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.

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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

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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.

With The Title on The Line

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By Stefan Anderson

Injuries, crowd silencing performances, legendary stat lines, and breakout games have all been a part of the rollercoaster of we call the 2015 NBA Finals and in a crucial game 5 the outcome will make the series even more remarkable.

Some question that reign over the heads as prepare for Game 5:

First will be whether MVP Stephen Curry searches for a way out of his shooting slump.  Curry shot well under his postseason average from the field as well as from behind the arc. Curry is shooting 39 percent from three and 42 percent from the field but he has yet to have a breakout game that we have the MVP provided previously. With the title on the line in Game 5, is the moment too big for Curry or will he rise to the occasion?

Who is going to be the supporting role for Lebron James? “The Chosen One” as we know him has been an unbelievable series posting 35 ppg, 8 apg, and 12 rpg throughout the 2015 NBA Finals. James has logged a staggering 183 minutes in the four games while performing while performing on such a high level is impressive but will become strenuous to sustain if he cannot receive support from other Cavaliers.  We seen the impact the front court players like Mozgov and Thompson but what happened to the backcourt players like J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and James Jones, we seen how impactful the 20 point performance was from Matthew Dellavedova.  Who will help shoulder the load on James and make the Cavs propel themselves to a championship ?

How will David Blatt respond to Steve Kerr’s small lineup? Will we see Blatt downsize or depend on his veteran’s similar to Kerr?  I do believe that Blatt will find a way to downsize but for not for long because they cannot go without the size of Mozgov and Thompson unlike Bogut who took the Warriors away from their style of high pace, motion offense which the 7-footer made stagnant.  The Cavs have players like Miller, Perkins and Shawn Marion who all have championship experience. If Blatt were to use any of his veteran role players, I would like to see Shawn Marion, because Marion could bring the perfect size and speed for Cleveland if they do choose to downsize and play small ball with the Warriors. Marion may not possess the same offensive skill he once showcased in Dallas or in Phoenix but can definitely give positive minutes similar to his Suns teammate Leandro Barbosa who has been +18 in his brief appearances this series.

Since 1985, 11 NBA Finals have been tied up at 2-2. The winner of Game 5 went on to win the series in seven of those 11 games. With those stats I will give the edge to the Warriors in tonight’s game which will force a wild game 6 back in the Q, where James and Co. will prevail and force a wild game 7 in which he will be awarded an legendary 3rd championship in an impressive 5 years.

“Signed a concerned but confident Cavs fan”

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By Jazmine August

With about 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 in the 2015 NBA Finals, Lebron had the ball in his hand and a chance to win Game 1 on the road. Instead, James misses a fade away 3 and everything else went downhill from there. In overtime, Kyrie Irving fractures his knee cap and is out for the rest of the Finals. Easily, the most devastating news I heard all week. The idea of Lebron losing his fourth Finals was a pill I just couldn’t imagine stomaching.

After the news broke Friday evening that Kyrie would miss the rest of the Finals, I found myself stressed and depressed. Sitting at the dining room table with my two girlfriends who don’t even know who Kyrie Irving is, I knew I needed to speak with someone just as knowledgable if not more knowledgable than myself. So I called my “LB” Stef, (whom I affectionately call Kips) looking for some sort of silver lining. With fear and anguish in my heart I asked “Do you think it’s really over?”. He replied “Nah, It’s not over”. I was overcome with joy, I found someone who belonged to the 10% of the nation who believes King James can actually pull this off. We ended up speaking for nearly an hour, as we went over stats, matchups, upsides and downsides and our ultimate prediction. After many minutes of deliberation, Stef says (while laughing might I add) “The Warriors really might win in like 6 or 7 but its 50/50”. So much for consultation.

After we got off the phone, I was able to analyze the chances and the odds of the Cleveland Cavaliers really pulling this one out. I started to think there are actually a couple advantages the entire sports world is seeming to overlook. For one, we have the BEST player on the planet. Secondly we have the most experienced Finals participant in our generation. Lebron has lost enough ways on this stage to know how to win against a team who has never played in the Finals. Thirdly, the Cavs aren’t the only ones with a “not as difficult as it could have been “road to the Finals. As good as the Western Conference is the Warriors got a break when OKC lost KD and didn’t make the Finals as they could have easily been out in the first round. Golden State also got a break when the Grizzlies had a less than healthy Mike Conley and lost Tony Allen in a pivotal Game 4. The biggest break of them all might’ve been not having to face a Clippers team whom they lost to in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

Not to take anything away from an amazing season by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors but they are beatable. Their biggest advantage over Cleveland is undoubtedly their depth and ability to score fast. After days of pyscho-analysis(emphasis on Psycho), I’ve come to the conclusion that the odds of winning are definitely not in Cleveland’s favor but the experience, savvy and sheer talent of Lebron James will catapult this team to victory. It may take an extra game but we WILL defeat the Warriors. A text from Stef, with stats of Lebron with and without Kyrie on the floor helped soothe my worry but the best message I received from a fellow sports analyst in the most confident whisper was “It’s still Cavs in 6”. Let the games begin.

-Signed
Concerned but Confident Cavs fan

2015 NBA Finals Preview

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By Jazmine August and Stefan Anderson

After weeks of exciting playoff basketball and a disappointing conference finals (one sweep and a gentleman’s sweep) The Finals have finally arrived.Four time league MVP and two time NBA champion Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against this year’s league MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Lets play another game of 5 on 5 as we go full court for the 2015 NBA Finals.

1. Who will get the bulk of the time guarding LBJ? Barnes or Green? How effective can it be?

JA: In a recent interview Lebron James said that he was unguardable and so was his opponent Stephen Curry. I have to agree with the King, it doesn’t really matter what defender you put on him he will still get his points especially in the paint. However, I believe that the Warriors will put Draymond Green, who was arguably the best defender in the league this year on Lebron for the bulk of these Finals. In spite of his great defense, Draymond Green like any other defender in league cannot stop King James.

SA: Draymond Green makes more sense logically, because of his size, Green lacks the size to contest James but possesses size to bang with Lebron. I do not believe that Green will be able to contain Lebron James for many games but cause some havoc until he gets into the inevitable foul trouble you face guarding Lebron. I anticipate Steve Kerr to throw many looks at LBJ, that includes some of Igoudala, Green, Barnes and possibly some Livingston.
2. Who will be the X-Factor for each team?

JA:The X-Factor for the Cleveland Cavaliers will certainly be Kyrie Irving. When healthy, Kyrie can arguably be the best player on the floor with his quickness, agility, and ability to finish at the rim. Not to mention Kyrie is pretty efficient from 3 point land and 20 to 25 feet from the rim. If Kyrie can be at 80% health and produce at almost near his regular season level he; along with Lebron James and role players Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith can propel Cleveland to victory.

On the other side of the ball, Klay Thompson will be the Warriors X-Factor. His numbers have been down this post-season even prior to the concussion he endured in Game 5 of the Rockets series. Although, he has been cleared to play in Game 1 of the Finals, its still uncertain of how he will produce. If Klay gets going along with the MVP, the Warriors are pretty hard to beat.
SA: For the Cavs I believe J.R. Smith, his ability to get hot will give Cleveland the chance it needs to succeed to its first final win. Whether Irving or other supporting cast shows up will not be highlighted if Smith can overshadow that averaging 13.5 and shooting nearly 40 percent from 3.  If the Warriors want to need to win they will have to get an consistent offensive effort from Harrison Barnes, if Barnes can give enough of an output to make Lebron step out and guard instead hawking the passing lanes, will ease up driving lanes and keep their free flowing efficient motion offensive going. Both players have undeniable talent but fail to be consistent I believe who ever scores more for their respective teams will help put together the W’s needed.
3.Can the Warriors win if Klay Thompson continues to struggle?
JA: Yes they can. The Warriors team goes 8 to 9 players deep. Even if Klay struggles the Warriors still have an All-Star player in Andre Igoudala and skilled bench players in Livingston and Barbosa. This is the Warriors biggest advantage in this series, I don’t believe Klay’s play will break the Warriors.

SA: No, I believe if Klay does not show up during the Finals that GS will have long series, that will end quicker than they expect. A no-show for Klay helps to keep Iman Shumpert on Curry all night and the helps Kyrie Irving to conserve more energy to wear Curry out on the defensive end. Thompson has to return a splash brother and not just the guy who play with the MVP.

4. Key matchup you’re looking forward too?
JA: A key matchups that I’m looking forward to is at the four/five position with Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov. Although, I predict Green will guard Lebron James for the majority of the NBA Finals, the times when Barnes guards Lebron Green will battle Thompson for those rebounds in the post. I’m also excited to see Mozgov get the best of Andre Bogus(Stephen A. Voice), I mean Bogut.

SA: The matchups will be even across the board including Curry versus Irving, will be tantalizing. But as seen in the past when a star play begins to take off against Cleveland, Lebron James then guards their best player. We have seen James clamp down on guards like Derrick Rose and Tony Parker during crucial minutes but I would like to James guard the MVP Curry to see how effective Chef Curry can be with the NBA’s best two player guard him.

5. How effective is GS “small ball” going to be against the Cavs ?

JA: I don’t believe it will be very effective against this Cavs team as they can play small ball as well. If anything, this will play to Cleveland’s advantage.

SA: Yes but no, if GS plans to go small against Cleveland it could take away the rebounding prowess of Thompson and Mozgov, but it will expose a clear advantage for Cleveland, the driving ability of Lebron James. With no true rim protector against King James is a recipe for disaster.

Predictions:

JA: It’s hard to call this series prior to Game 1 because there are so many unknowns on both sides. Will Klay Thompson produce? What will the Cavs get from Kyrie Irving? But what we do know is that the Cavaliers have a 2x Finals MVP who’s playing in his 5th consecutive Finals and has seen just about everything when it comes to this stage and I think he will be the reason the Cavs win a hard fought series against the Warriors. Cavs in 6. Let the coronation begin.

SA: The depth of Golden State could be huge for them including the return of Marreesse Speights who bring a physical aspect to the Warriors that can help against Cleveland’s silent weapon Tristan Thompson. But ultimately, the Warriors still hold no clear cut answer for the league’s best talent, Lebron James who will propel to his third championship in a stunning five years. Cleveland in 6 or 7.

Race To MVP

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By Jazmine August

Is it safe to say Lebron James for MVP? Call me a prisoner of the moment but the Cavaliers Thursday night win against the league’s best Golden State Warriors was beyond impressive; mostly because of the King. Lebron scored 42 points and 5 assists on 15 of 25 shots, not to mention 11 rebounds. He has made his stake in this MVP race very clear.

While some may have written James off as just a runner up in the race; Lebron seemed to have been on cruise control from the start of the season to the All Star break. Has the King returned to reclaim his crown?

Despite Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, Stephen Curry has been playing pretty much lights out since the beginning of the season. Leading his team to the leagues best record 44-11 with his unguardable jumper, crafty moves and ball handling skills, Stephen Curry has been nothing short of sensational. For these reasons he is still the front runner in the MVP race; “Chef Curry” is averaging 23 points, 4 assist and 6 rebounds.

Let’s not forget about the bearded one. James Harden. Averaging 27 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists; he has gone from 6th man of the year to one of the NBA’s premiere players. Sitting comfortably at third place in the Western conference; James Harden is having a MVP caliber season.

In the same breath as you say James Harden you have to say the name of his former teammate Russell Westbrook. In the month of February, Russell Westbrook is averaging nearly a triple double. Westbrook’s season statistics are mirroring the likes of Oscar Robertson, Lebron James and Michael Jordan. Russ is averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

Last but certainly not least, Anthony Davis may be the most underrated MVP candidate ever. Although most Pelican games are not nationally televised, Davis has been quietly averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds and has the league best player efficiency rating of 31.2. This year’s MVP race is clearly a tossup. A valid case can be made for each player.

Let the race begin.