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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 21. Miami HEAT

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

Actual Finish: 37-45, third place Southeast Division, tenth place Eastern Conference

2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 94.7 (24th)
  • Points Allowed: 97.3 (6th)
  • Team FG%: .456 (11th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .454 (19th)
  • Team FT%: .741 (22nd)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .335 (24th)
  • Rebounds per game: 39.1 (30th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.0 (2nd)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.9 (19th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.1 (11th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Dwyane Wade (21.5)
  • Rebounds per game:  Hassan Whiteside (10.0)
  • Minutes per game: Chris Bosh (35.4)
  • Assists per game:  Dwyane Wade (4.1)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Hassan Whiteside (.628)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  James Ennis (.840)  
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Chris Bosh (.375)
  • Steals per game: Mario Chalmers (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Hassan Whiteside (2.6)

SDH’s Hero to Honor: +Hassan Whiteside

For Miami Heat fans, despite their team's sharp fall from grace, there was a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as this has been the year of In-Hassan-ity.  Similar to the Cinderella story that captured the attention of the sporting world three years ago, Hassan Whiteside came from relative obscurity--drafted in the second round five years ago, he had spent his career bouncing from team to team in brief stint while spending the rest languishing in the D-League.  That all changed when Miami, out of sheer desperation, decided to take a chance on this young unknown journeyman to replace fallen star +Chris Bosh in the starting lineup and thus a legend was born!! Like Jeremy Lin before him, Hassan completely blindsided not only the NBA, but the sporting world as he wowed fans in the sporting world averaging 11 points, 10 boards, and three blocks in 48 games; however, unlike Lin, he did not nearly get as much attention, possibly because he was a seven foot black man instead of a 6'3" Chinese American.  Nonetheless, his performance will certainly garner the attention of numerous NBA teams and he will certainly gain a substantial pay raise from the 749$ thousand he received once he becomes a unrestricted free agent.  He may not have ascended to the meteoric rise as Lin did, which even he would say is not necessarily a bad thing considering what happened to him afterwards; however, his come out of nowhere performance should be considered one for the ages.   

SDH’s Face to Forget: +Dwyane Wade 

Years ago he was put up at the same pedestal as +Michael Jordan and +Kobe Bryant as one of the most dynamic and explosive superstars in the league; however, after years of injuries and being ravaged by father time, his superstar status has all but faded.  He can longer carry a team and upon closer dissection of his career it has become quite apparent that he was never able to do so either, even in his younger day.  Much of his most glorious moment came from riding the coat tails of either +Shaquille O'Neal  or +LeBron James and when he was left on his own, both him and his team were mediocre at best.  At 33 years old, he has all but exhausted his prime years and is headed towards the downturn of his career; yet, both he and +Chris Bosh--two players who were never able to carry a team father than being merely marginal at best--were expected to carry on the mantle and continue the legacy that Lebron had left behind.  Sadly, they both fell dreadfully short of expectations with Bosh falling to injury mid-season while Wade hobbled on the court trying his best not to fall apart leading the Heat as well as Miami fans crashing hard to reality.  Now that the dust has settle, it has become blatantly apparent that Wade is now a dinosaur--a relic from a past age--and is simply living off borrowed time while his decline acts as a anchor to any future ambitions.
The +LeBron James era has ended and it had brought the +Miami HEAT four straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA Championship Titles, and now fans in South Florida now have to deal with the reality that not only have their championship aspirations have all but ended, but also that they will we the man who brought them such glory do that with another team. Nonetheless Heat President Pat Riley went out of his way to ensure that his team will not end up in the same state he left the +Cleveland Cavaliers when he took Lebron away in the first place so he went about filling that rather massive void immeadeatly in the off season.  He first started by re-signing the two other cornerstones of his championship dynasty +Dwyane Wade and +Chris Bosh, then he faced he his greatest challenge--to find a player to replace possibly one of the greatest to have ever played to the game--and he did so, by getting the next best thing.  +Loul Deng already had extensive experience guarding Lebron when he played with the +Chicago Bulls and has built quite a reputation for himself earning two All Star Selections and All Defensive Second Team Honors in 2012 thus making him an excellent substitute for a player in James--who will probably forever stay in the hearts and minds of Miami fans.  With the new addition of Deng plus the return of all the players of the past four years, the Heat looked as they can give Lebron and company a run for their money, possibly contend for the Eastern Conference title, or at worse win their Southeast Division.

Unfortunately, for both Riley and the Heat, it was quite evident that four straight NBA Finals appearances had really its toll on the team as Miami came out of the gates looking very sluggish, tired and worn down as they finished the first month of the season at 9-7; however, there were no real red flags waving and many believed that the HEAT,  with its experience and skill would improve its performance over time.  Unfortunately, that did not happen as the fatigue noticeably set and with each passing Miami slowly slipped lower in the standings and instead of leading leading pack, Miami found itself in a place where the players and fans had not been in quite some time--on the outside looking in and scrapping for survival.  Miami's season really came to a head in February when it was announced that Chris Bosh would sit out the rest of the season due to blood clots in his lungs (2/15/2015) leaving an aging and weary Dwyane Wade to shoulder the bulk of the scoring burden.   At 33 years old, not only was Wade in severe decline as his abilities and athleticism deteriorated with each game, but many Heat fans were probably also in denial thinking that he could still carry this team on his own; however, it proved to be a fantasy as he showed that he was completely unable to carry out such an undertaking.  Sure, he did have flashes of greatness, but his performances went up and down with each passing month plus it did not help either that he missed 20 games leaving his teammates to essentially fend for themselves, especially during late in the season when they needed him the most.

So with their two star players out for most of the season, Miami certainly had trouble finding someone to consistently put the ball into the hoop resulting in the Heat finishing the season near to last place in the league in scoring although they still managed to still shoot at a rather efficient clip at .456 from the field; however, despite its best efforts, the teams still remained two steps behind their opponents.  The fatigue from pushing themselves so hard certainly showed on the defensive end when they fell from being one of the top teams at forcing turnovers to falling to the middle of the pack at 11th, and even though they kept their opponents' scores low, it was not enough as they allowed them not only to shoot almost as well they did, but also allowed their opponents to out-rebound them as well.  Over the past four seasons, Miami's rather poor rebounding performance was mainly offset by the fact that the team not only shoot very well thanks to getting easy transition baskets thanks to forcing turnovers, but the fact that no opposing team was able to even set up its offensive sets because the Heat simply did not allow them to do it. Unfortunately, the Heat no longer possessed the same defensive intensity which made it so easy to force turnovers and get quick and easy baskets making their rather invisible presence on the boards more prevalent thus allowing opponents to push past them despite the team's best efforts to hold them back.  Plus, in addition of doing their best on the defensive end only to fall short at the end of most games and their rather poor performance on the glass, there was one major factor that essentially doomed the Miami Heat's season which the team had virtually no control over--primarily because he was now playing for the Cleveland Cavs.

It is almost shocking to see how much of an impact that missing Lebron had on that team because seeing the Heat play now compared to when they played with him in the lineup is almost like night and day because with Lebron, the team was almost unstoppable whereas now, it is almost as if the life got sucked out of the Heat leaving it a hollow husk.  And it was not just Lebron's intimidating presence which allowed him to push aside anyone that dared step in his way to score or tried in vain to box him out to grab rebounds, it was also his ability to push his teammates to get the best out of them by getting them involved, utilizing their strengths to their maximum potential, while at the same commanding their absolute respect.  Lebron was not just the team's leader in scoring, assists, rebounding and every other statistic, but also like a general on a court who not only executed the coach will from the sidelines, but also devised his own strategies while leading his soldiers to battle--similar to the great storied warriors of ancient times, Lebron is a legend by almost mythical proportions.  Once he had bid farewell to South Beach choosing to return to his kingdom in Cleveland, the magic went with him and the once great godlike titans that stood beside him as equals reverted to mere mortals reducing this once omnipotent and infallible force known as the Miami Heat into a shadow of its former self.  Fortunately for both the Heat players as well as its fans, they can hold solace in the fact that they did not suffer the same indignity and devastation those that those in Cleveland had suffered when he originally decided to cast off his shackles, break his ties with the state that he has called home his entire life, jump ship to the South, and in turn destroyed not only the emotional, but the socioeconomic fabric of the city and its people.

Although the team failed to retain its once revered status and remain a strong force in the league, at least the Miami Heat managed to do what the Cavs could not--survive the fallout of having possibly the greatest player that has ever put on their uniform and walk on their home court abandon it.  Although the Heat failed to make the playoffs, the team managed to remain somewhat respectable and unlike the Cavaliers who simply collapsed on itself, managed to stay strong, remain competitive and fight for a post season berth until the very end.  It is almost a certainty that the city Miami, its citizens and their NBA franchise will NEVER experience the grandeur and glory that they had enjoyed for the past four years, but at least they were able salvage the wreckage from the ruins and still be able to stand tall proud with their heads high.  Although many would consider this past season as a disappointment and failure because the Heat failed to maintain its stature as one of the league's elite teams, it should be also be considered quite a success because it still managed to remain one of the top defensive teams in the league while at the same time showing the world that they will never back down, even when the chips are down.  So expect the Heat to bounce back a far stronger and better team than they were last season as they still have the tools to remain successful in the NBA and quickly return as a perennial playoff contender.          




Tuesday, May 26, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 22. Charlotte Hornets

2014/2015 Projection: 45-37, third place Southeast Division, sixth place Eastern Conference

Actual Finish: 33-49, fourth place Southeast Division, eleventh place Eastern Conference

2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 94.2 (28th)
  • Points Allowed: 97.3 (7th)
  • Team FG%: .420 (29th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .440 (8th)
  • Team FT%: .748 (19th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .318 (30th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.1 (10th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 44.1(21st)
  • Turnovers per game: 11.2 (1st)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 12.0 (27th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Kemba Walker (17.3)
  • Rebounds per game:  Al Jefferson (8.4)
  • Minutes per game: Kemba Walker (34.1)
  • Assists per game:  Kemba Walker (5.1)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Bismack Biyombo (.543)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Mo Williams (.890) 
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Cody Zeller (1.00)
  • Steals per game: Kemba Walker (1.4)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Bismack Biyombo (1.5)

SDH’s Hero to Honor: +Cody Zeller 

Last season Cody Zeller was seen as a an outright bust after being selected fourth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and made such a weak impression with a rather pedestrian rookie season (6.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, .426 FG%); however this season, Zeller came back more confident and in instances showed why he was so highly touted as an NBA draft prospect.  Although his 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game do not look that much apart from his rookie season, his field goal percentage rose significantly to .461 and he even had a chance to start 45 of the 62 games that he played.  He certainly hit his stride in the first week in March where he posted 12.4 points, grabbed 7.4 boards and shot .611 from the field in the first five games--all of which his team won; however sadly the streak ended on a sour note as he fell to injury and failed to finish up the regular season.  Nonetheless, that small sample size in March proved that given time and touches, Zeller would certainly pose as a formidable foe in the paint and might just possibly become the Hornets new go to guy in the post once current starter Al Jefferson's contract expires and the end of next season.     

SDH’s Face to Forget: Lance Stephenson

After coming in with so much hype and anticipation, Lance Stephenson has to be considered as the most disappointing story-line of the 2015 NBA season as he came into Charlotte an up and coming star, but ended up a complete disgrace in the eyes of his supporters and fans.  Many applauded Stephenson's decision to decline the rather stingy offer that +Indiana Pacers boss +Larry Bird gave him after he had such an amazing season helping Indy to reach first place in the East while leading the team to the Conference Finals in which they would be eventually beaten by the +Miami HEAT.  His signing with Charlotte for fewer years and at less money was seen as a middle finger to both Bird and the Pacers organization as he looked to prove that he was deserving of an equally lucrative contract that his former teammate Paul George had receive; however, sad to say that his plan became quite awry when he came in looking out of sync and completely contrary to the confident young stud that led his team in assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage the season prior.  His once strong shooting stroke suffered drastically as he slowly became less of a factor with every passing game in the regular season to a point where he went from being a starter to almost slipping completely out of the roster rotation.  Now with the season over, his future in the Queen City looks rather bleak as he had not only himself, but those who gambled on him--namely owner +Michael Jordan and his right hand man Rich Cho--look like complete fools and may find himself and his market value plummet the same way his team did this season falling out of playoff contention.

After years of struggling to find its footing in both the +NBA and the public, it looked as if a new era of professional basketball was about to emerge in the city of Charlotte North Carolina as not only did the team finished well in 2014 making the playoffs, but also entered 2015 with a new look and a stronger roster.  Actually, to be accurate, it was more of a repossessed look as team owner +Michael Jordan decided, in his own words, to "bring the 'buzz' back," and renamed it the +Charlotte Hornets, after the original NBA franchise which broke the hearts of its fans, moved further South and became the +New Orleans Pelicans.  Although this was an obvious publicity stunt and marketing ploy, it seemed suitable for fans to see the name of their past franchise because they never assimilated themselves neither to the Bobcats brand or the orange and navy blue color scheme which seemed to clash with their collective tastes.  Jordan's primary henchman and right hand man Rich Cho, also went to work strengthening the team from the inside adding more depth to the roster with his most important being locking up one of the most prized free agents at the time, +Lance Stephenson--a player who felt spurned by his former team, the +Indiana Pacers, when the team's boss +Larry Bird offered a contract extension far lower than he expect and went to Charlotte to prove his doubters wrong.   Along with the additions of sharp shooting stretch four Marvin Williams, highly touted rookies +PJ Hairston and Noah Vonleh, as well as former +San Antonio Spurs point guard Gary Neal--a player with three NBA titles to his credit--the Hornets looked to be a team on the rise and not only return to the playoffs, but also  contend very heatedly for the Southeast Division title against the +Washington Wizards+Atlanta Hawks  and +Miami HEAT.  

Unfortunately upon opening tip off everything become completely unraveled as the team came out of the gates completely out of sync which resulted into the team that was once believed to on the rise becoming a complete embarrassment winning eleven less games and missing the playoffs.  Both Jordan and Cho must have wanted to crawl under the nearest rock once they saw their best laid plans crumble right in front of them as Marvin Williams, who was paid 7$ million per year for three years, became an absolute bust while both rookies Vonleh and Hairston failed to make any impact whatsoever as the played a combined 70 games only producing 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game; however their biggest shame came in the form of their greatest hope.  Lance Stephenson was supposed to be their "ace in the hole," as he came off a career season in 2014 not only finishing as the second leading scorer for the Pacers, but also the team's top assist man with 5.5 per game, second leading rebounder with 7.3, and most accurate shooter with a .491 field goal percentage; however, upon arriving to Charlotte, that all disappeared.  Upon opening tip off Stephenson's shooting proficiency completely disappeared while his defense, and despite showing flashes of the solid rebounding and passing that he gave in Indiana, he still remained a fraction of his former self leading many to believe that he was not the prized stud that many in the media propped him up as being. Throughout the course of the season, it seemed as if "Murphy's Law" had hit the Charlotte Hornets and their fans as everything that could have gone wrong did leaving both Charlotte deflated and discouraged and both Jordan's and Cho's faces red with embarrassment.

What makes reliving this disgrace of a season even more painful was the fact that this team had most, if not all of the same roster from the previous year and came in deeper, not only in terms of talent but also post season experience as Williams, Stephenson, and Neal spent much of careers as big time contributors in the playoffs.  One would think that such extensive winning resumes along with their distinct skill sets could bring some much needed leadership to a young group of up and comers who just had a small taste of winning and had their mouths watering for more; however, those three proved to be pretty useless as they seemed even more clueless than the younger players who were looking to them for support and guidance.  That was certainly the case with Marvin Williams, the ten year veteran who had been originally tabbed by head coach Steve Clifford as the team's starting power-forward coming into the season, but was quickly pulled out due to his minimal offensive production (7.4 ppg, .424 FG%) and his equally terrible presence on the defensive glass (just 4.9 per game in 26 minutes of playing time.  Williams was supposed to be the perfect complimentary role player that was supposed to fit in seemingly into the team while quite offering veteran leadership and wisdom in the team's front court while Gary Neal was brought in to do the same in the back court supporting the team's rising star point guard +Kemba Walker; however, both would miss the mark as Williams' role diminished as the season passed and Neal was then eventually traded to the +Minnesota Timberwolves for another veteran, Mo Williams who proved to be a far better scorer than Neal, yet not good enough to lead the team to the playoffs.  

Stephenson had to be the biggest disappointment out of all those players since he had both the most to gain and the most to lose as he gave up to 45$ million to prove not only Bird and the Pacers, but the world that he was worth a superstar's salary; however, along with his shooting touch, he also lost the most important facet of his game--his confidence.  At first, it did not seem as bad when he fell into that shooting stroke because he compensated for that with his passing, rebounds, and energy; however, with each passing game even that went into decline and it did not take long for him to be supplanted in the starting lineup by Gerald Henderson--a player who was expected to be on his way out upon Stephenson's arrival.  Nonetheless, his supporters, as well as Larry Bird's detractors, hope that this past season was just an aberration--a small bump in the road of what will be an otherwise a long and fruitful career--and that he will return to the form in which he wowed not only his fans in Indiana, but also made him a virtual household name.  At just 24 years old and in only his fourth season in the league, Stephenson is not near reaching his peak as player and hopefully he will write off this past season as a learning experience, figure out where he needs to adjust his game and move on from there because he simply too talented and has too many intangibles to allow one season to ruin his value as a player.  After finishing the first of what can be considered a less than satisfying season, Stephenson has two more left to show not only fans in Indiana and Charlotte, but also the world that he is truly an elite caliber player in which one--not the NBA, not the fans, not even Larry Bird--can no longer just simply underestimate and ignore.

If worst comes to worse and Stephenson is not capable of returning to his 2014 form, then it will not be too much of a loss for the Hornets since they can easily unload his contract if they need to as it has just two seasons left with the last year being a player option so they can easily trade it during the off season or they can even waive him at the end of next season.  The same can be said for Marvin Williams who basically has just two years and 14$ million left so both Jordan and Cho can breathe a slight sigh of relief as their two gambles will not cost them long term; plus, in spite of the team's disappointing finish, the Charlotte Hornets still has plenty going for it with its young roster as well as cap flexibility and can easily bounce back to playoff contention next season.  Despite its less than desired result not making the playoffs, Charlotte finished 2015 among the league's top defensive teams as the Hornets ranked among the top ten teams in points allowed, opponents' field goal percentage and rebounding thus showing that there is still something worth salvaging on this team; however, defense is as only as good as the offense that comes from it and for the Hornets, that was their primary weakness.  If Charlotte wants to return to the post season, the team will have to find a way to generate offense from all the hard work they put on the defensive end because it will all be for naught if they can hold their opponents to 97 points per game and .440 shooting if they can only score just 95 and shoot .420 from the field.  At least fans in Charlotte can hold solace in the fact that their team has just that one missing ingredient and once that is finally added, then they can get back onto winning, returning to the playoff, and bringing back the NBA spotlight to a city that has missed it for so long. 






Friday, May 22, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 23. Detroit Pistons

2014/2015 Projection: 38-44, fourth place Central Division, tenth place Eastern Conference

Actual Finish: 32-50, fifth place Central Division, twelfth place Eastern Conference

2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 98.5 (18th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.5 (14th)
  • Team FG%: .432 (27th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .456 (21st)
  • Team FT%: .703 (29th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .344 (18th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.9(4th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 44.1(20th)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.6 (7th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.4 (18th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

SDH’s Hero to Honor: Reggie Jackson

Last season was a coming out party for Reggie Jackson as he exploded in November leading the +Oklahoma City Thunder in both scoring (19.5ppg) and assists (7.5) while the team's two stars, +Russell Westbrook and +Kevin Durant were hobbled by injuries; however, once the two came up and running, Jackson's role was then severely reduced which resulted in him wanting to break free from OKC and ascend from mere role-player to a future star.  He finally got that chance in February when he got traded to Detroit and it was like his spark from earlier in the season as he was given the freedom that he yearned for returning to his explosive way scoring the basket and taking full reins of his team on the court.  In his month and a half stint in the Motor City, Jackson was a virtual superstar averaging close to 18 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds per game finally giving Pistons fans something to cheer after suffering such an abysmal season that fell well short of expectations.  With two more years left on his rookie contract, there is no doubt that coach/GM Stan Van Gundy will definitely be on the phone with Jackson's agent to make sure he can lock this star in the making who will most certainly bring Detroit Pistons' basketball back into the spotlight.  Similar to the +Houston Rockets+James Harden, Jackson grew to big for his britches in Oklahoma City and needed to spread his wings or else be suffocated and smothered by the immense presences of Westbrook and Durant which gives credence to the idea that the Thunder is a team where stars are made, but in order to become that, they will have to leave the team.       

SDH’s Face to Forget: +Brandon Jennings 

Years ago Brandon Jennings was viewed as an up and coming young star on the rise, yet at the same time as quite the enigma because although he had all the tools--the skill, speed, and athleticism--to become one of the league's greatest point guards, but only showed just small glimpses of the player that all who watched him hoped that he would become.  Unfortunately it seems as if time has run out for Jennings as both his luster and his reputation of being one of the league's top young talents have finally rubbed off and what we are left with is a shallow and empty husk of a player whose time in the limelight has finally passed.  Last season, former team president, Joe Dumars, tabbed Jennings as the team's point guard of the future when he brought him over from the +Milwaukee Bucks in a sign and trade deal and many saw this as the perfect opportunity for Jennings to finally step up and finally become the star that many who followed him hoped he would be.  Yet alas, over the past two years no fruit has bared from his arrival as it seems that at just the tender age of 25 years old, Brandon Jennings has fallen from grace and with next season being his last in the Motor City or possibly anywhere else for that matter.  He has been such a disappointment to so many people and with the arrival of Reggie Jackson, it seems as if the writing is clearly on the wall unless by some miracle he bounces back with a phenomenal season next year, he will be out of Detroit and out of the sight and minds of basketball finds everywhere.     

Basketball in the Motor City has basically set in neutral for the past six years after eight year period of post season glory that included two trips to the NBA Finals; however, after an overhaul of the team's front office which included the exit of former GM Joe Dumars and the arrival of new coach and GM Stan Van Gundy, fans in Detroit finally had hope that their team will turn on the ignition once again. Stan Van had never managed a roster as he usually worked with he had doing rather well to say the least as he brought both Florida teams--namely the +Miami HEAT and the +Orlando Magic--both to the playoffs with one appearance to the 2011 NBA Finals where his Magic would lose to the eventual champion +Los Angeles Lakers four games to one. Van Gundy gave the +Detroit Pistons and their fans what they have been lacking for years--a tough defensive minded coach whose attention to detail and focus on excellence and accountability would be a welcomed breath of fresh air; however, it would not only his coaching that he will be judged, but also his ability to build another championship caliber team. Unfortunately his predecessor did not leave him much to worth save for two top rated big men in +Greg Monroe and +Andre Drummond, an elite caliber athlete in Josh Smith, plus a point guard that had yet to live up to his billing as an elite caliber point guard in +Brandon Jennings.  Nonetheless hopes were still high that Van Gundy would somehow bring things all together and the Pistons will bounce back after years of spinning their tires in the mud going nowhere and finally get out of the mud pit that Dumars got them into the first; however, it proved harder than many had ever expected.

The first two months were rocky at best as the Pistons won just eight games by the end of 2014 thus causing coach GM to take drastic measures which led to him making probably the most questionable personnel move in the 2015 NBA Regular Season as he he waived Josh Smith and buying out the remaining 27$ million of his contract.  There is no question that Josh Smith's arrival to Detroit was not necessarily a "slam dunk"as his offensive production and efficiency, but regardless, that decline did not deserve such a rash and extreme measure because he was not a team parriah or completely worthless on the trade market--in fact it was the complete opposite.  Despite his inability to mesh in the Pistons, Josh Smith was still considered as one of the premier athletes in the NBA, plus at the age of 29 along with his ability to score in transition as well his defensive prowess as a rebounder and shot blocked, given time Van Gundy could have found a viable trade partner; instead, he simply let Smith go--a player who has yet to even hit his prime--paying out around 7$ million for the next four years, receiving nothing in return. Smith went on to be picked up off waiver by the +Houston Rockets where not only would he and the team would finish second overall in the Western Conference and be playing in the Conference Finals against the +Golden State Warriors, but he would still be paid by Pistons for doing it.  To add insult to injury, over the course of the next three seasons while the Piston continue to struggling to find the right mix, in they might certainly do, the team will still be paying Josh Smith not only win for other teams, but also possible be eligible to receive an equally lucrative deal compounded upon that as well since he will be entering free agency once the Rockets' playoff run ends.

Pistons fans will argue until they are blue in the face justifying what the majority of common sense individuals will consider one of most stupid and illogical player transaction in possibly the history of sports claiming that Smith never fit in with the team and his departure opens up a piddling 8$ million cap exemption in which the Van Gundy can use to sign second or third tier free agent.  Even Kelly Dwyer of +Yahoo Sports+Ball Don't Lie went into great length and detail explaining the justification for this crime against financial logic and common sense by basically writing a dissertation using charts and graphs (12/22/2014); however, even he must have felt ridiculous trying to explain such this half-baked argument that chemistry and poor performance was the reason of SVG basically donating 27$ million to Josh Smith.  The whole team chemistry excuse holds absolutely no water, because if Josh Smith was such a detriment to his team, he would have been suspended and SVG could have sat him out for the season until he was able to find a proper deal for him that would would benefit the team in the long run; also instead of just paying the guy off quite handsomely for the next four years, why couldn't Van Gundy just wait and see if another team would be interested?  There would have certainly been interest in Smith during the trade deadline because his contract was not as bad a people made it out to be because he had only two years left on it plus he would have been a perfect addition to a team that either wanted to make a playoff push or add a extra weapon for the post season.  No matter how many ways the Detroit media or fan want to spin it, Van Gundy's decision was simply foolish because letting go of player of significant talent such as Smith not only shows his ineptitude as a GM, but also as a coach since he was simply unable to incorporate such a gifted player who fits into his defensive coaching philosophy.

Sure, one can point out that after Smith left, the Pistons won seven straight and followed that by winning five or their next eight games, giving credence to the ridiculous notion that all that was the result of the forward's departure;  however, that streak was short lived as the Pistons ended up finished the month of January losing four their next five games and just managed to win 15 games after that to finish the season.  Plus, in hindsight, had Van Gundy actually had the patience to try to work Smith's strengths into his system or kept him until the trade deadline, more than likely the same result probably would have occurred anyways--the Pistons probably would have finished with close to the same record and by mid February, there would have been plenty of interest in Josh Smith at the trade deadline.  One can list even more reasons why the whole Josh Smith situation was a such a blemish on Stan Van Gundy's inaugural season as both Detroit head coach and general manager; nonetheless, it happened, it is now in the past, and now both the Pistons and their fans have to push forward with the upcoming draft and the prospect of possibly having to lose another elite caliber player in Greg Monroe.  Last season, Monroe, who was a restricted free agent at the time--meaning that the Pistons would have been to match any offer a team gave--could have signed a long term extension worth around 60$ million; however he chose not to take the extension offer and instead optioned to take a one year final qualifying offer thus making him an unrestricted free agent--meaning he can to ANY team he wants with the Detroit having no say whatsoever--come season's end.  From all the information that has been circulating throughout the media, it has become quite apparent that Monroe, who led the Pistons in scoring this past season and ranks as one of the top free agent prospects in the off season, has little, if any interest in returning to Detroit thus adding more stress to Van Gundy's rebuilding effort plus further damaging his reputation as an NBA executive.

It is still too early to judge Van Gundy's tenure as both coach and general manager of the team because very few had the Pistons making the post season this year anywhere; nevertheless, the whole Josh Smith situation will probably haunt him forever and what happens with Greg Monroe will also make or break his legacy in the Motor City.  At least he could hold solace in that inspite of the result, the Pistons did play pretty well in that they were competitive in every game losing by slim average margin of just one point per game and that was an achievement in itself because not only was Detroit the fourth worst shooting team in the league, but the fact that they allowed their opponents to shoot nearly .460 from the field against them. Unfortunately, right now the team in complete disarray with no real foundation or balance in the roster and with all the uncertainly surrounding the off season, no one, even Van Gundy himself, has any real idea of what is going to how will it turn out in the end.  There will be plenty of time between the official start of the off season in July to when next season officially starts in October, so a lot can happen in that time; however, as of now, things are looking pretty bleak for Van Gundy, the Pistons, their fans and the city of Detroit.  To add pressure to this already tense  time is not on his side, because this impatient fan base who has been accustomed to winning and has had enough with all this chaos and losing so if Van Gundy has a plan, he better be quick to initiate some sort of positive change because it won't be pretty if he fails; however, the Josh Smith situation definitely forced the Pistons to take two steps back, so hopefully that will bee a small blemish in an otherwise fruitful era for Pistons fans.          






Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 24. Denver Nuggets

2014/2015 Projection: 42-40, third place Northwest Division, eleventh place Western Conference

Actual Finish: 30-52, fourth place Northwest Division, twelfth place Western Conference       
2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 101.5 (12th)
  • Points Allowed: 105.0 (27th)
  • Team FG%: .433 (26th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .458 (25th)
  • Team FT%: .734 (24th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .325 (28th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.7 (7th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 45.1 (27th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.8 (18th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.7 (14th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Ty Lawson (15.2)
  • Rebounds per game: Kenneth Faried (8.9)
  • Minutes per game:  Ty Lawson (35.5)
  • Assists per game: Ty Lawson (9.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Kenneth Faried (.507)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Danilo Gallinari (.900)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Randy Foye (.357)
  • Steals per game:  Ty Lawson (1.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Jusuf  Nurkic (1.3)  

SDH’s Hero to Honor: +Jusuf Nurkic

When Denver acquired Jusuf Nurkic from the +Chicago Bulls in a draft day trade last summer, it was quite a head scratch-er for Nuggets fans considering the fact that their team already had two accomplished big men: one that was on the rise in +Timofey Mozgov and an overpaid mess in JaVale McGee who was finally returning on the court to finally earn his paycheck.  Then all of a sudden, Mozgov gets traded to the +Cleveland Cavaliers and finally sick and tired of his constant nonsense and no shows on the court, JaVale was finally sent packing first being shipped away to the +Philadelphia 76ers where he was then waived and hopefully will never be seen again, and Nurkic suddenly went from being at the bottom of the rotation to being the team's starting center.  Nurkic certainly proved himself worthy of his opportunity as he started 27 games and posted rather impressive numbers for a rookie center of 6.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in less than 18 minutes per game which sad to say, was one of the better performances of this rather horridly shameful and disappointing 2015 NBA Rookie class. In a situation where he was expected to simply ride the pine and watch the game as a spectator, Nurkic got an opportunity that most young players in his case would probably never have gotten and managed enough pressure that would crush far lesser players rather handily as he slipped in seemingly as the Nuggets primary option in the paint.  At 20 years old, he is certainly still a work in progress and there will most definitely be growing pains along the way; but if his rookie numbers are any sign of what is to come, then Denver certainly have a gem on its hand and hopefully this one will shine and not be a worthless let down as those who came before him.         

SDH’s Face to Forget: +JaVale McGee

After six long years of shattered hopes, broken promises, and nightmarish dreams, One can sum up JaVale McGee's tumultuous career in one short, but brief sentence: GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH!!  JaVale had all the tools necessary to not only be a star in the NBA, but also potentially change the game of basketball itself; however with all his size, skills, and athleticism, his poor judgement both on and of the court in addition to a complete lack of understanding of the game constantly overshadowed whatever strengths he had.  Despite posting more red flags than a Caribbean coastline during hurricane season, Denver still decided to overlook his past transgressions and take a chance with him rewarding him with a ridiculously lucrative contract and quickly saw the error in the ways as he would once again fail to live up to expectations becoming less of an anchor in the paint that both fans and management hoped he would be and more of a bloated and dragging dead weight that held the team back.  The departure of McGee ends another sad chapter in the Nuggets' history where they have gotten burned time and time again after signing free agents to lucrative contracts with the likes of such players as JR Smith and +Kenyon Martin on the team's blooper reel.  One can hope that the Nuggets'front office will finally learn its lesson, but if history is a good indicator of what might happen then Javale McGee will not be the last black eye on this much maligned franchise.    

You have to feel sorry for the +Denver Nuggets because for their entire history they have been essentially been on the fringe of the +NBA getting little or no notoriety due to the team being essentially isolated in "no man's land." Whenever they have had a chance to be under the spotlight, the Nuggets time has been rather fleeting as they manage to only reach a certain point and upon reaching it, they slip away and are never heard from again.  Once again, the Nuggets find themselves in that same predicament where after a decade of post season appearances with little or nothing to show for it, they are in danger of slipping and falling into the abyss once again never to be seen or heard from again.  It took Denver eight years to return to relevancy in NBA and now after ten so-so years of just being at best a marginal playoff team, it is all coming a sad an abrupt end.If this sounds like a eulogy rather than a season recap and review, that is because it is supposed to be: after years of trying to avoid the inevitable, the "shroud of the darkness" has finally fallen upon NBA basketball in the Mile high City and Nuggets fans are left to pick up the pieces.  

One have to give this organization for surviving so long in one of the smallest, most secluded sport markets in possibly the world while at the same time managing to remain competitive despite all the missteps taken and overall bad luck.  The team spent a decade treading water in not only a world that ignored them, but a cruel and unforgiving Western Conference while having to endure losing hundreds of millions of dollars on failed free agent signings as they watched their hope fade away with each signed check.  Such names as +Marcus Camby+Kenyon Martin, JR Smith, JaVale McGee, and +Nene Hilario, have all disgraced the parquet floor of the +Pepsi Center to the tune of more than 200$ million total and both the fans and the organization watched as they fumbled on and off the court while picking up their undeserved paychecks.  Although it owns some responsibility for their failed decision making, the Nuggets' front office basically had no choice but to overpay these free-loaders because otherwise, they would not be able to get anyone else otherwise to play for the team.As mentioned before, Denver can be considered as the black hole or the Bermuda Triangle of the NBA where many players come in, but few if any are able to come and by that time, it is too late and as their abilities, skills, and marketability have all been drained. 

+Carmelo Anthony saw this fate coming from miles away so before its cruel clutches pulled him any further and bleed his soul dry, he decided to take action by forcing a trade that would send him to the +New York Knicks--a move that would send both parties into a downward spiral. Nonetheless, even though the current marriage between the Knicks and Anthony has been a disaster thus far with both him and the team failing miserably to live up to fans' expectations, it is more than worth the price in Anthony's eyes to escape that frozen prison that he once called home. He would rather go down in history as one of the biggest free agent flops in not only Knick, but NBA history and suffer the pain and scars from are the arrows and rocks thrown at him rather than be remembered as a top tier star playing in a sports marketing wasteland on a team going nowhere.  Sure, Nuggets may have survived and even temporarily thrived after Carmelo's departure, that was short lived as the team came crashing down to reality three years going from finishing among the top winners in the Western Conference in 2013 to completely falling off the radar the following season.  No matter what anybody says about his lack of character, his selfishness being a detriment to his team, or his lack of effort to provide any effort on the defensive end, no one can say that Carmelo made the wrong decision leaving Denver because being the captain of a sinking ship is FAR better than being a king of a barren and desolate wasteland.

Now with the Nuggets headed for yet another collapse, every player who has little or if any marketable value left on that team will be looking for a quick way out before the porthole closes and they are stuck to waste their best basketball player years of the harsh and dismal tundra otherwise known as Denver.  So far the team's current leading scorer and assist man, +Ty Lawson has put up a brave facade saying nothing about wanting to leave the Mile High City in its most desperate hour; however, even he has his agent looking for a way out of having to waste his peak years of his playing career in an obscure, and indistinguishable city that is isolated from the rest of the world. The same goes for +Danilo Gallinari, who after this season, will have one year on his contract remaining and is probably headed to his homeland, make a pilgrimage to Vatican City and pray the rosary continuously until the Blessed Virgin grants him mercy and releases him from his bondage.  +Wilson Chandler and +JJ Hickson are certainly almost in the clear because not only will their contracts at the end of next season, but unlike Gallinari who will be paid up to 11$ million, their deals are much more manageable and can be either traded or released before the season even starts.    Unfortunately, some people just never learn because in spite off all the evidence warning of an apocalyptic future,  +Kenneth Faried decided to sell his soul and stay on with the Nuggets signing a five year extension worth 60$ million (10/6/2014) freezing himself and his career to a bleak future indeed squandering his talents on a team that will at best be in the periphery of the NBA spotlight and nothing more.   

Many hardcore Nuggets fans living in Denver--because it is doubtful that there are many that are outside the state of Colorado--may consider this piece as a hack job to their believe team and they are right in most respects; however, whether they want to admit it or make, everything that has been said thus far remains the unequivocal truth.  In its entire history, the Nuggets have not been more than a flash in the pan team that temporarily shines in the corner of the media's eye only to flicker off without anyone ever noticing it left. Credit the team's front office for keeping both the city and its NBA franchise remotely relevant for a decade before the red carpet for the post season was finally pulled up from under them after performing their redundant disappearing act qualifying for the first round of the playoffs only to be eliminated soon after.  Now it is finally time to say that their 15 minutes of fame is over as the sky closes and both the team, its fans and the city will sink back into obscurity once more; however, it should be noted that in most eyes, the Nuggets had never left obscurity in the first place.  So to conclude, here is a farewell toast:  to the Denver Nuggets, who whether they win or lose, will always be a team that is ignored and disregarded by the NBA, its fans and the rest of the sporting world.