June 19, 2012
Oklahoma City and Miami are battling it out in the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the rest of the league has its attention on next weeks draft. For those of you who won’t be able to watch the draft and want to know what will go down, keep reading. For the rest of you its *SPOILER ALERT* time. Continue reading at your own risk.
2. Charlotte Bobcats – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
MJ begins rebuilding his team with another Michael. It worked out pretty well for Chicago in the 1984 draft.
The Kings need a small forward that can put the ball in the basket and find a solution to their problems getting an arena deal done with the city. Barnes can help in one of those areas.
6. Portland Trail Blazers Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
Here we go again. Drummond has got to be crossing his fingers and anything else he can find hoping that he doesn’t go to Portland considering the string of injuries that have taken out Blazer big men.
7. Golden State Warriors - Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor
The Warriors already got lucky in the lottery when this pick didn’t go to the Jazz. They push their luck and take what could be an all-or-nothing player.
8. Toronto Raptors – Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
The Raptors could improve quickly by adding a good pick here to go along with last year’s lottery pick, Jonas Valanciunas.
10. New Orleans Hornets - Damian Lillard, PG, Weber St.
The rebuilding continues with one of the nation’s most prolific scorers.
11. Portland Trail Blazers - Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
The Blazers breathe a sigh or relief when neither Lillard or Marshall are taken in the first nine spots because they really need a point guard.
12. Milwaukee Bucks – Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
There is a big hole to fill in the middle after the Bucks traded Andrew Bogut last season.
15. Philadelphia 76ers - Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
After a surprising playoff run, the Sixers look to take the next step by adding a big man to help matchup with the Eastern Conference powers.
16. Houston Rockets – Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
The Rockets make NBA history as this is the first time two players named Terrence have been drafted back-to-back.
17. Dallas Mavericks - John Hensen, PF, North Carolina
Dallas gets some help for Dirk Nowitzki and takes the best available player left on the board.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves - Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Timberwolves go with a replacement for the possibly leaving free agents Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph.
19. Orlando Magic – Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
New GM. New coach. Dwight Howard is probably gone. Melo can block shots and shoot free throws like Howard but lacks in the scoring department. Two out of three ain’t bad.
22. Boston Celtics – Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor
If he gets back to 100 percent healthy, he has a lot of upside.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers – Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi St.
Here’s an athletic player that would be another piece of the rebuilding puzzle.
25. Memphis Grizzlies - Evan Fournier, SG, France
Memphis is looking for more scoring to compete with the top teams in the Western Conference. The Frenchman can do that.
26. Indiana Pacers – Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
The Pacers are on the rise and Teague could help out the second unit while getting to play close to home.
27. Miami Heat – Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
The Heat struggled with the size of the Pacers. Ezeli will make them much bigger.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Draymond Green, SF, Michigan St.
He can do some of everything, making him a great fit for a team that isn’t lacking anything.
30. Golden State Warriors – Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
The first round ends the way it began….with a Kentucky Wildcat.
March 12, 2012
With the NBA’s trade deadline coming up this week, a number of teams will have their eye on some heavily coveted players. Who knows what this year’s deadline will hold, but here are some key players that could be wearing different uniforms come next week.
Dwight Howard – The Dwight Howard fiasco has been one that’s dominated headlines all season long and even dates back to last summer. The Lakers have been the team most linked to Howard and their ability to land him will depend on how much they want to give up. A package of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum would almost certainly get the trade done, but I have serious doubts that trading two All-Stars for Howard would improve Los Angeles all that much. The Chicago Bulls have also been linked to talks concerning Howard and his addition would give point guard Derrick Rose another offensive weapon. Stay tuned.
Rajon Rondo – The Celtics claim that they aren’t actively pursuing offers for Rondo, but his name has been linked to so much speculation since the season began that it’s difficult to believe he’s untouchable. The young point guard just turned 26 and likely hasn’t hit his prime yet. Boston will probably consider trading him, but I expect it will take a considerable haul for any team to land him.
Pau Gasol – If the Lakers don’t go for Howard, a trade of Gasol probably isn’t all that likely, but it is possible. Gasol and Kobe Bryant have been put off by all of the trade talk concerning the power forward and the team may feel as if they need to deal him at this point. If Gasol does get traded, the Lakers will almost certainly demand a star in return since they are a legitimate championship contender with him.
Andrew Bogut – Bogut is one name starting to surface in some reports, which isn’t surprising since the Bucks haven’t made a great deal of progress during his time with the franchise. He’s not a star, but as a 27-year old 7’0” starting center, he’s certainly a valuable commodity. One thing that might hold up any deal for him, though, is the fact that he’s sat out since late January with an ankle injury. Another thing to consider is that the center is owed nearly $30 million over the next two seasons. For a player averaging a modest 11 points and eight rebounds this season, that amount could scare teams away. Even so, there will be teams willing to gamble on him if the price tag is right.
Jeremy Lin – Okay, just checking to see if you’re paying attention.
Chris Kaman – For any team in need of a center, but unable to land Bogut, Chris Kaman could be another viable option. Kaman has put up eerily similar numbers compared to Bogut this season and is only about two years older. Like the Bucks’ center, Kaman isn’t a star. But he’s a solid starting center in the league and should have several more quality seasons ahead.
Josh Smith – The Hawks forward is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. Smith fills up the box score nearly every night, but is apparently growing frustrated in Atlanta, and reportedly asked to be traded. The Hawks have been a good team with him, but haven’t reached the heights of some of the top teams in the eastern conference. If the Hawks do decide to trade him, they’ll likely need to pick up a power forward in return as they’ll be particularly thin at that spot.
Lamar Odom – I don’t expect Odom to be traded, but there’s no doubt the Mavericks have been disappointed with what he’s brought to the team. Odom clearly didn’t want to be traded out of Los Angeles and it’s shown. This year in Dallas, he’s averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and assists and has been absent for various reasons, missing several games this season. Still, Odom being moved during his first season there may be a longshot. Not only are the Mavericks not likely to give up on him already, but with his disappointing season, getting a good return for him would be extremely difficult.
February 21, 2012
The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away. Everybody is going to be on the phone looking for the deal that will bring in a superstar, set the franchise up for future success or add the last piece of a championship puzzle. The rumors are already flying. Here’s the trades I would like to see happen.
He’s not going to force his way out of Phoenix like some guys would if they were nearing the end of their career with a team that isn’t going anywhere. He has been as loyal as they come for the Suns. The team should return the favor and deal Nash to a team that can make a run. The obvious choice just a few days ago would be to reunite Nash with Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York. But now that “Linsanity” has taken over in the Big Apple, my choice for Nash would be Memphis.
Last season, the Grizzlies came within one game of the Western Conference Finals as an 8 seed. And they did that without Rudy Gay. Now Memphis is playing without Zach Randolph. Assuming he will be back in time for the playoffs, the Grizzlies should make this deal. They are three games out of third in the west but also just a game away from missing the playoffs altogether. Nash would help ensure Memphis gets back to the postseason and give them a better shot to make a deep run once they get there.
At 15-16, the Celtics run as a championship contender looks like it may be over. I don’t see them standing pat with the team so do they blow the team up and start over or try to make a move and get some help for their aging stars? Boston management probably hasn’t decided yet, but if they do start looking toward the future instead of this season, several teams will try to get one of the best shooters of all time in Ray Allen.
One team that could be a Ray Allen away from a championship is Oklahoma City. The Thunder are tied with Miami for the best record in the NBA. They have two stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. James Harden is getting better every year. Adding a deadly shooter with championship experience would be a big asset to this team and could be what they need to win the championship this year.
New Orleans is in a terrible situation. The Hornets don’t benefit much from having a 30-year-old, injury-prone center that makes 14 million on the roster. But they could use some draft picks or prospects that they would get in exchange for trading Kaman to a contender. And there are plenty of teams who could use a 7-footer with an expiring contract.
Kaman would be a nice fit for the Rockets, who thought it had landed Pau Gasol earlier this year in the Chris Paul trade. Gasol is still rumored to possibly be traded from Los Angeles, so the Rockets may go after him again, but Kaman would be a good, low-risk second option for a team in the thick of the playoff race in the West.
Personally, I would like to see Superman stay in Orlando, but that doesn’t appear very likely. Chances are, Orlando will get what they can for Howard rather than letting him leave for nothing like it did with Shaq. Howard’s list of teams he is willing to play for has changed a few times so just about anything could happen here.
Chicago could probably give Orlando the best deal, but will the Bulls want to break-up a team that is already a favorite in the Eastern Conference? Certainly, every team in the NBA would like to have a guy like Howard, but the team that is the most desperate to get him is New Jersey. The Nets have been setting themselves up for a major move ever since the LeBron sweepstakes started and it is now or never for them. If Howard goes to New Jersey he will play alongside Deron Williams and make the Nets a dangerous team in the future. If he goes somewhere else, Williams will likely leave New Jersey as well and the team will move to Brooklyn with no stars. The Nets must do whatever it takes to make this happen.
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.
May 11, 2011
Monday night was a treat for NBA basketball fans. In the first match up, the Miami Heat escaped the Boston Garden with an overtime win over the Celtics. The game was exciting, just as you would expect with arguably seven superstars involved, but after regulation ended all knotted up, the Heat took over with ease. The late game was the real treat.
By now, you’ve either seen the game I’m referring to or heard about it endlessly at various media outlets. The triple overtime extravaganza between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. The game was by far the most entertaining of the 2011 playoffs, and the best second round game that I can remember seeing.
I won’t go into deep analysis of the game, as I’d be repeating thousands of other people. But I can say although the game was more thriller than Michael Jackson himself, was actually considerably sloppy. The Griz jumped out to an early 18 point lead, then relaxed on defense, allowing the Thunder to come back on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook. Not to be outdone, the Thunder built up a considerable lead only to allow the Griz to come back.
OKC should have taken this game. They would have won this game in regulation, if not for a Mike Conley game tying three. They would have won it in the first over time, if not for a game tying, off balance three by Greivis Vazquez (that’s right – Greivis Vazquez). They should have won it in the second overtime after Conley and OJ Mayo fouled out in the first OT. But it took three extra quarters to take the game. Memphis was exhausted. The youthful legs of the Thunder didn’t give in whatsoever, and it won them the game. The series is now tied at two games apiece.
But the game itself, and the whole series for that matter, has a league wide impact fans should be aware of. OKC and Memphis are both regarded as small market teams, home to places it is typically difficult to build a franchise for both geographical and economic reasons (I realize the Thunder have not been in Oklahoma very long, but if you had a choice between there and New York, where would you go?). But they’re building long term competitors through high value drafts and savvy trades and free agent signings, ready to compete with the large market teams in Dallas, Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles on a regular basis.
The media prefers the big market teams make deep playoff runs, and as a fan, I agree it can be exciting to see old school rivalries play out. And I’ll admit, I will love the NBA no matter what, I’m hooked. But there’s something refreshing about an actual old school mentality being put into action right in front of your eyes.
The Thunder, for example, have drafted two core superstars in Kevin Durantand Westbrook. Three key role players – James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison – were also drafted by the team, as well. Former start Jeff Green, also drafted by OKC, was shipped to Boston in exchange for Kendrick Perkins to fill a glaring weakness for a true big man. They’re building a team that plays well together, and honestly enjoys being around each other. Hang out with each other on off days. Constantly tweet at each other. It’s like a close group of friends that complement one another, except they happen to be very good at basketball.
The Thunder aren’t attracting the most talented players possible with any glitz and glamour, and hoping they mesh. There are no overzealous endorsement deals, no appearances at South Beach clubs between playoff games. There’s no ego, just basketball.
Everyone has their opinion on what happened in NBA free agency last summer. As a lifetime Cleveland fan, I feel the right to have strongly negative feelings toward LeBron’s decision to leave. But I don’t. His reasons for leaving may not have been amicable, and there are a lot of mitigating factors involved, but if it was a purely basketball decision, he would have left anyways. The team around him was way below his caliber, as we’ve witnessed this season, and for him to fully blossom, he needed more talent around him. To be honest, I have more of a problem with Chris Bosh, simply because he’s not any good.
The larger issue at hand is the ability, and willingness, of players to leave the team they drafted, even if it’s their hometown, to go to a larger market. Following the money, rather than basketball greatness. These “big threes” that are spawning are entertaining, yes, but they also create a gap in competition. For every “big three,” there’s the teams and fan bases they left behind (I realize the two teams I’m championing were formerly located in Seattle and Vancouver, but a fan base unable to keep their entire team there is an entirely different situation).
The Thunder are different, though, and it brings a smile to my face to see them blossoming. Monday night’s game was nearly five hours long – and I stayed up until 2:00 AM to see the ending, then another couple hours laying in bed wide awake because my mind couldn’t process how awesome the game was. And I’m not even an OKC fan, nor have I ever been to the state of Oklahoma. There’s just something about the team, the city, the fans, that just seems right. It’s a wholesome underdog story, a rarity in the NBA, that may need to succeed for the future competitive balance of the league.