Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Better Team? Cleveland or Miami

I was reading ESPN's short article on the Luol Deng signing when I noticed a heated argument in the comment section about whether the Heat or the Cavaliers would be the better team next year. Many people were basing their conclusions on the false pretense that the Cavaliers would have Kevon Love. That in itself can not be a basis of which team is better until it is known for sure, so I immediately thought, well the Heat are better, but upon closer examination I realized that may not be the case as the Cavaliers would still have the last two year's number one picks and Dion Waiters, none of which you should be too quick to count out as huge factors towards the team's success.

The Miami Heat 
After playing what I believe to be an underwhelming regular season that didn't quite reflect their abilities, the Heat finished 54-28 (this is coming after a 66-16 season with basically the same team). This is a team that was without Dwyane Wade for 28 games and coasted during most of the season. The reason I point this out is that many people think "a team that won only 54 Games with Lebron will certainly win at least 10 more games than a team that instead has Luol Deng and a Dwyane Wade losing skill by the year." That leaves them at 42-44 wins right there. You also have to imagine that last year's Heat would have won at least 60 games if Dwyane Wade had played even 75 games.
The problem is, Dwyane Wade didn't miss all those games with injuries, he missed them because the Heat thought it was their best bet to let him rest and get him in peak condition for the finals. I don't believe that was what a player as young as Wade needed, he needed less minutes and more games. Dwyane Wade wasn't prepared for the finals and he was watching critics who saw his decline pick him apart, furthering his lack of confidence. He was playing with the best player in the world and he let the critics get into his head, but this was not the player he is. Therefore, you can add two of those games back onto the win side making the Heat a 44-46 win team. Dwyane Wade will also step up in the absence of Lebron James and hopefully he can start finding his "old man game" without the sharp backlash he would get playing on a title contender.
Luol Deng is clearly no Lebron, but he is used to playing 39-40 minutes a game and playing lockdown defense all the while. He brings good veteran leadership and production to replace Lebron. Josh McRoberts also serves as a savvy veteran who can stretch the floor and get Dwyane Wade open looks. 
Accounting for the fact that the Heat should have won somewhere around 60 games last year, rather than 54, you can add 6 more wins to the Heat's season making them a 50-52 win team. 
I already stated in my Cavaliers preview that I believe they will be a 50 win team next season, so I think the Heat will in fact be a better team.

Conclusion: The Heat will be the better team record-wise.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-15 Season Preview

Kyrie Irving, PG
The 2011 NBA draft's number one pick and the Rookie of the Year from that class has proven he is more than just an average PG in a point guard's league. He may struggle to make good decisions on offense in his passing deficiencies and poor shooting selection, but Lebron's arrival should smooth him out. He is already a two time all star and an all star game MVP despite playing just three seasons in the NBA.
2013-14 Stats: 35.2 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Andrew Wiggins, SG
He is one of the most hyped picks since Lebron and he is an athletic specimen lacking in the strength Lebron has. He can work on getting stronger and plays very good defense, making him ready to play with Lebron since he won't have to worry about creating his own shots all the time. He is a cross between a guard and a forward and having Lebron on the team allows him to play SG which could be an interesting mismatch for other teams to deal with especially with his athleticism.
2013-14 Stats (College): 32.8 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Lebron James, SF
Lebron is the greatest player in this league and has been for the last four years. He leaves Cleveland after four years with four more all star appearances, two MVPs, two rings, and two finals MVPs. He can create for his teammates as well as for himself and draws many double and triple teams, inevitably leaving teammates wid open. He has already played in the city of Cleveland and he knows what it is like to win. His passion for the city and for championships is unrelenting and I predict he will have his first championship in Cleveland in one of the next three seasons.
2013-14 Stats: 37.7 MPG, 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Tristan Thompson, PF
Although a bit undersized for his position, Thompson makes up for what he lacks in height with good athleticism and a great nose for the ball. He is a bit of a liability on defense, but like many of the problems befalling the Cavaliers, Lebron can help with that. Lebron will be there to guard the opposing teams best offensive players and he will mentor the young Cleveland players into average or better defensive players.
2013-14 Stats: 31.6 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Anderson Varejao, C
One of Lebron's favorite teammates from the last time he played in Cleveland. He is a tenacious rebounder and a great leader. He has been riddled with injuries over the last four years without Lebron, but hopefully he can get over that and make a push for the championship. This is a true big man who doesn't let his teammates down on defense.
2013-14 Stats: 27.7 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG


Dion Waiters, SG
There have been many accounts of clashing in the locker room between Waiters and Irving, but with the arrival of the experienced veteran leader named Lebron James, that should be put to an end. he will teach this young group of teammates about what it takes to win championships and hopefully players like Waiters will mature. He is a great scorer (19.3 PPG per 36 this past season) who still has a lot of uncapped potential and he looks to be a great sixth man for next year's Cavaliers.
2013-14 Stats: 29.6 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Anthony Bennett, PF
As last year's number one pick, there is still much unlocked potential to be seen. Many critics have enjoyed placing him into the infamous "bust" category, despite his being part of a very weak draft that included other high picks that were not very productive. He actually averaged 11.8 PPG and 8.4 RPG per 36 MPG and played fairly well near the end of the season. Cavaliers fans don't have to worry about Bennett being put in a huge role, but hopefully his minutes will increase to around 20 per game next season to help further his development.
2013-14 Stats: 12.8 MPG, 4.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Head Coach David Blatt
He is an esteemed coach who has coached all around the world. He has coached under very different circumstances in Europe where the slightest misstep can leave you without a job (although that also seems to be where the NBA is headed) and he has coached many large personalities. He will find himself over the course of the season and will make a name with the Cavaliers as one of the top Eastern teams.


Interested Players

Kevin Love, PF 
Acquiring Kevin Love may require this year's very highly valued number one pick, Andrew Wiggins, but it may be worth it as Love is a proven superstar in this league. Kevin Love still has yet to play in a playoff series, but he is hungry for that experience. Andrew Wiggins is still young, unexperienced, and unproven. This move could save the Cavs a few developmental years, sending them immediately into championship contention.
2013-14 Stats: 36.3 MPG, 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Mike Miller, SF/SG 
2013-14 Stats: 20.8 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Ray Allen, SG 
2013-14 Stats: 26.5 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG

James Jones, SF 
2013-14 Stats: 11.8 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG

These three played in Miami and all take pressure off Lebron when he gets the ball as they all require defense due to their sharpshooting abilities. They are all champions and know what it takes to win. They would all likely be willing to take less to play with Lebron for another chance to win as they have done so before. They all bring good veteran leadership and can help develop Cleveland's younger players and at the same time they all have close ties to Lebron.


Expected W-L: 50-32

What will the season be like?
In the beginning it will be shaky and there will be many ups and downs as theses players learn what it is like to play together, develop, and learn each other's pros and cons. In the end, it will all have been worth it as Lebron will accelerate Kyrie Irving's game to the next level and bring the tam to the playoffs for the first time since he left the team.

How will they finish? 
It is still hard to say as free agency still hasn't ended and there are great players still at play, but the Cavaliers will be a top four team in the east in contention for the Eastern Conference Championship. I don't believe they will make the finals in their first year together.

What struggles will they face?
They will face criticism from the media every time they go through adversity and will have to learn to ignore those who doubt. They may struggle to find their places amongst on another when the season begins, but with the veteran leadership of Lebron, they will get through it. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fantasy Basketball Steals

10. 97.1% Harrison Barnes- At 97.1% of all leagues owning him, Harrison is the most owned player on this list, but there are two players on this list who deserve to be owned in every league and Harrison is one of them. As a starter on a playoff team last year he averaged 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 0.6 SPG in just 25.4 MPG. During the team's relatively deep playoff run he averaged 16.1 PPG and 6.4 RPG in 38.4 MPG.
9. 34.3% Andrea Bargnani- Andrea Bargnani will be a huge wild card for the Knicks, that's why many fantasy players are playing it safe and letting Andrea go, but it is clear that his fantasy value is much higher than he's getting credit for. He can give you a three a night, 10-12 PPG, 4 RPG and possibly a block a game.
8. 23.2% Arron Afflalo- He could easily give 14-15 PPG this year after having averaged a career high 16.5 PPG last season. Victor Oladipo will affect his playtime, but he will be a contributor towards all points related categories.
7. 30.6% Enes Kanter- After not reaching even close to his potential in the past two seasons, former third pick Enes Kanter has essentially been forgotten about, but that will all change this season now that Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have moved on. Kanter is easily a double-double performer; 10 PPG, 10 RPG, and 1 BPG.
6. 1.6% Lance Stephenson- Lance proved himself as one of the best rebounding guards in the league during last season's playoffs. I believe he will average 12 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG, and 1 SPG in 30 MPG. It is unexplainable to me how only 1.6% of leagues own Lance.
5. 20.2% Kyle Korver- Always one of the fantasy pick-me-ups during mid-season for those teams who lack 3 point shooting. Well, why not start early this year, if you lack 3 point shooters get him while he's still around because he is one of the best 3 point shooters in the league. 
4. 2.0% John Henson- My bold prediction of the list, I feel that Henson will make a big impact this year. He averaged 16.5 PPG, 12.9 RPG, and 1.8 BPG last season per 36. If he receives the playing time, he will easily be a huge pickup. He may not even have those same per 36 numbers, but you won't want to get rid of him.
3. 70.2% Amir Johnson- A personal favorite of mine last year, I picked him up around mid-season when I needed more rebounding, stealing, and blocking. His placement is fair as he plays for an unpredictable team. He will give you good numbers if he gets playtime, but with an awful team like Toronto, you never know if they'll play a guy like Amir less to try to develop a rookie.
2. 7.9% Tiago Splitter- Probably the player on this list with the largest drop compared to what I would expect (around 70%.) He averaged 10.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG last season in under 25 MPG. He can easily up those numbers this year with the departure of Dejuan Blair and the decline of Tim Duncan (the player who never seems to decline.)
1. 58.8% Eric Bledsoe- A must have, he along with Harrison Barnes should be owned by every league. 
He is my early prediction for most improved player of the year and I believe he will average numbers close to 15 PPG, 5 RPG, 6 APG, and 2.5 SPG.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Coach of the Year

It has come to my attention that I forgot to mention Coach of the Year on my awards predictions article. Well this one seems easy enough. I believe that the impact Doc Rivers will have on the Clippers attitude and record (+5 wins) will win him the COY. Since Doc will give the Clippers actual respect as a contender around the league, he will be seen as a great candidate for COY. So there you have it, Coach of the Year Doc Rivers.
Creative Commons

2013-14 NBA Western Conference Standings Predictions

Western Conference
1. L.A. Clippers- The Clippers were, in my opinion, the winners of the off season after the Nets. They traded Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe for J.J. Reddick and Jared Dudley as well as trading a 2015 fist round draft pick for coach Doc Rivers. They signed Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, and Antawn Jamison while losing Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom, and Chauncey Billups. The biggest move they made was the re-signing of Chris Paul. They also re-signed Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins. They upgraded their team while Oklahoma City downgraded theirs. This puts them atop my 2013-14 Western Conference standings as I believe they have finally surpassed the Thunder's great prowess atop the West.
2. O.K.C.- The Thunder re-signed Derek Fisher, signed Ryan Gomes, and drafted Steven Adams with the twelfth pick. They also traded Kevin Martin (their replacement James Harden.) Russell Westbrook will be coming off an injury to his right meniscus and will likely need Kevin Durant to pick up his slack. Not only will Kevin Durant have to pick up for Westbrook's slack, but he'll have to fill the void left behind by Kevin Martin. 
3. San Antonio- The Spurs are coming off their first trip to the finals in six years. The Spurs lost Gary Neal as well as DeJuan Blair who had started to become a non-factor anyway. They signed Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph to replace the losses. Last year they had the second best record in the West just over the Nuggets and Clippers. This year they'll drop by 3 or 4 wins, but they'll still be a top team.
4. Golden State- The Warriors added Andre Iguodala over the summer which puts them into true contention for the title for the first time in... ever. They got Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson off the books and even though they lost Brandon Rush, Carl Landry, and Jarret Jack, they added Toney Douglas, Jermaine O'Neal, and Marreese Speights. 
5. Houston- Let me begin by saying that the Houston Rockets, even with the additions of Omri Casspi, Marcus Camby, Dwight Howard, and Ronnie Brewer as well as the re-acquisitions of Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks are still not, in my opinion, better than the Warriors, Clippers, Thunder, and the Spurs. They are certainly a good team on paper, but it may take a year or two before they're ready to compete with the big boys.
6. Memphis- The Grizzlies are headed in the right direction, but it seems like they can't get over the hump. Charles Barkley keeps predicting big things for them year after year, but what's the best they give us; a loss by sweep in the Western Conference Semifinals. Their biggest move was reacquiring franchise favorite Mike Miller. They also traded for Kosta Koufos. They will return to the playoffs and likely have an impact on the first round, possibly making it to the second, but that will be the extent of what they can make out of this year.
7. Denver- The Nuggets came off with two big-name contributors, but at what cost. They signed J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson, but they lost Andre Iguodala to the Warriors. They also acquired Darrell Arthur and Randy Foye. They lost Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer through a trade and free agency respectively. They are coming off their best season in franchise history, but they just lost the closest thing to an all-star that their team had.
8. Minnesota- This is the third straight year I've predicted the Timberwolves would make the playoffs, the second straight as the eighth seed. Last year, I truly believe the Timberwolves would have made the playoffs had they not been hindered by injuries. The 'Wolves were 9-9 with Kevin Love in the lineup and he only played while still being affected by injury. The 'Wolves traded for Kevin Martin and rookies Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. They also added free agents Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf. They lost Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour, Greg Stiemsma, Brandon Roy, and Malcolm Lee. The Timberwolves have the makings of a playoff basketball team: a great bench, a star player, and players who can ball when it counts.

9. L.A. Lakers- The biggest headline of the summer for the Lakers was the loss of Dwight Howard. The Lakers signed Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and ex-Laker Jordan Farmar. They lost Antawn Jamison Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, and Metta World Peace. Overall, I think the Lakers' chemistry will be better. Steve Nash will be able to mesh with the team while Kobe is out and once Kobe returns he will be better integrated with the team. With that being said, the Lakers are still not a playoff team. 
10. Dallas- That free agency splash the Mavericks have been looking for, well they finally got it. If you consider jumping in a small puddle a splash, that is. The Mavericks got significantly worse defensively in adding a frontcourt made up of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. They also added Samuel Dalembert, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, and Dejuan Blair. They lost O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois, Anthony Morrow and Jared Cunningham. 
11. Portland- Despite adding possible Rookie of the Year candidate C.J. McCollum as well as Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, and Thomas Robinson, the Blazers are not ready to be a playoff team. They need more growth from key young players like Damian Lillard and Thomas Robinson first.
12. New Orleans- The newly renamed Pelicans had quite the offseason, adding all-star Jrue Holiday, former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, defensive presence Greg Stiemsma, and 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow. They lost Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez and Louis Amundson. Even with these great additions, I don't see the Hornets as a top ten team in the West.
13. Utah- I happen to love what the Jazz are doing, they have collected an array of young talent in Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and Trey Burke; and with the exception of Hayward, they haven't received much playing time (Burke and Gobert are rookies.) They have trade chips in Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins whose contracts are up after this season. They have Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams who are both great players off the bench. They let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk, both mediocre defensive players. They also let Mo Williams go and traded Randy Foye. The Jazz have created an environment where their young studs can grow and develop into great players, it may take a few years, but the Jazz will be a force to be reckoned with.
14. Sacramento- The Kings drafted Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum with the seventh and thirty-sixth picks respectively. They traded inconsistent SF Tyreke Evans for steady PG Greivis Vasquez and signed free agents Carl Landry and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Toney Douglas left the team to join the Warriors. Even with the massive amount of talent they have, the Sacramento Kings have set the precedent that a team with great talent can be consistently horrible year after year.
15. Phoenix- The Suns, possibly the most boring team in the league right now, added Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, rookie Alex Len, and Malcolm Lee. They lost Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Jermaine O'Neal, Michael Beasley, and Wesley Johnson.

*Note: I only mention significant player additions and subtractions.
**Feel free to leave a comment!

2013-14 NBA Eastern Conference Standings Predictions

Eastern Conference
1. Miami- They are coming off their second straight championship and are once again the clear favorites to win the title, they amnestied Mike Miller, but they added frontcourt depth in Michael Beasley and Greg Oden.
2. Brooklyn- They now have one of the best starting lineups on paper with all-stars Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. This and newly added head coach Jason Kidd; a well respected on-court leader during his time in the N.B.A will surely make them a force not to be trifled with this season.
3. Indiana- They have managed to improve once again in adding prolific scorer Chris Copeland from the New York Knicks, talented back-up point guard C.J. Watson, and they have acquired once promising big-man Luis Scola in return for Gerald Green and rookie Mason Plumlee.
4. Chicago- Although they have managed to once again downgrade their bench, M.V.P. Derrick Rose will be returning and lead his team to the playoffs as a 50+ win team.
5. New York- It isn't really difficult to see that the addition of Andrea Bargnani wasn't the best idea for an already offensively minded/ defensively lacking team. Him, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Amar'e Stoudamire don't make for a great team. I predict the Knicks will suffer from poor chemistry this year.
6. Atlanta- They've added Paul Millsap and Elton Brand to fill in the void left behind by Josh Smith. They've also added talented big man Gustavo Ayon and rookie point guard Dennis Schroeder who has been compared to a young Rajon Rondo.
7. Cleveland- With number one pick Anthony Bennett, sixth-man candidate Jarrett Jack, and all-star center Andrew Bynum they are finally becoming relevant again. for the first time since Lebron James left in 2010. They have a very promising young core including Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and of course Bennett.
8. Detroit- Of course many motor city fans will be waiting in anticipation for this season to begin as this is the first time the Pistons have been in playoff talks in four years. They acquired trigger-happy point guard Brandon Jennings in exchange for Brandon Knight, they also added free agents Josh Smith and fan favorite Chauncey Billups as well as prolific 3-point shooting rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

9. Boston- It is difficult for me to come to grips with the likelihood that the Celtics will not make the playoffs this year. They traded the remaining members of the original big 3 as well as Jason Terry in return for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, and Keith Bogans. This will be a year of growth and hopefully the only year I have to watch my Celtics sit on the edge of glory (credit to Lady GaGa)
10. Toronto- With Rudy Gay playing they had a 17-16 record, this shows the future of things to come for the Raptors. They added Tyler Hansbrough, Austin Daye, and D.J. Augustine as well as trading away Andrea Bargnani for Marcus Camby and Steve Novak.
11. Washington- The reason I haven't placed the Wizards higher on the list is because of my worry about John Wall's ability as a leader. They have a promising veteran core in Emeka Okafor, Nenê, and Trevor Ariza as well as the third pick in the 2013 draft, Otto Porter. 
12. Milwaukee- The Bucks have gone through a complete transformation, they've added Gary Neal, O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, acquired Caron Butler, Brandon Knight, and Luke Ridnour in trades, and added Giannis Antetokounmpo in the draft. In doing this they lost Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, Brandon Jennings, J.J. Reddick, and Gustavo Ayon among others. 
13. Charlotte- With the addition of free agent C/PF Al Jefferson they will be able to overcome the "worst team in the East hump." He, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrest will make a "shmeh" lineup. Really, who cares? I guess this one is for you Bobcats fans.
14. Orlando- With the additions of Jason Maxiell, Quentin Richardson, and rookie SG Victor Oladipo, the Magic are still horrible. Even with that in mind, they have talented rebounding big Nikola Vucevic, young guys Tobias Harris, Aaron Aflalo, and veterans Glen Davis, Al Harrington, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Türkoglu. Sorry, the Magic still suck.
15. Philadelphia- Back to a more exiting team, they acquired the once debatably number one pick of the 2013 draft with Nerlens Noel for all-star point guard Jrue Holiday, although he may not be ready until Spring. They also drafted likely top ten rookie Michael Carter-Williams. Add technical rookie Royce White to the mix and you've got a team! 


*Note: I only mention significant player additions and subtractions.
**Feel free to leave a comment!