Image from Black Sports Online[/caption] There were several off-season moves either by trade, the draft, or free agent acquisition. The most notable franchise that made aggressive moves is the Boston Celtics. Boston Legend and current President Danny Ainge made a move which was first viewed as somewhat unfavorable to the Celtics. The Celtics traded their rights to pick the consensus first pick Markelle Fultz in exchange for the third overall pick with the 2018 Lakers first round pick as a deal sweetener. Boston eventually selected wingman Jayson Tatum in the draft. The strange case of Fultz losing his shooting skills allegedly due to changing his shooting style makes the draft exchange seems to be favorable to the Celtics as Tatum is playing really well in his current role. Boston with the help of Brad Steven’s coaching history with Gordon Hayward got hold of the prized free agent. Then the Kyrie Irving trade acquisition made the Boston fanatics shouting in unison “In Ainge we trust”. Despite the unfortunate injury to Hayward, the Celtics remained on top of the East. The Cavs, who managed to be part of three straight finals against the Warriors, were hoping that the departure of Irving would not impact their fourth title run. Cleveland’s season started slow due probably to a combination of injuries and lack of team chemistry. So it was no surprise that the Cavs made trade deadline moves to acquire Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. The roster movement was viewed by the basketball world with a grain of salt due to chemistry concerns. [caption id="attachment_96" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image from cavsnation.com[/caption] The early success of the Houston Rockets without superstar Chris Paul gave us a glimpse of a western finals showdown between the Rockets and the Warriors. The D’ Antoni offense appeared to be a fit with the Rockets having good shooters in Harden and Eric Gordon. In fact, it can be said that D’ Antoni had a strong case for a repeat of the coach of the year citation. The cherry on top of the early success of the Rockets is the recent free agency acquisition of Gerald Green and the rise in production of Clint Capela. Despite the good runs of the Celtics and the Rockets coupled with the struggles of the Cavs, the Golden State Warriors appeared to be still the team to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June. The Warriors were coming up with convincing wins despite having Steph and/or KD playing hurt or on the injury list. The Utah Jazz played good music after the return from injury of defensive specialist Rudy Gobert. Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell is a huge part of the success of Utah. Rookies performing well It is hard to fathom that Ben Simmons is just rookie with his ridiculous numbers as a starter for the 76ers. There are several rookies who are playing good basketball for their respective teams but no one comes close to the budding superstar’s performance. Simmons averaged 15.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.2 APG, 1.7 SPC. The only chink in his armor is his 56% FT percentage. His part in the success of the Sixers franchise and his triple doubles might have given him a slight edge over Mitchell in the ROTY award. Nike said it best he is not a rookie, he is The Rookie! Jayson Tatum is the best example of the “at the right place and at the right time”. He undoubtedly benefited from the devastating injury sustained by Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. The Duke standout played an average of 30.5 minutes per ball game. He produced averages of 13.9 PPG, 5 RPG and 1.6 APG. His performance in the playoffs made the Sixers front office scratch their heads on why they picked Fultz at No. 1. Ainge has definitely placed Tatum on the no trade block. [caption id="attachment_90" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image from nba.com[/caption] Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz played exceptional basketball as he is the scoring leader of his squad that surprisingly entered the playoffs despite losing Gordon Hayward in free agency. He averaged 20.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.7 APG. He had a strong case for ROTY because of his prolific scoring which is team best and the best among rookies. MVP Race James Harden’s performance in the last three seasons, wherein he was number two in voting the last two seasons, might have given him a slight edge in the balloting. The Beard’s performance that propelled the Rockets on top of the Western Conference and one win away from the Finals is quite a feat. led his Rockets to the top of the team standings despite the absence of Chris Paul. He is on top of the scoring list with a 30.4 PPG while shooting close to 45%. The Beard still proves this season that he is a great facilitator with 8.8 APG. He also has a respectable 5.4 RPG and 1.5 SPG. His lackluster performance in the Western Conference finals have doubters questioning his abilities to be the go to guy when it matters the most. [caption id="attachment_92" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image from NBA.com[/caption] In the last decade it is almost impossible to have MVP discussions without including LeBron James in the discussion. After the departure of Kyrie, it is virtually a certainty that the King will the main focus of the offense. As it turns out, LBJ played another MVP worthy season performance with incredible stats. If the MVP voting would include playoffs performance, LBJ could have won his fifth trophy. The Playoffs and the boring Finals!!!! The 2018 playoffs were full of upsets and revelations. Donovan Mitchell was a revelation when he led his team to a series win against the big three of OKC. Anthony Davis was a revelation for the Pelicans who lost the services of Boogie Cousins with an Achilles injury. Dame Time and company were no much for the Brow. The Philadelphia hopefuls can sense the good old days when they saw the healthy young core win its first round assignments. In fact, some were projecting them to be a finalist in the East. Philadelphia was picked by almost the entire basketball nation to win easily against the Celtics. But the winningest franchise in NBA history had a different mindset. The Kyrie-less team went on to win the series 4 games to one. Jayson Tatum was a revelation in this series with Ben Simmons becoming a non-factor. LeBron James’ performance in the entire playoffs proved to the world why he deserved his 7th ESPYS award as best NBA player. He may have gotten the nod of the scribes to win his fifth NBA MVP but is not debatable that the King is not ready to give up his reigns. [caption id="attachment_93" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image from sportingnews.com[/caption] Most of the sports analysts viewed the Western Conference finals between the Warriors and the Rockets, the two teams with the best regular season records, as the real NBA Finals. I share their sentiments because the Rockets gave the Warriors a tough series. In fact, they were a game away from facing Bron in the finals or some even say they might have gotten over the hump if Chris Paul played in the last two games of the series. The King’s 8th straight finals appearance was a disappointment. They were written off before game one started. The only glimpse of resistance is when Bron played terrific all around basketball on the first game. However, LBJ’s fantastic performance was for naught because of the running blunder of JR Smith. Colin Herd calls that the moment LeBron decided he will not be staying with his hometown team. Golden State was on cruise control the rest of the Finals that resulted in a sweep.]]>

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