Hiring Jacque Vaughn Was the Right Call for the Brooklyn Nets

Sometimes boring is better.

And it doesn’t get more boring than the Brooklyn Nets hiring Jacque Vaughn to be their new Head Coach.

After Steve Nash, who never should have been brought back this season to begin with, and the Brooklyn Nets agreed to part ways last week, rumors immediately began circulating that owner Joe Tsai wanted to replace Nash with current suspended Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka.

It’s one thing to erroneously add water to a grease fire, like the Nets did when they traded for Ben Simmons. It’s another thing to try and put out a grease fire with a completely separate grease fire.

Ime Udoka is suspended for an entire season for allegedly carrying on a drama-filled affair with the spouse of someone else in the organization, with the added bonus of the affair also being with a subordinate. The rumors of Udoka’s willingness to leave the Celtics might not have been a surprise to anyone that cringes at the thought having people that were caught up in what Jada Pinkett-Smith would call “an entanglement” having to be in an office together, but the Celtics players were definitely caught off guard, and Udoka not getting the Nets job adds another level of drama to what’s going on in Boston.

While Udoka would have been a home run hire on the basketball end, between his personal life, Kyrie Irving’s personal beliefs, Ben Simmons’ personal vendetta against shooting the basketball, and Kevin Durant’s personality online, there might have been one too many issues to overcome.

Enter Jacque Vaughn- the most boring, but dependable, hire the Brooklyn Nets could have made. 

Jacque Vaughn was a steady and solid point guard at Kansas that benefited from having several first round picks around him, like Scot Pollard, Greg Ostertag, Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce. Despite never averaging more than 11 points and 7 assists per game in college, he was able to put together a 12-year NBA career.

The NBA has a long history of decent role playing guards with a solid college pedigree going on to be championship coaches. The obvious ones are Pat Riley and Steve Kerr, but you also have Rick Carlisle, Ty Lue and Doc Rivers. 

There’s something about guys that get the absolute most out of their talent as players that have the ability to unlock the same trait in others. That’s not to say that Steve Nash didn’t maximize his talent, he went from Santa Clara to winning multiple NBA MVP’s. But Nash was a star in college, and a lottery pick for a reason. He had elite base-level talent. We can’t just be saying that every good thing a white player accomplishes in this league is due to hard work.

But let’s get back to talking about the guy that ironically ended Steve Nash’s college career by holding him to 1/11 shooting in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, Jacque Vaughn.

Not only does Vaughn have the credibility of pushing himself past the limit of what he should have been able to accomplish in the NBA, he also has the credibility of having gone up against both Michael Jordan and LeBron James in separate NBA finals. How many coaches can say that?

Vaughn has both played in a playoff game as a member of the Nets, as well as coached the Nets in the 2020 playoffs after Kenny Atkinson resigned. He’s been around as a Nets assistant for the last seven years, so if anyone is aware of all the issues facing this franchise, it’s gotta be him. 

Sure, Jacque Vaughn’s first go-round as a head coach was a disaster, but he was in his mid-30’s and trying to make an Orlando Magic team relevant that had Aaron Affalo as one of its best players. Not even Phil Jackson would have had a chance down there. 

Sometimes it takes a coach getting an early shot and failing to find their footing. Just look at what Monty Williams has been able to do in Phoenix after flaming out in New Orleans.

The Nets have arguably the most talented starting five in the East, and have obviously been missing a focused, steadfast, diligent locker room voice to channel that talent into wins on the court. 

I’m not saying Jacque Vaughn is going to win this team a title, but now that his point guard’s suspension is coming to an end, if he can get Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Ben Simmons all rowing in the same direction, he’ll have worked a basketball miracle and earned himself the respect that he’s long deserved. 

Let that sink in. 

2022-2023 NBA Season Predictions

Joel Embiid asks for high fives from the crowd.

Tonight marks the start of the 2022-2023 NBA Season. Wait, what? The season always sneaks up on me, but this time, I’m ready for it.

It was a wild offseason full of blockbuster trades (Donovan Mitchell), trade demands (Kevin Durant), and trades that broke our brains (Rudy Gobert).

Has the NBA ever been more talented than it is now? Seriously, there are marquee players on almost every team. But, if you thought tanking was bad in the past, wait until you see what happens this year as teams position themselves for Victor Wembanyama and Scott Henderson.

Shall we make some NBA season predictions?

NBA Key Storylines

Draymond Green vs. The Warriors: The punch heard ’round the world might be a death blow to the Warriors dynasty. Draymond’s punch isn’t something the team will forget in the short term. After the recipient of the punch, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins received contract extensions, Draymond is now the meme of Will Smith in an empty room. I trust Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Steve Kerr to be professional about it, but this situation is something to keep an eye on.

The Circus in Brooklyn: On paper, the Nets could win the NBA Championship. In reality, they have a long way to go. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted out this offseason, and yet both players return to a roster that was swept by the Celtics in the first round. It’s only a matter of when, not if, the team will implode.

No Ime, No Problem?: The Celtics were prime for a return to the NBA Finals until Ime Udoka received a yearlong suspension. Now, I don’t know what to expect out of Boston. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the two staples and the addition of Malcolm Brogan is an upgrade at the point guard position. However, Robert Williams is out until December at the earliest and Al Horford has a lot of miles on his legs. The Cs should figure things out on their way to the playoffs, but I don’t trust them to beat teams like Boston or Philadelphia.

Eastern Conference

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers
  6. Brooklyn Nets
  7. Toronto Raptors
  8. Atlanta Hawks
  9. New York Knicks
  10. Chicago Bulls

Eastern Conference Finals: Bucks over 76ers

You can say this about a lot of teams when it comes to injuries, but if the Bucks had a healthy Khris Middleton, I believe they make the NBA Finals. If the Bucks are healthy this season, they have the pieces to win the Eastern Conference. They return virtually the same roster from a season ago, and they will add Joe Ingles to the rotation once he returns in 2023. I like the Sixers’ additions of P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton to add much-needed toughness to the roster. Embiid will be an MVP favorite, but it will not be enough to catapult the Sixers past the Bucks in the East.

Western Conference

  1. Denver Nuggets
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Phoenix Suns
  4. Los Angeles Clippers
  5. Memphis Grizzlies
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves
  8. Los Angeles Lakers
  9. New Orleans Pelicans
  10. Sacramento Kings

Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Clippers

The Draymond Green saga could be a major thorn in the Warriors’ side as they look to defend their title. There is a possibility that Green gets dealt at the deadline. However, if Green can suck it up and play through the turmoil, the Warriors are in a prime position to repeat. Steph and Klay will steal all the headlines, but another year of Poole and Wiggins will add to the team’s chemistry. If Jonathan Kuminga can take the next step and James Wiseman can take a (literal) step, the Warriors will represent the West in the Finals.

NBA Finals

Bucks over Warriors

Giannis puts on his crown and wins his second ring.

NBA Awards

MVP: Joel Embiid

Rookie of the Year: Keegan Murray

Coach of the Year: Michael Malone

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Most Improved Player: Jalen Brunson

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Poole

Check back next year to see how right (or wrong) my predictions turn out!

Leave your NBA season predictions in the comments or tweet us, @danny_giro.

NBA: Kevin Durant Wants Out And More Free Agency Thoughts

Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets / NBA

We’re not even 24 hours into NBA Free Agency, and the drama is at an all-time high. Kevin Durant dropped an atomic bomb on the NBA community by requesting a trade out of Brooklyn. The Knicks somehow signed Jalen Brunson a week ago. The Pacers traded Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics for a bag of peanuts.

The NBA is more dramatic than the hallways of a high school. Here are my somewhat organized thoughts on NBA Free Agency so far what has transpired so far.

Kevin Durant Wants Out Of Brooklyn

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller describing the last two seasons for the Brooklyn Nets.

When things go from this…

to this…

in the span of two seasons, the word “roller coaster” does not do it any justice. Circus? Disappointment? The word I’ve settled on is failure. The Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving partnership failed. Both star players pushed for James Harden, and the Nets mortgaged their future to create a “big three.” On paper, it was a genius move. However, Harden wanted out after one season, and now both Kyrie and KD want out.

Is Kyrie the main reason behind both Harden and KD’s exits? Perhaps. Did getting swept by the Celtics make matters worse? I think so. Whatever the reason might be, Owner Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks did everything in their power to accommodate KD, but now they’re left with their pants on the ground as one of the greatest players to ever play this game wants out with four years remaining on the contract. That, my friends, is not good!

So where does Durant end up? Phoenix is the logical answer because they could send Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and a boatload of draft picks and pick swaps to Brooklyn. You can never count out Pat Riley and the Heat. The man who has been spot-on about every Nets rumor, Brian Windhorst, said teams need to watch out for the Utah Jazz.

I’m interested to see if the Nets move KD or Kyrie first, and then convince the remaining member to stay. This will be an interesting weekend, to say the least.

Jalen Brunson Becomes A Knick

It wouldn’t be a Dan Girolamo article (yes, I referred to myself in the third-person) if I failed to mention the New York Knicks. Jalen Brunson agreed to a 4 year, $104 million contract with the Knicks.

To my Knicks fans, do not take out your frustration with the front office on Jalen Brunson. Make no mistake about it, Brunson is a good player. To save your mental health, I will not include the list of Knicks’ starting point guards over the last 15 years. It’s not good. Brunson will be the best option at point guard for the Knicks for well over a decade. For being only 6’1″, Brunson is very crafty in the lane while shooting over 37% from behind the arc. Now that he’s the true number one point guard, he should be able to average around 20 points and 6 assists.

Brunson is only a piece. The team-friendly deal puts the Knicks in a good situation for the future. They need to make more moves, but Brunson is a nice piece.

Good Moves

– Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics – ROBBERY.

– Kyle Anderson to the Timberwolves – This league! The new rivalry between the Grizzlies and Wolves is getting spicy!

– Joker signs the supermax – Not enough money.

– Zach LaVine re-signs with the Bulls – Personal pick. I can’t quit Lavine.

– Bobby Portis re-signs with the Bucks – Good for morale.

– Victor Oladpio re-signs with the Heat – Take the flyer on the “bet on yourself” player.

Bad Moves

– Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a first-round pick – What the hell?

– PJ Tucker to the Sixers – Good for this year, but how about in two years?

– Mitchell Robinson re-signs with the Knicks – I love Mitch. He earned this deal. However, I’m not crazy about $60 million. Was $48 million not an option?

– Lonnie Walker IV to the Lakers – Your guess is as good as mine.

– Juancho waived by the Jazz – Fuck this.

To Be Determined

– Dejounte to the Hawks while the Spurs openly tank – Only time will tell.

Enjoy the best soap opera on television, the NBA offseason! I’ll leave you with this masterclass segment from Windy.

What is your biggest NBA Free Agency storyline? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Breaking Down What The New York Knicks Should Do In The NBA Draft

RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks.

With the 11th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select…

That’s what we’re going to find out during tonight’s draft. After last summer’s free-agent debacle and a disappointing 37-win season, the Knicks must shake things up. The time to be bold is now. With plenty of future first-round picks and young players, the Knicks have the pieces to make a major move.

Will they? One can only hope.

Here are my best options ahead of tonight’s draft.

Option 1: Trade Up For Jaden Ivey

This is the home run scenario for the Knicks. It’s also their best option in terms of the direction of the team. The Knicks desperately need an elite guard who can create his shot and get others involved in the offense. Look at how the Celtics could not get into their sets at the end of the games in the NBA Finals. It’s one of the reasons why the Warriors won the title. Take Boston’s offensive inefficiencies at the end of games and multiply it by 10. That will give you the Knick’s late-game offense, which ranked 28th in fourth-quarter points per game.

Ivey solves a lot of the team’s problems. He’s a 6’4″ guard with a 6’9″ wingspan who has an explosive first step and can finish at the rim. The Knicks have never had that. Ivey averaged 17.2 ppg with percentage splits of 46/36/74. I’m calling him “Big Baby Ja Morant.” The Knicks are dying for a point guard after the Kemba Walker disaster. Do whatever it takes to trade up and take Ivey.

So what would it take? If I had to guess, the starting point is No. 11, another first-round pick, a future first-round pick swap, one of Obi/Quickley/Grimes, and one of Noel/Burks/Kemba. I would call that trade into the league office right now. I love Obi, Quickley, and Grimes, but they do not have the dynamic playmaking ability that Ivey possesses. If the Kings don’t select Ivey, then Leon should call the Pistons at No. 5, the Pacers at No. 6, and so on and so forth until he’s drafted. Make the move.

Option 2: Draft AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Or Johnny Davis

The NBA is dominated by wings. It’s the most highly-coveted position in the league. AJ Griffin is the prototypical 3-and-D wing out of Duke. I watched almost every Duke game this year, and Griffin’s continuously hit big shots from behind the arc in the game’s biggest moments. Griffin shot an impressive 44% from three. Despite the injury history, Griffin is a more than capable defender at 6’6″ with over a 7-foot wingspan. Griffin would fit right in with Thibs.

With Mitchell Robinson hitting free agency, it’s unknown whether the team will resign him or not despite the team leaning towards a reunion according to Marc Stein. I like Mitch, but do I want to give him $15 million per year? Not really. If the team wants to find his replacement or a second center to pair with Mitch, Mark Williams is the right option. In the last game of the 2020-2021 season, Williams put up 23 points and 19 rebounds, which were well above his season averages. That game was the springboard Williams needed as the 7’0″ shined this past season at Duke. Williams is a true rim protector in every sense of the word. He runs the floor well, can hold his own on switches, and shot a respectable 72% from the free-throw line.

Johnny Davis is more of a playmaking wing than he is a 3-and-D (30% from 3). This would be my least favorite selection out of the three, but he still fills a need. The Big Ten Player of the Year can hit tough shots, especially from the midrange area. He was Wisconsin’s only threat on offense so that’s why some of the percentages might be down. However, Davis could step right in and contribute for the Knicks off the bench.

If Bennedict Mathurin somehow falls to 11, then he’s the home run pick.

Option 3: Trade Back

This is the option I don’t want to happen. The Knicks need to clear cap space in order to make a run at a player like Jalen Brunson. I could see where there’s a scenario they trade back in the draft but attach a player like Burks/Noel/Kemba/Fournier to shed salary. I’m all for shedding salary, but the team needs to make this pick at No. 11 if they can’t trade up.

Hopefully, Woj or Shams doesn’t spoil the pick for you! Do the right thing tonight, Knicks. Please.

What are your thoughts on tonight’s draft? Tweet me, at @danny_giro.

NBA Playoffs: 3 Biggest Questions Right Now

Luka Doncic flexing in a game for the Dallas Mavericks.

I don’t want to brag, but I’m locked into these NBA Playoffs. My wallet may beg to differ, but I haven’t missed a game. The league is so damn talented right now. There are emerging stars left and right. On any night, so many guys can give you 20 points a game. 

Here are the three biggest questions I have right now. Two of them are fair while one is out of leftfield. That’s baseball, Suzyn.

3. What Happens To Duncan Robinson This Offseason?

I’m fully aware that I’m the only person outside of Miami who cares about this question considering the Heat are going to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, and have a good shot of returning to the NBA Finals. That being said, what happened to Duncan Robinson? Two years ago, the sharpshooting Robinson was the Heat’s starting shooting guard, averaging 13.5 ppg and 44.6% from three. Now, Robinson is glued to the bench as Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Victor Oladipo receive Duncan’s minutes.

Every team would love to have a 6’7″ shooting guard who shoots over 40% from three. However, do teams want Robinson in year two of a 5 year, 90-million-dollar contract? If he’s getting healthy DNP’s in the playoffs, the Heat have to explore trade options for Robinson this offseason.

2. Will Hunting Become The New Normal?

If you’re a bad defender in the NBA, then there’s nowhere to hide especially in the NBA Playoffs. If the opposing team is smart, they will run pick and roll with whomever the worst defender is guarding, get the switch, and attack at will. It’s like a shark that smells blood in the water. Look no further than Game 2 between the Suns and Mavericks. Despite just under three minutes of matchup time, Chris Paul scored 9 points against Luka and the Suns scored 18 points. He’s also put Dwight Powell through the wringer, scoring 14 points against the Mavericks’ big man in just under two minutes of matchup time.

No one, and I mean no one, on the Suns can guard Luka. He will score over 30 points again in Game 3. However, Kidd is right when saying Doncic will have to participate more on defense. That can only happen if he’s not exhausted from the offensive burden he carries the entire game. Will the real Jalen Brunson please stand up and help Luka out? If that doesn’t happen, get the broomsticks.

1. Will Giannis Antetokounmpo Become A God And Enter The Top 15?

Giannis Antetokunmpo put on a godlike performance in last year’s NBA Finals, rallying the Bucks from an 0-2 deficit to win the series, 4-2, behind series averages of 35.2 ppg, 13.2 rpb, and 5.0 assists. The cherry on top of a historic run had to be his 50-point performance in the series-clinching victory.

Giannis is already one of the 75 greatest players to play in the NBA. He also happens to be the best player in the NBA. Furthermore, The Athletic had Giannis as the 24th greatest player in NBA history. At this time, top-25 is where the Greek Freak belongs. However, if Giannis can go back-to-back, where will he stand with the all-time greats?

If Giannis wins the title this year, it will be without the Bucks’s second-best player. Khris Middleton, for a portion of the playoffs. I’m also assuming he will win Finals MVP if the Bucks win a title. There will be no Igudola over Curry if the Bucks win. So if those two things happen, here are what Giannis’s accomplishments would look like:

  • 2x NBA Championships and 2x Finals MVPs
  • 2x regular-season MVPs
  • 3x All-NBA First Team (will be four after this season)
  • 2x All-NBA Second Team
  • 1x DPOY
  • 3x All-NBA Defensive First Team (will be four after this season)
  • 1x All-NBA Defensive Second Team
  • 1x NBA MIP
  • Member of the 75th Anniversary team

Giannis will have accomplished all of this by the young age of 27. That is an insane resume. Giannis easily slides into the Top 20 with those numbers, but if it’s another historic final where he dominates, it will be hard to keep him outside of the Top 15.

Here’s to an exciting NBA Playoffs. Hopefully, we get a Game 7 in one of these series.

If you agree or disagree with my assessment, leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me, @danny_giro.

The NBA Should Create A Postseason MVP

Joel Embiid and Danny Green celebrating against the Toronto Raptors

I’m tired of the MVP debate. As great as NBA Twitter can be, this year’s MVP discourse on the bird app has been nothing short of insufferable.

I haven’t chimed in the debate so I’ll try to keep it under three paragraphs. Heading into April, three names had legitimate claims for the MVP. In order of where they stood in the race, the three players were Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. After Giannis dropped 44 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists in a Bucks 120-119 OT victory over the Nets on March 31, I told a buddy of mine that if the Greek Freak secured the one seed and won the scoring title, he would win MVP.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. Embiid dominated all season long and became the first center to win the scoring title since Shaq in 2000. However, when I looked at all the numbers and all of the circumstances surrounding each player, Joker gets my vote for MVP. Despite the Ben Simmons debacle, Embiid had Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris in the first half of the season before adding James Harden. In comparison, Jokic’s running mates are Aaron Gordon and Will Barton. Actually, there’s no comparison. Jokic’s supporting cast is as close to nonexistent as you can get.

Joker became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a single season. The Joker is also a monster in the advanced analytics department. For all of the prominent voices in the media laughing at Joker’s advanced analytics, just realize that Giannis and Embiid are right there with him at the top. In VORP, Joker is first followed by Giannis and Embiid. In BPM, Joker is one followed by Giannis at two and Embiid at three. Win shares and OBPM follow the same order. You can’t shit on Joker for being first as a way to discredit his case when Giannis and Embiid are right behind him in these categories.

Ok, I lied. Last paragraph. The Nuggets are the 6-seed at 48-34. People are making the argument for Embiid to win because an MVP can’t be that low in the standings. The Sixers finished with three more wins, which was good enough for the 4-seed. You’re going to go on a tirade over THREE WINS? Enough. Both Embiid and Joker had amazing seasons. One guy can win MVP, and my vote is for Joker.

Time for my next rant. The Joker is averaging 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in his series versus the Warriors while Embiid’s numbers are 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 assists. The Nuggets are down three games to none while the Sixers are ahead three games to none. Now, Embiid voters are using this to strengthen their MVP argument while diminishing Joker’s resume.

Really?

The MVP is a REGULAR SEASON award. It is NOT a postseason award. Why is that so difficult for fans to understand? Whether fair or foul, narratives determine the MVP. A good postseason performance might strengthen Embiid’s MVP narrative for next season, but it should not be used to diminish his competition for the current season.

I’m seeing too many tweets that say “Joker would be the worst MVP of all time.” Buddy, that’s a small group of candidates. If Joker is the worst MVP of all time, he’s still better than 98% of his competition. It’s like saying a player is the worst member of the hall of fame. At the end of the day, that player is still in the hall of fame, which is better than the overwhelming majority of players who will lever step foot on a basketball court.

That being said, Embiid is having a monster postseason, and if the Sixers end up making the NBA Finals, he should be rewarded for taking his team there. Even if he’s the best player on the court during those games, if the Sixers lose, the NBA Finals MVP will go to a player on the winning team.

Here’s my solution. The NBA should institute a postseason MVP. In order to win the championship, a team has to win 16 games. The number of games played in the postseason by the winning team can range anywhere from 16 to 28 games over the course of two months. That’s equivalent to one-fourth of the NBA Season. With that sample size, the NBA is doing a disservice to its players by rewarding one player with the MVP for four to seven games. It doesn’t tell the whole story of the playoffs.

Most of the time, the Finals MVP is awarded to the most deserving player on the winning team. However, changing the award to include the entire postseason will ensure that the best player for two months gets rewarded for their efforts. It will also prevent “prisoner of the moment” voting, where players are rewarded for having a few good games during the finals. The best example is Andre Igoudala in the 2015 NBA Finals. Iggy had a nice series, averaging just over 16 points and 5 rebounds. Iggy’s postseason averages were 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. The man who should’ve won Finals MVP, Steph Curry, averaged 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. If the Finals MVP were a postseason MVP, then Steph easily wins it with playoff averages of 28 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Awarding a postseason MVP instead of a Finals MVP also opens the door for a player on a losing team to win it. They should name it the “LeBron James Trophy” because he has multiple cases where he should have won the Finals MVP. James could have won the 2015 Finals MVP with averages of 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. The King also had strong cases in both 2017 and 2018. In 2017, LeBron became the first player to average a triple-double in the Finals.

If the regular season MVP encompasses the entire season, shouldn’t the Finals MVP follow suit and encompass the complete postseason? The NHL already incorporates a postseason MVP with the Conn Smythe Trophy. The NBA should do the same.

Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

Ja Morant Continues To Defy Gravity

Ja Morant NBA

The Memphis Grizzlies are currently playing in an NBA basketball game, which means Ja Morant has another chance to prove he’s not human. Once again, the superstar does not disappoint.

It’s an overused phrase, but we’re running out of words to describe Morant. Every time he steps foot on the floor, Morant is poised to do something that will make your jaw drop. If Dominque Wilkins is “The Human Highlight Film,” then Morant is “The Man Who Defies Gravity.”

6’3″ point guards typically don’t posterize centers on a nightly basis. But, those point guards aren’t Morant, the leader of a Memphis team that sits third place in the Western Conference at 43-20. After last year’s first-round exit as an eight seed, making it to a 6-seed this season would have been a vast improvement. Thanks to Morant’s play, the Grizzlies have a legitimate shot at a top-3 seed in the West.

Morant is more than just the flashy highlights. The third-year star is averaging 27.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, and 5.9 rpb with shooting splits of 49/34/75. The assists are down a bit from last year, but Morant’s points have increased by eight. His statistical improvements and team’s success are the reason why Morant is the huge frontrunner to win Most Improved, according to VegasInsider.

Like most NBA awards, it comes down to subjectivity and a narrative. Typically, most improved is awarded to players that make the jump from average to good. Previous winners like Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Pascal Siakam, and Victor Oladipo fit the bill. However, it’s rarely given to a player that makes the leap from good to superstar, which is arguably more difficult. Tracy McGrady is probably the closest example as he jumped from 15 ppg to 26 ppg during his MIP season. Morant should join McGrady in that category.

Morant’s rise to superstardom is unbelievable considering that nearly every basketball mind would have taken Zion Williamson over Ja in the 2019 NBA Draft. Now, Morant is the consensus number one.

Dear Basketball Gods,

Please protect Ja Morant.

From, NBA Fans

If you have any thoughts about Ja Morant, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The New York Knicks Make Me Sick

The best comedy act in the country occurs when the New York Knicks step on a basketball court. Seriously, I urge you to find something that provides more laughs to the US of A than the Knicks, especially when the team begins the second half of every game.

Just look at tonight when the Knicks faced their crosstown rival, the Brooklyn Nets. In the first half, the Knicks held a TWENTY-EIGHT (28) point lead against a team without its three best players – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons.

Every single Knicks fan knew it was too good to be true. The fans know this team finds new ways to emotionally devastate us on a nightly basis. A case in point is my tweet below.

As Ramsay Bolton said, you haven’t been paying attention if you thought the Knicks would win this game.

Tom Thibodeau refuses to change his rotations. Without a point guard, the team can’t run any sets late in games. The offense forgets how to score in the fourth quarter. Julius Randle is the only one who wants the ball at the end of games, but he settles for too many tough jump shots. Stupid double teams on defense lead to wide-open threes for the opposition.

In other words, business as usual for the Knicks down the stretch.

Embarrassing, disgraceful, pathetic, sad – we’re running out of words to describe the Knicks. New York invents a new way to lose every single night. This was (in my best LeBron James voice) not the first, not the second, but the third time in 11 days that the Knicks have blown a 20+ point lead.

I believe that only one loss per season can truly break a fan. For me, that loss came against Portland last Saturday. That game broke my spirit and hope in humanity. Because of the loss to the Blazers, I found myself laughing through the pain against the Nets. You can’t “re-break” me, Knicks. As MJ said in Spider-Man: No Way Home, “If you expect disappointment, then you can never really be disappointed.”

At least I can hang my hat on the fact that Thibs continues to play the young guys like Quickley, Obi, Deuce, and Cam Reddish substantial minutes in order to further their development.

HA, good one, Dan.

Thibs even said that “everything is on the table now” in the postgame press conference. Hopefully, playing starters like RJ Barrett in the final minute of a game with the team down double-digits is removed from Thibs’s playbook. But hey, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Enjoy the all-star break. I know I will because the Knicks won’t have a chance to break my heart.

Comment below with your thoughts on the Knicks or tweet me at, @danny_giro.

NBA Trade Deadline: Winners and Losers

Ben Simmons / NBA

Two words: this league! No league is more dramatic than the NBA. If you need drama, look no further than today’s trade deadline. The drama is continuing on TNT as we speak!

You couldn’t script funnier moments. Back to the trade deadline, here are my winners and losers.

Winner: Brian Windhorst

The MVP of the trade deadline is Brian “Windy” Windhorst. Make no mistake about it, Windhorst pulled his sword out and defeated the dragon that is Adrian “Woj” Wojnarowski. Yesterday, Windhorst firmly planted his flag on “James Harden Island,” saying the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers were “absolutely engaged in trade discussions.” He said it with conviction, and never waivered.

Naturally, most people waited for Woj to report on the issue, and Mr. Bomb essentially refuted Windy’s report on NBA Countdown.

In the Battle of the Network Reporters, Windhorst pulled the upset after Woj adjusted his story this morning. Good for Windhorst. It’s nice to see a reporter other than Woj and Shams break a big scoop.

Shams also defeated Woj in the number of trades broken. I expect Woj to head back into the lab and go on a revenge tour come free agency.

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

In my best Randy Newman voice, “I (don’t) love LA.” The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James, who is averaging 29 ppg, 7 rpb, and 6 apg, and Anthony Davis, a top 15 player in the NBA, and yet, the team sits in 9th place in the Western Conference at 26-30. The Russell Westbrook experience has been a disaster. Signing Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza over Alex Caruso is the definition of basketball malpractice. The Lakers have a horrible cap situation, but with some creativity, trades could happen.

Spoiler alert: The Lakers made zero trades at the deadline. I’m sure they can secure a buyout player, but I would be shocked if L.A. makes it out of the first round especially if their opponent is Phoenix or Golden State.

Winner: Quitting

Winners never quit, and quitters never win. Today, the saying reads “winners never quit, and quitters can also win.” Ben Simmons refused to play for the Sixers this season after Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid called him out for his poor play against Hawks in last year’s playoffs. James Harden didn’t like Brooklyn so he mailed it in this past week and wanted out.

Kids, if you play in the NBA, refusing to play and mailing it in on the court will get you your way because that’s exactly what happened today. Simmons heads to a good situation in Brooklyn while Harden teams up with Embiid. Both of these players should thrive in their new situations. However, what’s to stop them from asking out if things don’t go haywire a few years down the line?

Loser: New York Knicks

I could spend forever on how the Knicks screwed this up so I’ll keep it brief. Today was a colossal failure for Leon Rose and the entire front office. The Knicks made z-e-r-o trades on a day where they had to make m-u-l-t-i-p-l-e moves. The De’Aaron Fox dream died when the Kings traded Tyrese Haliburton*. Ben Simmons was a long shot. Russell Westbrook was a possibility, but it never materialized.

At that point, all I wanted for the Knicks to do was to trade veterans like Burks, Noel, and Kemba for waivable players and 2nd round picks to clear up rotation spots for the young players. Did that happen? No. My guess is the front office believed the team had tradeable contracts on the roster. As it turns out, the league wouldn’t budge, and that’s an indictment on Leon’s poor off-season where he spent money on the three aforementioned players above as well as Evan Fournier. This is absolutely the worst-case scenario, and I’m very upset.

*If the Knicks did not contact the Kings about Haliburton, I’ll scream.

Quick Hits

  • Whenever I think the Knicks are hopeless, I always say to myself, “It could be worse. We could be the Kings.”
  • The Dallas Mavericks trading Kristaps Porzingis to Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans is puzzling. I understand why the Wizards make that move, but for Dallas, I’m struggling to come up with answers. Dinwiddie and Bertans are not on team-friendly contracts. Perhaps Dallas believes Brunson will leave in the offseason so therefore, Dinwiddie is guard insurance.
  • The San Antonio Spurs made multiple trades This ain’t your Duncan Spurs anymore, Pop.
  • Goran Dragic will be the best buyout option for contenders. Dallas is the frontrunner to sign the Dragon, but after the Dinwiddie trade, that might have changed. The Milwaukee Bucks should make an aggressive play for the Dragon.

Tell us your winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline in the comments below or tweet us at,@unafraidshow.

Buy, Sell, Or Hold: What Each NBA Team Should Do At The Trade Deadline

Erik Spoelstra and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat

Crank up the hot stove and fire up the NBA Trade machine because the deadline is coming. With the NBA Trade Deadline set for Feb. 10, each team will need to decide whether to buy, sell, or hold. As of Jan. 27, here are the current standings in each conference.

For teams at the top and bottom of each conference, the decision to buy or sell is quite easy. The worst place to be in the NBA is the 8-13 range. It’s the heart of mediocrity. It’s here where teams typically made mistakes in free agency and must decide on how to amend those decisions. For some organizations, buying or selling isn’t an option. Because of roster construction and salary cap limitations, the only thing a team can do is hold and play out the season.

Below is a breakdown of which teams should buy, sell, or hold. Playing The Clash while reading the article is optional, but highly suggested.

Buy

If a team sits at the top of either respective conference, then it’s an obvious “go.” Last year proved that anything can happen. The Lakers and Nets were the betting favorites at the beginning of the year, but injuries derailed their seasons as both failed to make the Conference Finals. Teams with superstars like the Bucks or a healthy mix of young talent and veterans like the Suns took advantage of last year to the fullest and expedited their season trajectories.

As a “go,” these teams will need to bring in another player or two via trade or buyout to gear up for the postseason run. Here are the “Go” teams by conference, and suggestions on what each team should seek to acquire.

East

Miami Heat: The Heat need another big man who can rebound (Heat rank 16th in rpg in NBA) to back up Bam Adebayo. Keep in mind that Victor Oladapio could return before the playoffs. Player to consider – Robin Lopez.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls should pursue size, but injuries to Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball could force them to get a guard. Players to consider – Jerami Grant or Thaddeus Young.

Brooklyn Nets: Two words: Kyrie insurance. Player to consider – Goran Dragic.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks need another center especially if Brook Lopez doesn’t return. Player to consider – Brook’s brother, Robin Lopez.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs have been such a great surprise. They should not trade away any young pieces, and should only make a move if they can do it at a discount. They are still a year to two away, but it’s a promising start. Players to consider – Caris LeVert or Harrison Barnes.

West

Phoenix Suns: The Suns should add a forward that can guard multiple positions and shoot a three. Players to consider – Robert Covington or Thaddeus Young.

Golden State Warriors: This is a James Wiseman question. If you believe in him, stay put. If you don’t make a big trade to the Indiana Pacers. Players to consider – Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner.

Memphis Grizzlies: Shooting, shooting, and more shooting. Grizzlies rank 24th in 3PA and 23rd in 3P%. Players to consider – Terrence Ross or Eric Gordon.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz need a veteran who knows how to handle the pressure in the playoffs. I’m being serious, by the way. Player to consider – Harrison Barnes.

Dallas Mavericks: With the injury to Tim Hardaway Jr., the Mavs desperately need another guard. Players to consider – Goran Dragic.

Los Angeles Lakers: If your team has LeBron James, there is no next year. If the Lakers can’t trade Russell Westbrook, then they will need to somehow bring in a “3 and D” guy with a huge emphasis on the defense. Players to consider – Marcus Smart or Goran Dragic.

Sell

Most of these teams sit at the bottom of each conference, but there are a few teams in that 8-13 range that should consider selling as well. I’m looking at you, Portland.

East

Indiana Pacers: The Myles Turner-Domantis Sabonis pairing hasn’t worked. The spacing is off. The team should build around one or the other, and sell the other to a contender.

Detroit Pistons: Go with the complete rebuild around Cade Cunningham and trade Grant.

Orlando Magic: Ross, Lopez, and Gary Harris should all be off this team in February.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards are fading fast. Blowing a 35-point lead to the Clippers should make them sellers. Start preliminary discussions with Bradley Beal about a trade in the offseason.

West

Sacramento Kings: The Kings are such an enigma. On paper, a lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes should be good enough to make the NBA Play-In Tournament. But, the Kings aren’t going anywhere. Do me a favor and trade Fox to the Knicks.

Oklahoma City Thunder: I don’t need to tell Sam Presti about who or how to trade.

Houston Rockets: Do whatever it takes to get Eric Gordon off the roster. Then, turn your attention to John Wall.

New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans have a huge Zion Williamson problem. Because of that, moving Brandon Ingram for picks and young players would be in their best interest.

Portland Trail Blazers: Every player including Damian Lillard should be on the trading block. It’s time to start over.

Hold

Depending on how the next few weeks will determine how these teams will operate.

East

Philadelphia 76ers: Before the Sixers can do anything, they need to figure out what to do with Ben Simmons. If a deal for Simmons can’t be completed by the deadline, expect the Sixers to go with what they have in the playoffs.

Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets are a Play-In team so there aren’t a lot of moves they can make that will improve their chances. Although Terry Rozier has played well as of late, the Hornets should consider trading him as an expiring contract for assets if he’s not part of their plans.

Toronto Raptors: The Raptors aren’t going anywhere, but they’re building something. I was wrong about Fred VanVleet when I said the Knicks should not overpay him. That looks stupid as the Knicks are down 30 to the Miami Heat.

Boston Celtics: Brad Stevens and the rest of the management team must finally answer the question they’ve been dreading for two years. Are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown the right duo of the future?

New York Knicks: I’ll keep this short. If the Knicks are around 10th or 11th place at the trade deadline, they should make a deal for a player like Fox, Sabonis, or LeVert. If they continue to slide, they should trade all of their veterans and try again next year.

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks just need to get healthy. The talent is there. If the Hawks make the NBA Play-In tournament, I would not want to see Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs.

West

Denver Nuggets: The best move thing the Nuggets can do is pray that Jamal Murray comes back healthy.

Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves should do whatever it takes to make the playoffs. Not sure what move there is to make, but they should consider a D’Angelo Russell for Ben Simmons package.

Los Angeles Clippers: Like the Nuggets, the best moves the Clippers can make are non-moves aka hope Paul George and Kawhi Leonard come back.

San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs will have to build in the draft and free agency per usual. However, Dejounte Murray is playing like an all-star.

What should your NBA team do at the deadline? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.