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Season Recap: Why Predictions are Stupid, and Other Stories

Well folks, as the regular season winds down, I think that now is an appropriate time to look back on the season that was. Actually it’s more like the season that “is,” since the regular season hasn’t actually finished yet. I’m just really tired of regular season basketball right now. If you follow me on Twitter, you could tell that baseball has swallowed my attention, and that basketball, for now, has taken a backseat. Sure, playoffs are starting soon, like REALLY soon, but I couldn’t resist doing a recap now. I’m just way too restless.

Alright, so since none of you want to listen to me ramble on about baseball, I’ll start off by picking five stories at the start of the season, that didn’t quite pan out. Obviously I need to talk about the Miami Heat. No one has done that enough. And of course, I need to talk about Kevin Durant, since people were calling him MVP before the season started. I can’t NOT talk about the Lakers, they had a season that was unlike anyone could expect. The Spurs deserve some attention as well. And no recap list would be complete without Carmelo/Knicks/Nuggets on it. Continue Reading

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West is Best: Lack of Superstars Means Nothing

With all the superstars in the league defecting to the East, we seem to have forgotten that the Western Conference is still home to the leagues best teams. Everyone is busy debating which team will come out of the East, well look at the West! It’s arguably more competitive, and holds the best teams in the league.

Now, I know the Celtics, Heat and Bulls are good teams, and I guess you can throw the Magic in there too, but look at the West. The Spurs are quietly the best team in the league. So much so, that people can’t refer to the Spurs without saying they are quietly the best team in the league. The Mavericks are pretty good as well. If Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t injured early in the year, they might have a better record than the Spurs. Even with their poor play when Dirk was out, they still have more wins than any team in the East. The Spurs and Mavericks may be the two top teams in the West, but the Lakers are still favored to reach the NBA Finals. Continue Reading

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Game Preview: Spurs versus Lakers

Tonight, the San Antonio Spurs head into Los Angeles for a big game against the Lakers. If the Lakers vs Celtics game on Sunday was a preview of a potential NBA Finals, this game could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs head into this game following a tough loss to Portland Trailblazers, while the Lakers narrowly avoided defeat in a game against the Houston Rockets. So what does this game mean?

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No Respect: NBA All Star Snubs and Other Stories

With today being the day that All-Star starters are announced, I couldn’t think of a better time to announce my first annual All-Snub team. “What’s the All-Snub team,” you ask? Seeing as how I just made that term up about 38 seconds ago, I’ll tell you. Since today is the day they announce the starting fives of each team for the All-Star Game, which is being held at the star-studded Staples Center in Los Angeles this year, I feel like I should give it up for the guys who never get any respect. Now, I’m not saying these guys deserve to be All-Stars, but they deserve to have their names in the conversation at the very least.

How about Kevin Martin for example? While guard is a stacked position in the West, what with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Kobe Bryant at the position, Martin often gets over looked. Averaging the lowest minutes per game (31.3) since his sophomore season, Martin is putting up exceptional shooting numbers. He’s currently fourth in three pointers made, and first in free throws made. All this while averaging 23.5 points should not be overlooked.  What’s more shocking is that Vince Carter, at the last balloting update on January 13th, was ahead of him in votes. While he may not be having a good enough season to make the team, he should NOT be behind Vince Carter in voting. Continue Reading

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Winners of the 2010 NBA Draft First Round

With the first round of the draft now completed, the top-30 picks know their fates regarding where they’ll play next season. The beginning of the draft went as expected for months, but there were still some very good selections buried among the first half of the event. Let’s look at the teams that did the best on Thursday night:

Los Angeles Clippers: No. 8 Al-Farouq Aminu and rights to No. 18 Eric Bledsoe

The Los Angeles Clippers need whatever they can get to recreate a winning culture in Los Angeles alongside the Lakers. On Thursday night, management did a good job to take the next step with the team. Going in, the void at small forward was the one pressing concern. The Clippers were fortunate to have Al-Farouq Aminu fall to them at No. 8, and he provides them with an instant influx of athleticism, defense and versatility. Then they acquired the second-best pure point guard in the draft in Eric Bledsoe at No. 18, giving them a good shooter and passer whom they can groom as a potential replacement to the aging and declining Baron Davis.

Toronto Raptors: No. 13 Ed Davis

After narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 2010, the Raptors will very likely lose Chris Bosh to free agency. Accordingly, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board for figuring out a plan to win. With their selection of North Carolina’s Ed Davis, they immediately inject some talent into the position that Bosh will probably vacate. While his college production wasn’t solid, Davis has a lot of upside, with great rebounding and a developing post game. With a couple years under his belt, Davis can take his game to the level that suggested he could have been a top-5 overall pick a year ago.

San Antonio Spurs: No. 20 James Anderson

It’s not often that a perennial contender like the San Antonio Spurs can add a good value in the second half of the first round, but they have done exactly that. Following up on their steal of DeJuan Blair in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Spurs add an excellent talent in James Anderson. He’s a good-sized player who’s an above-average scorer, and he plays admirable defense, too. While he won’t be the next Hall of Famer, he will be a serviceable role player for many years, hopefully providing San Antonio with someone who can maintain their high level of performance.

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Hollinger Ranks NBA Franchises

After the Los Angeles Lakers’ Finals win on Thursday, ESPN.com’s John Hollinger responds by ranking the 3o NBA franchises. The 2010 champions snag the top spot in the ranking:

Magic. Kareem. The Logo. Kobe. Shaq. When it comes to superstars, the Lakers are so far out in front of everybody else it’s not even funny — their all-time starting five would crush any other team’s; in fact, it might be better than that of the rest of the league’s put together. So star-studded is their legacy that I left Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and George Mikan off my five-man team that opened this paragraph, also neglecting the likes of James Worthy, Bob McAdoo and Gail Goodrich.

And those big names won, too. Although the Celtics have more championships, the Lakers have more of everything else — wins, playoff wins, playoff series wins and conference titles. About the only thing that hurts L.A. in the all-time rankings is the penalty for relocating from Minnesota to Los Angeles in the 1950s.

See an introduction for how Hollinger came to his results here.

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NBA Today: June 18

  • The Los Angeles Lakers are your 2010 NBA Champions for the 16th time in their storied history.
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What does Shaq have left to offer?

Is it a good idea for Shaq to return for a 20th season?

Nearly immediately after his Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, Shaquille O’Neal straightforwardly dispelled any rumors that he might retire this year, saying, “I still have 3.7 years left.”

As he prepares to play in his 20th NBA season, is it still worth it for Shaq to put forth that effort for half the year? After all, over the last few seasons, his production has seen a fairly steady decline from his glory days in Los Angeles to his injury-hampered campaign with Cleveland in 2009-2010.

That said, he’s still a capable defender: the Cavaliers were going to look to him as their primary defender for Dwight Howard in the conference finals before their unfortunate exit. Furthermore, despite worsening numbers, he is rather impressive from an efficiency standpoint. His PER was eight hundredths of a point shy of 18 (three above average), and his field-goal percentage (56.5 percent) and per-40-minute lines (20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists) were not half bad.

Notwithstanding the fairly productive minutes, he is a liability to the teams he plays for. First of all, he demanded the ball way too much for someone with questionable importance to his team’s offensive scheme. His usage rate of 22.8 was over a point higher than that of Brook Lopez, the focal point of a bad Nets offense.

Moreover, he simply doesn’t play enough minutes or games to be a factor, especially as a starter. The Diesel averaged only 23.4 minutes a game with the Cavaliers this year, a six-and-a-half point decrease from the previous year in Phoenix. Furthermore, excluding the anomaly that was 2008-2009, Shaq hasn’t played 60 games in a year since his first season in Miami. By basically promising his team that he is going to miss over 20 games, he puts the franchise in a bad situation when they need to struggle to find effective minutes at the center position.

Aside from his play on the court, though, Shaq will expect to cash in on a lucrative contract based on his past accolades and not what he can offer to his team at present. While he will surely not get a deal resembling anything like his five-year, $100 million contract he signed with Miami, he will be the beneficiary of a higher rate than younger centers at his level of production.

Lingering still is the question of whether he will start for his next team or come off the bench. His current level of health and fitness are better suited for the latter option, as he won’t be expected to put up big minutes on the floor. But how many teams are going to be willing to pay Shaq’s price for a backup center? In addition, this is a guy who has started all his life. In 1170 career regular-season games, the Big Cactus has only come off the bench in 10 of them. Will he be able to cope with a diminished role and importance to his roster, or will he break down like Allen Iverson did when he was faced with that dilemma? If there’s one thing we know about Shaq, it is that his ego is as large as his 7-foot-1, 325-pound frame. I doubt he’ll be able to handle the second-string role.

So Shaq can play for three or more years if he wants to, but he should probably cut his losses. He has already accomplished way more than anyone could hope to in the NBA, so it is best for him to call it quits now before he further tarnishes his sterling résumé.

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What does Shaq have left to offer?

Is it a good idea for Shaq to return for a 20th season?

Nearly immediately after his Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, Shaquille O’Neal straightforwardly dispelled any rumors that he might retire this year, saying, “I still have 3.7 years left.”

As he prepares to play in his 20th NBA season, is it still worth it for Shaq to put forth that effort for half the year? After all, over the last few seasons, his production has seen a fairly steady decline from his glory days in Los Angeles to his injury-hampered campaign with Cleveland in 2009-2010.

That said, he’s still a capable defender: the Cavaliers were going to look to him as their primary defender for Dwight Howard in the conference finals before their unfortunate exit. Furthermore, despite worsening numbers, he is rather impressive from an efficiency standpoint. His PER was eight hundredths of a point shy of 18 (three above average), and his field-goal percentage (56.5 percent) and per-40-minute lines (20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists) were not half bad.

Notwithstanding the fairly productive minutes, he is a liability to the teams he plays for. First of all, he demanded the ball way too much for someone with questionable importance to his team’s offensive scheme. His usage rate of 22.8 was over a point higher than that of Brook Lopez, the focal point of a bad Nets offense.

Moreover, he simply doesn’t play enough minutes or games to be a factor, especially as a starter. The Diesel averaged only 23.4 minutes a game with the Cavaliers this year, a six-and-a-half point decrease from the previous year in Phoenix. Furthermore, excluding the anomaly that was 2008-2009, Shaq hasn’t played 60 games in a year since his first season in Miami. By basically promising his team that he is going to miss over 20 games, he puts the franchise in a bad situation when they need to struggle to find effective minutes at the center position.

Aside from his play on the court, though, Shaq will expect to cash in on a lucrative contract based on his past accolades and not what he can offer to his team at present. While he will surely not get a deal resembling anything like his five-year, $100 million contract he signed with Miami, he will be the beneficiary of a higher rate than younger centers at his level of production.

Lingering still is the question of whether he will start for his next team or come off the bench. His current level of health and fitness are better suited for the latter option, as he won’t be expected to put up big minutes on the floor. But how many teams are going to be willing to pay Shaq’s price for a backup center? In addition, this is a guy who has started all his life. In 1170 career regular-season games, the Big Cactus has only come off the bench in 10 of them. Will he be able to cope with a diminished role and importance to his roster, or will he break down like Allen Iverson did when he was faced with that dilemma? If there’s one thing we know about Shaq, it is that his ego is as large as his 7-foot-1, 325-pound frame. I doubt he’ll be able to handle the second-string role.

So Shaq can play for three or more years if he wants to, but he should probably cut his losses. He has already accomplished way more than anyone could hope to in the NBA, so it is best for him to call it quits now before he further tarnishes his sterling résumé.

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Jazz lack height to match up with Lakers

Pau Gasol has repeatedly gotten the better of Carlos Boozer in this series.

After Game 1 of the Jazz-Lakers series, Utah played like it had a chance to win the series against the defending champions. After Game 2, I’m more resigned to the fact that Utah is dramatically outmatched.

As I mentioned in my previous post about the series, the Jazz nearly came away with the win in Game 1, but shaky defense down the stretch game the Lakers a decisive win. In the second contest, the Jazz’s flaws were more evident. And it starts and ends with the front-court play.

Los Angeles features two seven-foot front-court players in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The sixth man off the bench, Lamar Odom, is a versatile 6’10″. On the contrary, the two best paint players for Utah — Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap — are both 6’9″. With Mehmet Okur out for the remainder of the season, the Jazz must resort to giving heavy minutes to Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos at center, who are lacking in talent, to be blunt.

So what’s the result when you pit your two 6’9″ quality big men and seven-foot bench warmers against Gasol, Bynum, Odom? Chaos and embarrassment.

In Game 2, the one true offensive bright spot for Utah was Millsap: 26 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 10-17 shooting. Boozer added 20 point and 12 rebounds, but he shot a mediocre 9-21.

Fesenko and Koufos combined to score 4 points on 2-9 shooting and grab 3 rebounds. To say the least, that’s not going to cut it.

These stats don’t tell the whole story. Further accentuating the shortcomings of Utah’s front-court production is the fact that the Lakers mustered 13 blocks in Game 2, and 9 of those came thanks to Gasol, Bynum, and Odom.

Further, still, is Utah’s inability to defend in the paint.

Gasol put up 22 points on 7-11 shooting and secured 5 offensive rebounds. Bynum added 17 points on a very solid 7-9 shooting performance. He also grabbed 14 rebounds (13 of which came in the first half), including 4 on the offensive glass. Finally, Odom put up 11 points on perfect 4-4 shooting and a whopping 15 boards (4 of which came on offense).

Clearly, Boozer and Millsap give up too much height to contend with the Lakers’ bigs near the basket. Fesenko and Koufos just aren’t good enough. Honestly, Utah can kiss this series goodbye if it continues to let the Lakers absolutely own the offensive glass and shoot such high percentages.

Kobe Bryant’s 30 points (10-22 FG, 10-11 FT), 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks are the least of the Jazz’s worries as the series heads to Utah. With Andrei Kirilenko’s return, Kobe’s damage can be mitigated. It will take some creative thinking on Jerry Sloan’s part, however, to quell the onslaught of the Lakers big men for the rest of the series.

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