Favorites to win it all next year

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

Knicks
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Born Ready: What teams could handle Lance Stephenson?

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

What should LeBron do?

12 days. That is how much time LeBron has before he must decide if he will opt in for one more year with the Heat. If he was to opt in, LeBron would have one year left for over $22 million, but money is not the issue. Or it is, but not how you might think. Recently, there has been speculation that the Heat are interested in signing Carmelo, but that would require the Heat’s Big 3 to each take paycuts. Usually, players of LeBron’s caliber, at the age of 29, would never take a paycut, even in the name of winning. Maybe in the twilight of his career, LeBron would take a paycut, a la Tim Duncan, but now. MJ would never take a paycut. Kobe didn’t exactly take a paycut at age 35. Their ego won’t allow it. It’s especially difficult to imagine LeBron taking a paycut when he said just a few months ago, that he is severely underpaid. If the Big 3 all opt in, then the majority of the Heat’s nucleus will be relatively similar next year. But the supporting pieces could be drastically different. Shane Battier retired right after Game 5. Rashard Lewis is a free agent. Mario Chalmers is a free agent. Ray Allen is a free agent and might retire. Mike Beasley and Greg Oden are free agents. But Miami might not be able to make significant improvements rounding out its roster if the Big 3 all opt in, and are owed over $60 million together. So, what if LeBron opts out. Yes, LeBron, Wade, and Bosh could each opt out, take substantial paycuts like the Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili did, and then try to lure Carmelo or Kyle Lowry to South Beach. Miami could also do a sign and trade with LeBron. Or, he could simply opt out and leave Miami. Here are a few possibilities, some more realistic than others. Continue reading

What does the Future hold for the Thunder and Bulls?

After the short-handed Thunder and Bulls both lost their respective series in five games, it’s unclear where they’re headed. Even with the return of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, the Bulls and Thunder will need to make moves if they plan on being real title contenders next season. While getting healthy will be the main way the Bulls and Thunder improve next season, they still need to make moves, even with their minimal cap room and late draft picks.

Durant had no help as soon as Westbrook went down.
Durant had no help as soon as Westbrook went down.

Thunder
Coming off of a disappointing second round exit, the Thunder may believe a healthy Russell Westbrook will bring them back to the Finals, but seeing the series against the Grizzlies, it’s clear that the Thunder have some more work to do. With Westbrook, the Thunder will surely be the favorite to come out of the West, but it’s now clear that the Thunder are a very average team without him. Serge Ibaka, the guy Sam Presti decided to pay instead of James Harden, has proven to be a 13 and 8 guy who looks like he’s already hit his ceiling. Ibaka is only 23, but his failure to step up in Westbrook’s absence is just another reminder that the Thunder absolutely made the wrong choice picking him over James Harden.

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First Round Playoff Predictions

With the playoffs finally upon us, it’s time to make some predictions. In the East, it seems inevitable that the Heat will come out and get a chance to repeat, but the West isn’t as obvious. Injuries this year have decimated many teams’ chances in both conferences. This might be the year that handed the title to the Heat. In the West, Kobe’s season-ending (and career? just kidding, Kobe) injury has been a hot topic, Manu has been hurt, Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL, and David Lee just injured his hip and is out for the playoffs. In the East, most notably Derrick Rose hasn’t played all season, Danny Granger is out for the playoffs, Rondo tore his ACL, and Amare Stoudemire hasn’t been 100% all year. Injuries happen every year, but this year is worse–key starters and go-to-guys are missing from this year’s playoffs.

In the East…

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