February 14, 2013

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NBA All-Star Saturday Lineup Changes

By: Joe Williams

The NBA does a nice job of hyping up all the festivities for All-Star Weekend. It also does a nice job of failing to live up to the hype and the biggest reason is we don’t get to see the guys we want to see. Here’s what I wish we had coming up next this weekend:

Let’s start by saying that I would not make any changes to the Rising Stars Challenge, Shooting Stars Competition or the Skills Challenge. Those are fine as they are. But the Three-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest could do better.

It would be great to see Blake Griffin add to some of his memorable Dunk Contest moments.

The Three-Point Shootout field for Saturday night is: Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Steve Novak, Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner and Stephen Curry. I would increase the field from six to eight and keep Curry, Novak and Irving. Sorry Bonner, Anderson and George but I think we can do better. There are 30 players shooting over 40 percent from three while Anderson and George aren’t. And I don’t even know who Bonner is.

I’ll take Kyle Korver – who leads the league in three-point percentage, Ray Allen – the guy who has made more threes than anybody in history and Jimmer Fredette – a personal favorite. That leaves two more spots.

One of them goes to an NBA legend and one of the greatest shooters of all time who hasn’t been away from the game for too long….Reggie Miller. We all know he can still shoot the rock.

You know who else can shoot the rock? Lots of people. I’ve hit 10 or 12 straight before. Why not get the fans involved? There should be a three-point shooting contest for people in the Houston area with the winner getting a spot to shoot with the big boys on All-Star Saturday night.

My ultimate Three-Point Shootout field: Kyrie Irving, Steve Novak, Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver, Ray Allen, Jimmer Fredette, Reggie Miller and a hometown hero.

Now for the Slam Dunk Contest Field. This year it will be Gerald Green, Terrence Ross, James White, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried.

Without cheating, can you name what team these guys play for? Didn’t think so.

I only got two. Where is the star power?

Again, I say let’s take this from six guys to eight. I’ll keep Eric Bledsoe and Kenneth Faried in the field because I can actually remember seeing them on the floor in an NBA game. And the defending champ should always be invited back to keep Jeremy Evans and that leaves five more spots.

The first one goes to LeBron. Everyone wants to see what he would do and he knows it. It’s been a will he or won’t he story for years and now it looks like he’s never going to do it. But it would be great for the fans if he would show up to face off with my second pick…Blake Griffin. He’s already dunked over a car. I want to see him try to top that. And he’s got the best dunk of the season so far according to NBA.com’s dunkladder. Give me Kevin Durant while you’re at it. He’s neck-and-neck with LeBron for best player in the game. They met in the NBA Finals last season and that could easily happen again. Paul George is my next pick. A lot of people think he should have won last year. He deserves another shot…especially if Evans is in the field. The final spot goes to a guy who is a major wild card. Google JaVale McGee, watch a few videos and tell me you don’t want him in the dunk contest.

My ultimate Slam Dunk Contest field: Eric Bledsoe, Kenneth Faried, Jeremy Evans, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Paul George and JaVale McGee.

October 30, 2012

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NBA Preview and Predictions

By: Tyler Vespa

With the NBA regular season set to begin tomorrow, the landscape of the league has changed very little. The Lakers, who are always a threat to win the title, actually got better with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The defending world-champion Miami Heat followed suit with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

Will teaming Kobe Bryant with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard make the Lakers NBA Champions?

The Knicks also added some veterans with the additions of Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd. Boston went out and added Jason Terry and Courtney Lee.

Other than that, almost nothing has changed. Miami and Boston are still two of the top teams in the East. The Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs still rule in the West.

With that, I give you my predictions for the 2012-13 season, starting with the divisions.

In the Atlantic Division:                               

  1. Boston Celtics   – Pierce, Garnett and Rondo know how it’s done.
  2. New York Knicks – Amare’ is the key. He must play well.

In the Pacific Division:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers  – With Dwight and Nash, they’re dominant.
  2. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers are good, but their depth doesn’t match Lakers.

In the Central Division:

  1. Chicago Bulls- Even without Rose, the Bulls will be good enough.
  2. Indiana Pacers- Granger will need more help from the Pacers‘ bench.

In the Southwest Division:

  1. San Antonio Spurs- Ginobli, Parker and Duncan have been there before.
  2. Dallas Mavericks- Dallas has good starters, but no bench.

In the Southeast Division:

  1. Miami Heat- Lebron, Wade and Bosh with Ray Allen make the Heat seemingly unbeatable.
  2. Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks will not be close to the Heat, even with Devin Harris.

In the Northwest Division:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder- Durant and Westbrook will create a new Harden in Oklahoma City.
  2. Utah Jazz- Milsap and Jefferson are the Jazz’s X-Factors.

Now for the Conference Standings:

Eastern:

  1. Miami Heat
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Chicago Bulls

Western:

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Eastern Final: Heat over Celtics.

Western Final: Lakers over Spurs.

The Finals: Lakers over Heat- Nash and Howard will help Lakers overpower Lebron & Co.

May 7, 2012

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Injuries Should Pave Way for Miami Heat to Reach Finals

By: Anson Whaley

Despite assembling a trio of some of the league’s biggest stars last year, the Miami Heat were unable to win the NBA championship, falling to the Dallas Mavericks. They received a bit of a pass since it was their first season together, but that won’t be the case if Miami fails to bring home the franchise’s second title this year.

The Heat may not have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this year, but there’s little doubt they are the favorites to advance to the Finals because of the huge rash of injuries to key players.

Miami’s already on the brink of disposing of the New York Knicks, leading their series 3-1 in the first round. The Knicks might have been in better shape against LeBron & Company if they were a bit healthier. New York was already without rookie sensation Jeremy Lin (knee injury) since late March. But then came Iman Shumpert’s torn ACL and a bizarre hand injury to starter Amare Stoudemire, who somehow thought punching a fire extinguisher case out of frustration after the team’s Game 2 loss was a good idea. After sitting out the third game, Stoudemire returned for Game 4. But missing Lin and Shumpert has definitely hurt the team in this series.

The Chicago Bulls, perhaps the best team in the entire league with a 50-16 record, were dealt a cruel blow in their first round series. With only a little over a minute to play in their first playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, star point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL and, just like that, his season was over. Rose was the team’s leader in scoring and assists and without him, the Bulls have been a shell of their former selves. Chicago won that first game, but has fallen short in the past three without Rose. And as if that weren’t enough of a hurdle to overcome, the Bulls lost center Joakim Noah in Game 4 to an ankle sprain. Even if they can somehow fight back and make it a series against Philly, there’s little chance they could do much more in the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were another team expected to contend for the title. That all changed, though, once star center Dwight Howard went down with a back injury late in the season. Power forward Glen Davis has stepped up in his absence, scoring 20 points a game in the playoffs and pulling in nearly ten rebounds. But the team clearly misses Howard, who was their regular season leader in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Howard’s defensive impact is just as important as the one he makes on offense and the Magic are a weaker team on both ends without him.

There are also the aging Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been relatively healthy, but shooting guard Ray Allen missed the first two games of their opening series against the Atlanta Hawks. He’d been out for the past month with bone spurs in his foot, and even though he’s back, is still trying to get back into game shape.

Miami isn’t a lock to win the East by any stretch of the imagination. The Indiana Pacers are having a strong season and as one of the league’s best rebounding teams, could give the Heat some trouble. And the Atlanta Hawks’ sixth-ranked defense might be able to challenge Miami’s explosive offense as well. The Heat are a combined 6-2 against those two teams in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the intensity will be ratcheted up significantly. Despite all that, though, it’s clear that with all of the injuries to the Eastern Conference this season, Miami has a clear shot at reaching the Finals again.

February 21, 2012

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NBA Trade Deadline Rumors

By: Joe Williams

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.

Steve Nash

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.

The emergence of Jeremy Lin has taken New York off the list of possible destinations for Steve Nash.

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. 

Ray Allen

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.

Chris Kaman

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.

Dwight Howard

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.

June 27, 2011

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2011 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

By: Anson Whaley

This past week’s NBA Draft wasn’t very star-studded according to most experts. Unlike the 1996 Draft, which was one of the best in recent memory producing future Hall of Famers such as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, and Allen Iverson, this year’s class isn’t expected to have as many stars.

That said, as always, some teams still found a way to draft wisely while others left us scratching our heads.

WINNERS

Washington Wizards – I know all about Enes Kanter taken by the Utah Jazz at No. 3, but Jan Vesely could end up being the best international player in this field. Vesely is a true athlete that has an NBA-type game and will be a perfect fit for John Wall and the Wizards’ young team. At 6’11”, he has three-point range and could cause huge mismatches for opposing teams’ frontcourts. Washington also landed Chris Singleton at No. 18, a great defensive weapon, and Butler’s Shelvin Mack in the second round. Mack was listed as a late first-round pick in many mock drafts and the Wizards could have gotten a bit of a steal.

Detroit Pistons – The Pistons picked up a relative steal in getting Brandon Knight at No. 8. Knight is the second-best point guard in the draft and averaged more than 17 points a game as a true freshman – something virtually unheard of. Getting him that late (especially when there’s a premium on point guards in the NBA these days) was a big coup for General Manager Joe Dumars. The Pistons also ended up with Kyle Singler, who played a big role on some winning teams at Duke and as a second-rounder, was a smart pick. And while Vernon Macklin (No. 52) isn’t a star, he shot more than 60% during his entire collegiate career and has a chance to be a serviceable backup center.

Sacramento Kings – Sacramento reeled in the draft’s most prolific scorer in BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. Even better for the Kings is that he should be an excellent fit for their team. Fredette will fit right in alongside Tyreke Evans and give the Kings a great backcourt for years to come. He’s not a stellar defender and will need to improve if he wants to play 30 minutes a game, but he knows how to score – and that’s the primary function for a shooting guard. Tyler Honeycutt was a solid second-round selection and, unlike some other teams to be named later, the Pistons secured a good proven talent in guard Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the draft instead of going for an unknown international player.

LOSERS

Los Angeles Clippers – Man, the Clippers’ just can’t catch a break. They were so desperate to unload Baron Davis’ huge contract that they traded him away with an unprotected first-round pick back at the trade deadline in February. Little did they know that pick would turn out to be the No. 1 overall selection. So to recap, the Clippers traded away Davis (a former All-Star) and the No. 1 overall pick for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams? Yeah, how’s that one working out? Look, I understand the desire to move that contract, but the fact is that Davis is still a solid NBA player. Instead of having Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams to pair along with Blake Griffin, the Clips are still a few players away from being able to compete. The bottom line is that trading unprotected lottery picks away simply to dump large contracts is a very bad idea and this is why the Clippers are the Clippers.

Los Angeles Lakers – Even without a first-round pick, the Lakers still had a chance to make an impact in the draft. Unfortunately, even with four second-round selections, Los Angeles failed to add much substance to their team. Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock were reasonable picks, but that’s when things got a bit crazy. With talented players like Scotty Hopson and Ben Hansbrough still on the board, L.A. somehow decided it was a good idea to draft Ater Majok (a player who averaged less than a point per game in the NBDL) and Chukwudiebere Maduabum, an international project with no discernable talent. In their defense, Maduabum was later shipped to Denver, but with some solid players still available, the Lakers had the chance to add two quality prospects instead.

Philadelphia 76ers – Philadelphia took a huge gamble by taking big man Nikola Vucevic at No. 16. Nothing about him screams superstar and the 76ers could have done much better with more of a proven commodity. At No. 50, Lavoy Allen out of Temple was a solid, but unspectacular player in college. What strikes me the most about him is that he didn’t seem to improve much during his time there. His stats over the past three seasons remained virtually unchanged and his shooting percentage actually dropped the last two. It can be sometimes hard to find real value that late in the draft, but Allen had undrafted free agent written all over him. This move reeks of drafting a hometown kid just for the sake of a nice story. And a team needing as much help as the 76ers can’t afford to make those types of picks.