June 25, 2013
Alright Miami, that’s enough celebrating. It’s time to start getting ready for next season…starting with Thursday’s draft. Many of the league experts are saying that this draft class is pretty weak and there aren’t any franchise altering players available. Maybe not. But some teams will get better. I just hope it’s mine.
The Cavs must improve their defense if they are to make the playoffs next season. At 7-1 and 255lbs, Len will help clog up the middle and improve their rebounding as well. Unless of course the Cavs are able to pull off the trade that has been rumored since they won the lottery.
What do you do when you need help at every position? Take whoever you think has the best shot to become a star.
Porter fits the biggest hole on the roster and should be a good fit to play with John Wall.
After having the most balls in the draft lottery, the Bobcats dropped to the fourth pick but they still get Noel – they guy they would have picked at No. 1.
Oladipo will be a solid all-around player for Phoenix, especially defensively, where the Suns have been awful.
I still can’t wrap my head around the switch to the Pelicans. I don’t like it. Maybe Bennett will like it. Pelicans? Really? Really?
Burke is probably my favorite player in this draft. The Kings get a steal here.
Here’s another guy I really like. Detroit looks to be set inside with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond so they go with a guard who will be able to score.
10. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana
LaMarcus Aldridge needs some help inside. Aldridge gets what he wants.
Why not? Muhammad is one of those guys who could go just about anywhere in this draft. He is a risk/reward pick and the Sixers take a shot.
What the Thunder really need is a fully healed Russell Westbrook, so they take the best player available to give Westbrook some assistance.
Everyone knows the Mavs are looking to use this pick to acquire more cap space. We’ll say they draft pick Olynky and ship him somewhere.
Both of Utah’s starting guards are free agents. Larkin fills one of those holes.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
There are countless ways this roster could wind up by the time the season starts. Assuming Kevin Garnett isn’t back, the Celtics will need a big defender.
17. Atlanta Hawks – Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
I’m not going to pretend like I know much about foreign players, but from what I’ve read it seems like the Hawks are interested.
18. Atlanta Hawks – Allen Crabbe, SG, California
You can never have too many shooters and the Hawks are getting one here.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers – Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
In a couple years Adams and Len could be a force inside for Cleveland. But the Cavs could use this pick in a trade for a veteran player to help them win now.
20. Chicago Bulls – Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
The Bulls should have a healthy Derrick Rose back and someone like Hardaway could provide some scoring to make Rose’s life easier.
21. Utah Jazz – Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
22. Brooklyn Nets – Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Another big man behind Brook Lopez.
23. Indiana Pacers – Rudy Gobert, C, France
After giving the Heat all they wanted in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers should look to add depth to an already strong roster.
With Jason Kidd moving on to the coaching ranks, the Knicks get a lot younger in the backcourt.
The only thing the Clippers should worry about is getting Chris Paul back. If that doesn’t happen Canaan will take his place.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves – Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Andrei Kirilenko may leave so they replace a Russian with a Russian.
27. Denver Nuggets – Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
A big man who can run and block shots would fit right in with the high-tempo Nuggets.
This could be the guy to replace Manu Ginobili.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence
Here’s an inexperienced kid that would be able to develop behind a solid roster.
30. Phoenix Suns – Mike Muscala, C, Bucknell
The Suns walk away from the first round with help in the front and back courts.
February 26, 2013
With about 25 games to go in the NBA regular season, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the teams that will make the playoffs and the ones that will be in the lottery. What we don’t know is who will face who once the playoffs get started. And that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the NBA playoffs. Here are a few races I’ll be keeping my eye on as we inch towards the final game of the regular season.
The Heat will be the top seed in the East. We know that. But the second and third seeds could go to Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago or Atlanta. These teams ought to be desperate to finish second or third. That will get them home-court advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The important thing for these teams is to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid a second round meeting with the Heat. You don’t want to face the defending champs any sooner than you have to.
Speaking of avoiding the Heat…Boston and Milwaukee shouldn’t be too worried about anyone below them stealing a playoff spot. But they will be battling to get the seventh seed and avoid the Heat in the first round.
In the West, the final playoff spot is getting all the attention. Can the Lakers squeak into the playoffs? That’s what all the talk is about, but I’m not counting out Dallas or Portland yet. All three teams are tied with 30 losses at the moment and are going to have to get red-hot to catch Houston or Utah. On second thought, after looking at the Blazers schedule, I’m counting them out. Their final 16 games are against teams in the playoff race. If they find a way to get in, nobody will be able to say they didn’t earn it.
Of course, whoever does get that final spot is going to be facing the team with the best record in the NBA, San Antonio. It would be quite the series if the Lakers do end up as the eighth seed.
One more race that is a little bit interesting will be to see which team finishes with the worst record and gets the most ping pong balls in the lottery. It looks like this will come down to Charlotte and Orlando.
May 15, 2012
The first round of the NBA playoffs became survival of the fittest with player after player going down with an injury. The list looks like an all-star roster. The Bulls, Hawks, Magic and even Knicks could all blame injuries for their first round exits. As the conference semi-finals get underway, the playoff picture is much different than I expected with the 50-win Bulls and everybody’s “sleeper” team (Memphis) eliminated. Time to reassess and rank the eight teams still standing.
No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers
This young team took advantage of an injury-riddled Bulls team and became the fifth No. 8 seed to advance to the second round. They have stolen home-court advantage against the Celtics with a game two win and showed that they will make Boston earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
No. 7 Los Angeles Clippers
The jam-packed NBA schedule has been tough on players and coaches but the group that may be the most exhausted by the whole thing is Clipper fans. These people are usually in wait-till-next-year mode by New Years and here they are in round two after a thrilling seven-game series against Memphis. How much more can they take?
No. 6 Los Angeles Lakers
This team looks like a championship contender. But only about once a week. They should be better than that with Kobe Bryant and two 7-footers. That was an embarrassing loss in Oklahoma City. It’s only one game, but the Lakers are in trouble.
No. 5 Indiana Pacers
Indiana has quietly been one of the best teams all season. Only four teams had more regular season victories than the Pacers. But they don’t seem to get much respect. Here’s their chance to change that. The Dwight Howard-less Magic didn’t give them any trouble in the first round. Can they challenge the Heat?
No. 4 Boston Celtics
It’s now or never for the Celtics. They caught a break with the Bulls going down after the Derrick Rose injury. They ought to be able to use their championship experience to get by the up-and-coming 76ers and likely have one more showdown with Miami. They know this is probably their last shot as a group. The question is how much is left in the tank?
No. 3 Miami Heat
Miami leads the Pacers 1-0 but it looks like the big three is down to a big two with Chris Bosh out “indefinitely.” Without Bosh, the Heat could be in trouble against Indiana. They are still the favorites but it may take six or seven games. They won’t win the NBA championship without a healthy Bosh back in the lineup.
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have home court advantage as long as they are in the playoffs. It seems like they have had about two weeks off after the sweep of the Utah Jazz. A lot of people expected them to have a tough matchup with the Grizzlies after losing to them in the playoffs last season. But instead they get Chris Paul and the Clippers. This should be a good series.
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City has the look of a champion. Trailing by double-digits in game four against the defending world champion Mavericks, the Thunder could have easily let that game go and finished off the Mavs in another game. But Durant and company would have none of that and finished off the sweep. Then they absolutely destroyed the Lakers in game one. They look like they are on a mission.
December 27, 2011
For years, the Clippers have played second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Clippers were the anti-Lakers, unable to win even after years of stockpiling top draft picks. The team has had a streak of bad luck that would make the Pittsburgh Pirates envious. While the Clippers have yet to prove anything in a season that’s just underway, one thing’s for certain – their luck could be changing.
But, really, it all starts with the Lakers. Ironically, the player which caused the biggest shift in power between these two teams is the same player that was supposed to get the Lakers back to the NBA Finals. The franchise believed it had a deal in place for All-World point guard Chris Paul, but the NBA’s front office surprisingly vetoed the deal, leaving the Lakers to face a stunned Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – players expected to be moved as part of the trade.
The Lakers have been able to convince Gasol to come back ready to play for them, but Odom was visibly shaken by the trade that almost went down. As a result, the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for their 2012 first-round draft pick. Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak could have made that move in hopes of dumping salary, to use the pick as part of a deal to acquire Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (we’ll get to that in a bit), or to simply get rid of Odom who was offended by the original would-be trade. But whatever the reason, the Lakers are now weaker than last year’s squad that reached the Western Conference Finals. In addition, trading him to one of the team’s fiercest rivals for the conference title was an ill-advised move.
Odom was never a player that could lead a team to a championship, but without him, it’s hard to see the Lakers winning either of their two most recent titles. Last year, he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds per game. That kind of production is going to be hard to replace, but more than that, Odom was a big time player that often produced in the clutch. L.A. essentially traded a key cog to its success in exchange for what isn’t likely to be a very high draft pick.
Of course, if the Lakers are able to negotiate a trade for the aforementioned Howard, that changes things a bit. Howard is likely the league’s best center and pairing him with Kobe Bryant would give the Lakers the best inside outside duo in the NBA. But until that happens, the franchise has egg on its face since they’ve been unable to secure a deal for him up to this point.
Getting back to Paul, though, he is a game-changing player and perhaps the best point guard in the league. After the Lakers were unable to swing a deal for him, the Clippers swooped in and made one of the biggest moves in the franchise’s history. The team put together a package built around star guard Eric Gordon and a 2012 first-round draft pick for him. While Gordon is considered one of the best young shooting guards in the league, trading him for a player of Paul’s caliber can’t be argued. Paul was brought in to not only get the Clippers to the playoffs, but to lead them to a deep run. It’s safe to say that his addition makes that a strong possibility.
The Clippers, though, aren’t a one-man team. Paul is joined by last season’s Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin, and former All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. They not only have star power, but they have a veteran starting lineup that has plenty of experience.
It’s not as if the Lakers are done, though. They still have one of the game’s best players in Kobe Bryant and with Gasol, center Andrew Bynum, and forward Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), there’s still plenty of talent to get the Lakers to the playoffs. In a seven-game series, I’d still favor them over the Clippers. But with Paul on board, the rivalry has gotten a much-needed jumpstart.
December 23, 2011
Boston at New York
The weekend starts off with Boston traveling to New York to face the team they swept out of the playoffs last year. New York has a bad taste in its mouth from that exit, and has retooled their team a bit since then. The Celtics kept their core group and will look to get off to a quick start to combat some fatigue that could set in down the stretch for their aging group. New York would love to start the season off by avenging their losses last year, but I don’t think they win this one. New teammates mixed with a veteran opponent don’t sound like a good combination. I think Boston capitalizes on early mistakes by New York and start their season with a win.
Miami at Dallas
Forget first round rematches, the second game on the schedule goes right to last year’s NBA Finals. Dallas will still be in celebration mode as they receive their rings and raise the championship banner, and it will only fuel the Heat’s fire having to be there to watch it. Miami knows how costly it can be to get off to a bad start and they will be dialed in from the opening tip. Dallas picked up Vince Carter and Lamar Odom in the offseason, while Miami added defensive specialist Shane Battier. This is a hard game to pick, because Miami’s starters match up well against Dallas, but Dallas has a deeper bench. My gut says Miami takes this game and starts the season off strong.
Chicago at Los Angeles Lakers
Two more teams that shook it up this offseason, Chicago and Los Angeles are both hoping their offseason moves help them get into the Finals. Chicago added SG Richard Hamilton from Detroit, hoping to add another scoring threat to free up PG Derrick Rose. The Lakers traded SF Lamar Odom in a move that could be associated with their efforts to get C Dwight Howard from Orlando. On top of that, Kobe Bryant has a torn ligament in his wrist, which could affect him in the game. Even without Odom, the Lakers frontcourt could be trouble for the Bulls. However, I still think Chicago comes away with this game. Look for a high scoring game that stays close, but Chicago pulls away in the end.
Orlando at Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of high scoring, this game should be a shootout. Oklahoma City has a pair of stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that will keep the tempo at a solid pace. While the Thunder had a relatively quiet offseason, Orlando has been all over the trade rumors. Star C Dwight Howard has asked for a trade and while he hasn’t gotten it yet, the thought has to be on the minds of his teammates. Thunder C Kendrick Perkins will have his hands full with Howard, but I think the young backcourt of Oklahoma City will be too much for the Magic. The Thunder get the W in this game.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State
The only game featuring teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year is one of the more anticipated ones. The new look Clippers are the talk of the NBA since they landed Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade. Now, everyone will look to see if Paul and Blake Griffin can lead the Clippers to the playoffs. The Warriors have a young team as well, led by Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. The tempo in this game should make the previous game look like a snail’s pace. Golden State has pushed the ball for years, and with a backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers might look to do the same. The Clippers are going to have to adjust, having so many new starters playing together for the first time in the regular season. The Clippers want to make a statement with this game though, and I think they will put on a show and start their season off with a 1-0 record.