Tag Archives: Western 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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Los Angeles Lakers

 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

Finally there is an end to what has been a nightmare saga for the Los Angeles Lakers. To the dismay of many fans, this season has abruptly come to an end after the worst finish in franchise history. Whether the it was the normal attrition rate due to injuries, subpar coaching, or lackluster talent on the court, this season resulted in mediocre productivity as the Lakers front office management is left searching for the solution to rebound next season.

 

Finishing 27-55, 14th in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers will own at least a top 9 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft where they would have options to select from, including freshmen phenoms Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Player personnel obligations will be a main priority to attend to. With Kobe Bryant and Robert Sacre guaranteed to return to the roster next season, the contract of Steve Nash should be in consideration of termination. The 40 year old point guard has $9.7 million dollars on the current contract for the 2014-15 season; however, he has only played 65 games total in the last two seasons for Los Angeles.

With Pau Gasol becoming a free agent and Nick Young likely to opt out of his current contract for a lucrative deal, the summer of free agency will be intriguing to follow as the Lakers will look to improve their roster while looking forward to the following offseason in 2016.

 

The coaching decision to obtain or fire head coach Mike D’Antoni will be a tedious process for Los Angeles as well. The hiring made of D’Antoni over former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson made many fans furious of the decision made by Jim Buss. It has not paid dividends for Los Angeles with the coaching record being 62-87, which is below average to the Lakers championship standard that we are accustomed to seeing. Many of the Lakers players have been critical of D’Antoni including Kobe Bryant. Some of them have admitted that they might not return if he is still the head coach. While the roster has became a revolving door of various lineups due to injuries, a key component to the Lakers woes could be the frenetic offensive pace D’Antoni has taught throughout his career. Giving up 120+ points to opponents in 16 games, his pace has led to career nights for various players.

 

The front office of Lakers management have many questions to answer going into the offseason swirling around the historic franchise. With uncertainty of who might end up running the organization in Jim and Jeanie Buss, the debacle of this season will not be acceptable next season to the fans and to themselves. It is time for the soap opera in tinsel town to come to an end and write a new chapter in order to regain the title. The Los Angeles Clippers have risen during these dark times for the Lakers.

Western Conference Playoffs Preview

 

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

   As the NBA playoffs approaches us, the Western Conference presents a NCAA Tournament feel this year with various teams looking to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. Teams begin to shape into form, peak at the right moment, and get ready to turn their aspirations into tangible success. On the flip side, others begin to fall apart rather due to lack of execution, immature mistakes on mundane routines, or injuries towards the finish line of the 82 game season. The marathon is over, but the race has barely started.

Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

 

 

     The Western Conference has become the ‘survival of the fittest’ conference with teams battling for playoff positions throughout the season. The San Antonio Spurs have been playing its best basketball this season. When they are healthy, they are led by explosive forward in Kawhi Leonard who is slowly evolving into one of the league’s best two-way players.  While San Antonio pursues another championship title, health and consistency will be needed to avoid last years debacle to the Miami Heat.

While been the hottest team since the All-Star break, the consensus picks have been the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.

    Emerging as favorites to represent its conference in the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder are led by the Most Valuable Player front runner in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They look to continue their mission to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to capture its first franchise NBA Championship that would silence their critics and end discussions of the two superstars not being able to coincide with one another. The key to accomplishing their goals will be the supporting cast featuring Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson along with the veteran savvy of Derek Fisher and recently acquired Caron Butler while getting stops at the defensive end.

 

 

Getty Images

Getty Images

   The Clippers have made strides to improve their roster in order to reach the NBA Finals led by head coach Doc Rivers. The teaching and coaching methods of Rivers has expanded players games such as DeAndre Jordan as he has became a candidate for Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Also, Blake Griffin who has arguably been the Clippers best player due to the shoulder injury suffered in January by Chris Paul.

However, as many basketball fans know, the postseason comes down to matchups that could ultimately play into the hands of a lower seed teams.

Derick Hingle- USA Today Sports

Derick Hingle- USA Today Sports

 

 

For teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, a deep run can be made in the postseason. Following the previous success found in last season’s playoffs will not be a surprise given the experience both teams possess. We await the debut of the Portland Trail Blazers who will face the Houston Rockets where we get the tandems of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge against the talents of James Harden and Dwight Howard. The key factors in this series will be the supporting cast of Portland that features Robin Lopez, Nicholas Batum, and Wesley Matthews against Houston’s role players that consists of Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, and Terrence Jones will have to produce.

 

     As the cream of the crop rises into place in, the standings has set the playoff tree into an upset bracket for higher seed teams. The last man standing in the battle royale of the Western Conference may be the team hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of it all in June.

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.