Monthly Archives: January 2014

Deserved All-Star Reserves

 

While NBA fans have their vote to be accounted for, All-Star selections continue to become to lose its significance while turning into a popularity contest. It has benefitted many players such as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Indiana Pacers forward Paul George among first time starters in the All-Star game. Yet, it becomes a difficult process when there are players going unnoticed due to the marquee players in the league. Here are those player who deserve an invite to New Orleans to be an All-Star.

Western Conference

LaMarcus Aldridge- Portland Trail Blazers

     Make no mistake that forward LaMarcus Aldridge is having a  MVP season thus far.  Portland’s early season success has been led by Aldridge who is averaging a career high in points and rebounds as they have matched their win total from the previous season. Aldridge has certainly been the catapult for that success as he looks like he is in the prime of his career.

 

Chris Paul- Los Angeles Clippers

Before the shoulder injury to Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers were clicking on all cylinders. While average double digit numbers in points and assists, Paul has arguably been the best point guard in the association as he is responsible for his teams 42 points per game. Due to the injury, his goal is to return in time for the game.

 

David Lee- Golden State Warriors

David Lee has played himself into the All-Star conversation and deserves a second consecutive selection to New Orleans. While Curry has stepped into the leadership role, Lee’s productivity has not regressed from last season as he becomes a reliable second option for Curry and the Warriors to go to.

 

Damian Lillard- Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers are one of few NBA teams who deserve multiple All-Star bids for the exceptional play of Damian Lillard. Picking up where he has left off last season, Lillard has continued to play with poise and leadership from the second year player. Hitting back to back game-winning shots on the road, he has shown us why four years of college basketball can groom a player before making the leap into the NBA.

 

 

DeMarcus Cousins- Sacramento Kings

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins deserves an All-Star spot for what he has done on the court for Sacramento. With dramatic growth in his maturity, Cousins may be the best offensive center in the game today with career high averages in points, rebounds, and steals. The Kings are not having large amounts of success in wins, but they continue to improve this season starting with the man in the middle with an opportunity to join the USA Men’s Basketball roster.

 

 

James Harden- Houston Rockets

James Harden is the best shooting guard on the offensive side of the ball in the Western Conference. Leading his team in scoring at 23.7 ppg, Harden is still growing as his game evolves to a higher level. However, the Houston Rockets will need him to lead the way in order to take off and make a championship run.

 

Dwight Howard- Houston Rockets

After a nightmare season in Los Angeles as a Laker, Howard hasn’t had the ideal season that would silence his critics. Only averaging 18 points per game from 17 the previous season, he has not lived up to expectations as the next great Rockets big man. However, Howard’s ability on the defensive end makes him an All-Star in the Western Conference. There aren’t many prolific centers in today’s NBA which is a positive for him to flourish as an All-Star.

 

Eastern Conference

Demar Derozan- Toronto Raptors

     Since the Rudy Gay trade, the Toronto Raptors have found success led by the play of the dynamic swingman Demar Derozan. Evolving into a premier shooting guard in this league, he is having an all-star caliber season averaging career high numbers in points, rebounds, and assists as the Raptors sit atop of the Atlantic Division while maintaining a steady mindset geared towards the postseason.

 

Joakim Noah- Chicago Bulls

Joakim Noah is the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls as they thrive through the adversity of injuries and trades for another season. His intangibles have became a healthy virus to his teammates that is preached by head coach Tom Thibodeau. Noah is the least flashy player on this list, but he plays with 110% effort every night and plays for more than the name on his back. Noah might not be the most talented in New Orleans if he gets the nod, but he certainly will be the most passionate, energized, and the hardest worker.

 

 

John Wall- Washington Wizards

If the season would end today, the Washington Wizards would clinch a playoff berth led by the terrific play of John Wall. After signing a $80 million dollar extension, Wall has been spectacular displaying his talents to the world. While averaging a career high 20 ppg, Wall is confident he will lead the Wizards into the postseason. We should see some dazzling highlights in the All-Star game if he is named as a reserve.

 

Chris Bosh- Miami Heat

Due to the problematic knees of Dwyane Wade, various NBA fans have a found new respect and appreciation for what Chris Bosh does for the Miami Heat. Some nights, he is being asked to defend the opponents best low post player while carrying a heavy set of the offensive load. Numbers do not tell the story of how much Bosh means to this Miami team as he will be counted on. The playoffs should definitely be indicative of Bosh’s worth and/or future in Miami.

 

 

Lance Stephenson- Indiana Pacers

Indiana’s early success during the regular season has been somewhat predicated on the play of Lance Stephenson. As he leads the league with three triple doubles, Stephenson is having fun where there are nights when he is the Pacers best player with playmaking abilities that catches the crowds attention.

 

Roy Hibbert- Indiana Pacers

Roy Hibbert is the NBA’s best defensive post player in the association. Being the backbone and last line of his team’s defense, he is a natural NBA center with old school post moves in the paint that we don’t see today. He may not necessarily be box office or must see TV, but Indiana deserves multiple All-Stars.

 

 

Kyle Lowry- Toronto Raptors

In a contract year, while being the topic of discussion in trade rumors, the play of Kyle Lowry has warranted himself an all-star bid to New Orleans this season. Becoming a jack of all trades in Toronto, Lowry is averaging a career high in points and assists as he pairs well with Derozan to lead the Raptors on a mission of being division champions and ultimately earning himself a lucrative contract in the near future.

MJ Mondays- Rookie of the Year

As we take a look at recent NBA Draft history, there have been few selected in the upper echelon that have had an immediate impact on their respective teams while many are considered as a ‘bust’ for not living up to expectations. The bar has been set at a high level when young players are selected in the top 10 due to the early success for many rookies in the past. However, look no further than the debut season of Michael Jordan.

In a rookie class with the likes of Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and John Stockton, Jordan would be named Rookie of the Year during the 1984-85 NBA season.

“This award is nice, but I just feel it is very important for each individual to go out and contribute to this team,” Jordan said.

Michael Jordan earned many accolades during his debut season including All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Rookie Team, and an All-Star berth. MJ would lead the Bulls in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, as he led the team into the postseason for the first time since 1981 as they would be eliminated in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Michael Jordan earned many accolades during his debut season including All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Rookie Team and an All-Star berth. MJ would lead the Bulls in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, leading the team into the postseason since 1981 as they would be eliminated in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

     We have reached the halfway mark through the 2013-14 NBA season. One that has been filled with enticing highlights from superstars along with the surprising play of teams improving from the previous season. On the other side, we watch some of our favorite players get knocked down, once again, by injuries. Before we embark on the second half of the season, we discuss the selections of our mid season awards.

Rookie of the Year- Michael Carter-Williams

    It has been a sub par season for the NBA rookies, overall. However, despite the play of rookie guard Victor Oladipo, there is no rookie playing as well as Michael Carter-Williams. The 6’6″ guard has shown the ability to be a leader on the court, leading all rookies in scoring, assists, and steals. While injuries have been a burden to him, the sky is the limit for Carter-Williams as he improves to become an elite guard in this league.

Most Improved Player of the Year- Lance Stephenson

     Kudos to Lance Stephenson as he continues to make leaps of progression in his game for the Indiana Pacers. Remembered for his choke sign given to LeBron James during the 2011-12 NBA Playoffs, he is, now having his best season thus far. Averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists, the sporadic play of Stephenson has been under control for majority of this season and it brings Indiana excitement to its fans. Also, it gives his team another weapon to rely on. The man who is proclaimed to be  ‘Born Ready’ deserves heavy all-star consideration as he will become a hot commodity on the free agent market this offseason. Not to mention, he is a walking triple double waiting to happen as he leads the league with three.

Sixth Man of the Year- Nick Young

      As the nightmare of a season continues for the Los Angeles Lakers, Nick Young gives Laker nation something to cheer for. After the early season move to the bench, ‘Swaggy P’ has been nothing less than spectacular, leading the team in scoring averaging 17 points per game. It may be difficult for him to win the award due to the minimum success of Los Angeles has had despite being the team’s most consistent player this year.

Defensive Player of the Year- Roy Hibbert

     As the Indiana Pacers are atop of every defensive category, Roy Hibbert is the anchor of that side of the ball. Hibbert is the backbone of this team as his defensive post presence allows perimeter defenders to be more aggressive. When they play aggressive on the perimeter, it allows Hibbert to erase any mistakes that were made. The Pacers postseason success is relied on the defense of the big man in the middle.

Coach of the Year- Jeff Hornacek

      Before the 2013-14 season began, everybody had the Phoenix Suns projected to finish in the bottom half of the Western Conference. Head coach Jeff Hornacek has surpassed critics expectations as they are among teams in the playoff hunt after missing the postseason the previous three seasons. Without rising star Eric Bledsoe out with a knee injury, he is doing a great job with the roster led by Goran Dragic. On pace to eclipse the win total from the previous year, Hornacek has his team playing very well as they are improving as the season moves into the second half.

Most Valuable Player- Kevin Durant

     With all due respect to the magnificent play of LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, and LeBron James this season, Kevin Durant has seperated himself from his competition thus far. While averaging a career high in assists, Durant is scoring the ball at a rapid pace and with great efficiency averaging 36.5 ppg since Russell Westbrook has been sidelined with a knee injury. What’s more remarkable is how Durant has scored his points with 69% unassisted without Westbrook compared to 41% with him. It is important for Durant to stay assertive on the offensive end while continuing to be a play maker until Westbrook returns. As we await, Durant must continue to carry the work load for the team in order to maintain success going forward.

Top 10 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

     We live in a NBA state of mind where teams are preparing to set themselves up for the future. Whether it is acquiring draft picks in exchange for feature players, or teams “tanking” in order to position themselves for a potential lottery pick for this years upcoming draft.  With many talented prospects preparing for the 2014 NBA Draft, we take a look at the top 10 Draft Prospects.

10. Gary Harris- Michigan State

Gary Harris is a player who can play on both sides of the floor, which is not found in many college players transitioning into the league. He’s not a player who will excite you with athleticism, however, he can score the ball in various ways that will benefit a NBA team in the future. Harris might have been drafted higher a year ago, but he will have less expectations wherever he is drafted. Returning to school may have been the best decision because as he prefers to let his game speak volume.

9. Rodney Hood- Duke University

The transfer from Mississippi State has been an incredible acquisition to Duke this season. Rodney Hood can score the ball at an efficient rate, shooting 51% from the field. He is not the type of athlete who is willing to defend the best perimeter player, but has the opportunity to flourish at the next level with his size and ability on the offensive end.

8. Noah Vonleh- Indiana University

Noah Vonleh is an outstanding freshman who has a lot of promise to his game. While being a raw talent on offense, Vonleh’s athleticism combined with his length and versatility makes him a hot commodity providing defense and rebounding to his team. He will only get better as the season progresses and adjusts to the speed of college basketball.

Southern University v Arizona

7. Aaron Gordon University of Arizona

Aaron Gordon is arguably the most athletic prospect this season. Gordon draws many comparisons to All-Star forward Blake Griffin with his high motor on both ends of the court, posting 5 double doubles thus far. However, Gordon’s true position may be in question in the NBA being undersize as a power forward and perimeter play being a detriment to his game. He hardly handles the ball for Arizona, so the combine and private sessions with teams will determine where he will play.

6. Dante Exum- Australia

Dante Exum can play both guard positions while possessing the combination of athleticism and finesse skills. The Australian point guard is explosive as a scorer and ball handler that many rave about. His perimeter jump shot is still improving, being a huge weakness for Exum. It also helps that he is 6’6 adds an element to his game giving him the advantage to look over defenders at the point guard position.

5. Marcus Smart- Oklahoma State University

Marcus Smart has became the best combo guard in College Basketball. The 6’4″ sophomore guard has exceptional size and strength that will serve him as an asset at the next level. While needing to improve his court vision and jump shot, Smart is a crafty scorer who can also defend both guard positions very well.

4. Julius Randle- University of Kentucky

You can make the argument that Julius Randle may be the most ready to play in a NBA game today amongst these prospects. Having similarities to Zach Randolph, the dominant freshman can score and rebound the basketball with his athleticism and strength around the basket. Standing at 6’9″, Randle may be undersized to play the power forward position in the league. His athleticism, sheer strength, and bulldog demeanor will allow him to contend with the NBA’s big men.

3. Joel Embiid- Kansas University

Joel Embiid is the most coveted center in this season’s upcoming draft. While improving his offense, Embiid has shown flashes in the low post area that has became a lost art in today’s big men. He has also proven to be an anchor on the defensive end with his length, size, and potential drawing comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. He has a slight frame, but he is young. Working with NBA trainers will allow him to improve his strength and be able to withstand the rigors of an 82 game season.

2. Andrew Wiggins- Kansas University

Andrew Wiggins is the most coveted college player to enter the draft this season. Wiggins has the athleticism and length that has NBA scouts salivating. He is a great defender who can guard both wing positions. His offensive game is predicated on slashing to the rim, but he has also shown that he is able to knock down the three point shot. However, he will need to knock that shot down at a consistent rate to keep opposing players on their heels on defense.

1. Jabari Parker- Duke University

Parker is ready to play in the NBA right now. He is a high volume scorer while being a blue collar hard nosed player who leads by example. He goes through shooting slumps during games, but is never hesitant to rise to the big occasion. On the other end, Parker will not change the impact during the course of the game on the defensive end as he continues to improve as a player. Still, Jabari Parker is one of few players who can have an immediate impact on a NBA team today.

MJ Mondays- 1988 NBA All-Star Weekend

Michael Jordan would use this All-Star weekend as a platform to display his talents to the basketball world. Not only would he win his second consecutive NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Jordan would put on one of the most dominant performances in All-Star game history.

With competitors such as Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, and Spud Webb, MJ would retain his NBA Slam Dunk Contest title, defeating the “Human Highlight Film”, Dominique Wilkins, in an unforgettable showdown that would be forever embedded in NBA history.

In the 38th annual All-Star game, being played in Chicago Stadium, various high caliber players were selected and performed in this matchup including Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Isaiah Thomas, and Patrick Ewing to represent the Eastern Conference against the talents of Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Hakeem Olajuwon to headline the Western Conference. However, it would be Michael Jordan to reign supremacy to end the weekend.

Jordan showcased what he was able to do on the basketball court. Being honored as the Most Valuable Player, he would go on to finish with 40 points, eight rebounds while showcasing his defensive skills as he contributed with fours steals and four blocks. MJ would score his finals 16 points in the final six minutes of the game as the Eastern All-Stars would defeat the West All-Stars 138-133. Wilkins contributed to the victory with 29 points as the starters for the Western Conference finished in double figures. In his 17th All-Star selection, Abdul-Jabbar would score 10 points, passing Oscar Robertson as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history.

With Michael Jordan’s scintillating performance in one weekend, the NBA may never see such dominance on display by one superstar in multiple events. With many big names withdrawing their names from Slam Dunk Contest, or players not competing at a 100% level throughout the entire All-Star game, MJ jumpstarted his legacy and opened the eyes of many across the league.

MJ Mondays- First NBA Championship

     The 1990-91 season in the association would begin a new era of a dynasty as Michael Jordan would lead the Chicago Bulls to their first NBA Championship in franchise history.

     Having seven years since entering the league, Jordan would begin his title run in the postseason against the rival New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers that would ultimately set up a match between Isaiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons. Chicago would sweep the two-time defending champions who had eliminated the Bulls in the previous three seasons. They would close out Game 4 while advancing to the NBA Finals winning 115-94 that led to the famous walk off the court by the “Bad Boys” Pistons without congratulating the newly crowned Eastern Conference Finals Champions.

     Chicago would face the Los Angeles Lakers where Jordan would continue to work his magic. In Game 2 of the Finals, Jordan would probe into the defense to the basket while switching hands mid air to the basket for the layup. A move we would never forget in NBA history.

The Bulls would defeat the Lakers 4-1 to become NBA Champions. Jordan would win his first NBA Finals MVP award averaging 31.2 points, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game throughout the series. He would also become Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1991 for his postseason heroics.

Injury Prone Guards

    The latest trend around the NBA in recent memory has been the collapse of many NBA guards across the league. Whether its a recurring them of injuries with the same players or freak accidents occurring, we are seeing key players being sidelined for various reasons at a high rate.

 

We are in the age of the association where the point guard era has been asked to consume more responsibility while placed with the task of leading a team. Guards such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams are now relied on to provide more offense by scoring the ball while being the floor general. The defensive side has also become a challenge as many are taking on the contact of pick and roll defense that takes a toll on the body over time.

   At this point, teams are inclined to have a serviceable backup point guard that is capable of controlling the offense like players such as Darren Collison, Reggie Jackson, and Shaun Livingston. It has become a rarity at the position to have exceptional guard play when others are forced to play out of their natural positions to fill roles they are not accustomed to playing especially for teams such as Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics without all-star point guard Rajon Rondo as we await his season debut.

  Due to today’s frenetic style and pace in the NBA, the frequency of injuries may increase specifically knee injuries. It has been well documented that many with multiple knee injuries do not come back as explosive as before while many NBA fans are hoping that is the not case for former MVP Derrick Rose.

 

We should value and appreciate the point guard play of what the league has to offer for now. The likelihood of having a longer career with less injuries comes into question for many NBA superstars leading their respective teams to accomplish their goals.