A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Archive for December 2011

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: NBA 2011-2012 Western Conference

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Wizards v/s Thunder 03/14/11

The Thunder are looking to take over the West (Image via Wikipedia)

Here are my predictions for the Western Conference in the NBA:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder – 49-17 (Northwest Division Winner) -The favorite in the Western Conference. The Thunder’s strong play should start on the defensive end with 3 lunchbucket bigs in Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collision and one of the longest and most athletic perimeter rotations in the league with Russell Westbro0k, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. They’ll rotate as hard as any team not called the Heat and have the bigs to cover their mistakes. Offensively Kevin Durant has improved his handles and shot creating ability and James Harden looks ready to become a consistent 20 point a game player. Russell Westbrook is Russell Westbrook, some nights dominant, some nights frustrating. The Thunder have as strong “punch you in the mouth” ability at any time offensively as any team not named the Heat, they can turn a 10 point lead into a tied game, or push a tied game to a 10-15 point lead at any time. They’re hungry for the #1 seed and with Dallas’ moves this offseason weakening their team, are the outright favorites in the Western Conference in the regular season and playoffs.

2. San Antonio Spurs – 44-22 (Southwest Division Winner)- Talking about the Spurs has become “boring” after so many years of success. They still have one of the deadliest starting backcourts in the NBA with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who should collapse the defense and create shots for teammates, the key for any great offense. TJ Ford and Gary Neal provide scoring punch in the backcourt off the bench. Richard Jefferson and Kawhi Leonard provide great fastbreak ability that the Spurs tapped into last year. Leonard may be the key of the team with his perimeter athleticism – One could argue the biggest missing piece for the Spurs recently compared to their glory years has been the absence of Bruce Bowen providing X factor defense on the perimeter.  Up front Tim Duncan still passes the ball well and makes smart if not explosive defensive plays and Dejaun Blair, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner provide rebounding, size/post defense and shooting respectively. With an elite backcourt, a smart frontline and a still productive center, they are one of the most complete teams in the league. They won’t beat themselves and will win most of the games they should. It seems like the Spurs don’t have the young legs to compete in the playoffs, but then again, we thought that about the Mavericks last year too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by jr.

December 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: The 2011-2012 NBA Eastern Conference

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Miami Heat

It appears to be a 2 team race between the Heat and Bulls in the East (Image by Keith Allison via Flickr)

Who’s coming out on top in the Eastern Conference this year? My predictions:

15. Washington Wizards (14-52)- Frankly, any team who finishes with a worse record than Charlotte should be embarrassed. Nevertheless, the way that happens is with a team who takes dumb shots, turns it over like crazy and is ambivalent defensively. One of the key points separating the bad from the horrible will be which teams pack it in after poor starts. In this compressed schedule and with tired legs, many young and immature players may see a 10 point deficit as a reason to take the rest of the game off. Washington has a lot of those players.

John Wall in preseason has played unfortunate, still pushing the ball too fast and too out of control, rather than reading his teammates and controlling the pace of the game. There’s still time but I believe he is an overrated prospect due to having the athleticism but not the basketball IQ of a player like Derrick Rose. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

December 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: 2011-2012 NBA Awards Picks

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Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose's position as the lone superstar on a league best team gives him an MVP race advantage (Image via Wikipedia)

Who’s winning the major awards in this shortened NBA season?

Here’s my picks:

Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden. Not an original pick at all but it’s the obvious choice. The Thunder will likely have one of the best records which together with making a jump as a player, will give Harden the profile and narrative to win the awards. Harden could even make the all-star team this year. When a team jumps out to the best record in their conference, Harden getting in like Jameer Nelson did the year the Magic were the league’s best story is reasonable.

Coach of the Year: George Karl. The Coach of the Year award has morphed into the “Coach of the most surprising team” award lately, so if the Nuggets jump out to a top 4 record in the Western Conference Karl will fit that metric. He’s also a true veteran coach and has coached succesful teams for quite some time – but has never won coach of the year. This is another reason for them to finally give him one.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving. I could see Irving, Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Ricky Rubio all have similarly impressive rookie seasons statistically. The difference in Irving’s case is I expect the Cavaliers to be a better than than all of those other players’. Which may be a result of having a good frontcourt and good 3pt shooting, but Irving’s presence will get a lot of credit for it if they surprise. Read the rest of this entry »

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: The NBA 2011-2012 title sleeper (and, the mama bear and baby bear sleepers)

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English: Tim Duncan to Tiago Splitter of the S...

The Spurs could be this year's Dallas Mavericks (Image via Wikipedia)

In the days leading up to the Christmas day start of the NBA season, I will be writing a handful of prediction articles

My first is on the title sleeper of the NBA season. Last year was the definition of a title sleeper season. Nobody gave the Dallas Mavericks a chance starting the year, nobody gave them a chance even after a great regular season  – I’m embarrased to say I didn’t even list them in my contenders brief before my playoff preview.

It can also be argued that the Bulls were the true title sleeper of last year in that they started out predicted as a mid 40 W pretender  behind the big boys, and made a leap to the top of the mountain and 60 Ws.

Who is the sleeper this year? A team that doesn’t necessarily have to win, but comes close enough to deserve the title. There can be a few. The Denver Nuggets would have a good case with their obviously fantastic upcoming season thanks to an incredibly deep lineup, in a compressed schedule and the perfect high altitude homecourt to beat up on tired legs flying in. Portland, Indiana and Philadelphia should all have similarly good seasons thanks to athleticism and depth advantages over most opponents.

But my choice is…

The San Antonio Spurs

Yes, the Spurs. And this is coming from someone who was playing the “They aren’t real contenders, they don’t have enough” in the middle of their ridiculously good regular season start last year. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

December 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Posted in Basketball

The Clippers trade for Chris Paul: The Other Shoe and Unnecessary Risk

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Image via Wikipedia

The Chris Paul trade saga is over – with Paul being traded for Eric Gordon, Minnesota’s 2012 1st unprotected, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman. In other words, David Stern got everything he wanted from the Clippers.

Including Eric Gordon in this trade was a failure by the Clippers. Not because Paul isn’t worth assets like that. But because the Clippers were largely bidding against themselves. Where did the Hornets have to turn to as leverage? Unlike the Magic, they almost surely couldn’t make Paul play this season – the cord between the player and the franchise had already been all but severed. Paul didn’t appear interested in resigning in either Boston or Golden State. Only the Lakers/Houston deal and their Kevin Martin and Luis Scola package was sitting out there

And it was incredibly obvious that taking the Minnesota draft pick over those players was the direction Stern wanted the Hornets to go. Teams that trade a star in this fashion commonly want to start over and draft young future stars on rookie contracts – which the Hornets are now in a great position to do.

Here’s the problem with this trade now: If Gordon was kept, not a lot would be put on the table by the Clippers. Their future was in fine shape as long as a superstar Griffin and the best under 25 SG and possible superstar Gordon remained on the team, and Deandre Jordan at center nice to have too. The Minnesota pick was a luxury, but not a necessity long term. Trading it for Paul was a relatively low risk, high reward move – the right move.

But with this move the Clippers are legitimately risking that sure bet for long term prosperity – and it certainly is a risk. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

December 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Thoughts on the Rejection Part 2 and another revised deal to make Paul to the LA Lakers work

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English: David Stern, commissioner of the Nati...

David, what ... have... you ... done? (Image via Wikipedia)

The mess the NBA got itself into in rejecting the Chris Paul to the LA Lakers trade got bigger yesterday when the NBA rejected the 2nd offer submitted by the Lakers, Rockets and Hornets.

The problem with the 2nd offer is it was by most reports, insulting similar to the 1st one. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Hornets “revisions” included sign and trading Jason Smith and Marcus Banks to the Lakers in the deal. Which changes nothing for the Hornets – it just adds to the luxury tax bill the Lakers would pay.

If Dell Demps thought that’d be enough or that the PR mess of veteoing this trade again would pass the same trade on the 2nd try, he was incredibly naive. He tried to put lipstick on a pig.

What Stern actually came out and said yesterday before this 2nd veto, is that he rejected the initial deal because it’s non-beneficial to the future of the Hornets financially. The NBA is trying to sell the team – and thus the most logical move in the post Paul era is to have a team full of young players on rookie contracts and a salary floor payroll. This trade leaves the Hornets with multiple long term contracts for veteran, short term players.

The Hornets didn’t make the trade the owner(s) wanted. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

December 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

Whoa! The Chris Paul trade block mess, and a way for the NBA to get out of it reputation intact

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Well the unofficial first day of NBA free agency was wild. Chris Paul was traded in a deal involving his namesake landing with the LA Lakers as I predicted (but I got the return wrong), Pau Gasol going to Houston and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a 1st going to New Orleans. I’ll have my official take on it if it goes through (let’s just say I’m not excited about it from the Hornets end), but the big story is that it was blocked by the NBA. It sounds like partly from the other 29 owners who well, own the Hornets, and from David Stern himself acting out against stars bulldozing their way to the teams they want to play for. I’m much more concerned about the latter if it’s true. You just can’t set a precedent of singling out trades and blocking them for a reason like that. If you don’t want players to do this, put it in the CBA. Hold out the season until the players cave enough to get the rules you want. Whatever. But don’t just come out and start blocking trades. The Lakers gave up serious value for Paul, it can be argued the Hornets direction is middling and short sighted, but that’s not a reason to block it.

Anyways, the other part about that blocked trade is the Hornets took on a ton of salary, taking in about 31 million and sending out just Paul’s 16.3. In addition Martin and Scola are owed about 40 million combined long term after next season. This is a strange move for a franchise desperately looking for someone to buy them – and considering the other 29 teams in the league will now be billed for the Hornets extra expenditures. If you’re looking for a tangible reason for why this trade was blocked – if say, it ever came to a lawsuit – that’d be one. The owners not signing off on the extra salary they’d be booked for. I suspect that’s not why it was blocked, but it’s something to sit on.

If the NBA really wants to get out of this without a disastrous hit to its integrity and reputation, they’ll pass the deal tonight with a change like this:

The LA Lakers get:
Chris Paul

Trevor Ariza

 

The Houston Rockets get:
Pau Gasol

 

The New Orleans Hornets get:
Kevin Martin

Luis Scola

Goran Dragic

NY future 1st

 

This has all the same principles as the original deal, just without the Lamar Odom inclusion and the Hornets sending Trevor Ariza to LA instead. The big difference is that the Hornets take on only about 1 million extra salary in 2011-2012 compared to 16 in the original deal (and that’s irrelevant since this will put them under the salary floor, meaning they’ll have to spend more), and will only add about 25 million in long term salary between Martin, Scola and Dragic’s post 2012 expenditures – and again, because of the salary floor that’s money that likely would’ve been had to be spent.

Anyways, this new deal is a nice balance between “We can’t just pass the original deal” and “There is a tangible enough difference in salary here to justify the change”. The NBA can move past this black mark before it becomes really black. Sounds good to me.

Written by jr.

December 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized