David West made a great decision from both a personal and team level when re-signing with the Pacers. His three year $36 million dollar deal would be hard for him to find in too many places, but I’m not saying that he couldn’t get this type of money in the league. Although it wasn’t his best season, it was his best as a member of the Indiana Pacers. He had season averages of 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. But more importantly was his physical presence in the frontcourt throughout the season and especially during the playoffs.
West alongside a 7’2″ Roy Hibbert formed probably the most formidable frontcourt duo in the league last season. Hibbert made an immense improvement this past season after signing a four year $58 million contract. His rebounding or points total in the regular season haven’t exactly sky rocketed, but this year’s playoffs showed the NBA his true worth. In the postseason, he averaged 17 points, 9.9 boards, 1.9 blocks, 50.2 % shooting, and shot an efficient 80.2 % from the charity stripe. For a seven footer, his free throw numbers are very impressive. His shot blocking prowess was on full display during the postseason especially during the Knicks series in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. West and Hibbert’s physical toughness allowed the Pacers to protect the rim and attain more offensive rebounds (242) than any other team in the league during the postseason as well as the most rebounds (3714) in the NBA during the regular season. I can definitively say that this frontcourt was a major factor in them going seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but eventually succumbing to the champion, Miami Heat.
A perfect example of Hibbert’s dominance in the interior during the playoffs is below:
I believe that the Pacers can dig deep again and make the Eastern Conference Finals with young budding stars in Paul George, Roy Hibbert, along with former All-Star Danny Granger, who missed essentially the entire past season. Their big men can match up and beat the majority of other frontcourts in the NBA. The team also gets many second chance opportunities on offensive possessions due to the high volume of offensive boards. This led to much success last season and I look for this to even make a bigger impact next year. West and Hibbert are now each locked up for the next three years and are going to be a scary matchup for any team in the league for the next few years. David West’s re-signing was an offseason priority for Indiana and his presence was a major reason for much success last season.
Although college coaches do not usually make good NBA coaches, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, PJ Carlesimo, and Jerry Tarkanian, Brad Stevens is a different coach and has taken a different path toward stardom. Stevens, the former coach of the Butler Bulldogs, has achieved success that very few mid major coaches have achieved. Brad had a record of 166-49 during his stint with the Butler Bulldogs, including five trips to the NCAA tournament in six seasons and 2 consecutive trips to the NCAAB National Championship Game. Stevens came within an inch or two of winning the first championship, while returning the next year even though he lost his best player to the draft, Gordon Heyward. Stevens has been able to win at the highest level with players, who were not the most talented or most physically imposing. Stevens will be able to succeed with the Celtics because of the experience he gained during his historic years with Butler.
Brad Stevens’ teams have been able to compete with the most talented college teams because of Steven’s genius and motivational tactics. During his college career, Brad coached against some of the best coaches, who had better talent, and still came away with victory after victory. Stevens will have to continue his magic if he is going to succeed with the Boston Celtics. Similar to Butler, the Celtics will have less talent than most of the teams they will be facing during the season. Stevens must garner the respect from his players and out coach his opposition in order for the Celtics to win. Brad differs from other college coaches who made the leap to the NBA because he did not have the players that these other coaches had at their disposal. Coaches, like Pitino from Kentucky, Tarkanian from UNLV, and PJ Carlesimo from Seton Hall, always had more talent than their opponent, which made their job a lot easier. These coaches, unlike Stevens, did not have to out think their opposition because they could just let their players run their opponents out of the gym. Once these coaches went to the NBA and had to deal with inferior talent, they did not experience the same success as they did in college. Stevens is also a young coach, who will be able to bond and relate with the young Celtic roster. Since the Celtics have a lot of young player and will have an influx of first round picks, Stevens has probably scouted these players. Also, Stevens will know how to guide this young an unexperienced roster to success and a possible playoff appearance.
However, there are many pitfalls, which could cause Stevens to fail and the Celtics to lose. First, I will point out that if the Celtics lose a lot this season, it will not be a disastrous result. The Celtics will get a top pick, which could lead to a future superstar because of the amount of talent in next year’s draft. Stevens may fail because the Celtics will be a bad team without much talent. Before this hire, the Celtics were expected to finish fourth in the weak Atlantic Division. Stevens will have to deal with Rondo. Although Rondo is a great player and can occasionally be the best player on the floor, he is extremely difficult to coach because of his inconsistency and stubbornness. Stevens has never dealt with the daily media pressure cooker of Boston. Although basketball is huge in Indiana, Butler is not the Celtics. Although the experts believe the Celtics will fail, the fans will not want to see their team fail and not make the playoffs.
Although there are possible pitfalls, I believe that Stevens will have success in the NBA with the Celtics. Even though it is unlikely that the Celtics will make the playoffs this season, I expect a lot of future playoff appearance and possibly championship titles in the NBA.
Kershaw is an absolute stud and a future Hall of Famer. The 25 year old pitcher already has a better resume than All-Stars, who have pitched for a decade. Besides his rookie season, Kershaw has never had a season where his ERA was above three. Kershaw has led the league in ERA the last two seasons and is on pace to win the title once again. The 2011 Cy Young Award winner is a true number one and a once in a generation type pitcher. Kershaw has a mid-ninetys fastball and a devastating curveball that leaves batters hopeless at the plate. Clayton is a pitcher that can pitch deep into a game, 10 CG and 6 SHO. Although Kershaw does not win that many games, he is the best pitcher in baseball and deserves to win many more Cy Young Awards in the future. Clayton is having the best season of his career so far, league leading (ll) 1.93 ERA/ 3 CG/ ll 2 SHO/ ll 130 IP/ 0.92 WHIP/ ll 189 ERA+. Kershaw is a good defensive player, winning the Gold Glove in 2011. This year, Clayton hit his first career home run.
2) Matt Harvey – Mets
Although the 24 year old right hander has only made 27 career starts, Harvey has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league, since he has been called up. Harvey is second in the league in ERA, 2.00, first in WHIP, 0.85, and first in strikeouts, 132. Although Matt has seven wins, he should have at least 12 wins because 6 times he allowed one run or fewer and did not win the game. Harvey has a dynamic fastball, change up, and slider combination that leaves hitters hopeless in the batting box. Although Matt may have the chance to win the Cy Young Award this season, Kershaw and he will compete for many years to win the Cy Young Award in the future. Harvey is a winner that will help the Mets rebound and exit their rebuilding phase.
3) Stephen Strasburg – Nationals
Strasburg is another pitcher that does not get adequate run support, so his wins do not match his true stats. Stephen is one of the most talented pitchers in the game because of his above average fastball and devastating secondary pitches. The former number one pick overall came into the league with a ridiculous amount of hype and expectations. Straburg career ERA stands at 2.74, which is incredible for a 24 year old phenom. Strasburg is one the of the best strikeout pitchers in the league, averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. After being capped by an innings limit last year, which may have cost him the Cy Young, Stephen should not be limited any more and should be able to pitch care free for the rest of his career.
4) Felix Hernandez – Mariners
The 27 year old pitcher is on his way to being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Although Hernandez does not have the amount of wins as Andy Pettitte or CC Sabathia, King Felix has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game over the last few seasons. Over the last four seasons, Felix has stuck out over 200 batter while pitching more than 200 innings. Through his durability and success, Felix has shown baseball fans around country why he is one of the best this game has to offer. After two seasons where his ERA was above 3.00, Hernandez has rebounded this season, posting an ERA of 2.70 while strikeout 132 batters. This past offseason, Hernandez signed a long term deal that will keep him with the Mariners for the rest of his Hall of Fame career.
5) Justin Verlander – Tigers
Before this season, Verlander would have competed for the first spot on this list. After leading the league in losses in 2008, Verlander has turned his career around and may become a Hall of Fame pitcher. Verlander has a list of great achievements, including two time leader in wins, three time winner in strikeouts, one time leader in ERA, one time leader in WHIP, and MVP winner. Although Verlander is 8-5 this season, his ERA has been a major disappointment, 3.77. However, many people believe Verlander will turn it around this season because of his great fastball and devastating curveball. One of the main reasons for Verlander’s disappointing season so far has been his fastball, which has not been as hard as previous years. As noted by Curt Schilling last night, last year 75% of Verlander’s fastballs were over 95 mph. This year that number has plummeted to 25%, which has enabled hitters to catch up to his fastball. Also, his other pitches do not seem as different because the velocity of the pitches are similar
Future Star: Shelby Miller – Cardinals
The 22 year old rookie starter is having a great rookie campaign. The 6’3″ right handed pitcher has a 100 mph fastball and a great array of secondary pitches. Miller is currently 8-6 with a sparkling 2.79 ERA in 93 innings. Like many other young studs, Harvey Wheeler, Strasburg, Miller is a strikeout pitcher, averaging 10 strikeouts per 9 innings. Miller’s WHIP is a minuscule 1.06. Shelby Miller should be an All Star this year because the Cardinals would not be where they are without his dominant outings. Along with Wainwright, the Cardinal duo boasts one of the most feared 1-2 punches in baseball.
Stats from Baseball reference and pics from ESPN.com