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.

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State of the West

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State WarriorsBy Stefan Anderson

Perennially, the Western Conference, has the superior conference of the National Basketball Association and this year, it will be no different. Preceding the NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors, repeat their success of the 2014-2015 season, everyone out West is looking to take the conference for their own. Here is some things to take in perspective as we look at the West.

Watch the Throne

Of course the Warriors will be the team to beat this year, but some teams are after the reigning champs’ title, specifically the Spurs and the Clippers. San Antonio and Los Angeles have made the big free agent splashes, with the Spurs snagging up prized FA prospect LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran David West. The Clippers were able to bring back DeAndre Jordan after the dilemma he starred in for weeks, along with veteran leadership in Paul Pierce and great assets in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith. The irony that both Coach/President of B-Ball Ops, made the moves to dethrone the Warriors, but both teams present the greatest threat to Golden State and I believe can complete the jobs unless they meet in the playoffs.

The Last Harrah

Which one of the superstars in the final moments could lead their team to a better season? Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki? The answer was clear that it was more likely for the Mavs to be in a better position with the addition of Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan, but following the negation of Jordan left Dallas in the same position as Los Angeles. Both have great rosters filled with good role players and prospects but with their aging stars it will difficult to surpass the top tier teams of the West.

The Forgotten Team

After appearing to jump to the forefront of the conference, the Thunder, took a step back and missed the playoffs after the concurring injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The two nearly seen any action together and have yet to progress with their roster that has been bolstered after last year trade deadline. “Loud City” has been forgotten of their past success and have not been mentioned for whatever reason it may be, but with Billy Donavon at the helm, new beginnings could help to find that output they could not find with Scott Brooks.

First out the Hole

The Suns and the Kings have been on the outside looking in for the past few season, both teams showcase great rosters but yet have made the efforts to see the next level.  Both teams have veteran leadership this season, with the Suns acquiring Tyson Chandler and the Kings with Caron Butler and Rajon Rondo. Both teams could be this year’s New Orleans Pelicans, with the new additions.

Team of the Future

After the departure of their starting lineup, except for Damian Lillard, the Blazers have put together a group of young players that would be outcasts elsewhere but could join forces to become the team of the future. But the Blazers will have to compete with the young talents like the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves, who both possess an abundance of young talent looking to make their splash in the league and quit be the doormats for the superior teams.

Wild Wild West

western

By Stefan Anderson

The Playoffs are here and the Western Conference is an all-around juggernaut with great games in each matchup. Let’s take a look and make predictions on the Wild Wild West.

(1)    Warriors vs. (8) Pelicans : Many might highlight the huge game winner over the Thunder, but the April 7thwin over the Warriors is what helped New Orleans reach that 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis stated “We look at ourselves as an elite team. We feel like we can play with anybody and we can beat anybody on any given night”. New Orleans will have that same character to complete a first round upset over the Warriors. But Golden State has the best team in and has an abundance of styles they can play with.

The fear of the Warriors high pace game to slow down with the playoffs is their biggest worry but their depth can solve that solution easily. The Pelicans bring a physical style but can move with small ball as well, and can compete with Golden State  most nights if they can contain them under 100 points.

Overall, it’s going to be a tough feat for the Pelicans therefore, I am going with Golden State in 6.

(2)    Rockets vs. (7) Mavericks: After surviving the toughest division in the NBA on top, the Southwest, and The Houston Rockets have to face their first test, the battle tested Mavericks in a Texas showdown.

The Rockets have been impressive all season without their defensive anchor in all-star Dwight Howard, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the former DPOY’s return.

With the loss of Patrick Beverly, this could be the perfect opportunity for the underachieving Rajon Rondo to have his redemption against the aging Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry.

I look for the Rockets to feature Harden at the 1 in a lineup alongside Brewer, Ariza, Smith and Howard that could present problems on both ends of the floor for the Mavs.

Overall, I think Houston has more firepower than Dallas and scrapes away this series in a 7th game win.

(3)    Clippers vs. (6) Spurs: For the LA Clippers their window of the opportunity is closing in on them and have put the pressure on themselves but one thing is the way, The Spurs. San Antonio who has been on cruise control the entire season and fret about the window of opportunity closing .

To fear the Spurs is understatement, because you can never expect less than a hard fought series out of the defending champs. The Clippers on the other hand have yet find playoff success since the resurgence of the franchise a few season ago. LA will have to find offensive output from their role players like Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick which is asking a lot.

With the health of Tiago Splitter in question, DJ and Blake Griffin can take the battle down low that will extend the series a game or two, or possibly taking the series.

Overall, I would be crazy to bet against San Antonio, which is the reason why I am taking them in 6.

(4) Blazers vs. (5) Grizzlies: The heart of the West always collides in the 4-5 series and this year is no different. The Grizzlies grinded their way into another playoff spot and will have to face the great play of Portland. This matchup is going to heavyweight bout between the two, with the battle of the bigs Gasol/Randolph versus Aldrige/Lopez and not to mention guards Lillard and Conley fighting to make their conversation amongst the elite point guards in the league.

But the key to the series is the wings for each team, Portland has Affalo, Batum and off the bench McCollum and Blake, while Memphis features Allen and Green with Vince Carter and Courtney Lee off the bench. The key each to team to gain the edge amongst each other it will come from these players.

Overall, this is going to be a hard fought battle that goes to the Grizzlies in Game 7. I think Memphis grinds their way past Rip City.

The Art of A Winning Franchise

win

By Stefan Anderson

Over the past decade, we have witnessed two franchises that epitomize the art of professional sports, winning. Although the Spurs and Patriots play in different sports, their success rates, ideal and class are parallel.

Starting with arguably the best coaches in either profession, Bill Bellichick and Greg Popovich are the standards for coaching in professional sports.

Whether it’s Belicheck’s infamous grey sweatshirt or its Pop’s choice of words for the media, regardless of the situation these leaders continue to motivate their teams throughout the years.

The job of coach is to get the maximum potential out all of all your talent, and these do that that most, making players like Deion Branch, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Mike Vrabel, and even Tom Brady. Although Brady and Duncan remain superstars, they never seem bigger than their respective teams. If your stars and the team buy into the concept of all for one and one for all it will bring you the numbers these coaches have.

Belichick: During his 15 years with Patriots, the team has won 174 that include 14 winning seasons and 3 Super Bowls in 5 different appearances.

Popovich: During Pop’s 18 year tenure, he has accounted for 984 Wins, 3 Coach of The Year awards and 5 NBA Titles in 6 appearances.

Not only do the teams win, they win consistently, the Spurs have won more than 50 games every year since 1997, with one year cut short due to the NBA lockout. The Patriots have shown the consistency winning 10 + games each season except in 2002 following their Super Bowl Win in the year previous.

Providing the blueprint for many franchises to follow, the Spurs and Pats have maintained the same integrity throughout the years.

Its similar to an old cliché “Like wine its gets better with time”

New England has changed their style relying on their defense to control the NFL’s offenses and switched to a game which showcases the irreplaceable talent of Tom Brady, which has shown to be effective but has not gotten them a Super Bowl since 2004. Now you see the franchise leaning back to their basics and bringing a great defensive attack, which is currently holding teams to less than 20 points per game, and look to be the top contender in the AFC looking to earn their 4th championship in team history.

San Antonio on the other hand from the beginning was known to play a slow pace which ran through the offensive superiors of 2-time MVP Tim Duncan, but as the years went on Pop decided to add something different to their offense. The Spurs changed their style of play running a faster pace game that gave guards like Ginobli and Parker the ability to have to the reigns of the offense as Duncan began to age.  The change of pace worked for a while and was a key component for the Spurs and they have seen the NBA Finals for the past two season after missing it for over 6 years. Duncan is still has a big role in the offense but the tweaking it shows the brilliance of the team and its brass.

The ways these teams continue to show superiority in their leagues is simply amazing to watch and is the reason have remained successful throughout the years. They are truly the blueprint to having a successful franchise in professional sports.

5 on 5: NBA Finals Preview

finals rematch

 

By Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

With the NBA Finals set to take place on Thursday, there are so questions to be asked about the heated rematch between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. Jazmine August and Stefan Anderson team up to play a 5 on 5, discussing different scenarios for the series and give their own predictions.

1.Will the Spurs use the same defensive strategy to go under screens and let the heat shoot jumpers?

SA: Of course when you play the Heat you should to protect the basket with Miami’s slashing style of offense, but with Chris Bosh stepping out and becoming somewhat of a 3pt threat, shooting nearly 2 a game and hit them at 41 percent, the floor is spaced even more. The Spurs also Boris Diaw who can step out and guard the perimeter but it will certainly cause distraction for Tim Duncan. With that being said they should do that until Miami shoots them out of that defensive mindset.

JA:  If the San Antonio Spurs know what is good for them they won’t use this defensive strategy. Veteran players play best in the high pressure, “do or die” moments of the game and the Miami Heat have a few of those. Expect Ray Allen & Shane Battier 3 pt percentage to increase in this series. Remember last year Finals Game 6? I don’t think I have to say anymore.

2. Without Mike Miller and savvy vets like Shane Battier not being effective in these playoffs does Miami have enough shooting?

SA: The Heat are shooting a playoff best 40 percent from the 3, only better than ironically San Antonio. So yes, but the shooters they have, have to step up and support James and the Big 3. They have Ray Allen still but if player like Shane Battier, Rashad Lewis and Norris Cole stay consistent along with Bosh can give enough space and help Lebron do what Lebron does best attack the basket.

JA: A veteran role player like Mike Miller was a piece of the “heart” of the team and came up clutch with 5 3 pointers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals 2012 that lead to Lebron James elusive first title. Losing Mike Miller in the off-season was a loss to the Miami Heat but like I previously stated the Heat wing players will step up and show out on the NBA’s biggest stage and this includes Shane Battier. Expect Rashard Lewis to play more minutes as well.
3. Can the Spurs still compete with the Heat if Tony Parker is not 100 percent?

SA: I do not believe that Spurs can compete with Miami if they do not have Tony Parker at 100. You can sense the difference in last year’s series when Parker was guarded by Lebron and taken out of the game; his impact is needed for the Spurs to conquer another title. Maybe at 80 percent they can compete but anything less they will hand Miami the 3 peat.

JA:  Yes they can and yes they will. Although Tony Parker is arguably the best point guard in the league, the Spurs may have the deepest bench. Under the leadership of a veteran like Tim Duncan, explosiveness of the young stud Kawhi Leornard,  an arsenal of shooters like Manu Ginobli and Danny Green and role players like Patty Mills and Boris Diaw that can and will give quality minutes, they can most definitely compete without Parker. Not to mention, Greg Popovich is their coach.

4. Should Coach Popovich think about putting Kawhi Leonard on Wade instead of Lebron?

SA:No, I think that Kawhi Leonard is the one of the best defensive players we have in this league and is the only answer the Spurs have to slow down James ,who is set to have a legendary series in my opinion. Danny Green is a good enough defender for Wade and will give him enough trouble running around screens and knocking down 3 pointers.

JA: That may be a possibility but I don’t know how much of a difference that will make. There is no one in the league that lock James up defensively for four quarters. He’s just too big, too strong and too great. Switching Leonard to Wade would free Lebron James to explode offensively. Either way, James and Wade both win the matchup against Leonard.
5. Who’s bench players will have a bigger impact in this series Heat or Spurs?
SA: Spurs bench solely because Manu Ginobli, they also have a better bench than Miami and go a lot deeper than Miami’s bench would. Mills, Ginobli, Splitter, Belinelli  all can give valuable minutes in Pop’s system. Although Miami’s Bench, (Cole, Allen, Birdman and maybe Lewis) need to be more effective to hoist up the Larry O’Brien trophy.

JA: The Miami Heat fanatic in me wants to say that the Heat bench will have a bigger impact than the Spurs bench but the analyst in me trumps that and says the Spurs will. Their bench is just too deep it’s as simple as that.
Prediction:

SA:Spurs in 7, I believe the home crowd will propel them in what should be interesting series to say the least. Duncan and Ginobli’s willpower to conclude their careers winning will lead them in the path to glory and give Duncan his 5th ring and cement the argument of Best Power Forward Ever.

JA: Spurs will desperately try to avenge the devastating loss of the 2013 Finals but in the end the Miami Heat will prevail in a thrilling Game 7 and be the first team to three-peat since the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. Heat in 7.