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5-on-5: Which Christmas teams, players have the brightest future?
Deck the halls! The Celtics are (finally) home for Christmas
Eight days, 6,179 miles, three contenders: How the Lakers are thriving in an impossible stretch
Turkey seeks 4-year prison term for Kanter
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NBA player rankings: LeBron, CP3 and Giannis battle for top spot
5-on-5: Which Christmas teams, players have the brightest future?
Mutual respect defines Durant-Curry relationship
Kevin Durant and Steph Curry sit down with Rachel Nichols to discuss Curry missing the Christmas Day matchup with the Cavaliers, the Warriors chemistry and Currys ambitions of owning the Carolina Panthers.
Christmas Day is full of some of the NBAs best and most exciting players and teams. Who has the brightest future? What are the biggest things to watch in the Cavs-Warriors Finals rematch? And which team is in need of a gift for the holidays?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com:TheBoston Celtics. When its all over, this incarnation of the Celtics might go down as the most masterful rebuild in NBA history. Boston is the current pacesetter in the East, and thats beforeGordon Haywardhas played a full quarter of basketball.Jayson TatumandJaylen Brownwill earn a combined $26.2 million over the next two seasons combined, and though the Brooklyn pick is no longer in their possession, the Celtics are holding onto another bundle of first-rounders over the next two Junes. Bolstered by elite management and coaching, Bostons future ranks second to nobodys.
Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight.com:Short-term? The Rockets. Theyve finally built a roster that should be able to go toe-to-toe with this version of Golden State. Long-term? If their health holds up, its the Sixers. They already have two potential superstars, and we still havent even seen their most recent No. 1 overall pick fully healthy yet. IfMarkelle Fultzgives them anything, watch out.
Chris Haynes, ESPN.com:Houston. If they lock upChris Paullong-term and maintain the ability to acquire another supreme player in the offseason, the Rockets will be a legitimate force to be reckoned with for the next handful of years. Golden States path to the Finals is not so wide open.
Andr Snellings, ESPN Fantasy:Long-term, no team has a brighter outlook than thePhiladelphia 76ers.Joel EmbiidandBen Simmonsboth project to be generational talents,Dario Sarichas demonstrated 20-10 potential and Markelle Fultz is still a shiny gift in the package. If everyone stays healthy, which is admittedly a big if, the future of The Process in Philadelphia looks blinding.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider:Celtics. The 76ers might be able to do the Celtics better in terms of potential star talent, but Boston has the deeper roster — one thats already contending now, without Gordon Hayward. Add in the lottery picks the Celtics still have coming from other teams even after trading forKyrie Irvingand their talent base should continue to improve.
Herring:Ben Simmons. Hes already pretty close to being physically dominant and is a better defender than we realized hed be. But hes a top-15 or 20 player already, and isnt even trying jumpers yet. He could be an all-time great.NBA on Christmas Day
Catch the blockbuster NBA quadruple-headeron ESPN, ABC, the ESPN App and ESPN Radio.All times ET.
•12 p.m.:76ers at Knicks (ESPN, ESPN App)
•3 p.m.:Cavaliers at Warriors (ABC, ESPN App, ESPN Radio)
•5:30 p.m.:Wizards at Celtics (ABC, ESPN App, ESPN Radio)
•8 p.m.:Rockets at Thunder (ABC, ESPN App)
Snellings:Karl-Anthony Townshas already demonstrated a dominant inside-out offensive game that is perfect for this day-and-age. His defense has been his biggest weakness, but he has the physical ability and work ethic to eventually excel on defense. More importantly, hes never missed a game in his NBA career. Each of Embiid, Simmons andKristaps Porzingishave absurd upside, but have also lost alotof games to injuries and are thus riskier long-term.
Pelton:Joel Embiid. That Embiid has been so good the last two seasons is incredible given how little high-level basketball experience he has. Embiids size and skills make him a matchup nightmare. If he can improve his pattern recognition to go with that, Embiid should be one of the leagues best players as long as hes on the court.
Arnovitz:From the early game, take your pick from Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis and Ben Simmons. Ill take Simmons because his combination of size, vision, playmaking and athleticism is ungodly for a guy who has only 31 games of NBA to his name. Hes already an all-NBA defender and an exceptional rebounder, and his ability to improvise and find shotmakers in real time allows the Sixers to zip up and down the floor. The outside shot might come — and it might not. But if Simmons can get to the rim and finish as effortlessly as hes shown in the first 10 months of his NBA career, then the Sixers have the luxury of patience.
Haynes:Ben Simmons. Hes proven in a such short time that hes already one of the most versatile players in the association. If he develops a consistent outside shot, he would instantly be mentioned as a Top 10 player and possibly even Top 5 player.
Pelton:The Timberwolves could badly use another wing as part of their push for a first playoff berth since 2004.Shabazz Muhammadhas washed out of the rotation and whileMarcus Georges-Hunthas defensive potential, hes not enough of an offensive threat to merit rotation minutes. Unfortunately, acquiring one might be difficult because Minnesota has little in the way of matching salary besidesNemanja Bjelica, whos in the rotation when healthy.
Herring:The Cavs will get theirs soon, in the form of a 5-foot-9 point guard who averaged almost 30 points a game last season. Seeing exactly what Isaiah Thomas brings to the table will likely help inform the Cavaliers of what to chase, if anything, to close the gap between them and the Warriors.
Snellings:The Celtics are the closest team to contending that appears to be just short, and they also have the clearest path to improvement. They need more firepower plus another big who can help anchor the defense and shoot. Plus, theyve still got tradeable assets. On the other hand, a Gordon Hayward return plus a convincing call from Danny Ainge to unretire Kevin Garnett could do it as well.
Haynes:They arent on the Christmas lineup, but thePortland Trail Blazerscould use one. Theyve hovered in the middle and camped near the bottom of the top eight in the conference the last couple of years. WithDamian Lillardturning 28 next summer, the time is now for this organization to turn the corner, but the roster composition doesnt bode well for internal change. For that kind of change to happen they need help — via trade — as bad as any team out there.
Arnovitz:TheWashington Wizardsare a net7.8points per 100 possessions better withJohn Wallon the floor, and they desperately need a pristine left knee in exchange for the one thats hobbling their point guard. The defense suffers mightily from his absence, as do guys like Otto Porter, Jr. (61.4 percent true shooting with Wall vs. 53.3 percent without him), andMarcin Gortat(59.8 percent vs. 50.5 percent). There are a select few teams who can absorb an injury to a player of Walls caliber, and the Wizards simply arent one of them.
Haynes:LeBron vs. KD, Part 2.Kevin DurantsaysLeBron Jamespassed the torch to him when he hit that dagger of a 3-pointer over James in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals. James feels that hes still the best player on the planet and hell be out to prove that the torch never left his side.
Snellings:Cavs-Warriors will be missing the superstar point guards on both sides, so it wont be a full representation of what these teams are capable of. So Ill look forward to the matchup between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Durant earned the Finals MVP in their last meeting and has gone nu
ts since Curry got hurt, but LeBron is having a ridiculous season himself. This is likely the greatest one-on-one match-up possible in todays NBA.
Arnovitz:LeBron. There is something mesmerizing about watching a guy who has logged more than 50,000 career NBA minutes improve his game in hisfifteenthseason. At this point in his career, LeBron is operating a finely-tuned clutch, pressing and releasing his game to exact the most damage with the least effort on every possession. With Steph out, we wont glean much about a possible June showdown, but this — LeBron in his late prime — we do get.
Pelton:HowKevin Loveholds up at center defensively. When the Cavaliers went to small lineups with Love in the middle during last years Finals, they had relatively little experience playing the style. Will they be more effective now that Love is entrenched as a starting center?
Herring:With all the history between Golden State and Cleveland, I just like watching these two teams square off in general. But it will be cool to watch LeBron and KD, since both guys have had to shoulder a heavier scoring load than usual due to injuries.
Snellings:I got my love of the NBA from my father. But he worked at least two jobs during my childhood, so I hardly ever got to sit and watch a whole game with him. Also, as a young kid, there were five NBA immortals in my eyes: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird,Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Isiah Thomas and the greatest of them all,Julius Erving. I remember one Christmas, after opening the gifts and eating, sitting with my dad and watching Isiah and Dr. J battle on Christmas Day. Dr. Js 76ers won a close game. Life got no better than that.Editors PicksDeck the halls! The Celtics are (finally) home for Christmas
At long last, the NBAs most decorated franchise will have a home game on Christmas day.
Arnovitz:There was a small media presence in San Antonio for the Thunder-Spurs Christmas Day game in 2014. Gregg Popovich fielded a question from a local reporter about his Christmas haul that morning. Popovich said that since the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan in 1997, hes never asked anyone for a gift for any occasion.
Herring:I still remember 2011 pretty well, simply because it was odd in the sense that it was also the first day of the season because of the lockout that took place earlier in the year. A close game between the Knicks and Celtics; Dirk and the Mavs getting their rings before a rematch with LeBron and the Heat; an incredible game-winning floater fromDerrick Roseagainst Kobe and the Lakers.
Haynes:Before it was KD vs. Russ, it was Shaq vs. Kobe in 2004 — Shaqs first game back in Los Angeles since being traded. The Lakers picked Bryant to be the face of the franchise moving forward. The two had so much disdain toward one another. Would they acknowledge each other prior to tip? Would they get into it during the game? Those were some of the thoughts in your mind at the time. It really put Christmas Day games on the map.
Pelton:Four words: Spencer HawesChristmas suit.