LeBron James

The Heat: A Few Days After

It has been a few days since the Heat completed their collapse and the Mavericks completed their first NBA Championship. I am not here to talk about that. I am not here to talk about LeBron’s post-game comments, nor the ring v bracelet debate, nor anything involved with all that. I know it is a novel idea, so do not pat me on the back too much, but I am here to talk basketball. That’s right, I am here to ponder what the Heat ought to do going into next year with the likely hard salary cap and doubts about how the big three fits together.

The first question is whether the big three is going to stay together. We all sort of realized going in that this was not the best big three that could be built (maybe Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony if we aren’t using the players involved) because Wade and LeBron did kind of the same thing and Chris Bosh was a good player who looked inflated by being the only player on the Raptors worth  noting. However, when they joined forced and Chris Bosh turned down the chance to retire as a Raptor and become the mascot, we all sort of tabled that fear because, hell, it was LeBron, Wade and Bosh on the same team. Months later, we are realizing that our initial doubts weren’t foolish or contrived, but at least had some kind of backing to them. So the question going into the offseason is if the big three needs changing. The answer is that it does not need changing, but they should look into it a little.

LeBron’s post game has been something that I, and others, have thought about a lot before this year, but now it seems like it is a necessity going into the offseason if the Heat are going to become the force we thought. He has never really had to play off the ball in his career, and so it is understandable that he hasn’t developed it, but it really would make him unstoppable-er. Regardless of if he adds this to his game or not, he is not going anywhere and is still the best player in the NBA by a fairly considerable margin. It is easy to pile on LeBron after the finals and forget how he eviscerated the Bulls and would have been the NVP had Rose not gone from fascinatingly talented to spectacular. He can get better, which is absolutely frightening, but he is not going to get moved or anything of the sort.

Dwyane Wade is Mr. Heat and I would be shocked to see him move after so many years in Miami. The “fans” would probably mutiny, and I could not blame them too much. However, from a basketball perspective, I wouldn’t blame them too much for moving him, especially if they were to find a way to make it for a certain player who also plays in Florida and occasionally wears a cape during the dunk contest. It would never happen, but are you telling me Orlando would turn down Wade for Howard? Does it not also make the Heat a more balanced team? Maybe I am missing a key component from a purely basketball standpoint, but if not for that fan mutiny in Miami, that trade is pretty interesting to me. However, it will never happen, especially with the Magic. If I were Pat Riley, I would let people make offers for Wade, but only if it was an absolutely fantastic offer. While he is an outstanding closer and one of the best players in the league he is a little redundant on this team right now.

Mean, but not inaccurate

Bosh is the member of the Heat trio most likely to leave, and while there will certainly be suitors, I do not think they can get value for him like they want. However, they might not have much of a choice given the potential hard cap and the unlikely scenario of someone wanting to take on Mike Miller for his current price and giving the Heat anything for him. If Bosh leaves, that means one big thing and one smaller thing for the Heat. The big thing is that LeBron would need that post game now rather than later. Bosh was never really a low-post scorer, but just the option of scoring in the paint without a dribble-drive would be nice for the Heat. The smaller issue would be getting full value for Bosh if he is moved. He is better than he is perceived to be right now and it could be hard to get the pieces you want for him, especially with his contract. I do not think he will get moved, but I wouldn’t be too shocked if he did as he is clearly the weakest of the trio.

So what gets changed? Almost nothing if you ask me. I would try to move Bosh for a defensive big man who is a good rebounder and a few other pieces if someone will offer it. I am in no way comparing Jordan to LeBron here because they hardly belong in the same sentence, but think of it as adding a less crazy Rodman to Wade and LeBron’s Jordan-Pippen. A Joakim Noah type would be fantastic, though they are never going to get a guy like that.  Even with the hard salary cap coming, I am not sure if they will be able to move Bosh even if they want to.

The role players will change themselves, and that is probably for the best. Less Mike Bibby and Juwan Howard is good for everyone. As long as they can find serviceable role players around the league, and there are a litany of them, they will be fine and should be considered favorites going into next year. It is easy to be reactionary and say “blow it up” but there are no rosters I would take over theirs right now. In a one-game situation, they probably have the best defense in the league, have the potential to have the most dynamic offense in the league if they can play together, and still should make any team’s coaching staff lose sleep. They failed when it mattered most but they are still fantastic players.

Are there changes they can make that will make them better? Absolutely, and not making those moves would be a disservice to the players and fans, but let’s not get crazy after a Finals disappointment. Once you get over your visceral reaction, if you can, to what a dick-move LeBron pulled on Cleveland, and get over everything involved with that, there are few teams who have the potential to play better basketball than the Heat. They can play the energetic, athletically jaw-dropping defense we crave, and the virtuoso offensive performances we all want to see. If the names on the jerseys were erased and the faces were blurred out, everyone who loves basketball, and only basketball, would love the Heat. Of course, you can’t erase the names, faces, or the emotions we all carry about the Heat, but from a purely basketball standpoint, you cannot help but be fascinated by this team. They are worthy of every ounce of your hate if you are from Cleveland or still hold “The Decision” against LeBron (and ESPN), but no matter what, there is an element of you that loves the way the Heat are capable of playing. It is what makes them such a compelling team to hate. Like the Joker in The Dark Knight, Tyler Durden in Fight Club  and others, the enemy is most compelling when we see something of ourselves or something we admire in them. The Heat really can, and occasionally do, play beautiful basketball. You can hate them if you want, but you cannot claim to really love basketball and not hold out some respect for them.

So they need to make some changes, but it likely will not be directly with their big three. The biggest changes that have to be made are within each of the players, especially LeBron who is the best player in the league as it is. Can he accept coaching? Can he look inward and realize what he has to change? Does he have the drive he needs to push himself without anyone else pushing him? I don’t have the slightest clue, but by the end of next year we will know if LeBronis the next Wilt, stacking up the stats on pure athletic superiority or a player worth admiring for his prodigious play regardless of athleticism like Bird and others.

Congrats to the Mavs. Here is everyone's favorite Mavs picture.

No matter what, two things are sure. One, the CBA could change everything I just wrote; and two, no single team gives us more to hate and like at the same time than the Miami Heat.

 

A few unrelated thoughts just to close us out:

  • I want Deron Williams to go to LA. To the Clippers.
  • Steve Nash should get a shot at a title next year, Unfortunately he will be with the Suns or Knicks, eliminating that possibility.
  • The Lakers are done as title contenders. So are the Celtics. So are the Spurs. All of this barring some big changes.
  • I like the Warriors next year if they can move Monta Ellis for a proper center and find a wing in the draft or elsewhere.
  • DeShawn has a tattoo of the $5 bill on his neck. He wore a shirt asking LeBron how his Dirk tastes. He jsut got arrested for public intoxication where he did not know where he was. He called the Heat classless after the finals. We need to rename the all-crazy team after him.
  • That was one of the better Finals I have seen in a long long time.

 

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NBA Opening Night Review and Reaction

By Chuck Araneta

After four L-O-N-G months of Lebron, Free Agency, Lockout fears, Lebron, World Championships, Lebron and so much more in between, we’re finally at the start of the NBA Season! It’s safe to say that this season is one of the most hotly anticipated ones, with so many teams raring to prove themselves as more than pretenders. We just concluded Opening Night in the NBA with three quality games on tap for us to peruse, starting with the Miami Heat taking on the Boston Celtics. If we’re gonna start this thing, it’s best to go hard!

 

Lebron and the Heat couldn't quite catch the Cs

 

Boston beats Miami 88-80

Nope, the world didn’t implode; Lebron and co. didn’t spank the C’s by 50 points. If anything, this opening game showed how much work they still have to put in to be even considered in the same breath as Orlando and Boston. The Celtics played solidly all throughout, with Rajon Rondo planting himself as the go-to leader on the floor for his Celtics. In the first quarter he orchestrated the Celtics attack like a maestro, setting up Shaq for two monster dunks, Ray Allen for Sweet Js and Paul Pierce for his dynamic scoring. It’s safe to say that Rondo is the puppet master for the Celtics, and they are definitely in good hands. And while Miami is now 0-1, this definitely won’t last. They’re too talented and too powerful not to put things together. And when all else fails, they can just get the ball to Lebron and follow his lead. Wade’s gotta get his mind in the game though.

Portland rallies against Phoenix 106-92

It’s going to be a tough season for Phoenix. Heck, even Steve Nash admitted as much in a recent interview. But this team has shades of that overachieving 2006 season when they lost Amare to injuries, and would gut out wins by playing together and sniping from outside. So their first game against the Portland Trailblazers was a test of how cohesive they would be without a single inside presence to dump the ball into. It worked for 3 quarters, but the offense sputtered when Portland decided to small-ball against the Suns, inserting Nicolas Batum at the 4th. And from there, Portland gave them a taste of their own medicine, hitting trey after trey to rally and grab the victory. How good did Batum look? While Brandon Roy is unquestionably their best player, he may be catching up to LaMarcus Aldridge in the hierarchy for the Blazers. And he’s making me regret passing on him in my fantasy drafts! Phoenix will battle, but that may not be enough.

Lakers come from behind and take out Houston, 112-110

 

Sparkplugs

 

 

All off-season, Lakers faithful were talking how great Steve Blake would be for the bench of LA. I didn’t see it, and thought he would just be a nice piece to have but would wilt under the bright LA lights. Well for one game, I was completely wrong. Teaming up with Shannon Brown (really?!?!), LA stole this one from the Rockets with some timely shooting from outside, on championship ring night. Nice way for the Lakers to grab the victory even while sleepwalking through the first three quarters. Just goes to show how much talent the defending back to back champions have. Houston also showed how talented they are, now that they have Yao back to man the middle. At least for 24 minutes. Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks will be a headache of a backcourt (for the opposition as well as Rick Adelman given their poor defense), and Luis Scola continues to be awesome. If the Rockets can learn how to finish games strongly, they may make some noise in the Playoffs.

So that concludes Opening Night in the NBA. Tonight is gonna be awesome with so many great games lined up.

Can’t wait to get things poppin’!

2010-11 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

Miami Heat (47-35 last season)

Miami is still Wade's town.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Carlos Arroyo

Shooting Guard: Dwayne Wade

Small Forward: LeBron James

Power Forward: Chris Bosh

Center: Joel Anthony

Key Reserves:

Guard: Mario Chalmers

Forward: Mike Miller

Forward: Udonis Haslem

I’m sick of having to play the injury card, but it really is that important to a team.  The big three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh must stay healthy for the Heat to win, but three players cannot win a championship.  The role players (Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem) must step in and deliver if this team wants to win an NBA championship.  The most important thing for the big three to control is their egos though.  Does anyone care about the last shot?  Or how many touches?  Or who averages the most points?   Time will tell if they coexist.  Regardless, they are strong enough to win their division.

Orlando Magic (59-23 last season)

Arguably one of college basketball's greatest players, Reddick will make huge strides this season.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jameer Nelson

Shooting Guard: Vince Carter

Small Forward: Mickael Pietrus

Power Forward: Rashard Lewis

Center: Dwight Howard

Key Reserves:

Guard: J.J. Reddick

Guard-Forward: Quentin Richardson

Forward-Center: Marcin Gortat

Get ready Magic fans, because Dwight Howard is coming off a summer spent with free throw shooting and Hakeem Olajuwon.  Will Dwight finally have a couple moves up his sleeves other than the occasional baby hook at times?  We’ll have to see if this possible MVP candidate can up his game.  The main focal point around this team is at shooting guard though.  Vince Carter is either going to cash in and have another solid season, or check out and become that veteran off the bench.  J.J. Reddick is slowly starting to get ushered in for the appropriate time to fill the starting shoes.  He is on the cusp of taking that next step and this could be the year.

Atlanta Hawks (53-29 last season)

With Mike Woodson gone, Josh Smith can breathe a sigh of relief. NO MORE YELLING!

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Mike Bibby

Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson

Small Forward: Marvin Williams

Power Forward: Josh Smith

Center: Al Horford

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jeff Teague

Guard: Jamal Crawford

Center: Zaza Pachulia

I really like this team and they are still very young especially if Jeff Teague takes the starting job away from Mike Bibby.  Bibby was very inconsistent last season and the most unproductive starter.  Teague definitely has the skills to start with a solid shot and a superb passing ability.  Joe Johnson got paid big time so hopefully he doesn’t go on cruise control until the playoffs because he is the glue to their offense.  If the Hawks want to go far in the playoffs, they need to pray they don’t meet Orlando.  Dwight Howard always has field days against Atlanta because they have no one to stop him.

Washington Wizards (26-56 last season)

Agent Zero no more, now number 9.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: John Wall

Shooting Guard: Gilbert Arenas

Small Forward: Al Thornton

Power Forward: Andray Blatche

Center: Javale McGee

Key Reserves:

Guard: Kirk Hinrich

Forward: Josh Howard

Center: Yi Jianlian

This will be one of the most exciting teams to watch this year.  With John Wall and Gilbert Arenas in the backcourt, who knows what jaw-dropping things can be done.  Arenas must stay healthy though (again with the health, it really is important).  Andray Blatche is also going to love having Wall pass him the ball.  Blatche is going to put up the numbers that he did after the All-Star break last season (20+ ppg).  Javale McGee has a ton of potential to be a very good center.  He is just starting to grow into his body, and his lankiness will cause a lot of blocks and altered shots in the key.  The Wizards have a definite shot at a playoff berth, but I think they are a year or two away.

Charlotte Bobcats (44-38 last season)

The league's best shot-blocker and rebounder, pound for pound.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: D.J. Augustin

Shooting Guard: Stephen Jackson

Small Forward: Gerald Wallace

Power Forward: Boris Diaw

Center: Nazr Mohammed

Key Reserves:

Guard: Gerald Henderson

Forward: Tyrus Thomas

Forward: Derrick Brown

The Bobcats are still a good team, I just feel that this division is stacked and they will be at the bottom of it.  I believe the loss of Raymond Felton will have a huge toll on the offense.  He doesn’t get the credit he should deserve and D.J. Augustin won’t be that problem solver.  Stephen Jackson is also at that point on a team where the honeymoon could be over.  He never seems to last long on teams because of his fiery and aggressive attitude.  With Jackson and Gerald Wallace this team still has a shot to be a very good defensive unit.  Look for Tyrus Thomas to also chip in both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.  As for the playoffs for the Bobcats…not happening.

2010-11 NBA Preview: Central Division

Chicago Bulls (41-41 last season)

Most liked in Chicago since Michael Jordan?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Derrick Rose

Shooting Guard: Ronnie Brewer

Small Forward: Luol Deng

Power Forward: Carlos Boozer

Center: Joakim Noah

Key Reserves:

Guard-Forward: Kyle Korver

Guard-Forward: Keith Bogans

Forward: Taj Gibson

Derrick Rose is the man!  1st season: Rookie of the Year.  2nd season: All-Star.  3rd season?  It’s anyone’s guess to how good Rose can be.  Speculation is that a three point shot is in the works for him as well.  I’m excited to see the leadership he will bring to this Bulls’ offense.  Taj Gibson is also going to have to play well for the first couple of months as Carlos Boozer recovers from his broken hand.  The last interesting point I have for this team is who will end up taking the shooting guard position.  Ronnie Brewer is good all-around and Kyle Korver has the shooting stroke, but can either make the spot his own?  Regardless, Bulls win their division.

Milwaukee Bucks (46-36 last season)

A new lefty has risen in Milwaukee, sorry Michael Redd.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Brandon Jennings

Shooting Guard: John Salmons

Small Forward: Corey Maggette

Power Forward: Drew Gooden

Center: Andrew Bogut

Key Reserves:

Guard: Keyon Dooling

Guard-Forward: Chris Douglas-Roberts

Forward: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

The toughest part for this team will be buying into a rotation that will gel on the court.  The Bucks are really deep and this is among one of the better problems one could talk about.  The key for this squad to excel is Andrew Bogut.  If he can come back strong from the injury he endured last season, I believe the Bucks have a legitimate shot at the second round.  Also, the continued development of Brandon Jennings will sure be fun to watch.  This kid is still very raw and still has a broken shot, but he is only going to improve and become a top point guard in the league.

Indiana Pacers (32-50 last season)

Thanks to the CP3 injury, Collison has a starting job.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Darren Collison

Shooting Guard: Mike Dunleavy

Small Forward: Danny Granger

Power Forward: Tyler Hansbrough

Center: Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves:

Guard: T.J. Ford

Forward: Paul George

Center: Jeff Foster

This team is my sleeper for the year.  Everyone has them finishing 4th or 5th in the division, but I feel that if they can stay healthy and Danny Granger plays like he did in last season, except for 82 games, and Darren Collison also plays like last season, they have a shot at the 8th seed.  Call me insane, but this is my crazy pick for the year.  Also be on the alert for Roy Hibbert to have a breakout year.  He could possibly be a good candidate for the Most Improved Player award.

Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21 last season)

From LeBron James to Jamario Moon. Good luck Cleveland.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Mo Williams

Shooting Guard: Daniel Gibson

Small Forward: Jamario Moon

Power Forward: Antawn Jamison

Center: Anderson Varejao

Key Reserves:

Guard: Anthony Parker

Forward: J.J. Hickson

Forward: Leon Powe

A natural disaster struck Cleveland and it was the loss of LeBron James.  A miracle needs to happen for this team to make the playoffs.  Yeah, they have Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao, but without LeBron they are nothing.  Almost 30 points per game is lost and there isn’t anyone good enough to fill that spot.  I’m sorry Cleveland, but get ready for a rough year.

Detroit Pistons (27-55 last season)

Please prove me wrong, because I loved you, T-Mac!

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Rodney Stuckey

Shooting Guard: Richard Hamilton

Small Forward: Tayshaun Prince

Power Forward: Charlie Villanueva

Center: Ben Wallace

Key Reserves:

Guard: Will Bynum

Guard: Ben Gordon

Forward: Austin Daye

I have no faith in this team.  Something about them just doesn’t rub me the right way.  Charlie Villanueva had an abysmal debut year in Detroit and injuries plagued them all year long and into this preseason.  Ben Wallace is nowhere near to where he used to be as a player back in the glory days of the Pistons, and Rodney Stuckey does not have the playmaking ability to lead this team.  Maybe they won’t finish last in the division, but they sure aren’t making the playoffs for a while with the transactions they are making. Cough, Tracy McGrady, Cough. Washed up!

 

2010-11 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics (50-32 last season)

Don't let their age fool you, they still have what it takes.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen

Small Forward: Paul Pierce

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

Center: Jermaine O’Neal

Key Reserves:

Guard: Delonte West

Forward: Glen Davis

Center: Shaquille O’Neal

The Celtics are coming off a great year in which they made it to the finals and lost in Game 7.  They were a surprise to everyone in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed while most people thought the Cavaliers or Magic would make it. The key for the Celtics is to stay healthy.  Five players are 32 years of age or older (Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and both O’Neals) and limiting minutes will have to be in the works for Doc Rivers.  The second unit will also have to be fired up most nights because they are a very important part to the success of the team.  If the Celtics want to make another run at the championship, the entire squad must be healthy and whole in April.

New York Knicks (29-53 last season)

Amar'e is "The Man", but Felton could be the key to the offensive.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Raymond Felton

Shooting Guard: Wilson Chandler

Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari

Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire

Center: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves:

Guard: Roger Mason Jr.

Guard-Forward: Kelenna Azubuike

Forward: Anthony Randolph

Ok, so no Lebron James for the Knicks, but they did acquire Amar’e Stoudemire who will have to carry this team on his back.  Look for Stoudemire to put up better numbers than he did in Phoenix.  Some people think he won’t play better because Steve Nash is what made him good, but I don’t believe that at all.  Another key addition is spark plug, Raymond Felton.  Felton knows how to win basketball games and will be an improvement from Chris Duhon.  Things are looking up for the Knicks and if Amar’e can stay healthy and his knees don’t give out on him, I believe the Knicks will make the playoffs.

New Jersey Nets (12-70 last season)

Harris and Lopez could be that one, two punch that lead the Nets to victory.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Devin Harris

Shooting Guard: Anthony Morrow

Small Forward: Travis Outlaw

Power Forward: Troy Murphy

Center: Brook Lopez

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jordan Farmar

Guard-Forward: Terrence Williams

Forward: Derrick Favors

Avery Johnson is looking to turn things around for this young New Jersey team.  They aren’t going to blow you away with their offense, so defense must show up for them to win games.  Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are the most important players on the team and having them healthy all season will sway this group into a possible playoff berth.  The Nets will need an incredible season to reach the playoffs but anything can happen.  Give them another couple years, let Derrick Favors get some seasons under his belt and be ready for a powerful Nets team in the future.

Philadelphia 76ers (27-55 last season)

A star in college now has to learn to take a supporting role.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jrue Holiday

Shooting Guard: Andre Igoudala

Small Forward: Thaddeus Young

Power Forward: Elton Brand

Center: Spencer Hawes

Key Reserves:

Guard: Evan Turner

Guard: Louis Williams

Forward: Andres Nocioni

The first thing that comes to mind when I look at this starting five is that there isn’t a solidified shooter.  Andre Igoudala is probably their best shooter and he isn’t very reliable from outside.  Either Jason Kapono or Jodie Meeks will need to earn a spot in the rotation and provide for them what Kyle Korver used to.  This is a fairly young team and the faster Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner develop their offensive games, the better the Sixers will be.  Elton Brand is a team chemistry destroyer, and this is why I do not see the 76ers having a great season.

Toronto Raptors (40-42 last season)

Can Bargnani show the fans of Toronto why they drafted him number one?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jarrett Jack

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozen

Small Forward: Linas Kleiza

Power Forward: Reggie Evans

Center: Andrea Bargnani

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jose Calderon

Guard: Leandro Barbosa

Forward: Amir Johnson

The Raptors had a terrible offseason losing Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Bosh.  Their whole team is mixed up and they will most likely be one of the worst teams in the league.  The only positive feeling I can say about this team is that things can only go up after the season starts.  One of their young players will certainly need to step forward with a larger role.  I see that player to be Andrea Bargnani.  He was a number one overall pick and has a really good skill set.  Also look for the Raptors to possibly pick up a star closer towards the trade deadline thanks to their Bosh trade exception.  

2010-11 NBA Preview-Overview

The NBA season is less than a week away and many are getting excited for what should be a fantastic thrill ride.  I will be posting division previews sporadicly during the course of this week and into the weekend.  Stay tuned for analysis on your favorite team, but for now, here is a division breakdown with projected records and the four important awards handed out at the end of the year.

Eastern Conference

Can New York make the playoffs thanks to Amar'e?

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics (51-31)

New York Knicks (36-46)

New Jersey Nets (32-50)

Philadelphia 76ers (29-53)

Toronto Raptors (25-57)

Central Division

How will the Cavs fare without LeBron?

Chicago Bulls (50-32)

Milwaukee Bucks (47-35)

Indiana Pacers (32-50)

Cleveland Cavaliers (30-52)

Detroit Pistons (29-53)

Southeast Division

Wall and Arenas will be a fun duo to watch!

Miami Heat (61-21)

Orlando Magic (54-28)

Atlanta Hawks (46-36)

Washington Wizards (37-45)

Charlotte Bobcats (36-46)

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder (52-30)

Portland Trail Blazers (51-31)

MVP! MVP! MVP!

Utah Jazz (47-35)

Denver Nuggets (41-41)

Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60)

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers (59-23)

Phoenix Suns (46-36)

Los Angeles Clippers (36-46)

Sacramento Kings (30-52)

Golden State Warriors (28-54)

 

Southwest Division

How many games will Yao play in?

Dallas Mavericks (51-31)

Houston Rockets (47-35)

San Antonio Spurs (45-37)

Memphis Grizzlies (41-41)

New Orleans Hornets (37-45)

 

My pick for the NBA Finals is Lakers over Heat in a seven game series.  Here are the awards for the end of the season.

MVP: Kevin Durant

Most Improved Player: Hedo Turkoglu

6th Man: Jamal Crawford

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard

Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin

Top 10 Poster-ers

By: Zach Silvernial (OTC Contributor)

The OuttaTownClowns would like to welcome Zach Silvernail to the blog, we’re happy to announce he’s the newest edition to our growing blog. Zach will primarily focus on contributing to our NCAA Basketball and NBA content on the page. Along with his well-written work, Zach has a great knowledge and high level understanding of the game at both the collegiate and pro levels of play. But don’t take us from us, follow his work on our blog and you’ll see for yourself. Without further ado, I bring you Zach’s debut post on the OTC…Enjoy!

There is nothing more exciting, and often times amusing, than watching a guy get dunked on. With so many incredible athletes now in the NBA, it’s something that seems to happen almost every game. Nothing gets a crowd going, a bench going, and most importantly a player going like taking off full speed, going body to body, and putting his you-know-what in an opponent’s face. If you’re not too familiar with the term “getting postered”, ask Shawn Bradley to describe it to you. I’m almost positive that’s what his role was throughout his stint in the NBA. Or ask guys like Stromile SwiftJames White, or Gerald Green…who only got to the NBA because of their high flying ability. But, before you escape to YouTube, allow me to present the list:

The Kobe Bryant Mini-Fro Days....

10. Kobe Bryant
I know, I know. He’s getting older now, and does a lot less high flying than he did during his mini-fro days, but he is still one of the more explosive and acrobatic players in the league. Don’t think so? Dare you to tell him otherwise.

9. Derrick Rose
Talk about a FREAK athlete. Rose is one of the most, if not the most explosive two-foot jumpers in the NBA. He might not belong in the top 10 based on his quantity of posters, but certainly for his quality and capability. Goran, what were you thinking?

One of the best dunks in All-Star Weekend's history

8. Andre Iguodala
Following in the footsteps of former Wildcat high-flyer Richard Jefferson, “Iggy” comes in at number 8. With deceptively long arms, incredible athleticism, and an underrated array of dunks (as illustrated in his dunk contest appearances)…Andre had to make the list.

7. Russell Westbrook
This guy might be my favorite one on the list. He became known for his ability as a youngster at UCLA, and has continued to humble opponents in the NBA. One of the top five quickest and fastest players in the league, he is beyond dangerous in the open floor.

6. Rudy Gay
Now the ranking becomes a little bit more difficult. It’s hard to put Rudy as low as number 6, but he has about 84 million reasons to make himself feel better. Almost impossible to stop above the rim because of his length, and probably best known for his always fully extended, and picture perfect windmill.

"Mr. Tolliver, will you sign my poster?"

5. Amar’e Stoudemire
Amare is certainly one of the most ferocious and powerful dunkers on the list. He may not always have the most “spectacular” posters, but he seems to have about a million every year. His number of dunks might go down without “Stevie” to thread the needle this year, but he’ll still manage to embarrass a few opponents and their families. Somewhere Anthony Tolliver is tweeting: “SMH”.

4. Dwayne Wade
Alright, now it’s almost impossible. Having to put maybe my favorite player at 4 was not easy, but the top 3 are too good. “DW3” is as relentless as anyone when it comes to taking the ball to the rack, and epitomizes the clique: “attacking the rim with reckless abandon”. Just ask Anderson Varejao.

3. Josh Smith
“J-Smoov” needs no introduction. Only fitting that he would play for the Hawks. Probably the only guy capable of filling out all Top 10 plays on SportsCenter in one night. He’ll pin you at one end and then catch a lob on the other. Always fun to watch.

2. Dwight Howard
Superman comes in at number 2 strictly because it happens so often. Had the list been called Most Likely To Dunk on You…Dwight would probably be number 1. Not only one of the most incredible athletes currently in the NBA, but of all time.

Back When D-Wade Was "A Witness", No Wonder He Wanted To Unite

1. LeBron James
Are you surprised? Possesses every possible attribute of a good poster-er. Size, speed, strength, quickness, jumping ability. You name it, he’s got it. Well, except for a ring.

Well, that concludes my list. But, before I go, just want to give a shout-out to the All Underrated Poster Squad: Will Bynum, Ronnie Price, Von Wafer, Shannon Brown, Dahntay Jones, Chase Budinger, Rodney Carney, Trevor Ariza.

Follow Zach on Twitter: @love4thegame3


Durant vs Wade: The Best Out of College

By: Ross Geiger

Kevin Durant or Dwyane Wade?

Who's Better?

When it comes to who’s the best basketball player in the world the conversation is filed down to NBA superstars in Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. While much of that debate may have been answered this past offseason, another controversial debate arises and remains unanswered: Who’s the best player in the NBA that went to college?

In past years, it was a no-brainer; Dwyane Wade out of Marquette University was clearly the league’s best player that played at the college ranks. But just in a matter of a couple year, another player has earned the right to be considered alongside D-Wade, his name: Kevin Durant.

The Oklahoma City Thunder star swingman out of Texas has continued to improve and impress year in and year out since joining the league in 2007. Drafted 2nd overall by the Seattle Supersonics, Durant, from the jump, was an underrated young talent as the Portland Trail Blazers decided upon selecting Greg Oden over Durant in a very hyped up debacle of which would make the better #1 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft.

This Question Has Been Resolved

Since then, Durant has turned that debate into a comical joke as he’s clearly proven he was the better of the two draft top picks. Whether you want to consider it fairly or unfairly, due to Oden’s injury, Durant took home the 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. But I’m willing to bet that Oden wouldn’t of even came close to posting comparable rookie numbers to those of Durant’s 20.3 pgg, 4.4 rpg, and 2.4 apg nightly.

In his following sophomore season, Durant built upon those numbers and his status as one of the league’s top young guns was confirmed. During the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix, Durant showed the NBA World what the league could expect in the near future. In the Rookie-Sophomore Game, Durant carried his sophomore team to victory by breaking the scoring record with 46 points. Coincidentally the old mark was held by Phoenix’s own (at the time) Amar’e Stoudemire, when he put up 36 points for the sophomore team in 2004. The very next day, Durant participated in the NBA’s first H-O-R-S-E contest and Durant took home the crown for that as well, taking down Hawks guard Joe Johnson and Grizzlies rookie O.J. Mayo. This all came during a year in which the Seattle Supersonics were relocated from Seattle to Oklahoma City where they became the Thunder. All-Star Weekend was a great time for the Thunder’s young leader to put his team as well as his name on the map. Durant finished his second season in the league improving upon nearly each and every statistical category and percentages (except BPG & FT%), averaging 25.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 2.8 apg.

Showing rapid improvements upon entering the league, nobody had the slightest idea what to expect from Kevin Durant as he entered his third year in the NBA this past season. Once again, Durant, nicknamed “The Durantula”, didn’t disappoint. He earned tons of accolades including becoming an NBA All-Star for the first time, winning his second straight H-O-R-S-E competition, and even coaching the rookies in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. But none of those achievements are as historical as his last as he took home the NBA’s scoring title averaging 30.1 points per game, becoming the youngest in league history to win the scoring title at only 21 years of age. He broke LeBron James’s record becoming the youngest and on his way to doing that he also broke Allen Iverson’s record number of games scoring at least 25 points.

But maybe the most impressive achievement of all was Durant’s leadership. He led his team to a very unexpected playoff berth with the Thunder finishing their season with 50 wins, which earned him the last and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Winning 50 games was a 27 game improvement for the Thunder, making their season the sixth biggest turnaround in NBA history. In the playoffs, Durant’s team held their own agains the defending NBA World Champion Los Angeles Lakers stretching the series to a tough 6 games before losing 4-2 on a buzzer-beating tip in by Pau Gasol. At the end of the year, Durant finished second in the MVP voting behind LeBron James and was honored with a spot on the 2010 All-NBA First Team, that included LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and yup, you guessed it, Dwyane Wade….

Wade and Durant are the only two superstars among the top names on the 2010 All-NBA First Team list that went to college. Wade’s popularity is slowly becoming rivaled with Durant’s as both should be mentioned in the same sentence together. Among Wade’s notable achievements, he was awarded Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2006, has had the top selling jersey in the NBA for nearly two years to go with his NBA Championship and Finals MVP.

Much like Durant’s incredible third season in the league, D-Wade also shined bright during his third year. Wade helped carry the Miami Heat, along with Shaquille O’Neal, to the Heat’s first NBA Championship in franchise history. At the conclusion of the 2006 NBA Finals, Wade also took home the 2006 NBA Finals MVP. Just for good measure, Wade led the league in scoring in 2008-2009.

Of the five superstars named to last season’s 2010 All-NBA First Team, Durant was the only player that was not a member of Team USA’s Gold Medal team.  The only reason for that was age and inexperience. Durant is now the captain of the Team USA basketball and is well on his way of matching many of the accomplishments Wade’s already earned.

While Dwyane Wade’s NBA career may have 4 more years of experience and accomplishments under his belt, does Kevin Durant have a shot at being named the best NBA player that went to college as soon as this upcoming season?

Let Us Know What You Think!

Wade:

28 Years Old

College: Marquette University

Drafted 5th Overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat

Has been a member of the Heat his entire career

2006 NBA Champion & 2006 NBA Finals MVP

6-Time NBA All-Star

NBA Scoring Champion (2009)

2-Time All-NBA First Team

2-Time All-NBA Second Team

1-Time All-NBA Third Team

3-Time All-Defensive Second Team

2004 NBA All-Rookie First Team

2010 NBA All-Star MVP

2-Time Skills Challenge Champion

2006 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

Kevin Durant:

21 Years Old

Drafted 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics

Has been a member of the Supersonics/Thunder his entire career

1-Time NBA All-Star

NBA Scoring Champion (2010)

All-NBA First Team

2-Time H-O-R-S-E Competition Winner

2008 NBA Rookie of the Year

NBA All-Rookie First Team

VOTE!

OTC Spotlight: Trey Johnson

By: Ross Geiger

Here at the OTC, we very much understand what it feels like to be an unfamiliar name to many bloggers and while we continue to work towards making a name for ourselves; it’s always nice to return the favor. The “OTC Spotlight” will be a new addition to our weekly posts in which we here at the OTC pick an unfamiliar athlete that’s caught our attention somehow/someway and show them some love!

Ladies and Gentlemen: It’s an honor to announce our first ever OTC Spotlight goes to Trey Johnson.

It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that Trey Johnson decided to pick up a basketball and take it seriously. But by the time he was his college ball at Jackson State University, Johnson held the second highest points per game average in the nation.

On top of his impressive scoring outputs on the hardwood, Johnson was also a outstanding talent on the baseball field. The Kansas City Royals upon graduating from high school drafted him but after an unfortunate injury, he decided to set his dreams on the basketball court. In high school, Johnson was quite the talent in both sports, but he wasn’t his school’s only impressive athlete. Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard Mo Williams also played both baseball and basketball at Johnson’s high school and they remain close friends to this very day.

Johnson playing with the Hornets

While Mo Williams has clearly found more success in the NBA, Johnson continues to work toward his goal of becoming a legitimate NBA type talent. At the age of 25, Johnson has been fortunate to have received some NBA exposure over the course of the past couple years. In 2007, he played NBA preseason ball as a member of the New Orleans Hornets in which he averaged 4 points and 1.8 assists in just an average of 13.8 minutes per game. Though he didn’t end up making the Hornets’ final roster it landed him the opportunity to play overseas in Serbia with a team named KK Hemofarm.

After a short stint in Serbia, Johnson returned to the states signing a contract with the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam in 2008. In his first full season with the Jam, Johnson put up impressive numbers. He started in all 39 games he played in, putting up averages of 20.7 ppg, 4.5 apg, to go along with 3.8 rpg.

The following year, still as a member of the Bakersfield Jam, Johnson’s game began to become noticed and on February 2, 2009, Johnson would get the NBA call-up he was waiting for. The Cleveland Cavaliers had signed him to a 10-day contract in which he’d be reunited with his former high school teammate and friend Mo Williams. As a member of the Cavaliers, Johnson took a jersey number one higher than that of LeBron James, wearing #24. Nearing the end of his 10-day contract with the Cavs, Johnson scored his first official NBA game points and first as a Cavalier on February 11, 2009. Johnson ended that Febuary 11th game with 4 points logging 9 minutes of floor time.

For the rest of the 2009-2010 season, Johnson continued his professional career with the Jam playing in 13 games. While some of his percentages took a tumble, he’s averages improved to 21.3 ppg, 7.1 apg, and 3.4 rpg.

At 6’5, 218 pounds, Johnson has the unique ability to be an effective combo-guard. What really makes him special is his ability to distribute the basketball on top of carrying the scoring load. After getting my first glimpse of Johnson in NBA Summer League this year in Las Vegas, playing with the Los Angeles Clippers, I was very impressed with his overall game play. Johnson will continue to be a borderline NBA talent and will definitely get another opportunity to show what he can do during the 2010-2011 season. It’s just a matter of time before Johnson is given another 10-day contract to show what he can do to help an NBA franchise. We at the OTC, recognize Johnson’s talents, and wish him the best of luck in all his basketball endeavors!

Trey Johnson is in The OTC Spotlight!

Planet Orange Shining Bright With New Acquisitions

By: James Sargent

Last season was quite a success for the Phoenix Suns as they reached the Western Conference Finals when every NBA source  had them making the playoffs as a 6-8 seed and not going further than the first round.  Now, I am here to tell you that the Phoenix Suns can exceed last season and possibly knock off the Lakers.  The loss of Amare Stoudemire, in my opinion, will be quite a hurdle to overcome, but the players that were added will make the Suns a better team.

Amare is gone, like Lebron, but at least he said thank you.

Amare Stoudemire is a great player and I loved watching him mature in his tenure with the Suns, but he had a couple of flaws he brought to the team.

One, he has injury issues that have to always be in the back of your mind.  I understand he came back successfully from micro-fracture knee surgery and major eye surgery, but at any time he could go down due to the effects from these injuries or new ones that could arise.  Major injuries can have lingering effects and pop up at any time when you least except it.  Heck, at any point, Steve Nash’s career could be over with one unlucky back injury.  Injury-ridden players are always something you have to watch out for.

Two, his rebounding is very questionable.  You never know when he is going to show up and grab 12 boards or five boards in a game.  His lack of enthusiasm and hustle are also big reasons to when he decides to play his hardest.   Last season in the playoffs, he averaged 6.6 rebounds.  C’mon, man!  You are a 6’10” power forward and one of the most athletic players in the NBA!  There is no reason you shouldn’t be pulling down nine or less rebounds a game.

Three, and this is similar to the one above, his defense is very poor.  Again, he is athletic enough to be a defensive presence, but he doesn’t always give it his all in every game.  Every once in a while he will have a good defensive game and record a couple blocks, but most of the time he is terrible.  Maybe New York will bring out the best of Amare.

Now we get to move on to the additions that the Suns made.  Several days after LeBron James shocked the basketball world with his decision to join the Miami Heat alongside Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, the Suns made a quiet but interesting move by signing the lanky yet versatile forward Hakim Warrick.  Then, a few days after that, the Suns landed Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglu in separate deals.

I believe the last afro the Suns had was young Shawn Marion's.

The only price the Suns pay for these acquisitions is the loss of guard, Leandro Barbosa, who was sent to Toronto for Turkoglu.  I am happy Barbosa is gone.  He was starting to lose his off-the-bench heroics and he took way too many shots.  He had some great seasons for Phoenix, but after the injury he suffered last year, he just did not come back the same.

Josh Childress is a great pickup for the team.  He provides stability in the small forward spot, which is currently occupied by the aging Grant Hill.  Childress, who spent his last two seasons playing overseas for the Olympiacos in Greece, will also help tremendously on defense.  He can lessen the burdens of Jason Richardson in guarding the tough opposing guards in the league such as the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Dwayne Wade.  Childress ultimately will bring to the team what Shawn Marion brought in his days here, just not as frequent.  Childress is a poor man’s Shawn Marion and I am going to stick by that comment until I am proven wrong.

Hedo Turkoglu, on the other hand, is set to face enormous amounts of pressure as he takes over the slot vacated by Amare.  The Turkish sensation, who had a dismal season with the Toronto Raptors, will give the Suns more firepower and provide clutch plays for the team.  He will also lessen the load of Steve Nash because he is a very good ball handler and great court vision.  His only downside is his suspect defense.  He will have to guard the more powerful and stronger power forwards and this could pose problems.

With this being said, I believe the Suns will be a much more talented team.  The starting lineup will include Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu and Robin Lopez.  The bench, or “Second Unit”, will feature Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye.  The Suns could even go as deep as playing Earl Clark or rookie Gani Lawal if they make great improvements.  Anyways, I am very excited for this team next season, and the loss of Amare could turn out just fine.

The verdict: The Suns will exceed expectations once again and make it to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year.  Can the new look Suns test the Lakers in a seven game series?  Next year we will find out.