December 12, 2012

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Why the Golden State Warriors are True Contenders

By: Matt Bowen

The Golden State Warriors have long been an afterthought as true NBA contenders, but that time is officially over. The Warriors are the real deal this season for reasons never associated with the franchise before.

Will the Golden State Warriors make the NBA playoffs this season?

For years the team was coached by one of the game’s greats, Don Nelson. While his coaching style was wide open, run-and-gun, full throttle and a blast to watch, defense was nearly absent in Oakland for seemingly decades. If the team couldn’t score 120-plus points on any given night, the odds of winning were minimal.

Now, a new day is upon the Warriors and their future is mighty bright. The team is now coached by long-time NBA veteran Mark Jackson, who is in his second season as the team’s coach and is the right man for the job. Like a former catcher becoming a manager in Major League Baseball, the ex-point guard is a recipe for success in the NBA.

Jackson knew that installing defensive fundamentals would be priority No. 1 and the team isn’t defensively superior quite yet, but they are well on their way. The Warriors are winning with young talent and are sure to continue to improve. The squad is now a team from the top spot on the roster to the bottom.

Their 14-7 record currently has them in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference. What is most impressive is that the team has won four straight road games in which they’ve scored 100-plus points in each contest. Winning teams in any professional sport not only take care of business on their home court, but they win consistently on the road. Collecting W’s away from home now will serve the Warriors well come late in the season when they are jockeying for home-court advantage for the playoffs.

Wait, the Warriors will be in the playoffs?

Believe it.

Led by all-world playmaker Stephen Curry, the Warriors are an up-and-coming juggernaut. No one man in the NBA can do it by himself and Curry has help in double-double guru David Lee and scorers Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.

So what makes this team different from all of the promising Warriors lineups in the past that were loaded with top-tier talent?

The franchise now has a coach that predicates his teachings on defense and his team is taking a liking to being victorious more times than not. They are beginning to gel and look good in doing so. With Curry running the show, opposing teams are left to guess what is up his sleeve.

Sure, they will have to overcome injuries as the injury bug has already bitten them this season, but better that happen to them now than late March, early April.

The Warriors take to the road once again against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on 12-12-2012. Maybe that will help them get the attention they deserve.

February 28, 2012

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NBA Fantasy Trades You Should Make

By: Joe Williams

The NBA trade deadline is two weeks away. The trade deadline in your fantasy league is probably even closer. Now is the time to look over your roster and make the deal that will get you into the playoffs. Fortunately for me, I am leading my league, 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.

Jeremy Lin for Kyrie Irving

If you were the first in your league to buy into the “Linsanity” in New York, you were rewarded with some huge games. If you can deal him now for Kyrie Irving, you may be rewarded again. Lin has been getting all the headlines so this could be the perfect time to offer him in a trade. And if you do, Kyrie Irving is your guy. Lin and Irving are putting up very similar numbers over the last 30 days, but Irving has a couple advantages over Lin in the second half of the season. Lin and the Knicks have just 31 games remaining. Irving and the Cavs have 35. An extra four games of production could be the difference between the playoffs and the consolation bracket. Lin is also going to be dealing with some lineup changes with the return of Carmelo Anthony and the signing of J.R. Smith. You can count on those two taking away some of the opportunities Lin had over the last few weeks.

The return of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks lineup impacts a couple of our suggested trades.

Amar’e Stoudemire for David Lee

Here’s another Knick with only 31 games left on the schedule. Meanwhile, David Lee will be playing 36 games for the Warriors. Like Lin, Stoudemire will have to adjust to Anthony returning and the addition of Smith. Combine that with five extra games and Stoudemire being much more of a household name, and maybe you will find someone willing to give up a guy averaging 20 points, 9 rebounds, and shooting over 50 percent in the last 30 days.

Carlos Boozer for DeAndre Jordan

This is another trade I would try to make featuring a guy with a bigger name who only has 31 games left and a history of missing time (Boozer), for a guy that is lesser known but putting up similar numbers and has 35 games left to play (Jordan). Just 13 of the Bulls 31 remaining games are in Chicago, and Boozer is putting up three fewer points per game on the road.

Dwight Howard for Al Jefferson

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 Al Jefferson. The Jazz have 34 games left, which is three more than Howard is currently scheduled to play. Of course, currently is the key word here. If I have Howard, who is surrounded with question marks about where he will finish the season and kills me in free throw percentage, I am willing to part with the big man for someone like Jefferson, who doesn’t have the superstar appeal but does put up nearly 20-10 on average and shoots well from the floor and the charity stripe.

June 21, 2011

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Mock NBA Draft

By: Joe Williams

Cleveland

Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

Ever since the Cavs won the draft lottery, the talk has been either Irving or Derrick Williams with the first pick. It has been reported that Cleveland has decided on Irving.

Nick Gilbert won the lottery, securing the #1 NBA draft pick for the Cavaliers

Minnesota

Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona

The Timberwolves need all the help they can get. Williams and Irving are the consensus top two players in this NBA draft.

Utah
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey
With two picks in the top 12, the Jazz have options. The Irving and Williams are pretty locked in as the top two picks, so the wheeling and dealing could start here. Utah stays put and takes a 7-footer, hoping he can become one of the few legitimate big men in the NBA.

Cleveland
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
With Irving on board, the Cavs look to get some help inside. If they can hit on these two picks, it will go a long way towards moving on from the Lebron James era.
 
Toronto
Jan Vesely, SF, Czech Republic
The Raptors have a history of drafting international players. Why stop now?
 
Washington
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
The Wizards have plenty of young guns in the backcourt. Picking up Thompson would give them some help on the glass.
 
Sacramento
Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
The Kings go for another Wildcat to join DeMarcus Cousins. Adding Knight to run the point will allow Tyreke Evans to move to the two-guard.
 
Detroit
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
After all the trouble in Detroit with Rip Hamilton last year, nobody would expect the Pistons to draft another Hamilton. Wrong.
 
Charlotte
Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
The Bobcats need another scorer. Michael Jordan and company hope Walker can be that guy.
 
Milwaukee
Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Milwaukee is set at point guard and center. The Bucks need more firepower.
 
Golden State
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
The Warriors need someone who will crash the boards and provide some toughness.
 
Utah
Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
If Jimmer is still on the board here, Utah has to take him. Don’t they? The fan base will go bonkers if the Jazz pass on the Jimmer.
 
Phoenix
Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
The Suns ought to be looking for a big man who can rebound.
 
Houston
Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
Yao Ming may need to be replaced. If Ming does return, the Rockets would be wise to have some insurance in case he gets hurt again.
 
Indiana
Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
The Pacers could use another big man to rebound.
 
Philadelphia
Tobias Harris, PF, Tennessee
The Sixers have plenty of young talent in the backcourt so they look to get some help for Elton Brand on the inside.
 
New York
Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
The Knicks add a shooter to help spread the floor with Anthony and Stoudemire.
 
Washington
Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia
The Wizards hope the Serbian can develop into a key contributor.
 
Charlotte
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
There is a good chance Charlotte will not pick here on NBA draft night, but if they do they will go for the best player on their board.

Minnesota
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuiana
Minnesota shocks everyone by not taking a point guard.

Portland
Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
The Blazers should let the team doctor make this pick and bring in the healthiest player on the board.

Denver
Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
Good luck finding the next Carmelo Anthony at this point. Denver has lots of free agents so they could take any position. Might as well take a guy who scored more than 24 points a game.
 
Houston
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
The Rockets add another big man.
 
Oklahoma City
JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
The Thunder could use a low post scorer to take some pressure off of Kevin Durant.

Boston
Jeremy Tyler, PF
Is Kendrick Perkins available?
 
Dallas
Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State
The NBA champions will try to find a point guard to take over when Jason Kidd retires.
 
New Jersey
Justin Harper, PF, Richmond
The Nets need to get Deron Williams another scorer.
 
Chicago Bulls
Shelvin Mack, SG, Butler
A shooting guard who can score would really help Derrick Rose.
 
San Antonio
Jon Leuer, PF, Wisconsin
Tim Duncan is not the man he once was.
 
Chicago Bulls
Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia
Why not take a pair of two guards and hope one becomes the missing piece?

May 18, 2011

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NBA Draft Predictions

By: Rick Jarrell

Last night was the NBA Draft Lottery. Finallysomething to distract us from the incredible postseason basketball we’ve been subjected to so far (kidding). Pre-draft coverage is often over hyped, and the draft lottery is a great example. It’s not the actual drafting of players that may or may not (probably won’t) be superstars, but a random drawing of ping pong balls to decide who gets to gamble on the most recent highly touted players in hopes they can turn around a franchise. ESPN managed to drag a process that should have taken five minutes into a thirty minute “extravaganza.” But hey, it’s not as demoralizing as “The Decision,” and for those fans currently outside of the playoffs, it provides a small shred of hope.

With that in mind, rather than perform a mock draft, as most media outlets will do in an astonishingly redundant fashion, let’s take a look at different types of draft strategy and which lottery teams are likely to employ each one.

Draft for Potential

This strategy is nearly mandatory for those fortunate enough to win one of the top picks, especially when it comes to this year’s widely agreed upon weak draft. Most years, there seems to be a few players clearly above the rest, if not a single player perceived as the hands down top pick. For this year’s draft, that player is Kyrie Irving. Despite playing only a small portion of his freshman season at Duke, Irving is seen as the only sure NBA talent with potential to become a superstar. Expect the Cleveland Cavaliers, who those around the league say love Irving, to take him first.

After Irving, the draft becomes more of a mystery. And with such a shallow talent pool, I fully endorse any team taking a huge risk on an unknown like Bismack Biyombo. The likely best case scenario for a lot of these players is a strong rotational player, maybe a starter on a decent-good team. The odds are against any of this draft class leading a team to a championship, so why not take a risk? If you’re wrong, you get another high pick next year, with hopefully a better selection.

Draft Best Available

Selecting the best available in the draft is usually a strategy most commonly used by teams who need to improve in a lot of areas. Typically that includes the majority of the top end of the draft, and this year is no different. The Cavs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards all have multiple areas of glaring weakness. Where they’re slotted in the draft now, taking the most talented player is logical.

Personally, I’m a big fan of this strategy, whether or not the best available player would be redundant on the team. You can find time to play two players, even if they play identical positions. And you can’t count on one player staying with the team their entire career. They’ll either be traded or leave via free agency. So you can also use the “redundant” player as a trade asset. But with this draft, the best available is unremarkable, and this strategy may not be as strong as it would be in most years.

Draft for Need

Traditionally, you’d see teams that seem to be one piece away from a playoff appearance, or a playoff team who acquired a lottery team’s draft pick, in this position. But the team that would have fit this mold the best, the Los Angeles Clippers, traded their pick to the Cavs (a pick that defied the 2.8% odds to gain #1). The Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and the Houston Rockets could enact this strategy, but with the 11th, 13th, and 14th picks, respectively, in a poor draft doesn’t leave them with much option. The rest of the high lottery teams are in such disarray, they are likely to select either based on talent or best available. 

The one team that may use need-based drafting that could shake things up is the Utah Jazz. A playoff team a year ago, the team was uprooted midseason as they sent Deron Williams to the New Jersey Netsand longtime head coach Jerry Sloan resigned shortly afterwards. Williams is a great player, but he wasn’t the entire team. There’s still talent on the team. But the front court is currently crowded with Paul Milsap, Mehmet Okur, Al Jefferson, and Derek Favors, who they received from the Nets. So despite having the third pick and the ability to select Williams or Kanter, the Jazz may go for a need and select a guard to pair with Devin Harris, such as Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker.

Wheelin’ and Dealin’

Every year, there are a few draft day trades – either before a player is drafted, or right after the player is drafted. In general, the NBA is a constantly evolving mechanism. But with the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire this summer, it’s going to be difficult for a team to makes any serious moves without knowing what the future holds. Also, with the lack of talent in the draft (have I said that already?), teams are even less likely to take a risk. If any of the teams with higher draft picks this year is offered a future draft pick, I think they’ll strongly consider. Having said that, the Rockets are a team that is always looking to make a move, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that holds true next month. The Wizards, looking for a sidekick to team with John Wall, may have fallen just short of being able to select a talented front court player, and may be open to a trade.

The NBA Draft is June 23rd. Until then, PLAYOFFS! It’s only getting better…

February 28, 2011

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2011 NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

By: Anson Whaley

As expected, there was a flurry of moves before the NBA trade deadline. Some teams legitimately improved their chances of winning a championship this season and others planned for the future. An important aspect of some trades is the ability to take on players with expiring contracts to increase salary cap space in future years. But because free cap space doesn’t guarantee teams will necessarily be able to sign the free agents they want, that part is essentially impossible to consider when evaluating these deals.

With that said, it’s time to break down some of the more significant trades and find out who got the better end of each deal.

Knicks-Nuggets-Timberwolves

New York Knicks receive: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter, and Corey Brewer

Denver Nuggets receive: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, Knicks’ first-round draft pick, Two Warriors’ second-round draft picks, and $3 Million cash

Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph

This was the blockbuster deal of the year and the Knicks finally made the big splash that everyone expected. Not only did they land one of the NBA’s best players, Carmelo Anthony, to pair with All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, they also secured Chauncey Billups to give New York a legitimate trio of stars. While Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman, and Anthony Carter are lesser talents, Corey Brewer is a young player who could develop into a solid sixth man down the line. Brewer came from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who played a small part in this deal.

Even though Denver lost Anthony, they did pick up some legitimate talent in exchange for him. Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler are three young developing players who could help Denver for years to come. All three are averaging more than 15 points per game and are already quality players.

Still, at the end of the day, the Knicks came away with arguably one of the league’s top ten players and a former All-Star guard in one fell swoop. In trading for Carmelo, the Knicks have lit a fire under their fan base and should be a contending team in the Eastern Conference for many years. The young players and draft picks that Denver received help make this a fairly even trade. But in the NBA, superstars win championships and without Anthony, Denver will have a hard time advancing deep into the playoffs.

WINNER: New York


Jazz-Nets

New Jersey Nets receive: Deron Williams

Utah Jazz receive: Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Two first-round draft picks, and $3 Million cash

The Nets may have missed out on Carmelo Anthony, but they did grab a nice consolation prize in Deron Williams. Williams is one of the league’s best point guards and reports surfaced recently that he and long-time coach Jerry Sloan didn’t always see eye to eye. So when Sloan abruptly retired shortly before the trade, no one could imagine that Williams would be shopped. The Jazz apparently had other plans.

In moving Williams, the Jazz gave up on a franchise player. He has the ability to win games almost single-handedly and is a bonafide leader. While the Nets didn’t give up a star to get him, Devin Harris is a proven starting point guard, and Derrick Favors was the third overall pick in last year’s draft. But the 2011 first-round pick might be the biggest piece for Utah. The Nets are one of the NBA’s worst teams this season, and, depending on which way the ping pong balls bounce when the draft order is announced, that pick could end up being one of the top selections in the draft.

WINNER: This one’s a little complicated. Part of the reason the Jazz traded Williams is because his contract expires after next season. If the Nets are able to re-sign him, they are the winners. But if Williams leaves after next season, the Jazz come out ahead. This trade falls under the dreaded ‘To be determined’ category.

Celtics-Thunder

Boston Celtics receive: Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Future first-round draft pick

Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson

The defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics made a bit of a gamble in dealing starting center Kendrick Perkins and one of their top reserves, Nate Robinson. In exchange, though, they get the versatile Jeff Green and backup center Nenad Krstic. For now, the Celtics have settled upon starting Krstic. That may change, however, as they also have the option of anointing Green as a starter and using a smaller lineup.

Perkins is a good defender, but the Celtics received a capable replacement in Krstic. While they’re now weaker in the middle, Green is another defender who will help them if they run into the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the postseason.

WINNER: Boston Celtics


Cavaliers-Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers receive: Mo Williams and Jamario Moon

Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Baron Davis and 2011 First-round draft pick

Since LeBron James’ departure, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been the same. They’ve gone from a championship contender to one of the worst teams in the league. With this trade, they lose two high-energy players, but pick up a one-time star in Baron Davis. The Cavs also secure the Clippers’ 2011 pick, which will be a lottery selection. So why would Los Angeles trade a high draft pick and a solid point guard for two average players? Simply put, it was all about the money. The Clippers wanted to be free of Davis’ large contract, and this trade allowed them to do that. But in giving up a high draft pick, they also gave away a chance at adding another young piece around stars Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. Meanwhile, with two lottery picks for next season, Cleveland has a chance to rebuild a bit faster than expected.

WINNER: Cleveland Cavaliers


Hawks-Wizards

Atlanta Hawks receive: Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong

Washington Wizards receive: Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford, and 2011 First-round draft pick

This deal features two veteran point guards, and while Kirk Hinrich may be a very slight upgrade over Mike Bibby, that swap is essentially a wash. Hilton Armstrong and Maurice Evans are both marginal players, so there’s not much impact there, either. But the Wizards also get the Hawks’ first-round draft pick and a young player in Jordan Crawford, so they get the edge in this one.

WINNER: Washington Wizards

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