Thursday, May 31, 2012

NBA Draft Lottery Reaction

     Teams who did not make the playoffs this year all have the same thought in their minds of "How can we make it next year?" That path to the playoffs starts with the NBA Draft Lottery, where several teams look to rebound, bring in some young talent, and attempt to make a run next year. Most of the picks were near where they were predicted to be, and everything was for the most part, unquestionable. But then there were three, and with odds of nearly 14% to get the first overall pick, the New Orleans Hornets jumped from their predicted fourth spot to win the first pick of the NBA Draft, which will presumably be used on Kentucky big man Anthony Davis. Let's examine the rest of the Draft Lottery, and see who were the biggest winners and losers...


1. New Orleans Hornets: Probably the biggest winner of all. They have two top 10 picks in this year's draft, and will be attracting some buzz this off season. After dealing away Chris Paul, this is what the team and new owner Tom Benson, also owner of the New Orleans Saints, needs. The Hornets' more pressing debate is who they will draft at #10. Do they draft Jared Sullinger out of Ohio State to pair with Davis? Should they take a shooting guard like Syracuse's Dion Waiters in case their two coveted free agent guards, Eric Gordon and Marco Belinelli, sign elsewhere? Or will they take a point guard for the future like UNC's Kendall Marshall, and deal away current starter Jarrett Jack since his contract expires after next season? Hornets fans, be happy for now, but there are a lot of questions your team's management has to answer in the next month that will have a serious impact on who you have on the floor for next season.

The most famous unibrow in the country is
likely headed to The Big Easy in June.

2. Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers made themselves look very smart by dealing Gerald Wallace to the Brooklyn Nets for almost nothing besides the lottery pick they luckily received. They now have two lottery picks, as well as other assets currently on the team. With their picks, they can draft a point guard for the future in either Weber State's Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall. They could also draft a center like UNC's Tyler Zeller after the Greg Oden experiment imploded in front of their face. The Blazers have a bunch of options, but they are shaping up well to make another run at the postseason after this year's disappointment.

3. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors got lucky and were awarded the seventh pick in the NBA Draft, which allowed them to keep their lottery pick instead of it being sent in a deal to Utah. With four picks in the NBA Draft, the Warriors are ready to bring in some young talent to fuel them for a run to the playoffs. At #7, it's widely rumored they will select a small forward like UNC's Harrison Barnes or Baylor's Perry Jones III. That means they will probably deal Dorell Wright or Richard Jefferson, if they can find suitors. Wright has an expiring contract that isn't worth too much, and he will be coveted by several teams. Jefferson however, is on the tail end of his career and making a lot of money, so he will be a little harder to move. Look for at least one of these players to be in a new uniform next season.


1. Charlotte Bobcats: I don't know if things can get worse for this terribly unfortunate franchise. After having a historically bad season, the Bobcats were desperate for the #1 pick of the draft. All GM Richard Cho could do was swallow his throat when his team was handed the second pick of the Draft. Although Cho knows his team missed out, he was not as upset as some would think he'd be. He referred to when he drafted Kevin Durant at #2 for the Seattle Supersonics, and now look at what he's done for the now-Thunder franchise. At #2, the Bobcats can draft Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose defense is great but offense is still developing. It's starting to oddly shape out like the 2007 NBA Draft, but only time will tell.

2. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets' bad luck continued at the Draft Lottery, where their questionable deal for Gerald Wallace took a huge turn toward the worst. GM Billy King tried to assure fans that everything would be alright, but was faced with much criticism regardless. Without a top-3 pick, the Nets have lost a potential trade chip for Dwight Howard, or a highly regarded talent that could be paired up with superstar point guard Deron Williams. King cannot do much on Draft night since he doesn't have much to trade, and will most likely have to make a huge statement in free agency starting July 1. Can this team sign enough talent to keep Williams or acquire Howard, or will it go through another disaster similar to the 2009-10 season?

3. Utah Jazz: Nobody but the Bobcats and the Nets really lost in the Draft Lottery, but for the sake of argument, I think the third and last loser is the Utah Jazz. The Warriors got lucky, and retained the pick that was top-seven protected from Utah. The Jazz currently don't have a first round pick in this year's draft, but this is a team who although got swept by the Spurs, made the playoffs this season. They are a very solid team down low, and will continue to improve into next season.

     That does it for the Draft Lottery, where Hornets fans jumped and Bobcats fans cried. The NBA Draft is set to take place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on June 28, where young players will achieve their lifetime goals and get a shot to compete in the NBA.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview

     In the Eastern Conference, the competition has been a little more fierce, but has given fans a great amount of excitement for the conference finals. The Boston Celtics were taken by the Philadelphia 76ers to seven games, but ultimately Rajon Rondo and company secured the victory at home. For the Miami Heat, All Star forward Chris Bosh was sidelined for an indefinite amount of time in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers when he suffered an abdominal strain. He has been unavailable since, but it was not much of a problem for the Heat to finish off the Pacers. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade faced an uphill battle when Indiana took the series lead 2-1, but the two superstars took control and led the Heat to three straight victories to earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Let's see how the two teams face up against each other...

#2 Miami Heat vs. #5 Boston Celtics

Overview: This is a match plenty of die hard NBA fans crave for. Boston's "Big 3" is in the middle of its last playoff run, as they face a widely despised Heat team. Health is a concern for both teams, because key players including Chris Bosh and Celtics combo guard Avery Bradley are injured. They are both coming off tough, physical series, but I believe the veteran presence of the Celtics will be able to compete with the younger, flashier Heat.

Can All Star point guard Rajon Rondo lead the Celtics to the
Finals once again? He is arguably their key to victory.
Boston's advantage: Rajon Rondo. Nobody on the Heat, besides LeBron James, can cover Rondo. His passing skills are so articulate that he is arguably the best in the game. He has been incredible during this year's playoffs, amassing three triple-doubles. He fills the stat sheet every night, and can flat out play. He has to be less hesitant to take shots against the Heat, and play like he did in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the 76ers in every game versus the Heat if the Celtics want to reach the Finals again.

Miami's advantage: Transition game. This is one of the Heat's strongest areas, and they will look to exploit the older, ailing Celtics in transition offense. LeBron James is such a great threat in transition because he can finish but also pass the ball exceptionally well. If he and Dwyane Wade can push the ball, create havoc, and find teammates open behind the three-point line, the Heat will be on a trip to the NBA Finals for a second straight year.

Chalmers has to be able to facilitate, shoot, and cover
Rajon Rondo well if the Heat want to return to the Finals
after last year's fall to the Dallas Mavericks.
X-Factor: Mario Chalmers. He is an important part of the Heat who is criticized, yet appreciated. The former Kansas Jayhawk fell out of some favor when rookie Norris Cole shined for the Heat early in the season. Chalmers has regained his confidence however, and is playing solid for Miami. He's averaging 11 points per game during the playoffs, to go along with 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and nearly one steal. His main task will be to guard Rajon Rondo. He has to play physical and scrappy to shut him down. Chalmers also has to be a knockdown shooter. James and Wade will create, but Chalmers is one of several shooters on the Heat that has to take advantage of open shots.

Prediction: Heat over Celtics, 4-2.

To the readers, I'm sorry this article is slightly delayed. I have been busy with a lot of work because school is finishing up, but I hope you've enjoyed this entry!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

NBA Western Conference Finals Preview

     This year's NBA Playoffs have been full of excitement so far, and we're only halfway through! In the Eastern Conference, teams have been battle tested and every series has gone at least five games. In the Western Conference however, two teams have dominated and emerged victorious over the others in quick fashion. This matchup features two teams that are both capable of bringing home the trophy, but only one will come out on top and earn a spot in the NBA Finals. So let's examine the series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals...

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #2 Oklahoma City Thunder

Overview: This series features arguably the two hottest teams in the NBA right now. The Spurs come roaring in, sweeping their first two opponents and also on an 18-game win streak. The Thunder cruise in after sweeping last year's champion Dallas Mavericks and taking down Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. Both teams will be well-rested for Game 1, so health should not be an issue for either the Thunder or the Spurs. Both teams are built around a "Big 3," have a lot of depth, and are heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals. This matchup has the potential to be one of the most exciting and thrilling faceoffs in the history of the NBA Playoffs. I honestly believe whoever wins this series will win the championship this year, but only time will tell.

Oklahoma City's advantage: Kevin Durant. The Spurs are deep, but I don't know if anybody can shut down Durant. He had a bunch of great games against the Lakers last round, and I expect him to do the same this time around. Durant is what Stephen A. Smith would call "a baller," because he's lengthy, fast, can attack the basket, and also shoot from the perimeter. Kevin Durant was a runner up for MVP this year, and although Spurs guard Tony Parker was a dark horse for the MVP, I don't believe any player on the Spurs comes close to having as much individual skill as Durant.
Kevin Durant is primed to have the series of his young career, but
will he be able to propel the Thunder to earn a trip to the NBA Finals?

San Antonio's advantage: The ability to spread the ball around. Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook are about even when it comes to skills, but if there's one part of the game in which Parker is better than Westbrook, it is their effectiveness when they move the ball around. Parker is an established veteran and is a better creator and passer than Westbrook. Gregg Popovich has also convinced his team that if they play as a team and work for each other, they will be this year's NBA champions. His team rarely sets isolation plays, and instead they play an inside-out post game where they dump it in to players who can create down low like Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, and then they pass it out to the open shooter on the wing or in the corner.

Leonard (right) has thrived under the mentoring of his coach,
Gregg Popovich (left). Leonard's gritty defense and newfound
ability to shoot treys made him an All-Rookie first teamer.
X-Factor: Kawhi Leonard. When he got drafted in the first round out of San Diego State, some analysts felt that he would never develop into an NBA player. Well, they were wrong. He isn't the flashy scorer that will put up 20 points every night, and he rebounds a modest five boards per game for his position. Leonard, however, is consistent, and that is why he starts at the small forward under Gregg Popovich every night. He faced growing pains like any other rookie earlier in the season, but since the departure of Richard Jefferson, Leonard has gotten more playing time and has made the most of it. In the playoffs, he's averaging 8.5 points per game, five rebounds, leading his team in steals with 1.5 per contest, and is shooting nearly 46 percent from three-point land. In college, he wasn't much of a shooter and was raw offensively. Now, in the Spurs' system, he has become a legitimate danger out on the wing or in the corner which forces opposing players to gamble on whether to double up on Parker or Duncan and leave Leonard open, because they know he'll hit it almost every time if left free. Leonard also has the task of keeping Thunder superstar Kevin Durant in check. Leonard is a great defender, and his enormous hands can provide him an advantage when it comes to taking the ball away. Durant is a little bit taller, but Leonard has the athleticism to compete with him. It will be interesting to see them go up against each other starting tomorrow.

Prediction: Spurs over Thunder, 4-3.

     Thanks for reading! My next entry will be about the Eastern Conference Finals, as we await to see who the Miami Heat will face. In Game 7, will the veteran Boston Celtics led by its own "Big 3" consisting of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen make a push for one last run, or will the young, suprising Philadelphia 76ers pull off a second consecutive upset? Stay tuned!

Monday, May 21, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Orlando Overhaul

     Today it has been announced that the Orlando Magic has relieved the duties of its head coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith. This has been somewhat foreseen, but now it has finally happened. Both Smith and Van Gundy were in a destructive situation once superstar center Dwight Howard continued to bark to the public and mull whether he would stay in Orlando or not. Once he decided that he would stay, things got even worse. Van Gundy proclaimed that things were not going smoothly between himself and Howard during a shoot around, and it became more awkward when Howard came over unsuspectingly and supported Van Gundy. To make matters worse, the Magic then pulled a string of consecutive losses and Howard suffered from a back injury that caused him to undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season. They sheepishly went into the NBA Playoffs, and were beaten by the Indiana Pacers 4-1, to end their season.

     With this bold move by the organization, it is almost certain that the Magic will keep Dwight Howard for the off season and he will be on the roster come the start of next season. Now they'll be looking toward a new direction, and hopefully they can find a capable GM who can put pieces around Howard to make sure they contend in the growing Eastern Conference. Let's examine what this means for some parts of the Orlando-based organization...

Like in this photo, Howard should try
being as oblivious as he can during this
whole charade.
Dwight Howard: After hearing this news, Howard should go on a vacation somewhere far, far away from the United States. He knows he's the catalyst of this whole extravaganza, and he is part to blame for this. He should keep his mouth shut from the public until the free agency period comes to a close, because he has the capabilities of making the situation worse, although I don't know how that could be possible. He wants a championship team, so what he should do is work under wraps with whoever the Magic appoint as the new GM to figure out what players they should try to retain or pursue this summer, in hopes of returning to the NBA Finals. If he wants a trade however, he should be stern about his demand until he gets what he wants. He cannot keep jumping the fence, because it will only diminish his reputation more in Orlando.

Stan Van Gundy: Now that Van Gundy is finally away from the chaos, I think he'll find coaching harmony somewhere else. He's a talented coach who will be the beneficiary of numerous suitors. He's a very credible and respected man in the business, and I believe he'll find a position with a new team before the NBA Draft. I'd recommend going to a small-market team full of young players whose chaos you can control, and who you can help develop into solid players. Van Gundy should have the least worries, he's better off somewhere else anyways. He'll be fine.

Otis Smith: Smith is now out of a job, and I don't believe he'll have as many suitors as Van Gundy will. If he finds any, he should take the opportunity right away. In my opinion, Smith was a very questionable general manager. He had no control over the situation and let Howard blow up the entire situation. He made a ton of head-scratching moves, and few made the team better. There are many problems with the way Smith worked, but he also gave up young, valuable assets like Marcin Gortat and Courtney Lee. His team is nearly out of moveable assets, besides the expiring contract of J.J. Redick. He not only put his now former team in a tough hole that will be hard to dig out of, but also jeopardized his future in the sport.

Alex Martins: The CEO of the Magic has a lot of work to do this off season. First, he must hire a coach who can control Howard, and make Howard enjoy playing under him. I like Brian Shaw. He was a former assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and was mentored by Phil Jackson. Shaw deserves a chance to prove his coaching abilities, and I think he'd be a good choice for Orlando. Second, Martins has to find a GM who will be able to work with Howard, hire outstanding scouts, and acquire players who will best fit in the new coach's system. Martins has his work cut out for him this off season, but I think he will step up to the plate and respond.

Ryan Anderson: This move can really affect where Ryan Anderson is playing in October. The Magic forward recently won the NBA's Most Improved Player award and is in store for a big pay day. He is young, tall, a very efficient shooter, and a good rebounder. Smith was very supportive of Anderson and has always wanted him to stay in Orlando, but now with him out, will Anderson be re-signed? I think the Magic will try to re-sign him, but I wouldn't be suprised if he got overpaid and walked away. If Anderson, their best asset, leaves, then Howard will surely be traded by the trade deadline of the upcoming season.

     The Magic have a number of tasks at hand this off season, but will they fulfill them all? Will they hire a coach that Howard will grow fond of? Will they be big players in free agency? Can they be a Finals contender next season, or will they be on the road to rebuilding? Stay tuned, there is a lot more destined to unfold in Orlando.

Monday, May 14, 2012

NBA Western Conference Semifinals Preview

     The Western Conference Quarterfinals were for the most part, very interesting. Both Los Angeles teams (Lakers and Clippers) were on the brink of elimination and faced tough tests in their respective Games 7s, but they both prevailed victorious. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks faced a stern, daunting challenge when they faced the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. It was a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals, but with much different results. In my first NBA Playoff Preview, I had that series going to seven games. Although the Thunder had swept the Mavericks, it was extremely close. The matchup could have lasted seven games, but Kevin Durant, James Harden, and the rest of the Thunder showed why this year they are favorites to win it all. The San Antonio Spurs have arguably been the quietest team in the playoffs, but they have been the most effective too. They absolutely pummeled the Utah Jazz in the first round and made quick work of them. Now onto the second round, where in each matchup we have an older, but more experienced team against a younger up-and-coming squad.

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #5 Los Angeles Clippers

Overview: The Clippers are coming off a huge Game 7 victory on the road at Memphis which propeled them to the second round to face the Spurs. Meanwhile, the Spurs swept and embarassed the Utah Jazz, and have been off for an entire week. I believe the Spurs will be able to slow it down against the fast-moving Clippers and take control of each game, and make the Clippers play a style of offense that they don't want to play. This series will have less of the flash and finesse that people expect when they see the Clippers, but instead it will be more about toughness and grit.

Los Angeles's advantage: DeAndre Jordan. Jordan has a special ability and can block shots like nobody else. He's also a solid rebounder, averaging over eight per contest, and a decent post player. The Spurs don't have anybody with the same size and defensive prowess as Jordan. He will most likely cover Tim Duncan, because Blake Griffin still has an ailing knee. If Jordan can neutralize Duncan and limit his effectiveness, the Clippers can make this series interesting.

DeAndre Jordan is an integral part of the Clippers. But does he
have enough intensity to shut down many of the Spurs' big men?

San Antonio's advantage: Playoff experience and rest. Led by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs will use their knowledge and prior experiences to guide them past the Clippers. The Spurs always seem to be in this stage every year, and the Clippers are in uncharted territory. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will play his cards right again and outsmart Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. Another key factor is rest. Popovich sat his star players every now and then during the season to prep them for the playoffs, and it has paid off. With a week of relaxation, the Spurs are healthy and fresh while the Clippers come in fatigued and battle-tested. Health could become a serious issue this series for the Clippers.

X-Factor: Nick Young. Young had a great Game 7 performance for the Clippers, and helped them advance to the next round. Young is a flat-out scorer, and has to produce like he did in Game 7 each game in this series so that his team could move on. He will most likely be covered by Kawhi Leonard, a tough defensive-oriented rookie for the Spurs. If Young can score productively against Leonard and other small forwards on the team including Stephen Jackson, then the Clippers chances of winning are a little bit better, but not drastically much.

Prediction: Spurs over Clippers, 4-1.

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #3 Los Angeles Lakers

Overview: This will probably be the most intriguing matchup of all the semifinals, because of the young gun Oklahoma City Thunder taking on the veteran Los Angeles Lakers. With the return of Metta World Peace, the Lakers got the Game 7 victory at home against the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder, on the other hand, suprised some people and swept the Mavericks. Most people, myself included, thought the Mavericks could at least win a couple games. The Thunder impressed in the first round, and won the season series over the Lakers, so I expect them to do good again this time around.

Los Angeles's advantage: Defense. Mike Brown has been criticized as coach all year, but one thing he has made the Lakers better at is defense. Andrew Bynum has become a better shot blocker, and so has Pau Gasol. Metta World Peace is a tight, aggressive on-ball defender who can guard the best forwards and guards in the game. This team is going to have to find ways to minimize Kevin Durant's effectiveness if they want to win this series.

Oklahoma City's advantage: Rest and young playmakers. This is honestly the Thunder's series to lose. They've had a week of rest, and they've performed well against the Lakers all season. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins (who is dealing with a hip injury but will play) can shut down Gasol and Bynum. They are just as athletic and even tougher than the big man duo of the Lakers. Thabo Sefolosha, whose game is predicated on defense, will cover Kobe Bryant for most of the series. They have all the ingredients to demolish and handle the Lakers, but can they fully execute their plans to do so?

Many analysts expect Westbrook to dominate this series
because much focus will be placed on Durant. Can he step up
to the challenge and possibly become a superstar in his own right?
X-Factor: Russell Westbrook. He's got everything in the palm of his hands. Denver's Ty Lawson dominated against the Lakers, and a lot of people expect Westbrook to go off like never before. I know that Durant will be contained by World Peace and others in double teams and traps, but Westbrook sometimes gets really "shot happy." He'll make shots and will definitely create, but I think that James Harden, the newest Sixth Man of the Year award recipient, is a better facilitator. Westbrook is a point guard, but plays like more of a combo guard. If Westbrook can distribute and score effectively like Lawson, the Thunder will surely advance to the Conference Finals.

Prediction: Thunder over Lakers, 4-1.

     That wraps up all my analysis of this year's NBA Playoffs semifinals. Stay checked in for other stories and after this round, I'll write a story on the Conference Finals matchups, and eventually the NBA Finals. Hope you enjoyed this entry!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview

     Some injuries just couldn't have come at a worse time. Bulls guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, and Knicks guard Iman Shumpert all suffered injuries that plagued them for the rest of their series. Several other stars, including Boston's Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, as well as Atlanta's Josh Smith and New York's Amar'e Stoudemire, also dealt with nagging injuries but still played, Some stars, like Orlando's Dwight Howard and New York's Jeremy Lin, didn't even get on the floor during the first round due to injuries that bought them down in the middle of the season, These injuries proved significant, as the Indiana Pacers handled the Howard-less Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat destroyed the New York Knicks despite the valiant efforts of Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics came up big during crunch time against the Atlanta Hawks, and the #8 seed Philadelphia 76ers upset the #1 seed Rose-less Chicago Bulls. Let's see how each team stacks up against it's opponent and try to determine who will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals...

#5 Boston Celtics vs. #8 Philadelphia 76ers

Overview: This matchup not might be as exciting as Bird vs. Erving, but it has the ingredients to be pretty intriguing. Both teams closed out their series at home, and played efficient, tough defense against their opponents. I think Boston should win this one, but I wouldn't be suprised if the Celtics' better players succumbed to injuries and Philly won the series. Hey, it happened in the first round, so why couldn't it happen again?

Boston's advantage: Veteran experience and star power. Rajon Rondo might not be as old as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. but he has playoff experience and has thrived in the moment. He is the best point guard remaining in the playoffs, and if he can facilitate the ball and dismantle the 76ers' pressuring defense, the Celtics have a solid chance of moving on to the next round.

Philadelphia's advantage: Depth and prowess in transition. The 76ers' leading scorer during the season, Lou Williams, comes off the bench. That alone should prove how deep this team is. With other solid players including hybrid forward Thaddeus Young, sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, and former Temple center Lavoy Allen, this team's second-unit players can give solid minutes and good boosts of production when put in the game. Philadelphia is also full of fresh legs, and has a huge advantage in fastbreak situations. If they can push the ball effectively they can exploit the older, slower Celtics, and will have a chance of pulling off a second straight upset.

X-Factor: Evan Turner. The second year guard out of Ohio State has made great strides of improvement after his rookie season. He can hit shots from any spot on the floor, and is one of the few players on the 76ers who is able to create his own shot. He has to be able to take advantage of the moments when either the hurting Paul Pierce or Ray Allen cover him, but also smart when Boston's best on-ball defender Avery Bradley plays on him. If he can consistently knock down his mid-range jumper, as well as create havoc by driving to the basket, then Philadelphia has a chance.

Prediction: Celtics over 76ers, 4-2.

Can Andre Iguodala (right) lead the 76ers to their second consecutive
upset against Paul "The Truth" Pierce (left) and the Celtics?

#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Indiana Pacers

Overview: Both teams simply owned their opponents of the first round. I was personally suprised that the Pacers didn't crush the Magic, but they still won in five games like I thought they would. Fresh off receiving his third MVP in the last four years, Miami forward LeBron James looks to make another statement by dominating the Pacers in his quest for a ring.

Indiana's advantage: Depth. It's something Miami doesn't have. They have a plentiful amount of young guns coming off the bench, including George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough. They also have shooters that can torch the Heat if left open. However, the Heat played the oft-shooting New York Knicks well on the three-point line. But the Pacers have something the Knicks don't, and that guy is my X-Factor, who you'll read about shortly.

Miami's advantage: Star power. Indiana has a bunch of good players, but they don't have the superstars that Miami does. LeBron James will prove why he deserved MVP, and shut down Danny Granger. Indiana has nobody that can match up for a long period of time against Dwyane Wade, who I believe will greatly shine in this series.

Roy Hibbert (left) has to control the glass and be a monstrous force
in the paint if the Pacers want any shot at beating the Heat.

X-Factor: Roy Hibbert. The Heat have nobody who can single handedly guard this mammoth center on the Pacers. Joel Anthony is the best defensive-oriented big man on the Heat, but is nearly half a foot shorter than Hibbert. Tyson Chandler asserted himself against the Heat, but Hibbert is a better offensive player. Hibbert averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds, as well as nearly 4 blocks in the opening round against the Magic, but he will need to become a dominant scorer and impose his will against the smaller bigs of the Miami Heat.

Prediction: Heat over Pacers, 4-2

     Now as we move to the second round, health is of a major importance, as teams try to make a run to the Conference Finals. The four remaining teams in the East are all somewhat healthy. Some teams win with depth, while others win by using their stars to their full potential. In this round, either depth or stars will be exploited, and it will determine who wins their respective series. Check in after Game 7 of the Clippers vs. Grizzlies for analysis of the Western Conference semifinals. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Small Markets, Big Dreams

     Nowadays, several executives and NBA owners believe that their team has to be located in a big market to win consistently. Many analysts think that the swagger and flare of the big cities will attract more and more superstars to join their teams because of the personal revenue and endorsements they can earn. Several teams have relocated in recent years, including the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans, the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City and now known as the Thunder, and the New Jersey Nets who have relocated to Brooklyn for next season and beyond. There are a couple teams who are seeking to move, most notably the Sacramento Kings.
     However, I believe that most teams shouldn't move. Sometimes, owners might have to make the decision to move if they can't pay taxes or other financial variables come into play, which I can understand. But if you need to move because you think you're not generating enough revenue, then you have done a bad job at hiring employees and workers. For instance, Bruce Ratner has been determined to move the Nets to Brooklyn since 2004. Let me remind you, that's the year after the team went to two straight NBA Finals championship series. The fanbase was at an all-time high, they were loyal, and revenue opportunities were blossoming. What possibly could have been so horribly bad about New Jersey? You're near one of the biggest cities in the world in New York City. I know the Meadowlands have been more of a construction site rather than a sports entertainment base, but with the Metlife Stadium that was just recently built, tell me Mr. Ratner, you couldn't let Mikhail Prokhorov use mostly his money to build the Barclays Center in East Rutherford? You just had to build it in Brooklyn? Do you really believe that you can "steal" Knicks fans? Most of whom have been loyal or if not, like the team because it is currently on an upswing. You couldn't just demolish the Izod Center, which has not been the greatest arena, and build the Barclays Center in the same spot? One billion dollars is one billion dollars. No matter where the Barclays Center was built, it would have cost that no matter what. If Nets fans don't know, did you know Mikhail Prokhorov actually wanted to keep the team in New Jersey? But Bruce Ratner wouldn't let him purchase the franchise unless he agreed to move them to Brooklyn in the new Barclays Center. Just because you move across the Hudson River does not mean you're going to generate revenue. Yes, there will be plenty of interest in the short-term. But if the team doesn't perform well and win games, then it will be a costly disaster for the franchise. They've also lost a lot of fans from New Jersey. Honestly, I think the Nets were stupid in how they handled this whole charade. If they won games, people would have showed up and supported the team more. If they bought in better players, they would have generated more revenue. It's as simple as that.

     So now, for franchises who are in the small markets but want to succeed, what do you do? Several have failed, but some have relished in the small market, including the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, and most recently the Indiana Pacers. But what can teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Portland Trail Blazers do to succeed in the league?
Rookies Kyrie Irving (left) and Tristan
Thompson (right) have given Cavaliers fans
an initial burst of excitement. Can they lead
the team back to the playoffs?
     First, teams must draft well. Small markets are not usually going to impress the superstars. If your team is in the gutterhole, you must spend countless hours examining the rookie class and draft who fits best to your team and has the most skill at the desired position. You also want to draft incoming rookies with the least ego. They're driven to succeed for themselves and will do whatever they can to get more money, which they know is not greatly obtained in the small-market areas. You want players who you believe you can keep for a really long time. If those rookies live up to their initial contracts, you should sign them before the last year of their contract expires. By that time, you should know if your player has flourished and will only continue to grow. Second, any valuable assets that you believe you don't want or need for the rebuilding process you should move for a superstar. This includes trading expiring contracts, young players, and future draft picks. I would suggest moving the raw young players, because they have potential but they won't really help your team right away. Obtaining a superstar legitimizes your team, and if paired with the right young players, your team can make a run at the playoffs. Third and lastly is don't do anything rediculous during the offseason. This is in both free agency and the NBA Draft. I would personally stay away from projects who did not perform at their greatest in college, and still "need to develop." They might be raw talent, but sometimes they might never actually develop. Also, if you're trying to win right now, I would stay away from international players. Some have talent, like Ricky Rubio and Dirk Nowitzki, but many fail to develop and become what they're expected to be like Darko Milicic. However, if you're building for the future and willing to wait a couple years for your draftee to play in your uniform, then I say why not? Draft them if you'd like. Also, don't waste your pick. If you have a late pick in the second round, don't waste it on some international player people have never heard of. There are always diamonds in the rough like Manu Ginobili and Isaiah Thomas. In free agency, if your team loses out on the players you want most, don't sign players with much less talent to long-term contracts. If a player hasn't found his niche or just hadn't succeeded with his past team, I'm not saying don't sign him, but don't give him an insane contract. Even if it's a position of need, you shouldn't give those kinds of players deals more than two years long. It's a mind game that can kill your salary cap if you don't play it wisely.

     There are plenty of ways to make small market teams to succeed. If your team's GM is smart and does their homework on players, they will make the right moves for your team and take your team (hopefully) to the promised land. Drafting well is the biggest key for these teams, because if you want to get to the top you have to start from the bottom. Also, once the first round is over, I'll post a new entry including matchups, predictions, and more on the semifinals of this year's NBA Playoffs. Thanks for reading!