Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: Should The Hornets Trade Kemba Walker?

All is not well in Charlotte. The team is handcuffed to a core that isn’t yielding much success, they can’t stay healthy to achieve any semblance of consistency and the cost to finance the underwhelming production is about to get a lot more expensive thanks to the luxury tax.

All told, Tim Bontemps of Washington Post thinks it’s time to flip Kemba Walker.

Like many other NBA teams, the Hornets are on pace to fall above the luxury tax line. That’s a palatable burden if a team is in contention for postseason success but not so much when they’re 14-23 and well out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

If nothing changes in Charlotte, the Hornets could pay the luxury tax not only this year but next season as well. In fact, for 2018/19 they already have 10 players on guaranteed deals slated to make $116.4MM.

While the Hornets could theoretically make a push if all of a sudden they were blessed with good fortune in the health department but not even that would change the fact that many of their key rotational pieces are in or passed their prime.

Trading Walker, the team’s lone, true, ascendant star may seem counterintuitive but, as Bontemps writes, it would alleviate part of the team’s financial problems while also giving them a jump-start at a rebuild.

A hypothetical swap with the Knicks could potentially yield something along the lines of Frank Ntilikina, Joakim Noah and New York’s 2018 first-round pick. That’s a plausible package that could simultaneously bring two building blocks and save the team money.

In another scenario, Bontemps offers up the notion of packaging Walker with a costly veteran like Marvin Williams to help clear the books while still netting a building block or two.

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Poll: Which Team Is Biggest Threat To Warriors?

As the odds at offshore betting site Bovada.lv show, the Warriors remain the overwhelming favorites to win the 2018 NBA Finals. In order to win $100 betting on the Dubs over the field for this season’s championship, you’d have to risk $180. Still, over the first two and a half months of the 2017/18 season, a handful of potential threats to Golden State have emerged.

The first of those threats is no surprise, but the Cavaliers looked re-energized on Tuesday night with Isaiah Thomas in their lineup for the first time. The Cavs will likely still have some problems on defense against the Warriors, and there are a couple rotation spots that could use an upgrade. But if Thomas stays healthy and keeps producing like he did in his Cleveland debut (17 points in 19 minutes), the club’s offense is well-rounded and well-equipped to keep up with Golden State.

Speaking of explosive offenses, the Rockets looked like the team best positioned to compete with the Warriors over the first two months of the season. Even with Chris Paul sidelined, the team was one of the league’s best — with both Paul and James Harden active, the Rockets have been even more unstoppable. Houston has struggled in recent weeks, with Paul, Harden, and Clint Capela all battling injuries, but the club should cruise to a top seed in the West, and if the roster is healthy in the spring, it has as much firepower as just about any team in the NBA.

Of course, it’s not the Cavs or Rockets that currently holds the league’s second-best record behind Golden State — it’s the 30-10 Celtics, who have thrived even without a healthy Gordon Hayward. While Boston has certainly missed its top summer acquisition, Hayward’s absence has allowed young players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to assume larger roles, which may pay off for the team in the long run. The franchise also hasn’t fully closed the door on the possibility of getting Hayward back in the playoffs. That may be a long shot, but it would make the Eastern playoffs a whole lot more interesting.

Elsewhere, the Spurs thrived without Kawhi Leonard to start the season and will be a very tough out in the postseason. The Raptors have overhauled their offense approach and have seen it pay dividends in the first half. And the Timberwolves and Thunder have hit their stride recently after undergoing major roster changes in the offseason.

When we asked back in September which team is the biggest threat to the Warriors, the Cavs received the most votes, followed by Oklahoma City, Boston, San Antonio, and Houston, respectively. I suspect that order may look a little different this time around.

What do you think? Which of the NBA’s 29 non-Warriors teams represents the biggest threat to Golden State’s chances of back-to-back titles?

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Poll: Will LaVar Ball’s Junior Basketball Association Work?

As we detailed on Wednesday, outspoken basketball dad LaVar Ball announced this week that he intends to launch a new professional league called the Junior Basketball Association for high school grads who don’t want to attend college before going pro.

While Ball has perhaps worn out his welcome with a segment of basketball fans tired of hearing him promote his sons (and himself), his latest idea has some merit. With NBA rules currently prohibiting prospects from entering the draft until they’re at least one year removed from high school, top young players are generally one-and-done in college – where they don’t get paid – or head overseas, where the exposure is minimal and they can have a hard time earning minutes.

Ball’s proposal reportedly calls for an 80-player, 10-team league, which would be fully funded by Big Baller Brand and would pay salaries ranging from $3-10K per month. The idea would be to recruit top prospects who want to focus fully on basketball – and be paid for their work – rather than making a cameo at a college before making the leap to the NBA.

The plan makes sense, but it’s ambitious, and there would be plenty of roadblocks in its way. As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes, recruiting top prospects would be challenging. And without top prospects, fans are unlikely to pack arenas and the league probably wouldn’t be able to secure a big broadcast-rights deal. In turn, that would make it hard to afford to pay salaries, travel fees, arena fees, and all the other costs that come with running a successful league.

On top of all that, the NBA is reportedly considering altering its one-and-done rule and once again giving players the option of entering the draft out of high school. That could happen as soon as 2019 or 2020, and would limit the appeal of a hypothetical Junior Basketball Association.

What do you think? Will this league actually get off the ground? And if it does, will it have a chance to be a success? Vote in our poll below and then weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section.

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Poll: NBA Rookie Of The Year Race

In the wake of excellent Summer League performances, Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonzo Ball were among the first-year players receiving buzz as potential Rookie of the Year winners at the start of the fall. Two months into the 2017/18 season though, another rookie – one technically in his second NBA season – has emerged as the odds-on favorite to take home that hardware.

Ben Simmons, 2016’s first overall pick, came out of the gate strong this season for the Sixers, and has continued to be crucial to the team’s success. Philadelphia’s starting point guard has averaged an impressive 17.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 7.8 APG in 27 games so far this season, and while he doesn’t have an outside shot to speak of, he’s shooting over 50% from the floor.

Barring an injury to Simmons, it’s hard to imagine another player overtaking him in this season’s Rookie of the Year race, but Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is making every effort to force a debate. With 18.1 PPG on the season, Mitchell is the only rookie who has outscored Simmons so far, and the 13th overall pick has been even better since entering Utah’s starting lineup in November. In his last 18 games (all starts), Mitchell has posted 21.5 PPG, 4.3 APG, and 3.5 RPG, with a .469/.398/.847 shooting line.

Meanwhile, few rookies have been more important to their teams’ success than Jayson Tatum, who has started all 32 games for the Celtics and has assumed a more important role with Gordon Hayward sidelined. Tatum’s 13.8 PPG and 5.7 RPG aren’t eye-popping, but he’s shooting a league-best 51.0% on three-pointers, and is playing solid two-way ball. Given his play – and his role on a winning team – he arguably has a stronger case for the Rookie of the Year award than Malcolm Brogdon did a year ago, but his competition is also much stronger.

What do you think? Is Simmons a lock to win the Rookie of the Year award, or can Mitchell or Tatum make it a competitive race? Is there another rookie – perhaps Kyle Kuzma or Lauri Markkanen – who will insert himself into this discussion as the season progresses?

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

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Poll: Which Backcourt Duo Is NBA’s Best?

With Chris Paul healthy and James Harden playing some of the best basketball of his career, the Rockets‘ backcourt is making its case to be considered the NBA’s best, writes Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press.

Harden and Paul have combined for 14 All-Star nods between them, and the duo has helped lead the Rockets to a West-best 16-4 record so far this season. Harden, who has taken his game to another level, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer outlines, is currently leading the league with 31.7 PPG and 9.8 APG. Paul, who hasn’t yet played enough games to qualify for the NBA’s leaderboard, is also averaging a double-double – 10.8 PPG and 10.8 APG – and has only turned the ball over seven times in six games.

Although Houston’s new starting backcourt has looked unstoppable as of late, it’s not the NBA’s only pairing of All-Star guards. Any conversation about the league’s best backcourts would have to include the Warriors‘ combination of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and the Trail Blazers‘ duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Over in the Eastern Conference, one could argue that Wizards stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with the Raptors pairing of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, should also receive consideration.

Today, we’re asking you to make the call. Which backcourt duo is currently the NBA’s best? This isn’t about which one you’d rather have for the next 10 years, but which one you’d prefer now, for the rest of the 2017/18 season.

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

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Poll: Will Nuggets Make 2017/18 Postseason?

The Nuggets are currently tied for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, at 10-7, but the team got some bad news on Tuesday. Veteran big man Paul Millsap is reportedly set to undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his wrist, and while his recovery timetable hasn’t been finalized, reports have indicated he may miss the next three months.

It’s a big blow for the Nuggets, who used nearly all of their available cap space in the offseason to add Millsap, a reliable power forward capable of complementing Nikola Jokic on offense and helping to stabilize a defense that had been one of the NBA’s worst last year. Denver’s defense still hasn’t been great this season, but it’s been better, and Millsap – who is averaging 15.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 BPG, and 1.1 SPG – has been a big part of that.

The Nuggets still haven’t confirmed a recovery timeline for Millsap, but if we assume he’ll be sidelined for three months, that would put him in line to return shortly after the All-Star break. If Millsap were to return on February 23, Denver’s first game after the break, he’d miss the team’s next 41 contests, or exactly half the regular season.

The Nuggets still have a talented roster without Millsap in the mix. The team went 40-42 last season, and is counting on further development from young centerpieces like Jokic and Jamal Murray in 2017/18. But the roster isn’t exactly stocked with experienced, playoff-tested veterans like Millsap, so his absence will be felt.

At 10-7, the Nuggets currently trail the Rockets, Warriors, and Spurs in the Western Conference, and they’re tied with the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves. Those five teams look like probable playoff clubs. Behind Denver, teams like the Pelicans (9-8), Grizzlies (7-9), Thunder (7-9), and Jazz (7-11) will be some of the teams battling for one of the other three postseason berths in the West, with the Lakers (8-10) and Clippers (5-11) among the dark horses.

What do you think? Can the Nuggets withstand Millsap’s absence and put themselves in position to get back to the playoffs this season, or will the injury be too much for the team to overcome? Vote in our poll and jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Poll: NBA’s Worst Team

We’re only about 20% of the way through the NBA’s regular season schedule for 2017/18, but the league’s standings are already starting to look like what we expected. In the West, the Warriors and Rockets lead the way, followed by the Spurs and Timberwolves. In the East, the Celtics, Raptors, Cavaliers, and Wizards all show up near the top of the standings, with one surprise interloper in the Pistons.

Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, a handful of teams that we expected to vie for 2018’s first overall pick have sunk to the bottom of the league’s standings. As our 2017/18 Reverse Standings show, here are the NBA’s worst seven teams to open the season:

  1. Dallas Mavericks (3-14): Last season represented the first time this century that the Mavericks finished the season below .500. In 2016/17, Dallas lost 15 of its first 18 games before righting the ship somewhat and finishing with 33 wins. It remains to be seen whether the club can perform a similar turnaround this year.
  2. Atlanta Hawks (3-13): Projected by oddsmakers for 25.5 wins this season, the Hawks are currently on pace for just 15 victories. Injuries have played a part in their early-season struggles, but there simply aren’t many above-average players on the roster.
  3. Chicago Bulls (3-11): Like Atlanta, Chicago doesn’t have a ton of talent on its roster and was expected to finish at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference heading into the season. Players like Nikola Mirotic, Cameron Payne, and Zach LaVine have been sidelined with injuries so far, so their respective returns could buoy the Bulls, but of those players, only LaVine figures to have a real impact.
  4. Sacramento Kings (4-12): By signing veterans like George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter to complement their young core, the Kings didn’t look ready to bottom out this season. So far though, those vets have struggled, and many of their young players aren’t ready for major roles.
  5. Los Angeles Clippers (5-10): The most surprising inclusion in this list, the Clippers began the season 4-0, but are currently in the midst of an eight-game skid. The team’s schedule has been tough during that stretch, so I’d expect some course correction soon, but the Clips don’t look like a playoff team in the first year of the post-Chris Paul era.
  6. Brooklyn Nets (6-10): The Nets have played hard this season and should remain fairly competitive on most nights, but with Jeremy Lin out for the season and D’Angelo Russell battling health issues as well, the club will face an uphill battle in its quest to get to 30 or 35 wins.
  7. Phoenix Suns (7-11): Phoenix looked like the worst team in the league through three games, but a coaching change and an Eric Bledsoe trade have the club looking revitalized. The rebuilding Suns still aren’t a playoff contender, and they’ll go through their share of growing pains over the course of the season. However, they appear capable of staying out of the NBA cellar.

What do you think? Which one of these clubs will finish the 2017/18 season with the NBA’s worst record? Or is there another team outside of this group of seven that will slip down the standings and “surpass” all of these clubs? Vote below and jump into our comment section to share your thoughts!

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Poll: 2018 NBA Finals Matchup

Heading into the 2017/18 NBA season, the general consensus among experts and fans alike was that we were heading for a fourth straight NBA Finals matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers. The Celtics were viewed as a threat to the Cavs in the East, but Gordon Hayward‘s opening-night injury initially put a damper on the optimism in Boston.

One month later, however, the enthusiasm surrounding the Celtics is stronger than ever. After starting off the season 0-2, Boston has reeled off 14 straight wins, including a 92-88 victory over the defending-champion Warriors on Thursday.

The Celtics’ impressive play has convinced Chris Mannix of The Vertical that the C’s should be considered the new frontrunners in the Eastern Conference. Making his case for Boston, Mannix argues that the defensive rating posted by the 8-7 Cavs is a legitimate cause for concern — he also questions the Wizards‘ bench, and suggests that the Bucks aren’t yet ready to take the next step toward a championship.

The Warriors themselves are believers in the Celtics’ potential too. Before Thursday’s game, head coach Steve Kerr said the C’s look like “a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come.” After the game, Stephen Curry told reporters that he wouldn’t be surprised to be back in Boston in June for the NBA Finals.

In the view of oddsmakers, the Cavs remain the heavy favorites to come out of the East, but the Celtics appear ready to make things interesting.

What do you think? Are we still headed for another Warriors/Cavs rematch, or is this the year that another team pushes its way into the championship conversation in one conference or the other? Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to weigh in!

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Poll: Best Bargain Among NBA’s Highest-Paid Players

Yesterday, we took a look at the NBA’s highest-paid players this season.  Among the players listed were perennial All-Stars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant, all of whom are among the top 15 players in the league in terms of 2017/18 salary.

Curry is making the largest allowable salary in the NBA this season at $34,682,550, but only players who have been in the NBA for 10+ seasons are eligible for that salary. Players like Gordon Hayward, who have been in the league for 7-9 seasons, are only eligible for a maximum starting salary of $29,727,900, while players like Otto Porter, who have been in the league for six seasons or less, have a maximum starting salary of $24,773,250 for the 2017/18 season.

That being said, we want you to assume for the purposes of this poll that the NBA has no salary cap. In other words, if there was no limit on the amount a franchise could pay its players, how much do you think each player on our list would be worth?

After contemplating that answer, we want to know who you believe to be the most underpaid player on the list. To be clear, we are not asking for you to pick the best player, but rather the most underpaid.

For example, if you think James is better than Durant, but not that much better, the difference in compensation between the two players ($8.29MM) may lead you to the conclusion that Durant is more underpaid. Or, maybe it wouldn’t. That’s the beauty of the poll. So what do you think? Vote below in our poll and then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!

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Poll: How Will Bucks Do With Bledsoe?

Heading into the 2017/18 season, the Cavaliers and Celtics were viewed as the heavy frontrunners to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals in the spring. However, the Cavs look vulnerable so far, having endured several bad losses already. And while the Celtics have been great, they’re not expected to get All-Star forward Gordon Hayward back this season, which may limit their upside.

The Wizards and Raptors are considered contenders in the East, and teams like the Pistons and Magic have been unexpectedly successful early in the season. But in the wake of reports that the Bucks are finalizing a trade to acquire Eric Bledsoe from the Suns, Milwaukee may have emerged as the most intriguing challenger for the conference crown.

The Bucks have gotten off to a modest start, losing five of their first nine games, but Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s leading scorer at 31.0 PPG, looks ready to compete for an MVP award; reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon has taken another step forward this season; and Khris Middleton has been productive and healthy, recording 19.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 4.9 APG so far despite struggling with his shot.

Now, the Bucks are set to add another explosive playmaker to their roster with the acquisition of Bledsoe, and the veteran point guard isn’t the only notable mid-season addition Milwaukee will make in 2017/18.

The Bucks will also welcome back former second overall pick Jabari Parker at some point in the new year. Even though the Bucks played their best ball last season after Parker went down with his ACL injury, there’s no reason to believe he’d have a negative impact on the team if he’s willing to play a complementary role when he gets back on the court.

With Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Parker, Brogdon, and Bledsoe joined by a group of role players that includes Thon Maker, John Henson, Tony Snell, Matthew Dellavedova, and Mirza Teletovic, the Bucks have an intriguing mix of talent. Mitch Lawrence of Forbes makes the case that they’re capable of earning a top-four seed in the East. And if the Bucks get hot at the right time in the postseason, they’re a squad no team will want to face.

What do you think? Is this Bucks team capable of making a deep playoff run, or are they still a year or two away from taking that next step? Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!

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