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NBA Playoff Stock Watch Round 2

As we enter the 2nd round of the playoffs, it’s time to take another look at the NBA Stock Market.

UP: Golden State Warriors… Kudos to the Warriors for advancing to the 2nd round. After David Lee went down with a torn hip flexor during Game 1 it appeared—

DOWN: Golden State Warriors… WE INTERRUPT THE PREVIOUS SECTION TO BRING THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS A MUCH NEEDED REALITY CHECK. A few things: First, there have been wayyyyyyyyyyyy too many stretches of too much Jarrett Jack and too much Klay Thompson. That needs to be nixed pronto. Only great players should get isos multiple possessions in a row. At the last census I believe we determined that Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack are not great players. Second, I don’t care if you need all five guys to do so, but Golden State needs to crash the defensive boards. Giving up 20 offensive rebounds is just asking to lose a game. Speaking of asking to lose a game, the Warriors were following the manual on how to lose a lead in the last 6 minutes of a close game step by step during Game 6. That was a bigger catastrophe than the Hawks/Pacers series. Hey, while we’re there…

DOWN: The Hawks-Pacers series… What a fantastically terrible piece of crap series this was! Admittedly, I did all that I could to avoid watching these six games. I probably spent less than one hour real time watching these two teams play. I got my fix of mediocre basketball during March Madness. I watch the NBA playoffs for good basketball. Thank the lord this atrocity has come to a conclusion. Speaking of atrocities…

DOWN: Playoff music… Is a montage of NBA players lackadaisically dancing and dribbling basketballs with will.i.am to his lame new song really necessary to get fans psyched up for playoff basketball? Do we need to be subjected to this torture EVERY SINGLE TIME there is a commercial break in a game on ESPN or ABC? Remember when NBC used the same theme song for every single game? Yeah, I do too, because it’s still the best song the NBA has ever used. It’s vintage NBA, and anyone who loved the league in the 1990’s will without question agree with me when I say that. You also have to agree with me when I say that…

May 5, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (center) holds his fourth MVP trohpy next to head coach Erik Spoelstra (left) and Heat president Pat Riley (right) at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

UP: LeBron James… LeBron James kicked a whole bunch of ass this year and was deserving of all 121 MVP votes (I literally laughed out loud when I saw that Carmelo got a first place vote, but that’s a discussion for another time). This was without question LeBron’s best season of his illustrious career, and I’ll give a lot of that credit to the title win last season. I’ve watched a lot of LeBron James basketball over the last 6 years thanks to NBA League Pass, and there was just a sense of calmness and control in his game this year that wasn’t always there. There isn’t the skyscraper sized burden on his shoulders anymore to win a title. He’s done all that any critic or analyst has asked of him. Now he just needs to focus on playing basketball, something he happens to be extremely good at. You know who else is good at basketball?…

UP: Russell Westbrook… Torn meniscus and all, Westbrook’s stock has skyrocketed in the last two weeks because the Thunder, who despite winning their series against Houston 4-2, have looked like a completely different team than they did with Westbrook in the lineup. This makes a lot of sense considering before this postseason began Westbrook had played in all 439 possible games since being drafted by the Thunder. Obviously, Westbrook had his downfalls (Shaky decision making at times/Kept the ball out of Durant’s hands) but when he went down, it completely changed the dynamic of this entire Oklahoma City team, and not in a good way. All of the sudden, the Thunder became the Cleveland Cavaliers circa 2007 and Durant was forced to do his best LeBron impression, which he’s done reasonably well at so far.

In a span of six months Kevin Durant has lost his two security blankets (Westbrook and James Harden) and is now left to go to battle with Serge Ibaka (not quite ready to be the 2nd best guy on a championship team), Kevin Martin (not quite the bench spark that James Harden was), Reggie Jackson (the homeless man’s Russell Westbrook), and a bunch of other players who can’t even create their own shot. Right now, Westbrook’s stock is at an all-time high. Oh, and I forgot to mention…

DOWN: Scott Brooks… Durant is playing for a coach that as Bill Simmons has put it so many times before, “Is playing checkers rather than chess.” Not only has Scott Brooks insisted on playing Kendrick Perkins too many minutes despite every piece of statistical evidence and analyst saying this wasn’t a smart move (to his credit, Brooks only played Perkins four minutes in the Thunder’s Game 6 win at Houston), but he also resorted to a Hack-Asik strategy during Game 5 that lasted way too long and effectively killed any chance the Thunder had of winning that game. Asik handled his business from the line and the continuous stoppage of play killed any and all flow the Thunder offense had. It was a masterpiece of bad coaching. Just because Russell Westbrook is out for the postseason, that doesn’t give Scott Brooks the green light to coach incompetently. This might not be as big of an issue…

UP: James Harden… If James Harden was still a member of the Thunder, Westbrook’s stock wouldn’t be so high or Brooks’ so low. It turns out he was the most overqualified 3rd option in the league when he was coming off the bench for the Thunder. Now he’s become the 1st option, a likely 2nd Team All-NBA guard, and the leader of a playoff team that is poised to improve after they snatch up a few marquee free agents over the summer. Let’s talk about that…

DOWN: Dwight Howard… Despite going out like a complete punk in Game 4 against San Antonio, Dwight will remain the most sought after free agent this summer, and I see him ultimately winding up in Houston. Why? Well the Lakers have turned into a complete mess. They have a coach that Dwight probably doesn’t want to play for (does anyone want to play for Mike D’Antoni right now), a star player who is recovering from a torn Achilles, and a supporting cast that is among the sorriest in the league. Still, there is the allure of playing in Los Angeles, and knowing how attention hungry Dwight is, that might be enough for him to sign there. The other logical landing spots for Dwight and his smile are Atlanta (his hometown), Dallas (Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki’s twilight seasons), or Houston (James Harden and a bunch of shooters). If I was in Dwight’s shoes I’m already looking for some real estate in Houston. If Dwight cares about winning (I’m sure he does, but I’m not sure that is his number one concern) then the Rockets are the logical choice since they could easily become a jacked up version of the 2009 Magic team that went to the Finals. They already have a young crop of perimeter players on the roster, including James Harden who is arguably a top ten player in the league. I suppose I have to put my grudge against Dwight Howard aside and say he will and should receive a max contract. His presence could easily transform the Rockets from playoff team to title contender. Not many players could do that.

May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) dunks the ball above Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) during the third quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

UP: Andrew Bogut… Remember way back in the day when Andrew Bogut grabbed a 3rd Team All-NBA nod? Yeah, that memory is pretty fuzzy for me too thanks to the vision of Boguts right arm breaking and dislocating in 127 different places and the few injury plagued seasons that followed. But believe me, once upon time a case could be made for Bogut as the second best center in the league. In Game 6 against Denver Bogut turned back the clock with a throwback 14 point, 21 rebound, 4 block performance that was vital in propelling Golden State into the 2nd round. Speaking of which…

UP (Continued): Golden State Warriors… as if the Warriors were finished. Well that didn’t happen. Stephen Curry did Stephen Curry things (here, and here, and here) and the Warriors also got some key contributions elsewhere (71 points combined from Jack, Barnes and Thompson in Game 2; 19 and 17 points from Carl Landry off the bench in Games 3 and 4; 16 points and 10 rebounds from rookie Draymond Green in Game 6; and Boguts standout performance). Now, the Warriors are on to round two once again as the underdogs, this time against the veteran San Antonio Spurs, who are poised to make a run in the depleted Western Conference.

Conventional wisdom would say the Warriors don’t have much of a chance against the battle tested Spurs. But the funny thing about the NBA is it doesn’t always rely on conventional wisdom. With some transcendent players conventional wisdom is thrown out the window. I’m willing to go as far as saying Stephen Curry is one of those guys. Maybe he only gives the Warriors a punchers chance, but at least it’s a chance. His swag is on high and his game has elevated him into superstar status. There is no telling what Curry is capable of every time he steps on the floor.

UP: Birdman, Birdman… I’m a Heat fan, but even I thought this little routine would get really annoying really quick. Maybe it’s because the Heat haven’t played a game in over a week so it’s still kind of fresh, but I still laugh whenever Shaq does his thing. We’ll have to check this one again in two weeks.

DOWN: Andre Miller…  After his Game 1 takeover against the Warriors Miller earned himself a mention in the “Stock Up” section the first time I did this a week ago. Since, Miller’s stock has dropped drastically but he has found himself an honorary member of two very exclusive clubs. First, the Brian Cook All-Stars, which I detailed in my write up of Monta Ellis during my countdown of the top 50 players in the league before the start of the season. He’s also one of the founding members of what I would like to call “The Jarrett Jack Club,” which inducts any players who make it a habit of dribbling out a possession and forcing up an impossible shot as the shot clock is about to expire.

DOWN: Spike Lee… Everyone who has ever been to a live sporting event knows that there are certain types of fans that you hope you don’t end up sitting next to. The guy who is drunk, obnoxiously loud, a threat to puke, and rooting against your team. The lady with the annoying voice who has no idea what is going on in the game but opts to cheer as loud as she can anyway. The kids who are sitting a few rows ahead of you and not paying attention to the game, so you’re bitter the entire game because they have better seats than you. And then there is Spike Lee, the absolute worst kind of sports fan. I pray for the unlucky souls who have to sit next to the single most annoying non-player in NBA history and suffer throughout the entire game. Spike Lee and this idea that Carmelo Anthony belongs in the same conversation as LeBron James is what makes me dislike the Knicks more than any other team in the NBA right now. For a series, that combination even turned me into a Boston Celtics fan, which is certainly no easy task.

DOWN: Brooklyn Nets… Granted I didn’t catch much of the postgame coverage of Game 7 of the Bulls/Nets series, but I have to imagine that if someone asked P.J. Carlesimo “What was your team missing in tonight’s game?” it would’ve sounded something like this.

UP: NBA… You know what makes me happier than the Pillsbury Dough Boy on his way to a baking convention? After a very bleak start to the 1st round, things turned around in a big way. There were five 1st round series that went to six games, one that went to seven, and I believe that will carry over into the 2nd round. Think about it this way: The 1st round has resulted in a 2nd round that will feature legitimate superstars (LeBron and Durant), one “superstar” (Carmelo… sorry, I had to), some new blood in the mix (Curry and George), the two toughest teams in the league (Chicago and Memphis), one franchise looking to add one more title to their incredible 15 year dynasty (San Antonio) and at the very least 26 more games of NBA playoff action. Basketball fans rejoice.

 

sonnygiuliano