Monday, April 14, 2014

My End of Season Awards

One of my favorite parts of the NBA season are the end of the regular season awards. Here are my top three choices for each. 

Rookie of the Year: 

3rd place- Mason Plumlee

This one may warrant some controversy but if you consider how well he stepped up to the task of filling in for KG you have to admit 'Mase' deserves some recognition. He's grown so much in such a small amount of time and really become a legitimate option at the 5 for the Nets, and been a real reason for their success in the new year.  

2nd place- Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo was asked at the beginning of the season to make a transition to point guard. Keep in mind that this is widely considered the most difficult position to play in basketball and he was asked to learn it practically overnight. Despite having to learn a new position in a faster more competitive league than he had ever played in, Oladipo has thrived. His season stats of 14 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.2 RPG make him a legitimate threat. His FG%s could use some work but considering he's a rookie, playing out of position, and being asked to help carry an awful team, I'd say that earns him some leeway as far as percentages go.

1st place- Michael Carter-Williams

Is this really up for argument? He's got "Next Oscar Robertson" written all over him. I know I'm gonna get a lot of crap for that last statement but you can't deny the kid's potential to be great. For goodness sakes, in his first NBA game he flirted with a quadruple double, 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals. His size gives him a huge advantage on both ends. He has great court vision, lightening speed, strong defense, an improving jump shot, and 'O yea' he's about four inches taller than most of the other point guards in the league. MCW has all the tools to become a star in this league and I don't think it's any question that he deserves the ROY award.

Most Improved Player:

3rd place- Gerald Green

To say Gerald Green is a 'good athlete' is like saying Usain Bolt is 'pretty quick.' This journeyman could throw down some nasty dunks but that was about all. After a stint in Europe and some work on his jumper, Green got a real shot at success with the Phoenix Suns. Not only did he take advantage of the opportunity, he thrived in this new atmosphere. After his first 7 years he only averaged 8.0 PPG; this year he is averaging a career best 16 PPG. A lights-out shooter, a lock-down defender, and a human highlight reel, Gerald Green has truly taken his game to the next level.

2nd place- Goran Dragic

In his first stint with the Suns, Goran Dragic used to make me wonder what anyone ever saw in him. I'll admit I was the first to write this guy off, but I'm so happy to have been wrong about him, because he is so much fun to watch. This guy got a taste of success and never looked back, he's gotten better every year and even found himself in the MVP conversation this year. Take a look at these stats according to Bleacher Report: 


He's become an overnight star and a true leader on his team. Goran 'The Dragon' Dragic has stepped up in a huge way for his team.

1st place- Lance Stephenson
This was a hard choice to make for first but it's hard to argue his results. In his first two years, Lance was pretty much a garbage time player, but when Granger went down last year he got his shot. His success went somewhat unnoticed due to Paul George's emergence as a star, but this year I believe Lance will receive his recognition. He leads the league in triple-doubles (5), and is easily one of the most well-rounded players in the league. He's averaging 13.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 7.1 RPG, and he's doing all this AS AN OFF-GUARD! He's a shooting guard averaging more assists than the team's point guard and at only 6'5" he's leading his team in rebounds. If you web search 'overnight success' Lance Stephenson's profile is the first thing to show up. 

Defensive Player of the Year:

3rd place- Serge Ibaks

This guy blocks shots like it's going out of style, not to mention he's keeping players at 44.2% around the rim. His athleticism and quickness make him a nightmare for opposing teams and his sense of timing is unparalleled. Ibaka is truly the cornerstone of Oklahoma City's defense. 

2nd place- Joakim Noah

Noah isn't so much known for his ability to block shots as much as for his ability to throw off the opposing team's offense. The guy can cover the court like no other and guard virtually any position. His lateral quickness and overall speed are ridiculous for a guy his size; match those with his Kevin Garnett-like intensity and you get the league's second best defense. 

1st place- Roy Hibbert

The Pacers not only own the league's best defense this year, but one of the best in history. Check the numbers if you don't believe me. They're allowing 95.5 points per 100 possessions and a lot of this is due to the man in the middle. His ability to protect the paint and block shots is forcing teams to take low percentage jump shots. His man-to-man defense has improved as he dedicated himself to building muscle in the off season, and his team defense is the best in the league. This guy has been known as a defensive beast for the last few season, and I believe he'll be rewarded this year for it. 

Sixth Man of the Year:

3rd place-Markieff Morris

This guy not only is a contender for the Sixth Man award but also for the Most Improved. He's been extremely consistent all year, he's averaging just under 14 PPG and is shooting at an impressive 48% this season. His 3-point % could use a boost but it's respectable for a guy his size at 32%. The really impressive stat about this guy is his 18.35 PER, making him the most efficient guys off the bench, for any team, which is kinda the point of this award isn't it?

2nd place- Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford has been one of the best scorers off the bench for years now. Hence why he won the award a few years back, and as tired as we probably all are of hearing how great of a sixth man he is it's the truth. He pretty much can fill whatever role you need him for, he can play the point, the off-guard, occasionally small forward, and with Doc Rivers' make-shift, small ball line line-ups he's probably played some power forward at some point. He can dish and shoot with the best of them, pointing out time and time again that the 3-point line is really more of a suggestion, and his ball-handling skills are some of the best all-time. O yea and don't forget he's the all-time leader in 4-point plays and is, frankly, clutch as hell.

1st place- Taj Gibson

I know, I just made all that fuss over how great Jamal Crawford is only to make him the runner up, but give Taj Gibson some credit. This guy SHOULD be a starter but has accepted a role off the bench so as to appease the ego of Carlos Boozer. He's averaging a career best 13.2 PPG as well as a strong 6.8 RPG, which is virtually the same numbers being put up by his counterpart Boozer. The difference is Gibson shoots the ball at a higher percentage and defends at an elite level. He can play multiple positions, PF and C, and has a 16.52 PER. His dominance on both ends of the floor is what gives him the right to win this award, and I believe the best is yet to come when it comes to this guy.

Most Valuable Player:

3rd place- Chris Paul

Chris Paul has quietly put together a fantastic season, and although he's been injured for quite a bit of it, I believe he still deserves recognition. I'm not a huge Blake Griffin fan (see virtually any of my other articles) but I won't deny Blake's talent. What I will point out though is that his success would be significantly lessened were it not for Chris Paul. The same goes out for Deandre Jordan and pretty much any other member of the Clippers. Paul makes other players better, plain and simple. Most players only contribute to their teams in one way, (see Carmelo Anthony) but Paul makes it happen on all aspects of the game. He scores, defends, and dishes as well as anyone in the league. He has the ability to take over a game, but the beauty of CP3 is that he doesn't have to.

2nd place- Lebron James

There's not much to say about this guy, he's already one of the greatest players ever, sorry I just cringed a little saying that (#diehardBostonfan), but it's true. Lebron is heading towards a run at a third title and if they lose it will be by no fault of his. He is truly an amazing player and the true definition of efficient. Despite this praise, however I do not believe he will win this year.

1st place- Kevin Durant

Durant is leading the league in scoring at a career best 32.0 PPG. This, however is not the reason he deserves this award, or at least not the only reason. The reason he deserves the MVP is due to his ability to lead his team to victory. Last year when Russel Westbrook went down KD seemed uncomfortable in his new role as primary ball handler, this year he relished at the opportunity. He's averaging a career best 5.5 APG. 'Durantula' has truly taken a larger leadership role and the results are great. He can play and defend multiple positions, rebound the ball, and shoot the lights out of any stadium, and to top it off, he's arguably the clutches player in the league. Lebron has remained a consistent force, but Durant's evolution into an even more elite player gives him the edge this year.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Can your roster be too deep?

Bear with me here, but have you ever looked at an nba roster before the season starts and thought, "Wow, now there's a strong lookin team," only to be disappointed? Have you noticed that sometimes teams just don't click? Well if not, then you clearly haven't been paying attention to this season, because there's several strong examples of teams that just have/had trouble getting it together. 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers-
Three starting caliber centers,  a back court that can score at will, a highly underrated power forward in Tristan Thompson, and a badass sixth man and veteran in Jarrett Jack, how could this not work out!? Good question! Cleveland went into the season with, what looked like, one of the fastest "up and coming" rosters in the NBA, but somehow they failed to make it work both on and off the court. 

2. Detroit Pistons-
Now you may be thinking to yourself, "I don't know if I'd call this team especially deep," but think about it for a sec. This team has two future franchise players in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Greg is an offensive beast on the block with a healthy shooting range and not too shabby rebounding numbers. Andre is an athletic freak of nature who defends and rebounds at a ridiculous level, and he's still got a lot of room to grow. On top of these two players you have an offensively gifted point guard in Jennings, an All-Star snub in Josh Smith, a strong two-way player in Kyle Singler, and several legitimate role players after that. BUT despite this ridiculous amount of talent, the Pistons are barely treading water, and even though their rebounding numbers are high, that's about all they have to be proud of in this joke of a season. Poor Chauncey must be regretting coming back. 

3. Brooklyn Nets-
The Brooklyn Nets have been the best team since the turn of the new year so you can definitely argue that they don't belong on this list, however I list them because they just never really fulfilled the expectations of the fans. Brooklyn was ready to have Billy Kings head after the first part of the season. Deron Williams has had trouble with consistency, Garnett didn't look comfortable for the majority of the season, Joe Johnson only showed up about 50% of the time, and Jason Kidd was too busy cleaning up spilled soda to really know what to do at first. Again the Nets are heading into the playoffs strong and they may even be an upset team, but personally, I kinda was hoping they'd be a legitimate contender from start to finish.

Look at all three of these teams and tell me they haven't been disappointing this season. These deep rosters that were supposed to be capable of playoff runs and future franchise players just never really picked up the projected speed they were supposed to. Here's a couple theories why:

A) With such deep rosters, you find that allocating the minutes to keep everyone happy takes away from the effectiveness of the team. The starters are subbed out so quickly that no one has a real chance to get in their "groove." 

B) Too many competing personalities. . This seems to be the most popular theory as to why deep teams don't always pan out, just look at the Pacers. Indiana gave away virtually nothing and got strong depth at center, and a MIP of the year candidate in Evan Turner, yet since the trade they have just plain awful. This seems to be due to the teams contrasting personalities and play styles, simply translated, Bynum is a cancer to his team and Turner is a ball hog. Josh Smith is a perfect example of this as well. One of the most selfish players in the league, Smith chooses to shoot threes and make stupid plays instead of playing to his strengths and truly helping his team. His personality is one of the reasons this team isn't succeeding.

C) Finally the one thing that all these teams had in common were inconsistency at the coaching position. Mike Brown is a joke, sorry but it's true, Lebron is the only reason Brown even has a career and hiring him back was purely a political move to bring King James back. Maurice Cheeks was fired for his ineffectiveness, and frankly, inability to keep Josh Smith under control. Finally Jason Kidd; even though he has really seemed to step up lately, I can't help but wonder if he's still a bit over his head, and this winning streak isn't simply his veterans taking charge. 

The point being that deeper is always better. Sometimes you need to have that nobody bench warmer with a chip on his shoulder on your roster to add a more humble and team oriented dynamic to the atmosphere. If you have a bunch of guys who don't feel they need to prove anything then you really don't have much at all do you?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Meanwhile in Brooklyn....

         In 2007 Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce joined forces to bring home banner 17 to Boston in only their first year together. In 2010 Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh came together to bring in two banners of their own. Whats my point you ask? SUPER-TEAMS WORK! Or at least they can. Last season Brooklyn brought in Joe Johnson to help them become relevant again, this year they acquired KG, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, hoping that they would be the final pieces. After an 11-21 start I think it's safe to say that it's not working. But why? Now it could be old age. Maybe we, including myself, were wrong and the former Boston stars just don't have anything left in the tank, however as a devout follower of The Big Ticket and The Truth I can't help but think that maybe it's something else.

        If I had to put my finger on it, which I'm totally about to do, I'd say its a coaching problem. Now I don't want to sound like one of those irrational fans who have been calling for Jason Kidd's head the last few weeks but after watching the team play I have certain concerns about his ability to lead. The Nets have the third worst defensive rating in the NBA and are ranked 19th in offensive efficiency. For reference championship basketball is not won with these types of numbers and when you have a defensive savant in KG and two scoring machines in The Truth and Iso-Joe, but still seem to be in the bottom tier of these categories, something is going terribly wrong. Yes it's true, chemistry is not built overnight, although if you watched the 2007-08 Boston team you might think again, but you would think these guys would have started to mesh by now. If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of watching a Nets game this season try not to cringe at the slow, random rotations of the defense or the confusing, assist less isolation plays that seem to occur on the offense. When you take all of this into consideration one thing becomes apparent. Jason Kidd has no idea what in the hell he's doing, and after a basically fired assistant coach, player only meetings, crappy rotations, a court walk off, and some spilled soda, this fact is becoming more apparent. Kidd was quoted recently saying that his team was not putting forth a legitimate effort, which for anyone who knows anything about KG knows that's a load of crap. This is sounding like a desperate attempt to push the blame onto someone else when in fact it is the fault of the head coach.

       I have no doubt that Jason Kidd can be a head coach someday, however he needs to spend some time as an assistant and work his way up to it. It makes no sense that they would assign a rookie coach to a veteran team with only a one or two year window to win a championship. My advice, call up the rich Russian owner, have him break out his pocketbook one last time and bring in Lionel Hollins. Hollins is a defensive minded coach who ran a team with a very similar structure in Memphis. If they do that, they may be able to scrap this season and turn themselves into a contending team. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Greatest Generation on their way out?

             Larry Bird and Magic Johnson saved basketball. The NBA was at an all-time low and was almost on its way out before two of the games greatest competitors entered the court. The rivalry, desire to win, and overall intensity is something that today's NBA seems to lack. Larry Bird once said that he and Magic were friends off the court and enemies on it (I'm paraphrasing of course) but this is a mindset that players today don't seem to get, and the ones that do are immediately labeled as disrespectful and bad for the game. Call me what you want but I kind of miss this kind of intensity in a game, I love Larry Bird, but by today's standards fans would HATE him! We have forgotten that players like him, and Magic, and MJ, and Reggie Miller were "dirty players," who would do whatever they had to to win. This style has faded fairly quickly over the years with only a handful of true competitors still active. Players today are soft, see Blake Griffin for best example. Sure he puts numbers in the box and fans in the seats, but I honestly believe that if a team wants to win a championship they need to rid themselves of guys like him. You'll never see guys like Blake motivating his team to win, stepping up to take the final shot, standing up for his teammate, or playing lock-down defense against a star, you'll see him dunk....AND THAT'S IT! Basketball seems to be transitioning from a game of passion and teamwork to a game of highlights and drama, see Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard trade request sagas. The last competitors in the NBA are within their final years, here are a few that I believe are left:

  • Kevin Garnett: Players hate him, teammates love him. Joakim Noah was once quoted calling KG, "mean." It's nice to see that Florida college education system did him some good, I'm particularly interested in Noah's experiences in the subjects of "sharing" and "playing nice." The Big Ticket employs several tactics to win, be it his fundamentals, his vocal attacks, his physicality, or Hall of Fame worthy defense, Kevin Garnett is one of the all time greatest. If you talk to any of his teammates over the years they all say the same thing, that he is a constant professional, a passionate teacher, a true competitor, and a winner. If those qualities mean that Joakim gets his feelings hurt well then maybe he should try basket weaving instead of basketball. 

  • Kobe Bryant: As a die-hard Celtic fan it pains me to say this, but I must be fair. Kobe Bryant is a competitor. With a personality and swagger comparable to Michael Jordan, Bryant has made a name as a winner and a top 10 all-time player. I suppose the reason he gets this title is because he's everything Blake Griffin is not. He'll take the last shot, he'll be motivating on the sidelines, he'll take the tough defensive assignments, and he has a seemingly unstoppable arsenal of scoring moves. If you don't believe me, I can give you FIVE golden reasons why The Black Mamba is a fierce competitor. His teammates may not always love him but you can't deny his results. 

  • Tim Duncan: I know I know, he doesn't really fit the criteria for what I've been saying, however he does have a right to be on here. Tim Duncan is still relevant at 37, the reason for this can be answered in his nickname, "The Big Fundamental." Fundamentals are the key to a long and dominant career. Guys like Griffin and Howard are not going to be around long because their game relies too much on physical domination. What Duncan has in common with the previous two guys is the fact that his basketball IQ is off the charts! The guy is incredibly intelligent and its half the reason for his longevity and stellar resume. He's a four time NBA champion and two time MVP, he plays well with teammates and delivers when his team needs him. He may not be as vocal as some others on the court, but Duncan displays intensity and competitiveness in his own way and for that he makes the list. 

Feel free to comment!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Players just short of the All Star cut

The NBA hosts the greatest basketball players in the world. Many try to reach the status of "professional athlete" but few succeed. Every year fans are asked to assemble two rosters of the best players for the NBA All-Star game. We all know that Kobe, Lebron, Carmelo, Dwight, and for some reason or other, Carmelo will make the cut, leaving only a few spots left for all the deserving athletes playing in these stars' shadow. Who are these silent stars you ask, that are so quickly thrown into the pool of obscurity just because they don't break some esoteric record every game? Well I'll show you...

Rudy Gay:

Hold on before you flip out and stop reading this article! Although his FG% has been just plain bad the last couple seasons, people forget that he was playing for a Toronto team that was resting its future hopes on Andrea Bargnani, so I think he was entitled to taking a few less than perfect shots to try and win a game. What people forget is that Gay has averaged 17+ PPG every year other than his rookie season. Not to mention his stellar defense and propensity to hit clutch shots. People don't often associate Rudy Gay with clutch performances but type "Rudy Gay clutch" into your search engine and you may be surprised with how much you find.

Michael Carter-Williams:

The 76ers have been a huge surprise this season, since they finished last in the Power Rankings. Many had them pegged to be a complete bust, picking up Royce White didn't help their argument, but the impressive play of the team has been inspiring if nothing else. Although a (7-16) record doesn't sound great, the fact is that they've shown they can at least compete, and have a few potential future All-Stars on the team. One of whom is an awkwardly tall PG that many thought wouldn't make much of an impact his rookie season. MCW has flirted with the quadruple double several times already, a feat conquered only by four players the last being David Robinson in 1994. Carter-Williams has battled injury so far, but is still the front runner for Rookie of the Year. If he can get healthy and continue these numbers, 17.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 3.1 STLPG, then he may earn himself a spot on the East All-Star rotation.

Wesley Matthews: 

Wesley Matthews is averaging .483 from 3-point land this season and for those who don't know, THAT'S REALLY GOOD! This undrafted swingman is also averaging 16.2 PPG this season on an incredibly talented Trailblazer team. This guy can do it all, defend, shoot, put the ball on the floor, he's quickly becoming one of the NBA's premier marksmen. In addition to this his team has given him the nickname, "Ballot," due to his exclusion from the All-Star ballot. With names like Tiago Splitter and, the currently injured, Danilo Gallinari on the ballot, can someone please explain to me why Matthews isn't at least an option!?

Feel free to comment!