Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: NBA’s Best Newly-Formed Star Duo

After NBA teams spent the last decade trying to emulate the 2010 Heat’s “Big Three” approach to roster-building, those clubs didn’t necessarily move away from that strategy during the 2019 offseason. However, when the Lakers came up short in their effort to add Kawhi Leonard to their roster to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it helped create a new storyline.

Rather than teaming up in threes this offseason, many of the NBA’s star players joined up with just one other All-Star, creating a handful of new dynamic duos around the league.

The Lakers acquired Davis – a perennial MVP candidate going forward – to team up with a four-time MVP in James.

In rebuffing the Lakers’ advances, Leonard – a two-time Finals MVP – headed to the Clippers, who also acquired Paul George – third in MVP voting last season – in a trade with Oklahoma City.

The Nets cleared enough cap room for two maximum-salary free agents, and used those slots to land Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who have combined for a total of 16 All-Star berths, 11 All-NBA nods, and three championships.

The Rockets reunited a pair of former MVP winners when they struck a deal to land triple-double machine Russell Westbrook from Oklahoma City, adding him to a backcourt that already featured the league’s leading scorer, James Harden.

Even the Warriors got into the act after losing Durant, acquiring All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade to share the backcourt with two-time MVP Stephen Curry to start the 2019/20 season.

Golden State has two more former All-NBA players in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and several other clubs around the league have their own dynamic duos, including Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in Portland, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia, and Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton in Milwaukee, among others.

Today though, we’re focusing on newly-formed pairings, so we want to know which of the five star duos listed above you’d most like to have on your roster moving forward.

We’re looking at both the short- and long-term here, so injuries like Durant’s Achilles tear should be taken into account — the fact that KD will likely miss all of next season negatively impacts Brooklyn’s duo, but we want you to consider the next few years, rather than just 2019/20.

Players’ contract situations and injury histories matter too — maybe the Clippers’ duo is slightly less appealing due to the fact that both players are only guaranteed to be around for the next two seasons, or because George is coming off two shoulder surgeries. Age is also a factor, since there’s no guarantee how many more All-NBA seasons a 34-year-old like LeBron has left.

With all that in mind, which newly-formed star duo do you like best going forward? Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Early Western Conference Favorites

No team besides the Golden State Warriors has represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals since 2014, but when the 2019/20 season begins, the Warriors almost certainly won’t be most fans’ pick to come out of the West again.

In the wake of their acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers emerged as the betting favorites to win the conference – and the NBA championship – and it’s not hard to see why. George was one of the league’s best players in the regular season last season, while Leonard was the best postseason player. They join a 48-win team that’s bringing back many of its most important role players.

Still, the Clippers aren’t the overwhelming frontrunners. Leonard only played 60 games last season and battled a leg injury in the playoffs, while George underwent surgeries on both shoulders this spring and isn’t a lock to be ready for opening night. Plus, it’s not as if the Clips are bringing back all the key members of last year’s team — Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had be to be dealt for George.

The Lakers are viewed as perhaps the most significant threat to the Clippers in the West, as they added a perennial MVP contender themselves by trading for Anthony Davis. He’ll join LeBron James and a collection of role players both new (Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Avery Bradley) and returning (Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee). The Lakers also managed to hold Kyle Kuzma out of the Davis blockbuster and signed DeMarcus Cousins to a team-friendly deal in the hopes that he can recapture his All-Star form.

Outside of Los Angeles, there are a number of other clubs threatening to make a deep playoff run in the West. The Nuggets claimed the No. 2 seed last season and will bring all their primary contributors back, along with newly-acquired Jerami Grant, a versatile defender and someone who can make three-pointers on offense.

The Trail Blazers, who beat Denver to advance to the Western Finals this spring, underwent some changes this summer, with the likes of Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner, Seth Curry, and Jake Layman being replaced by Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Nassir Little, and Mario Hezonja. Most importantly though, the club’s stars – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum – will be back.

The Rockets appeared on the verge of blowing things up after a disappointing second-round exit this spring, but they now seem prepared to bring back a strong group led by James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon. During the past two seasons, no Western team came closer than Houston to knocking off the Warriors.

[UPDATE: The Rockets have agreed to acquire Russell Westbrook in a trade for Paul.]

Speaking of those Warriors, it’s definitely premature to write them off, as they still have a trio of All-Star caliber players in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and newly-acquired D’Angelo Russell. If Klay Thompson returns to full strength from his torn ACL down the stretch, no one will want to face Golden State in the postseason.

Finally, the Jazz had one of the most impressive offseasons of any NBA team, revamping their starting five by acquiring Mike Conley in a trade and then signing Bojan Bogdanovic in free agency to join Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles. While Utah will miss contributors like Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder, the team did well to add role players like Ed Davis, Jeff Green, and Emmanuel Mudiay on the cheap.

What do you think? Which of these Western teams is your early pick to make it to the Finals next spring? Or is there another team in the conference that you like even more?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Which Team Will Kawhi Leonard Choose?

While every other top-15 player in our list of 2019’s best free agents came off the board on June 30, Kawhi Leonard took his time, lining up meetings and considering all his options. Five days later, he’s still weighing his decision.

For much of the season, the Clippers were considered Leonard’s most likely destination by league insiders. The team repeatedly sent executives to Raptors games, cleared its cap to make a run at Leonard (and another star), and gained a reputation as an increasingly stable, well-run organization.

However, after striking out on other top free agents this summer, the Clippers no longer look like a clear-cut favorite for Leonard, as they face intense competition for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year from two other clubs.

One of those clubs wasn’t a destination that was on Leonard’s wish list when he asked out of San Antonio last summer. However, the Raptors built a relationship with the star forward over the course of the most successful season in team history, helping him stay healthy and surrounding him with the talent necessary to win a championship.

The trust that Leonard established with his teammates, the front office, the coaches, and the training staff in Toronto could be an important factor as he weighs his decision, and no star has ever left in free agency immediately after winning a title. Still, rumors persist that the Southern California native wants to return home to Los Angeles, which was his reported desire when his trade request first surfaced in 2018.

That alleged desire to move to Los Angeles helped fuel the Clippers rumors, but it also makes the Lakers a very viable landing spot for the Finals MVP. Having secured a deal for Anthony Davis and nearly carved out enough cap room for a maximum-salary slot, the Lakers can sell Leonard on an AD-LeBron James-Kawhi “Big Three” that would immediately make the franchise the overwhelming frontrunner for the 2020 title.

There has been increasing chatter over the last week or two that the Lakers are a strong contender for Leonard, with Cris Carter of Fox Sports 1 suggesting this morning on First Things First (video link) that he views the Lakers as the best fit for Kawhi.

Carter has a long-standing relationship with the San Diego State alum and his reps, so it’s possible his opinion is being influenced by what he has heard from Leonard’s camp. However, as of late, the rumor mill has pointed as much toward a Raptors return as a move to the Lakers.

In other words, no one really knows anything. But for what it’s worth, Carter believes an announcement from Leonard’s camp will come today. I probably wouldn’t recommend betting the house on that, but with the process apparently nearing an end, we want to get your predictions on Leonard’s decision.

Will Kawhi be a Clipper, Raptor, or Laker in 2019/20?

Vote in our poll below, then to the comment section to explain your thinking.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: 2019 NBA Finals Predictions

The 2019 NBA Finals are set to get underway on Thursday night. Game 1 will be the first Finals game to take place outside of the United States, as the 58-24 Raptors narrowly beat out the 57-25 Warriors for home court advantage.

Despite Toronto’s home court advantage and regular season edge – including a 2-0 record vs. Golden State – the Warriors will enter the series as the overwhelming favorites to win their fourth title in five years, and third in a row. Even without Kevin Durant in their lineup for the start of the series, the Dubs have enough weapons on both ends of the court that they’ll be difficult to beat.

Of course, Golden State’s top weapon is Stephen Curry, who has gone into full-on Human Torch mode since Durant went down vs. Houston. In his last five games – all Warriors wins – Curry shot 41.7% on 14.4 three-point attempts per contest, and has scored at least 33 points in every game.

Klay Thompson has been a reliable No. 2 scoring option, averaging 22.6 PPG with a .400 3PT% over those five games, while Draymond Green has filled up the box score (14.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 8.4 APG, 2.4 BPG, 2.0 SPG) and been everywhere on defense.

Still, the Warriors have yet to face a defense like this Raptors’ unit in the postseason. Toronto’s starting lineup features a pair of former Defensive Players of the Year (Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol) and a former All-Defensive guard (Danny Green) to go along with stout and savvy point guard Kyle Lowry and an athletic forward who can guard all five positions (Pascal Siakam).

Throw in three-time All-Defensive player Serge Ibaka off the bench, and this is a Raptors team that’s capable of adjusting its scheme to a variety of offensive attacks, and switching, trapping, and helping as necessary. It’s possible that no NBA team can truly stop the Warriors, but this looks like the club that’s best equipped to slow them down.

The Raptors haven’t been as dangerous on offense during the playoffs, but Leonard is capable of single-handedly carrying the squad on that end of the court at times, and has turned in an all-time postseason performance through three rounds (31.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .507/.388/.875 shooting). In Thompson, Green, and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have plenty of excellent defenders to throw at him, but Leonard is talented enough to score 30 points even on nights when the defense plays him well.

What do you think? Will the Warriors cement their place in NBA history by becoming the first franchise since the 2000-02 Lakers to win three straight championships? Or will the Raptors pull off the upset and bring Canada its first ever NBA title?

After voting in our poll, head to the comment section to weigh in further on this showdown. Will we see much of Durant this series? How heavily will the outcome weigh on his presence or absence? Will other injured players like DeMarcus Cousins or OG Anunoby make an impact? Which matchups do you expect each team to try to exploit?

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Which Team Will Win Bucks/Raptors Series?

When we asked for conference finals predictions 10 days ago, before each series had gotten underway, the Bucks were the clear choice in the Eastern Conference over the Raptors. In that poll, Milwaukee received just over 64% of the vote, while Toronto received less than 36%.

Now, with the series tied at two games apiece, the series is essentially in the same place it was then — it’s simply a best-of-three instead of a best-of-seven. We also have four games worth of data at our disposal, even if it’s not clear what conclusions we should – or can – draw from that data.

Are the Bucks the team we saw in Game 2, when they dominated the Raptors on both ends of the court en route to a 22-point win? Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 30 points and 17 rebounds in that contest, but he got plenty of help from his supporting cast, with Ersan Ilyasova, Nikola Mirotic, Malcolm Brogdon, George Hill, and Khris Middleton all scoring double-digit points.

The Raptors, meanwhile, got 31 points from Kawhi Leonard in that game, but only two other players – Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell – scored more than eight.

Since the series shifted back to Toronto though, the Bucks’ stars and role players alike struggled with consistency, with no Milwaukee players stringing together two consecutive great games. It was the Raptors’ depth, on the other hand, that thrived in Game 4, as the team cruised to a 120-102 victory despite getting only 19 points out of Leonard.

With the series back in Milwaukee tonight, the Bucks will be looking to rebound, and the odds are in their favor — they haven’t lost three straight games all season. Additionally, Leonard looks like he’s favoring a leg injury, and Lowry is still battling a left hand issue.

Still, Lowry has played through his injury and looks as effective as ever, while Leonard’s defense on Antetokounmpo has made the MVP candidate look uncomfortable. Giannis will need more help from struggling point guard Eric Bledsoe and other role players to advance.

What do you think? With the Eastern Conference Finals all tied up at 2-2, which team do you expect to win the series and represent the East in this year’s NBA Finals?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Were NBA’s Draft Lottery Changes Effective?

Two weeks before Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, we took a closer look at four lottery scenarios that – based on the odds – were more likely than not to happen. As we cautioned in that story, not all of those scenarios would actually play out. For instance, the Knicks technically defied the odds by landing in the top three (40.1% chance) rather than fourth or fifth (59.1%).

However, the first scenario we outlined in that story did, in fact, play out. As we explained, there was a 45.5% chance that a team in the 5-14 range of the lottery standings would land the No. 1 overall pick, as opposed to just a 42% chance that one of the NBA’s three worst teams – the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Suns – would win the lottery.

The Pelicans, who won the first overall pick, were seventh in the lottery standings, while the Grizzlies (picking No. 2) were eighth.

Neither New Orleans nor Memphis had a great chance to move up. The Pelicans only had a 6.0% chance at the No. 1 pick, and the Grizzlies’ odds of moving into the top two were just 12.3%. But those odds would’ve been substantially lower under the NBA’s old lottery format (2.8% and 6.1%, respectively).

In other words, by smoothing out the odds and giving middle-of-the-pack teams a greater chance to move up, the NBA got the chaos it expected, with three teams moving way up in the draft order and bottom-of-the-pack clubs like the Cavs, Suns, and Bulls getting pushed out of the top four. The league’s new lottery format worked as designed, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

“One year doesn’t tell the whole story,” NBA executive VP of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe told ESPN’s Zach Lowe after the lottery. “But the intent was to make it a little more random. It certainly doesn’t solve everything, but I think it was a good move by the Board of Governors.”

A common refrain in the wake of last night’s results was that the outcome should discourage tanking going forward. One team executive told Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic that “the war on tanking was a success,” while Rudy Gobert declared on Twitter that “we just witnessed the end of tanking.”

Still, others pushed back against that idea. After all, even if it wasn’t a great night for the Knicks, Cavs, Suns, and Bulls, teams like the Pelicans and Lakers intentionally held their stars out of action down the stretch, and were ultimately rewarded for it. Given how many mid-lottery teams benefited, is it possible that borderline postseason contenders in future years will wave the white flag on the playoff chase earlier than anticipated in an attempt to move into a similar position?

What do you think? Were the NBA’s new lottery changes effective, or do you think they’ll end up creating more issues (related to tanking or anything else) going forward?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: NBA Conference Finals Predictions

After a pair of dramatic Game Sevens on Sunday, the matchups for this year’s NBA Conference Finals are set. The Warriors will face the Trail Blazers in the West, while the Bucks and Raptors will square off in the East.

While the Warriors’ presence in 2019’s final four is no surprise, the teams joining them there historically haven’t made a ton of deep postseason runs.

The Blazers, led by a backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, have made the playoffs for six straight years, but this is the first time this group has advanced to the Western Finals, and the first time any Portland team has made it that far since 2000. The last time the Blazers appeared in the Finals was in 1992, when Clyde Drexler‘s squad fell to Michael Jordan‘s Bulls. The franchise hasn’t won a title since 1977.

Like Portland, the Bucks haven’t appeared in the Eastern Finals in nearly two decades. In fact, coming into these playoffs, Milwaukee hadn’t won a single postseason series since 2001, when the club fell in the Eastern Finals to Philadelphia. The Bucks last appeared in the NBA Finals in 1974 and won their last – and only – championship in 1971.

While those title droughts are lengthy, Portland and Milwaukee can at least say they’ve won a championship. That’s not the case for the Raptors, who have never even appeared in the NBA Finals since entering the league in 1995. Toronto appeared in the Eastern Finals once before, in 2016, but has never gotten over the hump and represented the conference in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors, who have won three of the last four NBA titles, and the Bucks, who won an NBA-best 60 games and led the league in net rating this season, will enter the Conference Finals as the favorites. But it would be a mistake to write off the Blazers or the Raptors, who are battle-tested in this postseason after dispatching tough opponents in seven-game series. Kevin Durant‘s calf remains a question mark for Golden State, while Toronto’s veterans have significantly more playoff experience than the Bucks’ roster.

What do you think? Which two teams will end up meeting in this year’s NBA Finals?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to explain your predictions!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Which Teams Will Win Game 7?

The Sixers and Trail Blazers each won Game Six of their respective series on Thursday, pushing a pair of conference semifinals to a seventh and deciding game.

Both of those Game Sevens are scheduled to take place on Sunday, with the Sixers and Raptors set to tip off at 7:00 pm ET, while the Nuggets and Blazers will either play before or after, depending on whether a third Game Seven is required for Golden State and Houston.

For the 76ers and Raptors, there’s a ton at stake in Sunday’s Game 7. Each team made two huge trades this season, with Toronto acquiring Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol, while Philadelphia landed Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Those franchise-altering deals were made with an NBA Finals appearance in mind, so neither club would be happy with a second-round exit.

It has been hard to know what to expect from the Raptors and Sixers from game to game, as players like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry, and Gasol have looked great in one outing, then all but disappeared in the next. The fact that Game 7 will take place in Toronto should offer the Raptors an advantage. Through six games, the Raps have a +14.7 net rating at home, compared to their -8.7 mark on the road.

Home court advantage could also be crucial over in the West, as the Nuggets posted an NBA-best 34-7 record during the regular season in the Mile High City. The club hasn’t been invincible in Denver during the postseason, losing a home game in each of the first two rounds. But the difference between the Nuggets’ net rating at home (+9.2) and on the road (-3.2) vs. Portland is stark.

Although the Sixers and Blazers will go on the road as underdogs, it would be dangerous to write them off. Both teams have superstars who are capable of taking over games and single-handedly turning a potential loss into a win.

What do you think? Will the Raptors and Nuggets protect their home courts and advance to the final four? Or will will see stars like Embiid and Damian Lillard come up big and push their teams through to the conference finals?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your two cents!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Kyrie Irving’s Future

Three of the NBA’s four conference semifinals appear very much up in the air, as they head into their respective Game Fives all tied up at 2-2. However, with a second consecutive resounding road victory over the Celtics on Monday, the Bucks took a 3-1 lead and now have up to three chances to end Boston’s season.

If the Bucks can finish off the series at home in Game Five, Monday’s loss might be the last time that fans ever see Irving wear a Celtics uniform in Boston. And if that’s the case, then it wasn’t a particularly memorable end to a short-lived era.

As Jay King of The Athletic details, Irving headed to the Celtics’ locker room before the game was officially over on Monday, with fans in Boston booing the club’s second straight home dud. After the game, Irving bristled when he was asked about his shooting woes (he’s 19-of-62 in the team’s last three games), as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.

“Who cares?” Irving said of his slump. “I’m a basketball player. Prepare the right way. Like I said, it’s a little different when your rhythm is challenged every play down. You’re being picked up full court. They’re doing things to test you. The expectations on me are going to be sky high.

“I try to utilize their aggression against them and still put my teammates in a great position, while still being aggressive. I’m trying to do it all. For me, the 22 shots, I should have shot 30. I’m that great of a shooter.”

While Irving isn’t necessarily wrong, his defiant attitude with the Celtics on the brink may not be the best look, according to Forsberg, who suggests that Boston’s star point guard probably should’ve expressed more frustration and disappointment with himself.

A second-round exit looks like a near certainty for the C’s, in which case Irving’s upcoming free agency will be more interesting than ever. Although he vowed before the season that he intended to stick around long-term, Irving backtracked on that promise during a drama-filled season, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be eager to re-up with Boston after what has been a disappointing year. The possibility of an Anthony Davis trade could entice him to stay, but that’s no certainty.

Appearing on ESPN’s “Get Up” this morning, analyst Jalen Rose declared that Irving is “done in Boston,” adding that his teammates will probably “help him pack,” since they won’t mind seeing him go (video link).

What do you think? Is it premature to assume Irving will sign elsewhere in free agency, or do you agree with Rose that we’re seeing his last games as a Celtic?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Poll: Which Series Is Most Likely To Go Seven Games?

Through two games apiece, the Eastern Conference Semifinals are living up to their billing as heavyweight bouts, with each series featuring one team delivering a strong blow in Game One before taking a counter-punch in Game Two.

In Toronto, the Raptors looked dominant against the Sixers in the first game of the series, a rarity for a franchise that had previously been 2-14 in Game Ones. However, strong showings from Jimmy Butler and the bench – as well as some savvy defensive adjustments – allowed Philadelphia to even up the series on Monday in a old-school 94-89 slugfest. While the 76ers probably wouldn’t mind seeing more from Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on offense, the duo’s defense helped the club reclaim home court advantage.

On the other side of the Eastern bracket, the Bucks came out flat in their first game vs. the Celtics, with Giannis Antetokounmpo submitting one of his worst performances of the year in a blowout loss. However, a massive third-quarter run in Game Two allowed Milwaukee to return the favor, evening the series at 1-1 as its heads to Boston. Malcolm Brogdon and Marcus Smart loom as potential X-factors in that series if they can return from their respective injuries.

Out West, a much-hyped Warriors/Rockets showdown has been marred to some extent by officiating complaints and health issues so far, but Stephen Curry and James Harden both managed to return from ugly-looking injuries in Game Two and will hopefully be okay going forward. Golden State has taken a 2-0 lead in a rematch of last year’s Western Finals, with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green firing on all cylinders, so the pressure will be on Houston to win Game Three to make it a series.

Finally, the Trail Blazers and Nuggets are the only teams that have squared off just once so far in the second round. Damian Lillard scored a game-high 39 points in an offensive shootout, but Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for 60 of their own to lead Denver to a Game One victory. After witnessing Lillard’s first round heroics, we certainly can’t rule out Portland in this series yet, but that first game showed that Jokic will be a major problem for the Blazers’ frontcourt.

What do you think? Based on what you’ve seen from these series so far, which one do you think is the best bet to go seven games? Are you expecting more than one long series, or are there some that look more one-sided than you may have anticipated?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.