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NBA Finals Preview

The stage is set for the NBA Finals that is ahead of us come Thursday between the best player in LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers against the best team Golden State Warriors led by MVP Stephen Curry and first year head coach Steve Kerr. History will be made as both franchises set to make history. Golden State can end it’s 40 year streak without an NBA title, while the Cavaliers franchise will be in the hunt for its first title ever.

Many did not expect the Cleveland Cavaliers to reach the NBA Finals with a new first year NBA head coach in David Blatt and the new put together roster that helped form the big 3 of James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Without Love and a hobbled Irving, the supporting cast of Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and the elevated play of JR Smith has the Cavs in the position they are in now.

It is vital to Cleveland that LeBron James continues to control the game at his pace in order to win his 3rd title in 5 years. While he hasn’t been efficient this postseason, the dominance of the ball that is on display is what we have never seen whether its shooting or making the right pass to his teammates.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Five

For Golden State Warriors, the hiring of Steve Kerr after letting go Mark Jackson left many optimistic of what direction they were heading in. Picking up where Jackson left off, Kerr made the Warriors the title contenders they are now. While we are aware of the Splash Brothers that consists of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the coming out party belongs to Draymond Green as the swing man has became the heart and soul of their team. Green has became a Bay Area favorite for the fans to embrace and love.

In order for Golden State to keep having success throughout the playoffs, the depth of their roster will be the X-factor in this series. With the head injury of Klay Thompson and the possibility of himself and Curry having bad shooting performances, the likes of Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala is key.

With contrasting playing styles, it will be interesting to see what coaching adjustments will be made for both David Blatt and Steve Kerr. We are in for an eventful NBA Finals that could be one to remember.

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Western Conference Power Rankings

 

How Many Golden State Warriors Deserve a Spot on the West NBA All-Star Team?

Tony Gutierrez- Associated Press

   We enter the final stretch of the NBA regular season as teams begin to jock for playoff positioning. With the trade deadline behind us, teams have bolster their rosters for a championship run while others decided to stand pact and put their trust into what has gotten them thus far. Here’s a look at the top five teams of power rankings beginning with the Western Conference.

Getty Images

1. Golden State Warriors

     As the Western Conference has become the king of the hill, the Golden State Warriors are at the top looking down at those coming got their position. The depth of Golden State’s bench will continue to play a role with the foot issues of Stephen Curry going forward into the postseason.

 

Layne Murdoch- Getty Images

2.  Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a force to be reckoned with behind the leadership and play of All-Star MVP Russell Westbrook while Kevin Durant continues to battle foot injuries. In his last 10 games, he has averaged a staggering 29.5 points, 8 rebounds, 10.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game, putting him in the MVP conversation amongst the elite. OKC has also improve the team by acquiring players Enes Kanter and DJ Augustin that has made them a contender to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

 

Spruce Derden

3. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies have picked up where they left off before the All-Star break going 6-2 in the month of February thus far. Defeating Portland Trailblazers and Los Angeles Clippers on back to back nights on the road should put the Western Conference on notice that they are forming into midseason form. The addition of Jeff Green adds to the bigs of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and point guard Mike Conley, who may be the most underrated player in the league, makes the Grizzlies a tough out come playoffs.

 

The Case for DeAndre Jordan as the NBA's Most Underappreciated Player

Nathaniel S. Butler- Getty Images

4. Los Angeles Clippers

Despite the elbow injury to Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers have not lost a step going 4-2 without him behind the point guard play of Chris Paul and the unsung hero of DeAndre Jordan. Since Griffin being sidelined, Jordan has continued to be a defensive presence and a focal point on offense averaging 16.6 points, 17.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. However, the Clippers have a void to fill  that will make them a championship caliber team.

 

USA Today Sports

5. Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets continue to be amongst the elite teams in the West without the assistance of Dwight Howard, giving MVP candidate James Harden more responsibility to consume for them to succeed. While Harden is more than capable of leaving a team into the postseason, the one man band will not go far into the playoffs without the veteran leadership & role players contributing at a high level.

NBA Midseason Awards

 

Kevin Durant

Jesse D. Garrabrant- Getty Images

 

What has been an exhilarating start to the 2014-15 NBA season, there has been many captivating story lines of emerging NBA players that are going in the right direction of success in the association. As we approach the second half of the season, here are the front runners of our NBA Awards.

 

Brace Hemmelgarn- USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn- USA TODAY Sports

Rookie of the Year- Andrew Wiggins

     This year’s number one overall selection in Andrew Wiggins has so far been able to live up to expectations, making himself the runaway favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. Making the maximum of his efforts of playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has been able to polish his talents with the opportunity given to him by head coach Flip Saunders, averaging 15.2 points per game shooting 43%. The ceiling is very high for Wiggins with the future ahead of him.

Gary Dineen- Getty Images

Gary Dineen- Getty Images

Most Improved Player- Jimmy Butler

     Shooting guard Jimmy Butler has evolved as one of the best two way players in the NBA. Entering his fourth season, putting himself into All-Star consideration for what he has done for the Chicago Bulls. Developing his offensive game, he has averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assists this season to go with his stifling defense that has made him a go to option and a backcourt mate Derrick Rose has been missing majority of his career. Going forward deeper into the season, Chicago’s success could weigh heavily on what he can provide on both ends of the floor. It will also be interesting what teams have to offer Butler as he becomes a restricted free agent.

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Ned Dishman- Getty Images

 

Sixth Man of the Year- Isaiah Thomas

     Leaving his starting position in Sacramento, Isaiah Thomas had adapted well in his new role with the Phoenix Suns as the catalyst of the bench. Adding himself to a backcourt of guards featuring Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Thomas has often found himself closing out games for head coach Jeff Hornacek has been a a recipe for success for the Suns. Hoping to hold on to a playoff seed in the Western Conference, Thomas will be a x-factor of how far they can go.

John E. Sokolowski- USA TODAY Sports

John E. Sokolowski- USA TODAY Sports

Coach of the Year- Mike Budenholzer

     There is no debate that Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer is the NBA’s Coach of the Year. Taking a page out of Greg Popovich’s head coaching book, Budenholzer has his team playing unselfish team basketball that results into open shots and great chances to score along with a top defense in the league. It is too soon to call them the Spurs, as they have their own identity with only 8 losses in the league, leading to the best record in the league.

John Amis- Associated Press

John Amis- Associated Press

Defensive Player of the Year- DeAndre Jordan
     What has been a successful year for DeAndre Jordan could earn him honors of being the defensive player of the year. His efforts and contributions has led him to be put in consideration to be an All-Star. Controlling the paint with a league leading 13.1 rebounds per game and 2.4 blocks per game, Jordan has become the defensive anchor for Doc Rivers wants for his team in order to win a championship.

Nathaniel S. Butler- Getty Images

Most Valuable Player- James Harden
     The Houston Rockets do not have the best record in the Western Conference. However, they do have the player who is most valuable to his team in James Harden. The one who is feared with the beard has taken his game to another level averaging career highs across the board including 2 steals per game on the defensive side that has been a struggle for him in the past. With running mate Dwight Howard absent from the lineup during the season, the challenge has been set for Harden where he has answered the bell leading the team in points and assists. To sustain the high level of success that has been obtained, Harden must stay healthy and on the attack for Houston to make the next step towards winning it all.

Top Tier NBA Point Guards

 

B/R NBA 200: Top Point Guards in 2013-14

USA Today Sports

 

While we watch the NBA continues to evolve its game play and style across the league, the most depended position over recent years has been the point guard position. Being required to carry a heavy work load, the success of a franchise rest on the floor general on the court. With the talent depth around the league of the position, we look at the cream of the crop that is the top 10 point guards.

 

Andrew D. Bernstein

Andrew D. Bernstein

 

10. Kyle Lowry

The emergence of veteran point guard Kyle Lowry has been a major factor for the recipe to the Toronto Raptors success and there ongoing improvement. Averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists, many believed that Lowry was an all-star snub the previous season. Leading by example, he would help lead the Raptors to an Atlantic Division champions. With the dynamic backcourt duo of himself and DeMar Derozan, the sky is the limit this season of more to come.

 

Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Sam Forencich/Getty Images

 

9. Derrick Rose

The absence off the court of Derrick Rose has many optimistic of the return to the 2014-15 NBA season. Having damage to both knees creates minor doubt of what can be a slim window for Rose to have the longevity to play later in his career. Using FIBA World Championships to get his legs under him, the former MVP has looked up to part over the course of the NBA preseason. Adding Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls supporting cast will elevate there chances to a NBA Finals birth with the play of Derrick Rose we are accustom to seeing.

 

Ned Dishman-Getty Images

Ned Dishman-Getty Images

 

8. John Wall

The anticipation of John Wall to raise his game to the next level has began. Coming off an injury riddle season in 2012-13, he has made his way into the elite point guard after last season coming off an all-star season playing all 82 games as he led the Washington Wizards to the postseason. Making it to the 2nd round of the Eastern Conference, his playoff performance was sub par to what he is capable of doing. Wall will be asked to do more with the injury to the emerging shooting guard Bradley Beal with a wrist injury out for six weeks.

 

Matt York

Matt York

 

7. Goran Dragic

The Phoenix Suns left many appalled after going 48-34 under first season head coach Jeff Hornacek as they were led by 28 year old point guard Goran Dragic. The Slovenian star in the making became one of three NBA players since 1993 to average 20 ppg shooting 50% from the field and 40% from the 3 point field including the names of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Dirk Nowitzki. The breakout season would lead to being awarded the NBA Most Improved Player of 2013-14. The tough part for Dragic will be to duplicate the results of last season. However, with the addition of Isaiah Thomas and the return of Eric Bledsoe will increase the chances of the Suns for a playoff birth in the Western Conference.

 

Danny Moloshok

Danny Moloshok

 

6. Chris Paul

      While many view Chris Paul as the best point guard in the league, the reign stops here. Leading the league in his third straight season in assists and steals per game, Paul continues to get a postseason pass for early exits in the playoffs. The jury is out on him following his debacle in game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder where he made costly decisions that would lead to a Thunder victory. It is difficult to consider Paul the best where he is potentially not the best player on his team anymore.

 

David Liam Kyle-Getty Images

David Liam Kyle-Getty Images

 

5. Kyrie Irving

The emergence of Kyrie Irving has caught the attention of the NBA this upcoming season. Coming off what was a below average season for Irving’s standards, he managed to excite the basketball world winning the NBA All-Star MVP and was able to show off his top tier skills during the the FIBA World Championships which would lead to the 2014 FIBA World MVP. Returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers with a new and improved team featuring superstars LeBron James and Kevin Love, higher expectations are help upon Uncle Drew to become a complete player to championship aspirations.

 

Danny Moloshok

Danny Moloshok

 

4. Russell Westbrook

     All eyes will be on Russell Westbrook during the first half of the season without running mate and current reigning MVP Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. If anybody was to embrace this situation, it is him. Known for his questionable shot selection that can take you out of a game, Westbrook can surely keep you in a game with his athleticism that is second to none against many at his position while providing the intangibles to want to win. Still an ongoing learning process at point guard, he will have to cut down on costly turnovers that have an impact on the game.

 

Danny Moloshok

Danny Moloshok

 

3. Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers are slowly evolving into a team to be dangerous in the Western Conference with the former Weber State point guard Damian Lillard. The third year veteran has been nothing less than spectacular in his first two seasons following clutch performances throughout the season including his remarkable performance in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs that eliminated the Houston Rockets in game 6. Being cut from the USA National basketball team has added fuel to the fire for Lillard and his off-season training. Dame’s got next and he is coming for the number one spot.

 

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

 

2. Stephen Curry

      The baby face assassin has arrived on the scene as a premier point guard after the breakout season, making his first all-star appearance in 2014. Expanding the talents beyond his shooting ability, Steph Curry has elevated his game to the next level with career highs in points and assists per game that would lead the Golden State Warriors to its best franchise record at 51-31. Expect a career year and what can be a MVP type season for Curry in 2014-15.

 

Mike Ehrmann-Getty Images

Mike Ehrmann-Getty Images

 

1. Tony Parker

     Today in the NBA, Tony Parker may be the most under appreciated point guard on this list and across the league. Not flashy nor the most exciting point guard, yet he gets the most consistent and raises the level of his game in the postseason. Bigger picture, he is what young points guards want to be, a champion. While many chase to be where Parker is and that is on top.

Eastern Conference Preview: Atlantic Division

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  The Atlantic division of the Eastern Conference took a turn of events in the previous season with the Toronto Raptors winning the division with ease, while the New York Knicks & Brooklyn Nets struggled to play catch up after horrific starts to the season. There were many changes to each team in the division, which may have an impact on who wins the division. In addition, like any division race, the Atlantic will have an effect on the entire Eastern Conference playoff picture.

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Toronto Raptors

After trading Rudy Gay, the Toronto Raptors made progress during 2013-14 season. Despite an early first round exit in the playoffs to division rival Brooklyn Nets, they were able to win its division led by first time all-star Demar DeRozan the point guard Kyle Lowry. The addition of Lou Williams and the continuing improvement of Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas improves the arsenal for head coach Dwayne Casey as they look to take the next step.

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New York Knicks

The saying “In Phil we trust” has many faithful Knicks fans cheering ecstatically for the upcoming season. Phil Jackson will continue to run basketball operations along with the re-signing of Carmelo Anthony and the debut of the new head coach Derek Fisher. The Knicks are looking forward to the upcoming season led by Anthony working himself into great shape after last year’s disappointing season riddled with injuries and lack of discipline. With the addition of Jose Calderon and a rising star in Tim Hardaway Jr. coming into his own, expect New York to rebound from the debacle that was last season.

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Philadelphia 76ers

The future is bright for the Philadelphia 76ers going forward as as they continue to rebuild. Head coach Brett Brown will have the reigning Rookie of the Year point guard Michael Carter-Williams, he will receive some front court enforcement from Nerlens Noel and the team’s number one pick Joel Embiid waiting in the wings to make his debut. He will also have the courtesy of coaching six rookies that may lead to long gruesome 82 game season. With the teachings of Brown coming from the coaching tree of Greg Popovich, they will continue to improve everyday as a team.

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Boston Celtics

The growth of second year head coach Brad Stevens will be key as he was put in a comfortable situation with little pressure with the Boston Celtics. Acquiring young assets through the NBA Draft with the likes of Marcus Smart & James Young adds to the core of players featuring Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. With that being said, what happens to Rajon Rondo? The four-time NBA All-Star has expressed his feelings about being traded. We will have to await if general manager Danny Ainge is willing to give up its franchise player for the value he is offered.

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Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are looking forward to moving on from the Jason Kidd head coaching experiment after Kidd decided to taking his head coaching abilities to the Milwaukee Bucks during the offseason. Being replaced by former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, the team will look to get off to a faster start to the season. They will also look to have a full healthy team with Brook Lopez returning and Deron Williams being a hundred percent after having a subpar season to his standards. The Nets will have to play at a high level consistently throughout the season in order to compete in an improved Eastern Conference.

Leaders of the New School

 

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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA Today Sports

 

Just days away from the start of the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championships, the final 12 man roster has been set for Team USA as they prepare for group play. With the injury to Paul George and withdraws of Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, coach Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA have new hurdles to overcome and holes to fill in very little time. The talent of the aforementioned players cannot be replaced, but depth and versatility will be the theme for this American team. There are four players who will need to step into a larger role in order to complete the task at hand that is winning the gold medal.

 

2014 USA Basketball Practice

Stephen Curry

Seeing limited minutes in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Stephen Curry has elevated his game to elite status through the USA Basketball camp. Despite the loss of Durant, he is slowly becoming a leader for this team. Curry has been able to pick up the scoring load while playing both guard positions on the floor along with his improved defensive intensity. Coach Krzyzewski will need Curry to carry his hot shooting into group play and throughout the tournament to win gold.

 

James Harden is eager to take on a featured role with Team USA. (USATSI)

USA Today Sports

 James Harden
After recent comments being made regarding the best player in the NBA, the stage is set for James Harden to support his statement. The loss of George and Durant has now positioned him to show his abilities on the offensive end, but also the defensive end where he has been criticized for being lackadaisical at times. Team USA is depending on Harden to become who he says he is starting on Saturday.

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Derrick Rose

Chicago Bulls and basketball fans must remain patient with the comeback of Derrick Rose during this tournament. However, expect him to have an impact on this roster as it progresses. With the idea of alternating with point guard Kyrie Irving at the starting position, it gives Rose a chance to improve his stamina mentally and physically before the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. It will be vital for Rose to play well in spurts for this team while remaining healthy.

 

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Anthony Davis

Since the warm up games leading to Saturday, Anthony Davis has became the face of USA Basketball going into his third year in the NBA. He has been a man amongst boys in the frontcourt while adding weight to his body along with the improvement of his jump shot. This has allowed him to add to his array of skills he already possesses. After winning the national championship at the University of Kentucky, Davis was forced to grow and mature quicker than other rookies being on the 2012 Olympic team. Now, he is poised to lead USA all the way.

 

MJ Mondays- 1992 Olympics vs. Lithuania

 

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       The performance of the 1992 USA Dream Team has started the revolution of countries around the world to assemble their best talent to compete as the world’s best basketball team. With the many names committed to head coach Chuck Daly and his team, none were more important than Michael Jordan.

     Jordan would embrace a different role during his second stint with Team USA. Being the main catalyst for the 1984 team, an influx of talent featuring NBA stars Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and fellow teammate Scottie Pippen would be reassurance for him. As a result, this meant a less workload for him.

 

The Dream Team would annihilate all competition standing in their way as Jordan would have one of his best all around performances versus Lithuania led by Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis.

 

Michael would set the tone on both sides of the ball, finishing with 21 points, 3 rebounds along with the suffocating defense resulting into 6 steals and 2 blocks to lead USA to a 127-76 win to advance Gold Medal Game where they would meet Croatia.

 

 

USA would go on to victory, defeating future teammate Toni Kukoc and Croatia 117-85 to claim the gold medal.