2020 Official NBA Mock Draft Featuring Coach Trager and LordTreeSap

The Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy less than six weeks ago, the NBA Draft is less than 48 hours away and its November, the season is getting ready to tip off in just over a month, but at this point it is par for the course when it comes to 2020.

The 2020 draft class has garnered a middling reputation, but will be stronger as the round goes on with solid depth. With a ton of unpredictability at the top, there’s still no consensus No. 1 overall pick as the time continues to tick on Minnesota. We’ve already seen a ton of wheeling and dealing in the league, which doubles as an Academy Award-winning drama when the off-season rolls around.

Luckily for you, Brandon “Coach T” Trager and LordTreeSap are here to walk you through the entire lottery for Wednesday’s NBA Draft. Take a look at our predictions and keep it locked on the Daily Mix Report for draft coverage from LTS, while Trager lives the life of luxury in the green room with Obi Toppin.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Coach T: LaMelo Ball, Australia

The most mysterious, yes unmysterious, tantalizing prospect of the draft. If you’re a hoops fan, we all remember what seems like yesterday a young freshman LaMelo pullin’ up from half court in video clips gone viral. Fast forward a few years, LaMelo is a 6’7″ do-it-all PG. I am beyond happy LaVar has shut his mouth and just let his boys have a normal professional career. It was funny at first, but it got old pretty quick.

However, I will give him credit, he said LaMelo would go No. 1, and be the best of the three Ball brothers. He’s made a lot of promises that have yet to come true, but it’s amazing that some of them have. In a draft with no certain No. 1 pick, LaMelo may have the best upside with his size and playmaking ability. Just like big bro Lonzo, he looks to make everyone around him better. I’m not sure how the Ball – Russell Dynamic will look, but if he pans out, a two-guard backcourt alongside KAT doesn’t sound too shabby. I see the Wolves going Ball here.

LordTreeSap: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Anthony Edwards has been billed as the top prospect for months now, so I don’t think the Wolves will ultimately pass up on the opportunity to pair him with D’Angelo Russell for an explosive back court and potential big three forming with Karl-Anthony Towns. During his best moments, AE looks like a young James Harden without the elite court vision, but a bulldog going to the rim just like the school he reps.

NBA Draft 2020: Anthony Edwards Opens Up on His Surreal Experience With  Michael Jordan and Golden State Warriors - EssentiallySports

2. Golden State Warriors

Coach T: James Wiseman, Memphis

Let me rant quick then I’ll stop, WHY DO THE WARRIORS NEED TO GET REWARDED AT 2!? Yeah, it stinks their two studs were essentially out for the season, but the NBA Gods hand them the No. 2 pick, when the Knicks can’t catch a break. Ok I’m done. The Warriors need a big, and Wiseman offers the best upside. 7+ footer, incredibly athletic, and will eventually step out and shoot, he may be the gem of this draft. Steph, Klay, Wiggins, Green, Wiseman, yeah, the Western Conference forgot about the Warriors. Here we go…

LordTreeSap: James Wiseman, Memphis

This is the layup of the draft. GSW has played it coy as a contender picking at the top of the draft who would probably prefer to flip the pick and assets for a third star alongside the Splash Brothers. If that doesn’t come to fruition, the athletic rim-running Wiseman gives the Dubs another weapon at their disposal and an inside presence they’ve lacked.

James Wiseman Says He Would Be A Great Fit With The Golden State Warriors –  Fadeaway World

3. Charlotte Hornets

Coach T: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

If Edwards slips to three, there’s no way the Hornets can pass up on him. If you look at this dude in a uniform, you may think he’s been in the NBA for 3-4 years. Explosive wing who can get to the rim and shoot the ball. He has that slasher wing in him looking like a young D-Wade at times. MJ may make up for all of his failed drafts with this pick here. Look for the Hornets to go with my favorite player in this year’s draft, Anthony Edwards.

LordTreeSap: Onyeka Okongwu, USC

We never know what Michael Jordan and the Hornets are going to pull when it comes to drafting, we just usually know it’s going to be the wrong decision. Onyeka has soared up draft boards as a versatile big in the mold of Bam Adebayo and everyone saw how valuable he was inside the bubble on Miami’s Finals run.

4. Chicago Bulls

Coach T: Deni Avdija, Israel

These European dudes are so hit and miss, but I feel like these have been more hits than misses of late. Basketball has really stepped up its game overseas, and you’re seeing the product translate to the NBA. Avdija is a strong 2-way player who is very experienced and has played against supreme talent.

The Bulls have a young roster, and he should fit in nicely next to Lavine, Markkanen, Carter, and some of the other Bulls young talent. I think anyone who passed up on (or traded) some guy named Luka would tell you they regret not honoring his dominance overseas. Look for the Bulls to continue to grow their young roster under new coach Billy Donovan with Deni Avdija.

LordTreeSap: LaMelo Ball, Australia

LaMelo Ball, the most polarizing prospect in this draft. You ask five different “experts” about his career trajectory and you’ll probably get five different answers. The final Ball brother has a good chance to be the best of the bunch with the way Lonzo has stumbled out of the gate. Chicago didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Kris Dunn, so a ball handler spot opens up alongside sniper Coby White to form the backcourt of the future. I’m still trying to figure out why Billy Donovan took this job though.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Coach T: Obi Toppin, Dayton

This next player is special because I had the opportunity to be a part of his path to the NBA coaching both him and his younger brother Jacob (University of Kentucky). Obi has grown from a 6’1″ high school senior, to a 6’9″ rim-running monster. The reigning National Player of the Year may be the most “NBA ready” prospect. He is incredibly athletic, savvy in the post, and can step out and shoot the 3. He is a prototypical NBA Big.

He needs to improve his perimeter defense/lateral quickness and continue to get stronger. However, he is going to be a consistent NBA player with a long career. From knowing Obi personally, he’s one of the most likable, humble people you’ll ever meet, and everyone who comes across him loves him. Being he played for Dayton in Ohio, I don’t see him slipping past six. I don’t love this spot for him, because this is probably my least favorite team picking in the top 10. However, look for Obi to make an immediate impact wherever he goes.

LordTreeSap: Deni Avdija, Israel

I’m not going to act like I’ve watched Deni Avdija play a full game of basketball, but he’s been on the NBA’s radar for some time. Checking out his skillset, I could easily see a Danilo Gallinari type of career coming his way, which would be a win for Cleveland.

6. Atlanta Hawks

Coach T: Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Full disclosure, I hope Okoro doesn’t get picked here, because I want the Knicks to draft him. Anyway, let’s pair up the talented young hawks with an athletic versatile 2-way wing. Okoro plays hard and will be an elite NBA defender. If he can develop a jump shot, he’ll end up being the highly coveted “3 and D” stud that every NBA team is looking for. Young, Okoro, Collins and co. sounds like a nice young core to me.

NBA Draft news: Auburn star Isaac Okoro to declare for draft

LordTreeSap: Obi Toppin, Dayton

Coach T put Obi on my radar a couple years ago and he’s played his way into a bona fide top 10 pick in that time. Although he’s already 22-years-old, Toppin is a sure-fire fit at the four in the NBA with great athleticism and a capable jumper.

I still feel bad for his Dayton Flyers season being cut short; who knows when they’ll be a potential one-seed again? Atlanta could use Toppin if rumors flying are true that they plan to test the market on John Collins if the two sides can’t agree on a fair extension.

7. Detroit Pistons

Coach T: Patrick Williams, Florida State

Williams seems to be fling up draft boards as a modern NBA big. 6’8″, versatile defender who can shoot the three. The Pistons are in the midst of a rebuild and Williams may be able to learn a thing or two from Blake Griffin, who has had trouble staying on the court.

LordTreeSap: Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Okoro will be a great fit and culture changer for Detroit on the wing for a barren roster that needs a lot of help. A tenacious defender, and if his jumper comes along, he’ll be the type of versatile defense-first wing that just about every team is starving for. We just saw the Trail Blazers pay two firsts for Robert Covington this week. This pick might finally right the wrong of selecting Stanley Johnson in 2015, who I really liked coming out of Arizona.

8. New York Knicks

Coach T: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

I can’t invest myself emotionally into the Knicks. It’s a yearly heartbreak that I can’t handle. We kill ourselves, and seemingly find no luck on our side. Mini-rant over. Let’s go with Tyrese Haliburton here, a nice combo guard who is a nice playmaker and can shoot the basketball. He plays hard and I think would be a great fit next to RJ Barrett, and in NY in general.

The Knicks have DESPERATELY needed someone to step in and man the PG position. They have a solid foundational core, and a point guard to help accelerate the rebuild would be huge. Pair Tyrese with RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks two best prospects, and we may be headed in the right direction (at least I have to say that). 

LordTreeSap: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

Coach T and I are on the same page here. The Knicks have been searching for a point guard to power the offense since Stephon Marbury ate Vaseline on a live stream. Haliburton has won me over as a sound decision maker, explosive enough to get to and finish at the rim, and still nail his funky jumper. Sign me up to see if Tyrese can finally fill the lead guard void that has plagued us for eons.

9. Wizards

Coach T: Onyeka Okungwu, USC

Considered by some to be the best true “big man” in this draft, he is already an excellent defender and rim protector. With a healthy John Wall and Bradley Beal this year, the wizards should be an improved team. Look for them to improve their front court with Onyeka.

LordTreeSap: Patrick Williams, Florida State

When early mocks were coming out, I kept seeing Vassell as the top FSU prospect, but P-Will has shot up draft boards in recent months to become the top Seminole available. Williams is oozing with potential as a gritty, do-it-all forward on the floor who makes the right play. Boasting a nearly seven-foot wingspan and still being 18-years-old always helps as well.

10. Phoenix Suns

Coach T: Devin Vassell, Florida State

Okay Suns, no pressure. You have one of the best young talents in the league in Devin Booker who reportedly wants out. Don’t screw this up. Vassell is another one of those potential 3 and D players you can surround Booker with in order to help the Suns be successful. They have some nice young talent with Ayton. Add Vassell to the fold and see what happens.

LordTreeSap: Killian Hayes, France

Another very intriguing prospect who opted for the professional overseas route. My good friend at The Ringer Kevin O’Connor has Hayes as the top player on his big board and he should be in consideration for the Knicks as well. The push in his jump shot does scare me a bit, but he can create and has good size. What a situation this would be to walk into and learn behind Chris Paul as Phoenix makes a push for the post-season.

Why Killian Hayes Is the Best Prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft | The Restart  | The Ringer - YouTube

11. San Antonio Spurs

Coach T: Saddiq Bey, Villanova

Who knows who the Spurs will pick, but whoever they pick, will make an impact at some point, like they ALWAYS do. Bey comes from a great program in Villanova and is a nice complimentary player. He’s 6’8″ and is highly versatile on the floor. I’m sure Pop will find a creative way to make the most out of him.

LordTreeSap: Devin Vassell, Florida State

I’m always looking for 3-and-D players in the draft. Just inject them into my veins — every good team needs them to surround stars with shot making and doing the dirty work defensively. Vassell fits that mold and should be a nice fit with the Spurs. Two FSU Seminoles in the top 11 gives me a chance to just remind the people coach Lenny Hamilton has never made a Final Four.

12. Sacramento Kings

Coach T: R.J. Hampton, New Zealand

In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting players in the draft. One of the most highly rated prospects coming out of high school, Hampton took the Ball route playing overseas this past year. Hampton didn’t get to showcase much of his talent, but he sure has a lot of it. He’s raw, but if he develops, he won’t have many flaws in his game. He’d be a nice piece next to Fox as a 1-2 punch.

LordTreeSap: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

With the Kings moving on from Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield wanting out, Sacramento needs to find another two-guard/wing to supplement their losses and give Fox some help. Enter Vanderbilt’s Nesmith, who is the best shooter in the draft and should be a sniper in the NBA.

13. New Orleans Pelicans

Coach T: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

SVG! Great young core that should start to make waves soon. Let’s go with Nesmith here, who is one of the best shooters in the draft and would fit nicely next to Ball, Ingram, and Zion. Pelicans like to push the pace (whether SVG will want to or not) and this would be a great spot for him stretching the floor for Ingram and Zion to operate inside.

LordTreeSap: Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama

Goodbye Jrue Holiday, hello Kira Lewis Jr. I debated Kentucky’s Maxey here as well, but the speedster out of ‘Bama heads to the NOP. The Pelicans are in a great spot and add their potential point guard of the future here, who plays with reckless abandon when attacking the cup, if they decide to move on from Lonzo Ball.

14. Boston Celtics

Coach T: Killian Hayes, France

There’s a good chance he won’t be available here, but it’d be a nice pick here for the Celtics. He could play behind the likes of Kemba Walker, develop, and potentially be a long-term replacement down the road for Boston.

LordTreeSap: Jalen Smith, Maryland

Anyone that watched Boston knows they need help down low. Jalen Smith was a beast at Maryland. Anytime I watched him play Michigan he seemed to be a lock for a double-double and addicted to cleaning the glass. He could get away with being a smaller five if he bulks up a bit because he’s already a strong defender with a nonstop motor.

Previewing Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs Inside the Bubble

Take a look at our predictions for every first-round matchup in the playoffs.

The NBA returned inside the Orlando bubble at the end of July and things couldn’t have gone much smoother. Gameplay’s been intense, presentation for the fans feels like real games, and most importantly, ZERO players have tested positive for COVID-19 since August 5th.

The regular-season games have given us plenty of storylines, as the Blazers have been carried by Damian Lillard’s heroics playing as a man possessed, the undefeated Suns became basketball’s darlings, Russell Westbrook’s thigh injury has thrown a wrench into the Rockets championship dreams, and title favorites Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks don’t seem to be as much of Finals locks as we once thought back in March.

With the Blazers clinching the right to take their shot at the one-seeded Lakers on Saturday to fill out the playoff picture, check out our predictions for the entire first round below. Tip-off is slated for Monday at 1:30 pm ET with game 1 of the Nuggets-Jazz series.

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Eastern Conference:

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Orlando Magic

The bubble hasn’t been too kind to the hometeam Magic. Orlando, who went 3-5 in the restart, lost the promising Jonathan Isaac to a torn ACL, which should sideline him through next season. Milwaukee hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders since the restart, but cruised to the one-seed and now the real pressure is on for the favorite Bucks to roll through the Eastern Conference. Giannis has been on a mission this season (he’s the favorite for MVP and DPOY) and the Magic should be a light tune-up for him as Milwaukee sweeps.

Bucks in 4

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Brooklyn Nets

The 2019 champs are a bonafide threat to defend their throne and possibly repeat. I, for one, didn’t believe the Raptors would be this good (finished with the best winning percentage in franchise history) with Leonard heading to the West Coast, which should be a credit to my COTY Nick Nurse and the supporting cast taking their games to the next level.

As for the Nets, nobody could’ve seen a 5-3 bubble trip with a makeshift roster possible. Fans have to be thrilled with the team’s effort, but we know this is all about next year for them. Toronto’s size and depth should give the Nets fits all series, who shouldn’t leave Orlando with their heads hanging low.

Raptors in 4

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(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers

I want to throw up every time I think back to my pre-season prediction of having the 76ers coming out of the East, as Philly couldn’t be further from contenders right now. A logjam in the frontcourt and a coach that doesn’t know how to deploy his talent, and now minus Ben Simmons combined with a banged-up Embiid, this is the recipe for disaster in Philly. Tatum and Brown have evolved into a dynamic duo on the wing to lead the C’s. As long as Kemba and Hayward stay healthy, this team has a shot to make some noise in the East.

Celtics in 5

(4) Indiana Pacers vs. (5) Miami Heat

This will be the most competitive series in the East. A pair of teams that overperformed this year. Most people will be drawn to the theatrics of Jimmy Butler vs. Bubble MVP T.J. Warren, but my focus is on MIP candidate Bam Adebayo’s ability to control both ends and sharpshooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson pushing the Heat over the top to take a hard-fought 7-game series. Miami also has the coaching advantage with Spo > Nate McMillan.

Heat in 7

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Western Conference:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

This isn’t your typical 1-8 matchup. Every Blazer game has felt like a playoff game, as they roll into the post-season on a four-game winning streak. At times, their defense has been dreadful against lesser competition, so I fully expect LeBron to dominate this series and get whatever he pleases when exploiting Portland’s forwards. On the flip side, the Lakers don’t have anyone to answer for Dame, who should be able to steal a game or two by himself with his Bubble MVP heroics. Let’s just hope his tank doesn’t run out of gas (Blazers were a -13 on Saturday against the Grizzlies during his THREE MINUTES on the bench).

Lakers in 6

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(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

A lot has been made of this juicy series with the dazzling future MVP Luka Doncic writing the first chapter in his playoff journal. In his way stands the title favorite Clippers, who have yet to be at full strength inside the bubble, as Sixth Man of the Year candidate Montrezl Harrell is expected to make his debut.

Even with a historically good offense (highest offensive efficiency rating ever), Dallas has been atrocious in late-game execution, as they rank in the bottom of the league in games decided by five points or less. This should be a great learning experience for Luka, Porzingis, and co. but the Clips dispose of Dallas in five.

Clippers in 5

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Utah Jazz

If this series is anything like their earlier double-OT thriller in the bubble, it should be a classic. Two-man chess matches between Donovan Mitchell and Gobert clashing with the Joker and Jamal Murray are going to be the focus for both coaches, but look for the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. to lift the Nuggets. Injuries to both teams make for a bit of uncertainty, as the returns of Gary Harris Jr. and Will Barton are still up in the air, while Mike Conley just left the bubble to see the birth of his child and will miss at least the first three games most likely.

Nuggets in 6

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(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s pretty simple; how long is Russell Westbrook out with his thigh injury? If he’s back by early next week, Houston is in good shape. If he’s out for the entire series, the Rockets are in deep trouble. We all know how much Chris Paul wants to stick it to Houston for trading him and how ironic would it be for the Thunder to finally get out of the first round now instead of the Russell Westbrook-PG era.

James Harden is going to put up astronomical numbers, but will he get enough help? Mike D’Antoni is fully committed to the small-ball experiment, so my x-factor for the Thunder will be Steven Adams. Does he get exposed and need to spend a lot of the series on the bench, or does he wreak havoc as a bully on the offensive glass?

Rockets in 7

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Sabrina Ionescu is Already a Superstar

On April 17, 2020 36 names were due to be called for the WNBA draft. There was a lot of tension and even more mystery. Who would be the steal? What playoff contender was going to get THE piece to push them to the top? Would there even really be a season with the COVID-19 pandemic running virtually unchecked throughout the country?

There were so many questions, it was good to know there was one certainty: Sabrina Ionescu was going to be the first name off the board. The Oregon star shocked a lot of people when she went back to school after a junior season in which she essentially rewrote the record books and wanted to fulfill her dream of winning a national title. She was primed to do so alongside a historically great Oregon team, and then the world went berserk and the season was finished, leaving a dream unfulfilled. She finished her career as the first player of any gender to attain 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in their careers.

With the draft over, and Sabrina a member of the Liberty, it was now a matter of how good she was going to be. Yes, you can dominate the college game but it’s easier to get assists when you’re flanked by the #2 (Satou Sabally) and #8 (Ruthy Hebard) overall picks. It’s also easier to score when defenses can’t collapse on you because they have to respect everyone around you more. We heard it all. Most importantly, Sabrina heard it all too, and she took notes.

It can’t be easy making your mark as a rookie in any league. When your star is as bright as Sabrina’s, you often get some…err, tough love, and this was no exception.

Could you imagine showing up to your new job in IT and the guy who’s been there forever and who is friends with everyone in the office comes right at your neck like this? It would be easy to be intimidated. And who was her first game against? Look no farther than Sue Bird’s Seattle Storm. Ionescu went 4-17 from the floor as Seattle refused to give her an ounce of space. This would become a recurring theme over their next few games. Was Sabrina just nervous? Was there a simple solution to shutting her down? Had the riddle been solved?

Let’s ask the Dallas Wings for a consult on that, who were the victims of Sabrina’s breakout game. Ionescu went out and dropped a 33-7-7 line without a second thought, and captivated the basketball world. This was it – the moment that a generational talent finally arrived. This was history incarnate – it felt significantly more “LeBron goes for 25-9-6 in his first career game” than it did “Brandon Jennings going for 55 points in his 7th career game” – the next WNBA Superstar had arrived. Ionescu tore up the Wings with the savvy of a 10 year vet, and did it putting the weight of the entire team on her back, flashing everything in her bag that made her worthy of the #1 overall pick – distribution, control, energy, a hyper awareness and game sense years beyond her age – it was something that a 22 year old rookie shouldn’t be able to do. Ionescu just has IT. Whatever “it” is, Sabrina has it in spades, and you can see that in all it’s glory in this 12 second clip:

This is the look and effort of someone who knows that one of the game’s biggest stars called her a pussy for the world to see. This was only the beginning of something special. Then, in a flash, it wasn’t.

Ionescu suffered a potentially season-ending ankle sprain in the Liberty’s matchup with the Atlanta Dream, in only Ionescu’s third career game. The Dream would go on to win by 6. Under normal circumstances, she would miss about a month or so and it would not be a death knell to her year. The Liberty have looked absolutely lost without their floor general and best player, and at this point you can feel comfortable saying that the season is not going to be salvageable for this team. The best they can hope for is to remain competitive and try to find out who’s good enough to earn minutes flanking their new superstar. Even if Ionescu is back before the end of the season, how much is that development going to help her if she’s not 100% or if the team has checked out?

Now that the Liberty have their superstar, the easy part is over, as the Liberty look to rebuild after an offseason in which they traded Tina Charles and fired their head coach Katie Smith. The return of Asia Durr next season should be a significant boost, but to quote Hamilton here (yes, this is a humble brag that I paid $7 for a month of Disney+ before cancelling my subscription so I could understand your tweets), “fighting is easy, governing is harder”. The here-and-now of the Liberty is in place, now it’s all about the future. How do you manage and build around a player who’s skillset is unlike almost anything ever seen in the WNBA? Time will tell. You only needed 3 games to tell that Sabrina has it. It will take longer to get the rest in place.

10 Players To Watch During the NBA’s Restart Inside the Orlando Bubble

It’s been 138 days since the NBA was shut down on March 11 following the unforgettable scene in Oklahoma City which saw Rudy Gobert test positive for COVID-19 as a harsh reality for the pandemic began to set in.

That horrifying number will (hopefully) be no more on Thursday when the Pelicans and Jazz tip-off serving as the official restart of the NBA regular season inside the Orlando bubble, which just might bring a tear to my eye.

Instead of doing an official playoff preview just yet (I’ll save that for August), I wanted to highlight 10 under-the-radar players who just might win their team a playoff game and could be someone you may have forgotten about during the layoff.

If you’re looking for star players like ‘Bron or Kawhi on this list, you’d be better suited just turning on FS1 and listening to Colin Cowherd talk about how Russell Westbrook and James Harden aren’t a top 10 NBA duo.

1. Gary Trent Jr. – Portland Trailblazers

Gary Trent Jr. became one of my favorite hidden gems coming off the bench this season. Ever since his 30-point explosion back in mid-January against the Thunder, the former Blue Devil has been an integral part of the Blazers’ rotation. That trend should only continue for the playoff-hopeful squad, as Trent Jr. put up 12 ppg and shot 41% from behind the arc during the month of February. He’s also a rock-solid defender on the wing.

P.S. My only issue with GT was seeing him on the virtual blackjack machines in the Bahamas. As a millionaire, it’s time to move to the legit high roller tables, my guy! 

2. Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets

When your career needs to be revived, every offensive-minded player should give Mike D’Antoni a call. MDA gave a lifeline to another career that was on its last breaths with Ben McLemore this season, who evolved into a sniper for the three-point happy Rockets this season. Averaging just under 10 ppg on 40% from three, McLemore’s brought his magic to Disney, as he lit up the Grizzlies during Sunday night’s scrimmage for 26 points on 6-7 from downtown.

3. Bol Bol – Denver Nuggets

Bol Bol is one of the early winners from the NBA restart. After not playing a game this season in Denver, Bol exploded onto the NBA Twitter scene with highlight-worthy plays on both ends of the floor, which flooded IG timelines in the first couple of scrimmages while starting in the BACKCOURT!! with Nikola Jokic. Seeing that untapped potential on display could vault Bol into a secret weapon type of role for Mike Malone’s deep Denver Nuggets.

4. Seth Curry – Dallas Mavericks

For quite possibly the first time in his entire life, the stage will now entirely be set for Seth to shine without overshadowing from older brother Steph anywhere in sight. With Luka and Porzingis occupying the defense’s focus, three-point assassins like Seth Curry become indispensable. Seth was 2nd in the entire NBA while shooting 45% from downtown and the Mavs are going to need him to be lights out in Orlando to spread the floor.

5. J.R. Smith – Los Angeles Lakers

J.R. Spliff is back!!! After going unsigned the entire 2019 season, the Lakers finally decided to listen to me and roll the dice on Earl and reunite him with LeBron inside the bubble. For that reason alone, we need a documentary on the Lakers’ Orlando playoff run. With Avery Bradley opting out and Rondo injured, L.A. will be heavily relying on the likes of J.R., Alex Caruso, KCP, and Dion Waiters to supplement A.D. and Lebron with outside shooting late in games. Smith’s microwave scoring ability came to life on Monday with 14 points in the first half of their scrimmage against the Wizards.

6. Matisse Thybulle – Philadelphia 76ers

One of the most unique young players in the NBA. Matisse not only shines on the court as a lockdown defender, but he’s also become a YouTube sensation off the floor with his Welcome to the Bubble VLOG series, which he shoots and edits himself. The rookie’s versatility on the defensive end and streaky shooting will be needed to help power the Sixers, as coach Brett Brown has his hands full regarding how to best deploy his talented arsenal of weapons.

7. Duncan Robinson – Miami Heat

From Division III standout, to Michigan 6th man, and now a top 100 NBA player, according to Bleacher Report‘s latest rankings. Stories like Duncan’s are to be celebrated, as he landed in the perfect spot to flourish under the tutelage of Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and co. in breezy South Beach. Another 45% shooter from three makes the list, and a bright future is definitely ahead for the Michigan man. Admittedly, I didn’t think there was a chance DR would be an NBA player during his time as a Wolverine.

8. Luguentz Dort – Oklahoma City Thunder

Lu Dort is a name you might not be familiar with if you haven’t caught many Thunder games this year, as I had no clue who he was coming into the season and only found out about him through my brother after watching him pop off the screen one night. Dort has a knack for making good things happen on the floor, as OKC went 16-5 once Billy Donovan inserted him into the starting lineup and management rewarded the Canada native with a four-year extension for his efforts.

9. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

With the potential to be transcendingly special on the defensive end, Jonathan Isaac’s breakout campaign was forced to take a detour following a devastating knee sprain on New Year’s Day. After the shutdown’s extended layoff, the Florida State product has been cleared for action to participate in the bubble scrimmages, which should bring a smile to Magic fans’ faces if there’s any still out there. During his return to the hardwood Monday night, JI managed 13 points and grabbed 7 boards in just 7 MINUTES on the floor.

10. Norman Powell – Toronto Raptors

Another underrated cog in COTY candidate Nick Nurse’s army that somehow has Toronto back in the mix for an Eastern Conference run even without Kawhi Leonard. Powell would have a case for 6th Man of the Year but ended up starting 21 games. When returning from an injury in late February, Powell posted five straight box scores with at least 22 points to give the starting five unit a jolt before the shutdown.

If You Are A Human, You Should Be Praying That Zion Williamson Is Ok

Just kill me.

Awful, awful news for every single human being on Earth. I don’t care if you hate Duke with a burning passion and you love to see their fans suffer. Zion Williamson going down with a knee injury is the worst case scenario for basketball fans. Zion was the frontrunner for National Player of the Year and the unanimous number one pick in the NBA Draft. Depending on how serious this knee injury is will determine if one, if not both of those items are in jeopardy. Full disclosure, I’m a Duke fan so this sucks. Without Zion, Duke goes from a National Title contender to struggling to get past the first weekend. I’m not saying the season is over if Zion is out for the year, but it’s hard to replace a walking double-double who controls all facets of the game.

I pray that Zion’s career at Duke is not over, but I don’t blame him if he never plays for the Blue Devils again. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

Oh, I’m also a Knicks fan.

FUCK ME.

The New York Knicks: A Look At The Start Of The Season, What To Expect, And Where They’re Headed

***Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog written by Tyler Cunnington.***

The New York Knicks are a different team than they have been in YEARS. One with a ridiculously young roster, megatons of potential across the board, and most importantly, a coach that cares.

Yes, it has only been four games into the season and yes, they’re 1-3. However, in their last two games, they nearly took down the Boston Celtics and fell short to the Milwaukee Bucks. Against the Celtics, the absence of Gordon Hayward certainly helped New York out, who would not have been able to manage both Irving and Hayward come the 4th quarter. After mounting a comeback versus The Greek Freak and company, going basket for basket in the third quarter, the deep ball eventually buried them in the fourth quarter and the Bucks ran away with it to win by nine. Additionally, if not for the red hot Khris Middleton dropping 30 points on 7/8 from beyond the arc (Middleton is shooting 65% through the first three games.), the Knicks could have found themselves winning on the road versus an Eastern playoff contender.

Using that as a segue — one thing this group has going for them is their defense. There’s a lot of upside. They are 14th in the league in points allowed per game, 5th in steals per game, and 5th in points allowed off of turnovers. Frank Ntilikina, Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr. and off-season addition Noah Vonleh have all shown the ability to stay with their man and disrupt opposing teams’ offensive flow, which is a credit to their improving overall team defense. Kanter has been the anchor of the defense, providing rim protection in the paint especially without Kristaps Porzingis, who has been out since February with an ACL injury.

However, 20-year-old 1st round pick Ntilikina out of France (thanks to Phil Jackson before his timely departure from New York) has also developed more since his rookie campaign, showing flashes of great awareness and IQ on the defensive end. By the end of the season, Ntilikina could very well be a primary defender for the Blue and Orange, if not a year from now. In fact, the French Prince (a name donned by NBA Twitter) was ranked as one of the best pick & roll defenders of the 2017 season. Ntilikina’s wingspan and long strides help him get around quickly while covering the passing lanes. Vonleh has used his size, strength, and stamina to stay active in the paint and guard from the perimeter as well as provide a spark off the bench (Vonleh averages 17 min. per game). Note that there’s been no mention of the Knickerbocker’s second round pick Mitchell Robinson, who possesses potential to become a great rebounder and rim protector, or the 2018 first rounder Kevin Knox, who has great length as well. Robinson, however, has been limited after injuring his ankle versus the Hawks in the season opener and hasn’t been 100% during his minutes since — and Knox, who faces a similar issue after spraining his ankle early versus the Celtics two games ago, has been ruled out for three weeks. Both rookies must improve their footwork in order to make the basic steps towards being a good defender, but with Knox turning 19 years old this season, and Robinson coming off a year with no organized basketball – there is PLENTY of time for growth in all facets of their games, not just defense.

The Knicks continue to trend in the right direction this season because of a roster that has bought in to the philosophy of new head coach David Fizdale. The former leader of the Memphis Grizzlies seems to have found a new home at MSG and the players – and fans – have already taken a liking to the new hire. The faster paced offense, running the court in transition, and tenacity on defense are all new styles implemented by Fizdale, ideas that are nothing new to the NBA, but are to the Knicks — which is telling of the success the Knicks have had the past couple of seasons (among other issues and front office decisions). In fact, Fizdale did not start Knox (among other reasons, too, I’m sure) in the season opener because of his defense, and it’s been made clear to players you will need to play both sides of the court to earn your minutes. (And I love it). Getting the ball past mid court quickly, spending more time on the offensive end, and thanks to Kanter and Vonleh, and the newly added offensive rule that adds 14 seconds to the shot clock if the shooting team grabs the rebound – the Knicks have been getting up more shots and scoring more points as a result. Transition has become a new weapon to the Knicks as the youth of the roster allows for speedy breakouts, and athletic finishes — Fizdale also allows any player to bring the ball up. As soon as the Knicks can fully harness their shooting ability (specifically the three ball, especially in the absence of Courtney Lee), it will become even more lethal.

When set in the half-court, the Knicks have found several names on offense that can contribute with double digits in either points or rebounds. Enes Kanter has averaged a double-double every game, including a 17 point, 15 rebound performance against Boston. He’s a force on the boards, and in the paint – even flashing a newly added outside range after hitting a three pointer versus the Celtics as the game went basket for basket during the 3rd quarter. Whether it was wide open or not, the newfound range is an encouraging sign for the big man. Noah Vonleh played well versus Boston, notching 13 boards along with seven points, and scored 11 points and five rebounds against Milwaukee while also covering Giannis in many situations. Trey Burke shows versatility in his shots, slashing to the basket one possession and working the pick and role, while also hitting 16 footers and beyond. Burke put up a stat line of 19 points, five rebounds and four assists versus the Bucks, and nearly a double double with 11 and nine versus Boston. Hardaway has 104 total points which is the third most in the league, and barring an improvement in shot selection and field goal percentage, could sneak in as an All-Star reserve. Shooting guard Alonzo Trier has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks as the undrafted rookie has already thrown down a soaring poster dunk versus Atlanta, shown range from beyond the arc, and displayed the ability to isolate and score (hence his twitter handle ISO_ZO). Other names that over time can develop a solid offensive game include center Noah Vonleh and second year guard Dameyon Dotson (who scored 14 pts last night). What’s encouraging about the Knicks offense is how much the young players can develop while also establishing their roles on offense without too much pressure to win. On top of it all, they are missing the All-Star talent, and heart of the team, Kristaps Porzingis. The upside of this Knicks team must excite the fans watching at home because, everything that can be accomplished without the Unicorn is an added bonus.

This season is essentially a showcase to garner any free agent interest this Summer. With Kristaps Porzingis fully healthy next year, if the Knicks can perform well this season (“Well” being anywhere from 25-35 wins, or above a .500 record), it could make for an intriguing 2019-2020 campaign with the playoffs in its sights.

The New York Knickerbockers have only played four games, and it may feel like the usual style of losing, but do not fear. This organization is on its way out of the tanking phase. In a few season, the Knicks should return to the exciting brand of basketball many fans remember from years past, whether it was #Knickstape at the start of the decade, or the 1990s. Regardless, fans should not lament another Knicks season but rather welcome it – there’s plenty to look out for this season and you don’t want to miss the start of a new era at MSG.

Cavaliers Sign Kevin Love to Long-Term Extension

On Tuesday afternoon, Brian Windhorst broke the news that the Cleveland Cavaliers reached an extension with Kevin Love on a 4 year, $120 million contract extension.

On paper, this makes sense for Cleveland and feels similar to Oklahoma City extending Russell Westbrook after the departure of Kevin Durant in 2016, in the sense that they extended their “second star” after their superstar left in free agency. It will keep Cleveland relevant in a paltry Eastern Conference and allow some of their younger talent in Collin Sexton and Larry Nance to grow around a great player and hopefully gain some playoff experience in the process. Kevin Love got his ring and now he’s going to make his money. But, there are some problems with this deal.

For starters, Cleveland was in the perfect position to hit the reset button and use high draft picks in hopes of re-stocking their LeBron-centric roster. This probably prevents them from doing so as they should remain firmly in the playoffs in the East. It also doesn’t help Kevin Love’s trade value as much as one would think. While teams might have been weary about trading for Love with 1 year remaining on his current contract, they will be even more tentative about trading for him now that he’s due $30 million per-season in his age 33 and 34 seasons. Not many teams will want to take that risk on unless they’re absolutely sure that they can challenge for a title–and even then, it seems unlikely–since not many teams with $30 million available in cap space or trade bait will probably be competing for a championship (especially in the Golden State era, for however long that it might last).

Overall, this deal is puzzling, but ownership has to sell some sort of viable on-court product, and Love gives them a bit of continuity and roster stability that has been fleeting in the LeBron Era.