Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Draft Summary

With an NBA lockout looming the NBA draft may be the last good memory of the NBA for quite a while.  Because of this I will probably be writing multiple posts about this draft and looking ahead to the future of each team.  In the mean time I'm going to give you who my winners and losers are from the 2011 draft.


Cleveland Cavaliers: There is a lot of debate as to what the ceiling for Kyrie Irving is.  I'm on the side that he has a lot of Chris Paul in him.  Yes we didn't see a whole lot of him this past college season, but even watching him in high school he seemed like the type of player that could be someone very special.  Irving isn't just a very talented and lighting quick guard, he also possesses great intangibles and plays better in the big moments.  Even if you believe Derrick Williams to be the better player, Point Guards run this league now.  You cannot pass up on a future Point Guard if he has super star potential.  Regardless of what else Cleveland was going to do in their draft, getting Kyrie was going to make them a winner in my book.  They didn't stop there though.  I know a lot of people don't like the fact that the Cavs took Tristan Thompson with the 4th overall pick but I love it.  They may not have drafted the most talented or NBA ready player that was available but they drafted the right guy.  Even if PF wasn't a huge need at the time they do need to get younger and more athletic and Thompson is an extremely athletic big man.  I really don't think he is that undersized either, as many experts believe.  He is 6'8 3/4" and weighs 227lbs. He could benefit from bulking up a bit and he may be an inch or so shorter then most other PF's but he also has a 9'1" reach and and a 7'2.5" wingspan which he gives him a huge edge in rebounding and shot blocking.  The reason I like this pick so much is because they got a guy who appears to be a great team player.  Thompson has a high motor, great intangibles and a willingness to do whatever it takes to win.  Thompson is also in very good company coming out of Texas.  The last two forwards who came out of Texas as top 5 picks and were considered too skinny for the NBA go by the names of LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant.  University of Texas breeds NBA ready forwards and even though that doesn't make or break a player it is important to realize that Thompson comes from a system that knows how to prepare their players for the next level.  I was whatever on the second round picks by Cleveland but they came out of this draft with a lot more promise for the future.  

Sacramento Kings: I hate that I am putting the Kings in here.  I love to hate them and I love how badly they have screwed up recently but I really think that they may have had the best draft.  When the idea of having Jimmer Fredette and Tyreke Evans as a starting back court was first presented to me I scoffed at it.  But now that it is a reality and I actually have time to think about it I actually love the combo together.  I really do think that Fredette can be a good Point Guard and can be a very good scorer in this league.  He has natural Point Guard instincts and abilities, but he can also play well off the ball which is good because Tyreke needs the ball in his hands.  Really I am just proud that the Kings have figured out that Tyreke Evans is NOT a Point Guard.  Jimmer may not live up to expectations but I think he is going to be a very good player and again I'm just happy that Sacramento is realizing that Tyreke is a Shooting Guard.  Their second pick was another great selection.  Tyler Honeycutt is a freak athlete and was once considered to be worth a lottery pick.  There are some concerns about how he will handle stronger forwards and he is inconsistent with his outside game but he is well worth picking in the second round.  He could be a bust but he's a second round pick, who cares if he is.  He also could be one of a few incredible steals from this draft class.  At the very least, Honeycutt can come in for 10 minutes a game and just sprint around and bring much needed energy and tenacity to a lack luster Kings team.  Finally we get to my favorite pick of the draft, little Isaiah Thomas.  I love this pick because this guy is just a straight baller.  He loves the moment, he loves taking the big shot and he simply just loves the game.  He is a relentless work horse and the fact that he was the last pick in the draft is only going to motivate him.  I very much think that he will make this team and at the very least he is going to push everyone else on the practice court, something that I think this young Kings team desperately needs.  Great draft for the Kings, something that I can't ever remember saying.

Washington Bullets: I'm not big on foreign players going in the top 10, it has provided more busts then gems but I really like Washington taking Jan Vesely.  He isn't your typical foreign player.  He is highly skilled and lanky like most international players but he has an aggression and ferocity about him that is rarely seen in international players.  He attacks the basket hard and is a great offensive rebounder.  With Javale McGee, Jan Vesely, Andre Blatche and now Chris Singleton (who was another great value pick) the Bullets (their true name) have an incredible defensive front court that will be very intimidating as they grow together.  Shelvin Mack was another pick that I loved and someone who is well worth taking a chance on in the second round.  Mack is another guy who just loves the game and gives you 110% every single night.  He won't ever wow you or dazzle you with his speed or ability to power home the big finish.  But he will find a way to get it done.  Mack also gives Washington a solid backup for John Wall which was definitely a need for them.  Washington put together a great draft and the future is looking very bright for them at this point. 

Portland Trailblazers: I got a lot of my analysis for the draft from Paul Banks, David Kay and Peter Christianson mainly because they were posted under  Honestly they gave pretty good player assessments but I thought they did a pretty bad job of rating how players fit in with their respective teams and pretty much everything that matters to winning besides talent.  They gave Portland a pretty bad grade for their draft and I feel like Portland did a great job with their draft.  A lot of people feel like they reached for Nolan Smith but I think he is a great fit.  He may not have a very high ceiling but he is a good solid player and is NBA ready.  Plus he brings a ton of energy to the court and he is one of those players who absolutely refuses to lose.  Portland isn't looking to build towards the future, they are looking to win now and Smith will help them do that.  Also I love the change of Point Guard.  I think that Raymond Felton is a very underrated player and I love the different element he brings to this team.  Portland has had all the pieces in place to be a very prolific offense and great fast break team, except for a PG who could push the ball.  Felton gives them that without sacrificing anything else.  He is also a better shooter then Miller which will help keep double teams off of Lamarcus Aldridge.  I don't really have an opinion about Jon Diebler but he is a shooter and Portland could definitely use a shooter and some depth behind Brandon Roy.


Dallas Mavericks: I cannot understand why everyone is so in love with Dallas getting Rudy Fernandez.  Everybody in Portland hates him because more times then not he is a liability because of his inconsistency.  He has the ability to go off on any given night but more times then not he resorts to chucking up random three point shots and playing out of his game.  I couldn't believe when Jordan Hamilton fell all the way to 26 to Dallas, I thought they struck gold with drafting him.  Hamilton gave them exactly what they needed, an athletic wing player for some SF depth.  Instead they turn that into a guy who has already reached his potential at 9 points a game while shooting 37%.  Why not roll the dice on Hamilton? If you give him enough minutes he can give those same numbers to you, he is bigger and he won't try to force the issue like Fernandez will.  Since we are on Hamilton I love that he did end up in Denver with Kenneth Faried.  Those guys are perfect for what Denver is doing right now, the only reason they don't get into my winners column is because they could have done much better than Andre Miller for Raymond Felton. 

Golden State Warriors: They had to do a lot for me this draft to save themselves from hiring Mark Jackson.  I really feel like Mark Jackson just doesn't know how to really win.  They seems much more apparent now that he used a lottery pick for a scoring SG when he has one of the best scorers in the league playing that position and completely ignored defense.  Everybody knows that the Warriors can score, but they have never proven that they could defend.  This was supposed to be the year they got a guy who could be a defensive difference maker for them.  Klay Thompson could be a good pick if they trade Monta Ellis but I don't think that is their best option unless they can actually get somebody of equal value but that won't happen because Monta is one of the most underrated players in the game.  Golden State really didn't have bad picks but they just showed us once again that they would rather entertain then win.  Why take Klay Thompson when a guy like Kawhi Leonard was still on the board?  He would have been a perfect fit for the team.  I really just don't understand what Golden State is trying to do with their team.  I really don't think that Mark Jackson is the man for the job and even though the Warriors will probably be better this year they aren't going anywhere fast until they learn the importance of defense. 

Houston Rockets: Ummmmmm what?? I don't understand what Houston was doing.  They only positive thing they did in this draft was dump Brad Miller's contract and get Johnny Flynn but they added Flynn to an already crowded back court.  Unless they are just trying to acquire young talent to make a big trade I don't understand doing that at all.  With their first pick they took Marcus Morris which I really don't get.  I think both Morris twins are very overrated but even with that Markief is the better player and Marcus really shouldn't have even gone in the lottery.  Marcus Morris will be stuck behind a slew of guys at PF in Houston and could try and play Small Forward.  But as my friends at pointed out, if you wanted a SF why not take Chris Singleton, Kawhi Leonard or even Jordan Hamilton.  I didn't like this draft at all for Houston, they are headed nowhere fast unless they make a big move this off season which will be difficult with the season in doubt for next year. 

New Orleans Hornets: Selling a second round pick isn't the worst thing in the world to do but to me it sent a message.  The Hornets are much more concerned with saving money then building a Championship team.  What does that mean exactly?  Bye-bye Chris Paul.  Don't be surprise to see Paul get shipped out at some point this season (if we have one).  Paul isn't going to want to stay in New Orleans if they are going broke and can't add pieces around him.  Plus if New Orleans is trying to save money why not just get rid of Paul sooner then later to save some salary?  Get some expiring contracts and some draft picks and start all over.  They are going to have to do this eventually anyways and they might as well do it now rather then later. 

An Extra Two Cents

You can't really put a team that only had one second round pick into the winners bracket but I love the fact that Memphis picked up Josh Selby.  I really wanted the Lakers to draft him (I'm still fairly happy with Darius Morris though) and he was an absolute steal in the mid second round.  He will be a great guy to have coming off the bench behind Mike Conley.  I'm also torn on the Spurs.  I thought that they could have done much much better in the second round but it's also hard to question their success with foreign players.  I love that they got Kawhi Leonard though.  He is perfect for that team and even though they gave up some talent for him it was at a position that they could definitely sacrifice at.  I hate that the Spurs just refuse to go away, it's very annoying.  I'm also not sure how I feel about the "other" Point Guards in this draft.  Well mainly I'm unsure about Kemba Walker and his situation.  I think that Brandon Knight was a great pick for Detroit.  Sure they have depth at the Point but I think it is safe to say that Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey are not the long term solutions.  Kemba I get torn out.  I think he will be a very good player and a great winner so I like the pick in that sense but are they really already giving up on D.J. Augustin?  I don't know if I get that and I don't really like giving up on him already.  If they can turn Augustin into a solid big man or wing player (since they traded Jackson) I will be more ok with it but Charlotte has so many needs that they need to do something.  They cannot really afford to keep Augustin anymore and to me that is to bad but it could totally work out if they finally decide to build around someone then at least they are heading in the right direction.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011


This article is about two fails, the fail of LeBron James and the fail of me, The Sports Guru.  Jame's fail was really the only thing that stopped this NBA Season from being a complete bust for me.  I mean I got a couple of things right.  The Pacers made the playoffs, Derrick Rose was my dark horse for MVP, Carmelo Anthony ended up a Knick and Miami failed.  I also thought that both Boston and Chicago would be able to beat Miami, the Lakers were the only threat out West and would 3-Peat and I thought Portland would beat Dallas in the first round.  The last two years I've done a pretty good job of predicting what's going to happen and I fell way short of the standard I set for myself.  Am I upset? at first a little but then I thought about it and realized that aside from my beloved Lakers getting swept, this was one of the most enjoyable seasons for me as a fan.  Sure I love being right but I think I would become very bored of sports if you could predict everything.  Who out there really thought that Dallas would win the title?  There were a number of other teams I thought would be there and who I would rather have there but I can't tell you how happy I am they won.  Not just for beating Miami (although that is a huge, HUGE plus) but for all the players on that roster who were told they were old, washed up and soft.  Vindication is a very sweet thing and it allowed the Mavs to enjoy their win that much more.  Even if Miami wins 5 straight titles will anyone consider them vindicated? I doubt it.  Even when they win their first title together (as much as I hate so say it, it will probably happen) who is going to look at it as a legitimate title?  Especially after 3 straight pathetic excuses for games that LeBron gave to us.  That is the difference between my fail and LeBron's.  I know that I put everything on the line, I could have studied more, really immersed myself into the game more but I know to do that more for this coming season.  I will learn and move on and become better, LeBron I don't think will.  About 3 years ago LeBron added a pretty good 3 point shot to his repertoire and since that time what has he done to improve his game?  In 8 years he has gone from being an athletic freak who gets to the rim to an athletic freak that gets to the rim and can shoot the occasional three but settles too much for it.  His stats have increased from year one but other then understanding the game better has he really become a better player?  Honestly, I think he has, nobody dominates like LeBron when he chooses to dominate.  It's the most Jordan like thing about him, his dominance is better then any other dominance in the game.  So why does he not always choose to dominate? I have no idea and I wish I knew.  We saw it against Boston and Chicago, if LeBron continued to play like that then the notion that Dwyane Wade would carry him to a title would be obsolete.  The moment kept getting bigger and so did LeBron, he thrived in it and then the finals came a long and he still looked like he had it until game 3.  Up until that point Dallas was playing scared and then all of a sudden they stopped being afraid and started playing their game.  Once that happened I saw one of the most rewarding and devastating things in basketball.  The best player in the world was scared.  It wasn't just that he wasn't shooting and starting playing hot potato with the ball or that he stopped playing at an All-Defense level.  You could see it in his eyes, he was lost and was scared of the moment.  It sounds ridiculous to say but you can read it in players when they want it.  We saw Kobe the past two years clench his jaw and put spite in his eyes for two weeks when the finals came about, even Wade had that look in his eyes this year.  Heck LeBron had it for 3 rounds and lost it.  It reminded me of Rocky III when Apollo kept yelling at Rocky to want it and get back that look, that hunger.  The difference was that Wade was LeBron's Apollo and Wade finally seemed to give up on LeBron.  I cannot remember a single time that Wade passed the ball to LeBron in that second half, he stopped trusting him.  As enjoyable as it was to see LeBron wilt away in the moment like, well Wilt, it also made me sad as a sports fan.  We may never see another athlete like LeBron again, he is the most talented player to ever play the game and he could be remembered as a colossal failure.  Not because he couldn't flip the on switch but because he would flip it off and refuse to turn it back on.  I currently just started working at a day camp counselor for kids.  I had a girl today who just started rock climbing this week for the first time.  By yesterday she was already one of the better kids, I couldn't believe how far she had come, especially with coming down from the top which at first seemed to be a fear of hers but was now second nature.  All of a sudden today she got half way up after a few tries and froze, she wouldn't come down and started having a panic attack.  Although she had been to the top before and had come down she froze in the moment and I had to go up there to finally get her to come down.  She wouldn't trust any of us until I had her in my arms and ascended down with her into another counselor's arms.  Nothing better symbolized what happened to LeBron then that scenario.  We have never seen anyone have the game of Basketball come so naturally for them.  LeBron caught on quick and early and never looked back.  Then all of a sudden, for no reason that can be reasonably explained, he froze and panicked.  He didn't know what to do and he needed someone to save him.  That is why he teamed up with Wade, Cleveland had great role players for him, but no one that could save him from himself.  Wade was that answer for him and it seemed like Wade got tired of doing that job.  After being up with that girl for over 10 minutes my hands started to cramp, I had to make a decision to either grab her and bring her down or to go down by myself and then regather my strength and try again.  By the end of game 6, Wade had given up on LeBron, he tried everything from encouragement, to chewing him out on live TV,  and to trying to make fun of other stars on live TV.  None of it worked, and finally he gave up on him, determined to regain his strength and try again next time.  Who knows, maybe LeBron will get it.  Other players have learned to do it, heck look at Dirk.  We all thought he was a choke artist and couldn't get it done and now nothing could be farther from the truth.  Or how about even Zach Randolph?  He was considered a selfish cancer on every team he had ever been on and then he gets to Memphis and he carries that team to new heights and then soars even higher in the playoffs.  Only time will tell with LeBron, but the most disturbing thing to me about the whole thing is how he didn't seem to care afterwards.  Sure he said the right things for the most part, and did the whole "I'm a competitor" act again by prematurely walking off the court but there was no anger or disappointment in his eyes or voice during that post game conference.  I didn't feel like he cared, maybe he already had the parade that he wanted.  I feel like there a lot of things in sports that I understand or can figure out, LeBron I don't.  He might be one of the easier players to predict these days with his play on the court, especially in the playoffs but I don't think I can ever understand him.  The only thing that I know for sure is that he needs to stop caring about everyone else so much.  He played the villain role well for the most part but as Bill Simmons pointed out in his finals recap, LeBron wants to be loved.  He needs it, he has always had it and it wore him down as the season wore on.  Does he receive any sympathy from me or any other non-Miami sports fan? not in the least.  He brought this on himself and he deserved what he got.  I don't think he will ever fall into my good graces but if he wants my respect ever again he just needs to shut up, hit the gym and show that he cares about winning over fame.  Don't go saying anything, don't hold an "I'm sorry" press conference, just let what happened be in the past and play some basketball.  As much as I hate LeBron James, the sporting world needs him, and needs him to succeed in some part.  We love to hate him but you can only hate someone that gives you something to hate.  My greatest fear is that LeBron is just going to cash it in one of these days after not accomplishing much of anything and all that will be left is pity.  It truly would be a travesty.  I know that there is a ton of hate for players like Kobe but when all is said and done and you look back on his career, you can appreciate what he has accomplished as a player.  It happened with Jordan.  I don't think you can disagree with the fact that Jordan was a jerk, an egomaniac, and not a very good person.  But as sports fans do we care?  Not really, I'm sure people did back in his prime when they had something to focus on other then how special of a player he was, but all that is left is highlights of his game winners, dunks and amazing achievements.  Kobe's career (though not on the same level) will be remembered in the same light.  LeBron? who knows, it is still up in the air but the sporting world needs him to be more then the next Karl Malone.  Maybe this loss is what LeBron needed but until he learns that substance always triumphs over style, he will never be the true King of basketball

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wayne Gretzky: The GOAT of All Sports

Lately all I have been hearing about is the "GOAT" of Basketball.  Michael Jordan is still the hands down the favorite but with players like Kobe Bryant nearing him in titles, and complete athletic freaks like LeBron James and Derrick Rose, it is not unreasonable for us to think that someone one day will be able to be fairly compared with Jordan.  We do it all the time, and even if it isn't really fair to Jordan to be throwing all these comparisons his way, what he did still seems attainable.

There isn't hardly anything in Wayne Gretzky's career that seems like it might be fathomable, much less attainable.  Gretzky rewrote the NHL record book, almost single handedly.  That isn't an exagerration to try and make you in awe of him.  He holds, to this day, 61 different NHL records.  In comparison Michael Jordan only holds 3.  In his defense 72 NBA records are held by Wilt Chamberlain and if you know anything about basketball you know that he was simply the product of an era in which there were too many 6'6" white centers trying to guard the athletic 7 foot Chamberlain who's only goal was to set as many records as he could.  Nobody liked Chamberlain, teams would refuse to trade for him in his prime because of how terrible of a teammate he was so I will not take arguments about him being considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.  I refuse to even put him in my top 5 of Basketball players and I wouldn't guarantee him a top 10 spot either, especially with careers like Kobe's, Lebron's and Dwyane Wade's still being written.  Gretzky was the exact opposite of what Wilt was.  Gretzky was considered very undersized for hockey.  He wasn't too short but he weighed about 40 pounds less then the average NHL player.  He was also considered somewhat slow and possessed a mediocre shot at best.  What made Gretzky so great was that he could see plays develop so much faster and clearer then anybody else.  Even if you somehow convince me that he wasn't the greatest of all time, you can never convince me that he wasn't the smartest athlete of all time.  He was ahead of his time not only in the way he played but also with how he handled himself off the ice.  His former teammates talked about how he always made sure he had a friend or someone with him so that he never put himself into bad or dangerous situations.  Such as being jumped by paparazzi or going into an elevator by himself where a woman could get on with him and accuse him of sexual assault.  Too bad some of our athletes today don't have that same common sense.  Gretzky wasn't your typical "RA RA" leader, he simply led by example and always put his teammates above himself.  Don't take his unselfishness for his teammates as lacking a killer instinct.  Those who played with and against him said that there was never a greater competitor in hockey.  He wanted to go out and destroy each and every team he played against and he definitely accomplished that.  Even when Gretzky started his assualt on the record book, there was still one record that many said he would never be able to beat.  That was scoring 50 goals in 50 games, it had only been done twice before.  In hockey to score 50 goals in a single 80 game (now 82 game) season was a phenomenal accomplishment in itself, to score 50 in 50 was nearly unheard of.  During the 1981-82 season Gretzky had scored 41 goals in 37 games and as long as he didn't flame out, it seemed that he would be able to reach this remarkable feat.  Not only did Gretzky not flame out, he went out and scored 4 goals in game number 38 to give him 45, thinking that nothing could top that Gretzky followed that up the next night with 5 goals.  He scored 9 goals in 2 games and scored 50 goals in 39 games, that season nobody else had reached 30 yet.  He went on to shatter the record of 76 goals in a season by scoring 92 and reaching the 200 point mark.  Something he did 5 times, nobody else has ever done it.  He also translated that success into team success, helping turn Edmonton from an expansion franchise into a dynasty in only 6 years.  How did Gretzky deal with all this success? With incredible humility.  He was a confident player, no doubt about it but if anybody were to ever make the argument for him playing in the right era or having the right teammates it would be him.  I believe it is one of the reasons that made him so great, he didn't just have his teammates respect and loyalty, he had their love.  It may sound corny but the bond he would create with teammates made him and his teams better.  That is why when he was sold to LA he bawled, he didn't create an hour long show and smirk at his old team, he cried because he was truly a loyal and good guy.  When he was sold to the Los Angeles Kings he saved the NHL.  The old running joke at the forum was that they would call the people of LA to see when they were free to come see games because nobody cared about hockey.  As soon as Gretzky came to LA the Kings became as popular as the Lakers did in LA.  Everybody wanted to see Wayne Gretzky and Los Angeles showed that hockey can be successful without actually living in icy climates.  When Gretzky went to LA in 1987 there were 21 NHL teams, by 1996 there were 30, all of whom were along the US Sunbelt.  Other Athletes have had major impacts for the growth of their sport, but has any other athlete single handedly started 9 new franchises?  This isn't my opinion either, any hockey expert will tell you that those new franchises would not exist without Gretzky's influence in LA.  So far we have only really looked at Gretzky's impact, let's go back to some of his records.

For a complete list of Gretzky's records check out:
Here is a list of the top 10 point scorers of all time in the NHL

1Wayne GretzkyEDMLAKSTLNYR148728571.92
2Mark MessierEDMNYRVAN, NYR175618871.07
3Gordie HoweDETHFD176718501.05
4Ron FrancisHFDPITCARTOR173117981.04
5Marcel DionneDETLAKNYR134817711.31
6Steve YzermanDET151417551.16
7Mario LemieuxPIT91517231.88
8Joe SakicQUE/COL137816411.19
9Czechoslovakia Jaromir JagrPITWSHNYR127315991.26
10Phil EspositoCHIBOSNYR128215901.24

Wayne Gretzky  has nearly 1,000 more points then the next closest player to him and he played in nearly 300 less games.  If Wayne Gretzky did not score a SINGLE goal in his career (and he is the leader in that too with 894) he would still be the NHL's all time leading points scorer.  He won the Heart Memorial Trophy (League MVP) a record 9 times and won his first 8 all in a row.  The list of his accomplishments goes on and on and nobody has come close to him.  The only player that can even come close to being compared to him is Mario Lemieux.  Unfortunately for Lemieux he was derailed by a back injury and cancer otherwise he may have come closer to what Gretzky did but even in the couple of seasons in which he was making a run at Gretzky they still weren't what Gretzky's best were and Gretzky did it longer and more consistently then anybody else in the game.  Even though it wasn't Lemieux's fault he was diagnosed with cancer and received bad back injuries, it was Gretzky's fault that he stayed healthy so long.  He was very conscious not to leave himself vulnerable, and if anyone ever attempted to take him out with a big hit, he almost always made them pay by burning them or finding an open teammate.  Listening to several interviews about Gretzky the one thing that stuck out was that other hockey players were afraid to try and hit the 165lb superstar.  He always knew when to make the right play and so other players couldn't take chances on him.  If you aren't a hockey fan I highly doubt that I did anything to convince you away from Jordan or any other other from being the best athlete of all time.  People just do not appreciate the beauty, excellence and difficulty of hockey enough but no this.  There may one day be another Jordan, Montana, Willie Mays but there will never be another Gretzky in hockey.  He was the best that ever played, and I am confident that when I am finally laid in my grave he will still be the very best that ever laced up skates (and any other athletic footwear in my opinion).  From studying Gretzky's career there is one final thing that really stood out from those that knew him.  Everyone who spoke to his greatness as a player said that, without a doubt, he was a better man then hockey player.  We all want to be like Michael, but really we should want to be like Wayne.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Season Ending Poem

Here is a fun little poem about this past NBA season and the upcoming playoffs. Hope you all enjoy

This basketball season has now come and passed
Like a beautiful assist from the amazing Steve Nash
There was one goal in mind as every game was played
All 30 teams wish to have a Championship parade
This is something you play for, it is not given freely
Unless you took your talents to South Beach in Miami
These three douches thought it a sure thing
That in their near future would be many rings
But karma is funny, we don't know how it goes
Because Miami has three pansies, and Chicago one Rose
This season has been fantastic, so much entertainment week to week
From Blake Griffin dunks to Bill Simmons tweets
A clear favorite for the title is anything but concrete
But the Lakers are my pick as they attempt a three-peat
But the LA is not alone, there are other contenders
From the Bulls to the Thunder and that scrappy team in Denver
ESPN will tell you that every series cannot be picked, it's up in the air
But I, the Sports Guru, am here to enlighten so allow me to share
I said from the beginning, all the way back to day one
It will be Boston LA when it is all said and done
But my stance has now changed since Perkins was traded
The Celtics playoff run has now been dated
Boston will take down Miami but soon after be beat
They cannot get passed Chicago, they are no longer elite
I have already picked the Lakers to win it all
There is a team though that can beat them, they just might fall
This team is not Dallas and it is not the Spurs
This team lacks nothing but experience and years
If the Lakers are not careful we may very well see
The Larry O'brien trophy find a new home in OKC
But LA will find a way, at least for this year
Six rings now for Kobe, and six for Derrick Fisher
Regardless of what happens, it will be epic and fun
Remember what you read today because my poem is now done

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NBA Mid-Season Report

Most Valuable Player: Derrick Rose
To me this is a no-brainer but there are a lot of others you could argue for. Kevin Durant is having another great season but Russell Westbrook has been equally as impressive so they end up nullifying each other. We've seen how abysmal the Mavericks are without Dirk and you could argue any of the big three from San Antonio. Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Amare, Howard and Deron Williams are all up there too but there are a couple of mitigating factors that put D-Rose over the top. The first is how well the Bulls are doing amongst all of their injuries. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah have only played 9 games together this year which means the Bulls have been without one of their best players for 32 of their 41 games and been without both for one of those games. Despite all that the Bulls are 28-13 and sitting at the number 3 spot in the East and still possess one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in the league and they will only be better at both when Noah is back. Tom Thibodeau has done a great coaching job this year but it all comes back to the leadership of Rose. He has just thrown this team on his back and has shown improvement in ever aspect of his game and he just keeps getting better. Even Kobe Bryant has been extremely impressed with Derrick Rose this year. "I can tell when a player truly wants to be better and does what it takes to improve. It was a quality I had when I was growing up. … I admire that about him. I could really see it from last year to this year.". Oh yeah, Derrick Rose is also averaging 24.5ppg 4.7rpg and 8.1apg. The only other player to average 20+ points 8+ assists and 5+ rebounds (I'm rounding up for Rose) is Russell Westbrook who coincidentally is Rose's best friend and former high school teammate. Also, not that it matters, the two of them were the same draft class, are the same height, weight, have the same reach, wingspan, are the same body fat content and are only 5 weeks apart. So maybe it would be fitting for them to be Co-MVP's.

Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin

I thought about putting Derrick Favors here but then I remembered I picked him to be a bust so I had to stick with my convictions despite his stellar year (6.5ppg 5.0rpg 0.6bpg) so the next option was Blake Griffin. At the beginning of this year I was asked by several people what my thoughts on Blake Griffin were, my response? Imagine Dwight Howard with a polished offensive game. The next question was how could you stop someone like that? Well Griffin has shown us that you can't. In only his first season he has already become a top 5 big man. On a slight tangent Dwight Howard has shown a great leap in his offensive game which would mean that he and Griffin were equal right? Howard's stats thus far: 22.0ppg 13.3rpg 2.2bpg 57% from the field 59% from the line and 30 double-doubles. Griffins stats are as following: 22.5ppg 12.8rpg 0.7bpg 53% from the field 60% from the line and 33 double-doubles. Howard is obviously a better defensive player (as shown by the disparity in blocks) so I still consider him the better player as of right now but is anybody more exciting then Griffin. Every week I get at least a couple of messages from friends asking "DID YOU SEE WHAT BLAKE GRIFFIN DID TONIGHT?!?!?!" It never fails, the guy is electrifying and he plays with absolutely no fear. My fear is that he is going to get some sort of devastating injury but you can't tell me there is a more exciting player to watch and if you think there is then you haven't watched Griffin enough.

Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich
This could easily be Tom Thidadeou, he definitely deserves it but I personally don't like giving both the MVP and COY to the same team. Even if I didn't care about that Popovich would still probably be my choice. You always expect the Spurs to be in contention for a title regardless of where they stand in the regular season. That alone tells you what kind of coach he is. For years the Spurs have relied on their big 3 and quite frankly they are past their prime, we all thought that the Spurs window had closed. Well they proved us all wrong by putting themselves on a 70 win pace and are now the favorite from the West when we all thought it was the Lakers and then everybody else. Now it appears as if it is the Spurs and then everyone else. Sure Ginobili and Parker are having resurgent years but Duncan sure isn't and then who else do they have? Popovich has tapped into every single player on his team to get them to play to their full potential. He is done an incredible job and as much as I hate the Spurs I cannot ignore what an incredible coaching job Greg Popovich is doing this year.

Most Improved Player: Lamarcus Aldridge
I know that he really isn't even in the running for this award because he has been too good the past few seasons and his stats really aren't that much better then they were last year but I wanted to give props to a guy that doesn't get nearly the respect that he deserves. The thing that has impressed me the most with Aldridge this season is how assertive he has been. Brandon Roy hasn't been the same player this year and now that he, and half the team, is sidelined by injury Aldridge has taken it upon himself to carry this team on his back. Since Roy has been out of the lineup Aldridge is averaging 25.9ppg and 10.1rpg which is a big step up in production from his previous seasons. It's not just that his numbers are up, he is a much more aggressive player and assertive leader. Anyone who has watched the Blazers play this season is nodding their head in agreement. When I do this at the end of the season I won't be including Aldridge in my discussion for the reasons mentioned earlier but also because he was drafted number two overall in 2006 and Marc Stein has convinced me that if you were a top 5 draft pick you shouldn't be considered for this award because you are expected to be an all star eventually. If I had to give the award to anybody right now I would probably go with Dorrell Wright but we'll get back to that at the end of the year.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andrew Bogut
No I'm not joking about this. You may think I'm just reacting to Bogut leading the league in Blocks and being 5th in rebounding but there is a lot more to it then that. I recognize that the Bucks are disappointing this season (I mentioned it in my preview) but they still have a very good defensive team and Bogut is the anchor of that team. They are 4th in the league in points allowed, 6th in opponents 3-point fg percentage and 8th in fg percentage. Put that with Bogut's stats of 11.4rpg and 2.74bpg and he at least has to be in the discussion. I doubt that he will win this award based on his teams record, KG or Howard will more then likely win it again but Bogut is quietly having a very dominant year on defense.

6th Man of the Year: Serge Ibaka

I have read several mid season reports and I have not heard Serge Ibaka's name come up once which I think is a travesty. I understand that Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford are probably going to be the favorites for this award again but why do we get so caught up on offensive production when we look at guys for this award? Ibaka's stats won't wow you, 10ppg 7rpg and 2.1bpg but he is such a disruptive presence on defense. 2.1bpg is pretty impressive for a starter, let alone a guy coming off the bench for only 26 minutes a game. It isn't just his stats though, he is a true difference maker for OKC and I doubt that the Thunder would trade him for any other bench player out there. If this award is truly designed for the most valuable player coming off the bench then I truly believe that Ibaka is that guy. Come playoff time you will see the impact he brings for his team.

Least Valuable Player: Hasheem Thabeet
At 7'3" and 267lbs Hasheem Thabeet officially qualifies as the worlds biggest space waster. I talked about the draft 2 years ago and said how I thought that Thabeet would be a complete bust and that his only hope was to go to either OKC or Memphis. Well apparently I was wrong because he went to Memphis and he some how is getting worse. As the second string center he is only playing in 9 minutes a game and is averaging more fouls per game then he is points and rebounds. But kudos for Thabeet, I'm pretty sure that Thabeet is about as useful to the Grizzlies as a typewriter is to a college student and he has some how gotten the Grizzlies to pay him 5 mil a year for that, talk about the American Dream. He is still young so who knows maybe he gets his act together but I don't see it happening and if I were the Grizzlies I would trade him ASAP while teams are still stupid enough to take a chance on him.

Player Flying ABOVE the Radar: Monta Ellis
I say this because Monta Ellis is clearly on nobodies radar except for those in Nor-Cal but you have to be having a somewhat subtle season to fly UNDER the radar, such as JJ Reddick who is having a very solid season but his numbers won't overly impress you. Monta though is having a phenomenal season and I would put good money on him not making the All Star Game. Here is the team that will more then likely represent the West. Centers: Pau Gasol (replacement for Yao Ming) and Chris Kaman, Forwards: Carmelo Anthony (if not traded), Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love/Lamarcus Aldridge (only one will make it), Guards: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Deron WIlliams and Russell Westbrook. That leaves one open spot for Monta right? except that roster has no San Antonio Spur on the roster and since they have the best team in the league right now they will have at least one, probably two players. Manu Ginoblli for sure and then probably Tony Parker or could be Tim Duncan over Chris Kaman. That means there is no room for Monta and even if there was who is to say it wouldn't go to either Aldridge or Love, or even Lamar Odom and hey, did anyone realize that Steve Nash may not make it even though he is having a phenomenal season himself. Quite frankly the west is too loaded with guards so there is no room for Monta. This is why I believe fans to be just as stupid as David Stern, Monta has less all star votes then Derrick Fisher and Stern will never put an unpopular player on a losing team into the all star game. All that aside has anybody looked at the season he is having? Gone over 40 points 3 times and 35 points 7 times. He is averaging 25.8ppg 5.7apg and 2.2spg while upping his shooing percentage across the board from last season and cutting down on his turnovers. He has also been incredibly clutch this season for GS and has them hanging around in the West to possibly jump into the 8th spot out West. I don't want to hear crap about how he plays in an up tempo system, Steve Nash was voted MVP twice while playing in a faster paced system then the Warriors play. Amare Stoudemire is an MVP candidate while playing in an up tempo system and everybody is just raving about Kevin Love and his stats but he is playing in the fasted paced system in the whole NBA, GS is at number 4. So I won't buy into that, GS played at a pace of 102.7(possessions per game) last year and are now at 97.7 pace and Monta has improved his stats from a year ago. Also if it helps give you some perspective in Nash's two MVP seasons the Suns ran at a pace of 112.3 and 112.0, that's a big difference from what Monta and the Warriors are running so if I hear somebody make the "uptempo" argument I will slap you. Still I highly doubt that Monta will be playing in LA on Feb 19 and he will get his second straight horrendous All Star Game snub.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NBA Season Preview

As we enter into one of the most anticipated NBA seasons in recent history there are a lot of questions swirling around the league. ESPN made a very feeble attempt at trying to answer some of these and it took everything in me to not cry from laughter as I read it. So I figured since I didn't have time to do a complete team by team preview this year I would re-answer these questions properly. Also I will provide some other insight and include a few extra questions of my own, here is the link for ESPN's article on the 20 questions

1. Will the Lakers Three-Peat?
In short, yes. Anybody that reads this knows that I am a die hard Lakers fan and granted I will admit that I am bias but they are the two time defending champions and I believe that this is the deepest team that they have had yet with the additions of Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff. But there are three guys that nobody is talking about with this Lakers team and they are Shannon Brown, Devin Ebanks and David Character. From what I've seen in the pre-season and in the first regular season game is that Shannon Brown could be in contention for 6th man of the year if he continues to get big minutes. His confidence is at an all time high and his jump shot is much improved giving him a great all around game on offense. Devin Ebanks continues to freak me out with how much he is like Trevor Ariza. Ariza stands at 6'8" 210 while Ebanks is 6'9" 215. Both play SF and wore the number three for the Lakers and have extremely similar games. Not only that but both have super long wingspans, Ariza's is 7'2" while Ebanks has one of 7'4". This one always gets me, both players were drafted with the 43rd overall pick and if that isn't enough, they freaking look a like and have virtually the same tattoos on their left arm. With all that being said I'm super high on this guy, he plays with aggression and tenacity, he won't play enough to really stand out to people but this guy has a ton of game and should have a very successful NBA career. When he finally gets a chance to play in a year or two he will be a Most Improved Player award finalist. Character may not be as talented but with Bynum out may get more of a chance to play. He also gets after the ball aggressively and is a great hustle guy. He may not have a ton of upside but he can definitely be a key contributor to this team. With all the extra depth, a slightly depleted Western Conference and a very hungry Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson the Lakers should be hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy for a third consecutive year.

2. Are the Bulls Back?

First off this is a very stupid question, to me the Bulls being back means they are back to being the greatest dynasty in basketball and that probably will never happen again. They are moving in the right direction and I think that Derrick Rose is primed to take his game to an MVP type level, he is my sleeper pick for the award this year. I've been saying ever since all the off season moves that I believe that the Bulls will take down the Heat in the second round of the playoffs. I think that the Bulls are the 4th best team in the East but the third best playoff team. Miami will more then likely win a title soon but it won't be this year, they simply don't have the coaching or the depth. Perhaps Pat Riley takes over soon but I still think they are at least a year away, too many other elite teams have too much stability and much better coaching. You may laugh and scoff at this but I said the same thing the last two years about the Cavs and I think I earned the right to say I told you so. So no I don't the Bulls are "back" but with an improved Rose and Joakim Noah as a core surrounded by Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Luol Deng with a much better (yet inexperienced) coach in Tom Thibodeau this team is ready to make some serious noise out East. One last side not on the Bulls is that I love their fans. The second that Lebron James announced that he was going to do "The Decision" they immediately turned on him and decided they didn't want a narcissistic punk on their team, awesome!

3. Will the Heat win 72?
What should I do? Should I tell you that I knew Lebron would tank in the playoffs, that he isn't born to win or that he needs to piggy back off another superstar? What should I do? Should I not listen to my friends about how good the Heat are? They're my friends What should I do? What Should I do? Should I tell you what you want to hear?
Well unlike Lebron I'm going to give you an actual answer to a question. No, the Heat will not win 72, the East is too competitive and I like I said this Heat team still needs another year or so. I am so sick of hearing every stupid ESPN analyst saying that the Heat are built to win this year. Their three headed monster has just now hit their prime, all of these guys have several years left of dominance, they have are built for a future dynasty. They don't have the depth to win 72 games or a championship this year. I still say they are a lock for a top 3 seed but they won't be finding themselves even in the finals this year. Their biggest short coming is at the center position, every team they will be in contention with will dominate them in this aspect and you can't win that way. Nearly every Championship team of all time has had some sort of dominating big man, particularly at the defensive end, the Heat just don't have anything close to that. They will attempt to make me look stupid but trust me, come playoff time they aren't going very far.

4. Will Kevin Durant Be MVP?
I say yes, Kevin Durant has everything going for him this year. A great young squad that is built for him to thrive and be successful with. The Thunder are ready to take it to the next level but they only go as their super star goes. He had an incredible World Championship this Summer and that should carry over into the regular season. He still possess incredible guard skills but is starting to play bigger with his 6'9" frame. His scoring will probably be around the same but expect a much better rebounding year from him, possibly a double double average, and a big improvement in his defensive stats. My other possibilites for the award are Derrick Rose, Deron William, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. I don't see Lebron or Wade winning it as a duo and out of the other possibilities I have Rose as my dark horse and Deron Williams as my runner up but all in all this is Durant's award to lose

5. Where will Melo go?

The fact that we are still asking this question is one reason I couldn't finish my preview, he obviously isn't going to be staying in Denver and the most likely destinations at this point are the Knicks and Nets. I say it will end being the Nets if it happens sooner then later because they have a lot more to offer as far as young talent. Terrence Williams would have an immediate impact for the Nuggets and maybe Derrick Favors could even be included in the trade, which would be great for the Nets since I believe the guy to be a bust and a half. The longer this thing plays out the great the chance the Knicks have of landing Melo because even though they don't have much to offer the Nuggets they have some expiring contracts that will be a nice concellation prize for them to make a splash in free agency and not take a total loss on the deal. So for now I say the Nets but if it doesn't happen soon the Knicks become the favorite, regardless of which team it is they will be in the playoffs for sure if they land the 6'8" swingman.

6. Will Wall win ROY?
John Wall has a chance to be a very special player but I'm not convinced about his maturity. I don't think he is a guy that you need to worry about concerning his character I just think he may have some more growing up to do then people think and having Gilbert Arenas as a teammate is not going to help him at all. Blake Griffin is my pick for the award, not only has the guy been an absolute freak in the pre-season but he is in a much better situation then Wall and he is a much more proven competitor then Wall and he will be on a mission to prove himself this year. If he stays healthy then I think the Clippers can easily find themselves in the playoffs this year.

7. Boston still the beast of the East?
If you are talking about the regular season then no they aren't, I could realistically see them finishing as low as the four seed again although they will probably finish either 2 or 3. But are they still the team from the East most likely to make it to the finals? Absolutely. They quietly had a good off season and added some good depth. They may not be built for the future with their age or even for the regular season but they are built to win a championship and they very well might. I wrote last year that if I wasn't bias towards the Lakers then I probably would have picked Boston to win the Finals and I feel the same way this year. Sure they are old but as long as they stay relatively healthy heading into March and April they will be just fine. Forget the Big 3 this is no doubt Rondo's team and he will make things very easy for the rest of their starters which will really help keep their legs fresh. Unless Rondo gets hurt for the playoffs this team will be back in the Finals to face the Lakers for the third time in 4 years.

8. Knicks in the Playoffs?
I say yes, especially if they can land Carmelo Anthony but even if they don't I see see them sneaking into the playoffs. Amare gives them a nice go to guy on offense but the guy I'm focused on this year is Raymond Felton. He is my pick for Most Improved Player this year. The guy is a fast, pass first PG who has a pretty good scoring touch and a good 3 point shot which is the absolute perfect fit for Mike D'Antoni's system. Expect his numbers to balloon in this new up tempo system to around 17 points and 9 assists. As long as Felton plays at a high level then the Knicks will find themselves in the playoffs this year.

9. Are the Suns done?

I don't even understand this question, sure the Suns made it to the Conference Finals last year but did anybody really think they were a Championship contender? They simply have never been built for the post season so are they "done"? I don't think so. The biggest knock on them is that they can't rebound, apparently Amare Stoudemire was a great rebounder, that certainly is news to me. The Suns have never been a good rebounding team so it isn't like they are making some huge adjustment. They still have Nash playing at an elite level, Richardson is still a good scorer and Turkoglu gives them a lot of versatility up front. They will still be one of the leagues most dynamic offenses and will probably find themselves in the playoffs around the 6 to 8 seed. Don't sleep too heavily on the Suns, Amare was not as in-expendable as people may think. Just give them some time to gel and they will be fine.

10. Can Blake Griffin carry the Clips?
Again, I don't get this idiotic question. He may be the missing piece to the puzzle and the focal point of their offense but in no way is he going to be required to "carry" this team. Baron Davis may finally come to play now that he has an above average team, Chris Kaman is a very good center and will help take pressure off of Griffin up front and Eric Gordon is a very gifted scorer who had a phenomenal World Championship this Summer. Can he carry the Clippers? sure I guess but we won't ever find out because that isn't his job and to think that it is to me is absurd. Why am I answering these retarded questions again?

11. How is Yao?

Who is coming up with these questions? Seriously what the heck? How are we supposed to know how Yao is? he hasn't played in over a year and we have only had the pre-season and one regular season game to judge him by. Based on how big he is and how gifted he is offensively he will be fine, his minutes are limited but Brad Miller is a great guy to have coming off of the bench and Yao won't be relied on as heavily has he has in the past with Aaron Brooks becoming an All Star level PG and Kevin Martin doing a majority of the scoring for the Rockets this year. We just have to see if Yao is going to hold up physically, that is what the question is and obviously there is no way to even start to answer that. Freaking ESPN

12. Can the NBA Avoid a Lockout?

Sure they can, will they? I doubt it. David Stern is too stupid and too stubborn to allow a new agreement to get done unless it is completely on his terms. He is probably the worst commissioner in the history of sports and as long as he is calling the shots on this thing it won't happen. Since we are talking about him what the heck was Stern thinking when he decided that there should be an automatic technical assessed to any player who leaves their hands in the air after a foul or makes any gesture at all? Eric Gordon got a technical for tapping his arm after a lay up because he got hammered and there was no call! Seriously?!?! Pretty soon they are going to give out masks to players so that no expressions can be seen during games, Stern and Roger Gooddell (NFL Commissioner) need to realize that players have the right to express themselves, I understand limits but give me a break guys.

13. Should we expect the Blazers to stay healthy?
Well first off they aren't healthy right now so the question again doesn't make sense and the other things HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW?!?! There are certain things that you can have a pretty good indication of but injuries can be so random, I mean for particular players like Oden or Bynum sure you can probably guess that they will not play a full season unhurt but to predict that for a whole team is ridiculous. I'll tell you this though if the Blazers can get healthy and stay healthy they could end up being the second best team in the West this year. Don't sleep on them and for crying out loud ESPN stop asking stupid questions about injuries

14. Have the Cavs hit rock bottom?
I think that the city of Cleveland has but I think the Cavs still have a pretty good team. I have been so tired the last two years about hearing how Lebron James had no help while he was there, it simply wasn't true. Mo Williams is a very good PG who was never given the proper freedom in the offense, Antwan Jamison is a very good offensive player, Ramon Sessions is a great option coming off the bench, I hate Varejao but I guess he gives them "character" (nicest thing I can say about the over hyped piece of junk douche), they have great three point shooters to spread the floor and they have a very proven coach in Byron Scott. ESPN has this team as their third worst team in the NBA and SI has them as the second worst in the East. I think this is a gross under estimation of the team that Cleveland has. I'm not saying they will make the playoffs (even though they could) or scare a ton of teams but they are quite a bit better then people think and they do have cap room and draft picks to try and and make some noise in the future, maybe they get lucky again and land Harrison Barnes in the upcoming draft, karma is a funny thing.

15. Are we sleeping on the Jazz and Grizzlies?
ESPN I'm sure is, I'm not, at least with the Jazz. I liked the combination of Boozer and Deron Williams a ton but I think that Jefferson is a much better fit for the offense then Boozer. Jefferson is a much bigger body and allows the Jazz to start both him and Paul Milsap and have a guy like Okur coming off the bench. The loss of Korver definitely hurts but they will be fine. Jefferson will have a big year now that he has had more then a full year to recover from his knee surgery and is much better with his back to the basket then Boozer ever was. The division is going to come down to the Jazz and Blazers but because of the current (remember I said current) injuries to the Blazers I'm giving the edge to the Jazz. The Grizzlies I'm not too sure about, they have have gone undefeated in the preseason and had a very nice season last year which I thought they might but they still don't have a go to guy. Rudy Gay is a very good player but the Grizzlies are simply stocked with number 2 and 3 options. They need to find that guy they can rely on night in and night out. I don't see them making the playoffs until that happens. They did improve quite a bit last year but they aren't going to be sneaking up on anybody this year and we'll see if they can still keep that cohesiveness together for this season.

16. Are the Magic tough enough?

I'm just going to stop making comments about stupid questions because I just can't think of any more ways to make fun of ESPN. Yes the Magic are tough enough, they are only two years removed from the NBA Finals and even though they lost in 5 they went toe to toe with the Lakers that whole series. Last year they weren't overly impressive against the Celtics but they still made it to the Conference Finals again and have virtually the same team as last year. Dwight Howard leads a very balanced Magic attack and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see them back in the Finals but I still like the Celtics just a little bit more. Especially this year I wouldn't question their toughness, they are going to be playing the whole season with a chip on their shoulder after flying under the radar for the past few months.

17. Can the Mavs make a move in the West?

Aggghhhh ESPN, whatever. The answer is yes, I mean is this seriously a question? what did they do to get worse? nothing. What did they do to get better? not much but Roddy Beabouis should be a force off the bench when he is back and Tyson Chandler gives them a very nice option at center and as the reigning division champs they should have a good opportunity to repeat last years season success, we'll just have to see if they can translate that into the post-season this year. But they still have a super talented and athletic team and will be a top tier team in the West this season. Also Beabouis is my second pick for Most Improved as long as he comes back strong from his injury.

18. Is Tim Duncan in decline?

Yes. His production on a per minute basis is still there but the knees aren't holding up great which happens when you are a big guy and 34 years old and he just doesn't play as much anymore. He hasn't played over 35 mpg since 03-04 and he will probably be around 30 mpg this year. He is still a force to be reckoned with which is what happens when you are the most fundamentally sound big man in the game he just simply can't play as many minutes these days so ya he is on the decline and has been for some time. Doesn't mean he still isn't an elite player, just means he has to adapt his game some which is what all the great players end up doing. Spurs are still a very good team and Duncan is still the man for them.

19. Will CP3 be happy?

Finally a legit question. I truly believe that Chris Paul wants to be in New Orleans and if they can get back to winning and he stays healthy then yes he will be happy. He realizes though that this league is all about winning and unlike Lebron James, he really isn't in a situation that he can grow in. New Orleans has screwed themselves over so badly financially that there really isn't a lot of hope for them to be a consistently good team. Paul knows this and although I think he wants to stay he realistically can't if he ever wants to win a ring. Lebron James had plenty of options to win in Cleveland but chose the easy way, I don't think Paul is doing that but I think he continues to ask for a trade if they Hornets can't win now because there isn't any hope for them for the future unless there is a drastic change in the way the team is run.

20. Will Riley return to the sideline?

Yes but I'm not sure if he will this year. I can see it playing out where he takes over but I think it will happen next year because I don't know if Pat Riley believes his team is ready to win right now. He is too smart of a basketball mind for that, I think he lets his team develop for a year, adds another piece or two and comes back next year, it would be a dream scenario for him if it is a shortened season so that he wouldn't have to sit on the bench for the whole year. It isn't for sure by any means but I have a hard time seeing him not being on the sidelines with this talented of a team, I'd put money on him coming back within the next 12 months.

My added questions

1. Which team this year has the best chance to be last years Bucks?
The Bucks took everybody by surprise last year by claiming the 6 seed in the East led by a rookie PG that nobody knew about coming into the season. Nobody saw it coming and I was one of their biggest critics and I'll admit it, not in a million years did I see that one coming. So this year I figured I'd take a chance on a team this year. I tried them last year and they didn't do all that great so this year I'm going to try them again and go with the Indiana Pacers. They have a very young roster but they did show a lot of potential last year. Roy Hibbert is a huge body at 7'3" and will anchor that defense with his shot blocking ability. We all know about Danny Granger's offensive scoring power and it is nice to have a guy like him to go to on every possession. Darren Collison is a star in the making at the Point position and will be a big improvement over the inconsistent T.J. Ford. They also have a lot of grit with guys like Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts and Dahntay Jones. Also Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Rush give them the ability to stretch the floor. They are supposed to be a bottom feeder team this year but I can see them making the playoffs this year. I think a couple teams out there like the Bobcats and Pistons are very overrated this year and I could see the Pacers sneaking by them. Especially since they play in a fairly weak division with no clear favorite. If any team is going to surprise you this year it will be this team.

2. Who is this years Memphis Grizzlies?
The reason I threw this one in there is because there is a team out West that I think can surprise people but still doesn't really stand a real chance of making the playoffs and that is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors still have an amazing offense focused around their guard play but they finally have a go to big guy in David Lee who will also really help their poor rebounding. The other thing is that this team is finally healthy, whether they stay that way or not is a mystery but as of now they have a team that can surprise people and I wouldn't be surprised to see them elevate to around 40 wins this year. I watched them some in the pre-season and Monta Ellis is still an elite scorer but this team appears to be in the hands of Steph Curry and he appears ready to be the leader for this team. He has a great all around offensive game and keeps a cool head in pressure situations. He still needs to cut down on the turnovers and work on his defense but he has shown improvement there but that is one reason I don't see them making the playoffs this year. Don't be surprised though to see them sneak up on teams and give fits to a lot of really good teams this year.

3. Who is this years sophomore sensation?

Hasheem Thabeet!!!! haha if only. After a great season from last years rookies and sophomores it is safe to assume we are going to have at least one guy who is really going to emerge this year like Rose and Westbrook did last year. To me there are no real surprises, it is going to come to the guard trio of Curry, Jennings and Evans. I'm giving the nod though to Curry because he continued to get better throughout the season last year which is very rare for a rookie. Jennings hit the wall and Evans was just consistent but did hit the wall a bit. Evans just doesn't seem to me that he has a very high ceiling for his game which is fine considering he already plays at near All Star level. Jennings is going to be great but he still has to fine tune his game quite a bit. Curry simply has the best all around game right now and will have the most opportunity to shine. There are a ton of players who could really come through this year especially at the guard position. I've already mentioned Collison and Beaubois but there are two more guys you may be sleeping on this year. One is Dejuan Blair, the guy is a beast on the boards, has a great work ethic and with Duncan aging he will get a lot more minutes this year. The other guy is Terrance Williams. Think of Williams as a shorter more athletic Lamar Odom. The guy is a freak of an athlete who doesn't do anything great but is just solid top to bottom. He could really thrive in the 6th man role this year and emerge as a go to scorer for the Nets. I'm going with Curry but don't sleep on Blair and Williams.

4. Did Tracy McGrady die?

Worse I'm afraid, he went to Detroit. Everybody had forgotten about Tmac this year and you can't really blame them. He hasn't been a force in this league in a couple of years and time is not on his side. He is injury prone, getting old and not in a good situation really in Detroit. He can be a productive bench player for the Pistons but his glory days are over and he is on a team that is stuck with a GM who has made some genius moves and is now panicking to rebuild his reputation and team. McGrady's best option is to show that he still has some production left in him this year and hope for a trade deadline move to get him to a contender, possibly Chicago, Orlando or maybe even the Thunder. He could have an impact and when the the Pistons find themselves out of the playoffs look for them to move him.

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