Tag Archives: David West

NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: #1 Indiana Pacers vs #8 Atlanta Hawks

By: Evan

The Pacers need to take the Jeff Teague-led Hawks seriously as this series won't be a cakewalk.  Courtesy of AJC
The Pacers need to take the Jeff Teague-led Hawks seriously as this series won’t be a cakewalk.
Courtesy of AJC

The Pacers accomplished their season-long goal of earning the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, giving them home court advantage until the NBA Finals. The Hawks on the other hand, just clinched the #8 seed with a win over the defending champion Miami Heat. The Hawks have been ravaged by injuries to All-Stars  Al Horford and Paul Milsap. Coach Budenholzer deserves tremendous  credit for the job he has done, seeing as many people believed they would be in the running for a top 5 pick in this year’s draft. Although the Pacers have the best record in the East, they have struggled mightily since the All-Star break with a record of 15-14. Here is why each team could win the series. Why the Pacers will win:

The Pacers need the Paul George of old if they want to advance in the playoffs. Courtesy of ESPN.com
The Pacers need the Paul George of old if they want to advance in the playoffs.
Courtesy of ESPN.com

Despite their struggles the Pacers are still one of the top 5 teams in the NBA, headed by their terrific defense which gives up only 92.4 points per game,  2nd in the NBA. Their scheme of forcing tough, mid-range jump shots is facilitated by the presence of 7’2 center Roy Hibbert, who has clearly established himself as one of the premier rim protectors in the NBA. They also have star power in Paul George, an emerging star who has improved every year of his career especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Pacers also improved their bench this season, adding Luis Scola from Phoenix and signing back-up point guard CJ Watson as well as executing an in-season trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner. Bench scoring is vital in the playoffs as the starters have endured a tremendous physical toll on their bodies, and need scoring help. The Pacers should also benefit from the injury to Al Horford as Roy Hibbert should be able to dominate the low-post (just as he dominates the center less Heat). The Pacers have the talent to make a deep post-season run but their consistency is a concern.

Why the Hawks can win:

Paul Milsap has been the offseason acquisition of the    year will be featured during this season. Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com
Paul Milsap has been the offseason acquisition of the year will be featured during this series.
Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com

The Hawks have an advantage at two of the most important positions in this series, point guard and power forward. Jeff Teague garnered some All-Star consideration and Paul Milsap was a bonafide steal for the Hawks at two for years $19 million.  Jeff Teague is an extremely quick guard who creates for others and can attack the basket. He should be able to drive by George Hill, but the problem lies in Indiana’s ability to deny easy baskets around the rim. Paul Milsap could also be a match-up problem for David West, who is more adept at guarding in the post rather than guarding stretch 4s. Although the Hawks are a terrible road team, they have played the Pacers well, splitting the four games they played this year, including winning one game in Indiana. If the Hawks manage to steal a game in the  beginning of the series they could put enough pressure on the Pacers to take this to a six or even seven game series. X-Factor for the Pacers:

Hibbert needs to step his game up against the weak interior defense of the Hawks. Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com
Hibbert needs to step his game up against the weak interior defense of the Hawks.
Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com

Roy Hibbert has been criticized for his comments about his teammates, calling them “selfish” and although these comments might be true, seeing as Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner are playing for new, lucrative contracts, Hibbert should look at his own play as a reason for the Pacers’ struggles. This Hawks series could be a boost for Hibbert’s confidence as the Hawks minus Al Horford, have limited big bodies to defend him. Hibbert’s defense is a constant but his offensive game is starting to waver and so are the Pacers. X-Factor for the Hawks: Kyle Korver

The Hawks are going to need Kyle Korver's lethal 3pt shooting if they want to steal a game or two. Courtesy of USAToday.com
The Hawks are going to need Kyle Korver’s lethal 3pt shooting if they want to steal a game or two.
Courtesy of USAToday.com

Kyle Korver might be the best spot up 3-pt shooter in game right now and holds the record for most consecutive games with a 3-pt basket with 127. Although the Pacers hold opponents to a measly 34.5% from 3-pt land, Korver has unlimited range that becomes very hard to guard when he gets hot. Korver also has plenty of playoff experience as he has played in 60 playoffs games and has contributed to the deep runs of the Utah Jazz in 07-08 and the 10-11 Chicago Bulls. There is no doubt that Roy Hibbert means more to the Pacers than Korver means to the Hawks but if Korver can get on a hot streak, he could help lead the Hawks to a monumental upset.

Prediction: Pacers in 6

Lance and PG

A #1 seed has only lost in the first round four times in NBA history and I don’t think that number will change with this series. The Pacers just have too many weapons on both sides of the court and eventually I think they will wear the Hawks out. Coach Vogel deserves kudos for pushing his team through their rough patch, all while achieving their goal of winning the #1 overall seed. The Hawks also deserve credit for their accomplishments, not many teams could lose their two All-Star players to injury and still find a way to sneak into the playoffs. Sure the Eastern Conference was weak in terms of wins and playoff positioning, but making the playoffs is still a respectable achievement. After the Pacers defeat the Hawks, they will have to take on the winner of the Bulls/Wizards series who both split the regular season series with the Pacers, 2-2 with the Bulls and 1-1 with the Wizards. Either matchup would present matchup difficulties as the Bulls’ series would be a drag-out, knockdown type series where whoever scores 80 points first will probably win the game. With the Wizards, the mismatch at point guard would be highlighted even more as John Wall is just head and shoulders above George Hill in terms of talent and productivity. To conclude, the Pacers roll on to the second round.

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

The Brooklyn Hype?

By: Evan

The Nets have made some big offseason moves including trading for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well as hiring a new coach in Jason Kidd. Will these moves add up? Or will the Nets be a middle of the pack team in the Eastern Conference? Here are a couple of reasons why I think the Nets will falter despite expectations.

1.) They are old.

Oldies aren’t always Goodies

On paper sure the Nets have talent, but in reality they are old and slow. Just look at the SG,SF, and PF positions. Joe Johnson is a weak defender in his 30s with a mere 1.2 defensive win share rating and won’t be able to compete for much longer. Even worse is Johnson’s contract, which runs until 2015-2016 with almost $70 million dollars guaranteed. Johnson is a one-dimensional player with one of the worst contracts in the NBA.  The newly acquired Paul Pierce, will play the SF position at the age of 36 with declining skills and ability. He will be forced to guard the elite wings in the Eastern Conference including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Luol Deng and Rudy Gay. There is no way Pierce will be able to handle these SF’s on a nightly basis. Just another undeniable fact that Net fans will try to refute with misleading stats about All-Star appearances. Kevin Garnett is another overrated piece of this newly formed squad that won’t contribute on the level expected. Garnett was once one of my favorite players, but at  37 years old, he is a big man with deteriorating health and cannot be expected to produce near his glory years.  Garnett will provide leadership in the locker room, but no significant gains will be made next year for this overpaid squad of veterans.

2.) The Heat, Bulls and Pacers are better

The Bulls will be back and better than ever

The Miami Heat are the defending champions and have the best player in the world in LeBron James. They have attained the championship pedigree and know what it takes to win in consecutive years. The Nets do not have any solid wing defenders to stop  LeBron James from scoring at will. I would pick the Heat in an easy series of maybe 5 games. The Chicago Bulls are another team that I would pick over the Nets because of team defense, youth, and the return of Derrick Rose. The Bulls are arguably the best defensive team in the NBA, led by outstanding coach Tom Thibodeau and his stout defensive tactics. The Bulls can guard wing players with the emerging Jimmy Butler and the consistent Luol Deng, both are crucial to the Bulls’ success. They can also guard inside with the  Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, two vastly underrated players who provide high energy and tenacity. The Bulls are also very young with only one starter over the age of 30, meaning the Bulls are capable of performing on a high level in back-to-back games. The last and most important reason why I would choose the Bulls over the Nets is Derrick Rose. Rose will still be quicker than most every guard in the NBA and there is nobody on the Nets that can stop him. In late playoff games, every team needs its leader to step up and lead and that is exactly what Derrick Rose will do next season. The final team that would beat the Nets in a playoff series would be the Indiana Pacers, an extremely dangerous squad that had a real chance to upset the Heat last year. Paul George is a superstar in the making with an improving offensive game, tremendous defensive ability and off the charts athleticism. Similarly to the Bulls, the Pacers have two great post defenders in David West and Roy Hibbert who intimidated the Heat from driving to the basket for easy points. The Pacers also have a great young coach in Frank Vogel, who will be COY in the next few years. The Pacers would also beat the Nets in a playoff series.

3.) Can Kidd coach?

Already criticized for answering his phone during a game, will Jason Kidd really help the Nets?

The Brooklyn Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov likes to make big media moves and create buzz around the team. But all these moves are not smart basketball decisions. Just like taking older veterans like Pierce and Garnett, hiring Kidd was a risky move. Kidd has no prior coaching experience and despite his coach-like demeanor on the court, Kidd will now have to balance the egos of Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett, two players with reputations for being recalcitrant towards new ideas. Thibodeau, Vogel and 2-time champion Erik Spoelstra are experienced coaches, coaching established and elite teams who command respect. Kidd’s selection is questionable, and   the basketball acumen of the front office is not sound.

4.) Will Deron Williams finally take the next step?

Can Jason Kidd help Deron Williams become a leader?

Deron Williams has talent —  he can score from inside and out, he can dish and he can defend but his problems are his motor and drive. Deron was frequently out of shape, only to recover in the second half  to play to his All-Star potential. Time is running out for Deron as younger players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are leading their teams to new heights while Deron struggles to get out of the first round. He will have no better opportunity than this year when the talent surrounding him is at its highest. Maybe KG and Paul Pierce can convince Deron to pick up his game and take control on a consistent basis. Maybe not. A leader needs to lead and Deron Williams has been complacent, a talented player with limited intensity. On paper, the Nets look good, but they are not contenders for an NBA championship.  The Heat, Bulls, and Pacers have both talent,  heart and effective coaching.  Remember how the Bulls, without Rose and Deng beat the Nets in game 7 in Brooklyn?  KG and Pierce can instill some intensity but their best playing days are behind them.  Will they be able to light a fire under the younger Nets?   The NBA is rich with talent, but it takes much more than talent to win a NBA Championship.  And with a rookie coach at the helm, I don’t see the Nets as a threat to win the Eastern Conference.