Tag Archives: James Jones

Prediction and Preview of the NBA Finals: Heat vs Spurs

By: Jon

After nearly a month of playoff action, the finals are set and most NBA fans would say that this is the matchup they would most like to see. Last season, the Heat and Spurs played one of the greatest finals of all-time. This year’s finals should be as compelling because the storylines are even more enticing and many believe that the teams are evenly matched.

 

Why the Miami Heat will win?

They have the best player in the world and the two best players in the series. If the Heat are going to win this series, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade must play well and continue their great postseason. Although the fatigue of playing in the last three finals and the Olympics has visibly diminished LeBron’s energy, he is averaging 27.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 56% from the field. During the postseason, LeBron has differentiated the games where he must go all out and defeat his opponent verses the games when he can relax and allow his teammates to shoulder the load. During the games that LeBron has tried his hardest, the Heat have won every game and most of them have not even been close.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.49.23 AM

 

The major difference between last year’s Heat team and this year’s team is the consistent performances from Dwyane Wade. Last year, Wade looked like a shell of his former self throughout the playoffs and it seemed like we would never see the same aggressive Wade again. However, this year, Wade’s knees have stayed healthy and he is averaging 3 more points per game and shooting 6% higher from the field, including 15% higher from three. The two have shown throughout the postseason that they have the capability to take over tight games and win.

Besides LeBron and Wade, another key for the Heat will be their ability to hit threes. James and Wade are two of the best slashers and passers in the history of basketball, which leaves shooters, like Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Mario Chalmers, and James Jones, wide open for three. If they can shoot a high percentage from three, they will force the Spurs to play “small ball”, which will play into the advantage of the Heat. This postseason, the Heat have shot 40% for three and they must continue to shoot a high percentage in order to win.

 

Why the San Antonio Spurs will win?

They want to avenge their loss to the Heat in last year’s final and they have a better overall team than the Heat. Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been the most consistent team in the league because of their Hall of Fame head coach, top ten all time player, and the willingness to pass and play like a team. Although the Spurs have a “Big Three” of their own, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, they are really the “Big Seven” because seven of their players play more than 24 minutes per game, but none over 32 minutes per game.

The biggest advantage for the Spurs is their bench, ability to pass the ball, and size. During the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the difference between the two teams was the performances from the bench players. If the Spurs are going to win this series, the bench must play a huge role. Although they do not need Boris Diaw to score 26 points or Ginobili to average over 20 for the series, the bench must shoot threes at a high percentage and take advantage when LeBron or Wade is on the bench.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.50.14 AM

 

Although Tony Parker is the only Spur who can consistently break down opposing defenses, the schemes that Pop devises and player’s ability to see open cutters or men near the basket allows them to convert easy buckets. Unlike the Heat’s big men, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Tim Duncan are capable passers. Although the big men need to look for open shooters, they must dominate the Heat down low if they are going to win the series. The Heat like to play small lineups with Bosh at the five with LeBron, Wade, Lewis, and Cole. When the Heat put these five on the field, Duncan and/or the other big man must take advantage of their matchup with Chris Bosh. Although Bosh is a capable rim defender, Duncan and Splitter have significant advantages in terms of weight and size.

The duo will need to score efficiently and punish the Heat on the glass or the Heat will hit too many threes. Similar to the Heat, the Spurs bench and role players must knock down threes and spread the floor. Last year, the emergence of Danny Green and Gary Neal almost led the Spurs to a title. This year, Green, Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, and Marco Belinelli must step up and hit threes, so Duncan and Parker have room to operate in the paint.

 

Miami Heat’s X-Factor: Chris Bosh

Each year that Bosh has been with the Heat his scoring and rebounding numbers have slowly dropped. Throughout his time in Miami, Bosh has slowly transformed from a dominant big man in the paint to a more finesse player that shoots threes. When Bosh has played aggressive and well, the Heat have been nearly unbeatable. If Bosh can shoot the three at a high percentage, he will pull the big men away from the basket and allow James and Wade to drive in the lane. During the last three games, Bosh has averaged over 23 points and 8 rebounds per game. During the three games, the Heat won two and almost beat the Pacers when LeBron scored only 7 points. Bosh will want to avenge his game 7 performance from last season when he did not score and grabbed only 7 rebounds. If Bosh has a big series and the Heat win the series, LeBron will have more confidence to stay with Bosh and the Heat this offseason.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.50.47 AM

 

San Antonio Spurs’ X-Factor: Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili’s performance during last season’s final is the reason why the San Antonio Spurs did not claim their fifth ring. Last year, Manu averaged 11.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.1 rebounds while shooting only 43% from the field. During the series, Ginobili scored in the single digits 4 times, looked lost for most of series, and averaged nearly 3 turnovers per game, including 8 in Game 6. Ginobili has played better this postseason, averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 50% from the field during the series against the Thunder. If Parker is not at 100%, Ginobili will be called upon to be a facilitator and generate offense for the Spurs. Like many of the Spurs, Ginobili has the ability to shoot and pass at a high level. Manu is an incredible competitor and will be determined to avenge his horrid performance. Manu is the heart of the team and needs to have a big series in order to claim another title.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.51.22 AM

Prediction: Heat in 7

Similar to last year’s series, the series should go to seven because they are evenly matched. However, I do not see LeBron losing a chance to win his third straight championship in a game seven. Although the Spurs will be determined to enact revenge for their loss, D-Wade and LeBron have the same intensity and tenacity to achieve greatness. While Wade wants to continue adding rings in hope of passing Kobe on the all-time list, LeBron cannot waste chances like this if he wants to reach seven rings and pass Michael as the best player of all-time.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.52.56 AM

Like Wade and LeBron, Duncan hopes to add to his ring collection in order ascend on the all-time rankings list. Although Duncan is already the best power forward to play the game, another ring will enhance his claim as one of the best big men of all time as he would pass Shaq with 5 rings. Along with Duncan, Pop heightens his argument as one of the top five coaches of all time.

 

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

2013-2014 Green Bay Packers Preview

By: Prad

 

Projected Record: 10-6

NFC North Rank: 1st

The Packers have won the NFC North the last two seasons behind one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Last year, Green Bay had a 5-1 NFC North record en route to finishing the season off 11-5, but they eventually succumbed to the 49ers in the Divisional Round in a high scoring bout, 45-31. Their record will take a small hit as a result of some losses of veteran players, but they ended up doing very well in April’s draft, which gives them a bright future. They’ll most probably clinch a playoff berth sometime in Week 16 or even Week 17, but only that late because of their difficult schedule. 10 of the 16 games their slated to play this season, have teams that owned a winning record a season ago.

James Jones Courtesy of Telegraph Herald
James Jones
Courtesy of The Telegraph Herald

Aaron Rodgers has been among the league’s best quarterbacks for the last three years and has the accolades to back it up. He won the 2011 MVP award, the Lombardi Trophy the same year and snagged the Super Bowl MVP too. Essentially, the triple crown for football. Although he hasn’t lost any luster, his receiving corps suffered a blow following the departure of WR Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings. Jennings was injured for a large part of last season, but when healthy was a dominant presence. He has topped the 1,000 yard receiving mark three of the last five seasons and has hauled in 12 TD receptions two times in his career. WR James Jones and WR Jordy Nelson will have to make up for the significant loss of production, which they have proven they can do. Jones filled in very nicely for Jennings last year grabbing 14 touchdown passes.

OT Bryan Bulaga has left a void at offensive tackle Courtesy of SB Nation
OT Bryan Bulaga has left a void at offensive tackle
Courtesy of SB Nation

Rodgers has been known for getting sacked frequently throughout his career. In fact, last year, the Packers offensive line gave up 51 sacks, which is the second highest total in the NFL, behind the Cardinals. To make matters worse, they lost their best offensive lineman in Bryan Bulaga, who is out for the season with a torn ACL and lost C Jeff Saturday, who decided to retire. Although Rodgers is an above-averager scrambler when under pressure, he’ll have to do much better this upcoming year to make up for the key losses. Bulaga was a left tackle, which means Rodgers is going to be vulnerable on his blind side. As a result, he has to be cognizant about his numbers in the fumble department throughout the season. However, it’s a good thing GM Ted Thompson selected two offensive lineman, OL David Bakhtiari and OL JC Tretter in this year’s draft. They’ll prove to be helpful in providing good blocking for the rushing attack but I can’t say with certainty whether they’ll aid in providing Rodgers more time in the pocket. Only time will tell their immediate impact.

Former Alabama RB Eddie Lacy Courtesy of ESPN
Former Alabama RB Eddie Lacy
Courtesy of ESPN

This April, Green Bay drafted two halfbacks, RB Eddie Lacy and RB Johnathan Franklin, who can bolster a previously mediocre rushing attack. Even though this has the potential to be a dynamic combo in the backfield, the more talented and athletic Lacy will take most of the rushes this year. Hopefully, with some young legs, Rodgers and the aerial attack don’t need to take on a massive chunk of the offensive burden this year, something they’ve gotten accustomed to in the past few seasons. Last year, the rushing game had 1,702 yards throughout the season, while the passing game was responsible for 4,049 yards. Although it is common for a team’s passing attack to outperform its rushing game in terms of yards, the disparity between the two with Green Bay is one of the greatest in the NFL. If the rushing game has good production in the first few weeks, that bodes well for the team and Rodgers for the rest of the season, since he’ll be more of a threat with a degree of uncertainty.

Packers Defense Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Packers Defense
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

The Packers defensive unit has been one of the league’s best in recent times. They sacked an opposing quarterback 47 times last season, which ranked them 4th in the NFL. Their secondary was tremendous as well, ranking inside the top 10 for both yards allowed and points allowed. Charles Woodson was a pivotal element on the Packers for seven seasons, attaining 38 interceptions during that time. He got elected to the Pro Bowl four times as a Packer and was considered amongst the league’s best safeties just a couple seasons ago. Although his departure to the Oakland Raiders is disappointing, the aging Woodson, 36 was injured for half of last season and probably would’ve become more injury prone in future years. The team’s D still remains excellent with linebacker Clay Matthews as the centerpiece. To round out their linebacker crew is rookie first round selection Nick Perry, LILB AJ Hawk, and MLB Brad Jones. This four man group is set to be a top 5 linebacker unit in the NFL next season. Their defensive line has also excelled, which is led by DT BJ Raji and DT Ryan Pickett, both Pro Bowl caliber players. The only concern on this defensive unit seems to be the secondary. They haven’t done enough to replace Woodson and his production. The Pack didn’t acquire a safety during this offseason. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers seems to simply be starting MD Jennings at strong safety and Morgan Burnett at free safety, both of whom lack starting experience. Yet, nobody can argue against the potent cornerback duo of Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. So, this defensive will NOT inevitably fail without the veteran Charles Woodson leading the secondary.

Clearly, GM Ted Thompson has addressed many concerns on the offensive end with this year’s draft and much of the defense remains intact despite a few alterations. The Green Bay Packers, a fixture in the postseason, are a formidable threat to any opposing team on their schedule, but will not be able to advance past the Divisional Round again this season due to a highly competitive NFC.  However, Green Bay will remain NFC North Champions, because nobody in their division has enough versatility on both sides of the ball to dethrone them.