The Brooklyn Nets Have A Big Problem

Brooklyn Nets

After the Brooklyn Nets traded for James Harden, they cemented themselves as the most talented team in the East. Adding Harden to a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving seems like an NBA 2K cheat code.

Things got off to a promising start when Harden posted a 30-point triple-double in his debut, finishing the game with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 14 assists. KD chipped in 42 points to beat the Magic, 122-115. The duo then followed it up by combining for 64 points in a 125-123 win over the Bucks.

The biggest elephant in the room is not Kyrie. Despite what transpired with Kyrie off the court, from missing games to partying without a mask, his talent speaks for itself on the court. The Nets are more talented with Kyrie than they are without Kyrie.

The Nets’ problem is not Kyrie. The problem lies down low. They have serious issues in the frontcourt.

The Nets became a better team with the addition of James Harden. However, it came at a price. It’s similar to Thanos’s situation in the soul realm after snapping his fingers to wipe out half the population.

For the Nets, Gamora is Jarrett Allen, the talented center the Nets traded to the Cavs in the Harden deal. Allen is a true throwback center. Allen is a great rebounder (10.5 per game), a true rim-protector (seventh in the NBA with 1.8 blocks per game), and a stout defender. He was the perfect complement to Durant and Kyrie because he wasn’t going to take away any of their shots. Plus, he can clean up and score at the rim.

It’s funny how things fall into place as Allen’s first game as a Cav came against his former team. Allen had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks in a 147-135 2OT win over the Nets.

The Nets may not be able to stop a nosebleed with their current roster. Deandre Jordan, who must start now with Allen gone, is a shell of his Lob City self. Jordan is the only true center on the roster. The backup center, Nicolas Claxton (in my best Snoop Dogg voice, “Who?“), is hurt. They desperately need more big men.

After every single move the Nets make, they need to ask themselves this question. Can this team beat the Lakers? Right now, the answer is no. The Nets Big Three will put up points, but who is going to guard Anthony Davis? If Deandre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton guard Davis in a series, AD is putting up 40 and 20 every night.

The Nets are trying to add frontcourt depth. They recently signed Norvel Pelle to a deal. Once again, it still doesn’t answer the question as to who stops Anthony Davis. The Nets will be buyers at the trade deadline and buy out the market. Potential names of interest could be Bismack Biyombo, Ed Davis, or PJ Tucker.

A small ball five of KD, Kyrie, Harden, Joe Harris, and Jeff Green can win games. Heck, it can even win the East. However, it’s not beating the Lakers in a 7-game series.

The Nets need to address their front court before it becomes a big problem in the playoffs.

Will the Nets win the NBA Title? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Ranking the NBA Superstar Duos for the 2019-20 NBA Season

NBA Superstar Duos 2019-20 season

The NBA Superteam Era is dead. Kawhi Leonard made sure of this when he dismantled the Golden State Warriors and rejected Lebron James’ attempts to lure him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The landscape has shifted to “Super Duos,” with players now desiring to team up with friends or individuals who complement their skills and can share superstar duties. Here’s a look at the NBA’s best “Superstar Duos” heading into the 2019-20 NBA Season:

Tier 3 – The “Up and Comers” NBA Player Duos

12. Devin Booker / Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)

In their first season together, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton led the Phoenix Suns to 19 wins. The Los Angeles Lakers went 31-19 when Kobe joined Shaq in the starting lineup during the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. Though Booker and Ayton aren’t quite “Shaq and Kobe 2.0” status, both are extremely talented individuals who should create a formidable inside-outside combination for years to come. With a full year under their belt and improvement at the head coaching position, the 2019-20 NBA Season should bring improved chemistry and many more wins.

11. Luka Doncic / Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas Mavericks)

Dallas Mavericks NBA Superstar Duos
Luka Doncic
Credit: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis haven’t played a single game together but are already expected to form the best pick and pop tandem in the league. Porzingis has spent the entirety of his Dallas Mavericks’ career admiring the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, but the “Unicorn” will need to make an immediate impression if the Mavericks hope to make an impact in the Western Conference. This duo’s success depends on how well Porzingis recovers from a torn ACL that will have sidelined him for close to 20 months once the 2019 NBA Season begins. Charles Barkley expects this pair to turn into the greatest “one-two punch… for the next 10 years.‚ÄĚ

Tier 2 – The “Star” NBA Duos

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo / Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

Despite being selected to the 2019 Eastern Conference All-Star team, many still aren’t sold on Khris Middleton as a max player. This pair’s position is propped by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s supernova athletic ability. But Middleton’s capability as a three-point shooter (career 39%) carries great value when paired with Antetokounmpo’s slashing playmaking. Middleton contributes in a number of ways and is the perfect teammate for Antetokounmpo’s needs.

9. Donovan Mitchell / Mike Conley Jr. (Utah Jazz)

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. are no “Stockton and Malone,” but the two have the opportunity to create their own legacy as the next great Utah Jazz duo. Conley’s experience with the “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies will be vital in helping Donovan Mitchell take the next leap in a competitive Western Conference.

8. Damian Lillard / CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)

The 2019-20 NBA Season may be the last time we see this version of the Portland Trail Blazers. Though they reached the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors made quick work of the Blazers in 4 games. Damian Lillard recently signed a 4 year / $191 Million supermax extension and CJ McCollum is entering the penultimate season of his rookie extension. If this duo is unable to take another step in a much more open NBA landscape, 2019-20 may be the last season they share duties in the Blazers backcourt.

7. Nikola Jokic / Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)

Nikola Jokic is a perennial MVP candidate and Jamal Murray has shown consistent improvement throughout his first three years in the league. Denver Nuggets’ Coach Mike Malone has described this twosome’s chemistry as “almost romantic” in describing the ways this pairing plays off each other in their uniquely styled offense. The top pairing under-25, this dynamic duo has the potential to keep the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference for years to come.

6. Joel Embiid / Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)

This is the rare combination in which the big man has the better outside game that his perimeter counterpart. In order for this duo to take the next step into the tier below, Ben Simmons will need to make a significant improvement to (or at least develop) his jump shot to help create spacing for Joel Embiid down low. The 76ers are primed to be the best team in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but such success hinges on how Embiid and Simmons are able to harmonize on the hardwood.

Tier 1 – The “Elite” NBA Superstar Duos

5. James Harden / Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)

News of this trade sent social media in a whirlwind, with many asking the same question: is one ball enough? A lot has changed since James Harden and Russell Westbrook played together in Oklahoma City; Harden has blossomed from a mini-bearded Sixth Man of The Year, while Westbrook has grown accustomed to leading-man duties. But you don’t pass up on pairing two MVPs in their prime. While this fit may be questionable, the sheer talent of this NBA superstar duo alone is worth the gamble.

4. Kevin Durant / Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)

Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving NBA Superstar Duos

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had been plotting to team up since 2018. Unfortunately, they may have to wait to see their dream come to fruition while Kevin Durant rehabs from a torn Achilles suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Durant and Irving have reached the pinnacle of success while playing roles in other legendary duos. With the Brooklyn Nets now the forefront of New York basketball, this duo will have the chance to cement their place in basketball lore by bringing an NBA Championship to the Big Apple.

3. Steph Curry / Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

The 2019-20 NBA Season will be a gap year for the “Splash Brothers.” With Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL that should sideline him for the majority of the season, Steph Curry will be left to man the ship with his temporary replacement, D’Angelo Russell. Despite Thompson’s injury, this duo’s success should place them above every other combination on this list; however, the moves that took place this offseason have this Warriors’ combo embracing their newfound underdog role.

2. Lebron James / Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

1. Kawhi Leonard / Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)

NBA Best players Lakers and Clipper
Credit: Clutchpoints Podcast

The Los Angeles “Superstar Duos” is the result of blockbuster moves each team made this offseason. The Lakers paired two top-five players by acquiring Anthony Davis to team up with Lebron James. But the Clippers’ one-upped their in-town rival by signing two-time NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has staked his claim as the best player in the league. And with his recruitment of Paul George, Leonard paired himself with an elite superstar who has no problem taking control of both ends of the floor. All roads now run through the Staples Center and the battle for Los Angeles is to sure to result in many “epic” matchups between these two for years to come.

Follow Alan Wilmot on Twitter and Instagram @alanwilmotlaw

Let’s Face The Facts: NBA Superstars Are Underpaid

NBA Superstars Underpaid with the salary cap

Though the above is a live look of the New Orleans Pelicans ticket staffers learning their team won the 2019 NBA Draft lottery and right to draft Zion Williamson, it’s safe to say the Brooklyn Nets sales team experienced this same joy at the start of NBA Free Agency. The signing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signifies a coming of age story for the Nets and the end of an era for their crosstown rival. Once heralded as the “Mecca” of basketball, the aura that surrounded Madison Square Garden is gone. New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan was reportedly hesitant to sign Kevin Durant to a maximum deal. But if your team’s president has to release a statement responding to angry fans, that’s clearly not the correct business decision.

NBA Star Market Value

NBA Superstars Drive Revenue

People pay to see stars, and teams know it. Immediately after signing the two-all stars, an all-out race for Nets season tickets ensued. Currently, the cheapest ticket available is $4,000 a seat, which is quite an expense for a team that won a total of 48 games prior to the 2018-2019 NBA Season.

NBA stars do more than put fans in the seats; they serve as an economic catalyst for all other aspects of their team’s city. When Lebron James announced his “Decision” in 2010, not only did he take his talents to South Beach, but also $48 million in annual revenue. When James re-signed with Cleveland in 2014, Professor Leroy Brooks estimated his return added nearly $500 million to the local economy. The Cavaliers suffered another negative swing when Lebron moved west to the Los Angeles Lakers.

NBA teams lack profitability and marketability without a star player. Fans routinely discuss how players aren’t worth a certain contract. When Kobe Bryant became the league’s highest-paid player in 2014, he did so to show players should not feel forced to take less than their worth and stated:

“Athletes are the ones that are in the public eye the most. And so their salaries are constantly talked about, so it’s very easy to look at the athlete and say, ‘You should be doing more and you should be taking less,’ when the reality is that your market value is so much higher than what people understand.

” ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you still should be taking less to win. Why do we have to do that? Because the owners locked us out and imposed a hard cap where we ‘have to’ take less in order for them to generate more revenue. Right? But meanwhile, they go and sign a TV deal that’s a billion dollars up from the last one, but that doesn’t get talked about. Nobody complains about that.”

Credit: CBS Sports

Maximum Value Under The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement

Credit: Larry Coon / CBA FAQ

Maximum salaries are the product of the 1998-1999 NBA lockout initiated by owners who feared player salaries were getting out of control. After the Minnesota Timberwolves gave 21-year old Kevin Garnett an extension worth six years, $126 million, billionaire owners decided they couldn’t “have the inmates running the prison.”

Now, maximum salaries are dependent on the player’s years of services. In a truly open market, superstar players such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Stephy Curry, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis would be worth at least $75 Million. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Nikola Jokic would easily pull in contracts worth $50 million to $60 million per year. Hell, Zion Williamson is on the verge of signing a $100 million shoe deal; it makes no sense that his perceived NBA value is $45 million over four years.

Despite the league’s continued growth, it’s unlikely that the cap will rise to a level that will allow players to receive their true worth. While it may be hard to quantify the value a superstar brings, one method would be to allow teams the ability to sign a player outside of cap space. Instead of retiring jerseys, if owners truly want to show their appreciation, this is the route they should take. Then, the future Lebrons, Durants, and Antetokounmpos would be able to live in the world Kobe hoped to create for his fellow stars.

Follow Alan Wilmot on Twitter and Instagram @alanwilmotlaw

Brooklyn’s Finest: Kevin Durant And Kyrie Irving Sign With The Nets

Kyrie Irving Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets NBA

Brooklyn, stand up. You just pulled off the heist of the summer. Kevin Durant was expected to take meetings throughout the next couple of days and then make a decision on his next NBA team. That didn’t happen. On his sports business network, The Boardroom, Durant announced that he would be signing with the Brooklyn Nets on the first day of NBA Free Agency.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzWZV18lRxx/

For Nets fans, it gets better. Kyrie Irving is also signing with the Nets.

Brooklyn did the damn thing. Knicks, who? Six years ago, the Nets made arguably the worst trade in NBA history when they traded an abundance of players and 1st round picks for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In six years, the Nets were able to erase their mistake and build a franchise that is set to make a run at a championship in the next few years. Sean Marks, the GM of the Nets, should have a statue of himself outside the Barclays Center.

Although many teams and fans (myself included) prefer their teams to tank, Brooklyn did the complete opposite. The Nets hired a coach, Kenny Atkinson, who was capable of building young talent and inspiring players to reach their full potential. The Nets took a chance on D’Angelo Russell, who after being run out of LA, showed his true potential by making the All-star game last season. With a young and inexperienced roster, the Nets won over 40 games and made the playoffs.

Now, the Nets signed two superstars that will allow them to take the next step towards a championship. If Kawhi Leonard leaves for Los Angeles, the East will once again be wide open. Milwaukee and Philly would be the favorites, but the Nets and Raptors would not be far off. The Nets should compete for a playoff spot this year with Kyrie and then when KD comes back in 2020, the Nets should be the favorite to make the NBA Finals.

Where Brooklyn at? Well, they’re going to be at the top of the Eastern Conference and maybe the entire NBA in a few seasons. Better days are ahead for the Brooklyn Nets.

To Durant Or Not To Durant: What’s Next For The New York Knicks?

Kevin Durant Knicks

The New York Knicks looked poised for a big offseason. One Kevin Durant injury and Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers leaves the Knicks with more questions than answers. How will the Knicks handle free agency?

There’s a common phrase to describe the current status of the New York Knicks. “Things get worse before they get better.” All signs were pointing up for the Knicks as recent as two months ago. New York positioned themselves for a draft position no less than five in the lottery. Kevin Durant was the best player in the world and rumored to be leaving Golden State for New York in the offseason. Plus, the Knicks would have enough money to sign two players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to max contracts this summer.

However, plans change in the blink of an eye. First, the Knicks lost the chance of drafting Zion when they were awarded the third pick. Then, Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles and is expected to miss the entire 2019-2020 season. Plus, their crosstown rival, the Brooklyn Nets, are the favorite to land Kyrie Irving. Once again, things get worse before they get better.

Despite a horrific 17-65 campaign, which is tied for the worst franchise record in team history, fans remained optimistic because of the high draft pick and cap space. Now, optimism is dwindling because of the injury to Durant. Steve Mills and Scott Perry now have a tough decision to make. What is the plan going forward? Does the Durant injury change how the Knicks approach free agency?

To put it frankly, no. Durant’s injury should not change anything.

The Knicks have a rare opportunity to get better via free agency instead of through a trade. Carmelo Anthony was a top seven basketball player in the NBA when the Knicks made the trade for the star in 2011. However, the Knicks were forced to give up four players and a first-round pick. As good as Melo was, and he was a good player, he is not Durant. Before the injury, KD was arguably the best player in the NBA. Durant averaged 32 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists this postseason.

The Achilles injury is tough to recover from for a player on the wrong side of 30. (Durant will be 31 in September.) However, it’s not impossible to return to all-star form. Dominique Wilkins ruptured his Achilles at age 32 in the 1991-1992 NBA season. Defying the odds, Wilkins averaged 29.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He went on to make two more All-Star teams and two more All-NBA Teams. It’s possible that Durant may never be the best player in the game again, but it’s not out of the question that he will return to all-star form and be one of the 10 best players in the game.

Here’s the question that Mills and Perry need to ask themselves. If they pass on Durant or he returns to Golden State, then what? Is there a better option than signing Durant despite the fact that he will miss next season? There are definitely options, but the likelihood of them happening are slim. The Knicks are going to progressively pursue Kawhi Leonard, but most reports have him either resigning with the Raptors or signing with the Clippers. Klay Thompson has given no indication that he’s leaving Golden State. Kemba Walker is a free agent and said he would consider taking less money, but that would be to return to Charlotte. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will have plenty of suitors, but all signs point to them resigning with Philly or ending up elsewhere. Could the Knicks snag D’Angelo Russell from the Nets if Brooklyn signs Kyrie Irving?

If all else fails, the Knicks could simply draft RJ Barrett and continue to acquire more talent and hope David Fizdale can help their young core take the next step. However, the Knicks young core hasn’t looked promising as a unit. The best player out of this group is Mitchell Robinson, who was NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Allozo Trier made nice strides this past season along with Kevin Knox (at times). However, Frank Ntilikina is a lost cause Emmanuel Mudiay is most likely leaving. This core, although young, doesn’t inspire a promising future.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the Knicks sign two players to max contracts. Pair any of the free agents not named Durant, Leonard, or Irving together. Does a Klay Thompson/Tobias Harris combination take the Knicks to the next level? Can a D’Angelo Russell/Jimmy Butler push the Knicks to the top of the Eastern Conference? The more you pair players up, the worse it sounds. The risk of signing Kevin Durant becomes not only more promising but flat-out better for the future of the franchise.

The Knicks can still have a successful offseason that brings the team in the right direction. Mills and Perry have their work cut out for them. The Knicks are a puzzle, but the puzzle can be solved.

Delayed, Not Dead: How The Warriors Dynasty Can Return To Prominence

Golden State Warriors dynasty

Injuries and the free agency status of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson put the future of the Golden State Warriors up in the air. However, with healthy recoveries and a solid core, the dynasty may not be over just yet.

The worst case scenario happened again for the Golden State Warriors. With a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Klay Thompson went up for a dunk and landed awkwardly on his left knee. At this moment, Klay was the best player on the floor with 28 points. It was typical “Game 6 Klay.” However, once Thompson slammed the floor and agonized in pain, something was terribly wrong. The dynasty was in trouble.

Despite stretching, jumping around, and making two emotional free throws, all hope was lost when Thompson went to the back and could not return to the game. 72 hours after Durant’s season ended due to a ruptured Achilles, Thompson was done for the year as well with a torn ACL. Despite leading the game when Klay exited, the ending was inevitable. Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors prevailed in Game 6, 114-110, to win the NBA Championship.

What seemed like an inevitability at the beginning of the season became an impossibility once KD and Klay suffered horrific injuries. Injuries happen so credit the Raptors for taking advantage of the depleted Warriors. They flexed their dominance and earned this title. Now, the future remains uncertain for Golden State. Durant can opt out and become a free agent and will most likely miss the entirety of next season. Thompson is a free agent and won’t be able to return until next winter or spring. Without those two stars, can Steph Curry and Draymond Green handle the scoring load? Although it was a small sample size, Curry and Green both struggled at times especially late in games when both KD and Klay were out. The question on everyone’s mind revolves around the Warriors’ dynasty. Is it dead?

Dynasties tend to end abruptly. After winning two straight championships, the “Bad Boys” Pistons lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and did not win a playoff series until 2002. Speaking of Jordan, the 90s Bulls won six titles. After defeating the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan retired, Phil Jackson resigned, Scottie Pippen was traded, and the Bulls didn’t win a playoff series for almost a decade. Does this loss to the Raptors signify the end of the Warriors’ dynasty?

Let’s state the obvious. Steph Curry is a three-time NBA Champion and two-time MVP. Draymond Green is a three-time NBA Champion and a former Defensive Player of the Year. They are not falling off a cliff. Despite long recoveries in their future, Brian Windhorst said that the Warriors plan to offer both Klay and KD max contracts this offseason.

Bob Myers cried his eyes out while announcing Durant’s Achilles injury. I appreciate the passion and love for a player, but let’s not act as though Durant died. KD is going to come back in two seasons. Whether or not he’ll be the best player in the world again is up in the air, but I’m confident that Durant will become a prolific scorer again when he returns. The same goes for Klay. Thompson showed that he’s a freak athlete and competitor when he returned to shoot the free throws on a torn ACL. Expect Thompson to undergo a full recovery and return sometime next March.

The elephant in the room revolves around their free agency. Will Klay or KD leave the Warriors this offseason? I’m inclined to believe that Klay will resign with the Warriors for a max contract. It’s hard to believe that Klay won’t want to continue playing with his fellow Splash Brother. Durant’s status is up-in-the-air. Durant has been rumored to sign with the Knicks for months now. The Knicks and a few other teams will most likely still offer Durant a max contract, but the injury makes a return to the Warriors more possible than ever. Durant can either sign a max contract with the Warriors or opt into the final year of his current deal and become a free agent after next season.

The long-term dynasty might still have a chance, but next season is going to be a struggle. The Warriors glaring weakness this year was their lack of depth on the bench. However, when you have most of your money tied up in four players, creating a bench full of depth can be tough. Even if both Klay and DK both resign with the Warriors, they are not going to play for most of, if not all of next season. For as great as Steph Curry is, without any offensive help, it will be difficult to win games if he’s the singular piece for opposing defenses to guard. For as versatile as Draymond is, 7.4 points per game average is not a viable number two option. Who can the Warriors sign to make up the difference? Steph, Draymond, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston are all under contract next season. Demarcus Cousins is open to returning, but without a lot of cap flexibility, it may be difficult especially if Cousins has a high asking price.

The Warriors dynasty may also be in trouble due to the potential shift in the competitive balance. If Kawhi Leonard signs with the Clippers, he automatically elevates them to a playoff contender. A healthy LeBron James will return to the Lakers and if they trade for Anthony Davis, the Lakers will be the favorite to come out of the West. The Rockets are still a force. Plus, the Thunder, Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz, and Spurs should all be in the mix for the playoffs. Simply put, the Western Conference is a juggernaut. Unlike the previous five seasons, Golden State will have to fight hard for a playoff spot next year.

The five straight appearances in the finals might come to an end next season, but don’t be so quick to declare the dynasty, “dead.” The Warriors will need to develop a stronger bench, but thankfully, they still have one of the best President of Basketball Operations in the league, Bob Myers, to build a roster. The Warriors still have Steve Kerr, who is in the upper echelon of NBA coaches. If Golden State can at least resign Klay, the core of Steph, Draymond, and Klay will continue to be one of the best combinations in the game. Plus, you never know if Durant will change his mind about leaving and come back to the Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors will take their lumps next season, but don’t expect them to die. Push the pause button and wait a season. The dynasty is delayed, not dead.

NBA Finals 2019: Warriors Vs. Raptors Preview And Prediction

After the dust has settled, two teams remain in the Warriors and Raptors. The Warriors were expected to be here while the Raptors were not necessarily the top choice out of the East. The Warriors are going for four titles in five years, but the narrative is not around their play on the court, but rather, the player that they’re missing in Kevin Durant. The Raptors one year gamble on Kawhi Leonard paid off as they reached their first NBA Finals ever. Can the Warriors win a championship without Durant? Can Kawhi slay the defending champs? Here are my preview and prediction for the NBA Finals 2019: Warriors vs. Raptors.

Biggest Storyline

Where Will Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard end up in the offseason?: Not to take anything away from this series, but the biggest storyline is the impending free agency decisions for Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. I compare it to going to the beach and seeing a dark cloud on the horizon. You should enjoy the beach, but all you can think about is the storm that’s on its way. Both Durant and Leonard have been rumored to be leaving Golden State and Toronto respectively for almost a year. If Durant doesn’t play at all, does that signify he’s leaving the Warriors? If Kawhi wins the title, does that make him more inclined to stay? Both questions will be asked after every game this series no matter what happens.

X-Factors

Kevin Durant’s Calf: It’s not every day that the best player in the game is an x-factor, but that’s exactly the case here. Kevin Durant has been sidelined the past five games with a strained right calf and will miss Game 1. Most teams would falter without their best player. The Warriors aren’t like most teams as they have gone 5-0 since Durant exited the lineup. That being said, the Warriors are a better team when Kevin Durant is on the floor. I don’t care how many games or titles the Warriors won without Durant. KD was averaging 34 points per game before his injury. Without KD, more pressure is on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to deliver. From a psychological standpoint, Toronto has to feel like they have a better chance of winning the series without Durant in the lineup. Can you blame them? Also, don’t forget about the health of Demarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala. Both should play in this series at some point, but I doubt they will be 100%.

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Pascal Siakam: The real X-factor for the Raptors is Pascal Siakam. The future Most Improved Player of the Year took a monumental leap this past season. Siakam improved in almost every statistical category with the most notable advancement coming in the form of his points per game average, which increased from 7.3 to 16.9. With all of the focus going towards Kawhi, Siakam needs to be a viable scoring threat as the Raptors’ second option. More importantly, Siakam will have to contain the pick and roll between Steph Curry and Draymond Green. If Siakam can hold his own on switches against Steph, the Raptors will keep games close.

Matchups To Watch

Pick and Roll Offense versus Switching Defense

The Curry-Draymond pick and roll combo can be a nightmare for opposing defenses. If you hedge out too quickly, Steph can hit Draymond on a roll to the basket. If you sag off, Steph will have a field day from 3. Just ask the Blazers how sagging off worked. On the flip side, Kawhi Leonard has been very good in the playoffs when he runs pick and roll and has a 47.9% scoring frequency in those situations. How will both the Warriors and Raptors defend pick and rolls? I’m expecting both teams to switch on most, if not all, pick and rolls because of their versatility. Leonard, Siakam, Danny Green, and Serge Ibaka for Toronto and Thompson, Green, Durant (if he plays), and Andre Iguodala for Golden State can switch all matchups and guard all of the positions (to an extent). Whichever team is more successful with pick and roll defense will have the edge in the series.

Steph Curry vs. Kyle Lowry: Before the playoffs started, if you saw this matchup on paper, it’s a huge mismatch in favor of Curry. The “Lowry disappears in the playoffs” narrative has somewhat disappeared this postseason thanks to an improvement in Lowry’s defense and clutch shooting. That being said, Curry has been on an unreal tear since Durant’s injury. In the past five games (all Warriors wins), Curry has averaged 35.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 6.6 apg. Lowry cannot stop Steph, but he needs to contain him. In crunch time, do no be surprised if Kawhi is guarding Steph especially if Durant isn’t playing. If Steph dominates this matchup, the Warriors will win in 4 games.

Kawhi Leonard vs. *Insert Golden State Player*: As important as Steph Curry’s defender will be, the Warrior to guard Kawhi Leonard is just as crucial. Leonard has been unstoppable these entire playoffs with averages of 31.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, and 1.6 spg. Good luck stopping Leonard. Luckily for Golden State, they have a few capable defenders that can guard multiple positions. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, and Andre Igudola will all be on Leonard at some point. The plan is simple: Force Leonard to pass the ball. Expect a lot of traps to force the ball out of Leonard’s hand. As I said earlier, good luck stopping Leonard because so far, no team has slowed Kawhi down.

Gambling

The Plays: Odds via Oddshark

Steph is obviously the play to win Finals MVP since he has not won this award in any of the Warriors’ previous finals appearances during this run. However, if you’re getting Kawhi at +225, I would sprinkle some money there. The Warriors outside of Steph to watch is Klay Thompson. +800 for Klay is a steal.

For a series bet, I’m not sure how you could bet against Golden State. I firmly in the camp that the Warriors win the series, but if I’m looking for a game that the Raptors can win, it’s either Game 1 or Game 2. Since the Warriors are 18-1 SU in Game 1s of playoff series since 2015, the game to bet on the Raptors is Game 2. Plus, the current line for Game 1 is Warriors +1.5. I’m not betting against the Warriors as underdogs.

Warriors vs. Raptors Prediction

Warriors in 5: On paper, the Raptors match up well with the Warriors even with Durant on the floor. Toronto has the better bench and Leonard has been the best player in the playoffs. However, when it’s winning time in the fourth quarter, are you going to trust the team who has won three out of four titles or the team making their first finals appearance in franchise history? Look for Kawhi to go off this series, but in turn, the Warriors to neutralize the Raptors’ supporting cast. The Warriors win in five games and Steph Curry destroys the false narrative that he’s not good in the NBA Finals by winning MVP.

What are your predictions? Comment with your thoughts below or join in the conversation on Twitter@UnAfraidShow.

NBA Playoffs 2019: Winners And Losers Through The Conference Semis

The 2019 NBA Playoffs have been a roller coaster of emotions. Wild, dramatic, and exciting are the adjectives that come to mind when describing these last couple of weeks in the NBA. From Damian Lillard’s buzzer beater and the Bucks’ dominance to the Celtics’ dysfunction and Sixers’ struggles, the NBA Playoffs have been must-see tv. Here are the winners and losers so far.

Winner: Kevin Durant

The best player in the 2019 NBA Playoffs has been Kevin Durant. As great as Kawhi Leonard has been, the Durantula has been on another level. Durant is averaging 34.2 ppg this postseason, which ranks first in the NBA. It’s not that he’s scoring buckets at will. It’s how he’s scoring. Durant’s offensive arsenal is never-ending and his wingspan reiterates the fact that his shot is unblockable. Right now, he’s the best player on Planet Earth.

Loser: Kevin Durant’s Calf

Every single fan’s heart skipped a beat. Reggie Miller convinced the world that Durant tore his achilles, but thankfully, it was only his calf. Knicks fans and the rest of the NBA can all breathe a sigh of relief. Please come back healthy, KD.

Winners: The Nuggets and Blazers

It’s never a good thing to lose a playoff series, but the Nuggets / Blazers series will have no true loser. Both Denver and Portland have exceeded expectations up to this point. For my money, Denver has the most complete team in the West, a franchise player in Nikola Jokic, and a budding star in Jamal Murray. No one predicted the Nuggets would be the 2-seed in the West and now they’re one win away from a trip to the Western Conference Finals. On the flip side, Portland is the perfect example of a patient front office. When teams lose in disappointing fashion in back-to-back seasons, the instinct is to either fire the coach or blow up the roster. The Blazers did neither and it’s worked out so far. Damian Lillard firmly planted his flag as a Top 5 point guard in the NBA and CJ McCollum is the perfect Robin to Lillard’s Batman. If the Blazers had a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, who knows how far they could have gone. I firmly expect the Blazers to win Game 6 and set up an intriguing Game 7.

Loser: The Thunder

The Thunder have ended their season in a disappointing first-round exit the past three years. Add in the fact that Damian Lillard sent the Thunder home on a 37-foot buzzer beater and things are not looking so hot in OKC. Is it time to hit the reset button in Oklahoma City? Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible. Westbrook, George, and Adams are all locked up on huge deals for the foreseeable future so it’s almost impossible to bring in a big name without trading one of those three players. The Thunder will have to change their style of play in order to improve next season.

Winner: LeBron James

Whether you love or hate him, the NBA Playoffs miss King James. It doesn’t feel the same without turning on the television every morning to see *insert sports show here* debating if LeBron was great or “just good” in a playoff win over the Toronto Raptors. The tv ratings say it all. LeBron moves the needle, and his absence in the playoffs emphasizes that the NBA needs LeBron more than LeBron needs the NBA.

Loser: The Lakers

The Lakers are not even playing games and yet, they’re still finding ways to lose.

Winner: Kawhi Leonard

Who, what, when, where, and KAWHI. At the top of the article, I stated that Kevin Durant is the best player in the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is second. For all those who criticized Kawhi and the Raptors for utilizing “load-management” this regular season, you’re looking foolish right now. Kawhi is averaging a ridiculous 31, 8, and 3. In this series versus the 76ers, Kawhi has been a one-man wrecking crew who has been unstoppable at times. I expect a lot of teams to replicate Toronto’s “go all-in the year before a rebuild” strategy.

Loser: The 76ers Roster

Sometimes, you may have all the parts to make an engine run, but they’re not the right parts so the engine stalls. That’s exactly how I feel about the Sixers’ roster as currently constructed. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will both be free agents this offseason so at least one of them will leave. However, the root of the problem lies with their two supposed star players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. At times, Embiid and Simmons are the two best players on the floor. However, both are wildly inconsistent. Embiid is averaging 17, 7, and 3 while Simmons is averaging 9,7, and 4. Those numbers should not be coming from your core talent. Embiid is so gifted to a point where he can be the best center in the league, but his injury history is becoming a serious problem. Simmons is a gifted passer with unbelievable vision, but his inability to work on his jump shot is holding his progression back severely. Embiid likes to play in the post and step out for 3s when necessary. Simmons needs space in the middle to run pick-and-rolls as well as to push the tempo. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Embiid’s style and Simmons’s style are like oil and water. They don’t mix.

https://twitter.com/DanWestPhilly/status/1125967140174036992

Winner: The Bucks

Hats off to the Bucks. I picked Boston in 7 going into the series, and Milwaukee ended up gentleman’s sweeping the Celtics. The Bucks have been the best team in the Eastern Conference all year long led by the MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Somehow, Mike Budenholzer is not getting enough credit for the Bucks season as well as Giannis’s transformation from a really good player into an MVP caliber talent. Now, the Bucks are one step away from the NBA Finals

Loser: The Celtics

When the dust settled, it turned out the Celtics could not turn it on when it mattered the most. The Celtics went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they couldn’t even make it out of the second round with a healthy Irving and Hayward. Injuries and constant dysfunction led to their downfall. Brad Stevens had a bad year and could not manage all of these personalities. Jaylen Brown took one step forward while Jayson Tatum took two steps back. The Celtics completely lacked balance. Kyrie is a top 5 point guard in the league, but it’s looking like Boston should not be his home for the 2019-2020 season. The Boston Slam is over.

Who are your winners and losers of the NBA Playoffs so far? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @unafraidshow.

HTH: James Harden Fan Shame, Durant Won’t Leave Golden State, Transfer Portal

Hot Takes house James Harden fans Kevin Durant GSW NCAA Transfer Portal

The Hot Takes House is on the open for business. It is a compilation of scorching hot opinions that won’t turn into Freezing Cold Takes material. In this edition: James Harden fans are shameless people with character flaws, Kevin Durant would be crazy to leave the Warriors, and the NCAA transfer portal is getting ridiculous. Do not read any further if you are easily triggered. Read. Share. Leave a Comment.

James Harden Fans Have No Shame

I’m not sure how James Harden fans are not embarrassed to call him their favorite basketball player. His ridiculous amount of flopping and his refusal to consistently give defensive effort are shameful. In general, fans like their athletes tough, rugged, and mentally tough. So, I do not understand why so many James Harden apologist exist.

It is so frustrating to try and watch an NBA Playoffs game, but have to suffer through Harden flailing around and faking hurt. By no means is Harden the only NBA player that flops. His serial abuse of flopping is just the most absurd in the league. Harden is strong and built like a tank compared to most players, but he flops whenever players get close to him. Could you imagine Jordan, Kobe, Bird, LeBron, Durant or any other champion doing this?

And then there is Harden’s negligence on defense. The Rockets will NEVER win an NBA championship until he changes his style of play. No team has ever won a championship when their best player gives poor effort on one side of the ball. The producers of ‘Shaqtin A Fool’ could make an entire show about Harden every season.

As a fan, how can you be proud of this? Maybe his fans are just the segment of the population that wants credit and praise for a job performed half right.

Two Reasons Kevin Durant Won’t Leave The Warriors

Assuming the money is right, Kevin Durant would be foolish to leave the Golden State Warriors. So many media and NBA analyst from Ric Bucher, to Chris Broussard have all but guaranteed Durant’s exit from Golden State. I believe that Kevin Durant is too smart to leave GSW.

Easy Basketball: 2019-20 Will be Durant’s 13th season

Players want to play fewer minutes and win more as they get older in the NBA. Durant has never had gotten easier shot attempts or had to carry less of the weight than he does with Curry, Thompson, and Green on the team. In his first nine seasons in Oklahoma City (Seattle), KD faced double teams, played a ton of minutes, worked extremely hard for shots, and only had one chance for a championship. In three seasons with the Warriors, he has a Finals MVP, two NBA Championships, and is making a run at a third. He plays fewer playoff minutes, averages more points, and shoots a higher % from 3, 2-pt, and free throws than OKC.

Durant’s Silicon Valley Investments

Durant has maximized his time in the Bay Area financially. He has started his own venture capital company which has partnered with some Silicon Valley heavyweights. His company reportedly has equity stakes in Rubrick, Acorn, Pieology, and Lime Scooters. Money does travel across state lines, but proximity and relationships matter in business. Warriors majority owner Joseph Lacob made his money in venture capital and mentors Durant in business.

I’m supposed to believe that Kevin Durant, who wants to score, win, and make money will let a couple beefs with Draymond make his life harder? Nah. I don’t buy it.

NCAA Transfer Portal is Getting Out of Control

We have covered the NCAA and its hypocritical and unfair practices extensively on Unafraid Show. I believe the players should have the right to transfer more freely and unencumbered like coaches. However, a lot of these kids are getting bad advice from their inner circles. These kids are transferring at the first sign of adversity. Right now there are nearly 1,000 players who have entered their names in the college football transfer portal. If a player enters his name in the portal, it doesn’t mean a player will transfer, schools can pull the players’ scholarship.

It is nice to say “I played as a true freshman”, but sometimes that adversity that you face by redshirting is the best thing for your growth. These young players need to understand that the push you need to achieve your dreams is often found in the struggle to get there.

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NBA: Are You Buying the Golden State Warriors “In the Building Pass” ?

What would an avid Golden State Warriors fan pay to be “In the Building” to experience the excitement of their games?¬†Would a fan be willing to pay upwards of $2,000 for VIP seats? How about paying around $500.00 for a “decent” seat? Or would a fan be willing to pay $100.00 just to be in Oracle Area during home games (without being able to see any live action)? ¬†This is what the Warriors are banking on with the introduction of their new “In the Building Pass.”

The “In the Building Pass” is a new subscription-based service that gives its subscribers access to Oracle Arena on home games. Subscribers can enter Oracle¬†arena to watch the games on T.V. screens while enjoying the restaurants inside. However, subscribers will not have access to any live action. ¬†No food or drinks is included. Fans may purchase this subscription for the low-low price of $100.00 per month. Best of the all the subscription¬†does not include any arena access to postseason games. It is essentially paying $100 per month to say, “I was there” or so fans can get good Instagram pictures at the stadium.¬†Is the “In the Building Pass” really worth it?¬†

The Worth of the “In the Building Pass” Depends on the Fan

The Warriors is arguably the NBA’s greatest team since Michael Jordan dominated with the Chicago Bulls (Bulls) in the 1990s. In fact, the Warriors beat the record held by Jordan’s Bulls for the most wins in a season in 2016. However, the 1995-1996 Bulls still reign supreme because they finished their amazing winning season with a Championship, which the Warriors were unable to do. ¬†The Warriors fell to the Cleveland Cavilers in the 2016 NBA Finals where King James and friends pulled off the seemingly impossible. In spite of not polishing off their almost perfect season, the Warriors have remained an extremely entertaining team to watch.

Watching the Warriors is truly a unique treat. ¬†Fans are sure to be dazzled with a myriad of unbelievable¬†three-pointers by the Splash Brothers. Fans are sure to be entertained with spectacular dunks by Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Is the magic of this team enough to warrant spending $100.00 per month just to be in Oracle Arena on gameday and not have the slightest glimpse of the live action?¬†It does not seem so. ¬†The “In the Building Pass” essentially amounts to watching the game at a bar. ¬†Only, the bar is inside of Oracle Arena. However, this may be of value to some because this is the Warriors last season in Oracle Arena. Outside of being in the arena, there is nothing to make the subscription worth $100.00 per month. A fan could go watch the game at an Applebees and not spend anywhere near $100.00.

What Would Make the Subscription Worth It?

First, the subscription would be a better value if there was at least standing room access to view the live action. Several baseball teams offer passes that grant standing room access to view the games. Also, the subscription would be a better value if it included a drink and an appetizer for each game. Similarly, the New York Yankees offer the Pinstripes Pass that starts at $15.00. The pass includes a drink and standing room access to watch the games. However, each pass is only good for one game. If the Warriors included a drink or food and game viewing access the subscription would be a better value to view one of the most historic teams in NBA history.