NBA Draft > They Are Who We Thought They Were … Right? (Draft Recap)

~ I’m not really sure what to make of how the 2011 NBA Draft panned out for all of the teams. Overall, this is going to be a very tough draft class to grade over the next couple of seasons. There was no clear-cut no brainers for selections. The case can be made that the number 1 pick could have been someone different.

 The draft board held up to form for the first 3 picks and then it became a matter of who’s the best available and what trades can be made. A handful of teams drafted pretty well, just not who many expected.

 The Top 3

 Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, and Enes Kanter were the top 3 on the board and respectively went in that order. Cleveland gets their point guard of the future in Irving. Minnesota gets a talented scorer to pair with Ricky Rubio, and Utah gets the top big man on the board in Kanter.

 Any one of these 3 could have went number 1 in the draft so the Cav’s, T-Wolves, and Jazz should feel good about their choices.

 Kanter was the wild card on the board, his stock rose leading up to the draft. Once he was selected, that’s when the complexion of the draft began to change.

 Cleveland not only had the number 1 pick, they had the number 4 pick as well. Two picks in the top 5 normally has a pretty good outcome. However this was not a strong draft class and that made for slim pickings, even at the top of the board.

 The Cav’s took Tristan Thompson at 4 and that was a bit of a surprise and maybe even a reach. I would’ve liked to have seen the Cav’s make a strong push to use their 4th pick to move up 1 or 2 more spots to grab Kanter or Williams to go along with Irving. That by far would’ve made for a great draft night. However, Irving is still a great pick at 1 and will be marketed big time by the team.

 Minnesota took Derrick Williams at 2 and then the rest of their picks (mostly foreign players who may or may not make it to the league) left plenty of room for criticism. The Timberwolves need a lot of work and it’s safe to say that they may need more than Cleveland at this point. (at least the Cav’s have stability at their head coaching spot) Focus on the good though … Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio are in place, now we get to see if Minnesota can properly build around them.

 Utah had a pretty good draft, addressing needs in the backcourt and frontcourt. Kanter was a great pick for them, and Alec Burks at number 12 will help with depth at the guard position.

 All 3 of these teams addressed needs they had and took advantage of their positioning.

 Kemba, Jimmer, and … Brandon Knight

 Once the top 3 were off the board, there really wasn’t much juice left in this draft with the exception of where Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette were going to end up. It took for Brandon Knight to be taken by Detroit to help set the wheels in motion.

 The talk on the board was that if Knight slipped out of the top 5, it would push both Walker and Fredette down as well. Knight ended up slipping and Detroit was smart to take him. He’s a solid point guard that will help trigger the Pistons rebuilding job. There is a logjam in their backcourt with Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, and Rip Hamilton. Two of those three are most likely going to be moved.

Walker ends up in Charlotte and he’ll get his chance to be the man there. Michael Jordan’s executive moves have always been up for debate, this year he drafted pretty well. Walker has floor general written all over him.

Jimmer Time goes to Sacramento and I think that’s the perfect landing spot for Fredette. The Kings are offensive team that is going to put points up. It’s also the only way they are going to draw attendance next season at a time where they are trying to keep from relocating the franchise. Fredette does not have to focus on being a full time point guard there. He’ll need to defend more than he ever did in college. However let’s be clear here, Fredette will be on the court to shoot the ball and score. Anything else that comes along with that is a huge bonus for Sacramento.

 

TO CHECK OUT THE ENTIRE DRAFT BOARD, CLICK HERE 

Trade Central 

The trade rumors had as strong a buzz as the draft prospects, arguably stronger. Indiana and San Antonio used the draft to trade for opposite reasons. The Spurs picked up prospects that may help with their pending rebuilding project. Tony Parker is currently still a Spur. However, George Hill is on his way to Indiana. The Pacers were a playoff team last season, so this move made more sense for them.

Jimmer and Kemba were acquired through the help of draft day trades. Charlotte picked up Walker and Big Man project Bismack Biyombo (coolest name in draft). It cost them Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston, who now head to Milwaukee. The same deal also involved Sacramento which helped them land Jimmer and reacquire John Salmons from the Bucks.

The trade I liked the most involved the new world champion Dallas Mavericks in a 3 team deal with Portland and Denver. The Mav’s came away with point guard Rudy Fernandez from Portland. He’s a great fit for a team that is built to win more in the short term. Portland also swapped Andre Miller to Denver for Raymond Felton. All 3 teams also came away with potential players from the draft as well.

Overall, this draft class is not expected to be one of the more memorable ones. However, that’s the beauty of sports. Projections and Predictions at the end of the day are just exactly that.

The Heat Is On … LeBron James Is Running Out of Time

 ~ June 9th, 2011 may go down as the most important night in the professional career of LeBron James. If it turns out not to be the most important night, for James it better come very close. One thing is for certain and that’s after his latest no show in the NBA Finals, James is once again at a crossroads.

The Miami Heat and James find themselves in a 2-2 series tie with the Dallas Mavericks after a tough Game 4 loss. Dallas did what they have been doing throughout the playoffs, hang around just enough until the 4th Quarter and then come from behind to steal the win.

The gameplan for the Mav’s has been simple and time tested. The role players step up and the superstar steps in. That superstar being Dirk Nowitzki. That’s pretty much how it goes in the NBA. Now if only someone can tell LeBron James he is a superstar and not a role player, he’d be at least 1 game from a championship instead of 2 games from either a championship or the longest summer of his life.

James has created a lot of this on himself. He went to Miami to win championships and there is nothing wrong with that. It was how he went to Miami that made him public enemy number 1. His performance throughout his career to this point has followed that route. It’s never what James does that puts him in the crossfires of critics, it’s how he does it. His Game 4 performance only fueled the fire of his critics: Read more of this post

The NBA Finals > We’ve Got A Series … More Lessons Learned For Miami

 

~ I try not to blog or post during a playoff series because the ups and downs of a game can be too much at times and unpredictable. The 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks make it very hard to stay with that plan. They did it again. Trailing Miami by 15 points in the 4th quarter with a little over 7 minutes to play, Dallas stormed back and stunned the Heat to win Game 2 of The Finals 95-93.

 

The series is now tied at 1-1 and now heads to Texas for 3 straight games. It’s possible now that Dallas wont have to come back to Miami to win the NBA title.

 

Dirk Nowitzki did it again, scoring the last 9 points of the game for Dallas. The game winner was a left handed layup … the same non-shooting left hand that has a torn tendon in it from Game 1.

 

This series is and will continue to be one that gets analyzed to death. However, it still comes down to execution and which team is mentally tougher. In Game 1, Miami executed better. In Game 2, Dallas was the mentally tougher team.

 

Throughout this game, LeBron James and Dywane Wade ran up a highlight film full of dunks and big shots. When Wade hit that three to put Miami up by 15 points, it clearly looked like the game was over.

 

Lately that’s the way it has gone for Miami, play big time defense throughout the night, then pull away in crunch time with the younger and fresher legs of their two closers. After Wade hit the three though, the defense stopped and the offense lost it’s rhythm.

 

 Dallas has shown throughout the post season that they will not just pack it up and go home. They had more poise and stepped up with the big plays when it mattered most. They played like an experienced playoff team. A mentally tough one.

 

 It would be easy to say that Miami gave this game away. It’s a valid conclusion to draw. It’s a lesson learned for a team that is still learning to play together in situations they have never been in before as a team.

 

The point was made on NBATV by Charles Barkley that Miami should’ve handled this better because they’ve been on this championship level before. That was a completely different Miami team though. This team is being tested in every way possible this year and even though it hurts, they needed a loss like this one. Adversity always comes up when the road seems like it’s getting easier. It’s how Miami reacts in Game 3 that may determine how the rest of the series goes.

 

If you’re a Dallas fan, you should be happy that your team showed you what they didn’t showed you in Game 1. The role players stepped up. Shawn Marion and Jason Terry were steady enough throughout long enough to help Dirk Nowitzki unlike in Game 1. They also took Miami’s best punches throughout three quarters and were able to get off the ropes and recover.

 

If you’re a Miami fan, hope they continue to play great team defense. It opens up the way for those fast breaks when Miami is at their best on offense. They also need Chris Bosh to step up and be that weapon he was in the conference finals. Three games in Dallas coming up, Bosh is from Dallas. It would be pretty interesting to see if he’s able to take full advantage of the obvious moment that wil be presented for him.

 

 Dirk’s game winning layup looked almost too easy. We can second guess that Udonis Haslem should have been guarding him, however  Bosh should’ve played him better than he did. Miami also had a foul to give and basically forgot about it. Give Dirk credit for being aggresive enough to take it to the basket and not only did he score, he scored with the left hand … the injured left hand that some wondered might be a problem.

 

I still think this series is going seven games, the first two games showed why for different reasons. The stats are the stats, and the superstars are on the court. These first two games showed that it still comes down to mental toughness and execution.

The NBA Finals: Dallas vs Miami … Chemistry & Confidence To Be A Champion

~ The NBA grand stage is set for the final performance of the 2010-2011 season. 16 teams came in and 2 teams are now left to battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks took completely different paths to get to this point. However, Miami and Dallas both have what it takes to take that final step. They both have the chemistry and the confidence to secure a championship and it didn’t happen overnight.

I could easily turn this post into a statistics-filled post that could explain why and how Miami or Dallas could win. The bottom line is that to make it to this point, it takes a lot more than the stats.

The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were dismissed this year by Dallas in the 2nd round. The Mav’s then took out the young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder.

Miami took out last year’s runner up to the title, the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round. This was followed by eliminating this year’s MVP Derrick Rose and his Chicago Bulls.

The Heat and the Mav’s have what the Lakers, Thunder, Celtics, and Bulls struggled to maintain. Chemistry and confidence that must go along with the statistics everyone uses to justify teams needing to win.

The confidence a team needs to win does not come before the chemistry needed to turn a collection of talented individuals into a winning team.

Team chemistry does not just happen as soon as a team is put together, it takes time to develop. There is going to be conflict and egos are either going to be put aside or bruised along the way. The price to pay for bad chemistry can set a team back years in some cases.

Miami was expected to be in this position when they put LeBron James and Chris Bosh together with Dwyane Wade last summer. They learned this season through ups and downs that while talent can put a team into a conversation, it takes more to become the conversation.

 

Miami has 3 of the top superstars in the league today … 2 plus 1 really good basketball player in Bosh, depending on the conversation;  surrounded by a mix of role players either in their prime or past it. They have the potential in place to launch a dynasty. That’s just what it is though, it’s potential. Potential buys the groceries, it does not prepare the meal.

Dallas does not have 3 superstars, they only have 1 and that’s Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki has been great in this post season. His performance against the Thunder to get Dallas to the Finals should go down as nearly legendary when we look back on it. However, it’s what Dallas has done this year to surround Nowitzki with the talent he needed to get back to the Finals.

 

Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Peja Stojakovic. These are three players who have not only each had individual success in their careers, they are also into the sunset of their careers. They have stepped up and allowed for Nowitzki to play to the level he is right now.

 Dallas took a major roll of the dice to bank on three well seasoned NBA veterans to play major roles in a championship run this year. You throw Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler into the mix and the hustle of JJ Barea and the gamble has paid off to this point.

These are two teams that would not be anywhere near the Finals right now if not for how well the team chemistry has come together. When the playoffs started, how many can really say that Dallas or Miami were sure things to get to this point? The Mav’s because of their age and question marks about their roster and Miami because of their struggles to incorporate the talents of Wade and James on the court together.

Which team is going to win this series? What’s guranteed is that this will be a great one and that it’s too close to really call. Miami looks like it has figured out the proper balance of James and Wade. Bosh is now embracing his role as the 3rd weapon. The superstars are going do their part to make this a great series. Miami has the younger legs and Wade and James are the two best players on the floor.

If there ever was a key for Dallas to win this series, it will be their bench and their depth. If Miami figures out a way to deny Nowitzki enough to limit him from going off, someone else on Dallas will have to step up.

I think this series will go seven games and that would be great for the league, the fans, and definitely the media networks. What Dallas has been able to do in the playoffs has been amazing. However, Miami is peaking at the right time and I don’t see them losing a Game 7 for the championship on their home court.

Miami in 7 games over Dallas.

 If Dallas wins, it gets Nowitzki, Terry, Kidd, Marion, and Peja the championship they have chased all of their careers and have fell short to reach. If Miami wins, it could possibly launch a new sports dynasty to talk about for years to come. It also would give LeBron James the championship he needs to offically launch the discussion of where he stands among the NBA’s all-time elite.

Two teams, two different paths to get to this stage. It took talent and skill at it’s highest level. They both have that. Between Miami and Dallas, at least 4 of the players on the court are future hall of famers. The chemistry is there and because of that, the confidence is there as well.

These 2 teams met in the Finals in 2006 and even though Miami won that year, those were 2 completely different teams. This wont be the start of a new NBA rivalry for years to come like Lakers-Celtics. For this year though, we as fans get to sit back and enjoy what should be a great battle on the grand stage.

Dallas 4 Wins Away From The Elusive Goal, OKC Not Ready For Prime Time

 

~ This series had the potential to go seven games, it only went five. The Oklahoma City Thunder had the potential to make the NBA Finals, they came up three wins short. Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks for returning to the NBA Finals for the 1st time since 2006. The Mav’s knocked off the Thunder 4 games to 1 to win the series and move on. They now await the winner of the Miami-Chicago series over in the Eastern Conference finals.

For the Thunder, lessons will hopefully be learned from this series. They are a very young team that had their youth exposed in this series thanks to a series of late game mental mistakes in Games 4 and 5.

 OKC blew a 15 point lead with 5 minutes to play in Game 4 and it cost them in overtime. In game 5 they blew a 6 point lead with a little over 4 minutes left to play. They are now headed home for the summer.

What the Thunder are going to have to determine for next season is who exactly is the point guard. This team was repeatedly outplayed in their half-court offensive sets and looked lost at times on what play to run next. This played a big part in their 4th quarter collapses in Games 4 and 5.

 As good and talented as Russell Westbrook is, with the exception of his triple-double performance that helped knock out the Grizzlies, Westbrook was an enigma for this series against the Mav’s. Is he going to be a point guard? Is he a combo-guard?  He’s also still growing up and the Thunder should hope that he will only grow from this series.

 OKC has a solid 1-2 punch with Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The Kendrick Perkins trade didn’t exactly work out the way it was intended. They did though see James Harden take a step forward this season. Many said this team arrived to the big stage a year too early. If that’s the case, and it looked like it was, next season the pressure will definitely be on for this Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

 The Mav’s move on and right now it is hard to pick against them winning the championship right now. Dirk Nowitzki is playing at his highest level right now and badly wants and needs a NBA title to put a stamp on his legacy. His Game 4 performance against OKC was historic and his go ahead three pointer with a little over a  minute to go in Game 5 helped put the Thunder away.

 It’s all coming together for a team that looks like a who’s who of flashbacks from post season’s past failures.Long time Phoenix Sun Shawn Marion has never been to the Finals. All his Suns teams did was make the playoffs while he was there.

 Peja Stojakovic is headed to the Finals. Peja was such a huge part of the success for those Sacramento Kings playoff teams.

 Jason Terry was with Nowitzki on that 2006 Finals team that loss to the Miami Heat.

 Jason Kidd gets a chance to add to his legacy as one of the greatest point guards in history. Kidd has emerged as a clutch shooter as well and provided Dallas with something the Thunder did not have on the floor, leadership.

 These are all players who are looking to make up for years worth of playoff shortcomings. They know that this maybe the last chance they’ll get. Thats what makes it all the more special that they are all playing so well right now at the right time. 4 wins away from a championship they have chased for so long as individuals. They have a chance to secure it as a team.

NBA Playoffs > ( Video) Kevin Durant With The Monster Dunk On Brendan Haywood!

~ Kevin Durant Leaves Peja Stojakovic Standing And Proceeds To Throw Down What Could Be The Dunk Of The 2011 Playoffs So Far. Not One of Brendan Haywood’s Better Moments In The League … Throw It Down KD!!

NBA Playoffs > Westbrook Gets The Point, Thunder Advance To West Finals

 

~ For the Oklahoma City Thunder, it took seven games to get done. They took out the Memphis Grizzlies to advance to the Western Conference finals. The Thunder now head to Dallas for Game 1 against a well rested Mavs team. To become a championship team, adversity must be taken on and there is no way around that. The Thunder needed game seven to happen for them to take the next step. The next step to not only reach the next round, to also grow as a team that is now eight wins away from playing for an NBA championship.

This was a great series and the Memphis Grizzlies deserve to be applauded for the run they put on in this post season. They came in as the 8th seed, new to the playoffs and looked like they have been playing playoff basketball for years. Zach Randolph took full advantage of the national spotlight this series provided. One look at this Grizzlies team and I can only wonder what would have been had Rudy Gay been healthy enough to play. Memphis grinded it out with a blue-collar work ethic on the court that the uptempo, run and gun Western Conference was not prepared for. It almost took the Grizzlies into the next round. When it mattered most though, they needed another scorer on the floor, and thats where Gay would’ve came in hand. We’ll now see how they go about preparing for next season because they are no longer the unknown playoff team now. The expectations will definitely be set.

 

The playoffs are now down to four teams. No Lakers, Celtics, or Spurs. It’s a brand new show this year with new and younger faces. That means growing pains are to be expected. The Thunder are a young team, fresh faces, and the talent to win an NBA title this year. They have the 1-2 punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In a era where teams are rushing to put together their own versions of “The Big 3”, the Thunder are a throwback to the playoff teams that featured a big time scorer for a big man and a point guard who could drop 40 points if called on. However, this team needed adversity to challenge them. Westbrook is really a scoring guard who is playing the point guard position. A look back at the most recent “scoring guards” in NBA history and you already know where the storyline is going to go …

“SHOOT THE J’ … SHOOT IT!!!”

During Oklahoma City’s 1st round series against Denver and throughout the series against Memphis, Westbrook’s shot selection became a national headline. If Durant is the face of the team, why is Westbrook taking more shots than him? There was a stretch where everytime Westbrook brought the basketball up the court, it could be predicted that he was going to shoot first and ask questions last. History has a way of repeating itself. The Minnesota Timberwolves had a young 1-2 punch back in the day and basketball fans know what happened to that duel. The point guard / “scoring guard” Stephon Marbury became “Starbury” and Kevin Garnett didn’t exactly want to share his nickname as “The Big Ticket”. Marbury ended up being traded away and Garnett eventually won his NBA ring … with the Boston Celtics.

Westbrook and Durant made it clear to the media and fans that there is no beef between the two. Durant has come out and said that he actually encourages Westbrook to keep shooting. However, if the playoffs have shown anything this year it’s how important the point guard position is to a team’s title hopes. Here are the Thunder now in game seven, one loss away from elimination and Westbrook clearly had to make a choice. Play within the system or go against the system. He went with the system and at least for one day was the most dangerous point guard in the league. Westbrook didn’t score 40 points … he only scored 14. It was the 14 assists and 10 rebounds to go along with those points that made him the key to sending Memphis home for the summer. He became only the 5th player to register a game seven triple-double.

What Westbrook’s game did allow for Durant to do was what’s expected of him and that’s score, 39 points to be exact. The facts are the facts at the end of the day. Westbrook played in control, within the system and got his team involved in the offensive flow. It allowed for Durant to go off for 39. It allowed for James Harden and Nick Collison as role players to play their parts. The Thunder are tough to beat when they play like this. It remains to be seen how they respond to a well rested Dallas team that has been waiting over a week to play this series. A lot will depend on Westbrook and if he is ready to embrace what it takes to lead his team more as a point guard than a “scoring guard”. At least they are now a playoff team that has faced adversity head on and know now that they can overcome it.

%d bloggers like this: