This draft was deep. Real deep. There was legitimate first round value available in the second round this year. That doesn’t happen very often. Last year, first round value was hard to come by anywhere. But this draft was unusual. Teams weren’t as stupid as usual! We didn’t have any Charlie Villanueva or Dion Waiters-like unexpected picks, or Anthony Bennett for that matter. The lottery went, for the most part, as most people predicted. There were some minor hiccups. Noah Vonleh slid a little bit. Aaron Gordon went a tad higher than people expected. Maybe, some people thought Embiid would slide a few picks further. But other than that, things were pretty rational, and that’s saying a lot for NBA GMs! Toward the second half of the first round though, things got a little frisky, as always. Some obscure Brazilian guy no one had ever heard of was chosen 20th! No really, like no one even knew who he was. He didn’t even show up on a single one of Chad Ford’s ten mock drafts, or however many he ended up doing. And the Hornets inexplicably appeased LeBron’s demand that the Heat get Shabazz Napier. The Hornets drafted Napier, and before the entire basketball universe could rejoice over the future 30 for 30 documenting Napier and Kemba Walker reuniting in the pros, Napier was informed he’d been dealt to the Heat. But aside from some of those crazy story lines, there were a couple of very good players that slipped unnecessarily far in the draft. Continue reading
The Mavericks have recently expressed in signing 33 year Pau Gasol. Gasol would be paired in Dallas’ frontline with Dirk, easily giving the Mavs perhaps the most skilled frontline in the NBA. Gasol is 33 year olds and has endured two disappointing seasons in Los Angeles without Kobe’s help. Despite the Lakers’ recent struggles, Pau has vowed to stay in LA if Kobe wants him to. But aside from loyalty, Pau has little reason to sign up for any more time in LA. The Lakers own the 7th pick in this year’s draft, as well as some cap space–some of which would have to be used on Pau–but that is not enough to turn the Lakers into a playoff team. The Lakers won only 27 games last year, and even the biggest Kobe-diehards have to realize that his return to the court will mean little as a 35 year old. Of course, Los Angeles is one of the premier destinations in the league. The Lakers are probably the most storied franchise in the league and the weather is always a plus, but if Gasol wants to add one more ring to his collection, Los Angeles is not the place to stay. Continue reading
It’s never too early to take a look at next year. We don’t know what jersey the best player in the league will be wearing, where the biggest chucker will be ball-hogging, or what will happen in the most over-hyped draft ever, but we can still make some safe predictions, if we make a few assumptions that we shouldn’t. Let’s assume the Big 3 stay in Miami, Duncan and Co. play another season, Carmelo ends up in Chicago, and Cleveland remains the most cursed sports town ever (we can make that last assumption VERY safely). Let’s run down the title favorites.
Poorly Owned, Delusional Expectations
Not in 100 years. Continue reading
You either love Lance or you hate him. How you feel about Lance Stephenson inevitably acts like some sort of NBA Rorschach test, giving valuable insight to your personality and how you view the game of basketball. He can fly down the court by himself and finish like LeBron. But then he’ll sprint down court on one-on-three breaks and turn it over. He’ll throw no-look passes like Magic. And then he’ll throw a no-look pass into the fourth row. He’ll go off for 30 points. He’ll kill ball movement and be a ball hog. Lance Stephenson is one of the hardest players to understand. His talent is undeniable. His craziness is also undeniable. He’s one of the most unpredictable players and personalities in the league. He went from perhaps the most hyped up New York city high school prospect ever, to an underwhelming afterthought at Cincinnati, to a second round draft pick, to a benchwarmer in his first few seasons, to the first runner-up for NBA’s Most Improved Player this past season. Continue reading
Defending a championship is not easy. Pat Riley’s oft-mentioned “disease of more” illustrates the difficulties that result from winning a title: players want more. More money, more playing time, and more recognition. Basically, players are more selfish once they’ve won. Winning can create a toxic setting not conducive to future success. The Spurs are the classiest, most well-run organization in the NBA though, and maybe in any professional sport. They are either adept at either constructing teams full of unselfish players, or convincing those players to buy into a team concept. The Spurs’ biggest obstacles for repeating are age and free agency. Luckily, Tim Duncan is not mortal and does not age. And the same goes for Tony Parker and to a lesser extent, Manu Ginobili. But the Spurs still have a few key free agents to re-sign. The three contributors whose contracts are up are Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Matt Bonner. Diaw and Mills will likely have fairly substantial paydays after his impressive Finals showing. He only scored six points per game, but it is his well-rounded game, namely his passing and rebounding that are what drive his worth. Diaw averaged nearly nine rebounds and six assists in the Finals, and played the role of point forward several times throughout the series for the Spurs. Continue reading
So far, most experts have reduced this year’s Finals to a few storylines. The main takeaways are that LeBron’s legacy is tarnished, Duncan is easily a top 10 all-time player, D-Wade is finished, and 2014 Miami was no different than 2007 Cleveland. Some of these conclusions are accurate. Duncan probably does deserve to be in the same breath as Bird and Magic now. Wade does look pretty damn close to retirement. LeBron might as well have had Damon Jones and Candace Parker’s brother on the wings. Maybe most of all, experts are declaring the end of an era. And it’s not the one you might expect. It’s not the Spurs era, which seems to drag on year after year, no matter how old Duncan gets. It’s the end of the Big 3, proclaim overeager Heat-haters. There are a few more takeaways we can glean from this year’s Finals though that may be overlooked with all of the focus on Duncan and LeBron.
From dynasty to broken up? That may be the harsh reality for the Heat. The Heat were not just beat by a better team. They were embarrassed. They may have been propped up by one of the weakest Eastern Conferences in NBA history, but they were exposed in the Finals, and unless something drastic happens, it’s hard to imagine the Heat winning another Finals. The Heat were no better than the 2007 Cavs this year against the Spurs. LeBron came to Miami to get more help, but it looks like that time is over. It’s simple: Wade is washed up and Bosh is overrated. With an aging Dwyane Wade and a hardly Robin-worthy Chris Bosh there to help out LeBron, the Heat struggle to score. It gets worse. Their bench was a non-factor this postseason. Amnestying Mike Miller proved costly. Shane Battier hardly played when it mattered. Greg Oden and Mike Beasley turned out to be a whole lotta nothing. And the point guard by committee of Chalmers and Cole was arguably worse than Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson. Taken as a whole, it’s not inconceivable for LeBron to leave Miami. There aren’t a whole lot of options for him, but Miami is a year away from being an NBA barren wasteland, unless Pat Riley completely retools the roster. Continue reading
We can all breathe a sigh of relief–the Heat’s run of titles is over. Yes, they could be back next year, but we can forget about the Heat joining the illustrious threepeat club. The Heat may, publicly at least, claim to be satisfied with their four year run, but the media’s view of the Heat’s Big 3 is more complicated. Sure, they were just the second team in NBA history to reach four straight Finals, but coming away with just two isn’t exactly what LeBron and company expected. This year was supposed to be the epic rematch. It was supposed to eclipse the grueling seven game series that we enjoyed last year. Instead, we had a stinker. Well, not really. Just about everyone, aside from Heat bandwagoners, who also happen to reside in Miami, enjoyed watching the Spurs humble the Heat.