Three NBA teams that shock everyone next season.

Atlanta Hawks

Added: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, Danillo Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu (Draft)

2020 was a disappointment for everyone one.  The Atlanta Hawks were a disappointment for me.  I had them as a sleeper team to make the playoffs out of the east.  They never found their groove last season.  The Hawks finished the season with a 20-47 record.

The Hawks went wild in the offseason adding serious depth around their two young stars Trae Young and John Collins.  Atlanta added proven champ Rajan Rondo, forward Danillo Galliinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic.  They also drafted uber-talented USC Trojan Onyeka Okongwu, a player that some had as a top 5 pick.   

Despite playing one of the fastest paces in the league (7th fastest) the Hawks offense was not efficient last season.  They ranked 25th in the league in offensive efficiency.  While Atlanta moved quickly they had some serious shooting issues ranking dead last in 3-pt percentage (33%).  The addition of Bogdanovic and Gallinari immediately addresses the issue, they shoot 37% and 38% respectively.  Early reports are saying that Gallinari will be coming off of the bench along with Rondo.  The Hawks bench was one of the worst in the league last year. That won’t be the case in 2021. 

Atlanta had defensive issues last season.  A full year of Clint Capela meaning the middle will help with the rim protection.  Having the stopper in the middle will allow the lengthy wings DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish to be more aggressive to create steals.  This team improved on every aspect that they lacked last season.  Hawks will make the playoffs and create problems for a lot of teams in the East. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Added: Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, Kira Lewis Jr (Draft)

The west is stacked and the Pelicans traded away Jrue Holiday.  There is no way this team gets better…wrong.  The Pelicans made headlines when they traded their All-Star guard to Milwaukee.  The thought from many is that the Pelicans are going to have another developmental year.  Most have ignored what the Pelicans added in the offseason.  

Eric Bledsoe is a veteran that should fill in the role as the #2 guard.  Bledsoe has a very similar skill set as Holiday.  Both players finished the season with a PER of 17,  both shoot the three around 35% and both are box score stuffers.  Holiday averaged 2 more assists per game, but it is likely that Bledsoe will see more time at the shooting guard position while Lonzo Ball will be at the point, where most of the distribution will occur. Bledsoe’s biggest attribute is coming from a winning organization that played great team defense.  A 2-time all NBA defensive player will help set the tone for a Pelicans team that was putrid on that end. 

Along with Bledsoe the Pelicans added a big man known for toughness and defense in Steven Adams. Adams will be a protector of Zion Williamson and does not need the ball on the offensive end. He will set screens for Lonzo Ball and allow him to work towards the rim utilizing the pick and roll.   Adams is the perfect fit for a team that needs toughness.

Adding two veterans to a team with the league’s most improved player Brandon Ingram and of course the “franchise” Zion Williamson makes this team an immediate threat for a playoff spot. Stan Van Gundy has the pedigree to lead a still very young team.  The mix of veterans and young rising stars ready to make an impact put them in position to make an impact. 

Phoenix Suns

Added: Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Jalen Smith (Draft)

The Phoenix Suns made an impact in the 2020 Bubble.  The Suns came in with low expectations but left with the fanbase and the NBA excited for what next season will bring.  Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges are all 24 or younger and now have the leadership of future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.  

The Suns also picked up a solid swingman, Jae Crowder in free agency.  Crowder has played major minutes for playoff teams in his career.  Spending time with the Celtics, Jazz and recently the Heat.  Crowder is a locker room leader and defender that will bring toughness and playoff experience to a team that needed it to make a real run for the playoffs.  

The Suns had to give up Kelly Oubre and Ricky Rubio in order to acquire their new pieces.  The offense will have a different identity but the defense will be the biggest change in culture.  The offense will come through Booker and Ayton, the addition of veterans with experience will help them stay in control down the stretch of a tight game.  Teams can no longer key on just Booker.  Paul is reaching the later stages of his career but he showed what he can do for a team that doesn’t have near the talent that Phoenix has.  

5 Breakout NBA Players in 2021

Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings

Marvin Bagley will always live in the shadow of Luka Doncic and Trae Young. The former Duke Blue Devil has had issues staying healthy in his young career.  He only played in 13 games last season and 62 in his rookie year.  Bagley has only started a total of 10 games in his entire NBA career.  

Entering into 2021 Bagley will be revitalized and ready to make an impact.  When able to play Bagley has consistently made an impact on the court.  Projecting over 40 minutes Bagley would average 22 points and 11 rebounds per game.  Bagley fits in perfectly with the DeAron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in a run and gun style of offense.  The Kings will be able to utilize him in the pick and roll and have an advantage over anyone on the court.  His length and athleticism are elite, if healthy he will be a difference maker on the offensive end. 

Bagley still has issues on defense but if healthy he is extremely productive. If healthy he will be a fringe all star. 

Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers stink.  Without LeBron James this franchise is an absolute abomination.  They will enter 2021 with a legit star to build around with center Andre Drummond opting to stay in Cleveland.  Drummond will join a core led by veteran Kevin Love and young rising talents Darius Garland and Kevin Porter.  The cream of the young core will be third year player Collin Sexton.  

The former Alabama standout took a small step forward in 2020.  Sexton saw his PER rise from 12 to 16, TS% from 52% to 56%  and usage rate increase from 25% to 27%.  The Cavaliers have assembled some of the best young talent in the NBA and they want Sexton to lead the way. 

Christian Wood, Houston Rockets

A DFS darling, Christian Wood thankfully found his way out of Detroit.  He is now a part of the Houston Rockets and despite the turmoil surrounding James Harden, this is a good thing.  Wood was stuck behind Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond over the last two seasons.  His time on the court was limited, but he found a way to make an impression when he was on the court.  Per 36 minutes, Wood averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game.  

Wood will have a chance to run the pick and roll with James Harden or John Wall.  He is a competent player from the outside, shooting 38% from three last season.  If Wood gets 30 minutes per game he will produce for the Rockets.  Quietly he rated #15 in PER last season at 23.22.  With or without Harden, Wood should be a major contributor to the new look Rockets in 2021.  

PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets

PJ Washington had moments of brilliance in his rookie season.  Washington will have a chance to develop under the new look Hornets along with new point guard LaMelo Ball. It looks like Charlotte will be utilizing a lot of small ball lineups this season as they have openly come out and said that Washington could see some time at center this season.  Washington will be undersized for the positions but these comments show the commitment the team has to getting him solid minutes.  With a fast style of play in the small ball lineups Washington should thrive.  

PJ Washington had an efficient year shooting 50% from 2 and 37% from 3.  The ability to play multiple positions and shoot at a high rate should make Washington a breakout stat stuffer for the Hornets. 

Seko Doumbouya, Detroit Pistons 

The Pistons had one of the best drafts of any team this season.  Adding legitimate NBA ready talent with all four of their picks.  The Pistons commitment to the youth movement may be headlined by last year’s first round pick Seko Doumbouya.  The 19 year-old former #15 pick from Guinea played limited minutes last year, but should see an increase in minutes.  Doumbouya has looked great in his first preseason appearances.  His most recent game Doumbouya showed some of his potential with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks in just 19 minutes.  

Doumbouya will have to compete with newly acquired Jerami Grant and star Blake Griffin for the power forward position, but Head Coach Dewayne Casey has already stated that his young star will have a chance to play small ball center.  His ability to shoot the three may also allow him to get minutes at the small forward position.  Doumboya’s ability to play multiple positions and a likely movement of Griffin in-season will lead  to more opportunities for the second year phenom.  

Ranking the top 5 NBA Draft Teams 2020

5. Miami Heat-

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis 

The Heat made the most of their single pick in the draft by grabbing Memphis big man Precious Achiuwa.  This is a classic Pat Riley making the most of what he has pick at #20.  A player that is comparable to Bam Adebayo in size and energy level, will fit right into the scheme that the Miami Heat want to play.  Achiuwa is still young, if he continues to grow and fill out he can develop into a nice transition center for a team that doesn’t want to sit in the paing.  

Achiuwa’s size could be a problem at times in the middle but in today’s NBA and his inconsistencies from mid-range and behind the arc.  He can still develop a shot over time but his energy will make up for his shooting trouble.  This was a great pickup from late in the first round, he will enter the rotation immediately. 

4. Boston Celtics-

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

Payton Prichard, Oregon

Yam Madar, Israel

The Celtics have long had a lot of draft night assets that they can never move.  They have had to find a way to make the most of each draft pick.  This year they found a way to address a serious need by grabbing Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith with the #14 pick.  Many consider Nesmith the best shooter in the entire draft.  If he had not gotten injured while at Vandy he could have found himself breaking into the top ten.  He will give Boston an immediate threat off the bench for a team that needed the long range help. 

Boston was looking for a backup point guard and landed four year Oregon Duck Payton Prichard.  Prichard will fit right into the Celtics system.  He will compete with fellow youngster Carsen Ewards, giving the Celtics some stability behind Kemba Walker.  He isn’t flashy but should be a solid ball handler and can play well in a great existing team defensive strategy.  

3. Dallas Mavericks-

Josh Green, Arizona

Tyrell Terry, Stanford

Tyler Bey, Colorado

Dallas made a lot of headlines by adding Josh Richardson from Philadelphia.  They had to give up the shooting of Seth Curry to obtain the talented guard.  They added two players that will likely compete for that role.  Arizona guard Josh Green and Stanford Guard Tyrell Terry.  Terry is a great off the dribble 3-point shooter that many saw as a potential first round sleeper.  Green is a great potential 3 and D player that will fit in nicely on the outside while Luka Doncic drives the middle. Finally they grabbed Colorado forward Tyler Bey who is a serious defensive worker that can handle some of the mistakes that others make on the court.  Three solid additions to a playoff ready team.  

Charlotte Hornets- 

LaMelo Ball, USA

Vernon Carey Jr, Duke

Nick Richards, Kentucky

Grant Riller, Charleston

Micheal Jordan may never get over his past draft blunders.  His career will always be linked to the Trailblazers selected Sam Bowie ahead of him.  Much like Bowie bad draft decisions have followed him.  Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison standout as just a few swings and misses from the former professional baseball player.  Grabbing LaMelo Ball with the #3 overall pick was taking the best player available no matter what their need was.  The Hornets got arguably the best player in the draft without being forced to move up.  Ball has great size at 6ft 7inches, instead of going to college he took his talents to Australia where he averaged 17 points, 7 boards and 6 assists per game in his first twelve professional games before the season got cut short by Covid-19.  Ball will have a chance to run the offense in Charlotte and they will build around him. 

Charlotte continued to grab great value by adding Duke’s Vernon Carey.  A preseason top ten pick in most mock drafts has shown the ability to do a little bit of everything on the offensive end.  After Vernon came interesting prospects Nick Richards, a big with some versatility and four year Charleston guard Grant Riller that projects to be a valuable piece in a rotation next season. 

Detroit Pistons-

Killian Hayes, France

Isaiah Stewart, Washington

Saddiq Bey, Villanova

Saben Lee, Vanderbilt

Send Westbrook to the Knicks

Despite my clear hatred of Russell Westbrool, I find myself writing about him a lot.  That is because he is constantly doing things that continue my feeling that he is the most overrated player currently in the NBA.  I don’t say that because he is not talented or he doesn’t work hard.  Former teammates Steven Adams and Enes Kanter have come out publicly stating that he is their favorite teammate they have ever had.  Former high school, college and NBA teammates have raved about his work ethic.  I’m sure he has his moments, but honestly the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t make his team around him better and he doesn’t have an attitude to be a champion.  For those reasons he is perfect for the New York Knicks.  He is a big name that is a loser.  Sound familiar…Carmelo Anthony.   Here are three reasons why Russell Westbrook and New York needs to happen.  

He doesn’t have to actually win anything.

The Knicks have the third longest playoff drought in the NBA (7 years).  Even with adding Westbrook the Knicks won’t have an expectation of a championship.  The goal will be just making the playoffs.  Westbrook is really good at making the playoffs.  He just isn’t good at actually winning anything.  The East is still very weak at the bottom so Westbrook and some role players should be enough to get them to the 7th or 8th seed. If New York is able to get to the playoffs after this long drought it will seem a lot bigger than it really is.  Even if they get swept, no one will blame Westbrook.  

New York needs a star.

The Knicks continually have missed out on the key free agents.  They organizationa and the fan base have a ridiculous idea that they are really a great destination despite having one of the worst owners in the league, one of the worst reputations over the last decade and literally no pieces that will help a star get to the next level (No offense RJ Barrett).  

Grabbing Westbrook would still be a big deal around the league. He is a star, but he is a star that doesn’t seem to play well with others.  Paul George, Kevin Durant and now James Harden are three running mates that were just fine with moving on from playing with him.  The Knicks will legit have a player to build around but they will have to find the perfect player to put alongside him.  But who that is..no idea.  The Knicks will have to most likely draft the running mate so that Westbrook can teach him the way he wants him to play. 

Getting Westbrook will get RJ Barrett out of New York (Hopefully)

RJ Barrett was second on the team with a usage percentage of 24%.  He did not have a great year in 2019-2020.  Barrett’s PER (player efficiency rating) was 10.7, the league average was 15.  He also had trouble with his shot, shooting just 32% from three (still better than Westbrook). Despite the fact that he did not have a great year, Barrett is still just 19 years old.  He has great size and has shown flashes of what he can be.  While the Knicks may want to keep Barrett to play along with Westbrook, the partnership really wouldn’t make a lot of sense.  Westbrook needs players that will stand on the outside and be ready to shoot. Barrett wants to drive the ball adn utilize his length and mid-range jumper.  If the Knicks truly wanted to develop Barrett they would not add Russell Westbrook.

Including Barrett in a trade with Houston would be good for both teams.  If the Rockets have no interest in Barrett, the Knicks could use him as a trade chip to pick up a solid #2 to work with Westbrook.   These two would never work well together.  

What should the Warriors do with the #2 pick?

The Golden State Warriors phoned in the 2020 season.  The injuries and transitioning of multiple superstars made them a team that was ready for a rebuild.  Unlike other teams though they have a built in core of stars that will be returning from injuries.  Klay Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green are still in the prime of their career and ready to make another run.  They have amassed a bunch of assets that can either help continue to build the future or make a deal that brings another superstar to play with the splash brothers in 2021.  

What should they do with the #2 pick?  Here are a few ideas. 

Go get Bradley Beal.  

The Washington Wizards have to move forward with a rebuild.  Their star Bradley Beal is locked up for a long time but his value at this point could not be any higher.  Washington will get John Wall back in 2021 and in the East they may be ready to make a run to the playoffs next year.  They can do that and continue to be a minimal franchise in the middle or bottom of the pack in the east or they could make a bold move and go out and start from  the beginning. Dealing away Bradley Beal for the #2 overall pick and Andrew Wiggins would not only be bold but it would allow them to move in a new direction with a core that could be very promising.  With the #2 pick the Wizards could add Deni Avdija or Lamelo Ball to a roster that includes the emerging Rui Hachimura.  They would also have the #9 pick they could grab Vanderbilt product Aaron Nesmith who would fit in perfectly with Hachimura.  

This is not a game changing draft but it does have a lot of depth and potential.  Andrew Wiggins could be a stop gap that could help net them another pick or litany of young players towards the trade deadline of 2021.  

For the Warriors, adding Bradley Beal, an underrated two-player that would create a new three headed monster from long range. 

Go get Kevin Love.

I will assume that Andre Drummond will accept the player option for next year.  The Cavaliers have great young guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton but they need some true wings to make it work.  They will have little to no interest in Andrew Wiggins so that may be a problem but the #2 pick to go along with their #5 picks puts them in a position to stock up on some of the best talent in the draft.  

Love has an ability to change his game to what is needed around him.  In Minnesota Love was a dominant force in the paint.  He was a big time rebounder and was able to play with the back to the basket and work in the middle.  When he moved on to Cleveland he was able to develop his outside shot in order to play along with LeBron James. Love is a great fit along with the fast paced Warriors could be a the asset they need to complete the team and put them right back in the running as a championship contender. 

Draft James Wiseman.

James Wiseman was considered one of the top NBA prospects entering college.  Standing at 7ft tall and moving like a guard he can be a force in the middle of the lineup.  Wiseman will have the ability to not have to be the cornerstone of an organization, he can grow in a lineup featuring so many different experienced stars.  He can learn to play team defense along with Thompson and Draymond Green and he can be a force in the middle to clean up the glass for the shooters that Golden State features.  His mobility will allow him to fit the style that the Warriors want to play.  

He is not a traditional fit for Golden State but his talent and potential are unique and could be a future star for the Warriors. 

Two things I learned from the NBA Bubble

Devin Booker is a future MVP

The Sun were a team I saw making a surprise run to the playoffs in my preseason write up.  I loved the addition of veterans with a young core that looked like they were going to take the next step. After a hot start to the season Phoenix struggled down the stretch and then the pandemic hit.  

Phoenix entered the bubble more as common courtesy rather than an actual contender for the final playoff spot. No one told Devin Booker that.  The former Kentucky Wildcat showed up to make a statement in front of the world and he did that. Averaging 27 ppg on 43% shooting, adding 6 apg and 5 rpg while leading the Suns to a 7-0 record.  Booker was already establishing himself as a great player during his time in Phoenix, but he was not yet known as a guy that can be a winner.  He has found his niche that has made him a leader of a team that most people had written off.  

The Suns are not going to make the playoffs despite his great run, but the expectations leading into next season will be extremely high for Booker.  The team will not be expected to win the west but if they don’t make the playoffs the world will look at him. He has welcomed the pressure of the franchise and is beginning to develop into the player that will be a serious problem for the league in the coming years.  Players like Karl Anthony Towns and John Wall are both guys that out of Kentucky were supposed to be game changers for the league but it is the lesser glorified Booker that has surpassed them not only in skill but in leadership.  He may not stay in Phoenix forever but he has already begun to make his mark on that city and that team.   This guy is forreal and will show it.

The Heat can take the East

The Bucks are the clear favorites in the East.  The loss of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in back to back years has been like removing a roadblock for the Greek Freak and company to get to their destination. The Raptors and the Celtics are the two teams that seemed like they would be the best candidates to pull off the upset over the new beasts of the east but I think the Miami Heat have shown the ability to take down the Bucks and they will do it by attacking their biggest weaknesses.

The Miami Heat are the best three point shooting team in the NBA, sitting at 38% as a team makes them a very dangerous matchup for a Bucks team that has huge issues protecting the exterior. The Heat have not been dominant in the bubble,  they actually lost to the Bucks without Jimmy Butler.  That game took a 32 point second half comeback and serious foul trouble from Heat #2 player Bam Adebayo.  Milwaukee will not have all the factors working for them again in a seven game series.  

The Heat took two out of three from the Bucks during the regular season and are led by the least intimidated player in the entire NBA and coach that has been there before.  This roster is thick with gritty talent and shooters.  They are the perfect foil for Milwaukee, you get by Milwaukee you have a shot to go to the finals.

Barkley > Draymond- Why is this even a conversation?

The Last Dance documentary has shined the light on a lot of under celebrated players from the 90’s.  Most notably in episode six they talked about the Phoenix Suns and Charles Barkley.  Today’s generation see Barkley as the outspoken analyst on TNT and other media outlets but it is very noticeably forgotten that the Round Mound of Rebound was actually one of the best NBA players not only of the 90’s but in the history of the game. 

Recently Barkley has been in a war of words with fellow outspoken power forward Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.  Green has cited that Barkley’s inability to win a championship puts him below the level of the Warriors star.  I am a believer in championships cementing the legacy of great players. It  is downright laughable for Green to believe that his legacy in the league will ever match Charles Barkley.  Green is a key cog in the machine the Golden State Warriors have built but by no means is he in the league of the Hall of Famer.  Barkley was a cornerstone of two different franchises.  The Sixers of the late 80’s and the Suns of the 90’s success was primarily built on the back of Barkley.    

Who had even heard of the Phoenix Suns before Barkley was traded there and led them to a losing effort against the prime Michael Jordan Bulls of the 90’s. The Suns had made it to one other finals in the 1975-1976 season and to this day haven’t made it since the time of Barkley and company.  It wasn’t until the Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire Suns of the mid 2000’s that Phoenix was able to make any impact in the league.  Barkley is unquestionably the face of the entire organization and unless Devin Booker gets some help he will be the face for years to come.  

I am not here to knock Draymond Green.  He is the perfect example of the progression of the point-forward position in today’s NBA.  Barkley however was carrying teams with lesser talent for years.  No matter who was on the court Barkley found success.  His career PER was 24.6 and destroyed Green who hasn’t had a season PER above 19.  We have seen what happens when Green becomes the focal point of a team.  He is not the scorer, rebounder or leader that Barkley was.  Draymond Green is an overachiever in the NBA.  He has done great things in the league, his defense is better than Barkleys.  That is the lone aspect about his game that you can argue is better.  That is it.  Someone tell me something that he does better.    It is actually very funny that Drayond believes that he is on the level of an NBA hall of famer.  Imagine if Green didn’t play along with some of the best players in the entire league. Would he even be talked about?  

Barkley played with some talent in his prime.  Kevin Johnson was very good for a small amount of time.  Dan Majerle was a three time all star, but he was never a premium level player.  Who did he play with on the level of  Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant? Green could never take a team as far as Barkley did.  He could never be the #1 option. 

Three teams that could have beat the late 90’s Bulls.

“The Last Dance” documentary about the Chicago Bulls highlighted the final run of the great Bulls dynasty of the 90’s.  Winning six championships in eight seasons cemented the legacy of both the players, coaches and the city.  While watching I thought to myself who could really stop this team loaded with the best player and coach in NBA history. I felt like the second half of the three-peat the Bulls were the most dominant.  I wanted to look at which teams could have been able to stop their great run.  

I did not include the Orlando Magic team that eliminated the Bulls during Jordan initial return. 

Indiana Pacers 1995-1996

The 95-96 Indiana Pacers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks.  An injury to superstar Reggie Miller forced him to miss most of the first round. The injury doomed the Pacers.  During the season the Pacers were a thorn in the side of the historic 72-10 Chicago Bulls.  Indiana actually beat the Bulls twice during the season.  They were responsible for 20% of the losses for arguably the greatest team in the history of the league. Unlike most of the rest of the league they seemed to have an idea of how to handle the juggernaut. 

The Pacer’s were able to utilize their size and toughness in the post.  Rik Smits and Dale Davis were able to control the paint against Chicago. They could handle the inside and they had skilled shotmakers to punish.  Indiana had tons of talent as well as a great leader in Larry Brown.  Indiana had everything it took to pull off the upset in the playoffs, but the injury to Miller ended any chance of being successful.  It would have been really fun to see the playoff trash talk between Miller and Jordan both in their prime. 

Miami Heat 1997-1998

Led by Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Coach Pat Riley the Miami Heat were serious contenders during the time of the Bulls second three-peat.   Injuries plagued Miami throughout the season.  The first 22 games of the season they played without Alonzo Mourning due to offseason knee surgery.  Despite the loss of Mourning the Heat still began the season 15-7. They were in the driver’s seat for the division even without their superstar. 

Miami was not just built around their superstars.  The secondary pieces the organization assembled were able to fit perfectly.  Guards Voshon Leonard and Dan Majerle provided sharpshooting.  PJ Brown provided defense and rebounding.  Jamal Mashburn was the athletic mutli-purpose up and coming star. They had plenty of talent to surround their stars along with a coach that knew exactly how to utilize the talent around him.  

Miami was ranked in the top ten in both offensive and defensive rating.  The Heat’s game plan was to slow down the pace and take advantage of their elite talent.  They ranked 26 of 29 in pace of play, which was exactly what Pat Riley wanted.  He was an old school coach that wanted to grind out the game.  

The Heat dominated their division finishing 12 games above the New York Knicks.  They were matched up with the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.  This Heated rivalry got out of hand in game four when Alonzo Mourning got into an altercation with the Knicks Larry Johnson.  The fight led to the suspension of Mourning in the deciding game.  Without Mourning the Heat were not able to overcome the Knicks.

The Heat had the experience and talent to match the Bulls.  Physically they could handle any team. Mentally they had problems that would have been tough to overcome the Jordan led Bulls. If you base it on talent alone the Heat would have been a great matchup with Chicago.  

Seattle Supersonics 1995–1996

The Supersonics were the only team on this list that actually had a chance to take down the infamous 90’s Bulls.The Supersonics were led by guard Gary Payton and forward Shawn Kemp.  Two players that were legendary figures in the game.  Payton was known for his great defense and leadership. Kemp was known for his ferocious dunks and rebounding skills.  They were the perfect compliment to each other and it showed on the court as they dominated the Western Conference with a 64-18 record.  

The rest of the Sonics lineup were not push-overs but actually seriously talented secondary players.  Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Vincent Askew and Nat McMillan rounded out a solid lineup of players that all filled in their roles perfectly. Each one of them fit in perfectly with the two stars. 

The Bulls and Sonics split the season series with both winning their respective home games. These teams’ statistics were nearly identical with the only real difference being the Bulls 40% 3-pt shooting compared to the Sonics 36%.  That was literally the only large statistical difference between the two teams.  

The series began with the Bulls jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the series before the Sonics were able to get themselves in gear.  The Sonics dominated game 4 and 5 before being finished off in game six in Chicago.  Injuries plagued Seattle from the start as defensive stud Gary Payton was dealing with a bad calf injury that forced him off of Michael Jordan.  Sonics second best defensive guard Nate McMillan was injured nearly the entire series.  The loss of their two best defensive guards had Jordan salivating at the idea of being guarded but the third choice. Jordan dominated a gimpy Seattle team averaging 30.7 ppg.  If Gary Payton was fully healthy the Sonics could have been the team that stopped the dynasty.

The next Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing was as dominant a force as there was in the NBA during the late 80’s and 90’s.  Joining the New York Knicks in the “rigged” NBA draft of 1985 the center from Georgetown was supposed to take over the league and return the franchise back to glory.  Ewing was joining a team that actually had made the playoffs in three of the previous five years. The rookie made an instant impact scoring 20 PPG and 9 RPG, winning the rookie of the year award.  Ewing continued to be a dominant player in the league becoming an 11-time All-Star, ending his career 13th all-time in his career. Ewing individually has a great career but he will forever be known as the one of the best center’s to never win a title. In today’s NBA game the traditional center has transitioned into a different type of player.  There is one player in particular that stands out as the next Ewing. His similarities are hard to ignore and his fate may be the same.

Patrick Ewing’s time in the NBA always had a shadowy overtone.  In that shadow was the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan and his dominant Bulls teams of the 90’s.  No matter what he did his team was not able to overcome the greatness of the Bulls. Even in the baseball years of Jordan, Ewing had to deal with the dominance for Hakeem and the Houston Rockets. Ewing was able to make it to one finals in 93-94 but Houston was a much better team. So, why did Ewing not win a title?  He was able to lead Georgetown to a national title. He was consistently winning games at both levels, but it seemed like when he entered the NBA his game changed. He came into the league as a defensive and rebounding force. The offensive game was supposed to develop over time and it did, but he lost what made himself dominant. His formation of his offensive game got the Knicks front office so excited that they decided to build around him.  They added one-dimensional players like John Starks, Anthony Mason, Rolando Blackman and Larry Johnson. In reality building around Ewing was not the wrong move but they should have added a premier scorer rather than players to work along with him.  

With the development of his offensive game, Ewing’s defense took a hit.  He was not the same player that was drafted for his interior force. The Knicks eventually added their premier scorer when they traded for Latrell Sprewell in 1998.  Ewing had begun his decline, which led to the Knicks adding big man Marcus Camby to eventually fill the shoes of the organization’s icon. The Knicks were able to transition very quickly without Ewing making an improbable run without him. New York was able to make it to the finals even though he had an achilles injury that forced him out of the playoffs. This would be the last chance for Ewing to win the big one with the team that drafted him.  His career would have a few more stops in Orlando and Seattle but the player that dominated the league was gone. Patrick Ewing is a case of a player with a team that didn’t understand how to utilize his skills and build around him correctly. He was extremely talented but the team and the player were not the right mix to win it all. Ewing should have been a franchise changer that was a part of a great dynasty. He never had a Kobe, a Clyde or Jerry West.  A big man should have a go to player to work with and he never had that.  

In the 2014 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers were in the midst of their “Trust the Process” rebuild.  With the #3 overall pick they chose Kansas center Joel Embiid. Embiid had a prevalent knee injury that kept him out of the lineup until 2016.  Embiid immediately made a difference for the 76ers leading them out of the abyss. The comparison to Ewing is actually very interesting. Both players were born outside of the US, both players played for premier college programs, both players were rebuilding large city franchises.  In their first seasons in the league they both made the All-Rookie first team as well as averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds. The amount of similarities are impossible to ignore. 

Embiid has seen similar problems to Ewing during his short time in the NBA.  He has had to deal with all-world players Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard and now Giannis.  Each of the top players in the league have the talent and the correct organizational pieces to build around.  Embiid has had to deal with players that don’t fit with the skill set that he brings to the table. He should be an inside force that draws the defense and kicks out to athletic shooters.  If he does decide to play outside of the paint it should not be consistent. The Sixers have Ben Simmons, whose game does not fit with Embiid. Simmons inability to shoot forces him into the paint which allows the defense to clog up the middle of the lane.  The organization needs to develop the understanding of today’s game. They have to utilize the best assets of their star player. 

If Philadelphia doesn’t find a way to understand their player they will forever be the team that is known for wasting a great talent.  Ewing will go down as a historically great player that was never good enough and Embiid is on track to do the same.

Five Underrated Sports Moments

1) Joe Carter’s game winner 1993 World Series.

Five time All-Star Joe Carter had a near Hall of Fame career.  While his numbers don’t transition well to the analytics world that we know today, he still made an impact with his power and speed through his career. Carter spent a long time in the league making his impact most notably in the 1993 World Series where he not only sent home the Philadelphia Phillies but also gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. Carter’s homer literally won the World Series for the Blue Jays yet it seems to be ignored in history. The fact that this home run was in Toronto also makes it one of the craziest atmospheres in baseball.

2) Lance Berkman’s game tying single, game six 2011 World Series.

David Freese’s game winner will live on in baseball history.  We all tend to forget that it was actually Lance Berkman that saved the series for the Cardinals in game six. The Cardinals were down to their final out and final strike when Berkman shot a single up the middle that kept the game going for the Redbirds.  While Freese’s homer is obviously the moment that should be played over and over again, it was Berkman that made everything possible. Lance had a great career but this moment was by far the biggest of his career. 

https://www.mlb.com/video/berkman-s-game-tying-single-c19955467

3) Derek Fisher’s game winner with .4 seconds left 2004 Western Conference Semifinal.

The Lakers had plenty of guys that took the spotlight in 2004.  Shaq and Kobe were in their prime and dominating the league. Big shot Robert Horry was the guy known for hitting the game winners, hence the nickname.  However it was a shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-final that stuck out to me. The Spurs and Lakers were battling for dominance in the Western Conference and this game was the swing that led to the win for Los Angeles.  The Lakers seemed done after the Spurs took the lead on a shot from Tim Duncan. This game was over and then out of nowhere the role player Derek Fisher launched a shot with .4 seconds on the clock and sent the fans home, giving the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the series.  If this shot doesn’t happen we likely see the Spurs versus the Pistons in that year’s NBA Finals. 

4) DeWayne Wise saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. 

I watched this game live on WGN when I was in high school.  Soft tossing Mark Buehrle had a very underrated career that had a few highlight moments and one was on July 23rd 2009.  Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That perfect game was nearly taken away by Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth driving a ball deep to center field.  Little known DeWayne Wise was playing shallow in center and immediately broke into a full sprint back to the wall jumping up off the wall knocking the ball back into play, juggling it before hauling it in. Wise never did anything else in his career that was noteworthy but this catch was awesome and will stay in my memory forever. 

5) Hatteberg’s walk-off for 20 straight. 

We all know the story of Moneyball.  The real world story of Scott Hatteberg is still hard to believe. The former Red Sox catcher seemed like his career was over after suffering an arm injury that forced him out of the position he had played his whole career.  Hatteberg only hit 106 homers in his entire 14-year career. By far his most memorable homer was on Sept 4th 2002 when he took the first pitcher from Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley over the right field wall and gave the A’s their (at the time) record 20th straight win.  While the story was made more famous by Hollywood years later, the actual game was as dramatic as it comes. Oakland had blown a massive lead and needed the former catcher to just get on base but he swung his way into history. If you haven’t seen Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the homer you have to watch Moneyball, he absolutely crushes the performance.