April 10, 2014

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Sizing up Kevin Durant’s MVP Season

By: Matt Bowen

Kevin Durant is the best basketball player on the planet. Right now this statement can’t be argued. This is fact. What he’s doing this season is nothing short of genius. On a nightly basis his pure dominance emulates the greatest players in history.

Kevin Durant

Will Kevin Durant be holding the NBA MVP trophy at the end of this season?

No, Durant hasn’t led the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA title yet but that will happen this season. His game can’t be contained. He’s a masterful puppeteer and his opponents are simply on strings. His recent streak of 41 straight games with 25-plus points is the third longest streak in NBA history.

Before we move on sit back and let that stat sink in for a second.

Only Wilt Chamberlin and Oscar Robertson have had longer streaks. 41 games! That’s half a season straight with that kind of production. To be considered a star scorer in the NBA, a player must average 25 points/game for the season. This season Durant is averaging a whopping 32 points/game. Not since Kobe Bryant in 2005-06 has a player averaged more. To put his year in perspective, Carmelo Anthony led the league with 28.66 points/game last season. In the game where he scored less than 25, he scored 23 and only shot the ball 13 times. He also didn’t play in the fourth quarter. That fact shows how selfless Durant is—individual accolades mean nothing to the man; resting up for a title run is everything.

Durant is only 25 years old—to think that he’s still 2-3 years way from his true prime is silly. We haven’t seen the best of KD yet and that is ridiculous. This season he has shot 50.8 percent from the field. For a shooter such as himself to make half of his shots over an entire season is impressive.

His numbers in his age-25 season are comparable to the great Michael Jordan in regards to scoring. Keep in mind that the game has changed a bit from Jordan’s day—the 3-pointer is the preferred currency of the NBA these days. Through 76 games in 2013-14 Durant has taken 1,564 shots, 457 of which are of the 3-point variety. In 81 games in his 25-year-old season Jordan took 1,795 shots, 98 of which were threes. Durant’s shooting percentage beyond the arc is 40.5 percent compared to MJ’s 27.6. Yes, Jordan shot 53.8 percent from the field in 1988-89, but only 5.4 percent of his shots were threes. A staggering 29.2 percent of Durant’s shots are from the long line. Jordan averaged 32.5 points/game compared to Durant’s 32. Keep in mind we’re taking about Jordan—arguably the greatest to ever play the game.

To think that Durant’s career isn’t following the path of Jordan’s is preposterous. Now, six rings may be out of reach but it’s not impossible. Durant’s shot is silky smooth, true poetry in motion. He’s averaging 34.6 points/game since the start of January.

This being said, there’s no denying he’s the best. He has no ceiling. Expect nothing less than a ring at season’s end.

April 2, 2014

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NBA Playoff Match-ups We Want

By: Joe Williams

Finally, the playoffs are almost here. With only about seven games left for each team, we can start to see who will face off when the championship run begins. A lot can change between now and then, but here’s what I hope to see come playoff time. We’ll start in the East:

1 Indiana Pacers vs 8 New York Knicks

All season, it has been almost a given that we would get Pacers-Heat III in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now it’s not looking like a sure thing. The Pacers are in a big-time slump and the Knicks have suddenly got it going and are just a game out of the last playoff spot. The Pacers against a red-hot Knicks team would be much more interesting that the Pacers taking on a faltering Atlanta Hawks squad.

Carmelo Anthony

If the Knicks make the playoffs, could they be a problem for the Pacers?

2 Miami Heat vs 7 Charlotte Bobcats
Unfortunately, this is as close as we will get to Lebron James vs Michael Jordan. I hope we see it happen. Miami swept the regular season meetings 4-0, but one game was decided by just one point and another went to overtime. If Dwayne Wade isn’t at full strength, Al Jefferson and the Bobcats could give the Heat a first-round battle. Maybe MJ will even decide to suit up.

3 Chicago Bulls vs 6 Washington Wizards
It will be nice to see a up-and-coming team take on a veteran club that just keeps winning no matter who they have dressed in street clothes. It could be a bad match-up for the Bulls (they are 0-2 against the Wizards this season), but I think their experience will be a big advantage. And if the Bulls can grab the three seed, that could set up another “Chicago Street Fight” with the Heat in round two.

4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Brooklyn Nets
So that leaves us with another team looking to finally get a taste of playoff action against a team full of players that are used to playing in multiple playoff series every year. Do the old guys in Brooklyn have one more run left? Or will the Raptors be a newcomer making some noise?

As for the West: 

1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
Any chance history could repeat itself? Three years ago the eight-seeded Grizzlies made history and took down the top-seeded Spurs. Both rosters have a lot of the same players. After struggling early in the season, the Grizzlies have become one of the hottest teams in the West and the Spurs are currently riding an 18-game win streak.

2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 7 Dallas Mavericks
The Thunder are one of the favorites to win the title. Kevin Durant is the favorite to win the MVP award. That usually means a fairly easy win in the first round. Maybe not this year though. The Mavs have beaten the Thunder twice in the last couple weeks. Let’s see if they can beat them again when it really counts.

3. L.A. Clippers vs 6 Golden State Warriors
I love rivalries. A playoff series between the Clippers and Warriors could lead to a great one for the next few years. These teams already have the building blocks in place after beginning the season with feisty affair that led to the teams refusing to attend chapel together and Blake Griffin calling the Warriors cowardly when they met in December. This series needs to happen.

4. Houston Rockets vs 5 Portland Trailblazers

Dwight Howard vs LaMarcus Aldridge. Damian Lillard vs James Harden. Neither teams feels the need to play defense. In their four meetings this season, each team scored at least 111 three times. At the time of year when the game slows down and defense is at a premium, a series like this will be a nice change of pace.

February 19, 2014

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NBA Second Half Predictions

By: Joe Williams

The NBA’s All Star break is officially in the rear view mirror and the trade deadline is just a couple days away. So now seems like a good time to take a look at what lies ahead this season.

Once again, the trade deadline will be a lot of talk and a lot of disappointment for the fans hoping their team will make a big splash. Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and other big names have been rumored as possible trades. But they aren’t going anywhere. As always, we’ll have a few solid players finding new homes but nothing that is franchise altering. Everyone is waiting for that to happen in the draft.

Milwaukee is well on its way to having the most balls in the draft lottery. The real “battle” will be between Philadelphia, Orlando, Sacramento, Boston, Utah and the Lakers so make sure they get the second or third best chance to win the first pick in the draft.

Philadelphia 76ers

Many teams, like the 76ers, are already looking to 2015.

The division winners will be Toronto, Indiana, Miami, Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers and Houston.

Indiana will finish with the best record and home court advantage in the Eastern Conference. Miami will not care. The Pacers want to play at home. Miami wants to be healthy for the playoffs. Both teams will get their wish, setting up a tremendous Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami will not pull off the three-peat. Sooner or later their ability to turn it on and off at will will be over. They are next-to-last in allowing a 51.6 effective field goal percentage. Defense wins championships right? There is no D in Miami right now and it will come back to haunt them in the playoffs.

The other stroll (I can’t call it a race when all the teams are under .500) to watch is whether Michael Jordan’s Bobcats can hold off the Knicks and Cavs to make the playoffs. These teams have been unintentionally terrible and need to reach the postseason as they try to gain some much needed respect (Bobcats), try to keep Carmelo (Knicks) and lure LeBron James (Cavs).

In the Western Conference the Thunder have been the best team and are about to get Westbrook back. They’ll be the top seed. But the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Blazers are going to be in a fight for the 2-5 seeds. Meanwhile, Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix and Memphis are all playing well, but someone’s going to be left out.

Kevin Durant will be the MVP. He’s led the Thunder to the best record in the league – and done it without Russell Westbrook for just about the whole season. Durant is having a career best season in scoring, assists, and shooting. He is on a mission.

In the NBA Finals, I’m seeing the Indiana Pacers taking on Oklahoma City and as long as Westbrook is healthy and returns to his old form, the Thunder winning the title.

February 11, 2014

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NBA Fantasy Trades You Should Make

By: Joe Williams

The NBA trade deadline is just a few days away. The trade deadline in your fantasy league is probably pretty close too. Now is the time to look over your roster and make the deal that will get you into the playoffs and hopefully make a run to the title. Fortunately for me, I am in second place at the moment, so I am just looking at what will help me when the playoffs start. But if you’re team is in the middle of the pack or worse, you need to make a move. I’ve got a few suggestions.

Deron Williams for D.J. Augustin or Randy Foye
DWill is still a much bigger star than Augustin or Foye but they are outproducing him and its not that close. Augustin is getting plenty of minutes in Chicago thanks to another devastating injury to Derrick Rose. Foye is also seeing plenty of action in Denver. Williams is shooting just 72 percent on free throws while Augustin and Foye are hitting 85 and 88 percent. Williams is averaging 12.5 points while Augustin and Foye are putting up 17 and 16 over the last month. Both guys are hitting twice as many 3’s as Williams.

Derrick Rose

With Derrick Rose out, D.J. Augustin is getting a lot of playing time in Chicago.

Dwyane Wade for Trevor Ariza
If someone offered you Wade in return for Ariza, normally that would be a no-brainer. But this year, Wade has been extremely frustrating to own. It seems like every time I need him to produce, he sits out. You can’t produce from the bench and Ariza doesn’t spend much time there. He’s on the floor for 38 minutes a game right now. I just don’t trust Wade to play consistently. Miami is obviously trying to save him for a playoff run. You might even get somebody to give you two players for Wade.

Chris Bosh for Paul Millsap
Bosh has been on fire lately. So its a good time to try and sell high on him. Paul Millsap is quietly have a great season. Especially with Al Horford going down for Atlanta. My problem with Bosh is that as the fantasy playoffs begin, the Heat probably won’t have anything to play for and will have the big three getting ready for the playoffs. (If they wanted the No. 1 seed, they’d have found a way to beat the Jazz the other night) Meanwhile, the Hawks will be in a battle for home-court advantage and need all the Millsap they can get.

Pau Gasol for Zach Randolph
If you make this trade now, you can get a few extra games from Randolph while Gasol recovers from his groin injury. But even when Gasol returns, I’d rather have Randolph. Gasol is about to be traded and when he gets to a new team, he’s not going to get the ball and produce as much a he is in L.A. And even if he stays in L.A., Kobe Bryant will be back pretty soon and take a lot of those shots that Gasol has been getting. I’m actually proposing this trade in my league today. I hope “Fear the Beard” isn’t reading this.

Dwight Howard for Andre Drummond

Every team in the NBA would jump at the chance to get Dwight Howard. Some guys in your fantasy league will too. Hopefully one of them has Andre Drummond. If Howard is on your team, you are probably getting killed in free throw shooting. So why not go all in and trade Howard for another big man who is even worse from the charity stripe? You aren’t getting anything out of that stat anyway and Drummond will bring up your field goal percentage and rebounds while cutting down on your turnovers.

January 28, 2014

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NBA All-Star Reserve Picks

By: Joe Williams

I’m taking a day off from the Super Bowl mania so I don’t suffer an overload before the big game. So instead, here’s who I think should be in New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16.

In the West, the starters are Kevin Durant, Stephan Curry, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant. The fans have once again stolen a spot from someone who deserves to be there and voted in a guy who has played only six games this year. It looks like Kobe Bryant will spend the game sitting on the bench while someone like Goran Dragic probably gets left off the team.

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin will be an All-Star game starter for the West.

Who should be the reserves in the West? (Chris Paul would be a sure thing but I’m assuming he will not play due to his injury).

LaMarcus Aldridge
This guy should be a starter. He’s leading Portland into title contention and putting up 24-12-3. Aldridge is in the MVP discussion.

DeMarcus Cousins
Just because the Kings are terrible doesn’t mean that Cousins shouldn’t be on this team. 22-12-3 tells me he’s one of the top four centers in the league.

Anthony Davis
He’s one of the most valuable players in fantasy basketball. Davis‘ 20-10-3 with his shooting percentage is a big boost for my roster. He’s the best player in the city hosting the game. He has to be on this team.

James Harden
Harden is putting up 24-5-5 per game, has Houston in the hunt in the West and may be sporting the greatest beard in NBA history.

Dwight Howard
He’s the best big man in the game when he wants to be. Howard’s 18-12-3 could be even better if he hit more than 52 percent of his free throws.

Damian Lillard
Along with Aldridge, Damian Lillard has elevated Portland into contender status. He’s hitting 3’s at a crazy rate and giving the Blazers 20-6. And there may not be a better guy with the ball at the end of a game.

Goran Dragic
Didn’t we think the Suns were going to contend for the No. 1 pick in the draft? Not with this guy running the show. 19-6 a night and he has his team at 26-18.

Note: The last spot came down to Dragic or Dirk Nowitzki, who is one of my favorite players. So thanks a lot fans for making me leave Dirk off the team.

In the East, we’ve got LeBron James, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony and another guy who doesn’t deserve the spot….Dwyane Wade. Nothing against Wade…he just sits out too much to get that spot in my opinion.

Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert is the anchor of the league’s best defense on the league’s best team and averages close to a double-double.

Al Jefferson
Everyone said he left Utah for Charlotte to get paid. Nobody thought it was to make a run at the playoffs, but at 19-27 the Bobcats are currently eighth in the East. (That’s not saying much.)

Kyle Lowry
The Toronto Raptors are in third place in the East. He is a big reason why, averaging 16-7-4.

Paul Millsap
Atlanta is still in the hunt for the three seed, even without the services of Al Horford. Without Millsap’s 17-8-3 a night they would be in trouble.

Joakim Noah
Noah is the best player left on a team that just won’t go away no matter how many of their best players do. He does a little of everything for Chicago.

John Wall
Washington is currently sixth in the East and Wall is leading the conference in assists. I’m putting him on the team and hoping not to see any dance moves.

Arron Afflalo
Yeah, his team is terrible. But it’s not Afflalo’s fault. Just imagine what Orlando would be like without him.