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Rowan’s Rankings | NBA Week 19

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Slump season is still in full effect as a few teams try to survive until the All-Star break. The NBA season is a war of attrition and teams like the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets are just trying to hold their positions before getting a break and an opportunity to regroup. For others, this is the time of the year to capitalize on the slumps from the top and make some moves.

1. Golden State Warriors

last week 1
The Warriors five game winning streak came to an end against the Sacramento Kings, as Steph Curry missed a jumper and layup in the final ten seconds that could have tied the game. The Warriors are human after all and are capable of a letdown loss. Nobody else has played consistently enough to overtake them, so the Warriors keep the power rankings lead.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

last week 3
The “sky is falling” Cavaliers have won four of their last five with the lone loss coming in Dallas on the second night of a back-to-back without Kevin Love. Quietly, the team has looked dominant once again outside of that loss, handling the Nets, Thunder, Timberwolves, and Knicks with ease. They have three games left of a four game road trip where they’ll look to improve on their 12-10 road record.

3. San Antonio Spurs

last week 2
Like the Cavs, the Spurs have looked very good since their loss to the Mavericks, dismantling the Thunder, Sixers and Nuggets. The Spurs have had a home-heavy schedule lately and face a test against the always-tough Grizzlies in Memphis on Monday night.

4. Washington Wizards

last week 4
The Wizards have won seven games in a row, as well as 17 straight at home. They’ll put that on the line Monday night as they host an old rival in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

5. Boston Celtics

last week 5
If you aren’t watching what Isaiah Thomas is doing lately, you are missing one of the most entertaining runs of regular season basketball in the last few years. Thomas is pushing Westbrook in the scoring race and got a signature win over the Raptors in his fourth quarter showdown against Kyle Lowry.

6. Utah Jazz

last week 9
The Jazz have won seven of their last ten games and have moved up to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. With the Rockets sliding, the Jazz have an opportunity to make-up some ground and make a late season push to avoid the Warriors in the second round. That is, if they can stay healthy…

7. Indiana Pacers

last week 11
Whenever you have a lot of turnover, you’ll almost always struggle to start an NBA season. Chemistry and continuity is key, and it appears as though the Pacers have adjusted to playing with their new teammates. Winners of six straight, Indy is showing off the tremendous potential their roster possesses.

8. Atlanta Hawks

last week 7
The Hawks got a quality road win over the Rockets and took care of business against the Magic. Unfortunately for them, they fell victim to the Dion Waiters experience. The Hawks host the Jazz and Nuggets before heading on a West Coast trip that could influence the direction of the team moving forward.

9. Houston Rockets

last week 6
The Rockets have been a .500 team over their last ten games as the defense has suffered dramatically. Their schedule for the rest of February is fairly light, so they will have an opportunity to stop the bleeding and regain their defensive composure.

10. L.A. Clippers

last week 8
The Clippers have not had the best luck lately. Without Chris Paul, the team had to face the Warriors twice as well as the red-hot Celtics in their last five games. They competed well against the Warriors and Celtics, but ultimately lost both games.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

last week 10
The Grizzlies have won four of their last five games as they try to hold off the Thunder in the standings. With their lone loss coming to the Thunder, they lost a golden opportunity to create some separation between them and OKC.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

last week 13
The Thunder put an end to their three-game losing streak with wins over the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers. While they have only gone .500 over their last ten, Westbrook has shown no signs of slowing down and has been stellar in their last two games.

13. Miami Heat

last week 16
The Heat still haven’t lost and are riding one of the least likely ten game winning streaks I can recall. They’re just two games back of a playoff spot as the bottom quarter of the East playoff picture has struggled as of late.

14. Dallas Mavericks

last week not ranked
The Mavericks have won four straight games including wins over the Spurs, Cavaliers, and Trail Blazers. The team has won seven of their last ten and are showing Rick Carlisle can make magic out of anything.

15. Toronto Raptors

last week 12
The Raptors have lost eight of their last 11 and have fallen to fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The team has missed DeRozan and has responded to his absence by playing Kyle Lowry an ungodly amount of minutes. The team’s struggles may impact how they approach the trade deadline in a couple weeks.

16. Denver Nuggets

last week 14
The Nuggets still are a game up of Portland for eighth in the West, despite losing three of their last four. With Nikola Jokic back in the lineup, the Nuggets will now face a tough test as they travel East to take on the Hawks, Knicks, and Cavaliers, before returning home to host the Warriors.

17. Chicago Bulls

last week 15
The Bulls went .500 over the last week with the lone quality win coming against the Thunder. Jimmy Butler continues to carry this flawed roster and hold off the advances of Charlotte and Detroit, who will try to knock them out of the playoff picture.

18. Detroit Pistons

last week not ranked
Detroit appears to be turning things around as they ended their three-game losing streak with back to back wins before falling to a hot Pacers team. They’re back in playoff position and will look to overtake the Bulls as they face a very manageable month of February.

19. Portland Trail Blazers

last week 19
The Blazers have lost three of their last four and failed to make up any ground on the Denver Nuggets. While this team is incredibly flawed, they should still be considered the favourite to get the eighth seed in the West. They just need to finally stop disappointing.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves

last week 18
The Wolves have lost three straight games, but their biggest loss is losing Zach LaVine to a season-ending ACL tear. While the news is a tough blow for the Wolves, it presents an opportunity for other young players to show what they have, or for Andrew Wiggins to show the assertiveness he’s lacked.

From the heart of continent, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Justin is a life-long hoops head with a love of the team from Northeast Ohio. He’s written for Fear the Sword as well as Hoops Habit. And he’s never blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. "It's kind of boring when you take open shots." - J.R. Smith. Checkout Justin’s weekly NBA Power Play called Rowan’s Rankings.

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Year 15 | A Mini Documentary

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What’s to come for the man on top, and what got him here?

It’s Year 15 of a man’s career, but it’s also Year 15 of a legacy…

Created by Tristan Laughton | Twitter: @Ctrice

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Editorial

Something Out of Nothing

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It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.

We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.

Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.

It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.

We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.

I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.

Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.

The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).

Stay tuned, because it’s not over.

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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers

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Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?

Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.  

Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.   

Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.  

Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting. 

These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA: 

  • 14.6 Points
  • 7.6 Assists
  • 6.0  Rebounds
  • 1.8 Steals
  • 0.8 Blocks
  • 55.1 FG%
  • 41.2 3P%

He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.  

Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.  

He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.

Year Nat. Player Pos. Team
2012 Damian Lillard (co-MVPs) PG Portland Trail Blazers
Josh Selby (co-MVPs) PG Memphis Grizzlies
2013 Jonas Valančiūnas C Toronto Raptors
2014 Glen Rice Jr. SG Washington Wizards
2015 Kyle Anderson SF San Antonio Spurs
2016 Tyus Jones PG Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 Lonzo Ball PG Los Angeles Lakers

With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.  

The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.  

Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.  

If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.

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