This is one of my favourite times of the year. The NBA season is here. You’ve drafted players into your own world beating fantasy squad. Players have been chopped, changed and drafted all over the league. And it is also the perfect time to make predictions about the NBA season. My personal belief is that if your predictions are said loudly, told to many people and said with a great deal of overconfidence that they just might come true. Here are my Top 5. Believe it or Not.
Tag: Lebron James
Kevin Love will opt out of his current deal and head to Cleveland, in a deal said to be agreed upon by the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves early this morning.
According to multiple sources, the 25 year old Wolves All Star is finally getting his wish, and will be traded to the already stacked Cleveland Cavaliers after the August 23 rookie contract deadline. The block buster trade will see Love head to Northeast Ohio while 2014 number one pick Andrew Wiggins and 2013 number on pick Anthony Bennett will take their talents to Minnesota, along with a protected future first round pick.
LeBron James, who had preached patience and leadership with his young Cavs team just last month, is evidently far removed from his initial outlook, and very much dedicated to the Cavs competing for a title this coming season. In a report earlier this week, we learned that James had instigated no contact with his young rookies, including Andrew Wiggins, and was fully invested in the pursuit of Kevin Love.
Patience and leadership be damned.
Kevin Love has spent much of his career trying to lead an underwhelming Wolves team into the playoffs, but despite his best efforts, has never been able to drag them into the post season. His inclusion alongside James, point guard Kyrie Irving, shooting guard Dion Waiters and center Anderson Varejao will most certainly turn heads next season, with the Cavs the far and away favorites to take out the East in 2015.
But while this is a super team in every aspect of the phrase, there are many questions to be answered. Love and Irving have both succumbed to injury clouds throughout their careers, while defense isn’t a strong point either. Will these factors become an issue for the Cavs? Coupled with serious depth issues at multiple spots, and the inevitable question of chemistry, there is every chance this team won’t produce to the extent many expect.
LeBron James is again sitting atop the pile in terms of favoritism, and the Cavs have completed an NBA summer heist of mammoth proportions, but one does begin to question the validity of his true metal. We really have never seen LeBron stick it out through the hard times, and drag a team out of mediocrity to the top before. I for one, would have loved to see that from him in Miami – Or to a further extent, Cleveland in 2010. But here we are.
Regardless of what happens in Cleveland, there will be excitement in Minnesota, with the acquisition of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine undoubtedly providing their long-suffering fans with something to cheer about. Wiggins is an out and out talent, with a ceiling unparalleled by any draft prospect in recent memory and while the Wolves may have a long road ahead of them, they’ve at least gained something special from the loss of Kevin Love.
Will the Cavs come to rue the day they traded Andrew Wiggins? Impossible to say, but for now, they’re in the box seat and LeBron James is once again the cream of Cleveland’s crop.
In a stunning move that will forever change the face of the Nation Basketball Association, LeBron James has announced via his social media, and an article co-written by Lee Jenkins on SI.com, that he returning home to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers. The article is below:
Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.
I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.
I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.
But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.
[Update 2.50pm 07/07/2014] Multiple sources confirm that the Cavaliers have made a significant push for LeBron James, by trying to free up enough cap space to offer him a max contract. Dan Gilbert has reportedly flown to South Florida with his entourage for a brief meeting with LeBron’s agent, who informed Gilbert they are impressed with the outlook for the team and like what they’ve done with the roster. Further reports indicate LeBron will meet with Heat president Pat Riley later this week, but not much more is known beyond this.
[Update 1:30PM 04/07/2014] ESPN LA’s Ramona Shelburne reports the LA Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is flying to Cleveland to meet with LeBron James’ agent Paul Rich
While Carmelo Anthony continues to entertain teams yearning for his signature, LeBron James’ camp has remained relatively tight lipped about the prospect of where the world’s best player will end up at the start of next season.
James, who has stressed that he is willing to provide the Miami Heat with enough time to construct a competitive roster, has now reportedly decided to look elsewhere, and listen to offers from rival teams. After opting out of his deal with the Heat, along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it now appears as though the King may be looking to take his talents away from South Beach.
While reports are still patchy, it has been said that LeBron’s agent Paul Rich has been given the green light to speak with teams and while those teams aren’t necessarily a sure thing, there are good cases for the few lucky enough to get a meeting.
The Rockets, Mavericks, Suns and Cavaliers have all had the opportunity to speak with Rich, while James enjoys his summer vacation in South America. At present, these are the only teams that have been granted an opportunity, indicating that LeBron may have already compiled a list of possible destinations.
No other NBA teams have scheduled meetings with Rich, although ESPN have reported that there is significant interest.
Pat Riley and the Heat remain confident that they can assemble a roster worthy of James’ attention, and are currently in Los Angeles, meeting with Lakers FA Pau Gasol, amongst others. It is not yet clear exactly what will result for the other two thirds of the big three, with both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh yet to accept (receive?) offers.
Their goal remains re-signing LeBron James.
In news this morning, superstar LeBron James informed Miami Heat management that he will exercise his early termination option, and opt out of his final year with the team.
In a move said to be “fully expected” by the Heat, James will elect to test the free agency market this offseason, while also increasing pressure on Pat Riley to bolster the roster which looked tired and fragile during this month’s NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. James was due $20 million from the Heat in his final year, and had until June 30th to advise the team of his decision.
This move by LeBron not only allows him to listen to offers from rival teams who will be scrambling to clear the cap space to sign him, but also gives Miami the opportunity to improve their roster to a point where LeBron will be comfortable knowing they remain legitimate contenders next season. The contracts of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also remain a concern for Miami, with both players needing to take a considerable cuts if the Heat are to expand their roster.
Along with Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James will be hot property for many teams during free agency, but the front runners to land him at present are said to be the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers. Of course, the most likely scenario is for LeBron to sign for less money, remain in Miami, and with a revitalized list of players, attempt to reach the Heat’s 5th Finals in as many seasons.
Heat President Pat Riley, remains confident about LeBron choosing to stay in Miami, and had this to say earlier:
“We fully expected LeBron to opt-out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise. We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together.”
So, one day after Carmelo Anthony opted out of his deal with the Knicks, so to has LeBron James with the Heat, and while neither player has indicated a direct desire to leave their current teams, this does make things a lot more interesting.
Politics and basketball. You wouldn’t think they go together, right?… Wrong! Both the major parties in Australia are struggling for support and I see only one solution to this. Bring in a new major party. The Spurs Party and have Patty Mills as Australia’s new Prime Minister.
This is a no brainer. The popularity of Patty Mills is through the roof in Australia at the moment. He has given people with no interest in basketball a reason to watch and connect with the game. Patty has done his time on the bench and is ready to move up to the big time. Last season Patty was a glorified mascot. Waving towels and getting trash minutes at the ends of games to show what he could do. This season was a different story all together. Patty showed himself to be one of the better back up point guards in the league. A spark that Miami had no answer for in the NBA Finals. Patty was the dagger in the heart of the Heat fans and players alike in the third quarter of Game 5. The game was still a contest until Mills came out a splashed 3’s from everywhere and brought the crowd into the game with his energetic defense. This shows a new level of maturity for Mills. He made all the right decisions and is ready to become Australia’s Prime Minister.
Deputy Prime Minister
Technically Aron Baynes was born in New Zealand but Aussies love to claim a kiwi. Baynes now joins the likes of Phar Lap, Russell Crowe, Crowded House, Keith Urban and the somewhat contentious Weet-Bix as items and people that Australia have lovingly claimed as their own. Granted Baynes did not get a great deal of court time which means he will have plenty of time to help out his Prime Minister at anytime and we’ve seen that Baynes is also capable of stepping into a starting role for the Spurs and he did not look out of place.
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Logically this role has to go to Tony Parker. For starters he is French and it is difficult to say no to anyone with a french accent. Being on the Spurs lineup it is also obvious that Parker gets along well with people from other countries. The Spurs have the most nationalities represented in the NBA with their roster registering 10 internationals at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season. Parker has also shown that he wants to be friendly with everyone. Parker proved this in his short lived marriage to Eva Longoria. Lovely lady and watching Desperate Housewives is worth it just for her but this wasn’t enough for Tony. He wanted more Foreign Affairs experience (see what I did there?) This is a great trait for Australia and will see Australia making many new international allies.
Kawhi Leonard. This kid (22 years old!) proved his worth in the NBA Finals, scoring points at will with aggressive moves to the hoop and deft jump shots but he also played outstanding defense against one of the best in the league, Lebron James. Kawhi has earnt his spot as Treasurer in the Spurs Party because he started at the bottom and wasn’t expected to rise so quickly so Kawhi understands the value of money but his endorsements and contracts are only going to grow bigger from here. This experience with discussing contracts with multi-billion dollar companies and understanding how to best spread the wealth will make Kawhi the perfect Treasurer.
Minister for Education
Coach Pop. All you need to do is look at what he has done for the Spurs to see this man knows how to educate others. Pop is arguably the most respected coach in the game and all players thrive under Pop’s coaching theories and ideals. On draft night Pop always manages to spring a few surprises. He was one of the first to see the value in drafting international ballers. Players who had already stood out in a team orientated style of play and players he knew would understand and respect a team game. Look at the expansion and growth of the team under Pop. Manu wasn’t always a superstar. He grew into the role and learnt from the best coach in the game. Parker is the same. If you need some more recent evidence just look at the growth of Belinelli and Patty Mills this season. Pop is the only choice for Minister of Education.
Minister for Communications
The leader of the Spurs. Tim Duncan. He doesn’t often say much but when he does people listen. Timmy knows when communication is needed and when it should be stopped. Remember back to Timmy dragging a talkative Tony Parker away from the officials to stop a certain tech foul. Tony did not complain. Tony, along with the Spurs lineup, know that when Timmy Duncan talks, you listen. Opposition players know that Timmy is the man to talk to when playing the Spurs. He has the respect of every baller in the NBA and was Lebron’s first point of call when it came welcoming the Spurs to the Finals.
Minister for Health and Sport
Will Sevening, the coaches and staff at the San Antonio Spurs. But mostly Will. Will is the Head Trainer at the Spurs. The Spurs aren’t exactly the youngest team in the league. They have an average age of somewhere around 30. Three of their main players; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilli are 37, 31 and 36 respectfully. Will has to put these “veterans” through their paces on a daily basis but also has to ensure Duncan and co. are at their physical peaks, remain uninjured and have the required rest breaks to thrive. It’s a fine line to walk but Will has done it with ease and thus gets the gig as Minister for Health and Sport.
Minister for Defence
Danny Green may not be the guy you think of when it comes to defence but look at the job he did throughout the NBA Finals. Scoring important steals. Swaying the momentum of the game to the favour of the Spurs and shutting down the potent offensive force that is Dwayne Wade. Green still has plenty of improving to do but he has shown the potential to be a star in the future. Not only did he shut down Wade and take countless steals, he is also a menace when shooting the long bomb, a pre-requisite when it comes to being a Minister for Defence.
Minister for Arts
Marco Belinelli. Coach Pop has never been a fan of the three-point shot, openly stating he doesn’t like the role the shot has in the game. This season though things changed. Coach Pop started running plays for long range bombs. Embraced the shot and made it a huge part of the Spurs Championship winning attack. With shooters like Patty Mills, Danny Green, Manu Ginobilli and Marco Belinelli, Pop had little choice but to use the three ball. Belinelli’s shot is like a work of art. He has the balance, poise and a sense of occasion when pocketing the long ball. Not only is his shot a masterpiece but Belinelli is also Italian and everything sounds arty and awesome in Italian. Pizza. Spaghetti. Gelato. Point proven.
Minister for Agriculture
Honestly I found it hard to choose a Minister for Agriculture on the Spurs but Matt Bonner does look like the ultimate country boy. The ginger hair, beard, freckles and his awkwardness on the floor, all pre-requisites when it comes to being a Minister for Agriculture. Personally I think he’d be a better farmer than baller but he does have a Championship Ring which is more than I can say about myself.
Minister for Finance
Peter Holt is the owner of the Spurs. I’m not sure if it is entirely his doing but how Holt has managed to keep Manu, Duncan and Parker on the same team for so long when they could have been earning millions more elsewhere is some kind of voodoo magic. Each of the three are legit stars in their own right but have bought into the Spurs game and Holt is a wizard on the books. Not only has he kept the big three together but also brought in players with potential and has shown a willingness in keeping these potential superstars around and continued to develop them. Just look at Patty Mills, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Congratulations Peter Australia’s new Minister for Finance.
Minister for Social Services
A person who on the court is always looking out for others. More concerned with getting the assist. Hitting the right player at the right time in the right position. The choice for this spot was easy. Boris Diaw. A passing big man. A player who seems to have eyes in the back of his head. Kawhi did get Finals MVP but for me Diaw wasn’t far behind. Diaw doesn’t need to put the ball through the hoop to earn his pay, he does it through a subtle bounce pass through the key or a pass to the corner for the open three. Boris didn’t get many starts throughout the regular season but as soon as the Finals came Diaw stepped into the center position with ease and proved worth his weight in gold.
Minister for Trade and Investment
Tiago Splitter. A big man from Brazil. Splitter wasn’t brought over to the NBA straight away. He was given time to develop in European and Brazilian Leagues. Tiago would’ve been a superstar if he’d stayed in the Euro Leagues but once the time was right decided to ply his wares in the NBA. Splitter has proved to be adequate back up for Tim Duncan, giving the Big Fundamental time for his body to recover. All the time and effort that the Spurs invested into Splitter paid off with his huge block on Dwayne Wade during the NBA Finals (may have been a goal tend).
Minister for Employment
I was struggling at this stage to come up with positions but I had one spot left and one person to go so it is what it is. Manu Ginobilli you are now Australia’s Minister for Employment. It is because of you and your team orientated brand of ball that has allowed the Spurs to stay strong and consistent for many years. Manu, with Argentina, showed the rest of the world the importance of team basketball. Focusing on passing and team plays rather than individual brilliance. The NBA stood up and took notice incorporating this team style into NBA playbooks and also drafting many international ballers into the NBA. Thanks Manu.
There it is. Australia take note. The Spurs have solved all your problems. As you can see the entire roster has the resume required to thrive in their new positions and should obviously be brought in immediately (or not)…
In what can only be described as a 5-game bloodbath, the San Antonio Spurs shoved aside the pain and anguish of last season’s epic defeat, to claim the franchise’s 5th title with a dramatic 104-87 victory in San Antonio tonight.
After a season fought with the events of last year’s finals fresh in their minds, the Spurs sparred with Miami for 5 games, and in reality, it was probably lucky to get that far. Miami were beaten in every sense of the word with the Spurs capitalizing on an understrength bench, and the weary, battle-hardened legs of the Miami Heat.
Throughout the series the Spurs flawless style was put on display for the world to see, and the Heat were never really in it, even with their superstar providing stellar numbers for his team. The Spurs enjoyed incredible shooting numbers, including a first half record 75.8% in game 4, tough, stoic defense across all five contests, and a will to win that was surely born out of the agony of the 2013 Finals.
Patty Mills and Aron Baynes became the first Australians to capture an NBA title since Andrew Gaze with the Spurs in 1999, and Luc Longley with Jordan’s Bulls a year earlier in 1998. Mills was sensational off the bench for San Antonio, going 5 from 8 from three, and pouring in 14 third quarter points to push the lead out to an unassailable 25 points in the third quarter.
LeBron James briefly threatened to make the game interesting early in the forth quarter, pulling the team to within 14 points, but the Spurs rallied again through Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard to put any chance of a miracle Heat comeback out of contention.
James, although obviously dejected, had another great game contributing 31 points on 10/21 shooting, pulling down 10 boards and dishing out 5 dimes. The same could not be said for his supporting cast, with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the starters combining for just 32 points, and an even worse performance from the bench, who contributed an unimpressive 24 points for the game.
A highlight for Spurs fans was the 22-year old Kawhi Leonard claiming the NBA Finals MVP award, after a great series in which he lead from the front with the old brass of the Spurs lineup. Today, Kawhi poured in 22 points, raked in 10 rebounds and provided defense on LeBron James that was worthy of the award he now holds.
Big things lie ahead for Leonard, who now occupies the same company as Magic Johnson, who at 22 also won Finals MVP with the Lakers.
This was a special title for San Antonio, again proving that age shall be no burden, and that anything really is possible with the right attitude. Their coach Gregg Popovich, emotional after today’s win, said of his players and staff, “I’ve never been prouder as a coach, and never been more satisfied with a season than I am with this one.”
He is stalwart in his opinions, and guided in his system. Every play is meticulously designed to perfection, and scrutinized with a wrath only Pop can muster. He is the very embodiment of what a coach should be, not that he’d ever claim that to be the case.
Popovich has long preached that all the hard work, and pain and emotion that these players feel will get them over the line eventually.
Today, he was proven right.
Pacers V Heat. A match up many didn’t think would happen with Indiana being so out of form but the Pacers lifted when they needed to and are right in their Eastern Conference Final against the defending champion Miami Heat. It’s a very intriguing match up. The superstar in waiting Paul George, up against the current King Lebron James. Roy Hibbert against his rebounding demons. The under performing Pacers bench against the canned heat of the Miami bench but I’m going to focus on an individual. Lance Stephenson. Some say he was robbed of an all-star spot. Others say he is a head case who too easily loses focus. Let’s take a look in a cheesy, radio segment kind of way. Welcome to Lance Stephenson, Trash or Treasure. (more…)
Boof is here with another cracking write up! Fresh off the back of our joint venture with the Hoops Podcast, the boys will be contributing articles for the site as well so keep an eye out for more great content
NBA teams are like recipes from a cookbook, the good ones are simple and subtle yet have plenty of flavor whereas the bad ones can be confusing and taste like something that expired weeks earlier.
We are down to the point in the season were the remaining teams need every little piece of the recipe to come together and perfect that ideal meal.
In the Western Conference right now it looks like a complete mismatch, it’s a cook off going on between Heston Blumenthal and a burger flipper at your local McDonalds.
The Spurs have long been the Masterchefs of perfecting a rotation and having all of the key ingredients play their part without overpowering the entirety of the meal.
This showcase has somehow, beyond the realms of possibility, gone to another level this postseason. At times you feel sorry for the team on the other side of the court but as a fan you are left sitting in your chair watching on with your jaw to the floor.
Yes the Thunder have been weakened by injuries, losing Ibaka is like making a shepherds pie without the base. They have lost their foundation and without it they have simply fallen apart and look like a complete mess.
Now they face their biggest challenge yet, yes bigger than the NBA Finals from two years ago, they find themselves in a 0-2 hole and have the advantage of being at home, they will not won’t to disappoint their home audience.
In order to showcase their abilities and get this meal back on course to being a winner, they need the rest of their ingredients to evolve into pieces they are not used to being. The big men have to stand up and take the burden on and prove that they are not simple burger flippers but master class workers.
In the Eastern Conference you find a complete different story, it’s a battle of two 3 Michelin Star teams. Something that even right before the Playoffs began seemed like mission impossible as the big teams were all falling into the post season.
As we prepare ourselves for an epic game three battle, we dissect the two courses we have already devoured and dined on. The beauty of having such a spotlight on these games is that when somebody isn’t delivering as they normally would you can notice the ripple effect on the rest of the team.
Picture one of your favorite meals and the herbs and spices that may go into it, now remove one of them and the difference is monumental.
Both the Pacers and the Heat are missing ingredients from the first two games and whichever team can find the salt shaker or locate a different herb from their cupboard to replace the original will go a major way in deciding who wins the battle.
In Game 1 the Heat severely missed one of their key ingredients in Chris Bosh, the big man went an awful 4-12 from the field and a shattering 0-5 from deep. He ended the game with a +/- of -16 and the Heat showed that without his input and impact they are not what we expect. Let’s not get carried away, his second game wasn’t a thing of beauty but he showed a lot more effort and ended with a (-4) however the Heat won.
Game 2 for the Pacers wasn’t a complete disaster however there is evidence that the kitchen wasn’t far away from burning down. Paul George was the only starter who had major struggles from the starting group but the root of the problems lay beyond the main foundations, the bench was a complete shambles.
They (Mahinmi, Watson, Scola & Butler) combined for a total of 9 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist.
Most chefs will tell you that the best pieces of any meal consist of the hidden parts that nobody gives attention to; in basketball this is your bench. The players who hardly ever garner attention but make as much of an impact as the key players, if the Pacers bench can’t contribute to the recipe the Pacers team along with the fans will be left with a sour taste as they rue yet another lost season.
Which team will work their magic with the cookbook they possess and produce the better tasting dish?
It’s been a long time coming, but NBA Nation Australia’s Roundtable is finally back, and with the 2014 Playoffs just around the corner, there are are a multitude of topics that ache for discussion. From the rise, and subsequent demise of the Indiana Pacers, to an unbelievably close race for the MVP crown, this NBA season has once again gone above and beyond. Reaffirming that we, as basketball fans can engross ourselves in this beautiful game, and lose ourselves in its ever-changing and evolving landscape. This time round, we have three fantastic guests, all of whom are well ingrained in Australia’s basketball scene in their own way. Tom Read from our country’s #1 NBA Podcast #BelieveTheHype, Adam Howes who is fast becoming what we believe to be Australia’s number one NBA journalist, and the ever controversial, and always thoroughly entertaining NBA Slander. These guys will join the usual suspects to discuss some of the NBA’s most pressing questions, and have their own say at the culmination of another season, where all fans can come together, and rejoice over this beautiful thing we call basketball. Enjoy. (NB: Answers were submitted over the course of the past 4 days.)
1.With the playoffs just over a week away, there are several teams that are battling for the 8th and 7th seeds during the course of the final few games. Who will make the 8, and who will just miss out in both conferences?
Nathan Darby: In the East my heart wants New York to sneak in and Atlanta to miss out. Will they do anything if they make the playoffs? It’s highly doubtful but they can make for some entertaining games. I still cannot believe that Charlotte are up there and I think that Brooklyn might be able to do some damage. In the West Phoenix will stay at 8. Such a good story for a team that nobody gave a chance of doing anything and it’s great to see Gerald Green showing he’s more than a dunker. The rest of the West will stay as is. A Clippers Vs Golden State First Round Match-Up would be mint. Bogut being a pest, niggling at Blake and DeAndre. Curry and Klay dropping bombs. CP3 running the show. If the Warriors get a roll on they’ll be tough over 7.
Ryan O’Connell: It’s the Knicks and Hawks battling it out for the final spot in the East, and I think Atlanta will take it. Both teams have horror draws to finish the season, playing teams above them in the standings, apart from the Hawks facing the lowly Bucks on the last day of the season. The Hawks should beat Milwaukee, and therefore win the right to get belted in the first round of the playoffs. Plus, let’s face it, the Knicks are putrid. In the West, it’s a lottery, with Memphis, Dallas, Phoenix, and even Golden State all duking it out for the final three spots. The Grizzlies play the Suns on the second last day of the season in a match that will probably decide the fate of both teams. I’ll lean towards Memphis’ experience getting them home in that game, which means the Suns brilliant season may not result in a playoff spot; which is ludicrous considering what an excellent basketball team they’ve been all season.
Adam Howes: I’ll start with the East. One through seven is all clinched, with some teetering between Charlotte and Washington, so really it’s just a matter of the eighth seed being filled. It’s a two horse race between the Hawks and the Knicks, but despite their struggles I think the Hawks hold onto their current spot. The Knicks are cooked, stick a fork in them, they are DONE! They still have to face the Raptors (twice), Bulls and also the Nets. I’ll be shocked if they catch Atlanta and really, do they even deserve that spot after the abysmal season they’ve had? That’s a resounding no from me on that front. Besides, Lala’s probably already got the bags packed and the travel agent on speed dial. I hear Chicago is nice in June. The plot thickens out west. GSW, Dallas and Phoenix have all been playing with reckless abandon over their last 10 or so games, whilst Memphis is still hanging in by the skin of their teeth. As awesome as it would be from a basketball purist’s perspective to have the Mavs drop to the eight spot and face off against the Spurs in the first round, my gut instinct has the Suns meeting Timmy and company, which is a little disappointing, as I think that Phoenix vs. OKC in round 1 would make for some heart pounding basketball theatre. Getting back to the Warriors, I think they stay in the sixth position. Even though they have more games remaining (5) than the aforementioned teams, only one is a Playoff bound opponent.
Brenton Harris: Perhaps nothing better reflects the disparity of the two conferences than these two races, on the one hand you have the Hawks and the Knicks seemingly doing everything in their power to NOT make the playoffs in the East and on the other hand you have three worthy teams in the Suns, Mavericks and Grizzlies slugging it out in a winner-takes-all dog-fight for the final two remaining spots. In the Eastern conference, which honestly I couldn’t care less about I think the Hawks will unintentionally find themselves in the playoffs and subject to a sweep at the hands of the Heat, but I won’t be watching them do so. My eyes will be locked on the far more exciting West where entertaining story lines such as the Cinderella run by the Suns, Dirks last stand and the grit and grind Grizzlies search to rediscover their identity, coupled with some rather fortuitous scheduling that sees the teams all play each other over the course of the last few days of the season, should make for some utterly enthralling viewing. As a Suns fan, who infamously gave them NO CHANCE of achieving anything this year, I’d love for the Cinderella run they’ve been on to continue, however my head tells me that I’ll be sweating it out on the result of the final game of the campaign as the Suns square off against the Grizzlies in a ‘play-in’ game for the ages. The Mavs, with an easier schedule will have sewn up their spot already. This whole situation is yet another example of why the NBA is awesome. No matter what happens, I’d just like to take the opportunity to once again reiterate that I was WRONG about the Suns and that I love them dearly for what they’ve done for me as a fan this year. Bring on that last game against the Grizz, and then bring on those Spurs!
Nick Caro: It’s getting clearer by the day! Just this afternoon (Thursday) the Hawks ensured the Cavs won’t make the postseason, and made things very difficult for the Knicks with a win over Boston. At this point it’s hard to see New York overcoming the deficit, so I am saying the Hawks will definitely claim the 8th spot, and get booted by Miami or Indiana in the first round. The West is a bit tougher to call, with the Grizzlies and Suns battling hard for 8th, while the 7th placed Mavs aren’t yet a sure thing. Even Golden State could technically fall out at this point. While I love the story of the Phoenix Suns, I have to think the Grizzlies will push themselves into the 8 spot, and enjoy a huge first round match up with the Spurs.
NBA Slander: In the East, I think the Hawks will hang on to that 8th spot. They are two games in front of the Knicks at the moment and both teams have three games left to play. I don’t see the Knicks winning their last three against the Bulls, Nets and Raptors who are all in the playoffs. The Hawks, however, have the Heat, Bobcats and Bucks. The West is a much closer race between the Mavericks, Grizzlies and Suns (all within half a game of each other). Assuming the Grizzlies beat the Lakers, they have to play against the Suns and the Mavericks for their final two games. I’m going with the Mavs to hold the 7th spot and the Grizzlies to hold 8th.
Tom Read: In the Eastern Conference, it’s pretty safe to say that the Atlanta Hawks will lock down the 8th seed. They are 2 games ahead of the New York Knicks with 3 games remaining. PLUS they hold the tie-breaker over the Knicks. So, basically… They’ll have to lose all 3 of their remaining games vs the Heat, Bobcats & Bucks plus the Knicks would have to win all 3 of their remaining games against the Bulls, Nets & Raptors for them to fall out of the Playoffs. In the West, the Playoffs basically start now as the Mavericks, Grizzlies & Suns all play each-other over the final week of the season. (How’s that for scheduling!) I see all 3 teams finishing on 49 wins & Phoenix finishing in 9th place due to the tiebreaker.
2. A big talking point over the last couple of weeks has been the Indiana Pacers and their apparent fall from grace. From league leading title favorites, to underdogs in a first round match up, what is wrong with this team?
ND: I’ve still got the Pacers winning it. I said it at the start of the season and I can’t change my mind now. I like to think of it as tapering. They’re just priming themselves for the big show.
RO: Their offense sucks, to put it bluntly. Though there have been reports that chemistry has also been an issue since the Danny Granger/Evan Turner trade, the fact remains if the team was scoring more, and therefore winning more games, chemistry wouldn’t be an issue. Though in a classic ‘chicken versus egg’ scenario, maybe the offense would be better if the chemistry was better? Hhhmm. Back to the offense, and the Pacers hot start to the season may have been fool’s gold. Indy still lack an elite-level penetrator/point guard that can get easy buckets for teammates when the offense stagnates. Roy Hibbert is much improved down low, but remains mechanical at times. And I personally believe that the team overrates Lance Stephenson. Put it this way, I don’t think you can win the title if Lance is a vital part of your team. Their defense will win them their fair share of games, even in the playoffs, but sadly, this is no longer a championship team. If indeed it ever was.
AH: where is Roy Hibbert? Talk about underachieving, he’s over seven feet tall for crying out loud. Seriously, how is this supposed “All-Star” not dominating? Is it because he’s not seeing enough of the ball, his recent protests alluding to that as possibly the cause, unless he was referring to THIS? As for George, perhaps he should just take a social media sabbatical and focus on basketball and his leadership skills. In regards to that early season MVP discussion, shame on those of you who indulged in that nonsense. Such utter Poppycock! (If I’m to be remembered for anything in my first ever round table, let it be said that it was for using the word poppycock in reference to Paul George’s MVP legitimacy). All I know is this, if there is actually any tension between the two, Vogel or David West better sort it out quick fast or else their season will go down in NBA history as a bitter disappointment or at best be turned into a question on a TV game show… ‘This once lauded team won over 50 games in the 2013-14 NBA season, until dysfunctional set in and they were eliminated in the second round”.
BH: Simple: They’ve lost confidence in their own abilities and basketball is such a confidence driven game. Fans had better hope they regain that belief quickly because there is a team in Toronto and one in Chicago that are both brimming with confidence in their systems and in their own abilities that could easily upset the Pacers and find themselves facing the Heat for a spot in the finals.
NC: I’ve run through this a thousand times in my head and the only word that keeps popping up is chemistry. This team has lost ALL of it. Not just a player causing problems, or a bit of a feud between some guys. No. This team has somehow lost every single shred of chemistry which made them the NBA’s biggest threat to the Heat. Now, without that chemistry, and a dramatic drop in form from their stars, the Pacers have been relegated to a pack team, simply scraping their way to the end of the season. Coach Frank Vogel today rested their entire squad against the Bucks. A move scoffed at by yours truly. Why would a coach, on the verge of losing his team, sit his guys when the one thing they need is to re-learn how to play together? Rest? Ridiculous. They don’t need rest. Their average age is 26. They don’t need rest. They need to learn how to play together. Find that defensive, stifling style that made them so great to watch. This team simply HAS to find it soon, or I guarantee you they won’t make it past the first round.
NS: Absolutely everything. Many of us pegged them as legitimate contenders earlier in the season. Since then, many of us have changed our minds. We don’t know if they can right the ship. Let’s start with Roy Hibbert, a starting Center that managed to grab a grand total of 1 rebound in a game against their rival Miami Heat that may decide homecourt advantage. Utterly pathetic. And I’m not even going to use his name but a starting point guard for a championship caliber team cannot be averaging 2.8 assists in the last 5 games and 3.5 assist per game in the entire season. They better get their act together or they’re not going to make it out of the 1st round.
TR: This is a really perplexing situation at the moment. It’s amazing to see a team that only 2 months ago, looked like it would run away with the Eastern Conference #1 Seed & be well on their way to knocking the Heat off their mantle as the best team in the Conference. I don’t believe there’s just one thing that has gone wrong with the Pacers, but it’s a whole lot of little things that have mounted up into this situation. The biggest thing to me would be the deadline deal that sent Danny Granger to the 76ers in exchange for Evan Turner & Lavoy Allen. Whilst on court, this looked like it was a minor upgrade… Turner’s younger & more athletic than Granger… However, I think we may have all discounted that even when he was injured, this was still Danny Granger’s team. He was the first star from this new generation of Pacers & has been the locker room leader for this group. Throughout last season when he was sidelined, he was still at every game, training & was a functioning part of the team even though he wasn’t on the court. His leadership has allowed the Pacers to get the best out of their young guys in Paul George, Roy Hibbert & Lance Stephenson. However, now he’s gone, that leadership has fallen on the shoulders of the above mentioned guys & to a lesser extent, David West & George Hill. It has become clearly noticable that they aren’t ready to take on this level of responsibility just yet. Furthermore, Granger’s departure came at a time where there was a few off-court rumors & controversies surrounding Paul George. With the nature of these incidents, how hard would it be for him to demand leadership in a locker room full of guys in their twenties? Also, their offense has been really bad lately. They have been relying too much on isolation plays from George, Stephenson & Turner instead of trying to set picks or playing through the post. One of their major problems recently with their offense was the fact that CJ Watson had been sidelined. I’m not a huge fan of George Hill, he’s plays the game too safe. With Watson back in the team now, Hill won’t be as heavily relied on & CJ can start to get the offense working a bit better again.
3. It wouldn’t be a roundtable without discussing the MVP race. There are a multitude of contenders, but really, it is just a two horse race. To this point, who is your MVP of season 2013/14 and why?
ND: Durantula. No doubt. He ran the show at OKC with Westbrook out and didn’t miss a beat. KD has bulked up and doesn’t just rely on jumpers anymore. His game has evolved and has taken over Lebron as the best in the league. Just remember back to Durant’s complete domination of Lebron earlier in the season. On a side note, how good has Noah gone this season? MVP calibre season but there’s two greats ahead of him.
RO: Kevin Durant. It’s very close, and you could easily make a case that LeBron James’ superior defense and passing gives him the edge, but I simply believe that Durant has had a slightly better season. Throw in the fact that Durant plays in the ultra-tough Western Conference, has been without his sidekick Russell Westbrook for large parts of the season, and honestly, some dreaded voter fatigue for LeBron, and I think KD will be the 2013/14 MVP. And he’ll thoroughly deserve it.
AH: Joakim Noah. There I said it. I can’t front, that’s my guy. If I was eligible to cast an MVP vote for him I would. (To be fair guys, you did ask who my MVP of the 2013/14 season is) Now yes there is definitely some bias thrown in the mix when it comes to my answer, but look at the facts:-
* On a team with no active superstar, his spirited play and never say die attitude has the Bulls almost at the 50 win mark. Who foresaw that?
* The Bulls have played 78 games, he’s lead the charge playing in 76 of those.
* He leads the Bulls in assists, rebounds and blocks and is on pace to set career highs in two of those categories and also scoring. In fact, he only needs four more points, two assists and thirty two rebounds across the remaining four games to become only the fourth center in league history to average 12 ppg, 11 rpg and 5 apg in a season. The other three gentlemen he joins, Bill Russell, Wilt and Kareem.
* He’s tied with Lance Stephenson in leading the league in triple doubles (4), which is remarkable as it’s not a common feat for big men. In fact, he’s become only the fourth center in NBA history to have four triple doubles in a season, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and David Robinson. He’s also seventh in the league in double doubles.
* Also achieved his second consecutive All-Star berth this season. I’ve even left some other things of note out so as not to prattle on too much. Simply put, you take the emotional spark plug off that Bulls squad and they are nowhere near where they are in the standings right now.
Please note: In saying all this, I’ve had my money on Kevin Durant since the start of the year to take home the Maurice Podoloff trophy (I may be a Bulls fan but I’m also a realist). If KD doesn’t win it, I’m going to have some serious conspiratorial thoughts about Adam Silver and his cronies.
BH: Kevin Durant will be the MVP this year, and it will be thoroughly deserved. His season passes both the statistical and eyeball tests and the combination of his stellar performance and a bit of voter fatigue should see him awarded the trophy for the very first time. LeBron remains the best and most complete player on the planet though.
NC: This is so tough. I picked KD as the MVP at the start of the season, and honestly, he’s exceeded my expectations. The 40+ streak, the 25+ streak, countless game winners, defensive prowess not seen before and an ability to win games all on his own without his right hand man there to help him. I just cannot go past him. LeBron has had another great year, but hasn’t impressed me to the point where I believe he deserves the award over KD. Simple stats will tell you he hasn’t surpassed Durant in any area aside from FG%, and we all know LeBron’s points come primarily in the paint. With the current climate being very luke warm in the Eastern conference, I don’t see how LeBron James could be handed the trophy over Kevin Durant, who dominates the white hot west.
NS: In my opinion, Kevin Durant is the clear MVP. He has had a more consistent season where he’s improved (and beat LeBron James) in nearly every statistical category. Furthermore, his player efficiency rating (PER) is a league-leading 30.22, edging out LeBron’s 29.52. What more is there to say? Mr Durant deserves the award and it would be daylight robbery if LeBron won MVP.
TR: This isn’t a conversation… Kevin Durant is the MVP. You can make an arguement for LeBron James. But any other player in the NBA doesn’t deserve to be included in discussing an ‘MVP race’… There’s daylight between 2nd & 3rd.
4. It is sure to be a fascinating playoff series this year, with the West consisting of so many great teams, while the East has gotten considerably worse. What is your ideal meeting in each conference, and why would the two teams match up so well?
ND: Golden State Vs Clippers. Just look at how good their match-ups have been this season. Imagine that in the heat of the playoffs over 7 games. The rivalry between these two sides has just grown. Watching these two play, you can feel the emotion in the match. Plus they are two action packed teams to watch. Indiana Vs Miami. The only two teams capable of doing anything in the East. This would be a beast of a conference battle. George Vs Lebron will be massive and Hibbert trying to exploit the lack of reliable centres on the Heat line up. They’ve had some great bouts during the season and I would love to see Indiana roll the Heat in 7.
RO: As mentioned earlier, the Pacers have dropped off so much that the Eastern Conference Finals match-up with the Miami Heat that was anticipated all season might actually be a fizzer – if the Pacers even make it that far. You could argue that a Bulls vs Heat series would have more emotion and intensity, while the Nets swept the Heat during the regular season, which sets up a tantalising subplot should they meet in the Conference Finals. However, let’s not forget that even in the Pacers limp finish to the regular season, they still defeated the Heat in a close game in Indiana. Despite Indy’s offensive struggles, it’s still the series we want to see in the East. In the West, I’ll keep it simple: Spurs vs Thunder. They’re the two beat teams, and present serious match-up troubles for each other. It would be a great, great series, and a worthy decider of who comes out of the West, the far superior conference
when it comes to depth of quality teams.
AH: In the East, I can’t go past the Heat vs. the Bulls. I’ve never heard anyone say they don’t enjoy watching those teams go head to head. The way the Bulls are playing out of their minds and with such confidence at this present time, I’m 100% positive they want that match up to happen as much as the fans do. Miami haven’t looked as sharp of late, but of course we know how they are capable of rounding into form once the Playoffs hit. The question is, with all the basketball mileage they’ve absorbed over the last three seasons, can they dig into those reserves of energy and experience to appear again on the grand stage? I’m not as confident as most Heat fans are and I know if they do meet Chicago, Tim Thibodeau’s team will be the toughest obstacle in the East that they have to get past. Key match-up to watch: Butler versus James. Jimmy has become an elite defender in his short time in the NBA, can he keep James’s output to a minimum and frustrate him on the defensive end? That remains to be seen. As for the West, in a perfect world it would be an OKC/GSW Western Conference Finals meeting, but even if that doesn’t take place I really want to see these two teams clash. You have two teams with volume scorers, you have a solid of mix of veterans and youth and on top of this you have two of the most exciting teams to watch that make a League Pass subscription one of the greatest joyful luxuries in our lives. Key match-up to watch: Hard to go past Curry and Westbrook, but from a purely Australasian standpoint, Andrew Bogut vs. Stephen Adams. Chippy doesn’t even cover it, fireworks is still understating it. Let’s just say it could lead to some hardnosed, gritty, slug fests.
5. The NBA draft is touted as one of the most talented in recent memory with a multitude of prospects impressing teams, players and fans alike. With the lottery just around the corner, how do you see the dominoes falling?
ND: Hopefully Boston gets whoever they want (Could be Dante Exum??) but I’ve always liked Jabari Parker. I think he looks like a complete player. Scores well. Can rebound and block shots. Things didn’t go his way this season but the dude’s a competitor. Has that winners instinct and you could tell that by how disappointed he was with Dukes performance this season. Wiggins will probably go #1 but I see Parker being the better player.
RO: Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’m not sure this draft is going to be as amazing as everyone – myself included – first thought. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very deep, and there are still a lot of very talented players in it, but is it really going to have six or more ‘can’t miss’ superstars in it? I’m not so certain. In terms of who is going to be drafted where? I’ve got no idea! Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Julius Randle could all go first overall, and then the rest could fall into any order imaginable. I’ve seriously got no idea, and a lot will depends on the draft order. I do like Randle though, if anyone’s asking . . .
AH: To be completely honest as someone who follows the NCAA from afar, in recent years I’ve paid little attention to the lead up to the Draft until the day arrives, but this year I’m definitely more engaged. In terms of who falls where, it’s hard to say at this point until a clear picture is painted of who is declaring eligibility. Of course the big names like Parker, Wiggins and Embiid will no doubt go high, but like majority of the avid basketball fans who reside in Australia, I’m most interested to see how things end up for our home grown top prospect, Dante Exum. Analyst Fran Fraschilla recently likened him to a young Michael Jordan, a comparison some thought was too much too soon. I’d made the same comparison in my own mind only days prior whilst watching THIS. Can he reach such levels of greatness? Will the lottery bound Lakers manoeuvre their way towards him as has been suggested? Will he become the next in line to take Kobe’s spot or is he just a more skilled Nick Young? Only time will tell.
BH: I foresee the 76ers usurping the Bucks and landing a much-needed number one overall pick which they will use on Andrew Wiggins and it’ll prove to be the right call. The city of brotherly love deserves a break. As for the Bucks, I see them landing the number two pick and doing the very Bucks like thing of drafting Embiid and using him as the basis of their franchise overhaul. From there a lot depends on how the balls drop as each of the different teams have very different needs. If the Lakers or Magic find themselves in the top-three then Dante Exum will find himself starting for one of those two franchises as each has a desperate need for a point guard. Outside of that I think it’ll come down to teams just picking the best players available. With the uncertainty surrounding several top prospects intentions, I hazard to guess who they’ll be.
NC: As a Laker fan, the draft is actually stressing me out this year. It’s so important that LA drafts well, and acquires some young talent to be mentored by Kobe. That said, plenty of teams are thinking the same, With the Sixers, Bucks, Magic, Celtics and Jazz all vying for the top picks. Of course, the lottery means that standings are simply an indication of the chance you have at garnering the top pick. Nothing is guaranteed. I see the Sixers getting the top pick and taking Andrew Wiggins, followed by the Bucks and Joel Embiid, Magic with Jabari Parker, Celtics with Dante Exum and the Lakers with Julius Randle or Marcus Smart. As much as I’d love one of the top 4 picks, I don’t think the chips will fall the Lakers way there. I like Julius Randle however, and feel he could benefit the Lakers with some TLC throughout the next year. As far as these teams go, I think that’s not only how it will fall, but what is best for each team going into next season.
NS: The Bucks look like they will be getting the 1st pick percentage-wise but it is called a lottery for a reason, anything can happen. I have a sick feeling in my stomach that the Lakers will somehow end up with a top 3 pick no matter what their record is so here is my order for the first 5 picks based on absolute guess work and limited consideration for percentages: Bucks, 76ers, Lakers, Jazz and Kings. Once again, my Celtics will get screwed out of a top 5 pick, the “unluck” of the Irish…
TR: I still see Andrew Wiggins going #1. I think every team that could potentially land the #1 spot will pick him. He’s clearly the most talented & athletic player in the draft. He’s 6’8″, has a 7′ wingspan & clearly has the biggest upside out of anyone in the draft class. Whist he’s still very young & does have his flaws, such as his shooting, he’s got the basic skillset that can make him into an elite NBA All-Star. One thing I love about Wiggins is the fact he’s an elite defender for his age. This is something that he has over guys like LeBron James & Kevin Durant when they came into the league. LBJ & KD took years to become capable NBA defenders & Wiggins looks like he’ll be a solid defender from day 1. His ability to get to the hole, transition game & how effective he is in pick & rolls show that he’s tailor made for today’s NBA game. I see Jabari Parker going next. If Wiggins isn’t on the board, he’s a sure thing to go next. He’s a perfect 4 for today’s NBA game. He shot 47% from the field this year & 35% from beyond the arc (50% from 3 in November!). People say that the knock on him is that he’s a mesh between Carmelo Anthony & Rudy Gay… But, is that really a bad thing? I mean Melo’s one of the best scorers in the NBA & Rudy Gay isn’t as bad as people think he is. Under the right coach & situation, he could become a very dangerous offensive weapon. I actually think that Joel Embiid will fall out of the top 3. After the plethora of elite young big-men injuries over the last few decades, the fact that Embiid has had back & knee issues already in his short career will pose a red flag. I think he’ll still go top 5, but if the Lakers, Sacramento, Detroit or Orlando are picking at 3, I can see one of them taking Dante Exum. These 3 teams are really high on what Dante has to offer. He’s an athletic, big combo guard who can get to the hole & is an extremely creative offensive general. His biggest weaknesses are his ball handling & his shot. His arc is a big flat, but there has been noticeable signs of improvement on that over the last 6 months. People say he’s an unknown, but it’s really not the case. There are 4 years worth of footage of him playing in FIBA tournaments & invitational, against the very guys who he’s pitted against in the draft. He capably held his own against them all. Dante’s currently working out in Anaheim & from what i’ve heard coming out of there… Everyone who’s caught some of the workouts have been extremely impressed with what they’ve seen. Shout-out to Julius Randle, he’d be a great fit for Boston or Utah if they pick 3rd.
6. This season has seen many players improve, while also witnessing many regress. Who, in your opinion, has claimed the crown of ‘Most Improved’ and adversely, who has disappointed more than anyone else?
ND: This is always tough to pick. Do you pick someone who has gone from good to great or someone who has gone from nothing to something? I’d love to see Shaun Livingston get it just for the story that comes with it but I don’t think that MIP are based on heart warming stories alone. It’ll be either Bledsoe, Dragic or Green. These three turned Phoenix from nothing to something. I can’t give it to Bledsoe because of his injuries and Dragic has always been a solid baller but my pick is Gerald Green. From the D-League to dominating the NBA if that doesn’t hit the pre-requisites for MIP then I don’t know what does.As a Celtics fan I am constantly disappointed with Jeff Green and his inconsistent performances. This year was supposed to be his big break out season but it just did not happen. Anthony Bennett already looks a bust as the 2013 #1 draft pick and basically anyone on the Bucks roster has been a disappointment.
RO: There are a lot of candidates for the MIP award, with Goran Dragic no doubt being a popular pick due to his ascension to bona fide star in a great season for the surprising Phoenix Suns. However, for me, it’s the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, who, in just his second season, made the leap from ‘potential star’, to ‘oh my god, he might be an all-time great!’. His all-round game and potential is scary, and he developed so much in his sophomore season that it suggests we may have something very special on our
hands. In terms of who regressed, an obvious answer might be Pau Gasol. Though questions remain over whether he’s regressed, aged, or has just been marginalised by a coach that has no idea how to use him and his skill-set. For me, the player that really took a downturn was Raymond Felton. He went from being an important part of the Knicks success the season before, to a liability on and off the court this season. In fact, can I name the whole Knicks squad here?
AH: Oooooh this is a tough call for me, I’d love to see Taj Gibson take it home as well as the Sixth Man Award. The Bulls have promoted him for both awards, but I’d say the chances of him being a recipient of both is slim. Besides field goal percentage and blocks, his numbers have increased across the board so he is a worthy candidate, but I think it may be Goran Dragic’s at seasons end. I’ll be Hulk like angry if Tajy Woo receives neither. Once again you have a player who’s numbers have increased across the board, with only a slight dip in the assist column, keeping in mind he does share the back court with another point guard who’s no slouch either (Eric Bledsoe) so that makes his numbers even more impressive. After Dragic was snubbed from the All-Star game, he’s been playing with a meteor sized chip on his shoulder and in the process helping lead the Suns to a Playoff berth that I don’t think many people saw coming before the season commenced. I think the panel of sportswriters that cast their votes for the award, will make things right for The Dragon. As for the most disappointing, I’m going to sum that up with one name in one sentence – J.R. Smith.
BH: Is there a way we can give this award to the entire Phoenix Suns team? The evolution of the games of Dragic, Green, Plumlee and both Morris twins borders on the unfathomable. Of these Suns I think Dragic is the pick of the bunch. He has developed into a genuine all-star caliber player and has become the face of the organisation in the process. He should have been an all-star. Suns homer picks aside, the other candidates for the award as I see it are Anthony Davis who at 21 years old is already an absolute monster and DeMarcus Cousins who finally seems to have grown into himself. My heart says Dragic, but my brain says this one is going to The Brow.
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