Who is a Future MVP?

10 06 2013

 

Determining which NBA draft prospects have MVP potential is not an easy task. Teams pay millions of dollars to scouts and evaluators every year in hopes of finding the next Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, or LeBron James. Even the evaluation gurus have trouble finding the next big thing; only 10 players taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the entire history of the NBA Draft have gone on to win an MVP award. In the 1996 draft, 14 players were picked before Steve Nash, who went on to win back-to-back MVP awards.

By looking at the entire history of MVP winners and their statistics, broken down by position, you can see a template of sorts. You begin to see that for any given position, a player must meet a minimum threshold of numbers. By comparing draft prospects’ stats to that template, a clearer picture of MVP potential unfolds.

Take a look at this CableTV.com infographic to see which players in this year’s draft have a good chance to go on to win an MVP award during their NBA careers.

 

MVP_InfoGraphic

 

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The Dynasty Known As Serena Williams…and the Spurs

8 06 2013

Just as all the greats can do, she has the ability to go into a different zone. She goes into a place where she can’t be stopped. She doesn’t see “losing” as a reasonable outcome.

Williams showed the French what it means to be a force of nature.

Serena Williams won her second career French Open title by taking down Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday. Just as Serena saved her fastest serve of the day—123 mph—for the last serve of the day when she claimed her 16th Grand Slam, the oldest ever #1 ranked female tennis player in the world seems to save her best tennis for the biggest of stages.

As much as the sports media loves to analyze the reasoning behind one player/team winning a championship over another player/team losing a championship, it can’t be done with this match. Sharapova played some great tennis and stuck with Serena throughout the entire match…but it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because Serena is on her own level of tennis that can’t be touched by any other woman playing the game. Sharapova is deservingly ranked No. 2 in the world and was the field’s best chance of taking down Serena. She might have played great tennis but Serena played flawless tennis.

At 31, Serena is sports-old. It would seem with the amount of pressure she puts on her body with her rough style of play, Serena would be on the decline, especially since she went through a plethora of injuries in 2011—including a life-threatening one—that kept her from winning a Grand Slam for that year for the first time since she went major-less in 2006.

But looking at Serena cruise through this French Open as she only lost one set the entire tournament, this tennis player is as dynamic and fit as she’s ever been. She no longer tends to sit back and pound the ball down her opponent’s throat while moving as little as possible. She’s chasing balls. She’s covering the baseline. She’s playing solid defense. She has become more active while still maintaining the strongest pair of arms in the game. By far.

Let’s take a second to reflect on what this Grand Slam means for Serena and just how the word “dominant” might not be enough to describe her tennis playing:

  • Won 31 consecutive matches
  • Holds a 16-4 record all-time in Grand Slam finals (two of those were lost to her sister Venus Williams)
  • One of only four women to win all four majors twice (Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chrissie Evert)
  • Since last year’s 1st-round loss in the 2012 French Open, has a 74-3 record
  • At 31, oldest woman to win a major title since Navratilova won Wimbledon at 33 in 1990
  • Only one Grand Slam away from matching Roger Federer‘s 17 titles.

So what does all of this mean?

It means Serena Williams is like the San Antonio Spurs.

Reader: Wait wait wait…you’re comparing a tennis player to an NBA franchise? You’re stretching things, Jay.

Let me explain myself.

Since the beginning of this millennium, San Antonio has won three championships (2003, 2005, 2007) and is currently up 1-0 in the NBA Finals. This team should be considered a dynasty, even though you must stretch the definition a bit.

Due to the fact that the Spurs’ big four—Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Gregg Poppovich—have won their championships over such a long period of time unlike other sports dynasties that gathered championship trophies all at once, they don’t necessarily define a certain period. You can’t say they define the 2000’s era of basketball when five other teams have taken home the title.

However, they persevered through an ever-changing league when it is an anomaly to keep hold of a core group of players. They persisted time and time again when they were proclaimed by experts as being too old and were advised to break up their core. They won three titles in a methodical manner with the same three players and head coach being the foundation to their success.

And now, these four men are on the verge of adding one more banner to their stadium—winning their first one exactly 10 years ago.

Serena has persevered through the same level of change and scrutiny. Since 2006, five men have won a major and two of them only won it once. During that same time period, 13 women have won a Grand Slam, including 2011 when four different women—none being Serena—won the four majors.

Obviously, these numbers make it seem as though no one woman has been able to take command of the game—how else can you explain Kuznetsova winning a Grand Slam in 2009? I mean, really?

Things eventually hit rock bottom for Serena in her own country in 2011 followed by two early exits in her next two Grand Slams in 2012. It seemed it might be time to start reflecting on her career and how impressive she had been.

But just like the Spurs, right when you think Serena is done being a force, she decides to prove you wrong. Winning three of the past four majors, Serena is right back atop of the women’s tennis world and doesn’t look to be coming down any time soon. San Antonio is up one game on the favored Miami Heat and is only three wins away from being atop the NBA world yet again.

(Also—Serena doesn’t get talked about very much because of the nation’s general lack of interest in her sport while the Spurs don’t get much press because of their style of play and location; neither of them get their deserved national media coverage.)

Both are more than dominant—they are resolute. When everything around them is changing and they are being talked about in the past tense, they continue to do the only thing they know how to do: win. There may be hard-to-swallow first round exits along the way (Spurs lost to the 8th-seeded Grizzlies in the 1st round of the 2011 Playoffs and Serena lost to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the 2012 French Open), but that doesn’t deter these steadfast champions from continuing their course of superiority and success. They continue forward.

I have no doubt Serena will continue winning Grand Slams—at least one more this year. There’s no one standing in her way as she took down her toughest competition in straight sets Saturday. San Antonio has the right coach, game plan and original “Big 3” to take home another championship in the next few weeks. Could they win another one after that? It would be tough, especially in a league with Kevin Durant and LeBron James only getting better.

But before you say they’re too old and that this will be their last chance at a ring, remember the 2013 French Open women’s champion. Remember that some dynasties last longer than you think.

Some dynasties like Serena and the Spurs.

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Fun Fact Friday

7 06 2013

With 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists in Thursday’s 92-88 Game 1 loss, LeBron James put together his third career NBA Finals triple-double, good for second most all-time. He is also tied for third most all-time in career playoff triple-doubles (10). LeBron is the third player to grab one of these in back-to-back NBA Finals games (going back to the 2012 NBA Finals), joining Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson. Larry Bird in 1986 was the last player to mess around and get a triple-double in an NBA Finals loss and then go on to win it all. Oh—and the last person in the past 25 years to get a triple-double with at least 18 rebounds? That’s right. Good ol’ Tim Duncan during the Spurs’ closeout victory in Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals. How fitting.

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Repeat Champions?

1 04 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fun Fact Friday (Thursday Edition)

14 03 2013

After taking down the Philadelphia 76ers 98-94, the Miami Heat (49-14) placed their ballclub with an elite group. The Heat now have won 20 games in a row, becoming the fourth team to have a 20-game winning streak in the regular season. LeBron has averaged 26.6 points during the streak – only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Gail Goodrich averaged more during one of these four winning streaks.

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The Hot Could Get Even Hotter

27 06 2012

How does this look? Wrong, right?

According to multiple sources, there is mutual interest between Ray Allen and the Miami Heat. Allen could bring in a much bigger check elsewhere… but elsewhere isn’t Miami, Florida. Elsewhere isn’t the reigning NBA champions’ home sweet home.

It would simply be unfair to the league if Allen and his quick release joined forces with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. He would have the time and space to shoot like never before in his 16-year career, and his poised, veteran attitude fits in with any type of team – especially this one.

If the Heat continue to find a way to beat the NBA system by bringing in players below their market value, there is nothing stopping this team from becoming a dynasty.

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Budinger to Wolves; Howard to Rockets? Orlando Should Say Yes

26 06 2012

And before we even get a chance to take in that one big-time, self-important superstar got his ring, another one might soon be on the move.

After both teams started their 2011-2012 season blazing hot only to cool off down the stretch, the Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed to send their 18th pick in this year’s draft to the Houston Rockets for 3-point specialist Chase Budinger and the draft rights to Isralian professional basketball player Lior Eliyahu, according to two league sources.

Budinger finished his second year with the Rockets averaging 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range. These numbers don’t provide a just representation of his potential or lack there of; the former Arizona Wildcat had moments throughout the season when he looked to be on the verge of breaking out of his NBA shell and others when he needed to sit right back down on the bench. His last two games provide an appropriate representation. After putting up five points in the second to last game of the year, he followed that up with 27 points to finish the season. Changing scenarios could push him in either direction, but one thing is certain: Kevin Love will no longer be the Timberwolves’ leader in 3-point attempts.

It is clear what the Rockets want: Dwight Howard.

Currently in possession of the No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 picks in the draft and also pushing to trade Kyle Lowry and everyone else on the team (literally everyone) for even more draft picks, they are attempting to put together an offer that the Magic just can’t pass up. General Manager Daryl Morey has quickly become aggressive and determined to bring the big man to the franchise.

However, the big man would be a part of the franchise as long as Tyson Chandler lasted with the Dallas Mavericks, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com.

“A source with knowledge of Howard’s thinking said Monday that there was ‘not a chance’ Howard would be persuaded to remain in Houston if traded there, and would leave next summer to sign elsewhere,” Aldridge reported.

Will any of these players be back in a Rockets uniform next season?

The Rockets shouldn’t be surprised since Howard wants to go where he will receive a great deal of attention and where his name will be plastered all over the news media. Houston is not the place to go for that.

But Houston doesn’t care. Why?

9th place and 14th pick. 9th place and 14th pick. 9th place and 14th pick.

The Rockets have driven themselves into basketball irrelevancy, finishing each of the past three seasons literally in the middle of the pack in the exact same spot with the exact same draft pick. As management, this is the point where you must make the conscious decision to “shake things up” no matter the cost or risk.

Bringing in Howard has it’s cost. It has it’s risk. But it puts them right back on the NBA map as they will undoubtedly become somewhat important, increase revenue by simply winning and make the playoffs – finally.

The biggest consequence this could have on the league is it could change Deron Williams’s statement that he will only be going to either the Dallas Mavericks or staying with the Brooklyn Nets.

As he has made clear in one way or another the past few years, the enticing idea of playing with Howard is high on his bucket list. Why shouldn’t it be? These two All-Stars have become good friends through Olympic play and would both love to play with each other. With barely any roster spots currently guaranteed and with enough cap space to sign two max-contract players, the Rockets could do the unthinkable and bring in two game-changing players that play the two most important positions on the floor – if Williams doesn’t mind rooting for the Texas Rangers a few hours outside of Arlington.

Whenever a blockbuster trade is on the verge of taking place, people can’t help but analyze the situation from the perspective of the team that will be getting the main blockbuster piece. Orlando shouldn’t be forgotten since they couldn’t be asking for a better situation.

Obviously, the Rockets are planning something big. They want Howard badly and will gift-wrap just about every single piece that relates to the “future” in their organization. By the time Thursday’s draft arrives, they will most likely have attained a top 10 pick that they have been eyeing – in order to hook Howard, of course. In a draft so deep that Draymond Green and Royce White are projected to go in the 20s, this is the perfect year to stockpile as many picks as possible. They can get just that by working with Houston.

D12 does not know what he wants. In fact, he doesn’t know how to handle not knowing what he wants. As he has shown countless times throughout last season with his wavering attitude literally from day to day and his reliance on others telling him what to do, he is a detriment to a team’s atmosphere. If he wasn’t the best center in the league and didn’t have an larger impact than every other player in the league not named LeBron James or Rajon Rondo, he would already be out of Florida. Orlando should rid themselves of this interminable problem as soon as possible.

The biggest problem in getting this deal done is Rob Hennigan. Since he has been the Magic general manager for less than a week, he wants to do what he wants do. (Clear enough?) He hasn’t even been given the chance to be stressed out with his Howard problem and figure out what type of offers are out there.

But the stress doesn’t need to be there. Sometimes, the first offer is the best offer. Making a trade with the Rockets as soon as possible and getting this monkey off their back couldn’t be better for their organization. After the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) traded away Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, who averaged a combined 48.8 of the team’s points during the 2006-2007 season, following yet another disappointing year, they brought in an abundance of youthful pieces. I would say that has somewhat worked out for them…

Unless the Magic enjoy killing their locker room atmosphere, hope that their current All-Star will walk this next offseason or don’t want start anew with some fresh, young talent, they should send Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets.

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