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.  

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. 

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.

NBA Draft: Three worst drafting teams of the last 15 years.

The Sixers showed the NBA that you don’t actually have to win in the NBA to give you a chance for future success.  Philadelphia’s “trust the process” approach eventually found success with the progression of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. With the draft on its way after the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, it’s time to focus on the NBA’s future stars.  I want to look at organizations that have continually had issues in rebuilding their teams through the draft. This list is for teams that continuously have stunk but can’t seem to figure out their rebuild.  

I am going to focus on the players that were actually drafted, rather than who they missed out on.  Sometimes players just don’t pan out. Missing out on players like Giannis shouldn’t hurt their grade here.  No one saw that dominance coming.  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Best: Karl Anthony Towns (2015), Zach Lavine (2014)

Worst: Derrick Williams (2011), Rashad McCants (2005), Kris Dunn (2016), Jonny Flynn (2009)

The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a long history of being terrible in the draft. Their best move on draft day was trading OJ Mayo (#3 overall pick) for a package that included Kevin Love back in 2008.  When it comes to actually drafting well Minnesota has made many questionable decisions over the last few years. Notably in 2009 Minnesota had four picks including three in the first round and two in the lottery. The Timberwolves chose three point guards in this draft Ricky Rubio (#6), Jonny Flynn (#7), and Ty Lawson (#18).  Minnesota also picked shooting guard Wayne Ellington (#28). They took four guards and three of them played the same position. While Rubio put together some solid seasons in Minnesota he was never the player that was going to change the landscape of the organization. Jonny Flynn’s injuries made him an afterthought to most fans.  

The Timberwolves continued to make questionable decisions drafting four forwards the year after drafting four guards.  None of which worked out for the Wolves. While Karl Anthony-Towns has worked out their only other successful pick Zach Lavine spent most of his time playing a secondary role until he was moved to Chicago for a handful of nothing.  

Then there is Derrick Williams.  I don’t want to blame Minnesota for this pick but when you look at what was chosen around Williams it is hard to just ignore the mistake.  The 2011 draft class included Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. The Wolves went with the raw projected talent of Williams.  While this move may have made sense to the media at the time it clearly set the organization back for years. Wasting a #2 pick on a guy that never even sniffed an All-Star season.  

With Karl Anthony-Towns clearly on the move due to his problems with management, Minnesota will again be starting over very soon. 

Sacramento Kings

Best: DeMarcus Cousins (2010), De’Aaron Fox (2017)

Worst: Nik Stauskas (2014), Spencer Hawes (2007), Marvin Bagley (2018), Willie Cauley-Stein (2015)

It’s been 14 seasons since the Sacramento Kings made it to the NBA playoffs.  The Chris Webber/Vlade Divac/Mike Bibby Kings are a thing of the past. Sacramento partly have themselves to blame for their losing ways.  Most notably the Kings spent their 2018 #2 overall pick on Duke forward Marvin Bagley, leaving potential franchise cornerstones Trae Young and Luka Doncic on the board. When playing, Bagley has shown potential, he has a problem if he can’t stay on the court.  The Kings saw De’Aaron Fox as their future, putting a dynamic player next to him such as Doncic or Young would work in today’s NBA success model. I am a Bagley fan but this was a pick that will keep the Kings out of the playoffs for a long time. 

While the recency of the Bagley pick is still on everyone’s mind we still can’t forget the mistakes made before that.  The pick of Willie Cauley-Stein in 2015 to play with your star of the same position Boogie Cousins not only made no sense but actually hurt the development of the super athletic Cauley-Stein.  The Kings have a way of going with the more recognizable name rather than going with the best prospect. They need to learn to open up their international scouting. It’s very confusing why they haven’t bought into the future landscape to the league with Vlade Divac’s in charge. 

Charlotte Hornets

Best: Kemba Walker (2011)

Worst: Adam Morrison (2006), Cody Zeller (2013), Frank Kaminsky (2015), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012)

This team chose Adam Morrison with the #3 overall pick in 2006.  To be fair the 2006 draft was as bad a draft as you could imagine.  The only notable names from that draft chosen after Morrison were Brandon Roy, who had an injury shortened career, Kyle Lowry, Rajan Rondo and Paul Millsap.  The latter three were not chosen until Rondo at #21. Despite the weakness of the draft Morrison at #3 was still a joke. While Morrison was a great NCAA player his tools never made the transition into the NBA.

After Morrison the mediocre core of picks continued to ravage the organization.  In 2012 the Hornets (Bobcats) had the #2 pick and went with Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist passing on Bradley Beal, Damion Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond.  Kidd-Gilchrist never became anything more than a role player on a bad team. The former Wildcat never averaged over 12.7 ppg in his career and that number came in 2015-2016 when he only played seven games. This is one of the more under the radar complete busts of all time. 

Charlotte continued to make terrible selections when given a chance in the lottery taking Cody Zeller at #4 and Frank Kaminksy at #9 in 2013 and 2015.  Both players never became anything more than role players as well, while they weren’t projected to be stars Kaminsky is no longer with the organization while Zellers PER (player efficiency rating) has been barely above league average.  

The Hornets have had their chances at the top of the draft, they have swung and missed way too many times.  They now are stuck in a place where they continually put themselves in a place where they are middle of the pack and can’t get a great lottery spot.  We have seen Miles Bridges begin to develop along with for Kansas guard Devonte Graham but the Hornets are still in a place where they don’t really have a direction. 

Honorable Mention 

Chicago Bulls, saved by Derrick Rose (2008), Jimmy Butler (2011).

Washington Wizards, saved by John Wall (2010), Bradley Beal (2012).

Five Breakout NBA Players of the Second Half

Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets

Ten games leading into the All-Star break Miles Bridges became a consistent scorer and productive player for the crappy Charlotte Hornets.  Bridges averaged 16 PPG to go along with five rebounds. Take away two stinkers and he would be averaging over 20 PPG. Most importantly Bridges saw a rise in usages percentage over those games despite competeing with ball dominant Terry Rozier. 

The Hornets will not compete for a championship or even a playoff spot but they do have a chance to continue to develop their up and coming forward.  The former Michigan State Spartan underwhelmed their first season but has come on to be a mainstay in the rotation. Bridges showed a flash of his ability over All-Star Weekend putting up 20 points in the rising stars game.  Bridges increased usage to go along with his consistent minutes should lead to production. 

Jaylon Brown, Boston Celtics

Jaylon Brown is already doing everyting better in 2020.  The loss of Kyrie Irving has allowed Brown to open up his game.  Brown has seent he production jump in all advanced stats. His PER jumped up to 17.28 from his 13.58 from the previous two seasons. Brown’s length and athleticism along with a 3-pt shooting percentage of 38% makes him the perfect player for today’s game.  

Brown is still just 23 years old and is a key piece of one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.  Being the 3rd and sometimes 4th option for Boston keeps opposing defeneses from game planning against him.  When Tatum struggles, Brown is the guy to bring the Celtics to the next level come playoff time.  

Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

Quietly Jordan Clarkson is having the best season of his career.  He has his highest true shooting percentage of his career at 58.1% along with a PER of 18.87.  Clarkson’s move to the Utah Jazz has allowed him to flourish as the #1 scorer off of the bench.  The Jazz were in need of more scoring and Clarkson is the perfect fit. The last three games of the All-Star break Clarkson put up 21, 25 and 30.   He has finally found a place that he fits and he will excel in the second half. 

Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons

Christian Wood has been a DFS darling of mine for the last two years. With the departure of Andre Drummond it’s finally time for Wood to show the type of production he can bring to the table.  Wood has become the vocal point to a terrible Pistons team. His player effenciency rating ranks 15th in the NBA while his minutes continue to increase. Averaging over 30 minutes per game since the Drummond trade has immediatetly put him in the place to be the new cornerstone of the organization.  

Furkan Korkmaz, Philadelphia 76ers

While Korkmaz is not going to be a star on a Sixers team with big personalities he could be the biggest reason they have a chance to win the East.  Korkmaz has shot 39% from three over his last ten games. Entering the starting lineup gives the Sixers a legit long range threat that is needed to go along with the Simmons work getting into the interior of the defense.  Furkan will never be the name that people bring up when they are playing Philly but his shooting ability will be a huge asset to a team with a lot of promise. 

NBA’s Biggest Disappointments so Far


San Antonio Spurs 

The Spurs are 8-14.  While it is early, you don’t have time in the loaded Western Conference to sit around and wait for your team to develop.  It’s really not the record that is the biggest surprise, it’s more the style of play that we have seen from San Antonio. Greg Popovich is a future Hall of Fame coach that has found a way to adapt his players to the style that is necessary to win.  They have always been a solid paced team that was able to play defensively at a high level. That’s no the case in 2019. Currently the Spurs are sitting behind the New York Knicks in team defensive rating. The NEW YORK KNICKS!

The Spurs have an interesting problem, they have two stars that don’t shoot threes.  That is an uncommon trend in today’s NBA. While San Antonio has become a faster paced team on the offensive end they have not caught up with the trend of shooting from deep.  They are mid-range happy. With their defensive issues they have to find a way to put more points up. The Spurs don’t have a lot of time to figure this season out, if they continue to flounder in mediocrity it may lead to a moving of one or potential both their star players LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar Derozan.  Derozan would make a lot of sense as he is an impending free agent in 2020.

Brooklyn Nets with

Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets surprised many last year making it to the playoffs while expectations were remarkably low. The summer hit and in comes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.  With the additions of Irving and Durant the spotlight was now on Brooklyn. The Nets knew they would have to wait for the Durant debut, but they still had Kyrie.  

The disappointment has been the Nets with Kyrie.  The record is the first thing to stand out, 4-7 with Kyrie, 6-3 without Kyrie.  Over this Irving-less stretch, Brooklyn is 13th in net rating  per NBA.com, ranking 20th offensively and ninth defensively. In comparison, it was 20th overall in the first nine games with Irving, ranking 11th in offense and 25th in defense.  

The offense obviously was going to take a hit without Kyrie, but the defensive numbers and the progression of players is noticeable.  Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Jared Allen have all stepped up to become the focal points of the team. Kyrie is set to return from his shoulder injury in the next few games.  The Net’s have progressed as a full unit, will they continue their positive regression with the impending return of their star??  

Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers are fresh off a trip to the Western Conference Finals.   Coming into the season the rest of the West made improvements but the Blazers were still considered a legit playoff contender.  That has not come to fruition. Portland sits at 9-13 and that’s after winning 4 of their last 5.  

Why is Portland struggling?  

The Trail Blazers lost a lot of their depth over the offseason.  Jake Layman (Minnesota), Seth Curry (Dallas), Mo Harkless (LAC), Al-Farqou Aminu (Orlando), Meyers Leonard (Miami), Enes Kanter (Boston) and Evan Turner (Atlanta).  That is seven players are the Portland roster that had moved on to different teams. Team chemistry is an understated element of any successful team. Portland was now relying on a group of young players that haven’t developed into their roles.The biggest addition of the offseason was adding Hassan Whiteside to replace their rising star Jusef Nurkic.  Another new player to try and build chemistry with.  

Portland has seen the biggest impact to their changes on the defensive end.  They are ranking 24th in the league in defensive efficiency. An early season injury to Zac Collins has forced the Blazers hand to bring in Carmelo Anthony to help with on the offensive end.  This team has some young talent but it needs time to grow.

NBA Offseason Steals

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

The Pacers paid Malcom Brogdon a lot of money.  He is not the reason for their 0-3 start.  Brogdon has been exceptional in the Victor Oladipo role, putting up points and shooting over 43% for the season.  Brogdon has also posted a double double in each game so far this season. 

Brogdon got a huge contract at four years and $85 million, but he has looked worth every penny.  He will fit in perfectly when Oladipo comes back, potentially being one of the most productive guard tandems in the league. Brogdon has shown in his time with Milwaukee that he doesn’t need the ball to be effective, when the Pacers star comes back Brogdon will be established as a real threat that will force teams to game plan opening up opportunities.  

Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns

I was a huge fan of the Suns offseason.  Adding Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and Aaron Baynes solidified a young roster with veterans that bring multiple skills to the table. The best move by far was resigning Kelly Oubre Jr to a 2-year $30 million deal.  Oubre Jr. is still just 24 years old is in his fourth season in the NBA after being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks #14 overall, ultimately being traded on draft night to the Washington Wizards where he suffered in the wasteland of John Wall’s deteriorating legacy.  

Oubre Jr. in Phoenix has been allowed to be the running mate of star Devin Booker.  Running the wing and opening up his offensive game has contributed to a great start in 2019-2020 averaging 20 a game over the first four. With Rubio handling the ball and the extra scoring opportunities due to the suspension of DeAndre Ayton Oubre Jr. will continue to progress and become a future All-Star.

Rodney Hood, Portland Trailblazers

Rodney Hood has never lived up to the hype coming out of Duke.  The former #23 overall pick has always had trouble holding down a starting spot for whatever team he has been a part of.  He has seemed to find his place in Portland, signing a miniscule 2-year/ $12 million dollar deal, Portland has found a valuable 3 and d wing that complements Dam Lillard and CJ McCollum perfectly.  

Hood started the season off slow, but after the injury to power forward Zac Collins the Blazers have been forced to move to a consistently smaller lineup.  Hood has thrived shooting over 51% on the season including 50% from behind the arc.  Portland will have to wait for big man Jusuf Nurkic to come back in a few month before we know exactly how much of a threat they will be in the stacked Western Conference. We do know that for now their third most important player was grabbed from the bargain bin.

Did I miss anyone?

NBA: Four Winner in Free Agency and the Knicks

The first day of NBA free agency played out like a fantasy draft on 2K.  With 40% of the league available it wasn’t about teams trying to make themselves better as it was about teams trying to build themselves.  An array of stars swapping cities took over the sports world, blockbuster sign and trades along with monumental decisions have swung landscape of the league.  While arguably the biggest name in free agency Kawhi Leonard still sits on the top of every teams wish list there were still a number of clear winners on day one….and there was the New York Knicks.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets will not immediately see the impact of their moves to begin free agency.  The additions of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Deandre Jordan headlined the day’s events.  Brooklyn fans have a right to be excited, they will though have to find a way to be patient.  Kevin Durant must be allowed to fully recover from his ruptured achillies tendon.  Still with the moves made by Brooklyn they are set to be a staple in the Eastern Conference for the next four years.

Assuming Durant doesn’t play this year, the Nets should still have a solid top five seed in the East. The underrated signing of Deandre Jordan and veteran Garret Temple will be great locker room leaders to go along with the at times frustrating personality of Kyrie Irving.  Brooklyn has great young pieces as well with Caris Levert, Rodans Kurucs and Jarrett Allen.  Joe Harris will provide great shooting and Spencer Dinwiddie may be the best backup point guard in the NBA.  

Brooklyn crushed day one of free agency.  Unless there is an injury, they should be setting for next season already.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz mad some “noise” picking up underrated veteran point guard Mike Conley in a trade with Memphis before free agency.  They continued to develop their roster on day one with the additions of Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis.  While the Conley move was a step in the right direction, Utah just added to players that will immediately step into their rotation and fit in.  

Bogdanovic took over as team leader of the Indiana Pacers last season after the injury to Victor Oladipo left them team without a primary scorer.  Stepping straight into the role Bojan averaged a career high 18.4 ppg while shooting a career high 42% from behind the arc. He will step into a situation in Utah where he will be second fiddle to Donovan Mitchell but will have a veteran core of proven performers along with him. 

Ed Davis, was a bruiser for the Brooklyn Nets last season. Not the flashiest of players, Davis is a rebound machine averaging eight boards a game while playing just about 17 minutes per game.   Davis will be able to step right in for the dominate Rudy Goebert giving opposing front courts nightmares on the glass.

New Orleans Pelicans

David Griffin is showing his worth over and over again.  While there were no major additions made by the Pelicans, sometimes it’s the smallest ones that make an impact.  New Orleans was able to add veteran shooter JJ Reddick to a roster full of youth and also full of mediocre shooters. Reddick is entering his age 35 season, he will not be asked to go out and take over a game, he will simply be the outlet when the Zion show causes the defense to pack the middle.

The Pelicans have had a solid offseason in a time that could have been disastrous. They wanted a veteran and a shooter and they got exactly that.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly did not look like they were going to do much after a lack luster draft and a slow start to their conversations with key free agents.  GM Elton Brand magically turned a negative into a positive on Sunday signing Al Horford, Tobias Harris and working out a trade with the Miami Heat for Josh Richardson. The trade for Richardson means that despite losing Jimmy Butler they were still able to get a quality asset.

The additions of Richardson and Horford provide strong defensive capabilities, they do however lack the shooting of a JJ Reddick whom had more threes then Horford and Richardson combined last season.  The 76ers will still have a chance to sign a few more shooters to friendly contracts, if they do that, they will be looking at a great chance to take the East.  Depending on the decision of a certain NBA Champion of course.

And then there is the New York Knicks

To call the Knicks losers in day one of free agency is an understatement.  Not because the players the signed are bad.  Bobby Portis, Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Reggie Bullock are a solid core for a team if you have a star to build around.  The Knicks openly told their fans that they were going after the big names, clearly, they were not.  Playing the waiting game is not an option in New York.  Based on the deals they signed it would look as if they are trying to wait two years to make moves when free agency is going to be great again.  This is New York and you just got embarrassed by a team that plays 30 minutes away.  Sorry Knicks fans you deserve better.