While the playoff picture is coming into focus in the Western Conference, there is still much to be decided in the East. There are many possible suitors for the eighth seed, and not much separating fifth from eighth. With ten or fewer games left for most teams, the marathon of the NBA season is coming down to one last sprint.
1. Golden State Warriors last week 4
Andre Iguodala has been one of the biggest keys to the Warriors’ recent success. The veteran wing is showing he still has gas in the tank, while Steph Curry is reminding doubters just how good he is. The Warriors have won seven straight games.
2. San Antonio Spurs last week 1
The Spurs have won narrowly against the Wolves, Grizzlies, and Knicks in order to maintain their position in the West. At this point, it seems unlikely that the team will be able to catch the Warriors for the top seed, given the roll Golden State is on.
3. Houston Rockets last week 2
James Harden is the MVP. He combines the jaw-dropping numbers of Russell Westbrook with efficiency, team success, and yes… even some defense. Unless you have an unhealthy obsession with whole numbers, the decision is fairly obvious.
4. Boston Celtics last week 5
The Celtics have won four straight games and have tied the Cavaliers for the first seed in the East. Home court seems to matter more to Boston, given the Cavs’ tendency to continue resting players. This means the April 5 showdown between the conference leaders could wind up deciding who gets the first seed.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers last week 3
How much stock do you put in the struggles of a team that has shown they can flip a switch in the past? Well, while the effort isn’t there yet, a banged up Tristan Thompson could be a massive problem come playoffs. While others can flip the switch, a wounded defensive anchor would make the path much more difficult for the Cavs.
6. Toronto Raptors last week 7
Their newly found defensive identity has suited the Raptors well, as they’ve won five straight games without the services of Kyle Lowry. DeMar DeRozan has stepped up his play-making and defense lately, showing a willingness to put the team first.
7. Washington Wizards last week 8
The Wizards have won three straight games, including a win over the Cavaliers on a second night of a back to back. Washington’s defensive play has been uneven lately, but John Wall has the offense clicking at a very high level.
8. Portland Trail Blazers last week 13
The Blazers have won three straight games and are officially back in a playoff position. Their remaining schedule is fairly weak in comparison to Denver, so expect Damian Lillard and company to once again return to the playoff stage.
9. Milwaukee Bucks last week 12
The Bucks have won five of their last seven games and are currently tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The prospect of facing Antetokounmpo and Middleton in the first round should be extra incentive for the Toronto Raptors to get out of the fourth seed.
10. Utah Jazz last week 6
Why must the Jazz make everything so difficult? They are getting all the help they could possibly ask for from the Clippers in order to get the fourth seed, yet they can’t come up with consistent play. Utah has lost three of its last four, including a loss to the Clippers. They still have a one game lead over L.A. for fourth, but they continue to make things difficult for themselves.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder last week 9
The Thunder have been on a roll recently. Sure they were dismantled by the Warriors and Rockets, but they’ve gone 6-2 over their last eight games. The team has routinely taken care of business against lesser opponents, and are tied with the Clippers in the loss column at 31.
12. Memphis Grizzlies last week 10
Three straight losses for the Grizzlies have put them a game and a half back of the Thunder for sixth in the West. Outside of games against the Spurs and Thunder, their remaining schedule is fairly easy. When they host the Thunder on April 5, it’s likely that playoff seeding will be on the line.
13. L.A. Clippers last week 11
After beating the Jazz, the Clippers came up with a massive choke-job against the Sacramento Kings. They blew an 18-point lead with only five minutes left in the game. No matter how good the roster is, the Clippers seem to find a way to disappoint. Can’t help but feel this is the last year that this team is together.
14. Denver Nuggets last week 14
The Nuggets got good wins over the Cavaliers and Pacers before getting man-handled by Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Denver plays seven of their last nine games on the road to close the season. If they’re going to make playoffs, they will have to earn it.
15. Indiana Pacers last week 17
The Pacers finally broke their pattern of alternating between wins and losses as the Nuggets handed them their second loss in a row. Indiana rebounded from that with a win over the Sixers, but the recent play from the team remains uninspiring.
16. Miami Heat last week 15
The Heat have lost two straight games to the Celtics and Raptors. Miami is still in a playoff position, but they finish their season against the Cavs, Raptors, and Wizards twice in a four game span. The Heat will need to take care of business now, in order to take pressure off that stretch.
17. Dallas Mavericks last week 16
Playing the Warriors, Clippers, and Raptors in a row was a tough week for the Mavericks. While they got a win to show for it, at three-and-a-half games back of the playoffs, their hopes for an extended season seem all but faded.
18. Chicago Bulls last week 20
Somehow there is still hope for the Bulls making the playoffs. They are just a half game back of the Heat for eighth after their recent slide. The Bulls have actually played fairly well recently, showing you just how good Jimmy Butler is.
19. Detroit Pistons last week 18
Losers of three straight games, the Pistons are one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Their playoff hopes aren’t dead yet, but their inability to take care of business against lesser opponents doesn’t inspire hope.
20. Atlanta Hawks last week 19
The nosedive continues as the Hawks have lost seven straight games. If the Cavaliers fall to the second seed, the Hawks may wind up with a nightmare scenario of facing the Cavs for a third straight year and serving as the first round slump buster.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
Something Out of Nothing
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.
Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
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.
|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.
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
An Ode to the 2007-2008 Warriors
USA VS EVERYBODY | The Break | Episode 17
Trading Places | The Break | Episode 18
February Fouls | The Break | Episode 16
Christmas Day Showdowns | The Break | Episode 10
Western Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 1
Eastern Conference Preview | The Break | Episode 2
NBA & More Mailbag with Josh Howe — TWT 102
Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview with Keith Parish — TWT 101
Year 15 | A Mini Documentary
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Something Out of Nothing
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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers
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