A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James

Could the Lakers get both Lebron James and Kevin Love?

leave a comment »

usa_today_10479418-0

The Lakers have been long been rumoured as a Lebron destination. I’ve always taken it with a grain of salt. Remember when Kevin Love was supposed to be obsessed with playing with the Lakers, then laughed it off and resigned with the Cavs? How about DeMar Derozan returning home? The Lakers have a lot of fans, so writing about them conquering all in free agency is a good way to get page views. 

giphy

The biggest obstacle is getting enough talent. Sure Paul George wants to play there, but is that and kids enough to beat the Warriors? They could use a 3rd all-star. What if he’s on the Cavs, available for a trade in the case of Lebron leaving, and happens to be an L.A. native?

Let’s say the Lakers signed George and got both Lebron and Kevin Love, either in a large S&T or in separate deals. Their starting lineup could be Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Paul George, Lebron and Love. Not bad. It’s taking the Lebron and Love combination which was enough to win the East this year without a lot of help and greatly improves their perimeter in a matchup with GSW. Unlike the Cavs perimeter, the combination of Ball, Ingram and George is perfect to defend the Warriors by switching everything to cover their shooters much like the Rockets did in the conference finals. Ingram and George are two of the longest wings in the league and Ball is a 6’6 PG who shined on the defensive end this year. Unlike the last two finals where the Cavs had no answer for Durant 1 on 1, George is one of the best fits in the league physically to defend him.

Offensively the combination of Lebron and Love’s floor spacing and post play remains lethal. The Lakers could even resign old friend Channing Frye to play the same spacing role he did in Cleveland. George gives them a 20 point creator on the perimeter and Ingram is on his way to being one. Much of their fortunes could lie in the hands of Ball’s development as his shooting could make him hard to play if he continues to struggle. Nevertheless they could look for a veteran PG as a ring chaser or shop him at the trade deadline if Ball doesn’t work out.

More than just Love improving the Cavs talent level with a 3rd all-star and offensive creator beside Lebron and George, it’s about experience and trust level. Love faced GSW in the finals three times, he’s seen Game 7s. He was one of the guys Ty Lue started in Game 7 against the Pacers with Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson beside Lebron because he wanted players who’d been there on the championship team. With a player like Julius Randle or Kyle Kuzma in Love’s place there’s always the chance they’re the next Rodney Hood and fall apart consistency wise in the playoffs.

How does LA get Love while retaining the capspace to sign Lebron and George? A requirement may be dumping Deng’s contract to Cleveland. Last rebuild without Lebron the Cavaliers used capspace to get assets and young players knowing they weren’t going to be a free agent destination, so they could do the same by taking Deng for compensation. With assets like Kuzma, Randle (sign and trade), Josh Hart, Cavs 2018 1st, Lakers 2019 1st, there’s a lot of pieces that could make it worth it for the Cavs without trading Ball or Ingram. A deal like Kuzma, Randle sign and trade and a 1st would be a nice rebuilding package for them to swap Deng for Love. With the Cavs at about 102 million without Lebron and Deng making 6.1 million less than Love next year, there should be enough wriggle room for the Cavs to take on Deng, Kuzma and Randle (if they want him) while staying under the tax and apron.

Overall the Lakers with just Lebron, George and kids like Ball and Ingram may not be quite enough, but with another all-star at center in Love it could be enough to put them as a believable contender in Lebron’s eyes. It takes the Cavs two all-stars, but makes their perimeter far more Golden State match-up friendly by giving them a 20 point scoring, Durant defender in George and two other long high potential starters in Ball and Ingram. This is a clear upgrade.

Written by jr.

June 11, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Free agency advice column: Ask Dr. Offseason

leave a comment »

Dear Dr.

We just got back together with Lebron James and are SO EXCITED. But what should we do next? Should we make the leap for Love? Minnesota keeps asking us for Andrew Wiggins. We love the idea of Wiggins being our defensive, Scottie Pippen-like compliment to Kyrie Irving and Lebron James. We think this could be like when the Lakers added a young James Worthy to a team with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on it. It may take a few years, but is it worth giving that up for Kevin Love?

– Dan, Cleveland, OH

Dear Dan, I understand why you would be scared to pull the trigger, but you have to make this deal for Love.
First, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Andrew Wiggins is not a guarantee to be a star like Kevin Love. Consider the dichotomy between these two players. Love in college was labelled as having a ceiling beneath star, because despite all the skill, strength, feel for the game and motor in the world, his average athleticism was supposed to limit him. Wiggins is getting called a guaranteed star because he has all the athleticism in the world, despite skill, strength, feel for the game and motor being concerns. Do you see where I’m going with this? If it goes wrong, Wiggins may not be a star for the inverse reason of why Love is one.

Secondly Dan, it’s just about age. To be honest your team with Lebron, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao and Chris Anderson, isn’t good enough. The supporting cast members are either too young or too old Dan. Rosters like the Spurs and Thunder are more talented and deeper.

The problem is the cost of waiting 2 or 3 years for Wiggins and Bennett to develop. Lebron will have his 12th season next year. Here’s some 12th seasons of recent superstars:

Shaquille O’Neal: 2003-2004
Kevin Garnett: 2006-2007
Kobe Bryant: 2007-2008
Tim Duncan: 2008-2009
Dirk Nowitzki: 2009-2010

All had a relatively short window by this point, to win a title at their apex. Like them Lebron will remain an elite player after he slightly declines, but the Cavs should want to strike when the iron is hottest, while Lebron is still at a greatest of all time level.

Kevin Love is perfect for the Cavaliers, Dan. He’s old enough to immediately contend now and young enough to be a star until Lebron is in his late 30s. With Lebron, Irving, Love and shooters like Allen and Miller, the Heat become the most unstoppable offense in the league. To me this is a no brainer. Love is the way to go.

Dear Dr.

We have a chance for Love, but when they kept asking for Klay Thompson, we backed out of it. We love how Klay and Steph fit together in the long run and don’t feel the difference between David Lee and Kevin Love is worth an all-star caliber starting SG. Are we making the right decision Dr.? Or are we thinking with our hearts instead of our heads?

– Joe, Oakland, CA

Joe, this is crazy. Think about what you’re doing because it’s crazy. I can’t see where you’re coming from here at all.

Look Klay Thompson is an exciting shooting guard and David Lee’s production is underrated, but this is a superstar you can trade for. As complex and wonderful as the NBA is, succeeding is as simple as getting multiple, mid 20s superstars at the same time. When you team up a pair like Steph and Love everything falls into place around them. Not to mention having defensive talent like Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut is perfect for those two. If the Warriors make this move they’re as big a title contender as anyone, instead of looking at a 5th or 6th seed season.

I can understand the argument that Klay Thompson and David Lee combined may be as productive as Kevin Love next year, even if I’d disagree. Where this really becomes a no brainer is the long term. Neither player’s current value is constant. David Lee is 31 and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2 years. Klay Thompson is on his rookie scale, but judging by Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons deal, will be on a maximum salary as soon as he can get it. In other words, eventually instead of Lee and Klay, Lee expires and Klay’s salary means that you can’t replace Lee’s production on the free agent market. The Warriors just end up with Klay Thompson instead of the superior Kevin Love. In the long run a superstar is the way to go. Superstars are the biggest financial bargains available, with how the CBA restricts their real value. Kevin Love will give you more bang for your buck than Klay making the same salary.

I have to be honest Joe, I haven’t liked the Warriors moves much since you came aboard, with a short-sighted Andre Iguodala deal leading the way. But Kevin Love is all but fallen into your lap. If you get him contending will be easy. The history of the NBA says target the superstars, always target the superstars. The Warriors are far more likely to regret turning down Love than jumping for him.

Dear Dr.

Kevin Love wants out of here. I know we haven’t been able to give him everything he wants, but he was our hope to get back to the playoffs. Without him, now what? We go back to the lottery? We end up in the middle of the league, picking 13th or 14th in the lottery but not making the playoffs? This doesn’t sound good to me. We’re still damaged from David Kahn, what if we had Stephen Curry and Kevin Love right now? I don’t know what to do

– Flip, Minneapolis, MN

Flip, you just have to pick up the pieces and make the best decision you can. Here’s my advice: Don’t worry about fit. Just get the most valuable assets and make it work later.

I wouldn’t be so bent on the Klay Thompson and David Lee package if I were you. Klay is going to get a max salary soon and will lose a lot of his value to a franchise. Lee becomes less valuable when he expires. Those players still leave your roster with a lot of work to do.

As for a potential Cleveland offer of Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, I’m mixed. Although I’m lower on Wiggins talent than most, I’m higher on Bennett’s and feel he could be an all-star PF for you. On the whole it’s a decent move to trade Love for those two, giving you young talent around Ricky Rubio and Nik Pekovic long term.

You could also trade Love to the Chicago Bulls for a package like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic. The problem is this is a lot of good but not great. Taj Gibson is 29 so he’s not the most youngest of pieces to rebuild with. Still it gives the Wolves potentially 3 starting caliber players and if you want to win, it’s an option.

Of your options I say holding out for the Cleveland kids is the best way to go. Yeah you may not win the most games next year, but in the long run you could have starters at SF and PF, along with cap flexibility to rebuild the team with. You wouldn’t be starting from ground zero.

Dear Dr.

WOW, this is a disaster. We thought we were getting Chris Bosh for sure if Lebron James left Miami, but then he resigns in Miami? We traded away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik just to make this happen, so now what should we do? How do we rebound?

– Daryl, Houston, TX

Daryl, this is a tough spot for you. Chris Bosh was the perfect player for your team and what’s more, holding out so long to sign Bosh or Carmelo only to get neither, along with Chandler Parsons offer sheet putting you on the clock, severly limits your options. Sure, you could go after Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza, but do they fit a team with Parsons? You could wait for Goran Dragic or Rajon Rondo next summer, but do they fit with James Harden?

I’d have loved to see Isaiah Thomas on the Rockets but then BAM, Phoenix signs him, off the market.

So I don’t have a solution for you Daryl. Maybe you should try the less sexy but safe option. Call up Danny Ainge and see if he wants to trade you Jeff Green for your capspace. Yeah he’s not Chris Bosh, but he spaces the floor, is competent defensively and can be a glue guy. You have an awesome team Daryl with Harden, Dwight Howard, Parsons and Patrick Beverly. Jeff Green may be a rebound guy but maybe he’ll turn into Mr. Right.

Dear Dr.

Dr, I don’t know what to do. Lance is one of the most exciting players we’ve had, we’re a team that needs this talent and dynamic ability. But he can also be an egotistical jerk and rubs our players the wrong way. Last year his rise to prominence led our team chemistry to fall apart. Sometimes we watch Lance’s antics and are like wow, is this really us, didn’t we swear this off after Ron? But if we let him go, we don’t feel we’re a sexy enough option for other free agents and may just end up with a drip. We tried bringing in Evan Turner as a replacement and BOY, that did not turn out. I’m not letting Sam Hinkie trade me a player again, the 76ers give it up so easy, no wonder they only have losers to trade. Dr, what should I do?

– Larry, Indianapolis, IN

This is one of the toughest decisions of the summer, Larry. I agree Lance has a negative influence on your team. I have to be honest Larry, before Lance became a star, the Pacers were like a Christian rock band. Yeah they weren’t the coolest band around, but they had good chemistry, played hard and didn’t mess around with distractions. But Lance becoming a star is like if the band hired a non-Christian guitarist who was a sex addict and brought drugs with him on tour. He made their band sound better, but soon enough his negative influence led the others to slip and to fight with each other. Maybe it’s time to go back to your Christian rock band roots.

But on the other hand, this league is about talent Larry. You can’t just walk up against teams like the Spurs and Lebron’s Cavaliers and expect to win on hard work and chemistry. You need dynamic players and game changers. That’s why giving up on Lance is so hard. He has the star upside to take you over the top.
Here’s what I recommend: I say resign Lance. But here’s what you do. Play out next season and see if the Pacers can get it together and become elite again. If the team self-destructs in chemistry, then just trade Lance after next year. His talent and youth will make him have trade value and you’ll get assets for him. By resigning Lance, you can try the “no Lance” option at a later date. But if you let Lance go, you’ll never have the chance to go back and try it with him again.

Are the Houston Rockets a Lebron James darkhorse?

leave a comment »

Last week Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne posted a Lebron to the Clippers possibility article. While it would take significant trades for the Clippers to get the capspace, the logic of the idea seemed to be Lebron isn’t leaving without a fantastic situation to join, thus the Clippers are more likely than a Lakers or Cavaliers even if in less easy cap position to do it.

Let me throw out another name: The Houston Rockets. First off, the Rockets finding the capspace to sign Lebron straight out is not hard to envision. It’d take simply moving Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik off next year’s books to create near-maximum capspace. If for some reason finding a taker for those talented players is not simple, the Rockets have other assets to sweeten the deal such as Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverly, draft picks, etc. And of course even if it came down to it, if it took packaging even Chandler Parsons in a deal to create capspace for Lebron to join James Harden and Dwight Howard, well the choice there is simple. When added to the likelihood somebody would want Lin or Asik anyways, the Rockets should have little obstacles putting themselves in Lebron-signing position if he wanted it.

The question thus is whether Lebron would sign there. The incentive is clear. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are heading into their 11th seasons next year, Wade’s body is a physical mess. Even if the team makes it to the Finals for the 4th straight year, how many years do these guys have left where they can contend? Not to mention Lebron is aging himself and increasingly carrying the team wouldn’t help.

But Houston is an amazingly cushy situation for the last third of Lebron’s career. Along with finally playing with a star center and defensive anchor in Dwight Howard, James Harden who isn’t turning 25 until this summer, could be in his prime until the day Lebron retires. Lebron could age gracefully like Tim Duncan slowly conceding to Tony Parker as the offensive star of the team, or Kareem to Magic Johnson. He would become more playmaker and defender than league leading scorer, blending in with his star teammates. And if the Rockets managed to sign Lebron while keeping Chandler Parsons, Parsons could be a nice fit stretching the floor for his star teammates, either starting beside Lebron at SF-PF or as a 6th man of the year candidate.

The big carrot naturally is the number 6: That is, Michael Jordan’s 6 titles. If staying in Miami the rest of his career, it’s hard to imagine him getting there with the age and physical/mental fatigue of the core. In Houston or following the Clippers idea, it’s game on. The Rockets could easily get the 3 or 4 titles needed to catch Jordan, even if the last 1 or 2 is with a well aged Lebron. If Lebron wants to go down with an all time title reign, jumping to a team like Rockets or Clippers are a better bet than the Heat, but especially the Rockets with how smoothly Lebron, Harden and Dwight would fit on both ends compared to Paul, Lebron and Griffin, a more offense-first trio. That’s why if they move Lin and Asik’s contracts which they would be wise to do just for the shot at Lebron, the Rockets become the most compelling Lebron destination.

Written by jr.

February 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm

On the Spurs Game 6 collapse (or lack thereof)

leave a comment »

San Antonio Spurs approach bench during a timeout.

San Antonio Spurs approach bench during a timeout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The finish to Game 6 of the Finals will go down in history, due to the likelihood of the Spurs winning when headed to the FT line up 4 with 28 seconds left. A extra FT or defensive rebound closes the game. The Spurs losing that game will haunt them and those players forever.

However, I wouldn’t call it a historic collapse for this reason. The Heat led by 3 points with 1:27 left in the game and after charging back from the 10 point deficit to storm the 4th, felt as if in control of the game, playing at home, having the momentum and with Lebron James playing perhaps the best quarter of his career to that point. From there Tony Parker hit a crazy 26 foot 3pter, followed by a Chalmers turnover turning into a Parker score, then Lebron turning it over on the next 2 possessions, both ending in Ginobili at the FT line, where he hit 3 of 4. In all, the Spurs scored 8 points in a row in less than a minute, turning a 3 point deficit at 1:27 to a 5 point lead at 0:28. For the Spurs to have this sudden surge took a combination of clutch play by their stars scoring or forcing turnovers, fortune and devastating decisions in succession by Miami. In other words, it’s the inverse of what Miami needed to erase their 5 point deficit in the last 28 seconds. For the crushing misfortune the Spurs suffered in the last 28 seconds, they had just as much good luck in the 1 minute before then to shockingly get to that point, if not more. The Spurs in fact outscore the Heat by 3 in the last 1:27. To me, heading into the last 28 seconds the Spurs were about to steal a game they hadn’t controlled all quarter. That’s why I wouldn’t call it a historic collapse.

For the Spurs, I would consider it as big a criticism that a lead that was 13 late in the 3rd and 10 heading into the 3rd, was lost midway through the 4th. The lack of Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan in the last half minute of the 3rd and the first 2-3 minutes of the 4th, may have allowed the Heat to get a grasp on the game. In particular I’m shocked Leonard came off for those 2-3 minutes considering his athleticism and endurance at his age, with Duncan off they really needed Kawhi’s help defense and activity.

Interestingly, in 2011 even though in retrospect it felt like Dallas’ Game 6 win was inevitable, Dallas led by 9 heading into the 4th and, but Miami scored 5 straight points to start the quarter to cut it to 4. This was followed by 8 straight points by Jason Terry and JJ Barea with Miami not scoring for 3 minutes, to push the lead back to 12. In the Spurs Game 6, it was the Spurs who didn’t score from 3 straight minutes as their 82-77 lead went to a 82-85 deficit. In many ways, this game was Lebron’s reprieve for Game 6 of 2011. In that game he couldn’t provide the energy to turn the game to Miami’s, while in this one he not only did he dominate the 4th, but he shut down Tony Parker and the Spurs offense at the same time.

Although it was relatively successful for the Spurs, I still think taking the Tim Duncan-Tiago Splitter pairing out of the series, was a fascinating decision by the Spurs. Splitter is a blue chip center and the combination of him, Leonard and Duncan together was a devastating combination of defensive size. The Spurs took away a potential advantage in the post and on the glass by eliminating their big lineup. It’s unclear whether this was a good thing or not. Although there’s reason to be concerned about bigs guarding Miami’s small lineup, Indiana proved they could compete with a traditional David West-Roy Hibbert lineup. Playing big puts their bigs in defensive problems, but it also throws Miami’s gameplan off. Although San Antonio almost won the series, on paper it seems a smallball series is the way Miami wanted to play. It’s hard to beat a team like Miami at their game.

When looking at Miami’s 2 titles, I really have to credit them for winning big games on the road. There have been a remarkable amount of series for the Heat the last two series where the opponent team ‘had’ homecourt advantage at some point during it. Meaning against the 2013 Spurs, 2013 Pacers, 2013 Bulls, 2012 Thunder, 2012 Celtics, 2012 Pacers, the other team were at a point where they just had to win all their remaining home games to close out the Heat. But in Game 4 against the Spurs, Game 3 against the 2013 Pacers, Game 3 against the Bulls, Game 2 against the Thunder and Game 3 against the 2012 Pacers, (with the exception of the lay-up Bulls series) the Heat avoided either elimination or a very perilous state by going into the other team’s building and beating them, usually in dominant fashion.

As for the Spurs this year will still be an important and memorable part of their history despite the loss. But they aren’t done either even if Tim Duncan dips sharply from here and Ginobili retires or makes Spurs fans wish he had. With a few more Tony Parker prime seasons expected to come and the Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, along with potentially more draft additions by that scouting staff, they have the horses to contend next year, if not ones after that. Leonard may be following the progression of Rajon Rondo, who started off as the 4th wheel for the Celtics in 2008, before in a short period of time surpassing them all to be the star and face of the team by 2010. Leonard could be the guy on the Spurs as early as next year. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if San Antonio is the 2014 champions, following in the footsteps of the late 80s Pistons, probably the best comparable for an agonizing loss of the title in Game 6 and 7 in 1988 followed by winning in 1989 and 1990.

This series was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was exceptional both on a game by game entertainment level with massive historical consequences. This was a Finals, Game 6/7 and playoff series that will stand out in the annuls of history and the NBA will be missed for the summer.

Written by jr.

June 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

NBA Finals Thoughts

leave a comment »

Miami Heat

Miami Heat (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

When predicting the Finals or previous rounds, I try to take a perspective of “How would you feel about this match-up if you’d heard about it before the playoffs?”, meaning not to fall prey to overreacting to previous rounds. Clearly most would have greatly favored Miami going into the playoffs over San Antonio or anyone else.

With that said, the Spurs defense has impressed me far more in the playoffs. The Spurs have not been able to win games “ugly” and with defense in the playoffs for years like they did against Memphis and Golden State and now they can. The development of Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter has brought the Spurs defense back to relevance. On the other hand the Heat’s switch to a smaller lineup phasing Joel Anthony out of the lineup, has prevented them from consistent elite defensive results. If the Heat were a shut-down defensive team the Pacers series would’ve been much shorter because like the Grizzlies, the Heat could’ve just exposed the Pacers flawed offense. Although at times the Heat defense stepped up such as in Game 7, overall I trust the Spurs defense more.

One of the reasons the Grizzlies went down so easily to the Spurs is predictability. The Grizzlies leaned far too much in 3 players in Mike Conley, Jr., Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol. The Popovich defensive game-planning were able to key on them. The spacing, passing and off ball play of the other Heat players aside from Lebron, will make it difficult to push the Heat into the flat offensive gameplan they want them to.

The Spurs players’ production has largely been expected compared to regular season play. However the Heat have had different production. Wade and Bosh have been worse, Chris Anderson has been better, and Battier hasn’t been playing. The Heat with Wade and Bosh playing back at regular season level can make a step up as a team compared to what we’ve seen. The biggest way they get worse is if Lebron’s play drops off. For the Spurs to step up their play it’d be by Manu upping his play, albeit he’s been off all year.

If the Heat role players match the Spurs’, the Heat likely win the series just because of Lebron. Lebron and equal help probably doesn’t lose. The way the Heat lose is either Lebron disappoints like in 2011 or he gets no help. The Spurs need to decide whether to shut down the Heat role players while letting Lebron do what he wants, or trying to stop Lebron.

Although it’s unfair, if Lebron loses the Finals twice in three years at his apex as the favorite and with home court advantage it will be hard to live down. Nevertheless making 3 straight Finals puts the Heat in a rare and proud class. I see the Heat losing next year. This Heat team reminds me of the 2010 Lakers where making the Finals 3 straight years was showing on them. Even if they grinded out a 2nd title, that run showed signs of how it’d end the following year. The reason the Heat losing the 2011 title hurts them so much is that their window would never run into infinity with their big 3 running into double digits for seasons played, which is usually when players decline. As superhuman as he is, even Lebron’s prime may end sooner than people believe. Lebron has played over 36,000 minutes in the regular season and playoffs combined and is set to tack on 3000-3800 a year from now on. Normally 40,000 thousand is a dangerous number for when players start to slip. Put it this way, if Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison retired right now, Lebron would pass them by the end of next season with minutes played similar to this season. He’d take about 2 seasons to catch Steve Nash and 3 seasons to catch Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce if they all retired now. Like recent Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, Lebron will likely be a fantastic player deep into his 30s, but the apex version of Lebron racking up MVPs, may only last 1 or 2 more years, with 3 seeming the absolute max.

Admittedly I don’t have a great feel for who wins this series. I don’t feel the matchup favors one team or the other. So I’ll predict this – The first two games in Miami are split. San Antonio wins 2 of 3 at home, which leads the Spurs to have a 3-2 lead going back to the 2 games in Miami. From there it’s probably a toss-up whether San Antonio closes out the series or if Miami wins back to back at home.

Prediction: Miami in 7 games

I pick Miami because of home court advantage favoring them in the 7th game if they get there and because of the greatness of where Lebron’s game is right now.

Written by jr.

June 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Great expectations: Of Wilt Chamberlain’s career and the importance of this Miami Heat playoff run to NBA history

leave a comment »

Miami Heat

Miami Heat (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Two of the most important years in NBA history are 1967-1968 and 1968-1969, where Bill Russell’s Celtics won their 10th and 11th titles in his 13 year career. Most impressive though is who they beat. In 1966-1967 Wilt Chamberlain had his finest regular season and playoffs, as the Sixers went 68-13 and then ripped through the playoffs, including beating the 8 time defending champion Celtics in 5 Gs. After toiling on Warriors teams with lacked the supporting talent of Russell’s Celtics for the first half of the 60s, the trade to the Sixers in ’65 quickly evened the odds. By 66-67 the Sixers had more talent than the Celtics with a rogue gallery of stars like Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham, Luke Jackson surrounding Wilt. Wilt also scaled his scoring back to increase his passing, defense and efficiency to finally use his talents to full value. Although the Celtics by the late 60s had a very talented team themselves with the aging Russell and Sam Jones, plus John Havlicek, Bailey Howell among stars, the shellacking in 67 to Philadelphia’s super-team was thought to be the end for their dynasty by most reports. Now that he had the right support, coach in Alex Hannum and know how to play the right way, it was Wilt’s league to own. Which is why after a 62 W season and a 3rd straight MVP by Wilt in 67-68, the loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Final blowing a 3-1 lead, is particularly devastating to his legacy. The opportunity came to own the league and the Sixers didn’t put their foot on the gas. The next year Wilt is traded to the Lakers to join Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, culminating in a Game 7 loss in the Finals to the Celtics in Russell’s last game, arguably the most important game in NBA history – and losing it meaning one more black mark in Wilt’s career, albeit he went on a title with the Lakers in ’72. Wilt’s individual greatness is so immense, that even 2 titles in his career is looked at as a slightly disappointment. Largely it comes down to 68 and 69 and what he couldn’t achieve even when handed the best supporting talent. He didn’t max out in career success.

The Miami Heat and Lebron James’ career are at their apexes. Heading for 65 or 66 wins on the backs of a 27 game winning streak, with Lebron’s 4th MVP on the way and arguably his greatest regular season. The Heat are stacked. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are still playing at a star/superstar level and the IQ and shooting of players like Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen make them an impossible guard. The Heat have been a masterpiece of spacing and ball movement around their stars the second half of this season. If the Heat go on to win the title this year, it will be a season of legend – the wins, the streak, Lebron’s individual greatness. Together with the 2010-2011 title nobody will be able to doubt the Miami Heat big 3 experiment.

Yet when greatness is on the table to take, as the 68 Sixers proved, leaving it on the table leaves as big a historical mark. The Heat would have lost the title twice in 3 seasons, if not in the Finals those 2 years. Lebron would have gone into the playoffs with the title favorite in 09, 10, 11, 12 and 13 and only gone 1-4. As unfair as it is, since no champion should be disrespected – the expectations for Lebron are so great, that losing again would bring back the demons and criticisms that he carried after the 09, 10 and 11 losses.

Because of the season the Heat have had, the streak, Lebron’s amazing year, how in sync this supporting cast is – it’s championship or bust for the Heat and if they bust, it will be a historic moment that haunts the face of this core for the rest of history. Make no mistake about it, even though the Heat got their title in 2011, the pressure only slightly less this year. The narrative and history can turn on the Heat in the wrong direction. The stunning season Lebron and the Heat have had is a double edged sword, because it creates among the greatest of expectations. The moment is the Heat’s to seize and if they don’t, history won’t take it easy on them.

Written by jr.

April 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: First MVP Rankings and Power Rankings

leave a comment »

Here is my first installment of the MVP rankings and Power Rankings for this season. Remember this is based on the season we’ve had so far, not predicting what will happen from this point forward:

1. SG James Harden – The Beard activated god mode in his first week with the Rockets. 35.3 pts, 6.3 assists 6.3 rebounds and .642 TS% and a 2-1 record. Hard to believe it’s only been 1 week since the trade, isn’t it? Harden is the story of the first week and cruises to the top spot.

2. SF/PF Lebron James – The Heat have been a wee bit slow out of the gates, but look to emulate Usain Bolt after he trails opponents on the blocks before his long legs give him an advantage to blow them away the rest of the race. Lebron is so good that he can make 23.0 pts, 8.7, 6.3 asts on .621 TS% look like commonplace.

3. PG Chris Paul – Like Lebron, Paul can make a 19.0 pts, 12.3 asts, 4.0 rebs, .604 TS% start to the season look “ho hom” and it’s easy to take him for granted. The Clippers at 2-1 are off to a great start offensively despite so many new names, and will be looking to jump the Lakers for the Pacific division.

4. PG Kyle Lowry – Lowry’s first week with his new team has been nearly as impressive as Harden’s. With 23.7ppg, 7.0 asts, and 7.3 rebs, he is leading the team in all 3 categories. With the improvement in his shooting the last few years added to his athleticism and IQ, Lowry has become a star guard.

5.  SG Kobe Bryant – The Lakers may be 1-3, but Kobe has been spectacular playing off his new teammates, scoring 26.8ppg on 59.7% FG and .710 TS%. Kobe looking spry bodes well for their championship chances this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 am