There will be a World Series game in Washington D.C. for the first time since 1933.

Two quarterbacks are heading to the bench and Jalen Ramsey has finally been dealt.

While all of that has been going on there has been some monetary proposals in the NBA.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. Nationals earn first World Series berth

It was a historic week in Washington D.C. after the Nationals swept the St Louis Cardinals in four games to earn the first World Series berth in Nationals/Expos history.

The Nationals were the 29th team to make the Fall Classic, leaving the Seattle Mariners as the only organisation to not have been to one.

While this is a big day for this franchise, it is also one for some very loyal Washington D.C. fans as this will be the first World Series played in D.C. since 1933 when the Senators faced the Giants and lost in five games.

The Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins.

 

2. Quarterbacks head to the bench

The Marcus Mariota era may be over in Tennessee, while the Josh Rosen era in Miami is at least on hold.

The Tennessee Titans announced this week that Mariota will be replaced under center by Ryan Tannehill going forward. The Miami Dolphins also announced Rosen will once again be on the bench and replaced by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Rosen is still young having been taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft so he has some time to still find his way, but Mariota is bordering on being a veteran at this point, so this very well might be the end of his career as a starter.

 

3. Ramsey on the move

Ramsey finally got his wish this week as he was traded by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Los Angeles Rams for first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.

This came on the heels of the Rams' trade of Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the day.

Ramsey asked to be traded by the Jaguars after a Week 2 spat with head coach Doug Marrone.

He got his wish and is thrilled to be playing for a NFL Super Bowl contender.

 

4. NBA contracts being weighed and measured

It is that time of year where players and teams figure out what they will be paid or what can be afforded, and Wednesday, several reports came out that players have been given some offers.

Pascal Siakam is weighing an extension with the Toronto Raptors, as is Bogdan Bogdanovic with the Sacramento Kings, but Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown turned down a four-year, $80million extension which came as a surprise to some.

At the same time, the Kings have apparently not offered guard Buddy Hield an extension and he may be open to a trade if they do not give him the money he is looking for.

The NBA season starts next week, but there is still plenty to be decided going forward.

NBA training camp began on Tuesday and the regular season is just around the corner.

Once preseason play begins Friday, plenty of rookies will be set loose so they can show what they can do before rotations are narrowed.

Each year first-year players exceed the expectations set for them, so we have put together a shortlist of who you should look out for.

Here are five under-the-radar rookies you should keep an eye on:

 

Chris Clemons, Guard, Rockets 

There is no guarantee Chris Clemons will make the Houston Rockets' roster, but we have a good feeling he will be in the mix this season.

The Campbell product led the nation in scoring in 2018-19, averaging 30.1 points and ended his college career as the third-highest scorer ever in NCAA Division I men's basketball history.

Although Clemons is 5-9, he has above-average athleticism and a willingness to fire the long ball while making them at an efficient clip, which makes him perfect for Houston.

He made five three-pointers and scored 21 points in 18 minutes in the fourth quarter of the Rockets' exhibition win against the Shanghai Sharks on Monday.

Houston's analytics-driven offense will always have room for snipers who make the most of open space.

Brandon Clarke, Forward, Grizzlies 

Brandon Clarke had plenty of critics leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft, but the undersized forward answered a lot of questions during summer league play.

Clarke helped lead the Memphis Grizzlies to an NBA Summer League title in July and was awarded MVP honours twice in Las Vegas.

At 6-8, he is not the most physically imposing power forward. However, his athleticism, natural defensive instincts, high motor, efficient finishing around the basket, and dedication to improving as a perimeter shooter will make it hard to keep him off the floor.

Most eyes will be on 2019's second overall pick Ja Morant and second-year forward Jaren Jackson, and that will give Clarke an opportunity to continue exceeding expectations.

Carsen Edwards, Guard, Celtics

If there is one thing that stands out about Carsen Edwards, it is his ability to fill it up on difficult shot attempts.

Although he will be backing up an All-NBA talent in Kemba Walker, Edwards should have ample opportunity to run the offense with the Boston Celtics. Especially since Marcus Smart is not much of an on-ball guard.

Edwards' quick release and seemingly unlimited shooting range helped him average 24.3 points at Purdue last year and 34.8 points in the NCAA tournament.

He is one guy who will not hesitate to shoot his shot and establish a role for himself early.

Bruno Fernando, Center, Hawks

Bruno Fernando slipped through the cracks after originally being considered a lottery prospect in 2019, but he still has plenty of promise.

He is a capable two-way player who averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season at Maryland and will compete to back up Alex Len down low.

Fernando's large frame, athleticism and potential to affect games as a post passer could make him valuable on a team with plenty of young talent that will attract more attention.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, Pelicans

Nickeil Alexander-Walker will certainly benefit from the New Orleans Pelicans' versatility at the guard spots.

Much like Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday, who will likely form one of the NBA's best defensive backcourts in 2019-20, Alexander-Walker can play on or off the ball.

Although he is 6-5 his 6-9 wingspan only adds to the great length of the Pelicans' ball handlers. 

The Canadian's aggressive driving and craftiness around the rim are complemented by the developing shot creation skills he showcased in the summer league.

New Orleans' combination of young, athletic finishers and a sharpshooter in JJ Redick have set the table for Alexander-Walker to thrive in a reserve role.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is ready to bounce back.

The 29-year-old was inconsistent last season as he continued to recover from a devastating leg injury that cost him almost all of 2017-18.

Hayward, who left the Utah Jazz and signed a four-year, $128million contract with the Celtics in July 2017, posted a letter on Wednesday on his blog addressed to Boston fans.

"On the court, I think that's something that coach [Brad] Stevens was cautious about with me last year," Hayward wrote. "He wanted to ease me into everything and make sure that I was healthy. Now, the reins are off. I'm ready to be the player I came here to be. That's my focus. That and raising a banner at the [TD] Garden.

"To our Celtics fans, I want to say thanks for sticking with us. Thanks for sticking with me. I know last year wasn't the year any of us wanted it to be, but this summer, I've worked harder than any summer I've ever had. I'm going to be ready to go. We're going to be ready to go."

The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the east, however, they finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.

Boston's roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. The team lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) but added three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and center Enes Kanter.

"Kyrie and Al are gone, but we brought in Kemba and Enes, and added some other pieces as well," Hayward wrote. "I think a lot of people around the league have kind of counted us out now. But I believe we've got a really tough squad. Kemba is definitely a game-changer. The pace that he plays at, there's not very many guys in the league that are as quick as he is, and can kind of find the seam the way he can. It opens things up for me. So I'm excited to get a chance to play with him this year.

"Enes is somebody that's going to bring energy. He's got all the moves in the post … the fans are going love him, for sure. They always do … the team's goal is still the same. Nothing has changed for us. The Boston Celtics still want to raise banner 18. That's still the goal."

Hayward averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range last season.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward hopes Kyrie Irving is successful with the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving left Boston and inked a four-year, $140.6million contract with Brooklyn this offseason.

Hayward was asked about Irving's departure when he met with reporters on Tuesday. 

"The interesting part of the league is the drama that happens every offseason," Hayward said, via NBC Sports Boston. "I don't know if there's any league like that, where you have major guys moving teams.

"I wish [Irving] the best of luck as he goes to Brooklyn."

The Celtics also lost Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) in free agency.

But, they signed three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and added center Enes Kanter.

"As a team, we're excited about who we have coming in," Hayward said. "I'm more than excited to welcome Kemba and Enes, and all the other guys that are new for us."

Hayward was inconsistent last season after he missed almost all of 2017-18 with a devastating leg injury. He averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range. 

Hayward said he has spent the offseason focusing on bouncing back.

"More than anything, just building back some confidence; being able to do everything that I'm used to doing," Hayward said. "Reps is what gives you confidence, being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle is feeling or having to be cautious with it, has been really good for my confidence.

"That has felt really nice, being able to train how I'm used to training. Not having to worry about doing stuff for only 10 minutes, only doing a certain amount of reps. It's been really good from that standpoint."

The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.

Kemba Walker has already had an impact on his new Boston Celtics team-mates, who are thrilled to be playing alongside the point guard.

Walker joined the Celtics this offseason as a part of a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets in which Boston sent Terry Rozier the other way.

The 29-year-old signed a four-year, $140million deal with the Celtics and will be taking over the spot left vacant by Kyrie Irving, who went to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

Playing alongside Walker next season will be established Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are thrilled to be welcoming the point guard to Boston.

"I'm just excited," Tatum said at a Team USA practice session in Las Vegas ahead of the FIBA World Cup.

"We've got a good team, it's a new season, everybody's kind of ready to just get going. Last year didn't finish how we wanted, so it makes guys hungry and excited for next season."

"We're going to be positive," Brown added. "Last year, I can't say it can be any worse than that, so coming out and being positive is everybody's mindset."

The Celtics were picked to win the Eastern Conference after going 55-27 in 2017-18, when they finished second in the East and lost in seven games in the conference finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But Boston struggled last season, sliding to 49-33, finishing fourth in the East and losing in the second round of the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Walker, meanwhile, missed the postseason for the sixth time in his eight-year spell at Charlotte, and though he made staying with the Hornets a priority in free agency, a deal could not be thrashed out.

He has always stated his love for the city of Charlotte and for his team-mates and the organisation, but it ultimately turned out it was time for him to move on.

However, Walker's loyalty is something that has endeared him to the Celtics squad, according to Marcus Smart.

"We talked a little bit about basketball, but mostly just getting to know each other," Smart said.

"Knowing things that we probably didn't know about one another and just laughing and joking and building that camaraderie up."

Walker echoed Smart's sentiments, but made it clear he still has a way to go before guaranteeing any titles in Boston's future.

"I'm the new guy, they already know each other, so it's just kind of really me and getting acclimated to them and how things go," Walker said.

Jayson Tatum believes he played a big role in the Boston Celtics landing Kemba Walker.

Walker agreed to leave the Charlotte Hornets and sign a four-year, $141million max contract with the Celtics this offseason.

Tatum said he spoke with Walker about the team while they were both in Paris for a Jordan Brand event.

"I'm very excited," Tatum said, via ESPN. "I think I had a big part with him coming here ... I never told him to come, but I told him I would love for him to join the team and told him how it was. Obviously, everybody has to do what's best for themselves, and I'm happy for him."

The Celtics entered last season as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semi-finals.

They lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) in free agency but added center Enes Kanter, as well as Walker.

Gordon Hayward is also expected to take a step forward after he struggled last season following a devastating leg injury in 2017-18.

"I just told [Walker] about Boston, the city, the atmosphere, our fans, the culture, the coaching staff," Tatum said. "I answered all the questions he had. I'm excited, and just ready for the season to start and everybody to be around each other and build some chemistry and just get it going."

Walker averaged a career-high 25.6 points, along with 5.9 assists, in 82 games for the Hornets last season. He shot 43.4 per cent from the field and 35.6 per cent from three-point range.

"I'm a winner. I've always been a winner," Walker wrote in a piece for the Players' Tribune last month. "It's who I am – or at least who I strive to be – anytime I step foot on the court. And when I think about my future with this team, and how I'm now going to be playing for the Celtics. I mean, that's why I feel like it's a match made in heaven.

"I want to win here, badly – and I'm excited to prove myself as that type of player in this league. I want to elevate myself into that Boston winning tradition. I want to get this team back on top."

Tatum had a standout rookie season but was inconsistent in 2018-19.

Enes Kanter wanted to win, leading to his decision to sign with the Boston Celtics.

The 27-year-old center inked a two-year, $10million contract with the Celtics earlier this month.

He discussed his decision to head to Boston during an interview with USA Today's HoopsHype.

"It's my ninth year in the league and I understand that, for many people, the money is important," Kanter said.

"For me, the most important thing is being with a team that you're really happy on and playing with a team that's competing for a championship. That was the big thing for me. For everybody else, the money matters [more]. For me, the number one thing was winning."

Kanter began the season with the New York Knicks but was released after the trade deadline. He then signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 games.

Kanter was also a reliable scorer in the playoffs for the Trail Blazers, who advanced to the Western Conference finals before falling to the Golden State Warriors in four games.

"When I was with the Knicks, the season wasn't going the way that I wanted," Kanter said. "I wanted to go out there and win. I'm glad that I picked Portland [after being waived]. Portland was definitely one of the best stops of my career. It helped me grow into a better player and a better person at the same time."

The Celtics' roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. They lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (Knicks) in free agency but signed star Kemba Walker away from the Charlotte Hornets, in addition to Kanter.

"The reason I went [to Boston] is for a championship," Kanter said. "I feel like the team is really young and willing to learn and we have an amazing group of guys. I feel like we can beat any team on any floor. All we have to do is just be good friends and stay together … It's definitely going to be a very, very exciting season."

The Celtics entered last season as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semi-finals.

Kyrie Irving's decision to leave Boston and sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency did not come as a surprise to Celtics general manager Danny Ainge.

During an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich, Ainge opened up about some of the conversations he had with the six-time All-Star in the months leading up to his free agency.

"He did express to me on a couple of occasions between March and the end of [the season] that he really wanted to go home," Ainge said about Irving, who grew up in New Jersey.

"I got the impression at that point that he wanted to go play in Brooklyn more than he wanted to play in New York or Boston."

Irving had mentioned at one point that he planned to re-sign with the Celtics, but Ainge revealed he never had that conversation with him.

"He told everyone else, but I never had that conversation with him," Ainge said. "I asked him point blank in the conversations that I had with him, 'Would you consider returning to Boston?' And he was always 'Yes'. He was always in that frame of mind. I don't think he was out the door for sure by then. I think he was contemplating all his options."

Ainge went on to defend Irving and said he wanted to take the blame away from the veteran.

The Celtics finished the season with a 49-33 record and many questioned Irving's leadership.

"A lot of people put a lot of heat on Kyrie of being the guy that's supposed to be this great leader and it was his responsibility to lead everybody," Ainge said.

"I continually tried to remove that pressure from Kyrie and [tell him to] just be yourself, just go play, just have fun, find joy in the game ... I think he did feel that burden, that he had to be too much, and wasn't able to do that.

"I don't like the fact that it's all the blame on [Irving]. I'd like everybody to take responsibility for that. I feel like the Kyrie bashing is unfair, that's all."

Boston Celtics recruit Kemba Walker will "forever love" Michael Jordan for giving him a chance in the NBA.

Walker joined the Celtics via sign and trade earlier this month, ending an eight-season stay in Charlotte with the Bobcats and Hornets.

The three-time All-Star guard, unveiled by the Celtics on Wednesday, paid tribute to Hornets owner and NBA great Jordan.

"He had a great influence on me. First of all, he drafted me. He gave me my opportunity to play in this league," Walker said.

"He allowed me to play through mistakes, allowed me as a person, as a man. I love that dude, that's my guy, we have a great relationship.

"I'll forever love him because of the opportunity he gave me."

Walker has reportedly signed a four-year, $141million max contract with the Celtics, who are 17-time NBA champions.

The 29-year-old said he was eager for success with Boston after reaching the playoffs just twice in eight seasons in Charlotte.

"For me, it's the competitiveness of this organisation, they've been winning for years," Walker said.

"You can see all the banners upstairs and in the arena. It's a winning organisation and I want to win – that's what I'm about.

"Throughout my basketball career and as a pro, I haven't won consistently, and I just want to get a taste of that. I thought that this was the best place for me to do that."

Tacko Fall could start the season in the NBA after impressing with the Boston Celtics.

The center out of Central Florida went undrafted in 2019 but impressed in the summer league after signing a non-guaranteed Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics.

General manager Danny Ainge was asked about Fall during a news conference on Wednesday.

"He's a great kid, he's working really hard, we want to take his development very seriously," Ainge said, via WEEI.

"He's a high priority for us to try to really develop into a player."

The Celtics have an open roster spot, which Fall could fill, after they waived forward Guerschon Yabusele earlier this month.

"I think that Tacko is going to have a chance to make the roster, but we'll see," Ainge said. "He's here working out right now, brought him in for a few days. We see some upside there, we're excited about him."

Fall averaged 7.2 points and 1.4 blocks while shooting 77 per cent from the field during his time with the Celtics in the summer league.

"You know, some of the plays he makes are hilarious, because you just don't see them," Ainge said. "I mean, guards get in a bind and they just throw the ball up in the air and then Tacko grabs them and tip-toe dunks them into the basket. It just looks like it's a senior in high school playing against fourth-graders sometimes out there."

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency this offseason. But, they signed both Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he expected the changes at Boston after their 2018-19 NBA season.

Boston lost star guard Kyrie Irving, along with forward Al Horford, in free agency, but acquired Kemba Walker in a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets.

Stevens addressed the team's recent moves when he met with reporters on Tuesday.

"Anytime you go through a year like we went through, where you don't necessarily meet expectations, there's probably going to be some change," Stevens said, via The Boston Globe.

Irving, who ended up signing with the Brooklyn Nets, had a rough stint in Boston.

He was reportedly unhappy and had issues with team-mates as well as the coaching staff.

"I don't know if there's anything anyone individually necessarily feels like they should have done or could have done [to keep Irving]," Stevens said.

"That's part of free agency. You can go where you want at the end of the day. I enjoyed Kyrie. I like Kyrie, and I wish him nothing but health and success. I don't fault him one bit for choosing to follow whatever he wants to do. That's his right."

Horford was a vital member of the Celtics' rotation last season. He declined his $30.1million player option with Boston last month and was originally expected to return to the team on a three-year deal. But, the sides were reportedly far apart on a new contract and negotiations fell apart.

The 33-year-old then went on to ink a four-year contract, reportedly worth up to $109m, with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"We loved Al, we wanted him back," Stevens said. "Again, it's his choice. He can go do what he wants to do and there's a lot of factors that end up helping these guys make those decisions. But he's a heck of a player and did a great job here in the three years he was here."

Walker, meanwhile, has been an All-Star in each of the past three seasons and was named to the All-NBA third team in 2018-19.

"[Walker] is a great player," Stevens said. "And he's been able to continue to get better and better and better as his career has gone on. He's made himself into an excellent shooter, he's great off pick and rolls, he's got incredible speed, can see the game, can read the game. He's an awfully good player, and we're excited he decided to come to Boston."

The Celtics entered the season as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semi-finals.

Boston also brought in center Enes Kanter while Marcus Morris is reportedly reconsidering his commitment to the San Antonio Spurs and may end up landing with the New York Knicks.

Can any team stop the Golden State Warriors?

The reigning champions are the favourites to claim the NBA title for a third straight year. Considering they added DeMarcus Cousins to a roster that already included four All-Stars, it is not hard to see why.

But the start of the playoffs is a time for positive thinking, not pessimism. Of the 15 others still left standing at the regular season, some have higher hopes than others.

Here, we look at the leading contenders to dethrone the Warriors, ranking them in order of who may have the best chance of success against Steve Kerr's roster.

 

1. HOUSTON ROCKETS 
 
Season record: 53-29
 
Season record against the Warriors: 3-1 

The Rockets top these rankings despite being the fourth seed in the West. However, it should not be forgotten that a year ago they pushed the Warriors to a seven-game series in the Conference Finals, with an injury to Chris Paul hampering their attempt to end Golden State's reign. 

This season they have won three of their four meetings with the reigning NBA champions, having turned around a poor start - they were 11-14 early in December - thanks mainly to James Harden, who made the step-back three-pointer an art form as he took his game to a new level.  

Coach Mike D'Antoni has Houston launching from long range at an astonishing rate - they had a record 27 attempts in a win over the Phoenix Suns this month - but their playoff hopes will revolve around Harden. They can only hope his usage level in the regular season does not catch up with the MVP candidate down the stretch. 


2. TORONTO RAPTORS 

Season record: 58-24

Season record against the Warriors: 2-0 

Toronto made drastic changes with the aim of altering their playoff fortunes. They suffered at the hands of LeBron James in recent years, including being swept a year ago by his Cleveland Cavaliers in the East semi-finals, but that is a problem they do not have to worry about in 2019 (enjoy watching on, LeBron!). 

General manager Masai Ujiri appointed a new coach – Nick Nurse – and acquired a different leading man – Kawhi Leonard – with the aim of exorcising some of the postseason ghosts that haunt the Canadian franchise and their fans. Pascal Siakam's emergence, making him the leading contender to be named the league's most improved player, should help.

Leonard has won a title previously with the San Antonio Spurs and is in a select group who can genuinely have a chance when going toe to toe with Kevin Durant. It could be one and done for Kawhi (he has a player option for next year), though, so Ujiri has pushed all his chips into the centre of the table in the hope his hand is strong enough to hit the jackpot.

 

3. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 

Record: 60-22

Record against the Warriors: 1-1 

The Bucks posted the best record in the NBA. They have Giannis Antetokounmpo, a ridiculously gifted 24-year-old (Twenty. Four. Good luck for the next decade, rest of the NBA) who is battling Harden to be crowned the league's MVP. 

Yet while Antetokounmpo's continued rise to superstardom has helped take the franchise from seventh to first in the Eastern Conference, the appointment of coach Mike Budenholzer has also been crucial. His version of the Bucks have averaged more points and more attempts from beyond the arc than any other team – and that includes the shot-happy Warriors. 

Milwaukee failed to clear the first hurdle in the postseason last year, losing in seven to the Boston Celtics, but have greater depth this time around. They will need other contributors too, as opposing teams will focus on finding ways to stop, or at least slow down, the explosive Antetokounmpo. 

 

4. BOSTON CELTICS 

Season record: 49-33

Season record against the Warriors: 1-1

Will the real Celtics show up in the playoffs? Boston were tipped to top the East yet finished fourth after a see-saw campaign that saw plenty of indifferent performances and far too much talk from their players in the media. 

Still, underestimate them at your peril. In Kyrie Irving they have a proven performer at this stage of a campaign, someone who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers rally from 3-1 down to beat the Warriors in 2016, plus a supporting cast that allows coach Brad Stevens to adapt to both opposing teams and a hot hand. 

Marcus Smart's injury leaves them minus a key defensive cog in the early rounds, but the combative guard should be back if Boston makes it all the way to the NBA Finals. For the Celtics, it is all about the destination, rather than the uncomfortable journey they have been on in recent months. 

 

5. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 

Season record: 51-31

Season secord against the Warriors: 1-1 

'The Process' paid off for the 76ers. They drafted Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons but raised the expectation levels this season by trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, giving them a strong starting five when you add in JJ Reddick. 

However, there are still concerns - particularly when it comes to facing Golden State. Simmons' shooting, or lack of – he had just six three-point attempts in the regular season, making none of them – is something the Warriors do not have to worry about, allowing them to focus elsewhere, potentially Embiid (who has injury issues to deal with at the start of the playoffs). 

The moves to add Butler and Harris have left the bench a little thin. Still, before they can contemplate about going up against the Warriors, they must work their way out of the East. 

 

6. DENVER NUGGETS 

Season record: 54-28

Season record against the Warriors: 1-3 

Denver defeated Golden State in their first meeting back in October but lost the remaining three regular season games, with the Warriors overtaking the early pacesetters to finish top of the West. 

Worryingly for the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic combined for 43 points in those three defeats. The gifted center is a focal point for Mike Malone's team, taking plenty of the playmaking responsibilities away from whichever combination of guards are out on the court alongside him. 

Yet this is uncharted territory for Jokic and his colleagues. The Nuggets excelled in the regular season, but the playoffs are different. Paul Millsap's experience will help a young roster, and they are also aided by not having to worry about the Warriors until the Conference Finals. Can they make it that far, though?

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum won the NBA Skills Challenge after nailing a half-court shot on All-Star weekend.

Tatum converted the stunning long-range attempt to beat Atlanta Hawks youngster Trae Young in Charlotte on Saturday.

With Young ahead of him and preparing to make a shot from beyond the arc, Tatum did not break stride as he nailed the sensational three-pointer.

"I'm just here trying to have fun. I threw it up and it went in," Tatum told TNT afterwards.

Tatum – who has been linked with a move away from the Celtics amid the team's reported interest in wantaway New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis – overcame Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley in the first round.

The 20-year-old forward then trumped Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets before pipping Young in the final.

Danny Ainge wonders about the motive behind LeBron James' recent "greatest of all time" comments and has suggested he is "taking the Donald Trump approach".

The Boston Celtics general manager appeared on The Toucher And Rich Show on Thursday and he offered his thoughts on James' declaration that he was the 'GOAT'.

James called himself the greatest of all time when discussing the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 performance in the NBA Finals. Cleveland were down 3-1 in the series against the Golden State Warriors but the Cavs rallied to win the title.

"His career's not over," Ainge said. "I'd just like to [know] why he's saying that? I don't know. Maybe he thinks that that sells. Maybe he's taking the Donald Trump approach and trying to sell himself. I don't know."

Ainge added: "Obviously LeBron is in every conversation with who is the greatest player of all time.

"But time will tell. I don't know if anyone knows who the greatest of all time is, because the years are so different."

One thing James' declaration did was further fuel the Michael Jordan comparisons, which have been going on for years.

Despite the Trump comparisons, Ainge did offer an olive branch of sorts — he said James is better than Larry Bird, who is Ainge's former Celtics team-mate.

"LeBron went to the Finals," Ainge said. "I would have to say [he is better than Bird], just because he was able to have more durability and play at a top level of his game for longer."

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