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Got NBA FOMO? These 5 regular-season games are must-see TV

It’s crunch time for basketball fans as the NBA 2020-2021 regular season is coming to an end and we approach the playoffs. But what NBA game dates should we be keeping an eye on?

It’s only been three months since James Harden forced his way out of Houston, landed on the Brooklyn Nets, and created an offensive juggernaut that looks poised for a deep playoff run.

Harden is consistently turning in spectacular performances and has vaulted himself into the MVP conversation even after using some fairly crude tactics to ditch his former team. 

With injuries to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Harden’s teammate Kevin Durant, the MVP race is wide open, and the league’s top players are gunning for the trophy.

Players like Nikola Jokic, Zion Williamson, and Luka Doncic are having career years but with only seven weeks left in the regular season, time is running out.

Here are the five NBA game dates left on the 2020-2021 schedule that you can’t miss and as we get closer to the playoffs, the NBA odds will be updated to show the most current numbers for those games. 

1. Pelicans-Nets April 7 at 7:30 PM EST

With Durant seemingly close to a return from a nagging hamstring injury, this game will feature four of the league’s top players as both the Nets and the Pelicans push for the playoffs.

Williamson has been dominating the league since the All-Star break and the Nets’ porous defense will likely be unable to contain his ferocious drives to the hoop.

But, similarly, Pelicans Coach Stan Van Gundy has been unable to instill a defensive identity on his young team, and their up and down season continues. Look for a high-scoring affair in this one as two of the league’s top offenses face off. 

2. Heat-Trailblazers April 11 at 10 PM EST

The Heat were clear winners at the trade deadline, snapping up Victor Oladipo for virtually nothing but they’ve been unable to catch fire this season after last year’s Finals run.

This is a real NBA nerd matchup between two of the league’s best-coached teams and both teams are looking to improve their seeding heading into the playoffs.

CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic’s return provided the Blazers with the reinforcements they need to push the West’s top teams. Look out for newly acquired Norm Powell in this game as he slashes to the hoop and puts pressure on Miami’s stout interior defense.

3. Suns-76ers April 21, at 7 PM EST

With Embiid’s return expected in the next two weeks, this game will feature two teams who attack offenses in completely different ways.

The Suns, led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker, slow the pace to a crawl and run a lot of high pick and roll with the court spaced by shooters like Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson.

The Sixers like to let Ben Simmons push the pace and get early hoops but if that’s not available, they’ll often post Embiid 14-18 feet from the basket and let him work.

Make sure you add this game date to your NBA must-see schedule as this should be a great matchup between two teams with Finals aspirations. 

4. Nuggets-Clippers May 1 at 7:30 PM EST

In a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, both the Nuggets and Clippers will want to win this one heading into the postseason.

Jokic is consistently able to dominate the Clippers’ porous frontline and the trade deadline acquisition of Aaron Gordon gives the Nuggets another wing to defend Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

The Clippers will hope that “Playoff Rondo” activates his superpowers a few weeks early this year and boosts the Clips to victory. 

5. Suns-Lakers May 9 at 10 PM EST

The Lakers will hope to have both Davis and James back for this clash against the Suns and, there’s a chance, they could be fighting for their playoff lives.

Without their two superstars, the Lakers have been in free-fall in the standings and will need James and Davis to quickly return to form to avoid the play-in game.

The Suns’ star backcourt will present a difficult matchup for the Lakers and this matchup could be a preview of a Western Conference Semifinals or even Finals. 

The key to a good defense in the NFL? Great players.

We all know why scoring is up this year in the NFL: dynamic quarterbacks, innovative schemes, and a lack of cohesion among defenses due to reduced practice time in the offseason.

If you’re watching on Sundays, it’s obvious— defenses are having a hard time keeping up. 

But when analyzing a few of the top 10 defenses in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Pittsburgh Steelers, a common theme, one that’s really quite obvious, emerges. Good modern defenses are developed by experimental coaches and powered by the NFL’s best players.

There are a handful of players who pass both the analytical and eye test. Players like Aaron Donald, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Shaq Barrett who dominate the opponent almost every weekend.

Having a player like this, an anchor of sorts, that has the ability to single handily change the outcome of a game, either by rushing the quarterback or making plays in the secondary, is a necessity.

Donald, who has already won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice in his career, currently has the best odds to win the award this year, according to Sports Betting Dime.

When it comes to good defense in the NFL, the Pittsburgh University product is once again playing on another level in 2020, having already recorded nine sacks and three forced fumbles.

When opposing offensive coordinators devise a game plan to beat the Rams, the first thing they must think about is containing Donald. He’s able to play on different spots on the line and effect the passing and running equally.

Last season, the Rams traded significant draft capital to land another blue-chip player in Jalen Ramsey, a defensive back who has the ability to lock down an entire side of the field.

This move was ridiculed because the Rams, a team with little salary cap room, was trading for a player who would need a massive new contract in the near future. 

They clearly thought that pairing Donald and Ramsey would solve two of the biggest questions facing defenses every week: pressuring the pocket and locking down the NFL’s top receivers.

So far the Rams defense has stayed healthy and appears to ready for a long playoff run, due in large part to the contributions of their two stars. 

Who’s taking the trophy? Here are the NBA Championship odds

It’s tough to write anything about the NBA without it being about Kobe. But here it goes.

For the last five years, especially in the previous three, NBA fans have been clamoring for more parody. By this time in the NBA calendar, we had a pretty good sense of which two teams would be facing off in the Finals.

This year, with the All-Star Game quickly approaching, it’s the first season since 2015 that the race for the title is truly wide open.

Sure, most of the faces- LeBron, Kawhi and Giannis- are the same but this year the stars aren’t seen as underdogs against the dynastic Warriors.

In the East, the Bucks look head and shoulders above the rest of the conference but are we sure they have enough scoring punch outside of Giannis to make a Finals run?

The 76ers seem like a mess but are they a Chris Paul trade away from figuring out all of their on-court chemistry issues?

Can Boston, Miami or Toronto find a player on the buy-out market (Tristen Thompson) that could catapult them to into real contention? Will Victor Oladipo return to form by April and lead the Pacers on a run?

All of these questions are sure to be answered over the next few months but it’s a new feeling to have this many problems unsolved at this point in the season.

Let’s take a look at the championship odds as they stand today:

Lakers: +250

Bucks: +300

Clippers: +400

76ers: +900

Rockets/Mavericks/ Nuggets/Jazz: +1400

From the start of the season, it’s been clear that the Lakers and Clippers are a cut above the rest of the competition. Their star-power and styles of play will make them hard to beat four times out of seven in a playoff series.

But as the Jazz continues to surge and as Nikola Jokic has found his game those two teams could be troubling matchups for both L.A. teams.

The Nuggets possess a level of size and interior play that the Clippers have struggled to deal with all year.

Though the Clippers are clearly coasting through the regular season, it’s a tad worrisome that their two best big guys are Montrezl Harrell and Ivaca Zubac.

For the Lakers, the shot-blocking ability of Rudy Gobert and the spacing that the Jazz put around him will be tough to deal with.

Even though Anthony Davis has been in the playoffs and made Round 2 once, he hasn’t proven that he can carry the load in a deep playoff run.

I would expect both the Lakers and the Clippers to make the Western Conference Finals and set up a monumental series that could change the course of history for both franchises.

Right now, however, I believe the Lakers’ brute force and ability to protect the rim will carry them over the Clippers and into the Finals where they will face off against a Chris Paul led 76ers that is sorely lacking his shooting ability right now.

Taking stock: After a roller coaster NBA season, here’s where we landed

The NBA is reaching the annual point in its season that has everyone asking: “Can we just start the playoffs already?”

It’s clear, a longing for more meaningful basketball is a sentiment that is not only prevalent amongst the fans, but also the players. The Eastern Conference’s second-best team got blown out last week by a team who is actively trying to lose games, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Golden State Warriors lost at home to the Phoenix Suns, a team riddled with so much dysfunction that some wonder if they should be relegated to the G-League. These head-scratching results make it clear that teams who have secured a playoff spot are just going through the motions.

So as the season winds to a close, this is also a point where we can look back at the previous 70 games to assess what really happened along the way.

Remember when the Los Angeles Lakers blew out the Warriors on Christmas Day and looked like a formidable contender in the Western Conference. Or when the Boston Celtics entered the season as a serious contender to win the NBA Title but now struggle to remain among the “upper-echelon” of NBA teams.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 most surprising (good and bad) developments of this season.

1. Dysfunction in LA

The dysfunction around the Los Angeles Lakers has been well-documented but over the last few weeks, it has been especially striking to see LeBron James share the floor with guys who are barely hanging on in the league.

LeBron typically goes through stretches in the regular season in which he is disconnected from the rest of his team, but this year has clearly taken a mental toll on The King.

It’s clear LeBron wasn’t expecting Alex Caruso, Jonathan Williams, and Mo Wagner to play extended minutes on the Lakers during his sixteenth season.

Recently, it has been very strange to watch James avoid contact at the rim, lack interest on offense, and generally not really give a shit. It won’t be long now before we all hear a “1-2-3- Cancun!” chant from these Lakers.

2. D’Angelo Russell is on the come up

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Do you remember when D’Angelo Russell couldn’t escape the Nick Young-Iggy Azalea drama and it looked like the former No. 2 draft pick’s NBA career wasn’t going to last much longer?

Perceptions in the NBA can change very quickly. Russell, who was selected to the All-Star Game this year, has finally found his game this year and looks like the cornerstone of the Brooklyn Nets.

Though Russell still struggles to get to the free-throw line, he has been able to use his bevy of off-balance shots and high-arching jump shot to boost his scoring average to 20 points per game.

Russell’s late-game heroics will make the Nets an extremely tough out in the playoffs.

3. Who are these 76ers?

The Philadelphia 76ers have enough talent to make a deep run in the playoffs and potentially challenge the Golden State Warriors in The Finals.

But since they traded for Tobias Harris, the team has faced a litany of injuries and they have yet to establish an identity. Who are these 76ers? Are they a team that wants to push the ball in transition to find easy baskets or do they want to use Joel Embiid’s post game to slow the game down?

If they are able to find a way to blend these two styles effectively before the season ends, the 76ers might just be the team lifting the Eastern Conference championship trophy in May.

4. Can Paul George carry OKC on his back

Paul George is now the best play on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

George has lifted his game to new heights this season and is leading his team on both ends on a nightly basis. After improving his jump shot significantly, George has been able to add more moves off the bounce this year that allow him to blow by defenders and finish at the rim.

And, it’s easy to forget about his contributions on the other end of the floor- PG3 has arguably been the best perimeter defender in the league this season. The Thunder will need a herculean effort from George if they are going to advance past the Houston Rockets or the Warriors, but his 28-8-4 stat line shows he might just be up to the task.

5. The Milwaukee Bucks are looking good

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The Milwaukee Bucks struggled mightily against an under-manned Boston Celtics team in the first round of the NBA playoffs last year and didn’t make any high-profile moves this offseason.

But continued progression from Giannis and the additions of Brooke Lopez and Mike Budenholzer have vaulted the Bucks to the top of the East.

They’ve ditched Jason Kidd’s blitzing schemes on pick-and-roll defense and on the other end they complimented the Greek Freak with length and shooting. Brooke Lopez has completely transformed his game this year and it is paying dividends.

From Jimmy Butler’s tirade in Minnesota to Kyrie Irving’s constant comments in the media, this has been an extremely entertaining season. But, as we head into the playoffs are looking down the barrel of another Warriors title.

We dissected today’s NBA to see if it’ll still be lit in 2029

It’s July 1, 2029.

Luka Doncic just led the Miami Heat to the franchise’s fourth title, Kevin Durant just wrapped up his farewell tour with the Seattle Amazonians and Bronny James is getting set to team up with Zaire Wade in Cleveland (the city has a burgeoning tech scene that NBA players find very attractive… it’s 2029).

In the 2029 NBA Finals, Doncic launched 20 three-pointers per game, dazzling millions of viewers around the world with his slick ball handling and creative playmaking.

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Still, rumors swirled all year that Doncic was unhappy after he told the media in a December press conference, “I don’t owe Pat Riley shit, if he wants to send an army of Armani suits to find me this summer, he knows where I’ll be.”

NBA Twitter exploded and fans used hashtags like #PettyLuka to laud him for standing up to a patriarch of the NBA who has been the mastermind behind seven titles.

It’s cool, it’s fun and Doncic is “trending.” This is the NBA in 2029. Star players jump from team to team, rag on their teammates in the media, and sign massive contracts only to ask for trades months later.

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The precedent for this future NBA is being set right before our eyes.

Players express discontent with their current situation, ask for a trade, and then get moved. If that doesn’t work, they team up with their friends after front offices publicly and “illegally” court their services for months. Sound familiar?

Sure, Kings fans can admire Mike Bibby’s newly chiseled body and Hornets fans can marvel at Michael Jordan’s bootcut jeans, but is there even a reason to watch these teams that don’t have a chance at attracting top talent or winning a championship?

Let’s go a step further, has it ever been worth watching the games?

The NBA is at a crossroads and everyone is too scared to admit it. There are a number of reasons for this: the NFL is racist and unsafe, baseball is unwatchable and hockey is well… Canadian.

The NBA is great right now because the superstars are immensely likable, the product on the court is more entertaining than ever, the players are empowered, and experiencing this sport in the social media era is new and fun.

But at what point does all of this become stale?

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Is there going to come a time when we long for the days of Kobe Bryant dropping 35 points per game with a cast of subpar players and glaring at Smoosh Parker or storming out of the arena after Lamar Odom missed another game-winning jump shot? Or what about John Starks giving up on a career of bagging groceries to go play for a scrappy Knicks team that never had a real shot at winning a title.

It’s too easy to blame social media or the fickle nature of young people in America or LaVar Ball or Skip Bayless. And basketball fans love blaming AAU for everything so I won’t do that either. Honestly, I have no idea how the NBA is going to fix this situation or what the root of the issue truly is. But, I think league executives know the current system is not sustainable.

Anthony Davis, a top-5 power forward of all time, is too great of a player to play at 50 percent for the last three months of the season as his team finds a trade suitor. Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler are tremendous talents- I want to watch them without dissecting each tweet or statement they make to a reporter.

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Sure, this really fun right now and I’m certainly enjoying the ride with everyone else but in 10 years, won’t this all just get old?

Does the Kawhi trade vault the Raptors to the top of the East?

For almost two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have been the model organization in the NBA. They’ve built a sustainable culture with the best coach in the league, Gregg Popovich, who has the ability to coax premier players to buy into his system.

David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker trusted the tenets of the “Spurs Way”: selflessness, sacrifice, stability. Then they plugged in Kawhi Leonard, possibly the best perimeter player Gregg Popovich has ever coached. He looked like the second-coming of Tim Duncan, a robotic player with bionic arms who was molded into a terrorizing two-way force.

But, it’s 2018 and players don’t stay with one team for their entire career anymore. Leonard, a top three player in the league when healthy, turned down a sneaker deal that Jordan offered him last summer which some in his camp felt was insulting.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and others reported that Leonard believed the San Antonio market, one of the smallest in the league, would hinder him from attracting bigger dollars off the court.

This could be true but his representatives, a weird uncle and an agent who primarily works in the NFL, also have to consider that Leonard hasn’t developed a personality or connected with fans on social media, which also hurts his marketability.

Leonard is the first player to test Popovich’s model. Though Duncan almost bolted for Orlando in the summer of 2000, the Spurs had never faced a crisis quite like this. Over the last 9 months, the league became transfixed on how they would handle it.

Would they be able to repair the relationship or would they end up trading Leonard for 25 cents on the dollar? They tried for months to get him to sign a 5 year, $219 million deal, but it quickly became clear that wouldn’t happen.

In recent weeks, the Spurs started to actively shop Leonard. Though many believed he would end up in Philadelphia, Boston or Los Angeles, Toronto was able to swoop in today and land “The Claw.”

First thoughts: the Raptors fleeced the Spurs who received DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a heavily protected “fake” first round pick (it will likely become two second round picks). That’s really the best they could get for Kawhi?

Granted, he only has one year left on his deal and this deal carries some risk but maybe Toronto can sell him on their culture if they make a deep playoff run. Though no one thought they could, the Thunder were able to do just that with Paul George. Additionally, the Raptors proved they couldn’t get over the hump with DeRozan and needed to make a change to improve their chances at a title.

Let’s look at the Raptors team in 2018-2019. We can expect that they will eliminate those deep, inefficient two-point shots that DeRozan lived on and replace them with Leonard’ss efficient offensive repertoire of three’s and points in the paint.

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Additionally, a lineup with Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka should be one of the league’s best defenses. The versatility, length, and intensity they can employ on that end will strike fear in every Eastern Conference team.

Don’t be surprised if the Raptors are in the Finals next year and push the Warriors in a long series. At the very least, the Raptors were able to move DeRozan’s albatross of a contract and take a flier on one of the league’s best players. For them, this deal is a home run.

For the Spurs, I’m not really sure how this deal makes much sense. They have to take on DeRozan’s enormous contract, three years and more than $90 million, without getting one of the Toronto’s top young players like Anunoby or Delon Wright. But, the Spurs organization has built a good deal of trust with their fans. While the rest of the NBA is zigging, the Spurs are zagging.

They shoot a high percentage on three-point shots but don’t take that many of them. A large proportion of their shots still come from the mid-range and guess where DeRozan thrives? Pairing him with LaMarcus Aldridge will give them two players whose shot chart would have looked great in 1997- too bad it’s 2018.

The Spurs won 47 games last year with Kawhi only playing 9 games so adding a healthy DeRozan might give them a chance to win 50 or more. But, does anyone think they can actually contend for a championship?

There’s an old saying in the NBA: the team that receives the best player in a trade is the winner. That saying holds true here; Toronto has just been vaulted to Eastern Conference favorites and now they finally have a real chance to bring a title back to the 6.


With LeBron in LA, what’s next for the Cavs and the rest of the NBA?

He’s gone. Again. And gone with him are the soaring dunks, the night-to-night intrigue, and the long playoff runs. But, LeBron gave Cleveland fans four straight years of Eastern Conference dominance and finally delivered that elusive NBA Title.

My only gripe with The King is that he forced the Cavs into “win-now” mode from Day 1 — due in large part to his lack of trust in Dan Gilbert — but then signed a four-deal with the Lakers, allowing them to go into a holding pattern this year instead of dealing their carefully cultivated assets to chase a proven All-Star.

Additionally, the Cavs were forced to sign J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson (both Klutch Sports clients) to large, long-term deals to appease LeBron. But then I remember: LeBron delivered a ring and Dan Gilbert, a big Trumpster, is left paying the enormous bills for this team while The King builds a media empire in Los Angeles.

So, now the Cavs are left with an interesting poo-poo platter of players. They can look to deal their veteran players with trade value — Kevin Love and Kyle Korver — for draft picks and unproven young talent.

Opening up an opportunity for young players will be the most important thing the Cavs do this year. Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and Larry Nance should get the opportunity to prove they are real NBA players. Cavs fan will look for any sign that Collin Sexton is the next Kyrie Irving, and it will be absurd but what else do we have?

The Cavs also have something they never did during LeBron’s tenure: CAP SPACE! They should look to use that space to take fliers on young players that haven’t panned out elsewhere. What would it take to get Justise Winslow? Is Nerlens Noel available?

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Charlotte: we’ll take Batum’s contract but you’ll give us Malik Monk. WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOSE? LeBron isn’t coming back and we might as well become a fun young team who develops assets on good contracts.

After the LeBron left in 2010, the Cavs tried to replicate the Thunder model by tanking and drafting incredible talent. This time, they need to look at what the Celtics and Nets, yes the Nets, have done. Be prudent, scout international players and take rational chances. Alas, Cleveland is no longer the center of the NBA universe so it’s time to take stock of the rest of the league.

It appears there are a number of star players unhappy in their current situations: Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, and Jimmy Butler are a few who come to mind. Leonard and Butler will both enter free agency next year and have expressed interest in leaving so it might be wise for their teams to move them and try to recoup a King’s ransom.

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The Trailblazers don’t have to move Lillard as he is signed through 2021, but after being swept in the first round last year it seems they need to shake things up Portland.

Of the three players mentioned above, Lillard intrigues me the most. He is signed for three more seasons at a reasonable number, he is a very durable player, and he is a proven playoff performer. He is the perfect modern-NBA point guard.

He can break defenders down off the bounce, he makes good decisions in pick and roll and he shoots the lights out. The obvious destination for Lillard is Los Angeles, where he could team with LeBron (a noted fan of the Oakland native’s game) and fill a similar role to the one Kyrie Irving flourished in with the Cavs.

As we move into Summer League and fans go on the rollercoaster ride that comes with rooting for 18 and 19-year-olds who are looking to make a name in the league, NBA fans should sit back and marvel at what the league has become. There are dozens of incredible talents across the league, daily drama and a dynastic team that everyone loves to hate.

The Golden State Warriors are going to win the championship this year. This is something we know in July and something we knew last July. But isn’t watching a team try and dethrone this generational force more fun than just about anything.

LeBron is throwing away a full season to give himself a shot at it in a year… that’s insane to think about.

So, players will continue to change teams and the Warriors will continue to win and if you don’t like that go root for a league that doesn’t fairly compensate players who are literally risking their lives to line the pockets of rich white men.

james harden

How James Harden went from Compton kid to the MVP the NBA

When the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted James Harden No. 3 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, most scouts thought he would become a solid sixth man on an up-and-coming team.

But in the 2012 Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Harden carried the Thunder back from a 2-0 deficit and vaulted them into the Finals where they eventually lost the to the Miami Heat.

Along with Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka, that Thunder team looked primed to make multiple Finals appearances and become one of the league’s best teams.

But, in one of the most bizarre trades in NBA history, Harden was dealt to the Houston Rockets in the following offseason.

On the Rockets, Harden was given an increased role and has become a perennial MVP candidate and now, one of the league’s highest paid players.

No longer is he just a kid from Compton with a sweet lefty jumper and a lethal Eurostep: Harden is now the owner of the richest contract in NBA history.

Last weekend, Harden signed a four-year contract extension worth $160 million, guaranteeing the former Arizona State star a whopping $228 over the next six years.

In 2015, Harden signed a 13 year, $200 million dollar sneaker deal with Adidas. Harden is cashing those damn checks. Harden has come a long way from his days at Artesia High School.

He is now a fixture in the “Calabasas Crew,” having dated Khloe Kardashian and been spotted at events with Kanye West and Justin Bieber, Harden and his signature beard have become top-tier celebrities.

Now, the pressure is on Harden to live up to his enormous contract. But the kid from Compton shouldn’t worry, all these extra M’s are just gravy at this point.

The Warriors used a cheat code the Cavs might never be able to crack

The terms of engagement were set.

The Warriors would go to battle with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and an extremely competent cast of role players. The Cavs would counter that with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron’s veteran pals.

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It was going to be a fair fight, one that was set to provide enduring drama and dozens of thrilling games. Curry is a generational talent, unlike any player LeBron had ever faced before in his career.

But then Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals changed everything. Though the Cavs won the championship that year, that single game in which Klay Thompson went nuclear may have cost LeBron two other championship rings.

After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Cavs, the Warriors had enough cap room for a max player and they rightly pursued the second-best player in basketball: Kevin Durant.

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The Cavs never planned for the future or opened up cap room to attract high-level free agents to complement LeBron and Kyrie.

Instead, they traded first round picks for Channing Frye and Kyle Korver but those players helped right away and made big shots in tense playoff games. Those deals were a product of the one-year deals that Lebron signed, forcing the organization into “win now” mode.

Durant made what Stephen A. Smith likes to call “the weakest move a superstar has ever made.”

He left behind one of the best teams of the decade to join a club that was never not going to win the championship. The firepower, athleticism, and cohesiveness make it virtually impossible to defend the Warriors.

Durant and the Warriors took the easy road to multiple titles, yet they continue to celebrate the outcome like it was somehow unexpected. They gloat, they dance, they prance, and they scream. But when I see them showboat all I can think is: you cheated, the terms of engagement were set.

LeBron typically uses Game 1 as “feel out game.” But, in the first game of the 2018 NBA Finals, he was clearly playing for keeps.

He knew that if they won that game it would change the whole series and reignite the stress that the Warriors felt from the Rockets series. But, that didn’t happen and the Cavs were swept away.

So, what’s next for LeBron? There isn’t a definitive path to a championship — outside of a move to Boston — with any of the teams that are vying for his services. Moving his family to Houston or Philadelphia just doesn’t seem plausible for a 33-year old LeBron who has no ties to either of those cities.

The most logical destination is to work under the tutelage of Magic Johnson.

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Though the Lakers haven’t landed a surefire All-Star with their high draft picks in the last few years, they have acquired enough good young talent that they can use in a trade for a premier player.

If the Lakers do have Paul George in their back pocket and they could find a way to trade for Kawhi Leonard or Dame Lillard on draft night (yes, I know they have to move Luol Deng), LeBron would have to find that very enticing.

If he does stay in Cleveland, it means he has made up his mind that he will finish his career in The Land and that he is carefully curating his legacy.

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The Cavs are in a tough spot because if they want to trade the 8th pick in the draft for a proven player, they need to do in on draft night. But, the team won’t be informed of Bron’s decision until July 6th or 7th.

If the Cavs, who are capped out and devoid of any real trade assets, run it back next year with the same team plus the 8th pick next year, there is no way LeBron believes that team will come close to a title.

So, the NBA will pause for a week just like it did four years ago and four years before that before LeBron makes the decision on where he’ll go.

But the terms of engagement are no longer set in the NBA, and his choice will once again effect more than half of the franchises in the league.

The Cavs are actually nice again but is it enough to keep LeBron in Cleveland?

Since LeBron James returned to Cleveland in 2014, Cavs fans have been whining about the makeup of the roster. The most common complaints were: We don’t have enough athleticism, we lack versatility, and we are so fucking old.

The brilliance of James carried us to a title in 2016 and we told ourselves that any success after that would be gravy. Then in the 2017 Finals, the Golden State Warriors ran us off the court and a few months later we traded away our second-best player.

For the first 50 games of the 2017-2018 season, it looked like the Cavs had no chance to compete with the Warriors or even the Houston Rockets.

The collective basketball world thought James had one foot in Los Angeles and the Cavs should shift their focus to building a team for the 2018-2019 season without The King. Cavs fans had begun scouting college players and living and dying on the outcome of every Brooklyn Nets game (the Cavs have the Nets unprotected draft pick in 2018).

But then a basketball miracle happened. Somehow, someway the front office wizkid also known as Koby Altman was able to reinvigorate the Cavs roster with youth, athleticism, talent, and versatility.

Most importantly, the trades have reengaged James so much so that he’s actually closing out on shooters and making multiple rotations on defense.

New look Cavs with the ball movement. 🔥

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Last year the Cavs rotation consisted of a lot of one-dimensional players who weren’t capable of creating their own shot or looks for anyone else. Let’s not forget that outside of James, Irving and Kevin Love, Ty Lue was relying on Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Deron Williams. Sheesh!
Immediately following the Finals, I texted a friend and said,

“We need to move Irving or Love, we can’t hang with the Warriors without making major changes to this lineup.”

I had my sights set on Paul George. I watched so much of Irving during his time in Cleveland and I didn’t think he could ever improve his game enough to reach that “next level” of point guards. “He’ll always just be that guy that pounds the rock and looks for his own shot,” I said to myself. For all of the love the media has heaped upon him this season, mostly deserved, he is virtually the same player he was in Cleveland.

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He doesn’t defend much and he wants to create his own shot off the bounce. It’s hard to beat this Warriors team with that mentality. I always thought the Cavs would be better suited with a Patrick Beverley type of point guard — a player who can defend multiple positions and knock down an open shot — to slot next to James.

Now they have that in George Hill. He has no problem guarding the league’s best perimeter players and he is a premier shooter.

Without Irving, do the Cavs have enough firepower to beat the Warriors? The short answer is no. But, with the additions of Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance, and Hill, they have the pieces to make the Warriors’ lives more difficult on offense and defense.

They can switch pick and rolls, close out on shooters with length and crash the glass with some authority. On offense, the Cavs can attack close outs and knock down the open shots that James creates with regularity out of the high pick and roll.

The question of whether the Cavs can beat the Warriors this year isn’t that important to me. Through the trades, the Cavs front office regained the confidence of The King and now, as he heads into free agency, the Cavs have the brightest future of any potential LeBron destination.

The Nets are currently one game away from having the worst record in the league and if the ping pong balls bounce right way in the lottery it not only changes the perception of the Kyrie trade but it enters the Cavs into the Anthony Davis/Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes — both could be on the move this summer due to tenuous relationships with their current teams.

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So as the Cavs continue to impress, and James makes a run at his 8th straight Finals appearance, I will spend my time refreshing Woj’s Twitter page and looking for the next disgruntled star who wants to be traded.

The Nets draft pick is the most valuable asset the Cavs have had in years and it might just be the one that gets The King to re-sign in The Land.