Sunday, August 26, 2012

Josh Smith's Possible Trade Destinations


      The Atlanta Hawks freed up an enormous amount of salary cap when they traded All Star guard Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for several role players with expiring contracts. However, Johnson may not be the only star headed out of the ATL. Hawks hybrid forward Josh Smith is an expiring contract, but a high-impact player on both sides of the court. He is the kind of player who could propel a playoff team into a true contender. Some of the superstar 2013 free agents, including Chris Paul and Dwight Howard among others, will most likely not be moved because their respective teams have NBA title aspirations. This makes a solid, borderline All Star in Josh Smith even more valued. General Manager Danny Ferry will probably hold onto Smith until the trade deadline, so he can get a better assessment of how his team produces with Smith and big man Al Horford as the offensive focal points. The Hawks aren't necessarily rebuilding, nor are they contenders. Moving Josh Smith could reel them in young prospects, possibly clear up even more cap room for free agency or put them in position to get multiple first-round draft picks. What teams might pursue the southpaw? Here are numerous possible destinations and trade scenarios...

Houston Rockets

Some people overlook the fact that after the Rockets roughly overpaid Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, they still have many young prospects in their rookie deals and cap room for the upcoming summer. General Manager Daryl Morey is known for doing what he can to get the big fish, and Smith is certainly one of them in the upcoming free agent class. Houston tried pulling out all the stops for Dwight Howard, and would, maybe questionably, pull out many of the same stops to acquire Josh Smith. While Houston can offer Smith a max contract next summer, if they acquired him during the season, they could offer him a heftier, longer contract at the end of next season. Here's a possible deal:

Hawks receive: Kevin Martin, Terrence Jones, JaJuan Johnson and a 2014 (Top 10 protected) first-round draft pick.
Rockets receive: Josh Smith and a 2016 (Lottery protected) first-round draft pick.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings have several talented players, but no All Stars just yet. Sure, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Thomas Robinson could get there one day, but they need more veterans in a young, inexperienced locker room. Josh Smith is the ultimate hybrid forward that would solve the Kings' problems at small forward and help mentor Robinson to become a force in the NBA. Evans has had a tumultuous tenure in Sacramento, but would be a starter in Atlanta and could maybe fulfill his All Star potential there. Here's a possible trade:

Hawks receive: Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, James Johnson and a 2013 (Top 10 protected) first-round draft pick.
Kings receive: Josh Smith and Jordan Williams.

Boston Celtics

Boston has always had a knack for thwarting Atlanta's postseason runs, and frankly, it'd be almost laughable that the Hawks would trade their young star to the Celtics. However, Boston does have interest in Smith, as well as pieces that could be available for a trade. If the Celtics swung a deal for Smith, it might be able to put them as co-favorites of the Eastern Conference with their arch nemesis, the Miami Heat. Here's a possible move:

Hawks receive: Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Fab Melo.
Celtics receive: Josh Smith and a 2014 (Lottery protected) first-round draft pick.

Brooklyn Nets

 Let me just clear this up first: This is not because I'm a Nets fan, rather, it's because I know Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to shell out as much money and resources possible to field a championship team. General Manager Billy King is also willing to part with resources; have you seen the original Dwight Howard deal? It included Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and FOUR first-round draft picks. Josh Smith is not a center, but he is lengthy and the defensive presence in the paint that this franchise hasn't had since Kenyon Martin donned a Nets jersey. King and the Hawks' GM Danny Ferry are also close friends, that's why the Joe Johnson trade happened so quickly, and that might benefit King in getting a deal done. This following move would give the Hawks a mix of young players, veterans and a draft pick, the Nets a legitimate inside defensive presence that could make them a contender, and the Mavericks even more cap space and assets for the highly anticipated summer of 2013. Here's my 3-team trade involving the Nets, Hawks and Mavericks:

Hawks receive: Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets' international prospect), Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, cash considerations and the Nets' 2014 first-round draft pick.
Nets receive: Josh Smith and Dominique Jones.
Mavericks receive: Johan Petro, Jerry Stackhouse, Jordan Williams and the Hawks' 2015 (Lottery protected) first-round draft pick.

Philadelphia 76ers

Wow! Another Atlantic Division team! But in all seriousness, the Sixers would benefit with a player like Josh Smith on its roster. His defense would only improve their already smothering defensive sets and his explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball would coincide well with Andrew Bynum. Philadelphia is in need of an established, natural power forward, so don't be surprised if they put their neck in the running for Smith. Here's a possible deal:

Hawks receive: Spencer Hawes, Nick Young, Arnett Moultrie and a 2014 second-round draft pick.
Sixers receive: Josh Smith

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are a borderline playoff team. They have some solid players, headed by John Wall and Nene Hilario. But, they are still a young team and have a ways to go before becoming a contender. One quicker step into becoming a contender would be for this team to bring in Josh Smith. Just imagine how deadly a fastbreak being pushed by Wall and Smith, with rookie Bradley Beal getting open for three-pointers in the corner, would be. The Wizards would become one of the better transition teams in the league. Here's a trade that I think would benefit both sides:

Hawks receive: Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Chris Singleton, Shelvin Mack and future draft picks.
Wizards receive: Josh Smith, Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson.

Chicago Bulls

This might be a tough one for the Bulls to pull off. Carlos Boozer is not a good defender at all and not even defensive guru head coach Tom Thibodeau can make him look average. Josh Smith, however, fits the Bulls' mold perfectly. His outstanding defense is something Thibodeau covets in his players. Could the Bulls get a deal done? Here's my suggestion:

Hawks receive: Carlos Boozer, Nazr Mohammed, Marquis Teague, cash considerations and a 2013 first-round draft pick.
Bulls receive: Josh Smith and Johan Petro.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Many analysts have projected the Timberwolves to be right on the cusp of the playoffs. You know who would get them in? Josh Smith. In Smith, the Timberwolves would form their own "Big 3" of Smith, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Smith would play at small forward for the Timberwolves and easily become their best defender. With Smith, Minnesota would have one of the best front lines in the NBA. He could propel them into the postseason for the first time in a long time. Here's a possible deal:

Hawks receive: Derrick Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Malcolm Lee and future draft picks.
Timberwolves receive: Josh Smith and DeShawn Stevenson.

Detroit Pistons

Some fans believe the Pistons can make the playoffs this year. Toward the end of last season, the Pistons started to make a run. Ultimately though, they are still at the bottom depths of the Eastern Conference and did not make enough moves to considerably put them in the playoff conversation. But, that can all change if they acquire Josh Smith from the Hawks. If they could manage to keep Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the process of trading for Josh Smith, this team would have a huge shot to claim one of the last playoff seeds in the East as well as to become one of the best young frontcourts in the NBA. Here's my suggested trade for the Pistons:

Hawks receive: Corey Maggette, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler and two future first-round draft picks.
Pistons receive: Josh Smith, Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro.

      Josh Smith has had a solid, productive career in Atlanta. It might be time for a change, though. There have been swirling rumors that teams are interested in him but also that he might choose to stay in Atlanta. After all, he is from Georgia and it might be in his best interest to stay with the Hawks' organization for the long haul. But, he will arguably be the most talented, touted player available at the trade deadline and Hawks GM Danny Ferry might get an offer that is simply too good to refuse. Will Josh Smith be traded before the season or at the deadline? Or will he not be traded at all and stay with the Hawks for the entirety of next season? Leave a comment with your opinion of the Josh Smith rumors or of which trade proposal you think is the best. If you think there's a better trade the Hawks can make, comment a proposal of your own!

How the New-Look Nets Fare in the Eastern Conference


     During the summer, the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the most talked about franchises in the NBA. They re-signed numerous players, most notably superstar point guard Deron Williams. At the start of free agency, the Nets acquired six-time All Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, which was supposedly the reason why Williams stayed with the Nets. They brought in veterans like C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans and Jerry Stackhouse to provide bench depth. They also have young, growing players in Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor. The Nets haven't sniffed the postseason for the last several seasons, but this year their talented roster is primed to seed in the NBA Playoffs. Let's take a look at how the Nets stack up against each team in the East and where they can be logically projected to seed. The teams I'm putting the Nets up against are all teams I project to be in the playoffs for the Eastern Conference.

Nets vs. Miami Heat

Overview: The Nets' starting five is talented enough to at least compete against the Heat. Brook Lopez, known as a very talented offensive center, would have to dominate for the Nets to win against the defending NBA Champions. The difference, though, is between each team's bench. The Nets have some decent players, but the Heat have players like future Hall of Fame member Ray Allen, low-post anchor Udonis Haslem, and solid shooters in Rashard Lewis and Mike Miller.

Advantage: Heat

Nets vs. Boston Celtics

Overview: This will be the first game on Christmas Day, and an exciting one in that. Rajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams is a point guard duel for the ages, and Joe Johnson will look to avenge previous postseason shortcomings with the Hawks against the Celtics with his new-look Nets. This one, again, will be decided by the bench, where the Celtics are in my opinion, the deepest in the league.

Advantage: Celtics

Nets vs. Indiana Pacers

Overview: Had Dwight Howard not been injured for the postseason, I think the Pacers would have lost in the first round last year. The Pacers are a solid team, and built on a bunch of good players similar to the Denver Nuggets. However, they lack a superstar who could push them over the hump. Can Danny Granger return to All Star form? Can Roy Hibbert become an offensive monster? Until this team can get a superstar, they will be continuous early-round exits for a while. But, this team is a collective unit and the Nets are all brand new and have to gel, so I'll give the Pacers the edge for now.

Advantage: Pacers

Nets vs. New York Knicks

Overview: The Battle for New York starts this year with two teams that are looking to make a statement. Expect this rivalry to be bigger than it ever was before and very entertaining to watch. I don't believe the Knicks have as deep a bench as many believe they do, and I think the Nets' bench could actually go toe-to-toe against the Knicks bench. Their starting fives are both star-studded, but I believe the new culture, hype, and talent on the Nets roster will be able to propel them over the Knicks in the East.

Advantage: Nets

Nets vs. Chicago Bulls

Overview: This season will be a very tough pill for Bulls fans to swallow. In the playoffs, an injured Bulls squad was outmached by the Philadelphia 76ers. Chicago must make sure that when MVP point guard Derrick Rose returns, he is fully healthy. They need him more than anyone for a deep playoff run. The Bulls have lost several key bench players like C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik in free agency, but if the current team can stay healthy, they could claim a lower seed in the playoffs. However, with a healthy Rose ready for the playoffs, this team will bloom into a contender once again.

Advantage: Bulls

Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Overview: The 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum, arguably the second best center in the league, in the Dwight Howard megadeal. However, they still have questions. Can Jrue Holiday become an All Star player to get the max contract he wants? Can Evan Turner make that incredible third-year jump to become an All Star now that Andre Iguodala is gone? Can Spencer Hawes stay healthy? And how will the other acquisitions like Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Kwame Brown affect the team? The Sixers have an exceptional coach in Doug Collins, but I'm not banking on everything going right for them. They will be in the playoffs, but right now I think the Nets are just a little bit more talented.

Advantage: Nets

Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks

Overview: I believe, in the aftermath of the Joe Johnson trade, each of these franchises will benefit. The Hawks are now built around All Star caliber players Al Horford and Josh Smith, who will be surrounded with a bevy of shooters including Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins. The Hawks won't have as great a season as last year, unless Smith or Horford can become clutch performers, but GM Danny Ferry is gearing his team for success in the longer term. I expect this team to be decent and sneak in as the #8 seed in the East. The Nets have a more talented starting five and a bench that could, for the most part, match the Hawks bench.

Advantage: Nets

After going through the matchups, here's who I think the Nets are better than and not as good as:

Better than: Knicks, Hawks, Sixers, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, Pistons, Cavaliers, Raptors, Magic

Not as good as: Heat, Celtics, Bulls, Pacers

     If everything stays relatively the same and there are no major injuries involving any Nets players or the best players on each team in the East, I think the complete conference standings will look something like this...

1. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. Philadelphia 76ers
6. New York Knicks
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Milwaukee Bucks
10. Toronto Raptors
11. Washington Wizards
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
13. Detroit Pistons
14. Orlando Magic
15. Charlotte Bobcats

     I think the Nets will be a playoff team who could possibly squeak into the Eastern Conference Finals, but this newly-constructed team will need at least a year to gel. Nets fans have a lot to be excited about this season, as their team can finally make the playoffs again after a six year hiatus. What is your opinion on the new-look Brooklyn Nets? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Last Post

     Hello, everyone! Thank you for clicking on, as this will be the last story you might ever read on The Ski Report. I have decided to take my talents to, where I've become the Brooklyn Nets journalist. I've always enjoyed writing about the NBA, but I believe this opportunity will be great for me in the future because I can show a deep, true passion as I'll write for my lifelong favorite team.

     My blog, before this post, has garnered nearly 1,800 views. But has totaled that same amount in only a week. I think by joining them, I will get more publicity and a possibly better reputation as a writer. To me, this is a very big step in my future, because someone has realized my passion and has given me a chance to truly show it. I hope that all of my readers will follow me on my journey to Scorching Hot Hoops and beyond, because you all are what keeps me having a positive attitude and mentality in what is a critical, hard-nosed business.

     I appreciate all of the comments and support from every single one of you who has read my blog. I can't really explain how much I mean it when I type "Thank You." I love writing and debating about sports, and I hope one day I can reach the ultimate goal I have set myself. Again, thank you everyone for all the support and advice you've given me in the first step, but now it is time for me to take the next step onto a more promoted, viewed NBA-talk website. This may be the end of The Ski Report, but it is also a new beginning. Stay tuned for my articles and the latest NBA-related news on Scorching Hot Hoops!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Golden Aftermath

     On August 12, 2012, the United States' Men's Basketball team defeated Spain 107-100 in a nail-biting thriller to win the gold medal. In what was the last Olympic match for Kobe Bryant and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Team USA came out hungry and tough. It was a rigorous match, as Pau Gasol, his brother Marc, and Serge Ibaka looked to take advantage of the undersized United States team. The Spaniards played slow to their pace for the most part, using an inside-out strategy featuring the Gasols posting up and if double-teamed, kicking it out to shooters like Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez on the three point line. However, the Americans persevered and kept close the entire game, only to break out extravagantly in the fourth quarter.

     Spain is ranked the #2 team in the world, featuring a bevy of NBA players. One of its most crucial pieces, stud point guard Ricky Rubio, was unavailable due to a knee injury. Could he have impacted the outcome of the game? Sure, he definitely could have. But, he would have to go up against All-Defensive first team star Chris Paul and Brooklyn Nets franchise guard Deron Williams. That's no easy task for a player coming off his NBA rookie campaign this past season. The Spaniards proved a worthy and impressive opponent against Team USA, though. In the beginning of the game, it was a shooting battle between Kobe Bryant and Juan Carlos Navarro. Chris Paul had made some critical plays toward the latter stages of the game. But, it was about two players from Team USA: Kevin Durant and LeBron James. James and Durant combined for 49 points and took the reigns for the Americans. Navarro was quoted after the game to say "If it's not Kevin Durant, it's LeBron James. If it's not one, it's the other one." James and Durant controlled the boards, played stellar defense, and made crucial baskets at the end to seal the victory for the United States.

James and Durant embrace after defeating Spain to win gold.

     In the Olympic Games, it was James and Durant who proved to be the best players on Team USA and in the entire world. The two superstars stood out in different ways. Durant scored 156 points during the London Olympics, setting a new American record. LeBron James recorded the first triple-double in Olympic history against Australia in the quarterfinals. James also surpassed Michael Jordan in most points all time for an American basketball player in the Olympics. So, who was the MVP for Team USA? My choice is LeBron James. He is now polished enough to be considered the greatest Team USA member of all time. Of course there will be debate between him and Michael Jordan, but if James competes one more time in the Olympics, I think the title would be all his. In London, James played all different positions and set the tone for Team USA. He scored, facilitated, rebounded, and defended remarkably. He stepped up at the end of close games and gave the Americans an edge that no other team could challenge. His performance was spectacular on both sides of the court and he was the main reason Team USA went undefeated and captured another gold medal.

James' performance led Team USA to
yet another Olympic gold medal.

     Several people, myself included, had doubts that the London Olympics would be an easy journey for Team USA. It was not, as most teams played their hardest against the Americans. People had questions about their size, lack of a post presence, and their supposed life and death on the three point line. Some people thought their egos could affect chemistry and derail this talented team from completing their ultimate goal. But Team USA was resilient, and proved all the doubters wrong by winning it all. After they defeated Spain, James said "...It's not about size, it's about heart."

And that incredible heart got a gold medal around their necks. Congratulations Team USA, on a very successful and captivating journey at the London Olympics!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Winners and Losers of the Dwight Howard Megadeal

     It's been a tumultuous year for not just Orlando Magic fans, but for NBA fans in general. If the spotlight wasn't on LeBron James and the Miami Heat, it was probably on Dwight Howard. In the span of one year, Dwight Howard asked to be traded, reiterated his trade demand, and signed a waiver which destroyed his chances at becoming a free agent this summer. After that, he suffered a season-ending back injury, became one of the reasons why his Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith got fired, and demanded to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets. New general manager Rob Hennigan could not convince Howard to stay, and after attempting to make deals with the Nets and Rockets, the Magic sent Howard and his bags packing yesterday to Los Angeles so he could be a member of the Lakers. It required a four team trade to make this blockbuster deal work including the Magic, Lakers, Nuggets and 76ers. Let's look at all the pieces of the deal and determine who were the winners and losers.


Dwight Howard in his first press conference as a
Los Angeles Laker.
Who they got: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark.

Winner or Loser: Winner, for now.

Why the Lakers won: How much richer can the rich possibly get? This summer, the Lakers have managed to acquire three All Star talents in Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison. Howard is the best center in the NBA with incredible talents in the paint. He can block any shot, rebound, and draw double teams to get others open. If Howard got players like Ryan Anderson to look as good as he did, imagine what he could be like with Kobe Bryant. This team was a candidate to reach the Finals when they acquired Nash, but now with Howard on board, the Lakers are expected to reach and win the NBA Finals. This year is championship or bust for the Lakers. Also, what if Dwight Howard chooses to leave next summer? The Lakers organization has boasted to the public that they believe Howard will re-sign with them next summer. If he leaves for an organization like Dallas, Atlanta, or Brooklyn, it will devastate the Lakers' future that is already hanging in the balance. Not to mention, Howard won't even be ready for the start of the season, as he is still rehabbing from back surgery. When he returns, it's no guarantee that he will be playing at 100 percent. All of this is why, at the moment, the Lakers are winners. But, it can all change.


Moe Harkless is one of the key pieces Orlando
received in the Dwight Howard trade.
Who they got: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, three protected draft picks: Lakers first round pick (2017), Lakers second round pick (2015), 76ers first round pick (2015), and two unconditional draft picks from Denver: a 2013 second round pick and 2014 first round pick.

Winner or Loser: Loser.

Why the Magic lost: When the original framework of the deal was leaked to the public, I had thought this was the worst trade made in the history of the Orlando franchise. However, they did get rid of a couple bad contracts in Chris Duhon and Jason Richardson. But, they inherited a bad contract in Al Harrington and three of the five draft picks they acquired in the deal are protected, which means they won't get the higher echelon draft picks they desire. They got two nice future pieces in Harkless and Afflalo, but the four other players are all question marks. GM Rob Hennigan wants to build his team through the draft, so that's why he didn't acquire an All Star, but I was surprised he did not attempt to pry other young prospects like Kenneth Faried and Quincy Miller from Denver or Andrew Goudelock and Robert Sacre from Los Angeles. The Magic's objective was to shed cap room, but in the trade, they only shed about $5 million in cap room. They still have some bad contracts on the team that need to be traded, and this might not have been the best trade offer the Magic were presented. In the end, though, trading Dwight Howard was a move this team had but no choice to make.


Who they got: Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson

Winner or Loser: Loser

Can Andrew Bynum be the first option in Philadelphia after having a career
year in Los Angeles?

Why the 76ers lost: You would think getting a top-tier center and veteran swingman in a trade would make your team a winner in this deal, right? Wrong. In the deal, the 76ers traded their on-court leader in Andre Iguodala. They also traded two young future pieces in Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic. Granted, Vucevic would not be able to accumulate many minutes with Bynum on the roster, but I thought they drafted Harkless so he could replace Iguodala. However, they have depth at the small forward position with Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young. But, here's why they are really losers in the deal. Jason Richardson is a veteran swingman with a lengthy, expensive contract. At shooting guard, the Sixers already have a young star in Evan Turner and notorious ball hog Nick Young. Richardson, if he plays, will only steal minutes from Turner and Young. And if he doesn't play, he will lose any trade value and will be hard to move. But, the biggest piece in this trade besides Howard is Philadelphia's new center, Andrew Bynum. There is no denying Bynum's talent, but he has some maturity and health concerns. He will also test free agency this summer, along with starting point guard Jrue Holiday. Both are looking to sign max contracts, so do the Sixers have enough cap room to be able to sign these two young cornerstones to max deals? This team is without question talented enough to make the playoffs, but they have a lot of critical decisions to make throughout the next year.


Andre Iguodala stated his main focus is on getting the
gold medal, but being traded has to be distracting, right?
Who they got: Andre Iguodala

Winner or Loser: Winner

Why the Nuggets won: The Nuggets are a generally young team, so giving away two draft picks does not seriously derail any future plans. This team was in need of an All Star veteran leader, and that is just what Iguodala is. At shooting guard, Afflalo is a better scorer, but Iguodala is a better rebounder, playmaker, and defender. The Nuggets got an upgrade at shooting guard and rid of a bad contract in Al Harrington. Denver was in need of a true on-court leader, and they got exactly that with Iguodala. Sure, this team will not be championship contenders, but with a proven floor general in his prime in Iguodala, four budding stars in Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee, and an intelligent, respected coach in George Karl, the Nuggets are very much headed in the right direction after trading superstar Carmelo Anthony in 2011.

     The Dwight-mare is finally over, for now. During the next season, NBA fans might be able to hold their breath, unless they're screaming at the television because of all the talk about the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. But, there are still many questions arising in these four franchises involved in this trade. Can Dwight Howard help lead the Lakers to the title? If not, will he stay in the City of Angels? What about Andrew Bynum? Can he be the main guy in Philadelphia? What steps do the Nuggets have to take to contend after obtaining Andre Iguodala? And was this the best trade Orlando can do? Are they truly headed in the right direction? Only time will be able to answer these questions. This season has many storylines and is figuring to be an entertaining one! Stay tuned for all the latest NBA-related news here on The Ski Report.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Team USA Group Play Analysis

     Five teams. Five victories. That's what Team USA has done in its group play schedule. They've faced some proven teams in France and Argentina, some lesser teams in Tunisia and Nigeria, and an upstart team in Lithuania. Let's review how they did in each game and what to expect when they face Australia.

Team USA vs. France

Result: 98-71 victory for Team USA.

Kevin Durant and Team USA were able to hold off Nicolas
Batum and France to start off London 2012 on a good note.
Team USA Analysis: After the game, Nicolas Batum said Team USA can be beat. Having several other NBA players on your team, including 2007 NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker, and still losing by 27 doesn't really help your case. Sorry, Nicolas. You were almost right though, but we'll get to that later. Team USA started sluggish, and led by only one point at the end of the first. After that, however, they turned up their production. At the half, they led by 16 points, simply forgetting their struggles in the first quarter. Team USA kept rolling, and eventually defeated France by 27 points. They played well later on in the game against a team that is able enough to compete for the bronze medal. It was not too shabby of a win to open Olympic play.

Grade for Team USA: B+

Team USA vs. Tunisia

Result: 110-63 victory for Team USA.

Team USA Analysis: Was this the day Tunisia would triumph and stun Team USA? In a one-word answer, no. Tunisia had not one player with NBA experience on their roster, and the lack of skill proved costly. Tunisia had given Team USA a run for their undefeated streak, but came up short. Led by Makram Ben Romdhane, Tunisia was leading at one point in the first quarter and competed with much heart through the first half. After that, Team USA showed why they were the best team in the world and dominated. They started to shoot better and play more as a unit. The bench was the ultimate key, as they scored 84 points in total and was the true difference in the game. Besides Kevin Durant's double-double, the starters struggled. It was not a great game by Team USA in any sort. The team broke away in the second half, but they did not walk over Tunisia like many had expected. However, Team USA would bounce back to exude their true dominance in the third game of pool play.

Grade for Team USA: B

Team USA vs. Nigeria

Result: 156-73 victory for Team USA.

Team USA Analysis: This was probably the best game any Team USA had ever played. Nigeria was totally outmatched in every category, and Team USA held an offensive onslaught against the Nigerians. Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu, two players with NBA experience, could not lead their team adequately against the Americans. Team USA broke all sorts of records, and Carmelo Anthony had a game for the ages. He scored 37 points and sunk ten three-pointers. Every single thing went right for Team USA, and finally, the team was clicking on all cylinders. But that wouldn't last for long..

Grade for Team USA: A+

LeBron James played stellar in the fourth quarter to help the
United States avoid being upset by Lithuania.
Team USA vs. Lithuania

Result: 99-94 victory for Team USA

Team USA Analysis: Just when we thought everything was going right for the Americans, and that the Olympics would be a piece of cake for Team USA, we were very, very wrong. Lithuania basically brought every Team USA member and fan back down to Earth, and almost stunned everybody by holding their own in what would have been one of the biggest upsets of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Lithuania played tough and executed on offense. They exposed Team USA's lack of a post presence and continued to drive to the basket at sheer will. This is the toughest opponent Team USA has played at the Olympics so far, and they better hope they won't have to face Lithuania in any sort of medal game. Without LeBron James coming alive and scoring nine points in the closing minutes of the game, Team USA would have probably lost their third game in its history of pool play. They shot a horrid 30% from three-point range and missed 12 out of 31 free throws. It's absolutely inexcusable that a team comprised of All Stars had a showing as bad as they did against Lithuania. If they play like this against a team with a bit more talent like Russia, Brazil, or Spain, the Americans might not get so lucky at the end.

Grade for Team USA: D

Team USA vs. Argentina

Result: 126-97 victory for Team USA.

Team USA Analysis: After a rough game against Lithuania, Team USA had to come back out strong against Argentina. Led by Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino, Argentina certainly had the pedigree and skill to compete and potentially upset Team USA. However, Team USA broke the game open in the second half and was able to handle the Argentinians. Things got a little chippy when Argentina point guard Facundo Campazzo hit Carmelo Anthony in "the spot where the sun doesn't shine." Campazzo was angry because the referees hadn't called a foul on Chris Paul when he hit Campazzo in the stomach and knocked the wind out of him. Campazzo retaliated with force, but the Americans retaliated where it really counts, on the scoreboard. Argentina rested starting point guard Pablo Prigioni and Manu Ginobili sat out the entire second half. Although it looked like Argentina threw the game away in the second half and was more focused on the medal rounds, Team USA still played well and racked up another quality win.

Grade for Team USA: B+

Will Team USA be able to bring home the gold again?

Overall Team USA Preliminary Round Analysis

Team USA has gotten shot-happy at times, and the lack of a post presence has really started to show its ill effects in the last two games for the Americans. Team USA certainly has the talent to win the gold, but they must use their speed to attack the rim and finish in the lane. If they can do that, they will create more open shots for deadly perimeter shooters like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. Team USA has shown their true power and biggest weaknesses in this year's pool play, but I expect head coach Mike Krzyzewski to have this team prepared for the medal rounds and lead them to yet another gold medal. Their first game of the medal rounds is, as I previously mentioned, against Australia. Here's my prediction for the game:

Team USA vs. Australia

Overview: Australia is coming off an astonishing victory over Russia and is in full swing right now. They have some decent talent but without Andrew Bogut, they are missing a big post presence. Their situation is somewhat similar to Team USA not having Dwight Howard. Team USA ended pool play at 5-0 (they are the only undefeated team) and has its eyes set toward another gold medal. Can the Aussies create some havoc and beat the Americans?

Can Mills be the hero once
again against Team USA?

X-Factor: Patrick Mills. Some NBA fans might know the name, some might not. If you don't, Mills is a guard on the San Antonio Spurs. He was originally drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers but did not see much playing time there, and was picked up by the Spurs after tours in China and Australia. He showed flashes of brilliance in a game against the Warriors last season, in which he scored 34 points and dished out 12 assists. However, his true brilliance has shown in the London Olympics. Mills complied a Herculean 39 points in a pool play match against Great Britain. In the next and final game of pool play, Mills hit the game-winning three to overcome previously undefeated Russia and secure a spot for the Aussies in the medal rounds. Mills is the leader of this year's Australia team, and his courageousness during the Olympic games is hard to match on the basketball court. If Team USA can shut Mills down, they should be able to handle Australia.

Prediction: 104-81 victory for Team USA.

     Team USA has provided some exciting and also troubling moments for its universal fan base. They have faced some tough brushes with international foes, but have overcome them so far to cruise into the medal rounds at 5-0. Will they be able to keep their undefeated streak alive against Australia? The game will be nationally broadcast live on August 8th at 5:15 ET. Stay tuned for more Team USA coverage here on The Ski Report.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Annihilation by the Americans

     In their third game of Group A pool play for Team USA, they faced a Nigerian squad who was simply outmatched. Nigeria had beaten Tunisia days before, but was absolutely pummeled by the United States. Nigeria has two players, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ike Diogu, who have NBA experience, but they had no shot at competing as soon as the game started. So what new records did the Americans make in just this one game? Here's a quick rundown:

1. Team USA's 156 points against Nigeria is an Olympic record, eclipsing the old mark which was held by Brazil (138 points).

2. Team USA scored 78 points in the first half, enough to beat Nigeria's final score. It was the most points ever scored in a half at the Olympics.

3. They set US records with field goals made (59), three-pointers made (29), and field goal percentage (71%).

4. Carmelo Anthony set an individual US record by scoring 37 points, surpassing Stephon Marbury's high of 31 points, and made ten three-pointers in the game.

Carmelo Anthony was the leader of the shooting clinic against
Nigeria, and helped Team USA win by a monstrous 83 points.

     This performance by Team USA is one for the history books, literally. Now, is it safe to say that every USA fan expects them to win without a problem? Some people, myself included, expect teams like Spain, Argentina and Brazil to compete and possibly beat Team USA. But, Team USA hasn't really faced any competition. Some teams have been able to take on the United States and hang with them in the beginning of the game. However, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and company have been able to separate their team from their opposition in the second half. The game against Nigeria has shown Team USA's true capabilities and power, but can they maintain their incredible play? Most people expect Team USA to win the Gold Medal, but now is it a requirement they win after their annihilation of Nigeria? No team has ever utterly dominated another team in an Olympic basketball game. If the United States falls, it will certainly be one of the biggest collapses in Olympic history. Do you think it's now a requirement for Team USA to win the gold after their performance against Nigeria? Or do you think there is still a chance that Team USA can experience defeat? Leave your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading!