ROUND 2 AND AROUND THE NBA COMMENTARY:

Commentary:

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Russell Westbrook took over in Game 5, just as his buddy Kevin Durant did in Game 4. Photo courtesy of USATODAY Sports

The NBA Playoffs are still rolling. We’ve seen yet another sweep, a comeback, and a couple of series that might go the distance.

Let’s get to it, and all the stories around the NBA during the Conference Semis.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS – OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:

It just goes to show, that no matter how good a team is, if you have two of the 10 best players in the world, you’ll always have a chance.

Oklahoma City is now one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals, thanks in part to Kevin Durant’s 40 point performance in Game 4, and Russell Westbrook’s 35 point effort in Game 5. The San Antonio Spurs failed to score in the dying minutes of a hotly contested game, and eventually falls to the Thunder, who goes back home to Chesapeake Energy Arena and try an close out the series.

The Thunder’s game plan is simple, give it to the superstars, and let them take us to the top, as they did with KD exploding in Game 4, and Rus taking his turn in Game 5 with a near triple-double performance. It has worked for two game in a row now, and Game 6 should be no different.

But Game 5 didn’t end without controversy, mainly due to, once again, bad officiating…

THE REFS DECIDED THE GAME, AGAIN:

As if the basketball world haven’t moved on from the Game 2 blunder the NBA officials had, they are in store for yet another one.

In the dying seconds of Game 5, as Russell Westbrook drives to the baseline, an obvious foul was committed by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, who got beat, but had enough arms to wrap around Westbrook and stop the clock.

Everyone saw it, except for the three referees who are officiating the game, apparently. The Spurs are down by 1, with about 9 seconds left in the clock, are obviously going for the foul, and they did. How the referees not only didn’t figure that out, but to fail to call the Leonard intentional is just as bad as how they missed a Dion Waiters offensive foul in Game 2.

The missed call ended up an And-1 for Rus, and eventually putting the Thunder up by 4.

Now granted, Westbrook could have made both FT’s if the foul was called, and the Spurs would need a 3 to tie the game and force overtime, and LaMarcus Aldridge should have not fouled him as he is getting to the cup, but it still isn’t enough of an excuse to miss what turned out to be a pivotal call.

(The NBA has no response as of yet, personally, I’m dying to see how they are going to deal with it. This is twice now.)

DWYANE WADE TURNED BACK THE CLOCK:

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Not done. Not even by a long shot. Photo courtesy of USATODAY Sports

Willing his Miami Heat to an overtime win vs the Toronto Raptors, Dwyane Wade has turned into Classic Flash Monday night, scoring dropping 30 and flat out taking over, in the most Dwyane Wade possible.

He was near unstoppable getting to the rim, and to force overtime, he did what he does best his entire career.

Game 5 will be on Wednesday night, and with Wade dropping a combined 68 points in Games 3 and 4, expect more fireworks from good old Flash.

CLEVELAND IS MAKING IT LOOK EASY:

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Kevin Love has been deadly from downtown. Getty Images

Tough defense and a barrage of 3 pointers, it’s the new Cleveland Cavaliers’ way.

By sweeping the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland is back to the Eastern Conference Finals, and is looking like a juggernaut, winning convincingly vs the Hawks in 3 of the 4 games.

The Cavs are averaging 16 3PT shots made per game this post season, making them a much more potent and deadly offense capable of just ran sacking anyone, with Kyrie Irving leading the barrage, averaging 24 points per playoff contest with a blistering hot 53% from 3PT on 6 attempts per game.

The Cavs are now, once again, waiting. They may have to wait a little bit more, and it remains to be seen if the long days off would cool them down. But so far, they are making it look easy.

STEPH CURRY IS BACK:

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The face you make when Stephen Curry sucks the life out of your team. Photo courtesy of SB Nation.

Steph Curry should have only played 25 minutes in Game 4 vs the Portland Trail Blazers, but a Shaun Livingston ejection prompted a performance of the ages.

Scoring 17 points in overtime, an NBA record in both regular AND playoff season, Steph Curry puts his Golden State Warriors one win away from a return trip to the Western Conference Finals. He came out cold and rusty, but as the 4th quarter went down the wire, the world has seen why he was, for the second time, in a row, the MVP of the league, silencing the MODA Center crowd, dropping jaws in the process.

Game 5 will be Wednesday night, a chance to close the series in which it look like it would take a Game 3 Damian Lillard performance to be extended.

OUTSIDE THE PLAYOFFS:

Two coaches have been relieved of their duties as the 2nd round of the Playoffs progressed.

The Indiana Pacers parted ways with Frank Vogel, not renewing his contract, and the Memphis Grizzlies fired Dave Joerger, with both teams being suggested that the reasonsfo letting go of their coaches is due to a change of direction moving forward.

They weren’t unemployed for long, though. Vogel takes over the Memphis Grizzlies job, which seems like a perfect fit for a defensive minded coach. Joerger on the other hand, has been handed the Sacramento Kings job, making him as, quite possibly, the hope to fix the seemingly never ending turmoil in Sacramento.

Got fired quickly, got hired quickly. Not bad.

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ROUND 1 OBSERVATIONS AND MOVING FORWARD

Commentary:

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Kyrie Irving has shown that he is Playoff ready. Photo courtesy of kingjamesgospel.com

We are (almost) thru the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and it hasn’t really been that exciting, except for maybe a handful of games. And while some expected things have already happened, interesting story lines have brewed in during the first two weeks of the post season.

From free agency, to potential, to possible “what’s next’s?”, we tackle on what the first round of the NBA Playoffs have possibly told us, and what’s next for each of the 16 teams who made it this year, and preview the 2nd round matchups.

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs (1) Cleveland Cavaliers:

The Hawks got past the Boston Celtics in 6 games, but done so unconvincingly. They have not shot the ball well, and 4 of their 5 starters have been inefficient in shooting the ball the entire series. They lived on defense in the first round, but it could be misleading due the the Celtics lack of scoring options to begin with.

The 2nd round could prove to be a much more difficult task if they continue the poor shooting going against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, unlike the Celtics, are going to score. They have weapons all around the court and will drop points at will. And while the Hawks can defend, they could be left behind if they don’t score efficiently.

The Cavs on the other hand, have done their part, sweeping a young, upcoming, but obviously not ready Detroit Pistons. They have looked unstoppable offensively and expect it to trend in the second round. Kyrie Irving has been on fire, averaging 27.5 points in the first round and shooting a blistering 47% from the field, with 47% from the 3 point line.

Expect the Cavs to ride Irving offensively until the Hawks figure out how to stop him. And in a way, it’s beneficial, as it puts LeBron James in a role where he doesn’t have to put a ton of effort to drop points just for his team to catch up, preserving him for the rest of the series.

The Hawks are in for fireworks. They have the schemes and the personnel to be able to defend, but unless they get their all-star to score at an efficient rate, the Cavs would have no problem finishing the series by just out scoring their opponent.

Boston Celtics:

Losing Avery Bradley has costed them the series. But for a team that, once again, shouldn’t even be considered to get past the first round, let alone be a 5th seed, they have had a marvelous season.

It’s always looking forward for these Celtics, but now, they add 2 Playoff wins in their pockets. They now know how what to put on in the post season, and they just need help. And help they shall receive, with the Brooklyn first round pick they own could potentially be a top 3 pick, cap space, and now, credibility that they showed to the league that even without a superstar, they can do damage in the Playoffs, and that bodes well for their free agency plans moving forward.

The Celtics may been eliminated in the first round again this year, but rest assured the rest of the Easter Conference is giving them a really good look.

Detroit Pistons:

Great season, but just a case of not being ready yet for the post season. They didn’t have a real scoring threat to have Cleveland to worry about, and they have been out executed the entire series.

But like Boston, there is something brewing here. This is a young core, with a ton of potential to develop. And what happened to them in the 1st round is something that typically happens to young, inexperienced teams once they broke thru the post season.

The series however, showed that they could use another scorer, possibly coming off the bench. Reggie Jackson also needs to step up and be THE GUY. Taking 11 shots per game isn’t enough when you’re the main offensive option.

One big takeway for Detroit despite being swept on the other hand, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He had a really good series, and when players this young, this inexperienced, and debuts in the post season and shows up in the big stage, you got something good.

(5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (1) Golden State Warriors:

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No Steph Curry to guard for Damian Lillard for atleast 3 games. But Shaun Livingston is no easy task. Photo courtesy of oregonlive.com


Portland has upset in their eyes right now.

With Stephen Curry possibly not returning until Game 3 or 4, the Portland Trail Blazers is going to come out swinging. Damian Lillard has torched the Warriors this year, and of course, he’s looking forward to keep doing it, although he hasn’t shot the ball particlarly well vs the Los Angeles Clippers. The entire Blazers squad have shown balance on both sides of the ball, and they have the pieces that can go toe to toe with the Warriors with their speed.

But, but, they are going against the defending champions, who, outside of one bad shooting game, and an uncalled offensive foul, have dispatched the Houston Rockets easily, even without their MVP on the lineup. Klay Thompson has stepped up in the scoring department, and the Dubs have, as always, relied on their good ball movement and their deep bench to carry the burden in scoring left behind by Steph Curry as he’s sitting in the side lines.

The interesting part in this series would be Shaun Livingston. Another guy who had a terrific first round, he’s a matchup nightmare for Damian Lillard, assuming they are going to be matched up. He’s going to have a length advantage over both Portland starting guards, and would certainly put them to a ton of work. And Shaun Livingston is not a slouch defensive too, capable of disrupting opponents, again due to his length. It would be interesting to see how Portland plays him, as he could be the Warriors’ biggest X factor in this series.

Houston Rockets:

This could be the final year for Dwight Howard donning a Rockets jersey. His involvement, or lack thereof in the Rockets offense is evident by the fact that even though he averaged a double double in the series, he only took an average 7 shots a game.

His beef with James Harden doesn’t help Houston to retain him either, and that beef was the sole reason they got ran sacked by Golden State. While he did average 7 assists in the series, their offense looked predictable and stagnant due to Harden having most of the possession.

Where does Houston go from here? Howard is leaving, and they have regressed significantly. Will they hire a new coach or keep JB Bickerstaff?

Los Angeles Clippers:

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers

One more run, or time to blow it up? Photo courtesy of inquisitr.com, Getty Images.

It’s safe to say that two big injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin is what costed them the series vs the Blazers.

The question now is will they keep their core, and run it one more time? Next year will be year 6 of the DeAndre Jordan – Paul – Griffin era. Their bench has been better this year, and with the cap rising, they should have the capabilities to retain at least a couple of their guys. But this core also haven’t gotten past the 2nd round in their 5 year run. Is it time to break it up? Or will the injury be enough of an excuse to run it again, at least one more year?

Dallas Mavericks:

The window should be closed.

The Dallas Mavericks is now looking forward to the offseason, but how are they going to approach it. They had a team of Dirk Nowitzki and a squad full of rejects from other teams, and managed to sneak into the Playoffs as a 6th seed, because of exceptional coaching by Rick Carlisle.

But Deron Williams is opting out of his final year to become a free agent. Dirk is one more year older, and they need to address the rest of the squad as most of it are going to be free agents next season. Will Chandler Parsons be healthy for once?

Do they start the rebuilding process? Or will they, as they have been the last few years, will push for another playoff run and sign veteran guys that could help?

With all that said, the window is closed. It’s not even known if Dirk will have one more year in him, even though it looks like he has. There’s a big rise in the cap which makes them at least an attractive place for free agents, but do they really want to build a team that would exit the first round yet again, or should they start rebuilding for the future?

(3) Oklahoma City vs (2) San Antonio Spurs:

We have already been treated with a Game 1 matchup in the second round yesterday, and boy was it disastrous.

The Oklahoma City Thunder looked unprepared, and lacked intensity and it showed as the San Antonio Spurs romped their way to a 32 point Game 1 win. They had no answer to everything the Spurs threw at them.

How will they respond in Game 2? Do they have enough to respond despite having arguably two of the top 5 players in the NBA so far? Do they have the proper adjustments to counter the Spurs’ ball movement, who produced 39 assists in Game 1?

The Spurs look mighty last night, the Thunder are in for a heck of a climb back.

Couple of Game 7’s:

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

Not so bright stars in Toronto at the moment. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

There are a couple of game 7’s on the line tonight, and both involve highly talented teams that have been unimpressive.

The Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat are in for the fight of their lives tonight, even though on paper, they shouldn’t have too. But have been unimpressive on their defensive effort and both are going against teams in the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets that are coming in with a nothing to lose mentality, and really, they have nothing to lose.

Whoever advances will face the other, so there are interesting story line as who will what team play after this. And it will all be answered tonight.

END OF THE YEAR AWARDS COMMENTARY

Commentary:

The 2015-16 NBA regular season is over, it’s now time for the post season.

But since we have a couple days of wait time, other than first round upsets and playoff match ups, most of the speculation from the basketball world is about the individual awards. Who gets which awards at season’s end?  Who’s the best 15 players of the year?

There have been so many predictions for this, pretty much in any sports media, so here and Up and In, we decided that we’d put our own little prediction ourselves. And while some of the awards should have crystal clear winners, there’s plenty of room for discussion for the rest. So let’s get to it.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:

Winner: Stephen Curry

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Photo courtesy of USA TODAY.com

There’s really no debate. He’s done historical things and helped his team do historical feats in the process. This is a few of what Steph has done this season.

– Lead the league in scoring at 30.1 PPG. (improved 6 points better than his last year’s MVP average). He will be the scoring champion this year.
– Leads the league in PER.
– Leads the league in Win Shares
– Leads the league in True Shooting %
– Made 402 Three Point FG. A mark so outrageous that no one in the history of the game has ever seen a player get 300 makes, and he obliterated it.
– He’ll enter the 50-40-90 club, while averaging  11 3PT attempts per game. Think about that for a second. He’s shooting 50% from the field, with half of his makes are from 23 feet out.

The only reason to not vote for Stephen Curry as the league’s MVP is either hate, or bias, or both.

Make a case for anyone:

Can’t. It will be a waste of time.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

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Photo from sportingnews.com

Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns:

The kid posted 18 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.7 blocks. Not since Tim Duncan did a rookie big man posted those kind of numbers. Oh, and he’s shooting 54% from the field, 34% from the 3 point line. Yeah, he shoots threes too.

That, and add to it the defensive impact and the poise makes KAT the easy choice for Rookie of the Year.

Make a case for anyone: 

You can’t. Kristaps Porzingis had a case, but he with Towns being so good, he pulled away of this race quickly. Devin Booker and Nikola Jokic made some strides during the late part of the season, but won’t be enough.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Gregg Popovich

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs

Soobum Im – USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs won 67 games this year, are 4th in Offensive Efficiency and is the best defensive team in the NBA. Unfortunately for them, the Golden State Warriors had one historical season at the same time.

But with Steve Kerr missing a chunk of games during the season, the Coach of the Year award should go to Pop, who still managed a team, improved 12 wins more than last year and is still one of the elite clubs in the NBA.

Make a case for anyone:

Terry Stotts. 

The Portland Trail Blazers were decimated, with four guys in their starting lineup moving on to different teams. Some pundits even thought they weren’t going to win more than 30 games, and yet here they are, the 5th seed in the West, with a lineup of bench guys upgraded to fill the starter spots, and a few new players that fit perfectly to what Stotts wanted the Blazers to be. He is certainly in the running.

Brad Stevens.

How do you not consider Brad Stevens?

The Boston Celtics is still a rag tag group of guys with no “franchise guy” at their helm, and they won 48 games, not to mention being in the top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive efficiency.

This team is supposed to be tanking, for the last three years. Other than first time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics really don’t have a player that many people would consider a star player, and yet they have home court advantage vs the Atlanta Hawks when the Playoffs start.

How do you not consider Brad Stevens?

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:

Winner: CJ McCollum

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Photo from sportingnews.com

CJ McCollum has been a god send for Portland. After losing LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, he softened the blow on the scoring end by averaging 20 points per game this season. That’s a a 14 point jump from his last year when he’s only getting 6 a game. Shooting averages were also up, as well as increases from his rebounds and assists totals.

But his overall fit within the team is what should get him the award. He has been a reliable ball handler if Damian Lillard is not on the floor, also a go to scorer. It’s not just the numbers that improved, but also his role within the squad.

Make a case for anyone:

Kemba Walker.

Still scoring, but now more efficient. He has been clutch for the Charlotte Hornets. And his team won 48 games with him being a big part of the picture. He’s got a nod.

Will Barton.

A weak case, but Barton has looked like a capable scorer this season. Not much else to offer, but that’s a drastic improvement in his game

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Kawhi Leonard

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Soobum Im – USA Today Sports

This will mark the second time, and back to back wins for Kawhi Leonard if he wins DPOY this year.

It’s fitting that the best defender on the best defensive team should get the vote. and it’s not just recognition, he’s shown why he’s the best. He’s a perimeter stopper, he gets to the ball, on any part of the court. His individual brilliance, topped with it that he’s a big part of the best defense in the league should be enough to win him the award two years in a row.

Make a case for anyone:

Draymond Green.

One word, versatility.

Draymond Green has once again proved why he’s one of the premier defenders in the NBA, and that’s because he can defend literally anyone on the court. This is honestly a virtual tie between him and Kawhi, the nod goes slightly towards the Leonard, but it won’t be a big surprise if Green wins it this year.

Sixth Man of the Year:

Winner: Andre Iguodala

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Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

 

The numbers don’t tell the story here, it’s more of the impact. Andre Iguodala comes in off the bench, the Warriors get another great defender, ball handler, passer and just compliments virtually anyone on that team. Him missing a few games might dock some votes, but despite the non flashy numbers, there’s isn’t a more valuable come off the bench guy in the league than Iggy has been for the Dubs.

Make a case for anyone:

Jamal Crawford.

Crawford can once again win the role he has so embraced. The key setback is his inefficient shooting, but he’s once again being an added scoring punch for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Evan Turner.

Think of Andre Iguodala’s impact on Golden State, that’s what Evan Turner does for the Boston Celtics, but not as good defensively. He’s an extra ball handler, passer, even a go to scorer on some occasion. The defense isn’t as mighty as Iggy’s, but Turner can switch to defend wings and PGs when he’s on the court, adding defensive versatility.

His inconsistencies are going to be the big drop in his nod, but he’s certainly in the conversation.

Lastly, let’s take a peek at our All – NBA teams.

1st Team All – NBA:

Chris Paul – Stephen Curry – Kawhi Leonard – LeBron James – Draymond Green.

2nd Team All – NBA:

Russell Westbrook – Kyle Lowry – Kevin Durant – Paul George – DeMarcus Cousins

3rd Team All – NBA:

Damian Lillard – James Harden – Paul Millsap – LaMarcus Aldridge – Andre Drummond

Make a case for anyone not on the list:

Klay Thompson.

He could easily a 3rd Teamer, but the nod goes to James Harden for his ridiculous post All-Star stats where he’s putting up 30 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds per game. Thompson can easily slide. as he’s also having great scoring numbers with with great shooting splits, but he just slips a bit.

1st Team All – Rookie: 

DeAngelo Russell – Devin Booker – Justise Winslow – Kristaps Porzingis –  Karl-Anthony Towns

2nd Team All – Rookie: 

Emmanuel Mudiay – Josh Richardson – Myles Turner – Nikola Jokic – Jahlil Okafor

Make a case for anyone not on the list?:

This should be the best crop of rookies for this year. Will be hard to make a case for anyone else.

1st Team All – Defense:

Chris Paul – Kyle Lowry – Kawhi Leonard – Draymond Green – Hassan Whiteside

2nd Team All Defense:

Avery Bradley – Tony Allen – Paul George – Paul Millsap – DeAndre Jordan

Make a case for anyone not on the list?:

Easily, LeBron James.

He has been tailing off defensively, possibly due to saving himself for the Playoffs. With that said, he’s still one of the better versatile defenders in the league. Will not be surprising at all if the King makes another All Defensive team, but Millsap and George gets the nod.

Rudy Gobert could also make a case, but a lot of missed games may take him out of the equation.

SHOULD THE CHICAGO BULLS TANK THE REST OF THE SEASON?

Commentary:

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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

TRADE DEADLINE COMMENTARY (Part 1).

Commentary:
I’m changing the format again, I’ll be talking to you this time. Because I want to.

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Boy you’d look so good in Green. Photo courtesy of Hoopshype.com

The NBA is headed to the All-Star break, and while the weekend full of festivities are going to be a load of fun, what follows it is the next few days where all 30 teams will have a few hours remaining to tinker with their teams via trading.

For fans all around the game, the next few weeks are going to be a frenzy. Rumors would be swirling, players maybe moving, and who knows, stars could change addresses and teams could bolster their chances by acquiring new players, if not this season, the next.

With the trade deadline looming, lets break down some of the rumors,  possibilities and along the way, I might suggest a couple of scenarios as well. The Internet, and the league is buzzing with insider information, ideas and all that jazz, in this piece, we are going to dissect a lot of it. This is the time to do it, so let’s get to it. TRADE DEADLINE FRENZY!

MARKIEFF MORRIS:

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Photo courtesy of azcentral.com

The trade deadline could probably put a ton of focus on Phoenix Suns Forward Markieff Morris. He requested a trade early in the season after his brother Marcus was traded to Detroit, and has stayed in Phoenix since. But with the deadline looming, expect a ton of interest from teams to acquire the disgruntled forward.

And why won’t teams do it? He’s the perfect PF in today’s NBA. He’s quick on his feet for his position, he can shoot, and in this era of playing small can be vital, he has enough size to play the small ball Center for any team, and still be able to stretch the floor. He also carries a great contract that with the rising cap, would be vital for any team. The Toronto Raptors would be a great fit, as while they are doing good, they could use a PF upgrade. The Washington Wizards could also use a PF upgrade who can shoot and stretch the floor to help open the court for John Wall.

Here’s the big concern. His trade value may have dropped  significantly due to attitude problems. A pending felony charge, could scare off teams despite what he can offer on the court. He may face a suspension, or worse, jail time, if convicted of the assault charges. While he can be a difference maker in some teams, he could end up not being in the team at all. And giving up assets to acquire a risky player in Markieff could be very tricky.

THE ATLANTA HAWKS SHOPPING:

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The Big Apple could use Jeff Teague. Photo courtesy of scoopnest.com

A ton of rumors are suggesting that the Atlanta Hawks are shopping Al Horford and Jeff Teague.

The New York Knicks could be an interesting trade partner for Teague, who could really use a PG upgrade. The problem is, the Knicks may have to offer a future first round pick, or two to lure Teague to the Big Apple. They don’t have enough expiring deals to match his salary. They have Jose Calderon who’s salary and years are similar to Teague’s, but a straight swap won’t make sense.

Personally, I think it makes a ton of sense to offer a future first and a future second along with Calderon for Teague. Jeff Teague is only 27, relatively young that he still fits the rebuild post Carmelo Anthony while being already a veteran presence. He is a former All-Star who’s still capable of being a second or third option on offense, and give stability on the PG position. Giving up a 2018 first may not be enough, but it should start the negotiation.

As for Al Horford, who wouldn’t want him? Solid all around, added a three point shot to his offensive arsenal. Good defender, good teammate. Problem is, he’s on an expiring deal that may warrant a max deal next summer, when he’s 30. Would there be team that would give up assets for a player who, while very good, could turn out to be a a rental? Well, there is one team in the NBA that could afford to do that, the Boston Celtics.

Horford massively upgrades the Center spot, the rim protection and he absolutely fits the offensive system that the Celtics run. They have plenty of assets they could throw in. David Lee’s expiring could clear money for Atlanta in the next year, they got at least THREE first round picks coming in this year, and a few more the next 3, and while it would be questionable to trade the 2016 Brooklyn pick for Horford, Boston could easily give up one of those, or two, with one being heavily protected. They have young bigs in Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk who Atlanta can develop. And they will have the cap room to be able to resign Horford in Free Agency. Whether or not he warrants a max contract is a total different conversation, but with the Celtics creeping into the top seeds, Horford could be a very good piece to add to Boston’s current magical run.

WILL DWIGHT HOWARD MOVE?

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Dwight Howard, where will he play? Photo courtesy of ischoolguide.com

Another developing rumor is the Houston Rockets considering trading C Dwight Howard.

Howard has a player option on his final year, which means he can walk as a free agent next summer, and the Rockets considering of moving him makes sense, get something than nothing.

Here’s the thing, who would want Dwight Howard? He’s still productive, but he’s on a slow decline. His FT shooting has been a problem, and he’s became and often injured player. And if he opts out, who’s going to pay him more than $20 million per, when he’s already 30 and with shotty knees?

Which teams out there is a Center away from being relevant? The Celtics, also, could be in the running. As with Horford, Dwight massively upgrades the defense from the interior, and possibly add more scoring due the Celtics having capable shooters all around. Beside, Isaiah Thomas and Dwight Howard on the pick and roll, that would be SWEET! But how much will he cost? Will the Rockets require the Brooklyn pick, which would be a massive overpay for someone who may  not even stay in Boston after the season.

The Portland Trail Blazers could also be an interesting place. Another team who could upgrade their rim protection and defensive impact with Dwight. Also, they have an ace in the hole, they are $20 million under the cap, which means they can trade any contract and not worry about salaries matching as they can absorb a chunk of that money. The only concern is they may not have a ton of valuable future assets like draft picks to sweeten the deal. Would they be okay giving up future first round picks for an aging former All-Star that while he fits well, could probably in a steady decline starting now? Assuming he stays healthy, a core of Howard – Lillard – McCollum could be a Western Conference playoff team, and could entice free agents to join. But for how long that window can be open, with Dwight’s injury concerns, and a predictable decline? And is that warranted a future first round pick or two?

WHO SAYS NO TRADE IDEA:

Portland trades CJ McCollum
Milwaukee trades Giannis Antetokounmpo

An idea I had in my head for a very long time. Milwaukee may give away a ton of potential, but they gain a player that helps their spacing dramatically with his shooting, open up the floor for Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe, and still be a capable 20 PPG scorer.

Portland gets a player who’s oozing with potential, can play both forward spots, still developing while already being solid and upgrades their frontcourt.

Who says no?

Stay tuned for part 2. We got more trade rumors and ideas to tackle. 

MIAMI SHOULD RELISH PF LUOL DENG.

Commentary:

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Small ball 4? Why not? (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Luol Deng has been an ironman, a great wing defender, and through out his career, a solid NBA player with All-Star recognition.

But it has come to the point where The Man from Sudan has reached his limit at the SF position. His legs have been burned out, mainly due to his tenure in Chicago when he has been a Swiss Army Knife. He slower, due to the injuries he accumulated thru out his career. The player that once one of the best known defenders, being called upon to defend fellow SF’s like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to name a few has lost a step and could not handle that load.

Luol Deng is past his prime at SF. But what about at PF?

In an age where pace and spacing is becoming king, Miami has the perfect Small Ball 4 in their squad in Deng. While he is not quick enough anymore to guard elite 3’s, he’s still mighty formidable enough to battle against opposing PF’s. He’s got the length to be slotted in the big man spot at 6’9″ and a 7 foot wingspan, he’s a tough competitor who has seen everything in the league at this point when it comes to physicality. Offensively he can spread the floor, being much more helpful since Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic thrives on penetration. A 35% 3PT shooter this year, he’s enough of a threat to attract defenses and open up the floor for Miami’s rest of the offense to flourish. He may not be able to run against wings, but his activity would be well in display vs Power Forwards, in which most of the league are still adjusting while keeping their traditional bigs in their lineup. And Deng, a guy who has shown time and time again that he plays on both ends could punish slower PF’s on the break.

And it’s not just the eye test that suggests that Deng should be playing the 4 spot. Per Hoopsstats.com, Deng is averaging more points, rebounds, assists, steals and turning the ball over less at PF than when he’s slotted at Small Forward. He’s also shooting at 43% playing the big man spot, better compare to his 38% mark at SF. He’s also averaging a better 3PT at the 4, in part could be because opposing PF’s are a little slower in closing out on Deng than traditional, quicker SF’s.

And just having an extra playmaker at the big man spot, on an open floor would pay dividends. Wade has transformed himself into a great off the ball player, utilizing cuts to perfection. With an another passer coming up from the high post, being able to utilize the space, is available, the Miami offense could be better.

And with Deng at the 4, it opens up a SF spot for prized Rookie Justise Winslow, who’s developing rather nicely as an NBA player, but could use more playing time, especially getting used to playing big minutes.

There’s a dillema here, as to bring Deng at PF, someone has to sit. It’s not going to be Chris Bosh, so it’s possible that it’s Hassan Whiteside who needs to ride the pine. With the numbers suggesting that Miami is better off with Hassan on the bench, and the fact that Dwyane Wade is scoring 6 points per 36 minutes more when he’s off the floor, and Bosh having proved that he can handle the Center spot, there’s no reason why Miami Heat should not consider playing Luol Deng at Power Forward.