Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: Best NBA Coaching Hire Of Offseason?

After no NBA teams made coaching changes during the 2017 offseason, the league seemingly made up for lost time this summer. Eight clubs have replaced their head coaches since the 2017/18 season ended, with a ninth (the Grizzlies) announcing that their interim coach (J.B. Bickerstaff) would get the permanent job.

In some cases, these coaching changes functioned as a game of musical chairs. Dwane Casey was fired by the Raptors but quickly caught on with the Pistons. Steve Clifford, having been dismissed by the Hornets, was hired by the Magic. David Fizdale joined the Knicks less than a year after being let go by the Grizzlies. And Mike Budenholzer was scooped up by the Bucks shortly after parting ways with the Hawks.

In other cases, teams opted for fresh blood in the head coaching ranks. New Hornets coach James Borrego and Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce are veteran assistants getting their first shot at a head coaching job. The same goes for new Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, the NBA’s first European-born head coach, and Nick Nurse of the Raptors, who got a promotion to replace the reigning Coach of the Year.

In today’s poll, we want to know which of these offseason hires you liked the best. Your choice doesn’t necessarily have to be the one that will improve his new team’s win-loss record most significantly in 2018/19, but rather the hiring that will pay the most dividends in the long run.

Here’s a recap of all eight coaching changes this offseason:

  • Atlanta Hawks: Hired Lloyd Pierce to replace Mike Budenholzer.
  • Charlotte Hornets: Hired James Borrego to replace Steve Clifford.
  • Detroit Pistons: Hired Dwane Casey to replace Stan Van Gundy.
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Hired Mike Budenholzer to replace Joe Prunty (interim).
  • New York Knicks: Hired David Fizdale to replace Jeff Hornacek.
  • Orlando Magic: Hired Steve Clifford to replace Frank Vogel.
  • Phoenix Suns: Hired Igor Kokoskov to replace Jay Triano (interim).
  • Toronto Raptors: Hired Nick Nurse to replace Dwane Casey.

What do you think? Which move did you like the best? Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to share your two cents.

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Poll: Best Offseason Among Western Teams?

During the first couple days of NBA free agency this summer, two contract agreements dominated headlines — LeBron James deciding to join the Lakers and DeMarcus Cousins agreeing to terms with the Warriors.

James, who signed a maximum-salary contract, wasn’t necessarily a bargain, but his free agent decision was a franchise-altering move for the Lakers and a league-changing move for the NBA, which saw the balance of power shift further from the Eastern Conference to the West as one of its marquee franchises landed an all-time great. As for Cousins, he almost certainly won’t have the same on-court impact that James will in 2018/19, but his decision to accept a below-market deal to join the defending champions sent shockwaves across the league as well.

Given the magnitude of those two moves, it’s no surprise that the Lakers and Warriors received the highest grades in Kevin Pelton’s ESPN.com breakdown of the offseason moves by each Western team. In his Insider-only story, Pelton awards the Lakers and Warriors grades of A-minus. No other club received an A grade.

Still, Pelton did like a few other teams’ offseason roster changes. He awarded the Mavericks, who signed DeAndre Jordan and traded up for Luka Doncic, a B-plus. The Thunder, who re-signed Paul George and Jerami Grant before striking a deal for Dennis Schroder, got a B-plus grade from Pelton as well.

Pelton also had praise for the Nuggets, who re-signed Nikola Jokic and Will Barton while adding Isaiah Thomas at a bargain price. Denver received a B grade, as did the Pelicans, who managed to replace Cousins and Rajon Rondo with younger alternatives in Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pelton didn’t love the offseason moves made by the Suns (D+), Rockets (D+), Spurs (D), and Kings (D).

What do you think? Which Western Conference team had the best offseason? Do you agree with Pelton that the choice comes down to the Lakers or Warriors, or was there another club whose summer moves you liked more?

Vote below in our poll, then jump into the comment section to explain your pick!

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Poll: Best, Worst Extensions Taking Effect In 2018/19

We’ve spent the last month and a half evaluating the best and the worst of this year’s free agent deals, but there’s another series of big-money contracts going into effect this season that have been somewhat overlooked during that time.

Eight players signed contract extensions in 2017 that will begin in 2018/19, as our 2017 extension tracker shows. Those players are as follows:

All of these extensions were completed in September, October, or November of 2017, meaning they’re less than a year old. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to consider how differently many of them look now, as opposed to when they signed.

Powell, for instance, took a step backward last year for the Raptors, posting new career lows in PPG (5.5), FG% (.401), and 3PT% (.285), among other categories. Now, a signing that initially looked like a savvy move to lock up a promising young wing seems like it could become an albatross.

On the other hand, Richardson – who signed the same deal as Powell – improved his stock in 2017/18, starting 81 games for the Heat and averaging 12.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.9 APG with a .451/.378/.845 shooting line. Richardson looks like a key piece in Miami going forward, and the team looks smart for having extended him early.

The pair of Sixers extensions appear more team-friendly now than they did 10 months ago too. Embiid is coming off a monster season in which he was able to stay on the court for most of the year, and his deal includes some injury protection if the 76ers need it. As for Covington, his extension was technically worth $60MM because he was able to renegotiate a big raise on his 2017/18 salary. Now that the new years are taking effect though, the $46.9MM price tag for the next four seasons looks even more manageable.

What do you think? Which of the 2017 contract extensions taking effect this season do you think is the most team-friendly deal of the bunch?

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On the other end of the spectrum, which of these extensions is the least favorable from a team’s perspective?

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Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Team Will Be NBA’s Worst In 2018/19?

The Suns, who finished with a 21-61 mark, had the NBA’s worst record in 2017/18, finishing just behind the Grizzlies (22-60), Mavericks (24-58), and Hawks (24-58) in the final standings. Having added Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in the draft, along with Trevor Ariza in free agency, Phoenix has higher hopes for the 2018/19 season, but the club is still projected to be one of the NBA’s worst.

Multiple oddsmakers, including the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and betting site Bodog.eu, have the Suns’ over/under for wins next season set at 28.5, making them one of the few NBA teams expected to win fewer than 30 games. While that projection may seem pessimistic for a team seemingly on the rise, the competition in the Western Conference will be fierce — in addition to playing the eight playoff teams from last year, the Suns will also have to deal with the Nuggets, Lakers, Mavs, Grizzlies, and Clippers, all of whom have postseason aspirations for 2018/19.

One Western team that probably doesn’t have realistic playoff expectations for next season is the Kings, whose over/under on sports books is generally in the range of 25.5 wins. Sacramento finished ahead of Phoenix in the standings last season, but Marvin Bagley isn’t necessarily expected to make an immediate impact like Ayton is, and the Kings’ free agent additions, including Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell, don’t have Ariza’s résumé.

Over in the Eastern Conference, it may not be quite as challenging to pick up wins on a night-to-night basis, but there are still a handful of teams viewed as bottom-feeders, including the Hawks. Atlanta traded away its most productive player from 2017/18 – Dennis Schroder – and rookie Trae Young is unlikely to match Schroder’s production. Other newcomers like Jeremy Lin and Alex Len also aren’t the sort of difference-makers who will increase Atlanta’s win total substantially — oddsmakers have the Hawks’ over/under at just 23.5 wins.

No other team in the East is viewed that unfavorably, but oddsmakers aren’t expecting much from the Bulls (over/under of approximately 28 wins) or the Knicks (29.5 wins), who will be without Kristaps Porzingis for the first part of the season. The Cavaliers, Magic, and Nets are also projected to miss the playoffs, albeit with win totals in the low-30s.

What do you think? Which team will finish the 2018/19 season with the NBA’s worst record? Vote below in our poll and then jump into the comment section to explain your pick.

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Poll: Who Will Be East’s Best Player In 2018/19?

During the 2017/18 season, five of the league’s 15 All-NBA players were from the Eastern Conference. Two of those stars – LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan – headed to Western Conference teams this offseason, leaving only three All-NBA players in the East: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Victor Oladipo.

Anteokounmpo, Embiid, and Oladipo will head into the 2018/19 season as virtual locks for the Eastern All-Star team, assuming they stay healthy, especially given the relative lack of talent in the conference. However, they’re not the only stars left in the East.

Kawhi Leonard wasn’t an All-NBA player last year, but he earned a spot on the First Team in each of the previous two seasons. His health remains a major question mark, given his lost ’17/18 season, but if he’s back to full strength for the Raptors, he could be in line for a monster contract year. Having lost their leading scorer in the trade that sent Kawhi to Toronto, the Raptors figure to lean heavily on Leonard on both ends of the court.

Kyrie Irving didn’t miss as much of last season as Leonard did, but injury issues ended his year early as well. Irving earned a little MVP buzz during the first half of the season, and while the Celtics’ roster may be too deep for the star point guard to put up massive individual numbers, he’ll likely be the best player on what is expected to be the best team in the East.

Another Sixer, Ben Simmons, figures to give Embiid a run for his money for the title of best player on Philadelphia’s roster. Already an excellent finisher, play-maker, and passer, Simmons is capable of becoming one of the NBA’s most dangerous players if he can add a reliable jump shot. Both he and Embiid have future MVP potential, though Embiid looks closer to reaching those heights in 2018/19.

Elsewhere in the East, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, and Goran Dragic are among the players that figure to vie for spots on the All-Star roster, but it would be a surprise if any of them is the most effective player in the conference in 2018/19.

What do you think? Who will be the East’s best player next season? Will Antetokounmpo take another step forward and claim that title? Will Leonard bounce back after his change of scenery and reclaim his spot as a First Team All-NBA player? Can Embiid stay healthy all year long and ascend to new heights?

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

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Poll: Which Team Will Win Central Division?

The Cavaliers have won the Central division for four consecutive seasons, and the Cavs, Pistons, and Bulls have combined to claim 12 of the last 14 division titles. However, those clubs won’t enter the 2018/19 season as the frontrunners to finish atop the Central.

Currently, the Pacers and Bucks are viewed as virtual co-favorites for the Central crown in ’18/19. The opening over/unders from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook had the Pacers at 47.5 wins and the Bucks at 46.5. Currently, however, betting site Bodog.eu has both teams projected at 46.5 wins for the upcoming season. No other Central team is projected to get to .500.

Indiana and Milwaukee finished four games apart last season, as the 48-34 Pacers claimed the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the 44-38 Bucks came in at No. 7. Both clubs have also made modest upgrades to their respective rosters during the offseason.

Indiana lost Lance Stephenson, Trevor Booker, Al Jefferson, and Glenn Robinson III, but added Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Kyle O’Quinn, and Aaron Holiday. In Milwaukee, the Bucks acquired Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo to replace Jabari Parker, Brandon Jennings, and Jason Terry.

As they look to leapfrog the Pacers in 2018/19, the Bucks will be relying on continued development from Giannis Antetokounmpo – potentially the best player in the East – as well as an immediate impact from new head coach Mike Budenholzer. As for the Pacers, they’ll count on continuity from a group that gelled quickly last season, as well as improvements from young players like Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.

What do you think? Do you expect the Pacers to supplant the Cavaliers as the Central’s top team in 2018/19? Will the Bucks take home the Central crown for the first time since 2001? Or will the Pistons, Cavs, or Bulls make a surprise run to win the division?

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

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Poll: Most Likely 2019 Free Agent Prediction

As we relayed earlier this evening, an ESPN panel was asked where they think some of the top-projected free agents of 2019 might end up next summer.

The panel believes that both Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler will end up with the Knicks, while Kawhi Leonard will sign with the Lakers and both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will remain with the Warriors in the bay area.

It would still take some doing for the Knicks to open up the cap space for a second max-salary player, but Irving and Butler have reportedly talked about teaming up, potentially in The Big Apple. Moreover, Irving is from the NYC area.

As for Leonard, he and the Lakers have been linked for a while now, with the 27-year-old star already reportedly stating his preference for Los Angeles. Additionally, the Lakers will easily have the cap room to sign Leonard after mostly signing players to one-year deals this summer.

Finally, both Durant and Thompson could be casualties of the Warriors’ luxury tax concerns, especially if the team doesn’t win it all this season and ownership sees the championship window closing, however unlikely that may be.

So, our question tonight is, which of ESPN’s five predictions is most likely to come to fruition? Irving to the Knicks, Butler to the Knicks, Leonard to the Lakers, Durant staying with the Warriors, or Thompson staying with the Warriors?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to make your case for your pick.

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Poll: Which Team Will Win Northwest Division?

There may not be an NBA division more top-heavy than the Atlantic, where the Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers are all projected to win more than 50 games in 2018/19. However, the Atlantic also features the Nets and Knicks, who are widely expected to finish in the lottery.

In terms of top-to-bottom talent, the Northwest has a stronger case to be considered the NBA’s best division. Last season, four Northwest teams made the playoffs and a fifth missed the postseason by a single game. The five clubs finished the regular season separated by just three games, racking up between 46 and 49 wins apiece.

None of those Northwest clubs took a huge step backward this offseason, but there were no massive upgrades either, with many of the most significant roster moves in the division involving re-signing key free agents. As such, oddsmakers once again view the Northwest as a five-team race, with each of those five teams projected to finish above .500.

According to betting site Bodog.eu, the Thunder are consider the very slight favorites to win the Northwest, with an over/under of 49.5 wins for the season. However, the Jazz (49 wins) and Nuggets (47.5) are right behind them, with the Timberwolves (44.5), and Trail Blazers (42.5) within striking distance.

After we asked you on Monday to assess the top of the Atlantic standings for 2018/19, we’re shifting our focus today to the Northwest.

Will the Blazers repeat as division champions? Will the Thunder or Jazz take a step forward and win the Northwest? Or will the Nuggets or Timberwolves go from vying for the No. 8 seed in the West to battling for the division crown?

Vote below in our poll for the 2018/19 Northwest division winner, then head to the comment section to make your case for your pick.

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Poll: 2018/19 Atlantic Division Standings

Winning a division isn’t as crucial in the NBA as it is in many other major professional sports leagues in North America. In the NBA, a club is more likely to worry about its playoff seed within the conference than its spot in the divisional standings.

Still, even if winning a division doesn’t assure a team of a first-round bye or a weak opponent in the postseason, there will be at least one NBA divisional race worth keeping a close eye on in 2018/19. The Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers project to be not just the top three teams in the Atlantic but also the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, based on a handful of early win-loss projections from oddsmakers.

According to sports betting site Bodog.eu, for instance, the Celtics have an over/under of 58.5 wins for next season, followed by Toronto and Philadelphia at 54.5. No other Eastern Conference team is projected for more than 46.5 wins.

The forecast for the Atlantic makes sense. The Raptors (59-23), Celtics (55-27), and 76ers (52-30) were the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference in 2017/18, and there’s no reason to expect any of them to take a huge step back.

The Celtics should have Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving back to lead a deep rotation that includes Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Morris, among others. Young Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons now have a full year under their belts, and if 2017’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz can bounce back from a lost rookie season, Philadelphia has a scary amount of high-level talent on its roster.

The Raptors underwent the most significant changes of any of the Atlantic’s top three teams this summer, with Nick Nurse replacing Dwane Casey on the sidelines and Kawhi Leonard replacing DeMar DeRozan on the court. If Nurse struggles in his first NBA head coaching job and/or Leonard isn’t fully healthy, the Raptors figure to fall short of their projections, but their upside is as high as that of any team in the East.

We want to get your thoughts on how the Atlantic division will play out this season. Will the Celtics make good on their status as favorites and take the division? Will the Raptors defend their Atlantic title? Will the Sixers take a big step forward as their young stars continue to improve? What order do you expect those top three Atlantic teams to finish in?

Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Poll: Will Wizards Be A Top-Four Team In East?

With LeBron James out of the East for the first time since 2003, confidence is on the rise around the conference. Jaylen Brown essentially guaranteed that the Celtics will make it to the NBA Finals, while Brook Lopez has said the Bucks love their chances to come out of the East.

Wizards point guard John Wall joined the chorus this week, telling Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports that he feels like “we’re all equal” in the East. While the Wizards haven’t made it to the NBA Finals in recent years, neither have the Celtics, Raptors, Sixers, Pacers, or any other non-LeBron Eastern team, Wall points out.

“Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals,” Wall said. “Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round, or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”

Wall went on to say that “on paper” a handful of Eastern teams look strong, but he observed that there are still questions about how the Celtics will mesh with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving returning, or how Kawhi Leonard will look with the Raptors. In Wall’s view, the top four or five teams in the East are all bunched together, and he’s willing to put the Wizards “right there” in that group.

This kind of talk is nothing new from the Wizards. Heading into the 2017/18 season, Bradley Beal called Washington the team to beat in the East, despite the fact that the club had been eliminated by Boston in the second round of the 2017 playoffs — multiple Wizards that year claimed publicly that they would’ve beaten the Cavaliers in the postseason if given the chance. This past spring, after losing as the No. 8 seed to the top-seeded Raptors, Markieff Morris told reporters that “sometimes the better teams don’t win.”

So far, the Wizards have done little to back up their big talk, and oddsmakers aren’t convinced they’ll do so this year either — the Wizards’ early over/under of 44.5 wins ranks sixth in the East, behind Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Indiana, and Milwaukee. Still, perhaps with LeBron out of the conference, this is the year that Washington makes its run.

What do you think? Are the Wizards a top-four team in the East? Will they claim home court advantage for the first round and/or win a first-round series in the spring?

Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to weigh in on the Wizards.

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