Current Tiers of the NBA

26 07 2013

Championship contenders: Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors (Fringe: Knicks, Rockets)

Playoff contenders: Hawks, Bucks, Pistons, Wizards, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Lakers, Mavericks, Blazers, Timberwolves (Fringe: Celtics, Bobcats, Raptors, Pelicans)

Lottery contenders: Sixers, Magic, Jazz, Suns, Kings

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My Far-Too-Early Early 2013-14 NBA Playoff Positions

8 07 2013

Having a few spare moments at work today, I thought I would share my 2013-14 NBA seeding predictions…at the moment. These are subject to change. Please stay tuned.

West                                                                            

1. Clippers                                                                 

2. Thunder              

3. Warriors

4. Spurs

5. Rockets

6. Grizzlies

7. Timberwolves

8. Blazers

Almost made it: Pelicans

 

East

1. Heat

2. Pacers

3. Bulls

4. Nets

5. Knicks

6. Cavaliers

7. Wizards

8. Hawks

Almost made it: Pistons

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Welcome Back to Dallas, Devin

6 07 2013

The day after signing their starting point guard for next season, the Mavs bring in a former Dallas starting point that will now be their backup point guard or their shooting guard.

The Dallas Mavericks and Devin Harris are closing in on a three-year, $9+ million contract, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Harris played his first four seasons with the Mavs, averaging 14.4 points and 5.3 assists during his final season with the team in 2007-08. His best years came while in New Jersey Nets when he became a 2009 NBA All-Star and was the focal point of the offense for most of his time with the team. Well, and this happened.

While with the Atlanta Hawks last season, Harris became more of a bench player rather than the starter he had been up to that point in his career. Averaging 9.9 points and 3.4 assists in 24.5 minutes last season, the 30-year-old found himself playing more of both guard positions than just the 1 and filling that role quite nicely.

Even though Harris has bounced around between a few different teams, the Mavs have remained close with Harris, making his return to the Big D not that much of a surprise. However, things will be different this time around.

He may have some more facial hair than the last time Dallas saw him, but he is still a lightning-quick athlete that can get to the rim in a heartbeat. What also hasn’t changed is his inability to finish once he gets to the rim and make his jumpers on a consistent basis. Even though he has a high basketball IQ, Harris is clearly not an elite distributor who can be a floor general. That’s why putting him at the 2 might be useful at times. Also, just as this team learned with Darren Collison, sometimes these energy-filled point guards just aren’t made to be in starting lineups. Bringing Harris back as a sparkplug off the bench could work in Dallas’ favor.

The most glaring difference between Harris then and Harris now is his health. While in Atlanta, he just couldn’t seem to find a way to remain healthy, missing a total of 24 games throughout the season. Also going after injury-ridden Andrew Bynum and Jermaine O’Neal, this Mavs front office is clearly showing some strong faith in head athletic trainer Casey Smith and his staff.

(Also, don’t worry about Shane Larkin‘s playing time. Carlisle will find a way to work all three of these guards into his rotation.)

If anything, this is nice for Mavs’ fans to see a familiar face as the franchise has been in an identity crisis since winning the championship. Now Harris has a chance to find a role with his former team as they look to move on past Deron Williams and Dwight Howard.

Welcome back to Dallas, Devin.

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Which Howard Is Real?

30 06 2013

Howard possible teams

And so it begins. Howard Sweepstakes.

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Howard Doesn’t Want L.A.; He Wants Texas

27 06 2013

 

Jalen Says Dwight Howard Will Be a Houston Rocket | Jalen Rose Report

One of these images will be a reality by next year’s NBA season.

Dwight Howard does not plan to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer and will meet with the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks once teams are allowed to meet with free agents on July 1, according to sources close to the situation.

The Lakers, being his previous team, are allowed to sign him for one extra year and for more money. By signing with a different team than the Lakers, Howard is leaving an extra year of $30 million on the table. However, it should be noted that Howard is only 27 and will most likely sign another huge deal when his four-year, $88 million contract would come to an end. I think he’ll be okay financially.

Unlike the team that shares their arena, the Lakers would not make changes to the makeup of their team just to appease their young superstar. The Los Angeles Clippers fired Vinny Del Negro and hired supercoach Doc Rivers in an attempt to keep their team’s future on the roster. Chris Paul urged them to make this change and will now most likely go back to the Clips.

The Lakers are sticking with Mike D’Antoni. They won’t be a placemat for their superstars. Well, Howard’s biggest reason he doesn’t want to go back to Lakertown is D’Antoni’s coaching system. His “let’s have some fun!” attitude toward the game compared to Kobe Bryant‘s “no horseplay” attitude is also sure to be a problem for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Either way, L.A.’s about to lose a huge part of their future and could already be looking toward the 2014 NBA Draft.

(Can we also all agree it is kind of ironic and amusing that the day after L.A. saw this billboard that Howard expresses his interest in anywhere but L.A.? #PoorHollywood….)

Among these three teams, Atlanta is at the biggest disadvantage due to the fact that it’s D12’s hometown. Being a kid that never wants pressure or scrutiny, Dwight might experience some of that by going back to where he was born. Most say he doesn’t have much desire to go to Atlanta.

So, that puts us in a battle between teams of the Lone Star State.

Dallas v. Houston. Dirk v. Harden. No. 1 option v. No. 2 option.

The biggest reason he goes to Houston is because he gets to win now. Coming off an impressive playoff season, the Rockets look to be moving up the Western Conference ladder for the next few years. They have a young star in James Harden that is the future. The Mavs missed the 2013 playoffs and would need more pieces alongside Dirk and Howard to seriously compete, so there’s not as much certainty with that roster. As I said earlier, I think Houston is Howard’s best fit.

However, just as Howard didn’t like D’Antoni’s system, he worries about coach Kevin McHale‘s system, sources say. That team likes to shoot three-pointers all game long and more…that doesn’t really play into Howard’s post-game. Will he get touches? That’s what Howard wants to know.

In terms of why he would go to the other Texas team, well, that’s the news of the day. Howard now has shown clear interest in Dallas and what the future holds for him in the Big D. It’s always been assumed he’d be the No. 1 option and future franchise face if he went to the Mavs, letting Dirk Nowitzki gracefully become the No. 2 option that he has been ready and willing to become. And with the pay cut Dirk will be taking in 2014, Mark Cuban will have cap space to land a big player during a 2014 free agency filled with “big fish.”

Check out how ESPN’s Chris Broussard put it Thursday morning.

 

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 11.49.29 AM

 

Before anybody reading this gets their hopes up, remember who we are talking about. Mr. Howard is one of, if not the most immature and indecisive players in the entire NBA. Very few have been able to figure out what exactly goes on in his head. Even though these reports could be 100 percent accurate, who knows what their accuracy will be once July 1 comes.

The Dwight Howard roller coaster is upon us yet again. Take a seat and endure the ride.

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Morrow Now; Howard Later?

22 02 2013

With less than two minutes to go in the 2013 NBA trade deadline, the Dallas Mavericks made a last-second trade that not only salvaged the perception many hold about their front office but also put one more chip in their hand in terms of signing a superstar this summer.

The Mavericks picked up Anthony Morrow from the Atlanta Hawks for Dahntay Jones in the last moments of the trade deadline. This trade is both teams moving a player with an expiring contract in hopes that a change of scenery will bring out more in them.

Just how close to the deadline was this deal? Mark Cuban was talking to Ben & Skin on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM Friday morning and explained the time constraint.

“It happened with about 95 seconds left to go in the trade deadline,” Cuban said.

What the Mavs will now get in Morrow is what they’ve been desperately needing all season: a pure shooter. As former Mavs head coach Don Nelson told his son, Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, “Next to Chris Mullin, [Morrow’s] probably the best pure shooter I ever coached. You’re going to love him.”

When discussing what he’s done in his NBA career, this season almost needs an asterisk next to it. The 6-5, 210 pound shooting guard has just not gotten the opportunity to play for the Hawks.

In his first four season in the league, Morrow averaged 27.6 minutes and 12.1 points while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range and 90.0 percent from the free-throw line. This season he has only been averaging 12.5 minutes, leading to a career-low average of 5.2 points. But this makes sense due to the fact that he has over five less shot attempts per game.

The point I’m trying to make here is that this season does not give a good representation of the competitor and shooter the Mavs just obtained. Take Morrow’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 3 last season for example. The former Yellow Jacket shot 8-11 from deep, piling in 42 points on the night. He had a total of five games that season in which he made at least five three-pointers in one game. Even though he may be a “three-point specialist” that will have coaches yelling “shooter” when he catches the ball, Morrow still has an efficient mid-range game.

If there’s one thing that is certain, Morrow will help spread the floor for this team.

It is sad to see such a energetic and hard-working playing in Jones go that always gave 110 percent on both ends of the floor. But as said earlier, this acquisition is what Dallas needs. O.J. Mayo may be a fantastic shooter, but he is also the focal point of the offense. He has to do so much more for this team than simply stand outside the arc and get his feet set. Daren Collison can shoot, but his role is to be a distributor and penetrate to the hole. Dirk Nowitzki is, well Dirk. He can hit the three-pointer when needed, but he does most of his work off one leg inside the arc. Vince Carter could be considered someone that spreads the floor, but he has been the only consistent form of offense coming off the bench. Morrow could give Carter the firepower and help he needs when Mayo has to take a seat on the bench. (Cuban also mentioned on the radio that he believes Mayo and Collision being the backcourt for the Mavs’ future is “part of the goal.” Personally, I love to hear that.)

So, this may not have been the splash that gets the Mavs the “big fish” so many fans are anticipating, but it is certainly a step forward in the Mavs’ attempt to squeeze into the playoffs while keeping them financially stable in terms of signing a superstar to a max contract this summer. It may look unlikely with the 4 1/2 games that stand between a lottery pick and the eight seed, but I certainly believe the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets could slip up down the stretch. Morrow could give the Mavs just enough extra “umph” to extend their stretch of consecutive playoff appearances to 13.

 

Now let’s take a look toward this summer. With the deadline turning out to be one that had “J.J. Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks” as the lead headline, it was clearly one of the less significant deadlines. What that means is there are still a lot of players up for grabs come this upcoming offseason.

One of those players is still Dwight Howard. I know, I know… I can’t believe this is still a topic of discussion, either.

But it can’t go unnoticed that the Howard-Lakers combination hasn’t necessarily been all smiles and laughs. No, Kobe, you’re Twitter account photos can’t convince me otherwise.

There has clearly been some dissension between Howard and the Lakers’ organization. It’s always something. Not getting the ball. Not getting the attention. Not getting Kobe to talk to him.

That’s right. There were reports that Kobe Bryant gave Howard the “silent treatement” and barely talked to him during All-Star weekend. You think the most immature player in the NBA enjoys not being talked to by the guy taking away all of his shot attempts?

So, let’s say the Lakers have a short playoff run or fail to make the playoffs at all (both are likely). Once this season comes to a close, Howard will be an unrestricted free agent and get the chance to go anywhere he wants to. That has a high probability of not being Los Angeles. Everybody talked about Kobe and Howard’s attitudes not fitting when Howard’s trade happened and these two egos may never be able to work together.

If he decides to take his talents elsewhere, where will he go?

 

Looking back, The Mavs, Nets, Magic and Lakers were the only four teams on Howard’s shortlist of franchises he would join come the 2012 offseason – he said this before he signed the one-year extension with the Magic and then was traded to the Lakers in that offseason. (We won’t get into why he signed that extension in the first space because I don’t know….) The Nets have moved past Howard with their very rich backcourt in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and the Magic are obviously out of the picture. If he leaves L.A., the Mavs are the only team left on this list that have the ability to sign him.

SheridanHoops.com brought to light another factor that might give the Mavs a slight edge. In December of 2011, during a TV interview Howard did while on tour in Russia, he was asked what players he would like to have as teammates.

Chris Paul, Stephen Jackson. What’s his name, Deron Williams. And Anthony Morrow. I’ve got five, Monta Ellis, I really like him.”

Wow. Did Cuban remember this interview when accepting the trade offer for Morrow? Whether he did or not, if Morrow likes his time Dallas for the rest of this season, he could resign with the Mavericks, possibly (again, possibly) providing more incentive for Howard to sign.

 

Looking forward, the Mavs, Hawks and Houston Rockets are the teams that have the cap space and clear interest to add D12 to the future of their franchise.

Even though the Mavs don’t have a young franchise corner piece like the Hawks (Al Horford) and Rockets (James Harden), they have a owner and organization that are committed to winning along with being the only team left on his shortlist. Since Howard had such a strong desire to go to Brooklyn, though, he is showing the NBA that he doesn’t necessarily care solely about winning. That is a factor, but he also cares a lot about what will be his role on the team and where he will be playing. Dallas gives him the chance to gracefully take the “franchise player” title from Dirk while playing in a town he has said he enjoys.

And this time when the summer rolls around, Mark Cuban has already asked his Shark Tank producers for time off come late June and early July so he can be there for ever pitch to every big player. Cuban told Ben & Skin that they were pretty close during this year’s deadline to what sounds like a very big trade. He hasn’t given up on this team as so many fans believe. He is someone that will not settle and is simply waiting for the “big fish” that he wants to put on a Mavericks’ jersey.

That player could be Howard.

For now, the Mavs can enjoy a new face and a new pure shooter coming off the bench. Morrow will have plenty of chances to get significant minutes and have a significant impact on this season.

What kind of impact will he have on next season?

Only Howard knows. And based on his past decisions, that literally means – only Howard knows. Once the Lakers inevitably fall short of an NBA title, it will then be that fun time to yet again wait on hand and foot for Mr. Howard to make a decision.

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2013 NBA Season Excitement Preview

31 10 2012

The NBA season is finally upon us. No lockout – just basketball. With a multitude of story lines inundating this league, there are many reasons to be amped about this season. I will give you the main reasons to be excited about watching each team in the NBA.

 

 

Atlanta HawksAl Horford will quickly develop into the focal point of this offense as this franchise moves into the post-Joe Johnson era. At the point guard position, speedy Devin Harris will get the chance to get back to the player – a better player –  he was before Utah. Will a sixth consecutive playoff appearance go along with this? Josh Smith‘s decision to stay or go next summer will be effected based upon the answer to this question.

Boston Celtics – With the acquisitions of Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa along with a healthy Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo might finally have the athletic pieces to allow him to completely take the reins of the offense. Correction: he will take the reins of the offense. Once breakout rookie Avery Bradley comes back in December, this team has a good chance to be the Heat’s best competition in the East as so many have already claimed.

Brooklyn NetsDeron Williams. Black and White jerseys. Brooklyn. Jay-Z. What is not exciting about the newest team in the NBA? If they continue to win at the same rate as they did in New Jersey, though, they will quickly become old, bland news. Joe Johnson won’t let that happen.

Charlotte Bobcats – After finishing the lockout season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106), there’s only one place this franchise can go: up. As we move into the era of washed up veterans (Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood) and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, they might finally move out of the last spot in the East all thanks to Dwight Howard.

Chicago Bulls – The eventual early return of superstar Derrick Rose will rank as one of the most emotional moments in NBA – if not sports – history. When he comes back, we will see less Nate Robinson, but we will see an inspired team that can compete in the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving. This kid is about to elevate himself into the upper echelon of the league and become a superstar for his team. As one of the youngest and potential-filled (Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller) teams in the NBA, the city of Cleveland can finally have hope for their franchise’s future.

Detroit Pistons – If you like tough big man play, this is the team for you. Budding soon-to-be All-Star Greg Monroe along with already impressive rookie Andre Drummond (two men that are both one inch away from being seven-footers) will provide Detroit with a chance to squeeze into the playoffs – if Rodney Stuckey finally takes his point guard game to the next level.

Indiana Pacers – Following the Thunder’s footsteps by making it into the bottom-half of the playoffs two years ago followed by the top-half of the bracket last year, can they continue to follow suit and take the next step into the NBA Finals? With a healthy Danny Granger, always improving Paul George and dominate All-Star seven-footer Roy Hibbert, a generous playoff route could direct them to the promise land. At the very least, Gerald Green will provide casual fans with plenty of jump-off-your-couch-in-excitement slam dunks.

Miami Heat – What is next for LeBron James? What’s next is an unimaginable season. With a relaxed attitude toward the game of basketball, the King (he has a ring…) will collect his fourth MVP award as the Heat will have a commanding season (along with Ray Allen hitting many three-pointers), making it to the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least.

Milwaukee Bucks – Finishing ninth in two straight seasons, this team has been scraping the edge of the playoffs. Monta Ellis getting a full NBA season with the team beside fellow guard Brandon Jennings makes this yet another exciting East backcourt duo. This will be a very scary group that could beat any team on any given night when both of these players are having solid shooting nights.

New York Knicks – Yes, they are the oldest team in NBA history. But they have quality old veterans that still know how to use their intelligence to play the game (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas). Since Amare Stoudemire will be out 6-8 weeks, Knicks fans get to see Carmelo Anthony at the position he plays best (power forward), making this group the best team in New York.

Orlando Magic – They might not win many games this season, but this fan base can finally let out a sigh of relief as their baby center finally got his wish. Keep an eye out for Andre Nicholson, who could become the surprise rookie of the 2012 class.

Philadelphia 76ers – When Andrew Bynum finds a way to get healthy, that’s when the excitement can start. This Sixers season is all about their new pure center. Fitting Bynum into Doug Collins and Jrue Holiday‘s system could lead to a challenge for the much smaller Miami Heat once the playoffs roll around.

Toronto Raptors – Even though it would have been nice to bring Steve Nash back to his hometown, this franchise got a stat-stuffing guard in Kyle Lowry, who will record multiple triple-doubles this year. Rookie center Jonas Valanciunas will find his way onto many SportsCenter Top 10’s throughout this season.

Washington Wizards – Once John Wall recovers from surgery, Bradley Beal will be an exceptional shooting guard to compliment his game and Nenê will continue to be the offensive force he has been since he entered the league. Just like the Pistons, this young team could find themselves in the playoffs if Wall does not continue to plateau as a basketball player.

 

 

 

Dallas Mavericks – For a team that doesn’t have Jason Kidd, Jason Terry or Dirk Nowitzki playing in their season opener, it’s difficult to get a grasp on this team’s identity. If they can establish their identity, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo can wipe away last year’s regressed season and Dirk can play like a healthy and hungry Dirk, they will make the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.

Denver Nuggets – Easily the funnest team in the league (Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried both having styles of play that any fan would enjoy watching), this group of pretty-good-to-great players has the most potential in the league. For this potential to turn into something legitimate, Andre Iguodala must become that go-to guy they have desperately been searching for since Melo left for New York.

Golden State Warriors – For the first time since 1997, the Warriors will have an All-Star in Stephen Curry – if he stays healthy (yes, that is indeed a big “if”). Putting him in a lineup with Klay Thompson, who will drastically improve this year, and Andrew Bogut, who will be a force down low, this new and improved California team will fulfill Mark Jackson’s prediction from last year that his team will make the playoffs.

Houston RocketsJames Harden. We have only known Harden as that sixth man on a team with two bigger and better stars. Now it’s his time. Putting the bearded man next to Jeremy Lin will improve both of their games, and with Omer Asik setting picks for these two guards, they now have a foundation for the future.

LA Clippers – Los Angeles does not know the future of superstar point guard Chris Paul with his contract soon coming to a close. But while they have him, this is still lob city. With one of the deepest benches in the league and Blake Griffin improving his low-post game, Paul can take this team as far as his clutch play desires.

LA Lakers – The two most important positions on the court are point guard and center. The Lakers traded for two of the best at those positions in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They also have that guy named Kobe Bryant. They are officially “Hollywood” with undoubtedly the best starting lineup in the league once they find their chemistry. Since the Thunder also need to gel themselves with Harden gone, the Lakers have a legitimate chance to go all the way yet again.

Memphis Grizzlies – Is it possible to be the dark horse for three consecutive years? The Grizzlies are in the running for this title again. A healthy Zach Randolph takes this team to an extra playoff series – just look at 2011. If they get a better passer in Mike Conley Jr. to lead the exact same core – other than O.J. Mayo – from last year, you can’t forget about this team when making your playoff predictions.

Minnesota Timberwolves – The injury bug just won’t go away in Minnesota. First Ricky Rubio. Then Kevin Love… because of some knuckle push-ups. Even without their best two players, this team still has a lot of depth, and if Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko produce like the players that we used to know, they could still grab that eighth seed.

New Orleans Hornets – Inevitable Rookie of the Year Anthony Davis brings to the court everything you want in a center. Throw in a flashy Austin Rivers along with a healthy Eric Gordon and you have three players that could lead this team for years to come. (And don’t forget about the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year Ryan Anderson spotting up behind the three-point line.) The fans might soon forget about Chris Paul when Davis has his first 20-20 game.

Oklahoma City Thunder – This small-market team gave up a core for the ages in order to avoid the penalties of the new CBA. Durant/Westbrook/Harden could have been a trio for the ages. But now there is a new trio in OKC with a second Kevin in Kevin Martin that will be running off ball screens and drawing fouls. Even if he can’t be a distributor like Harden, he will get his fair share of points. Whether or not they are the favorites to come out of the West does not change the fact that they will be an electrifying ball club with plenty of highlights from Russ and Durantula.

Phoenix Suns – Discovering what the Suns new identity will be is a scary yet exciting thought. They don’t have Steve Nash anymore, but they have a solid frontline in Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat that all have not yet reached their ceiling as NBA players. How can they reach that ceiling? Goran Dragic. If their point guard works with these big men, all four could have respectable seasons.

Portland Trial Blazers – The Greg Oden-Brandon Roy era is officially over. Finally. Even though LaMarcus Aldridge still remains as the cornerstone of this franchise, how quickly Damian Lillard, who could make the Rookie of the Year race closer than people think, develops will determine just how soon this team moves out of the pits of the West. Oh, and Nicolas Batum? Just wait until he breaks out this season.

Sacramento Kings – The last pick of the 2011 draft will soon become the most exciting little man to watch in the entire league. Isaiah Thomas statistically improved in both scoring and assisting in every successive month last season and doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon. If DeMarcus Cousins continues to improve his game along with his attitude and Marcus Thornton quietly maintains his average of 18-20 points, they could become the sporadically hot team you never want to face.

San Antonio Spurs – The good news for the skeptics is that Duncan/Ginobili/Parker are now all over 30-years-old. The bad news is that Duncan/Ginobili/Parker have never let age get in the way of winning. Every single season we are reminded that the Spurs are “one year older” and they continue to make it to the playoffs. Thanks for that, Pop. We should expect nothing less this season.

Utah Jazz – Devin Harris is finally gone. And they still have the best quadruplet of big men in the NBA with Favors/Jefferson/Kanter/Millsap leading the way. Every single one of these players can pound the ball down low and actually be a conventional power forward or center. (Shocking, right?) They made the playoffs last year and can now build on this experience.

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