The two Cinderella teams of NBA PLAYOFFS 2018
This is the favorite time of the year for all basketball fans, as the NBA PLAYOFFS 2018 are here. This season has been full of ups and downs with a lot of drama during the Free Agency window and the craziest trade deadline the NBA has seen in a decade. A lot of teams this season have revamped their roster to challenge the mighty Big Four of the Golden State Warriors.
One of the teams that were affected the most were the Utah Jazz (48-34). They lost their franchise player, Gordan Hayward, to free agency. Jazz fans felt betrayed by him, and the franchise had no option but to go for rebuilding even though they had some solid players in Rudy Gobert and newly signed point guard, Ricky Rubio. Almost everyone wrote off the Jazz's chances of making the playoffs.
After receiving communication about Hayward’s free agency decision, the team decided to trade Trey Lyles and the No. 24 pick overall to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for the No. 13 pick overall, to select Donovan Mitchell. It seemed like a decent trade and a decent pick going at that time but little did they know that they had selected the steal of the 2017 NBA draft.
As the summer league began, it was clear that Mitchell was an NBA-ready prospect. He is a 6’3" shooting guard with a massive wingspan of 6’10; he plays gritty defense, and he was projected to be a 3 and D type player. But as the season went on, it was rather clear that he can do much more than shoot threes and play defense.
He is the first rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011 to have multiple 40-point games this season. Apart from Mitchell, they also traded for another defensive minded player in Jae Crowder mid-season giving them a starting line up of Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Jae Crowder, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert.
In scoring, they are led by Mitchell who is averaging 20.5 points per game, also getting 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds. In rebounds and blocks, they are lead by Gobert who is recording 10.7 rebounds per game and blocking 2.3 shots per game. He is also recording 13.5 points a game.
Apart from Mitchell and Gobert, this team has some sturdy role players like Ingles and Rubio. Ingles is averaging 12 points per game along with 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 47% from the field and an efficient 44% from the three-point line, while Rubio is averaging 13.1 points per game along with 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
As a team, they have an offensive rating of 108.4, which is 16th in the league and a defensive rating of 103.9 which is the second best in the league. They force a lot of turnovers as they get 8.6 steals per game, with an opponent turnover percentage of 14.9% per 100 possessions.
This Jazz season took twists and turns which was imaginable by very few. Preseason analysis labeled Jazz as a defensive machine, but offensively they were projected to be one of the worst teams. But with Mitchell breaking out in his rookie year and Joe Ingles stepping his game up, they somehow managed to get the 5th seed in a very tough Western Conference.
The other Cinderella team to surprise everyone in the basketball world are the Philadelphia 76ers (52-30). They finished the season with 16 straight wins, becoming the first NBA team to close out the season with such a winning streak. After missing out on the playoffs for the last several years, adhering to Sam Hinkie's philosophy, "Trust the Process," is finally reaping rich dividends.
With the emergence of their star center Joel Embiid, and the Lebron-like rookie Ben Simmons, the Sixers have emerged as a dark horse candidate to make the Finals from the Eastern Conference. That LeBron may not make his 8th successive Finals series in a row is a very real possibility.
The Sixers have all the pieces it takes to be the best in the modern NBA. In Joel Embiid, they have an All-Star center who can space the floor with his three-point range and can score on the post at any given night. He averaged a team-high 22.9 points per game while shooting 48.5% from the field during the regular season. He is a monster on the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds per game and is also a good shot blocker, swatting almost two blocks every game.
Their point guard, Ben Simmons, is capable of doing a little bit of everything. Despite not having a jump shot, he can score at will - he averaged 15.8 points per game. He is a good defender, rebounder (8.1 rebounds per game) and has excellent court vision (8.2 assists per game), which helps him to find his teammates open at the right time.
They have also surrounded their star players with more and more shooters such as JJ Redick, who had a career year averaging 17.1 points while shooting 46.2% from the field and 42% from the three-point line. Marco Belinelli, who is a great spot-up shooter, was a shrewd addition from the waiver market.
Other players include Robert Covington, an excellent 3-and-D player, along with a few solid role players like Amir Johnson, Dario Saric, TJ Mcconnell, Ersan Ilyasova, and their No.1 pick of the 2018 NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, who recently became the youngest player to record a triple-double at 19 years.
They had an offensive rating of 109.8 points per game with a FG% of 47% and shoot a decent 37.2% from the three-point line, also grabbing a league-leading 47.2 rebounds per game. Their defensive rating is decent, as they allow only 105 points per game, also forcing 12.6 turnovers per 100 possessions.
The race in the Eastern Conference is wide open, as the Raptors are known for choking in the playoffs, while the Cavs have been unable to find their rhythm all season long. It is the Sixers' balance as a team that makes them so dangerous and a dark horse candidate to reach the NBA finals of the 2017-2018 season and being such a young team, they are a force to be reckoned with, in the future.