough firepower to deal with any team. Dwayne Wade is ageless, Chris Bosh is still great, Hassan Whiteside is a monster in the making and Goran Dragic is the ideal point guard to add to that great mix.

Toronto haven’t changed too much, with DeMarre Carroll adding some strong defence, but they need to find more offence from somewhere other than DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They are possibly the best backcourt in the league and Jonas Valanciunas was growing into a solid piece until his injury, his return might be the spark they need.

The Hornets have just found their chemistry in Charlotte, especially after Lance Stephenson left. Nicolas Batum was always a good pickup, Jeremy Lin is actually playing good basketball and Al Jefferson is still a beast, before his silly suspension, then add the surprise form of Jeremy Lamb.

Orlando were a solid team just waiting to grow. They have three great guards, Nikola Vucevic is a really solid player and their coach is pulling them together. Detroit Pistons are another team that just needed to reduce the log jam as Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson look like pieces for their present and future.

The Magic, led by Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, have been a nice surprise.  Source: sircharlesincharge.com

The Magic, led by Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, have been a nice surprise. Source: sircharlesincharge.com

Teams like Atlanta are just outside, Boston have a good solid team that are well coached and New York have finally found some traction despite their poor record. Even the Milwaukee Bucks, who everyone thought could make the leap, have shown in flashes real brilliance and are certainly a team to keep an eye on. That’s also considering that Washington Wizards have a good team but just aren’t competing right now.

Looking into the deficiencies of the other conference and it’s the usual mix, big teams underperforming and players injured. The Los Angeles Clippers look to have finally got out of their early hump and the Houston Rockets are hanging in there despite still being in a funk.

New Orleans have had an abysmal injury crisis and Anthony Davis is not playing at his full level. Phoenix and Utah have not met expectations, the Kings are good but only on their day and Portland are really missing the star power behind Damien Lillard.

So is the East better now? On current evidence it’s hard to deny. Back in early December, the East was 57-55 on games against the West and that just shows you that the gap is not as big as it looks on paper comparing conferences.

It is good to see both conferences be competitive but at the same time, it is weighed against the dramatically poor starts from the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the real question becomes that come playoff time, can anyone knock off the Cavs? I’m not so sure yet.

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