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The Noise Teams: Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference is loaded with talent among the top three teams. While there is a clear separation between them and the rest of the pack, there are a few teams that could upset the applecart. These are the Noise Teams that nobody wants to face once the playoffs begin.

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Three teams in the Eastern Conference are expected to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals. The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are clearly head-and-shoulders above the next tier of teams in the East. Still, those organizations are not going to just lay down and concede defeat.

Last year the Miami HEAT entered the playoffs as the fifth-seeded team in the conference. That was just a number to Miami. They defeated three higher-seeded teams on their way to the Finals, including a 4-1 series beat down of the top-seeded Bucks. This may have been an outlier but it is proof that anything can happen in the postseason.

The last time the number one seed made it to the NBA Finals was 2016 when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in an epic seven-game series. There are several second-tier teams in the East this season that could do some serious damage in the playoffs.

There are four teams in the East right now that opposing teams do not want to face when the playoffs begin. These teams may not have the firepower to make it to the Conference Finals but they will certainly make it tough on the competition to earn their way to the next round.

Atlanta Hawks

No team has turned their season around more than the Hawks have. After a dreadful start to the season, the team battled through injuries and eventually fired their head coach. Atlanta is 20-7 under Nate McMillan and they have won 11 of their last 14 games. They have the best record in the league since March 1. One major reason why they are winning now is the return of their two biggest free agent acquisitions.

Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari have spearheaded the turnaround in Atlanta. Bogdanovic, in particular, is having a career year now in his fourth season. McMillan has been using the shooting guard as either the primary or secondary ball-handler, instead of just a floor spacer. After averaging 11.2 points per game on 34 percent shooting from behind the arc in March, Bogdanovic is scoring 22.3 points per game in April and shooting 50 percent from the three-point range.

The Hawks are still far from healthy as they prepare for their final ten games of the regular season. Trae Young and Tony Snell continue to miss time as they nurse ankle injuries. The two young talented wings in De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish are both likely to remain out until the playoffs start and Kris Dunn has yet to play a game at all this season.

John Collins has bought in and Clint Capela has produced like one of the best big men in the league on a nightly basis. Capela leads the league in rebounding and is second in Defensive RPM behind Rudy Gobert. With role players finding their niche and a deep bench that includes Lou Williams, Atlanta could be a first-round matchup nightmare should they finally reach full strength.

Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte is another team that is desperately trying to get healthy. Despite being without their two top players in Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball, the Hornets continue to find ways to win games. One of the key cogs for this team has been Terry Rozier, who has been putting up career numbers across the board. The talented guard is averaging 20.6 points per game on highly efficient shooting. His scoring has also been timely, as he has been one of the most clutch players in the league this season.

As a team, the Hornets have thrived in crunch time. They have a 35.9 net rating in the clutch, per NBA.com stats. That easily ranks them at the top of the league, with the next-closest team having a 26.4 rating. Charlotte is 16-8 in games decided by five points or less, which bodes well for them in the postseason. They have had several players that have stepped up in the absence of Hayward and Ball.

Miles Bridges and PJ Washington have led the charge for this young and exciting team. Devonte’ Graham has also elevated his game in the last few weeks after a slow start to the season and ranks 12th in the league in terms of Real Plus-Minus. Jalen McDaniels has been a pleasant surprise in his second season after being drafted late in the second round. The energy of this group is infectious and they all complement each other very well.

The Hornets are currently in the mix for the Play-In Tournament with 12 games remaining on their schedule. If they can reintegrate a healthy Hayward and Ball back into the rotation, this is a team that could take a contender to the brink. James Borrego does not get enough credit for the job he has done in Charlotte, but rest assured that other coaches around the league have taken notice.

Boston Celtics

The biggest mystery of the 2020-21 season has been the Celtics. There are a million reasons as to why, but they seemingly have a different team show up every night. Jayson Tatum had a lengthy battle with COVID and both Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker have missed more than 20 games. Most of the guys on their roster have missed multiple games due to injury or health and safety protocols, but Brad Stevens refuses to use that as an excuse.

Jaylen Brown started this season on a tear, dominating on both ends of the floor. His numbers were through the roof as he was considered to be one of the early candidates for the most improved player award. While he has somewhat tapered off, he and Tatum continue to lead the way for this talented, yet confusing team.

The front office was perplexed as to why this incredible amount of talent on paper was not producing on the floor. They made some moves before the trade deadline to address some of their concerns, which included the addition of veteran guard Evan Fournier. It has been a slow transition for Fournier, who averaged 19.7 points in 26 games with the Orlando Magic this season. He has scored a total of 48 points in six games with Boston while shooting just 33 percent from beyond the arc.

The loss of Daniel Theis has hurt their defense but Robert Williams has greatly improved and Tristan Thompson appears to be getting comfortable in the lineup now with Williams out. The signing of Jabari Parker is worth the risk if he can squeeze guys like Carsen Edwards and Romeo Langford out of the rotation.

The future for this team looked promising before the season began. Boston has enough talent and playoff experience to get the train back on the tracks. They have won nine of their last 13 games and have a fairly easy remaining schedule. That should allow them to avoid the Play-In Tournament and potentially have a favorable first-round matchup.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards were left for dead in December and the basketball world waited for the franchise to trade Bradley Beal. Fast forward nearly five months and Washington finds themselves currently in the Play-In Tournament. Despite devastating injuries to Thomas Bryant and Deni Avdija, this team has forged on behind the play of their All-Star backcourt.

Russell Westbrook is often criticized for his play, but he gives it everything he has every single night. Sometimes he may try to do too much, but that is because he wants it so badly. The 32-year old guard is averaging a triple-double yet again this season. He needs just seven more to pass Oscar Robertson for the most in league history. Over the last five seasons, Westbrook is averaging 26.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 10.1 assists.

Beal is leading the league in scoring, which is no real surprise. The nine-year veteran has always been able to score, but he has taken it to a new level with his efficiency. His play has been paramount to their winning ways. Entering last night’s wild overtime game against the San Antonio Spurs, Washington had won their last 11 games with Beal in the lineup. The overtime loss ended their eight-game winning streak but they have still won ten of their last 12 games.

Washington leads the league in pace with a 104.1 rating, which is one of the reasons why nobody wants to face this team. They are sizzling right now and if they can keep it together, they will be a tough out for anyone. Westbrook and Beal will make sure of that.

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  1. Pingback: The Noise Teams: Eastern Conference – sublimatedsportsuniforms.net

  2. Pingback: The Noise Teams: Eastern ConferenceChad Smithon April 27, 2021 at 4:00 pm

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option

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First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.

Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.

Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal, and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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Mavericks are expected to pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs’ organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, or Philadelphia 76ers.

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NBA

Lakers Need More Than Big Three

The Lakers have their “big three” after trading for Russell Westbrook but is he the right fit in Los Angeles? The former MVP has had an incredible career but he may not be the point guard the Lakers desperately need.

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The Los Angeles Lakers have formed their three-headed monster as they pursue the franchise’s 18th championship next season. Just as the NBA Draft was getting started, the Lakers completed a deal with the Washington Wizards that landed them the 2016-17 league MVP, Russell Westbrook.

The deal sent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft to Washington, paving the way for Westbrook to join fellow superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the Lakers added a dynamic point guard, not everyone is sold on the idea that the Lakers are the team to beat in the loaded Western Conference.

Over the past several weeks, the Lakers were rumored to be seeking perimeter shooting. Some reports had Los Angeles linked to guys like Chris Paul, Buddy Hield and DeMar DeRozan. When the dust settled, it was Washington that made the deal as Westbrook informed the front office that he preferred the Lakers as a destination.

The move is a homecoming of sorts, as Westbrook grew up in the area and spent two seasons playing at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the 2008 Final Four. He had a solid 2020-21 season, averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game for the Wizards, who earned the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, this is the third straight offseason in which the 9-time All-Star has been traded. After leaving Oklahoma City, Westbrook was not able to find postseason success in Houston or Washington. Will that now change in Los Angeles?

For all of his accomplishments, Westbrook’s legacy has been defined by his play during the regular season. This past season, the point guard passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in the history of the game. Out of his 184 triple-doubles, only 12 have come in the playoffs. By comparison, Magic Johnson has the most playoff career triple-doubles with 30, and James is next with 28. Now all three will have played for the Lakers during their careers.

The thing about triple-doubles (and this is especially the case with Westbrook) is that they don’t always translate to wins. They clearly help the team overall but some would argue that a more balanced attack is tougher to stop. History has shown that having a “big three” is almost a requirement to be considered a legitimate championship contender, but this trio in Los Angeles doesn’t exactly fit together like many of those others.

As talented and valuable as Westbrook has been over the course of his career, he needs to have the ball to be effective. His poor perimeter shooting has been the big hiccup in his game, and that is something that this Lakers team desperately needs. The problem isn’t that any of these three won’t share the ball. In fact, they had already discussed checking their egos even before this trade went down.

Westbrook has never had a problem sharing the ball. He was able to co-exist with Durant in Oklahoma City, Harden in Houston and Beal in Washington. The difference in this scenario is that he will be occupying the same space as James and Davis. The concern is efficiency. Out of 34 players to average at least 20 points per game over the last four seasons, Westbrook ranked 33rd in true shooting percentage.

When James drives to the rim or when Davis is facing a double-team inside, how confident will they be in passing out to Westbrook for a three-pointer? Better yet, how patient will they be if the shot isn’t falling? We have already seen what happened with Danny Green and Caldwell-Pope.

Now that the Lakers have assembled their trio of stars, many fans are hopeful to witness an NBA Finals matchup where James and the Lakers meet Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. As juicy as that series would be, the Western Conference is a gauntlet. There is no guarantee that the Lakers will make it there.

What helps their path is that the crosstown rival Clippers will likely be without Kawhi Leonard next season. The Denver Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray and the Golden State Warriors might not be the Warriors from four years ago. There is also uncertainty surrounding Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers and some potential roster changeup with the Utah Jazz.

Considering all of the top-tier point guard talent available in free agency this summer, the Lakers may have been better off trying to do a sign-and-trade. Such a scenario would have hard-capped them but after this deal, they are just $12.6 million below the hard cap with just five players on the roster. Putting together a deal for Hield is still possible, but the Lakers will have to get creative. Adding a third team to this trade, in particular, is one way to accomplish that. Again, it is possible but it will be complicated.

In a perfect world, the Lakers could have worked with Toronto on a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry. Even though Lowry is older than Westbrook, the current window for Los Angeles to win with this group is closing fast. Lowry would be cheaper and a much better fit overall. His durability, toughness, defense and high basketball IQ would pay dividends for the Lakers. Adding in the fact that he is a much better shooter, one has to wonder why the Lakers wouldn’t pursue this route instead.

Westbrook is still going to help this team. He is a tremendous asset for them in the regular season, especially when James is on the bench or unable to play. Having another floor general on the court to generate offense is something they have not had since James arrived. If Los Angeles can land some above-average shooting to the roster, Westbrook could flourish in this role.

With James sliding to the power forward position and Davis playing more at center, the key for Los Angeles will be to surround these guys with shooters. The Lakers ranked 21st in three-point percentage and 25th in makes last season. Expect the organization to be busy when free agency starts next week. Targets will include guys like Duncan Robinson, JJ Redick, Norman Powell, Evan Fournier, Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes, Patrick Mills, Reggie Bullock, Kendrick Nunn and Alec Burks.

Obviously, the Lakers are counting on their individual talent and figuring out the rest later. It likely means the end for Dennis Schröder. Can Alex Caruso fit in and where does this leave Talen Horton-Tucker? The rest of the roster is in limbo, but the star players and the front office both feel confident that they will land the other pieces that they need to raise another banner next summer.

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