Tag Archives: Eastern Conference

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.

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

https://i0.wp.com/storage.torontosun.com/v1/dynamic_resize/sws_path/suns-prod-images/1297518514635_ORIGINAL.jpg

  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.

https://i1.wp.com/www.rantsports.com/nba/wp-content/slideshow/2013/10/toronto-raptors-5-reasons-why-your-favorite-team-will-suck-in-2013-2014/medium/The-Raptor1.jpg

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.

https://i1.wp.com/img.bleacherreport.net/img/images/photos/002/770/511/hi-res-afa0789c5c3a9644f46cbcd45da79f96_crop_north.jpg

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.

https://i0.wp.com/standingosports.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/1576834521_1383528469.jpg

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.

https://i1.wp.com/img.bleacherreport.net/img/article/media_slots/photos/001/328/949/hi-res-463517579-rajon-rondo-of-the-boston-celtics-dribbles-the-ball_crop_exact.jpg

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.

https://i2.wp.com/img.bleacherreport.net/img/article/media_slots/photos/001/454/621/hi-res-162e804169e45b34133428cc38ef5d3b_crop_exact.jpg

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.

Top 5 First Round NBA Playoff Moments

     Were you not entertained? Thus far, we have played a total of 50 games in the opening round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs, including five Game 7’s involving both no. 1 vs no 8 seeds in both respective conferences. Before we advance to the next round of postseason basketball, we take a look at the top five moments of the NBA first round.

Getty Images

Getty Images

5. LaMarcus Aldridge’s career performances

     Coming into the postseason, the consensus pick to win the 4-5 seed match-up would be the Houston Rockets. Yet, LaMarcus Aldridge would dominate games 1 and 2 on the road. In his home state of Texas in front of his family, Aldridge would put on a large sized performance with 46 points, 18 rebounds and 2 blocks in game 1 with an encore showing of 43 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks that led to the Portland Trail Blazers 2-0 series lead. Eliminating the Houston Rockets in six games, Portland will have its hands full with the San Antoni Spurs in the second round.

hi-res-a3677d174d365c08dc79f2926be2ba96_crop_north

Glenn James/ Getty Images

4. Vince Carter Game Winning Shot

     The Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs rivalry has been in favor of the Spurs over the last decade.Entering game 3 with the series tied 1-1, Dallas would have the momentum going forward in game 3. As the game would come down to the final possession, the Mavs would turn to an unlikely source for the game winner in Vince Carter. Showing us why he is still ‘half man, half amazing”.

 

 

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

 

3. Game 7 Weekend

 

Never in NBA history have we experienced a first round of five ‘win or go home’ match-ups being a game 7. With a NCAA tournament feeling to it, the weekend would bring excitement and uncertainty to each game with majority of games coming down to the last minute. What took place in the first round is something we are not accustomed to watching the level of competition balance out for an entire series.

 

 

042914-national-press-conference-nba-adam-silver-talks-about-sterling-comments

 

 

2. Adam Silver gives Donald Sterling lifetime ban

 

The controversy of the recent remarks of suspended Clippers owner Donald Sterling was not only a black eye of the NBA image, but also became a detriment to the spectacular play of the first round of the playoffs. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver was approached with a serious topic at hand, expressing his power in the conclusion of his decision. The choice of Silver was the first step into the right direction of eliminating racism in the association.

 

 

 

Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP

Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP

 

 

1. Damian Lillard Game Winning Clincher

Every game would go to into the last minutes before determining a winner between Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets. Fighting for their playoff lives, Chandler Parsons would get an offensive rebound to go ahead lead, putting Houston in position to tie the series 3-3 before returning to Houston for a pivotal game 7. However, Lillard had other plans. With ice water in his veins, Lillard continues to show his clutch ability for his teammates while leadership in his sophomore season is on display, now solidifying himself as one of the top tier point guards in the NBA.

 

 

 

 

 

Center of Attention: Top 10 NBA Centers

 

In today’s NBA, the center position has lost its significance as it has became diluted and heavy guard play in the association. The league lacks a true dominance at the center position and no consistent play unlike Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, or Patrick Ewing. The prerogative of a big man on majority teams is to set screens and rebound as opposed to being a focal point on the low block in an offense. Let’s appreciate the elite big men in the league as we take a look at the top 10 centers in the NBA right now.

 

 

 

10. Nikola Vucevic

While the Orlando Magic continue to improve for the future, an important piece to their puzzle of success is Nikola Vucevic. During his third season, his offensive productivity has elevated as he is averaging a career high in points at 14 points per game while grabbing 10.8 rebounds. The former USC Trojan can become a focal point for this Orlando franchise with the talents surrounding him in Aaron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, and Victor Oladipo. For a player of his size and stature, the key to Vucevic taking that next step involves becoming more of a defensive side of the ball. Orlando will contemplate on opening their check books to retain him as he awaits free agency.

 

 

9. Andre Drummond

     Andre Drummond has grasped the attention of many around the league with his athletic abilities for the Detroit Pistons. Becoming a starter this season, he has been able to show us his capability as a center, averaging a double double at 13.2 ppg and 12.9 rpg. His ability to score without plays being called for him is an asset while scoring off second chance points. As he continues to improve his overall game, Drummond can become a franchise player where Detroit can build around him.  His growth as a player may slow down if the Pistons do not fix the logjam in the frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

 

 

 

8. DeAndre Jordan

This season has been a turnaround for Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Due to the change at coach with Doc Rivers taking over, he has been playing the best basketball of his five year stint in Los Angeles becoming a strong candidate for Most Improved Player of the year. Averaging career high numbers in points, rebounds, and blocks, he must sustain his overall play for the Clippers in order to reach championship aspirations. While Jordan continues to improve his free throws and post moves, his athleticism has allowed him to become a defensive anchor.

 

 

 

7. Marc Gasol

The current reigning Defensive Player of the Year has had a difficult season with knee injuries. However, Marc Gasol is the best player for the Memphis Grizzlies when healthy as he is a focal point on both sides of the ball.  Since his return to the team, the Grizzlies have been playing +.500 basketball as they make a late regular season push towards the NBA Playoffs. Memphis will not reach the postseason without their man in the middle performing at a high level.

 

 

 

6. Roy Hibbert

The Indiana Pacers success begins with their productivity on defense that starts with the 7 footer in Roy Hibbert. The former Georgetown Hoya has not lived up to expectations with the max contract deal he signed in 2012 worth $58 million dollars. He is inconsistent and does not rebound well for his size. Nevertheless, his role for head coach Frank Vogel does not undermine his value to the Pacers as he is the last line of defense to the rim. Hibbert allows Indiana’s perimeter defenders to become more aggressive. When called upon, Hibbert can have an offensive post presence. His post moves allows the Pacers to slow the game down in the postseason.

 

 

 

5. DeMarcus Cousins

As the Sacramento Kings continue to find ways to improve its team, the centerpiece for their franchise is DeMarcus Cousins. Averaging career highs in points and rebounds, Cousins is having his best season as many considered him an All-Star snub. His downfall continues to be his lack of maturity in his fourth season in the NBA. Many remain skeptical if he is the player to build around due to his antics that were recently on display against the Houston Rockets which resulted in an one game suspension. Cousins talent is not the question, rather his leadership skills and intangibles are.

 

4. Dwight Howard

     The Houston Rockets are beginning to peak at the right time of the season on the eve of playoffs. The answer? Dwight Howard. Although his stats from his previous season in Los Angeles (17.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) mirror this season’s (18.9 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Howard is playing in a comfortable role in Houston with the arsenal of James Harden and Chandler Parsons surrounding him while being an eminent force on the defensive side of the ball.

 

3. Chris Bosh

You can make the argument that Chris Bosh is the Miami Heat’s second most valuable player to their team this season. Being undersized at the center position, he is able to pose as a threat to the opponents center due to his talents on offense and defense. Becoming more efficient behind the arc has also helped spread the floor in Miami for Lebron James. Although he is not averaging staggering stats at 16.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg, he has shown the ability to step up in clutch situations when his number is called. It is difficult seeing Bosh leave Miami under any circumstances as he has the option of becoming a free agent this summer. However, his worth may increase as the season progresses.

 

 

2. Joakim Noah

      The storyline remains the same for the Chicago Bulls as Derrick Rose ends his short season with yet another knee injury. However, the Bulls continue to find success with the help of All-Star center Joakim Noah. A strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, he has elevated his role on the offensive end  as he averages a career high in points and assists along with two triple doubles this season. Noah’s leadership and dominance has became contagious to his teammates that may lead to a spot on the All-NBA team. With the postseason in reach, Noah will relish the opportunity in leading his team with the possibility of taking down the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers.

 

1. Al Jefferson

The center who is most effective for his team this season, thus far, has been Al Jefferson for the Charlotte Bobcats. As the Bobcats are fighting for playoff position, the catalyst has been the man in the middle who is arguably the most underappreciated player in the NBA. Averaging a double double with 20.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg, the offseason acquisition has helped turn Charlotte in the right direction of success going towards the future. Jefferson is a load to handle on offense as he score inside and outside the paint. With limited exposure nationally, the playoffs should help Jefferson and the Bobcats gain respect going forward.

Top 5 NBA All-Star Weekend Moments

 

The 2014 NBA All-Star weekend was an overall success for the debut of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. A time out of the busy NBA schedule to recognize the best players of our league was rejuvenated as they showcase their talents to the world. While there were many exciting highlights that we witnessed, here are the top five moments from New Orleans.

 

5. Ovation for Bill Russell

During the intermission going into the 2nd quarter of the NBA All-Star Game, the All-Star players representing both conferences stood and applaud for Bill Russell celebrating his 80th birthday. To acknowledge one of the greatest centers of all-time and pioneers by today’s players and fans was significant for the game of basketball.

 

 

 

4. Marco Belinelli become Three Point Champion

     Coming into the competition leading the league in three point field goal percentage at 45%, Marco Belinelli would become the dark horse to win the shootout that also featured Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Only to prevail in overtime defeating Bradley Beal, the NBA journeyman was able to enjoy this victory, adding on to a consistent season thus far with the San Antonio Spurs.

3. Dion Waiters vs. Tim Hardaway Jr.

     On the eve of NBA All-Star Saturday Night, the highlight of Friday was the one on one battle between 2nd year player Dion Waiters and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. in the Rising Stars challenge. The duel of two NBA bright stars grasped the attention of their NBA peers and fans that had people raving about what was taking place.

 

 

2. John Wall becomes Slam Dunk Champion

     What was once lost in the Slam Dunk Contest has been found by Washington Wizards John Wall. Started off as a team competition between the Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference became a dominating performance for the East while Terrance Ross would defeat Damian Lillard and Paul George handled Harrison Barnes. Wall would steal the night with his leap over the teams mascot while completing a reverse dunk that left the crowd appalled and social media buzzing as legends Julius Erving and Magic Johnson proclaim the Slam Dunk Contest being revived.

 

 

 

1. NBA All-Star Game

Capping off an exciting weekend, the 63rd annual NBA All-Star Game did not fail to disappoint fans across the world. The best players in the game today put on a performance filled with vigorous effort and jaw dropping highlights from both conferences as it became a lack of defensive effort that resulted in an offensive record setting night. While Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin were to able to score 38 points each, the spotlight belong to Kyrie Irving becoming Most Valuable Player with 31 points and 14 assists.

MJ Mondays- 2003 NBA All-Star Game

      The NBA All-Star game has been significant to the association. A weekend of celebration for fans to appreciate the many talents of star players being put on display. As the NBA festivities approaches, we revisit Michael Jordan’s last appearance as a player during All-Star Weekend.

   During the 2002-03 season, Jordan averaged a career low 20 points per game that would essentially lead to voters not electing the six-time champion into the game as a starter. However, he would be given the opportunity to start the all-star game one last time.

     Voted by the fans as a starting guard, Allen Iverson was the first player to offer his starting position to Jordan followed by Tracy McGrady, which he declined respectively. While many wanted to see him start his final all-star game, the spotlight shifted to Vince Carter who was resistant in giving his starting spot to MJ. Prior to the game, Carter would offer his spot to Jordan as he would accept.

     Jordan would come out missing his first seven shots, being blocked on four attempts. He would finish the game with 20 points shooting 9 for 27 from the field. Nevertheless, we would see him turn back the clock during the game with, ironically, the shot of the game.

 

Michael Jordan would shoot the fadeaway jump shot over Shawn Marion that could have potentially clinched the game for the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Instead, the game would be sent to double overtime due to a Jermaine O’Neal foul that sent Kobe Bryant to the free throw line where he would make both free throws.

 

The Western Conference All-Stars would go on to spoil the Cinderella ending of Michael Jordan and the Eastern Conference as they would prevail with a 155-145 win. Kevin Garnett would become the game’s MVP with 37 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals. Jordan would give NBA fans one last hurrah before closing the curtain on the all-star stage where we all gave him a standing ovation for what he had done during the course of that weekend.