NBA Regular Season Review

Now that the NBA regular season is complete, we’re going to look back at how my predictions panned out. Not only the accuracy of the predictions, but also how we got here. This is only the regular season and playoff predictions. I’ll do a separate post for my award’s predictions.
 
Eastern Conference
 
Atlantic Division
 
Boston Celtics
Prediction: Over 55.5
Record: 55-27 Miss
 
Brad Stevens has proven that he can take lesser talent to the greatest possible ceiling. Not only has he done it with the Boston Celtics, but also in college at Butler. The only reason Boston missed its mark this season is because of the Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving injuries. They lost, by far, their two best players, one for the entire season, and still almost won 56 games. It’s incredible.
 
Toronto Raptors
Prediction: Under 48.5
Record: 59-23 Miss
 
Dwane Casey deserves a ton of credit for the Raptors this year. Casey took a group that we were all starting to get bored of and energized the team. He is not my coach of the year, because how hard is it to acknowledge where the league is going (spacing, 3’s) and adjust your offense toward that? But I digress. And the bench is a big reason why. Fred Van Vleet is the biggest surprise, but the Raps own the deepest bench in the league. Combine that with Casey pushing the right buttons at the right time, and you have the #1 seed Raptors. Now they have to prove it in the playoffs.
 
Philadelphia Sixers
Prediction: Under 41.5
Record: 52-30 Miss
 
Joel Embiid stayed healthy, it’s pretty plain and simple. Given his injury history, there wasn’t any reason to believe he would play close to a full season. 63 games later, Embiid is a superstar and the Sixers could be ready for a run, not only in this playoffs, but for years to come. Ben Simmons has also been one of the best rookies we’ve seen in awhile.
 
New York Knicks
Prediction: Over 30.5
Record: 29-53 Miss
 
Hornacek is out, and the Knicks continue to run the mediocrity treadmill. They hit the over if Porzingis stays healthy, but he didn’t, and they didn’t. Meh.
 
Brooklyn Nets
Prediction: Over 27.5
Record: 28-54 Hit
 
This is both a credit to coach Kenny Atkinson and a knock on the level of talent in Brooklyn. Brooklyn hasn’t had it’s own first round pick since 2013, so they’ve been trying hard to win games. The talent is so depleted, they won 28 games. Atkinson is their coach of the future, and maximizing given talent is going to be his expertise.
 
Central Division
 
Cleveland Cavaliers
Prediction: Over 53.5
Record: 50-32 Miss
 
Lebron had way more to deal with this season than anyone could have expected. Ty Lue took time off to take care of his mental space, Kevin Love missed time with injuries and Isaiah Thomas was a circus on his own. Oh, and the roster was completely overhauled at the trade deadline. Lebron is the best to ever do it, but at 33 years old, he can only carry so much.
 
Milwaukee Bucks
Prediction: Over 47.5
Record: 44-38 Miss
 
In my awards predictions, I expected Giannis Antetokounmpo to make the leap this year into superstardom. And while he hit that next level, the rest of the Bucks didn’t follow. Jabari Parker missed a lot of the year again, and second year Malcolm Brogdan didn’t elevate much from his Rookie of the Year campaign. The Bucks next coach needs to come in prepared to help this team leap into the next level. Otherwise, Giannis may start looking for a new home.
 
Detroit Pistons
Prediction: Under 38.5
Record: 39-43 Miss
 
Stan Van Gundy is a great coach. He is not a great coach/president of basketball operations. He has more than likely worked his way out of the second role, and may lose his job as coach as well. Detroit has some pieces, but they need pieces that work together. Having the parts to a Volkswagen and trying to build an Audi doesn’t work.
 
Indiana Pacers
Prediction: Over 31.5
Record: 48-34 Hit
 
I definitely thought the Pacers would be better than 31.5 wins. But I still had them finishing 4th in the Central division. This iteration of the Pacers is far beyond what most people thought the ceiling would be. Victor Oladipo has been reborn in Indiana and if Myles Turner takes another step forward, the Pacers could be a problem for awhile.
 
Chicago Bulls
Prediction: Under 22
Record: 27-55 Miss
 
Lauri Markkanen is one of my biggest misses. I didn’t believe in him at all. Not only was he one of the best rookies this season, but Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis looked good. Hell, even Kris Dunn seems to have figured some things out. Things are looking up for Chicago.
 
Southeast Division
 
Washington Wizards
Prediction: Over 48
Record: 43-39 Miss
 
Only when there is a track record of injuries (see the Sixers prediction) do I factor in injuries. So while John Wall missing the majority of the season may be the reason, the Wizards have still be a disappointment this season. There were many games along the way that they had no business losing, yet here we are. This is will be an interesting franchise to watch going forward.
 
Charlotte Hornets
Prediction: Over 42.5
Record: 36-46 Miss
 
I plain missed this one. There was reason to be hopeful about this Hornets team. Kemba Walker has been fantastic all season, but combinations of injuries and a general lack of talent helped the outcome. Also, Malik Monk was one of my favorite players in the draft, but has been disappointing. He’ll figure things out, but this season wasn’t that time. Kemba seems to love Charlotte, but Michael Jordan needs to do more to show some love back.
 
Miami Heat
Prediction: Over 43.5
Record: 44-38 Hit
 
Everything I said about Brad Stevens can be copy and pasted for Erik Spoelstra. He’s a great coach and gets the most out of the talent given to him.
 
Orlando Magic
Prediction: Under 33.5
Record: 25-57 Hit
 
I, like most people, saw the opening stretch for Orlando and didn’t understand. Beating the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies in the first eight games of the season is impressive. Once the glow faded and the shooting percentage dropped, the Magic were stuck being the Magic. Frank Vogel is looking for another job, and Orlando stays on that same treadmill of mediocrity as New York. Until next season!
 
Atlanta Hawks
Prediction: Under 25.5
Record: 24-58 Hit
 
Atlanta is on the rebuild track, and with a base of young talent already there, they set up well for a few years from now. They’ll take this years top pick and start to build something nice.
 
 
Western Conference
 
Northwest Divison
 
Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction: Over 50.5
Record: 48-34 Miss
 
I blame Billy Donovan. Carmelo Anthony should have been on the bench, or at least playing less than 30 minutes a game, for awhile now. Donovan either doesn’t have the chops to bench a Hall of Famer, or there’s some serious internal issues. Either way, unless the Thunder do one of those two things, they won’t hit their ceiling in the playoffs. And even that may not take them far.
 
Denver Nuggets
Prediction: Over 45.5
Record: 46-36 Hit
 
Oh Denver. You waited way too long to give a shit. I like the young core they have there, but Jokic needs to work on his defense if the Nuggets are going to make any sort of leap forward. Mike Malone should get another year, but his seat is going to be very hot.
 
Minnesota Timberwolves
Prediction: Under 48.5
Record: 47-35 Hit
 
I’ll say it now; Minnesota is going to get smacked in the playoffs. Tibs runs those guys into the ground and they aren’t going to have the stamina to keep up with Houston. Houston was set up to beat anyone they played, but Minnesota will go down in 4 or 5.
 
Utah Jazz
Prediction: Over 41
Record: 48-34 Hit
 
Donovan Mitchell is definitely a top 2 Rookie of the Year candidate. He and Ricky Rubio carried the Jazz through the Rudy Gobert injury, and with Gobert back, the Jazz are the Western Conference team nobody wants. The Western Conference playoffs, from top to bottom, is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
 
Portland Trailblazers
Prediction: Under 42.5
Record: 49-33 Miss
 
Swing and a miss. The Raptors and Trailblazers are very parallel teams, and that includes their ability to outplay my expectations. Similar cast coming back to make another run at it, with a key new contributor coming off the bench (Van Vleet, Zach Collins). I love Damian Lillard, and Portland, so I’m very happy to be wrong here.
 
Pacific Division
 
Golden State Warriors
Prediction: Over 67.5
Record: 58-24 Miss
 
The biggest takeaway from this season has been the effect many runs to the Finals has on a team. We’ve seen it with every team that makes 3 Finals in a row. The year following the third run, the team falls apart. The only player that seems to be immune to the toll it takes is Lebron James, but he’s 33 and not getting younger. The Warriors are more vulnerable than ever.
 
Los Angeles Clippers
Prediction: Over 43.5
Record: 42-40 Miss
 
Blake Griffin might have bumped the Clippers over the 43.5 mark, but I prefer the Boban, DJ and Tobias Harris pregame dance off. I have never liked Doc, Austin or the Clippers in general. But dammit if Boban didn’t soften my heart.
 
Los Angeles Lakers
Prediction: Over 33.5
Record: 35-47 Hit
 
The Baby Lakers still have a lot of room to grow. This offseason will be critical for what direction this franchise takes going forward, so it’s hard to project. If they choose to keep building around young talent, I like the Lonzo Ball-Brandon Ingram base. Kyle Kuzma will be a great contributor off the bench and Julius Randle could still be on the cusp. With an expected late first round pick this year, the Lakers need to hit on it or in free agency.
 
Sacramento Kings
Prediction: Over 27.5
Record: 27-55 Miss
 
I had high expectations for De’Aaron Fox, and I still do. He played behind a very unhappy George Hill for most of the season, and still needs to work on his game. I still have faith his drive to be great is going to fix a lot of his gaps. Plus, those city jerseys are flames. The Kings are looking up (kind of).
 
Phoenix Suns
Prediction: Under 29
Record: 21-61 Hit
 
Not too much patting on the back here. The Suns are awful, with no end in sight.
 
Southwest Division
 
Houston Rockets
Prediction: Over 55.5
Record: 65-17 Hit
 
The Rockets have been every bit the team as advertised and they are operating a historic offense. But…. Until James Harden and Chris Paul can bring a team to the Finals, there will be a cloud over their heads. Paul has at least performed well in high pressure situations, but the Rockets will need both it’s superstars to elevate in the playoffs.
 
San Antonio Spurs
Prediction: Under 54.5
Record: 47-35 Hit
 
Even with Kawhi, the Spurs were going to take a dip this season. Without him, they took a full-on slide. By only the grace of Popovich, they still have the 4 seed, but missed on 50 wins for the first time in the Popovich era, save the shortened 1998-99 season. They won 74% of their games that season.
 
Memphis Grizzlies
Prediction: Under 37.5
Record: 22-60 Hit
 
Grind City came to a grinding halt. ANYWAY, it’s time to reset the deck in Memphis, and with likely a top 3 pick in a loaded draft on the way, they should be set.
 
New Orleans Pelicans
Prediction: Under 39.5
Record: 48-34 Miss
 
Anthony Davis stayed healthy, DeMarcus Cousins didn’t, and then AD turned into Clark Kent. If you ever had a doubt Davis is a top 5 player in the league, this season fixed that for you. He dragged a very “first-run-of-Lebron’s-Cavaliers-esque” team to the playoffs, even after Cousins’ injury. Jrue Holiday has also been great this season.
 
Dallas Mavericks
Prediction: Under 35.5
Record: 24-58 Hit
 
Dirk deserves better. Between Nerlens Noel’s new found love of hot dogs, the Mark Cuban issues with his front office, and Wesley Matthews injury, it’s been a long season. Hey, at least they have Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Eastern Conference Playoffs Predictions 
Missed all seeds
 
Boston Celtics – Hit Playoffs
Cleveland Cavaliers – Hit Playoffs
Washington Wizards – Hit Playoffs
Milwaukee Bucks – Hit Playoffs
Toronto Raptors – Hit Playoffs
Charlotte Hornets – Miss Playoffs
Miami Heat – Hit Playoffs
Philadelphia Sixers – Hit Playoffs
 
Western Conference Playoffs Predictions
 
Missed all seeds
 
Golden State Warriors – Hit Playoffs
Houston Rockets – Hit Playoffs
Oklahoma City Thunder – Hit Playoffs
San Antonio Spurs – Hit Playoffs
Los Angeles Clippers – Miss Playoffs
Denver Nuggets – Miss Playoffs
Minnesota Timberwolves – Hit Playoffs
Utah Jazz – Hit Playoffs

Taking His Talents To…

(Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s no secret that Lebron James is looking for a change of scenery this summer. Lebron has a strenuous relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. It’s rumored that he has been touring prep schools in Los Angeles and Philadelphia for his kids to attend. While the Sixers and the Lakers would be great destinations for the King, I’ve been wondering where the best place for Lebron to go would be.

 
I broke down all thirty teams into separate tiers based on where Lebron is likely to go. From the ‘hell no’s’ to the ‘go buy your jerseys’, I’ll be breaking down why, and how, every team could or could not convince Lebron to bring his talents.
 
The teams on these lists are in alphabetical order.
 
No Chance to Make the Finals
 
Atlanta Hawks
 
Atlanta is another team in rebuild mode. Mike Budenholzer is (probably) a good coach when given talent. Building around a core of Dennis Schroeder, Taurean Prince and John Collins is not ideal for Lebron.
 
Brooklyn Nets
 
This is the only “bad” team I could see Lebron go to for fun. It won’t happen, but playing for Jay-Z’s team in New York would be kind of dope.
 
Chicago Bulls
 
You think Lebron rules over coaches like Ty Lue and David Blatt? Put him with Fred Hoiberg. Plus, they’re rebuilding too.
 
Dallas Mavericks
 
Wesley Matthews still can’t stay healthy and Harrison Barnes is your fourth or fifth best player on a championship team. Dennis Smith Jr. is intriguing but not enough to lure Lebron.
 
Memphis Grizzlies
 
Memphis is pushing the rebuild button. Marc Gasol is likely on his way out and that leaves a core of Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and… Plus the Western Conference is not a place he’s going to be willing to go without legitimate talent around him.
 
Phoenix Suns
 
Speaking of a lack of talent, the Phoenix Suns everybody! Sure, Josh Jackson is a rookie and Devin Booker has some room to grow. Unless some of the other young guys (Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss) make the leap people expected, the Suns will continue to be what they are.
 
 
Roster Doesn’t Work
 
Boston Celtics
 
Kyrie Irving is in Boston, which means Lebron is not going to Boston. Whether it’s because of Gordon Hayward’s injury or not, Boston is Kyrie’s team now. Lebron won’t want to go into that situation. Plus, a large part of the fan base can’t stand him and their roster is loaded with talented wings.
 
Miami Heat
 
It’s awful to say, but until Chris Bosh’s contract comes off Miami’s books in 2019, this team is a bit hamstrung. Hassan Whiteside is the third best player on a championship and Miami doesn’t have a second. Lebron would have to bring another superstar with him, which would clear the roster out. Plus, that first press conference with Pat Riley would be a bit icy for South Beach.
 
Minnesota Timberwolves
 
Minnesota is exactly where it wants to be. Would they give up Andrew Wiggins for Lebron James? Sure. But Lebron isn’t going to play 40 minutes a night for Tom Thibodeau.
 
Oklahoma City Thunder
 
This is Russell Westbrook’s team. Paul George is about to leave town. Carmelo Anthony isn’t built for today’s NBA. The team is in Oklahoma City. Not happening.
 
Portland Trailblazers
 
Portland is a weird city with a weird basketball team. Lebron doesn’t fit into that weirdness. It’s nothing against Portland, I love their team, and the city for that matter. Late career Lebron is looking for power and influence as much as he is money. Portland isn’t it.
 
Toronto Raptors
 
Toronto is another team that is on it’s own island. They play in a different country than everyone else, and they are more of a homegrown team. Signing a big free agent doesn’t fall in line with that. Plus, they already have the edge on Cleveland as it is this season.
 
Washington Wizards
 
Another weird team in a less weird city. Do John Wall and Bradley Beal get along? Is Otto Porter Jr. there to stay? Is Scotty Brooks a good coach? The world may never know. And Lebron won’t be finding out either.
 
 
Traditionally Bad Organization
 
New Orleans Pelicans
 
Somehow the Pelicans front office will mess up the Anthony Davis situation. They’ll either wait too long to trade him or let him walk. Either way, until they start showing they know how to make smart decisions (like the Boogie trade), Lebron won’t be picking up that phone call.
 
New York Knicks
 
It’s kind of sad. Lebron and the Knicks should fit together well. Kristaps Porzingis is a unicorn. James Dolan has ensured the rest of the roster is so bad, Lebron won’t look this way.
 
Orlando Magic
 
Remember when the Magic started this season by beating Cleveland and San Antonio? Good times. Remember when Rob Hennigan lost his job because of a whiteboard? Lebron James remembers.
 
Sacramento Kings
 
On top of not being good enough to compete right away, Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadivé could still be calling random bloggers for advice. Run Lebron. Don’t let De’Aaron Fox and those dope City jerseys lure you into that trap.
 
 
Location
 
Charlotte Hornets
 
A ‘meh’ team with no discernible future and the greatest player to ever do it running the team? Nah. Lebron has better things to do than live in that shadow.
 
Detroit Pistons
 
Detroit is a more northern version of Cleveland. Even Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond can’t convince Lebron to go there.
 
Indiana Pacers
 
Nap Town? Nah.
 
Los Angeles Clippers
 
“But it’s in LA!” True, but so are the Lakers. Never forget that Lebron gets to choose his next home city as well as the team he plays for. No one is telling him no.
 
Utah Jazz
 
Utah is a great organization, has great talent and a great coach. It’s a great mix of youth and experience and has a need for a legit wing player. The catch? It’s in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sorry Jazz fans. At least you still have Donovan Mitchell.
 
 
The Contenders
This list is in order of least likely to most likely destinations for Lebron. Every NBA team has a $99.093 million salary cap number this season, so it won’t rise much more than that next season. The teams also have a $119.266 million tax level. Let the debate begin!
 
8. Golden State Warriors
 
Golden State has $128 million committed to next season. Andre Iguodala is due $16 million, but outside of that, the Warriors would have to clear out one of their stars. Lebron would be worth it to dump, say, Iguodala and Klay Thompson’s $19 million, but I doubt the Warriors would mess up their chemistry. Lebron also definitely doesn’t want to join the enemy. It’s an unlikely scenario, but if a championship is Lebron’s motive, there’s no better place to get one.
 
Percent Chance: 0.5%
 
7. Denver Nuggets
 
Denver seems like it shouldn’t belong on this list, but bear with me. They have Nikola Jokic on a $1.6 million team option next year, along with most of their young talent on rookie deals. Paul Millsap makes the most per year at $29.2 million, with the next closest being Mason Plumlee at $12.9 million. With only $106 million committed next season, the Nuggets wouldn’t have to move too much to sign Lebron. Mike Malone is at least a decent to good coach, and Dwayne Wade took a meeting with them in 2016. Again, not a likely scenario, but to rule Denver out is a mistake.
 
Percent Chance: 2%
 
6. Milwaukee Bucks
 
The only rational is Giannis. And Giannis could be the pull enough for Lebron to go to Milwaukee. A starting lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdan, Khris Middleton, Lebron and Giannis. How’s that for a death lineup? That team is running the East, no questions asked. You can say that about most teams in the East if they add Lebron, though. The Bucks are in a great cap situation, with $103 million committed, so they could move a couple low level contracts to get within range. It’s not impossible.
 
Percent Chance: 2.5%
 
5. San Antonio Spurs
 
Ah, the top 5. That doesn’t mean the odds are in these teams favor. San Antonio hurt it’s chances with the way it’s handling Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich is a huge selling point, especially for someone who revers him as much as Lebron. Lebron and Kawhi on the wings with LaMarcus Aldridge down low is deadly. San Antonio only has $98 million committed next season and could put a strong offer out for Lebron this offseason.
 
Percent Chance: 5%
 
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
 
Cleveland’s chances keep plummeting. The latest story, about coach Tyrone Lue’s health, is hurting Cleveland’s chances. I hope Lue finds the balance he needs in his life, but related to Lebron, it doesn’t bode well. Lebron is going to have every team available to him in free agency. Returning to cold, wet Cleveland with Dan Gilbert sounds less than appealing. Still, Cleveland can offer a larger contract next season than anyone else. Lebron could also sign another one year deal and wait until next season. Stranger things have happened.
 
Percent Chance: 10%
 
3. Houston Rockets
 
Houston is actually a kind of great situation for Lebron. They owe Ryan Anderson $20.4 million next season. If Lebron announced his intent to sign with them, they would dump that contract to re-sign Chris Paul and sign Lebron. The Rockets only owe $78 million next season, so they have a lot of room to play as far as acquiring free agents. Clint Capela is only owed $3.4 million, which is a huge help. Add in the fact that Houston is without state tax, like Dallas and San Antonio, and they can make a real pitch to Lebron’s camp.
 
Percent Chance: 15%
 
2. Philadelphia Sixers
 
I can’t decide between the final two teams so I’ll file all my thoughts under…
 
Percent Chance: 34%
 
1. Los Angeles Lakers
 
Which twosome would you rather have next season: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid or Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball? I’d take Simmons and Embiid but Ball and Ingram aren’t a bad option either. Lebron would rather be in Los Angeles, but Philadelphia isn’t exactly a small market. Los Angeles would need more than Lebron, but Lebron and Magic Johnson would definitely bring in more talent. Philadelphia has a less stable front office, as strange as that sounds, which would lead me to lean toward LA. Los Angeles only has $34 million committed next season, and Philadelphia only has $43 million. It’s the battle of two up-and-coming heavyweights and it should get interesting. If Lebron is looking for another championship (or two) he’ll sign with Philadelphia. If he’s looking to expand his career outside basketball, he’ll sign with Los Angeles.
 
Percent Chance: 36%

REVISITED: Why the Cavs-Celtics Trade is STILL Perfect

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics completed, somehow, the craziest trade of the offseason tonight. The Cavaliers are sending Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, and a 2020 2nd-round pick.

When the Irving stuff first started getting leaked, I saw a tweet from FS1’s Jason McIntyre basically laying out this trade, but with Guerschon Yabusele instead of Zizic. I loved the idea then, so to see it play out is really interesting. Here’s why both teams won this trade.

Cleveland won the trade because…

Kyrie was unhappy, wasn’t going to resign with Cleveland in two years, and was going to make the whole season super awkward for everyone. The Cavs needed to dump him, and they needed to maximize what they were going to get for him. I believe they did that. Thomas is injured, and unlikely to resign with them, but he isn’t the key to this deal. Crowder is on one of the best contracts in the league and the Celtics really liked Zizic as a role player, possibly as a replacement for Al Horford as he ages. But the real prize is the Brooklyn pick. Even with the Nets looking much more competent for this upcoming season, they will still probably yield a top seven pick, and this years draft is extremely talented up top. If the Cavs can turn an unhappy Kyrie into Zizic, a vet in Crowder to put around Kevin Love, and can get a guy like Luka Doncic in the draft, they will set themselves up for the future. This is a big deal because it’s clear by this move that the Cavaliers believe Lebron James is going to Los Angeles after this year. Even the 2020 pick could prove valuable in a rebuild. Best case scenario, James is happy Irving is gone and decides he wants to stay. Worst case scenario, he leaves and you’ve got a young core that you can start to rebuild around.

Boston won the trade because…

The best player in the trade ended up on Boston’s roster. Plain and simple. Boston is signaling that they’re gunning for the Finals this season, and it’s broken that terrible cycle they were in of gathering assets AND trying to contend. They finally decided to be aggressive, and it will pay off for them, even if they don’t resign Irving. Also, they clear up some of the logjam at the wing spots by dumping Crowder, even if it meant losing his contract. We still aren’t sure if he and Gordon Hayward were going to gel anyway.

Ultimately, both teams did well given the circumstances, and this trade helps the league by stealing the spotlight right before we head into football season.

2017-18 NBA MVP Preview

After Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double last season, this MVP race may seem tame in comparison, but I think we’re in for a changing-of-the-guard season from the superstars in the league. The Lebron-era stars are starting their turn toward the end of the their careers and there is some serious talent coming up from the younger players. I think there will be a lot of familiar faces this season, but we’ll start to see some of the younger players sneaking into the conversation. Also, I think given the controversy, if you want to call it that, surrounding last years vote, and with the addition of Paul George to the team, Russell Westbrook has almost no shot at winning the award this year. He’s not on my list. So without further ado…

1. James Harden, Houston Rockets

The runner-up to last seasons award is coming for blood. Or as much blood as someone who scored 10 points, had 7 assists and 6 turnovers in an elimination game in the playoffs can go for. Despite that, Harden is the best player on a team that should at least challenge the Warriors for the best record in the league, and that’s saying something. He got decently close to a triple double average himself last season, and with Chris Paul able to feed him more and Harden trying to run the offense full-time, he should get plenty of opportunities to score in bunches. Harden is my pre-season favorite to win the award next season.

2. Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

I get it. He’s 32, going on 33 this season, with a lot of miles on his body that not even an Instagram video can prepare you for. He’s feuding (or not) with Kyrie Irving and his camp, he’s probably already got eyes for Los Angeles, etc.

But the thing to always remember with Lebron is, he is the best player to ever play the game, and when he gets irritated, he can prove any point he wants on the court. He’s already thinking about Los Angeles? I’d argue he’s gunning for one final “fuck you” to Dan Gilbert on his way out. He’s going to be 33 this season? He’s also an alien and a player with the durability and stamina of which we’ve NEVER seen in the NBA.

So keep talking all that shit about Lebron being on the downside of his career. He’ll prove you wrong.

3. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Durant showed what he was capable of in the postseason for the Warriors. I don’t care if he doesn’t like the Slim Reaper nickname, it is the most accurate name for him. He went full Reaper to close the Cavaliers out in the finals and he should continue to dominate as he hits the prime of his prime. The MVP award isn’t just about composite numbers necessarily, it’s also about the flair, the swagger you bring to the table and if playoff KD shows up for the regular season, it’s a wrap.

4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Listen. Kawhi is 26 years old. He’s only played 6 NBA seasons. We haven’t even started peak Kawhi yet. This is ridiculous. Leonard is the glue holding San Antonio together after Tim Duncan retired two years ago, and he will need to make an even further leap (mostly offensively) if he wants to challenge the Warriors. I think Rudy Gay is going to be a difference maker for the Spurs, but if they want to challenge the Warriors out West, not only will LaMarcus Aldridge need to pull his head out of his ass, but Kawhi will have to go to an otherworldly level.

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

I’ve been on the Greek Freak bandwagon almost since he came into the league, so this isn’t a totally unbiased selection, but this offseason, most of the talk around the 22 year old hasn’t been about IF he would win an MVP, but how MANY MVP’s he would win. Giannis is one of the NBA unicorns, and while I don’t think he will win it this season, if he starts hitting his jumper and the Bucks make a surprise run to the top of the Eastern Conference, he could bring home the hardware.

Cleveland Cavaliers 2017-18 Offseason and Preview

Offseason Signings

Signed: Jose Calderon, Jeff Green, Derrick Rose

Resigned: Kyle Korver

Received in Trade: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic

Offseason Losses

Free Agents: Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams

Traded: Kyrie Irving

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. Isaiah Thomas
  2. JR Smith
  3. Lebron James
  4. Kevin Love
  5. Tristan Thompson

Updated: 8/22/17

Avoiding A Sweep

AP Photo/Ben Margot

I, regrettably, did not pick the Golden State Warriors to sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. I picked them in five, mostly due to Lebron James. I figured he would be able to steal a game somewhere. Unfortunately for Lebron, he can’t do it all himself.

After getting run off the court in Game 1, it’s pretty apparent that, barring injury or Mike Brown becoming….well, Mike Brown, we’re staring down a first championship for Kevin Durant. Side note, I love Mike Brown.

The Cavaliers have a lot to fix, but these are the most important things to a turnaround in the series for the Cavaliers.

1. Guard Kevin Durant

I’m not entirely sure if the “Ignore-Kevin-Durant-on-Defense” gameplan was a smart choice. It felt like Durant ran down the middle of the court, unimpeded,  for a dunk about 204728974 times. Part of the problem is that Lebron is just not the same lockdown defender that he was at the peak of his prime. Lebron still has a step on almost everyone on the planet, but Kevin Durant is an alien. Similar to Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard,  and other E.T.’s. Lebron can’t hang with Durant, but unfortunately he is probably the Cavs best option. Getting more length on Durant (Iman Shumpert) or someone to rough him up (Dahantay Jones, James Jones) would be the only option to give Lebron a break.

2. Use Less Bench

All that being said, the Cavs bench was awful. Deron Williams might as well have gone back to Brooklyn and the whole bench combined for 21 points, 5 less rebounds than Kevin Love alone, and 2 assists. This is where I think Lebron’s usage over the regular season and playoffs will bite Cleveland. Lebron and the rest of the starters are going to have two, maybe three guys that they can rely on for decent breaks. Kyle Korver has to step up, Iman Shumpert has to become a plus-wing defender and Richard Jefferson needs to travel back in time. Outside of those guys, I can’t see how you legitimately argue more than a couple minutes for anyone else.

3. Slow the Game Down

Trying to outrun the Warriors is a recipe for disaster, especially if the Cavs shrink their bench down. The Warriors are faster, smaller and younger than the Cavs. Slowing the game down and operating out of the half court will allow Cleveland to try to control the pace and get the starters some rest on the offensive end of the court.

4. Go Small…ish

Shrinking the bench gives Cleveland less options, but Tyronn Lue needs to get creative. Starting the same lineup, and then staggering Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love keeps Lebron at the 4 and closer to the basket. Using Lebron in a Draymond Green role on defense is probably their best bet to put defensive pressure on the Warriors and keep the games lower scoring.

5. Pull Draymond Green Away From the Basket

Conversely, cracking the Warrior code on defense requires removing the most important piece. When Green got in foul trouble early in the first quarter and had to come out of the game, Cleveland was able to take advantage and keep the game close. The biggest advantage Green gives the Warriors is playing close to the basket and sliding with help defense on anyone that comes into the paint. Going small and making Green guard a legit threat on the perimeter pulls him out of that role and opens up the lane. Green is the most important player for the Warriors and limiting his effectiveness is a must for Cleveland.

NBA Preview: Most Valuable Player

Photo: Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports

In the final award preview post, we’re going to take a look at the the MVP race. I have a somewhat controversial list, as Steph Curry is not on it. After winning it the past two years, unanimously last season, I think there’s 0% chance the voters give it to him again. Adding Durant will pull votes from him anyway, and I just don’t see any way that Steph gets it.

That being said, there are definitely some familiar names on here, all for different reasons. Let’s check it out.

Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

You have to put the best player in the league on the list. Period. Lebron may have been coasting a bit last year, but that may not be the case this season. He was angry that Steph won it last season, and it showed in the Finals. If Lebron feels like making the point definitive, he could play in 72 games, try every night and get the Cavs to the best record in the league, even over the looming Golden State team. Conversely, Lebron could see the big picture and choose to rest his body for another shot at Golden State in the playoffs. Ultimately, I see Lebron as the big picture guy, however keyed in Lebron is bar none the best player in the league.

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

And looking at Lebron from the opposite coast is Kevin Durant. While I think there’s no chance Steph wins it, I do think he pulls some votes from Durant. So, there’s only one scenario where Durant has a shot. If he can lead Golden State to another record-breaking season (upper 70’s in wins) and average the numbers he did last season in Oklahoma City (28.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5 apg) then I can see the voters being compelled to give it to him. Before the preseason, I didn’t know how likely this was. However,  after watching the flow and chemistry on the court already for the Warriors, I think it’s definitely on the table.

James Harden, Houston Rockets

An underdog in terms of the betting odds, Harden is an intriguing option. Under the Mike D’Antoni offense, and running the point this season officially, Harden could have a monster year and bring the Rockets right along with him. Make no mistake, the Rockets won’t play any sort of defense, but they also might average 110 points per game. Harden could finish in the 30 ppg, 9 apg range and that would be enough if the Rockets get to a top seed in the West.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook is going to play like a man possessed. It’s in his wiring. So let’s look at the differences between last season with Durant and the 2014-15 season without Durant.

  • 2015-16: 23.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 10.4 apg, PER 27.6
  • 2014-15: 28.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg, PER 29.1

Now, obviously the points and PER were higher without Durant, and that may be enough to warrant the award. But I think Westbrook will need a better showing both in team record and teammate stats to pull it out. He does have a better supporting cast this season than a couple years ago, but Russell will still need to prove it.

My Pick: Russell Westbrook