Despite having a relatively quiet offseason, the Houston Rockets are on track to be another serious contender in the loaded Western Conference. The team’s main issue last season was their inability to find any offense when James Harden wasn’t controlling the tempo – most of which could be alleviated with a healthy Dwight Howard. The move that the Rockets made that could have a serious impact on their future is the buy low trade of Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets. With Lawson’s ability to run the pick-and-roll effectively – assuming his non-basketball related issues are resolved – the Rockets could be a serious contender once again.
Blake Griffin’s improvement from a YouTube Hall-of-Famer for his dunks on unsuspecting big men to a player capable of improving the Clippers’ record while Chris Paul was injured has been astonishing to witness over the past few seasons. Although Griffin’s mid-range shot has improved, it still follows finishing around the rim, play-making, rebounding and possibly a few more attributes which makes Griffin nearly impossible to guard. Chris Paul may be the best player on the Clippers’ roster, but the team’s championship aspirations lie on the improvement of Blake Griffin.
With the news of Dante Exum’s injury still fresh on the minds of Jazz fans, there is still hope for the team to make the playoffs this season. Although Alec Burks has never been asked to be a pass-first player in the NBA, he has shown the ability to create off the dribble, and could be an effective replacement for the young Jazz. Exum has the potential to be a very good player when he recovers from his injury, and he was a very good defender last season for the team, but the Jazz’s playoff hopes will rely on another year of improvement from Derrick Favors (24), Gordon Hayward (25), Rudy Gobert (23) and Alec Burks (24).
Rajon Rondo is an excellent distributor that can still be effective in the right situation, but whether Sacramento can be the right situation is up for debate. Cousins is a high-usage player that likes to operate with the ball in his hands, and Rondo is a pass-first guard but one that likes to survey the situation for a large portion of the shot clock. Rondo seems to “hunt” for assists – he has a tendency to avoid passing to a player unless he has an opportunity to make a shot – and Cousins may not appreciate the decline in usage due to the addition of Rondo.
In a way that only 76ers’ fans can appreciate, a post on a possible top draft pick of the 2016 draft (approximately 10 months from now) draws interest. However, this is not a normal post on a prospect as Skal Labissiere – I don’t know how to say it either – has had a different past few years than the average prospect. In January of 2010, Labissiere and his family were living in Haiti when an earthquake destroyed their home. The catastrophe forced Labissiere to rehab for two months in order to have the same mobility as he did before the accident. Whether or not Labissiere has the ability to become a top player in the NBA has yet to be seen, but it’s clear he’s not lacking in mental strength.