Western Conference Trade Deadline 2015

The trade deadline is just a couple days away, and teams on the cusp are making their final push to acquire a player who can help elevate them to “true” contender status.  They target teams looking to change direction (like Brooklyn) and willing to unload their assets like a fire sale in Call of Duty, hoping to flip them for future draft picks or expiring contracts.   

Before I get into the possible trades, I’ve established 3 rules so I don’t find myself talking about which teams should try to give up all their assets for Anthony Davis (probably the whole league).

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The 2014-15 All-Under-Underappreciated Team

Last week, the Franchise released our 2014-15 All-Underappreciated Team.  That team highlighted starters who contribute significantly to their teams, but are often overlooked as minor stars in the league.  This team is a little different.  This team consists of players who aren’t just overlooked, they’re forgotten about completely.  These are players who have worked hard to maximize their talents and take advantage of opportunities, even if their ceilings are lower and those opportunities are scarce.  To qualify, players had to meet the following criteria:

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Blake Down, Clips Out?

In case you missed it, here is a five second summary of L.A.’s seven game road trip so far:

-Game 1: Lost a close one to a Pelicans team sans Anthony Davis

-Game 2: Won by 20 against the Spurs (arguably the best win of the season)

-Game 3: Blew a 9 point lead against the Nets with just 1:35 left to play

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2014-15 All-Underappreciated Team

All-Star frenzy is officially in full swing.  Media heads and fans have been assembling their twelve-man rosters for the East and West for the past week or so, giving their two cents on questions with no right answer.  “Do the Hawk deserve four All-Stars?”  “Have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook missed too many games to be considered?”  “Should a guy like DeMarcus Cousins be penalized because of his team’s poor record?”  

Now that the reserves have been announced, everyone will undoubtedly shift their attention to the biggest snubs, most notably Lillard and Cousins (who is now Kobe Bryant’s replacement). However, I want to shed some light on a few players who haven’t been involved in any of the All-Star talk by creating an All-Underappreciated Team.  

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Rising Big Men: Nurkic vs. Gobert

Every NBA season, we see a few obscure names emerge from the depths of anonymity.  Some players explode for a stretch when a teammate goes down with an injury.  Others find their niche and role on a new team with a different system.  There are also those who just haven’t been given a chance until now.

This year, a plethora of young big men have been able to rise to the occasion, but a few names separate themselves from the rest: Hassan Whiteside, Donatas Motiejunas, Rudy Gobert and Jusuf Nurkic.  While none of these four players are even close to becoming household names, their performances have been noteworthy and their futures look bright.  

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Rising Big Men: Whiteside vs. D-Mo

Every NBA season, we see a few obscure names emerge from the depths of anonymity.  Some players explode for a stretch when a teammate goes down with an injury.  Others find their niche and role on a new team with a different system.  There are also those who just haven’t been given a chance until now.

This year, a plethora of young big men have been able to rise to the occasion, but a few names separate themselves from the rest: Hassan Whiteside, Donatas Motiejunas, Rudy Gobert and Jusuf Nurkic.  While none of these four players are even close to becoming household names, their performances have been noteworthy and their futures look bright.  

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Atlanta's (Racially) Confusing Rise to the Top

The Atlanta Hawks are in a very odd situation.  Despite sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a 29-8 record, the franchise finds itself up for sale.  It all started in September when majority owner Bruce Levenson “self-reported” a bigoted e-mail he sent out regarding the Hawks’ predominantly African-American fanbase.  Amidst the backlash from the Donald Sterling disaster, Levenson tried to save face and immediately declared that he would sell the team.

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Clippers: Countdown to Christmas

Things aren’t looking good for the Clippers as we countdown to the highly anticipated Christmas Night rematch against the Golden State Warriors.  The Clips started off a hectic upcoming week with a loss in Denver last night, the first of five games in a seven day span.  To compound things, they will have to travel to a different time zone in between each game.

The upcoming schedule includes two back-to-backs as well as elite competition from teams such as San Antonio (17-10), Atlanta (18-7), and Golden State (22-3).  And while the Bucks (14-13) are not quite up to par with the others, they just beat the Clippers a week ago in Milwaukee.

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The Great Wall of Washington

Mike Wilbon recently said it best in an episode of Pardon the Interruption: “I love watching the Wizards and I think they’re a great story, and this is a media story, too.  Don’t tell me that the only thing worth discussing is a 3-11 team.”  Despite pushing Toronto for the top spot in the East with an 18-6 record, the Wizards haven’t received the recognition they deserve.  Yes, it helps that they’ve faced the second easiest schedule in the league thus far.  No, they haven’t overtaken the Cavs or Bulls as the favorites to come out of the East.  But John Wall has evolved into one of the premier point guards in the NBA and should have the Wizards competing for a championship sooner rather than later.  

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Russell Westbrook: the ScapeG.O.A.T.

While the top athletes in their respective sports garner the most fame, popularity, and wealth, they must also deal with the most criticism and scrutiny from the media.  Superstars are held to the highest of expectations, making it essentially impossible to satisfy the masses.  A prime example of this is LeBron James, one of the most consistent and dominant basketball players ever.  In his first stint in Cleveland, James, who was then 25-years old, won back-to-back MVPs and led the Cavaliers to the best record in both seasons.  Yet, he was criticized for failing to overcome the Celtics’ Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen despite carrying a weak supporting cast.  LeBron was quickly labeled as “unclutch” and mocked for failing to deliver on the big stage.

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The Resurgence of Amar'e Stoudemire

Exactly four years ago, Amar’e Stoudemire was soaking up the spotlight in Madison Square Garden.  The star power forward, who had just inked a max 5-year, $100 million contract that summer, was dominating night in and night out.  In the month of December, he averaged 29.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks while setting the franchise records for most consecutive 30 point games (nine) and most consecutive games shooting 50% or above (also nine).  Stoudemire went on to become the Knicks’ first starter in the All-Star game since Patrick Ewing and earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. Little did Stoudemire and the Knicks know what would lie ahead for the big man.

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R-E-L-A-X, It's Only December

Remember when everyone in Green Bay was panicking about the Packers’ 1-2 start?  After suffering defeats at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, quarterback Aaron Rodgers took to the mic and reminded everyone to “R-E-L-A-X.”  Since Rodgers’ memo, the Packers have rattled off seven wins in eight tries and sit atop the NFC North.

Which brings me to the NBA… We are officially at that dangerous point in the season where the sample size of games is large enough that critics and fans think they know everything that the season has in store for them.  Contenders and title favorites are declared, struggling high-profile teams are overanalyzed, and MVPs are crowned.

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Clippers' Seven Game Swing

After stumbling to a 5-4 start, the Clippers have rebounded with the most successful road trip in franchise history.  They won an unprecedented six out of seven games with the only loss coming to an emerging Memphis Grizzlies team led by darkhorse MVP candidate Marc Gasol.  It helps that the opposition was softer than usual; the wins came against Orlando, Miami (without Dwyane Wade), Charlotte, Detroit, Houston (without Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley), and Utah.  Regardless, the Clippers won these games in convincing fashion and look to have snapped out of their funk.  They became the first team in NBA history to have an average win margin above 11 in a road trip of seven games or longer, proving their dominance as of late.

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Marc Gasol: Center of Attention

The 2015 NBA Free Agency class is loaded with talent, but some of the biggest catches of the summer have essentially already taken themselves off the market.  LeBron James and Kevin Love are opting out of their deals after the season, but will most likely re-up in Cleveland.  LaMarcus Aldridge has expressed his desire to stay in Portland.  And Duncan and Ginobili are Spurs for life.

That still leaves some nice options, both restricted (Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Brandon Knight, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris) and unrestricted (Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan, Goran Dragic (Player Option), Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert (Player Option), Monta Ellis (Player Option)).

However, Marc Gasol will be the one creating the most buzz during the offseason.  He has put himself in the discussion for best center in the league and terrorizes teams on both sides of the ball, but more importantly, there is a real chance he leaves Memphis.

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Kobe Bryant: Scoring Titles or Free Agents?

Amidst a season filled with losses and disappointment, Kobe Bryant is still looking to make more history.  He already set the all-time mark for most misses in a career earlier this year, but is also on the fringe of breaking several other records held by the player he has always been compared to: Michael Jordan.

Before the New Year, the Lakers’ superstar should pass Jordan’s 32,292 career points, replacing him as the third highest scorer of all-time.  Kobe is also looking to usurp M.J.’s title as the oldest player ever to win the scoring title; Jordan averaged 28.7 points at 35 while Kobe currently leads the league with 26.7 at 36.

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Super Morris Bros. & Their Unique Contract

Not much separates twins Markieff and Marcus Morris off the basketball court.  Markieff, the older of the two, is an inch taller and around ten pounds heavier, but their biggest difference is probably their preference in football teams; Marcus is a Philadelphia Eagles fan, while Markieff roots for their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.  Otherwise, the Morrises are as identical as can be (even though they are surprisingly fraternal twins).  When they were attending the University of Kansas, the twins always had the same haircut and facial hair, drove the same car, signed up for the same classes, and listened to the same music.  They even have the exact same tattoos to this day, no easy feat when you have this much ink on your body.

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3x3: Rockets Up, Clips Down, K.J. Everywhere

The 2014-15 NBA Season is rolling along.  It’s still early, but teams are beginning to show their true colors, players are figuring out their roles, and fans are beginning to form their opinions.  So in case you’ve missed out on the action, the Franchise is here to break down three hot topics from the NBA in three days.  This is part 3, but you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  So without further ado…

What has surprised you most thus far in the NBA season?

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3x3: Jimmy Buckets, Shump & the Brow

The 2014-15 NBA Season is rolling along.  It’s still early, but teams are beginning to show their true colors, players are figuring out their roles, and fans are beginning to form their opinions.  So in case you’ve missed out on the action, the Franchise is here to break down three hot topics from the NBA in three days.  This is Part 2, but you can find Part 1 here.  So without further ado…

Who is the most improved player so far this year?

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3x3: Rudy Gay's Extension

The 2014-15 NBA Season is rolling along.  It’s still early, but teams are beginning to show their true colors, players are figuring out their roles, and fans are beginning to form their opinions.  So in case you’ve missed out on the action, the Franchise is here to break down three hot topics from the NBA in three days.  Here is the first:

Too high, too low, or just right: Rudy Gay’s 3-year, $40 million extension

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Brandon Knight A.D.J. (After DeAndre Jordan)

When someone mentions Brandon Knight in conversation, you know this is the first thing that pops into your head:

What an unfortunate memory for Knight.  He was the laughingstock of the NBA for days, as the posterization replayed ceaselessly on ESPN.  Social media didn’t make things any easier for him, as people hurried to their Twitter and Facebook accounts to take jabs at him.  Someone even took the time to change Knight’s Wikipedia page to state that he had died at the hands of DeAndre Jordan.

In a way, a part of Brandon Knight did die on March 10, 2013.  That fateful dunk would serve as a turning point in the career of the Florida native; he would be resurrected the following season as a changed basketball player.  Enter Brandon Knight A.D.J.

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