2017 NBA Draftees

These are some players I look forward to seeing develop once they get into the NBA.

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The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery Show was last night. Headlining as the top 3 teams in the draft were the: Boston Celtics (#1 pick), LA Lakers (#2), and Philadelphia 76ers (#3). The draftees of the 2017 NBA Draft is overshadowed by the top-pick dispute between University of Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz and UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball. With that being said, there are some talented prospects who I am interested in seeing how they develop during their NBA careers. It’s only right for me to give my assessment on these prospects.

Markelle Fultz (Projection: #1):

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In my eyes, Fultz is, arguably the most offensively talented prospect in this draft. He can score on all three levels. He has a tight handle with the basketball and can almost get into the lane at will. And once Fultz is in the paint, he is able to contort his body to finish around bigger, more physically-imposing defenders or he can finish strong through smaller defenders. Fultz also is a phenomenal pick-and-roll ball handler. Since he’s a threat from everywhere on the floor, a willing passer, and ultra-creative with the basketball, Fultz can dictate a lot of pick-and-roll situations and usually makes the right read. To add, Fultz is also the type of guard who “plays at his own pace” which is a testament to how mature his game is compared to other prospects in this draft.

Lonzo Ball (Projection: #2):

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The mass majority can all agree that Ball is the best passer in the draft. The phrase: “He makes his teammates around him better,” may very well be valid when speaking about Lonzo Ball’s presence on the court. To put it into perspective, if you play with a teammate that has a “pass-first” mentality, then guys will work harder to put themselves in a position to score the basketball. And usually, when guys score, they’re happy and will make a lot more hustle plays and be more locked in defensively. Also, Ball has exceptional length which gives him an edge on the glass. And, when a guard can rebound then it usually leads to a bunch of fastbreak opportunities… which is DEADLY! Ball has a lot of expectations to fulfill, due to the big mouth of his father Lavar Ball. Will Ball live up to these expectations?

D’Aaron Fox (Projection: #5):

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Without a doubt, University of Kentucky freshman guard D’Aaron Fox is the most electrifying player amongst all the prospects. I hate making comparisons, but Fox’s game resembles John Wall’s style of play. I haven’t seen a player move as fast with the basketball from basket to basket and finish at will since Wall. I actually believe that Fox has more potential (it’s not by a landslide though!) than John Wall because I feel as though he will develop a better long-range game. Despite all the stats proving that Fox was a subpar shooter in college, his shooting form is not broken. I think Fox just has to adjust to his own speed so that he can find that rhythm to make his jumper more consistent. Once Fox figures that out, he will be a BIG problem in the NBA!

Malik Monk (Projection: #6):

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University of Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk is the second-best offensive player slightly trailing behind Fultz. If you watch the Kentucky games this past college season, Monk was usually the most lethal on the offensive end of the floor. He is the best ISO prospect in this draft. His ability to create space, off the dribble and impeccable shot preparation/technique makes Monk a matchup nightmare. Monk is also gifted at catching-and-shooting while coming off screens. Monk, overall, is a very composed shooter. He has great balance and elevation and also has a shot release he gets off in milliseconds making it damn near impossible to block. Monk is great offensively because not only can he shoot but he is also uber-athletic and can penetrate. So if a defender bites on the pump fake, he can blow by him and then dunk on the team’s rim-protector. Monk will be instant offense for whatever NBA team who decides to pick him.

Dennis Smith Jr. (Projection: #9)

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Like Fox, North Carolina State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. is a very electrifying draft prospect. He has the athleticism to help establish himself on an NBA roster. I think he is also an advanced pick-and-roll player; he knows what reads to make and he is capable of taking and making the outside shot if the defender doesn’t hedge hard enough on the screen. Despite him being a streaky shooter, I think, over time, he will be able to fine-tune his jumper and make it more consistent. Right now, don’t really see Smith Jr. making an immediate impact on an NBA team, as a rookie like the guys I mentioned in my list previously, but I do see him developing into an explosive, reliable playmaker for some NBA team in the future who will be fun to watch.

Lauri Markkanen (Projection: #10):

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University of Arizona freshman center Lauri Markkanen is the most talented big-man prospect in this year’s guard-dominated draft. With the way the NBA has put such a huge focal point on three-point shooting, Markkanen is an ideal pickup. Markanen’s 7-foot 255-pound stature may hinder him from adjusting to the speed of the NBA, on the other hand, it will provide an NBA team with rebounding and rim protection. Plus, his ability to have a soft touch and great footwork in the post and marksmanship and efficiency from outside will allow that NBA team to spread the floor for guards to run pick-and-pop plays, create mismatch situations, and open up the lane for drive and kick opportunities. Markkanen will indeed have to adjust to the speed of the NBA but, without a doubt, I think he will be an instant contributor to an NBA team.

TJ Leaf (Projection: #18):

at Pauley Pavilion on November 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

UCLA freshman power forward TJ Leaf is the most skilled big man prospect in the NBA draft. Just based off the games I saw this past college season, Leaf has a great feel for the game. He played alongside Lonzo Ball and, at times, outplayed Ball by showcasing how complete his game was against elite-level competition. Leaf is a stretch big who is able to score on all three levels. And he even showed glimpses that he has decent ball-handling skills and high-level passing vision and ability. Leaf is accustomed to playing at an erratic pace (*hint* helps when you play with Lonzo Ball) so I’m not too worried about him adjusting to the speed and tempo of the NBA. The NBA team who gets Leaf will be getting a high-IQ player. I don’t expect Leaf to be a standout rookie, but I do see Leaf playing for a team where he provides vital contributions such as scoring and energy off the bench.

Rocket Malfunction

39-point victory for Spurs?! No Kawhi Leonard?! How did James Harden and the Rockets fail to capitalize on this opportunity? Find out here.

Box Score

Last night, the third-seeded Houston Rockets were demolished by a handicapped Spurs squad. Without the aid of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs defeated the Rockets 114-75. How does this much-improved, offensive juggernaut Rockets squad get beat this bad, on their home court, in a must-win game? Well, I’m not really sure but I have some theories that may justify the confusion plaguing the masses that witnessed such a lop-sided affair.

  • Taking Ryan Anderson out the starting lineup

Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets coaching staff made a game-time decision to swap out 6’10” stretch-four, Ryan Anderson, for 6’4″ sharpshooter, Eric Gordon. The rotation change was obviously adjusted so the Rockets could quicken the tempo of the game while also putting on a 3-point barrage to bury the Spurs early. But that plan failed miserably. The Rockets shot only 13-40 (32.5%) from the 3-point line. The height-dominating Spurs won the rebounding battle 60-37 and took advantage of the mismatches where James Harden, who fouled out, was forced to guard LeMarcus Aldridge in the post. Aldridge bulldozed Harden all night and recorded a game-high 34 points and added 12 rebounds; a stat which hadn’t been recorded since Tim Duncan and the Spurs faced off against the Phoenix Suns in 2008 (ESPN). Two other Spurs (Dejounte Murray, Pau Gasol) recorded double-doubles via points and rebounds.

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  • James Harden struggling under pressure

All night James Harden looked bent out of shape and lost. He shot just 2-11 from the field and had 6 unforced turnovers. He failed to score in the first quarter. And he could never help the Rockets recover the momentum and energy they needed in order to put themselves in a greater position to win. Only 3 Rockets players scored in double-figures; Rockets starting small forward, Trevor Ariza, had a team-high 20 points. On the contrary, the Spurs had 6 players score in double figures. It was like in Space Jam where the aliens stripped the talent from the NBA players so they could beat Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes. In theory, maybe some ambitious-seeking aliens stripped away James Harden’s talent. To add, Coach D’Antoni reported that Harden was also battling “a common cold.” Either way, something was bothering Harden last night which led to his abysmal performance.

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  • Popovich continuing to solidify his legendary legacy

ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon made the perfect tweet: “If LeBron should be MVP every year then Pop should be Coach of the Year every year.” With a game-time decision to bench Leonard (who could have played), due to sprained knee injury, and be without Tony Parker for remainder of playoffs, due to a ruptured quadricep tendon, Popovich still managed to work with what was remaining of the Spurs to not only win the game but win convincingly by a margin of 39 points! However, don’t be surprised about the Spurs winning without Leonard. During the 2016-17 regular season, the Spurs recorded a 7-1 record without Leonard active. No matter who Popovich has on his team, he always finds a gameplan that will be perfectly executed and that can beat any team on any given night. James Harden and the Rockets definitely learned this the hard way!

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

Flipping The Switch

LeBron’s “Zero-Dark Thirty” has him in a zone that cannot be matched, arguably, in NBA playoff history.

LeBron James has had to prove doubters wrong all his life. When he and his teen-aged mom were struggling to find a stable living, James eventually found a safe-haven in Akron, OH at St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School where he eventually became a prodigy and an NBA prospect at the age of 18. When James went to Miami and lost to the Mavs in 2011, no one expected James bounce back and win two championships in a row. When James and the Cavaliers were down 3-1 in last year’s finals versus Golden State, James took it upon himself to lead his team to victory over, arguably, the best regular-season team ever.

It’s funny how Cavs superstar forward, LeBron James, continues to have his legacy questioned by being deemed one of the worst shooters in NBA playoff history. In James’ playoff career, he is only successful on 34.2% of his shots from beyond the arc (FOX Sports).

But just when people try to convince themselves that James has reached his basketball pinnacle and his reign of NBA dominance is coming to its inevitable end, he always proves the critics wrong and showcases another facet of his game validating his extraordinary versatility, undeniable greatness, and bizarre durability.

In these 2017 NBA playoffs,  James is shooting a career-best from three-point range as well as from the field.  As of right now, James is shooting 56.6% from the field and 48.6% from beyond the arc (FOX Sports). James’ unprecedented efficiency correlates greatly with the fact that he is also the second-leading scorer in the playoffs behind “Mr. Triple-Double,” Russell Westbrook (who is obviously not in the playoffs anymore).

Raptor’s all-star point guard Kyle Lowry best summed up LeBron’s greatness when he admitted: “They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him. I don’t know when his prime is going to stop. I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. I think he’ll be able to continue what he’s doing for a long time.”

Review: NBA 2K17 MyCareer Game Mode

NBA 2K is one of the most successful basketball video game producers in the world. NBA 2K17 was released in September 2016. One of the game’s most highly-touted features is known as MyCareer.

MyCareer is a game mode where gamers create their own NBA player and experience the life as an NBA player (virtually of course!).

I am here to judge the good, bad, and ugly of the game mode by bullet pointing some first-hand impressions that I’ve experienced in this year’s mode thus far.

Since I consider myself an optimist, I’ll start off with the bad and then end with the good.

The Bad:

  • Glitches- Sometimes when equipping my player with a new jumpshot or dribble move, it fails to do that action which makes me furious. However, the good thing is that 2K developers insert updates, also known as patches, to prevent miniature problems that make a big difference like this one.
  • Patches- NBA 2K17 has been out for a couple months now and there’s already been 6 patches implemented into the game! The staggering amount patches just signifies how flawed the game has been so far. And, just because these patches fix issues doesn’t mean that it makes the game better. In my opinion, the recent patch that 2K developers put into the game made the game a lot slower!
  • Archetypes- Players who are created can be identified only as one of the following: play-makers, shot creators, sharpshooters, defensive specialists, glass cleaners, or athletic finisher. In my opinion, this system is flawed because it only allows players to be good in one particular area which, technically, makes our player a “role player.” Speaking for most 2K players, we want to be multi-skilled and be “superstars” like LeBron James or Damien Lillard.

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The Good:

  • Story Mode- The story that 2K17 brings to the table, compared to last year, is a lot more enjoyable to play. This year’s game mode brought famous actor Michael B. Jordan (known as Justice Young in the game) to form a dynamic duo with my created player. Also a unique feat in the story is a beat reporter follows my player.
  • New Features- In MyCareer, the dynamic duo between Young and my player form, what is called, “Orange Juice.” Orange Juice is activated when both players perform 4 successful plays with each other; the Orange Juice effect then allows the gamer to not only control their player but also Young as well. This feature is very vital to gameplay and prevents it from being repetitive.

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Overall, this game mode has its hiccups but this game mode is phenomenal and I find myself playing it for hours on end at a time.

The Greatest Starting Five of All Time

Many basketball players have come and gone through the NBA. However, few NBA players have come into the league and have left their mark in the record books.

The five players that I will announce are the five best players that are unbeatable due to their natural talents, physicality, and unrelenting will to win.

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  1. Allen Iverson/ Point Guard- A.I. is one of the toughest players that has ever played in the league while only standing at 6 feet and only weighing 160 pounds. Despite his under average NBA stature, he managed to  be one of the most prolific scorers to ever touch a basketball; he also single-handedly turned the whole Philadelphia 76ers franchise around.
  2. Kobe Bryant/ Shooting Guard- Bryant also well known as “The Black Mamba” is arguably the best scorer in the modern era of basketball. On January 22, 2006, Bryant posted the second-best scoring performance ever by scoring 81 points while also shooting 60 percent from the field. Oh yeah and Kobe also scored 60 points in his final NBA game against the Jazz as well. Kobe not only was a scorer but a winner; he won 5 NBA titles in his career.
  3. Michael Jordan/ Small Forward- Michael “Air” Jordan is the best player to ever in the NBA hands down. His will to win was second to none. His fierce competitiveness struck fear into all his opponents. His clutch factor was unmatched; in his whole NBA Finals tenure, he never allowed an opposing team to force a game 7.
  4. LeBron James/ Power Forward- Arguably the best small forward to ever play in the NBA. At 6 foot 9 inches, he is a walking freight train with the skills and athleticism which poses a match-up nightmare for opposing players. He also has a resumé that has him destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Just recently, he became the youngest player to score 27,000 points.
  5. Kareem Abdul Jabbar/ Center- He is one of the most dominating big men to ever play the game. He revolutionized the game by introducing the sky-hook which is literally unguardable. To prove this claim true, Kareem is the all-time leading scorer in NBA history.

There is my starting five of all-time greats. Post your starting five of all-time greats in the comments and see if you can pose any threat to my lineup.

 

Review: The Undeniable Rise of Dwyane Wade

The Undeniable Rise of D-Wade Documentary

When I first saw this documentary, I was simply blown away! It was so authentic and inspiring; As a basketball player dreaming of one going pro myself, it really gave me a broader perspective of the different journeys that athletes go through in order to obtain their ultimate goal.

My high school English teacher once told me about the “Resiliency Factor.” She defined it as people who are at a disadvantage have more motivation to be successful no matter disproportionate the odds are stacked against them. Dwyane Wade and his story is the epitome of the “Resiliency Factor.”

Dwayne Wade practically built his untouchable legacy out from the south-side of Chicago where dreams are often mere figments of people’s imagination. For the first 8 or 9 years of Wade’s young life he spent time with his mom, Jolinda Wade, and his 3 older sisters. But as Jolinda Wade became entangled in drugs, she knew that Dwayne had to move in with his dad until she got better. When Dwyane moved in with his dad, he learned how to become a man and also was molded into a basketball phenom.

At Richard’s High School, Wade put all the skills he had learned in his father’s backyard to work. Wade’s high school coach, Jack Fitzgerald, said it best, “The best way to describe Dwayne’s game is fearlessness… he was never afraid.”

Wade could never be denied and it showed on the floor. But off the floor, Wade had failed to pass his college entry exam which postponed his playing career at Marquette University. However, with the help of his head coach, Tom Crean, Wade was given that chance a year later and he would not tarnish the opportunity.

At Marquette University, he played with a sense of urgency that was unmatched. Marquette coach Tom Crean reiterates, “He [Wade] was a master of the game. And had a real killer instinct.”

Wade would eventually, go down as one of the best players to ever go to Marquette. And, Wade was not done there. In the 2003 NBA Draft, Wade was selected fifth overall by the Miami Heat. In 2006, Wade did the unthinkable by leading the Heat to a NBA championship over the Dallas Mavs.

Wade has solidified himself as a first ballot Hall of Famer. And throughout his high school, college, and professional campaign, he has defied all the odds through his resiliency and fearlessness.

In the beginning of the documentary Wade stressed, “When I played basketball, I didn’t worry about when the next meal was coming. It was just about me, the basketball and the court.”This quote embodies the passion that Wade as well as many aspiring basketball players, like myself, express about this

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Wade is No. 2 all-time in scoring and No. 9 all-time in steals at Marquette

beautiful game.

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D-Wade averaged 35 PPG, 8 RPG, 4 APG, 3 SPG, and 1 BPG against the Mavs in the 2006 NBA Finals

2016-17 NBA MVP Candidates

An ordered list of potential MVP candidates so far this NBA season.

The 2016-17 NBA season is finally underway and I am excited to see what teams got better and what teams are just plain trash. But for the sake of this blog post, I want to talk about the five players, thus far, that are destined to hoist up the MVP trophy and earn “regular season” bragging rights in the association. Since the season is still in its premature phase, the list of potential MVP candidates can and will most likely be adjusted later. Let’s just skip to the good stuff and reveal my top 5 candidates (in order):

  1. Kawhi Leonard– Leonard is an absolute stud that has the most even-keeled attitude I have ever witnessed; that’s what I like most about him. This man has truly taken the reigns as leader of a Western-Conference-Finals bound juggernaut. And, right now, he’s a juggernaut himself averaging  28 PPG,  4 RPG, and just about 4 APG. He can do it all and with Greg Poppovich grooming him and the offseason training he did with Kobe Bryant, the sky’s the limit for this “silent but deadly” assassin.
  2. Kevin Durant– As much as I despise the decision that Durant made to leave the Thunder to go to an already overpowered Warriors team, I cannot deny the fact of how multi-faceted, talented, and scary Durant is as a near 7-foot guard-forward. It seems as though he is determined to prove to all the doubters wrong. I was watching the Thunder-Warriors game on TNT Thursday night and KD went off for 39 points and drained 7 three-pointers as the Warriors went on to smack the Thunder 122-96. As I continued to watch the game, Thunder players were trying to talk smack to KD and it only made matters worse. I can recall my friend telling me, “You don’t want to wake up a beast like KD.” If KD can unleash his inner beast and outshine  his teammate and 2016 unanimous MVP Steph Curry, then the MVP trophy is his to lose.
  3. Russell Westbrook– The Thunder is a team that is definitely in a rebuilding phase right now and I’m certain that they will not make the playoffs this year; and the league tends to give the award to the best player on the best/winning team. However, no one can deny greatness and that is exactly what Westbrook personifies. Kobe once said to a reporter that, intensity-wise, Westbrook was the only player that he could compare himself to. In his own words Kobe said, “[Westbrook] plays with a rage that’s not very common.” If Westbrook receives credit from one of the greatest of all time, then that is a testament to how destined he is to win this prestigious award. As of right now, Westbrook is averaging a triple double: 34 PPG, 10 RPG, and 10 APG. The last legend to do that… Oscar “The Big O” Robertson.
  4. Kyrie Irving– We all saw Game 7 of the NBA Finals and how Irving terrorized the Warriors defense. Oh yeah and how he drained a game-defining trey ball in Steph’s eye. Irving also played a critical role in getting Team USA a gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Irving is slowly but surely making a case for the best PG in the association as of late and shows no signs of slowing down. After a game [this season] where Irving scored 32 points on the Wizards, LeBron mentioned that Irving “is the best point guard in the league.” This man is a match-up nightmare and with LeBron feeding him knowledge to give him a mental edge over his opponents, Irving is bound to be a big problem. As of right now, Irving is averaging 27 PPG with 4 APG while shooting 47% from the field and 53% from the three-point line.
  5. LeBron James- When has LeBron not been a candidate for this award? I’ll wait…. LeBron has been taking the league by storm since he was 18-years old. And as of late, LeBron is averaging 22 PPG, 9 RPG, and 10 APG. If you want to talk about complete domination, LeBron is the epitome of dominion. LeBron just came off a 2016 championship season where, in the Finals, he led all players in all five categories (PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, and BPG). LeBron has the ability to run away from the MVP trophy just like anyone else on this list. But its his choice if he wants to continue to play a high volume of minutes in order to have a legitimate chance of winning MVP or decrease his playing time to reserve himself for the postseason and go after another NBA championship.