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Original Takes and News by an Original Fellow

    This is the first of 30 previews discussing each team entering the 2016-17 Season. The stories are all fictitious as well. Enjoy!

Head Coach Mike Budenholzer
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

     The first thing Coach Bud heard when he walked into the practice facility was the thud of a basketball down the court. "Who could be here right now?" thought Coach Bud, "It's summer." Looking up he saw that it was none other than prized offseason acquisition, Dwight Howard. "Dwight" said Coach Bud, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be out enjoying your summer break?". Howard paused his intense training routine and looked at Coach Bud, "Sorry Coach. I was in Atlanta hanging out with the family and I felt like coming in here to put some shots in. Coach Ham said it was alright." Coach Bud nodded his head and said, "I appreciate this effort, but next time ask me. Is that clear?". The veteran center nodded his head and got back to his routine.

Can Dwight regain his Orlando form?

      As Coach Bud walked away, he found himself impressed by Dwight and his decision to sacrifice his free time to better his game. It's that sort of work ethic that wasn't present in Dwight for a while now. "Could he be improving mentally?" thought Coach Bud. It was known around the league that Dwight wasn't the best center in the league as it had been a long time since Dwight was considered to be great. In fact, many wondered why the Hawks had signed Howard to a 3 year $70.5 million dollar contract. The Hawks were derided for taking a chance on a center that had been everything but a top ten center in the league. Howard went from being considered the best center and one of the best centers in the league to a free agency afterthought all in the span of 4 years.  A combination of injuries and poor work ethic doomed Howard during his time in Houston. 

The Hawks have been swept by the Cavs two years in a row in the playoffs.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

     Having gone 48-34 the previous year only to lose to the Cavs again, Bud knew that changes needed to be made. He signed Dwight Howard, let franchise stalwart Al Horford leave, and traded away Jeff Teague. "Would that be enough?" he thought, "Could they beat the Cavs with this roster, nay, make this a series against the Cavs?"  Widely regarded throughout the league as one of the top coaches in the NBA, Bud is a part of the Popovich coaching tree (one that also includes coaches like Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry) having spent almost 17 years as an assistant coach for the Spurs before leaving for the Hawks job. In his second year, the Hawks won a franchise record 60 games culminating in 4 members of the starting 5 making the All-Star Game (Teague, Horford, Paul Millsap, and Kyle Korver). However, they were quickly and mercilessly dispatched by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now entering his third year, Bud and the Hawks face a lot of questions. Will they ever be able to beat the Cavs in the playoffs? Is their 60 win season an outlier or the norm? How will new acquisition Dwight Howard fare in his 3rd team in 4 years?

Prediction: 45-37, 5th seed, dispatched in first round by Pacers in 6.

Thanks for reading this long preview. I hope you liked these storyline oriented previews. If you enjoyed the read, please subscribe so you will know whenever a new article of mine drops. If you have any suggestion as to how I can improve my writing, kindly leave a comment down below. Thanks!

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As most know by now, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder have agreed to a contract extension.

     Westbrook was rumored to be departing the Thunder next offseason and was involved in a variety of trade rumors, so this comes as a surprise to many. Though this will be his first year without partner in crime Kevin Durant (*sigh*), he remains committed to OKC. Westbrook's contract is now in the top 3 of average annual value.

     For the Thunder, this is a great move by them to ensure that they will have extra years of having a bonafide superstar help their rebuild. Though they are without KD, this Thunder team still has talent. They traded for Oladipo (who quietly was one of their best players behind possibly Vucevic) to strengthen their backcourt. Their frontcourt led by Kanter and Adams is solid. Coming off the bench is young and solid pieces in Roberson and Payne. I could honestly see them getting at best a 5-7 seed (worst case they get the 8 seed). Here are my Western Conference playoff predictions for this upcoming year.

2016-17 Western Conference Playoff Predictions

1.

Golden State Warriors

2.

San Antonio Spurs

3.

Los Angeles Clippers

4.

Memphis Grizzlies

5.

Portland Trail Blazers

6.

Utah Jazz

7.

Oklahoma City Thunder

8.

New Orleans Pelicans

     As for Russell Westbrook, this is a chance for him to strengthen his legacy and show the NBA if he can live up to being the MAN in OKC. I think he can do that easily. Remember the 2014-15 NBA season where KD played only 27 games due to injuries. Well, the Thunder with Russell Westbrook were a lucky Anthony Davis 3 from making the playoffs. Now with an improved team (relative to 2014-15), the Thunder can make the playoffs in this tough Western Conference. I don't see them winning a ring, but honestly who does with Golden State being in the same conference. This is a win-win for both sides, and if worse comes to wear, then Westbrook can leave after his contract expires.

     Thank you for reading this article. I was a day late. I do apologize. I am currently working on an article that I hope can be the first of many like it. I am also looking for ways to further expand and improve my content. Though if you have any suggestions as to how I can improve my writing, kindly leave a comment down below. Please hit that subscribe button to show that support. Thanks!

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In what has been a truly mind-blowing move by Miami, Dion Waiters has agreed to become the newest member of the Miami Heat.

     While he probably will not live up to being the 4th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Waiters did have a solid season last year with the Thunder averaging almost 10PPG last year. He also had a great Playoffs averaging 8.4 PPG and shooting almost 38% from behind the arc. 

Grading
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

     In the wake of Dwyane Wade leaving Miami, Pat Riley has gone on a major FA spending spree having signed players like Wayne Ellington, James Johnson (like), and Willie Reed (really like). Dion Waiters is just the latest addition to a Heat team that I can't tell if they are trying to aim for the playoffs or the lottery.

     As an NBA analyst, this is a great move for a Heat team that needs a bonafide 6th man. Look for Dion to fill in that role and excel in providing some scoring off the bench. In this sense, he somewhat reminds me of Michael Beasley. This is a low risk- high reward move by the Heat and, frankly, a major steal by the Heat given the market. Dion Waiters could have gotten an average salary of $10 million+ by other teams such as Philadelphia but instead chose Miami for roughly $6 million over 2 years (an average of $3 million vs $10 million). With this acquisition, here is the rotation for the Heat next year

2016-17 Heat Rotation

Starters

Bench

Reserves

Goran Dragic

 Briante Weber

 N/A

Josh Richardson

 Dion Waiters

 Tyler Johnson , Rodney McGruder , Wayne Ellington

Justice Winslow

 James Johnson

 Luke Babbit,  Stefan Jankovič

Chris Bosh

 Josh McRoberts

 Derrick Williams,  Okaro White,  Udonis Haslem

Hassan Whiteside

Willie Reed

They will have to cut some players to get down to 15 (they currently have 18 on roster), but I wouldn't expect Dion to be one of those cuts (Rodney McGruder, Stefan Jankovic, and Okaro White are my picks to get cut unfortunately). 

This is an excellent move by the Heat and I give them an A.

     

     Thanks for reading this article. I'm a day late on this but I had to wrap my head around this shocking and frankly, amazing news. If you have any suggestions as to how I can improve my writing, leave a comment down below. Hit that subscribe button so you will always know when an article drops. Thanks!

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