NBA 2017-2018 Season Preview: Winners, Losers, and Sleepers

With the NBA season upon us once again, it is time to make early predictions on how the season is going to turn out.  Instead of simply picking who I think is going to make the playoffs and win it all, I thought I’d share my thoughts on not only who is going to win, but who is going to surprise us, and who is going to fall flat on their face.  And let’s not forget highlighting the top rookies and players of the league.  So without further ado, I present another round of Percy’s Predictions!


To organize this all pretty-like, I’m going to take things conference by conference.


First, the West!


Winners: Golden State Warriors22846785-mmmain

No explanation is really needed for why the Warriors are, once again, going to be the Winners of the West.  Any team with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is going to be a lock to win their conference (and most likely the championship).  Barring any serious injuries to the four players stated above, there is very little chance of the Warriors not winning the West.  However, I will not say they are invincible.  Despite their star power, depth, and chemistry, I think the Warriors are still beatable, but only by two teams: The Spurs and the Rockets.  The Spurs and the Rockets are the only two teams that stand a chance against the Warriors in a 7-game series due to their depth, leadership, and play styles.  Both teams have improved this offseason (especially the Rockets) and are both seeking to take down the beast.  The Thunder have improved as well, but their bench is not much compared to the other three teams and I am weary of how three stars who need the ball in their hands will go over.  I could easily see problems arising down the line.  But if they can figure it out, then who knows?  All in all, the Warriors will finish first in the conference, however they will not win 70 games like some are predicting.  They will suffer losses to the other powerhouses of the league, and their annual loss to the Lakers will prevent them from reaching the 70 win mark.


Losers: Phoenix SunsPhoenix Suns v Miami Heat

I use the term ‘Losers’ a bit loosely in this scenario.  Yes, the Suns will most likely be the worst team in the West this year, but it will be nothing compared to the dumpster fire at the bottom of the East.  With players like Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Tyson Chandler returning, they will have some talent and experience to lead the team.  They’re a young team with potential, with guys like Dragan Bender, Marquese Chris, Tyler Ulis and others filling out their roster.  By the way, I firmly believe Tyler Ulis has the potential to become an Isaiah Thomas-esque player and will eventually reach that status.  His play at Kentucky impressed me from the first time I watched him.  He has shown development since his freshman year and I fully believe will become a solid starter at some point in his career.  Also worth mentioning is the addition of 4th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Josh Jackson. Phoenix will be a fun team to watch.  They will lose and get pummeled, but will be fun to watch nonetheless and will develop as the season goes on.  They will especially lose if they decide to deal Eric Bledsoe for draft picks like some are predicting and theorizing.  But Phoenix has a bright future ahead, no matter what direction they choose to go in.


Sleepers: Minnesota Timberwolves

Pretty much everyone knows The Minnesota Timberwolves have improved greatly with their acquisition of Jimmy Butler.   But the acquisition of Jimmy Butler was not the only good move of the offseason for Minnesota.  Minnesota also added veteran talent to their lineup by the likes of Jeff Teague, a solid point-guard, Jamal Crawford, a useful veteran shooter, and Taj Gibson, a solid body in the front court that adds depth to their team.  But that’s not all.  This past week, they signed Andrew Wiggins to a max extension, keeping the talented young stud in Minnesota for five more years. Their upcoming season is now filled with hype and expectations of great improvement, and I, like the others, expect great things from them.  I expect this team to make the playoffs this year with their improvement, however I see the Timberwolves doing more than that.  I believe that Jimmy Butler will have a larger impact on the team than people realize.  And in the same vein, so will Jamal Crawford.  Before these two guys got to Minnesota, the team lacked true shooting, especially from 3-pt range.  Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins were solid shooters, but LaVine is gone and Wiggins relies on driving to the hoop for scoring.  Butler and Crawford will provide firepower from beyond the arc that will help stretch the floor, which will also help a fastly improving Karl Anthony-Towns who is bound to go on a tear this year and become a top ten player.San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves


Top Rookie: De’Aaron Fox2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Yes De’Aaron Fox.  Most people predict Lonzo Ball will be the best rookie in the entire class, but I don’t think he’ll even be the best rookie in his own conference.  Going back to last year, I was more impressed by De’Aaron’s talent as opposed to Lonzo.  Yes Lonzo is a great prospect with all the potential in the world, but I do not feel he has the explosiveness and drive to reach that next level.  Ball will probably start the season off really hot, play well on national T.V., but then trail off and plateau as the season goes on.  Lonzo has a lot of pressure being in L.A. and having LaVar as his father.  If he slips up, everyone will be on him in a heartbeat.  And not to mention a lot of players are going to be gunning to punish him and shut him down for all the hype surrounding him.  De’Aaron, meanwhile, has no pressure at all on him.  He’s in Sacramento where no one will be paying attention, his team isn’t expected to go anywhere.  He’s got all the time in the world to develop and work on his game.  De’Aaron will probably start off rough, but only get better as the season goes on.  He’ll get used to the system, he’ll get used to the physicality, and he’ll improve his shooting. De’Aaron will develop into a solid player and consistently put up solid numbers night in and night out over the course of the season.  Lonzo will make some headlines every now and then, but De’Aaron will have the consistency.


Top Player: Kawhi LeonardHouston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five

Golden State may have four of the best players in the West, but Kawhi Leonard will be number one.  Kawhi Leonard is one of the most well-rounded, versatile players in the league and works phenomenally in Pop’s system.  He’s a star player with his own team.  Kawhi doesn’t have to worry about other star players getting touches and shots like the Warriors, Rockets, or Thunder do.  Kawhi is able to control the game and be whatever type of player his team needs at the moment.  He can facilitate the ball and spread the floor, he can keep the ball and shoot the lights out of the place, or he can step back and shut down the opposing offense.  Kawhi is as far from one-dimensional as you can get, allowing him to have great games every night even if his shot isn’t falling.  I believe the best and most valuable player to a team is one who doesn’t have to rely on shooting to help his team win games.


Now, the East!


Winners: Cleveland Cavalierscavsnation-comderrick-rose-via-fearthes-d44be77ff8a160f0ed552574a25cf175c96f0f7a-1

Again, no surprise here.  The Cavaliers are going to be the top team in the East and there’s really no one who can stop them.  And mind you, this is even after losing a star player like Kyrie.  To be perfectly honest, I think it’s very possible that this team is even better than they were last year.  Yeah they lost Kyrie, but because of that, they gained Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn pick, which is going to be very valuable to Cleveland because they’re going to gain promising young talent while maintaining their success.  And although Isaiah is hurt right now, he’s going to be back around midway through the season with a chip larger than the sun on his shoulder.  He’s going to play his heart out and absolutely tear it up.  But until then, the Cavs are still going to be phenomenal.  LeBron will be LeBron.  Dwyane Wade will provide some solid shooting, along with JR Smith.  Kevin Love will continue to be an underrated third option, and Jae Crowder will provide solid production on the offensive end, while being very tough and intimidating on the other end.  But hhe player who I think will have the largest, under-the-radar impact on the Cavs is Derrick Rose and I believe he is more important than most realize.  If Derrick Rose is able to play solid, fearless basketball, then he will be a great asset to the Cavs.  Rose does not have to return to his MVP form, and I feel he realizes that, which takes a load of pressure off of him.  Derrick Rose seems to have adapted to becoming a role player, which will help him become more useful to a team that does not need an MVP with LeBron there.  Rose has shown intensity and explosiveness that was really lacking from his game when he was with the Knicks.  Rose seems to want to be there and make a difference and I have full confidence that he will be a great starter while Thomas is out and then become a dangerous player coming off the bench going up against the 2nd string guard of the opposing team.


Losers: Chicago Bullshi-res-d6c867c13dde18b3a1e6c4ce1360728c_crop_north

To understand this pick, all you need to see are images from the Bull’s media day.  They had guys in strollers, guys you’ve never seen before, and guys without last names.  The Bulls are a mess and have hardly made any improvements to their roster.  The only “gains” they really made were adding Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.  But those acquisitions will only be viewed as solid if a few certain factors come to fruition.  The success of this trade and the improvement of the team relies largely on if Zach LaVine is able to come back and perform at the level he was at prior to his torn ACL and if Kris Dunn lives up to his expectations.  Now there’s still time for both of these players to become who they were projected to be, but it won’t necessarily happen this year.  And even if it did, they wouldn’t be nearly enough to help the Bulls climb out of that dumpster fire.  Their roster is one of the weakest I’ve seen in recent memory.  Up there with the 2015-2016 Sixers.  But at least the Sixers had promise.  I find it hard to find many positives about the 2017-2018 Bulls outside of LaVine, Dunn, and their future top pick.  Hell, they even lost Mirotic due to Bobby Portis punching him in the face, which is a black-eye (pun intended) on the organization as it is, but also reflects potentially poor chemistry amongst the entire team.  If you’re a Bulls fan, there is not much for you to look forward to this year.  Also, quick reminder, GarPax essentially turned Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and a 2nd rounder into Cameron Payne.  So as you can see, the Bulls at least have great leadership steering them in the right direction and not into an even larger dumpster fire!


Sleepers: Philadelphia 76ers1508268289_431c8a49cb203ab892a5d7e43a8acfa7

I almost picked Miami for this one, but decided against it at the last moment.  It honestly could go either way.  Miami showed a lot of growth last year and nearly made the playoffs with their insane run.  They’ve got players like Waiters and Whiteside that could really make a difference in a game and along with the rest of the Miami roster, have a team that could potentially play spoiler in the playoffs.  The reason I chose the Sixers over the Heat for the choice of sleeper is because I feel the Sixers’ roster as a unit has more potential to be great this season.  They’ve got young studs like Simmons and Fultz.  They’ve got great role players like Covington and Saric.  They’ve got the veteran presence in Reddick, Johnson, and Bayless.  And, they’ve got the face in Embiid.  This team has all the potential in the world to be a great team down the road, but I believe they have the ability to be effective right now.  I feel that the Sixers have the potential to play ahead of schedule much like the New York Yankees have this year.  Better outside scoring will benefit the team, making them more well-rounded.  Veteran presence will help guide and teach the younger players.  And a (hopefully) full season from Embiid will give the team a huge boost all-around.  The only problem with this team, but is also a bit of a plus is that they’re so young.  It’s good in the sense that they have great potential down the road, but it’s a problem when looking at the success of the team this year.  Since the Sixers are made up of mainly young guys, they don’t have the experience yet and still have much to learn.  Not to mention not being at their prime like the superstars of the league they’d be going up against.  They may be able to surprise people and develop ahead of schedule, they may not.  The Sixers’ entire season is made up of what-ifs, and that may prove to be the deciding factor of the Sixers’ success this season.  With their star players having histories with injuries, their seasons rest in the hands of the basketball gods.  If they all can stay healthy, then the Sixers will see great success.


Top Rookie: Ben Simmons

I think a lot of people have forgotten that Ben Simmons is a rookie this year.  Everyone has been so caught up with this year’s rookie class, especially with Lonzo Ball.  Why I’ve chosen Simmons over his other highly touted teammate, Markelle Fultz, is because I feel Ben Simmons is a better athlete and all-around player than Fultz.  Also, Markelle is the type of player who will need a few years to fully develop and get used to things.  Fultz is a great shooter and passer no doubt, but Simmons is simply a freak of nature.  Simmons is the size of a power forward, but has the skill set of a point guard.  He’s able to handle the ball, dish the ball, shoot the ball, and defend the ball.  It was merely two years ago, but I feel many have forgotten just how good Ben Simmons was at LSU.  He could seriously do it all.  And not only can he do it all, but he can guard them all, which I believe is a very underrated asset for a player to have in this league.  Now combine all of this with a year’s worth of NBA knowledge that Simmons has absorbed from being out for the season last year, but still being around the game.  Simmons already has a leg up on all these rookies in that regard, making him a force to be reckoned with.dixon-201061-f-wp-content-uploads-2017-10-101317_ben-simmons_1200-1200x800


Top Player: LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

With an East really lacking in stars, it’s no question LeBron gets this spot.  He would get it even if the likes of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were still in the Eastern Conference.  It is simply impossible to be better than LeBron.   I mean, what more is there to say about the guy that hasn’t been said before?  He can score, he can pass, he can rebound, and he can play defense.  The guy is one of the greatest of all time and his career isn’t even over yet.  And with a bit of a chip on his shoulder from losing in the finals last season and the ‘drama’ between Kyrie and the Cavs, LeBron is going to absolutely destroy anyone who stands in his way.  And look at the first game he’s already played this year.  He slashed 29/16/9.  The man had nearly a triple-double, yet after the game he said he was out of shape and wasn’t joking.  LeBron hasn’t even reached his final form and that’s how he’s playing?  God Damn…


Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmonsusa_today_10338309-0

Without reiterating myself too much, I chose Ben Simmons over De’Aaron Fox and the rest of the rookies because I believe Ben Simmons is the best athlete and the best talent of this rookie class.  Simmons also has a better supporting cast to help him play even better and help him win games.  I believe a Simmons playing at the level I expect him to plus his team winning will ultimately lead the voters to choose him over any other rookie.


MVP: LeBron James

Again do not want to repeat myself too much here, but LeBron is going to be a player that impacts his team the most this season due to what he’s playing for.  LeBron will want to show this league that a loss will not set him back, but only make him stronger.  LeBron is out to prove and remind everyone that he is the best player in the league and there is no one that can touch him.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One


So there are my predictions.  Look forward to seeing how wrong I am in the end.  Here’s to a great season of basketball!


All-Star Rap Basketball Team

The rap community has always had a close relationship with the sports world, especially the NBA.  We’ve seen countless rappers make appearances courtside at NBA games, numerous references to players in songs, and even some NBA players try their hand at rapping themselves.  With a number of NBA players, such as Shaq and Damian Lillard taking part in the game of rap, I thought it would be interesting to make a team of rappers that would be suited best to take part in the game of basketball.dame_dolla_bigger_than_us_long-00_03_06_10-still116


Owner/GM: Jay-Z

Besides the fact that Jay-Z is actually part owner of a team, I believe Jay-Z would be perfect for the role of owner for this squad since he has plenty of other business experience.  Jay-Z is great at getting people together for projects and is well-respected throughout the community.  He’s a great businessman, having experience with co-founding his own label, Roc-a-fella Records and being a certified NBA and MLB sports agent with clients on his agency’s roster of the likes of Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant, and Dez Bryant.  All in all, Jay-Z is a great businessman who could run this team quite smoothly.jayz


Coach: Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre could have also fit the bill of owner in this situation, but I felt he was better suited for the role of head coach.  Dre’s production skills are some of the best this world has experienced and I feel that ability to craft and create in the studio could translate seamlessly onto the court.  He’d be able to draw up plays flawlessly and whip the team into the best shape they could possibly be in.  Dre brings out the best in the people he works with and nearly everyone in the rap world has nothing but respect for him, leading him to having an excellent relationship with the players.dr-dre-2015


PG: J. Colej-colebasketballroc4life

Cole may be more on the taller side of talent on this team, but I feel his skills and abilities fit the Point Guard role beautifully.  Just like in his music, he has the ability to show off when he needs to, but also put his pride aside and help those around him, making him a perfect candidate for point guard.  The quiet, unassuming approach he took on his last record and seems to be sticking with would create a nice deception to the skill that Cole possesses when he has the ball in his hands.  Cole also has much experience playing basketball, having stated on numerous occasions that he loved playing growing up, even playing on his high school team.  We’ve also seen him play in the 2012 NBA celebrity game, where he had a nice dunk with the alley-oop assist from Kevin Hart, which shows that Cole is a great multi-tool player.


SG: Freddie Gibbs1372788855_7f76937d705d32c3aa8886f0bb25218a

Freddie Gibbs, I believe, would make an excellent addition to this team.  I was unsure where to put him exactly on this squad, but I believe SG is where he fit best.  Freddie Gibbs has a strong, aggressive style of rapping that could intimidate anyone.  This style is especially present on tracks such as “Shitsville” off of his collaborative album with Madlib, Piñata.  A style, that would without a doubt translate onto the court, making him a scoring threat, as well as a defensive powerhouse.  People would be afraid to try anything against him, leading them to be weak and weary on defense.  This is a great skill to have for a big man, but due to his size in comparison to the rest of the team, I believe he is best suited for SG.  Also, Gibbs is very knowledgeable on the game of basketball and is an avid fan, giving him an edge on his opponents.


SF: Tyler, The Creator

This pick is a bit out there and unexpected.  I wouldn’t expect other owners to draft Tyler high, if at all, but I believe he could be a great asset to any rap basketball team.  Despite not being a huge fan of basketball, or having any real experience playing the sport, Tyler has the athletic build that any owner would dream of having on their team.8f2d89233a5a17f8b6b7395e327ccabb-odd-future-abs  Having a tall frame, with a skinny, yet muscular build, paired with natural athletic talent, makes Tyler a deceptively athletic threat, if I may.  Finding a position for him was tough, but Small Forward suits Tyler best because he is the most well-rounded rapper on this team.  He has the ability to go hard and tough when need be, as evident by tracks such as “Domo23” and “I Ain’t Got Time!”  Meaning he could take control of the game and pound it in the paint.  Yet at the same time, he is able to play it smooth and slick as evident on tracks such as “911/Mr. Lonely” and “Treehome95”, meaning he can take a step back and facilitate the ball effortlessly.  Also, having worked with a number of other artists, Tyler would have great chemistry with his other teammates.


PF: 2 Chainz2-chainz-ftr-jpg_1rw6wiylhntq01vitg21u4a0ge

2 Chainz is the first of the big men on this squad.  Standing at 6’5”, 2 Chainz is one of the tallest rappers in the game.  2 Chainz also has some of the most basketball experience out of any rapper.  2 Chainz attended Alabama State University on a basketball scholarship from 1995-1997.  Experience like this is a necessity on a team like this.  Being a bit of a veteran, 2 Chainz would serve as a great mentor to the rest of the team.  His lavish raps and melodic music would translate into a very graceful and beautiful style of play.  2 Chainz, however, is still able to get down and dirty when the time comes, allowing him to play some gritty defense and really battle under the hoop.


C: Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg, rounding out the starting five, would for sure serve as the captain of this roster. article-2560396-1b81e45900000578-177_634x759 Having been around the game nearly as long as Coach Dre, Snoop has veteran presence up the ying-yang.  His catchy, upbeat flow would translate into some great motivation and leadership.  Snoop would be able to keep the good spirits running high in the locker room and out on the court, even if the team is down or behind.  As for his play, Snoop is an avid sports fan, coaches football, and has run basketball fundraisers in past years.  Snoop has the athletic blood in him, making him a natural talent that can easily be utilized on the court.  His athletic talent can even be seen in his son Cordell’s football skills.  Cordell was a former WR at UCLA and was highly touted in high school for his play.  And lastly, Snoop has some experience as well.  Who could forget his appearance at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans?


Sixth Man: Lil B

No rap basketball team would be complete without Lil B.  Lil B could easily be in the starting lineup, but I feel that his skills would be better utilized coming off the bench.  Lil B has some experience under his belt, having tried out for the NBA D-League (Now known as the G-League), but just falling short.  He could provide an amped up energy that would surely get his teammates riled up.  Lil B is capable of lighting a fire that could spark a huge run for his team when they need it most.  It also helps that Lil B has been known to have great “influence” in the sports world.  An influence that could easily be used to his team’s advantage.17efecad


Honorable Mentions:


Lil Dicky

Lil Dicky, known at home as LiDicky, comes from a very athletic family.  For those who do not know, Lil Dicky is the often forgotten about fourth Ball brother, as seen in this video.  While he may not have been as highly touted as his other brothers, there is no doubt that Lil Dicky has some skill of his own.  



Wale has great athleticism, having attended multiple colleges on football scholarships, making him a good candidate for this team.  However I was unsure where he could have fit into this lineup or whose place he could have taken.  Also, his skill resides in football, so whether that athleticism would translate to basketball is unknown.


Meek Mill

Meek Mill does not have much of a sports background besides being a fan of it, but in recent years, he has been seen hanging out with members of the Philadelphia 76ers.  This may not mean much, but I’m certain that he could have picked up a thing or two from hanging out with the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.cnsebyruaaevhn1

Don’t Judge LeBron Based On This Final

Welp, another NBA season in the books and boy was it a boring one.  82 pointless games followed by a pointless playoff series all to set up the matchup we all knew was coming.  At least Joel Embiid was fun to watch for the few months he was out there.  If it weren’t for him, I probably would’ve gotten into the hobby of watching paint dry just to bring some excitement into my life.  It’s too bad this season was boring because in all honesty, the finals matchup this year was one for the history books.  The only problem was that everyone saw it coming, so it wasn’t a thrilling ride and then once we got to the finals, it was made clear quickly that this series wasn’t going to be as intense as we had all hoped.  The Warriors made quick work of the Cavs, eliminating them in only five games, handing LeBron another finals loss.  But did LeBron really lose?lebron-james-6717-usnews-getty-ftr_xqvd93njhofk10z2vpv9pkw7d

To put it simply, LeBron straight up balled out this entire series.  He became the first player in history to average a triple double in the finals by posting a slash of 33.6/12/10 in the finals.  If you were to look at just LeBron’s stats for these finals, you would assume that the Cavs won solely based on that.  He was absolutely unstoppable during the finals, yet somehow it wasn’t enough.  So what happened?  Well, for starters the bench was absolutely nonexistent.   There was absolutely no help from anyone outside of the Cavs big three.  At times it felt like the Warriors had a 5 on 3 power play, leaving LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin to fend for themselves.  Tristan Thompson got outrebounded by Steph Curry.  Deron Williams didn’t score a bucket until game four.  Richard Jefferson was their fifth leading scorer at a mere 5.8 ppg. jr-smith-6517-usnews-getty-ftr_sy1ach5ffia513rdhwunf2uzx  JR Smith started playing well, especially last game, scoring 25 on ⅞ from 3-pt range, but his play came a bit too late.  With no help from outside the big three and the Warriors bench outplaying the Cavs bench, LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin were forced to play extra minutes in order to make up for the poor bench performance, putting all the work onto their shoulders.  Honestly if it weren’t for LeBron’s stellar performance, the result could have been even uglier than it was.

But by no means is this an excuse for Cleveland’s loss to Golden State.  The Warriors were just too good for the Cavaliers.  I don’t think any team in history could best this Warriors team in a 7-game series.  This has got to be the best team in the history of basketball.  There was no stopping them.  Kevin Durant went off this series, averaging 35 ppg.  It felt like every time he pulled up to shoot it was going in.  And when he would leave his feet to dunk it was as if he was gliding through the air to the hoop.  It was all so graceful to watch.22846785-mmmain  Add that performance with Steph Curry’s great series as well, and there was just nothing the Cavaliers could do.  Curry slashed 26.8/8/9.4 in this series, nearly averaging a triple double like LeBron.  Steph Curry really showed up this series and it made all the difference in the end.  And like I said earlier, the play by the Warriors role players really helped seal the deal.  They were able to outscore the Cavs bench and force Cleveland’s big three back out onto the court sooner than the Cavs would have liked, thus tiring out LeBron and Co. allowing the Warriors starters to punish them.  Nothing could be done to stop this Warriors team this year.  I have yet to see a weakness in the Warriors that could allow a team to beat them.  The only way for the Warriors to lose is if they beat themselves and they certainly did not do that this finals.

But LeBron still statistically lost another finals, putting him at a 3-5 record in the finals.  Many people look at that and say LeBron isn’t great because he has a losing record in the finals, which is absolute shit.  The fact that LeBron has been to 8 finals already is impressive enough, so what if he’s lost 5.  Losing in the finals shouldn’t be looked down upon as much as it is.  It’s impressive to even be there, so why give an amazing player like LeBron flak for losing five?  “Oh but MJ has never lost a final.”  Yeah well LeBron also hasn’t gotten swept in the first round.  Twice.  Also if you look back on the teams LeBron has lost to, they’re nothing to be ashamed about.  He’s lost to the Spurs twice and the Warriors twice.  Two amazing teams during their times and were not really seen as underdogs in any finals.  Yes, he did lose to the Mavericks in 2011, but you gotta remember, that team swept the two-time reigning champ Lakers team.  So why should LeBron be looked down upon for losing to that team?1465581946-bkn-nba-final-heat-mavericks_19739287

A player’s finals record should not be used to judge the greatness of said player.  People keep looking at LeBron’s finals record as if it’s been an individual affair.  LeBron isn’t 3-5 in the finals, LeBron’s teams are 3-5 in the finals.  People need to remember that this game is still a team sport.  You win and lose as a team, and one player isn’t going to dictate that.  Yes, one player can have a large impact, but it is still up to the team as a whole to perform well in order to bring home a ring.  LeBron has balled out every finals he’s been in and tried to give his team the best chance they have at winning it all.  You cannot blame someone who gives his all those losses, especially this year’s finals.  Averaging a triple double is going above and beyond what was asked of him, and I think a lot of people don’t see that.  All they see is that LeBron lost again.  LeBron sucks, end of story.  But it’s not the end of the story.  If you look at what LeBron does when he goes out there game after game, you would see that this man is an incredible talent that has nothing to be ashamed about.  LeBron is the exact opposite of a sucky player.  LeBron is one of the greatest to touch the court and too many people take that for granted.

LeBron is one of the greatest to play the game.  There’s really not much more to say.  I think those that do not see that are not paying enough attention.  Far too often LeBron’s skills are overlooked and under-appreciated.  Yet then those same people who think LeBron isn’t one of the best see him lose and blame it all on him.  It’s mind boggling to me how bipolar the fans of the NBA are towards this man.  One minute they love him, but the minute he has a “bad” game they’re down his throat.  Everyone needs to stop criticizing LeBron, especially when it comes to losing in the finals.  It’s a team game.  There is only so much that one player can do, yet LeBron day in and day out gives his team more than enough.  Honestly the fact that people expect LeBron to win a final on his own is impressive enough.  Says all you really need to know about LeBron.  So leave LeBron alone, it’s not his fault.  Teams win and lose together.  All the blame cannot be placed on one person, especially a player like LeBron.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One

Weighing the Parity of the MLB vs. NBA

dm_170501_mlb_fantasy_miguel_sano_twins_3bWith the baseball season roughly a third of the way through, it’s a good time to stop and appreciate how beautifully unpredictable the sport of baseball is.  So many teams are performing better than expected, and worse than expected.  The Twins and Brewers are in first, while the Royals and Pirates lie in last.  Aaron Hicks and Ryan Zimmerman are having great years, while Rougned Odor and Andrew McCutchen struggle to get going.  The league year in and year out features surprise performances (and disappointments) that keep the league entertaining and filled with uncertainty.  Uncertainty that makes it nearly impossible to anticipate who the World Series champion will be.

The NBA, meanwhile, is about to enter the third straight final featuring the Cavaliers and Warriors.  The last seven finals have featured a LeBron James team and have seen only four different winners.  Four different winners doesn’t seem too bad, but when it becomes so easy to predict who is going to be in the finals, it makes the entire season feel boring and pointless.  Take this year for example, since preseason, everyone knew it was going to be Warriors vs. Cavaliers.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One  Hardly anyone predicted otherwise.  Now I love a good LePerformance from LeKing in Lefinals as much as the next guy, but I do miss the mystery of it all like you get with baseball.  I felt like it wasn’t even necessary to watch any of the playoffs (still did) because I knew what the outcomes were going to be.  The only real interesting series was the Boston vs. Washington one.  I know it’s not possible, but if every series was like that one, then I would find the playoffs to be much more fulfilling.  It just sucks for the great players out there whose ceiling is losing either to LeBron or Curry.  So many great players miss out on a chance at a ring because of these two great talents and their phenomenal teams.  Yet so many people argue that a player isn’t elite if they don’t have any rings, like the way Shaq does towards Barkley.  But Barkley had to go up against some insane teams like the Pistons and the Bulls, so can you really blame him for not having any?  

Basketball is filled with dynasties and when one dies another one just rises in it’s place.   And with the way things are shaping up in recent years, it doesn’t seem like anything is going to really change.  The Warriors and Cavaliers just keep building their rosters with no other team really looking to stand in their ways.  Even if a team was able to put together a roster to take down the Warriors or Cavs, they would just take the place of the giant they conquered.  There seems to be no stopping dynasties and while I don’t mind seeing great teams, I wish there was a bit more competition against them.

Baseball, on the other hand, has been a bit more balanced.  Yes, we’ve seen the Giants win three in the past six years, but they had even year voodoo working with them that wasn’t broken until last year (Thanks Cubs).  And yes, the Yankees have won 27 in their mlb_a_yankeeswin2_576history, but they’ve been around for over a hundred years, and in recent years, the playing field has been very equal, seeing them win only two since 2000.  Different teams have made appearances in the playoffs and the World Series.  MLB playoffs in the recent years have proved to be a lot more exciting and unpredictable than the NBA’s.  Every team is beatable.  There are no juggernauts going into the playoffs that everyone knows is going to go all the way.  And like we saw with the Kansas City Royals in 2014, underdog teams are capable of making runs all the way to the championship.  But does baseball actually have more parity than the NBA?mlb_g_royals-celebration01jr_668x376

First, let’s look at the playoff lineups since the 2010.  The NBA has featured 28 different teams (Sorry Sacramento and Minnesota) and the MLB has featured 25.  But the MLB hasn’t had their 2017 playoffs yet, while the NBA has.  Also, the NBA has 16 teams make the playoffs each year, while the MLB has 10.  The NBA finals has featured eight different teams with six different champions, while the World Series has featured nine different teams with five different champions.  From the looks of these stats, it appears that they’re relatively even.  So why is this a discussion?

It is a discussion because I do not believe that the stats tell the entire story.  I’ve never been a big fan of statistics.  I do look at them and take them into account, but I do not dive as deeply into them as others.  I believe there are certain aspects of life and sports that stats cannot explain.  When it comes to the MLB and NBA playoffs, it simply feels like there is more competition in the MLB playoffs.  There is more uncertainty due to the nature of baseball.  There is room for more upsets because the game always comes down to a one on one situation; the pitcher vs. the batter.  If one makes a mistake, the other can prevail.  There’s nine players out there as opposed to five in basketball.  Due to this, one player in basketball is able to have a larger effect on the game, like LeBron James, who has proven that time and time again.  In baseball, one player can only affect the game so much.  A baseball team needs to be all-around solid in order to see success, while in many cases, an NBA team can ride on one or two great players.  The NBA and MLB are different breeds, so maybe it is only logical that baseball seems to have more parity than basketball.  

Overall I think the NBA has a relatively decent amount of parity, but it just appears to not.  Perhaps basketball is simply more predictable than baseball because in most situations, the best team will win unlike in baseball, which sees a larger number of upsets.  Is this a bad thing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I personally enjoy unpredictability in sports, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying this LeDynasty.  I suppose basketball is setup to have dynasties, it appears to be only natural.  I am worried, however, on the future of the game.  In the past, NBA dynasties were birthed, while these days the NBA appears to be headed in a direction where dynasties are created.25warriors-web-master768  The Warriors and Cavaliers are fortifying their teams and are going to hold this league hostage for years.  It would be nice to enter a season for once without knowing who is going to be in the finals, but I suppose that is not going to happen for a few years at least.  At least basketball dynasties aren’t as bad as they are in football (Looking at you Tom Brady) but I do wish basketball was more like baseball and had more mystery and uncertainty, but I am not sure what it would take to stop the formation of super teams.  Would eliminating the salary cap do it?  Or would that only make matters worse?  Who knows.  And who knows if any change will come, but for now I’ll just enjoy the LeDynasty and the Warriors battle it out in the coming week.

The LeBron vs. MJ Argument and Why it Should End (Or At Least Put Off)

Whether it’s with your friends at your school or your co workers around the water cooler, at one point in time you’ve found yourself involved in an argument about who’s the greatest; Michael Jordan or LeBron James.  Hell, I found myself arguing with a 6-year-old girl I met at a Chuck-E-Cheese about it.  And with each of these arguments comes anger, stubbornness, and someone thrown into the ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese (I’m embarrassed to say who in my case).  This argument about who is better has happened for years now, with people flinging stats left and right trying to gain leverage in the debate.  Now I’m not here to discuss who I think is better, I am here instead to explain why this entire debate is unfair, pointless, and time to be put to rest.

LeBron James and Michael Jordan are two of the most elite athletes in the history of sports and have dominated their eras of basketball since their respected entries into the league.  Michael Jordan’s career spanned 15 years, saw six rings, and brought basketball to the level of popularity we all know it as today.  LeBron James is in his 14th season and has seen three rings, and has brought constant talk as to if he is better than Michael Jordan.  Now, admittedly, I have engaged in said arguments, but all in all, I believe that it is silly and premature to have these arguments and I will explain why.

When it comes to the content of these arguments, the main focus is on the playoff performances of both players.  Many people tend to look at their number of rings and say that Jordan has three more championships than Lebron, so he is automatically better.  If that was the case, however, then by that logic, Robert 451682-chicago-bulls-guard-michael-jordan-holds-the-nba-championship-trophy-aHorry, Frank Ramsey, Jim Loscutoff, John Havlicek, Satch Sanders, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, and Bill Russell are all better than Michael Jordan (Note: Arguments can be made for the latter).  So how is that a fair comparison?  I’ll tell you how; it’s not.  While championships may be an important sign of success and dominance, they do not always accurately represent the player.  Take Charles Barkley, for example.  Charles Barkley is arguably one of the best power forwards of all-time, yet he doesn’t have a ring.  Meanwhile, Larry Siegfried, a career 10.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.5 apg player, has five.  So is Larry Siegfried better than Charles Barkley?  Hell no.  God no.  So how is it fair to judge Jordan and LeBron the same way?c03-barkley-before-13-4_3

Another argument that comes into play is the fact that this is a different era of basketball.  A more competitive era of basketball.  An era filled with better athletes and better competition.  LeBron plays amongst players that are simply physically bigger and better than anything that Michael Jordan played against.  Biologically and historically, athletes are going to be better as time goes on.  The players develop alongside the game.  Now while I agree with this, I feel it is more important to look at the player within the era and what he accomplished.  Look at it this way: Babe Ruth is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but if you were to put him in the modern-day, where the average starting pitcher throws 95 mph consistently and the breaking balls are even nastier, he wouldn’t be nearly as good, yet I still consider him one of the greatest to play because of what he did during his era.  Tying it back into this debate, you need to take into account some of the teams that Michael Jordan and company went up against.  Michael Jordan had to go up against teams like the ‘86 Celtics, led by Larry Bird, and the Bad Boys Pistons team lead by Isiah Thomas.  LeBron played some tough teams, but for the most part, nothing like what Jordan played against (see 2011 Mavs).  In order to just reach the finals, Michael Jordan had to go through some of the toughest teams.  Many point out that Jordan had been eliminated multiple times in the first round of the playoffs while LeBron has not, yet they fail to realize that Jordan was going up against some tough teams, no matter what era you’re looking at.  Twice he and his Bulls got swept by Larry Bird’s Celtics, arguably one of the best teams in history.  Jordan played against some of the greatest talents in NBA history, but so has LeBron.  Jordan went up against guys like Bird, Thomas, and Barkley.  LeBron went up against guys like Garnett, Pierce, and Allen.  “But Zach, those last three guys were all on the same team.”  Yeah, well I just wanted to stick with the rule of three.  Can’t list those three without the other.  “Zach it just sounds like your list of talent for LeBron is inferior in comparison to yours for Jordan.”  Alright fine, want me to list some more?  Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh (Yes he had to face them before he joined them) Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Ben and Rasheed Wallace (Damn good 2006 team) Derrick Rose, Paul George, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, Demar Derozan, I could go on.  Just like I could with Michael Jordan.  Talent is simply timeless.

Along the lines of talent, it matters who you’re supported by. Although one player can make more of an impact in basketball, who your teammates are matters.  During his career, Jordan had a pretty nice group of guys to work with.  Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, and countless other great role players.  LeBron in his early career was sent out there with a lineup that featured Anderson Varejao at center…Jokes aside, he was a good defender at his peak, but the point is LeBron in early parts of his career was equipped with jack shit compared to the supporting cast that Jordan had.  That is partially why LeBron left to go to Miami, which brings me to my counter argument to this point.  LeBron eventually did have a good supporting group.  His big 3 in Miami was insane and featured some great role players that really contributed when it mattered most (See Ray Allen Gm. 6 3-pointer vs. Spurs).  And then when LeBron came back to Cleveland, he was once again well-equipped, besides 2015 when the team was riddled with injuries.  Having Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on your side is a big boost for LeBron.Kevin-Love-Kyrie-Irving-Champs-Cover

Now we have come to the end of this little ol’ random of mine, so I am going to end it with some closing notes on this whole debate, maybe explain myself a bit better and tie up some loose ends.  It isn’t right to compare these two players, or at least not at the moment.  Let LeBron play and finish his career, then we can all take a step back and look at what the two of them have accomplished.  But until then, let LeBron play.  And I know that I have come across as a LeBron supporter throughout all of this.  While he may be one of my favorite players to watch, I do not lean in his favor, nor do I lean in MJ’s favor.  I talk more about LeBron simply because I have seen more of him than I have seen Jordan.  I grew up with LeBron, not Jordan, so can you blame me?  Still, though, I know enough about Jordan to know that he is an exceptional talent and it is truly tough to top a player like that, I mean, just watch tape of his flu game and you’ll see the type of player Jordan is.  And I do admit that Jordan’s stats vs. LeBron’s are better, especially in the playoffs.  I just feel that it is simply too difficult to compare the two, especially since they both played in different eras of basketball.  If the two played alongside one another, sure, go right ahead compare and contrast them until your face turns blue, but their careers never crossed.  So let the greats be great and just enjoy it while it happens.  Basketball is a game, it’s meant to be fun and enjoyed.  No sense in worrying about who’s better than who.  Just watch and treasure the game.

Indoor Stadiums: A Rant

tampa-bay-rays-tropicana-field-contractIndoor Stadiums just might be the worst thing that has happened to the game of baseball.  Currently, there is only one team in the major league that plays in a full-fledged dome, but other stadiums have retractable roofs, making them a sort of hybrid or half-breed, if you may.   That one despicable organization that plays in a dome you may ask?  None other than the Tampa Bay Rays.  You may be asking yourself “Zach, why so much animosity towards such an innocent structure?  What have they ever done to you?”  and what I’ll say to that is it is not about me, it is about the integrity of the game of baseball.  Baseball is the sport of the summer and is meant to be played outside, there should be none of this generated perfect environment bullshit.  “But Zach, due to the city of Tampa’s climate of having consistent hot and humid weather, playing baseball would be nearly unbearable in the outdoors.”  Oh yeah? Well then they should not have placed a team that could not handle some measly little heat.  You know what they say; if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen and go to Montreal because they deserve an MLB franchise more than your pathetic city.  Sadly, however this trend is a popular one over in the NPB in Japan.  Multiple stadiums in Japan are domes, a decision that is just too much for this little heart.  I hope one day that they all come to their senses and realize that their stadiums looks horrid compared to the beautiful masterpieces of their outdoor counterparts.  But I’ll cut them some slack for now.  That league is still developing and I am confident that they will turn the corner.  As for The “Tampa Bay No-Rays Because They Decided To Build An Indoor Stadium Making Their Name Quite Ironic,” there is no excuse.  You were given the chance to make a wonderful expansion team in the state of Florida and you mucked it up. Players hit a pop up and it literally gets stuck on the catwalks.  Yes it’s comedic at times, but wildly unprofessional nonetheless.  The only cool thing about the stadium is the fact that you have a tank filled with live rays that I can touch.  I like that.  That’s cool.  But alas, I finish with this.  Perhaps if you were to build a stadium that was outside, maybe you would have more Tampa Bay Rays fans instead of having your ballpark being a second home to Yankees fans.  Thank you, and goodnight.  

Wrong For The Right Reasons

As I sit there in the deep blue chair that rests in the middle of my living room, watching the announcement come on, all I can do is stare in disbelief.  My childhood basketball hero, Lebron James was leaving his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat.  He was turning his back on his home, betraying the ones who worshipped him like a god.  All in pursuit of the championship; the ring. I felt shocked and hurt.  Never again will I support someone like him again.  Never will I forgive him for what he has done.  But that was five years ago.NBA: New York Knicks at Miami Heat

 I used to believe that once people reach a certain age, that’s the type of person they would be the rest of their life.  People don’t change once they reach that point, that’s the way they’ll always be.  This belief is what made me always resent Lebron because I always saw him as a selfish, front-running, egotistical person.  He was the epitome of a traitor.  How could someone ever root for a man who turns his back on his home?  

Then the summer of 2013 came around.  Lebron had won three championships with Miami, but failed to win a fourth the season before, after losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals.  It was now the offseason.  A time of wild accusations, and crazy assumptions.  Per usual, rumors arose of Lebron leaving Miami and returning home to Cleveland, just like every other summer.  I dismissed the rumors as always, simply to avoid getting my hopes up.  As the summer progressed, however, so did the rumors.  They kept gaining more and more traction, with more and more credible sources confirming the rumors.  Then, before you know it, Lebron had agreed to return to the Cavaliers.  I was shocked, nearly as much as I was when he first left.  Weeks after the announcement I still could not believe it, I felt as if one morning I  would wake up and learn that it was all just an odd, realistic dream about a topic that shouldn’t be as serious as I make it out to be.  But soon, the signing was official, Lebron was a Cav again.  The king has returned to his kingdom.NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers

It was actually quite confusing of a time for me, when it came to my feelings towards Lebron.  One part of me still wasn’t willing to forgive him for leaving, because it was still quite a selfish decision to make, claiming that he had a better chance to win in Miami as opposed to Cleveland.  Especially coming from someone who my dad claims threw the finals to have an excuse to leave.  But the more I thought about it, the more I began to see the logic and reasoning behind it.  Lebron was simply a human being like the rest of us, susceptible to selfishness and greed.  There is always something we desire and seek in this life, and for Lebron, it was a championship.  He was nervous, he got scared that he may never win a championship, so he panicked and decided to take the easy way out and join two other superstars, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on a team that was destined to win a championship.  It was simply a natural reaction.  When one realizes that they may never get what they have dedicated their whole life to, it takes a lot out of them, even if it is simply the possibility of it happening.  When Lebron lost in the playoffs his final year with the Cavs the first time around, he fell hard, leading him to panic and choosing to go somewhere he simply could not fail.  And fail he did not, having won three championships in Miami.  What he did next, after his dominance in Miami, is what made me believe that he was not the person I perceived him to be.  Lebron was able to recognize that his work was done, he had won his championships.  He had fulfilled his dream, but it was time to do what he needed to do as opposed to what he was supposed to do.  It was now time to give the people of Cleveland what they deserved and what they had been hoping for since 1964 for: a championship.  Thhi-res-459814949-kevin-love-of-the-minnesota-timberwolves-stands-on-the_crop_northe path to a Cleveland championship looked rough, with the Cavs roster looking bleak besides the rising star Kyrie Irving, but the team would be gaining back the greatest player in the game.  There were still holes to be fixed and Lebron couldn’t single handedly carry a team (or could he?).  The Cavs img24326053decided it was best to trade for both Kevin Love and Timofy Mozgov, two well-established big men, to help him and Kyrie out.  

The first season with Lebron back started out rough, with the team not really being able to meld together as a unit yet, but Lebron did not give up.  He kept fighting and working hard and brought the Cavs all the way to the NBA championship against Steph Curry and the Warriors.  Although the storybook ending didn’t happen, they held their own, only losing the series 4-2.  

After the finals, Lebron remained patient.  A side of him I hadn’t seen before.  The old him may have run away again, but he persisted and looked forward to the next season, hungry to bring his people what they wanted.  The 2015-16 season came around and the reigning champion Warriors somehow looked better than ever.  In fact, they would set the record for best record of all time, going an astonishing 73-9 in the regular season, beating the previous record by 1 win, set previously by the 1996 Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan.  The Cavs did very well too, but not nearly as good as the Warriors.  The two teams were both destined to face off in the finals, and face off they did.  i

The Warriors continued their great success and took a quick 3-1 lead in the series.  It was all but over for the Cavs.  My dad, the big Cleveland fan he was, had already packed it in and moved his focus fully to the baseball season.  It was the end.  But not to Lebron and the rest of the Cavaliers.  They battled back and tied the series up at 3-3, but the final stage that lay ahead of them was nearly impossible to vanquish.  They were forced to play not only the 73-9 Warriors, but they also had to play them at Golden State in the Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors reigned supreme.  The Cavs chances looked bleak, but the new, lovable, mature Lebron did not roll over.  With the game coming down to the wire, he came up clutch for a game saving block in crunch time, setting up his teammate Kyrie Irving for the game-winning three-pointer.  I vividly remember sitting in a Friendly’s parking lot listening to the hectic radio broadcast that was the final minutes of the 2016 NBA finals.  I was nervous as hell, as I hugged the steering wheel of the car ever so tightly. maxresdefault Upon hearing that shot go in, I was on the verge of tears, my grip tightening on the plastic of the wheel. Hearing the final shot of the game miss, the final buzzer sound, and the announcement that the Cavaliers had won, froze me with such astonishment.  I was so stunned that all I could manage to do was get out of the car, and pace around the grass beside the parking lot in disbelief.  He had done it.  The fairytale had been completed.  Lebron went from villain to hero and brought a championship back to his kingdom.  The complete transformation that I believed to be impossible had been done.  Lebron did it, he proved me wrong.

People change and constantly have the ability to change.  There is always room and time in your life to grow as a person.  Lebron was the one who taught me that lesson.  He went from being a hero, to a villain and back again.  He showed me that people are constantly growing up as human beings, as well as that there is always work to be done to make ourselves better people.  Lebron was able to recognize the difference between what he was supposed to do, and what he needed to do.  Once he was able to do that, he returned home and brought them what they deserved:  a ring and a king.maxresdefault1

Another Sixer Start To A Sixer Season

After the draft this year, I was beyond excited for the upcoming basketball season.  The Yankees were doing bad at the time, so the Sixers were a nice relief from my struggles so far this year as a sports fan.  The Sixers had just drafted Ben Simmons and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, two promising looking players that I was excited to see in

Welp…here we are now in October, and at least I’ll get to see one of them play sometime soon with the recent news of Ben Simmons’ fractured right foot after he rolled it in practice.  Although they say he is only expected to miss three months, I feel as though they should not rush his return.  This team is still in a rebuilding stage, so it is not like we need him back soon in order to compete for a playoff spot or anything.  The team is still figuring things out for the future, and with him being a vital part of the future of the Sixers franchise, why rush him back when he is not ready and risk him re injuring his foot, possibly even more severely the next time?  usatsi_9353371.jpgI think the best course of action in a time like this is to sit him out for the season and give him all the time he needs and then some to recover from this injury.  Foot injuries are scary, especially in the basketball world.  Plenty of foot injuries have cut careers short in the NBA, the famous example of course being Yao Ming, who suffered chronic foot injuries yet still made the hall of fame. Just imagine what more he could have done if he didn’t suffer all those injuries.  It is somewhat interesting how in the past four year, two, and now possibly three of the Sixers first round picks have sat out their entire first season, two would be due to foot injuries.  Foot injuries are bad news, I think the Sixers, and Simmons, should take their time with this one and make sure it is treated carefully and properly.

As for the rest of the team, one big question is still in the air: Who stays and who goes?  The Sixers are stockpiled with big men and with only so many minutes to go around, it only makes sense that one or more of them must go.  This belief isn’t an unpopular one either.  Many other writers and analysts have expressed this as well.  Hell, even the Sixers organization itself has made it fairly clear with all the trade rumors surrounding both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.  Noel and Okafor are the two players that it appears the decision has come down to, which makes sense just based on process of elimination.  Both Embiid and Saric have yet to see any minutes in the NBA, so their trade value is quite low, plus the Sixers themselves have no idea what they are capable of at the NBA level.  Although Simmons is a big man technically, the Sixers have said that he would be seeing minutes at point guard and more or less act as a point forward for the Sixers, much like Lebron’s role with the Cavaliers.  Simmons is also too great of an athlete to pass up on.  He’s got the size, height, and talent that just doesn’t come around often, making him an untouchable.  All of this makes Noel and Okafor the two big men left available to be moved.

As for what I think the Sixers should do, my opinion comes slightly biased.  This is due to my love and appreciation for Nerlens Noel.  Nerlens Noel was the reason I began to watch basketball.  During the 2012-2013 college basketball season, I happened to be watching the Kentucky game my dad had on one day, and I noticed this tall, lanky player with an amazing high top fade.  I noticed the name on his back Noel and I asked my dad about him and he told me that that was Nerlens Noel, one of the most highly touted players in the NCAA.  As the game went on I started liking this guy more and more.  His athleticism and fierce defense was absolutely amazing to watch.  He made me appreciate the game of basketball in a way I never had before.  My dad had always tried to get me into basketball, but it wasn’t until watching Noel at Kentucky did I ever begin to follow the game. nerlens-noel1.jpg 

When Noel ended up with the Sixers, after being traded from the Pelicans for Jrue Holiday when the dust finished settling after the 2013 draft, I decided to follow Noel and join the Sixers nation as well, leading me to fall in love with the Sixers organization as a whole.

So here we are, back in present time after that lovely little flashback, faced with the decision between Noel and Okafor.  Although my opinion may be slightly biased, I still believe it would be best to keep Noel and trade Okafor, even after Noel openly stated his frustration with this whole situation.  To me, that statement he made wasn’t that big of a deal, because I understood his feelings.  It wasn’t that he was frustrated with the organization itself, he was simply tired of the constant anxiety of possibly getting traded.  That can really take a toll on a person and I know I certainly would not want to be put under that kind of stress, constantly knowing that at some point you could be traded.  It’s a lot on a person, simple as that.  

Although people argue that Noel’s trade value is higher than Okafor, I feel his skills and abilities on defense are too great to pass up.  Over the past two years, he was putting up defensive numbers that haven’t been seen by a player in their first two seasons since David Robinson.  In an offensively driven era of basketball, defensive specialists like Noel don’t come very often.  Offense comes and goes, but defense is something special.  Not just any player can play defense like Noel, he really is unique, despite his stats flying under the radar the past two years, due to the lack of love for good defense.  If the Sixers got rid of a defensive force like Noel, they may not regret it now, but they will somewhere down the line.  

I can see why the Sixers may trade him, however, due to his higher trade value.  But if they do decide to trade him, I feel that they should only do so if they receive an established guard along with a decent draft pick.  It’d be going backwards for the Sixers if they got another young, unestablished player, especially if that player was…dear god..another big man.  They’ve got plenty of those.  It’s about time that they start letting these young guys develop, instead of trading them away prematurely for more draft picks.  Have some patience, have some faith.

Personally, in some weird, crazy way, I could see a future where none of these big guys are traded.0538194001448465758_usatodaysportsimages.jpg.jpg  In an era where players are playing at unorthodox positions, then why couldn’t you sometimes put a guy like Okafor out on the court at say the small forward position?  And if they simply rotate correctly and in an efficient manner, these guys could all see a good amount of minutes this year.  Especially since Embiid isn’t even going to see that many minutes this year due to precautions with his foot. That makes room for guys like Noel, Okafor, and Saric to see more minutes out on the floor.  I say let the big men stay.  At least for this year.  See how the rotations work out, see who performs, see who just isn’t working out, and then at the end of the year, decide who you want to keep and who you want to trade for much needed guard support.

This season is looking to be an interesting one.  This team is by no means near a playoff contention season, in all honesty, they’ll probably be in the cellar again this year, but I still have hope that they are going to surprise people and win a decent amount of games.  Not a lot of games, but a decent amount of games.  I see them improving from last year, based on the continuing growth and development of these young guys.  I look forward to seeing how this season plays out. #Trusttheprocess