Are The Utah Jazz Legitimate Title Contenders?

Can the Utah Jazz Contend for an NBA Championship - Hardwood and Hollywood

The 2021 Utah Jazz came out of left field. A team that can drop thirty-five points in a quarter. A team that can lock down your team’s best player and can limit your team to only lucky isolation baskets.

Dominating the entire NBA, with the second closest team being the LeBron/AD Lakers that are 3.5 games behind, there is a major unanswered question that looms over the franchise: Are the Utah Jazz legitimate title contenders?

The short answer? No (unless they get lucky).

Everyone loves a Cinderella story, whether it’s the 2015 Atlanta Hawks, 2018 Houston Rockets, or the 2021 Utah Jazz. Unfortunately for these teams, the road to success is always filled with obstacles, often named LeBron James, Stephen Curry, or other generational greats.

And, though anyone with a grain of basketball knowledge will admit that watching the Utah Jazz has been a treat to all basketball fans, the West is dominated by LeBron, Davis, Kawhi, George, and Curry. I have been fooled and persuaded into predicting against LeBron in my past, specifically 2018, and I do not want to fall into that trap anymore. I am convinced that LeBron can make the finals with Woody, Lightning McQueen, and your local Lucky’s cashier as his sidekicks.

However, a scenario where I can see the Jazz sneaking into the Finals would be if LeBron and Kawhi coincidentally get injured and ruled out for the playoffs. However, in any other plausible scenario, I don’t think Utah has a chance.

Donovan Mitchell 2021: Net Worth, Salary and Endorsements - EssentiallySports

The Jazz are very reminiscent of the 60-22 Atlanta Hawks from 2015. They have both outstanding offense and defense, many solid and all-star caliber players, but none that can currently be considered the first option on a championship team. Though many would argue that Donovan Mitchell can fit that role, I would say that because his stats have remained pretty unchanged from last year and he hasn’t been able to take that MVP-level leap many were hoping, it’s unfair to put him in the same tier as Giannis, LeBron, Durant, and others. Also, because the Jazz were eliminated in the first round in last year’s playoffs, he wasn’t able to acquire any significant playoff experience, which makes me believe that, simply put, he’s the same player as last year with more regular-season experience, which doesn’t count for anything when you’re facing LeBron or Kawhi in a seven-game series.

Jazz fans should not lose all hope, however, this team is looking great, and the chemistry that role players like Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson have created within the team’s system makes them extremely dangerous in the very near future. With Mike Conley at age 33, the Jazz have a championship window of about three to four years, so whenever Donovan Mitchell can take his game to another level, the team will be right there behind him, hopefully bringing success to a team that hasn’t found any in its 44-year existence.

James Harden Teams Up With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets


     Just recently, the NBA saw one of the biggest trades in its history. Though there were seven players, four picks, and four pick swaps in this deal, the main attraction was James Harden getting dealt to Brooklyn to play with two other top 15 players in the league in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

     The obvious concerns are the enormous amount of depth and draft picks that the Nets sacrificed in order to get Harden. Losing Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen destroyed the Nets’ depth, especially with the lack of Spencer Dinwiddie coming off an ACL tear this year. In an ideal world, Joe Harris would be able to replicate some of the production that LeVert was producing, and DeAndre Jordan would be able to fill in the defensive hole that Allen left behind similar to what Jordan did in Los Angeles. 

     So far, the Nets have easily been the most fun team to watch, proven by them having the highest offensive rating in NBA history, even higher than the 2017 Warriors. However, they also have the lowest defensive rating in NBA history as well, which should be really frightening for Nets fans. The phrase ‘defense wins championships’ isn’t used just because it’s catchy, it’s completely true! In fact, 12 of the last 20 teams to win a championship have been top 5 in defensive rating, and only two have been out of the top ten. In 2018, the Warriors were 11th in the league, and in 2001, the Shaq and Kobe Lakers were 22nd. Since trading for James Harden, the Nets are dead last and it’s not even close. 

     In order to get it together, the Nets need Durant and Jordan to maximize their current defensive potential, as Harden, Irving, and Harris have already been identified as defensive liabilities by the rest of the NBA.

     As of right now, we are only seeing the developing chemistry of this new-look Nets team, but once they adapt to play both sides of the ball, the sky’s the limit for this team and they could genuinely become the next dynasty.

Nikola Jokic: The Dark Horse MVP Candidate

     It’s no secret that Nikola Jokic has been the best center in the league since last season. With passing skills that rival the best point guards in the game and the ability to score from everywhere, I believe that Jokic can make a legitimate run at the MVP.

     Throughout NBA history, the MVP trophy has not lived up to its name. The award is rarely given to the most valuable player, and it usually ends up in the hands of the best player on one of the best teams. Since 1985, only three MVP winners played on teams that were not top two in their conference. In 1988, Jordan took home MVP while the Bulls were the third seed, in 1997, Malone won MVP as a third seed which was tied for first, and, most recently, in 2017, Westbrook won as a sixth seed while averaging a triple-double. As we could see, the MVP basically has to play on a top-three team in his conference, and I think the Nuggets can easily manage to cruise in behind the Lakers and Clippers as a third seed. 

     The Joker also has the mind-boggling stats to back up this MVP run. As of now, four games into the regular season, Jokic is averaging a triple-double with 24.5 points, 13.5 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game. Though I would agree that the impressiveness and rarity of triple-doubles have diminished since Westbrook began to average them every season, averaging one as a seven-foot tall center would still be extremely impressive, and likely enough to warrant an MVP. 


     Finally, he has the media on his side. Nikola Jokic is one of the most loved players in the NBA because of his humor and flashy playstyle as a center. As of now, there haven’t been any false narratives created to make him look bad, which is a good sign for anyone hoping to win over the votes of the media.

     To me, the major X factor in Jokic’s quest for an MVP lies in the reliability of Jamal Murray. Due to his playoff run last year, expectations were set extremely high for him this season and he has underperformed significantly so far. In order for Jokic to win MVP over LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant, he’ll really need a great team record, and that is unachievable if Murray continues to play at a low level.

     I decided to make this post because I didn’t see Jokic in many MVP conversations when the season started, and even though he has been playing at a high level for a few years now, he is still slept on by many NBA fans.

The Rockets and Wizards Swap John Wall and Russell Westbrook

Wizards Receive: Russell Westbrook

Over the past few years, it became evident that the duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall were simply not enough for the Wizards to even consistently get to the playoffs. And when Beal actually began to develop, Wall underwent repeated injuries which prevented him from stepping on an NBA court since late 2018. The experiment was simply not working.


With the addition of Westbrook, the Wizards definitely get better, but the advantage is extremely minor unless it turns out that Wall’s injury is career-altering, which it definitely may be. However, I still don’t see the potential for the Wizards to make noise in the Eastern conference, and I think that if Westbrook does not significantly improve the team’s performance, it would be a wise idea to trade him at the trade deadline for a boatload of picks. With picks, they could add young talent around Beal, helping the team succeed in the long-run instead of trying to win now with an aging Westbrook.


Rockets Receive: John Wall, 2021 FRP

The Russell Westbrook experiment was a failure, and with a player entering an offense made for a point guard like Chris Paul, it was not an unexpected outcome. However, now with John Wall, I definitely think the Rockets are back to being contenders if he is back to his post-injury self. 

Houston took a huge risk trading for Wall as he relied heavily on his athleticism and explosiveness, which can take a hit with an injury as severe as an Achilles rupture. If Wall can play as he did from 2016 to 2018 just before he got injured, I think the Rockets can almost replicate their performance with Chris Paul. This is due to the fact that both Wall and Paul are extremely good passers and they could also put up 30 points or more on any given night. Also, Wall’s three-point shot was definitely improving before his injuries, which is promising. 

Overall, I think though Houston made a very risky trade, they should be glad that they have incentivized James Harden to remain on the team for longer. It was reported that Harden was pushing for Wall to join because he realized that the Rockets likely weren’t going to go anywhere as long as Westbrook stayed on the team. If John Wall can play as he did before, the Rockets are massive winners, as they also have the first-round pick at their disposal. 

What Klay Thompson’s Achilles Injury Means for the Warriors

     After the Warriors ended last season with the worst record in the league, everyone was looking forward to watching the return of one of the most entertaining teams in NBA history. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry were both looking promising as the offseason drew to a close, especially due to all the positive reports regarding the health of Klay Thompson’s left ACL, which he tore during the 2019 finals. Then, the night before the draft, news broke that Klay suffered a devastating lower leg injury which most fans immediately knew was the dreaded season-ending Achilles tear. Now, even though getting an NBA Championship is not out of the picture, the road to get there just got exponentially harder with the loss of a Splash Brother.

James Wiseman Scouting Report - The Stepien

     The Warriors still made the right decision in the draft by addressing their hole down low by selecting James Wiseman, the big man out of Memphis.  This year will be a great opportunity for him to grow as a player as now, most Warriors fans look towards the 2021-22 season as their next shot to make a legitimate title run. The most exciting aspect of Wiseman joining the Warriors is that it may develop a new facet of Stephen Curry’s game. Over the past few years, we’ve seen guards paired with athletic, lob-catching big men including Trae Young and John Collins, James Harden and Clint Capela, and Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan. If Wiseman is able to emulate the playing style of one of these lob-catching centers, the Warriors may actually still have a solid shot of giving the Lakers a run for their money.

     The acquisition of Kelly Oubre Jr from the Thunder, also, is a very underrated move because the Warriors now have a very capable starting shooting guard to replace Klay for this season. Oubre averaged 19 points a game last season in Phoenix, which will definitely take a hit due to the Warriors having more offensive weapons, but it should still hover around the 15 ppg mark. The issue is, even though the Warriors likely won’t take a huge hit in terms of scoring due to Klay’s injury, their offense will have to adapt yet again because Oubre simply has a different playstyle than Klay Thompson due to his unique athleticism and shifty attack.

     I trust Steve Kerr to create a potent system that takes advantage of all of the Warriors’ weapons. And even though the Warriors have a slim chance of getting far in the playoffs this year, as NBA fans, we should be optimistic because a new chapter of Warriors basketball can emerge with their great acquisitions thus far. 

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are the Newest Members of the Los Angeles Clippers!

     Late Friday night, news broke that Kawhi Leonard finally made his long-awaited free-agency decision and decided to join the Los Angeles Clippers. But why? They had no second star and he left a seemingly perfect situation in Toronto to join the second-best NBA team in the city. He was Canada’s golden boy for a year; did he really love Los Angeles that much? Then out of nowhere, PAUL GEORGE IS A CLIPPER! The Clippers traded their whole future for a second star to pair with NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. And it was absolutely worth it.

     Soon after the trade, it was stated that Kawhi would not sign with the Clippers if Paul George did not join him. This forced Jerry West and the Clippers front office to essentially trade the boatload of picks, Shai, and Danilo for both

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Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers are always known as the little brother to the Lakers, and all the big-time free agents rumored to go to Los Angeles join the Lakers. This trade helped the Clippers finally get out of the Lakers’ shadow and potentially make a run at being the best NBA team this upcoming season. 

     The trade partner for LA, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are setting themselves up for a fantastic future. Now I understand that you may be thinking, they lost Harden, Durant, and Paul George, three perennial all-stars and they are paying Russell $50 million every season. But, when you dive deeper, you notice that even after giving up on Harden too quickly, the Thunder literally turned Serge Ibaka into Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, 4 unprotected 1st round picks, 2 pick swaps, and 1 protected 1st round pick. As well as that, now with Westbrook on the trade block, they can get more draft picks and young players on the team, giving them many chances at getting a future superstar through the draft. 

     Back to the Clippers, though, they are going to have an absolutely potent roster. With a starting lineup of Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Moe Harkless, and Ivica Zubac, they will be a defensive juggernaut together, especially the backcourt. Offensively, though, the Clippers will be no slouch, with George, Leonard, Lou Williams, and Montezl Harrell. 

     Last, but not least, I think all NBA fans should thank Kawhi Leonard for bringing back parity to the league. For the first time since 2010, nobody has the slightest idea which two teams will make the NBA Finals.

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Damian Lillard’s Series Winner is Legendary



          The game was tied at 115-115. The Blazers lead the series 3-1. There were 20 seconds on the clock when Damian Lillard got the ball in the backcourt. He calmly dribbled over to the frontcourt and waited patiently as the clock ticked down. He called for a screen and then quickly waved it off, deciding to isolate with one of the best one-on-one perimeter defenders in the NBA in Paul George. As he patiently dribbled the ball, he decided that he did not “want to put [the game] in the referee’s hands” by driving and he decided that 37 feet out was “a comfortable range.” With 2.4 seconds left, Lillard took a long sidestep to the right and rose from 37 feet from the basket and time seemed to freeze until the ball sank through the net and the announcer screamed, “AAAND ITS GOOOD!!” followed with three or four legendary voice cracks. Lillard finished the game with 50 points and 10 three-pointers, with three of them coming from over 30 feet out.


          With that dagger, Lillard calmly looked at the Thunder bench and literally waved bye to them. He later told reporters that after winning Game 3, the Thunder started mocking his celebrations and they had only won one game. The Blazers, though, were only going to celebrate after they won four games.

          Because of Dame’s late-game heroics, the one major detail that will be overshadowed in the years to come is that the Blazers were losing by 15 with seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter. With repeated buckets from Harkless, McCollum, and Lillard, as well as strong defense, the Blazers willed themselves to victory. As he said later, “it really happened. We dug and pulled it out.”

          The Thunder did play very, very well. Portland needed every one of Dame’s 50 points to pull out with the win. If he had scored 46, the Thunder would have won. Paul George really helped carry the load for the Thunder, except for his two huge missed free throws during the last few moments of the game. Overall, though, he played very well, scored efficiently, and finished with a +/- of +6.

          Russell Westbrook, of course, had another triple-double and unsurprisingly, shot a disgusting 35% from the field and 36% from outside the arc and finished with a +/- of -4. The most telling advanced stat shows that he had an atrocious usage rate of 37.3%. Keep in mind, Paul George had 36 points on 70% from the field, and his usage rate was 30%. This stat exposes a large flaw in Westbrook’s game, his unwillingness to be selfless. There’s no doubt that if George and Russ had swapped their usage rates, the Thunder would win. No doubt.

          Less than an hour after the game, Paul George told the media that Damian Lillard’s three-pointer “was a bad shot” and that he didn’t care what anyone said about that. In truth, Lillard nailed an absolute mind-boggling 60% of three-pointers from 30 feet and beyond, in this series. This was anything but a bad shot by Dame’s standards. In fact, Lillard and his trainer Phil Beckner had been practicing very deep threes and Beckner told Lillard, “I’m telling you, you’re gonna hit one of these.” And sure enough, he did.

The CURSED Draft Pick! – #2 Overall Pick


NBA Franchises rely on the draft every year to give their teams a chance to draft, hopefully, a franchise player. When teams don’t luck into the first pick and they have to settle for the second pick, it doesn’t seem like such a bad consolation prize. But it is.

It is generally thought to be an above-average pick if it is in the lottery, a good pick if it is top 10, a great pick if it’s top 5, and an amazing pick if it’s top 3. In fact, top 3 picks are usually thought to be potential stars. The issue is that the second pick is rarely an amazing talent. Since 1984, only 11 of the 29 second picks (Yes, 29, because in this article we will only be going through to the 2012 draft because players from 2013 onwards have not had enough time to prove themselves yet. And even with that in mind, Jabari Parker has torn his ACL twice, D’Angelo Russell has been part of a salary dump trade before his third season, Brandon Ingram has had a very underwhelming first two seasons, and only Lonzo Ball and Victor Oladipo seem to be future stars.) Anyway, since 1984, only 11 of the 29 second picks have been all-stars, and 5 of those players have only made the All-Star team once. This means that 23 of the last 29 players thought to be future superstars did not live up to the hype. As well as that, I’d like to point out that a grand total of 0 of these 29 picks have led the team that drafted them to a championship yet. Also, only ONE second overall pick in the timeframe has won an MVP. Only one! I mean these players were sought after since they were like a freshman in high school. And they don’t even do half of what is expected. And it’s not it like it happened once or twice, this is a recurring theme.


We can separate the last 29 second overall picks into many categories.

The first category is complete draft busts. These players did not live up to their expectations whatsoever. They are Sam Bowie, Hasheem Thabeet, Danny Ferry, Shawn Bradley, Darko Milicic, Stromile Swift, and Derrick Williams.

The next category is players that were average but definitely did not deserve to be drafted second. These are: Wayman Tisdale, Armen Gilliam, Keith Van Horn, Mike Bibby, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Evan Turner, and Emeka Okafor.

Third, we have the players whose best individual accomplishment in their career was being an All-Star. These guys include: Rik Smits, Kenny Anderson, Antonio McDyess, Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, and Steve Francis.

Now, we have the fourth category in which there are players who are perennial all-stars and superstars. This includes guys such as Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Jason Kidd, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevin Durant.

And finally, we have the guys who could not prove themselves due to unfortunate situations. In Jay William’s case, he hurt his leg in a terrible motorcycle accident, and in Len Bias’s case, in which he had a fatal cocaine overdose.

So, in conclusion just remember, in future drafts, if your team gets the second pick, you may want to have second thoughts before rejoicing over a player who will most likely not perform to his expectations.

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The Most Underrated NBA Player Ever! – Sidney Moncrief

           There have always been stars in the NBA. Players such as Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, and Wilt Chamberlain. Among these stars, there have always been players just a few tiers below them who are overlooked or simply not flashy enough to receive media attention. In Michael Jordan’s first season, it wasn’t Larry Bird’s Celtics or Isiah Thomas’s Pistons who eliminated him. It was Sidney Moncrief’s Milwaukee Bucks.


            Moncrief was a 6 foot 3 inch, 180 pound two-way guard for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1980s who had career accomplishments of being a 5-time All-Star, 5-time All-NBA Team player, 5-time All-Defensive Team player, and a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, as well as being possibly the biggest snub of NBA Hall of Fame History. Moncrief won his 2 Defensive Player of the Year awards in the first two years when the award was introduced. His 5 All-Defense selections are more than both Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard have now. There was no one thing that Moncrief could not do well. He had an above average shot, great passing and rebounding, unique court vision, and game-changing defense. After 10 seasons in the NBA, his career was cut short by a degenerative knee injury that doctors said was supposed to cut his pro career to no longer than 2 years.

               Don Nelson once described Moncrief by saying, “His mental toughness is about as strong as anyone I’ve ever been around. And I’ve known a lot of players.” Even Michael Jordan, the GOAT, and a player known to be one of the best defenders ever said about Moncrief, “He’ll hound you everywhere you go, both ends of the court. You just expect it.” So why is Sidney Moncrief so unknown to a casual basketball fan? Simple, he played in a small market and he was overshadowed by more popular players in his era. And he doesn’t have a ring. The sad part is, it’s not even his fault.


             Sidney Moncrief played in an era dominated by Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Julius Erving among many others. His play couldn’t be appreciated as there were players who were flashier and better playing in bigger markets such as Los Angeles and Chicago. His playstyle wasn’t too interesting either as he just backed his opponent down in the post where he made a scoop layup or a simple jumper.

             Because of his injuries in his late 20s and into his early 30s, Sidney Moncrief’s prime came relatively early compared to other stars. His prime years were from ages 25 to 28. During these years, Moncrief averaged 21.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1 and a half steals a game. Gary Payton who was a shoe in to the Hall of Fame averaged 19.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 2.5 steals per game between the ages of 25 to 28.

             This is how we know how underrated Moncrief truly was. He was the number one option on a legitimately title contending team and he missed out on entering the Hall of Fame, whereas Gary Payton had about the same stats and a much better supporting cast than Moncrief but could not win a championship until he was in his late 30s playing with two prime superstars in Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal on the Miami Heat. You could make the case that Payton was also the number one option on a contending team, but Payton had four solid 13 plus points per game scorers helping him.

            There have been many players who have made it into the Hall of Fame even though they didn’t have as good a career as Moncrief did. Though those players did deserve to make it, the fact that Moncrief has been eligible to enter the Hall for over two decades and hasn’t, even with the accomplishments he has is ridiculous.

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My 2018 NBA Mock Draft (Top 8)


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1 Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton – The Suns have made it all but obvious that they will pick the big man out of Arizona. Ayton was so confident that he cancelled all his other workouts after working out with Phoenix. He also stated that he thinks that he and Devin Booker can be ‘Shaq and Kobe 2.0’ Ayton has the ability to do everything on the court at a high level except rim protection. Ayton has further locked in his number 1 selection by signing a Phoenix Suns jersey.

2 Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III – Sacramento is reportedly not too high on Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley is a ‘near lock’ to go second. Bagley is an above average shooter, unlike any of the Kings’ big man, so he can help space the floor. He can finish at the rim with high effectiveness, can rebound well and is an ok defender.

3 Atlanta Hawks: Mohamed Bamba – The Hawks need a big man to pair with John Collins and Bamba is the perfect fit. Bamba can shoot the three ball, handle the ball, and is an extremely good defender. He averaged 3.7 blocks per game in his  sole year at Texas. Bamba can do everything that Collins can’t do and vice versa.

4 Memphis Grizzlies: Luka Doncic – The Grizzlies are not doing too well persuading players to play for them. Both Jaren Jackson Jr and Mohamed Bamba have told Memphis that they prefer to not be picked by them. For me, the perfect pick is still available for the Grizzlies. Luka Doncic, the point forward from Europe. This pick will make Mike Conley available for trade, freeing up a ton of cap space for Memphis. Doncic is a no-risk reward as he has been playing in the second best league in in the world, the EuroLeague since he was 16.

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5 Dallas Mavericks: Michael Porter Jr – Porter fits Dallas perfectly. Carlisle is known for taking big men who can shoot far as he did with Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas needs anything at this point. They do not have any forceful defensive or offensive players currently, so anything would help. Porter and Dallas’s other young player, Dennis Smith Jr would complement each other nicely as Porter can shoot and has defensive potential unlike Dennis Smith.

6 Orlando Magic: Trae Young –  The Magic have needed a point guard for a long time now. For some reason, last year, they decided to pick a player who their star players occupy. The Magic need both offense and playmaking, both of which Trae Young can do. Last year, he led the nation in points and assists with 27 points and 9 assists per game.

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7 Chicago Bulls: Jaren Jackson Jr. – The Bulls can use a center as that is on of the two positions that they need filled, the other one being small forward. Lauri Markkanen is also a stretch big, but the issue is that he only plays offense and is a defensive liability at 7 feet tall. Jaren Jackson can fix this issue as he averaged 3 blocks per game in college.

8 Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton – Many reports have come out over the past week which say that Cleveland is really interested in selecting Sexton. As well as that, some reports say that LeBron is pushing Cleveland to select Sexton. This would fill in the gaping hole at point guard for Cleveland as well, giving them a nice young piece to build around if LeBron leaves.


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