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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 2. San Antonio Spurs

Overall Win/Loss Record :  62-20,  first place Southwest Division

2014/2015 Projection:  53-29, first place Southwest Division, first place Western Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 105.4 (6th)
  • Points Allowed: 97.6  (6th)
  • Team FG%: .486 (2nd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .444 (8th)
  • Team FT%: .785 (4th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .397 (1st)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.3 (12th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.2 (12th)
  • Turnovers per game:14.1 (15th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.3 (25th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Tony Parker (16.7)
  • Rebounds per game:   Tim Duncan (9.7)
  • Minutes per game:   Tony Parker (29.4)
  • Assists per game:    Tony Parker (5.7)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Tiago Splitter (.523)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Patty Mills (.890) 
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Marco Belineli (.430)
  • Steals per game: Kawhi Leonard (1.7)
  • Blocked Shots per game:   Tim Duncan (1.9)

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

  • Tony Parker (PG)
  • Marco Belineli (SG)
  • Kawhi Leonard (SF)
  • Boris Diaw (PF)
  • Tim Duncan (C)

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

  1. Tiago Splitter (C/F)
  2. Manu Ginobli (G/F)
  3. Danny Green (G)
  4. Patty Mills(G)
  5. Matt Bonner (F)

Like a thief in the night, the San Antonio Spurs flew under the radar once again, swept into the playoffs and swiped its fifth NBA Championship trophy--this time they did it against a lethargic +Miami HEAT team who seemed more distracted and disinterested rather than focused and prepared as they have been.  That has always been same story with every Spurs championship team--they often happen when their chief rivals are usually worn down or temporarily out of commission and they face rather lackluster or severely over-matched teams.  They worn their first in a lockout shortened season against an undersized and severly outmatched +New York Knicks team, then won their second three years later against an equally inferior New Jersey Nets team.  Two years would pass and the Spurs would win their third at the hands of a +Detroit Pistons team which proved to be one of the longest, boring and un-watchable NBA Finals series' in recent memory followed by another two year hiatus where they would slip in the Finals once again to beat an inexperienced and unprepared +Cleveland Cavaliers team.  Last season was the first time that the Spurs made consecutive Finals appearances one year after the other and after losing the first in one of the most thrilling and action packed seven game series in NBA Finals History, they would win the second in a virtual snore fest.

If anything, San Antonio's championship win can be credited more to their opponent's lack of motivation and desire to win rather than the quality of the team's play as the Heat essentially allowed the Spurs to walk all over them.  And that is why the Spurs cannot be considered among the great champion dynasties of the past thirty years, because unlike them, they never go out all guns blazing and have never shown neither the courage or consistency to surpass their foes on a level playing field.  Instead, they choose to lurk in the shadows and patiently wait for all the other more powerful titans to beat each other down, then silently sweep in, take the crown  and claim victory once the dust settles.  They resemble that wimpy pro wrestler that nobody likes who essentially stays out of the way during a Battle Royale and once all the main contenders have been thrown out of the ring, he emerges from his little nook, cheap shots the more deserving fighter and claims the win for himself.  Thus they should not be allowed to parade themselves as a true champion as they truly do not deserve such recognition; nevertheless, despite how unseemly that have earned their ill-gotten gains, they still should be considered as the team to beat in the Western Conference as they have virtually slithered to the top of the NBA's food chain.

For that simple reason, the Spurs have been marked not only for defeat, but literally for assassination as many teams, especially in the Western Conference must find it equally distasteful to watch this pretender sit upon the throne.  Teams such as state rivals the +Houston Rockets and +Dallas Mavericks have been forced to watch the Spurs slither through their grasps and to the top of the standings while they and fellow division rival +Memphis Grizzlies beat each other senseless fighting for what few scraps remain.  In fact, one can go as far to say that the Spurs represent not only the best, but also the worst in the NBA as they stand among the top teams in a stringent and rather oppressive regime otherwise known as the Western Conference.   Over the past fifteen or so years, teams have risen and fallen in the ranks of the Western Conference, yet the Spurs have maintained their same standing in the top five often finishing with home court advantage in the playoffs.  One can liken the Spurs' presence to something as horrifically painful as a kidney stone, as dangerous as a blood clot clogging an artery, or a tedious and unpleasant site as a recurring pimple or mole because there is simply no getting rid of them.

They have been and probably always will always be factor in the Western Conference thus keeping it in its rather stagnant state for the past decade and teams such as the +Los Angeles Clippers, and +Oklahoma City Thunder stuck with no where else to go.  If it were not for the Spurs, the West would be a much more wide open conference with much more variety in the teams appearing come playoff time, but that will never happen as long as the Spurs continue to remain there.  That is why the league needs to consider realigning its teams so there can be in fact greater variety in terms of competition and quality of play not allowing teams like the Spurs to maintain their vice like grip on the league.  Unfortunately, that is very unlikely to come to pass in the near future and the majority of Western Conference teams will simply have to accept that they will never be able to get past a certain point as long as the Spurs remain in their way and that could be the characteristics that will forever mark their legacy.  The Spurs are simply not the titan that they or their fans claim them to be, but resembles more instead a pariah that either blocks or holds the league back from progressing any further or a parasite that continually sucks the life out of its host.

Some Spurs fans will certainly take exception to someone calling their team a pariah or parasite, but the majority of them can care less as they know that they are the food that feed the vile beast that continually haunts the NBA.  Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker will probably never leave the team and keep their team's horrific hold on the league because like vampires, zombies, or any reviled creature of the night, they will never die no matter what Mother Nature or Father Time throw at them. Head Coach Gregg Popovich and GM RC Buford must have made an unholy contract with the Forces of Darkness using the souls of their players as collateral because there is no other way to explain the out of this world longevity of either Duncan or Ginobli as well as the ridiculous consistency that the Spurs have continued to show.  In a worst case scenario, if an atom bomb were to explode killing the entire population of the state of Texas, the Spurs would probably survive as well as the AT&T  Center remain standing.  There are like cockroaches, termites or bed bags--no matter how may time you try to get rid of them, they keep reappearing and infesting their living spaces eventually outliving those who seek to destroy them.   

Most players and coaches would agree that although they can temporarily silence the Spurs, there is no way to completely snuff them out, because they just keep coming back up for more and once everyone has lost their spirit to fight, that is when San Antonio deals its fatal blow.  That is how the Spurs managed to win their five championship tiles--not by imposing their will on those who dared to oppose them, but simply by slipping though the cracks waiting for their time to strike when everyone else are either too weary or too dispirited to even put up a fight.  That was certainly the case with the Miami Heat in last year's NBA Finals--after four years of conquering the Eastern Conference, reaching the Finals each season, and winning two of them, they simply did not have the will to muster the energy to put up a respectable title defense.  Add the fact that +LeBron James practically had one foot out of the door once he an his teammates arrived to face them, it was just a matter of time until the Spurs took advantage of the Heat's lethargy completely humiliating it in five games.  Some may look at such behavior and style of play as somewhat endearing and resilient, but the fact is that the Spurs have neither those qualities but are simply a disgusting, and revolting stain that will never ever be removed.

So let us as welcome the season with both wonder and excitement while meeting them with soulless apathy as we will once again have to endure another 82 games of the San Antonio Spurs slithering their way back to the top of the standing only to ruin yet another NBA Finals.  Right now, despite the flurry of post season moves, trades and free agent signings, there is no team in the Western Conference that can truly consider itself as a lock for the NBA Finals because some way or another they will eventually have the floor pulled right from under them thanks to the Spurs. Their silver and black colors not only reflect their ominous presence in the league, but also emphasizes their unholy grip on the NBA and the world of professional sports.  No matter what happens or whoever finishes on top of the standing in the regular season, the Spurs will somehow seep into picture poisoning all those around them, slither their way past the righteous and claim their ill-gotten gains.               

Sunday, December 21, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 3. Los Angeles Clippers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  57-25,  first place Pacific Division

2014/2015 Projection:  52-30, first place Pacific Division,  second place Western Conference

Preseason Ranking


Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 107.9 (1st )
  • Points Allowed: 101.7 (14th)
  • Team FG%: .474 (3rd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .441 (5th)
  • Team FT%: .730 (26th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .352 (22nd)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.0 (14th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.7 (25th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.3 (6th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.7 (8th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Blake Griffin (24.1)
  • Rebounds per game: DeAndre Jordan (13.6)    
  • Minutes per game:  Blake Griffin (35.8)
  • Assists per game:  Chris Paul (10.7)
  • Field Goal Percentage: DeAndre Jordan (.676)
  • Free Throw Percentage:   JJ Redick (.920)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Hedo Turkoglu (.440)
  • Steals per game: Chris Paul (2.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: DeAndre Jordan (2.5)

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

  • Chris Paul (PG)
  • JJ Redick  (SG)
  • Matt Barnes (SF)
  • Blake Griffin (PF)
  • DeAndre Jordan (C)

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impacts:

After year of being ignored in favor of their prettier and more popular sibling, the Los Angeles Clippers have finally taken the spotlight from their long time nemesis, the +Los Angeles Lakers, and look to create a new legacy with new ownership and a new purpose.  It all started last summer when former team owner and lifelong scumbag Donald Sterling was recorded saying his usual racist slurs and unlike previous episodes before, the NBA finally took action banning this league pariah for life and forcing him to sell the team.  It was subsequently bought over by former +Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, who brought not only energy and excitement of being a new NBA franchise owner, but also gave both the organization and the few who have stuck with the team though the good and mostly bad, a new lease on life. For its entire history until very recently, the Clippers were not only a laughing stock and an embarrassment, but a black eye to both the NBA and professional sports; however, now it is as if all of the team's sordid history has been sponged thanks to the ousting of Sterling making it seem as if it is starting anew as an expansion team.  And what can be better place to start fresh on a clean slate than coming off a Pacific Division Title last season and being projecting to not only win the Western Conference, ball also contending for an NBA Title?

Many journalists, pundits and analysts have even gone so far as calling the Clippers the new "Kings of LA," not only because of the team's sudden surge into the media spotlight, but also due to the subsequent downfall of the ruling Lakers; however, that can be considered quite a hasty judgement at best.  For starters, unlike the Lakers, the Clippers have yet to show that they can not just win in the regular season, but also prove that they have what it takes to take the next step to become an NBA Champion; and thus far, they have still a ways to go until they are able to wipe away the Purple and Gold from the minds and hearts of residents of the City of Angels.  Three straight record breaking winning seasons have led to three straight early playoff exits with the Clippers going as far as the second round last season and being ousted from the first round the season prior; however, thanks to an impressive haul over the off season, the Clippers look to finally get over the hump and get to that elusive NBA Title.  Despite being well over the league's salary cap and having nothing to offer to prospective free agents other than the league's mid-level exemption, the Clippers still managed to snag an elite caliber big man along with a well traveled veteran point guard who brings championship experience.  Together, they have turned a bench that was once the team's Achilles Heel into its greatest strength as the team enters the 2015 season with one of the deepest and most balanced rosters in the league.

Their biggest coup for the Clips in the off season had to be the acquisition of center Spencer Hawes, a player who many expected to be completely out of their price range after posting a career season and was looking to secure a very lucrative deal; fortunately for them, however, it was a mix of not only good luck, but also bad judgement that helped Los Angeles to bag one of the top big man free agent prospects of the summer.  Instead of waiting out the frenzy that was associated with the speculation of where the two biggest free agents, +LeBron James and +Carmelo Anthony, both Hawes and his agent both took the desperate route and accepted the first deal that came their way which not only benefited the Clippers, but may have ruined his future value for years to come. Had he been more patient, Hawes could have been eligible and certainly worthy enough to court as much as 35$ to 40$ million over a four year period, especially after posting a career high in scoring (13.2ppg), and rebounds  (8.0 per game), while shooting an outstanding .423 from three point range.  Looking at the players such as the +Orlando Magic's +Channing Frye, +Boston Celtics' Avery Bradley and the +Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams, who received contracts far beyond their actual value, Hawes could have been entitled for even more than the 10$ million per year had he and his agent just waited until the dust cleared from the whole Lebron/Carmelo saga. Unfortunately, Hawes now has to settle with the four year 24$ million the Clippers signed him to while watching others who probably will not contribute nearly as much as he will, but get paid far more.

In securing Hawes, the Clippers--thanks to both Hawes' shortsightedness and the incompetence of his agent--not only acquired what can possibly be considered as one of the biggest steals in free agency, but also the perfect complement to the team's dominant front court duo of DeAndre Jordan of Blake Griffin.  On the offensive end, Hawes has the ability and skill to bang and score in the paint with his plethora of low post skills as well as stretch the floor and spread open the offence with his three point shooting shooting ability: in addition to that, he also brings a solid presence on the defensive end, especially in rebounding and protecting the rim, thanks to his size, strength, and athleticism.  He would be good enough to start on most NBA teams, but thanks to the gross misjudgment of his overall value by both himself and his agent, Spencer Hawes has now become a cornerstone of an already intimidating front court that not only includes Griffin and Jordan, but also a treasure trove of size and talent in the paint.  Joining Hawes on the bench is seven year veteran and returning player Glenn "Big Baby" Davis, who is known for not only the toughness he brings, but also the NBA Championship ring in which he won with his coach +Doc Rivers during their time with the +Boston Celtics.   And to add extra insurance to an already stacked front court, the Clippers acquired Ekpe Udoh, a player known less for what he supposedly brings to the court that do not necessarily show up on a stat sheet, but whose impact is shown more in terms of mathematical geometrics.

This vastly improved front court will work extremely well with an already devastating back court that scored nearly .430 of the team's points and is led by a future Hall of Fame legend in Chris Paul, flanked by the sharpshooting wings Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick.  The Clippers suffered a significant loss in the off season as Paul's backup, +Darren Collison, chose to take his talents to the +Sacramento Kings; nevertheless, the Clippers still manged to offset that loss by signing an equally solid replacement but at a much lesser cost than it would have taken to keep Collison.  Jordan Farmer was best known for his stint with the two time championship Lakers team from 2009 and 2010, but had fallen off the basketball map first by getting traded to the now +Brooklyn Nets in 2011, then being subsequently released by the team the following season.  After one one season stint in the +EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL League, Farmar resurfaced in the NBA returning to his former team, the Lakers, and had quite possibly the best season in his career averaging 10 points, 5 assists, and shooting .438 from beyond the arc.  Inserting a veteran Farmar into the lineup as the primary backup point guard not only offsets the loss of Collison, who was arguably the league's best backup point guard last season, but also give the Clippers added depth to an already stacked bench while giving the team another veteran with championship experiences.

Altogether the Clippers have the makings of a team that can not only go far into the playoffs, but quite possibly make a run for their first ever  NBA Finals appearance in their close to half a century history; unfortunately, they lack one important ingredient, however.  Despite having an intimidating front court, an imposing presence in the paint with all its size and talent, plus a guard rotation that can be considered as the envy of the of the NBA, the Clipper's Achilles Heel is exposed at the small forward position where this is little if nothing to speak of.  The best the team has at that position is 34 year old Matt Barnes, who at this point in his career is better suited for a lesser role coming off the bench, but sad to say, there is no one else on the team really qualified to step up and take the starting small forward spot away from him.  The only other option, 35 year old +Hedo Turkoglu, is well past his prime and will not start with the team as he is serving a league mandated suspension for being caught using performing enhancement drugs.  After Barnes and Turkoglu, what remains is a hodgepodge of players who are either untested or unknown talents such as second year swing man Reggie Bullock, who played in 43 games his rookie year at less than ten minutes per game, and journeyman Chris Douglas-Roberts, who  is more known for his curious coif than his actual game.

Although it does not seem that not having a strong small forward is much of a weakness, consider the fact that the two best players in the league happen to play that exact position and with no one to really pose any resistance whatsoever can spell disaster for the Clippers.  Right now the Clippers have no one who has the size, the skill, nor the defensive acumen to pose any opposition to nether Lebron James or +Kevin Durant which can really pose a problem considering that Durant may be facing the Clips come playoff time.  What makes it worse is that the Clippers are in really no position to go hunting for talent as they are completely capped out using what little flexibility it had in its mid-level exemption to sign Hawes and had nothing left to offer after that. Unless they are willing to part with one of the team's core group of players to acquire that much needed depth at the small forward position, there will no help for the Clippers as they will have a glaring hole in that position which can be exploited mercilessly. Fortunately for the Clippers, there will be plenty from now until the regular season trade deadline to get a deal done and acquire that missing piece come playoff time.

 For the first time in the team's entire existence, no one is disregarding or dissing the Clippers as they find themselves at a place that neither they or their fan would have ever expected possible.  Instead of remaining as a perennial bottom feeder for so long, they now see themselves at the top of the NBA food chain and instead of looking up at their former master, the Lakers, the are the ones looking down on them and it looks like it will be that way for quite some time.  Unfortunately, even though the Clippers may have taken the mantle of the top team of LA, they have in no way replaced the Lakers of the city's official team by any sense of the imagination.  Even if they manage to shock the world and win its first NBA Title at seasons end, that is not nearly enough to wrestle away the hold that the Purple and Gold has on the City of Angels making them always play second fiddle even now.  Yet unlike previous years, this time the Clipper will no longer be considered a pushover on the court and a laughing stock off of it as it has cut the chains of the past and look to soar to a new and prosperous future.             

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

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

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.