With all of the main pieces already off the board, and a few unexpected surprise moves too, several teams still have many holes t-o fill before tipping off of the 2018-2019 NBA Season. I mean let’s face it, if there’s anything that we should have learned from this past season it’s that championships will now be won based on depth. The old mantra “Defense Wins championships,” while still somewhat true, means little now. The key now is to be able to overwhelm your opponent with the number of players that can be unleashed onto the opposing team, and to be able to attack relentlessly on multiple fronts. This is why Golden State continues to win, and why Cleveland and Houston failed. But alas, the new season is just a few months away. And for the right team, with enough assets and/salary cap space, there are still moves to be made towards knock the king (Warriors) off the board. So let’s take a look at what players still remain in play. Some moves will require a lot, and still others are more so based on being a proper fit (chemistry-wise). But any team, serious about winning, has at least considered moving on one or two of these players-still others will make a play to acquire the services of these talents…
With each day it becomes increasingly tough to gauge just where Kawhi Leonard will play next season (or the season after that). Whether a Laker, or elsewhere he brings excellence on both offense and defense-which is rare is this day and age on basketball. No matter where he goes, a healthy Kawhi Leonard can change or elevate the fate of any franchise. This storyline has played out in pretty weird fashion; but I’ve got my popcorn out as I wait patiently to see how this drama ends.
If you watched The Houston Rockets in this year’s NBA Playoffs, then there’s really no need for a bio here. Clint Capela is young, he’s fast, he can score from all over the court, he rebounds over guys much heavier than him, and will swat your shot right back in your face. Still a restricted free agent, The Rockets don’t have to move him at all this year; but knowing that they will not have the cap room to come anywhere near what will be offered to him in 2019, he has to be in play. He’s too much of a talent to let walk away without anything in return.
Carmelo fitting well on any team can be tricky; but in the right situation his scoring ability and experience could be the reason someone, other than The Warriors lift up The Larry O’Brien Trophy next season. And don’t forget he has added an extra wrinkle to his game after playing power forward for most of last season. Coming in at the veteran minimum, or via trade, Carmelo still can can provide 16-20 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Two ACL tears have led to a decline for this former first round pick, after seeing his break-out season in 2016. He can play both forward positions, and can score from anywhere. Still he is no longer a fit in Milwaukee; so consider the restricted free agent to be on the block for a trade or free agent tender offer that Milwaukee may not want to or may not have the cap space to match.
A little over a year and a half ago, Isaiah Thomas lll was averaging 28.9 points per game for the Boston Celtics, and well on his way to a max contract payday. But in March of 2017, he suffered a hip injury and decided to play through it. That injury came back to haunt him, during that year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and still to this day keeps that cloud over his shoulder. Question is, once fully back to health, can he recapture the magic? Clearly no longer as expensive of a hire as in the past, his toughness and play-making ability can lead the right to success at a pretty strong discount.
Hailing from Cameroon, Mbah a Moute can defend against all five positions, but can also score at will. Sacrificing minutes, and shots, Luc Mbah a Moute would post much higher numbers on a team that didn’t already feature two ball-dominant players in Harden and CP3. He is a powerful wing scorer and defender; and his presence was definitely missed when shoulder injuries forced him to miss The Western Conference Finals against Golden State.
Michael Beasley’s earl years were mired in off-the-court issues; but he can still score and rebound with the best of them. After a bit of a resurgence of his career in New York, Beasley may be in line for yet another chance at glory. As a die-hard Knick Fan, I hope he stays put in MSG.
Greg Monroe played for three separate teams last season. Yes, three. But it was on that third stop, in Boston, that he reminded the basketball world of what kind of post player he still is. His scoring, defensive presence and rebounding paid dividends in this year’s playoffs; and could definitely be an team-building asset for the right team this year.
For better or for worse, the current day NBA is all about shooters. And coming off career highs in scoring and three point shooting percentages, Wayne Ellington could prove to be quite the asset off the bench for any team (especially in L.A. for Lebron).
Napier showed strong play-making and scoring ability as he doubled his career highs in both points and minutes per game. His speed and scoring ability can make him a strong asset off the bench for any contender.
Kemba Walker is a wildcard piece that while not a free agent, has been mentioned in a million trade and/or restricted free-agent tender scenarios. A really good player; but on a really bad team; Walker is an electrifying scorer rarely seen because The Charlotte Hornets haven’t been a National TV priority since the nineties. Most-likely worthy of a max contract in 2019, I couldn’t imagine any circumstances that would make him want to stay where he is. So whether now, or as we get closer to February’s Trade Deadline, he and his 22 points per game will almost surely be on the move.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar has held The NBA’s All-Time Scoring Record since 1984. Kobe Bryant was in kindergarten, Lebron James would not be born until later that year, and Michael Jordan was in his Rookie Year. This 7’2 giant won six NBA Titles, six MVP Awards, three straight NCAA Basketball Championships, and won Most Outstanding Player in each of those three collegiate seasons. But yet when debating who is the greatest player of all time, his name rarely ever comes into the conversation.
Consider the fact that Lebron has only four MVP Awards, and MJ has five; but neither player did it even remotely as early in their careers as Kareem. No other NBA player has won more MVP Awards; and on top that, this man won the award five out of his first seven years in the league.
Hell, The NCAA even banned the slam dunk in 1967 because of him…
In his 1969-1970 rookie season, Kareem Abdul Jabbar took the former expansion team Milwaukee Bucks from a forgettable 27-55 record the prior season to finishing second in the East. The Bucks were only in their second season when the eventual Rookie Of The Year arrived; and as far as stats go, he finished up the season averaging 28.8 ppg with 14.5 rebounds per game to go with it. The following year, with the addition of Oscar Robertson, Kareem & The Bucks would claim their first NBA Championship. Jabbar led the league in scoring that season-with 31.7ppg-in route to earning League MVP & NBA Finals MVP honors. For the 1972-1773 season, Kareem would increase his scoring output to his overall career high 34.8 points per game and win his second straight MVP Award. The next three years offered more of the same (MVP again in 1974), before a culturally-starved Kareem Abdul Jabbar would request a trade to either New York or Los Angeles. There of course he would win five more NBA Titles and three more League MVP Awards. Kareem Abdul Jabbar would retire in 1989, as the NBA’s All Time Leading Scorer. At that time he was also career leader in blocked shots, and STILL has been to more All Star Games than any other player in NBA history. Ten times he made the more important NBA All First Team List (five times All Second team). Five Times he made the All-Defensive Team.
Perhaps one of my favorite points to mention about Kareem Abdul Jabbar is his social activist spirit. From hanging with The Five Percenters in Harlem, to plotting strategies with Jim Brown & Muhammad Ali, Kareem was never one to mince words when describing the hypocrisies of society. Even today, he continues on and that has cost him everything from head coaching jobs to being left out when discussing just who the great player of all time is. No shade towards Michael or Lebron; but the numbers don’t lie. I’m just saying…
Credited as the first successful player to go straight from high school to the pros, Three Time NBA MVP Moses Malone passed away today. The younger generation may not be that familiar with the legend that was Moses Malone, and some of the old heads may have forgotten, so let's go on a journey...
A true freak of nature, Moses Malone led his Petersburg High School basketball Team to 50 straight wins & Back to Back State Championships (1973-1974) before being drafted by The ABA Franchise Utah Stars in 1974. Though shorter and obviously much younger than the rival centers he would face at that time, Moses came in averaging 18 Points & 14 Rebounds per game during his rookie season. A couple of years later he moved on to The NBA's Houston Rockets and by 1979 had won his first of three League MVP awards. In 1981 he led an under-matched Rockets Squad to face The Boston Celtics in The NBA Finals, before going down in six games. Malone would go on to win his second MVP Award in 1982, before becoming every bit the Savior that The Philadelphia 76ers needed to finally get past The Celtics & Lakers. Making it even sweeter, Moses Malone predicted that they would sweep every team in four games apiece in route to The 1982-1983 NBA World Championship. His prophecy came just one game short of being true, as they did lose one playoff game before sweeping The Lakers in Four. That magical season would garner him his third NBA MVP Award. After a few more years in Philly, Malone would go on to play for The Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks & San Antonio Spurs before retiring in 1995.
Moses Malone was a 12 Time All Star in an era where you had to do more than just score & toughness was essential to your survival. Not only did he survive for 21 Seasons, he Dominated. He is currently in the Top 10 All Time for Points & Rebounds, and will never be forgotten...
Mainstream America never liked Allen Iverson. They always sought to bash him. Sadly a quick Google Search will yield way more stories about his past & present legal troubles, rumors about his finances, and stories about his bad reputation among NBA coaches. Rarely ever is he mentioned as what he truly is, which is one of the most dominant NBA players of all time. So with onslaught of coverage he's gotten recently after some writer claimed that A.I. was allegedly drunk when he made his infamous "Practice" rant, I figured now would be a good time to remind those that don't know (or forgot) just how good "The Answer" was...
Allen Iverson was the Only player to leave early from John Thompson's Legendary Georgetown Teams of the 80's & 90's and go pro. Upon getting to the Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson spent most of that time playing essentially as a One Man Team, but he never disappointed & and ultimately carried the team on his back to the 2001 NBA Finals. It's a wonder how anyone could possibly forget his playoff duels with Ray Allen & Vince Carter that season. As far as his well-documented troubles, an unbiased mind would uplift him as a hero for never giving up. Though he surely could have done a lot of things differently, word is that most of his money issues come from loyalty and overly generous spending for those in his inner circle. Perhaps that's why Reebok saw fit to put $32 Million in a trust for his later years. Hopefully more good fortune awaits this brother in the future...
Yesterday I posted a blog post saluting The Legendary Bill Russell as the First Black man to coach in Professional sports; but after being pointed in the right direction by a journalist that I have a great degree of admiration for, I went back to do my homework a little bit more. Somehow left on the back pages of history stands a monumental talent in the form of Coach John McLendon. Coach John B. McLendon, Jr. was the first Black Man to coach basketball at a Predominately White university, and the first Black head coach of any professional sports team.
A Student of Basketball's founder Dr. James Naismith, at The University of Kansas,
McLendon enrolled as the first black student in the school’s physical education department. he endured hostile/racially motivated treatment while enrolled, and was never allowed to play on the All-White basketball team. McLendon tried out for the team several times, but would be cut on each attempt. Upon graduation McLendon was hired as an assistant coach at North Carolina college (North Carolina Central). In 1941, he would become Head Coach, and in his first year as head coach, his North Carolina College Team would win the Negro National College Championship Tournament. McLendon is widely credited as the Founder & Pioneer of The Fast Break. McLendon's teams quickly became known for their Up-Tempo/Baseline to Baseline offensive & defensive play, superior conditioning, aggressive Defense and High-Scoring showmanship. The John McLendon coached North Carolina College Teams would go on to win Eight Black College Championship between 1941 & 1952. McLendon would be lured off to Tennessee A & I University (Tennessee State University). While there, the combination of McLendon's coaching & the play of The Great Dick Barnett would lead the Tigers to win Three Straight National Intercollegiate Championships (1957 thru 1959). No coach had EVER accomplished such a feat. It has been said that these were some great years for basketball, as the Tigers put on such an amazing show for what would quickly become a packed house of Integrated crowds. Coach McLendon would next move on to become The First Black Head Coach of a Professional Basketball Team in an Integrated League, as leader of the George Steinbrenner owned Cleveland Pipers of The american Basketball League (ABL). Quickly moving on from Steinbrenner's meddling, McLendon would again make history as the first black head coach of a majority white college upon taking the job at Cleveland State University. In 1969, he took the head coaching position with the Denver Rockets of the ABA, before retiring & spending the next two decades as a company rep for Converse.
Coach John McLendon was born April 5th 1915, and finished his coaching career with a record of 496 wins & 179 losses. He is also famous for the racially-groundbreaking 1944 "Secret Game" between Duke & North Carolina College. At that time intermingling of Black & White, of any kind, was illegal. Great care was taken to keep this event a secret, and this day would remain a closely guarded secret for the next 52 years (1996). McLendon's team trounced Duke 88 to 44. After that, they played an additional game (mixing the players from both teams together) and hung out in the dormitories together. Coach McLendon also coached at Kentucky State University & Hampton Institute. Today The John McLendon Award is presented annually to the Nation's Top Collegiate Head Coach (Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and JUCO coaches are eligible for the award). John B. McLendon, Jr. died in 1999 at the age of 84. Sadly few know anything about his contributions to the Game of Basketball. #Salute