Franchise player or a statistic machine? Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Franchise player or a statistic machine? Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

We all know by now how good DeMarcus Cousins is. A double-double machine, a beast in the paint, can control the boards, and now, looks like he’s developing a three point shot. There’s no debate that he’s one of the top 10 players in the NBA today, and can put numbers on any given night. He’s also by far one, if not, the best Center the league has to offer.

But with all that said, is he a franchise player? A player who can get you to the Finals. Or is he just a case of a really good player, stat-stuffer, but all those stats doesn’t translate to wins?

Before he got drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2010, the team finished with a 25-57 record a year before. Enter Boogie, in his first year averaged 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and close to a block per game, in 43% shooting. They won 24 games that year, with Cousins playing 81 games, and starting 62. In his rookie year, they won 24 games, one less than last year, but as a rookie, there  was good things he showed to be optimistic.

His next 4 years, he has increased his numbers, improved his efficiency, and has turned into an All-Star in 2015-16. But the improvement in numbers have not translated in to wins. In those four years, Sacramento has averaged 26 wins, and was nowhere even close in the Playoffs. In his entire stint in Sacramento, he has improved his numbers in scoring, rebounding, efficiency and overall game, but he has NEVER had a team that won 30 games.

Another thing to look at is in 2013-14, he had some significant help. Help that could still not be enough to make the Playoffs, but is good enough to possibly reach 30-35 wins, but they won a merely 28 games. 28 victories, with 3 guys in the lineup scoring 20+ points per game, including him. Last year, him and Rudy Gay averaged in the 20’s in scoring, with Darren Collison and Ben McLemore averagin 16 and 12 respectively. In a sense, he again had enough help to atleast be reaching 35 games, but they one a lowly 29 games, his most wins in a season.

What’s even more glaring is that in his 5 years (not counting this season), only twice did he lead his team in win shares (13-14, 14-15), with former King and now Boston Celtic Isaiah Thomas leading the team in that regard in two consecutive years (11-12 and 12-13). In his All-Star year, his best year by far as a pro when he averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.7 blocks is when he once again led the league in Win Shares, tying with Rudy Gay

Now granted, that Cousins had a habit of missing a ton of games every year, with last year as the one where he missed the most in a season (his All-Star year). There’s also the idea of how dysfunctional the Sacramento franchise has been in his entire tenure. Coaches are coming and going. Terrible management (Thomas Robinson flopping, drafting Nik Stauskas over Elfrid Payton, Doug McDermott, letting Isaiah Thomas go) and playing for two different owners with two different philosophies, and both not being working so far. But with that said, Cousins still hasn’t looked the part of a guy who can carry a team to victory.

So that begs the question, is he a franchise player or just a stat-stuffer?




The title defense starts tonight. Photo courtesy of

The title defense starts tonight. Photo courtesy of

It’s the start of the season, which means it’s the first day of the title defense of the Golden State Warriors.

But all throughout the off season, the Dubs have been disrespected, mostly by rival teams and players as to how their title run was nothing more than just luck. Comments are coming in and out from the league as to how the path was easily paved for the Dubs to get into the Championship, and the most common of criticisms are the fact that their Finals opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, are dismantled with injuries. One more complain is that they did not play the San Antonio Spurs in the Playoffs, who lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, another team who has some beef with the Warriors. It even goes as far as saying Stephen Curry should not be the MVP.

It is easy to make the case that the Warriors had luck in that tournament on their way to receiving their Championship rings tonight, but to dismiss that it’s all luck is absurd.

The Warriors are the best team in the league last year, all out. They won their conference by 11 games. They are first in Offensive Efficiency, first in Defensive Efficiency, #1 in Effective FG%, first in Pace, and had a historical Points Differential, beating teams on an average 10.7 points, and Net Rating at 12 per 100 possessions, which is “the best regular season mark in any team for this century” (that quote is from New York Post article from Tim Bontempts). And that’s doing it with the reigning MVP Stephen Curry sitting out a lot of 4th quarters.

Last year’s Warriors are a historical best team, and while it’s easy to say they had luck winning it all last year, the numbers also suggest that they could easily win any series against any team you put against them. They’re not just good, they were an all time great team.

And while most championship teams can suffer from the champagne hangover, the league is not helping themselves by disrespecting these Warriors. The Warriors already knew the minute they won in Game 6 that they would need to validate their win. This is practically the same Warriors team that was historic last year, giving them more motivation is probably not the best of ideas. They’re coming in healthy, they are coming in trying to validate the win, and now, they’re coming in to prove the doubters they are wrong. And that’s a very dangerous team to mess with.

The title defense begins tonight, and expect the Warriors to come out swinging. And if the repeat isn’t good enough motivation to play good for now, proving everyone wrong should fill that fuel tank up.



Green runs deep, and could be deeper. Photo courtesy of

Green runs deep, and could be deeper. Photo courtesy of

It’s year number 3 of the Post Big Three Celtics, and either you call it a rebuild or something else, somehow, the gang green is always up to something, and this season, they just got even more interesting.

One thing they got as a crowning acquisition is Brad Stevens was hired 2 years ago, and quickly he has shown that he belongs in the NBA court when it comes to coaching. He finished 4th in the Coach of the Year balloting last year, and has given his Celtics squad a pace and space, share the ball identity.

But that’s not what makes the Boston Celtics an interesting team, it’s what they did last year, leading up to this year, and what they have. The Celtics turned their corner around last year after the All-Star break, posting a 20-11 record, 16-5 versus the Eastern Conference teams, catapulting them from a lottery team to the 7th seed in the Playoffs. In large part of that success was the acquisition of Isaiah Thomas, who gave them the necessary boost they needed in scoring and getting to the FT line. They did however got swept in the Playoffs by the eventual East Champions Cleveland Cavaliers, but for a team that had no All-Stars, they had such a good second half that the approach to this year’s season is very optimistic.

But still then, that’s not the only reason why they are the most interesting team in the league right now. What made it so is not only they are building from the success they had last year, but also what they have as a group.

The Celtics have no clear cut star, but they are literally 15 deep when it comes to quality NBA players. Everybody on the roster can play for any team in the league and can contribute. They have players who can defend, can shoot, can switch on defenses when needed. They just acquired Amir Johnson and David Lee, two veterans who can offer rim protection and inside scoring, respectively. They added 3 rookies who may not have star potential but could pan out to be quality players in their own right. RJ Hunter, the most promising of them all, is showing he can hit threes on a deadly basis, Terry Rozier is as quick a PG as any of them, and is showing a pit bull attitude on defense. Jordan Mickey could be undersized, but his activity on the board and shot blocking could offer an extra set of rim protection.

As they are, they could easily contend for the bottom half of the Playoff seeds. Another year of Isaiah Thomas, upgrades on defense and a deep team is something not every other team in the East can boast. They made the Playoffs while having that great run in the second half of the season, it’s very likely they could continue with that success starting this year.

But the big thing that makes them intriguing, is these same guys that made the run, the players they acquired this year, along with a plethora of draft picks they received from various deals (one of them being a sweet unprotected 2016 1st rounder from the Nets), they are in PRIME position to acquire that star player they so desperately looking for since they started the rebuild in 2013. David Lee’s big contract expires next year, as well as Amir Johnson’s un-guaranteed contract for next year, a great trade chip for teams trying to shed some salaries. They have young, NBA rotation players in Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Evan Turner, Avery Bradley who can put solid production every night. They have the young rookies with promise. They have Isaiah Thomas who’s on a very friendly contract and can drop 20 a night. They could easily form a package that could be unmatched by other teams to acquire an All-Star, especially if that star wants out of his current team (looking at you DeMarcus Cousins), if not maybe 2 of them.

As constructed, they are already a tough team to beat. But they also are in prime position to completely shake the balance of power in the East with just one trade. They don’t have the top heavy talent, but they have quality players, they have promising rookies, they have draft picks, they have enticing contracts. They are quite possibly the most flexible team in the NBA to do major things this year.

They don’t always get this interesting, but when they do, you get these Boston Celtics.



Got an uptick in the 2K ratings, but is he really good for Miami? NBAE/Getty Images

Got an uptick in the 2K ratings, but is he really good for Miami? NBAE/Getty Images

Hassan Whiteside has been the revelation of the league last year. Being drafted in 2010 by Sacramento, and has been bouncing in and out of the league, he has found a home in Miami with the Heat, and has found the starting Center spot unless things change.

But how will he really fit this Miami Heat team should be one of the biggest focus for the Heat this coming season. Coming in his 2nd year with Miami, there’s plenty of questions as to if he’s a good piece for the Heat to contend or not.

One of those questions is what he really brings to the table. He averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and an impressive 26.26 PER last season in 48 games. A bit of a small sample size, but impressive numbers. His block numbers per game are at the top of the league. He’s got better PER numbers than LeBron James, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin. He’s also a solid rim protector as the numbers suggest. He’s 18th in FG% allowed at rim, allowing 46%. But with those numbers, he’s one of the worst in  real plus/minus stat at 0.64, ranking him 122nd among the entire NBA. He’s also a negative in Offensive Real Plus/Minus at -0.96, ranking him at a lowly 245th.

So while his putting up Fantasy League numbers, his contributions on the court to help the team out looks very little, offensively, the Heat also have a better Defensive Rating as a team overall with him sitting on the bench at 106 (108 when he’s on the floor).

And that’s not accounting his brushes on the court with suspensions, lack of focus and some immaturity woes. It begs the question. Is Hassan Whiteside really good for the Heat. The numbers could be impressive, posting double doubles and swatting shots here and there, but he’s looking like a net negative when he’s on the floor. Now granted that he played without Chris Bosh and what is a much inferior team than he will be playing with this year. Now his rim protection is very valuable, but if he’s going to be a net negative offensively when he’s on the court, would that be a good trade off? He can grab the boards, but he can be volatile on certain situations and could cost the team more than just a technical foul. Is Hassan Whiteside really good for the Heat? And add to it that this is his contract year, this is a very interesting story that will unravel in the season.



Heavy Favorites. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

Heavy Favorites. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report has released an article in which they have surveyed every GM in the league and asked them who they think will win the NBA Championship this season. (full link to article at end of commentary)
More than half of them seems to believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers will take the crown this year, polling at 53.6%. The San Antonio Spurs are coming in second at 25%, then the Golden State Warriors at 17.9% and rounding up the top four will be the Oklahoma City Thunder at 4%.

It’s hard to argue about their reasoning as to why. The Cavs went to Game 6 in the Finals, all while missing two All-Stars against a full forced, all healthy Warriors team. While it’s not a fad that the Warriors won the title, as they have been the best team all season, posting historical numbers. it’s also easy to see as to why a lot of people think Cleveland would have the best shot of winning it this year, despite a the Warriors having the same winning core, and a great retooling business did by the Spurs.

Above all else, the Cavs still sport arguably the best player in the game at the moment. With Kevin Love being back ,they’ll be very deep in the front court rotation, and could offer anything match-up wise. Adding Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson doesn’t really move the needle as much, but it’s enough to give Cleveland a boost in the bench, with the two players still capable of putting good production.  We’re also facing what could be contract years for Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson (unless he signs a new deal), both would be playing for a big payday, so both are expected to give it all on the court.

There’s also little competition in the East to get thru. Miami is looking like the prime player to take out the Cavs from the East, with Chicago not far behind, but they will have an easier route to the Finals than the Thunder, Warriors or Spurs, who all could potentially have to go through one or both to get to the Championship.

There’s now big expectations for the Cavs, but as long as their big three, who had a very good first season together and now coming into their second, stays healthy, them being a favorite to win it all is a no brainer.

( survey link)


We also start a season of our own. Image courtesy of user Platinum

We also start a season of our own. Image courtesy of user Platinum

For some of us, the start of a new year also means a start of a new Fantasy League Year.

Admit it, we all have about two to three, maybe more leagues we join and either if it’s for cash, trophies or just absolute bragging rights, you always want to go on top in your Fantasy League. It can be stressful, and it can be rewarding at the same time. And like the rest of us, we put in a ton of work, research and detail in every selection, every strategy and every scenarios we could think of to ensure victory, but that’s the beauty of it.

Here in Up and In, we’ll give you some mostly opinionated, but highly recommended suggestions to get that advantage over the other GM’s who ready to take your head and beat you to the ground. Remember that above all else, this is a competition, and you want to get any advantage possible to be on the top at the end of the year.

Here’s our little “Tips and Tricks” to help your Fantasy Team be the best there is.

Sometimes, quantity trumps quality.

You want to pick a player, especially in the first 2 rounds, that could check multiple boxes on the stat sheet. While this should be common sense, it’s easy to be aroused with the fact that Carmelo Anthony would drop 25 points in a game, maybe make two 3 pointers, or a guy like Rudy Gobert who can rebound and block shots and select them over a guy like Draymond Green, who may not score as much as Melo, but would provide more numbers in other statistical categories like rebounds, blocks, steals and less turnovers.

Remember that you’re trying to win every box every week, so you may want to start your first two rounds with guys who may not be dominant one or two things, but puts numbers in every category there is on a good level.

Contract years are Fantasy steals waiting to happen.

He could play for a big payday, which means big numbers. AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

He could play for a big payday, which means big numbers. AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Players tend to perform much better than they did before when they have a year left on their contract. While Kevin Durant will give you everything you may want, players like Rajon Rondo, Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert, Mike Conley, among other names, will definitely push their games to higher ceilings for a chance of getting another big payday.

Track on contracts, see who’s getting some playing time and gauge on whether or not you want to take a flier on these guys in the mid rounds. They’re going to at least try and play better, and with that, comes the numbers.

Get a Point Guard in the first 3 rounds.

Above all else, a starting PG would contribute in points, assists, steals and boost your FT%. With a plethora of PG’s missing time in the season opener, strike early and fast.

Add to it that top quality Point Guards are rare in the league today, the spot would be very slim pickings in the 4th round or onwards. Getting a Point Guard right away would already set your team for any strategy you may want to do moving forward.

Versatility could be handy.

Do your homework in finding players who not only stuff the stat sheet, but can be slotted in multiple positions. If picking up a player who can play PF and C is giving up a few points and a couple of rebounds per game than picking a player who’s an exclusive PF, it’s worth it.

There are many games in the NBA, and injuries and/or long weeks of no games can occur, it’s simple science to have versatile players who can be slotted in multiple positions to cover ground in case you need it.

If Rudy Gay is still available in the late 3rd to early 4th round, GET HIM!

Yep, he's a stat stuffer, you just rarely notice. USA TODAY SPORTS

Yep, he’s a stat stuffer, you just rarely notice.

This is BY FAR, the best insider tip Up and In will give. We’re talking about a VERY UNDERRATED Fantasy Player. This is a guy who 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 45% FG, 1-3 3PT (35% 3PT), 1 steal per game and played 68 games last year. Those numbers are warranted to be a late 1st to 2nd round selection, and the only reason he’s being overlooked is because he’s playing for the Sacramento Kings, who have been a bad team for the last few years.

He’s going to be a good value pick in the 2nd round. If he lasted in the 3rd or 4th round in your draft, you should HEAVILY consider him as your next pick.

Stockpile on sleepers.

There could be really good value picks in the mid rounds that could land in your hands. Consider having a list of sleeper players like Monta Ellis, who’s playing for a team who desperately needs scoring. David Lee, who could be having another double-double year for Boston, and even players like CJ McCollum, Jarrett Jack, Otto Porter, Roy Hibbert, among other names, who will now have bigger roles to fill for their squads, in turn could get some upticks in their production.

Do your research, look for players who’s taking over roles left by other players who moved to other teams. Players who will have a bigger role due to injury or good players who are playing on terrible teams. Look at them and have a list of those guys as they could be available in the mid rounds for you to steal.

Don’t sleep on Kobe Bryant.

Kobe averaged 22/5/5 last year before going down. Who's to say he can't do it again? Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe averaged 22/5/5 last year before going down. Who’s to say he can’t do it again? Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

He maybe ranked 93rd on ESPN’s top players, and could be ranked in the mid rounds in most fantasy rankings, don’t sleep on the Black Mamba.

He may not offer as much in efficiency and may add to Turnovers, but in the 3rd to 5th rounds, it’s valuable to have a player who can get 20 a game while giving you about 4-05 in each assists and rebound categories. He’ll shoot a good percentage from the FT line and could contribute to about 2 three’s per game. I

The tricky part here is his health. It could be by far the biggest risk. But with better teammates than last year, and a duo of young, developing guards in Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russel, expect to have Kobe Bryant miss some games due to rest and not injuries. If you have two stat stuffers set on your first two rounds, he’s good value at the 3rd round, and obviously even better onwards. Some say it will be a reach, but if you’re getting a 20/5/5 1 3PT and 1 steal per game, it’s a reach worth taking, even if he’s shooting 40%,

There you have it. It’s a few things, but it could make a difference between being a lottery pick next year to being a top seed in your league. Happy drafting!




Will he stay healthy? Photo courtesy of

Aren’t we all excited for the next season to come? It’s about a week away. And waiting for a week, we have lingering questions we want answered. We can’t have all of them answered, but we here in Up and In will give you some of it, to cure the itch of waiting.

Appreciate to the folks who posted their questions. Here’s all of the ones we got.

What’s your take on the Tristan Thompson and Harrison Barnes situation?

Seems like both teams are not willing to overpay for their players who were good parts of their success, but is asking for money that is more than what they are worth, production wise.

Tristan Thompson in the end, may end up getting the money is asking for. He may get overpaid, but as explained in the very first post Up and In this season, Timofey Mozgov may end up asking for more money, and Cleveland would just rather invest in a young player who can play Center and still has potential to get better.

As with Harrison Barnes, rejecting a $64 million offer from the Warriors is a risky bet to make. He’s going to have to play on a much better level if he thinks he’s worth more than the money that was put on the table. And it’s likely that the Warriors will just let him go, via trade, if he wants more dollars. The Warriors are cap railed in the upcoming seasons, with Steph Curry lined up for what could be a massive extension in 2 years, along with trying to keep Free Agents in Mareeses Speights, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli all set up to be needed to retain as well. Barnes will be the odd man out if he’s going to demand more dollars. The idea of slotting Andre Iguodala and developing young guys in James Michael McAdoo and 2015 first round pick Kevon Looney to replace Barnes as the athletic combo forward makes it even easier the let Harrison go if they can’t come up with an agreement.

Who’s going to be MVP?

If the Pelicans win 50 games, you’re looking at Anthony Davis. But if they don’t, the race will be down to LeBron James, James Harden along with Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the outside looking in.

Will Miami Heat be the #1 seed in the East?

They certainly have the talent and the bench to do so, but it’s hard to trust their health concerns. Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside should stay healthy unless there’s an accident on the court. But Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng has history of missing games.

Add to it that the competition against the Cleveland Cavaliers for that number #1 seed would still be fierce, healthy or not. The verdict is no, but they could just miss the #1 seed by about 2-3 games. It’s possible, but we’ll put it as a no. 2nd seed is very likely.

Will this be the last season for Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan?

No for Tim Duncan. He signed for two years, there’s no reason other than injury for him to not play that out.

As for Kobe Bryant, he’s a winner. And if he stays healthy all year and miss the playoffs (or make it but get an early exit), expect him to come back for another year. He’s not going down losing.

Can the Los Angeles Clippers win the NBA title?

There’s tough competition against the Warriors, the Spurs and the Rockets in that Conference. They did bolster their bench kept the core that won 56 games last year. But what does Paul Pierce have left? Which Lance Stephenson will we get? Will Josh Smith be inconsistent once? Will Jamal Crawford bounce back after a very inefficient last year. And do we expect regression from Chris Paul, who’s now in his 30’s?

With those many questions, it’s tough to pick them as a title favorite. So, the answer is possible, but likely no. They definitely have the talent, the structure and the star power, but to many if’s needs to be answered first, and that’s never good for betting on a team making the title run.

Is Bobby Portis the still of the draft?

There’s an 8/10 chance that he could be. He may not get enough playing time to showcase his skills, as he’s playing behind Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic and even possibly Taj Gibson. But the pre-season has showed us his motor, his tenacity on the boards and his skill set which he showed he can shoot three’s, grab offensive boards and run the floor well. He has the potential to be a good 15/8 guy, but we won’t see it this year. In the next year or two, when he gets his floor time, there’s a very high possibility that we could say he’s the biggest steal of the ’15 Draft.

What’s your take on Rashad Vaughn, Myles Turner?

Rashad Vaughn is a project. He’s got the shooting skill to thrive in the NBA, and the athleticims to develop into a classic 3 and D player, but he’s a long way to go to being that.

Myles Turner has showed good promise in the Summer League, and should contribute right away for the Pacers. Potentially, he could be a double-double guy if he develops well. He’s got a great skill set for a big guy, especially being able to shoot. His ceiling has to be around a guy who can drop around 14 points, grab 7 rebounds, be a stretch big and block a shot or two.

What’s your take on the Monta Ellis – Paul George combo in Indiana?

Monta Ellis is a blessing for the Pacers, who had struggled to score. Paul George will not have to carry the load offensively on his own anymore, and with Monta being able to pass as well, they could be a very good combo in the East. May not be enough to reach the Playoffs, but would be a great combo that fits well together.

What’s your take on the Sacramento Kings and that mess, and can you fix it?

This is going to be a long response.

The Kings have sported a squad that has full of talent. On paper, those players could contend for a Playoff spot. A core of Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins could easily win 30 games. They have a deep bench in Marco Bellineli, Darren Collison, Kosta Koufos. Another year of Ben McLemore who had a decent season last year and slowly developing into a good wing player. Add first round pick Willy Cauley-Stein to add rim protection. So that team has the talent.

The problem is fit and personalities. Rondo is known to have a mind of his own. DeMarcus Cousins can be volatile, and who knows how well they get along with Head Coach George Karl, let alone get along with Rondo, who may have the ball in his hands most of the possession. Three 7 footers that play the same position, one All-Star, one is a rookie who needs time to develop, and one who’s a solid starter, and a great backup. They’re all going to get minutes, but they all won’t fit together, and will clog the lanes for each other.

To fix it… Well… It’s going to be a tough fix. It could help if WCS can learn how to shoot from 18-20 feet to provide spacing. He can defend quick PF’s with his athleticism, but his limited offense will clog the paint for Cousins to be able to beast his way inside. Rondo and the others need to gel together, and know that Rondo will be ball dominant. Trade maybe? But who?

Kings have the talent, but are a tight mess that needs smoothing.

Is the low-post back-to-the-basket big man going extinct or is he just on a break?

It has went away for the past few years, but Jahlil Okafor, along with Brook Lopez and DeMarcus Cousins should bring back the back to basket big man. Will it be successful in this new pace and space NBA remains to be seen.

Is the 2013 draft class better than we thought?

By a bit. Victor Oladipo has lived to the his hype so far. Nerlens Noel is showing what he could do, especially defensively. Otto Porter is developing rather well, and could be the SF of the future for the Wizards. Giannis Antetokounmpo is showing massive potential. Dennis Schroeder looks good as a PG, and still has upside. And Rudy Gobert is a heavy DPOY candidate.

For a Draft Class who a lot thought would have zero to no All-Stars. we’re probably looking at about 3 future ones. We still have to see with the rest, but it looked much better than everyone thought.

Is the 2014 draft class worse then we thought?

Andrew Wiggins looks like a superstar in the making. We’ve yet to see what Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid can do. Aaron Gordon is developing rather well. Marcus Smart is on his second year and already he’s being considered a really good defender. TJ Warren, Jusuf Nurkic and Doug McDermott are lined up for bigger roles in their teams. And even second round picks in Jordan Clarkson and KJ McDaniels are putting good production for their teams. There’s potential for Nikola Jokic to be really good.

There’s a big hype for this Draft Class, and it’s safe to say it’s living up to it so far. May take a while to produce the All-Stars, but it’s more when that if.

Which non-lottery pick from the 2015 draft class will be the biggest difference maker?

This can go back to the Bobby Portis question, as he has the tools to be the biggest steal of the draft if given playing time. But three other names could become great contributors for their teams that were not picked in the lottery.

Justin Anderson of the Dallas Mavericks comes to mind. With Wesley Mathews being out for a period of time, he could slot in at the SG/SF spot right away. A player who can shoot and defend, he can showcase his skills right away, and is a perfect fit for that Dallas system.

Don’t be surprised if Jerian Grant get some minutes. The Knicks PG situation is bleak with Jose Calderon the only one having any real value. Grant can provide good defense, while being unselfish. The Knicks could use more defense.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could be a defensive difference for the Brooklyn Nets as well. The kid is athletic, with high motor and loves to play defense. In his limited time, he’ll be tenacious on the ball, at the very least.

Watch those three names.

Mudiay or Russell, who will have the better rookie season?

It’s Emmanuel Mudiay. He’ll have much more free reign, therefore could post better numbers than D’Angelo Russell, who could also have a good season.

Mudiay is a prime candidate for ROY, he should have the better season just because he’ll get more touches, more chances to show his individual talents more than Russell.

Can the Bulls get over the hump? Can Derrick Rose stay healthy.

With a new coaching system, it’s hard to gauge what the Bulls can do. They definitely have the talent to oust the reigning East Champions, but their main concern is, once again, health. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol have had lingering injuries in the last few years, and they are two of the main cogs for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler should miss less time now that his playing minutes should decrease, but his wing mate Mike Dunleavy is still questionable.

And then there’s Derrick Rose. Who’s to say he won’t break anything else? Expect limited minutes from Rose from the beginning, to ease him in. As for him staying healthy, it’s a total crapshoot, but he will miss some games, maybe double digits, but mainly because of rest and rehab. Him being hurt again, let’s hope that’s not the case.

So, will they get over Cleveland? If everyone is healthy, the Bulls are technically a deeper team than the Cavs, and should win a 7 game series against them. They have a LeBron defender in Jimmy Butler, they can defend as a unit, has a ton of range on offense too. They can beat the Cavs, they just have to be healthy.

Are the New York Knicks kind of sneaky good this year?

The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo. If they’re going to be sneaky good, those three better play like All-Stars this season. Kristaps Porzingis is a mystery, but don’t expect great numbers right away. What else can Jose Calderon can offer? And a bench of Sasha Vujacic, Langston Galloway, Lou Amundson, Derrick Williams, Kyle O’Quinn would do wonders either.

It’ll be the surprise of the season if they become a top 6 seed in the East.

Who can make it to his first All-Star bid?

The obvious answer is Kawhi Leonard. The reigning DPOY should be an All-Star this year, should be. Others in consideration will be Monta Ellis, Draymond Green, Nikola Vucevic, and Mike Conley.

Your Finals prediction is?

Cavaliers vs Rockets.

While I said that the Bulls can beat the Cavs, I don’t trust them being healthy. The Rockets on the other hand, needs to be healthy on their own right, but I trust them to keep fit more. They are deep, they can defend, they can shoot, and they have a scorer who can torch anyone on the league. If they are healthy, they’ll win the West. And LeBron will carry his Cavs team to the East.

Cleveland and Houston are your NBA Finals.

Thanks to everyone who posted the questions. This content is your content. Let’s get excited for the season to start, eh?