Why They Can Win: NBA Finals

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Published on : June 2, 2016

 

 

The Golden State Warriors just crawled from a dark hole with incredible and triumphant feats of basketball fury. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been been patiently waiting, loaded and fully healthy. These NBA finals are far from a repeat of last year, as the tired Warriors will face up against a transformed Cleveland team that paces and spaces, with less reliance on last year’s bully-ball. There are also new questions, like how the Dubs will play after a truly legendary performance against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that took them to the limit? Here’s why each team can win.

 

Golden State Warriors:

Klay and Steph

 

Legendary Shooting

The fact that Klay Thompson and Steph Curry play on the same team is historically unfair, as these two will surely stack up as two of the five greatest shooters of all time. So it can’t be ignored that at any point, no matter what you do, either one of these guys might decide to casually open the Ark of the Covenant, like in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals, when Klay dropped ELEVEN THREES. If the Thunder couldn’t handle it, the Cavs certainly don’t have the defensive tools.

 

Adaptability

Steve Kerr and the players acquitted themselves equally well in the Conference finals, as the team demonstrated that they can handle changing on the fly to adapt to the matchups. When it became clear that Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala needed to swap places for the sake of Iguodala’s defense of Durant, the team was able to do that. Cool heads prevailed, egos were checked, and they showed that they can take a champion’s knockout blow and come back swinging.

 

Draymond vs. Any Cavalier Not Named LeBron

Save for LeBron, I don’t think there’s a single player on the Cavs that has either the mental or testicular fortitude, both literally speaking, to withstand the veritable onslaught that is Draymond Green. How many times did we see Draymond intensely staring down someone nine feet taller than him in the last series, fearless and victorious? Steven Adams is as tough as they come, and held up admirably. Kevin Love? Super-talented marshmallow. Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Tristan Thompson? Perhaps only the latter has the physique to match up with Draymond’s octo-hands, but doesn’t have the offensive skill. He’ll be in their heads, grills, and business.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers: 

Lebronkyrielove

 

Fresh Bodies

Although a marshmallow, Kevin Love gets buckets, passes the ball sharply, and rebounds. Pair that with Kyrie Irving’s health, and that’s a major duo of talent to buoy LeBron. He’s the star, but now he can take up different spots on the floor, especially in the post with Kevin Love providing space in the corner. With that capability, the floor’s balance changes, and Matthew Dellavedova’s hideous game stays on the bench for longer.

 

Fresh Voices

It has to matter that the Cavaliers no longer hate their coach. For all of David Blatt’s competence, it’s well-established that he was disliked by the players, and that he was openly ignored in time-outs. We all saw it live. I think LeBron “changing the plays” is an idiotic narrative since this is something entrusted to almost every team’s best player, no less the best player on earth. But still, players seemed to cross the line from dislike to disrespect, and that’s not a formula for success. It’s unclear to me whether it was LeBron’s willpower that helped to right the ship against the Raptors in the Eastern Finals, or whether Tyronn Lue simply reminded the players that they were much better than the opponent. Either way, they got there with relatively little pain involved. They got through the entirety of these playoffs by playing coherent, then crisp, and then deadly offense. Something is clearly working.

 

Fresh Stories

If LeBron is one thing, he’s aware. No, wait — it’s great at basketball. Regardless, he’s extremely aware of the narrative in this playoffs and how this might affect the story of his career. LeBron is a multifaceted ingenious billionaire who is arguably the greatest athlete of all time —  he knows what people are saying about Steph, about the Warriors and greatness. He knows what it would mean for him to tear down that hegemony like the totem poles being pulled down by unruly campers at Kamp Krusty. Mix that awareness with the indefatigable brilliance of his game, that he’s at once the living-breathing best passer in the world and the most unstoppable penetrator in the game, and the results could be deadly for the Dubs.

 

 

Who will triumph, and who will fall apart?  Will LeBron’s greatness overcome two-time MVP Steph Curry and the all-time force that is a 73-win juggernaut? The NBA Finals begin June 2nd, so stay with ScoreBoredSports for all takes, both hot and too hot to handle.

 

 


Anderson Varejao – The Spy With Shaggy Hair

Written by :
Published on : March 11, 2016

 

 

 

I know what you’re thinking. Anderson Varejao is pissed. He got traded by the Cavs and now he wants revenge. So what does he do? He signs with the enemy – The Golden State Warriors. The team that unfortunately took home the NBA Finals trophy after a tough fought, six game battle. How could the team that he spent 12 years with just up and let him go like that? Especially when LeBron actually likes the guy. But how could you not like Anderson Varejao? That lovable smile, the gorgeous hair, and did I mention his amazing rebounding abilities?

 

He was Tristan Thompson’s mentor dognabit! And although some people might find this hard to believe, I think Cleveland grew on him. I know it’s no Brazil or Barcelona, but Clevelanders embraced him…so much in fact that on February 21st, 2006 they tried to break the world record for most people wearing a wig in a single venue. They were wearing the Anderson Varejao wig…20,562 of them! If that’s not love then I don’t want to know what love is. P.S. I sleep with my wig on every night. Just kidding. No, I’m not.

 

varejao Wig

 

I do honestly believe that he enjoyed living near the beautiful Great Lake of Erie, in a city with a booming medical-based economy. For a guy that has dislocated his right shoulder, torn a tendon is his right ankle, broke his wrist, suffered a blood clot in his lung, nursed some back problems, and most recently tore his achilles, it’s smart to play in a city with excellent medical care, fantastic Slavic food, hard-working individuals, lots of bowling alleys…you get my point. And yes, assume that I too love Cleveland.

 

Which leads me to my next point. Why did the Cavs get rid of him? I’ve talked to my father, long-time Cleveland sports radio personality, Greg Brinda, who admits that Varejao is a bit fragile. After all, he did miss most of the 2014-15 NBA season with his last injury. So given his track record and the fact that the Cavs kind of dominate in big ball basketball with a variety of effective power forwards and centers (even with Mr. Cement Hands, MOSGOV!!), the Cavs could actually use someone like Channing Frye, an experienced…wait! Another power forward/center?!! I guess he’s a superior perimeter shooter, but if it were me I probably would have traded for Kevin Durant. That could have happened, right?

 

Frye Varejao

 

Okay, so let’s get to the real reason why the Cavs traded Varejao to Portland who then released him, leaving him to sign with either the San Antonio Spurs, The Oklahoma City Thunder, The Atlanta Hawks, or yes The Golden State Warriors. So basically, Andy (I’m calling him Andy now), got his pick of the best kitty litter in town. Wow! Lucky him! Or was it luck at all? Maybe this was part of the Cavs’ ploy all along. And maybe, just maybe, Andy was in on it the whole time. Let me ask you. If you were nearing the end of your career, were prone to injuries, and wanted to be an effective component in helping your team win, why wouldn’t you sign with the enemy to gain valuable information that could be used to help the Cavs win? And then there’s the fact that Golden State really wanted him. So maybe Steph Curry’s looking for our secrets. Even better!

 

Steph Curry wants in on our secret plan. He wants to know what LeBron does before each game. How does he get that toned, muscular physique? How is he so versatile on the court? Sure, Steph is great at shooting threes, he’s versatile, good in clutch situations, but he’s small.  And when you mix in that CHILDISH mouth guard chewing habit, he looks like a junior-higher out there with his other small ball sidekicks.

 

steph mouthpiece

 

The Warriors won’t admit that they are scared. They have a great record. Right now, they are playing better than the Cavs or really any NBA team. And Curry is on track to get the MVP. Let me say that again…for right now. And with the recent firing of Coach David Blatt, I’m sure they think the pot is a stirrin’ in Cleveland. But deep down, they don’t want any surprises. They want to know what’s coming. And they want to grow…literally. So Andy will tell them: Salmon is out! Fuck salmon and all lean proteins! It’s all about the Barkley diet: Taco Bell for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! LeBron only works out once a week with a light jog and pilates. And Kyrie and Kevin Love? They are both on a similar meal plan and exercise regiments, but Kyrie substitutes pilates for Zumba and Love likes this new thing called Pop Pilates (it’s pilates to top music hits). Varejao will get them to believe this silliness, and hopefully the Warriors will begin to fizzle out.

 

But the truth is, it’s probably the other way around. The Cavs need to know the Warriors’ secrets. Now I love the CAVS! They are my team! But let’s be honest, they are not on track to beat the Warriors. And as my dad (aka @SirFranksnBacon) put it, “The Warriors are a fine-tuned machine. They are firing on all cylinders…not a lot of warts.” They play great defense, they obviously play superb offense, make clutch shots, and most importantly they have freakishly excellent team chemistry. CHEMISTRY. The only way the Cavs will stand a chance of beating the Warriors in the Finals is if the Big Three (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love) are consistently playing GREAT together. And since Coach Tyronn Lue took over with his fast-paced game approach, the Cavs defense has been lacking. That cannot happen when they get to the playoffs, let alone the Finals. Every member of the Cavs team needs to be on the same page, firing on all cylinders, with high-quality oil in the engine, if you know what I mean (#Gatorade).

 

cleveland big 3

 

So what’s the secret to the Warriors’ chemistry? That is what Andy is there to find out. I like to imagine that he just got home from a sleepover with his Warriors teammates. He’s thinking about the fun night that he just had…

 

Dream Sequence:

After hours of choreographing a dance to Informer and various hits from Jock Jams Volume 1, they make nachos with shredded beef, Velveeta, some diced tomatoes, chives, and sour cream. Then they watch Practical Magic and play Dream Phone. I can see Andy now, sitting across from Andre Iguodala. They are giggling as Andy answers the Dream Phone and gets his clue. “He loves pizza but he hates corn dogs!” They laugh, put on their pajamas, and turn on a scary movie. Probably The Exorcist. They all hold tight to their sleeping bags. Steph Curry bows out early. Says he has to put his daughter to bed, but really he’s just scared and maybe peed his boxers a little. As he’s tucking in little Riley, the bed begins to shake. He screams for his life! As his daughter tries to comfort him, Draymond Green peeks out from under the bed, smiling. “Got you this time, Stephy!”

 

“That wasn’t funny!” Steph yells, fighting back tears of horror. But Andy knows what to do in this situation. It’s time to play with each other’s hair. He’ll show them how he gets his curls to look this good. They brush, they braid, they laugh, and slowly fall asleep to the slower rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s, Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Together they dream of winning another championship, everyone except Andy who will wake in the middle of the night, lie beside Steph Curry and whisper into his ear, “Cavs Win,” softly, gently, until Steph’s pleasant dream turns into a horrifying nightmare.

End Dream Sequence

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, and Anderson Varejao, from Brazil, hug as the leave the floor late in the fourth quarter of a first-round NBA playoff basketball game against the Washington Wizards Sunday, April 22, 2007, in Cleveland. Cleveland won the first game of the best-of-seven series, 97-82. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

 

Andy will return home a few times this spring to coordinate the necessary bonding time that the Cavs need. Mo will be back, hitting threes like a boss. J.R. Smith won’t let the pressure get to him. Mosgov’s hands will become agile and coordinated. LeBron will show up to practice in his impressive Prince Halloween Costume to lighten the mood. The Big Three will be musketeering it up! Boobie Gibson will even perform his latest hip-hop hit, All In C-L-E, as the Cavs gear up for Game 7 of the Finals. They’ll laugh together. They’ll cry together. And by God, they’ll win together.

 

 


NBA MIDSEASON REVIEW

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Published on : February 20, 2016

 

 

Boy, was I wrong about a few teams and players in my 2016 NBA Preview (East & West).

 

I missed the mark, much like Kobe Bryant is missing three pointers, free throws, and dunks this season. After watching a lackluster All Star Game, arguably the BEST dunk contest ever, and a little more than half a season of NBA Basketball, I’ve come to eat my crow in front of you all.

 

The Lakers REALLY Stink

 

My favorite team sucks. Where did we go wrong? Perhaps giving Kobe a two year deal that has handcuffed their salary cap is a start. Also, letting Kobe’s influence drive Dwight Howard away is another point. Overall, they should not be confused with the Philadelphia 76ers; at least they have a plan. With only eleven wins on the season and fighting desperately to lose as many games as possible to secure their top three NBA draft pick, the only thing to look forward to is the countdown to Kobe’s last game. I’m sure I’ll cry as he walks off the floor for the last time as a player, but by June I HOPE the Lakers start the rebuild they’ve been holding off for three seasons.

 

I Underestimated the Will of a Champion

 

I thought that the Golden State Warriors would suffer from a championship hangover. I picked the Los Angeles Clippers to be a better team and have a better record than them. Well, clearly I was wrong with this one. Other than the San Antonio Spurs (whom I picked to be the best team in the league this year) there’s not a team that can challenge the Warriors. The Clippers aren’t a bad team as they have 35 wins thus far. Blake Griffin has had a hand (pun intended) in the team’s success thus far. The Warriors and Stephen Curry have a chance to make major history as the team is en route to a league record in wins for a single season and Curry can become a MVP in consecutive years. I am sorry Based God Chef Curry.

 

Why would I believe in these teams?

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks had the makeup of playoff contenders. The Timberwolves have Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns as the face of their franchise. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker in tow to lead theirs. Both teams are 13th in their respective conferences. Both teams have dealt with absences by a head coach but for different reasons. Flip Saunders, formerly the head coach of the Timberwolves, passed away shortly before the season began. Bucks head coach Jason Kidd has missed games due to health issues. Perhaps with those two coaches at the helm the teams would be better at this juncture. That’s not the case and hopefully the teams can fulfill their potential next season.

 

Will the Cleveland Cavaliers make it to the Finals?

 

There is no team in the Eastern conference that can stop the Cavaliers when fully healthy. By keeping their core intact and going to an up-tempo offense, the Cavs may make a deep run into the playoffs. The one concern is that the team is working with another rookie head coach in Tyronn Lue. Whereas injuries played a significant role in not getting a championship last time, this year the assertive Lue and LeBron must be on the same page. Former coach, David Blatt, was merely a minutes and timeout specialist. Will Lue have the respect of LeBron to make the important decisions to get the team its first NBA championship?

 

The Detroit Pistons…might actually…be good this year?

 

I’ve been in a constant back and forth with one of my best friends over the current state of the Pistons. I do not believe in the team nor do I believe in coach Stan Van Gundy. My friend however thinks that the Pistons have a legitimate shot to go to the playoffs. He likes that Van Gundy has started to build the team around Andre Drummond. I hate to admit it but my friend may be right. Van Gundy is making the team in the mold of his Orlando Magic tenure. Getting players that can space the floor and shoot is what will propel this team in the top 8 in the Eastern Conference. They’ll likely get swept by the Cavs or Toronto Raptors but they are an improved team.

Quick Predictions on NBA honors

 

Rookie of the Year: Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves

 

The kid is getting better as the season progresses. He is a double-double machine and he is getting more comfortable with his mid range shot. He is even taking 3s. I don’t know if we’ve prematurely crowned Anthony Davis of the New Orlean Pelicans as the next great big man. Anthony-Towns seems to be just as skilled and may have the more talented team in the long run. He’s definitely worth watching out for.

 

MVP: Stephen Curry

 

I don’t think I have to make much of a case for Curry. The sad part is he’s sat out roughly 15 4th quarters thus far this season. Even if games get more competitive for the rest of the season he’ll likely increase his already league leading scoring average. Sick! I will throw LeBron James and Chris Paul in the mix as potential MVP winners but it’s Curry’s trophy to lose at this point.

 

Defensive Player of The Year: Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors

 

This is a tough one to call. I think the voters will lean toward either Green or San Antonio Spurs Kawhi Leonard. Leonard won last year despite Green receiving more first place votes. With both teams having not reached double digits in losses thus far, this award may be decided by team success. Whichever team has the better record may be able to catapult their DPOY candidate to the honor.

 

 


LeBron James: Coach Killer?

Written by :
Published on : January 29, 2016

 

 

 

I never thought that David Blatt was the right man to lead the Cavaliers and LeBron James. Sure, he had a ton of coaching success in the Euro League and Israeli League, but in the NBA world of superstars, it’s hard to see a team with arguably the world’s best player falling in behind someone with zero NBA experience. It just never made sense to me that Cleveland would go to such great lengths to bring ‘King James’ back to town and not give him a coach that would command the team’s respect.

 

He had won hundreds of games and championships and even an Olympic Medal before he ever set foot inside the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room, but none of that mattered. Once he arrived in the NBA, he was a rookie again, to fans and players alike. Never mind his 22 years as a coach. That was meaningless. The NBA is the premier basketball showcase in the world and all those other coaching jobs may as well have been children’s little league.

 

So when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Coach Blatt last week, I can’t say I was entirely surprised. Anyone who has watched the Cavs over the last year or so could see that the team didn’t really have a ton of respect for the guy. Often times during breaks in the action, the team would look to LeBron James for strategy or advice, leaving Blatt to hover around the circle of players like the wimpy kid who didn’t get picked for the backyard football game.

 

 

 

Since the time that he announced he was returning home to bless the city of Cleveland with his presence, it’s been clear that this team was LeBron’s team. From top to bottom, his word was law and the ownership was going to back him up 100%. You have to think that was the understanding and one of the main reasons he was even entertaining the idea of going back to Ohio. So when early on in the relationship, I saw the lack of respect that James showed Blatt in regards to coaching the team, I knew the clock was ticking on the poor guy.

 

Despite leading his team to the NBA Finals last season, and sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record, David Blatt got the axe and it seems to be LeBron James’ fingerprints on the handle. The firing of Blatt has caused some people to wonder if James is a ‘coach killer’ and I think that is a valid question. Gregg Popovich even made a subtle reference to it in a postgame interview. Most people associate LeBron with the firing of Mike Brown, who had similar success to Blatt in Cleveland but was never seen as the one responsible for that success; that distinction always went to James.

 

 

It’s not really fair to blame the firing of Mike Brown on LeBron because it happened in the same offseason that he took “his talents to South Beach.” That team had just collapsed in the second round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs and technically LeBron wasn’t under contract. So it really doesn’t have anything to do with him, but you can bet your ass that if LeBron said he wanted Brown back and that would make him re-sign that he wouldn’t have been fired.

 

There are also unfounded rumors that during his time in Miami, LeBron wanted head coach Erik Spoelstra fired. There isn’t any way to confirm this, but it doesn’t sound particularly far-fetched. Spoelstra was young, with no head coaching experience and I always found it hard to believe that he would be able to wrangle the best player in the world. But one big difference between Cleveland and Miami was the presence of Pat Riley, and there’s no way that Pat Riley would let a player run his team, I don’t care how big of a star he is.

 

If indeed LeBron James did want to get his head coach in Miami fired, he should be thanking his lucky stars now that Riley knew better than to succumb to the wishes of his biggest star. He has two rings to show for his time with the Heat, and that is due to the efforts of everyone involved, including coach Spoelstra.

 

The only other coach to be fired while LeBron James was on the team was Paul Silas when James was just 20 years old and in his second NBA season. That team missed the playoffs and was in the midst of an ownership change, so even if James did have an impact on the decision, it was probably coming either way. So is it fair to label LeBron a coach killer? Probably not, but he does wield that kind of power, especially since it seems as though Cleveland is willing to do whatever it takes to have him in town. Including axe his own head coach.

 

 


2015 NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW

Written by :
Published on : October 13, 2015

 

Fall is by far my favorite time of the year. We get football, the October Classic in baseball, and now NBA Basketball. What’s more is that we’re only about 2 weeks from Opening Tip Off! Last season was great in terms of team play and the evolving spread-the-floor/”3 and D” tactics. Although there was no major shifting of power between the two conferences, the Eastern conference hierarchy changed with the relocation of LeBron James from South Beach to Cleveland. The conference was also hit hard with injuries to their stars in comparison to the West. Assuming everyone is coming back at full health, here are my preseason Power Ranking for the Eastern Conference.

 

*Note: This is not an indication of playoff seeding

 

15. Philadelphia 76ers

Coach Brett Brown has his work cut out for him but will be given time to make it work.

 

“Trust The Process” is the slogan in the City of Brotherly Love. The team began that process roughly three seasons ago, trading away All-Star PG Jrue Holiday. Since then the team has drafted big men in three consecutive drafts, while acquiring draft picks to build their team cheap, while staying away from free agency. With Joel Embiid on the mend, the team drafted Jahlil Okafor 3rd overall in the 2015 Draft. Paired with Center Nerlens Noel, Okafor stands to see significant time at the power forward position. With a “replacements” cast around him and Noel, they will be a sub-20 win team for yet another season. Coach Brett Brown has a long leash that many coaches don’t get due to the rebuilding process. Hopefully, the process ends sooner than later for all parties involved.

 

14. Orlando Magic

A lot of young talent on this team with no coaching to spearhead their development. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo came out of college with Dwayne Wade comparisons. He is a good player but has to take his game to the next level for the team to crack the top 8. Elfrid Peyton meanwhile has the make up of a young Rajon Rondo, sans the attitude. This team will be competitive in many games and may even win 30. However, coach Scott Skiles must take advantage on his 3rd opportunity to lead a team. With no veteran presence I think this is a bad fit.

 

13. Brooklyn Nets

Will the Nets continue to squander Joe Johnson’s talent?

 

The fire sale is just getting started. With PG Deron Williams gone, the team must decide what to do with SG Joe Johnson. He has thrived in great offensive systems in Atlanta and Phoenix but has struggled in Brooklyn. He is not a clutch player and is too mild mannered to lead a team. Center Brook Lopez has struggled to stay healthy and most of his work comes underneath the basket. Coach Lionel Hollins of Isley Brothers fame (ok, I couldn’t resist! He does look like he will do a spin and sing ‘For the loveee of you!’) is a good coach but he needs his own players. When in doubt pass the ball to Andrea Bargnani, said no one ever.

 

12. Charlotte Hornets

When an injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist during the preseason is breaking news it says a lot about the lack of talent on your roster. Think about this; the Hornets acquired Jeremy Lin this summer. I could end my analysis there but I digress. Center Al Jefferson has been a solid player in the league since coming out of high school. He is an offensive force and I would argue that if he had not gotten hurt last season, the Hornets would have made the playoffs. I do like the addition of Nicholas Batum and the draft pick of Frank Kaminsky. It does not help to have Kemba Walker as your starting point guard and I think that will keep them out the postseason.

 

11. New York Knicks

With Carmelo at the helm, this ship will continue to sink.

 

I’ll make this one brief. Unless Phil Jackson can turn water into wine, make that roster into the 12 Disciples, and make Carmelo Anthony into a person slightly interested in defense, this team will be taking trade inquiries for Anthony by Christmas. There’s no way this team, as currently constructed, will make the playoffs with Anthony as the primary player.

 

10. Detroit Pistons

Coach Stan Van Gundy is making this Pistons team in the image of the Orlando Magic team that he led to the NBA Finals with a young Dwight Howard at center. Andre Drummond has unlimited potential as a defensive force in this league. Whereas Howard had limitations offensively that were masked by putback dunks, Drummond will have time to develop as Van Gundy places offensive weapons around him. Van Gundy still has to acquire more 3-point players to create the spacing needed to have the team where he would like it. PF Marcus Morris is capable of shooting mid range shots but Van Gundy must get a true stretch 4 in the mold of a Ryan Anderson. This team is on the cusp of being in the playoffs this season with some more roster movement.

 

9. Indiana Pacers

Can Paul George coexist with Monta Ellis?

 

There’s a lot to like about this team. Small forward Paul George will come back a more efficient player after that devastating leg injury. Although there’s speculation that he will play more 4 this year, he is best suited to defend the 3 position, as well as facilitate the offense from the perimeter. The team drafted Myles Turner but it will take time for him to develop into a solid center. I have never liked George Hill as the primary ball handler and point guard. He is not remotely close to a competent point guard and the team has failed to address that position. The addition of SG Monta Ellis will give the team another scoring option but how will that mesh with George’s touches? This team can be supplanted by The Pistons or Hornets if it fails to address the point guard and power forward positions.

 

8. Toronto Raptors

Despite having one of the best fan bases in the league this team will take a fall in the hierarchy of the East, but I still feel it’s a good team. The problem is that all their star players have reached their ceiling. PG Kyle Lowry is what he is now, a pitbull defender and an emotional leader. There is no improvement on the offensive end of the floor and I think the ball is glued to his hands at times. SG Demar Derozan is another player that has reached his peak far too early in his career. He is a solid 20 point per game player but does not offer much more than that. Outside of a 51 point game last season, SF Terrence Ross is merely a slasher. Collectively, this team has had chances the past two seasons with injuries on opposing teams to make a charge for the Finals and failed to do so. Coach Dwane Casey has to be exasperated with the lack of talent he has to work with. Anytime you trade one number 1 bust pick (Bargnani) with another (PF Anthony Bennett) you are in a world of hurt.

 

7. Milwaukee Bucks

Jason Kidd has a very young and talented team. Now he just has to lead them.

 

Coach Jason Kidd has to be the luckiest son of a gun ever. He walked in to an abundance of riches in talent and potential. His starting lineup last season had an average height of 6’6″, best in the league. The average age of his team is 25. This is without having arguably his best player in SF Jabari Parker. With his team intact, I think they can land from 3 to 8 in playoff seeding. They’re scary good. In a league where offense is the focus, his team was near the top in several defensive rankings. The length of his team starting with PG Michael Carter-Williams, SG Giannis Antetokounmpo (6’11”), and the addition of C Greg Monroe will make this team a tough matchup. Monroe is an underrated low post passer who will create more opportunities for the offense. Overall, if not for inexperience I’d have them in my top 4. They’ll be that good this year.

 

6. Boston Celtics

This team’s ranking is because of one man, Brad Stevens. Making the playoffs last year, albeit with a losing record, says a lot about the coaching of this young team. Whereas the Bucks have a talented roster and sufficient coaching, the Celtics have great coaching and decent talent. Acquiring PG Isaiah Thomas was a good pick up and the ongoing development of PG Marcus Smart will make for an interesting pairing in the back court. I am curious how Stevens will foster a good front court between PF Jared Sullinger and C Kelly Olynyk. SG R.J. Hunter is an intriguing draft choice and he fits Stevens profile for a scorer. If this team makes the playoffs it will be a credit to the coaching staff as there is no Alpha Dog on the team speak of. Maybe Evan Turner can truly blossom this year and live up to his 2010 2nd overall draft pick status.

 

5. Chicago Bulls

Jimmy Butler is making the Bulls his team.

 

I prefaced this article by stating my rankings depended on players remaining healthy. At time of publishing, former league MVP PG Derrick Rose will be on the mend from an orbital fracture injury. SG Jimmy Butler benefited most from former head coach Tom Thibodeau’s tutelage and he’s a hard nosed two way player. There’s reports that Butler is not enthralled with Rose’s work ethic. Butler is primed to become the unquestioned leader of new head coach Fred Hoiberg’s team. Center Joakim Noah is the same kind of grit and grind player and will eventually become his counterpart over Rose. Hoiberg will allow young players to do what they do best. SF Doug McDermott and PF Bobby Portis will get enhanced roles on the team and will likely lead to the departure of fan favorite PF Taj Gibson. This team will go as far as Butler will take it. Hopefully, Rose will follow.

 

4. Atlanta Hawks

Owners of the conference’s best record last year, the Hawks will take a step back to familiar territory this season. The Hawks have been a perennial playoff team but not contenders. Coach Mike Budenholzer impact has San Antonio Spurs written all over it. The team spreads the floor and plays unselfish ball. They were the first team to lead the conference in wins without a 20 PPG scorer. Absolutely amazing results last year. This year they’ve added some role players to a team of role players. PG Jeff Teague and C Al Horford will lead this team to playoffs again but there’s no player that can match wits with the top three teams of the conference. Coach Bud caught a lot of teams by surprise last year sadly by just playing team ball. This year with several roster changes and players coming back from injury the Hawks will go back to what they know best, a team that’s good but not good enough to win it all.

 

3. Washington Wizards

John Wall and the Wizards will pick up where they left off last season.

 

The back court of this team can rival any in the league. PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal are growing together and I think will come to fruition this season. Beal was hurt for an extended time last year which led to some losses that otherwise would have propelled them to a better seeding in the playoffs. SF Otto Porter is turning the corner from being a potential bust to a solid contributor on this team. Having former teammate Paul Pierce for a year seems to have stoked his competitive fire and may lead him to a better role on this year’s team. Coach Randy Wittman has to demand more front court depth. The East isn’t deep with prominent front court players but having the depth may put the Wizards over the hump. Definitely keep an eye out for SF Kelly Oubre Jr as he gets minutes behind Beal and Porter.

 

2. Miami Heat

The Heat are by far the deepest team in the Eastern Conference. They’ve kept most of their team intact from their championship run. This year PF Chris Bosh will be healthy after a life-threatening blood clot ailment. PF Josh McRoberts is coming off a season ending injury. C Hassan Whiteside has gained nearly 15 pounds of muscle over the summer. PG Goran Dragic signed a new contract over the summer and the team still has SF Luol Deng, C Chris Anderson, and PG Mario Chalmers. Add the addition of draft pick SF Justice Winslow and you have a very deep roster. The success hinges on the health of SG Dwayne Wade. He showed flashes of “Flash” last year while playing a good number of games. If he can remain healthy and if there is any slippage of the #1 team in my ranking, the Heat will advance to the NBA Finals. They have one of the most underrated coaches in the league in Erik Spoelstra. He has done a phenomenal job of working with the talent he has regardless of the circumstances. If he has a healthy team come June then he has the tools to shock the world.

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

It’ll be Lebron’s conference to lose once again.

 

The Cavaliers returning to the Finals has everything to do with one thing, chemistry. The same core players are set to return. The competition shouldn’t differ much from last year. The underlying issue at hand is the chemistry and cohesiveness of it’s Big Three. LeBron James, PG Kyrie Irving, and PF Kevin Love have been great when on the floor together. Although Love has griped about his role in the offense, he can contribute in other ways than he’s accustomed to. Love is an excellent spot up shooter. When LeBron played with Bosh, Bosh was better when he expanded his game outside the paint. It provided LeBron more opportunities near the basket and allowed Bosh to pick and pop for easy 18 footers. It would behoove Love to follow that model. Irving simply has to remain healthy. Many people are quick to write him off as injury prone. Those detractors said the same about PG Stephen Curry when he battled ankle ailments early in his career. Irving must also facilitate the offense and not hog the ball. LeBron is better as a primary decision maker but Irving is a better ball handler. Add in PF Tristan Thompson, SG J.R. Smith, and PG Mo Williams and you have a championship quality team. They have a championship caliber coach in David Blatt (albeit with only international experience) and would be wise to trust in his in-game strategy. If James and Blatt can marry their philosophies they will win the championship this season.

The Eastern Conference will go through Cleveland, Ohio again. Maybe some Heat and Wizard-ry can derail a James 7th Finals appearance.

 

 


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