Saturday, December 8, 2012

NBA Commentaries Part 1B: Early Disappointments

7:31 pm: Zack Garrow
So in the first part of our NBA commentary, we commented mostly on the positive things we've seen from players and teams. In this episode, we'll be commenting on some negative aspects.
Do you have any players that you're very disappointed in?

7:33 pm: Cole Patty
I feel like Ersan Ilyasova has been the most missing. Some players have struggled with their shot like Ty Lawson and Danillo Gallinari (sorry Nuggets first two that came to mind), but it legitimately seems like Ilyasova has just flat out forgot how to play

7:35 pm: Zack Garrow
I can definitely agree with that, and my fantasy team has felt the effects of it. He stumbled out of the gate this year and couldn't rebound, couldn't shoot, and couldn't knock down any threes. I thought with his hot second half of the season he would be able to keep it up and bring it into this year.

7:37 pm: Cole Patty
The rebounding is the strangest part. The old basketball adage is in fact "you will always be able to rebound" has been sort of proven wrong. He is struggling with the shot, but how his rebounding percentage has gone from 17.6% to 11.6% is just strange.

 7:40 pm: Zack Garrow
His field goal percentage has gone from .492 to .374, which is just ice cold for a big man. He's had a few decent games recently, and I fully expect him to turn it around.
But can we just talk about how Andrew Bynum has really screwed up by getting injured while bowling?

7:42 pm: Cole Patty
I was a big fan of his game last season, I feel if he stops leaning on the threes too much he will play better. As for Bynum, I really liked him going into season. He has kind of just been the wild and wacky Bynum ever since.

7:45 pm: Zack Garrow
What's so disappointing for me when it comes to this Andrew Bynum fiasco, is that this was finally his chance to shine as the number one player that he has shown he deserves. He dominated Dwight Howard 1 on 1 last year on a few occasions and when healthy has shown that he is one of the most unstoppable forces in the NBA. But he threw it all away and has to hope a team will be willing to pay him max money for the next year.

7:47 pm: Cole Patty
I don't think anyone is going to give him a max contract, but I have seen worse money get thrown around the NBA. I think the Sixers will sign him again, I mean if they don't they just threw Iguodala away. As for disappointing big men Roy Hibbert has had a few good games, but really hasn't captured the Danny Granger-less spotlight or make him feel worth the money.

7:52 pm: Zack Garrow
Right, we've seen guys like Hibbert get max deals who haven't really deserved them. And great big men are always at a premium in the NBA. When you get one, you'd better hold on to him and make sure he gets paid or someone else is going to snatch him up. One person who's really had to pick up the slack for Granger has been Paul George. He's taken more shots, and his shooting percentages have gone down because of it.

7:58pm: Cole Patty
Hibbert is shooting 38% and is only averaging 9.7 points. He is finally playing like the defender a 7'2" player should be with 3.1 blocks, but there isn't the rebounding you want to see from his size. As for George, he has the best Defensive Rating for a wing player and his jump shot is starting to find the net more often in December (44%) and has had 22 and 34 point games already this month. It will be interesting to watch him going forward.

8:03pm: Zack Garrow
This is always an interesting topic because it always seems like everybody always has an opinion. What do you think is wrong with the Lakers? Is it a team chemistry thing? Is it a panic button thing (*cough* Jim Buss firing Mike Brown *cough*)?

8:06 pm: Cole Patty
Oh man, time to open Pandora's box? Well they are top ten in offensive AND defensive efficiency. Mike D'Antoni is a better fit of a coach than Mike Brown. Their starters haven't played a quarter together yet (I heard not too sure if a fact), and Gasol (the top talent player that benefits from Nash the most) is not too healthy and only played 6 quarters with Nash. They are showing they are pretty old, and at the same time they are going to be completely fine when the season ends.

8:13 pm: Zack Garrow
That's what I'm thinking too. I kind of think this is a Miami Heat in 2010-11 thing. It's a big change, and they aren't all ready for it. Kobe has done his part in reducing the absurd amount of shots he's taken. I think the team is at the best when they've got Nash back running the offense, playing good defense and letting the talent take over. How do you think they'll fare in the playoffs?

8:15 pm: Cole Patty
They feel like they are the kind of team that would stomp the worse playoff teams, but struggle when they run into the big boys in the West like the Thunder or Spurs. I want them to play the Grizzlies in the West Semifinals. I think we could learn a lot about either team if that match up happens.

8:19 pm: Zack Garrow
I feel the same way. Dwight needs to learn how to shoot free throws, or the Lakers need to find a way to win without him in the lineup for the fourth quarter. A team is only as good as its weakest link. If his free throw shooting is the link that is being tugged, they will be broken by a better team.

8:20 pm: Cole Patty
So who is your vote for biggest disappointing team that isn't the Lakers? There are some teams who didn't make the leap they could, or were looking to be top seeds and are running around .500.

8:24 pm: Zack Garrow
I'm gonna let you go first because I have a few I could talk about.

8:28 pm: Cole Patty
I definitely do too, but I am going to have to say the most has been the Nuggets. The Raptors were a team I really like heading into the season for an 8 seed and they have won a staggering 4 games so far. As for the Nuggets, this is a team that is 9-10 heading into tonight. They have one of the hardest schedules in league in not only competition level but travel. They are 24th in defense efficiency, which I guess is why they statically are struggling. They just sometimes doesn't look like they same team the night before, good or bad. I think they will turn it around because of cold shooting, but this isn't suppose to be a sub .500 or even .500 team.

8:36 pm: Zack Garrow
I expected you to say the Nuggets. I just think they're cold as a team. They'll get it going soon. Same with the Raptors. They've lost a lot of close games and I expect them to be competing for a spot in the playoffs. My team is going to be the Sacramento Kings. You're probably going to ask my why I think a team that's consistently a bottom feeder in the West is so disappointing. But just look at that roster. Cousins, Evans, Thomas, Thornton, with the new additions of Aaron Brooks and Thomas Robinson should be doing a lot better. There's just too much talent there. I just think this is sad case of a few players that have just become accustomed to losing. Something needs to change there to get them to win. I think it will have to come in the signing of an old veteran like Kevin Garnett that just knows how to win.

8:39 pm: Cole Patty
That roster is definitely talented. I think a coaching and management face lift could make that team a lot better, even if they kept this same roster for a while.

8:42 pm: Zack Garrow
What is next in this discussion?

8:43 pm: Cole Patty
Well I think it is time to talk rookies, and keeping with the negativity what rookie or rookies are you most disappointed with so far into the season?

8:46 pm: Zack Garrow
I've got one that I'm disappointed in production-wise, and one I'm disappointed in their team.

8:47 pm: Cole Patty
Very good to look at it this way, so who are your marked men?

8:48 pm: Zack Garrow
The first one is Jared Sullinger. He has not lived up to what the expectations were for him coming out of college. He's only averaging 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game with the celtics in 19 minutes. Not exactly what I wanted him to do with his NBA ready body. His jumper has looked bad so far in an area I expected him to improve on.

8:50 pm: Cole Patty
Sullinger was a guy that was labeled early on as a "steal" so that is a very good choice because he hasn't been grossly overproducing his 21st overall selection.

8:51 pm: Zack Garrow
I just expected better things from the man on a good team to step into. The second is Andre Drummond. The Pistons have been playing him much less than 20 minutes per game when his production suggests that he should be playing much more. His per 36 minute numbers have been consistently better than Dwight Howard's rookie per 36 which is crazy to think about.
Once labeled a "work in progress," Andre Drummond has been one of the best rookies right away
8:52 pm: Cole Patty
That is probably the stat of the day:
Dwight Howard's rookie production per 36 minutes is: 13.2 Pts, 11.1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, and 1.8 Blk on 52% shooting with 2.2 turnovers. Meanwhile Andre Drummond's per 36 minutes production is: 13.0 Pts, 13.3 Reb, 0.9 Ast, 1.6 Stl, and 2.7 Blk on 56.7% shooting with 1.7 turnovers. Dwight went on to play 32.6 minutes, finish second for rookie of the year, and become the best Center in the league. Meanwhile Drummond is playing 17.6 minutes, and also Drummond has a 20.9 PER while Dwight's rookie year's PER was 17.2 for one final comparison.

9:00 pm: Zack Garrow
That's all very impressive stuff. What rookies have you had your condescending eyes on?

9:10 pm: Cole Patty
Well, you and anyone who knows how I talk sports know my affinity for young talent. I liked this rookie class going into the year also. So I am going to take the time to say the WHOLE rookie class has been a disappointing and here are some players who have helped contribute:
Anthony Davis: can't stay healthy
Bradley Beal: good shot selection, awful field goal percentage
Dion Waiters: awful shot selection, gets hot but sometimes too wildly inefficient
Thomas Robinson: Either the Kings REALLY want to play Jason Thompson more for no reason, or Robinson isn't who we thought he was
Harrison Barnes: reread Dion Waiters explanation
Terrance Ross: had to reread who the Raptors took, that guy
Austin Rivers: oh yea the other Hornets/Pelicans draft pick
Jeremy Lamb: hello D-League
Kendall Marshall: hello D-League even though Sebastian Telfair is getting minutes
Royce White: google search "Royce White twitter" that happened
Terrance Jones: This guy doesn't get minutes?
Evan Fournier: This guy gets minutes?
Jared Sullinger: Steal Who Wasn't a Steal Part 1
John Jenkins: you mean Kendall Marshall's D-League teammate (pro-tip: D-League games are full videos on YouTube if you are bored watch the Bakersfield Jam they start Marshall, Jenkins, Damion James, and former Wisconsin big man Brian Butch.)
Perry Jones III: Steal Who Wasn't a Steal Part 2 (Note: Also the Tulsa 66ers feature Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, and former first rounder Daniel Orton. They are also a pretty decent YouTube watch.

9:16 pm: Zack Garrow
A lot of the players who we thought would step right in and play well just, haven't. But that's what you get for putting your trust in a rookie. I can't believe I'm saying this as a Pistons fan accustomed to big men not doing anything (Darko), but Andre Drummond has been one of the most productive members of this draft class so far.

9:22 pm: Cole Patty
Going into the draft, many opinions of this draft class were praising them. I think they will be better down the road but so far they have been disappointing as a whole. So let's bring some optimism in our NBA youth in here. Most surprising, or maybe not so surprising in your eyes if you pick the man I think you might pick since we already have addressed Drummond.

9:30 pm: Zack Garrow
I think one of the most interesting guys in the class has been Dion Waiters. He has had to step in and be the guy for the Cavs with Kyrie out of a lot of games and he has done a decent job of it. He's never going to be a guy who's going to shoot 50% and still put up 27, but he'll find a way to get you 27 (on 10 of 28 shooting). Another guy I'm proud of the way he's played so far is Andrew Nicholson. A very unknown draft commodity, Nicholson has only gotten 12 minutes a game behind Glen Davis, Gustavo Ayon, Nikola Vucevic, and Josh McRoberts. But in those minutes he's had a very solid 6.7 points per game on 54% shooting. He has a lot of range and can pass well for a big man. I definitely look for him to get more and more playing time as the Magic realize they've got themselves a young talent.

9:32 pm: Cole Patty
Nicholson and Moe Harkless have both definitely been doing well as the Magic's higher profile rookies. Nicholson also rates as the 7th best rookie so far in ESPN Rookie 50.

9:37 pm: Zack Garrow
Did you have any other rookies you liked so far?

9:44 pm: Cole Patty
Definitely to be fair there is a need to mention that Alexey Shved has been way better than earlier thought, Valanciunas has been solid and steady, Lillard is right now in a one horse race for ROY, and MKG has done everything that the Bobcats could ask for him. For my non Drummond surprise, that is a bit under the radar, it has to be John Henson. This was a guy I didn't like going in to the draft, then watched a D-League game and thought "maybe he can do this." Now I think the Bucks actually found a pretty solid ball player. Now he may not be nightly turning it out with consistently great play, but has been steady and in the Larry Sanders birthday ejection game put in 17 pts and 18 reb with 8 offensive boards. That isn't shabby especially when I just went one by one on everyone that has been disappointing me as a rookie.

9:45 pm: Zack Garrow
Not bad at all.

This wraps up the first of hopefully many to come NBA commentaries. Let us know if you like them as we may expand into podcast or video.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

NBA Commentaries: Part 1

In order to bring back this blog, Cole Patty and Zack Garrow decieded to bring you into one of their nightly basketball discussions. Here was the results of this talk:

Cole Patty: Alright, I will start off with asking what you think about the Hornets changing their name to the Pelicans? It was announced literally ten minutes ago.

Zack Garrow: Well... I don't really know what to think about this. It gives the city of New Orleans some sort of connection to the team because the Pelican is the state bird and is on the state flag. Other than that, doesn't really seem like a great idea. I think they should get a cooler mascot than a pelican, but that's just me. Ultimately, I just think New Orleans is looking to change the losing atmosphere that surrounded the Hornets.

CP: Well, the one thing I like is the Bobcats might go back to being the Charlotte Hornets. I think that is great. As for the name Pelicans, I can easily agree they could do something better than that. Especially since bird names in general are so common.

ZG: I can agree with that. It would be great for Charlotte to go back to being the Hornets. I'm totally having deja vu with Jamal Mashburn, Glen Rice, and Muggsy Bouges.

CP: For a younger franchise there is some history there. Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson are in there too.

ZG: True. Do you want to talk about some surprises (positively and negatively) with some players in the NBA this year?

CP: I would love to talk about this, and I would like to throw out there Most Improved candidate Jrue Holiday. How good can he really be? Also, what do you see as the difference this year?
  • Jrue Holiday has been the center of attention
    for the Most Improved Player talks.

    ZG: We've seen very steady improvement from him so far, but I guess I'll go ahead and talk about him cause I'm fortunate enough to have him on my fantasy squad. I was just thinking about this and I really think a few things have contributed to his growth as a player:
    1.) Andre Iguodala is gone. Andre Iguodala is gone this year from the 76ers and he is a guy who has been "the guy" for them for a long time now. He takes a lot of shots, but not only that.. he takes a lot of shots that aren't assisted on because he can create his own shot so well. He also struggles knocking down that three point shot from the wing that Jason Richardson, Nick Young, and others have been doing this year for him. That must have been hurting Jrue's assist numbers in the past. This year both of those things are helping him. 
    2.) Andrew Bynum is out. With Andrew the big LeBynum sitting out with a knee injury all year, Jrue is the leader of the team and has to be able to put up points and he has definitely stepped up to the challenge.
  • CP: Jrue has definitely needed to step up, his usage has moved up from a 20.7 average the last two years to a 26.0. Also though his PER has moved up from a 14.74 (slightly below average) to 18.7 which is a good number. A good positive is that he isn't just on fire either, he is shooting average numbers for him. So this isn't just a case of a hot 17 game stretch, he is playing at a level he can hold on to.

    ZG: Agreed. You know, a lot of my surprises have been on my own fantasy team (Lillard, Bynum, Ilyasova, Chandler Parsons, James Harden). Is there anyone else you'd like to talk about? Doesn't have to be any of those guys.

  • Larry Sanders has had 
    a breakout 3rd year.
    CPI had a poor experience with him, but Larry Sanders is another guy who is on the short list of Most Improved Player. Any thoughts of him?
    ZGThis year has been about the curious case of Larry Sanders. He started out on a roll averaging 11 points, 7-8 boards, and 3 blocks a game. Then for some reason he dropped the ball in points and blocks and dropped down to about 8 points and 1.5 blocks during that stretch. But in his last three games, he's had 10, 7, and 5 blocks respectively. As any fantasy owner knows, blocks are very crucial and one man can lead your team to be a good blocking team. Another thing I like about Larry Sanders is that his production is directly related to how many minutes he plays. When he has great games (like his past three) he has averaged in the 30 minute per game area. When he hasn't gotten the numbers he's in the lower 20's. The more you play Larry Sanders, the more he produces... which is a good sign.
    CPThe management of the Bucks have been enamored with this thin hybrid 4-5 with pterodactyl arms lately. The problem with Larry is he fouls WAY too much. He averages 4 a game and has been ejected 3 times already. When he is on the court though he has been a shot-blocking, rebound grabbing, 55% shooting in the post kind of guy. I love his ceiling even if he is already 24. His per 36 numbers are great and he has been an 18.65 PER guy this year. He needs to learn to stay on the floor, especially for the post Dalembert days coming. He also already tripled his career double doubles. I like that stat for how much he has improved.
    ZG: Definitely. Is this his third year in the league?
    CP: Yes it is, also that 10-12-10 game was a really impressive triple double.
    ZG: It's impressive when anyone gets ten blocks, let alone a triple double with blocks.
    CP: It's also impressive to put together an 18pts-16reb-5blk stat line. I want him to figure out his foul issues so Skiles can trust him because like you said in extended minutes this guy can be good.
    ZGHow do you think the Harden trade has worked out?
    CPKevin Martin has definitely played better than last year. Still past his prime but this role I think has been a better fit for him than I would have first guessed. He is having a career high in True Shooting Percentage and is shooting a career high 47.7% from three. The team in OKC can make some guys look better and may be a more enticing team to play for than last year's Rockets. OKC has also barely missed a step now that they are 14-4. As for Harden, he has struggled some nights and may be shooting some career lows. I do feel this is more of a growing pain thing in becoming a bona fide one guy, he has put out some nights that were just plain special. So this has been good all around really minus the fact Jeremy Lamb has been MIA.
    ZGI would really like to say that I've seen Harden's assist numbers go up because of the increased ball handling he's been exposed to. I really like what Houston did by bringing in this young core of Lin, Harden, Parsons, Patterson, and Asik. They're all good at what they do and they're all team first guys. They have a lot of young talent that has room to grow as well. The Thunder would be alright even if I was their two guard. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are just different kinds of animals. Kevin Martin is so similar to Harden, I just see him as the same kind of player but less able to create for others. Long run, I believe this also helps out the Thunder with their added draft pick from this deal and Jeremy Lamb's potential.
    CPI think, had Harden stayed on the Thunder you are correct with the Kevin Martin and Harden similar part. This Houston Harden is a bit of a different animal, and the fact that he is still only 23 helps. I like Harden's 9.1 free throw attempts and his ability to get to the rack. I really am feeling a great month in him later in the year when he has adjusted to this role. Only thing about the Rockets that worry me is the whole Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik contracts with the 15 mill in the third year, but that can be addressed when they get there.
    ZGWho has been the surprise team so far this year?
    CPThere have been some candidates, and I am not about to touch the Lakers thing because I am sure they will turn it around. I feel like the answer has to be the fact the Grizzlies have been this dominant. I don't know if it is a hot month, or the chemistry is better without Mayo. I would say chemistry because Bayless can accept a 7.1 points per game role and Mayo couldn't, but it confuses me just a bit.
    ZGI have a few candidates. One of them has to be the Knicks with how they came out of the gate guns a' blazing. I really think the Knicks have something to prove this year and Carmelo knows he's the next one on the list that has yet to win a ring. He's definitely got his team in a great position to contend with the Miami Heat. One of the least thought of teams in the league is the Atlanta Hawks. Surprisingly, they're 9-5 with a revamped roster that doesn't really have a ton of diversity. They love to shoot the three ball, and this team reminds me of some of the magic's teams in the past with Dwight Howard. By that I mean that they go inside to Josh Smith and Al Horford and have those guys create shots by passing out to shooters and rotating the ball around the three point line. I expected the hawks to be much worse this year, but they have time to do so because their schedule hasn't been very tough thus far. They've only beaten two teams above .500.
    CPI actually thought this Hawks could be a 5 or 6 seed. They have talent and are kind of radically built with a bunch of guys that do the same thing. Jeff Teague was pretty stifled by the Joe Johnson game and I think we are finally seeing what was wanted out of him. I am not a big fan of the lack of perimeter size either, and they can lean too much on Horford and Smith. Anytime you have both Horford and Smith, you can be a 5-8 seed in either division.
    ZGOkay, so how do you feel about Lebron's game in the early part of this year?
  • Lebron James has recently been named
    Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

    CPOh man, you set me up here, I could gush about LeBron's season so much. I am definitely on board on the efficiency over total numbers revolution in basketball. I feel like minus the free throw struggles this has easily been one of LeBron's best years. He is shooting 43.8% from three first of all. Which shooting above 40% is considered good and so the thing people like to point out as his weakness is not really there right now. He is shooting his career high inside the three point line too, even if this is a marginal improvement. So he keeps this up, and hit some more free throws, and LeBron is a monster in True Shooting Percentage. The Heat aren't leaning on him nearly as much as in the past which is shown in his lowest usage since his rookie year, so this is in correlation his worst scoring year since his rookie year. He is also though having a career low in Turnovers (2.5), which was more of a problem for him in the past also. Career high in Rebounding and Rebounding Rate, which is very impressive. I would like to personally like to see some more assists out of him, as I can admit I am a huge fan of his passing. His assist ratio though, is his second highest of his career. So this guy is balling out at an even higher level. He just doesn't get the ball as much which is probably a product of wanting rings over MVPs.

    ZGYou've pretty much said it all about Lebron so far. I've just got to add one more thing. It isn't just his play on the court that has been impressive to me, it's his psyche off the court. He's become a winner over the years and has been a very family oriented person with his basketball team and home life. People want to go play for the Heat because of Lebron's unselfishness.

    CP: I think it is great how LeBron has grown off the court also, I strongly believe that got him over the hump. (Note: Somewhere in this gushing over LeBron he got his first triple double of the season against the Wizards)

    ZG: Just goes to show, Lebron has only exceded expectations since coming into the league. And the scariest thing about him is that I can see 6-8 more years of being the best player in the league and another few being a top tier player. I never see him dropping out of the top tier. I think he'll retire as one of the greats if not the greatest to ever play (well, top two).

    CP: I think this guy can play that long also. With his development of being a 4 on the offensive side of the floor, he might have honestly extended his career 3 years. Wade's game is based off athleticism and you can see him winding down. LeBron has so much to look forward to now that he can put his back to the basket.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Who's Next?

              If you are like me, an overly obsessed sports enthusiast, you get attached to some players. You get attached to guys who's game is just great with a bright future. Personally, I loved watching a 23 year old Tracy McGrady make it look so easy to play the game. I know I am not the only one. For some reason, a lot of people who love basketball around my age (I'm 20), just LOVE Tracy McGrady. They rant and rave about how easy he made the game look. They saw his speed, jumping, and height (6'8") and just gushed over the potential. They saw how he easily it came to him, taking the ball and killing them from the Triple Threat attack. T-Mac sometimes was lazy, and his injuries got in the way. In 2002-03 though, there was no bigger baller in the planet in kids eyes. The way he just floated around the court and put up difficult shots that would go in, it was Magic (no pun for the team he played for intended). His shoes came out, and we were all buying a pair. I wish I still had my pair, because quite frankly no one light up my eyes in basketball (in one season) than Tracy McGrady did. See Jordan was winning his first three titles when I was ages not born, 0, and 1. Some of my first basketball memories were built on me being 6 years old watching Jordan in my living room in South Bend, Indiana. I went and saw him live three times, and I was so young I only remember one of them. I have very few memories of my old house, couldn't even remember my room for reference, but I remember Jordan playing Reggie Miller and then Malone and Stockton.
            So I instantly gravitated towards the Shooting Guard position. I was grown up on Jordan, and seeing a guy at his size was just something I could relate to. Shaq was nice, but watching the craftiness, the speed, the cunning, the athleticism, just the beauty. Jordan was the master artist in basketball, and the pictures he crafted were just gorgeous. Iverson couldn't make me feel like that, nor did Kobe or Vince. Post McGrady, Dwyane Wade sometimes did, but other times fizzled. In 2002-03, McGrady was painting us pictures I never thought I would see and it was beautiful. Just the feeling you got when you saw that blue number 1 holding out the ball in his out stretched arm. Make a couple steps, raise up, and can a shot over someone was just awesome. It was like rooting for some hard to achieve feat, and watching this guy overcome it all every time down the floor. Just look at the artwork.

You get the picture.

Now the second part to this is, T-Mac didn't have any help. He put the team on his back and carried them every night until the Pistons eliminated them.

This season's start was 10 years ago.

I have missed this for 10 straight years.

I have found possibly a saving grace.

From ESPN here is another 2-guards shooting chart on a 45-point, 14-19 day.

Now Harden isn't the artist that T-Mac is at all. His game is a lot more grungy, but I mean Pearl Jam was a good band, right? He is definitely a more likable guy than Kobe or Iverson, and a more consistent producer than Vince Carter. He can be a bigger star than Manu or Monta, and I just personally prefer someone's game like his to Wade's. Harden two nights in a row has put the team on his back, and both nights they have won. He's averaging 41, 7, and 6, while shooting 63.6% and 42.9% from deep. What Harden may lose in beauty, he definitely picks up in his desire to be efficient. He has a trademark look, and just has a game and personality you can attach to. Will his stats come down? Of course unless he wants to become the GOAT. However, I see some flashes of Harden carrying the team at 23, that I did of T-Mac carrying the team at 23 10 years earlier. Please stay healthy Harden.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cavs-Wizards Opening Night Recap

Washington (0-1) 84 Cleveland (1-0) 94:

      It was a common joke to say, Cleveland is first in the NBA after this game was over. As it may seem funny, Cleveland is still not a bad team. The game may have been a little different if Wall and Nene would have been able to suit up, but at one point Cleveland was up 16 in the third quarter and cruising. Minus the part where they let them slide back into the game, but I still personally feel the Cavs would have been better than a healthy Wizards squad.

For Washington: You first are going to have to look at Price and Booker shooting a combined 4-22 from the field. Both either were asked to do too much, or tried to do too much as starters. Price really isn't cut out for the position he was in last night, and going 2-9 from three showed. Both Price and Pargo will need to step up their game for being Point Guards, as they combined for 9 assists. They looked much worse as facilitates though than the 9 assists would lead on, but on the positive note 2 total turnovers isn't awful either. Bradley Beal looked pretty good in the first quarter shooting, posting a 2-4 FG and 2-2 3pt FG shooting. The transition 3 he hit in the first quarter was very nice looking, anyone who watched that shot saw Beal's potential from deep. He went 0-4 the rest of the game though, and didn't look ready for the amount of scoring and injured Wizards team would need from him. Jordan Crawford's shot went missing too, as he went 4-13 and 0-6.
       There were some shining lights to this game however. Okafor looked like a good fit. He didn't play offense particularly well, but Okafor did grab 7 boards and blocked 4 shots. His role with the team will look much nicer on a healthy Wizards team, but played pretty good post defense in the beginning. Jan Vesely also was a positive. He didn't blow up the score board with huge numbers, but he put in 21 effective minutes. He shot 3-4, grabbed 4 rebounds, and got a block. If Vesely can play like that when the team has all of his players back, he will look very good in a smaller role. Reclamation project Earl Barron posted a line of 8 points, 4-6 FG, 8 reb, 1 steal, 1 block, and 0 turnovers. If he can play like that consistently than the Wizards got a steal. Overall, the team biggest plus is they weren't healthy. They can potentially play much better than this.

For Cleveland: Well, there were a lot of good performances across the board for the Cavaliers. Kyrie put up 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Varejao put up a very impressive 9, 23!!!, and 9. That stat line also featured 12 offensive rebounds, which is just monstrous. Varejao was 1 of 8 players to post 10 or more offensive rebounds on the team's first game in NBA history. Tristan Thompson had a double-double, and looked like he might of progressed as a player. Waiters put up 17 and out-dueled Beal, but at the same time he shot 43% and turned the ball over 3 times. Not awful, but the consensus vibe on Waiters is that his game isn't exactly efficient. Waiters was 3-8 at the rim, 1-1 mid range, and 2-5 from deep. The most exciting idea around this is the fact he can very easily shoot better than 37.5% at the rim. Waiters was very good breaking down his man off the dribble, but had a hard time putting in his layups. Waiters went too much for the highlight reel finish in my opinion. If he could focus more on finishing the play and contort his body a little less on the layups he would of finished more. I am not sure if maybe in his first game he felt like NBA shot blockers were going to stop him so he was a finishing a little weak, or legitimately felt like some of the moves he tried to pull off were good ideas. We will see going forward with this.
      As for negatives for the Cavs, there really isn't too much. C.J. Miles didn't play great, but I see him being better over the course of the year. Luke Walton played pretty poorly, but who doesn't expect that. Daniel Gibson shot the ball better, but was also on the court for the Wizards comeback (Boobie Defense!!!). You can also be picky and say that the Cavaliers shouldn't of let the Wizards back into the game, but what team doesn't let a team climb back into a game like that sometimes.

Overall: A healthy Cavs team absolutely should be a Wizards team with injuries. If they want to fight for the 8 seed they can't give up too many games of that quality. As for the Wizards, they can't slide too far during the injuries if they want to also grab a low playoff seed. Hopefully they can do a better job with the patchwork team they have.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NBA Opening Night and 5 Story Lines Tonight

Finally! After all of the waiting it is here. It has seemed like last season was ages ago....

     Opening night is one of the most anticipated in any sport, mainly because we wait... and wait... and wait. We then begin to make up strange theories about potential sleepers, and just believe things that are really not rational. Especially in the NBA, where front runners have the biggest advantage over gutsy underdogs. Honestly, in the NBA, we are use to the fact that some teams even just play in coast mode during the regular season (cough... cough... Miami... cough... cough...) because they know they are going to just turn it on in the post season. It is okay though, it doesn't take that much away from the quality of the sport.
     The best part of this season is the fact we got the entire season back. Players had the chance to prepare in the off season with training camp and preseason, and we get a full 82 game schedule. The schedule isn't condensed either, so expect for some fresher legs from game to game. Newly acquired players have a better opportunity to mesh with their teams, so expect the big acquisition guys to be better off than players who were acquired a year ago. Quite frankly, this season is just that much more exciting because it will feel more like a full NBA season.

So I am excited, and here are some things you might want to look forward to tonight.

1) The NUMBER ONE thing to look forward to tonight, is the difference the Celtics have made with their off season moves. Jason Terry and Jeff Green headline a group of basically moderate moves the Celtics have made. Terry will look to fulfill Ray Allen's previous role in the Celtics offense; and while Terry is not quite the spot up shooter as Allen, Terry had a 1.18 Spot Up PPP versus Ray Allen having a 1.23 Spot Up PPP, he really isn't that far off. What I really like what Terry can bring to Boston is another guy who can be a pick and role ball handler. Terry uses this role in the offense 14.7% more of the time than Allen does. Also Terry was 50th in the NBA in this role, which isn't a bad mark. I think having a guy who can roll off the pick and take the jumpshot right away could be very good for Boston. Terry shot 45.4% out of this set and 44.4% from deep, while Allen shot only 27.4% and 20% from three. I think Terry, and also Allen for that matter, could be better fits with their new teams.
     As for Jeff Green, we have already seen what he brings to Boston as a combo forward coming off the bench. I think in an NBA world where Miami now sets the pace, Green could be more valuable this time around than his first stint with the team. Quite frankly, in the small ball sets the Heat run, Green is a perfect candidate to play the 4. He is of similar stature to Battier, or a more human version of LeBron's size. A Rondo, Terry/Bradley/Lee, Pierce, Green, and Garnett line-up can be Boston's best bet for small ball. Thus, Green may be most valuable if the time comes to play the Heat in the playoffs again. I mean, personally, I would much rather see Green on Battier or LeBron than Brandon Bass. As for other games, Green will make a Boston team much more deep, which they ran into issues with depth last year.
     Courtney Lee could be a sneaky good pick up for the Celtics too. At first he will try to be an Avery Bradley fill in, even though he ranks 280th in defensive PPP giving up 0.88. This isn't really a bad mark for a non big-man player, but when compared to Avery Bradley being 29th and giving up 0.72 PPP, there is a decent gap between the two. As for Lee on the offensive side of the floor, he is a decent spot up shooter (1.06 PPP, 65th) and a good cutter when he uses it (4.9% of offensive attacks, 1.45 PPP, 15th). Lee could be a very good bottom of the rotation guy and should be used most while Bradley is gone. As for the other additions (Sullinger, Darko, Melo, and Barbosa) you should expect some contribution from Sullinger, but otherwise it isn't going to be major contribution from the others. Also expect Sullinger to be less effective in a game like tonight, against the Heat, than a slower paced one.

2) Are the Lakers the new evil empire? It was a little bit irritating when I found out Nash was going to be a Laker. Nash seems like the typical good guy player without a championship, so it is hard to fault him, but at the same time I (like many people) don't like the Lakers. Then all of the sudden, boom, Dwight Howard is now a Laker. Many people are frustrated at the team, but also question their possible struggles right away. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers are immediately as successful as the Heat, and if they become as loathed as them too.

3) How much will Miami coast? Miami the last two years have coasted to the two seed in the East behind the Chicago Bulls. No one can really imagine a Rose-less Bulls team to be a legitimate contender for the one seed again. So how much are the Heat going to coast now? Also, how much can they really afford to coast? Personally, I want them to take the regular season as serious as possible, but I can see them losing games they shouldn't like always. Possibly, starting tonight against Boston.

4) Can the new look Dallas Mavericks be successful? It will be interesting to see this team mesh, but they are not healthy day one. Kaman is out, so it looks like Eddy Curry has the task of guarding Dwight Howard on opening night (good luck with that one). Dirk is also missing a considerable amount of time, so what is going to become of the Mavs. Along to Kaman, the Mavericks added Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones, and Darren Collison (And I guess Eddy Curry... Wow...).  Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, and Bernard James were also added to the draft, and I guess they really like Crowder. It is hard to imagine any of these guys become immediate impact players though. So how good are the Mavs? Well they are probably a borderline playoff, that potentially might not make the playoffs. Can Dallas not become a lottery team? Well it might be on Mayo's shoulders, and well, once again good luck with that one...

5) Washington-Cleveland rivalry renewed. When it was the LeBron Cavaliers verses the Gilbert Arenas Wizards, there was a bit of a rivalry. That one was more one sided, but it can be reborn in the team's new eras. Both teams feature former number one pick Point Guard's Kyrie Irving and John Wall. Now both feature top 5 draft pick Shooting Guards in Bradley Beal (3rd) and Dion Waiters (4th). Throw in the fact that both teams want to fight for the 8th seed this year, and quite frankly I find it tonight's most intriguing game.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Raptors 2012-2013 Preview

(This is Something I wrote on SB Nation)
To me, the Toronto Raptors could be one of the NBA's most intriguing teams this season. They made one of the more underrated moves of the past off season in getting Kyle Lowry for a future first round pick. If this move (and the others made) makes the Raptors significantly better like it could; this draft pick could not amount to much. The Raptors then over payed for Landry Fields (3 yr, $20 million), which wasn't brilliant but didn't hurt them too much. Couple those moves with the fact two top 10 picks will join the team and the Raptors have an interesting mix of players, even without getting Steve Nash.
So how does that bode for this season in the Eastern Conference? First off, it depends largely on the progression of some key players, starting with DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is a talented, athletic, 23 year old player who can play both wings. The Raptors drafted him 9th overall based on talent, but so far he hasn't been living up to how he could play. If you look at the basic numbers DeRozan looks not too bad, posting 16.7 PTS, 3.3 REB, and 2.0 AST, while shooting 42%. Advanced stats shows though that DeRozan could be better; DeRozan posted a 12.8 PER while the league average is 15. DeRozan also had a Win Shares Per 48 of .054, while the league average is .100. Both of these stats suggest that he plays below average, not something you want out of a top 10 pick 3 years into the league. Another player that need to improve is former 1st overall pick Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani is a very good offensive player when healthy, but the problem is he doesn't really put anything else on the table. He posted a 9.8 Total Rebound Percentage for the 31 games he played last year, which is just pitiful for a 7 footer. For comparison Ben Uzoh put up a 10.3% in his 16 games as a Raptor last year. BEN UZOH rebounded at a higher rate, that should not be acceptable for any big man. Bargnani isn't a real good 1 on 1 defender either, but that is something I don't know if he will ever put forth the effort to get better there.
Along with these these two players, young big men Jonas Valanciunas and Ed Davis could be key for the Raptors. If one of these two, or preferably both, can be solid options in the rotation then Toronto's front court doesn't look as thin as it does now. I personally feel that Valanciunas could be a solid NBA player right away, but I am very cautious of this statement knowing how long it can take Centers to learn to play in the NBA. I also think Ed Davis could be much better. Even though you need to be cautious with summer league games, Ed Davis showed much more polish this summer. The part of his game I saw the most improvement during these games was in his offensive moves in the post. 2012 first round pick Terrance Ross will look to be in the rotation immediately, but may not be a huge factor to the team right away.
So how does the team stack up? Well the first thing that jumps out to me is that, more than likely, Kyle Lowry is better than any other player the Raptors have had since Chris Bosh. This is a great sign for a team that is looking to make a bit of a jump. The next thing is that Calderon is a way better bench player than the Raptors have had in awhile, and Ross might be right up there with him. This, plus some player progression, could lead to the Raptors being a potent team this season. If that happens you can look at the fact they were willing to wait a season to get Valanciunas as a key reason this team isn't drafting in the top 10 again. Toronto is solid enough to be able to contend for the 8 seed in the East, but with the log jam that is set up who isn't? The Raptors will more than likely finish somewhere between 12 and 8 in the East, depending on player improvement, and Valanciunas and Ross being ready. Overall though, this is a much better team they have fielded in the post-Bosh era of the franchise.

World Series Preview 2012

The San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers meet
in the playoffs for the first time ever.

I'm gonna be honest. I don't even think I should be covering this article. But guess what? I'm going to do it anyways because how often does your team go to the World Series?

The Detroit Tigers are back in the World Series after facing the improbable odds. The Tigers were supposed to run away with the AL Central this year after the signing of Prince Fielder. But as any baseball fan saw this year, that's not the way it happened. Everyone except Miguel Cabrera started the year cold after their early season sweep of the Boston Red Sox. They couldn't hit, then when they started to hit they couldn't pitch, and back to not being able to hit. It was a vicious cycle that allowed the Chicago White Sox to lead the division for the majority of the year. But never count Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, and Prince Fielder out. Eventually they put pitching and hitting together with the help of a great trade (Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for Jacob Turner), and with just a few games left the Detroit Tigers overtook the White Sox for the lead of the AL Central.

The San Francisco Giants share a similar story. They flew under the radar for most of 2012 while going through some controversy. They lost Melky Cabrera, who had been having an MVP season, to suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Leave it to this resilient team to not let that affect them, and after the suspension they went from one game back in the NL West to 8 games up after a 30-14 run. The team is led by the likes of Pablo Sandoval, mid-season addition Hunter Pence, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum. The team that won the World Series in 2010 is much different than this one. That team was led by pitching, and this team has won games by its hitting. The Giants have come back from a remarkable 6 elimination games this postseason without even a single hiccup. This team is going to be an incredible challenge, because they have the talent and intangibles all great teams have to have.

Let's take a look at the series game by game.

Game 1: Tigers @ Giants
Can Justin Verlander keep up his
dominant postseason?
Verlander vs. Zito
This is the most make or break game for the Tigers. The Giants are coming in swinging hot bats after their 3 game comeback vs. the Cardinals. But hold on a second, Verlander is on the mound. I'm gonna give this one to the Tigers, but it is definitely a must win.

Game 2: Tigers @ Giants
Fister vs. either Ryan Vogelsong or Tim Lincecum
The Tigers send out a well rested Doug Fister who's been pitching great in the post season, while the Giants try to figure out which tired arm to throw out there. Vogelsong is on short rest and the Giants have Lincecum to come out of the bullpen like he has in much of the postseason in long relief. I really think the Tigers will have to hit whoever the Giants throw out because I can see Fister giving up maybe two or three runs. I'll give this one to the Tigers.

Game 3: Giants @ Tigers
Matt Cain will play a crucial role if the Giants want to keep
 momentum going against the Tigers.
Possibly Matt Cain vs. Anibal Sanchez
With the additional travel day for more rest, Matt Cain will be on his usual time in between starts. I am not sold on Anibal Sanchez at all as a Tigers fan and think this game will be a blowout victory for the Giants. The key will be to keep it close and not lose all momentum (if the series goes as I'm expecting).

Game 4: Giants @ Tigers
Madison Bumgarner? vs. Max Scherzer
Homefield advantage hasn't mattered much up to this point, but this is quite possibly the biggest toss up game thus far. This pitching matchup is all about who can return to regular season form, as both pitchers have had struggles in the post-season. I'm going to give it to the more talented pitcher in Scherzer if the Tigers bats in Miguel, Prince, and Jackson can get it going. I'm also going to predict a big hit from someone like Andy Dirks of the Tigers to win it late. This could be the Series' most crucial game.

Game 5: Giants @ Tigers
Whoever's ready to go for the Giants vs. Justin Verlander
I've never been a huge fan of the 2-3-2 system in the World Series, but it makes sense with the travel times. I also think it benefits the away team much more than the home team. Good news for the tigers because if they can steal 3 out of the first 4 games, Verlander will be back on the mound looking to close out the series at home. If not, this series is completely up for grabs. I predict the Tigers will win with Verlander giving a complete game, 120 pitch, one run performance.

Game 6: Tigers @ Giants
After the travel day, (I'm assuming Vogelsong) vs Fister
If the series goes this far, I'm going to give the edge to the Giants back at home. I see them taking game 6 if they can ride their momentum back to San Fran. Possibly a big hit in this game from the Kung Fu Panda.

Game 7: Tigers @ Giants
Sanchez vs. Cain
This is the same matchup as game 3, but I think it could end up a little differently. Anibal Sanchez is definitely a wild card, but I think he will have a better performance. I see the game being at 2-2 when somebody needs to make a big hit. Could it be Hunter Pence at home? Buster Posey? Or will it be someone like Delmon Young or Jhonny Peralta? I'll give this game to the Giants if it goes that far, but don't rule out the possibilities of Justin Verlander coming in for this game on three days rest. That man wants a title so bad.

Key Players for the Tigers:
-Justin Verlander (Can he carry the team to two victories by himself?)
-Miguel Cabrera (The leader and slugger of the team will need to take advantage of his limited chances to drive in runs.)
-Most importantly, Jose Valverde (The Tigers will have to be able to trust him to close out a few games because I don't think Phil Coke can do it all by himself.)

Key Players for the Giants:
-Tim Lincecum (The most important player for the Giants. Which Tim Lincecum will show up, 2-time Cy Young winner, or earlier this season Tim Lincecum?)
-Madison Bumgarner (If he can return to his early season form in which he had 16 wins, the Giants will be dangerous.)
-Hunter Pence (He will have to be on the basepaths a ton if the giants want to have a shot against Verlander, Fister, Sanchez, and Scherzer. Justin Verlander is not nearly as effective from the stretch.)
Prince will be cheesin' if he wins his first World Series
and first Tigers World Series since 1984.

My Prediction:
Tigers in 5