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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Fun Fact Friday

24 05 2013

Last year, the Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 78-75. The Heat won that series in six games. This year, the Pacers beat the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals 97-93. We will have to wait and see the final outcome of this year’s matchup.

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Fun Fact Friday

17 05 2013

In the battle out East, the Indiana Pacers are up 3-2 on the New York Knicks. Not only have these two teams been built differently, their players come from different time periods. The Knicks have one player one their roster under the age of 27 (Iman Shumpert) while the Pacers have one active player over the age of 27 (David West). It’s fairly obvious which of these two teams has the more promising future.

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Fun Fact Friday

16 11 2012

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Indiana Pacers 74-72 last Tuesday, but it wasn’t without a miserable ending. The Raptors were only able to score five points on one field goal in the 4th quarter, which is both the fewest points and fewest field goals made in the 4th quarter by a winning team in the shot-clock era.

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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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Heat Did Not Lose – Pacers Won

16 05 2012


The Pacers did what they will have to do to compete in this series – they persevered.

The Heat did what all the “haters” wanted them to do – they played unbalanced basketball.

In the epitome of a grind-it-out game in which both teams shot under 40 percent for the game, the Indiana Pacers came out on top against the Miami Heat, 78-75, to tie the series 1-1 as these teams head to Indianapolis for Game 3.

As much as this game can be entirely focused on the Chris Bosh-less Miami Heat, the fact that the team’s third highest scorer behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had five points and that James is now 10-17 on free throws in one-possession games with under a minute to go in games this season, this No. 3 seeded Pacers team deserves credit for what they did on the basketball court Tuesday night.

When the Dallas Mavericks took down the Heat last season, the national media turned it into a Heat collapse instead of a Mavs victory. Those champions deserved recognition for winning a championship (Yes, I might be a fan, but the point is still valid), and even though the Pacers haven’t come even close to attaining that type of achievement, they still deserve their time in the limelight.

The key moment for the Pacers came in the 4th quarter with 4:11 to go in the game. After a Wade bank shot, the Heat took a 72-71 lead, erasing an 11-point deficit the team faced earlier in the second half. This has been the point in the playoffs (so far) when the Heat players go into another zone and crack down on the defensive end while their superstars finish the job on the other end.

In Game 1, the Pacers controlled the majority of the game but were unable to close late in the game. Many attributed this fall to their inexperience in the playoffs and the Heat’s overall superiority to them.

With a loss looking to be inevitable as all the criticism about the team not having a number one guy started to spout on Twitter, the Pacers chose to fight. And fight hard.

Yes, Indiana had missed free throws and unexecuted plays down the stretch, but none of this matters since they got the one thing that does matter: the win. Frank Vogel’s squad did what was necessary to tie up a series that most of the nation deemed over before either team stepped onto the court to play one another. This is now as competitive a series could be.

There is no way to point out one player from the Pacers that plowed the way toward a win. They had five more players than the Heat that scored six or more points. They had three players grab 10 or more rebounds while the Heat had none. These teams couldn’t have gotten to their respective scores in more differing ways.

Even though no Pacer scored more than 16 points, it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t arise as a problem going forward. Why? They played for each other and strung together enough points and enough stops to put their team in a position to turn the Heat from a happy-go-lucky team to a glum group. They did just that. They handed the Heat their first Eastern Conference home playoff loss since the Big 3 came together.

Each player on Indiana knows what part he must play in order to bring their team the best chance to succeed. With David West’s sudden play that is reminiscent of his all-star play in New Orleans, this team has the necessary pieces to compete with anybody. Seriously.

The experience that a contending team needs can be found in David West, George Hill and Leandro Barbosa, scrappy play consistently comes from Paul George (a five-tool basketball players as he can score, rebound, pass, steal and block), Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, and their unheralded leadership remains in Danny Granger. Compare that to the Heat who currently have a group of players behind LeBron and Wade that seem to have forgotten what it is like to play a role.

Now, this series is no where close to being in the hands of Pacers. A series is not won in one game. Even though they currently have home-court advantage, it will be extremely tough to take down the Heat three times in a row, which is the only way for the Pacers to sustain this edge. (The Mavericks won three games in a row last year to defeat the Heat, so it can be done.)

But they have the capability to do this. When you hear these players talk about their team and this series, they have a resolved mindset that they aquired from their head coach. They spoke out before the series started and now have backed up that smack talk. (Jason Terry understands what they are doing.) They act as though they have a mission to not simply establish themselves by means of these playoffs and get some deserved respect but to truly reach for the peak of the Larry O’Brien mountain.

Danny Granger isn’t afraid. Roy Hibbert isn’t afraid. Paul George isn’t afraid.

The team that had the fifth best record in the regular season isn’t afraid to lock horns with the Hollywood of Hollywood teams that have two of the best players currently in the game. This fierce mentality showed itself Tuesday as many scuffles broke out throughout the battle.

As the series shifts to Indianapolis for two games, the Pacers can’t allow their home crowd to make them feel comfortable. They need to continue to bump and harass this Heat team to take this unexpected victory into expected consistency. They need to continue to play defense and rebound as if they expect to win and not as if they expect to just compete.

With this approach along with hard play from every single player that steps onto the floor in a yellow and white uniform, the Pacers have the ability to win Game 3 and win this series.

No, I am not crazy. Yes, I am a believer in team basketball…

which the Heat do not currently possess and the Pacers do. Game on.

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