Takeaways From The 2015-16 NBA Season (From A Fan Who Hasn’t Yet Gotten A Friend’s League Pass Login Info)

Written by :
Published on : November 18, 2015

 

The 2015-16 NBA regular season is in full swing. It’s the second most important season in the world’s foremost basketball league. Less important than the post-season, but taken more seriously than the pre-season & Summer League (though players may try harder on offense playing in the Drew League than they do during the NBA regular season). Now let’s examine what we’ve seen so far and what we can expect to see as the season progresses.

 

First note, this year’s rookie class looks beastly. It was projected that the 2014 NBA draft class, headlined by Andrew Wiggins & The Weeknd’s muse, Elfrid Payton, would go down as legendary for its talent. At this point, last year’s class is more well known for being maligned by injury. The 2015 NBA draft class had some hype, but seems to feature future stars capable of surpassing the 2014 draft class’s lofty hype, just two weeks into their NBA tenures. Karl Anthony Towns is stacking up more double-doubles in Minnesota than a dab smoking “social media consultant” at In ‘N Out Burger. Kristaps Porzingis put back dunks are making Knicks fans who booed him on draft night look even stupider. You can tell D’angelo Russell will be great because Byron Scott won’t play him in the forth and when has he ever been right as a coach? Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Jerian Grant, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja, Myles Turner and Kelly Oubre Jr. have all made notable contributions to the highlight reel and/or box score while showing that they’re going to be the stars of the future. We’re on the third week of the season so more rooks are bound to emerge from beyond the pine just like Ryan Gosling did in 2012.

 

Gosling

 

Second note, 2015’s inaugural coach firing is already underway. Rockets just fired coach Kevin McHale and replaced him with James Harden’s beard. NBA owners have the same level of panic with their coaches as NBC executives have for their new fall line-up. This is to say they all have patience akin to six year old children with their parents’ iPhone throwing breadsticks on the ground at the table next to you as you try to enjoy your meal at Olive Garden. It seems like owners fire coaches just to give Stephen A. Smith more fodder to be annoying with Skip Bayless. Besides, it’s rare that a mid-season coaching change nets postseason results. One instance comes to mind: Byron Scott got fired from coaching the New Jersey Nets in 2004 and his successor Lawrence Frank went on a 13 game winning streak as soon as he took over. While Frank’s tenure in Jersey was technically successful, the Nets had previously gone to the Finals, but never managed to match that success. That’s best case scenario for an in-season coaching shake-up. Given the history, why are owners so trigger happy? Right now it’s a two man race to see who is fired next: George Karl in Sacramento or Dave Joegger in Memphis. Sacramento fired their coach about this time last season then hired… George Karl… Are the coaches really the issue here? Sacramento’s being run like the love life of a reality show star on VH1. In fact, NBA TV should just produce a The Bachelor-esque reality show for Sacramento to find a new coach every year.

 

Side note, my team – The Detroit Pistons finally look competent and competitive for the first time since the “BALL DON’T LIE” era. The stank of Darko Millicic has finally wafted away and while so many speculated that very smell would stink up Madison Square Garden, Porzingis proves history doesn’t always repeat itself. SVG for President!

 

Stan Van Gundy (SVG)

 

Crazy trade speculation time! It’s insane that owners will more readily uproot a coach before they consent to trading players who show signs of age/wear, bad fit, become distracting/ disinterested or for being Nick Young. Here are some players I expect to (or fantasize) see traded:

 

1. Derrick Rose

Signs of age/wear? Check! Bad fit? Check! Disinterested? Check! Nick Young? Well, no… But Derrick Rose is a point guard who looks for his shot more than to get his teammates involved. His presence seems to hinder the rise to power of Jimmy Butler, both on the court and in the locker room. On top of it all, his offseason contract comment – given his history with the Bulls franchise, on top of his sexual assault allegations are more disgusting than a frat house communal bathroom. While the Bulls most likely won’t trade him, only time will tell. Who would they or could they even get for him though? What organization would even want him? I think the Knicks & Kings would pull the trigger faster than a racist white cop. Both would be fun situations to see if Derrick Rose can make a Neil Patrick Harris-type comeback.

 

2. Joakim Noah

Sup?

 

Since we’re talking Bulls, new coach Fred Hoiberg came in and sent Noah to the bench sparking the blunt of speculation that he may not fit in Hoiberg’s vision of the Bulls’ deep front court. Noah has been great when healthy, but mired by injuries. Beyond what he does on the court, he’s the kind of spirited dude who any team would benefit from, plus I bet he has a really great weed hook up. The Mavericks seem a perfect fit for Noah after being stood up by DeAndre Jordan. Portland has a gaping hole in their front court since LaMarcus Aldridge left to go grab a pack of smokes, never to be seen again.

 

3. Zach Randolph

If you’re an NBA purist, it’s nearly impossible to not love this former Michigan State Spartan’s game and maturity since his early days as a Portland Jailblazer. However, his grit and grind style is becoming obsolete in today’s NBA. Houston could make a flashy deal for Z-Bo if they decide they don’t want to have to pay Terrence Jones or Donatas Montiejūnas. The Pacers perhaps? Maybe If they decide PG-13 at the 4 and running the floor is no longer their thing. Brooklyn might do it just to salary dump any number of their players.

 

4. The Entire Nets Roster

Time for Joe to go?

 

This is the least crazy speculation and most imminent change coming. The Nets are so bad that their new logo should be a rusted basketball rim dangling from the backboard with no hoop for a ball to swish through. Expect Joe Johnson to be shipped out faster than something you bought after signing up for Amazon Prime. Brook Lopez is one stubbed toe away from a home in a new city, whether it be his own or a nursing home. This team need draft picks like Draft Kings and Fan Duel need to pay off the government so they don’t become an off-shore betting enterprise on the deep web.

 

5. Markieff Morris

This seems inevitable because the Suns are in low-key disarray, but Vanessa Bryant took Kobe back after his rape trial, so you never know. Kobe never shipped Vanessa’s brother to Detroit though. Can the Suns trade this dude and get his high value in talent back? Probably not. Kieff’s ceiling could be the second or third best player on a contender, there aren’t very many teams willing to give that up. I could see a scenario where the Suns get fed up with him and ship him off to Philadelphia. I fantasize Phoenix will trade him to join his brother Marcus in Detroit for Ersan Ilyasova and the potential of Reggie Bullock. There’s a better chance of Clyde Drexler coming out of retirement than the Pistons making a mid-season trade for a franchise changing Power Forward, again.

 

 

The 2016 NBA season looks super fun in its infancy. There are 45 contenders in the West and the East has some sneaky good teams. Whether there’s tons of off-court and trade drama or the season goes along as competitively as it has begun, all NBA fans across the world project to be winners here (as long as I can get a friend’s League Pass user name and password).

 

 


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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