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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First SLAM Article

6 06 2013

Check out my first official article I put together for my New York internship with SLAM. Click here.

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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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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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Night of the Kevins

24 03 2012

Wow… what a game.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves provided fans with the best game of the season so far. The Thunder ended up winning this face-off in double-overtime, 149-140 (the highest scoring game this year by far), but numbers can’t portray how back-and-forth this game really was.

No doubt about it – this showdown should be considered an instant classic. This game featured two of the premiere power forwards in the game (Kevin Durant and Kevin Love) and supporting casts from both sides stepping up in big ways.

  • Kevin Durant racked up 40 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as he made two clutch 3-pointers in the waning seconds of regulation and in the first overtime. Kevin Love had a franchise-high 51 points and grabbed 14 points when he wasn’t putting the ball through the net. He also reminded Chesapeake Energy Arena that he did in fact win the NBA Three-Point Shootout by making a career-high seven 3-pointers.
    • This game showcased the future of the NBA. With the loss of Ricky Rubio to a season-ending injury, the T-Wolves will most likely miss the playoffs. But they have the pieces for success in the future. The Thunder have obviously already emerged as one of the NBA elite teams. Durant and Love are two top-tier players on two teams that will eventually be elite for a long time (reminds me of two other power forwards from Texas…)
  • J.J. Barea became the first Latin American-born player in NBA history to record a triple double (25 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds). In his previous game against the Spurs, he put up 18 points and 11 assists. He is playing at a very high level right now and reminding the NBA why and how he played an integral role in the Mavericks championship run last year.
  • Russell Westbrook played out of his mind against the Thunder’s divisional rival. The freak-of-an-athlete point guard scored a career-high 45 points on an efficient 17-28 shooting. The Thunder signed him to an extension earlier this season, and if his play remains anywhere near what he did tonight, Oklahoma City ownership will be very satisfied.
  • Anthony Tolliver, who only averages 3.6 points on the season, continued his recent exceptional play. The lesser-known Minnesota power forward had a season-high 23 points on 9-13 shooting. He had 10 and 16 points in his previous two contests. A consistent spark off the bench from a big man  (no, Michael Beasley, you don’t provide this for the team) would be helpful for the Timberwolves.
  • The third-wheel on the Thunder shouldn’t be forgotten since he had a great all-around game. James Harden finished with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists. Having this punch from a sixth man that has the skill-set to do whatever the team needs him to do will be invaluable for Oklahoma City once the playoffs roll around.
  • Serge Ibaka continued to remind older fans of Marcus Camby as he had five big blocks on the night. This is the tenth time he has had five or more blocks in a game this season as he easily leads the league with 3.3 blocks per game. He might be scoring less than he did last year, but with the way he controls the paint night in and night out, I think the city of Oklahoma City couldn’t be happier with his play.
  • Scott Brooks understood the difference between a fan’s perspective and his own perspective in regard to this thriller. Either way – he knows it was a game to be remembered.
    • “I’m sure the fans and players enjoyed this one more than me,” Brooks said. “Both teams made incredible plays, just plays after plays after plays. Our team never gives up but we never could figure them out and Love had a big game against all our guys.”

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Not Much Love Between Barea and Love

18 03 2012

As the Minnesota Timberwolves fall to 20-22 with their 115-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings, frustrations are obviously high on this Minnesota team. Even with the Dallas Mavericks struggles this season, I’m sure J.J. Barea wishes he could be back at his second home in Dallas…

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