Hoops Rumors Polls

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?

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Poll: Which Team Will Win Nuggets/Blazers Series?

The two Eastern Semifinals this spring pit the conference’s four powerhouses one another and have been awaited for months. Over in the Western Conference, the Rockets/Warriors showdown may be the most anticipated matchup of the postseason. That leaves one remaining semifinal which may ultimately fly under the radar, as a pair of Northwest rivals – the Nuggets and Trail Blazers – prepare to do battle.

A year ago, Denver missed out on the postseason entirely, while Portland was quickly dispatched in the first round by the Pelicans without winning a single game. It was the third straight first-round exit by the Blazers and the fifth consecutive season in which the Nuggets had finished in the lottery. In other words, by advancing to the Western Semifinals this year, these two teams can already consider the 2018/19 season a success.

Still, one of these clubs will play in the Western Finals next month against the winner of that Rockets/Warriors series. With Game 1 set to tip off tonight, we want to get your thoughts on how this series will play out.

The Nuggets finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the West, giving them home court advantage vs. the Blazers. That could give Denver a leg up in this series, since no NBA team posted a better home record this season than the Nuggets’ 34-7 mark. Oddsmakers have also made the Nuggets – who won the season series vs. Portland by a 3-1 margin – the slight favorites for the series.

Still, there are some potential red flags for Denver. As good as Nikola Jokic was in the first round vs. San Antonio, some key members of his supporting cast – including guards Jamal Murray and Will Barton – were a little more up and down. Going up against one of the league’s best backcourt duos this series, the Nuggets’ guards will face a daunting challenge.

Of course, while Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum should give the Blazers a chance to win this series, it will be interesting to see whether the club has an answer for Jokic. Enes Kanter has performed admirably in the absence of Jusuf Nurkic, but he’s battling a shoulder injury, and the Nuggets bigs – Jokic and Paul Millsap – will give the Blazers all they can handle. If Kanter is unable to play or is ineffective, that would put a ton of pressure on backups like Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard.

What do you think? Are you taking the Nuggets or Blazers to advance to the Western Finals? How do you see this series playing out? Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!

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Poll: Which Team Will Win Bucks/Celtics Series?

The Celtics came out in Game 1 earlier today and unexpectedly thrashed the Bucks, 112-90, to take a 1-0 series lead and home-court advantage away from Milwaukee and MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While Kyrie Irving had a magnificent game, scoring 26 points and dishing out 11 assists, Al Horford appeared to be the consensus player of the game on social media after the final buzzer sounded, as the big man put up 20 points and 11 rebounds while simultaneously putting together a masterful defensive effort on The Greek Freak, holding Antetokounmpo to 22 points and only two assists on 33% shooting.

Some interesting story lines for Game 2 (which tips off Tuesday night in Milwaukee) and the remainder of the series include the possible return of Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart, who traveled to Milwaukee but wasn’t in uniform for today’s game. Smart is not expected to return for Game 2, but he has been practicing with team in recent days and could possibly return before the end of the series.

Bucks’ guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is recovering from a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot, could also return for this series at some point, but his return remains more unclear that that of Smart. Meanwhile, Brogdon’s primary replacement, Sterling Brown, left Game 1 with back spasms. It’s still unknown whether his status for Game 2 will be affected.

Will all that said, what do you think the final outcome of this series will be after what you saw in Game 1? Will Giannis and the 60+ win Bucks come back with a vengeance of will the surging Celtics make quick work of Milwaukee? Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!

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Poll: 2019 All-NBA Third Team

In an NBA season packed with incredible individual performances, we’re asking you to decide which 15 players are most deserving of All-NBA recognition.

After closing the polls for the All-NBA First Team on Monday, we’ve brought the vote for the All-NBA Second Team to an end today. Some of the results in those Second Team polls were predictable — two forwards, a guard, and the center earned spots on the team by a margin of several hundred votes. However, the vote for the second guard spot was a tight one.

Here are the voting results so far:

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

The quality of our All-NBA Second Team is a reflection of how many impressive individual seasons we’ve witnessed in 2018/19. Lillard, George, and Embiid will likely show up on plenty of MVP ballots, and Leonard might’ve been named on even more if not for his frequent absences due to “load management.” As for Westbrook, he’s coming off averaging a triple-double for the third straight season.

We’re moving on today to the All-NBA Third Team, so be sure to cast your votes below for the two guards, two forwards, and one center that you believe are most deserving of being named to that squad. Don’t forget that a few players – including Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler – qualify at two positions.

You’ll have about 48 hours for this round of voting before we recap the final results on Friday. You’ll also have the opportunity to select two players apiece in the guard and forward polls, so be sure to take advantage of that.

Guards:

(Select two)

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Forwards:

(Select two)

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Center:

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