Despite the Downtrodden Season “Brighter Days” are Ahead

By Nikko Weathers

The past five years the world has seen one of the greatest dynasties of all time changing the game in front of our very eyes. Playing up tempo, sharpshooting, undersized, team and pass first style took the league by storm. Now missing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and the departure of arguably the best player in the league Kevin Durant, this has been one of the worst seasons in Golden State franchise history.

Five straight seasons in the NBA Finals has put a tax on everyone’s bodies and with the subtraction of Durant and the injury to Thompson, the Warriors were in limbo going into this season due to every other team improving while they were on the decline. With the departure of Durant the Warriors made more questionable signings to try and fill the void that Durant left. Leading them to signing an alternate All-Star D’Angelo Russell, who had a career year with the Brooklyn Nets, and the signing of Willie Cauley-Stein an interior defender. These two signings made the fans and experts question which direction they were trying to go in.

With the injury to superstar Curry, the Warriors struggled to accumulate wins and they needed a variety of pieces to help get back to their playoff expectations. The league knew that the Russell signing was trade bait, which it ended up being around the trade deadline. On Feb 6, 2020 the Warriors shipped Russell to Minnesota for an underachieving Andrew Wiggins in a trade that also awarded the Warriors a 2021 first round pick and a 2021 second round pick. The Warriors hope that Wiggins can have the same impact that Harrison Barnes, had on the team that went 73-9.

With the Warriors having the worst record in the NBA at 15-50 they are sitting atop of the rankings for the number one pick in the draft. Which could be moved for more pieces. With the core still intact and a healthy rested team for next season, a bunch of draft capital, and a top tier coaching staff, there is no reason that the Warriors won’t return to their old standards.

A “Central” Focus for the Pacific and Central Divisions

by Jamya Kyle

There is very high hope for both the pacific and central divisions within the NBA due to the amount of time taken off as of now due to circumstances, as well the tremendous progression some teams have made before everything occurred. 

Starting with the central division first up would be the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls record currently is 22-43 which would be increasing to last year’s record for them as an overall team. Zach Lavine has done a tremendous job by leading this team in points every night by scoring 25.5 points a night. Taking a look at this roster I can see that most of this team is very young which means that there will be a bright future for these men once they create a strong bond and understanding of how to play together. 

Going 19-42 being number 15th in the Eastern conference is the Cleveland Cavaliers, so far the last past two seasons the Cavs have struggled to adapt to each other’s playing style. There have been various players coming along each season with a nonstop swap in and out between players and coaches. Once there is a set team and specific roles I believe this team will be unstoppable including the chemistry between one another.

With the record of 20-46, the Detroit Pistons has had a very identical season as Chicago Bulls, the majority of these players are young and have a lot of potential which is going to take time to adapt. I feel this team has players which the younger ones could benefit off of rather it be from playing on the court such as Andre Drummond, or when it comes to executing plays Derrick Rose would be a big factor. Once decided who will be drafted towards this team will be able to determine what type of season this team will be looking at in the future.

Being number five within the eastern conference is the Indiana Pacers, this team has come a long way on the offensive side of the ball. The pacers record is 39-26, overall this team has done a tremendous job on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court. This team has surprised many with the record they have pulled off. The expected rank of this record team was expected to be 13 out of 30 which is a good look for the Pacers in the future for a young team.

On the Pacific side of the league with a record being 15-50 in this season so far. The Warriors have struggled to keep their star player Steph Curry healthy with him injuring his index finger and returning in March against the Raptors. The most noticeable struggle the Warriors have is that they do not have any consistency in winning games, the weakness could identify with their main player not being on the floor to lead the team. Overall the Warriors have some work to be done to get everything back to how it used to be consistent as they were before.

With a record of 44-20 which was expected to be the fourth out of 30 teams but the Los Angeles Clippers sit second within the Western Conference. Doc Rivers has done a great job by coaching his players and executing this game, being able to apply his knowledge from when he played himself to being able to coach the game. Although this team has not been together as long when looking at the roster you see most of the individuals have played some time within the league to be able to adapt quickly to new settings. I see a bright future ahead of the LA Clippers and I see this team staying together down the road and winning a championship.

With the first seat in the western conference is the Los Angeles Lakers with a record of 49 and 14. The Lakers started at a very great start to the season and personally no doubt in me they were not finishing off strong as well. In the first game of seeing this team play together, I saw a lot of versatility on the floor and a good understanding of everyone’s role on the floor. There is great leadership on the floor with some veteran players to help lead this team also the players. The Lakers will go as far as they want. I see nothing ruining this team into making it to the finals and nothing stopping them but themselves. 

Placing 13th in the western conference is the Phoenix Suns with a record of 26-39. Compared to the 19-63 record last year the Suns have stepped up tremendously, this team is not only one of the youngest teams as of now in the league but is the most executed in my opinion. I would have loved to see how this team would have reacted to the end of the season if they were able to finish. I believe the Suns will go far next year being able to build those players even more and seeing them at potentially their best at such a young age is very scary. I believe the Suns will shock a lot of fans next season.

The Sacramento Kings are sitting 3rd in the Pacific division with a record being 28-36, compared to the expected record which was 61-21 being 1st of 29. The Kings have done very good in this season with De’Aaron Fox leading points, assists, and steals. Next season I believe Buddy Heild will have an outstanding season stepping up more as he is the second leader in points. Also with a lead in rebounds Nemanja Bjelica who as well will have a huge season next year. The Kings are going down a great road and I believe I will be able to keep the ride going and go even farther next season.

The Wild, Wild Northwest Division

Photo Courtesy of Clutch

by Tyler Lane

One of the most un-watched divisions in all of professional sports, yet continuously provides the NBA a beautiful story line year in and year out. The Denver Nuggets (43-22) are sitting at a stout third place in a gritty Western Conference, immediately followed by the Utah Jazz (41-23) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24). It is no secret the Thunder have been a success story this season when the entire world called them a rebuild. Yet curiosity reigns as the fact of the matter is, any team previously mentioned has some off the wall chance at the NBA’s biggest stage: The Finals. 

With Covid-19 taking away all of sports, especially with the NBA playoffs shortly around the corner, things were just starting to peak for these teams. The Nuggets have taken two games from the Jazz they arguably should not have, meanwhile Oklahoma City has fleeced the Jazz and the Nuggets for wins that may seem unwarranted. What makes this interesting you might add? Considering the Denver Nuggets have a 7 foot point guard, and the Thunder have arguably the best pure point guard of all time, that just leaves the Jazz. The Jazz have the back-to-back Defensive Player of The Year in Rudy Gobert, while also farming one of the best players in the league under twenty-five. 

It is these small stories that build up, along with the fact these three teams have years of chaotic rivalries with one another. The bottom half of the Northwest is even more intriguing. Starting with the boys in Portland, the Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers have not had the best post season success until last year, when they defeated Denver in the second round to make their first Western Conference Finals appearance in over twenty years. Since then they have dropped off, sitting at 29-37 and struggling immensely just to string a few wins together. Along with that the Minnesota Timberwolves remain in the pit at 19-45. The T’Wolves have the future to look at holding two young elite talents in Center Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell – the question just remains if they can build around this duo to have success. 

All in all, keep the Northwest division in mind. Three to maybe four of their teams usually end up representing the West in the playoffs. Look for the same thing this season, as the playoff matchups between some of these divisional rivals can be something of legendary. 

Cavaliers’ Future “Drummond” Up Interest?

It is no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have been struggling since “The Kid From Akron” took his talents out west to Hollywood. The 2018-2019 season was an extended tanking session, finishing with a 19-63 record and being the second worse team in the East. The off-season did not bring much excitement, outside of the draft where the Cavs drafted Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, then later acquiring Kevin Porter Jr. While the rookies, mixed with the signing of college basketball coaching titan John Beilein, provided some optimism, no one expected big things from the ball club.

The Cavaliers did look good at times on the court putting together their first three-game winning streak since 2018, early in the season. But that was the one and only highlight for Coach Beilein as head coach, as he stepped down from his duties on February 19th. Enter the J.B. Bickerstaff era. With newly acquired former All-Star, Andre Drummond, from the Pistons at the trade deadline, J.B. took the job head-on with optimism and gusto. Winning 5 out of the 11 games up until the post-postponement of the NBA season, things were looking up for Cleveland. So, that raises the question: What is next for the former NBA Champions?

With the expriring contracts of Tristan Thompson, Matt Dellavedova, and Ante Zizic, the Cavs’ have some open Cap space to make some moves. With the rise of Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. this season, we may have an idea for how our future looks for the first time in a long time. The future hopefully includes Andre Drummond who averaged 17.5 points and 11.1 rebounds in the short run he had with the team. Andre does have a player option for the 2020-2021 season worth 28.8 million dollars which the Cavs hope to capitalize on, since he has gone on record saying “the transition has been great!”during an AMA with bleacher report. Signing him should be the first priority for Koby Altman and the front office with the open cap they are getting. But in doing that, it takes away minutes from Tristan Thompson. Tristan was expecting to be moved at the deadline, but the right deal never came forward. However, the Cleveland Iron-Man has been super loyal to this organization, and has not been shy about saying he is open to a sign-then-trade so that the Cavaliers do not have to let him walk scott-free.

With the way the squad stepped up their game once Andre came, and J.B. took over, there is a lot to be optimistic about with this team moving forward. While there are still some unanswered questions, such as Darius Garland’s role with the team, how Dylan Windler will fit in once he is healthy, and obviously, if Andre Drummond will be in a Cleveland uniform starting next season. With another high draft pick coming their way, and a solid young core to build on, and potentially another All-Star being signed, the stars may be aligning for the Cavs to make moves in the Eastern Conference. And If nothing else, Andre has “Drummond” up interest for Northeast Ohio.

The Short-Handed Cavaliers Face the Music Against Utah

The Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Utah Jazz Monday night, the 2nd, and from the get go, this looked like a very interesting match up for both teams. The story everyone was watching before the game was the upcoming Kevin Porter jr. making the start in place of Darius Garland, who was held out of the line up, and going head to head against the Jazz’s star Donovan Mitchell. Another injury the Cavs had to deal with was Tristan Thompson. Which the Cavs knew would hurt them in the paint with Rudy Gobert attacking all night.

The action got off to a hot start with a foul challenge not even five minutes into the game, and the Jazz hitting two quick triples. The action kept fast paced and aggressive, with the scoring led by Collin Sexton and Kevin Love for the Cavs, and Royce O’Neal for the Jazz who hit 3 Triples in the first quarter. The action kept fast paced up until the end of the fist quarter, however the Jazz took a small lead and ended the quarter with the 31-25 Lead.

The second quarter picked up right where the first left off. Two quick buckets from both teams and they were off to the races once more. Little defensive resistance was being put in the paint for either team. But the Wine & Gold took advantages off a few misses and took the lead with 8 minutes left in the half. However, the talent of Utah did not let that last, and tied the game with 3:32 remaining in the half. Neither team continued to give an inch, but Donovan Mitchell took things into his own hands, and gave the Jazz the lead, followed shortly by a Mike Conley three at the buzzer.

The Cavaliers’ kryptonite all year has been the third quarter, and tonight was no different as they came out sluggish and were settling for bad shots. Utah came out in the exact opposite demeanor and quickly made their lead a 14 point lead just 2 minutes into the third quarter. But the motive under new head coach, JB Bickerstaff has been to never quit and continue to fight, and Kevin Love did just that. Love drilled back to back threes trimming the lead down to 9 with 7 minutes to go in the third. But Donovan Mitchell didn’t let that continue by taking over the game once again. Drilling two three pointers and a big two handed dunk with 3 minutes left in the third to give Utah a 12 point advantage. The Jazz kept pouring on, as the Cavs’ kept giving them opportunities, and missing out on their own on the offensive end. Jazz kept the lead heading into the final quarter 94-82.

The Cavs’ struggles continued early in the fourth, this time coming in the form of former teammate Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson provided a spark for the Jazz off the bench contributing 13 points, and shot 75% behind the arc. The Jazz got the lead up to 18 early in the fourth, but JB Bickerstaff’s was remembered as the Cavs fought back and gained some momentum with a small run. The run did not last however, as the young core showed its lack of experience by giving up a few turnovers. Despite great defensive efforts by Kevin Porter JR. and Larry Nance JR. the Wine & Gold were not able to overcome the firepower of the Jazz’s offense. The Jazz ride to the finish line, despite a late surge from the Cavs, taking the W 126-113