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When I was in college, a buddy of mine would always talk about Freaknik. A party/musical festival down in Atlanta that truly put the H.O.T. in Hotlanta. Dancing. Drinking. Partying. Music. Hoops. I was intrigued, especially since I had never been to the South. I never made it, though, then…POOF. It was gone. Maybe it’s something about Atlanta, but that’s been my experience with the Hawks. The team has made the playoffs for 10 consecutive years and I’ve been intrigued at times, but I always overlooked them. Well, I won’t have to worry about that now because…POOF. The team is rebuilding and will most probably be bad. At least there are some young exciting pieces which should, at least, make them an interesting watch.

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When I was a little kid, I used to love Disney’s Bambi. A cute and cuddly deer frolicking in the forest with other young animals. What a life! As I got older and more hip to the world, I realized it was a movie that showed the perils and dangers that life had to offer.

Prior to last season, the Bucks had been the Bambis of the NBA. They had one season over .500 in the past 13 years. But similar to how Bambi grew into the Great Prince of the Forest, a transformation has also been taking place with the Milwaukee basketball team. FEAR THE DEER!!!

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Change is a part of life. Smoking is no longer allowed on airplanes. As an ex-smoker that took multiple trips to Asia, it boggles my mind that we were allowed to puff in the back of the airplane. GOOD CHANGE. Turning the channel when watching a game due to boredom, then missing the play that blows up Twitter. BAD CHANGE. The Texas Blind Salamander. A creature that had its eyes reduced to two black spots over time. WHEN SITUATION FORCES CHANGE. Before I continue, the Texas Blind Salamander truly fascinates me. It had eyes. So, a male and female salamander fell into a cave together one day millions of years ago? They obviously had sex and made baby salamanders. I gotta imagine that they all tried to find their way back up, but just continued having sex and figuring out ways to survive. Over time, evolution just said, F it. No need for those things anymore. Welcome to your New World Order. I salute you Texas Blind Salamander. Why am I talking about change in Pacers preview? Well, for starters, the state voted for Obama back in 2008. CHANGE. Then, eight years later, the state went back to its Republican roots and backed Trump. CHANGE. Alright, let me back off the politics before I get told to “go back to my country,” even though I was born here. Before the 2016 season, Larry Bird replaced Frank Vogel with Nate McMillan at head coach. After the season, Larry Bird stepped down. Then, Paul George, their best player was traded. Lot of change went down for the Pacers last season.

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Such a strange season for the Bulls last year. It all started before a single game was played, as Derrick Rose (I miss pre-ACL injury Rose so much), Justin Holiday, and a pick were traded for Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez in the offseason. Then, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol were allowed to leave via free agency. Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade were signed to multi-year contracts. Tony Snell was traded for Michael Carter-Williams. Huh? At the trade deadline, Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott were traded away for Joffrey Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow, and Cameron Payne. Huh what? The Bulls ended the regular season with a 41-41 record and got the eighth and final playoff spot. Then they went up 2-0 over the number one seeded Boston Celtics!!! Rajon Rondo gets hurt and they proceed to lose the next four. Jimmy Butler gets traded to the Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen around the draft. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 Chicago Bulls.

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1-Okaro. 2-Okaro. 3-Okaro. 4-Okaro. 5-Okaro. 6-Okaro. 7-Okaro. 8-Okaro. 9-Okaro. 10-Okaro. 11-Okaro. 12-Okaro. 13-Okaro. That’s how bad it got for the Heat last season. After opening the season 11-30 and enduring multiple injuries, the Heat signed Okaro White to a ten-day contract. Fans started counting wins as Okaro’s. 1-Okaro. 2-Okaro. 3-Okaro. 4-Okaro. 5-Okaro. 6-Okaro. 7-Okaro. 8-Okaro. 9-Okaro. 10-Okaro. Pat Riley ain’t no dummy, so he signed White to another ten-day contract. Hey, when you at the craps table, you gotta just keep pressing. Unfortunately, the win…I mean Okaro streak ended at 13, but the good fortune continued as the Heat became the first team in history to start the season 19 games under and finish with a .500 record. 11-30 then 30-11 to end 41-41. Would that be a dyslexic’s worst nightmare or wet dream?

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In 2016, there were six teams that did not have a 20 ppg scorer: Pistons, Hawks, Magic, Nuggets, Mavs, and Lakers. The Pistons’ leading scorer was Tobias Harris at 16.1 ppg. The Magic had Evan Fournier at 17.2 ppg, while the rest of the teams had a leading scorer at 18ppg or higher. The Bad Boy Pistons of the late-80s proved that you don’t need a 20 ppg scorer to win a championship, but even those teams had two players in the 18 ppg range, Isiah Thomas and Adrian Dantley. If you were wondering, Joe Dumars was at 17.2. Anyways, I have a friend in Japan that makes fly-like drones with audio equipment embedded inside. We were able to place a few in the Pistons War Room during this year’s NBA Draft. Here are some of the snippets that we gathered. SVG (Stan Van Gundy): I’m a great defensive coach. Look, we were ranked seventh in points allowed, fourth in steals, and sixth in blocks. We need more offense gentlemen! 22nd in field goal percentage, 27th in three-pointers made, and 26th in points scored is not going to cut it! JB (Jeff Bower): Calm down Stan. I know you’re a great defensive coach because…well…I hired you. We will get you offense. SCOUT: Mr. Bower and Mr. Van Gundy. We as a scouting group are in love with Donovan Mitchell. He’s a great athlete, will help us on D, and can shoot the heck out of the ball. SVG: God damn it!!! Didn’t you hear what I said earlier??!! I am a great defensive coach and we were awesome on D last season! We need offense! SCOUT: But…but….but…Mitchell is. SVG: Get these clowns out of here! Why are you studdering mother bleep bleep bleeeeeeeep! I like this Luke Kennard kid. Exactly the kind of player we need. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 Detroit Pistons.

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Since 1988, the year that Charlotte was blessed with a NBA presence, the team has had 32 first-round picks in the draft. There have been some good ones: Larry Johnson, Alozo Mourning, Baron Davis, Kemba Walker, and Kobe Bryant. Ouch. That last one must hurt for Charlotte fans. There have been some horrible ones: Adam Morrison. Is this where a mic drop is appropriate? Anyways, out of all the 32 first-rounders that the Hornets/Bobcats have selected over the years, Cody Zeller may be in the top-tier for most valuable. What what? Zeller missed 20 games last season. In those games, the Hornets went 3-17. In terms of ORtg difference, Kemba was +10.1. Zeller? +10.4. Nicolas Batum was the next closest with a +3.7. Ladies and gentlemen, your Charlotte Hornets.

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The Wicked Witch from the West, Phil Jackson, is gone! Oompa loompa doompety doo! The one thing that he did well was to draft Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Of course, the Knicks figured out a way to make KP a spot up, three-point shooter. Such a Knicks thing to do. Anyways, he gave Joakim Noah a four-year, $72 million contract and re-upped Melo for five years, $124 million, with a no-trade clause. Brilliant! Let’s not forget about trading away Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks, which the new regime just re-acquired for four years, $71 million. He also signed Derrick Fisher and Kurt Rambis to be head coaches. Someone explain to me why Rambis has been a head coach in the NBA for three different teams? His career win percentage wouldn’t even make him a good baseball player. He must suck….I better stop there. It is said that the success of an organization always start at the top. Well, James Dolan is the man up top and his team is #1 on Forbes’ team value list. Grandmaster Flash knew what was up….

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Philadelphia has #TTP. Orlando has #??? Since they blew up the operation when they traded Dwight Howard in 2012, the Magic have drafted Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn, Victor Oladipo, Romero Osby, Aaron Gordon, Dario Saric, Mario Hezonja, Tyler Harvey, Domantas Sabonis, Stephen Zimmerman, Jake Layman, Jonathan Isaac, Anzejs Pasecniks, Wesley Iwundu, and Ivan Rabb. They traded away O’Quinn, Oladipo, Saric, and Sabonis. So, they basically have Gordon and Hezonja and haven’t had enough time to trade away this year’s crop of rookies. The player they traded Oladipo and Sabonis for was Serge Ibaka, who they traded away to the Raptors. They just gave Evan Fournier a five-year, $85 million contract. What’s the vision here guys? I believe that languishing in mediocrity is the worst place to be in sports. You either have to tank to try and acquire a franchise player through the draft or go for it if you’re in the position to do so. What’s the point of trying to win 30 games?

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It’s nice to live minute-to-minute. Riding the wave of life, experiencing the gamut of emotions, and acquiring a rolodex of memories with nary a stress in the world. A life lived like this is unfulfilling, though. To truly get the most out of life, one must try to achieve. And in order to achieve, one must have a plan. Look at the current NBA. So many smart people running teams, yet they navigate the landscape like a stoned teenager walking through a grocery store. Look! Twinkies! Mmmmm, I’m so hungry. These will taste so good. Oh! Chips. 

Former general manager of the 76ers, Sam Hinkie, had a plan. If you haven’t read his Manifesto, I highly recommend that you do. There’s so much goodness there, but I wanted to focus on this excerpt:

“It is critical to be cycle aware in a talent-driven league. In a situation like yours at the Sixers, where a variety of circumstances left you near a trough in the cycle (and falling), amplifying this cycle became crucial. Today’s outcomes for every team are heavily impacted by decisions past (who to draft, sign, trade, hire, etc.). Jeff Bezos says that if Amazon has a good quarter it’s because of work they did 3, 4, 5 years ago-not because they did a good job that quarter. Today’s league-leading Golden State Warriors acquired Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, and Klay Thompson almost 4 years ago, nearly 4 years ago exactly, and almost 5 years ago. In this league, the long view picks at the lock of mediocrity.”

TTP. Trust the Process.

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