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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Josh Smith, the Piston

6 07 2013

SmithPistons

Well, the Pistons now have one of the most interesting frontcourts in the league.

The Detroit Pistons have signed Josh Smith, who will now join Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond as the team’s big men.

With a young core consisting of Brandon Knight, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Peyton Siva, Monroe, Smith and Drummond along with more moves in a positive, winning direction, the Pistons rebuilding process could soon be coming to a close.

It will be interesting to see how these three bigs, who combined to averaged 25.6 rpg last season, will split up playing time in the frontcourt but know this: it will be fun to watch.

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Mavs Finally Make A Move—Get Pure Point Guard

5 07 2013

They didn’t get Dwight. But the franchise got another foreign point guard with the first name Jose that is a fierce playmaker.

Calderon-MavsAfter attempting to bring him to town via trade last season, the Dallas Mavericks will sign Jose Calderon to a four year, $29 million contract, accoring to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Once free agents can officially be signed on July 10, there will be a clearer picture as to the structure of his contract. (Some are questioning the duration of this contract for a soon-to-be 32 year old; however, due to the new CBA’s stretch provision, it’s not as bad as it sounds.)

Other than Chris Paul, who decided to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, Calderon was the purest point guard available from the free agent market this offseason. The Spaniard has always been a great distributor and shooter while also being very efficient with the ball.

After being traded to the Detroit Pistons last season, Calderon put up fantastic numbers for a point guard—11.6 ppg, 6.6 apg, 52.7 FG%, 52.0 3P% and 89.3 FT%. And including his time with the Toronto Raptors, he led the League in 3-point field goal percentage (46.1%).

His most interest statistic, though, has to be his consistently high assist-to-turnover ratio. He ranked second in the NBA in 2010-11 (4.09), first in 2011-12 (4.50) and second in 2012-13 (4.11). Superstar CP3 has been the only player in the League with a better ratio the past three seasons. He may not be a flashy, high-rising, do-it-all guard that will light up the highlight reel…but he is certainly a great fit for a Mavericks’ team that had a tendency last year to allow turnovers to ruin games and turn many into blowouts. Dallas is getting a smart player that will work with Rick Carlisle to quickly learn his coaching methods and style of play.

Furthermore, this will make life much easier on Dirk Nowitzki as he now has a ball handler that won’t take long to understand who should be putting up the most shots (something last year’s squad just couldn’t figure out…yes, I’m looking at you Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo). Even though he won’t impress you with his athleticism, the guy knows how to be a floor general (see below).

Dirk works best with a guard that will take control of the offense and drive the team forward…there honestly isn’t a better free agency move for Dirk’s offense.
Calderon also gives rookie Shane Larkin a well-rounded mentor to learn the game from. They can both run the pick-and-roll with a center to be named along with the pick-and-pop with the Big German. Calderon is the first true vocal leader for the Mavs since Tyson Chandler was on the team; he will be ready to step in and work to win.

Dallas has had a good track record of bringing in point guards with high basketball IQs to run their offense. Steve Nash. Jason Kidd. He might not be as famous of a name but Calderon can be added to this list. Along with finding much more scoring (Vince Carter is currently the team’s second best offensive option), the next step for the Mavs is to get a rim protector to anchor this defense, especially with the signing of Calderon. Even though he has almost every skill you want from a point guard on the offensive end of the floor, Calderon lacks any sort of presence defensively, similar to the heavily-criticized Nash. Bringing in Andrew Bynum is a probable scenario, instead of Dwight Howard….

While being stuck in the middle of nothing and nowhere these past two seasons, Mark Cuban has played the waiting game for “big fish” to come to town as a No. 1 option for years to come. He has been working to clear enough cap space to sign a major player to a max contract to give these past few years a happy ending. Well, he missed on Deron Williams, he missed on Paul and he has now missed out on Howard. This move should remind you that Cuban is a good basketball businessman and does know how to make good signings—like making Calderon the point guard to build a team around.

I’m not excusing Cuban for swinging and whiffing on Howard after setting up a system in which he destroyed a championship team, decided to be bad (based on Mavs’ standards) and cleared space to bring a celebrity in…we can all agree it has failed. Real, alive people on a roster as assets have now shown to be much more valuable than simply cap space and more cap space…that’s a discussion for another time.

Right now, it’s time to move onward with “Plan B.” The other two Texas’ teams are clearly superior compared to anything going on in the Big D. Time to do some work, Mark.

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Rudy Gay the Raptor

30 01 2013
Rudy Gay Raptors

Picture provided by @jose3030

 

Picture this. It will soon be reality.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors have come to an agreement to send star swingman Rudy Gay to Canada, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. Toronto’s Ed Davis will be shipped to Memphis and Jose Calderon will move to an undetermined third team.

As of now, the Detroit Pistons look to be the most likely candidate, a team that has been interested in the Spanish point guard since the beginning of the season. The Pistons have two small forwards – Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette – that could entice the Grizzlies since they need a cheaper option to replace Gay in the rotation.

Sitting at 16-29 and 5 1/2 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, this deal could give the Raptors a fighting chance to squeeze into the playoffs – if Kyle Lowry can get back to one hundred percent.

As for the Grizzlies, they might be less potent offensively, but they certainly look to be in a better economic position moving forward while still having their core consisting of Mike Conley Jr., Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

 

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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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My Quick Sighting on ESPN

18 09 2012

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network are currently going through every NBA player in the league and ranking each of them in ESPN.com’s NBA section. They will usually implement one or two tweets for each player based on those that include #NBArank. After I tweeted about Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe Tuesday morning, I was surprised to find my name and face on their website. It might not be much, but it sure excites me as an aspiring sports journalist.

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