Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: Which L.A./NYC Team Is Most Likely To Land Top 2019 Free Agent?

The 2019 NBA offseason is shaping up to be a fascinating one. With plenty of big-name players poised to reach free agency and many teams around the league in position to create cap room, there could be a good deal of player movement on the free agent market.

Making things even more interesting is the fact that all four teams in Los Angeles and New York, the country’s two biggest media markets, are poised to be among those teams with significant cap space, and all four teams will be looking to land a top-tier free agent.

In certain recent years, the Lakers, Clippers, Nets, and Knicks may not have even received consideration from elite free agents. All four clubs have suffered from poor management and/or ownership at times during the last decade, but all four appear to have turned a corner as of late.

The Lakers, under new head of basketball operations Magic Johnson, secured a long-term commitment from LeBron James in free agency and have complemented him with an intriguing collection of young prospects. They should have the cap space necessary to sign another maximum-salary free agent in 2019.

The Clippers, led by owner Steve Ballmer, have transitioned out of the Lob City era by putting together a deep, talented roster, and will have veteran executive Jerry West in their corner as they look to make a splash on the 2019 free agent market. They’ll have more than enough room for one max free agent, and could potentially clear enough space for two.

The Nets are finally out from under their commitments to the Celtics and are trending in the right direction, having acquired young building blocks like Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert despite not having premium first-round picks for the last few years. They could also be in position to open up two maximum-salary contract slots this summer, depending on what happens with their own free agents (note: two max slots are far less likely after Spencer Dinwiddie‘s extension).

Finally, even the Knicks, who have endured more drama and made more questionable roster moves than just about any other NBA team in recent years, have been showing more patience and making smarter roster moves since Scott Perry assumed GM duties in 2017. Assuming they’re able to move a salary or two, the Knicks should have enough cap space for a max free agent in 2019.

All four of these clubs have big-market appeal and will be able to make strong pitches to next year’s best free agents. That’s a group that should include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Khris Middleton, Klay Thompson, Tobias Harris, and Kemba Walker, as our recent free agent power rankings show.

Our question today is which of those four clubs has the best chance to land one of those marquee free agents. For the sake of this poll, we’re focused more on outside free agent signings, so the Clippers re-signing Harris or the Knicks re-signing Kristaps Porzingis wouldn’t really count.

What do you think? Which Los Angeles or New York club is in the best position to land an elite free agent in 2019?

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Poll: Second-Best Team In West

Over the last month, a number of teams have – if only briefly – held the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers have all been the top team in the West for at least a day, and the Thunder actually currently lead the conference by a mere percentage point.

Despite the fluctuating standings, there’s still little doubt that the Warriors are the clear-cut No. 1 team in the West. They’ve battled injuries, but with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green back in action, the Dubs are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and appear to be hitting their stride — and it’s just a matter of time until they’ll be able to insert another All-Star, DeMarcus Cousins, into their lineup too.

While Golden State’s hold on the top spot in the conference still seems strong, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious No. 2 team behind them. Last season, that team was the Rockets, who edged out the Warriors during the regular season and then pushed them to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. But Houston is currently the No. 14 seed in the West, with an 11-14 record.

While it’s still possible that the Rockets will turn their season around and make another deep postseason run, there appear to be stronger contenders for the title of the West’s second-best team. The five clubs mentioned above – Oklahoma City, Denver, Memphis, Portland, and the Clippers – are among those contenders.

The Thunder have the NBA’s best defensive rating and the West’s best net rating, per Basketball-Reference, despite missing Russell Westbrook for several games earlier this season. The Nuggets rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating despite a number of injury issues of their own. The Grizzlies have one of the NBA’s best defenses, while the Blazers and Clippers rank among the league’s best offenses.

Those aren’t the only candidates for the honor of being the Warriors’ most dangerous challenger. LeBron James and the Lakers have recovered from a slow start and are just 1.5 games back of Golden State. The Jazz, who many experts viewed as a probable top-four seed entering the season, have struggled so far, but have a talented roster and one of the most favorable second-half schedules in the NBA.

What do you think? Assuming the Warriors are still the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, which team do you consider the second-best in the West? Place your vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to make the case for your choice!

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Poll: Rockets’ Playoff Chances

In what has seemingly been a weekly topic among NBA fans and analysts, the Rockets‘ slow start has only gotten worse, as they have now lost three straight games for the third time this season and sit at 11-14, good for 14th in the Western Conference.

What many brushed off as a simple slump due to injuries and cold shooting has continued throughout the season, despite the team boasting the healthiest rotation in recent games as Chris Paul, Gerald Green and Nene have all returned from injuries.

While the Rockets’ offense has struggled from time to time (they rank ninth in the league), it is the defense that has continued to fail them, as they have fallen all the way down to 25th on that end of the floor. Additionally, the team’s lack of quality depth has been exposed as a result of their top players not leading the way as expected.

Chris Paul is in the midst of the worst season of his career while Eric Gordon has been nowhere near the levels from previous seasons. Meanwhile, James Harden and Clint Capela are putting up eye-opening offensive numbers but aren’t playing the level of defense they were at last season. Combine all of those factors together and you get the perfect recipe for this disastrous season for the Rockets.

Barring a trade, there is no solution on the way, especially considering the amount of problems that need solving. Sure, the season is just over one-quarter of the way through, but the Rockets’ recent play doesn’t inspire confidence in their abilities moving forward.

At the moment, the Rockets are just 2 1/2 games out of the eighth seed. That begs the question, do you think the Rockets will make the playoffs? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Poll: Will The Pelicans Make The Playoffs?

Several Western Conference playoff teams from last season, including the Jazz, Rockets, Spurs, and Timberwolves, rank outside the top eight in the conference in the early going this season. While all four of those teams would be disappointed to miss the postseason, you could make a case that a lottery finish wouldn’t be quite as devastating for any of those clubs as it would be for the Pelicans, who also find themselves on the outside looking in for now.

The 12-13 Pelicans currently place 11th in the West, with a tough road ahead. In order to crack the top eight, they’ll need to surpass overachieving clubs ahead of them – like the Mavericks and Kings – while holding off would-be contenders behind them, such as the Jazz and Rockets. And they’ll have to do with the uncertainty surrounding Anthony Davis‘ future hanging over the season.

While Davis can’t become a free agent until at least 2020, this is a crucial season for the Pelicans. Next summer, they’ll be able to offer Davis a designated veteran extension, paying him the “super-max.” If he turns down that offer, the Pelicans will likely have to start thinking seriously about whether to trade their star big man.

That sort of thinking is premature for now. As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports, sources say that Davis is happy in New Orleans and wants to win there. However, Kyler also cautions that Davis won’t be satisfied with simply finishing in eighth place in the West and failing to make a deep playoff run — he’s counting on the team to do all it can to improve the roster and to give him reason to believe he can eventually win a title with the Pelicans.

In other words, there’s plenty of pressure on the Pelicans to add reinforcements to this year’s roster and/or to position themselves to make a major splash in the offseason. And missing out on the playoffs this season would be a huge red flag for the organization.

With all that in mind, we want to know what you think about the Pelicans’ outlook this season. Is this a playoff team? Will they need to make a trade or two to nab a top-eight spot? And how will this year’s outcome impact Davis’ long-term future?

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

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Poll: Will The Raptors Make The Finals?

Heading into the season, many predicted that the Celtics and Warriors would clash in the NBA Finals. Despite the Raptors making a big splash in the offseason by acquiring Kawhi Leonard, many felt that the Celtics’ depth and dynamic talent would lead them out of the Eastern Conference after falling short the two previous seasons.

However, so far it has been the Raptors that look like the best team in the conference, owning a 20-4 record and 6.5-game lead over the Celtics in the standings. The Raptors have been getting it done on both ends of the floor, as they own the league’s second-ranked offense and ninth-ranked defense (which could improve throughout the season as they continue to integrate the new additions).

Leonard is leading the way, returning to a near-MVP level, while Kyle Lowry is proving to be a more than worthy sidekick as he leads the league in assists. Other players such as Pascal Siakam, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka have stepped up to provide a lending hand throughout the first quarter of the season.

The Raptors have the talent and depth to play a variety of ways. If they aren’t overwhelming you with their offense, they can lock you down with their switchable defense that boasts several strong defenders on the wing. Of course, the NBA season is long and plenty can change between now and the playoffs, especially as it relates to the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

That begs the question: will the Raptors make the Finals? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Poll: Will The Heat Make The Playoffs?

Several teams have gotten off to slow starts across the league, most notably the Rockets, Jazz, Celtics and Wizards. The Heat are another team that has been somewhat overlooked in that conversation, as they are off to a 7-12 start. Perhaps many overlook the Heat because they are used to slow starts from them (who could forget the 11-30 first half two seasons ago?). Maybe it’s the fact that the Heat are in the Eastern Conference, which should keep them in the playoff picture throughout the entire season.

Regardless, the Heat are struggling as a result of a poor offense, inconsistent play and injuries. Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Dwyane Wade, Justise Winslow and Wayne Ellington have all missed several games. As a result, the Heat have had to mix and match lineups and rotations throughout the season, which certainly hasn’t helped their offense.

The Heat currently own the 26th-ranked offense, which is holding back a team that provides effort and defense on a nightly basis (they currently have the 11th-best defense).

As the Heat continue to get healthy and get their ideal rotation on the court, one would expect them to step things up and squeeze into the playoffs. However, with the Hornets and Pistons playing relatively well and looking like potential playoff teams, the Heat may have to battle the Wizards for that final playoff spot (assuming the Magic fall back down to earth).

What do you think? Do you think that this slow start for the Heat is just a result of injuries? Or is this a sign of things to come this season? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Poll: Will The Jazz Make The Playoffs?

Over the last two days, we’ve gauged your thoughts on two surprise Western playoff contenders, asking if you expect the Grizzlies and the Clippers to make the playoffs. In each case, about two-thirds of the respondents in our poll voted yes. But if the Grizzlies and Clippers are pushing their way into the postseason conversation, that means at least one or two teams we expected to be in the playoffs may end up being pushed out.

One potential candidate to finish outside the top eight in the Western Conference is Utah. The Jazz entered the season with high expectations — they finished the 2017/18 regular season on a 29-6 run, then dispatched the Thunder in the first round before falling to Houston. Entering the 2018/19 campaign, many experts and fans viewed Utah as a probable top-four team in the West.

So far though, the Jazz have played more like the team that started last season 19-28, rather than the team that won 29 of its last 35 games. With Donovan Mitchell banged up and struggling to score efficiently, the Jazz have had problems getting the ball in the net as a team, ranking 26th in offensive rating. At a time when many NBA clubs are looking to score as many of their points as possible from outside the three-point line and at the foul line, Utah ranks 27th in 3PT% and 26th in FT%.

Even the Utah defense, which was considered one of the NBA’s best entering the season, has underperformed, ranking 14th in defensive rating so far, despite anchor Rudy Gobert not missing a game.

The season hasn’t been a total disaster for the Jazz. They’ve had good road wins in Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, and Sacramento, and they’ve beaten Boston twice. But they’ve also had their fair share of duds, including a 50-point loss in Dallas and a 27-point defeat in Indiana. In total, Utah is 8-11, which puts the team in a tie for the second-worst record in a competitive Western Conference.

The Jazz still have a ton of time to turn things around, and it would be surprising if they don’t go on a run at some point. Still, it won’t be easy to earn a top-eight spot in the West. Utah would have to leapfrog the Mavericks, Spurs, Pelicans, Rockets, and the surprising Kings just to get to No. 8. As the season nears the one-quarter mark, it’s worth questioning if we overrated the Jazz at all based on their red-hot finish to the 2017/18 season.

What do you think? Do you still consider the Jazz a strong bet to make the postseason, or do you believe they’ll end up on the outside looking in? Vote in our poll, then head down to the comment section to share your two cents.

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Poll: Will The Clippers Make The Playoffs?

If the 2018/19 NBA season ended today, six of the eight postseason teams in the West would be clubs widely expected to finish in the top eight in the conference coming into the year — the Warriors, Rockets, Lakers, Nuggets, Thunder, and Trail Blazers. However, the other two teams in the playoff picture in the Western Conference are a little more surprising.

On Thursday, we asked for your thoughts on one those two teams – the Grizzlies – and today we’re shifting our focus to the other one: the Clippers.

With the regular season nearly at its one-quarter mark, the Clippers are currently tied with the Thunder at 11-6 for third in the West. Viewed as a borderline playoff contender entering the season, the Clips have had success so far despite not having a bona fide star on their roster.

Tobias Harris is the closest thing Los Angeles has to an All-Star, and he’s off to a great start in 2018/19, averaging 21.4 PPG and 8.7 RPG with a scorching-hot .519/.444/.810 shooting line. Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams have chipped in more than 18 points per game apiece, Montrezl Harrell (15.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG) is enjoying a breakout year, and lottery pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having an immediate impact on both ends of the court.

While the Clippers’ playing style is epitomized by hard-nosed defenders like Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley, the team also has a top-five offensive rating. The Clippers don’t shoot a ton of threes, ranking 28th in attempts, but they have the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA, and have a knack for getting to the foul line — they rank second in the league in both free throws made and free-throw percentage.

Staying healthy will be a concern for Gallinari, who hasn’t played more than 63 games in a season since 2012/13, but this Clippers roster is deep and could withstand the loss of a rotation player or two. The team also has the assets and flexibility necessary to make a trade or two in the coming months.

Still, with star-heavy clubs like the Pelicans, Spurs, and Jazz expected to push their way into the postseason conversation at some point, the Clippers will face a season-long challenge to hang onto a playoff spot.

What do you think? Will the Clippers exceed expectations and earn a place in the postseason, or will they eventually fall back and finish in the lottery? Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts.

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Poll: Will The Grizzlies Make The Playoffs?

Expectations weren’t high for the Grizzlies coming into the 2018/19 season. Oddsmakers placed Memphis’ over/under at 34.5 wins, which would have put the team in a tie with Dallas for the 12th-best record in the Western Conference. And it’s not as if fans and experts widely viewed that projection as pessimistic. In fact, in our preseason over/under polls, more than 60% of our respondents for the Grizzlies picked them to finish under 34.5 wins.

A little over a month later, as the regular season nears the one-quarter mark, the Grizzlies aren’t just exceeding expectations — they are, improbably, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference. Of course, the top 10 teams in the West are separated by just 2.5 games, so it’s not as if Memphis is running away with the conference, but the team’s 12-5 mark is good for first place for now.

While it remains to be seen if the Grizzlies’ early-season success is sustainable, it’s not as if a bunch of guys on the roster are playing over their heads. Offseason additions Jaren Jackson Jr. and Shelvin Mack have been better than expected so far, and the fact that Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have stayed healthy is a big help. But the Grizzlies’ major free agent signee, Kyle Anderson, hasn’t made a huge impact, and their third highest-paid player, Chandler Parsons, has once again been sidelined by health problems.

Memphis’ management talked in the offseason about wanting to return to a grit-and-grind style of play, which seemed like an unusual approach to take in a league that has become increasingly fast-paced and offense-oriented. However, it’s a path that’s worked for the Grizzlies so far.

Despite playing at the slowest pace in the NBA and ranking 26th in three-point attempts, Memphis is winning because of its defense and its ability to take care of the ball on the offense — the club ranks fourth in the NBA in defensive rating, fifth in takeaways, and fourth in turnovers.

The Grizzlies couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season, but it comes with no guarantees. They still have 65 games left to play, and as we noted above, the top 10 teams in the West are separated by just 2.5 games. That group of 10 teams doesn’t even include the 8-9 Spurs or the 8-10 Jazz, who are out of the playoff picture at the moment, but figure to make a push at some point.

What are your expectations for Memphis this season? Will the Grizzlies’ hot start help propel them to a playoff berth at season’s end, or will they eventually drop off and finish outside the top eight in the Western Conference?

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

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Poll: Rockets’ Place In The West

After struggling through an early 4-7 start to the season, the Rockets suddenly find themselves back over .500 and winners of four straight games. Those wins all came against teams .500 or better (Pacers, Nuggets, Warriors and Kings) and have showcased much-improved defense from the Rockets.

Much has been made about the removal of Carmelo Anthony from the rotation (and soon, the team entirely), and with the Rockets nearing full health, they have taken off in recent weeks. As a result of strong defensive play from unheralded rookie Gary Clark, along with both James Harden and Chris Paul getting into a groove, the Rockets have quietly been one of the best teams this month.

Since November 1, the Rockets own the league’s sixth ranked offense and seventh ranked defense, giving them a net rating of 6.7, good for fifth in the league. As a result of this strong play on both ends, they are 7-2 during this stretch and face a relatively easy schedule to end the month.

Another key development for the Rockets is that the top of the Western Conference hasn’t been all that consistent recently. The Warriors are dealing with some turmoil and the Trail Blazers have lost two straight games as they begin a road trip. In fact, at 8-7, the Rockets are just three games back of the first-seeded Warriors.

There’s a lot more time left in the season for all of the potential playoff teams in the West, but it certainly looks like the Rockets have finally found their footing and ideal rotation. They will likely make an additional move to add another piece to the puzzle at some point, and seem well positioned to compete for a top seed in the conference from this point on.

How do you think the Rockets will fare the rest of the season? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comment section!

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