Breaking Down Dejounte Murray’s Move to the Atlanta Hawks

Analyzing Atlanta’s exciting new acquisition and what it means for the league


The Atlanta Hawks acquired star guard Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs for Danilo Gallinari along with a 2023 protected first-round pick, 2025 first-round pick, 2026 pick swap, and 2027 first-round pick, kicking off the offseason by establishing a new powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.

Over the past few seasons, Dejounte Murray has truly come into his own as an elite floor general. However, the Spurs have not been able to surround Murray with adequate talent, leading to five years stuck between the 7th and 11th seed. So, after coming to a mutual agreement with the San Antonio front office to find a better fit, Dejounte Murray now has teamed up with Trae Young to create a formidable backcourt duo that can take the league by storm.

Now, let’s take a look at the trade from the perspectives of the Spurs and Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks:

My immediate reaction to this trade was that a Murray/Young backcourt is awfully similar to the James Harden/Chris Paul pairing of the late 2010s Houston Rockets. This may seem blasphemous at first glance but I urge you to take a closer look. Similar to Harden and Paul, both Murray and Young are excellent facilitators with the ability to find their own shots in isolation situations.

Drawing out the comparison to the Houston Rockets, the Hawks also have lob-catching big men in both Clint Capela and John Collins. With constant lob threats lurking under the basket, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray will have the option to throw up a lob or floater as they wish, similar to what James Harden utilized to perfection with Clint Capela earlier in his career.

Additionally, with two slashing facilitators in the backcourt, shooters are a necessity in order to spread the floor. What the Rockets had but the Hawks currently lack was a surplus of knockdown shooters like Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Gerald Green, Trevor Ariza, and more. This allowed Harden and Paul to weave their way into the key and dish it out for some quick points if they couldn’t find an opportunity at the basket.

Looking forward to some additional moves Atlanta can make before joining the elite of the Eastern Conference, I would definitely keep an eye out for great shooters to surround the two star guards.

San Antonio Spurs:

Since the abrupt departure of Kawhi Leonard in the 2018 offseason, the Spurs have been stuck in mediocrity, too good to get high draft picks, but too bad to make runs in the playoffs. And, with DeMar DeRozan leaving recently, things took a turn for the worst as no matter how well Dejounte Murray performed, it was never enough to carry the rest of the team.

Unfortunately for Spurs fans out there, with Gregg Popovich’s retirement looming, this will be a lengthy rebuild. However, through excellent draft selections, trades, and free agency moves, San Antonio’s front office has built a reputation as one of the most respected in the league and can be expected to put its best foot forward to form a competitive roster for the future. Now equipped with three more first-round picks along with a pick swap over the next five years from the Dejounte Murray trade, the Spurs have the pieces to build an elite team.

My Late 2022 NBA Finals Prediction


This season has brought us some of the most exciting and competitive playoffs in a long time. We’ve been blessed with well-matched teams slugging it out in high-intensity matchups with only one sweep in fifteen total series.

The Finals, thankfully, have been much of the same. Both the Celtics and Warriors have had a fair share of their ups and downs through this season, but their perseverance and grit have led both teams to the Finals. After two games, we’ve seen the best of both teams, including their star players and X factors (looking at you, Al Horford). Now, at a gridlocked 1–1 series score, I’ve made my prediction for these Finals.

Simply due to an advantage in pure talent and an overwhelming edge in experience,

I have the Warriors winning this series in 6 games.

From top to bottom, the Warriors have a much more experienced squad with five players part of the late 2010s dynasty, including Steve Kerr and some of the coaching staff. The Celtics, on the other hand, have a rookie head coach and a roster with an average age below 26 years old. And though this team has been to the Eastern Conference Finals in 4 of the last six years, the Finals are an entirely different ballpark.

Moreover, the Warriors are simply the more talented team. With four players that can erupt for 30+ on any given night alongside Draymond Green and Kevon Looney, every lineup Golden State can put on the floor has the potential to explode on a huge run. And though the Celtics can match this for two or three games, I think the Warriors have the firepower and experience to win their 7th ring.

What to Pay Attention To:

Horford vs. Looney:


Both Horford and Looney have had tremendous performances in these playoffs. Horford specifically has managed to turn back the clock to have all-star moments as he did in the conference finals and Game 1 of this series. Looney’s responsibility will primarily be to eliminate Horford from the game by keeping him off the glass and contesting his deadly three-point jumper.

Klay’s Efficiency:

Before his injury, Klay Thompson’s efficiency was never in question. He had established himself as the second-best shooter in the league by knocking down shots with staggering consistency.

However, this season, Klay’s efficiency has been a serious concern for the Warriors. Both his three-point and field goal percentage in the regular season and playoffs have been some of the worst he has ever shot, behind only some of his earliest seasons. For the Warriors to win, Klay needs to improve his efficiency or find different ways to impact the game on either side of the ball.

Marcus Smart:


Boston’s defense starts and ends with Marcus Smart. And, being by far the best defense during the playoffs Smart has to step up to the task and play the best defense of his career. Smart’s assignment on defense will be to shadow Curry while provoking and needling him, similar to what Matthew Dellavadova did in 2015.

If Marcus Smart is able to slow down Curry significantly and force the ball out of his hands, there is a strong likelihood that the Celtics win their record-breaking 18th championship, but slowing down Curry is much easier said than done.

Winners and Losers of the 2021 NBA Free Agency

Let’s take a look at which teams and players came out as the biggest winners and losers this offseason.


A month into free agency, all major free agents have been signed, and most trade targets have been dealt with. With that being said, this summer has been quite eventful, and the landscape of the league has changed drastically, so let’s take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the 2021 NBA offseason.

Winner #1 – Chicago Bulls:

The Bulls are easily the biggest winner of the offseason after signing star guards Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan to great contracts, adding to their star-studded lineup already including Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.

Chicago had to make some changes after coming off a season where the Bulls went 22–43, claiming the 11th seed, just missing out on one of the spots in the play-in tournament. The Bulls traded for Vucevic at the trade deadline, hoping to help push the team to the playoffs, but their plans were thwarted when LaVine contracted COVID-19.

Zach LaVine: Why Chicago Bulls guard is out for few games - Chicago Tribune

LaVine has always been an incredible player, but last season, he proved that he was one of the best in the league after averaging 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game on some of the best efficiency in the NBA. However, he is an unrestricted free agent next summer, meaning that he could walk away from the Bulls for nothing. Because retaining LaVine will be such a priority for Chicago, the signings of Ball and DeRozan make the Bulls the biggest winner of this offseason, as the proactivity of Chicago’s front office is something that every star, including Zach LaVine, would love to have in their corner.

Ball and DeRozan both fit very well with this Bulls squad. Both can take some of the ball-handling duties from LaVine, allowing him to get open off the ball. They essentially both make the Bulls less LaVine-reliant. In previous years, Chicago’s entire offense, from playmaking to scoring, went through LaVine. As an elite scorer, DeRozan will alleviate scoring duties from LaVine, and Ball will do the same with playmaking. DeRozan also adds some playoff experience to the young squad, accelerating the others’ transition to playoff basketball. With these advantages, the team should be well-rested when playoff time comes, hopefully leading to a deep playoff run.

Loser #1 – Dennis Schroder:

Last offseason, after coming off a championship, the Lakers offered a 4 year/$84 million contract extension to Dennis Schroder. Even though he was offered more money than most people would see in 10 lifetimes, Schroder bet on himself and declined the deal, hoping to get a deal worth over $100 million this offseason. However, a week into free agency, Schroder reportedly got no interest in the market, and most teams with cap space had already made large deals.

So, Schroder had to settle for just a $5.9 million deal with the Celtics, an astonishingly small sum compared to the Lakers’ deal last offseason. There is still a glimmer of hope that he’ll get his desired contract next offseason, but giving a non-shooting point guard north of $20 million a year in 2022 is quite unrealistic.

Winner #2 – Los Angeles Lakers:

After trading for Russell Westbrook before free agency, the Lakers had a lot of work to do in free agency. Their starting lineup consisted of Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Marc Gasol. Though they obviously had a lot of raw talent and experience, a team can’t expect success without elite shooting from deep in this era, as mentioned in this article.

Needing to address this glaring issue, the Lakers entered free agency hoping to sign quality shooters with minimal cap space, a daunting task. But they were able to end the offseason with a plethora of excellent shooters and young, athletic role players.

Carmelo Anthony Signs a One Year Deal With The Lakers

They signed Kendrick Nunn, Carmelo Anthony, Wane Ellington, Malik Monk, and Kent Bazemore. Each player is an above-average long-range shooter, as all of them, besides Kendrick Nunn, who shoots 38.1% from deep, shoots over 40% from beyond the arc.

Nunn and Monk are the most exciting pickups for me, as they are both young and explosive that can be sparks off the bench, leading the second unit. Additionally, Monk and Nunn are clearly willing to sacrifice to win, as they turned down more lucrative contracts from other teams to prioritize winning. Selfless players that bring as much to the table as these young studs are always excellent additions to contenders like the Lakers.

Carmelo Anthony was also a fantastic acquisition. He will mesh fantastically with the current roster as he has experience moving from team to team and getting accustomed to many different rosters in a relatively short period. In addition, he is great friends with LeBron James, improving the locker room chemistry in the new team, making him that much better of a fit.

Entering the 2021–22 season with this much talent, the Lakers’ next task is to find some chemistry on the court. This may take some time with this many new faces, but with the resilience and experience each of the new players has displayed in their careers, I expect them to jump over this hurdle with relative ease.

Loser #2 – Sixers and Ben Simmons:

After the Hawks shocked Philadelphia and eliminated the Sixers from the playoffs, I wrote this article to emphasize the importance of trading Ben Simmons in the offseason.

The Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons experiment has run its course, and these playoffs made it clear that Simmons is the problem on the court. Due to a lack of shooting and general decisiveness, the downfall of Simmons’s performance has almost always coincided with the team’s downfall in the playoffs, as Joel Embiid has consistently played at an All-NBA level.

Embiid even voiced his frustration after the Sixers’ collapse in Game 7, when he said that the game’s turning point was when Simmons passed up a free layup to his defended teammate.

With all that being said, keeping both Embiid and Simmons on the same team is similar to allowing a time bomb to keep ticking because when one of them undoubtedly demands a trade, their trade value will plummet. So, the Sixers are losers because they have allowed a clearly toxic locker room and lack of chemistry to progress.

Ben Simmons is also a loser of this offseason because he desperately needs a change of environment and a fresh start. Staying in Philadelphia with the fans and teammates who have recently spoken out against him is far from the typical situation for a young player who needs to switch his game completely.

Winner #3 – New York Knicks:

Last season, Julius Randle and the Knicks shocked the world when they claimed the 4th seed in the East. Unfortunately, they failed to maintain their momentum into the playoffs when Trae Young and the underdog Atlanta Hawks defeated them in just 5 games.

Their main issues were a lack of efficient and consistent scoring, as their only player with heavy experience was Derrick Rose. And Julius Randle, their main scoring option, was outscored by Rose and shot just under 30% from the field.

After this playoff disappointment, the Knicks looked to make a splash in free agency, and they came up with solid acquisitions to bolster their roster.

They signed scoring guard Evan Fournier to a 4 year/$78 million contract and Kemba Walker to a 2 year/$16 million contract. These additions give New York more guard depth, scoring, and playmaking.

NY Knicks: Scenes from Kemba Walker & Evan Fournier press conference

Kemba is an experienced scorer and playmaker, as he proved during his time in Charlotte. Though he did have two alright seasons with the Celtics, he will have ample opportunity to return to his past excellence with more touches in New York.

Fournier has been an efficient bucket-getter his entire career. When he was on the Magic, he consistently flew under the radar due to his team’s lack of success. However, in the second half of last season, Fournier showed his elite efficiency on a big stage as he got traded to Boston, where he nailed over 45% of his three-pointers.

These two acquisitions may be enough to push New York into the conference semifinals or even the conference finals this season!

Loser #3 – Dallas Mavericks:

NBA: Dallas' Luka Doncic struggling with shooting slump early

So far in his short career, Luka Doncic has shown that he is on the path to becoming one of the greatest players of all time. But, the one thing that can hold him back is team success.

In fact, Doncic was reportedly upset at the organization’s direction since their first-round exit last season and got more frustrated after the Mavs decided to fire longtime GM Donnie Nelson. After back-to-back first-round losses, Dallas hasn’t made any major roster additions to address their repeated playoff shortcomings, which may cause more unrest in Doncic’s camp.

Dallas is on the verge of ending an offseason in which all they did was lose Josh Richardson and sign Reggie Bullock. So, in short, Luka will have to shoulder all the load for another season. And, though watching Luka’s magic in full effect is a treat for us NBA fans, the Mavs’ front office is, to put it simply, failing Luka Doncic.

If Dallas continues to make minimal acquisitions and trades, there is no reason for Doncic to stick around with an incompetent front office. For this reason, be on the lookout for a Luka Doncic trade request next offseason.

Breaking Down Russell Westbrook’s Move to the Lakers

Russell Westbrook is now a Los Angeles Laker after being traded along with two future 2nd round picks for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd pick.


With the addition of Russell Westbrook, the Lakers have officially joined the superteam tier, and LeBron is now part of his third bonafide, “Big Three.” With this move, the Wizards are now younger and hopefully will start to rebuild by trading Beal in the upcoming weeks.

Washington Wizards:


The Wizards have been a team in no man’s land for far too long, and now that the short-lived, failed Westbrook experiment is over, it’s time for them to rebuild. A team in no man’s land is usually a 7th to 12th seed that has no chance of truly contending and also has no chance of getting a high lottery pick, and they usually have a loyal franchise centerpiece that they don’t want to part with (Blazers, Timberwolves). This is the worst position for a franchise to be in as they’re typically just waiting for one year of luck, which rarely amounts to anything. And, the franchise centerpiece wastes their career without having any team success to show for the many years spent on the same team. Ideally, before Beal ends up as one of these lost talents, the Wizards should trade him to a team like the Warriors looking to contend now.

Acquiring a player like Kyle Kuzma is fantastic for a young team like Washington, as Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma have the opportunity to share the ball and develop together. After brilliant rookie and sophomore season campaigns, Kuzma struggled to work well with Anthony Davis and was in desperate need of a change. Kuzma is still only 26 years old and will have an excellent opportunity to flourish in the capital.

Los Angeles Lakers:


For the first time in his career, LeBron looked vulnerable in 2021. The playoffs served as a wake-up call for the Lakers front office, and they realized that they needed to make a move urgently. This is the new reality for Los Angeles as James will turn 37 this summer, and the days of expecting him to single-handedly carry a team to the Finals year in and year out are behind us. In addition, having an injury-prone running mate, in Anthony Davis, simply did not cut it, so with the window of contention closing rapidly, the Lakers pulled the trigger and brought in 2017 NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook.

This move seemed like it was made out of desperation more than anything.

Westbrook is simply a very questionable fit in this Lakers system. I understand that many people believe that he will serve well as a secondary ball-handler, taking some pressure off of LeBron. But will he really? For almost every season Westbrook has been in the league, he has had the highest usage rate on his team, including Kevin Durant’s 2014 MVP season. When he was in Houston, Westbrook was the secondary ball-handler, but that resulted in the Rockets getting ousted out of the second round by none other than LeBron and the Lakers.

Now, what if Westbrook played as the primary ballhandler? Though it sounds odd to think LeBron has to defer to Westbrook on offense, this is probably the Lakers’ best bet at succeeding as LeBron has some history with deferring to guards while still playing at a high level.

On Thursday, the tweet above went viral as Twitter user: @nyk_lxke joked that “the three point line” would stop the new-look Lakers. However, there is a lot of truth to that statement. Since the astronomical rise of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, the NBA has flipped to a three-point shooting league. But as constructed now, none of the Lakers’ stars are knockdown three-point shooters. This is a massive issue for LA, as, without the offensive firepower to outscore the opposition, they’ll need to play elite defense, something that, at this point in their careers, only Anthony Davis can provide.

So in this offseason, the Lakers have a lot of work to do. Not only do they need great defenders, but they also need to sign a plethora of elite shooters to counteract the below-average shooters in their Big 3, which will be a Herculean task due to the $120 million locked up by Westbrook, Davis, and James in 2022.

So, though Los Angeles has one of the most talented Big 3s in the history of the NBA, I could see more ways that this experiment could go wrong than right. Mixing players like LeBron and Russ that have been alphas for their entire careers, is risky. However, the Lakers are led by one of the greatest players ever, and if anyone can make it work, it would be LeBron James.

My prediction for the 2022 Lakers is a 56–26 record and a second or third-round exit in the playoffs. A championship is definitely in the realm of possibility, but I don’t see the Lakers winning the chip unless other contenders face season-altering injuries.

2021 NBA Finals Preview and Predictions


This year will be the third time either the Bucks or Suns have reached the NBA Finals and the first time the matchup is specifically between these two teams. The last time either team made the Finals was nearly 30 years ago, in 1993, when the Charles Barkley-led Suns lost a close 6 game series to Jordan’s Bulls.

Milwaukee vs. Phoenix is expected to be an extremely close series as they are evenly matched, proven by both of their regular-season matchups being decided by one point, the most recent one even going into overtime.

In this clash of high-octane offense vs. athletic defense, only time will tell who will prevail. But in the meantime, here is my prediction.

My Prediction:


The Suns are going into this series as the betting favorites, which, due to their incredible playoff run, isn’t a shocker, but if Giannis is healthy,

I believe the Bucks will capture their third ring, and Giannis his first, by defeating Phoenix in six games.

The driving reason behind this prediction is the inexperience that the Suns have in the Playoffs. Will their roster be prepared under the blinding lights of the NBA finals? As someone who watches with the hope that the series is nail-bitingly close, I hope so, but I don’t think so. To clear the air, I am not a Phoenix Suns’ hater (although they did single-handedly destroy my playoff bracket); on the contrary, I actually would be thrilled to watch this Cinderella story come to a climax with Phoenix winning it all.

Giannis’s injury will make this series that much more difficult for the Bucks to win, but the rest of the team’s performance in games 5 and 6 of the conference finals laid my doubts of Milwaukee’s depth to rest. If Giannis misses two games or less and returns back to 100% health, in my mind, there are no excuses for the Bucks not to close out the Suns.

What to Pay Attention To:

Holiday vs. Paul:


The key matchup in this series will be that between Jrue Holiday and Chris Paul. As the captain of the Suns, the entire offense runs through Paul, and if Holiday can slow Paul down, the Suns’ offense will be much more manageable for Milwaukee to handle. Holiday has long been known for his lockdown defense on the best guards in the league, and that’s one of the main reasons that Milwaukee traded for him in the offseason. His defensive performance in this series will be the most important task in his career, and if Holiday can limit Paul, the Suns will be flat out outmatched.

Bucks’ Role Players:

Guarding Chris Paul for the entires series will be an exhausting task, even for a premier defender like Holiday, meaning that the Bucks will need role players to step up and fill in the scoring hole that Holiday leaves. I am counting on Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez to fulfill this task, as both performed remarkably well under the spotlight in the conference finals.

Giannis’s Knee:

For the Bucks to have a realistic chance in this series, Giannis needs to return to full health. It will be a disaster if he is rushed back from injury and it is aggravated, leading to a more severe injury, similar to what happened with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in the 2019 Finals. The Bucks, to be safe, should keep him out for at least Game 1 and only play him for 25 to 30 minutes in Game 2 to ease him back. This way, Giannis will avoid a serious injury, and he will be able to play at full health for the crucial closing games.

Devin Booker:


Booker has been nothing short of outstanding in the playoffs. In their first playoffs, the key for young players is to maintain their composure while still performing up to par. Booker, however, has not only maintained his composure, but he is also playing the best basketball of his career. If Booker, Paul, and Ayton, can maintain their productivity against one of the league’s best defenses in Milwaukee, which will be an enormous task, Phoenix might just bring their first ring to the desert.

What’s Next for the Philadelphia 76ers? Looking at Ben Simmons Trade Packages


Another year, another disappointing playoff exit by the Sixers. Coming into the playoffs as the first seed, expectations were rightfully very high for the Sixers. As the first seed, the Sixers had the easiest path to the conference finals, avoiding both the Nets and Bucks in the first two rounds. They first faced off against the Wizards and then matched up against the winner of the Knicks-Hawks matchup. None of these teams should have lasted for more than 5 games against the Sixers, but somehow, someway, the Sixers managed to lose in 7 to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round.

There are two main reasons for this. First is the Sixers’ Head Coach, Doc Rivers. Coach Rivers is still riding off the championship in 2008 as it continuously lands him job after job. He led a team that was expected to win a championship, as they had the only big three in the league, to a championship. Since that ’08 season, Rivers has been unable to lead any team to any sort of playoff success. Despite having Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, and many talented bench pieces, Rivers couldn’t lead the Clippers past the second round for four seasons. Then, after a brief hiatus, the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George but collapsed again in the playoffs, this time blowing a 3–1 lead, once again not reaching the conference finals.

After this blown lead, the Sixers questionably hired Doc to a five-year contract. One year later, after ANOTHER disappointing playoff outing, the question remains, “Why is Rivers such an acclaimed head coach?” If it wasn’t obvious in 2014 when the Clippers blew a 7 point lead in the last 40 seconds of Game 5 to take a 3–2 lead over the Thunder or in 2015 when the Clippers blew a 3–1 lead to Josh Smith and the Houston Rockets or in 2020 when the Clippers blew a 3–1 lead to the Denver Nuggets,

it should be as clear as day now that Rivers’ team has collapsed once again that Doc Rivers is NOT the head coach of the future for the 76ers.

Rivers’ inability to make good coaching decisions down the line was a big factor in the Sixers’ untimely collapse to the Hawks. Watching Game 7, I, along with many other viewers, was baffled as to why Seth Curry, the Sixers’ second-best player in the series, only played 31 minutes in a season-deciding game.

Second, of course, there is Ben Simmons.

The Sixers can’t keep going with Ben Simmons on the roster. He needs to go. It’s the best for him and the team.

Simmons has actually gotten worse in the playoffs throughout his 4 seasons in the league on the offensive end. His playmaking has stayed the same, still great, but his scoring and, specifically, midrange and free throw shot have fallen off a cliff. Though this is not really an issue in the regular season, it is much more impactful and a large cause of worry in the playoffs.

In the playoffs, Simmons was borderline unplayable in the fourth quarter as the Hawks would eliminate him from the Sixers’ offense by either using the Hack-a-Ben method and forcing him to make free throws or double-teaming Joel Embiid and challenging Simmons to score, as he could not put points up by himself. And on the defensive end, the self-proclaimed “best defender in the NBA” appeared uninterested and was simply ineffective, especially down the stretch.


The well-documented free-throw woes of Ben Simmons have been plastered all over the sports media world in the last few weeks, as Simmons shot an NBA record-low 34% from the charity stripe in this year’s playoffs. But, this issue extends far beyond just free throws. Simmons has been simply unwilling to expand his offensive game throughout his career so far. During the summer, workout videos are released of Simmons spotting up from three and often midrange after simple turnarounds. Even in the 2016 Summer League, just weeks after getting drafted, Simmons was nailing jumpers comfortably. However, in recent years, likely due to a mix of a lack of confidence and practice, Simmons literally does not pull up for jumpers.

The issue isn’t necessarily just that Simmons can’t shoot jumpers efficiently; rather, it’s that in the four years he has played for the Sixers, he has only regressed offensively, and with the franchise centerpiece Joel Embiid entering his prime at 27 years old, the Sixers can’t hope Simmons will improve next year as they are likely just to be disappointed again like they were in the past three years.

So, what’s next?

Regarding Doc Rivers and the coaching position, if Philly were to fire him, they would still have to pay Rivers for the next four seasons as he signed a five-year deal with them last offseason. So, firing Rivers is likely not financially feasible for the team, so they should go with the next best option: hiring experienced assistant coaches onto Rivers’ coaching staff. The coaches I think would be the best fits are Jarron Collins, Mike Brown, and Sam Cassell.

What about Ben Simmons?

Simmons will be paid about $140 million in the next four years, and looking at his playoff performance, this overpays him significantly, making him very difficult to trade. However, a young player with multiple All-Star appearances will have many GMs desperately piecing together an offer.

Portland Trailblazers:

Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum

There have been rumors circulating about Lillard getting traded to Philadelphia for Simmons. Still, I don’t see these coming to fruition as the Sixers will probably need to deal far more pieces than they are comfortable giving up. Due to this, I’ll focus on the second, more likely scenario of CJ McCollum for Simmons.

This trade makes a lot of sense for Philadelphia as they will improve significantly with another ballhandler and shooter for Embiid to kick out to. However, the fit on the wing with Tobias Harris will be questionable, as both players have a strikingly similar playstyle. The Blazers will probably be unwilling to acquire Simmons as their main issue now is satisfying Lillard. Trading his best teammate for a non-shooting point forward will likely only disgruntle the star even more.

Possibility: 25%

Toronto Raptors:

Ben Simmons for Kyle Lowry and Stanley Johnson


The Raptors have missed the playoffs for the first time in 8 years and desperately need to match the timeline of their roster. Starting point guard Kyle Lowry is now 35 years old, while the rest of the roster has an average age of 26. Within a few years, Lowry will be at the tail end of his career, and the Raptors won’t be able to get a return for him, so now is the best time to move him.

In just this past trade deadline, the Sixers were very close to trading for Lowry but chose to play out the season to see how Simmons and Embiid could work out. Now that it’s clear that Simmons won’t work in Philly, the time is now to swap him for Lowry.

You may be thinking that with Lowry, the Sixers’ timeline would be messed up as well, and though this is true, the reality is that at this point, the Sixers have to get what they can. Less than six months ago, Simmons’ trade value was high enough to be in trade talks for James Harden, but now with his abysmal playoff performance stained in GM’s minds, the Sixers need to trade him for as much value as they can get, and if that is Kyle Lowry, it is what it is.

Possibility: 35%

Indiana Pacers:

Ben Simmons for Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb

Replacing Ben Simmons with a great shooting point guard like Brogdon would be an excellent step for the Sixers. Brogdon would work well with Embiid as he is one of the elite spot-up three-point shooters in the league, meaning that Embiid could kick it out to him from the post and get a high-quality scoring opportunity.

As for Indiana, the Pacers get Simmons, a player with massive potential, who could become an All-Time great with the correct development. With this trade, the Pacers would hope that the drastic change of scenery away from a big city influences Simmons to put more time into his game. And, in a team abundant with young, athletic talent, like Caris LeVert, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis, the Pacers will have their promising core for the future.

Possibility: 40%

My FULL 2021 NBA Playoff Predictions

West 1st Round:

Jazz vs Grizzlies- Jazz in 5

The Jazz offense and depth are simply too deadly for the Grizzlies to handle. This series should be quick work for the first seed.

Suns vs Lakers- Lakers in 6

Counting LeBron out is not a risk I’m willing to take this year. Once playoff mode is activated, I doubt that this high octane Suns offense can deal any serious damage to the defending champions.


Nuggets vs Blazers- Blazers in 7

 In the playoffs last year, the Nuggets were led equally by both Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Though Jokic has improved a lot, Murray is out for the playoffs with a torn ACL, and I predict that the inexperience of the Nuggets young core will show.

Clippers vs Mavericks- Clippers in 6

 Just like last year’s first-round series, Luka will put on a show, but not be able to push the Mavs over the brink. The Clippers have too much depth and star power for the Mavericks to handle.

East 1st Round: 

Sixers vs Wizards- Sixers in 5

This first-round series may truly be an upset and I would not be shocked if the Wizards manage to win in 6 or 7 due to the tremendous streak that they’ve been on. However, the Sixers will most likely be able to contain Westbrook and Beal with their suffocating perimeter defense to end the series in a definitive fashion.

Nets vs Celtics- Nets in 5

Tatum won’t have much help in this series and the Celtics will be entirely outmatched from a skill perspective. The raw talent of the Nets will lead them to an easy victory over the Celtics.


Bucks vs Heat- Bucks in 6

With the addition of Jrue Holiday and one more year of experience under Giannis’s belt along with the regression of the Heat, I believe the Bucks will be able to avenge the defeat of last season’s disappointing semi-finals exit.

Knicks vs Hawks- Knicks in 7

This series can really go either way. Both teams are extremely young and have barely any playoff experience. The deciding factor for me was the Hawks’ lack of a Randle-stopper, which I believe will put the Knicks over the hump.

West 2nd Round:

Jazz vs Clippers- Clippers in 7

Yes, it’s a miracle, I am betting on the Clippers. Will Paul George show up? History’s not on his side, but I sure hope so. And even if Paul George mimics his 2020 playoff performance, I believe that Kawhi himself can drag the Clippers to the conference finals.

Blazers vs Lakers- Lakers in 5

This series should be quick work for LeBron and the crew and should honestly serve as a warm-up for the Battle of LA in the Conference Finals.

East 2nd Round:

Sixers vs Knicks- Sixers in 5

Embiid’s dominance combined with the years of playoff experience that this team has together, the Knicks should not be able to pose a threat to Philly. I doubt this series goes past six games.

Nets vs Bucks- Bucks in 7

I chose Giannis over a superteam. It may seem ridiculous, but hear me out. The Bucks have silently made great improvements this season while the Nets have been exposed on several different occasions due to their lack of defense. Against Giannis, this won’t fly. The Bucks defense is stellar, and if Jrue and Giannis are able to limit Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Bucks have a great shot due to their depth at all positions as they’ll be able to run the Nets’ bench out of the building.

Western Conference Finals:

Lakers vs Clippers- Lakers in 6

This series is going to be very, very interesting. By the end of it though, I am confident that LeBron will be able to outduel Kawhi and, along with AD, rip apart the weak interior defense of the Clippers.

Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard, the rivalry that no one saw coming - The  Basketball Workshop

Eastern Conference Finals:

Sixers vs Bucks- Bucks in 6

The Bucks offer too much depth for the Sixers to match up well for 48 minutes every night. Giannis and Embiid will likely produce the same amount on both the offensive and defensive end, but with this, the rest of the Bucks, including Middleton and Holiday, should be able to make quick work of the Sixers.

NBA Finals:


Lakers vs Bucks- Lakers in 7

If this series happens, it will be one for the ages. LeBron, in his 18th year, doing everything in his power to not fall from his throne to the next generation’s superstar forward in Giannis. Against an athletic and experienced team like the Bucks, LeBron will have to squeeze out every bit of experience and knowledge to take advantage of weaknesses that the Bucks have, such as their interior defensive presence. Heavily relying on the LeBron-AD pick and roll combo, the Lakers should be able to eke out a series win to give LeBron his 5th ring.

What the Jamal Murray Injury Means for the Denver Nuggets


The Nuggets have been one of the best young teams in the NBA for the last couple of years, highlighted by their conference finals run last season after overcoming two 3–1 deficits. This year looked to be much the same, as they were the fourth seed going into Chase Center to face the Warriors. However, their excellent season seemingly collapsed with their star point guard, Jamal Murray, who came down with a torn ACL.

As I was watching the broadcast show ten minutes of constant slow-motion replays of the injury during the timeout, as a lifelong Derrick Rose fan, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for not only Jamal Murray but also the entire Denver Nuggets franchise. I was thinking that if this injury drastically decreased the output and productivity of Murray post-injury, everything that the Nuggets have built on since Carmelo Anthony’s departure in 2010 would be futile.


Disappointed after the game, I checked the box score and recognized a name that had completely skipped my mind while considering what the Nuggets would do without Murray. Michael Porter Jr had himself an incredible night with 24 points on 52% shooting from the field. Now, I have always been a huge Porter fan, and I was utterly shocked when he plummeted to 13th in the 2019 draft, but I did not know that he was capable of this level of efficient output. It only made sense to me that while Murray was out, Porter would get the ball in his hands more, and if he was able to replicate the efficiency that he showed throughout the season so far, he would go berserk.

So far, this prediction has been spot on. In the 44 games this season before Murray was injured, Porter averaged 17.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on 53.4% from the field and 42.1% from three. In the nine games after Murray was injured, Porter has averaged 25.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 56.7% from the field and 50.7% from three. This production is absurd and I don’t think that this is just a coincidence with Murray’s absence, but rather a direct product of it.

It’s no secret that young players need the ball in their hands to develop, and Porter can now take over the scoring and ball-handling duties of Murray while he’s out. Now you may be wondering how Porter’s development will react to Murray returning to the lineup next season. After the injury, Murray surely will not be as effective as he was pre-injury, but he will definitely not fall off the face of the Earth and have his career ended like many Twitter users were quick to predict. Rather, by trusting Porter and Jokic, who will both improve and remain outstanding pieces, Murray will be an excellent third option for one of the best teams in the league.

Therefore, though it is understandably difficult to look at the bright side of such a devastating knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. is a bright young star who is about to shock a lot of people by taking the league by storm.

Grading Moves from the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline


Aaron Gordon to Denver:

  • Denver Nuggets Receive: Aaron Gordon, Gary Clark
  • Orlando Magic Receive: Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, 2025 1st round pick

Denver Nuggets (A): The Nuggets looked poised to make a strong push this season after their remarkable playoff run last season. Currently sitting at the fifth seed, they have simply not been able to meet their expectations so far. The most obvious reason for this is the loss of starting forward Jerami Grant who has made a name for himself this season in Detroit, putting up near All-Star numbers. Aaron Gordon, just like Grant, is an ultra-athletic four who can be a second or third scoring option alongside Jokic and Murray. After this deal, the Nuggets definitely have the talent to make a run to the Conference Finals again, hopefully with a different outcome this time around.

Orlando Magic (D+): I’m not really sure what the Magic were thinking with this one. Gary Harris’s stats have been in a freefall over the past three years, only averaging 10 points on 44% from the field this year. He doesn’t score, pass, rebound, or defend at anything near an Aaron Gordon level. RJ Hampton is an unproven rookie and has only been playing in garbage time. Hopefully, with more playing in time in Orlando, he will be able to develop into a good player. The 2025 1st round pick won’t be very valuable unless the Nuggets fall off heavily over the next 4 years and considering that they are by far the best young team in the NBA, I don’t see this happening. Overall, the Magic lost this trade without a doubt. If they had kept Gordon for the rest of this season, it would allow his stats to inflate, increasing his trade value in the offseason, where they could look for better deals.

Nikola Vucevic to Chicago:

  • Chicago Bulls Receive: Nikola Vucevic, Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Orlando Magic Receive: Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., 2021 1st round pick, 2023 1st round pick

Chicago Bulls (B-): The Bulls made this trade to show Zach LaVine that they are trying to build around him instead of making him carry their poor roster to the playoffs. However, adding an aging All-Star center while losing two very valuable first-round picks is a very questionable decision. This move looks to secure the Bulls into no man’s land for the foreseeable future with no playoff appearances or high lottery picks if LaVine and Vucevic don’t gel as expected.

Orlando Magic (A+): The Magic found a great deal here with Chicago. Not only did they get two very valuable first-round picks, but they also got Wendell Carter Jr., a young forward with a decent upside though he has been disappointing this year. With more minutes on a horrible Orlando team for the rest of this season, he may be able to develop with a higher usage rate.

Evan Fournier to Boston:

  • Boston Celtics Receive: Evan Fournier
  • Orlando Magic Receive: Jeff Teague, Two 2nd round picks

Boston Celtics (A+): The Celtics really just threw together two wads of chewing gum in an empty bag of chips and got a twenty-point per game scorer. The Fournier deal positions Boston to make a run for the championship, as they were looking desperately for a wing scorer to add next to Tatum and Brown. Fournier will be able to remove some of the offensive load that both Tatum and Brown carry, and work as another threat from anywhere on the field. Though Fournier may leave the Celtics this offseason, they basically gave up nothing for an additional offensive weapon, which is a huge win in my book.

Orlando Magic (C-): It is completely baffling that the Magic didn’t get a better offer for Fournier than what they accepted from Boston. Fournier was a much-desired asset that many fringe contenders wanted to bolster their roster with, and there is no doubt that there was another team offering a better package than a washed-up Jeff Teague and two low second rounders. In addition, I believe that the Magic waited much too long to trade Fournier. With only half a season left on his contract, they couldn’t have been expecting a great package as Fournier will likely be a half-season rental.

Norman Powell to Portland:

  • Portland Trailblazers Receive: Norman Powell
  • Toronto Raptors Receive: Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood

Portland Trailblazers (B+): Portland has finally made a significant addition to their team this trade deadline, one that can yield great playoff success. Powell has been a very underrated player during his tenure with the Raptors. He will be an excellent third option behind Dame and CJ. The Blazers have previously shown that they are capable of making a strong playoff push as they made the Conference Finals in 2019. With Powell now on the team, if the Lakers face injury struggles, the Blazers might be able to sneak into the Conference Finals once again in a tough Western Conference.

Toronto Raptors (A-): Gary Trent Jr. is a very promising young player who can make an immediate impact in a Toronto Raptors system that prefers younger, athletic players. Giving up Powell was a surprise, but a deeper look explains why this trade benefits the Raptors. Trent Jr is slightly less productive than Powell but is five years younger. With his potential, he can eclipse Powell’s Toronto production in the near future.

Rajon Rondo to Los Angeles:

  • Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Rajon Rondo
  • Atlanta Hawks Receive: Lou Williams, Two 2nd round picks

Los Angeles Clippers (B): Acquiring Rondo brings a much-needed locker room change to the Clippers as well as an elite playmaker. After the Clippers’ collapse in last season’s playoffs, it was evident that a culture change was needed desperately. Lou Williams has had a sharp decline in production since the 2018 season. This year, he has only been putting up 12 points per game, which isn’t a factor that the Clippers depend on with incredible scorers like Kawhi and Paul George on the roster. Rondo will be able to share the ball between the two while also bringing exceptional basketball IQ to clutch situations, which will hopefully prevent a 3–1 collapse in the playoffs again. With that being said, I do think that the Clippers did not need to trade two picks alongside Lou Williams. Those picks could’ve been very valuable assets for a future trade, and I believe Lou Williams for Rajon Rondo straight up is a very even trade.

Atlanta Hawks (B): The Rondo acquisition in this past offseason didn’t make too much sense from the start. Atlanta had their franchise player and clear starting point guard in Trae Young. They also had an abundance of young guards like Kevin Huerter, Kris Dunn, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Rondo didn’t really add anything to the fringe playoff Hawks team. Lou Williams adds a veteran presence that the young guards mentioned previously can learn from.

Victor Oladipo to Miami:

  • Miami Heat Receive: Victor Oladipo
  • Houston Rockets Receive: Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, 2022 1st round pick swap
IG: @jakepablomedia

Miami Heat (A+): It has been no secret that Oladipo has wanted to join the Heat for a few years now, so this fit is basically a match made in heaven. The Heat have been having a down year until recently, but with Oladipo, they now have three legitimate All-Stars that can make a deep run in the playoffs. Oladipo fits right into the Miami Heat culture with a humble, smart, yet outgoing personality. Since his injury in early 2019, Oladipo has seen a significant drop in efficiency, but now that he will be a second or third scoring option in the Heat offense, he will see many more open looks, boosting his efficiency and the team’s performance as a whole. Furthermore, the Heat were able to nab Oladipo without giving up any important assets. Neither Olynyk nor Bradley were major contributors to the team, and the second-round pick has minimal value, as the Heat will continue to be a great playoff team through next season.

Houston Rockets (A-): I gave the Rockets an A- here because they had no choice but to trade Oladipo, as he would definitely leave this offseason for nothing as the Rockets have been nothing short of a trainwreck this season. Though this was an underwhelming return and I do completely believe that the Rockets should’ve kept LeVert instead of trading him for Oladipo, at this moment, the Rockets made the best decision they could with Oladipo by trading him. After this deal was finalized, the Rockets received Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, four first-round picks, and five first-round pick swaps for James Harden. This haul is still impressive, and definitely not as disappointing as NBA Twitter makes it out to be.

2021 NBA All-Star Weekend Predictions

NBA All-Star Game 2021: Who is participating in the Slam Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge? | India | The official site of the NBA

After a wave of controversy swept over the NBA World regarding holding All-Star events during the pandemic; finally, after what felt like a decade, NBA All-Star weekend is upon us once again!

This year, there are only four events instead of the usual six:

  • Dunk Contest
  • Three-Point Contest
  • Skills Challenge
  • All-Star Game

However, with many new faces competing this weekend, the events are bound to be exciting.

Dunk Contest:

Though the field of competitors is underwhelming when compared to previous years, there are some very underrated dunkers looking to make a name for themselves in the NBA world.

The three competitors this year are Indiana’s Cassius Stanley, Portland’s Anfernee Simons, and New York’s Obi Toppin. Stanley boasts an absurd, record-setting 46.5-inch vertical leap, with Toppin close behind at 44 inches, and Simons in third with a 41.5 inches jump.

Unfortunately for Obi Toppin, big men historically have had bad fortune in the competition, with the exception of Dwight Howard. And even as unfair as it may seem, guards typically get the edge over big men because many judges consider it more impressive for a guard to do the same dunk as a center, essentially docking points for being too tall. With that being said, if there is any power forward I would choose to win the Dunk Contest, it would be Obi, and with his explosive and powerful dunking style, I am confident he will earn many new fans this weekend.

Former Duke men's basketball guard Cassius Stanley slams down a must-see dunk - The Chronicle

I predict that the two guards, Cassius Stanley and Anfernee Simons, will finish first and second respectively. Stanley is an absolute freak of nature who has been showing out at many dunk contests since his high school days. Most notably, he beat Zion Williamson’s record of the highest vertical in Duke history, overtaking Zion’s 45-inch leap, with his own 46.5 inches. Due to his experience in dunk competitions and his ridiculous athleticism, I predict Cassius Stanley will win the Dunk Contest.

Anfernee Simons is the sleeper of this contest. Not too many people know about him, as he hasn’t been a part of many mixtapes or highlight reels due to his low profile, but Simons has impressive agility and athleticism. There is definitely a good chance at Simons winning this contest, but based on experience and raw athleticism, Stanley remains my pick.

My Prediction:

  • Winner: Cassius Stanley (Indiana Pacers)
  • Runner-Up: Anfernee Simons (Portland Trailblazers)

Three-Point Contest:

Because Devin Booker was forced to give up his spot due to his knee injury, Stephen Curry is now an even heavier favorite and my personal pick to win the event. Everyone knows of Curry and his dominance in almost all three-point records in NBA history, especially when scaled to the sheer volume he produces.

However, just like any human (if he is one), Curry can potentially have an off-day. In this case, I can see either Chicago’s Zach LaVine or Utah’s Donovan Mitchell emerging and winning their first Three-Point championship. Both LaVine and Mitchell have speed, accuracy, and rhythm in their shots, just like Stephen Curry, which is the major reason I am not counting on a player like Jayson Tatum, whose shot doesn’t have the rhythm and speed necessary to rain down 25 threes in 60 seconds with accuracy, to win.

My Prediction:

  • Winner: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
  • Runner-Up: Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls)

Skills Challenge:

I will be shocked if the winner is not either Chris Paul or Luka Doncic. Both of these players are known for having fantastic fundamentals as triple-double threats every night. And, though Luka is an MVP candidate and the most polarizing young talent in the league today, my pick is the Point God himself, Chris Paul.

It boils down to speed and both passing and shooting accuracy. Though Chris Paul is 13 years older than Doncic, he’s still faster due to his smaller frame. Also, Paul has been a premier ball-handler and passer for the entirety of his 16-year career, and I definitely believe that this will show in the Skills Challenge as many players lose due to the inability of hitting the passing target in stride. Similarly, many players get caught up at the three-point shot. Paul has a significant four percent advantage over Luka in three-point percentage this year, giving him the edge.

In my opinion, it is highly unlikely that Paul and Doncic fall out of the top two, but if this does happen, two players that can sneak up are Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis and Portland’s Robert Covington. These players, though slower and less accurate, still have great fundamentals. If I were to rank these two, I would predict that Covington just barely edges out Sabonis to finish in the top three.

My Prediction:

  • Winner: Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns)
  • Runner-Up: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

All-Star Game:

And finally, the main event. The all-star game this year definitely has depleted lineups when compared to past years without big names like Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid, but it should be very exciting nonetheless.

Warriors news: Steph Curry named All-Star starter - Golden State Of Mind

Team LeBron should have no problem winning this game as they have the advantage of having LeBron James on their team whereas Team Durant is missing their best player due to injury. Also, Durant was basically forced to pick Kyrie Irving with his first choice as they are teammates, which allowed LeBron to snag both Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo, creating a team of cyborgs that should have no problem disposing of Team Durant.

Predicting the All-Star Game MVP, however, is a tall task, as with the new format, players cruise through the first three quarters like practice and only turn it up once the fourth quarter begins. Also, with teams filled with perennial All-Stars and 10 combined MVPs, selecting one to outperform all the other superstars is basically impossible, so consider this prediction just a wild guess.

Predictions (Game):

  • Winner: Team LeBron

Predictions (MVP)

  • Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Team LeBron)
  • Runner-Up: LeBron James (take a guess)