Steph Curry has came back from injury with one of his best seasons as a pro

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As we're just over a week away from seeing the new play-in format the NBA has decided to go with this season, it means that teams are vying to be in the top 10 in their respective conferences to keep their postseason dreams alive.

We have seen LeBron James make public statements opposing the new format even though it was unanimously approved by the NBA Board of Governors last year. It's understandable that James would have negative feelings about the new format as his Lakers have struggled throughout the season as both him and superstar teammate, Anthony Davis, have dealt with injuries which have caused them to miss significant time.


The Lakers are currently in the seventh spot in the west which puts them in line to host the Golden State Warriors in one of the Western Conference play-in games. This is an exciting matchup for fans, but it would put LeBron and the Lakers directly in the sights of MVP frontrunner Steph Curry.

Steph who missed most of last season with an injury is epitomizing what it means to have a comeback season and has overtaken Bradley Beal for the league lead in points per game, now averaging 31.9 on the year. He also leads the NBA in three pointers made by a wide margin. Curry has 324 made threes which is 55 more than Buddy Hield who comes in at second place currently with 269.

It's not that the Warriors are a more difficult matchup than what would've been the Lakers' first round opponent in a traditional format where they would have just faced the two seed in the first round, that's not the case.

That would put the Lakers right up against the Phoenix Suns who have shocked the basketball world all season behind the play of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

It's that now, there is a very real chance that we may see a team that has the likes of LeBron James, AD, and a handful of all-stars not making it into the postseason. This is a very bad look for the King if it were to happen. So it's possible that his recent negative comments about the new format is in a way, him doing some preemptive PR in the event that Los Angeles does have to participate in the play-in games and they don't make it past that round.

If the standings remain the same at the end of the regular season and we get a Lakers and Warriors play-in game, it makes for an interesting matchup as the Lakers boast the league's best defensive rating (tied with the 76'ers) but have struggled to get any of their scorers in sustained stretches of success. The Warriors on the other hand lead the league in assists which has always been a staple of the Steve Kerr led team. It would make for an excellent example of what wins between isolation offense and team ball.

Looking over to the Eastern Conference there is another team lurking to steal a playoff spot and disrupt some plans in the early rounds of the playoffs. The Washington Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the league since early April. That's when Bradley Beal returned from a nine game absence. With a full compliment of Beal, Russell Westbrook, and Daniel Gafford available the Wizards are a dangerous team, especially in a play-in game format.

The only problem for the Wizards is that news has come out that Beal may miss the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury. MRI's came back negative for any significant damage, but it's enough that he's being held out for the next few games until there's a chance to have further analysis done. That's not to say he wouldn't be back in time for a potential play-in game or the playoffs, but the team will monitor his situation with caution as he is the catalyst for the team's long term success.

If Beal is ready to go however we recently saw Washington go on a 15-4 run since April 7 and there may not be two players in the league that play with a bigger chip on their shoulder than Bradley Beal and Russ. By adding an athletic big man that can get to the rim in Gafford, the Wizards have just enough ammunition to make the top contenders in the east very nervous.

The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

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The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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Julio Jones is trying to force his way out of Atlanta

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The NFL's all-time leader in receiving yardage per game is looking for a new home.

Five time all-pro, Julio Jones, stated on FS1's Undisputed earlier this week that he was "out" of Atlanta and that his only focus on where he wants to play next year includes winning. This corroborates with reports back in April as Ian Rapoport indicated the Falcons were receiving calls for their star receiver prior to the NFL Draft.

It's no surprise that Jones wants out considering the Falcons have only made the playoffs once since their Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Jones is 32 now and coming off a season where nagging injuries kept him off the field for all but nine games in 2020. In those games Jones caught 51 balls for 771 yards while adding three touchdowns. Having only reached double-digit touchdowns once in his career in 2012, the volume and yardage have always been Julio's strengths. A lack of availability would certainly hurt his chances to be a major contributor for any title-contender.

According to SportsLine, the teams with the best odds to land Jones are as follows as of May 28, 2021.

  • Patriots +200
  • 49ers +300
  • Titans +400
  • Raiders +600
  • Ravens +700
  • Chargers +900
  • Colts +1000
  • Packers +1200
  • Dolphins +1400
  • Jaguars +1500
  • Cowboys +2000

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The Nets big 3 are set for a finals run.

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The play-ins have been a short, but wild rollercoaster and the playoffs are getting ready to set off.

The seeds are finally set, and the first-round matchups are 76ers(1) vs Wizards(8), Nets(2) vs Celtics(7), Bucks(3) vs Heat(6), and Knicks(4) vs Hawks(5).



76ers vs Wizards:

The Russell Westbrook-Joel Embiid rivalry will continue during this year's playoffs and fans cannot wait. The Wizards finished the season with a 16-6 record, and after a lackluster start this season, they have made themselves a dangerous 8th seed. While the 76ers didn't finish the season hot, I'm sure with a team-full of veterans, rest was more of a priority. The 76ers beat the Wizards three times during the season, but two of those games were very close and came early in the season.

The Wizards can definitely make this series a challenging one for the 76ers. The Wizards have shooters all around with Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans. But the 76ers have a much deeper team with guys like Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Dwight Howard providing good veteran leadership. The Wizards are riding on the health of Bradley Beal, who has dealt with hamstring tightness in the past two weeks.



Nets vs Celtics:

The Nets finally seem to be healthy just in time for the playoffs, which is dangerous for Boston. Although the Nets big three only played eight games together, the Nets still finished with a 48-24. The Nets also have a great mix of reliable veterans like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Joe Harris. These two teams meet three times during the regular season with Brooklyn taking all three games.

The Celtics have not lived up to expectations this year. After making a conference finals last year, it was expected to carry through the regular season, but they never found their stride. Jaylen Brown will continue to be sidelined with a broken wrist, so most of the load will be carried by Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. I see this series being an easy one for the Nets.



Bucks vs Heat:

A rematch of the heated second-round matchup last year, where the Heat upset Milwaukee, who had Giannis dealing with injuries. Interestingly enough, both of these come to the playoffs on the right side with an 8-2 record in their last 10 regular-season games. Giannis is back with more weapons on his sides like Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker, and Jeff Teague, while also keeping their core from last year. Giannis had had another MVP-type season averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds.

The Miami Heat started the season off slow, probably because of the NBA finals hangover, but got hot after the all-star break. Miami also acquired many new weapons like Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon. The Jimmy Butler-Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup will be the most important aspect of this series.

Knicks vs Hawks

After what seems like a lifetime drought, the Knicks are finally back in the playoffs! We can all agree that when the Knicks are good, the league is in better spirits. Tom Thibodeau has turned this team around, and you can't forget about how Julius Randle has been playing this season. Possibly the most improved player, Julius Randle has proved all his doubters wrong and has taken the keys to this Knicks franchise. The Knicks have great veteran leadership with guys like Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson who are familiar with Thibodeau. They also have great young talent with guys like RJ Barret, and Obi Toppin.

The Hawks on the other hand have turned it around since firing Lloyd Pierce and having Nate McMillan made this team do a complete 180. Trae Young and John Collins are one of the best duos in the league. With guys like Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic who can get hot at any point of the game. This series can definitely go to 7 games, with last-second shots determining the outcome.