All posts by Griffin Mathiews

Grading the Boston Celtics offseason moves

Key additions:

Robert Williams – Power Forward – From: Texas A&M – Drafted 27th overall in the 1st round by the Celtics

Key subtractions:

None

 

Analysis:

It has been an extremely quiet offseason for the Boston Celtics as they have only made two moves all offseason. The biggest move that they made was drafting Texas A&M power forward Robert Williams in the 1st round of the NBA draft. Williams will give the Celtics some more depth at power forward coming off the bench. He is best known for his shot-blocking skills and he is a good rebounder as well. However, Williams is a very poor shooter and he also has some character concerns too. Williams can help Boston out right away and there is a chance that he could become a starter at power forward for the Celtics one day. Meanwhile, the other move that the Celtics made was re-signing center Aron Baynes. He was the starter at center for most of the 2017 season with the Celtics and he figures to return to that role next season. Overall, the Celtics didn’t really get much better this offseason, although they didn’t really have to since their team is already really good.

Grade: B-

Advertisements

Grading the Atlanta Hawks offseason moves

Key Additions:

Trae Young – Point Guard – Acquired in a draft trade with Dallas

Kevin Huerter – Shooting Guard – Drafted in the 1st round by Atlanta

Omari Spellman – Power Forward – Drafted in the 1st round by Atlanta

Key Subtractions:

None

 

Analysis:

Overall it is was a relatively quiet offseason for the Hawks as they made all of their moves in the draft by selecting 3 players in the 1st round. However, they did absolutely nothing in free agency, but that was to be expected since the Hawks are currently in rebuild mode. The biggest move that Atlanta made was acquiring point guard Trae Young and a 2019 1st round from Dallas in exchange for 3rd overall pick Luka Doncic. We’ll see if Young ever becomes a dynamic player for Atlanta, but this was still a terrific trade since it gives the team yet another valuable draft pick to rebuild for the future. Meanwhile, Young gives Atlanta a much needed scorer at the guard position and a terrific passer as well. He does turn the ball over too much though and he doesn’t always have a good shot selection. However, Young will give the Hawks a terrific young backcourt as they have 24-year old all-star caliber guard Dennis Schroder still on the roster. Meanwhile, the Hawks also added another talented scorer in the draft by selecting Maryland shooting guard Kevin with the 19th overall pick. Huerter is a terrific 3-point shooter as he proved in college and he will give the Hawks some more depth at the guard position coming off the bench. Also, the team selected power forward Omari Spellman out of Villanova with the last pick in the 1st round of the draft. Spellman is another talented offensive player as he is a good shooter for a power forward. Also, he is a good rebounder as he averaged 8 per game for Villanova last season. Lack of size and limited quickness could hurt his ability to play defense at the NBA level, but he could turn into a very useful role player for Atlanta. The Hawks ended up acquiring even more draft picks after trading away their 2nd round pick to Charlotte in exchange for a 2019 and 2023 2nd round pick. Overall, the Hawks added some very good young players in the draft and the future looks very bright for the team. Also, by acquiring 3 draft picks it should help the Hawks to expedite their rebuild in the next few years.

Grade: B+

What do the Cavaliers do after the departure of LeBron James?

The moment that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been dreading has finally arrived as the franchise’s best player of all-time once again left in free agency. However, many people weren’t surprised by LeBron James’ decision to leave this offseason. James accomplished his goal with Cleveland by winning a championship a couple of years ago and now he is going to the Lakers which is a team that gives him a better chance to win championships. James has carried the Cavs franchise for many years, but now many are wondering where the team goes next. The only real reliable player that the Cavaliers have is Kevin Love, but it is unclear whether he will still be with the team next season. Cleveland could decide to trade him and get some decent young players or draft picks in return. However, if the Cavaliers want to remain competitive at all then it is imperative that they keep Kevin Love since they don’t have much else. Cleveland did select point guard Collin Sexton in the 1st round of the draft this year, so he is the only player that the Cavaliers really have to build around. The rest of the players on the roster were just meant to be a supporting cast for LeBron James. Cleveland still has players like George Hill, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Kyle Korver under contract for next season. Those aren’t the types of players that can make Cleveland contenders even in a weak eastern conference. The Cavaliers should just try and trade those players and see if they can get anything in return for them. Only Kevin Love, Collin Sexton, and maybe Rodney Hood are players that the Cavaliers should keep, although the Cavaliers should do anything possible to rebuild and acquire some more talented young players. The reality is that the Cavaliers are basically nothing without LeBron because he was the one that carried the team to the finals last season. It is actually remarkable that the Cavaliers were able to make it that far considering the weak supporting cast that he had around him. Cleveland probably isn’t going to be a playoff contender without LeBron James even in a very weak eastern conference next season. The best option for the Cavaliers at this point might be to tank and draft the new face of the franchise. However, the problem is that the Cavaliers lose their 1st round pick in 2019 to the Hawks if Cleveland doesn’t have a top 10 selection. That gives Cleveland even more incentive to lose since it will slow down their rebuild even more if they lose their 1st round pick in 2019. It won’t be easy for the Cavaliers to win without LeBron James, but the team just needs to try and clear out their big contracts while also trying to acquire some new talented players.

Grading every 1st round pick in the 2010 NBA draft

  1. Washington Wizards – John Wall – Point Guard – Kentucky

This pick couldn’t have gone any better for the Wizards as they were able to select what is still the face of their franchise. Wall has struggled with injuries at times, but when he is healthy he is one of the best point guards in the NBA as proven by his 5 all-star appearances. Wall should be in Washington for a long time and this was a terrific pick for the Wizards.

Grade: A+

2. Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner – Small Forward – Ohio State

Evan Turner was an elite prospect coming into the 2010 draft, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype. He is currently a role player for the Trail Blazers right now and he has been a borderline starter for most of his career. He had a couple of good years with Philadelphia including when he averaged 17.4 points during the 2013 season. He only lasted a few years in Philadelphia and this wasn’t a terrible pick for the 76ers. However, this wasn’t exactly a franchise-defining selection either.

Grade: C+

3. New Jersey Nets – Derrick Favors – Power Forward – Georgia Tech

Derrick Favors never got much of a chance with the Nets because he played only 56 games for the franchise before being dealt to the Jazz in the Deron Williams trade. Favors has become a reliable starter for Utah, but he never got a chance to prove himself with the Nets. It’s hard to give the Nets a bad grade for this selection since they were able to land an elite player in return, yet he never provided much for the franchise.

Grade: C-

4. Minnesota Timberwolves – Wesley Johnson – Small Forward – Syracuse

Wesley Johnson has massively underachieved during his NBA career and he didn’t help out Minnesota much in his 2 years with the team. The most points that he scored during his time with the Timberwolves was in his rookie year when he averaged 9 points. Johnson still hasn’t averaged double digits in scoring in any season despite being a starter for most of his career. He has already played with 4 different NBA teams and right now he is considered just a role player at best.

Grade: D

5. Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins – Center – Kentucky

This was basically the only draft selection that Sacramento didn’t mess up in recent years as Cousins quickly became the face of the franchise. Cousins spent 6 1/2 seasons with the Kings where he was by far the team’s only really good player during that time period. Cousins carried the team on his back, although he was never able to lead the Kings to a playoff appearance. The team couldn’t work out a long-term deal with him and they ended up trading him to the Pelicans during the 2016 season. Cousins at least provided Sacramento with some sort of respectability during his time there and this was a terrific pick for the Kings.

Grade: A

6. Golden State Warriors – Ekpe Udoh – Center – Baylor

The Warriors have made some really good draft picks in recent years, but this was certainly their worst. Udoh only played in two seasons and the best he averaged was 5.5 points during the 2011 season for the Warriors. He ended up being traded to the Bucks and he spent 3 seasons there before spending a season with the Clippers. He then was out of the NBA for two years before reemerging as a role player for the Jazz last year. Udoh has had a really disappointing NBA career as he has averaged 3.7 points per game in his career and he is still lucky to be in the NBA considering his poor performance.

Grade: F

7. Detroit Pistons – Greg Monroe – Power Forward – Georgetown

Greg Monroe didn’t turn into an all-star level player, but he certainly has had a very productive NBA career. He was very consistent during his 5 seasons with Detroit as he averaged at least 15 points per game in every season except for his rookie year. Monroe was a good starter in Detroit, but he eventually left for Milwaukee in free agency. Monroe spent a couple of years there before being dealt to both Phoenix and Boston last season. Monroe undoubtedly played his best with the Pistons and he provided them with good production, so this was a good pick for the team.

Grade: B

8. Los Angeles Clippers – Al-Farouq Aminu – Small Forward – Wake Forest

Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t last long with the Clippers as he only played one season with the team before being dealt to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade. Aminu spent a few years with New Orleans before spending a year with Dallas and 3 years with Portland. Aminu hasn’t been much of a scorer in his NBA career, but he is a really good defender and he rebounds very well. Aminu didn’t quite last with the Clippers, but at least he has become a productive player in the NBA.

Grade: C

9. Utah Jazz – Gordon Hayward – Small Forward – Butler

Gordon Hayward’s career started off slow with Utah, but he improved every year that he was with the Jazz. He became the face of the franchise and he even earned an all-star appearance during his last season with Utah. He led the Jazz to the playoffs a couple of times when he was with the team. It is unfortunate that the Jazz lost him for nothing last season when he departed for Boston. However, this was still a great pick for the Jazz as he kept Utah as a relevant franchise for several seasons.

Grade: A

10. Indiana Pacers – Paul George – Small Forward – Fresno State

Paul George was undoubtedly the face of the franchise during his time with the Indiana Pacers. In fact, he was named an all-star four times while he was with the team while averaging at least 21 points per game in 4 of his seasons with Indiana. George led the Pacers to the playoffs in every season that he was there except for when he missed 76 games during the 2014 season due to injury. George became one of the best players in the NBA during his time in Indiana and he was an all-star player yet again for Oklahoma City last year. It is unfortunate that George didn’t stay long-term with the Pacers, although the team did receive superstar guard Victor Oladipo in the deal for George. This pick continues to be great for Indiana even after George has been traded.

Grade: A

11. New Orleans Hornets(Traded to Oklahoma City) – Cole Aldrich – Center – Kansas

This was really a bad deal for both New Orleans as Oklahoma City. Aldrich was technically drafted by the New Orleans Hornets, but he never played a game for them as he was traded to the Thunder for basically nothing shortly after the draft. Aldrich played 3 seasons for the Thunder, but he was absolutely awful as the most he averaged was 2.2 points per game. He then bounced around the NBA with the Rockets, Kings, Knicks, Clippers, and Timberwolves. He has basically been a benchwarmer for his entire career, which is an extreme disappointment considering that he was a lottery pick. The Hornets and Thunder both really failed with this pick as Aldrich was awful and New Orleans never got much in return.

Grade: F

12. Memphis Grizzlies – Xavier Henry – Small Forward – Kansas

Xavier Henry didn’t seem to fit in well with Memphis as he only spent one year with the team while averaging 4.3 points per game. He ended up being traded to New Orleans where he spent two years, but he didn’t do much. Henry had his best season in 2013 with the Lakers when he averaged 10 points per game, but he hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2014. He spent the past few years in the G-League, but he didn’t play for any team at all last season. It seems like Henry’s NBA hopes are surely diminished and that is a shame since he was drafted so high.

Grade: F

13. Toronto Raptors – Ed Davis – Power Forward – North Carolina

Ed Davis had a somewhat productive career during his 3 seasons with the Raptors as he was a key role player for the team. Davis was then traded to the Grizzlies during the 2012 season where he spent about 1 1/2 seasons with that team. He then signed with the Lakers for one season before spending the past 3 seasons with Portland. Davis is still a decent role player and he has been in the NBA for awhile now, but he still didn’t quite live up to expectations. This wasn’t a bad pick for Toronto, yet he never became anything more than a role player.

Grade: C

14. Houston Rockets – Patrick Patterson – Power Forward – Kentucky

Patrick Patterson had a decent tenure with the Rockets as he spent 2 1/2 seasons with the team and he had his best season when he averaged 11.6 points for the Rockets in 2012. He ended up getting traded to the Kings where he spent a little over a season with. Then he spent 4 years with the Thunder before signing with Oklahoma City last season. Patterson has had a productive NBA career as a role player and he contributed in a big way to the Rockets at least for a few seasons. This wasn’t a terrible pick for the Rockets, but he didn’t last very long with the team.

Grade: C

15. Milwaukee Bucks – Larry Sanders – Center – VCU

Larry Sanders showed signs of his potential during his NBA career and that is why he lasted 5 years with the Bucks. However, some stupid decisions really held his NBA career back. He was suspended for drug use by the NBA and he stepped away from the NBA for about a season and a half. He returned for Cleveland in the 2016 season, but he only appeared in 5 games for the team. It appears that his career is over at this point, but this was still a decent pick for Milwaukee since he was a solid role player during his time with the team.

Grade: C-

16. Minnesota Timberwolves(Traded to Portland) – Luke Babbitt – Small Forward – Nevada

This trade didn’t work out very well for either the Timberwolves or the Trail Blazers. Babbitt spent the first 3 years of his career with Portland and he didn’t contribute much, but Minnesota got Martell Webster in this deal and that didn’t work out well either. Babbitt revived his career as a good role player for New Orleans where he spent two years and he has since been a decent role player for Miami and Atlanta. It is amazing Babbitt has lasted this long in the NBA, but this selection still wasn’t good for Portland.

Grade: D

17. Chicago Bulls(Traded to Washington) – Kevin Seraphin – Power Forward – France

This was a horrible trade for the Bulls as they traded Kirk Hinrich and Seraphin for a player that never even appeared in a game for them. However, this trade worked out very well for Washington as Seraphin became a very key role player during his 5 seasons with the team. He then left for the Knicks and Pacers where he didn’t contribute much, yet he hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2016 season. It appears Seraphin’s career might be over, but this still a good pick for the Wizards as he provided 5 decent years for the team.

Grade: C+

18. Oklahoma City Thunder(Traded to LA Clippers) – Eric Bledsoe – Point Guard – Kentucky

Eric Bledsoe surprisingly became one of the best players in this draft and the Thunder made a terrible deal. However, this selection worked out OK for the Clippers as he showed flashes of his potential during his 3 years with the team. Eric Bledsoe was then traded to Phoenix where he basically became the face of the franchise and an all-star caliber player. He then was dealt to Milwaukee last year and he still a very good starting point guard in the NBA. Bledsoe didn’t quite work out with the Clippers, but this was still a good pick for the team.

Grade: B-

19. Boston Celtics – Avery Bradley – Shooting Guard – Texas

This was a very good pick for the Celtics as Avery Bradley became a good starting shooting guard for the team for several years. The first few years in Boston he didn’t show much as he was just a good role player that provided good defense. However, starting in 2013 he took his game to the next level as he averaged at least 13 points per game for the team until he was traded to Detroit prior to the 2017 season. Bradley was then dealt again to the Clippers last season in the Blake Griffin trade. Bradley became a terrific all-around player for Boston and he turned out to be a very good player for the team.

Grade: A

20. San Antonio Spurs – James Anderson – Shooting Guard – Oklahoma State

This was one of the very few poor draft choices that the Spurs have made in awhile as he never found a good role for San Antonio in his 3 years with the team. Anderson then went to Houston for a year where he was once again a benchwarmer. He then went to Philadelphia where he had the best year of his career while averaging 10.1 points per game for a terrible 76ers team. He then was out of the NBA for a year before once again being in a benchwarmer role for Sacramento in 2015. He hasn’t appeared in the NBA since and it appears that his hopes for an NBA comeback are basically dead now. Anderson never found a fit in the NBA and he certainly wasn’t a fit for the Spurs.

Grade: D-

21. Oklahoma City Thunder(Traded to New Orleans) – Craig Brackins – Power Forward – Iowa State

Craig Brackins was the victim of an unfortunate circumstances as he was dealt twice before he even played an NBA game. He first appeared with the 76ers for 3 games during his rookie season and he played another 14 games for the 76ers next season. However, Brackins never played in another NBA game and he is currently playing overseas in Japan. This was an awful selection for the Thunder and New Orleans as well especially since he barely played in the NBA.

Grade: F

22. Portland Trail Blazers – Elliot Williams – Shooting Guard – Memphis

Injuries really derailed the career of Elliot Williams as he missed the entire 2010 and 2012 seasons due to injury. He made his debut in 2011 for Portland, but he basically played a benchwarmer role for the team. That was the only season that he played for Portland and he ended up in Philadelphia where he had the best season of his career in 2013 while averaging 6 points per game. He then played a minor role for Utah, New Orleans, and Memphis over the next two seasons. However, he hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2015 season. Williams certainly had a disappointing NBA career and he especially didn’t provide anything for Portland.

Grade: F

23. Minnesota Timberwolves(Traded to Washington) – Trevor Booker – Power Forward – Clemson

Booker turned into very productive role player during his time with the Wizards and he turned out to be a good selection for the team. He spent 4 years in Washington before spending time with Utah, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Indiana. He is still a productive NBA role player and he has basically been exactly what was expected of him when he came out in the draft.

Grade: B

24. Atlanta Hawks(Traded to New Jersey) – Damion James – Small Forward – Texas

This selection actually worked out better for the Hawks than it did for the Nets. The Hawks were able to select Jordan Crawford who turned into a decent role player. However, James ended up only spending a couple of years with the Nets and he was absolutely awful for them. He then spent a lot of time in the D-League before popping up for the Spurs for 5 games in 2013, but he didn’t do much. James hasn’t appeared in the NBA since that point and he is currently playing professionally in Puerto Rico. James was an awful draft pick and his NBA career only lasted a total of 39 games.

Grade: F

25. Memphis Grizzlies(Traded to Dallas) – Dominique Jones – Shooting Guard – USF

This trade really didn’t work out for either team as the Grizzlies only got cash and the Mavericks didn’t get much out of Jones during his 3 years with the team. Jones hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2012 season and he is currently playing basketball overseas in Iran. It was a failed NBA career for Jones and it was certainly a poor pick for the Mavericks.

Grade: F

26. Oklahoma City Thunder(Traded to New Orleans) – Quincy Pondexter – Small Forward – Washington

This trade between the Thunder and New Orleans was actually supposed to be more about Cole Aldrich and Pondexter actually turned out to be the best player in this deal. Pondexter only played one season with the New Orleans Hornets and he didn’t contribute much during his rookie year. He ended up being traded to Memphis where he really improved to become a decent role player in a little over 3 seasons for the Grizzlies. He ended up being traded back to New Orleans in 2014 and he performed well, but he missed the next two seasons due to injuries. He returned last season for Chicago, but he didn’t contribute much. Overall, this was a decent draft selection for New Orleans as he turned into a decent role player in the NBA.

Grade: C-

27. New Jersey Nets(Traded to Atlanta) – Jordan Crawford – Shooting Guard – Xavier

Jordan Crawford didn’t turn out well for the Hawks for the Nets really as neither team really gave him an opportunity to succeed. He only spent 1 season in Atlanta and he didn’t make much of an impact as he only played in 6 games. However, he ended up being traded to Washington and ended up averaging 16.3 points in 26 games for the Wizards that season. Crawford averaged at least 13 points the next 2 seasons for Washington as he proved that he can be a very good scorer. He then was a key contributor for Boston and Golden State as a role player over the next couple of seasons. However, Crawford spent two seasons out of the league until New Orleans signed him during the 2016 season. Crawford has been a terrific role player during his NBA career and this was a good pick by Atlanta even though he didn’t last long with the team.

Grade: B-

28. Memphis Grizzlies – Greivis Vasquez – Point Guard – Maryland

Greivis Vasquez didn’t have a good tenure with Memphis as he only averaged 3.6 points in his lone season with the Grizzlies. However, the Grizzlies traded him to New Orleans and that was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. He spent two years as a starting point guard for New Orleans and he even averaged a career high 13.9 points per game for the team in 2012. He continued to be a key role player for Sacramento and Toronto over the next 3 seasons. However, he then went to Milwaukee and Brooklyn where he didn’t have a very productive tenure. He hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2016 season, but he was still a very good role player in his prime. He didn’t last long with Memphis, yet it was still a good pick for the team.

Grade: B-

29. Orlando Magic – Daniel Orton – Center – Kentucky

Daniel Orton definitely wasn’t a good draft pick for Orlando as he only appeared in 16 games in one season for the team while averaging 2.8 points per game. He then spent time with Oklahoma City and Philadelphia over the next two seasons, but he was awful for those teams as well. He hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2013 season and he only averaged 2.8 points in 51 career NBA games. Orton was a big failure of a draft pick for the Magic.

Grade: F

30. Washington Wizards(Traded to Minnesota) – Lazar Hayward – Small Forward – Marquette

Lazar Hayward showed some promise in a limited role during his rookie year as he averaged 3.8 points for Minnesota. However, he ended up being traded to Oklahoma City where he spent one season basically as a benchwarmer. The Thunder traded him back to Minnesota in 2012, but he only appeared in 4 games and he hasn’t played in an NBA game since. Hayward’s NBA career was very short and it was extremely disappointing especially since the Timberwolves traded for him.

Ranking the Top 5 Free Agent Shooting Guards

  1. Tyreke Evans – Memphis Grizzlies

Tyreke Evans came out of nowhere to have an all-star caliber year during the 2017-2018 season. He was a terrific scorer as he averaged 19.4 points per game for the Grizzlies while also averaging about 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Evans also played good defense last season, so he pretty much provided everything for Memphis. There will likely be several teams interested in Evans this season and it is highly likely that he goes to a team that is competing for a playoff spot like Denver or Philadelphia.

2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Los Angeles Lakers

Caldwell-Pope might not be a very flashy or well-known name on the free agent market, but that is possibly because he didn’t get as much attention as teammates Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in Los Angeles. However, Caldwell-Pope has really become a solid player as he is an efficient scorer and a good defensive player. It seems unlikely that he returns to the Lakers in free agency as they have their sights on big name free agents. However, he would be a good fit on a team like the Spurs or Clippers that could use some help at shooting guard.

3. JJ Redick – Philadelphia 76ers

JJ Redick is not a good defensive player to say the least and at this point in his career it is likely that he never will be. However, Redick makes up for it on the offensive side as he is one of the best shooters in the NBA. He averaged 17.1 points per game, which just shows how good of a 3-point shooter that he is because that is basically all he does. Redick could stay with the 76ers if they don’t sign another star in free agency or he could be a valuable piece for another playoff contender.

4. Will Barton – Denver Nuggets

Will Barton really increased his value during his time with the Nuggets as he proved that he can be good scorer and a good rebounder as well. However, there are still flaws to his game as he isn’t a good defensive player and he has been known to take some silly shots. If a team can deal with that then they could receive a valuable player off the bench or as a starting shooting guard if needed. Barton is probably best staying in Denver and the team has already tried to offer him a long-term deal. However, Barton might be able to make elsewhere, although it might not be for a playoff contender.

5. Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine for sure has the highest potential of any shooting guard on this list as he is still only 23 years old. He has already proven that he can be an above average offensive player as he averaged 16.7 points per game for the Bulls last season. He hasn’t proven that he does too much else, but if he ever lives up to his potential then he could be a star player in the NBA. The real issue with LaVine is that he has really struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons and he only played in 24 games for Chicago last year. LaVine is a risky long-term investment because of that injury history, but he also could prove to be a huge bargain if he ever can develop into the type of player that he can be. However,  it is highly unlikely that LaVine leaves the Bulls since he is a restricted free agent and the team has so much invested in him.

Ranking the Top 5 NBA Free Agent Point Guards

  1. Chris Paul – Houston Rockets

It isn’t a very strong market for point guards this offseason, but Chris Paul is by far the best available at that position. The only thing holding Paul back is his age and injury issues recently, but he is still likely to receive a max contract from Houston this offseason. Paul is an extremely valuable piece to the Rockets championship hopes as proven by the 50-8 record for the team when he played last season. The Rockets give Paul the best opportunity to win a championship and it would be shocking if he lands elsewhere.

2. Rajon Rondo – New Orleans Pelicans

Rajon Rondo really revived his career for the Pelicans as he proved that he can still be a good starting point guard in the NBA. Rondo is a really good all-around player as he is a terrific passer and a very good defender. He doesn’t score the ball very well as he only averaged 8.3 points per game last season, but he makes up for it in basically every other area. The Pelicans likely are the team that gives him the best chance to win right now, but they have other big financial commitments which means they might not be able to pay him as much as he wants. Rondo will have to decide whether he stays on a playoff contender or he goes to another team that could possibly offer him a bigger contract.

3. Isaiah Thomas – Los Angeles Lakers

Isaiah Thomas missed most of last season after coming off of a hip injury and when he returned he wasn’t quite the same player. However, Thomas is still a terrific offensive weapon that would help many teams. He doesn’t do much else, but he still managed to score 15.2 points per game for the Cavs and Lakers last year. If he can get back to the type of player that he was just 2 years ago in Boston when he averaged 28.9 points per game then he could really be a bargain. The Lakers might look to re-sign him, but it ultimately appears that a team in need of guard help like the Spurs, Mavericks, or Lakers could sign him.

4. Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart probably will never be an efficient offensive player, but he does just about everything else well. Smart passes the ball well, rebounds well, and he plays defense exceptionally well. He is probably best as a rotational player and a borderline starter, but he can really help a team in need of a good defensive player. Smart is somewhat unlikely to return to Boston as they probably won’t be able to offer him what he wants. However, he could be a useful player for another playoff contender that is in need of a good defender.

5. Dante Exum – Utah Jazz

Dante Exum has really struggled with injuries early on in his NBA career and it has really held him back from reaching his full potential. However, when he is healthy, he has proven that he is one of the best defensive players at the point guard position in the NBA. He is still really raw offensively as he has only averaged 5.7 points per game so far in his career. Exum will only be 23 years old next season and he isn’t even close to reaching the tremendous potential that he still has. Exum is just a rotational player at this point, but his best bet is to remain in Utah and rebuild his value for free agency next summer.

 

Eastern Conference 1st round Playoff Predictions

1 Seed: Toronto Raptors(59-23) vs. 8 Seed: Washington Wizards(43-39)

The Toronto Raptors were clearly the better team this season and they were one of the best teams in the NBA throughout. However, the Wizards aren’t a typical 8 seed because they are a very dangerous team mostly because of their backcourt. The only reason that the Wizards fell so far in the standings was because all-star point guard John Wall was injured for awhile. However, Washington now has Wall back to go along with all-star shooting guard Bradley Beal. If Beal and Wall play like they are capable of then they could make this a very interesting series. The issue for the Wizards is that they will have to stop the even more dynamic backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Washington will not make it easy on the Raptors, but Toronto appears to be a deeper team which will make it tough for the Wizards to match.

Prediction: Raptors win in 6 games

2 Seed: Boston Celtics(55-27) vs. 7 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks(44-38)

Boston had a very good year, but it is difficult to see them making a deep playoff run since their star player Kyrie Irving is out for the season. Boston still has plenty of depth with quality players like Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. If those players play well then Boston certainly has a chance to win this series even without Irving. However, it will be difficult to stop the core of players that Milwaukee has as they have 3 terrific players with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks need those players to play well because the team doesn’t have much depth behind them. Boston clearly has a deeper team, but Milwaukee has the star players that should carry the team. This series could go either way, although Irving’s injury will just be too difficult for the Celtics to overcome.

Prediction: Bucks win in 7 games

3 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers(52-30) vs. 6 Seed: Miami Heat(44-38)

The 76ers head into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NBA as they have won 16 games in a row. Philadelphia has plenty of really good players as they are led by Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and JJ Redick right now. However, if Joel Embiid can return from his injury during this series then there is virtually no chance for Miami to advance. The Heat have plenty of good players as they had 9 players that averaged double digits in scoring per game. However, they will need star players Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and Dwayne Wade to step up if the team even has a chance in this series. Miami had a good year, but the 76ers are just a much better team right now.

Prediction: 76ers win in 5 games

4 Seed: Indiana Pacers(48-34) vs. 5 Seed: Cleveland Cavaliers(50-32)

It was a year of turmoil for Cleveland as LeBron James had to basically carry the team on his own shoulders for the entire season. He will be expected to do the same in the playoffs as his supporting cast just hasn’t helped him out much. The Cavs really need Kevin Love to step up and play to his capability if the Cavaliers want to reach their full potential. Meanwhile, Indiana has been a very surprising team this year as they are led by star shooting guard Victor Oladipo. However, he has received some quality help from other players on the roster like Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Darren Collison. Indiana has some depth to cause Cleveland some trouble, but it will be difficult for them to stop LeBron James and Kevin Love which is why the Cavaliers will ultimately win this series.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 6 games