Life Without Dwight?

Well, the 5 teams Dwight could play for next year have all pitched their presentations to him and now await his decision. The Lakers’ meeting with Dwight was the shortest one of them all, and while this doesn’t really mean anything it could be time to start thinking about the Lakers’ future without him.

Personally, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t land in Houston or LA. Houston offers a roster full of three-point shooters (similar to the Orlando team he led to the Finals) that could adapt to Dwight’s ideal style of play and pair him with rising superstar James Harden. LA offers him the chance to build a legacy unlike any other since winning with the Lakers is a bigger deal than winning elsewhere.

Aside from the fact that I know the Lakers need Dwight to be in contention next year, I truly believe that LA, with a healthy Kobe, offers him the best chance to win a title. The simple reason is that the Lakers ended last season 28-12, ended 7th in the west while ailing through one of the most injury riddled seasons that come to mind. My additional reasoning though, is that Dwight Howard is not the guy that will carry a team to a title. Not now for sure and I don’t know if he’ll ever turn into a guy that can. James Harden is not going to carry his team to a championship any time soon. Kobe can. If Kobe Bryant comes back healthy and Dwight and Pau can continue to develop the chemistry they found towards the latter part of last season, I think this automatically places the Lakers ahead. A healthy Kobe is a big “if” but if there is anything I have learned over the years is to never doubt Kobe. The guy is a machine, a machine that has temporarily broken down.

So there is my reasoning for why Dwight should stay in LA. I would not be surprised if he didn’t though; it is obvious that he does not embrace the pressure that comes with playing for the Lakers, and, to be honest, D’Antoni does not have the appeal other coaches have.

Clearly, by other coaches I mean Phil Jackson.

If Dwight leaves the first person to blame is not Mike D’Antoni, it’s not Kobe Bryant, it’s Jim Buss. You think Dwight would be having all these doubts if Phil Jackson was the coach. Come on. If anything, Dwight would be begging the Lakers to bring him back to play for Jackson again and quite frankly, Kobe probably would not have broken down and the Lakers might have made some noise in the playoffs.

If, might, if…All these hypothetical scenarios were just one decision away. If Dwight leaves, it’s on Jim Buss.

What would life after Dwight be like? Well, the Lakers do not have cap flexibility to make  any other significant signings. Apart from Pau Gasol (they better not trade Pau), they have no other tradable assets. Additionally, it is not certain Kobe will be healthy for the start of the season (I think he will) and so the roster will be very similar to last years’. This is unless Mitch Kupchak works his magic like he has so many times before and the Lakers end up with a team in the top tier of the western conference.

All that remains now is to wait for Dwight to make his decision and go from there. Not the ideal situation to be in, but then again, we could be the Bobcats…

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Jrue on the Move

In what was the most shocking trade on draft night, the Philadelphia 76ers traded their young all-star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for 6th pick in the draft Nerlens Noel and a top-5 protected first round pick in the 2014 draft.

Initially, I was shocked that Philadelphia traded the only guy that kept them afloat in a season where Andrew Bynum did not play at all. I know how good Jrue was first hand because I drafted him pretty early in my fantasy basketball league last year and was able to track his progress. At the end of the day, while it’s clear that Philadelphia is throwing away next season, and maybe even the one after that while Nerlens and their 11th pick Michael Carter-Williams develop into solid NBA players, this might work out for them in the long-run.

Best case scenario for Philly:

They are so bad next year that they end up with a top 5 pick in the draft, potentially even the top pick depending on who sucks more, them or the Celtics. New Orleans is not bad enough to get a top 5 pick, but not good enough to make the playoffs, ending up in the lottery. In this case, Philadelphia might have two top-10 picks in a draft with many talented players to place alongside Noel, who is supposedly good enough to have been the first pick this year,  Carter-Williams, a good passing PG out of Syracuse and Evan Turner.

Worst case scenario for Philly:

Noel can’t progress fast enough because of injury issues, they still don’t get a top-3 pick in next year’s draft and New Orleans is so bad they end up with a top-5 pick in the draft, a pick they’d get to keep.

All in all, Philadelphia has traded an all-star for an injured center for the second year in a row heading into another season filled with uncertainty and a lot of losses. New Orleans just got better and if Eric Gordon can stay healthy, they could be primed for a playoff push next season.

Barring any other signings by these 2 teams for now, these are my predictions for next season:

Philadelphia: 20-24 wins

New Orleans: 34-38 wins

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The New Jersey Celtics

kg pierce

The 2013 NBA draft was held yesterday, and while it was filled with some crazy trades no one saw coming, it was definitely overshadowed by the deal the Celtics and the Nets finalized.

The Celtics traded Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for some picks, some scrubs and Marshon Brooks. The big 3 era in Boston has been effectively over for a couple of years, although now, with Doc Rivers (going all Dwight and Carmelo on the Celtics) going to the Clippers and KG and Pierce traded, it is officially over.

The thought process from both sides behind this trade is easy to figure out; the Celtics are entering full-on rebuilding mode with Rajon Rondo as the centerpiece (unless he gets traded as well) and the Nets acquire 2 proven veterans with championship experience to bolster their squad for the present.

Speaking of Rajon Rondo, I wonder how he feels about this trade. Here is how the conversation between Rondo and Boston GM Danny Ainge went (in my mind at least):

Ainge: Rajon, we’re handing you the keys to the team. It’s all yours.

Rondo: It was already mine before I got injured. What are you saying?

Ainge: We’re trading KG and Paul to the Nets.

Rondo: Okay, who are we getting? Lopez? Form a one-two punch me and him ya know?

Ainge: Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Brooks, some picks and this guy called Kris Joseph who might or might not be real. Never heard of him, but he made the numbers work.

(Awkward Silence)

Rondo: Am I being punk’d? Is that still a thing?

Ainge: No Rajon we are just–

Rondo: We are just what?! Are you f***ing kidding me? Kris Joseph? Humphries? So we are just throwing the next what, three years away? I’m here to win titles.

Ainge: I understand your frustration but we are in this for the long haul, we’ll be fine. Once you come back healthy, and we get a top pick in next years draft, we’ll be back in the hunt.

Rondo: I’ll let you know when I’m healthy, maybe I’ll take the year off like D Rose.

Ainge: Oh that’d be great, it would improve our chances of getting Wiggins in the next draft. Good thinking.

Rondo: I’m out.

(Storms out)

Wow, that was tense huh.

Moving on. Brooklyn now has a starting lineup of Lopez, KG, Pierce, Johnson and Williams. No doubt they have gotten better, especially if they can get another solid contributor off the bench alongside Terry and Blatche. But here is my problem, KG and Pierce are done soon. Real soon, and if you ask me, is this team better than Miami? No. Is this team better than Indiana? No. Is this team better than Chicago? No. So Brooklyn is still going to have a tough time in the East and still not go anywhere while paying a lot of money. At the end of the day, since Nets ownership has very deep pockets, money is not a problem, so in that case, you really cannot blame them for trying to win now. Especially since their two best players are still in their prime and will be 2 years from now.

My guess: This thing lasts 2 years, no championships, then go at it again with Lopez and Williams as the centerpieces.

Trade not official yet since no teams can officially trade before July 10th, but it seems to be a done deal. What a way to kick off the offseason.

Let me know what you think and be on the lookout for my next post where I blast Philadelphia for trading my boy Jrue Holiday. That’s nuts.

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Breaking up the Big 3? Part II

So in the past post I argued that the Miami Heat Big 3 should be broken up. In this post, “Hungry” Jai has his own point of view:

Ever since the Miami Heat Big 3 formed, there have been constant doubts as to whether the experiment would work. Now, 3 years later, after three Finals appearances and two Championships, there are still those who contend that this should mark their last year together.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The experiment worked. Short of a meltdown against an inspired, one-hit wonder Mavericks team, the Heat would be celebrating a third title right now. In a League where players like Karl Malone, Steve Nash and Tracy McGrady spend their entire careers trying to win a championship, and a guy like Dirk Nowitzki has his entire legacy defined by one, the Heat’s dominance has been nothing short of spectacular.

It is difficult to justify the dismissal of any of the Big Three.  Many think that Wade is past his expiry date, and he certainly did look listless and out of touch in the finals, with the exception of a few flashes. Those flashes, however, may alone be enough to justify his presence, as it showed what a team with two of the most dangerous wing players can do. He will have an entire summer to rehab his knees, and while he probably will never go back to being the D-Wade of old, the Heat don’t need him to be that player anyway.

The designated scapegoat, inevitably, is Chris Bosh. Does he really deserve to make 17.5 million dollars this year? How can he possibly earn the same as LeBron and Wade?

Admittedly, when compared to a player like LaMarcus Aldridge, who has superior numbers in most categories, has the same PER, and gets 4 million less, it seems hard to justify. But consider that Bosh has done something that any superstar (and Bosh, in his Toronto days, was a superstar) would struggle to do: become third banana, and still make a valuable contribution. And this is something he excels at, getting nearly 17 points a game on only 12 shots this season. This is not, of course, to say that there is no better alternative. David West can do most of what Chris Bosh does, is a superior rebounder, and adds an element of physicality and toughness that the Heat seemed to lack sometimes against Indiana. But what may seem like a great fit on paper may not be the case in reality. Did anyone predict that Amare and Carmelo would work so poorly together in New York? Would Bosh’s replacement jell as well with the Heat? Would he fit in well with Spoelstra’s complicated system, which requires a combination of a high basketball IQ and serious athleticism? Would he be able to handle the criticism that is inevitable when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are your teammates?  Bosh deals with criticism by hanging his head down and accepting responsibility. How many players are willing to do that? Anyone else might point a finger at Lebron going into hero mode, or Wade shooting mid rangers when he couldn’t seem to make anything. The result would be a million awkward press conferences, a lack of trust like the one between the Kobe-Bynum-Gasol Lakers, and generally a loss of chemistry. For a team that thrives off helping each other on defense and crisp ball movement on offense, that would be devastating.

The truth is that we have no idea how player ‘X’ will fit in. And the Heat should not disband the best team of the last 5 years just to satisfy their curiosity.

Fundamentally, as long as the Heat can keep this core together, they will be fine. Bosh is 29. LeBron is just 28. Wade, at 31, still should have a couple of good seasons left in him as long as his knees heal up. The experiment is working, and the future is rosy, as long as the Heat don’t mess with it.

Let us know who you agree with and what you think in the comments section below. Also, hit me up if you’d want to write a guest post like this one or if you have any suggestions on what I should write about. More posts coming soon!

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Breaking up the Big 3? Part I

It was only days ago that the Miami Heat won their second title in three years, so questioning whether the core of their championship team should be broken up might seem comical. It might be, but we were a Ray Allen 3 or a Manu Ginobili free throw away from this being a legitimate conversation. In fact, I was almost certain that if Miami lost this year, the big 3 would have been broken up and Erik Spoelstra sent packing.

I don’t know if there are many people out there that believe either Bosh or Wade should be traded, and I will assume that some of the people that do, do so because they think breaking them up would stop them from winning next year. I’m in the camp (of 1?) that believes that Miami should break up the big 3 in order to be in a better position to make the finals and potentially win it all again.

The conversation of breaking up the Big 3 starts and ends with Chris Bosh. Miami will not trade Dwayne Wade, who despite struggling most of the playoffs did enough in the finals to complement James and win the title. Now before I start bashing Bosh, I do give him credit for his rebound and 2 blocks late in game 6 of the finals, but in my mind that is not enough to warrant him getting paid over $100 million. I will discard the regular season in my argument because, let’s be honest, LeBron James can win 60 games by himself (Cleveland).

These were Bosh’s numbers in the playoffs:

Playoffs FG% 3p% RPG APG BPG TO PPG
First Round 0.538 0.429 8.0 1.0 1.8 1.8 12.8
Conf. Semifinals 0.500 0.500 8.6 2.0 2.2 1.2 13.6
Conf. Finals 0.377 0.500 4.3 0.7 1.0 1.0 11.0
Finals 0.462 0.000 8.9 2.1 1.6 1.0 11.9
Playoff Averages 0.458 0.405 7.3 1.5 1.6 1.2 12.1

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they are certainly a chapter of it. Chris Bosh has turned into the most overpaid role player in the NBA. It’s not all his fault. Spoelstra’s system is predicated upon spreading the floor and putting the ball in James’ hands so he can make plays and not very many plays are run for Bosh who in the playoffs lived off of long jumpers. Despite shooting well from the 3, teams will definitely live with him taking that shot. I was talking to a friend of mine, the biggest Miami Heat fan I know and he believes that if Bosh does not get any paint touches and just roams around the perimeter, then it is obvious that he does not fit the system and it might be time for him to go despite winning back-to-back titles. He also mentioned that Miami going “small” a lot of times and playing Bosh at the 5 effectively marginalizes him and, unless Miami can get a good center in the offseason, it s time for him to go. I agree; Bosh is completely overmatched when guarding bigger, better players (Hibbert: 22 and 10, Duncan: 19 and 12) and is not good enough rebounding the ball to where there is any reason to keep him on the roster. How about trading him to the Pelicans for Ryan Anderson? I’m not saying the Pelicans would necessarily do that but Anderson is a much better fit than Bosh to play alongside LeBron James.

It is hard to write this article at this point in time and not come off as a “hater,” but I truly believe that, if the right deal is available, Miami should trade Chris Bosh. Winning a title is hard, repeating is harder, three-peating…

Part II will be posted soon, in which a guest blogger argues that there is no need to fix something that is not broken.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

(Stats courtesy of stats.nba.com)

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A Letter to Dwight Howard

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Hey Dwight,

How’s it going? I heard you went fishing, that’s cool. I heard you were auditioning for movie roles, that’s cool too man. I’m glad you’re having fun. Just remember, there’s no Hollywood in Houston.

Okay, I lied; there is a Hollywood in Houston.

In all seriousness though, Dwight, have you decided where you’re going to play next season? I for one hope you pick the place that you feel suits you best (Lakers), where you will have the best chance of winning the title (Lakers) and the place that will leave you in prime position to pursue acting after you are done in the NBA (Oh come on its gotta be the Lakers).

I admit it, I am not coming from an unbiased position.

As you noticed, us Laker fans can be unforgiving; we give you little credit for coming back from back surgery rehab early, questioned your lack of effort early in the season (not unreasonable) and bashed you for not winning us a playoff game this year. But who are we kidding, even those that say we don’t want you back (myself not included) know that we NEED you back if we are to have any shot at winning the title next year.

I have no doubt you are going to be a monster next year. You’ll win defensive player of the year again, and let’s be honest, this season was doomed from the beginning. Nash got hurt the second game of the season, changed coaches 5 games in, the appropriate offensive system was not figured out until the last 40 games….and so much more. Kobe broke down carrying the team into the playoffs. That’s got to motivate you right. That’s the kind of leader you should be striving to be.

Why would you not want to play with one of the greatest players of all time. It would be unfair not to give it another shot. Great players have to want to play where the lights shine the brightest. They must embrace pressure. Dwight, you are a great player, you just didn’t (couldn’t?) show it this past season.

Anyway, let me know what you’re going to do.

Just kidding, I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

PHD

PS: Can you please work on your post game this summer? It is hard for us fans to hear you say you need more touches down low when that’s not one of your best assets.

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The Neymar Conundrum

Neymar faced a life-changing decision, would he play for  Barcelona or for Real Madrid? His former club, Santos FC, accepted both Spanish teams’ offers and left the decision up to their star player. He could have done something like this to announce his decision to the world, but that would have been stupid. Instead, he released a short paragraph he wrote on multiple social media platforms thanking his fans back home and publicizing his decision to play for Barcelona.

He has since been presented in front of over 55,000 hopeful fans at the Camp Nou and scored the two best goals and dished out the best assist at the confederations cup leading Brazil to the next round where they will most likely face either Uruguay or Nigeria. (Unless they lose to Italy in which case they will probably lose to Spain in the semis)

Despite all the uncertainty leading up to his decision, for me it was not a question of “if” he was going to join Barcelona, but more a matter of when. I was just worried  that Barcelona was going to end up overpaying for him. The number that had been thrown out there previously was 60 million, which I thought was waaaaaaaay too much. That’s why I was extremely relieved we were able to get that down to 57. The only reason this number is not lower is because Real Madrid, knowing that they had pretty much no chance of landing Neymar, decided to start a bidding war making Barcelona pay about 15-20 million more than they wanted to.

So there I was worried about the price tag on this unproven player with no European experience that had still not exploded with his national team and… Bayern Munich happened. Messi was not 100%, the team had no depth on the wings and looked completely lost out there. Ball possession was futile because no clear goal scoring opportunities were created and the high intensity pressure Barcelona has been known for all these years was no where to be found. We got deservingly destroyed and this is why my mind-set changed from being on the fence about Neymar, to knowing we needed him more than we thought and being ecstatic when the announcement was finally made. He is going to help the team’s clear Messi-dependence with his speed and excellent one-on-one game down the left wing. He will have even more space to operate in Barcelona than he did back in Santos because the defense cannot crowd him like they often do with Messi and Iniesta. He has come in saying all the right things about how he is just there to help Messi and the team continue to succeed. There is no doubt in my mind that he can fit seamlessly into the team as it stands right now. The only cause for concern is how long he might take to adapt to Spanish soccer, but after that is done, there is no doubt in my mind he and Messi will be great together.

CANNOT WAIT!

Let me know what you guys think about the signing and how he will fit (won’t fit?) with the team.

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