Ok, Now What

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By Stefan Anderson

Coming off an impressive win against the Los Angeles Clippers and showing signs of the alpha dog in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to make a huge change mid-season. After winning 10 of their last 12 games, only losing to the two best teams in the NBA, the Spurs and the Warriors, the axe has come down former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.

Blatt, had to face the news of his firing on his day off, in what seemed to be the coming for a long time. Monday evening’s 132-98 massacre with Golden State might have been the last stop on the Blatt train but is one that doesn’t seem as farfetched.

From blatant disrespect from the league’s premier star and Cleveland’s prize possession Lebron James, after subbing himself mid-game during a match with Atlanta, calling his own audible on set plays and most recently sitting in Blatt’s chair on the bench, the message was clear that whatever the king says goes.

Although he coached Cleveland to a finals matchup with Golden State even capturing two game with a diminished roster to choose from. To then returning to having the best record in the East sitting 30-11, was still not enough to satisfy King James.

But this is very similar a former star who James’ game emulates after, Magic Johnson.

Johnson grew frustrated with his head coach at the time Paul Westhead during the 1981 season, similar to James, Magic also had his franchise in his palms and ultimately had Westhead removed from his position.

Luckily for the Lakers, there was an assistant by the name of Pat Riley, who stepped in and carried the torch to what we know now as the “Showtime” Lakers. Tyron Lue, will now step in as Cleveland head after five years of being an assistant for Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland to help restore faith for the Cavs. Lue, as a player was coached by Phil Jackson and is under the coaching tree of former Celtics and current Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, and has the knowledge that can help lead the Cavs to the promise land.

The promise land won’t easy for the Land.

The Cavs have bigger fish to fry. Cleveland although remain on top of the East will have to win against either San Antonio or Golden State to win a championship. With the inconsistency of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love it will be a tough feat. The huge difference between Cleveland and the other top tier teams is depth and bench production.

San Antonio is 1st in bench efficiency; Golden State is 3rd and Cleveland ranks 24th, with the bench only accounting for 28.2 points a game. The Cavs will need the supporting cast step up or find pieces to help bolster their bench. Irving has missed 42 games over the past 3 season and has yet to play a full 82-game season in his short career, Love is currently battling an “undisclosed” injury, Iman Shumpert has only appeared in 19 games and Mo Williams has not played effective minutes in months. Once again, leaving the load on James to carry Cleveland once again.

Lue can be the solution for Cleveland, but their roster has to make some important changes that can that make sense of the 109 million dollar payroll. The overall goal has to be restore the relationships lost with Blatt and make your superstar, Lebron James, job a lot easier.

 

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Sunshine In A Dark Place

d'antoni.jpgBy Stefan Anderson

Just over a decade ago, Mike D’Antoni was the head coach of the infamous Run-N-Gun Phoenix Suns in the late 2000’s, that made a lasting imprint on the NBA.Years removed the league, we missed D’Antoni’s offense in the NBA and pondered why such an explosive offense hasn’t been brought on by other teams. Now, the Marshall product has now returned to bench with the league’s worst team the Philadelphia 76ers, bringing a bright spot to the gloomy franchise.

We have seen this time and time, where D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy, that has birthed a new generation of basketball. The system focuses on playing with more space, a faster pace, allowing point guards to push the ball and getting shots early in the shot clock working to get more possessions out of each game.

The system has allowed many guards to flourish over the years. Examples are:

  • Prior to being traded for Carmelo Anthony in 2010-11, Raymond Felton was having his best NBA season. During the 54 games he played with the Knicks, Felton was able to put up 19.0 points per game and average career high 9.0 assists.
  • Can’t forget about that kid named Jeremy Lin, who had New York City in a frenzy under D’Antoni. “Linsanity” also had a great year under D’Antoni averaging 14.6 ppg and 6.2 apg.
  • D’Antpni most successful project thus far would be Steve Nash. Nash would go on to nab two MVP trophies under D’Antoni direction averaging 17.5 and 11.2 during his tenure with D’Antoni.

It’s shown that guards have benefited from D’Antoni success and his new point guard experiment Ish Smith has grown since his arrival. Smith has gone on to average 16.8 ppg and 8.3 apg since D’Antoni arrival. In his second tenure with the Sixers, Smith has gone on to have five game where he accounted for 10 assists or more.

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Not only did Smith improve under D’Antoni but the Sixers as a whole also have grown since December 18th.

Philadelphia prior to D’Antoni:  91.4 ppg on 81 FGA, 41% FGP, 32 % 3PT, and 18.7 apg

Philadelphia after D’Antoni: 99.7 ppg, 84.4 FGA, 45% FGP, 33% 3PT, 23.3 apg and winning 4 games during the 14-game stretch.

With point guard play and high offense being on demand, it doesn’t make sense why the offensive guru wasn’t given a chance prior to. Although Philadelphia is far from contenting again, this experiment it should allow him to find another opportunity elsewhere and possibly help solve the conundrum in City of Brotherly Love.

Watch The Throne

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By Stefan Anderson

June 16th caused a major shift in the balance of power for the NBA. The Golden State Warriors captured their first title in 40 years and the Cleveland Cavaliers still have that bitter taste of the finals loss.

Today on Christmas, we will finally get see the unanswered questions.

What if Cleveland had their big three? Would Stephen Curry be able to attack Kyrie Irving and make him look inadequate like the other guards he faced in the postseason? So many questions and now we finally get our answers today.

The most important question, has Lebron James’s crown been taken by Stephen Curry?

This is reminiscent of few years ago when Kobe Bryant was the alpha dog and an emerging Lebron James was coming to heir the throne and had to face off against him on Christmas day. James was 3-0 versus Bryant and ultimately took the NBA by storm. This win could be important for Curry as he puts his exclamation mark that he is the best player in the league.

Curry, fresh off his first championship and MVP award has shown no signs of slowing down and is playing at even higher level than the previous season. “Chef Curry” has seen a spike in each category other than assists and free throw percentage and his team is right along with him at astonishing 27-1 record.

But while Warriors are on a remarkable run, the balance of power in conferences has shifted as well. With the Eastern Conference being known as the weaker conference, we have seen more teams in the East improve as the 9th best team in the East, Boston, has same record as the 3rd best record in the West, the Clippers.

But as the East has gotten better, Cleveland still remains the best team in the conference and King James and Co, are headed back to full strength with the return of Kyrie Irving and Mo Williams and have to show that are just as superior as the Warriors.

The Warriors 1st ranked pace could be damaging for the Cavs 28th ranked pace, but it could also hurt Golden State as well. Unlike Golden State who has 13.5 point differential are not used to playing close like Cleveland. Cleveland has played in 8 games with the score was decided by 5 or less unlike Golden State that only played in four games.

But it will not be easy as King James is “Mr.Christmas”, averaging 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds and seven wins in his nine holiday appearances.

This will be an interesting matchup and will serve as an evaluation for the rest of the NBA to see who the real powerhouse team is.

Chasing History

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By Stefan Anderson

When you win 65 games and cap it off with the NBA Championship, you would consider that to be a great season.  For the Golden State Warriors, they have set the bar so high, that they not only have the rest of league competing for their spot but they have fight with themselves and history to remain on top.

“People say they’re going to go, 72-10, I don’t care they can go 81-1. We did it first.”said Dennis Rodman in a interview about the 14-0 Warriors.

With the steady comparisons between the 2015-16 Warriors and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls that finished 72-10 but the comparisons came because we have not seen a team as dominant as the 95-96 Bulls roster.

As crazy it may seem, it is very for the possible for the Warriors to compete with the 72 -wins Bulls.

Golden State could contest 72-10 and possibly go past it, if they continue their formula of last season of protecting their home floor, when they only lost twice at the Oracle Arena.

Also they will have to stay as dominant as the Bulls were on in 1995-96. Chicago was able to remain on top by winning in great spurts that included two ten-plus win streaks and one that went for 18 straight. The Bulls were able win at least five games in a row before losing a game and only lost two consecutive game once during the 95-96 season.

The Warriors will have to clean up their 28–13 road record from last season where they fell to inferior teams like the Lakers, Nets, Jazz and Suns while striving for the Bulls record.

But with their unstoppable style of basketball, Golden State has a good chance. The Warriors move the ball constantly at their 4th ranked pace at 99.3 , which seven points faster than the 95-96 Bulls, even more than their league leading pace last season.

To defeat Golden State you nearly to have a perfect and keep it from prevent the contest from becoming a shootout as well. The Dubs are shooting over 40 percent from the field and behind the arc, while still holding teams to under 100 points a game while scoring nearly 115 per game.  Teams that have come close like Brooklyn, Toronto, Chicago and the Clippers, all had chances but the Warriors consistent efforts and style can erase leads quickly and expand them ever further as their +14.5 point differential shows.

Many think that they way for defeat Golden State is to take away Stephen Curry and his My Player like shooting off the dribble. But the Warriors can play without the moving with the ball in the reigning MVP’s hands. “Chef Curry” has completed 62 percent of his 71 shots from three when he is assisted.

The Warriors have many different ways of winning.  The emergence of Draymond Green makes Golden State scary with his ability to guard any player on the floor and remain effective on both sides is special. Green’s efficiency makes the Warriors so hard to beat as he is 7th in win shares and 8th in assist per game.

Golden State have shown how great they can be and have the opportunity to have the best start to a season at 15-0 on Sunday versus the Lakers and will have the world watching as they compete with history and their great season in 2014-15.

My Bold Predictions for the 2015-16 NBA Season

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors

By Stefan Anderson

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, the countdown is finally over and the 2015-16 NBA season is here. Who’s going win it all? Who wins the MVP? Who stands out? I am here to give my Bold predictions for the 2015-16 season.

Golden State will not repeat: For the Warriors to repeat their success from last season would as easy as catching lightning in the bottle twice. Not to say that the Dubs won’t have a good season in 2015-16 campaign but I do not foresee the same luck they received last season. Golden State started the season winning their first 16 games, finishing 67-15 and only losing back to back once in the postseason. Crazy, when you really think how hard that will be to ditto. Doing so they would have to defeat one if not all the supreme teams in the West that includes the Spurs, Clippers and Thunder.

The next Draymond Green? Not skill wise but the in the context of a role player that makes a statement for his self. In the 2015 season, I have to put Washington’s Otto Porter and Indiana’s C.J. Miles in that category. With both of their rosters transitioning into faster pace offense, look for these two wings to transform off of the changes in offense and the increase of minutes.

MVP: For the MVP, I would like to see a player like Anthony Davis win the award, but the New Orleans star has yet to play an entire 82 games in a season. Therefore, with the additional talent surrounding him, Chris Paul will finally earn his first MVP award to solidify his legacy. My dark horse candidates will be Kevin Durant and Paul George, with both forwards coming back off grueling injuries and have a lot vengeance in their games.

Can LeBron continue to his reign? We ask this question each year and get the same results, so yes LeBron James will continue to be the best player in the NBA. Playing in nearly 100 games for the past four seasons, James has consistently played at the same level, averaging around 28/8/7 each season. With the bitter taste of losing his second consecutive finals, a hungry LeBron will be back this season, I expect him to be amongst that MVP conversation this year.

First Timers: Magic guard Victor Oladipo, Detroit Center Andre Drummond and LA Clipper Center DeAndre Jordan will all make their first all-star appearances this year. Jordan after signing his major contract this season will have to prove his worth. Oladipo rejoining the young core that Magic have kept together will burst into the teams true leader. Drummond will now be a priority with the departure of F/C Greg Monroe and Coach Stan Van Gundy’s 4 out and 1 in system he favors.

Defensive Player of Year: DeAndre Jordan believed he was snubbed out of last year’s DPOY award. In the 2015-16, DJ will claim the award at the season finale. Despite his free-throw woes, Jordan is still one of the best defenders in the league and will have another chance to prove his ability as an anchor as he did last season, when he lead the league in defensive win shares.

Most likely to beat Cleveland in the East: Many will say Chicago; I’ve got Miami being the team to dethrone King James and Co. The Heat will be able to counter Cleveland in all positions, with a lineup of Gorgan Dragic, Dwayne Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. They also have a deeper bench and that player who can take over and win games for you in Dwayne Wade, unlike the Bulls. This pick is safe as long the Heat roster can stay healthy.

Most likely to beat Golden State in the West: OKC? LA? Houston? I’m going with the Spurs. San Antonio, always seems to find way to stay in the mix, now they are even deeper with the additions of David West and Lamarcus Aldridge. You’ve seen Memphis size give some issues to Golden State in the 2nd round of the 2015 playoffs , but the Grizzlies struggle with perimeter shootingand the Spurs do not lack in that department. I think they can force Golden State to play their tempo and have solid post players that can give Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut problems in the paint.

Missing the party: Brooklyn, Boston, Dallas and Portland were all playoff teams last season, however, this season will not be attending the postseason this year. These teams did not improve their rosters and have some questions going into the 2015-16 year. Portland losing nearly their entire starting 5 except for Damian Lillard, will have to depend on the young guard to lead them to promise land. Brooklyn, if Brook Lopez cannot stay healthy will have too much of a load for Joe Johnson to carry. Boston, has a good team similar to Dallas will have fight the teams on the cusp and doesn’t possess the talent to do so.

Joining the party:  Entering the playoffs this season will be Miami, Indiana and possibly Charlotte from the Eastern conference. In the West, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and I have a strange feeling about Sacramento being good this season (*Warning: this might be a reach*).

Finals Prediction: San Antonio vs Cleveland, Spurs in 6.

2015 NBA Draft: Winners and Losers

draft 2015 nba

By Stefan Anderson

The 2015 NBA Draft was the most promising draft in the past few years with the talent that was presented throughout the college basketball ranks. Most would agree that the talent would overflow and teams would have the opportunity to grab some great players to help them compete or build their franchise for the future. Let’s take a look at some the Winners and Losers of the 2015 NBA Draft.

Winners:

Miami Heat: The Heat won the rights to the National Champs all around swing-man Justice Winslow, who will become a great two-way player in the NBA. Winslow comes to South Beach during a critical time period, where they are on the cusp of constructing a great starting lineup with Dragic, Wade, Winslow, Bosh and Whiteside. Look out Eastern Conference; if Wade can stay healthy you are looking a potential frontrunner.

Houston Rockets: Following their Western Conference Finals appearance, Clutch City added some proven prospects acquiring Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell to add to their bench .Harrell and Dekker come into Houston when two of the Rockets key reserves, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, are in limbo with Free Agency. Great picks to go with tested, mature players to add along the talent the Rockets already possess.

Minnesota Timberwolves: The T-Wolves cashed in again gaining more young prospects like Tyus Jones and number one overall pick, Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns is on a path to leading the new trail of big men that will overtake the game’s small ball fad, and will get tutoring from one the past era’s top big man Kevin Garnett. Jones, the Apple Valley, MN product gets to play for hometown team and bolster the bench and provide another floor general with the frequent injuries of Ricky Rubio. Minnesota has added two more prospects to strengthen their roster in order to add another star or build one of the budding franchises in the NBA.

Losers:

Philadelphia 76ers: Sam Hinkie believes in the picking the best players on the board and he did so with drafting Duke’s Jahlil Okafor with the third overall pick. Other than that the Philadelphia’s management acquired more big men, wasting 5 out of their 6 picks on post players and drafting one guard ,J.P Tokoto, who is a project and has to work on his outside game prior to his NBA debut. With all the post players who is going distribute to these big men or knock down open threes when the double teams arrive? The 76ers have failed to help out their roster by passing on outside shooting and guard play.

Boston Celtics: Boston has made a return following the Big 3 regime, and after three stressful seasons, the Celtics are receiving their fruits of their labor. In a context, that should be good but Boston has failed to use their many draft pieces to arrange a better pick or even acquire a star or some kind of leader that can take the talented group to the next level.  The Celtics have used their picks this season to acquire more guards a position where they already stocked up with Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Isiah Thomas. They did acquire a great shooter in R.J. Hunter, but ultimately added to a position where they don’t lack on their roster.

Denver Nuggets: Another team with many assets and a great draft pick also failed to acquire a great player to help their cast of good players in the Mile High City, the Nuggets. Denver drafted the gifted Emmanuel Mudiay, who will be a great talent, but that leaves their current point guard Ty Lawson on the outside looking in. The Nuggets could then at that point attempt to move Lawson or other jewels to acquire another talented player to play alongside Mudiay and the Nuggets roster.