Western Conference Opening Round

1. Houston Rockets vs. 8. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Houston Rockets have been the NBA’s best team in 2017-18, and they should be almost impervious to any first-round matchups. Drawing the Minnesota Timberwolves is the least appealing option out of the candidates that existed during the season’s final week, but James Harden and Co. cheap nfl jerseys china still match up nicely against their opening foes.

Even with Jimmy Butler back on the court, the T-Wolves aren’t a great defensive team. They allow 105.1 points per 100 possessions when he’s logging minutes (the best mark of any rotation member), but that would still be just the No. 12 defensive rating in the season-long standings. Plus, Butler isn’t going to play 48 minutes per game throughout an entire postseason series, despite Tom Thibodeau’s enduring presence as Minnesota’s head coach. authentic nfl jerseys

A team with defense as its primary weakness isn’t going to topple the top-seeded juggernaut that’s climbed to its perch on the shoulders of historic offensive efforts. Harden and Chris Paul are going to have a field day, easily overcoming the absence of Luc Mbah a Moute as he tries to recover from a dislocated shoulder in time for the second round.nfl jerseys wholesale

Prediction: Rockets in five.b10b7f075e280e5ea410090f87232ccd_crop_exact

2. Golden State Warriors vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs

Watching the Golden State Warriors over the last few weeks, you get the sense they’re just biding their time and waiting to flip the proverbial switch at the most opportune moment. Injuries have decimated their rotation at times, but they still boast the services of three healthy wholesale nfl jerseys All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Beyond that, their bench is filled with useful veterans who understand their roles, as well as some high-upside youngsters. nfl jerseys china

But the Dubs aren’t the same without Stephen Curry, who isn’t likely to be available for this first-round clash with the San Antonio Spurs. On the season, they’ve notched a 2.9 net rating sans their star point guard (easily the worst mark on the roster), and that dropped to minus-2.7 since his second-to-last injury on March 8.

This is concerning. The defending champions are vulnerable until their floor general returns, no matter how impressive nfl jerseys from china Quinn Cook has been while capitalizing on this unforeseen opportunity.

However, the Spurs aren’t suited to pull off the upset. Head coach Gregg Popovich will milk as much production from his troops as humanly possible, but San Antonio is outclassed without Kawhi Leonard. It overachieved throughout the season with a roster filled of middling talents and downward-trending veterans, but it now has to deal with its leading offensive star (LaMarcus Aldridge) lining up against Golden State’s premier individual stopper (Green).

Moritz Wagner, Michigan

What he’s done: Michigan’s leading scorer during the regular season, Moritz Wagner has seen his production drop a bit with opponents collapsing the defense on him inside. The 6’10” junior forward is averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on 47.4 percent shooting, compared to 14.3 points (52.4 percent shooting) and 6.9 rebounds for the year.

Why he’s here: Wagner has still been integral to the Wolverines’ run to the Final Four, particularly on the defensive end, as Michigan has held its foes to 59 points per game and 37.9 percent shooting. He’s blocked just one shot, but opponents have made only 42.6  nfl jersey percent of their two-pointers and many of those makes came when Wagner wasn’t on the court.

What to expect: Wagner will need to avoid the foul trouble that has plagued him in the tournament, having committed 15 fouls in 110 minutes. Loyola doesn’t have anyone to match up with him inside, though, so as long as he defends cleanly he’ll be a cheap nfl jerseys china major player.51e25dabf6ee8ede251da93388826f26_crop_exact

What he’s done: Omari Spellman has taken his inside-out game to another level in the NCAA tournament, averaging 11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while going 9-of-19 from the three-point line. For the season, the 6’9″ redshirt freshman forward has made 44.6 percent of his threes, the top rate on a Villanova team that makes 40 percent of its outside shots.

Why he’s here: Spellman had 18 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals in the Sweet 16 win over West Virginia, contributing on both ends of the court (including on the same play when he blocked a shot to start a transition possession and then slammed home a missed shot).authentic nfl jerseys

What to expect: Villanova isn’t very big on the inside, leaving Spellman as the main rim-protector against Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike and others. But where he’ll have the most value is on offense, forcing the Jayhawks to guard him.wholesale nfl jerseys

What he’s done: Charles Matthews is Michigan’s top scorer and rebounder in the NCAA tournament, averaging 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor. The 6’6″ junior guard came in averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds on 49.3 percent shooting.

Why he’s here: A transfer from Kentucky, nfl wholesale jerseys Matthews sat out the 2016-17 season and spent most of his first year with the Wolverines as their third option on offense. With Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman struggling and Moritz Wagner getting double-teamed regularly, nfl jerseys china Matthews has taken advantage of his newfound opportunities.

What to expect: A Chicago native, Matthews will have a size advantage over whichever Loyola guard defends him. That might prompt him to try more three-pointers despite going 3-of-15 from outside in the tourney and shooting a pedestrian 32 percent from long range for the season, though he’ll also look for separation when inside the perimeter.

Kevin Durant Out at Least 2 Weeks After Rib Injury Diagnosed as Fracture

Kevin Durant is the latest Golden State Warriors star to be sidelined by an injury.

The 2014 NBA MVP had already nfl jerseys for cheap  been ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings due to sore ribs, but it apparently isn’t only a day-to-day injury. According to Connor Letourneau of  nfl jerseys cheap china the San Francisco Chronicle, Durant will miss at least two weeks due to an incomplete rib cartilage fracture.
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Durant explained to reporters Friday how he suffered the injury, via The Athletic’s Anthony Slater:

Earlier this season, Durant missed time due to a sprained ankle and a cheap nfl jerseys china  right calf strain. However, he had played in each of Golden State’s past 27 games heading into Friday.

The 2017 NBA Finals MVP is enjoying another fine season, averaging 26.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per game.

While having Durant, Curry and Thompson each sidelined by  authentic nfl jerseys injuries is hardly ideal, Golden State can do without them for the rest of the regular season. The Warriors have already clinched their fourth straight Pacific Division title and are all but locked into a top-two seed for the postseason at 52-16. They may not catch the Houston Rockets for the No. 1 seed, wholesale nfl jerseys but home-court advantage isn’t crucial for the defending champions.

Instead, Golden State’s top priority over the next month is to get everyone healthy for the playoffs.

‘I Don’t See It’: NBA Scouts, Execs Doubting Trae Young After NCAA Tourney Exit

NBA scouts are turning on Oklahoma’s Trae Young, whose historic freshman season ended with an 83-78 overtime loss to Rhode Island in the NCAA tournament.

“I would not take him in the lottery,” one scout responded after the game.cheap nfl jerseys china

“Not a fan,” replied an Eastern Conference executive. “Love his passion and dedication, but he must learn to be more efficient.”

“I don’t see it with him,” said an executive from the Western Conference. “He’s erratic with the ball, and he’s a teaser. Volume shooter. I have concerns on him.”hi-res-677cf0f405406c996fa6110ed6e7ffbd_crop_north

Despite leading the country in scoring and assists, questions have popped up over the legitimacy of his production, style of play, plummeting efficiency and defensive effort.

“As he matures, he’s going to have to balance out his impulsive play, authentic nfl jerseys because while that’s flashy and all of us love to see it when he’s hot, it’s not going to take you very far as a team,” added another scout. “Defensively, he has to be better, plain and simple.”

Despite going for 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the first round, Young showed unsettling negatives as well, including questionable 30-foot hero shots in crunch time, careless passing (six turnovers) and hands-down defense on shooters.

“I believe he had only had one such game, versus Kansas, that was a winning effort,”wholesale nfl jerseys  said the first executive.

At 6’2”, 180 pounds and with short arms, minimal explosiveness and a heavy reliance on threes (10.3 attempts per game, 36.1 percent) and free throws (8.6 attempts per game), Young has size and scoring limitations that concern scouts.

“I believe only 15.0 percent of his field-goal attempts are in the mid-range,”nfl jerseys wholesale  said the executive, who pointed out the need to be able to stop and pop inside the arc. “Can he get his shot off versus quality defense?”

Young was far less effective this season when his jumper was contested around the perimeter.