SUPERMAN IS IN ONCE AGAIN IN THE BUILDING!

Commentary:

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Atlanta might just be the yellow sun that Dwight Howard needs to resurface. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

 

It’s about 4 years ago when Dwight Howard was being considered one, if not the best Center in the league, and one of the top 15 players in the world. He was as close an MVP you can get, getting double-doubles a night, a Defensive Player of the Year. He was so good that he was a speculation trade target for close to a season when he decided he wanted out of Orlando.

Then the Los Angeles Lakers stint happened. Didn’t go too well with Kobe.

He moved to Houston the next year after that, and it has been nothing but injury bugs, attitude concerns and unhappiness, supposedly with the Rockets’ other star James Harden.

Howard went from being a player every team would want, to a guy who fans on any team have become divided, debating if he’s actually worth acquiring. He went from a multiple time All-Star to a player who some people don’t even want to pay max dollars.

And then, he went home. And it’s always good to be home, seems like.

8 games in and Howard, now with the Atlanta Hawks, is having a rejuvenated season. His averages of 15.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game is close to his 17.8/12.7/2.1 career averages, but he’s doing it in an astonishing 28 minutes per game. That’s right, Dwight is back to being Dwight, playing less a full seven minutes less than he would in his entire career.

It’s good to be back home.

Howard was mired with injuries and criticism. His co-existence with James Harden was always in question. He had one final good run with the Rockets during the 2015 Playoffs, a glimmer of the old Dwight, but the situation in Texas seems to just be too much for him to be able to stay.

Atlanta failed to resign Al Horford, and went after Howard in Free Agency, and it has been a good marriage so far. In retrospect, it is actually the perfect move for Dwight Howard and for the Hawks.

A guy who wants nothing but approval, was greeted back home with open arms. A guy who wants to be the guy, goes to a team with an All-Star in Paul Millsap that was willing to step back. A guy who wants the ball, now gets it.  There were issues in Houston about James Harden being too ball dominant, something that did not sit well with Howard, affecting the way he’s engaged on the court. The Hawks are different. Dwight’s point guard, Dennis Schroeder, passes the ball to him 43% of the time, running constant pick and rolls. He gets the touches that he wants.

He looks happy, and he’s at home.

In return, Atlanta is getting the a lot, if not the full Dwight Howard that people have seen in the past five years. Atlanta is currently 2nd in Defensive Efficiency, a big part of it is due to Howard, who’s Defensive Rating 8 games in, is the highest in his entire career. His rebounding Per 36 minutes is the among the highest in his NBA stint. He has been a significant piece for the Hawks, while playing 27 minutes, remember.

We’re seeing a resurgence in Atlanta, and Dwight Howard could become Superman once again. It has already started.

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JAMES HARDEN COULD PLAY THIS INSANE ALL SEASON.

Commentary:

 

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The NBA might have to fear the beard now. Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle

In a season in which everyone is expecting that Russell Westbrook will be an easy shoe in for the MVP, or LeBron James would gun for his 5th award, or Stephen Curry bouncing back for his revenge season, not everyone have guessed that Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden would be spearheading the race.

And he’s going nuts with it.

8 games in, and James Harden is literally tearing up the league. He’s posting 30 points, 7.6 rebounds, 13 assists per game. Those are the kind of numbers people expected Rus to put in, but it’s the other former OKC man who’s tallying up the stat sheets. And it’s not like this is unexpected, people knew that Harden is one of the best players in the world than can do anything on the offensive end, but there’s something much more different. Something we haven’t seen him done before while he’s still putting up insane stats.

He’s very efficient.

Prior to this season, James Harden only shot 45% or better in a season twice, in fact he never shot over 46% in year his career when he got traded to Houston. He’s shooting on a hot 49% this year in 8 games, with a 39% 3PT accuracy. He’s very efficient shooting on the floor, and it’s not a surprise as to why.

As Mike D’Antoni comes in, the plan was simple, surround Harden with shooters, space the floor, make him the ball handler and let him do the work.

The result is an open court for James Harden to do whatever he wants on the offensive end, and with shooters spaced out, he’s got a free lane to either penetrate or take advantage of the mid range game. And with defenders can’t be giving up too much space as he can drill a jumper, and can’t be too close or they’ll be burned off the dribble, the extra space makes Harden’s already elite offense even harder to check.

And then you add the vision.

An open court means to double, defenses have to track a long way to even double Harden, leaving someone very open, and he finds them. In his last 5 games he’s averaging 14 assists per game, tearing through defenses if they committed to him as he runs the Houston offense however he pleases.

And the crazy part is, he maybe able to sustain this all season.

For two straight seasons, James Harden has played 80+ games in a year, and including the playoffs. His usage rate has spiked up as a result of being the primary ball handler, making him the focal point of the offense more than he already was. As he plays 37 minutes per game, with an offense catered around his superb offensive skill and an open court, it’s not hard to expect that James Harden could average close to a triple double while winning the scoring title (currently 2nd), and lead the league in assists.

James Harden has mentioned that he deserved the MVP in 2014-15, he lost to Steph Curry. He may capture that award this year, by setting up what could be the most astonishing regular season an NBA player has ever had.

SOMEWHERE, A MINNESOTA – OKLAHOMA CITY TRADE EXIST THAT MAKES ABSOLUTE SENSE, FOR BOTH.

Commentary:

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder

Care for a switch? Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t you just love trade ideas? I know I do.

After the Kevin Durant departure from Oklahoma City, the Thunder faces a little dilemma, what to do with Russell Westbrook?

With their championship odds dropping, and Westbrook entering the final year of his deal, there could be a scenario where Rus repeats what KD did, and just leave OKC in free agency come next summer. While that’s another year away, there should be some concern, and some decisions to make, to whether gamble on the idea that Westbrook stays, or move him now so to not lose him without getting anything back.

Let’s go now a bit up north, where the Minnesota Timberwolves have a young core of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins who are slowly but surely growing into All-Star caliber talents. Towns could eventually be a franchise player type of guy with his all around skills and versatility. They also have Zach LaVine, who’s also developing into a good Guard, capable of ball handling, shooting and with his elite athleticism, can learn how to be a very good defender. The Wolves also just drafted PG Kris Dunn, a prospect who’s known for his great physical tools, scoring and playmaking ability, and his defensive potential.

Together, those are four great prospects to have, but are possibly no where near ready to compete for another few years. Down under in Oklahoma City, a contender is on the verge of either trying to sneak into a low playoffs seeding or fully rebuild.

Somewhere, in this world, there’s a trade idea between two teams that could potentially help both franchises.

Let’s say…

Minnesota trades Kris Dunn, Andrew Wiggins

Oklahoma City trades Russell Westbrook 

Could be crazy, right? Not really.

Why for Oklahoma City?

Trading Russell Westbrook means OKC will now embrace a rebuild. And what better way to rebuild than have a Rookie of the Year, a 20 points per game scorer in his 2nd year in the league, who’s still ONLY 21 years old? There is something better.

Add another high upside prospect along with that 21 year old, ROTY, 20PPG kid.

The Thunder can start rebuilding with Andrew Wiggins and Kris Dunn in the fray. Add to them Steven Adams (turning 23), Victor Oladipo (just 24) and Domantas Sabonis (20) and you have a young core of 5 players who can develop into All-Star level talent.

 

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Kris Dunn should be included in this theoretical deal. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This will be an unprecedented rebuild, as all position will be covered if this trade happens, and all these young guns can learn together, all while they all play and share the court together. Wiggins has already shown he can make shots, and has a lot of room to grow, especially on his jump shooting. If Dunn pans out, the NBA is looking at a PG who can create not only for himself, but for others and play with poise. Oladipo is a solid 15 points per game scorer with constant improvement on his 3 point shooting. Sabonis is pegged as a tough PF who can score on the block, and has the potential to be develop a solid 3PT shooting. And then there’s Adams who can be a tough take on the inside.

That’s a very intriguing young core who can score in a variety of ways. But wait, there’s more.

This team could end up being a defensive beast of a squad. Adams can protect the paint with the best of them. Both Adams and Sabonis can grab rebounds. Wiggins and Oladipo are considered great defenders from the perimeter, and is still improving thanks to their elite athleticism. Dunn is know for his defense coming out of Providence. This could be a starting 5 capable of defending anyone and any style, and with a few years of development and familiarization from playing together, the NBA could be looking at one, if not, the top defensive team in the league

It will not be a bad haul for giving up a top 5 player. The future would be very bright, a perfect rebuild.

Why for the Timberwolves? 

Russell Westrbook give the Timberwolves a legitimate star top 10, something they haven’t had since Kevin Love was traded to Cleveland (for Andrew Wiggins). But this is different. Westbrook is an MVP talent contender, and will be for another 5-7 years. He’s an alpha dog that fills out the stat sheet better than Love had. And, unlike Kevin Love, he’s an elite defender, with an elite player personality that will draw a lot more attention.

He will also be paired with Tom Thibodeau. And while there maybe a clash of competitive personalities, there’s no question that he will also be the best coach Rus will ever have, with track records of being able to develop successful careers All-Star of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. As good as Westbrook is now, it’s scary to think that Thibs can tap in into unknown territories and make Rus even better than he is, as he has done so in the past.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves can sport this dynamic duo moving forward. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Also making this interesting, is that Minnesota will now sport a combo of two elite guys with Westbrook and Towns, which games and personalities absolutely compliment each other. Westbrook being the alpha, and Town being the quiet beta who’s as good as any alpha there is. Town’s ability to hit three’s makes Westbrook’s pick and roll action with him deadly. And Town’s willingness to share the basketball could mean he will have no problem having Westbrook leading the attack. Both can also anchor defenses on their own sides of the court, with Towns developing a good interior defense, and Westbrook being able to lock down almost anyone on the perimeter.

Having Towns and Thibs, and Zach LaVine being the third star could also be a good piece for Russell Westbrook to look at and resign with the Wolves. Not only can the Wolves offer the most money, but they would have cap room,  LaVine, Towns and a lot of flexibility moving forward, and they kept their 1st round pick next year. They will have the ability to build a contender in a year’s time.

Having a duo of elite guys, a young borderline star, and a tough but successful coach will also make Minnesotta a viable Free Agent destination, despite it’s small market designation. The Wolves can easily approach names like Blake Griffin (ETO), Paul Millsap (Player Option), Serge Ibaka (unrestricted), Andre Iguodala (unrestricted), among others next year. Even with Rus signing a max, the Wolves woulds still have enough to sign another max player, and enough to build a competent complimentary piece with what’s left, making the Wolves in position to be able to go in Playoff stretches complete with offensive prowess, defense, youth and experience.

This trade could change the fate of two franchises, for the better. Both are flexible deals in the future, and both benefits from what the moving parts would bring, with the Wolves now finally going to contend, and OKC hitting the restart button after their window closes. This is a very plausible deal with great future ramifications in the NBA.

And it’s TOO interesting not to be at least considered.

CHICAGO BULLS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Commentary:

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Square peg, round hole? Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

Emergency commentary! Needed to be done because of the amount of “what the fuck?”

So, as I am writing this, I have NBA TV on the background and I’m listening to the current news.

Dwyane Wade is now a Chicago Bull. Yep, turns out, Heat-Lifer means that once I don’t get the proper compensation I deserve, I’m bolting. Can’t blame D-Wade on that decision though. He sacrificed enough, and when he asks to get his, Miami took care of the new guys first.

But enough of that, he’s now back in his hometown. Great! He’s now in a team with All-Star teammates in Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler. Great!

Is it?

Let me get this straight….

The Chicago Bulls moved on from Derrick Rose, the other Chi-Town prodigal son. They did so because quite possibly, Jimmy Butler needs the ball in his hands and Derrick Rose might get in a way of that.

They got Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez from Derrick Rose. Solid move, especially since that Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah decided to move on, Lopez is a great stop gap.

And then they signed Rajon Rondo.

What?

So the Bulls traded away  a guy who  would take away the ball from Jimmy Butler and signed a PG who actually needs the ball MORE than Rose does? Rondo fills up the stat sheet, especially in the assists department. But to do that, he has to have the ball pretty much the entirety of the 24 second shot clock. He’s not a good shooter (that’s being nice), nor is he good off the ball. You’d think that he’s as worse a fit as Rose has been, at least Rose can hit three pointers on a below average rate to stretch the floor for Butler to work. Rondo would just build bricks.

And then, the big news. Dwyane Wade is coming back to Chicago.

Yeah, on paper it looks great. Rondo – Wade – Butler. All-Star lineup. Chicago has their own big three.

OH MY LORD!

Chicago just added another non-three point shooter, and another ball dominant player.

Seriously, Bulls, what the fuck are you doing?

Do they still value spacing at all? The only legitimate threat they had to stretch the floor is Doug McDermott (who’s obviously not going to start), Nikola Mirotic (who isn’t known for his defense), and Mike Dunleavy (who they’re trading to get cap room for Wade). The Bulls will sport THREE guys who aren’t reliable 3 point shooters.

Butler – career 32% 3PT
Wade – career 28% 3PT
Rondo – career 28% 3PT

Sure, there was a point last year where Butler shot 37%, respectable, but he only took 3 a game. Even if we assume that he gets to that averages, he’s not taking enough to be a threat beyond the arc.

All the opponent has to do is dare them to shoot from the 3, and chances are, they won’t make it.

All three, as mentioned, are ball heavy players in their own rights. They are effective when the have the ball in their hands, and with that means two of them are being limited because the other has the ball, running plays for himself.

They are all unselfish players, but with very little space on the floor, how are they going to work offensively?

Name recognition is one thing, but the Bulls have a lot of work to figure out what offense they’re going to run. There could not have been a more awful fit than these three.

But hey, at least Dwyane Wade is home, right? Imagine the jersey sales…

RE-WRITTEN HISTORY. THE 15-16 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS EULOGY

Commentary:
Warriors versus Oklahoma City

Missing when it mattered. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

The 15-16 Warriors were 73-9. No one will remember that.

The 15-16 Warriors are a historic team. No one will say that, ever again.

Losing this series after being up 3-1 really hammered home the fact that they didn’t deserve this title. They didn’t. It’s not theirs. They had their fingers on that Larry O’Brien trophy but they just don’t have it in them to grab it. No amount of injuries or suspensions would erase the fact that they did not show up.

Sorry, Draymond Green, this time, you guys sucked. Well, probably not you. But the rest? Absolutely.

Steph Curry is slowly getting the Peyton Manning moniker. Astounding in regular season, sub par when it matters. That’s twice now he was M.I.A in the Finals, with deceivingly good numbers, but empty on the impact. It’s looking more and more like the Warriors are, evidently, is Draymond Green’s team. Where were you, Steph, other than throwing the ball away? Where were you other than grabbing meaningless fouls? And most importantly, where were you when your team needed you the most?

Steph Curry is the first ever Unanimous MVP. So what?

Charles Barkley’s point is right on. A shooting team can’t win a championship. Because shooting can get streaky, and when they tensions are high, and every possession matters, streaky will kill you, and it did the Warriors. How they survived it last year would still be the scrutiny these Dubs have to face as they failed to close this year. They didn’t have anything else to offer offensively. You live by the three, you die by the three, and they did, in the most painful, scarring way possible.

Splash damage didn’t do much when it mattered.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS GAME 1

The season is indeed a failure, as Klay Thompson has said. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

 

History is written by the winners. And the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James would be more than happy to re-write a once historic timeline. No one talks about failure, take it from the New England Patriots, who most arguments are about Spygate, Deflategate instead of their historic unbeaten regular season. The highest of the highs can really hurt as you fall, and how the mightiest have fallen.

15-16 Golden State Warriors,  your historic season is now six feet under. This was your destiny to take and you just either didn’t want it, or didn’t have it. You ran into LeBron James who was more dedicated to fulfill a promise so much that he literally blocked your destiny away.

And you didn’t do anything about it, or didn’t do enough. You could have, as you shown all year, but for some reason, you didn’t. And now, get ready to have a heavy heart for the next few months.

What are you going to do now? Everyone in the Bay Area will wait for your response.

LeBRON JAMES IS THE FINALS MVP. PERIOD.

Commentary:

USP NBA: PLAYOFFS-DETROIT PISTONS AT CLEVELAND CAV S BKN USA OH

LeBron James in this Finals is nothing short of extraordinary. Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Someone is not ready to give up the Best in the World tag.

The 2016 NBA Finals is going to a winner takes all Game 7, after the Cleveland Cavaliers won games 5 and 6, convincingly. After being down 3-1, and seemingly being written off, the Cavs are on the verge of not just only breaking a looooong championship curse for the city of Cleveland, but are also one win away from being the ultimate showstoppers, as they try to spoil the Golden State Warriors’ historic season.

And LeBron James has spearheaded that entire barrage.

To say that LeBron James is having a great Finals is a big understatement. He has eclipsed the unanimous MVP with his all around brilliance. He has dominated in every facet of the game statistically, leading in every single statistics for BOTH teams.

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First in everything. Image credit to thebiglead.com

The numbers are astounding.

In these Finals, LeBron James is averaging 30 points, 51% FG, 41% 3PT, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks per contest. That is borderline Shaquille O’neal and Michael Jordan Finals levels of domination. He has done everything imaginable on the court, from scoring, to defending, to making teammates better, to doing the little things.

And The King showed up when he was needed to most, by putting up two masterful games while being on the brink of elimination, dropping 41 points, each, on Game 5 and Game 6, doing so while shooting better than 50% in both FG and 3PT, averaging  12 rebounds and 9 assists from two games, and putting a lockdown defensive performance with 6 steals and 7 blocks combined in both games.

LeBron James should be the Finals MVP.

And it would not be a contest if Cleveland pulls the upset and win the Championship, but it should not be a contest regardless if the Warriors take the crown.

James has been picked by most pundits to be the Finals MVP of last year’s NBA Finals, as he put up great numbers. Golden State took the series and Andre Iguodala was named Finals MVP. But despite that, LeBron had a massive case to win the Bill Russell trophy, as evident by a 35 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal stat line. There was no player in both teams that have played better than James last year, and he got stripped of the award because his team fell short.

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You come to take out the king, You best not miss. Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Fast forward a year, and LeBron is at it again. This time, however, he has been much more efficient compare to last year, while putting up close to the same numbers. But this is different, very different.

LeBron James willed the Cavs to Game 7.

Twice Cleveland faced elimination. Ever since the end of Game 4, the Warriors are being proclaimed the winners by almost everyone but Cavs fan, and quite possibly even some of them did the same. And twice, LeBron James stepped into the plate and gave the world back to back performance for the ages. Playing with a sense of urgency, and a lot of pride, reminiscent of 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, as he take the hearts of every Boston Celtics fan. James refused to lose, and he has shown it on the court. His teammates benefited from everything he has done in the last two games, and now they are in a position to reach glory.

LeBron James in this finals, is literally the definition of Most Valuable Player.

Not since Jerry West did the league gave the Finals MVP to a player on the losing team. There will be of course no conversation if the Cavs are crowned NBA champions. But the Warriors are coming in as the favorites for Game 7, playing at home with a crowd that can take away any will from any opponent, so the Cavs still are in for a fight. The outcome on Sunday’s final NBA game of the year is still out for grabs, one thing should be locked in, no excuses!

It doesn’t matter if any of the Splash Brothers scores 50. It doesn’t matter if Draymond Green posts a triple-double. It doesn’t matter if Kyrie Irving goes on a hot shooting night again as he did in Game 5. All of this should be irrelevant.

LeBron James, regardless of what happens on Sunday, is the Finals MVP. And it will be an act of treason to not give The King his crown.

EXPECT A LOT OF RAIN IN THESE YEAR’S FINALS

Commentary:

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The rematch is on. Ben Margot, Associated Press

We are going to have an NBA Finals rematch, but it’s not really going to be a rematch.

As we have been clamoring, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are clashing it out, this time, with a both healthy squads. The real Cavs vs Warriors showdown is about to take place, and it’s going to rain threes.

The Cavs this post season has turned into not just a three point shooting team, but a great one. They are making 43% of their 3 pointers in the post season, created mostly by their ball movement and good spacing. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are shooting it lights out from deep, averaging a combined 44% the entire Playoffs, JR Smith is also putting in 46% of his 3 pointers, and new Cav Channing Frye is blistering hot at 57%. All four combined to make about 10 3PT FG’s per playoff contest.

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JR Smith is shooting really well this post season. David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

This is a different Cleveland team. In a funny way, they resemble the Warriors with their new 3 PT barrage. They have been spaced the floor well, allowing LeBron James to do damage in the paint, as he has been, but at the same time, gives him a plethora of weapons surrounding him if the opponents choose to help, and boy are the Cavs making you pay for it.

The Warriors, on the other hand, are still the Warriors. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have shot their way out of a 3-1 hole vs Oklahoma City to reach the Finals again. And while four guys from Cleveland make 10 3’s a game, the Splash Brothers are making 9 per playoff game on their own. And they are doing it, outside of their good ball and player movement, in quite possibly the most inconceivable of ways, shooting it off the dribble, over a defender, or even pulling up from 30 feet.

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Klay has been on fire the last two games. Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images

Collectively, the Dubs are also shooting 40% from 3, making 12 a game. They have been known to be a shooting team, and won last year’s Championship in large part because of it. Don’t expect them to stop raining threes now.

With both teams seems to be lights out on 3’s, the series should probably end up to who can stop the 3’s. Both teams, are allowing their playoff opponents 34% from three points this post season, but the Warriors has the edge in regular season numbers, ranking 2nd in 3PT% allowed at 33% compare to the Cavaliers 12th ranked 3 point defense at 34%. A slight edge, but could swing a difference, as both teams are seemingly reliant on their three point shots lately.

One key thing to keep in mind, offensive rebounding. Offensive rebounds creates extra possessions, in turn could create extra three point shots. Both teams are grabbing 10 O-Rebounds per game, but Cleveland is allowing 3 less for their opponents. Preventing the Warriors from getting more possessions could limit their three point attempts enough for the Cavaliers to take advantage of.

One thing is for certain, as we wait on the Finals we’ve all be clamoring for, expect three point shots, lots of it. As much as Charles Barkley would hate it, this year’s champion will be determined by who can shoot better, and shoot more.

We will have a rainy NBA Finals.