Category: NBA

My NBA Season 2015-2016 Predictions

Just for fun!

Rookie of the Year: Emmanuel Mudiay

MVP: Harden

Finals: Warriors – Bulls, Warriors win

Standings prediction:

  1. Warriors
    63 wins. Same team as last year, when they were far and away the best team. All of their young core players now have championship experience
  2. Oklahoma
    60 wins. A fresh coaching philosophy to go with 2 top five players, Ibaka’s defensive anchoring and decent role players should guarantee a Western Conference finals spot
  3. Clippers
    59 wins. On paper, the best team. They have the most productive players in the league at three positions and a deep bench. Chemistry will prevent them from winning
  4. Memphis
    57 wins. Good roster additions and when healthy one of the toughest teams in the league
  5. Rockets
    57 wins. Super deep but no signs that the star players will mesh in a way that makes the whole more than just their parts combined.
  6. Spurs
    54 wins. The best coached team in the league, but will drop off due to poor point guard play, age decline. Aldridge doesn’t amplify what the Spurs do best.
  7. Chicago
    58 wins. A well-coached team, with a very deep line up and the offense to make it work
  8. Cavaliers
    50 wins. I don’t think they’ll be healthy at the start or end of the season. Kevin Love adds as much as he takes away. They succeeded last year through pure will, gutsy play from role players who won’t be on the floor if Irving and Love are playing.
  9. Pelicans
    44 wins. A lot of injury concerns, but the best player in the league can carry them
  10. Hawks
    49 wins. An efficient well-coordinated machine. Not sure if Korver can replicate past successes and will there be friction around Schroeder’s ambitions and the team.
  11. Heat
    48 wins. A dangerous team but there’s not a lot of 3pt scoring and we’ve no idea how the starting 5 gels because they haven’t played together. Feels like a mish mash of some very good pieces.
  12. Wizards
    48 wins. Elite play in the backcourt, solid front court and interesting depth.
  13. Bucks
    47 wins. Offensive upgrades, defensive downgrades should land them around .500 and perhaps even more in the East
  14. Celtics
    45 wins. Excellent coaching, but the roster features no remarkable players, there’s only so much you can do with non-allstar level players. And that ceiling has to be lower than what the Hawks achieved with 4.
  15. Raptors
    44 wins. Firmly belong in the good but not great category
  16. Suns
    42 wins. Well coached, competitive, decent roster but no reason to think they will be any more than an 8 seed
  17. Pistons
    42 wins. Van Gundy can take this squad to the playoffs with a roster complimenting Drummond’s play. But their point guards are iffy and Drummond does not appear to have the kind of hard core determination you see in elite caliber players.
  18. Kings
    42 wins. They will compete almost every night and have a lot of talent, they are only low because of combustibility in their roster makeup.
  19. Pacers
    35 wins. One of the best coaches in the league will get a lot out of any collection of players and Paul George looks good
  20. Timberwolves
    35 wins. Loaded with young talent and some veteran leadership is present as well
  21. Utah
    34 wins. Overrated at this point
  22. Mavericks
    32 wins. Pretty weak roster but enough talent and coaching to get 30+ wins. I predict Deron Williams will be yet another player that didn’t pan out.
  23. Magic
    27 wins. Talented young players that will compete but not be efficient
  24. Denver
    26 wins. Potential rookie of the year candidate, in form Gallinari and improved chemistry with better coach and departure Lawson. Lot of bad teams to run off the court.
  25. Portland
    24 wins. Lillard will be in hero mode almost all the time. That doesn’t win games in today’s NBA
  26. Lakers
    23 wins. So many inefficient shots await them
  27. Nets
    23 wins. Will win some with strong center play out of Lopez
  28. Knicks
    22 wins. Destined to be bad
  29. Hornets
    22 wins. Mediocrity
  30. Sixers
    18 wins. Meh. Excited to see Okafor play.

The Many Ways David Thorpe Is Wrong About Lebron

This is for sure one the best stories in the 2 decades that I have been an NBA fan.

In one of the most crazy basketball off-seasons ever and leading up to the announcement that Lebron James is returning to Cleveland, some of the most respected media members got it wrong. None surprised me more than David Thorpe’s opinions leading up and after the announcement. Thorpe can be counted on to provide some of the most interesting and astute player analysis in the media landscape, but he’s shown to be a poor judge of psychology and reasoning in this particular case.

David Thorpe had opined that the odds of the Heat breaking up was 1%. He was that sure Lebron would stay with the Heat. Now, it’s hard to get these things right, but that was a pretty unilateral opinion. Other members of the media were much less sure.

Instead of taking the 2 year deal Thorpe foresaw, Lebron is going straight to Cleveland.

After the decision was announced Thorpe was strangely pouring some cold water on the decision.

I remember just how frustrated LeBron looked when the Cavs lost to the Magic. If they fail this year to win…

In his announcement Lebron made clear that his expectations are that a title is not a guarantee. In fact everything I’ve heard from him over the years has emphasized just how hard and precious it is just to get to the finals. For a player of his stature, every year is pressure filled. Every year fans and media expect him to win the title, no matter what team he’s on. He lasted many seasons not winning a title in Cleveland, since then he’s grown in leaps and bounds, proving his mettle as a winner capable of rising above the rest of the playing field and winning titles. A title in Cleveland would be much more meaningful to him. It is dead-on the most logical choice for a competitor at the very top of his game.

Don’t the best athletes want the biggest challenge? What challenge was there left in Miami? It certainly wasn’t any bigger than the one he now has in his home state.

On a disturbing note, returning to fans who despised you and an owner who crushed you, all for doing nothing wrong, is sad.

I don’t see why this needs mentioning while Cleveland is celebrating the return of Lebron. Yes, the hate was poured on hard when he left. But this is the emotion so similar to ones you may experience in a family. They are so passionate because it is like family. And just like with families, not all emotions that are expressed are indicative of how much parties mean to each other. And reunions are not strange, but expected and welcomed, and they deepen the bonds.

David Blatt, welcome to the hottest seat in sports. Maccabi Tel Aviv is a pressure filled place, but nothing like what he is going to face.

The first year coach will have some pressure, but is it true that the team will have championship expectations? I think the fan base will be ecstatic just to have the best player in the world back in the fold, putting all his effort in. We’ve seen the Spurs at the top of their game. Nobody questioned that they were the best team this year. There was no finger pointing that the Heat underachieved. They just played a better team. And frankly, there are going to be 4-5 teams in that elite tier that all have the same pressure of feeling that burning desire to win, because they know they can do it. Cleveland won’t be unique, if anything, the pressure will be less than with the Heat during the first 2 years.

If Bron cares more about returning home than he does his legacy as a champion, it would shock me.But it would not make him any less a player

This statement totally confounds me. It makes total nonsense. His legacy as a champion has a much higher ceiling in Cleveland. Winning a title there will mean more than any of his other titles. He’s taking the path with the higher ceiling. Even if he fails to win another title, nobody can fault him from taking on the challenge. Another title in Miami would have been nice, but not as significant. To paraphrase the words of Chris Bosh, in Miami winning was like a relief rather than a truly satisfying experience.

The Heat marriage always seemed to me like one of convenience. He paired up with some very talented friends and worked with an experienced, top notch organisation. He got what he was looking for. But what he left was a passionate fan base and the home state he felt deeply about. Winning for the Heat fan base is a totally different thing. They feel lucky to have Lebron and so they should be. But the larger portion of the fan base is not as crazy about their team as some other states are. Let’s face it. He had created the perfect conditions for success. A really strong coach, team president and roster while taking advantage of an easier path to the Finals by continuing to come out in the East. Goals were accomplished. A more meaningful challenge awaits.

On paper, just looking at rosters, Miami was already slipping behind the growing quality of elite teams in the West. They weren’t going to be as good as the roster they had during Lebron’s first successful title run. That roster had run its course. Battier is done, UD is done as a thriving role player. The point guard position was a dead end. Wade is never going to be an 82 game a year player again. He couldn’t do it even during the best of conditions. He’s not going to become a 3pt shooter overnight either. They weren’t going to attract high caliber free agents as fortuitously happened in the past either. What fun was there to be had in sticking with the Heat? How rewarding was it going to be anyway? Where the Heat fan base really going to cherish his effort during all the challenges the Heat would face if they didn’t pull together a better roster? Especially if you’ve already achieved what you set out to do.

So David, I love your commentary, in fact I think I’ve seen every one of your TrueHoop appearances this past year and loved all of them, but you were so wrong about Lebron.

PS. I’ve always rooted against Lebron and his team as a fan, but this turn of events has potentially changed that around, and I’m excited to see the new narrative unfold.

Mid-Season Assessment: NBA Season Still Worth Watching?

I can’t remember an NBA season with so many high profile players landing on the injured list. The most devastating ones to me are the season ending injuries to Boston’s Rondo and Sullinger. As the Celtics are my favorite team to watch (all be it while playing in a very unwatchable way), those injuries were very demoralizing. It means that whatever good the Celtics do in the playoffs will be by virtue of overachieving. When Sullinger went down it was particularly disappointing as his development – now put on hold – was a bright spot for the Celtics, even while the team was playing some horrible basketball.

Boston’s story going forward will be about how much grit they can show without their best player. They have enough pride to beat any team on any given night, as they have already shown by beating Miami, the Clippers and New York convincingly. Nobody expects them to go very deep into the playoffs and that might spur them on. How they play as a team and individually will determine their future with the Celtics. The pieces that don’t perform are likely to be headed out. And depending on how this season goes, Garnett might even decide to call it a day.

Meanwhile, the Lakers, who had similar preseason title hopes, have all but lost their chance to even reach the playoffs. Even though that have the wrong coach for their personnel and while taking in account the time it requires to find chemistry with a new team, or even the skimpy bench, none of these are the real reason the Lakers find themselves under .500. Injuries to Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have prevented them from getting anywhere close to the team they could be on paper.

Nevertheless, they still are a fascinating story line to watch. Kobe’s play has been stellar. Having lead the league in scoring for a while, he’s now looking to compliment in different ways by play making, rebounding and defending more than usual. But I’m glad I’m not a Laker fan because the outlook is pretty grim. You have two centers who can’t thrive together in Gasol and Howard, Kobe’s only got another year left after this, Gasol is only getting older and has a hard-to-move contract, Howard is likely gone after the summer. Why? He wants to build his own legacy, outside of the shadow of those who have walked before him (Shaq, Kareem and Wilt). So far, nothing has told me he really likes to be in LA. He reportedly wouldn’t even listen to Steve Nash’s advice on improving his free throw shooting.

Another team who’s season is turning into a train wreck is the Dallas Mavericks. You have a Hall of Fame quality player in Nowitzki, but are unable to surround him with the same level of talent that lead to a championship only 2 years ago. They are not even close to making the playoffs and even if they make a heroic run in the 2nd half of the season, they have to battle the likes of Portland, Houston, Utah and the Lakers for a lowly 8th seed. They don’t have much look forward to in the summer as the most interesting players on the market are likely to sign with their current teams or somewhere else.

Minnesota. You have to like this team on paper. The ultra-productive Kevin Love teamed with the fancy playmaking abilities of Rubio, flanked by the all-around and rejuvenated play of Kirilenko, supported by a rising star big (Pekovic) and complimented with feisty players like Barea. But finding any continuity with so many injuries on your roster is close to impossible and since the West is outrageously competitive, there’s no glimmer of hope in making the playoffs even though this should be a playoff team.

There are also some feel good stories that may unfold in the aftermath of injuries. Derrick Rose is set to return and his team is playing at a very high level. They have probably got the best coached team in the league, with Thibs getting increased production out of Noah and Boozer following up a disappointing campaign in the lockout season. Even Nate Robinson is thriving within the Bull’s team concepts. With Rose back, they are viable threats out in the East. Against Miami, they have a clear advantage down low and their defensive schemes will give Miami a run for their money.

John Wall is at a pivotal point in his career and since his return he hasn’t put up spectacular numbers, but it can’t be a coincidence that the Wizards are now playing respectable basketball. That’s encouraging because his talent level is high, you can’t help but want to see him succeed.

The Knicks are a fascinating team loaded with 3 point shooters and veteran savvy, while Carmelo is putting in a MVP-like season. This roster is pretty unique and they had a phenomenal start to the season. If they regain that form in the post season and shoot the lights out they can knock out any team, including the Heat.

Lebron is playing historic basketball. After winning a title his confidence is sky high and he’s excelling in every facet of the game. The only pedestrian aspect of his game is his free throw shooting. The Heat are also rounding into prime form as a unit as the playoffs approach. Nevertheless, the stakes are high for this Miami team. For Lebron to really get into the ‘best ever’ equation he needs to collect titles. If he misses the title this year, it would be disastrous. Wade and company will be one year older and Durant is knocking at the door to get a ring.

It will be fascinating to watch what happens if the Heat don’t win a title this year. It could be disastrous in the long run. When Jordan won his first, he went on two win 2 more, with another three-peat following his 1st retirement. If Lebron is unable to win titles back to back, it will hurt any argument that can be made for him in the Jordan vs Lebron debate.

All in all, despite the amount of injuries the season still has all the makings of a terrific playoffs. Let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

Why Does Kevin Love Not Improve The Timberwolves Record?

There are few players that can stuff a box score like Kevin Love can. He may go down as the best rebounder in NBA history. He can also shoot threes. Last year he sported a PER of 25.41. A talent like that doesn’t come by often, but why on earth doesn’t his team have a better record?

He’s publicly questioned the organisation for the way it has managed the team, but if you look at the roster now, he’s surrounded by talent. You get the impression that he’s putting the blame on the management. They are a lot better on paper than their record shows. If you have a superstar on your team, you should be winning games on sheer talent alone. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Kevin Love.

Compare him to an all-time great, another legendary rebounder. In all of Charles Barkley’s seasons with the Sixers, he only failed to make the playoffs once (his final year). Hersey Hawkins was the second best player on the team, which says it all. Kevin Love has missed the playoffs every year of his career so far. And now he’s got incredible talent around him.

Since Love’s return from injury, they have gone 8-8, a .500 team. The thing is, they were playing like a .500 team before he returned (going 6-6). While it’s a small sample size, the fact remains that on paper, he hasn’t added wins.

When the Bulls get Derrick Rose back (and his health is good), their win record will go up, it’s just a given. The difference will be palpable. How come Love, who puts up superstar numbers, doesn’t make the same impact?

I don’t know why. I do know that it confounds me. And it makes Kevin Love’s public complaints sound unbecoming of a superstar basketball talent.

I like the Wolves roster and I think they should move Kevin Love. It’s not like he’s going to sign a a new contract anyway. They have so many good pieces, Shved, Pekovic, Rubio, Kirilenko, all of which are great team players. Just need a good replacement at power forward, someone like Horford, Josh Smith, Aldridge or even Demarcus Cousins.