NBA Midseason Awards

So it’s roughly the halfway point in the NBA season and I’ve barely blogged about basketball since the preseason, so I feel it’s high time I said something. I have been following basketball, I just haven’t found anything blog-worthy of late. Except that whole exchange between the Rockets and Clippers, but I had already written my McCutchen blog by that point. I guess what I will say about that is I’ve never seen anything like it. For those who missed it, apparently the Rockets and Clippers were jawing at eachother during the game. Then after it was over, a few Rockets players, namely James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green, made their way to the Clippers’ locker room in an attempt to “confront” Clippers guard Austin Rivers. Security did escort them out before anything violent could break out. How did the Rockets get to the Clippers locker room you might ask? Well new Rocket Chris Paul was a Clipper last year…nothing has been confirmed outside of the fact that the three aforementioned Rockets players tried to confront Rivers in the Clippers locker room. The NBA is currently investigating. Once we have all the details I’ll try and get something complete out there. Now with that, on to my midseason NBA awards.

NBA MVP: LeBron James-F-Cleveland Cavaliers

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Believe it or not it’s actually been a while since LeBron won an MVP. He’s won it 4 times but last time was 2013. There hasn’t been anything wrong but he’s been so consistently great that people have come to expect it of him and it would take an otherworldly performance for him to actually win the award nowadays. I wouldn’t say his numbers are otherworldly this year in particular, but I do think he’s most deserving of the MVP out of all the other candidates. He’s 4th in the NBA with 27.3 PPG while playing the third most minutes, 26th with 8 RPG, and 5th in APG with 8.8, which is 1.2 per game more than the next closest non-point guard, Draymond Green. LeBron continues to do it all and while I do think that the Cavaliers are overall having a disappointing year, you can’t put that on him.

Others Receiving Consideration: Giannis Antetokounmpo-F-Milwaukee Bucks, James Harden-G-Houston Rockets, Kyrie Irving-G-Boston Celtics

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Drummond-C-Detroit Pistons

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Andre Drummond is the best rebounder in the league and the only other guy you can make an argument for is DeAndre Jordan, who also could’ve won this. But I’m going with Drummond for a couple reasons. One, he’s the number 1-rated defender in the NBA. He’s the only guy with a rating under 100 (the lower the better) at 98.5. Two, he’s tops in the NBA in rebounding at 14.9 per game. Three, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the game at 1.3 per game. I gotta go with Drummond. He may be statistically the worst free throw shooter of all time, but that doesn’t matter for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Kyle Anderson-F-San Antonio Spurs, Clint Capela-C-Houston Rockets

Rookie of the Year: Jayson Tatum-F-Boston Celtics

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As I highlighted in my preseason awards, I don’t count Ben Simmons for this award even though he qualifies as a rookie. He had his chance and missed last season due to injury. But I do think he’s going to win the actual rookie of the year award because NBA writers don’t think the way I do. I’m going with Jayson Tatum because he’s blended into the league seamlessly and is a well-deserving starter on arguably the best team in the NBA in the Boston Celtics. In fact, he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.9%, better than even notorious sharpshooters like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. He’s also shooting 49.9% from the field on top of that so if there’s a more efficient offensive rookie, I’d like to see him. Donovan Mitchell was also heavily considered as he has basically already become the face of the Utah Jazz. I’d make him a close second.

Others Receiving Consideration: Donovan Mitchell-G-Utah Jazz, Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Spoiler Warning, this is the only award that has remained the same from my preseason awards. The 76ers have done what I anticipated them doing, which is playing significantly better than in year’s past but not quite where they could end up. They currently sit on the brink of a playoff berth at 20-20 and are 1 game behind the Pistons for the 8 seed. If the 76ers manage to get in, consider Brown a lock for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Brad Stevens-Boston Celtics, Erik Spoelstra-Miami Heat

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo-G-Indiana Pacers

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I’ve always been a fan of Victor Oladipo even before I declared my intentions to attend Indiana University, Oladipo’s alma mater. He was just oozing with talent and we saw occasional flashes of it when he was with the Orlando Magic and as Russell Westbrook’s sidekick in his brief pitstop in Oklahoma City last year. Well the Thunder traded him to the Pacers for Paul George and every Pacers fan I knew was HEATED by that trade because they felt it wasn’t a fair swap. Since then, Oladipo has the Pacers in the thick of the playoff race, as they’re currently the 6 seed at 24-20. Oladipo is 11th in the league in scoring at 24.3 PPG on 49% shooting with 5.2 RPG and 4 APG. He’s really come into his own this season.

Others Receiving Consideration: Dennis Schroder-G-Atlanta Hawks, Jaylen Brown-G-Boston Celtics

Comeback Player of the Year: Tyreke Evans-G-Memphis Grizzlies

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After missing half of last season due to injury, it seemed that the former Rookie of the Year Evans was at a crossroads. He had yet to realize his full potential since a stellar rookie season in Sacramento. Well he’s pretty much returned to that form this season, as his 19.6 PPG is the best rate he’s had since his rookie year when he averaged 20.1. Evans is back to being an offensive threat and despite the fact that the Grizzlies have had a terrible season, Evans at least has been a bright spot.

Others Receiving Consideration: Michael Beasley-F-New York Knicks

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams-G-Los Angeles Clippers

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Williams is averaging 23.3 PPG coming off the bench, which is just absurd. Out of all the players in the top 25, Williams is the only player that hasn’t started every game. In fact, he’s only started 12 out of 42, yet he still plays just as many minutes as a lot of the others on that list. That just goes to show how much the Clippers value him. One could argue that Williams should start at point guard over Patrick Beverley, but he has played so well in this role for so long that it appears that Williams is becoming this generation’s version of Jamal Crawford.

Others Receiving Consideration: Eric Gordon-G-Houston Rockets, Rodney Hood-G-Utah Jazz

That’s going to do it for my NBA midseason Awards. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

My Heart Breaks for Gordon Hayward, But There’s Still Hope

Gordon Hayward was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft out of Butler after a stellar college career where he led the Butler Bulldogs to two straight national championship appearances. The program is still relevant to this day. His NBA career has been one of steady progression, he is one of the few players who can say he rose his points per game average every single year of his 6-year career, culminating with a spot on the 2017 Western Conference All Star Team. For year 7, he signed a max contract with the Boston Celtics and reunited with his coach at Butler, Brad Stevens. He looked pretty good in preseason as he was slated to be a big part of the new-look Celtics (only 4 players from last year’s team remain) with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. Opening night of the season was Tuesday night and Hayward hit a nice step-back jumper for his first points in a Celtics uniform. Then Kyrie went to toss an alley-oop to Hayward and…well…just watch below. Viewer discretion is advised.

The shock and terror in Kevin Harlan’s voice when he saw what happened to Hayward said it all. Just watch the Cavs bench when they realized what happened. TNT quickly got off the shot of Hayward in agony and panned over to the faces of the concerned players, some in prayer for the Celtics star. Cavs players looked just as concerned as Celtics players. My heart literally (figuratively) broke for Gordon Hayward, it hurt to watch such a great player writhe on the ground in pain. Hayward was diagnosed with a dislocation and fracture in his tibia and ankle and he will require surgery, which will likely end his season, just 6 minutes into it.

But it’s not the end of the world for Gordon Hayward, his season may be lost, but we’ve seen horrific injuries like this before and many of these guys bounce back and in some cases are better than ever. When I saw the way Hayward’s leg was bent, I immediately thought to Kevin Ware, as many others did. For those who don’t remember, here is the video of what happened to Ware at Louisville. Again, viewer discretion is advised.

Kevin Ware probably had the most gruesome injury I’ve ever seen in sports. This occurred, like Hayward’s injury, during a primetime game with the whole nation watching, as it was an Elite 8 game against Duke. Ware redshirted the following season to recover from the injury then transferred to Georgia State. Ware was the star of that Georgia State team where he was the 2015 Sun Belt Tournament MVP and led the team to a championship that awarded the team with a March Madness berth. They used that opportunity to upset Baylor on Ware’s back. Today, Kevin Ware plays professionally overseas with Faros Larissas in the Greek Basket League.

Willis McGahee is another guy who comes to mind. While he played football and not basketball, it’s the same idea. Below is a video of the injury. Once more, viewer discretion is advised.

Willis McGahee was a stud running back for the Miami Hurricanes when the injury happened to him in the 2002/03 Fiesta Bowl. Despite this injury, the Buffalo Bills drafted McGahee with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He missed his rookie 2003 season due to the injury. He made his debut in 2004 and rushed for 1128 yards, then rushed for 1247 yards in 2005. Overall, McGahee had a successful NFL career from 2003-2013, where he rushed for over 8,000 yards in his career with the Bills, Ravens, Broncos, and Browns.

The point I’m trying to make here is that this injury isn’t a death sentence for Gordon Hayward’s career. Far from it. Sure his season is likely lost (people are giving him a slight chance to make a return at the end of the season, but I wouldn’t hold my breath) but as evidenced by Kevin Ware and Willis McGahee, this injury won’t destroy his career. In fact, based on what I know about Hayward, I have a feeling he will come back stronger for the 2018-19 season. Keep your chin up Gordon, we’re rooting for you.

NBA Top 100 Players

This is the final entry in my NBA season preview series. You can check out my season projections here and my top 10 by position here. I’m going to suck it up and do the top 100 all on one list this time around. The rules are simple: be good at basketball. Also don’t be a rookie. Like my top 10’s, rookies are ineligible for this list because they have yet to prove that they can make it in this league. So without further ado, let’s get to the list.

100.Iman Shumpert-SG-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Sporting News

99.Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-SF-Charlotte Hornets

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photo credit: At the Hive

98.Chandler Parsons-SF-Memphis Grizzlies

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photo credit: ESPN

97.Ricky Rubio-PG-Utah Jazz

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photo credit: SLC Dunk

96.Rudy Gay-SF-San Antonio Spurs

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photo credit: NBA.com

95.Willy Hernangomez-C-New York Knicks

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photo credit: Elite Sports NY

94.Eric Gordon-SG-Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns

photo credit: SLAMonline

93.Paul Millsap-PF-Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap, Arturas Karnisovas, Josh Kroenke, Tim Connelly

photo credit: Denver Post

92.Kent Bazemore-SG-Atlanta Hawks

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

91.Marcus Smart-PG-Boston Celtics

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photo credit: MassLive

90.Jaylen Brown-SG-Boston Celtics

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

89.Dwight Howard-C-Charlotte Hornets

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photo credit: Clutch Points

88.Reggie Jackson-PG-Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons v New York Knicks

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

87.Kyle Korver-SG-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Waiting for Next year

 

86.Tobias Harris-SF-Detroit Pistons

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

85.Jamal Crawford-SG-Minnesota Timberwolves

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photo credit: Pioneer Press

84.Brook Lopez-C-Los Angeles Lakers

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photo credit: NBA.com

83.Danny Green-SG-San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio Spurs v Sacramento Kings

photo credit: Hoops Nation

82.Pau Gasol-C-San Antonio Spurs

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photo credit: ESPN San Antonio

81.Eric Bledsoe-PG-Phoenix Suns

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photo credit: ESPN

80.Rodney Hood-SG-Utah Jazz

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photo credit: SLAM online

79.Joakim Noah-C-New York Knicks

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photo credit: Newsday

78.Nikola Vucevic-C-Orland Magic

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photo credit: Sporting News

77.Enes Kanter-C-New York Knicks

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photo credit: Newsday

76.Dion Waiters-SG-Miami Heat

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photo credit: NBA.com

75.Jeff Teague-PG-Minnesota Timberwolves

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photo credit: Pioneer Press

74.Danilo Gallinari-SF-Los Angeles Clippers

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photo credit: Youtube

73.Ryan Anderson-PF-Houston Rockets

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

72.Tristan Thompson-C-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Business Insider

71.JR Smith-SG-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: SLAM online

70.Zaza Pachulia-C-Golden State Warriors

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photo credit: Mashable

69.Wesley Matthews-SF-Dallas Mavericks

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks

photo credit: Mavs.com

68.Dwyane Wade-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

67.Jae Crowder-PF-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Youtube

66.Nikola Mirotic-PF-Chicago Bulls

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photo credit: Chicago Tribune

65.Dirk Nowitzki-C-Dallas Mavericks

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks

photo credit: The Smoking Cuban

64.Shaun Livingston-PG-Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns

photo credit: Jim Rome

63.Thaddeus Young-PF-Indiana Pacers

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photo credit: NBA.com

62.Lou Williams-SG-Los Angeles Clippers

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photo credit: Clipperholics

61.Brandon Ingram-SF-Los Angeles Lakers

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photo credit: Bleacher Report

60.Goran Dragic-PG-Miami Heat

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photo credit: NBA.com

59.Malcolm Brogdon-PG-Milwaukee Bucks

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photo credit: NBA.com

58.Marcin Gortat-C-Washington Wizards

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photo credit: Opencourt-Basketball

57.Derrick Favors-PF-Utah Jazz

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photo credit: Clutch Points

56.Tony Parker-PG-San Antonio Spurs

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photo credit: SLAM online

55.Manu Ginobili-SG-San Antonio Spurs

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photo credit: The Classical

 

54.Steven Adams-C-Oklahoma City Thunder

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photo credit: The Coconet

53.Patrick Beverley-PG-Los Angeles Clippers

LA Clippers Introduce New Players during Portrait Shoot

photo credit: Hoops Hype

52.Harrison Barnes-PF-Dallas Mavericks

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photo credit: Mavs Moneyball

51.Devin Booker-SG-Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns v Miami Heat

photo credit: SLAM online

50.Robert Covington-SF-Philadelphia 76ers

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls

photo credit: CSN Philadelphia

49.Julius Randle-PF-Los Angeles Lakers

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

photo credit: Real Ball Insiders

48.Jonas Valanciunas-C-Toronto Raptors

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photo credit: SportsNet

47.Nicolas Batum-SG-Charlotte Hornets

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photo credit: ESPN

46.Myles Turner-C-Indiana Pacers

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photo credit: Clutch Points

45.Victor Oladipo-SG-Indiana Pacers

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photo credit: Inside the Hall

44.Serge Ibaka-PF-Toronto Raptors

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photo credit: CBC

43.Andre Drummond-C-Detroit Pistons

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photo credit: VICE Sports

42.Al Horford-C-Boston Celtics

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photo credit: Boston Sports Tonight

41.Otto Porter-SF-Washington Wizards

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photo credit: Bullets Forever

40.Mike Conley-PG-Memphis Grizzlies

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photo credit: Def Pen

39.Marc Gasol-C-Memphis Grizzlies

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photo credit: ESPN

38.Avery Bradley-SG-Detroit Pistons

Avery Bradley of the Detroit Pistons Portraits

photo credit: Hoops Hype

37.Carmelo Anthony-PF-Oklahoma City Thunder

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photo credit: Sporting News

36.Andre Iguodala-SF-Golden State Warriors

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photo credit: Sporting News

35.Kemba Walker-PG-Charlotte Hornets

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

34.Nikola Jokic-C-Denver Nuggets

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photo credit: BSN Denver

33.LaMarcus Aldridge-PF-San Antonio Spurs

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photo credit: Pounding the Rock

32.Joel Embiid-C-Philadelphia 76ers

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photo credit: Philly.com

31.DeMarcus Cousins-C-New Orleans Pelicans

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photo credit: NOLA.com

30.Khris Middleton-SF-Milwaukee Bucks

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

29.Kevin Love-C-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Sporting News

28.CJ McCollum-SG-Portland Trail Blazers

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photo credit: Blazers Edge

27.Kyle Lowry-PG-Toronto Raptors

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

26.Andrew Wiggins-SG-Minnesota Timberwolves

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photo credit: SB Nation

25.Chris Paul-PG-Houston Rockets

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photo credit: Sporting News

24.Bradley Beal-SG-Washington Wizards

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photo credit: ESPN

23.Gordon Hayward-SF-Boston Celtics

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photo credit: Sporting News

22.Blake Griffin-PF-Los Angeles Clippers

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photo credit: LA Times

21.Hassan Whiteside-C-Miami Heat

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photo credit: ESPN

20.DeMar DeRozan-SG-Toronto Raptors

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photo credit: Toronto Star

19.DeAndre Jordan-C-Los Angeles Clippers

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photo credit: ESPN

18.Jimmy Butler-SF-Minnesota Timberwolves

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photo credit: USA Today

17.Kristaps Porzingis-PF-New York Knicks

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photo credit: New York Post

16.Damian Lillard-PG-Portland Trail Blazers

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photo credit: ESPN

15.Rudy Gobert-C-Utah Jazz

Golden State Warriors v Utah Jazz - Game Three

photo credit: Hoops Hype

14.Isaiah Thomas-PG-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Cavs Nation

13.Paul George-SF-Oklahoma City Thunder

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photo credit: SLAM online

12.Draymond Green-PF-Golden State Warriors

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photo credit: SB Nation

11.John Wall-PG-Washington Wizards

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Five

photo credit: The Undefeated

10.Klay Thompson-SG-Golden State Warriors

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors

photo credit: USA Today

9.Giannis Antetokounmpo-PF-Milwaukee Bucks

Toronto Raptors v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Six

photo credit: Hoops Hype

8.Kyrie Irving-PG-Boston Celtics

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photo credit: theScore.com

7.Karl-Anthony Towns-C-Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves v Atlanta Hawks

photo credit: The Cheat Sheet

6.Anthony Davis-PF-New Orleans Pelicans

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans

photo credit: The Cheat Sheet

5.Kevin Durant-SF-Golden State Warriors

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photo credit: SB Nation

4.Kawhi Leonard-SF-San Antonio Spurs

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photo credit: ESPN

3.Stephen Curry-PG-Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves

photo credit: Hoops Hype

2.Russell Westbrook-PG-Oklahoma City Thunder

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photo credit: Youtube

1.LeBron James-SF-Cleveland Cavaliers

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photo credit: Footwear News

Those are my top 100 players for the 2017 NBA season. I’ll revisit these rankings at some point after the season is over. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Top 10 Players by Position

This is the next in my NBA season preview. You can check out my playoffs and awards projections here. In this, like my MLB postseason review, I will be ranking the top 10 players by position. All players on active rosters are eligible to make these lists, except for rookies, since they have yet to really show if they can make it in this league, however they will, of course, be eligible for the postseason version of this list, which will likely come out in April. As for the Top 100 that is set to be released tomorrow, I have yet to decide if I should break that up into smaller articles. Probably should get on that. Without further ado, let’s see the lists.

Point Guard

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The reigning NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook consistently stuffs the stat sheet for OKC (photo credit: NBA.com)

1.Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

2.Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

3.Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

4.John Wall-Washington Wizards

5.Isaiah Thomas-Cleveland Cavaliers

6.Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

7.Chris Paul-Houston Rockets

8.Kyle Lowry-Toronto Raptors

9.Kemba Walker-Charlotte Hornets

10.Mike Conley-Memphis Grizzlies

I was torn between Westbrook and Curry. On the one hand you have Curry, who drains shots like it’s nobody’s business and has some elite moves to go with it. On the other, Westbrook literally does everything well, as evidenced by his being the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for an entire season. I gave the nod to Westbrook since I have a soft spot for statsheet stuffers. 3-6 was pretty tight, and I would probably have IT a little higher if not for the hip injury that he’s dealing with that could cost him significant time to open the season. Kemba Walker has a special place in my heart because it was his UConn Huskies team in 2011 where I picked my first champion in a March Madness bracket. I’ve only done it twice, the other being Anthony Davis’ Kentucky team the following year, but I don’t brag about that one because literally everybody picked Kentucky that season.

Shooting Guard

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Since joining the Rockets, James Harden has been a scoring machine (photo credit: Grantland)

1.James Harden-Houston Rockets

2.Klay Thompson-Golden State Warriors

3.DeMar DeRozan-Toronto Raptors

4.Bradley Beal-Washington Wizards

5.Andrew Wiggins-Minnesota Timberwolves

6.CJ McCollum-Portland Trail Blazers

7.Avery Bradley-Detroit Pistons

8.Victor Oladipo-Indiana Pacers

9.Nicolas Batum-Charlotte Hornets

10.Devin Booker-Phoenix Suns

James Harden was a pretty easy selection for number 1 here for me. Despite the fact that he plays less defense than the Mountain in the Trial by Combat with Oberyn, Harden scores enough where I’m willing to look the other way. Also, he has a delicious candy that a coworker of mine randomly found at a mini mart down the street from where I work.

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James Harden was actually delicious

Gummi beards, I guess they’re called. They look terrifying but are actually quite good. After the top 6, this list got pretty difficult. I went with Avery Bradley at 7 and I think he is one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA. He plays fantastic defense and is quietly a very good shooter as well. Plus he has the respect of his peers:

One voter did claim that he left Bradley off of his All-Defense team because of the 70-point game by Devin Booker. Bradley did not play in that game.
Small Forward

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

LeBron James is the best athlete perhaps in all of sports today (photo credit: Fortune)

1.LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

2.Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

3.Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

4.Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

5.Jimmy Butler-Minnesota Timberwolves

6.Gordon Hayward-Boston Celtics

7.Khris Middleton-Milwaukee Bucks

8.Andre Iguodala-Golden State Warriors

9.Otto Porter-Washington Wizards

10.Robert Covington-Philadelphia 76ers

LeBron James is a guy a lot of people like to compare to Michael Jordan, with many saying he’s better than MJ. I’m going to have to disagree with that, in fact, I would put Kobe ahead of LeBron. However, I think once LeBron is done I’ll have him above Kobe, maybe even Jordan. But with the body of work right now, he’s not there yet. That being said, LeBron is still the best player in basketball today, maybe even the best athlete in sports, period. As I wrote in my awards predictions yesterday, I have Kawhi Leonard taking home MVP honors this season. He is one of the more special talents I’ve seen in a while. I cringed at putting Kevin Durant at number 3, it just didn’t feel right. But in my heart and mind I feel that I would rather have LeBron or Kawhi than KD. Robert Covington is probably the more surprising entries on this list and that’s a shame. Sure, he’s not a household name by any means, but he’s a better player than most people give him credit for and I think that his name will gain more recognition should the 76ers improve the way I expect them too. However he will still be overshadowed by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz.

Power Forward

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Anthony Davis has been one of the most dominant forwards in the game since entering the league in 2012 (photo credit: SLAMonline)

1.Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

2.Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

3.Draymond Green-Golden State Warriors

4.Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

5.Blake Griffin-Los Angeles Clippers

6.LaMarcus Aldridge-San Antonio Spurs

7.Carmelo Anthony-Oklahoma City Thunder

8.Serge Ibaka-Toronto Raptors

9.Julius Randle-Los Angeles Lakers

10.Harrison Barnes-Dallas Mavericks

Anthony Davis’ unibrow is one of the most recognizable body features in all of sports, if not the most. Right up there with James Harden’s beard or Dennis Rodman’s…whatever it is he’s feeling like having on his body on a particular day. This may be because my brain is just geared towards sports, but anytime anyone mentions a unibrow (or monobrow, if you’re weird), I immediately think of the one living on Davis’ face. Davis is more than just a unibrow, though. He’s perhaps the most dominating forward in the game on both ends of the court. Giannis (please don’t make me write out his last name again) is one of the craziest athletes I’ve ever seen. He can make his body do things that just aren’t natural. I mean, look at this:

That’s just not right. Carmelo Anthony comes in here because he’s slated on the Thunder depth chart on RotoWorld as the team’s power forward despite playing small forward in Denver and New York. I’m still not totally convinced that Big 3 in OKC is going to work. Serge Ibaka’s a guy you can’t sleep on, especially since his 3-point shot has gotten better every season. He might not be as prolific as he was with the Thunder, but anytime you have a big that can defend the paint and pop threes, you’re going to have a good time.
Center

Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves

KAT has revolutionized the center position in the NBA (photo credit: Stack.com)

1.Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

2.Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

3.DeAndre Jordan-Los Angeles Clippers

4.Hassan Whiteside-Miami Heat

5.Kevin Love-Cleveland Cavaliers

6.DeMarcus Cousins-New Orleans Pelicans

7.Joel Embiid-Philadelphia 76ers

8.Nikola Jokic-Denver Nuggets

9.Marc Gasol-Memphis Grizzlies

10.Al Horford-Boston Celtics

Karl-Anthony Towns, like Ibaka, is a sharpshooting big man who actually beat Isaiah Thomas in the NBA Skills Challenge a couple of years ago. Considering that IT is one of the fastest and quickest players in the game with great passing and shooting abilities, it’s no wonder Towns tops this list. Rudy Gobert is a guy I don’t think gets enough love, as I wrote yesterday in my awards predictions, and I think he got robbed for Defensive Player of the Year. Full disclosure, I totally forgot about Kevin Love while making this list at first, though to my credit, the Cavaliers plan on moving him to center and having Tristan Thompson come off the bench this year with the arrival of Jae Crowder in the IT-Kyrie trade (both Thompson and Crowder barely missed out on these lists). But Love is still one of the best big men in the game despite the fact that he’s kind of become the Chris Bosh of this Cavs team, being the big man that doesn’t get enough respect for what he brings to this team. Joel Embiid is a guy I just couldn’t leave off this list despite the fact that if he blinked wrong he’d be out for an unknown period of time. He’s just such a wonderful dude. How many guys can wear their own jersey to a night club and everybody still loves him for it?

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Where’s Joel? (photo credit: Twitter)

Guarantee you if any other player did that they would get crucified. But not Embiid. Nikola Jokic is another guy who is under the radar, but that tends to happen when you’re an eastern European with a difficult name to pronounce. The guy had a big season for the Nuggets last year and could be a sneaky contender in the Most Improved Player list.

Those are my top 10s. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Season Preview

The NBA season opens on October 17 in a game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, which couldn’t be more perfect considering these two teams pulled off a huge trade a month ago where they swapped superstar guards. I felt that just under a week left until the start of the regular season would be the perfect time to give my predictions on how this season will play out. This will be a 3-part series, much like my postseason MLB series, with top-10s by position coming tomorrow and a top-100 coming Friday. However that one I’m considering breaking up into multiple parts. Stay tuned for that. For this preview I will project awards, All-NBA teams, and the playoffs. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Awards:

NBA MVP: Kawhi Leonard-F-San Antonio Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard already has a Finals MVP on his resume, now he looks for League MVP (photo credit: Slam Online)

After flirting with the idea of Leonard as MVP for a few years now, I think this is the year he finally gets it. Leonard has been the best player on the Spurs for some time and that’s saying something, considering the team is typically littered with Hall of Famers and has the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich. Leonard is a stud defender who also puts up over 20 points per game and will lead this Spurs team on another deep playoff run.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert-C-Utah Jazz

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Rudy Gobert has been a nightmare for anyone brave enough to enter the paint (photo credit: Salt City Hoops)

Truth be told, I thought Gobert should have won this award last year. His 8-foot wingspan along with his 7’1 height make it damn near impossible to score in the paint, as he consistently swats away any shot that has the audacity to approach his territory. I think he gets this award this time and gets the recognition he deserves after a few years of really strong defensive play.

Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala-F-Golden State Warriors

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Andre Iguodala looks to add another trophy to his mantle (photo credit: Sporting News)

This is always a hard award to predict and it feels like kind of a cop out to pick Iguodala here. The guy could not only start for most teams, but be their best player (looking at you, Nets). Yet on this stacked Warriors team, he comes off the bench and he does it as well as anybody. How many players can say they were Finals MVP while coming off the bench? Just Iggy.

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Milwaukee Bucks v Dallas Mavericks

Dennis Smith Jr has looked really impressive in his small body of work with the Mavericks (photo credit: Sports Illustrated

I was really tempted to choose Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or De’Aaron Fox for this spot, but I felt that Dennis Smith Jr would ultimately be the guy to go with. He’s locked down the starting point guard job for the Mavericks already, coming off a really strong summer league performance that reminded me of Damian Lillard’s quick ascension. I think Smith is in the best position to succeed early out of any rookie in the league (and I’m not counting Ben Simmons for this even though he technically still qualifies. He had his chance at a ROTY in my book and couldn’t stay healthy).

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Brett Brown looks to reward Philly fans’ patience with a playoff berth (photo credit: CSN Philadelphia)

I don’t know if Brown will do anything otherworldly, but if you check my playoff predictions below, you’ll know why I have him winning coach of the year. After years of Trusting the Process, it seems that the 76ers are primed and ready to be relevant again. I think they have the pieces in place to make a playoff run if they can stay healthy. And that’s a BIG “if.” But I think they will be healthy enough and capture the 8th seed in the East. And since Brown will be at the helm of this resurgence, he will get the honor of Coach of the Year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chandler Parsons-F-Memphis Grizzlies

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The normally deadly sharpshooter didn’t look like himself in 2016-17 (photo credit: Sporting News)

Parsons struggled mightily in the first year of his big contract from the Grizzlies. His points per game was cut in half, his FG% dropped from 49.2% to 33.8% and his 3-point shooting, his best trait, was down from 41.4% to 26.9%. A shooter of his caliber should not have a lower 3-point percentage than DeMarcus Cousins (36.1%). I think he bounces back this season and gets recognized for his return to shooting prominence.

Most Improved Player: Myles Turner-C-Indiana Pacers

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Myles Turner looks to take a big step in his development (photo credit: NBA.com)

Myles Turner is a guy oozing with ability and I was praying he would fall to the Celtics at 16 in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Pacers took the Texas product at 11 and have reaped the benefits thus far, as he has averaged 12 points per game and 6 rebounds per game over his career. However when you watch him play, it is pretty clear that those numbers should be higher as he is seemingly always around the ball and the loss of Paul George for the Pacers will open up more opportunities for him to get big numbers this year.

All-NBA Teams

First Team

G-Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

G-James Harden-Houston Rockets

F-LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

F-Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

C-Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

Second Team

G-Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

G-Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

F-Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

F-Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

C-Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

Third Team

G-Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

G-John Wall-Washington Wizards

F-Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

F-Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

C-Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

Projected Playoff teams with Seeds

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Charlotte Hornets
  7. Detroit Pistons
  8. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Houston Rockets
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

Playoff Round-by-Round Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

(1)Cavaliers def. (8)76ers

(2)Celtics def. (7)Pistons

(3)Wizards def. (6)Hornets

(5)Bucks def. (4)Raptors

(1)Cavaliers def. (5)Bucks

(2)Celtics def. (3)Wizards

(1)Cavaliers def. (2)Celtics

This conference is really a 2-man race between the Cavaliers and Celtics. The Wizards and Raptors may make things interesting, but overall Cleveland and Boston are the teams to beat as they will duke it out for the Eastern Conference championship for the second straight year. I have the Cavs winning it over the Celtics for a second straight year and fourth straight overall as they are just too deep for the much-improved Celtics to compete with. It won’t be as lopsided a series as it was last year, but the Cavs will prevail.

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The Cavaliers and Celtics are the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference (photo credit: Newsday)

Eastern Conference Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

Western Conference:

(1)Warriors def. (8)Pelicans

(2)Spurs def. (7)Clippers

(3)Rockets def. (6)Trail Blazers

(5)Thunder def. (4)Timberwolves

(1)Warriors def. (5)Thunder

(2)Spurs def. (3)Rockets

(1)Warriors def. (2)Spurs

Unlike the East, the West has 5 teams that I could envision winning it, however the Warriors will win once again because they are just that much better than everyone else. As long as Gregg Popovich coaches the Spurs, they will compete for a title but they aren’t quite as deep as they have been in years’ past. The addition of Chris Paul will be big for the Rockets as James Harden has a world-class distributor to feed him the ball. The Timberwolves had a fantastic offseason and they have the look of a team that is sick of losing. I think the Thunder will struggle out of the gate with their new Big 3, but I think they will put it together by the end of the year in time for a run. There are a lot of mouths to feed in OKC and that could lead to some on-court issues between Westbrook, George, and Carmelo Anthony. But again, the Warriors are just better than everyone else and they will win the West.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs

The Warriors and the Spurs have been two of the elite teams in the West for the last few seasons (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Western Conference Champion: Golden State Warriors

NBA Finals:

(1)Warriors def. (1)Cavaliers

I’m getting pretty sick of this matchup but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. I have the Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the fourth straight year, which has never happened before and will beg the question: is this a better inter-conference rivalry than Celtics-Lakers? I think the Warriors take it in 7 and Steph Curry wins Finals MVP. Fun fact, Curry didn’t win Finals MVP either time the Warriors won under his tutelage.

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Could we really get a fourth consecutive Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals? (photo credit: Sporting News)

NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors (MVP: Stephen Curry)

Those are my picks for this NBA season. I’ll revisit them at some point this year. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.