Former Orlando Magic player and NBA Analyst Dennis Scott talks with The Starting Point

IMG_0811.JPGBy Stefan Anderson 

I had the opportunity to chop it up with former sharpshooter Dennis Scott during a charity event held in Poughkeepsie,NY for the Teen Resource Activity Center. 

SA: Earlier in your career you played in Orlando, where you witnessed a star leave in Shaq. Oklahoma City is in a similar situation. How do you think they’ll respond after Kevin Durant ?

DS: As a organization, I like what Sam Presti did. He said hey Russ, I don’t want to go through the same thing I went through with KD. Here is the extension if you want to stay. I’ll trade you if you want to leave. Now we have to see what kind of leader Russell Westbrook is going to be. KD missed 57 games last year and Russell had 18 triple-doubles. Does that now translate to wins ? You have Oladipo now, do you make him a better player? Do you make Kanter a better player ? It all depends on how Russell Westbrook leads.

SA: You were a great shooter during your career. In fact, you led the league in 3’s in 1995-1996. Who are some of your favorite shooters to watch today?

DS: It’s been well documented that they call me Uncle Splash. I am really cool with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they are probably my two favorites. I do enjoy Damian Lillard, I like the way he shoots the basketball and I think Paul George is an underrated shooter because he does so many things on the floor. I think the three-ball is used differently now, compared to when it wasn’t used as much as it is now. Every team has at least two or three guys shoot the ball well.

SA: You always played with some great guards in your time, Kenny Anderson during college and Penny Hardaway with the Magic. How would you compare the guards from your era to the guards of today?

DS: The key phrase is mentality. The guards of the 80’s and 90’s goal was to set the team up, run the offense and get your team involved. The guards of today, the Stephs, Kyries , Damian Lillards, the Allen Iversons, I think that today’s guards have the mentality that I can take my man when I want to  and also be a traditional guard and set my teammates up and make them better. That’s why Kyrie and Steph are the best two today.

SA: What are you looking forward to this season ?

DS: How does San Antonio weather the storm, no Tim Duncan? That’s kind of crazy–for the last 20 years we’ve been seeing Timmy and Pop, it’s going to be weird seeing no Timmy and Pop. OKC,that’s an obvious. But I’m really interested in seeing the young guys. Ben Simmons, does he make Philadelphia better ?  Kris Dunn, does he come in and take Ricky Rubio starting point guard position? That a little more intriguing instead of the obvious stuff like guys changing teams. Also, D-Wade in Chicago, how does that play out?

 

 

Am I Wrong ?

469506733.jpg

 

By Stefan Anderson

The annual free agency period normally creates a domino effect, where the biggest star on the market garners the attention of his desired team, then all of the remaining options follow suit. This year’s was a bit different–more like a complicated game of dominoes. Each team made its moves and the important piece, Kevin Durant, put his block on the game with his signing with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant joins the historic Golden State Warriors after they fell to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Similar to James in 2010, Durant is leaving his beloved Oklahoma City to chase the Larry O’Brien trophy.  In his short career, the Texas product has earned an MVP trophy, multiple scoring titles and Olympic gold medals but still lacks the most important piece to his resume, an NBA championship.

The 2013-14 MVP has been ridiculed for making his decision to join a team that just won 73 games, was a game away from earning their second consecutive championship– a team that his former team the Thunder, was one game away from beating as well. Since 2012, when the Thunder were defeated in the Finals by another super team, the Miami Heat, they have seen the Western Conference Finals twice and been knocked off both times.

Boston’s big three in 2008, the team that birthed this new era of super teams was formulated after Kevin Garnett, the Wolves’ biggest star to date, and Sonics standout Ray Allen forced a trade out of their respective teams and gathered savvy vets to help them meet their goal of winning a championship for Boston. When Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up to form the Heatles, it was for the same goal and they accomplished it twice. The lament for Durant can be understood. Ultimately he made the best basketball decision for himself as he stated in his Players Tribune essay.

If you look at it from a larger scale ,each of the last 10 champions in the NBA have all had 2-3 potential Hall of Famers and/or great supporting casts. A special consideration to Cleveland and Golden State because we cannot project where Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving will finish, but they will all have a pretty good shot at it.

San Antonio (2014), Miami (2013, 2012), Dallas (2011), LA Lakers (2010, 2009), Boston(2008), San Antonio (2007), Miami (2006).

After looking at those rosters, look how many of the same teams were formed because great players understand that after battling for so many years and not achieving the ultimate goal of winning the NBA Finals, you have join another team to do so. Elder fans scream “Barkley would never have teamed up with Jordan,” but  he did team up Hakeem and Clyde after losing year after year to them.  They say “Magic would never join Bird,” but fail to reference the other teams that won during the 80’s like the Philadelphia 76ers with two NBA MVP’s and the Bad Boy Pistons that collected a ton of Hall-of-Famers on their roster, to dethrone the alpha-dogs, Lakers and Celtics. Also see these Lakers and Celtics.

The Warriors were organically grown into their position, by drafting their core players, by being bad for many years to now climbing out the bottom of the West and becoming a powerhouse. A star like Durant, who is still in his prime after bringing Oklahoma City up from the pits to contender, has been through the struggle and contemplates if they are able to reach that place again in OKC. Rather than pondering that decision, Durant now is in contention for the prized possession. In the current NBA, we often see players as free agents make the choice to get paid the amount desired or play for what they most desire. Kevin Durant made the decision to play for what he most desired.

Just One More

By Stefan Anderson

The Golden State Warriors have lost the “heart and soul” of their roster , Draymond Green, after he was suspended  for surpassing his allotted flagrant points during his altercation with Cleveland Cavs star Lebron James. The Warriors are on the cusp of closing out the Cavs in the game five of the 2016 NBA Finals, will they be able to win without Green?

Of course the altercation could have been avoided if James did not step over Green to get back into the play. Green could have also reacted in a different way by not jabbing James where the sun doesn’t shine. Players from each side stated that the whole situation was wrong. Andrew Bogut of the Warriors added “They did what they had to do and they got one of our guys out.” Cavs forward Kevin Love even stated “You don’t see it too much, but yeah, I think it is looked at as a form of disrespect”

But neither debate nor statements can bring Green back for a closeout game on Monday evening. What Green brings defensively as auxiliary defender from three to the five spot can’t be replaced. His playmaking skills to run the Warriors offense can’t be replaced either.

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

IMG_0557.JPG

(via Zach Lowe and John Schuhmann)

As stats have shown, Golden State is not the same team without Green. But the Dubs have a capable defender that will force James to continue to work hard offensively in 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.

IMG_0556.JPG

(via John Schuhmann)

As far as replacing Green’s minutes, Iguodala will obviously start in place for Green at the 4 spot; Livingston can come in and play the point-forward spot for offensive end in extended minutes to jump start the Warriors offense. Green’s suspension does force center Festus Ezeli and Mo Speights to play more with the staggering health of starting center Andrew Bogut.

The move to include more big men plays into Cleveland’s hands, but also creates more chaos defensively as Kevin Love and Channing Frye will have to switch out or trap Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as they come off of high screen and rolls.  Golden State is now given the option for  3 on 2’s or the Splash Brothers will continue to exploit the Cavs bigs off the dribble as they did in game four when they exploded for 17 three-point field goals.

Image-1.png

The Warriors resiliency will be on display once again, but if there is any team with a roster to find an array of guys it will be the Dubs. For example, in Game 4 when former Cleveland fan favorite Anderson Vareajo came in provide great minutes including a game changing possession in which the center grabbed three offensive rebounds in a possession that lasted nearly two minutes long. Warriors coaching staff even found seven valuable minutes for James Michael McAdoo, who was in a suit just two games ago.

If Golden State has proven one thing this whole season is that they thrive in chaos, in fact, they have to be the most motivated team I’ve seen in years. The way they continue to find ways to motivate themselves to be great has been astonishing and Monday evenings win will encapsulate the great season they have had with the final statement, winning the 2016 NBA finals.

“It’s another challenge for us, but we’re going to embrace it and we’re going to accomplish it.” said Klay Thompson. The Warriors will be playing with another chip on their shoulder with their heart and soul not being able to join them. “We’re going to go out there and do it as a team and win for him,” added the Warriors guard.

 

5 on 5: 2016 NBA Finals Preview

9016832.jpg

By Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

The match we’ve all been anticipating. The clash of the two best teams and arguably players in the world. After a devastating Finals loss in 6 games, The Cavs find themselves back in position to snatch the trophy from the defending Champion Golden State Warriors. Let the games begin.

What are the respective teams’ advantages and disadvantages?

SA: For Cleveland, I believe their shooters like J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving gives the help that was desperately needed in last year’s finals. Knocking down 42% of their shots from the field allows the penetration of LeBron James keeps the Warriors defense honest.

On the other hand those same players are vulnerable on defense to the Warriors constant Pick and Roll matchups. Among the work 2-man lineups in the postseason, Cleveland has eight of the bottom ten two man lineups in point differential. As well their best lineup featuring Irving-Smith-James-Love and Thompson has a -8 point differential.

For the Warriors, their shooting and pace that led to them 73 wins and an astonishing 3-1 comeback over the Oklahoma City Thunder, is simply a nightmare for any team. The death lineup (Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Iguodala-Green) can be what propels them to consecutive championships or can derail their story book season. The lineup relies heavy on switching on everything, which end up with situations with Stephen Curry guarding Lebron James, which will force defenders to help and can cause havoc with Cleveland shooting just over 43% from behind the arc.

JA: The Warriors advantage is their ability to score faster than any team I’ve ever seen score in all my years of watching basketball. They have arguably the two best shooters in the league in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They move the ball so effortlessly. This advantage is both a gift and a curse. When the Warriors aren’t raining threes they look like a one-trick pony. Their lack of versatility is what makes them most vulnerable.

What supporting cast is more important the team’s success? Why?

SA: Cleveland supporting cast is needed more, especially when Golden State bench’s is +14 in points per game. So if Klay, Draymond or even Barnes has a bad game someone off of their deep bench can find a way to replace some of that scoring. But Cleveland is complete a different team if Irving and Love do not show up for the Cavs. In games that Cleveland lost this season, the two combined for +31.8 +/- in wins and -28.7 in losses.

JA: The Cavs hands down. Without a good to great performance from the likes of JR Smith, Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson, it will be nearly impossible to succeed against the Warriors.

Who’s the X-Factor in the series for each team?

SA: For Cleveland it has to be Kevin Love, he will be needed to help spread the floor allow Irving and James the driving lanes needed to attack the Dubs best players on the defensive end. Also, Love will be forced to play center if Cleveland decides to downsize and matchup with GS’s Death Lineup. The UCLA product is notoriously known his lackluster defense and has been criticized for his awareness of the moment but has come alive if Cleveland has a chance of securing their franchises first title.

For Golden State, Harrison Barnes has to play a large role. Whether he has to come off the bench or start, his minutes are valuable. When Barnes gives effective minutes when he’s knocking down his shot from behind the arc and crashing the glass, the Warriors are a different team shooting 40% from 3 and at least a 45% percent of grabbing rebounds. In a game where each possession will be critical, Barnes has to prove he is worth a max contract worthy in the 2016 Finals.

JA: The X-Factor for the Cavs is a tie to me between K. Love and Lebron James. If Kevin Love can average somewhere between 18-20 pts a game, he will make a huge impact on his team’s success. Andre Igoudala is an X-Factor once again for the Warriors. The Finals MVP ability to contain James and limit his effectiveness in the paint could alter the game for the Warriors.

A Championship means more to what team? Why?

SA: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since his arrival two seasons ago, he left his empire on South Beach to bring the championship to hometown. To lose three straight finals and drop to a 29 % finals winning percentage will not tarnish the King’s legacy but will haunt him for forever. Ultimately, it will lead to another unwanted exit from the Land.

JA: I think both teams are hungry and motivated by different factors. However, I believe a championship is more important to Cleveland. If the Cavaliers are able to overcome the GSW, they will have ended a 50 year drought of championships in the city of Cleveland and will adjust the crown atop LeBron’s head as the King of the league.

We both agree that Warriors and Cavs have two different styles of play. Which teams style hurts the opposing team more?

SA: “We’re not going to slow the ball down and be at ease. We’re going to push the pace, try to get easy baskets early in transition but make sure we’re taking good shots.” said Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue.  Cleveland’s ability to dictate the pace of the game put them ahead 2-1 in GSW-CLE Part I, but ultimately they birthed the Death Ball lineup, where Golden State’s overwhelmed them. Cleveland trying to downsizing and playing into a shootout will ultimately take them out again this year. Therefore the Cavs have to own the pace in order have a chance to overthrow the defending champs.

JA: Throughout the course of the playoffs the Cavaliers have been able to beat opponents both with their 3pt shooting and their ability to get points in the paint from there leading scorers. If both facets of the Cavs game is clicking they are virtually unbeatable.

Overall Prediction:

SA: I am going with the Warriors in 7 tough fought games. The reason why in the past two seasons, there was six teams defeat the Warriors at the Oracle Arena, Cleveland happens to be one of those teams. So they have the ability to do so again and Golden State went to Cleveland closed the Cavs, so they both know how to win on each other floors. But I know that either team wants to be closed out on their home floor, which would lead to epic game 7. But the Warriors are 12-1 following a loss which propel to the conclusion their magical season.

JA: I think this series will make up for the lack of competitive games outside of The Thunder and GSW series and moments of the Portland/GSW series. I see no huge blowouts. These teams are pretty evenly matched. From star power to scoring ability this should be a high scoring, intense and emotional series. I believe that Lebron will play his best basketball in this series and the of murmurs “he is now #2 to Chef Curry?” will be silenced. Kyrie will be consistent, closing the games when needed and Kevin Love will give the Cavs solid games. Look for Channing Frye or J.R. To have a big game as well. The drought will be over Cleveland. Cavs in 6.

Jazmine August is a Starting Point alum and now has ventured on to her own self titled site, http://www.IamJazAugust.com and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @IamJazAugust.

Living in the Moment

By Stefan Anderson

The NBA is such a fickle league and often we caught up in the moment instead of taking  it for what it is. While being a prisoner of the moment, we are now succumbed to question greatness of the 2015 finalists, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, and now are forced to decipher which team is better respectively.

It all starts with the teams superstars, Stephen Curry and LeBron James. After Curry was awarded the first ever unanimous MVP award, the uproar began on why he deserve such prestige as if he didn’t improve after earning the award last season. The Warriors star also improved to career-highs in scoring, steals, FG and 3-PT percentage, while leading the Golden State to the best record in NBA history.

currylbj

But now the question is being posed about how James is still the best player in the association. I agree that Lebron James is still the premier talent of the NBA but the league currently belongs to Stephen Curry regardless of the situation. It is reminiscent of when Steve Nash conquered two consecutive MVP titles and Kobe Bryant was the best talent in NBA.

Now that both teams are in the Conference Finals and inching towards a finals rematch that not only James would love to see, but we would all like to see. As the Warriors are currently in a gridlock series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland is now ahead 2-0 over the Toronto Raptors, gearing towards a sweep to finals.

Cleveland having an easier route to the finals, is discrediting what they have done thus far. To win 10 games in a regular season is impressive. To win 10 straight in the postseason, is out right astonishing. The Cavs only finished one game ahead of Toronto in the regular season, but in the postseason they are in another stratosphere. That is because Cleveland has excelled their play to another level by improving defensively and offensively beating opponents but 13 points, while shooting 45 % from 3 and 49% from the field.

Golden State has faced great competition facing four of the top 20 stars in the NBA and the 3rd and 4th highest playoff scoring offenses in their three series. Despite the competition, the Warriors are beating opponents by 11 points. It is hard for the Warriors reaching further than 73 wins, but they continue amaze spectators, while missing Curry for several games.

Regardless of who is better and who has played who and who is better, we’re on the brink of witnessing two great teams at full strength rematch for the Larry O’Brien. No disrespect to the Thunder or Raptors but let’s not live in the present and head to the NBA Finals we’ve waiting on since last June.

Making History ! or Making History ?

chefcurry.jpg

By Stefan Anderson

To return from a retirement to a 4-2 defeat to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern conference semifinals in 1995, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were looking for revenge.

“I think it was without question the biggest motivation coming that following season,” former Orlando Magic head coach Brian Hill said. “Michael Jordan played the whole season with an unbelievable will to win. There were eight to 10 games where he basically willed his teammates into winning games.

The vengeance they sought was a record setting 72-10 season solidifying  the 95-96 Bulls as one of the greatest, if not the greatest team ever.

One game away from eclipsing Chicago’s record, the Golden State Warriors will have to beat the team provided their magic, the gritty Memphis Grizzlies. 

After falling down 2-1 to the Grizzlies during the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Warriors magical season appeared to coming to end and the old adage of fast, jump shooting teams could never win a NBA championship.

As told by soon to be named back to back MVP, Stephen Curry during an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe in February the losses to Memphis motivated the Warriors to get back on track to where they were.

“It wasn’t clicking. We didn’t have our usual flow, as Coach Kerr would call it. For whatever reason, Memphis found a way to muck up the game. We had to shake it out, and get back to who were. We showed our resilience rolling off three straight, and doing the same thing against Cleveland.”

“That has made us such a more mature team going into this year — having gone through that.” said Curry.

The Bulls went on to sweep the Magic in the conference finals the following year en route to their first championship of their second three-peat.

Golden State has the same opportunity to turn motivation into history with their Wednesday night win over Memphis, while continuing to defying the odds set against them on how great of a team they too are one of the best teams we’ve ever witnessed.

The Magic will forever be etched in NBA history not only for Nick Anderson’s missed FT’s in the finals and his infamous “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan,” and “No. 45 doesn’t explode like No. 23 used to”, but were responsible for assembling a top-five guard-big combo in Shaq and Penny.

Memphis might not be remembered in the latter years, but have been a maverick of their own, with their grit and grind style of play in today’s NBA.

But if the Grizzlies can find another way to “muck up” the game again, it will the brightest spot of their gloomy injury ridden season. Memphis will be amongst the New York Giants of 2007 and University of Wisconsin of 2015, keeping them in the history books as not only the team that helped to inspire the storming Warriors, but that stopped the possibility of 73-9.

 

Watch The Throne

broncurry.jpg

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

warriors.jpg

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.

Defying The Odds

warriors finals

By Stefan Anderson

The Golden State Warriors have completed the storybook nostalgic season with their 105 – 97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday evening. The Warriors completed the route to exceeding the doubter’s expectations that were set prior the season’s tip-off.

Defying the odds, would have to be the mantra for the Dubs and a true testament to the 2015 season.

An undersized, hardly scouted point guard, who transformed into the league’s shining star, and not to mention the Most Valuable Player, ended up leading a team into the promise land.

But it wasn’t just Stephen Curry but it was a group of unpredictable players that combined to make the league’s best team.

It was Curry’s running mate, Klay Thompson, who was used to replace to the franchise’s once prized possession in Monta Ellis. The untapped potential in Harrison Barnes that sometimes was a head scratcher and the DPOY candidate who speculators couldn’t imagine as a starting forward in NBA.

But not only the young talent that starred but it was a redemption story for many of the veteran’s on Golden State’s team.

Starting with the former #1 overall pick, who found himself settling into a role player/defensive anchor. Then witnessing the bench star a former All-Stars, Olympic Gold Medalist, and 6th Man of the Year in Barbosa, Lee and Iguodala, who all had to scratch for minutes at different parts of the season. And then there is a guy who seen his once promising career, who witnessed his career  come crashing down in a matter of seconds, finding himself a role player amongst a championship roster.

You put all of those intangibles into a rookie head coach, who was a part of the Bulls dynasty and even won a championship under the tutelage of Spurs as well. Steve Kerr, who never had coaching experience, but was under management in tenure with the Phoenix Suns, that helped bring the NBA a form of basketball that would revolutionize the game forever.

Although the Suns were a great site to see and great team for many years of the past decade, their style of play was always stigmatized due to the fact, they didn’t have enough of “this” or enough of “that”. But in his first year, Kerr was able to use the style of his play that was used in desert and revive it in the Bay Area.

Throughout the season, the naysayers would criticize the league’s best team often proclaiming “they couldn’t win a championship playing small ball”, but Kerr and the Warriors were on a rampage to start to start the season and continue prove all those who questioned wrong as they continued tally up win after win after win.

To quote the great Kevin Garnett “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE” and with the right amount of talent and chemistry, the best teams always find a way to complete the season with the Larry O’Brien trophy.  The Warriors proved that one player cannot win a championship its self, and that it takes a great supporting cast to make it happen. On the nights where Curry was unable to explode, there were games where others like Green, Barnes and Iguodala were able to make their impact and that’s what great teams do.

A huge amount of respect is due to “the best basketball player on the planet”, LeBron James, on what he was able to accomplish on the Finals in his homecoming to Cleveland.

Despite the injuries and inefficiency of his teammates, James was able to shoulder the load and carry Cleveland to compete for every contest.  35, 8 and 13 are astronomical numbers for any player gathering the minutes James did and just makes his trip to Miami look even more valid.

Although, Curry was on the prowl of becoming the league next shining star, The King still remains supreme as the off season is set to begin and he has the option of becoming a free agent and will have the league at his heels once again.