NBA DFS: March 10th

SO with an appetizing eight-game slate on tap for tonight, I’m going to do my first DFS write-up of the year and give you some of my favorite plays! All of the pricing I’ll allude to is FanDuel since I primarily play over there. Before the plays, I’ll give you a quick rundown on how to construct your lineups. Use my advice at your own risk!

First and foremost, when digesting the slate, figure out which teams are playing up in pace. The reason you want to target the teams playing up in pace is because they’re going to receive more possessions than they would at the pace they normally play at. More possessions give the players you roster a better chance at scoring more fantasy points.

 

So, the teams playing up in pace on Friday are:

  • Chicago
  • Minnesota
  • Boston
  • Dallas
  • Sacramento
  • Toronto

 

Now that we’ve determined that, don’t use that as your only metric of research. Using Vegas as a research tool is important as well. Vegas puts out all of the games Over/Under lines for the day, and the higher totals are normally the games we should target. Again, it comes down to amount of possessions. The higher the game total, the more points being scored which means plenty of offensive possessions for the players YOU selected.

Another research tactic that is helping DFS players take down tournaments and simply get a green return on their investment each night is DVP of Defense vs. Position. DVP allows us to figure out which teams on the particular slate we should attack and at what positions.

And finally, using your gut sometimes is better than any of the stuff above combined. Only your gut would have told you told roster Elfrid Payton in a SLOW paced game against the Bulls the last time the Magic took the court. Payton scored 70+ FanDuel points and was in every winning tournament lineup on that night. So, with that being said, here are some of my favorite studs, value and high-risk/high-reward plays of the night!

 

Let’s break it down position-by-position!

 

Point-Guard;

Elite – Isaiah Thomas ($9,200 FD @ Denver)IT2

Let’s start off by saying that I’m well aware players like John Walla and Stephen Curry are on the board. I simply don’t care. Thomas gets a check next to the pace, DVP and Vegas boxes. The Over/Under is currently at 223, Denver allows the second-most FanDuel points per game to opposing PG’s. Another couple things we should keep in mind is the fact that Thomas is coming off a bad game so his ownership will be lower than normal AND the fact his price has finally lowered to a reasonable $9.2K makes this an elite spot for the diminutive PG.

Value – Cory Joseph ($5,000 FD vs. Atlanta)

There are definitely more reasons to spend up at PG than spending down at the position on this slate, but if Joseph fits into your lineup at $5K you should be comfortable with that decision. He profiles more as a cash game play – someone you’d like to use more in 50/50’s, double-ups and tournaments of that nature because of his limited upside. That said, he’s getting all of the PG minutes and has hit and surpassed value in three straight games. Did I forget to mention we could score at will on Dennis Schroder? He’s a mannequin defensively.

 

Shooting-Guard;

Elite – Bradley Beal ($7,600 FD @ Sacramento)

Although Washington is playing down in pace, the Kings offer no defensive resistance at the shooting-guard position as they allow the fourth-most FD points per game to SG. Beal has found his groove this season and is actually managing to stay healthy. Beal is safe for all formats and could be an elite tournament play at his very reasonable salary. Let’s not forget, Beal flashed 60-point DFS upside in February against a Cleveland team who also doesn’t defend shooting-guards well. This is a PRIME spot for Beal.

Value – Sean Kilpatrick ($4,200 FD @ Dallas) KILPATRICK

Yes, I understand rostering Nets’ players are cringe worthy but there is plenty of merit to this play that I see. First off, Brook Lopez will miss Friday’s game, so his 15.5 shots will be distributed amongst the rest of the team, which bodes well for the Nets SG. Secondly, Kilpatrick has been ballin’ to say the least of late. He’s scored 20 or more actual point in three straight games while posting 30-plus FanDuel points in each contest. He’s crushing value and his price is so low that even if he flopped it wouldn’t kill your lineups. Plus, nobody on Dallas’ second-unit has a chance at guarding him, especially with the midget J.J. Barea returning. No chance at all. With that being said, yes, I do like him MORE if he’s coming off of the bench. So keep an eye on what Brooklyn does with their starting lineup. Kilpatrick is a GPP play only!

 

Small-Forward;

Elite – Jimmy Butler ($9,100 FD vs. Houston) BUTLER

So both of the small-forwards I’m going to list have crushed us of late. Neither have paid off their salaries and one of them, Jimmy Butler, is VERY expensive. Although that isn’t the case on Friday as his price is discounted to $9.1K. Butler hasn’t hit 50 FD points since January 29th, but in the highest Over/Under on the slate, and nobody that can defend him, he’s in the right spot to do so. Although it’s weird to say that now that Wade is back, Wade should take some attention off of Butler and allow him more room to operate. Am I saying it’s a lock for Butler to hit 50 FDP? No. But with the added exposure to James Harden’s turnover problems, he could wreak havoc in the passing lanes all night. Butler can be used in all formats on Friday.

Value – Terrence Ross ($4,500 FD @ Charlotte)

Since arriving in Orlando, here are Ross’ minutes in each game he’s played in; 33, 35, 37, 35, 32, 35, and 31. That screams cash game lock. At $4.5K and 31-plus minutes, Ross should easily hit value. He’s let us down two straight games failing to eclipse 20 FD points, so because of recency bias, his ownership should be lower than it has the last few times the Magic have been on the slate. Ross is viable for tournaments and cash. Don’t be scared away if Nikola Vucevic plays because he’s crushed value in the past few weeks when Vuc has been in the lineup. His return hurts someone like Aaron Gordon more.

 

Power-Forward;

Elite – Draymond Green ($8,100 FD @ Minnesota) DRAY

It almost feels like a cop out taking Green who could be the priciest PF on the slate if Nikola Jokic is out but he’s simply the best play if that happens to be the case. Now, does he have the best matchup? Absolutely not as the T’Wolves are one of the best teams at defending power-forward, but with no Kevin Durant, Green has so much more freedom offensively. He’s scored 33 or more FD points in six straight games while scoring 10-plus actual points in each one of those contests. Green’s very safe for cash and does have tournament upside at his current value.

Value – Trevor Booker ($5,300 FD @ Dallas)

Mannnn, this is bullshit. Two Brooklyn guys on ONE write-up. Time to DRINK! But with Brook Lopez out as I previously mentioned in this article, there are shots to be had! Now we should expect Booker to come off the bench as per usual, but he could see extended run as a stretch-five, especially when Dallas plays Dirk Nowitzki at center. At $5.3K, it’s reasonable to think Booker can hit and exceed value and give you around 30 FDP. Power-forward is god-awful on Friday. It flat out sucks. So getting someone with 30-point upside and is locked into 25-plus minutes is a nice play. I could see the case to be made for cash, but I lean towards using him in tournaments.

 

Center;

Elite – Karl-Anthony Towns ($10,600 FD vs. Golden State)

Towns is easily my favorite play on the board. His price is the only thing that might scare people away, but not I. He has a seven-contest streak of 21-plus points and 14-plus rebounds and he’s in a plus matchup against the Warriors. In the two previous meetings between the Wolves and the Warriors, Towns went for over 40 FD points in both games, one he dropped a 50-burger. All those things considered Towns will likely be a staple in every one of my tournament lineups tonight.

PLUMValue – Mason Plumlee ($5,600 FD vs. Boston)

This play is strictly based on Nikola Jokic’s availability. If Jokic plays, can the Plumlee idea and reconstruct your lineup accordingly. BUT, if he’s not, Plumdog is an excellent play. Attacking Boston bigs is something that every DFS player should experience. When you do, you’ll never stop doing it. Boston can’t rebound the basketball and Plumlee is coming off of two straight double-figure rebounding outputs. He’s a cash game lock with Jokic out and at his reduced price offers some upside in GPP’s if you’re not looking to spend up on KAT and budget your money elsewhere.

The Build or Die Problem in the NBA

Not sure if you have noticed, but there is rarely change in the NBA finals scene.

Every five or so years NBA fans finally get a new group of teams in the championship scene. We have seen a total of 10 teams win an NBA title since 1990, but we are currently in the middle of one of the rare changes of the guard. We are seeing teams like the Warriors and Cavs pick up where the Celtics,Lakers,Spurs and Heat left off. This change is the perfect time to start the dreaded rebuild.

In 2011 who thought that we would see the Warriors win a NBA title and be a perennial contender? The answer is none of you. That team was stacked with studs like Kwame Brown, Monta Ellis and a young Steph Curry. They also finished 11th in the Western Conference. In five short years they have become NBA champions and a “super team.”

How did this happen? Well besides getting rid of Kwame Brown the Warriors built the right way! All they had to do was make smart decisions with a few picks and they scored in drafting Curry, Thompson, Green and Barnes. This was from 2009-2012 and they obviously missed on a few picks in the time before their title as well. They also traded some picks in 2013, but every rebuild will have some mistakes. The Warriors noticed that they weren’t contenders and began to build in 2009. After years of doing so they finally got that title and landed Durant (who saw the potential) to help continue their roll.

Now we have another stretch of years coming up where the Warriors and Cavs will likely dominate in the playoffs just as well as they do in the regular season. Other NBA teams should be looking at this time to build for when those teams age out.

The Celtics are well on their way to rejoining the elite. They have had some good drafts and pieced together valuable pieces to acquire that superstar once they are ready to strike. The Celtics are just one of the many teams that could end up in the “Elite” group once the NBA’s championship scene changes again.

Let us know on twitter @PWTBLCAST who you think might be part of the next Elite in the NBA!

 

Are the Raptors heading towards a possible early Extinction this year?

Last week the Toronto Raptors made a move to acquire a solid veteran in Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic. This move was made shortly after it was announced that Cavs forward Kevin Love would miss an extended period of time. I made the reference during one of our recent podcasts that I believe that this showed that the Cavaliers appeared Vulnerable, and the Raptors understood this. While the Celtics and Danny Ainge sat around with their thumbs up their ass because they “haven’t seen the potential or their starting unit”, and clearly Jae Crowder is the second coming in their eyes, the Raptors pounced. Sure it wasn’t free, with a return package including Terrance Ross to the Magic, but it nonetheless showed that they were finally able to make a run for the east. Along with the Ibaka move they picked up veteran PJ Tucker from the Suns. Also a good move to ensure depth, adequate of a deep postseason run. Then today chaos erupted.

It was announced that All Star, Kyle Lowry, would miss what is likely the remainder of the season, and isn’t guaranteed ready for the beginning of the playoffs. While it’s not a death blow, this is absolutely negative news north of the border. Lowry was enjoying a fine year, Averaging almost 23 ppg, while shooting a clip of .417 from three (per basketballreference.com). Whether people want to admit shits about to get wonky or not, I have little reason to believe it won’t. Let’s just take a look at the options for his replacements. 

Internally the Raptors are looking at Cory Joseph,  and Delon Wright. Both fine contributors of the bench. But that’s just it. They’re not going to able to step in and replicate his performance. Those expectations are just way too lofty, especially with how well Lowry has handled this squad all year. Interesting enough there are two veteran floor generals , (maybe) on the Market. First the Obvious ex Mav, Deron Williams. And more recently ex New York Knick, Brandon Jennings. While some may say Williams would possibly give up signing with Cleveland at the chance for starting with Toronto, it seems unlikely. D-Will wants to win, and the Cavs present him the best opportunity, even with a reduced role. Jennings on the other hand is erratic, and while he certainly could log valuable minutes, lacks perimeter shooting abilities. This becomes problematic alongside Demar Derozan, whose perimeter game certainly wouldn’t be considered a strong suit.

Personally I think this is more than losing you’re starting Point Guard. You’re losing one of your leaders, as well as you’re best perimeter option, which is huge among today’s playoff teams. Not to mention he will have little to no time to build Chemistry with Ibaka and Tucker. While I’m not saying this will ultimately doom the Raptors, it will at the very least set them back handily.

Three logical landing spots for Kevin Durant

Now that the 2015-2016 season has come to a close, one thing is on everyone’s mind; where is Kevin Durant going to play going forward? Well we’re here to speculate on three landing spots for the “Slim Reaper.”

 

3) Boston Celtics

Now look, Durant and his camp haven’t ruled out any teams so everyone that can make a play at him financially likely will. So after many discussions with teams across the league, we believe there will only be three teams remaining, one being the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics are an extremely promising young team with a Head Coach that has never had a poor word spoken about him, dating all the way back to his time at the University of Butler. The one thing they are lacking is star power. Isaiah Thomas is the closest thing to a star, but he’s only made one all-star team roster. That said, a large portion of their 48-win team will still be intact next season. Only three of their free agents had a real big impact on this past season’s team and both are restricted (Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller) and Boston will likely be able to match any contract offers made. Evan Turner is the third player but I’m fairly certain most people would consider getting Kevin Durant an upgrade over Turner.

The one thing the Celtics have a lot of is draft picks. The acquired the Nets’ next three first-round draft picks a couple of years back, as well as getting one from Dallas from trading Rajon Rondo and also having picks of their own. If Durant’s had specific stipulations about coming to Boston and one was trading their picks to acquire championship-ready talent, I’m nearly 100-percent sure the Celtics would oblige.

Now if they did acquire Durant, it’s likely they begin playing a lot of small ball. They’d still be able to slow the pace down and play big, especially if they resign Sullinger. That said, it would be on Durant if he would move down and play more power-forward.

The Celtics are a superstar away from being serious contenders in LeBron James’ conference. We’d call it the east but he’s owned it for six consecutive seasons so what’s the point? Does Durant think a Celtics team with him heading the roster can beat the Cavaliers and win championships? We think it’s more than plausible to think that he does.

 

2) Golden State Warriors

We understand many of you are wondering…WHAT? But hear us out. What does Durant seemingly want more than anything? A championship. Where have the Warriors made it too the past two seasons? The NBA Finals. The two are a perfect match.

If the Warriors want to make a serious push at Durant, they will be able to financially. The Warriors payroll was north of $93M this past season. If they resign nobody, including restricted free agents Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, they’ll have close to $20M available in spending money. The salary cap is also rising, likely giving the Warriors a few couple of million to play with.

Strategically, the Warriors would have zero problems sliding Durant into the then departed Harrison Barnes’ role. The Warriors already have the league’s best offense and that’s before he ever put on their jersey and Durant would take them to a whole new level. Adding him and subtracting Barnes in the Dubs “death lineup” would be virtually unstoppable. Although we haven’t seen Durant play in an offense quite like this, we’re sure one of the three best players on the planet would drastically lower his isolation percentage for consistently great looks at the rim.

We personally believe the Warriors are the favorites heading into the 2016-’17 season without Durant, but if they acquired him, there would be no way around it. Yes he would still be in the daunted Western Conference, but he’d have so much help surrounding him, he’d be silly to not strongly consider this franchise as a candidate.

 

1) Oklahoma City Thunder

Yeah, yeah, how original. But out of all 30 teams in the NBA, resigning with the Thunder makes the most sense for Kevin Durant. At least for the 2016-’17 season, that is. Beyond that is really anyone’s guess.

The Thunder has virtually everyone from this year’s Western Conference Finals team coming back under contract. If Durant resigns, it’s likely the team won’t make any big time moves because of their limited amount of income left over.

Look, the Thunder might only have one more crack at it. Not only is Durant a free agent this year, Russell Westbrook becomes a free agent after the 2017-’18 season. If Durant signs a one-year deal, they’ll have another chance at getting back to the Western Conference Finals and this time, beating whoever’s in their way. It’ll be the second-year with Head Coach Billy Donovan and the players will begin to trust his methods a lot more.

The Thunder were one measly game away from this years NBA finals before collapsing against the Warriors. If Durant feels like next year will be different, he’ll resign without much hesitation. We should expect Durant to wreak havoc for the Thunder for at least one more season.

What’s Harrison Barnes Worth in Free Agency?

With the 2012-’13 rookie class’ free agency looming, Harrison Barnes has spent four seasons playing second fiddle to the “Splash Brothers.” Barnes potential is sky high and shows flashes of it on some nights. But when the dust clears and Barnes is receiving offers from other teams, will the Warriors match? What’s Barnes truly worth?

Let’s compare Barnes to another small-forward during the last year of his contract. Let’s take Gordon Hayward’s 2013-’14 season and compare Barnes’ 2015-’16 per-36 numbers:

Barnes and Hayward’s per-36

Hayward remained with the Jazz after they matched the Hornets offer sheet of $63M over four years. That’s $15.75M annually. Barnes per 36 numbers are slightly better than Hayward, but the Jazz have always relied on Hayward more than the Warriors have relied on Barnes.

Barnes, statistically, is a better shooter than Hayward. It could have to do with the way each is relied upon in their respective roles, but the stats could be back up the actual facts. But why pay a guy that type of money if he has a usage rate similar to the likes of Spencer Hawes, Alex Len and Corey Brewer?

Barnes per-36 numbers are an indication what he can do going forward. He’s averaging nearly 16 points per-36 and that’s as the fourth, and on some nights the fifth option on the Warriors. He’s extremely solid in many different ways scoring the ball. He can be a catch and shoot player, can post you up, and can take you off of the bounce. He’s superior than Hayward offensively in many ways, just won’t get credit for it until he’s in a role where he can just let it fly.

At his 6’9” frame, Barnes will be a hot commodity this offseason. The game is changing and Barnes will be able to play multiple positions, including power-forward. It’s highly likely the Warriors attempt to keep Barnes, especially if they win another championship. Why lose any pieces to a two-time champion? But even if they do keep him, don’t expect it to be cheap and expect them to have to match another team’s deal, just like Utah had to do with Hayward.

Expectations? He resigns with Golden State for a contract larger than Hayward’s. With the way players are signing deals and getting inflated contracts, expect nothing less with Barnes’.

Facets Franchise Five

Everyone pretends they’re a general-manager sometimes. When we do, we think about who we would want to start our franchise with. Lucky for you, we wrote about who are five current players would be if we were starting a franchise today.

 

1. LeBron James

Surprise to probably nobody, LeBron James checks in at number one on our list. It’s hard to pick against the most polarizing athlete in all of sports. I mean seriously, the guy just signed a LIFETIME contract with Nike for $30M per year. Looking past the numbers he puts up, what he does off the court, and what he does for the franchises he plays for financially is one of a kind.

Now, back to the on-court stuff. James has been the fastest to accomplish basically everything that is everything to do with basketball. At 30, James has plenty of elite basketball ahead of him. James has always gotten the best out of his supporting casts, something he’s better at than anyone in the league, maybe ever. Just this season, the season people are saying LeBron is “slowing down”, James is sixth in scoring, second among small-forwards in rebounding, and 11th in assists. None of those ranking suggest James has taken a single step back.

James is the oldest one on my list and is the most worn down, but he’s still who I’m building my franchise around. Another five elite years of LeBron James is better than five elite years of any current player in the NBA.

 

2. Stephen Curry

What more can be said about last year’s league MVP that hasn’t been said these past two years. Best shooter in the league? Best shooter on the planet? Best shooter we’ve ever seen? My vote is for all of the above.

Curry is currently leaving everyone in the dust in this year’s Most Valuable Player award race. Leading the NBA in scoring and leading his team to a 22-0 start is just the start of Curry’s resume. He’s shooting a career-high 53-percent on a career-high 20 shots per game. 11 of those shots are coming from three where he’s shooting a career-best 47-percent.

Curry is second in offensive rating, first in offensive win shares, first in win shares, first in plus-minus and the list goes on and on. He’s continuously gotten better year in, year out, on both sides of the ball. We don’t talk about the strides he’s taken as defender enough because of how tantalizing he can be offensively.

Like Durant, Curry is 27. He’s in the midst of his prime and building my team around a point-guard is something I prefer. Curry is an iron-man and has only missed 12 games over the last four-plus seasons. Everything he touches seems to turn golden..I’ll show myself out.

 

3. Anthony Davis

I was torn on whether or not I’d take Davis or Durant third, but the brow edged it out. Davis is just 22-years young and is already one of the game’s elite. The thing that separates he and Durant is Davis’ ability to dominate games without dominating the ball. He was only 13th in usage percentage (27-percent) last season and still managed to score 24.4 points per game. Durant averages 30-percent usage over his entire career.

Davis’ ability to take over games isn’t just on the offensive side of the ball. He’s one of the best rim protectors in all of the NBA. Davis led the entire association in blocks per game the past two seasons. If it wasn’t for Hassan Whiteside’s insane start to 2015-’16, he’d be in the hunt for a third.

When Davis develops more of a post-game, he’ll be virtually unstoppable. He’ll be able to control games with the ball, off the ball, and on the defensive end. He’s already expanded his offensive repertoire to the three-point line where’s he’s knocked down 37-percent of his three’s.

 

4. Kevin Durant

I still believe that Kevin Durant is the world’s best scorer, even though a lot of people believe Stephen Curry has taken those reigns. We’ve never seen a player at Durant’s size do what he does. A seven-footer that can handle the ball like a point-guard and stop on a dime and shoot from 30 is extremely rare.

Durant is still just 27-years old, so age is not a concern. His growth on defense is something worth noting and something that isn’t talked about enough. This seems to become a trend with players that are elite scorers.

2015-’16 has been good to KD. He’s averaging a career-high 51.6-percent from the field, while knocking down 43.7-percent of his three’s, and 88.2-percent of his free-throw’s. He’s already notched a 50-40-90 season under his belt and he might need to loosen it again because he’s well in reach of recording another.

Durant’s foot issue from last season is seemingly long gone and shouldn’t be of any concern. The Slim Reaper is back and looks as good as ever. He’s one day going to retire as one of the all-time greats, hopefully with a ring or three.

 

5. Kawhi Leonard

With an already impressive resume for never being ‘the man’, Leonard checks in at number five. Some may think it’s a stretch, but I only think it’s up from here.

When entering the league, Leonard was known solely for his incredible defensive abilities but boy has his game blossomed. Leonard is averaging 21.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 50-percent shooting, 50-percent from three, and 86-percent from the charity stripe.

Not only has he turned into an offensive star, but he’s still that lock-down defender he was coming out of college. The reigning defensive player of the year is currently third in defensive rating and second in defensive win shares.

In my opinion, Leonard is the best two-way player in the game. Still only 24, he’s improved with every passing year. He’s finally become the number one option in San Antonio and has become the face of their franchise.

Honorable Mention: Blake Griffin

Facets Factors: NBA Playoffs Edition

Everyone knows the stars and how vital each are to their teams success. But no team wins with just stars. Intangible guys, X-Factor’s, as you will, win you games and ultimately championships. Some x-factor’s chosen may in-fact be stars or trying to once again achieve stardom. This article is about 16 of those guys, one from each postseason team, that their teams will need them playing at the highest level they can.

Eastern Conference

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Atlanta Hawks

DeMarre Carroll: This Hawks team took the NBA by storm and was one of two teams that won 60 or more games. Everyone knows about the four all-stars they had, the potential Coach of the Year in Coach Budenholzer but everyone seemingly forgets the fifth starter in Atlanta, DeMarre Carroll. DeMarre doesn’t shoot like Kyle Korver, dribble like Jeff Teague, or score and rebound like Paul Millsap and Al Horford, but what Carroll does is round out one of the best starting fives in the league. He scored almost 13 points per night while grabbing five rebounds and had over one steal per game as well. He shot great all season and was JUST south of 40 percent from behind the three-point arc. He was actually Atlanta’s third highest scorer post all-star game. The Hawks are one of the favorites to make it the finals and they’re going to need Carroll’s contributions if they want to contenders and not pretenders.

Cleveland Cavaliers

J.R. Smith: Earl Smith Jr. has arrived in Cleveland and has made an instant impression on his teammates and the rest of the league. J.R is one of the few players since I can remember that went from the worst team in the NBA to a team who has championship aspirations. Since his arrival, he’s been a completely changed player from earlier this season. Shooting a mere 35 percent in NY this season, once he changed jerseys it was like he acquired a power-up hitting three-pointers at a 39 percent clip. The biggest jump, statistically, might be his 94 offensive rating in New York, to 113 in “The Land”. Anyone and their mother would think the big-three need plus playoff performances, but with J.R being able to spread the floor the way he has, he’s vital to Cleveland’s playoff success.

Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose: Derrick, in my opinion, is the x-factor of ALL x-factor’s. This Bulls team, maybe more than ever, is ready to contend for a championship. Adding Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic has improved this team offensively tremendously. Jimmy Butler scored exactly 20 points per game for the entire season and that’s another added dimension to Chicago’s offensive repertoire. What Derrick Rose will show up in the postseason and how many minutes per game can he endure are the main questions we as analysts, fans, and everyone else want to know. If Rose is healthy and can give the Bulls 30 quality minutes per game, Chicago can be a threat in the East, just like everyone thought they’d be before Derrick’s third serious knee injury.

Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry: Kyle Lowry reminds me of Harvey Dent’s character when he was two-faced in batman. He was great in the first half of the season, just as Harvey Dent in the first half of Batman. But Lowry has gone off the deep end and has been significantly worse during the second half. Like Lowry, Dent became bad, in a villain-y sort of way, but the comparison works. Lowry NEEDS to be better than a 37 percent shooter from the floor if Toronto, not only plans on making a run in the postseason, but if they plan on getting past Washington.

Washington Wizards

Marcin Gortat: The second half the season was rough for the Wiz. They went 13-15 and blew any chance they had at home-court advantage at the same time. For any playoff success the Wizards are thinking they’re going to have, Marcin Gortat needs to be the x-factor. Gortat lead the team in offensive AND defensive ratings. He also lead Washington in win shares. Yes, ahead of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Gortat’s stats were actually significantly better in wins averaging a greater shooting percentage, more points, rebounds, assists, blocks than in losses. As much as people think the Wizards go as John Wall does, the numbers Gortat puts up in wins don’t lie.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo: If you don’t like this kid and how good he’s going to be, it’s time you do. The “Greek Freak” is in his first postseason and he’s provided us with some jaw-dropping plays recently that have us asking for him to do it on the big stage; the playoffs. Jason Kidd has handed the reigns to his young-budding star the second half of the year as his minutes spiked along with his points, rebounds, and assists. Look for a heavy reliance of Giannis in the postseason too. He’s played very poorly versus the Bulls this year so it’s time he picks it up in the postseason.

Boston Celtics

Evan Turner: I was pretty sure I was never going to write an article about NBA playoff x-factors with Evan Turner’s name attached to it, but here we are. Turner had a great second half of the season and Brad Stevens got the most out of him. He became the Celts primary play-maker as his assists per game soared by two a game from 4.6 to 6.9. He finished third in the league with three triple-doubles. The former second overall draft pick has found a home this season with Boston and they’re going to need his continued success if they’re going to have any chance of winning any games against Cleveland.

Brooklyn Nets

Brook Lopez: The Nets and their high payroll have disappointed from day one they brought everyone together. When healthy, the best player Brooklyn has, has been Brook Lopez. Brook lead the Nets in points scored, rebounds, and blocks per game. Reason I chose him as the our facets factor is because he needs to be brilliant versus Atlanta. He needs to be better than brilliant. He needs to be the star, the x-factor, everything he possibly can be, he needs to be it.

Western Conference

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Golden State Warriors

Andrew Bogut: Let’s face it, the Dubs are chalk full of x-factors. An anchor of the number one rated defense is in that group of x-factors. Bogut had the best defensive rating on the team at 96.8 and not only best on the team, he was second in the entire league. Golden State was 58-9 with Bogut in the lineup, so it’s safe to say they feel most comfortable with the big Aussie in the lineup.

Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard: James Harden played role of superman for the Rockets this season, but they need their real superman in the form of Dwight Howard. Howard missed 26 games with a right knee injury but came back in time to get in shape for the playoffs. In nine games since his return, he’s averaged a mere 13.8 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per. Houston has been lacking the second option Dwight can provide and even if he’s not the same, his mere presence will open things up for Harden and the rest of the offense. Oh, let’s not forget, Dwight is an elite rim protector. Pretty nice to get one of those back just in-time for the playoffs, huh?

Los Angeles Clippers

Entire Clippers Bench: Let’s be honest. The Clippers starting 5 is great. Their bench is far from that. With Crawford missing a large chunk of the season it’s been even worse without him. Outside of Crawford their bench is highlighted by…..Austin Rivers and Glen Davis. Yeah, that’s a real thing. Time is dwindling and CP3 is hungry NOW. The bench needs to give quality minutes when called upon so Doc doesn’t need to play his starters for 40 minutes per.

Portland Trailblazers

Arron Afflalo: AA was the pickup Portland needed to deepen their bench and help them accomplish their title accomplishments. Well here we are on April 17th and Wes Matthews is out for the remainder of the season and Afflalo has been thrown into the starting lineup, removing any depth Portland had off the bench. He won’t pick up the slack that Matthews left when he was saddled with his injury, but his production is vital if Portland wants to win a series and make a run at the Finals.

Memphis Grizzlies

Tony Allen: The Grizzlies identity is defense. They grind you out, as indicated by their arena being called the “Grind House”. The best perimeter defender in the game of basketball, in my opinion, needs to be just that in a conference that is stacked at guards and even some forwards he’ll be assigned to guarding. Just in the first round, he’ll be matched up a lot with the likes of Damian Lillard and Arron Afflalo. TA needs to be that go-to defensive-stopped Memphis fans have grown to know and love.

San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard: The 2014-2015 Spurs went as Kawhi Leonard did. The moment Kawhi got healthy, the Spurs took off and finished the season stronger than every team around the league. A potential defensive player of the year award in his future will be the hardware he and his teammates are least worried about. He brings a nastiness defensively and has greatly improved offensively. The Spurs can isolate him in the post using his length to his advantage or hit him with a chest pass for a corner three. The torch has been passed to Kawhi as the heart and soul of the team and they’ll go as far as last years final MVP takes them.

Dallas Mavericks

Rajon Rondo: When the Mavericks landed Rajon Rondo in a trade back in December a lot of people, including myself, thought that was the piece Dallas needed and was now poised to make a run at the west’s elite, but that hasn’t been the case. An elite Mavs offense has faded and hasn’t been the same at all since acquiring Rajon. But, Dallas is not dead in the water just yet. They have a lot of playoff tested veterans that have won it all before, included Rondo. Dallas needs him to distribute and d-up the way he has throughout all of his years in Boston.

New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday: The forgotten man this year in New Orleans, primarily due to injury, Jrue Holiday is key to the Pelicans winning ways. Jrue missed half of the season and has been a complete different player in wins. In wins, Holiday is a +/- +15.3, losses +/- -7.3. His offensive rating in wins ended at 116 and losses it was 102. On the flip side of the ball, his defensive rating is a lot better on defense in wins; 105 and in losses it’s 113. The Pelicans need him to play well. They need a third option and Jrue is that guy.

Facets Player of the Night: E’Twaun Moore

1 E'Twaun

Did he score 40+ points? No. Did he assist his teammates 7 times or grab 8 rebounds? No and no. What the 26 year old who the Bulls signed to be their third-string point guard did was ignite a fourth quarter comeback and knock down a game-winning three after a fantastic play call Coach Thibs drew up.

E’Twaun wasn’t just great during the fourth, he was great during his entire 22 minutes he spent on the floor. He went 9-10 from the floor for a career high 19 points. He didn’t turn the ball over once and Chicago was an outstanding +/- +17 with him ON the floor.

His fourth quarter was special. He scored 13 points on 6/6 from the field, including the aforementioned game-winning three. Not only was his offensive performance special, he was really good on defense guarding Russell Westbrook down the stretch for the last four or five minutes of the game.

The Bulls have been very unfortunate lately, losing Rose, Butler and Taj Gibson for extended periods of time due to injury. This was a breathe of fresh air for all Bulls fans and a HUGE win going forward. Winning games versus other playoff teams without two of it’s stars and a key role player will keep optimism alive in Chicago until the cavalry returns from injury. This is probably the only time he’ll end up as a player of the night during his entire NBA career, but tonight, it’s E’Twaun’s night.

All Facets Of The Game: NBA Round-Table Discussion

This is our second edition All Facets Of The Game Round-Table discussion! We’ve invited some followers to join us and answer questions we’ve put together. Here is the list of those that took part:

Question 1: In your opinion, who are the 5 greatest Lakers in order and why?

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@LegitNBA 

1) Magic Johnson
2) Jerry West
3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
4) Wilt Chamberlain
5) Elgin Baylor
Personally there just is way to much greatness to put it all in order. But i can say these 5 players are better than Kobe.

@ItsTariqAhmad

5) Elgin played 14 years in the league averaging 27 points, 13 rebounds a game; and in 134 playoff games, Baylor averaged 27 points and 12 rebounds. In the 1962 season, he became the first player in NBA history to finish top 5 in 4 majar statistical categories (Scoring, Rebounding, Assists and Free throw percentage).

4) Wilt was pure dominant. His record 100 points in a game, rebounds in a game (55) still stands. During the 1961-62’ season, Wilt averaged 50.4 points a game. I mean come on.

3) Bryant is tied with Magic with five rings.  He has an NBA MVP, two finals MVPs and four all star MVPs including the second highest scoring game in the NBA history with 81 points. He is the NBA’s third scoring all time leader behind Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He continues his push to one day be remembered as the greatest Lakers of all time and for that, Bryant will probably need another ring in his resume.

2) As a Laker, he has over 24,000 points, five NBA championships, three MVP’s, a Finals MVP, and the NBA’s most unstoppable shot the game has ever seen. Not only that, he is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Guess who?

1) Magic Johnson is the greatest Lakers of all time, to me. He took the team to nine finals, winning five of them. He won three NBA MVP’s, three Finals MVP’s, and two all-star MVP’s in arguably the greatest, toughest era of basketball. He changed the game. He made basketball fun and entertaining.

@The_Real_Grande

1) Magic Johnson – The game’s greatest point guard, and leader of the showtime days is the second greatest player of all-time. Pretty sure that warrants the greatest player from your franchise.

2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Most points ever, 6 time MVP, 2 times finals MVP, 11 first-team NBA awards, 5 first-team all-defense team. What else is there to say?

3) Kobe Bryant – Bean has been special. He transformed from young, Afro, high-flying number 8 wearing Kobe to short hair, number 24, post-up, take you off the dribble, hit his infamous fade away jumper in your face, Kobe. Now third all-time in points. What a career it has been.

4) Shaquille O’Neal – The most imposing force down on the block I’ve ever seen, Shaq couldn’t be stopped by almost anyone or anything, other then the charity stripe.

5) Jerry West – There was no way I could not include the man that they call “The Logo.” West averaged 27 points, almost 7 assists and 6 rebounds per game during his amazing Laker career.

@Yama_Hazheer

1) Kobe Bryant – Five titles, an MVP, two Finals MVPs, 17-time All-Star, along with several other awards belong to Bryant. He has done it all in only one uniform, the purple and gold. If that doesn’t do it for you, maybe his 81 points will.

2) Magic Johnson – Johnson is considered the best point guard in NBA history by many, and deservedly so. He used his length and vision to become one of the best passers we have seen. This is the main reason he had over ten thousand assists as a Laker. It’s a shame he had to end his career early.

3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – KAJ leads the NBA in scoring and looks like it’s a record that will be hard to be topped. He did not spend most of his career with the Lakers, but dominated when he was with the team. He is always among the top three, or even the best when the greatest centers ever are debated.

4) Jerry West – The Logo scored over 25,000 career points for the Lakers and helped lead the team get into nine NBA Finals. Yes, you read that correctly. He was the poster boy for the Lakers during his time and the third best shooting guard of all-time.

5) Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq did not win all of his titles with the Lakers, but was the most dominant player of his time and arguably ever. He won the Finals MVP three times and put up ridiculous numbers during the playoffs when it mattered most. Outside of free-throw shooting, O’Neal had minimal flaws.

Question 2: Where do YOU have LeBron James ranked on your all-time list as of right now, where do YOU think he will ultimately finish?

@LegitNBA

Right now I have Lebron top 15 maybe top 20. He easily could finish top 5. No way he’ll be better than Jordan, but he could be second easily. It depends on the length of his career.

@ItsTariqAhmad

I have ranked LeBron just outside of the top 5 for right now (6th). LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play this and his resume speaks for itself. 11 time all-star, four times NBA MVP, two times Finals MVP and the list goes on and on. He is the best basketball player in the world, and it’s not even close. He has had his struggles in the past which makes it tough for me to put him in the top five yet, but he will be when it is all set and done.

@The_Real_Grande

Currently, LeBron is a borderline top 10 player of all-time. That is insane to think about since he’s still only 30 years old. He’s a 2 time champion, 2 time finals MVP, 4 time league MVP, 11 time all-star, 5 time first team all-defense and the accolades go on and on. That’s an entire hall of fame career for a guy who’s 30 and still in his prime. LBJ holds every point milestone from 1,000 up to 24,000 total points. Something that I doubt can ever be done again.

Ultimately, I think LeBron ends at number 2, right behind MJ. It’s hard to go against Michael, knowing what he’s accomplished and his career is set in stone already. Anything can happen, LeBron has proven year in and year out that his offseason plans are getting better and he’s seemingly done that every year.

@Yama_Hazheer

LeBron is a top 10-12 player of all-time right now. He will go down in the top 5 easily, though. He still has to a win a few more rings before he can solidify himself as a legitimate top 10 guy in league history, but is well on his way.

Question 3: Based on the whole body of work both KG and Dirk have put forth, who has had a better career?

@LegitNBA

Personally I think KG was the better overall player. Better scorer and defender in prime years. But Dirks longevity of premier basketball has allowed him to win this discussion.

@ItsTariqAhmad

Kevin Garnett has had a better career than Dirk Nowitzki. Both have just one championship. But what separates Garnett from Nowitzki is his ability to play both sides of the ball. Dirk is a great scorer with one of the most unstoppable shots in the game we have ever seen but that is pretty much it. He can’t defend anyone, he is not a physical beast or a man in the middle. You would have to surround Dirk with great role players in order to see success. Garnett had the ability to drop 40 on your best low-post defender, grab 15 rebounds and shut down the paint. He was a total package.

@The_Real_Grande

Kevin Garnett slightly edges Dirk for me. Both have a championship, both have an MVP. Both have something the other doesn’t, though. Dirk has a finals MVP, but KG has a Defensive Player of the Year and that’s the slight separation between the two. Dirk has score more career points in a shorter period of time, but KG sacrificed his dominant offensive role in order to win a championship. Dirk’s longevity at a high level has been incredible, really, but KG’s years in Minnesota, early years in Boston were amazing.

@Yama_Hazheer

Dirk Nowitzki has had a better career than Kevin Garnett. Nowitzki is still releavent in 2015 while Garnett is rotting on a bottom-feeder in the Eastern Conference. Garnett won his championship ring alongside two future Hall-of-Famers. Nowitzki’s second best player? An aging Jason Kidd. Nowitzki hasn’t had the success that Garnett has had on the defensive side of the ball, but his career has been better. He has spent whole career in Dallas and has been successful nearly the whole time, not many players can say that.

Question 4: This is a two part question: Part 1 – Do you think Kyle Korver finishes the season with the first 50/50/90 ever? Part 2: How far do you see the Hawks going this season? Why?

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@LegitNBA

Part 1 – Yes I think he goes 50/50/90. As long as he doesn’t get a huge cold streak he should do it.

Part 2 – I think the Hawks could get far into the playoffs. Especially in the east.

@ItsTariqAhmad

Part 1 – I hope he does. Kyle Korver is one of the greatest sharp shooters the game has ever seen. I hope he ends up finishing the season with the first 50/50/90 season. He deserves it.

Part 2 – How far do the Hawks go this season? I think they end up losing to the Cavs whether it is the second round or the conference finals. They have the team to win the Eastern conference, no doubts, but I think they do struggle against the Cavs and LeBron. In a 7-game series, the Cavs have too much scoring (not to mention LeBron) for the Hawks to overcome. The Hawks play Spurs-like, but even the Spurs had someone (Tony Parker) who they can go to down the stretch when need to. Do the Hawks have that guy? Is it Teague? Millsap? Or Horford? We’ll find it out in the playoffs.

@The_Real_Grande

Part 1 – I do think Korver ends up with 50/50/90. The hardest part will be continuing to shoot above 50% from the 3 point line. There have only been 8 occasions where somebody has shot over 50% from behind the arc, Korver himself holds the single season record.

Part 2 – I’m a firm believer the Hawks can make a run at the NBA finals. Sure the top of the Eastern Conference is good. The Hawks sit at 43-11 and 6 ½ games ahead of the second place Raptors. They have the best record against teams above .500 in the entire league and are 15-4 against the ever so daunted west. They play team basketball and can handle anybody in a series, in my honest opinion.

@Yama_Hazheer

Part 1 – Korver only averaged 48 percent on two-point baskets. His three-point shooting is helping him keep up the first 50 percent in the 50/50/90 tremendously. It’s very, very hard to do. Defenses will be more focused on him in the second half of the season as they will give it their all to test the Hawks as a measuring stick. As much as I would like to see it as a basketball fan, I do not see it happening.

Part 2 – The Hawks will lose to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are a fun team, well coached, and a feel good story but they simply lack the star power needed to win an NBA Championship. We saw it with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, but do you honestly think they stood a chance if the Lakers didn’t have the chemistry issues and off-court drama that season? The underdog story is always fun to root for, but the Hawks won’t go further than the ECF.

Question 5: Which current playoff team, or team in contention should make a move by the trade deadline? What’s a move, opinion again, you could see that team making?

@LegitNBA

Definitely the Clippers are a team that I could see make a move for a solid bench big man. Since blakes been out no one has stepped up to fill the role at the 4. Even if it’s only for a year I could see them making a trade.

@ItsTariqAhmad

Get LeBron James to the Warriors. The Warriors will be guaranteed to win a championship this year. I think the Warriors need him.

@The_Real_Grande

I believe Houston should make a move. If you think of all the current teams in playoff contention, almost every team has a better point guard. Pat Beverley is a good player, but I’m not sure Houston can win a championship with him running the show. I’ve been all aboard the Goran Dragic Rockets reunion the day he told Suns management he’s done with them. He would have so much space to operate with Harden getting all the attention.

@Yama_Hazheer

The Warriors should try to trade for Kevin Garnett. Mo Speights and David Lee cannot play defense to save their lives. Festus Ezeli is hurt almost all the time and hasn’t looked good when he has played. Andrew Bogut anchors their defense, but it’ll be hard to count on him for the postseason. Garnett would be excited to play for a championship contender and give them the defensive toughness they need from a big man alongside Draymond Green.

I can also see the Rockets trying to somehow land Goran Dragic. They have been wanting a top point guard for the past few years and he would be ideal for them if he agrees to stay there long-term. A James Harden-Dragic backcourt would be too good to pass up.