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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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Bulls vs Celtics: Playoff Outlook

Image by ARM Climate Research Facility via Flickr

Who's ready for the playoffs? I'm sure most fans are, and if you are like me, then the playoffs couldn't start fast enough. I hate this time of year in the NBA. The last three weeks of the season are always

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Nets and Raptors to Play Two Games in London

For the first time ever, a regular-season NBA game will be played in Europe. In fact, the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors will play two games at the O2 Arena in London in March. From the AP:

LONDON — The NBA is taking regular-season games to Europe for the first time.

NBA commissioner David Stern announced Monday that the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets will play a pair of regular-season games in London this season.

The teams will face each other March 4 and 5 at the O2 Arena, the same venue that has hosted preseason games over the last several years.

Stern said on a conference call he wasn’t yet sure if the regular-season games would be an annual occurrence for the league.

“We’ll need to assess how we do in March,” Stern said. “It would not surprise me if this becomes an annual event. But I don’t want to make a commitment on it.”

The NBA has been looking to expand overseas for years, and Stern has said in the past he would like to play a meaningful game in London before the city hosts the Olympics in 2012.

It’s not surprising that the Nets — even coming off a very, very bad season — are one of the teams who will play these contests. New owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the league’s first foreign owner, has been persistent about his desire to make his new franchise a global icon for basketball. Playing games in Europe certainly isn’t a bad start.

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Shaq to Ball in Europe?

According to Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Shaquille O’Neal is now weighing the possibility of taking his talents eastward, to play basketball in Europe next season.

Sources have indicated he’s even tested the market in Europe trying to land one last $10 million payday. But all of that is unlikely. Indeed, the Cavs may consider re-signing Shaq to a short deal that would pay him $5 million-$7 million and wait for a contender to get desperate to match up with the Lakers or Magic.

The thing is, Shaq would have to be OK with taking a lesser role on a rebuilding team and be a good citizen while biding his time. If he’s as motivated to get the money as he seems to be, he might, but it might be a gamble with chemistry for the Cavs.

To be honest, this might be Shaq’s best move. No team over here is even close to awarding him the money and playing time he wants for one last go-’round. Over in Europe, the NBA products of which are traditionally known as softees, Shaq would be a rare physical specimen, and many teams would be happy to have him at center. Heck, he might put up some decent numbers, too.

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Grading Offseasons: Pacific Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. Next up is the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25, Won NBA Finals): B

The Lakers are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, notwithstanding a somewhat weak bench. Their roster was designed to compete last year, and they won again, so they’ve embraced the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy this summer — not that they have any cap room to make any significant additions. Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Josh Powell are gone, but we all know they were fairly extraneous anyway. More importantly, GM Mitch Kupchak convinced Derek Fisher to stay on as the starting point guard instead of letting him slide to the Heat, and he brought on Steve Blake to back him up. They succeeded in the draft, too. Both Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter looked impressive in Summer League play, and they should get second-unit minutes next year.

Phoenix Suns (54-28, Lost Western Conference Finals): D+

Steve Nash is still around, but he’s another year older. Who knows how long he’ll continue his graceful aging? Obviously the big blow this summer was losing Amar’e Stoudemire, an offensive force who was the team’s only true threat in the post. His scoring will be sorely missed, and acquisition Hakim Warrick won’t be able to reproduce it. They did fetch Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress, who should fit well in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system, but this will truly be a team that lives and dies by the trey — and Leandro Barbosa, one of their finest shooters, was shipped off in the Turk deal.

Los Angeles Clippers (29-53, Missed Playoffs): A-

The most important item on the agenda for the Clippers this summer was to get 2009 No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin in game shape for his first NBA regular-season game, and they’ve done that: Griffin has been at 100 percent for awhile, and he’ll be ready to go by late October. With Griffin, the lineup is virtually set at four positions, with small forward the notable void. While the Clippers didn’t get a top-tier 3 like Rudy Gay or, dare I say, LeBron James in free agency, they drafted Al-Farouq Aminu, who has the potential to be an impact player a few years down the road. His performance in Summer League showed he’s still very raw, but the team also acquired Ryan Gomes from Minnesota, a hard-nosed 3-4 swinger who can play meaningful starting minutes in the meantime. They also drafted Eric Bledsoe, who will back up Baron Davis at the point, and Willie Warren, who can play both backcourt positions. Moreover, they signed Randy Foye, who can further anchor the backcourt and make spot starts. Signees Brian Cook and Craig Smith fill out the frontcourt and give the team a greater veteran presence among so many youngsters. And there’s still the possibility that Tracy McGrady might hop on board. The bottom line is that the Clippers could end up surprising a lot of people this year.

Golden State Warriors (26-56, Missed Playoffs): B

The biggest error for the Warriors this season was keeping Don Nelson, who is apparently incapable of properly handling and developing young players. That said, Corey Maggette is gone, creating more time for those young players to crack the rotation. They also brought on board David Lee, who, alongside Andris Biedrins, forms one of the finest rebounding tandems in the league. They lost Anthony Morrow to the Nets, but they have so many shooters that that shouldn’t matter too much anyway. Ekpe Udoh would have been a factor in their rotation, so it’s unfortunate that he’ll miss the first six months after injuring himself.

Sacramento Kings (25-57, Missed Playoffs): B-

The Kings snagged DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth pick in the draft, and he looks like he could be a dominant center in the NBA if he checks his ego at the door of the Arco Arena. His floortime in Summer League demonstrated the polarity that everyone suspected prior to the draft. But if he stays level-headed, he’ll make a great frontcourt with Carl Landry. Veteran Samuel Dalembert can start until Cousins is ready and give them plenty of defense and rebounding. Don’t forget Jason Thompson, who also figures to take his share of minutes.

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Free Agency Profiles: Carlos Boozer

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz.

May 04, 2010 - Los Angeles County, California, U.S. - Utah Jazz

Source: Yardbarker.com

In this year’s crop of free agents, the position of power forward is heavily stocked with worthy talents. With Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire already profiled, I move on today to another top 4 in the league, who — while certainly not up to their level on terms of desirability — Carlos Boozer is still a solid option at the position for even the best NBA teams.

Boozer has shown he can be a top force in the league since he began playing with the Utah Jazz several years ago. After a few disappointing, if productive, seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the transition to Jerry Sloan’s system, in which he encountered Deron Williams, was the best thing that could ever happen to Boozer.

On the offensive end, Boozer has a very complete and well-rounded game. He combines effectiveness around the basket on layups with an abundance of post moves and polishes it off with range to about 15 feet on his jump shot. His many talents in that regard contributed to his 59.9 true shooting percentage, good for third among power forwards in the league who played 21 or more minutes. That said, he stands at only 6-foot-9, so he does have an inordinate number of shots swatted away by lengthier players.

In what can only be described as a quandary, Boozer excels on the boards despite his short stature and stunningly negligible vertical leap. By muscling and manhandling other players in the post, Boozer establishes fantastic position for rebounding. The effort paid off this season, as he wrangled in over 11 rebounds per game this past season with a rebound rate of 19.4: third in the league among power forwards.

Boozer further augments his talents on the offensive end with sound game awareness and above-average passing ability. In fact, his 14.3 assist ratio slid him in at eighth among power forwards playing 20 minutes or more.

Despite these numerous talents, many are holding off on committing to Boozer for two major reasons, the first of which is his suspect defense. While Boozer manages to largely negate his physical limitations through good work and awareness on the block and the boards, he fails to do so on the defensive end. As demonstrated by the Lakers’ slaughter of Utah’s front court in this year’s playoffs, Boozer simply cannot effectively prevent taller players from scoring on him. They simply shoot over his outstretched arm, and his lack of vertical renders him a complete nonfactor as a shot blocker.

The other major problem people have with Boozer is his susceptibility to injury. During his six-year tenure in Utah, Boozer has played more than 51 games only three times, and he played under 40 contests in two of those seasons. His legs are shaky, and any team that signs him has to be wary of an eventual breakdown.

While Boozer is not the top option at the position, many teams are going to be in the market for a big man who is a proven 20-10 commodity. However, he might not get the money or length of contract he truly desires, as many GMs have concerns about both his defense and injury concerns, much like Stoudemire’s.

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Free Agency Profiles: Carlos Boozer

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz.

May 04, 2010 - Los Angeles County, California, U.S. - Utah Jazz

Source: Yardbarker.com

In this year’s crop of free agents, the position of power forward is heavily stocked with worthy talents. With Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire already profiled, I move on today to another top 4 in the league, who — while certainly not up to their level on terms of desirability — Carlos Boozer is still a solid option at the position for even the best NBA teams.

Boozer has shown he can be a top force in the league since he began playing with the Utah Jazz several years ago. After a few disappointing, if productive, seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the transition to Jerry Sloan’s system, in which he encountered Deron Williams, was the best thing that could ever happen to Boozer.

On the offensive end, Boozer has a very complete and well-rounded game. He combines effectiveness around the basket on layups with an abundance of post moves and polishes it off with range to about 15 feet on his jump shot. His many talents in that regard contributed to his 59.9 true shooting percentage, good for third among power forwards in the league who played 21 or more minutes. That said, he stands at only 6-foot-9, so he does have an inordinate number of shots swatted away by lengthier players.

In what can only be described as a quandary, Boozer excels on the boards despite his short stature and stunningly negligible vertical leap. By muscling and manhandling other players in the post, Boozer establishes fantastic position for rebounding. The effort paid off this season, as he wrangled in over 11 rebounds per game this past season with a rebound rate of 19.4: third in the league among power forwards.

Boozer further augments his talents on the offensive end with sound game awareness and above-average passing ability. In fact, his 14.3 assist ratio slid him in at eighth among power forwards playing 20 minutes or more.

Despite these numerous talents, many are holding off on committing to Boozer for two major reasons, the first of which is his suspect defense. While Boozer manages to largely negate his physical limitations through good work and awareness on the block and the boards, he fails to do so on the defensive end. As demonstrated by the Lakers’ slaughter of Utah’s front court in this year’s playoffs, Boozer simply cannot effectively prevent taller players from scoring on him. They simply shoot over his outstretched arm, and his lack of vertical renders him a complete nonfactor as a shot blocker.

The other major problem people have with Boozer is his susceptibility to injury. During his six-year tenure in Utah, Boozer has played more than 51 games only three times, and he played under 40 contests in two of those seasons. His legs are shaky, and any team that signs him has to be wary of an eventual breakdown.

While Boozer is not the top option at the position, many teams are going to be in the market for a big man who is a proven 20-10 commodity. However, he might not get the money or length of contract he truly desires, as many GMs have concerns about both his defense and injury concerns, much like Stoudemire’s.

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Free Agency Profiles: Chris Bosh

Now that the draft has passed, it is time to focus on attention to the event that NBA fans have been anticipating for literally years. On Saving the Skyhook, I’ll do a review a day of each of the major players who figure to command the most attention come July 1 — in no particular order. Today features Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto Raptors Chris Bosh speaks to the media after finishing the NBA season in Toronto April 15, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Source: Yardbarker.com

As free agency approaches, arguably the third-most-discussed name on the market behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is Chris Bosh. For most of the season, it was generally accepted that Bosh would leave Toronto this offseason, unhappy with the team’s production and his supporting cast. When the Raptors narrowly missed out on the playoffs in April, his departure became nearly certain.

Bosh is one of the league’s best big men. In 2009-2010, CB4 averaged 24 points and almost 11 rebounds, taking offensive control for a team that didn’t really have much else to rely on. Bosh possesses a rare combination of inside and outside game for the NBA, complementing great touch around the rim and decent post moves with a silky-smooth jump shot out to 20 feet.

On the defensive end, he could improve, but right now he’s serviceable on that end of the basketball. With decent athleticism and good length, he can contest shots and he’s an excellent rebounder.

Furthermore, Bosh’s value gets a boost because he has largely avoided injury throughout his career. Amid other power forward targets like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer, Bosh has the cleanest bill of health, making his contract a rather secure one.

Bosh needs to improve his passing, though, as he finished the season a mere 35th in assist ratio among power forwards league-wide. One could make the argument, however, that on a Raptors team with little offensive presence, he didn’t really have anyone dependable to whom he could pass the ball, so his best bet was to take it to the rim himself.

Moreover, GMs have to worry slightly about Bosh’s attitude in Toronto this season. For most of the year he seemed checked out, waiting for the opportunity to jump ship and sign with a contender. When he got a whiff of the playoffs, however, he righted his emotions and turned on his game. That emotional unevenness did not hinder his production, though.

On the free-agent market, Bosh can be a great addition to any team that has the cap space to sign him. He’ll bring an immediate presence in the post, but the role he wants is yet unclear. At first, Bosh suggested that playing second fiddle to someone like James or Bosh would not satisfy him; he wanted to lead a team himself. Many questioned the potential of a team with him as the first option on offense, so he seems to have changed his tune. Now he seems ready and willing to play sidekick to another free agent in order to win.

That doesn’t mean he’s willing to accept sidekick money, though. Bosh will demand a maximum-salary contract, and he’ll get one, too. With all the desperation among teams to make a significant improvement through free agency this July, no team will hesitate to fork over max. money to the most desirable big man on the market.

In the long run, Bosh would probably be best off being the second option. With that in mind, his best option would be to team up with Wade in Cleveland or Miami, or go with Wade of James to a team that can afford two max.-contract players, like Chicago or New York.

Nevertheless, he is going to make some team a whole lot better this summer.

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Would the Hornets Really Deal Paul?

January 20, 2010: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets in action against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Tyler Kaufman/CSM.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Rumors have surfaced recently that the New Orleans Hornets are contemplating dealing Chris Paul, the best player on the team and the cornerstone of the franchise. In 2009-2010, he missed a handful of games as a result of a meniscus injury, and during his time on the court his performance was down. Even so, would it be worthwhile to part ways with him?

Clearly, the emergence of Darren Collison as a fantastic passer in the league next year would soften the blow of a swap of Paul. In addition, the team is in rebuilding mode after a rather unflattering campaign, so getting rid of CP3′s contract would help the cause.

Of late, the New Jersey Nets, among other teams, have been the subject of reports relating to Paul. Some sources have said that the Nets made an offer of Devin Harris and the No. 3 overall pick in this Thursday’s draft for the superstar point guard.

That swap doesn’t seem to make much sense. Not only would acquiring Harris keep Collison in a second-string role and hinder his development, but it also wouldn’t be ideal from a salary-cutting perspective either. He still has a few years left on his current deal, and with the amount he’s getting paid, it’s not exactly relief to take on his contract.

Aside from the salary implications of dealing Paul, there’s just so much to miss if he’s gone. He’s a wizard on the court, and just last year he was drawing some nominations as the league’s best player ahead of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Just because he had one down year clearly resulting from injuries doesn’t mean he’s down for the count — he’s very likely to rebound and return to his franchise-player form.

In addition, his presence on the team is an instant marketing tool and a draw for fans. People like to watch Chris Paul play, and considering the state of the Hornets franchise, they could stand to put some butts in the seats.

Lastly, some have suggested that Paul could be an enticing factor for top-tier free agents. While New Orleans isn’t in a position to sign one of the many stars in this July’s class, they could position themselves to make a run at Carmelo Anthony next summer or someone else down the road. Certainly those players wouldn’t remind receiving pinpoint pass after pinpoint pass from one of the best quarterbacks in the NBA.

To be honest, I’m not taking the bait. I really don’t think the Hornets will trade him, and if they do, they’d better get equal value. Harris and the No. 3? I’m sorry, but that’s not enough.