Implications of Paul George Breaking His Leg

Last night, Indiana Pacers superstar swingman Paul George gruesomely broke his leg in a Team USA scrimmage, effectively ending his 2014-2015 NBA season. The injury was reminiscent of the broken leg suffered by former Louisville guard Kevin Ware almost a year and a half ago. The injury immediately raised concerns over how close the stanchion was to the baseline and whether this is the tipping point that ultimately ends superstars playing for Team USA.

The only true concern should be for Paul George. Although George’s max extension is just about to kick in at the start of the upcoming season, it’s disheartening to see such a young, talented player come down that sort of injury. It would be awful, regardless of how talented he is. But with the league just getting Derrick Rose back from his heap of injuries, it’s tough to see another one of the league’s most exciting and likable players to go down. The injury will have far reaching implications. Let’s examine them in order of importance:

Paul George
Everyone is hoping and praying that George returns stronger than ever, but that seems unlikely. Yes, George will recover. There’s no exact timetable for his return, but he’ll probably miss next season. Will he regain his explosiveness? No one knows right now. George is only 24 years old and was just starting to enter his prime. Even though the injury is not similar to those suffered by Derrick Rose, the situation seems eerily similar. An extremely young superstar set to be one of LeBron’s rivals loses an entire season due to injury, coming off of a career year. Everyone will be rooting for George to recover from his injury and continue to be a star. Whether he will be return to the league as a top player is uncertain though. We can only hope.  Continue reading

Kevin Durant Should Go to the Wizards, But Not Because It’s Home

What I’m going to say will not be popular. And I will probably be derided as a deluded homer, just rationalizing fake reasons as to why Kevin Durant should sign with the Wizards in two years. But I’ll say it anyway: Kevin Durant should sign with the Wizards in a couple of years, and not because he is from Washington D.C. Of course, that it is home adds to the allure, but plenty of basketball reasons are more responsible for why Durant should come to D.C.

The Wizards will make a strong push to sign the hometown hero Durant.

The Wizards will make a strong push to sign the hometown hero Durant.

Mind you this could all change relatively quickly if the Thunder win a championship this upcoming season. Before explaining why Durant should sign with the Wiz in a few years, let’s first remember how unlikely that is, and how many things would have to go right (or wrong, for Thunder fans) for KD to end up in Washington. With LeBron out of South Beach, the pecking in the NBA looks like this: 1) Spurs, 2) Thunder, 3) Everyone else: Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Blazers, etc. The Thunder may even be 1B, ever so slightly trailing the Spurs. During the regular season, the Thunder were 4-0 against the Spurs, and if not for Serge Ibaka’s injury, the Thunder may have ended up hoisting the Finals trophy instead. Which is all to say, there is a very good chance that the Thunder win the title this season. And if that happens, there is just about a zero percent chance Durant leaves. Just for the sake of argument though, what if Russell Westbrook gets hurt again. Then what? Supremely talented as he is–easily one of the ten best players in the NBA–Westbrook has undergone three knee surgeries already at the tender age of 25. Each time, Westbrook has returned from injury just as effective as before, but how many more blows can he take?  Even if Westbrook does stay healthy, that’s no guarantee that the Thunder are going to win a title. It’s not like Westbrook and Durant are natural fits next to each other. There’s the constant subplot of whether they can coexist, always present just below the surface, adding tension after failed fourth quarters. Continue reading

Wizards All In Next Year With Recent Moves

With the Eastern Conference opening up more and more by the day, the Wizards are one of the few contending teams in the conference actually getting better. The Bulls are the only other team near the top of the conference that has added significant pieces to their team. Think about it. The Heat lost LeBron. The Pacers lost Stephenson. The Nets lost Paul Pierce. The Raptors mostly stayed the same. And while the Cavs added LeBron, they still have a young, unproven roster around him that will take time to gel.

The conference really is up for grabs, perhaps more so than at any other time in the past decade. Of course that could shift if the Cavs get Kevin Love, but at the moment, the Cavs seem unlikely to trade Andrew Wiggins. No matter who wins the Eastern conference next year, the NBA champion will almost positively come from the Western Conference. But that’s not a reason to throw the towel in if you’re in the East. Especially for a team like the Wizards who have been so starved of any playoff success in the past 30 years.

The Wizards haven’t made any earth-shattering moves this offseason, but they’ve quietly made smart moves that will keep them flexible in the long-run and competitive right now. Letting Ariza walk in free agency was the right move. Not because $8 million per season is too much for him, but because it allows the Wizards to pursue hometown superstar Kevin Durant in the 2016 summer. Replacing his value with the aging, but still effective Paul Pierce was one of the more deft moves we’ve seen Ernie Grunfeld make in his tenure with the Wizards. Even more recently though, the Wizards have signed three big men who will be key contributors for the Wizards off the bench. Continue reading

Bulls Bolster Lineup With Two Key Additions

In the past few days, the Bulls have reinvigorated their roster. Last year, they miraculously managed to win 48 games without Derrick Rose. It might have been Tom Thibodeau’s best coaching job. The Eastern Conference was historically weak, but the Bulls were a team without a single player with a typical scoring mentality. Yet, they would grind out wins with defense and toughness, the staples of Thibodeau’s teams. After being eliminated in the playoffs by the Wizards, it was obvious that the Bulls had drastically overachieved in the regular season, and needed a major influx of talent, or at least a healthy Derrick Rose if they were to be taken seriously in the playoffs.

Gasol will probably spend most of his time at the high post, directing the Bulls offense.

Gasol will probably spend most of his time at the high post, directing the Bulls offense.

But in the offseason, the Bulls have made several moves to bolster their offensive fire power. Drafting Doug McDermott was the first significant move. He is a scorer first and will create space in their half-court sets, with his ability to hit 3’s and put the ball on the floor and hit mid-range jumpers. More recently though, the Bulls made two moves that should help even more.

First, the Bulls agreed to terms with Pau Gasol, who’d been deciding between the Bulls and Spurs. Gasol is the type of player that can fit into any team. His passing skills are unsurpassed by any big man in the league, and he is a great guy in the locker room. Unless he’s on Kobe’s team and Kobe is jacking up too many shots! But in all seriousness, he is a great fit on the Bulls. With Noah and Gasol, the Bulls will have arguably the best passing tandem of big men in the league. Playing Gasol at the high post will let Noah operate more under the basket. Gasol is not a shoot-first player, but he is a facilitator, and teams in need of scoring can always use facilitators to get guys open shots. That’s what Gasol will do. Continue reading

Eastern Conference Pecking Order With LeBron In Cleveland

With the news of LeBron rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers, the East was shaken to its core. No more was the Heat’s reign over the rest of the conference, a reign that included four straight Eastern Conference titles. No more was the Cavs’ reign of lottery king, getting the top overall pick in three of the last four years. But, are the Cavs going to instantly turn into Title contenders, like Vegas thinks? That seems pretty unlikely, even if the Cavs do manage to get Kevin Love. After all, the Cavs only won 33 games in the depleted East last season. With the addition of LeBron, they should easily flirt with 50+ wins, but expecting them to beat any of the top teams in the West is premature.

But what about the rest of the East? Are the Pacers still going to try and shop Roy Hibbert? Will they make sure to re-sign Lance Stephenson, no matter what, realizing the East is wide open now? What about the Wizards–will they be able to keep Trevor ‘Plan B’ Ariza, and build on last year’s success? And the Bulls: will Derrick Rose be able to stay healthy and be an All-Star caliber player again? What if the Bulls get Carmelo–would they be the favorites in the East then? (Probably, yes.) And will the Raptors take another step forward and win 50+ games next season? Crazy to imagine them seriously contending for a Conference title, but wouldn’t they?

Let’s do a way-too-early power ranking of the top eight spots in the East and sort this mess out:

1. Indiana Pacers
Hard not to laugh at this, given how they finished last season. This team will win a lot of games in the regular season, but right now they just don’t have the mental makeup of a championship team. They have to decide whether they’re going to pay Lance Stephenson, but given the LeBron news, it’s hard to see them letting him walk. And it’s hard to see them trading Roy Hibbert now too. Keep the core together, hope to rejuvenate the bench, and pray that Lance Stephenson can stay motivated after getting paid. The Big 3 is no longer in your way, Pacers. Continue reading