Tag Archives: Charlotte Bobcats

5 Biggest Takeaways from the NBA so far

By: Evan

1.) New York basketball is the abyss of the NBA

Both New York teams came into the season with high hopes but have disappointed tremendously. Courtesy of BKMagazine
Both New York teams came into the season with high hopes, but have disappointed tremendously.
Courtesy of BKMagazine

This summer was exciting for both New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets fans as they both thought they had a serious chance to challenge the Miami Heat and potentially win an NBA title. Well, welcome to reality New Yorkers, both of your teams are below .500 and don’t have much hope for the future.

Let’s first start off with Brooklyn, the Nets made some supposedly huge offseason moves acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry for Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph and first round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Pundits deemed Garnett and Pierce, “the experience” that the Nets needed to defeat the Heat. Now people are seeing that “experience” really means “old-age” and the scoring numbers for Pierce and Garnett have drastically decreased from 12.3 ppt to 6.7 ppg.  Deron Williams has constant ankle injuries, and now with Brook Lopez gone to a season-ending surgery on his broken foot, the Nets are going to have to rely on bench players for the majority of their scoring. The other huge problem for the Brooklyn Nets is Jason Kidd and his inexperience as a head coach.  GM Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov took a chance on Kidd, and now the gamble has failed.  The soda-spilling scandal and the swift removal of Lawrence Frank as an assistant coach has shown that Kidd is not ready to coach any NBA team.

Now on to the Knicks, who face a huge decision on whether to trade Carmelo Anthony before the February deadline because of Melo’s impending free agency. Melo has already been quoted as saying he is planning to test his free agency, so why wouldn’t the Knicks shop around their lone star?  It is clear that the Knicks have a long way to go before becoming remotely relevant in the championship picture, and trading Melo might aid that process. If the Knicks can land a high first round pick or a young talent under contract for Melo, it would enable the franchise to make more strategic offseason moves. On the court the Knicks struggles are laughable, they rank 25th in points per game and 22nd in adjusted field goal percentage. J.R. Smith is shooting 34% from the field and is only getting to the free throw line 1.7 times per game, showing how inefficient a scorer he is.  Mike Woodson might be the first coach fired this year,  the Knicks 9-19 record is a harbinger of needed changes — and lots of them.

2.) The Portland Trailblazers are for real

LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard deserve respect as one of the best point-forward duos in the league. Courtesy of AP
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard deserve respect as one of the best point-forward duos in the league.
Courtesy of AP

From the disappointing NYC teams to the emerging Portland Trailblazers, who I didn’t pick to make the playoffs this year. To quote the famous rapper The Notorious B.I.G “If you don’t know, now you know” — and this applies perfectly to the Blazers as they have started the season off at a league best 24-5, all while hiding amongst the elite teams in the Western Conference throughout preseason predictions. The Blazers are led by their two should-be all stars, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, who together average 44 points per game. These two provide a lethal pick and roll game with LaMarcus’ ability to knock down 15-20 footers and Lillard’s ability to  driving and score or step out and hit threes. Playing in Portland, most East coast basketball fans don’t see the Blazers play, but I urge you to try. They are fun and exciting and have players who will compete with anyone in the league. There have been discussions about LaMarcus Aldridge as a possible MVP candidate, and we all saw Damian Lillard preform last year by winning ROY. The only question for the Blazers is their bench as the starters average 85 points per game while the team averages 108 points per game. Rookie CJ McCollum is expected to come back soon and he might provide a spark off the bench, but if he doesn’t, the Blazers might need to trade for a sixth man who can score the rock. The Blazers are coming folks, whether you know it or not.

3.) Rivalries are Real

Anyone who says there are no rivalries in the NBA are clearly delusional. Courtesy of Washington Post
Anyone who says there are no rivalries in the NBA is clearly living in the past. 
Courtesy of The Washington Post

Ok, the NBA has had storied rivalries like Bulls-Knicks, Celtics-Lakers, Pacers-Knicks/Bulls, Lakers-Kings and the Detroit Bad Boys against almost everyone, so you might think that era is over.  But look again.  There are simmering rivalries in today’s NBA, and the animosity is clear among certain teams and players.   For instance, the Clippers-Warriors have featured skirmishes involving Blake Griffin with Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green as well as DeAndre Jordan’s near fight with Bogut. The coaches, Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson, aren’t the best of friends and the two teams won’t even go to chapel together. In their last two games alone, there have been seven technical fouls called with two ejections. It would be difficult to make a case that these two teams don’t play a little bit rougher when the face each other.  Another rivalry resides in South Beach and Indiana as these two teams clearly see themselves as the Eastern Conference’s top teams.  Paul George was even quoted as saying that his preparation in the offseason was for the Miami Heat. Indiana believes that they can defeat the Heat and are trying to send messages through regular season victories. Miami has consistently downplayed the Pacers’ talk, citing the fact that championships aren’t won during the winter months. And while the Pacers-Heat rivalry hasn’t been as physically bruising as the Clippers-Warriors sparring, the potential for hard fouling is huge.  The Pacers may be the strongest team in the league, and LeBron is the NBA’s best.  Let’s just hope we see a playoff series between both the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers and a Eastern Conference Final between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat.

4.) Top Teams Tanking

More ping pong balls, more chances to win the lottery. Courtesy of NBA.com
More ping pong balls, more chances to win the lottery.
Courtesy of NBA.com

With the upcoming loaded NBA draft class there has been discussion about whether tanking is fair and strategic or embarrassing for the league. My opinion is simple — bad teams especially in smaller markets such as Utah, Charlotte, Orlando and Milwaukee, don’t necessary attract the huge free agents like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Miami.  These smaller market teams try to build through the draft just like the Thunder did.  Listen to the Supersonics/Thunder’s draft picks since 2007, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden (the trade was dumb but they did net Jeremy Lamb), Eric Bledsoe (traded to LAC now with PHX), Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III and Steven Adams. They found two franchise changers and some tremendously talented role players all through the draft and even traded some pieces to fit the Thunder’s system. So when teams tank and perform poorly, it is usually not a reflection of the team’s desire, but a plan devised by the front office to find young players who can contribute in the future.  Rebuilding by tearing down is a viable strategic option for smaller markets who don’t have the resources to attract top free agents.  Who knows, with some luck of ping-pong balls and the development of the right players, Utah or Milwaukee could be the next OKC.

5.) The Pacers are the best team in the NBA

Paul George has the Pacers flexing their muscles as the NBA's best team. Courtesy of Indystar
Paul George has the Pacers flexing their muscles as the NBA’s best team.
Courtesy of Indystar.com

While the Portland Trail Blazers have the NBA’s best record, the Pacers are the NBA’s best team.  The Pacers get my vote for best team because of their overall depth and intense defensive mentality. Paul George is no longer a star on the rise, he is firmly entrenched as one of the league’s best players. He plays hard on both ends, a rarity in today’s NBA and his offensive game has elevated every year he has been in the league. The Pacers also improved their bench this year, trading for Luis Scola and adding CJ Watson and Chris Copeland to help alleviate the scoring stress on the starters. Lance Stephenson has also emerged posting three triple doubles this season, most in the NBA. As “Born Ready” continues to mature with age, the Pacers become more and more dangerous in terms of team potential. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Pacers’ bigs Roy Hibbert and David West who are two stout defensive players who also can score in the low post, making opposing defenses worry about the inside-out game. This Pacers team is maturing and is not afraid of anybody, including the defending champs the Miami Heat. Don’t be surprised if this Pacers team knocks off the Heat as they have both the offense and defense to do so.

Stats from ESPN.com

Eastern Conference Southeast Division Preview

By: Evan

The Miami Heat clearly rank supreme in the Southeast division as well as in the Eastern conference.  Having won back-to-back titles, they  show no signs of slowing down. LeBron James is dazzling basketball fans around the world, making them wonder if he really is the best to ever play the game.  The Heat will win this division, but there is hope for some other teams  in the Southeast, like the Wizards, who have a chance to make the playoffs.  Let’s look at how the division will play out (*denotes playoff team).

1.) *Miami Heat

LeBron James is on top of the basketball world, but will he stay there?                                         Courtesy of ESPN

If I were a betting man, my money would be on the Miami Heat to pull a three-peat and win the NBA championship. They have all of the pieces and even found a way to improve their team from a year ago. They signed Greg Oden, an injury plagued center who has not lived up to his #1 overall pick six years ago, and Michael Beasley, a talented but immature small forward who was once considered the best player coming out of college. These are two low-risk, potentially high reward picks could significantly help Miami’s bench.  Of course, distractions are part of the game, and there will be a huge focus on LeBron’s  impending free agency and whether he will return to South Beach next year. The X-factor for the Heat is Dwyane Wade’s health.   Although Dwyane is working with Tim Grover, the legendary trainer who has worked miracles with athletes and their injuries, he still has a lot of miles on his knees and has clearly shown deterioration in his explosiveness.  Chris Bosh is another important player for the Heat as he stretches out opposing defenses with his mid-range game, opening up the hole for LeBron and D-Wade to attack. If Bosh improves on the defensive side of the ball, the Heat will be tough to beat.  The Miami Heat has great talent off the floor as Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have brought in viable role players who have meshed with the big three quite well.   Riley and Spoelstra will be busy managing the media scrutiny about LeBron’s free agency while also formulating a plan for the future in case LeBron decides to leave.  Watch for the Heat in the headlines as they create a lot of excitement on and off the court.

2.) *Washington Wizards

The Wizards have one of the youngest and most talented backcourts in the NBA.                                                                                           Courtesy of Nike Talk

The Wizards take a big step and reach the playoffs this season with their young stars starting to pay dividends.  After  John Wall returned from a serious knee injury last year, the Wizards finished the season with a .500 record, which would have been good enough to make the playoffs considering the Bucks got in under .500.  John Wall received his much-desired max contract extension, they drafted Otto Porter, a versatile wing player who can defend and Bradley Beal showed significant improvement as the season wore on. The Wizards also have some expiring contracts in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza that could be traded for some younger assets to help the Wizards in the long-run. But the Wizards lack post presence, as Nene has not been able to stay healthy, Emeka Okafor is not the player he once was, and the Wizards don’t have any reliable back-ups.  This put the onus on Wall, Beal and Porter to carry the offense and both Wall and Porter are inconsistent shooters, which is partially why the Wizards ranked 27th in field goal percentage last season. If the Wizards can attack more, and trade Okafor and/or Ariza for a viable big man, the Wizards could vault themselves from an 8th seed to a 6-7th seed.

3.) Atlanta Hawks

The Paul Milsap signing was a solid move for the Hawks.                                            Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

The Hawks are positioned for a rebuilding year as they let Josh Smith go to Detroit and they fired Larry Drew.  And while the Hawks  have a solid core of Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Lou Williams, they are still several significant upgrades from making the playoffs. In the NBA, there are teams who are consistently mediocre with little potential of advancing but are not the dregs of the league.  The  Atlanta Hawks are the quintessential example. They missed out on Chris Paul and Dwight Howard but signed a nice complimentary piece in Paul Milsap while also re-signing Kyle Korver. The Hawks also had a nice draft by selecting Dennis Schröeder, a talented point guard who could be a surprise ROY and might even take over the starting job from Jeff Teague. He still needs time to adjust to the NBA game but has the potential to be a cornerstone of this franchise. The Hawks are young and need more pieces to be contenders.

4.) Charlotte Bobcats

Will Al Jefferson help the Bobcats move in the right direction? Courtesy of Rotoinfo.com

The Charlotte Bobcats have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years now as they have consistently drafted players who have turned out to be busts including Adam Morrison, Brandan Wright and DJ Augustin.  Fan attendance is low and the Bobcats don’t have a player worth advertising.  Insert Al Jefferson.  Although Jefferson may not be a star, he has a consistent game of 18 points and 9 rebounds per game, solid numbers for a new NBA game that focuses on perimeter play. This signing is  important for the growth of the Bobcats and for showing the fan base that the team can attract free agents.  But even with the Jefferson signing, the Bobcats don’t have enough talent to get out of the lottery, which is a good thing for them as they traded a protected 1st round pick to the Bulls back in 2010 and that pick still has protection until 2016.  The Bobcats also have a Blazers protected top twelve pick and a Pistons protected top eight pick that the Bobcats may get this year as the Blazers and Pistons look to make the playoffs.  Given how stacked the draft is expected to be, a midrange pick could turn into a star, so the Bobcats have a great opportunity on the horizon.  Multiple picks can change the course of their franchise in just one night. This might be the last year for Bobcat nation to root for tanking and hopefully owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho can turn this team around.  As for this season, the Bobcats need Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to find a jumpshot, Cody Zeller to play physical against bigger players and for Kemba Walker to become a more efficient shooter.  I don’t like this team now, but next year, it may be an entirely different story.

5.) Orlando Magic

Will Victor Oladipo play the point or shooting guard for the Magic?              Courtesy of USA Today

The Magic will be one of the worst teams in the NBA, no doubt about it, but they do have some exciting young players such as Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic. These players will become complimentary pieces to the high first round lottery pick they will draft this year. The question becomes what kind of player will they draft, as Victor Oladipo has played point guard throughout the summer league as well as in preseason.  If the Magic get the #1 overall pick, there is no question who they will take Andrew Wiggins; if they fall to a lower spot, and they think Oladipo will be more of a shooting guard, then the Magic may draft a point guard, potentially Marcus Smart, a player they wanted last year who didn’t declare for the draft.  Other possibilities are Dante Exum, an Australian player with good height and play making ability or Andrew Harrison, a physical guard who can play both guard positions and will know how to play under pressure because he will star for the University of Kentucky this season. The Magic will also get the lesser pick of the Nuggets-Knicks trade that involved Carmelo Anthony, which could turn into another valuable asset. This season will not produce many wins for the Magic but the future is looking brighter.

 

Stats from ESPN/