Rockets fans better hope Morey can work his magic and get Iguodala in the mix or maybe Kevin Love?

Iggy and CP3 may be the key to the 2020 NBA title

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

News Flash! The dynasty is over (at least for one year) and the race for the 2020 title in the NBA is wide open. Gone is the Bay Area "superteam" loaded with 4-star players and a supporting cast that does just enough of the dirty work to get the job done. The league is now all about 6 or 7 teams made up of dynamic duos that give their team and city hope that a title run could be in their future. The favorites could very well be the team that has the best 3rd option of the contenders, followed by the team that has the best overall supporting cast. The two teams in Los Angeles are the leaders of the pack with a deadly combination of star power and role players in all the right spots. Milwaukee has one all-world player and a deep roster of talented and capable veterans at every position and Boston is just loaded with above average talent on quite possibly the deepest collection of talent in the league. Philly may have lost J.J. Reddick, but they have Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris. Teams like Houston, Dallas, Denver, Utah and Miami are waiting in the wings for the perfect deal or salary buyout that could put them over the top and into the mix to have a legitimate shot at a ring. With that said, I present to you the three players that could rearrange the NBA landscape between now and the playoffs.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have told teams around the league that they are now open to trade offers for Kevin Love. The veteran power forward has a ton of playoff experience including a ring, he is a stretch-four that shoots a good percentage from distance and is capable of fitting right in with a contender to provide rebounding, locker room leadership and smart decision-making. Obviously he fits in better with teams like the Bucks, Celtics, Rockets and Clippers because of the stars they already have on those squads and style of play of coaching staff in place. I don't think he would be a good fit with his former teammate LeBron James and the Lakers because they had a rocky relationship in Cleveland, Anthony Davis already does what Love can do and numbers that would have to be involved salary wise would make it difficult to execute a deal. He would be a perfect fit in Houston because of his size, shooting ability and experience playing in a system where the ball is dominated by one or more players.

Chris Paul is a guy that a ton of teams around the league would love to have, but his contract and salary number have hindered and prohibited the majority of those clubs from exploring a trade. After his tumultuous stint in Houston and his hamstring that left H-town "hamstrung" in the playoffs two years ago, there were serious doubts if he could still play at a high level and contribute to a title contender. When he was traded to the Thunder he could have pushed back and fought the move, even possibly holding out, but instead he has embraced the jump to OKC and in the process proved to the world he has plenty left in the tank. The Lakers would love to find a way to add CP3 to the mix of AD and 'Bron if they could make it work financially. Miami tried to trade for him before the season and would love to put him next to Jimmy Butler to validate the Heat as a contender in the East. Milwaukee is another team where Paul's services would be sought after and his skill set would fit, but coming up with the players and money needed to consummate a deal, especially as a small market team, might be too big of a challenge for Giannis and company. Obviously the Rockets won't be exploring this option any time soon for obvious reasons that the fans of Houston know far too well. Red Nation just has to hope no contending team gets creative enough to work a deal for CP3 and catapult themselves into the race for the crown in either conference.

Believe it or not, the one player that could decide who raises the Larry O' Brien trophy this coming June is not a superstar or and all-star, it's Andre Iguodala. The veteran wing player is the perfect compliment to just about every team with a shooters chance to be playing in late June in the NBA. He has won titles with the Warriors and dealt with difficult situations both on and off the court, including in-fighting between stars like Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. He is an above average defender capable of guarding multiple positions at a high level and this in itself makes him a hot commodity that every team would love to have. If you leave him open he can knock down the 3-ball and if he gets out on the break he is capable of finishing at the rim whether he goes over someone, around them or to the line.

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Game One Is Pivotal For Both Teams

ALWC Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It might not have been pretty, and may not have met pre-season expectations, especially with all the injuries and headwinds along the way. Yet, the Astros' regular-season was enough to get them into the playoffs, and as we are likely to find out with this aptly-named Wild Card Round, all it takes is a ticket to the dance.

A losing record at the end of the first 60 is now a thing of the past. Everyone starts 0-0, needing to take two of three against their opponent to move forward into the Divisional Series. Here's a quick breakdown and some facts about Houston's first game against the Minnesota Twins:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 1:00 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Tue 9/29, 1:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Berrios+
Game 3* Thu 10/1, TBD Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Did Houston pack their postseason bats?

Over the last three years, the Astros have started the playoffs with wins in their first game, and it may be in part due to one key component: scoring first via home runs. In 2017, it was an Alex Bregman solo homer off of Chris Sale in the first inning to start the scoring against the Red Sox. In 2018, it was Bregman again, this time a solo shot in the fourth off of Corey Kluber of the Indians. In 2019, it was Jose Altuve with a two-run bomb against Tyler Glasnow as they'd go on to take game one against the Rays.

Can they make it four straight years? If so, they'll have to do it against another formidable pitcher in Kenta Maeda, who allowed just nine home runs in his eleven regular-season starts, only two of which were at Target Field. Also, those three games mentioned earlier were at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the support of their home crowd, along with the comfort of their own stadium. This year, they'll start on the road, and in the now-normal audience of cardboard cutouts. Having said that, if they can get their signature score-starting home run in the top of the first by one of their key bats, that could very well set the momentum in their favor to upset the Twins.

Which Greinke will we see?

On September 3rd, Zack Greinke went six innings while allowing three runs to the Rangers, still coming away with a win to improve him to 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA. That was his eighth start of the season, two of which he went six or more innings without allowing a single run, including an eight-inning gem at home against the Rockies.

In his final four starts after that, Greinke went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA over that span, allowing four, five, three, and three earned runs, respectively, and unable to go more than six innings in any of them. That finished his year at 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA, not exactly riding a high into the postseason. So, can he hit the reset button and deal as he did in the early parts of the season? Or, will the Twins, who own the sixth-most homers as a team in 2020, find a wrinkle against him early that they can exploit? The answer to that, along with what run support his offense provides him, will be one of the game's deciding factors.

I don't need to tell anyone the obvious here; in a best-of-three series, taking the first game will be pivotal for both sides. Winning the first game and only needing one more is a tremendously more advantageous position to be in, instead of needing to win two straight to advance. It sets up for an entertaining series and set of matchups across the league. Get your popcorn ready.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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