With The Title on The Line

bron curry

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.

Who’s Your MVP ?

MVP

By Stefan Anderson

Past the halfway mark of the NBA season and the argument continues who will take home the league’s MVP. The topic of the discussion has been on Stephen Curry and James Harden due their consistency to perform on a high level.  But as of recent, Russell Westbrook has put together some performances to add himself to MVP race as well.

With all three stars going for the prize, the question remains who will be the 2014-2015 NBA MVP?

Let’s take a brief look at the candidate’s stats for this season:

Player               G GS   MP  FG  FGA  FG%  3P 3PA  3P%  2P  2PA  2P%  FT FTA  FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV  PF  PTS
Stephen Curry       53 53 33.2 8.2 17.1 .483 3.2 7.9 .404 5.0  9.1 .553 4.1 4.5 .904 0.7 3.9 4.6 7.9 2.2 0.2 3.0 2.0 23.8
James Harden        57 57 36.5 8.1 18.1 .450 2.7 7.0 .385 5.4 11.1 .491 8.2 9.5 .866 0.9 4.9 5.8 6.9 1.9 0.8 4.0 2.6 27.2
Russell Westbrook   43 43 32.6 8.8 20.2 .437 1.0 3.4 .291 7.8 16.8 .467 7.3 8.7 .839 1.8 4.7 6.5 8.0 2.0 0.1 3.8 2.6 25.9

There is no doubt in my mind that Stephen Curry will walk away with the trophy this summer, as the award is only his to lose. Leading Golden State to the league’s best record at 44-10, while averaging career highs in each category makes his resume look better than the other candidates.

However if I were to place my vote, I would give my vote to James Harden.

Harden who leads the NBA in scoring with 27.3 ppg, is a force to reckon with and has carried the Rockets all season as they remain the 3rd seed in the competitive Western Conference.

The self-proclaimed best all-around player provided for a less talented team than both the Thunder and Warriors.

Curry has the advantage of having arguably the NBA’s deadliest shooter in Klay Thompson, Most Improved Player candidate Draymond Green, Andre Iguodola, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and plethora of talent on that Golden State bench.

As for Westbrook, he would be placed in the same category as LeBron James, where your play remains superior but the amount of games missed due to injury removes your name out of the discussion. While having the reigning MVP, Kevin Durant as your running mate, along with an assortment of talent acquired through trades, OKC has a better roster than the Rockets.

The Rockets have no other play that can consistently score 20 points night in and night out, while still managing to average nearly six boards and six assists. In my opinion, that is what makes a player the Most Valuable Player of the NBA, someone who their team cannot play without and is the reason why your team remains successful.

Who’s in your Top 5 ?

point guardBy Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

Point guards  of present day NBA are not only averaging 9 to 10 assists but have been able to put up 20 to 23 points a night. Some may say that these new age point guards are hybrid two-guards, who have a shoot first mentality. One of the NBA’s hottest topics has been the new “golden age “of floor generals and most importantly who is the best of the class ?

We took the discussion up here at The Starting Point and rated our Top 5 Point Guards in the NBA.

Jazmine’s Top 5 PG’s 

#1 Stephen Curry

It is no surprise that one Stephen Curry is at the top of my list of point guards in the NBA, Steph can easily be one of the top 5 all around players in the league; he’s just that great. His shooting ability and efficiency makes him by far the best shooter in the league and is in contention to be the best shooter ever. Steph is averaging 23 points and 8 assist and shooting 92% from the free throw line. He is not only excelling at passing but he can pull up from thirty as Stephen A. Smith would eloquently put it. These qualities have made the claim that he is the best point guard in the league very easy. Stephen Curry beat out Lebron James for the most NBA All-Star Votes, with over 1.5 million votes. As the run-away leader in the MVP race, Stephen Curry game has improved tremendously over the last three years. Aside from playing alongside players like Andrew Bogut and veteran player Andre Igoudala, Curry is a part of a unique fraternity; “The Splash Brothers”. When you pair him with stud Klay Thompson ,who together form “The Splash Brothers”, he is simply unstoppable. Not to mention, his team has the best record in the league, 36-6; they also play in the super-competitive western conference. Do I see the NBA Finals in their future?

#2 John Wall

The Washington Wizards have emerged as title contenders this season and in large that is due to its starting PG John Wall. This season Wall is averaging 17 points and 10 assist and shooting just about 50% from the field. Wall’s speed, agility and athleticism have propelled him to elite status among his counter parts. Not only has his mid-range game improved but his basketball IQ has done the same. When Wall was drafted first overall into the league in 2010, he only knew one gear and that was full-steam towards the basket. Wall now knows how to slow the game down and play at multiple paces. Wall broke Wizards record for most consecutive 12 assist games earlier this season. Wall amazes fans night in and night out with his crafty moves to the basket and agile passes to the likes of Nene and Paul Pierce. It doesn’t hurt that he has, rising-star guard Bradley Beal in the back court with him.

#3 Kyrie Irving

Starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and playing alongside the best player in the world in Lebron James, Kyrie’s star still isn’t dimmed. Averaging 20 points, 5 assist. and shooting about 50 percent from the field, Kyrie is best known for his incomparable ball handling skills. When soaring past defenders, he appears to have the basketball on a string and still manages to finish at the rim. Arguably, the best finisher in the game, Kyrie has found some of the most creative and athletic ways to get past post-players that tower over his 6’3 stature. He has help lead his team to a quiet 5 game winning streak ,after struggling a bit in the start of the season. The Cavs have improved to a 25-20 record and are over .500 in a conference where the top 3 spots are pretty much up for grabs. Kyrie has improved his 3 point shooting; causing opposing teams to not only fear his passes but his lethal top of the key shots. It’s safe to say that Kyrie has a bright future ahead of him.

#4 Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard has emerged as one the most electrifying players in the NBA and in a conference ,where each night he’s facing some of the world’s toughest defensive players; his team still comes out victorious. After being named Rookie of the year in 2013, Lillard went on to lead his team to its first playoff victory in 14 years against the Houston Rockets in 2014. Lillard’s sharp passes, lethal jump-shots and rhythmic moves to the rim allows his teammates to flourish. What sets Lillard apart is his innate killer instinct and the fact that he doesn’t shy away from the moment. Although, Lillard was snubbed from the NBA All-Star starting roster, he is averaging 22 points, 6 assist, and a free throw percentage of 86%. Lillard has proved himself to be not only an excellent point guard but a closer and he’s only in his 3rd season in the league.

#5 Chris Paul

CP3; standing at just 6 feet tall and in his 10th season is still averaging 17 points and 10 assist. A true floor general and “Young OG”; he is known in the league for his defensive tenacity and his ability to lead his team at crucial points in the game. He has been named to the All-Defensive 1st or 2nd team six of the last seven years. Not only is he able to get in the paint and finish at the rim, he can defend just about any other point guard in the league. Chris Paul plays like a true, traditional point guard, reminiscent of a John Stockton or Gary Payton of the 1990s; this is his best gift and curse. In a hybrid-guard driven league, Chris Paul’s inability to put up as many points as today’s point guards has landed him at 5th on my list.

Stefan Top 5 PG’s:

# 1 Damian Lillard:

Lillard has become one of the biggest stars since entering the league two seasons ago. Leading the NBA in 4th quarter points, the Portland Trailblazers floor general, leadership skills and killer instinct is the reason I selected him over Curry. Distributing while taking over the scoring load (22 PPG and 6 APG) ,makes the Oakland Native a tough match-up for any point guard. With his potential propelling game to game, he soon will be one of the most notable stars in the league

#2 Stephen Curry:

To believe that he was not offered any scholarships to play Division I basketball and made it to the league as a walk-on, is remarkable. Curry has moved into the elite class of NBA players and can be hoisting up the MVP trophy at the end of this season. Curry possesses everything you want in your starting PG, great play-making skills with an unbelievable jump shot, and improved defense (leads NBA with 2.1 SPG). But I have not seen the clutch gene or a true killer instinct come out of Curry as of yet.

# 3 Rajon Rondo:

Mr.Triple Double; Rondo’s game is reminiscent of past guards and something every team needs. Rondo has a knack to make a play whether it’s on offense or defense.The former Celtic guard has not advanced his offensive game which makes him a liability in most cases but Rondo still gives you the qualities of a  traditional pass first guard.

#4 Russell Westbrook:

One of the most feared players in the NBA; Westbrook has the size of the two-guard and the athleticism of a wing player which makes his style of play unbearable for most guards in the NBA. The UCLA’s ill-advised play are his gift and curse and is one of the reasons why Westbrook is not at the top of totem pole for the point guards on this list. If Westbrook cleans up his game and becomes less turnover prone he will definitely be on top.

#5 Micheal Conley:

Many question whether to mention Conley in the top tier PG’s of the NBA. Well, Micheal Conley has my vote. To lead a great Memphis team, year after year while averaging nearly 18 points and 6 assist, and improving his stats playing in the tough Western conference. Conley doesn’t have the athletic capabilities of most of the guards on this list but definitely has a classic feel about him. He is often overlooked by many for what he does not have but not looked at for what he does bring to the court.