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Jonathan Kuminga SF-NBA G League Ignite: 2021 NBA Draft Preview

Kuminga, who was once ranked as the one of the top prospects in the 2021 recruiting cycle, reclassified to the 2020 class while at the prep level. After doing so, he turned down multiple collegiate offers and bypassed college altogether. The former five-star recruit signed with the NBA G League Ignite and averaged nearly 16 points per game in 2020-21 (15.8 PPG). Kuminga, a DR Congo native, has NBA and athletic bloodlines. Kuminga starred for the NY Rens in the Nike EBYL over a two-year period.

Kuminga played with former NY Rens AAU standouts Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) and Jalen Lecque in the Nike EBYL.

His brother, Joel Ntwambwe, averaged nearly 12 points and 5.5 rebounds for UNLV in 2018-19. Currently projected as a Top 5 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Kuminga’s diverse skill-set is complemented by very good bounce off the floor.

NBA Draft Prospect: N’Faly Dante C- Oregon

NBA Draft Prospect: N’Faly Dante C- Oregon, was one of the many athletes that the Ducks used.

Dante, a sophomore center for the Oregon Ducks, increased his production during his second season in Eugene. The NCAA cleared him late in the 2020 season after a knee injury. Dante’s minutes, points, steals, blocks and rebounds per game all increased in Year 2. A season ago (2019-20), the big man saw most of his offensive production come on lobs from Boston Celtics 2020 first round pick (26th overall) and Naismith Trophy award finalist Payton Pritchard. This year, Dante used his length and drop-step to average nine points per game on 65.6-percent shooting from the field. 

Dante is a force defensively, averaging 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Most players at the Oregon center’s size (6’11, 230) aren’t nimble enough to get down in a defensive stance. But Dante sits in the chair and moves laterally on the perimeter in pick and roll situations. 

Dante (pictured with Mokan Elite AAU squad back in 2018) has shot just 43-percent from the free throw line in 2020-21 (through six games).

Can he make it at the next level?

One question with modern bigs is can they do the little things to make it at the next level? Those include, but are not limited to: conditioning, defending without fouling and boxing out consistently. For example, look at how the Wizards use Daniel Gafford. These are some of the question marks NBA scouts will have when breaking down his game. His free throw inefficiency has also ranked as an area of concern. As well as his injury history.

NBA Draft Prospect N’Faly DanteUPDATE (5/18/21)

Unfortunately, Dante injured his ACL in late December 2020 versus San Francisco (12/17/20). He underwent surgery, was lost for the season and will return to the Ducks for the 2021-22 campaign.

Choosing a National Champion… with analytics

Once the 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Sunday, millions of people made their picks. Some made their picks based on their fan allegiance, some by choosing high seeds, others by picking upsets but did any of you look at the hidden figures?

For example, did you know over the past 20 years, 14 of the 20 champions have been one seeds? Or that only once in the last 20 years, has a champion with just one NBA prospect won the title. What about that most head coaches (18 of the last 20) have coached at least 10 seasons before winning a ring?

DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson invented a model and took a peek at the past 20 collegiate champions to see if the numbers could tell a story and to predict a champion and Final Four contenders.

In this analysis, we first sought to look at a college basketball team as a whole: offensive production, defensive production, impact of a head coach, scheduling impact, seed impact and the importance of talent (future NBA prospects).

As you can see by our rows (spreadsheet attached at the bottom), we measured these figures with points scored, points against, players experience, seeds that won the championship and future pros.

We found that a typical championship team over the past 20 years fits a certain profile:

  1. Usually a 1 seed
  2. An experienced head coach (coached 10 seasons before a title)
  3. A roster that has on average 1.65 years of exp.
  4. Around 4-5 future NBA players (players that play at least one game in the NBA)
  5. 4 players that average double figures
  6. Plays about a top 15 strength of schedule
  7. Is either top 50 nationally in points scored OR top 50 in points against… interestingly enough, rarely is a team dominant in both areas. The 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats and 2006-2007 Florida Gators were the only teams to rank top 25 in both and win a title.

Based on this criteria, here’s how the top seeds fared. (Note: red- means a team failed to meet a metric.)

Gonzaga

  1. A 1 seed
  2. Experience coach- Mark Few
  3. Roster has 1.6 years of exp. (just barely missed the cutoff)
  4. Corey Kispert, Drew Timme, Jalen Suggs and Andrew Nembhard could play at the next level
  5. Exactly 4 players that averaged double figures
  6. 107 in SOS
  7. No. 1 in points scored per game

Michigan

  1. A 1 seed
  2. First year head coach in Juwan Howard
  3. Roster has 2.2 years of exp.
  4. Hunter Dickinson, Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers could be future pros but after that do you think Eli Brooks and Mike Smith can make it as undersized guards?
  5. 3 players averaging double figures
  6. 12th in SOS
  7. Doesn’t rank in the top 50 in points scored or points against

Baylor

  1. A 1 seed
  2. Experience coach- Scott Drew
  3. Roster has 1.9 years of exp.
  4. Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua could become pros
  5. 3 players averaging double figures
  6. 87th in SOS
  7. Ranks 3rd in points scored per game

Illinois

  1. A 1 seed
  2. Brad Underwood has only been a head coach since 2013
  3. Roster has 1.6 years of exp.
  4. Kofi Cockburn, Ayo Dosunmu and possibly Adam Miller could become future pros but I struggle to see a fourth
  5. 3 players averaging double figures
  6. 9th in SOS
  7. Ranked 15th in points scored per game

By our criteria, Gonzaga and Baylor would be the favorite to win the title with five of the seven boxes checked. Again, Gonzaga was a fraction away from checking six of the seven boxes and remember they defeated Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa in the non conference but their conference hurt their overall SOS.

Interestingly enough though, West Virginia was a sleeper team we found. The Mountaineers have a veteran head coach in Bob Huggins, a trio of guards and Derek Culver, who not only average double figures but could crack a NBA roster and rank in the top 25 in SOS. As well as top 50 in points scored per game and a roster that returned 73 percent of last year’s production.

It’s important to remember that SOS is a skewed stat toward the Big Ten conference since the league was so dominant in 2020-2021, claiming 9 total tournament spots. And don’t forget outliers like the 2013-2014, UCONN Huskies can happen. However, do any of the teams have guards like Shabazz Napier or Kemba Walker that can take over the tournament? Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham can. If not, our metric says Gonzaga, West Virginia and Baylor are solid bets. While the East and Midwest region could claim a Cinderella spot.

WinnersConf.CoachesSeedPlayer yrs. of exp.NBA playersPlayers that avg. 10+ PPGPPG (rank)P-Against-PG (rank)SOS
VirginiaACCTony Bennett1- South1.633210123
VillanovaBig EastJay Wright1- East1.656111410
UNCACCRoy Williams1- South1.944121297
VillanovaBig EastJay Wright2- South1.746571517
DukeACCMike Krzyzewski1- South1.18461116
UCONNBig EastKevin Ollie7- East2131436314
LouisvilleBig EastRick Pitino1- Midwest1.742292110
KentuckySECJohn Calipari1- South0.875152518
UCONNBig EastJim Calhoun3- West0.93275846
DukeACCMike Krzyzewski1- South27328289
UNCACCRoy Williams1- South275228518
KansasBig 12Bill Self1- Midwest274132113
FloridaSECBilly Donovan1- Midwest1.965114338
FloridaSECBilly Donovan3- Midwest1.255225164
UNCACCRoy Williams1- Syracuse26512183
UCONNBig EastJim Calhoun2- Phoenix1.563175625
SyracuseBig EastJim Boeheim3- East1241416617
UMDACCGary Williams1- East2.244517614
DukeACCMike Krzyzewski1- East1.75521495
MSUBig TenTom Izzo1- Midwest2.2449089

Did the numbers get it right? A follow up to “Choosing a National Champion With Analytics”

Last month, DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson presented a model, which was supposed to be a guide to choosing a champion in the NCAA Tournament, by way of studying the past 15 title winners.

Well, what did the numbers tell us?

First let’s revisit yesterday’s final score. Baylor led the entire game against Gonzaga in the National Championship, en route to a 86-70 victory.

Remember, we identified seven metrics that on average defined collegiate basketball champions and in the story, Baylor and Gonzaga were our top two choices because they fit 5/7 of the data points.

  1. Usually a 1 seed
  2. An experienced head coach (coached 10 seasons before a title)
  3. A roster that has on average 1.65 years of exp.
  4. Around 4-5 future NBA players (players that play at least one game in the NBA)
  5. 4 players that average double figures
  6. Plays about a top 15 strength of schedule
  7. Is either top 50 nationally in points scored OR top 50 in points against… interestingly enough, rarely is a team dominant in both areas. The 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats and 2006-2007 Florida Gators were the only teams to rank top 25 in both and win a title.

Another stat that stood out that wasn’t included in our model, was the importance of having a McDonald’s All American. Baylor became just the third champion to not have at least one McDonald’s All American (2014- UCONN and 2002- UMD).

We did state previously though that some teams in the past have had magical runs because of stellar guard play like those UCONN Huskies that were led by Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright or those Terps that had future pros: Juan Dixon and Steve Blake.

Well, 2021 was no different, UCLA’s Johnny Juzang and Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim also led their teams on magical runs after coming into the tournament as double digit seeds. Our model also did indicate that the Midwest and East regions could claim a Cinderella run because the two regions lacked a formidable one seed (both Illinois and Michigan failed to reach the Final Four).

Did the model hold true for the women’s champion?

On the women’s side, Stanford defeated Arizona, 54-53. Let’s see how they stacked up against the model.

Stanford Cardinal

  1. A 1 seed in the “Alamo Region”
  2. Head coach Tara VanDerveer has coached the team since 1996
  3. Roster featured 7 upperclass players and sophomore standouts like Haley Jones and Francesca Belibi
  4. Kiana Williams, Jones and Cameron Brink are pro ready. Belibi, Lexie Hull and Anna Wilson could also play at the next level.
  5. 3 players averaged double figures and Brink averaged 9.9
  6. Had a top 5 SOS
  7. The Cardinal also ranked 14th overall in scoring offense and 8th overall in scoring defense

Interestingly enough, the Stanford Cardinal fit the model like a glove and just missed checking every box by one tenth of a point (LITERALLY)! Despite, winning by the slimmest of margins, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the women took home the championship, their school’s first since 1992.

Why are blue blood college basketball programs struggling?

A blue blood is someone who is wealthy and powerful. In terms of college basketball, the phrase describes programs that have consistently produced postseason success, won championships and sent players to the NBA.

However, blue blood programs like Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State have suffered through varying degrees of struggles during the 2020-2021 season. 

What has caused this decline? The answer is multi-layered.

The number one problem could be the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused not only games to be postponed, but has had lasting effects on players who test positive. 

Former Duke star Jayson Tatum said he has struggled to breathe since returning to the floor after a bout with COVID. On the gridiron, Myles Garrett expressed similar sentiments. 

When it comes to tangible statistics, consider Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic, who tested positive for COVID in January and since returning has scored a total of four points after leading the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage. 

“I’ve talked to Mike (Krzyzewski), Roy (Williams) and all the guys I’m on the (NCAAB) committee with and a lot of people are talking about the exact same things and I don’t think you can appreciate it unless you have kids going through a tough time with the COVID,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo told local reporters during his weekly press conference on Feb. 18. “They always say mental health, it’s hard to handle yourself mentally with all the things that have been thrown at them this year (with the pandemic) so then you lose a little bit and it gets exacerbated. There’s no question about it.”

UNC sits at 13-7 while Kentucky, Duke and MSU (¾ of the Champions Classic) combine for a 26-29 record. A far cry from when these three teams were in the Final Four six seasons ago. 

But is COVID the sole reason behind the struggles? No, fans can also easily forget the importance of offseason practices, preseason exhibition games and the camaraderie of being in a team setting… all of which has been stripped away in the world of social distancing. 

Another interesting note is that the three blue bloods mentioned above rely heavily on either freshman or players that didn’t play over the past few seasons. Duke and Kentucky have gone the “one and done” recruiting route but their players never got a chance to assimilate into college basketball action before the season started.

Duke, Kentucky and MSU have also all used freshmen guards like A.J. Hoggard, Brandon Boston Jr. and Jeremy Roach to lead their teams. 

Conversely, the teams that lead the ACC, Big Ten and SEC have been able to rely on upperclassmen talent at the guard positions. Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu, Alabama’s John Petty Jr. and UVA’s Kihei Clark have all had big impacts. 

With that being said, how many years have teams like Illinois, Alabama, Tennessee, UVA and Iowa finished above the blue bloods in the standings and in the AP Top 10? Not only are the blue bloods struggling, but teams who haven’t enjoyed the same level of consistency over the past 20 years are now having all-time seasons.  

We talked about the lack of offseason, COVID-19, the importance of veteran guards and the emergence of new conference threats but should the blue bloods be worried long term? Probably not.

Longevity means something. Duke and MSU have made the NCAA tournament 24 and 22 consecutive years, respectively. That doesn’t happen by accident. John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats followed up missing the NCAA tournament in 2013 with a championship appearance in 2014, after winning the championship in 2012.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari (pictured sitting in the team huddle) talks to his team during the 2013-2014 season. Just a season prior, his team missed the tournament. Will the Wildcats make a similar turnaround next year?

In statistics, we would call the 2020-2021 season an outlier for the blue bloods so if you’re a fan of those teams… don’t worry it will probably get better and if you aren’t… enjoy the misery of some of college basketball’s elites. 

Josh Christopher SG-Arizona State: Arizona (in-game report), 1-21-21

Arizona State guard Josh Christopher’s ball handling continues to impress in the open court, and it has actually been an impressive part of his game since his days as a Las Vegas prepster. Early in the second half against Arizona (11-3, 5-3), Christopher used a crossover, kept his balance and then finished at the cup for a bucket while drawing the foul, eventually finishing for a three-point play (2nd Half/16:36, Arizona ’21).  The former five-star recruit is averaging 16.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for a Sun Devils team that has largely disappointed in 2020-21.

Later, he ran the court and just missed an opportunity for a transition shot block due to a goal tend.  On the team’s next possession he knocked down a corner three off the catch-and-shoot to tie the score at 48.  If it wasn’t enough, he was seen hustling for a loose ball to try and save a ball going out of bounds in-between those sequences.

Christopher contests versus drives to the basket in transition defense without fouling, even when giving up baskets in these instances (2nd half, Arizona ’21).  Fouls, however, have been an issue in his first 11 career contests, posting four or more in five games. Becoming a more efficient passer within half court sets is an area that he could also look to improve the rest of the season.

Christopher (No. 13 pictured in a 2019 AAU matchup for Vegas Elite AAU) has connected on 81.3% of his free throw attempts in 2020-21 (through 1-22-21).

His activity has to be a factor in all phases because he isn’t efficient behind the three-point line (25%), yet shoots 45% from the field and is excellent from the free throw line (85%). As a unit, the Sun Devils have a tendency to play in spurts. After Christopher nailed a three-pointer at the 2:24 mark of the second half to put Arizona State (4-7, 1-4) up 82-77, the Wildcats ran off the last seven points of the game to close out an 84-82 victory.

UPDATE: Christopher declared for the 2021 NBA Draft in late March and is currently projected as a Top 40 pick in the draft.

John Petty, Jr. SG-Alabama: Scouting snapshot

Petty has been one of the more consistent players in the SEC over the last four seasons and he has rightfully earned his place as one of the most impressive long range artists in the country. Want proof? Over his last three games, the senior guard is connecting at a blistering 65% rate from behind the three-point line.

Aside from just shooting three-point shots at a high rate (698 career attempts as of 1/20/21), he’s been rather efficient, connecting at 39.1% clip for his career. Petty very easily could have joined fellow Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis in the 2020 NBA Draft if he had chosen to leave school a year early.

Petty (seen pictured in 2016 with his Team Penny AAU squad) has made 17 three-pointers in his last three contests.

Instead, Petty -a former AAU standout with Team Penny dating all the way back to 2016- stayed in school for one more season to increase the chances of hearing his name called in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. The 18th-ranked Crimson Tide currently lead the SEC in three-point field goals per game (11) and rank sixth in the country in that same category (175 three-pointers).

The former five-star recruit stands out from the either the left or right wings off the catch-and-shoot, but he has also displayed his quick release from the corners of the court. He connected on 80% of his 10 three-point shots (made his first seven) to lead an Alabama charge that finished with an SEC-record 23 three-pointers in a resounding 105-75 win over LSU.

Petty posted four steals in a 73-71 loss to Western Kentucky on December 19, 2020.

The Crimson Tide improved to 7-0 in SEC play and are led by a sharp shooter who plays on both ends of the floor. Aside from his three-point barrage, Petty also contributed three steals versus the Tigers (1/20/21). He has averaged over a steal per game in each of the last two seasons while also attacking the glass with vengeance. He tallied 6.6 rebounds per game in 2019-20 and is currently averaging 5.2 rebounds per game. After struggling with turnovers in 2019-20 (nine games with four or more turnovers), he is taking better care of the basketball as a senior (nine games with one or fewer turnovers).

Deal or No Beal?

Like most in the NBA, every team dreams of having a dynamic duo like Pippen and Jordan, Shaq and Kobe, or James and Davis. After another disappointing season in 2019-20, the Washington Wizards decided to try and stir up a dynamic duo of their own with newly-traded Russell Westbrook and returning All-Star Bradley Beal.

Excited by the potential combination, in an interview Beal commented, “I definitely think he [Westbrook] will propel me to a new level that I haven’t tapped into yet. I’m definitely excited about it (Chase).” However, the experiment currently boiling in DC has so far shown early signs of failure. Currently sitting at 2-6, the Wizards win just once for every four contests. The team’s projected 18-54 record would be worse than their 25-47 mark from a season ago.

To make matters worse, the expected dynamic duo’s stands at just 1-5, as Westbrook did not contribute to the win against the Timberwolves; which leaves most spectators wondering if the All-Star combination is creating more damage than good. Last season, Westbrook finished with a career-high 47.2% field goal percentage , and this season his average has decreased to 39.5% (Russell Westbrook Stats). On the other hand, Beal shot 45.5% from the field in 2019-20, which has increased slightly to 47.9% this season, although it is an average he has held before (Bradley Beal Stats).

Washington Wizards G Russell Westbrook
Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook, pictured in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, is projected to miss nearly a month with a quadriceps injury. He was also sidelined in the 2020 NBA Playoffs with a quadriceps injury.

Beyond the numbers, what the statistics fail to present spectators with is the lack of time (a period of only nine days before preseason) that the All-Stars have had to click. While some might argue that Westbrook and Beal are not the type of guards who can share a court, when speaking about constructive criticism from Westbrook, Beal said, “I’m a constructive criticism guy. I can take it. I love when guys get on my head, tell me to play better, tell me to go. Light a fire, fuel up under me; I like that (Chase).”

The Wizards, led by Bradley Beal’s league-best 34.9 points per game, currently rank second in the NBA in scoring (120.5) and are second-worst in points allowed (121.3).

For now, the lack of time might be enough to justify why the experiment has failed thus far. Just as it takes time to practice perfecting free throws and fadeaways, it takes time to practice gelling with a new team. Even though both players have talked about their powerful potential, everyone knows that actions speak louder than words, and the window of using time as an excuse is quickly running out. These two players must learn how to boost each others’ strengths and shield each others’ weaknesses or else the public will eventually have valid reasons to declare the experiment as unsuccessful.

And with Beal’s two-year max extension coming to an end at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign, an unsuccessful partnership may provide an answer to the original question of Deal or No Beal.

No Beal.

EDITOR’s UPDATE: Following the team’s 128-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on January 11, 2021, the Wizards announced five positive COVID-19 tests and postponed the next four games.

Works Cited

  1. Chase Hughes. “Beal Says Westbrook Will Take His Game up a Level.” RSN , 15 Dec. 2020,
    www.nbcsports.com/washington/wizards/bradley-beal-says-russell-westbrook-will-take-h
    is-game-level.
  2. “Russell Westbrook Stats.” ESPN , ESPN Internet Ventures,
    www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3468/russell-westbrook.
  3. “Bradley Beal Stats, News, Bio.” ESPN , ESPN Internet Ventures,
    www.espn.com/nba/player/_/id/6580/bradley-beal.

2020-2021 NBA Season Preview

Welcome to DraftNasty’s 2020-2021 NBA Season Preview. In this preview, we will offer a quick division-by-division snapshot, make our picks for the All-Star team and NBA playoffs, and predict the end of season award winners. This season will take on an unprecedented tone as the NBA will attempt to play a 72-game season starting on December 22 after concluding the season this past October at the NBA Bubble. Will the short turnaround hurt or help any teams/ players? Read our preview to find out!

Eastern Conference

Southeast Division 

The Miami Heat represented the Southeast Division well with an Eastern Conference playoff berth after notching 44 wins in the regular season. This has the potential to be the most competitive division in the NBA when looking at the additions made by the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic as well as the return of John Wall to the Washington Wizards. Orlando, who made the playoffs as the 8th seed with 33 wins including a 3-5 record in the NBA Bubble, added North Carolina’s Cole Anthony in the draft to give them some scoring punch off the bench. Not to be outdone, Miami retooled by drafting Precious Achiuwa (Memphis) and acquiring veteran shooting guard Avery Bradley. Atlanta could be intriguing with young talent like Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Bradley Beal- Washington Wizards 

Through 57 games in 2019-20, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. In the process, Beal shot 45.5% from the field (35.3% 3-pt).

Division MVP: Trae Young- Atlanta Hawks

DraftNasty rookie to watch: LaMelo Ball- Charlotte Hornets 

Central Division

The Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers have been the traditional powers in the division for the last five years but the Detroit Pistons under Troy Weaver are starting to build an identity. Veteran head coach Dwane Casey will field a young team in his second season as a lionshare of the division welcomed new coaches. Billy Donovan (Chicago), Nate Bjorkgren (Indiana) and JB Bickerstaff (Cleveland) will all start the season as first year head coaches in the division. With that said, Milwaukee is still expected to be the cream of the crop in the division with the return of two time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the additions of floor spacing veterans like Jrue Holiday, Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Domantas Sabonis- Indiana Pacers 

Division MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks 

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Killian Hayes- Detroit Pistons 

Atlantic Division

The Atlantic Division led the conference in storylines during the offseason as former NBA point guards: Steve Nash and Doc Rivers joined the division to coach the Nets and 76ers respectively. Boston and Toronto had a relatively quiet offseason but they have dominated the division in past years. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fully healthy, the Nets have the talent to take the division but how will all the pieces mesh under a new head coach? The New York Knicks probably won’t be a major factor in the playoff race but rookie Obi Toppin has a chance to win the Rookie of the Year award as he will be asked to carry a heavy load. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Ben Simmons- Philadelphia 76ers

Division MVP: Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Obi Toppin- New York Knicks 

All Star Picks 

Starters: Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Domantas Sabonis 

Bench: Trae Young, Bradley Beal, Pascal Siakim, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid 

Playoff Picks

1.  Miami Heat 

2.  Milwaukee Bucks

3.  Toronto Raptors 

4.  Brooklyn Nets

5.  Boston Celtics 

6.  Philadelphia 76ers

7.  Washington Wizards

8.  Atlanta Hawks 

Western Conference 

Pacific Division

Last season, the Lakers and Clippers battled not only for city supremacy but for division and conference supremacy. The Lakers came out on top in all three of those categories and won the NBA Championship. This offseason, they added Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers, to provide energy off the bench. while the Clippers parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers in favor of former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue. The Golden State Warriors are fresh off their historic five year run but will be without sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who tore his Achilles after tearing his ACL a season before. The Phoenix Suns added Chris Paul to take the offensive load off of Devin Booker. The Sacramento Kings are in the league’s toughest division and have struggled to get to 40 wins over the past decade (longest active playoff drought streak in the NBA- 14 seasons). 

DraftNasty player to watch: Stephen Curry- Golden State Warriors 

Division MVP: Kawhi Leonard- Los Angeles Clippers 

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Jalen Smith- Phoenix Suns

Northwest Division

It’s a youth movement in the Northwest Division as players like Nikola Jokic, Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Donovan Mitchell and Shai Gilgeous- Alexander lead their teams (all 25 years old or younger). Portland fields the most experienced roster of the bunch but struggled in the NBA bubble on the defensive end. If Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can build on their performances in the bubble then Denver could repeat as division champions for the third consecutive season. The Utah Jazz have finished in third place in the division for the last three seasons but they didn’t move the needle with any free agency acquisitions. Despite having young pieces to build around, look for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder to finish at the bottom of the division.

DraftNasty player to watch: Jamal Murray- Denver Nuggets 

Division MVP: Nikola Jokic- Denver Nuggets

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Anthony Edwards- Minnesota Timberwolves

Two seasons removed from his MVP award-winning year, Houston’s James Harden averaged 29.6 points per game on a career-best 47.8% shooting percentage in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

Southwest Division

Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Houston’s James Harden will be asked to lead their teams in not only scoring but playmaking for others. The Mavericks have a better infrastructure in place around Doncic as opposed to Harden, who will have a new head coach (Stephen Silas), and that’s why we believe Dallas will win the division. San Antonio has been the class of the division over the past decade but how will they respond after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997? The top two draft picks from 2019 (Ja Morant and Zion Williamson) will also have something to say with how the division shakes out. Morant was the Rookie of the Year but Willamson impressed during limited action (averaged 22 points per game and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes per game ) as he dealt with a meniscus tear. 

DraftNasty player to watch: Ja Morant- Memphis Grizzlies 

Division MVP: Luka Doncic– Dallas Mavericks 

DraftNasty rookie to watch: Devin Vassell- San Antonio Spurs

All Star Picks 

Starters: Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, James Harden

Bench: Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Brandon Ingram

Playoff Picks 

1. Denver Nuggets 

2. Los Angeles Clippers

3. Los Angeles Lakers 

4. Dallas Mavericks

5. Utah Jazz

6. Phoenix Suns

7. Golden State Warriors 

8. Portland Trail Blazers

End of Year Award Accolades 

Eastern Conference Champion: Milwaukee Bucks

Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Champion: Los Angeles Clippers (4-2)

MVP: Luka Doncic- Dallas Mavericks 

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard- Los Angeles Clippers 

Rookie of the Year: Anthony Edwards- Minnesota Timberwolves

Most Improved: Michael Porter Jr.- Denver Nuggets 

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers

Coach of the Year: Mike Malone- Denver Nuggets

Executive of the Year: James Jones- Phoenix Suns 

Drew Timme PF/C- Gonzaga, NBA Draft Prospect Snapshot

Sophomore center Drew Timme is next in line to continue Gonzaga’s run of skilled big men, which includes NBA players Domantas Sabonis, Zach Collins, Brandon Clarke, Kelly Olynyk and Killian Tillie. 

Timme is off to a hot start this season, averaging 26.5 points per game and eight rebounds, in two games against Auburn and Kansas. His dropstep and ability to finish with either hand puts defenders in an uncomfortable position. Like former Zag Rui Hachimura, Timme is a problem in the pinch post because he is quicker than most centers and stronger than most power forwards. 

Timme (No. 2 pictured vs. Oregon’s N’Faly Dante during the 2018 Nike EBYL) has a very diverse game on the offensive end.

Last year, he was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team and WCC All-Tournament Team after playing in all 33 games. The NBA hopeful is already on his way to topping his stats from 2019-2020, when he scored double-digits in 16 games.