SHOULD THE CHICAGO BULLS TANK THE REST OF THE SEASON?

Commentary:

gasol-butler

It’s probably time to call it a year. Photo courtesy of slam.com

 

It may not be such a bad idea.

The Chicago Bulls are in NBA limbo. Quite good to make the the bottom half of the Playoff picture, but is obviously not enough to get a deep post season run. Not a position a team that was built to be a title contender would want. Mired with injuries and chemistry issues, the Bulls have fallen from being considered a team who could beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for a spot in the East, to a squad barely out of the Playoff race.

The Bulls should consider hanging it up.

The Bulls are currently 9th in the East, chasing the Detroit Pistons for the 8th and final spot in post season. But what benefit will it do for Chicago? Pau Gasol’s knees have been acting up lately, and could be limited. Their defense have dropped off, and they haven’t solve the chemistry issue. Even if the Bulls reach the post season, it’s looking like they are a first round exit with the way they are playing, especially with the Cavs as likely opponents.

Chicago missing the Playoffs could end up being a good thing for them moving forward. For starters, they can rest Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler for the last 12 games of the season. Both are having lingering knee concerns, and an early off season will help them fresh and fully recover and be ready for an another run next year. Sitting both of them also brings extended opportunities for their young players like Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott, who could use a boost in playing time for further development.

Another benefit for giving up the season is it give the Bulls enough games talent evaluation. They have about 12 games left, and in those 12 games, they could easily experiment lineups, play everybody and evaluate which players could be used for one more run, or guys that may not fit the system. It could also be a time to play veterans like Aaron Brooks, E’Twaun Moore, Mike Dunleavy, and young but experienced players in Justin Holiday and Tony Snell and actually have a gauge if they are going to fit the team moving forward, and possibly raise their trade values if they perform to par.

But quite possibly the biggest benefit from actually giving up on this year is having the chance of getting a lottery pick. Jumping into the top 12 would be a big boost for the Bulls fill the needs in their big man spot, with Joakim Noah poised to leave via free agency. Having a lottery pick also boost their trade chances if they go the route of acquiring a veteran presence instead. Making the Playoffs would put them in the 16 and higher range, while missing it could potentially bring them to 12 -8 spots, huge difference.

The Chicago Bulls have 12 games to either make the Playoffs, or decide for themselves if they should call their season early.  It does look like tanking the rest of the year is a better option at this point, as making the Playoffs would not benefit the team in any other way. The New Orleans Pelicans have already done it this year, sitting out Anthony Davis for the rest of the season. And the Golden State Warriors had some success in this scenario, tanking the 2011-12 season in the last few months and they ended up getting Harrison Barnes, a pick that would have went to Utah if they won a few more games. The Bulls still have the core talent to make another run next year, sacrificing the season for a better run in the next should not be a bad way to go out.

 

 

CAN STEPH CURRY BE THE FIRST EVER UNANIMOUS MVP?

Commentary (possible Golden State Warriors bias alert):

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors

First ever? He just might. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry has ascended to Best Player status. Regardless of who you ask, there’s going to be a good chance that they’ll respond “Curry” on that question, and probably without hesitating.

His Golden State Warriors are also creeping in into immortality status themselves, chasing the best record an NBA team has ever posted. But there’s one other record, one massive one, that is brewing in all this, and this could be a possibility.

To fully understand this, and how big the magnitude this could be, remember that NO ONE has won the NBA MVP unanimously. Yes, not even Michael Jordan. LeBron James and Shaquille O’neal came within one vote in 2013 and 2000 respectively, and both are well deserved at the time. So anyone winning this cements himself as having an extraordinary that no one in the history of the game has ever been.

Could that be Steph?

Let’s see if we could be an argument of some sort to make sense in to all this. As like March Madness, sometimes the selection is all about the resume’. What does Steph Curry have in his resume’, and what is he adding up to validated a unanimous MVP award?

Here’s what we know.

The Eye Test:

Does he look like the best basketball player in the world? He does, does he? He’s very deadly on the offensive end, so deadly that he can beat you in so many ways, just like the other best players in the world have done the entire existence of the NBA, but unlike most of them, he’s doing it with precision, skill and craftiness. Who would have thought that a 6’3″, 190 LBS, skinny dude with mediocre athleticism and what was considered glass ankles would be dominating the league offensively? Steph could kill you one on one, off the ball, coming off the screen, penetration, shooting, you name it, he has it.

He’s got three 50+ points games this season, 1 better than Protland Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard, and two more than everybody else. Add to it nine 40+ points games to boot, Steph can score, and he will score at will.

He also has a habit of making everybody better, not just by his passing skills, but by the sheer fact that his presence itself is big enough to get so much attention from opposing defenses, that the rest of the team gets open shots. A true team player on his own right, he can find open players, open up the floor, runs the floor, even go as far putting his skinny frame to set screens.

Curry has also been there when needed. The clutch pedal is stepped on when the team needs it the most. Miami, Oklahoma City, Utah, Atlanta, Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto, to name a few teams that saw how good Steph Curry can be in the dying minutes of the game, a real definition of a go to guy.


He is also sound defensively. He’s not going to shut someone down one on one, but he’s active all around the court, switching, recovering, playing the passing lanes, and also rebounding. Yeah, he’s grabbing boards, for a little man, to the tune of 6 games with double digit rebounding performances.

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Active on the defensive side of the court. Photo courtesy of Syracuse.com

Looks good right. Yes, and all that is being recorded an astonishing 34 minutes per game. That’s tied for 32nd in the league, 32nd!

The eye test is there. He looks the part, and he’s playing the part, should be a great stamp on Steph’s UMVP resume’ to look at.

The numbers:

Here are Stephen Curry’s numbers during the course of the season, as of now.

– 30.7 Points per game. Leading the league this season.

– 51% Field Goal Percentage. 14th in the NBA (the only non big man in the top 15, with the next being Tony Parker at 18th). First among point guards.

– 46% Three Point FG Percentage. 3rd overall, but taking 5 more shots than the league leader JJ Redick, who’s taking 6 per game and averaging only 1% better.

– 5.4 Rebounds per game. 3rd behind Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo respectively among Point Guards.

– 6.4 Assists per game. 11th in the league.

– 2.1 Steals. 5th in the league

– 90% Free Throw Percentage. 2nd behind Jamal Crawford, while taking 2 more shots per game.

– 50% FG, 50% 3PT, 92% FT in clutch situations. Scoring

His traditional stats are impressive, and are in the among the league leaders. But there’s more to traditional stats that we could add to his resume’.

– 68% True Shooting %: League leading.

– 32.52 PER: League leading.

– + 10.12 in Real Plus/Minus. League leading. 8.65 Offensive +/-, also league leading. 1.42 Defensive +/-, 4th among PG’s.

– 13.8 Win Shares. That’s league leading

To put it in even more perspective, the one vote shy MVP winners in Shaquille O’neal and LeBron James didn’t have a better PER and a better True Shooting percentage than Steph Curry has right now. The Win Shares are leaning towards Shaq and Bron, but the season isn’t over for Steph, and he could very well be close in to their 18 and 19 Win Shares respectively, at the end of the year.

The Records:

One individual record comes to mind, and it’s him beating his own 3PT FG made from last year. No one else has made more 3PTs in the NBA in a season than Steph Curry, in the history of the NBA.

He also broke Kyle Korver’s record of most consecutive games with a 3PT FG made. And he’s still adding to that list. And also tied Donyell Marshall and Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for most threes made in a game.

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Splash damage. Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As far as records go, his Golden State team is either tying or breaking them left and right. Here are some of the all time records that they either joined or made new.

– 24 – 0 start. Best in NBA History breaking the 1994 Houston Rockets’ record by 8 games.
– 44 straight home wins, breaking the 95-96 Bulls record. And possibly counting.
– 42-1 home wins in a calendar year (2015), tying the 1995 Orlando Magic for the record.
– The Warriors are the fastest to reach 50 wins, doing so in 55 games. They also clinched a Playoff spot in just 58 games. The fastest ever team to do so.

Now while those are team accomplishments, let’s look at the fact that Steph Curry is leading his team and the league in win shares, meaning he has a lot to do with those games won. Further cementing his year as the prime candidate to be not just an MVP, but a unanimous one.

Although they do also own the record for being the biggest upset in NBA history with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on March 6th, but would that be enough of a blemish to take away what is looking like a historic season? Probably not.

So, we’ve established a very good resume’ here. He’s quite obviously the best player in the world, and the team he’s leading is trending into best ever category. But would that be enough to garner all first place votes come voting time?

Luckily, Stephen Curry can still add some stamps to his UMVP claim.

What we don’t know, and have to find out:

Steph Curry’s 2016 chapter isn’t over. There’s 22 games left to be played, and in those 22 games, either of these are possibilities, assuming he keeps his averages.

– No one in the history of the NBA has averaged 5 3PT made per game, and he’s on pace to do so.

– With 20 games left, and assuming he keeps his average of 5 makes per contest, he’s on pace to make 401(!) 3 pointers in a season. That’s obliterating the record he himself set last year.

– His 32.52 PER is on pace to be the best ever. Better efficiency record than Wilt Chamberlain posted during the the 1963 San Francisco Warriors season.

– If he continues to hold a 68% True Shooting Percentage, he will have the best ever posted number to do so, quite possibly making him one if not the most efficient scorer that is not a big man in the history of the game for a season.

And that’s just the pending individual records he can break. As it has been the talk of the town since December, his Golden State Warriors might beat the greatest regular season record.

They still need to win 17 of the next 20 games, a very tough task, with 3 games left vs the San Antonio Spurs, who’s also having a great season of their own. But if this record gets shattered, along with one or two of the other pending records, the Unanimous claim is looking more and more of an inevitability.

There’s still about 20 games left to write the full resume’ of Curry’s claim to being the Unanimous MVP. As it has been the case, it could come down to voter’s logic. LeBron James’ claim was denied due to arguably bad voting logic, even though he was the obvious, choice in 2013. But Steph is doing something a bit more than what LeBron did in his resume’ this year, this could very well swing the vote towards unanimous decision.

It’s up in the air. The stamps are impressive as it could ever been, and either he adds more to it or not, it will be very interesting to watch Steph’s last 2 months to see if a UMVP will be handed this year, for the first time ever.

Video credit to YouTube users Aqupas™ and FreeXimoPierto

Stats are from NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference.com

SAME OLD OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER. SAME OLD ADVERSITIES.

Commentary:

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Not good enough. Photo courtesy of sportsworldreport.com

Dropping their 4th game out of their last five, the Oklahoma City Thunder is slowly looking like it could once again miss out on representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

OKC has dropped 2 games vs the Golden State Warriors in that stretch, one of them they should have one, blew a 20 point lead vs the Los Angeles Clippers, and an even more excruciating loss against bottom dwelling New Orleans Pelicans. The Thunder, one team being considered a big threat to the Warriors’ run, has been swept by Golden State, and hasn’t had any answer to their problems stemming from two years ago.

The same problems they had two years ago.

They have arguably two of the top 5 players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both have been relatively healthy this year, so the injury excuse of how they struggled the last couple of years are thrown out the window. The problem, their joke of a roster.

The talent of Durant, Westbrook and a little Serge Ibaka is enough to win 50 games, but vs the elite teams, they are clearly outmatched, due to the rest of their squad. They have been mediocre defensively. They have no problems scoring, and why would they, KD and Rus can light it up on any given night. But they are 15th in the league in Defensive Efficiency, thanks in part of the roster Sam Presti has built. Enes Kanter is making max money, and is absolutely atrocious on defense. Dion Waiters  and Kyle Singler are getting regular minutes, and not contributing on the defensive end. Their team as a whole has been sub par stopping the ball, as evident by 3 fourth quarters vs Golden State and Los Angeles where they have been outscored.

To get stops, Oklahoma City relies on players like Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, three guys who are decent defenders in their own right, but makes their offense way too predictable due to the three not being any threat to score consistently. The Thunder are talent heavy, but they don’t defend, and outscoring opponents would work on middle of the pack teams, but not when they’re trying to beat teams like the Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs or the Warriors 4 times out of 7 games.

The arrival of coach Billy Donovan also hasn’t done any improvements. The offense is still as predictable as it has been, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook taking turns, little to no ball and player movement. While the duo can drop points at any point in the game, the game plan is as vanilla as is was the last 2 years, in which teams are just loading up on them, closing the gaps and putting as many bodies as they could, leaving the rest of the group to beat them, and why wouldn’t they? None of the supporting cast has shown any ability to put pressure on opponents offensively. None of them seems to be in position, nor even understand what they need to. The ball goes to Kevin and Rus, and only leaves their hands when they can’t get their shots.

The offense has been the same, they can be figured out, and they don’t defend. There’s only a handful of times where top talent could win this team games. But come post season, their lack of ability to stop opponents and little to no offensive execution could be their deathbed.

Losing to the elite teams in the West, and vs Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s looking like the Thunder are withing a level below the elites. With about a month left in the regular season, the Thunder need to answer these problems to be able to sniff even a tiny bit of a chance to get to the Finals. Unfortunately for them, they may not have the pieces to come up with a solution.