What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 4. Portland Trailblazers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  54-28 , second place Northwest Division

2014/2015 Projection: 50-32, first place Northwest Division, fourth place Western Conference

Projected 2014/2015 Finish
4



Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 106.7 (4th)
  • Points Allowed: 102.4(22nd)
  • Team FG%: .450 (15th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .451 (11th)
  • Team FT%: .815 (1st)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .372 (10th)
  • Rebounds per game: 46.4 (1st)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.5 (22nd)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.3 (7th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 11.6 (30th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): LaMarcus Aldridge (23.2)
  • Rebounds per game:   LaMarcus Aldridge (11.1)
  • Minutes per game:   LaMarcus Aldridge (36.2)
  • Assists per game:   Damian Lillard (5.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Robin Lopez (.489)
  • Free Throw Percentage Damian Lillard (.870)
  • Three Point FG Percentage:  Damian Lillard (.394)
  • Steals per game: Wesley Matthews (0.9)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Robin Lopez (1.7)

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

  • Damian Lillard (PG)
  • Wesley Johnson (SG)
  • Nicolas Batum (SF)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (PF)
  • Robin Lopez (C)

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

It has been more than twenty years since fans of Rip City have witnessed their beloved team reach as far as the NBA Finals; however, since then they have had to settle with mediocrity for the next two decades or so.  There would be periods where the Blazers would reach the playoffs, but their post season stay would be short lived as they would often be quickly eliminated early leaving Blazer fans once again disillusioned that they would ever see championship glory ever.  In fact, since 1992, the Blazers would only advance past the first round of the playoffs just three times--twice they made the Conference Finals in 1999 and 2000 and just last season when they reached the Conference Semi-Finals only to be eliminated by the +San Antonio Spurs.  Now after all the heartbreak and disappointment, Blazer fans can now finally feel a sense of hope and excitement as now they finally have a team with the potential to not only return to the NBA Finals, but may also possibly win its first NBA Title since  they won its first and only in 1977.  And that was thanks to not only an impressive post season performance which saw Portland pass the first round for the first time in fourteen years, but also a splendid off season where the team's front office added the necessary pieces to turn the turn from a mere playoff contender to potential championship spoiler in the Western Conference.

The Blazers already had one of the most solid starting fives in the league consisting of two NBA All Stars and a trio of talented and athletic complementary players to not only enhanced their teammates' strengths, but also compensated for their weaknesses.  Robin Lopez, who came over in a trade with the one time New Orleans Hornets provided much needed defensive presence in the paint along with rebounding to pair alongside Lamarcus Aldrdge's already impressive offensive production. All Star and 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard's partner in the backcourt, Wesley Matthews gave the team a third scoring option who could be counted on hitting clutch shots, especially from beyond the arc.  Last but certainly not the least, there was Nicolas Batum--a virtual "Jack of all Trades" that provided the team with strong defense on the perimeter as well as a second ball handler on the offensive end to help take the pressure off Lillard in facilitating ball movement.  Unfortunately, save for the team's starting five there was not much else as their bench consisted of inconsistent and unreliable players who forced coach Terry Stotts to overplay his starters resulting in them wearing down late in the season; however, that all changed when the team's front office set out to fill in those gaps that had hampered the team last season.

Their first acquisition was an eleven year veteran big man who earned two All Star selections, but whose problems with injuries over the last four years have rendered him no longer as a viable starting center, but can certainly be an excellent supporting role play in this stage of his NBA career.  Chris Kaman's career as a professional basketball players can be considered as quite rocky playing phenomenally one season while following it up with a less than impressive offering the next season as his numbers would bounce up and down from one season to the next.  Nevertheless, he does provide the Blazers with a rather skilled center to back up both LaMarcus and Lopez providing both scoring, rebounding and a strong physical presence on both ends of the floor. Kaman not only brings the team a career average of 12.0 points, 8 rebounds, and one block per game, but provides their developing core of young bigs--Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland--the perfect mentor to learn from.  Altogether a tandem of Aldridge, Lopez, Kaman, Robinson, Leonard and Freeland quite possibly the deepest, biggest, strongest, and most talented front court in the league coming into this season.

To go along with significantly strengthening their front court with enough beef to clog the paint and pulverize their opponents, the Blazers' front office also went about shoring up its back court by signing a familiar face whose wealth of knowledge and experience will definitely enhance the already dominant superstar presence that Lillard provides at the point.  For the past eleven years, Steve Blake has provided a solid presence coming off the bench as not only an excellent passer and facilitator, but also as a clutch scorer coming through late in games for the seven teams he has played for.  Blake can arguably be considered as one of the league's best backup point guards with career averages of seven points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal per game in just under 25 minutes of playing time; however, at 34 years old, he probably will no longer able to log up a significant amount of minutes and that will be just fine for this Blazers team.  With an All Star in Lillard and a talented young up and comer in CJ McCollum, Blake can not only provide stability on the court while Lillard rests for a spell, but provide the Blazers with a consistent producer to allow McCollum to develop at his own pace.  Put him, Kaman, and all the returning second unit players, the Portland Trailblazers will certainly have not only the deepest and most talent roster, but also the most balanced as the Blazers are essentially two players deep in all five positions.

A roster such as this one will certainly catapult Portland to the upper echelon of the Western Conference despite it being not only the toughest, but also the tightest of the two with it only having essentially two available playoff spots not spoken for; however, Portland does not have to worry about that since they will be among the top three or four teams in the West anyways. Unfortunately, despite the upgraded roster and the high projections, the Blazers will not be going anywhere past the first round of the playoffs unless their shore up their defense which allowed their opponents to shoot a shade better than they did and finished last in the league in opponents' turnovers per game.  The addition of Kaman certainly will aid in bringing down those shooting numbers with his ability to protect the rim combined with that of Lopez's, but with such a wealth of quick and athletic wings such as Lillard, Batum, and Matthews, the Blazers need to step up and show that they can also put pressure on opposing ball handlers forcing them to lose possession of the ball.  Nonetheless, this will be a more interesting year for Blazer fans as they will finally have something to look forward to after all the past disappointing post season finishes they have had to endure for the past forty years.  Although there is no guarantee that they will reach the finals, at least this Blazers team will certainly give the top teams of the West a run for their money and no longer force their fans to watch them languish in mediocrity.  

It certainly has been a long time coming for Rip City hoops fans after watching their team flounder for the past twenty years as a mix of poor personnel choices, bad draft picks and just rotten luck simply kept it stuck spinning in its tires going nowhere.  Now the Blazers have finally pulled themselves out of that rut and look to finally take that next step from being simply an average team that would make the playoffs simply to be quickly eliminated the moment they step onto the court to the top tier team that they once were in the last eighties and early nineties. It seemed as if Portland fans have waited an eternity for this day to happen as most had probably already given up any hope that they would ever see their home team return to the NBA Finals; but now, with their team coming into the season with the best roster they had ever seen in recent memory, it is time to dust off the old banners and welcome back this new era in Portland basketball.  So enjoy the moment, Blazers fans, as your team finally has moved from being in the middle of the pack and returned to the top of the mountain because you deserve it after all those years of suffering.  
            

Thursday, December 11, 2014

SDH Presents the Top 10 NBA Plays: December 10th


Count down the ten best from Wednesday night. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents Andrew Wiggins' First Career Double-Double in Win vs. Blazers


+Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the +Minnesota Timberwolves  over the +Portland Trail BlazersVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Rockets vs. Warriors, December 10th


+Stephen Curry scored 20 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists in the +Golden State Warriors  105-93 win over the +Houston RocketsVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Heat vs. Nuggets, December 10th


+Wilson Chandler (17 points) led the +Denver Nuggets  to a 102-82 win over the +Miami HEATVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Pelicans vs. Mavericks, December 10th


+Monta Ellis  scored 13 of his 26 points in the final five minutes as the +Dallas Mavericks  outlasted the +New Orleans Pelicans 112-107. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Sixers vs. Hawks, December 10th


+Kyle Korver scored 17 points and dished out two assists as the +Atlanta Hawks  stopped the +Philadelphia 76ers in Atlanta. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents The Starters –December 10th


The guys discuss prospective trades for the +Brooklyn Nets' Joe Johnson, +Deron Williams, and +Brook Lopez. They select two “All Head Coaches” teams, who would make the best NBA bodyguard, and select the “Very Solid Play” from Tuesday’s NBA action. Watch +The Starters weekdays at 6:30ET on NBATV or get more of them on their website: http://nba.com/thestartersVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 5. Miami Heat


Overall Win/Loss Record :  54-28, first place Southeast Division

2014/2015 Projection: 50-32, first place Southeast Division, third place Eastern Conference


Preseason Finish
5



Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 102.2 (12th)
  • Points Allowed: 97.4 (5th)
  • Team FG%: .501 (1st)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .457 (16th)
  • Team FT%: .760 (14th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .364 (12th)
  • Rebounds per game: 36.9(30th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 40.3 (2nd)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.2 (18th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.6 (3rd)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Dwyane Wade (19.0)
  • Rebounds per game:  Chris Bosh (6.6)
  • Minutes per game:   Dwyane Wade (32.9)
  • Assists per game:  Mario Chalmers (4.9)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Chris Anderson (.644)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Chris Bosh (.910)
  • Three Point FG Percentage:   Mario Chalmers (.385)
  • Steals per game:   Mario Chalmers (1.6)
  • Blocked Shots per game:   Chris Anderson (1.3)
Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:


Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

  1. Danny Granger (F)
  2. Norris Cole (G)
  3. Chris Anderson (F/C)
  4. Udonis Haslem (F)
  5. Shannon Brown (G)
It was a short and wild ride, but after four years, four NBA Finals, two NBA Championships, a slew of Oscar nominations and three US Congressional Medals of Honor (the last two were made up, by the way), the +LeBron James era had ended almost right after it began.  Now the man who had almost lifted not only the Miami Heat, but all of Southern Florida to championship glory has returned to the place where he started his career leaving both the team and its city in virtual limbo; however, there have been no tears shed nor any hint of despair.  Instead of falling into straight disarray as the +Cleveland Cavaliers did the season when Lebron shattered the hopes and dreams of the city and its fans when he first left for the sunny shores of South Beach, Miami's front office, led by Pat Riley, went about business as usual.  He simply brushed of Lebron's departure, went about re-signing the two other cornerstones of the Heat's championship glory, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and acquired players who could compensate the massive loss of Lebron James by replacing with him another All Star forward in Loul Deng.   Riley also signed another veteran who at one time was a career All Star himself before injuries had deteriorated his abilities in Danny Granger, who despite his decline, can still remain a strong contributor either as a starter or coming off the bench.

Granted, both Deng and Granger will neither bring the superstar presence or have the impact that Lebron James had brought in his four years in Miami; however, they can be considered as a perfect stop gap measure on the part of Heat boss Pat Riley to both offset and compensate the King's departure.  Deng is a career 16 point, 6 rebound, 2 assist, and one steal per game player who is not only capable of scoring, but also like James, able to facilitate his teammates on offense while providing a strong presence on the boards.  And although Granger may no longer be able to put up his career averages of 17 points and five rebounds per game, if he can still give the solid contribution as he did last season in his short stint with the +Los Angeles Clippers, then both him and Deng have the potential of producing just about the same numbers that Lebron probably would have provided, provided that he stayed, of course.  Comparing their performances from last season, both Deng and Granger produced a combined  24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and a little over one steal per game which is comparable to the numbers Lebron posted last season of 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game.  Nonetheless, despite what the numbers show, there is no way that Deng and Granger will ever replace the power and presence of the greatest basketball player of our time, but at least Heat fans will have the comfort in knowing that at least their team will not crash and burn the way that Cleveland dis way back when.

In fact with the players that they have now, one can in fact argue that Miami, if healthy and at full strength, still have the tool to give them a definite fighting chance to win the Eastern Conference, if not at least win their division earning them home court advantage in the playoffs.  Remember, this was a team that was not only a championship contender over the past four years because of  the sheer dominance of Lebron James, but also the fact that the Heat were one of the most imposing defensive teams in the league with its ability to force turnovers and follow up with quick baskets on the other end of the floor.  Theoretically, since the Heat overall have the same team as last season sans James as well as the few new additions to the roster, they can surely play with the same defensive intensity that allowed them to rank third in the league in turnovers forced, they can still finish win the same 54 games as they did last season even without Lebron.  Both new additions Deng and Granger have a very strong defensive acumen which can complement, if not enhance the already religious devotion to defense the Miami has already shown for the past four years and as long as that philosophy continues to hold true, the Heat could potentially be just as good as they were when James was still on the team.

With James gone, Bosh and Wade will certainly be taking the scoring load on the offensive end and will probably be even more potent scoring forces that they has been in previous years mainly because they will have more freedom to play their style of game instead of having to conform to Lebron's.  Bosh certainly knows about having to change his game in order to fit in better with that of the King's own as he had to completely overhaul his style of play going from a back to the basket post scorer he was while playing for the +Toronto Raptors, to that of a jump shooting pick and pop player; however, with Lebron gone, he will not only get more touches, but will also get the ball where he is more comfortable thus making him more effective.  Add the perimeter shooting he has developed over the past four years in his arsenal, Chris Bosh has the potential to be an even better play then he has ever been and will not only the Heat's primary offensive option, but also re-emerge as one of the top post players in the league.  The big question on everyone's minds is how Wade, who has spent the last four years riding on Lebron's coattails, will adjust to a player who enjoyed the luxury of having a player of James' caliber creating his offensive to having to do so himself?  At 32 years old and with his past history of injuries, Wade no longer has the explosive athleticism that made him one of the most sought after players in the league, yet at the same time, he is being paid as if he were; nonetheless, even without his former sugar daddy feeding him, Wade will still get his points, if not by Lebron, by the transition points caused by turnovers that his team will force.

Give Heat boss Pat Riley plenty of credit for keeping the ship together despite having his captain abandon it jumping over to another one because having lost one of the greatest players to have possibly ever play the game would have met certain disaster for other teams--just look at Cleveland!  He was figuratively handed lemons and used them to create lemonade ad he choose to move forward from the past as quickly as possibly by his locking down Wade and Bosh for the next few years and bringing in stop gap replacements in Deng and Granger.  What is more important about Riley's moves, however, are not that he ensured that Heat continue on its winning ways, but the fact that he has given his team enough financial flexibility by signing Deng to a relatively short term contract, in order to go after a possibly even bigger fish two years from now.  With the contracts of superstars such as +Kevin Durant+Russell Westbrook, +DeMarcus Cousins and +Dwight Howard expiring at the end of the 2017, Riley will have plenty of cap space to entice at least one of the players to take their talents to South Beach--especially with the salary cap increasing up to $80 million next season.  So to turn the perception of the Heat's cup being half full instead of being half empty,  Riley has turned the negative situation of having the greatest basketball player in the world leave him by creating a situation where he can get another superstar while at the same time keeping his team in championship contention.

Unfortunately it will not be as easy for the Heat as in previous years since the Eastern Conference has improved leaps and bounds with Lebron simply changing divisions instead of heading West as well a slew of up and coming teams that will give them trouble winning their own division let alone the Conference.  Both the +Washington Wizards and newly minted +Charlotte Hornets have both risen from perennial doormats in the East to elite powerhouses thanks to major off season moves such as the Hornets signing up and coming and future All Star Player in the making, Lance Stephenson as well as the Wizards being projected to go as far as second place in the Conference. Let us not forget the +Toronto Raptors, who look to use their franchise best 48 win season as a stepping stone for even greater things and playoff mainstays as the +Atlanta Hawks+Brooklyn Nets and +Chicago Bulls will look to keep their statuses as the conference's elite.  Even though it suffered a black eye last season, the prospects of the +New York Knicks have certainly improved thanks to the arrival of new President and CEO Phil Jackson and the impressive off season moves he too executed despite having absolutely no draft picks and no cap space.  Add in a potential spoiler in the +Milwaukee Bucks, who not only welcomed head coach +Jason Kidd, but also the second overall pick in last summer's draft +Jabari Parker, as well as the return of possibly one of the most tantalizing prospects in recent memory--6' 11" point guard +Giannis Antetokounmpo--the Heat will have plenty of hurdles it will have to cross in order to remain uptop the East.

Regardless of the appearances of new players and the strengthening of old foes, the Miami Heat will still remain a force in the league as they come into the upcoming regular season relatively unfazed after suffering one of the most significant losses in professional sports history.  Nothing and no one will ever replace Lebron James or can even hope to recreate the iconic four year period that had not been seen such unrivaled success in the the Heat's franchise history; however, no one can ever say that Miami simply allowed themselves to fall apart the moment Lebron decided to pack up and head back North to his home state of Ohio.  Many had been waiting for such a day when Riley would finally pay for his sins of forming what can be said as an immoral concoction of a championship squad, but it seems as if both he and his franchise will escape the wrathful clutches of karma.  The Heat will continue to not only survive, but also thrive as they will not only be a playoff contender this year, but for years to come and still remain in the NBA championship discussion, the same way that the +San Antonio Spurs has for the past decade or so.   Unfortunately, like the Spurs, Heat have the disadvantage of having a roster with a really advanced age and reaching four straight NBA Finals will finally take its tole and just wear the team down so much that it might just do what many have not only predicted but wished for and fall apart.                            

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SDH Presents the Top 10 NBA Plays: December 8th


Count down the best plays from Monday night. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Warriors vs. Timberwolves, December 8th


+Stephen Curry  posted 21 points and seven assists and helping the +Golden State Warriors  to their 13th consecutive win with a 102-86 victory over the +Minnesota TimberwolvesVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Celtics vs. Wizards, December 8th


John Wall scored 26 points and dished out 17 assists as the +Washington Wizards  beat the +Boston Celtics in double overtime. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Cavaliers vs. Nets, December 8th


+Kevin Love  scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the +Cleveland Cavaliers  beat the +Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Nuggets vs. Raptors, December 8th


Kyle Lowry scored 13 points and dished out 13 assists as the +Toronto Raptors  defeated the +Denver Nuggets in overtime. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Jazz vs.Kings, December 8th


+Rudy Gay  scored 29 points, and the +Sacramento Kings overcame the absence of center +DeMarcus Cousins to beat the struggling +Utah Jazz  101-92. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents John Wall's Double-Double in Close Double-OT Win


John Wall scored 26 points and records 17 assists as the +Washington Wizards  knocked off the +Boston Celtics on Monday night. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents The Starters –December 9th


+The Starters discuss a potential +Kosta Koufos for +Dion Waiters trade, rate the weekend’s best dunks with Brent Barry in “The Bone Zone”, and take a look at some “Weekend Whoopsies." Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Suns vs. Clippers, December 8th


+Blake Griffin scored a season-high 45 points, drilling the winning 3-pointer that hit the rim and drops in at the buzzer, to help the +Los Angeles Clippers beat the +Phoenix Suns  121-120 in overtime for their eighth straight victory. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Hawks vs. Pacers, December 8th


+Al Horford  scores 25 points and grabs eight rebounds as the +Atlanta Hawks drop the +Indiana Pacers  in Indianapolis. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents Blake Griffin Scoring Season High 45-Points


Check out the awesome performance from +Blake Griffin as he scored a season-high 45 points and hit the game-winning triple. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

Monday, December 8, 2014

SDH Presents the Top 10 NBA Defensive Plays of the Week: 11/30 - 12/06


It's all about relentless defense as we showcase the week's top defensive plays in the NBA. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents the Top 10 NBA Assists of the Week: 11/30 - 12/06


Dish and dime your way through the best assists from this week. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Pelicans vs. Lakers, December 7th


Anthony Davis scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds as the +New Orleans Pelicans grounded the +Los Angeles Lakers  in southern California. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Trail Blazers vs. Knicks, December 7th


+LaMarcus Aldridge  recorded 25 points and 11 rebounds and +Damian Lillard  added 20 points as the +Portland Trail Blazers  defeated the +New York KnicksVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Bucks vs. Mavericks, December 7th


+Chandler Parsons  scored 28 points and grabs five rebounds as the +Dallas Mavericks defeated the +Milwaukee Bucks  in Dallas. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Thunder vs. Pistons, December 7th


+Kevin Durant  scored 28 points and dished out four assists as the +Oklahoma City Thunder  beat the +Detroit Pistons in Detroit. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Heat vs. Grizzlies, December 7th


Jon Leuer recorded 20 points and 12 rebounds, +Mike Conley added 18 points as the +Memphis Grizzlies  defeated the +Miami HEATVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents Rajon Rondo's Triple-Double in Win


+Rajon Rondo  went off for a triple-double scoring 13 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing 11 assists in the +Boston Celtics' win over the +Washington WizardsVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Nuggets vs. Hawks, December 7th



+Paul Millsap scored a team-high 23 points in the +Atlanta Hawks  victory over the the +Denver Nuggets 96-84. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Wizards vs. Celtics, December 7th


+Rajon Rondo  had a triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for the +Boston Celtics and Jeff Green added 25 points to help lift them over +Washington Wizards 101-93. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 6. Toronto Raptors

Overall Win/Loss Record :  48-34,  first place Atlantic Division

2014/2015 Projection: 47-35, first place Atlantic Division, fourth place Eastern Conference


Projected 2014/2015 Finish
6



Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 101.3 (13th)
  • Points Allowed: 98.0 (7th)
  • Team FG%: .445 (22nd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .450 (10th)
  • Team FT%: .782 (5th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .372 (9th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.5 (17th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.0 (4th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.4 (8th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.3 (13th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders


Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

  • Kyle Lowry (PG)
  • Demar DeRozan (SG)
  • Terrence Ross (SF)
  • Amir Johnson (PF)
  • Jonas Valanciunas (C)

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

  1. Greivis Vasquez (G)
  2. Patrick Patterson (F)
  3. James Johnson (F)
  4. Lou Williams (G)
  5. Tyler Hansbrough (F)

Canadian basketball fans are still swooning after their NBA team's magical season where not only did it post its best record in franchise history, but for once in their entire existence in the league, Toronto was no longer the team on the outside looking in.  The Raptors finished with the third best record in the Eastern Conference trailing the second place +Miami HEAT, who would return to its fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, and the +Indiana Pacers. Unfortunately, however, their regular season success did not translate into the postseason as they would be eliminated in the first round once again by a Nets team led by +Jason Kidd, but this time, instead of leading the team on the court, he would manage it on the sidelines as head coach.  Nonetheless, last season sparked a fire that has been long standing dormant in the Great White North as flags and hash tags of "We the North" have been planted throughout the city and posted throughout the information super-highway.  Regrettably, this is not the first time where Toronto fans had experienced the thrill of victory and had high hopes for the future as the excitement often dissipates as soon as it arises leaving not only Raptor fans, but all of Canada as general with a flat and sunken feeling in the end.

Usually a strong finish such as last season has often been followed by a less than impressive performance where the Raptors would fall in the standing, but still managed to make the playoffs; however, once that season ends, it is often back to drawing board as Toronto is forced to rebuild once again.  The first time Toronto had to deal with the +Vince Carter fiasco where after three years of playing like a superstar, he started to lose interest and was subsequently traded to the then New Jersey Nets which would still remain a scar Raptor fans to this day.  The second time, both the franchise and its fans had to deal with the loss of another franchise player in +Chris Bosh, as he choose to flay south for the winter signing with the Miami Heat once his contract had expired joining +LeBron James and +Dwyane Wade  to become one of the most dangerous and devestating tandems in professional sports. Now come the third incarnation of Toronto's short but bittersweet stay among the NBA's elite only to quickly fade away to irrelevance, but what will be the lynch pin that will pulled out leading to not only the team, but an entire nation of nascent basketball fans to crash down back to reality once again?  Perhaps, the third time will be the charm as this sweet success will be the seed that will grow and blossom into a new era of Toronto Raptors basketball where this will not be the peak, but a stepping stone to even greater things; sadly, however, history has shown that Raptors fans should not get their hopes up, because more than often, they often don't materialize to anything.

Consider the Raptors as an NBA version of Shaggy, not to be confused with the cowardly cohort of the world famous canine sleuth known as Scooby Doo, but the reggae/hip hop artist who gave us such gems as "Oh Carolina," "Mr. Bombastic," and "It Wasn't Me."  Like Shaggy, the Raptors would have a big hit where the rest of the league and the sporting world would take notice only to simply fade away never to be seen again until three or four years later where they would have another hit song like Shaggy and pull off the same disappearing act once again.  Ironically, the Raptors greatest playoff streak occured at the same time as the release of Shaggy's ground breaking album Hot Shot, which would be his last multi-platinum album he produced and was never seen or heard from again.  In addition, similar to Mister Lover himself, they followed a big hit season with two lesser tracks which were decent enough to listen or dance to, but not nearly as good as the track that got them so much notoriety until finally people start getting tired of their act and start losing interest altogether.  It is almost predictable when and how the Raptors collapse whether it be a disgruntled player tired of floundering in mediocrity or another who simply wanted to leave Toronto because he simply did not get as much exposure as his peers, so why would this Raptors team be any different from all the others?

After all, it was not as if the Raptors faced any real competition in their ascension up top the Eastern Conference elite as the road was essentially cleared for them thanks to the collapse of division rivals +New York Knicks and +Brooklyn Nets.  And although Canada's team finished with a franchise record 48 wins which nabbed them a third place finish in the East, that would not have even got them a playoff berth in the West where it took 49 wins to nab just barely the final eighth spot.  To make matters even worse, instead of realizing that their ascension was merely by a fluke, the team's front office chose to not to use the off season to bolster the team that it already had by adding a marquee name player to help secure their hold on the Eastern Conference.  Team Vice President and GM, Masai Ujuri had a chance to use the expiring contracts of Landry Fields and Amir Johnson--both amounting to nearly 13$ million in additional cap space--in order to acquire a game changing player that can bring his team to the next level.  Instead, he chose to pass on such tantalizing options as veteran two time NBA Champion +Pau Gasol, who could have easily been had and would have been an excellent complement and mentor to the Raptors' up and coming center Jonas Valanciunas, and decided to stand pat with the team he had which can be considered average at best.  Other options that could have been possible game changers were Josh Smith, a player that the +Detroit Pistons' would have easily considered trading for Johnson and Fields since the contracts essentially matched and would have given the Raptors one of the league's elite athletes; however, that became another lost opportunity.

Ujiri could have even picked up a two time All Star veteran big man in +Carlos Boozer off waivers for cheap after he was amnestied by Chicago, but he allowed him to be snagged by the +Los Angeles Lakers instead of giving Toronto one of the league's strongest front courts without even having to give up either Johnson or Fields. Even +Andray Blatche, who despite playing two solid seasons in Brooklyn and posting his best basketball performance for the Philippine National team during the +2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, could have been had at a fairly negligible price; however Ujiri sat on his hands on that opportunity as well.  Sure, he did re-sign the team's star point guard Kyle Lowry to a long term extension, secured the services of Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson for another couple of years, and acquired combo guard Lou Williams from the +Atlanta Hawks for additional scoring off the bench; however, retaining Lowry, Vasquez and Patterson were essentially no-brainers and Williams could be at best considered an X Factor as consistency is not exactly his forte. Fortunately for him, the +Phoenix Suns picked up the player he coveted in +Syracuse Orange guard Tyler Ennis in last summer's draft, forcing him to pick what can be considered a steal in draft snagging little known Brazilian swing man +Bruno Caboclo.  With his size at 6' 9" and 205lbs, his amazing polished skillset at the age of 19, Caboclo has the chance of becoming a solid contributor in the NBA for years to come, whereas Ennis, a 6'0 guard with not nearly the athleticism or upside that Caboclo possesses, probably would not even stay in the league past is rookie contract.

Basically the mantra throughout the off season by the Raptors' front office was that the organization's plan is to continue building on the players they have instead of looking outside for a quick fix as they put it; however, this is more a philosophy of a team looking to rebuild into a contender rather than one looking to continue its winning ways.  And that has been not just the problem with the Raptors, but all of Toronto's professional sports teams--they're too busy looking to build rather than getting focused on actual winning--and it is this "losing mentality" that keeps not only Raps, but all of its fellow MLSE associates from achieving anything greater than mediocrity.  Last season, the Raptors were lucky in that they played in a cream puff Eastern Conference which allowed them to look far better that in truth than they really were and with the emergence of +Cleveland Cavaliers thanks to the "Return of the King," and a new "Season of Love," the playing field has just gotten even more contentious.  Toronto will not be a lock to win its own division thank to a resurgent Knicks team and and Nets team looking for redemption as well numerous other up and comers such as the Bulls, +Washington Wizards, and the newly minted +Charlotte Hornets to name a few.  Unless any of these team stumble out of the gate early allowing for Toronto to come out with an impressive and unrealistic start, look for the Raptors to once again follow inflated expectations with depressing results.  

Can anyone really see the Raptors emerging into one of the true elite teams in the league instead of spending the rest of its existence of the NBA's "token team" where their successes are met with a pat on the head as if they were a dog doing a trick for its master?  This season Toronto will celebrate its 20th anniversary as an NBA team and all it has to show for it are a handful of playoff appearances, three all star players, and a fan base who would rather follow the city's hockey team, which has been far worse over the years, than actually take their basketball team seriously.  That is not to say that the Raptors will not return to the post season once again, but they certainly will not have the free ride that they enjoyed last season because now the Eastern Conference is tougher than its as ever been and both the team and its fans may just have quite a rude awakening.  Nor will they take anyone by surprise either as many teams will, for at least this season, take Toronto somewhat seriously and not allow this upstart known for its disappearing acts over the years to get the better of them once again.  So prepare yourselves, Toronto fans, as your team has probably reached as far as they will ever get and like reaching the top of the roller coaster, the Raptors will then head for a long devastating fall to the bottom.