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NBA Playoffs Preview

NBA Playoffs Preview

The NBA regular season is finally over and if the last couple of days are anything like the Playoffs then we’re in for a treat. We have our sixteen teams, so kick back, relax and watch all the madness tipping off Saturday afternoon.

 

Eastern Conference  

(1) Toronto Raptors VS. (8) Washington Wizards

The Toronto Raptors have surprised a lot of people this season winning 59 games and grabbing the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, Coach of the Year candidate Dwayne Casey has these Raptors playing at a very high level and a much different offense than in years past, the ball is moving a lot more, and they’re not shy about getting up the 3 ball. Yes, they still have their strong backcourt with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry but DeRozan is playing a lot different this year. In the past he has been the master of the mid-range but, he has upped his game and brought it out to the three-point line. Unlike previous season this is probably the deepest the Raptors can reach into their bench to help their stars out. Although they have been the best in the East no one can ignore the Raptors playoff woes, getting swept by Washington in 2015, and swept by Cleveland last year, there’re plenty of questions we have for this team and the answers start with Kyle Lowery who has been known to disappear come playoff time.

It’s no secret that the Washington Wizards have been the most disappointing team in the NBA this year, and losers of 4 out of their last 5 games. The reason for this slippage can be linked to their star point guard John Wall missing a long stretch of time with getting his knee cleaned up, although the team played well at certain times without Wall, some felt they should move on from him during that stretch. Bradley Beal clearly proved that he’s incapable of putting a team on his back and getting the job done, some games he would drop 30 and they still would come up short or Beal would have games where he finished in the teens with points. Although Washington has all this turmoil with players and coaches calling one another selfish this is probably the most dangerous team in the playoffs. John Wall is still an elite point guard and the Raptors have no one that can slow down this monster. Wall will need a lot of help from his shooters Beal, Kelly Oubre, & Otto Porter, Markieff Morris is a rough rider and will get his. The Achilles heel of this Wizards team though is their bench, they have a lack of depth that can only go about 6 deep which can be costly. The Wizards won’t lay down nor do they fear the Raptors this series can go either way honestly.

Prediction: Raptors 4-3

(2) Boston Celtics VS. (7) Milwaukee Bucks

This is the best case scenario for the Boston Celtics, after losing All-Star Gordon Hayward opening night to a gruesome ankle injury, point guard Kyrie Irving whom they traded for during the summer just had season-ending knee surgery. The Celtics were still able to grab a number two seed behind key young players Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, & rookie Jason Tatum, also the Celtics have arguably the best coach in the playoffs with Brad Stevens. Boston has been down this road before just last year when they fell in a 0-2 hole against the Chicago Bulls so overcoming adversity is nothing new for this team expect them to play fast, tough, and defend like crazy.

If there is any team that has had a crazy year like Boston insert the Milwaukee Bucks, they fired their Head Coach Jason Kidd early on in the season and things still have been up and down all year. For the most part, the Bucks are a one-man show with star Giannis Antetokounmpo he does have a little help surrounding him with forward Jabari Parker and guard Michael Brogden. The Bucks aren’t a great shooting team at all they rarely get up the three ball, they rely heavily on getting easy baskets in the open court where Giannis is one of the best transition scores in the league. This is where the problem resides during the playoffs the game becomes a half-court game where you’re forced to run your offense and create your own shot. Boston is one of the best defensive teams in the league so look for them to force anybody but Giannis to beat them.

Prediction: Celtics 4-3

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat simmons_hbnassr4100pzkt4jt3zhz0v

Process Trusted!!!!! The 76ers have a young squad that will be a problem for years to come. Led by who should be Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, and All-Star Joel Embiid the Sixers have been riding high being winners of 16 in a row. Let us not get to carried away with the winning streak although winning that amount of games in the NBA is impressive,  only 3 of the 16 teams they’ve played are in the playoffs. The Sixers will start this series with question marks to their big man Joel Embiid who has been out with an orbital bone fracture, he has no timetable on his return this leads to the question of how effective will Embiid be going up against another star in Hassan Whiteside when he returns? The two have shared their jabs against one another in the past so things should be interesting. The young Sixers will look to push the pace and get up a lot of threes with guys like JJ Redick, Dario Saric, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli. It also helps that Philly has the number one pick in the 2017 NBA draft Markelle Fultz who missed the majority of the season to work on his shooting motion leading them off the bench.

Talent wise the Miami Heat can’t compare to the Sixers but the things that they do have going for them is that they have a core group of guys who have significant playoff experience with Dwyane Wade leading them. Plus they have a Championship Head Coach in Eriq Spoelstra who knows what it takes in the playoffs. If anything he’ll make sure this Miami team slows Philly down in transition forcing them to execute an offense in half court sets where you’ll see a lot of players going under a Ben Simmons pick-n-roll or sagging off while guarding him forcing Simmons to shoot jump shots where he has struggled this year. Miami is going to need their core of Goran Dragic, Haasan Whiteside, James Johnson, & veteran Dwayne Wade to be effective and contributing each game if they want this series to be close.

Prediction: 76ers 4-2

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers VS. (5) Indian Pacers

If someone told me that the Indian Pacers would be in the playoffs with the 5 seed after dealing their former All-Star Paul George, for basically at the time what most thought was a bag of peanuts ( Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis) I would have deemed them delusional. Turns out it looks like the Pacers won this trade, Oladipo who was an All-Star this past year and a lock for Most Improved Player has put this Pacer team on his back for the most part. The Pacers don’t have stars around Oladipo but they do have solid players to compliment him in Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and oh yeah we can’t forget about Lance Stephenson. If you need a reason to watch this series look no further than Lebron James vs. Lance, there’s no telling what Stephenson will do this time around we know the history of him antagonizing James from his Miami days swiping James in the face along with blowing in his ear.

This is probably the least talented team Lebron James has led in the playoffs since his first stint with the Cavaliers. A season filled with nothing but drama since the summer when they dealt Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for an injured point guard in Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and Bostons 2018 unprotected first round pick (From the Brooklyn Nets). Needless to say, this experiment didn’t workout forcing the Cavs to blow up their team at the trade deadline. They traded Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas, and their own 2018 first round pick to the Lakers for a younger and more athletic talent in Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. The Cavs also unloaded Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, plus Iman Shumpert in return they got Rodney Hood, along with George Hill in a three-team trade. LeBron James has this team built the way he likes with a great second option in Kevin Love, shooters everywhere so James can drive and kick in case help defense comes. The Pacers have no answer for James so look for LeBron to be in his bag early going down in the post, aggressively attacking the rim added with exquisite passes.

Prediction: Cavaliers 4-1

Western Conference  jh2.png

(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

The Houston Rockets have been the best team all year also they have the leagues MVP on their Roster in James Harden who has been cooking since the start of the season and pulled away from this race early. No-one knew how Harden and Chris Paul whom they acquired in the offseason from the Clippers would coexist. The two ball dominant players have worked it out just well and have thrived well in Head Coach Mike D’Antoni system where they get up and down the floor at a crazy pace where everyone has the ultimate green light to launch the 3 ball. The Rockets have been a little sloppy in closing out the regular season but that can be argued that they’re bored and ready for this time of the year which counts the most. Harden and company provide a mismatch all over the place for this young Wolves team.

The T-Wolves have a solid core in Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl Anthony-Towns that shouldn’t be an 8 seed but with Jimmy Butler missing significant time with a knee injury that could be the reason for them being in this spot. Or it could just simply be that the Wolves surprisingly aren’t good on defense, considering their Head Coach Tom Thibodeau foundation is built on defense this team gives up 105.1 points per 100 possession. Not playing defense and going up against a Rockets team that can score the basketball don’t mix well together. So look for Paul and Harden to do numbers.

Prediction: Rockets 4-0

(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

The Golden State Warriors have limped their way into the playoffs and have had a sporadic type of ending to the season since their All-Star guard Stephen Curry went down with an MCL sprain to his knee. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant plus key members of their bench have also missed a significant time with injuries. It’s unknown how healthy this team is but at the end of the day they still have Durant, Klay, and Draymond to keep them afloat until Steph comes back, this is probably the worst first-round matchup Golden State could have drawn due to the fact that the Spurs aren’t afraid of Golden State.

The Spurs have been without the best two way player in all of basketball in Khawi Leonard, Leonard has played in a total 9 games all season dealing with a quad injury that has been a story all season long in San Antonio. At one point Khawi was cleared by the Spurs medical staff to play but didn’t feel right and sought second and third opinions and was never cleared by his personal medical staff. Even with all the drama the Spurs still found themselves in the playoffs with a first-round matchup they have to love. The Warriors can’t push the pace of the ball as much without Steph, so look for Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich to slow the game down and get LaMarcus Aldridge his touches early and often in the post. If the Spurs can keep the game in the high 80’s low 90’s look for a first-round upset.

Predictions: Spurs 4-3

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans

This is a very interesting match between a Pelican team that seemed like they’d spiral downhill after Center DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury leaving Anthony to carry the team once again like he has done in years past. This time around the Davis has role players that know their role and plays their role well. Nikola Mirotic has come along and helped spread the floor for guards Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to operate. Anthony Davis is the best player in this series but he and his team will have to steal a victory at some point in the Moda Center where the crowd is a hostile as they come.

For Portland, it all starts on the defensive end for them, if they can prove that they can contain the Pelicans when they spread the floor they should be in great shape for the series. We know that the combination of C.J. McCollum with Damian Lillard is very deadly, those two can heat up from the 3 point line at any time and shoot oppositions out the gym but it’s the others that will need to contribute too, wings Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu will be players to keep an eye on as well. The most intriguing matchup for this series comes down to which big three will be better guards Lillard, McCollum, and center Jusuf Nurkic or will guards Rondo, Holiday, and big man Davis outduel them.

Prediction: Blazers 4-3

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Utah Jazz

Who would have thought these two teams would be matched up here in the first round of the playoffs? Considering the subtractions that were made to Utah this summer when Gordan Hayward left for Utah and then the additions the Thunder made by adding Carmelo Anthony, plus Paul George. The Thunder on paper for sure seemed like a lock for a top two seed but surprisingly the Thunder have struggled on offense at stretches this year with Paul George going into a shooting slump and their offense becoming too stagnant with players just watching Russell Westbrook execute on offense. The Thunder are probably one of the most dangerous teams in these playoffs but the biggest question is can they be the team everyone expected them to be this postseason, especially against a tough Utah team that smothers teams defensively.

Utah Head Coach Quin Snyder has done one of the best coaching jobs in the league he has made chicken salad out of chicken sh**. With who should be Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert missing time the Jazz were able to stay afloat, insert the emergence of Rookie of the Year Candidate Donovan Mitchell who has come in and dominated as a rookie, Mitchell leads the team in scoring and can heat up very quickly. Utah depends heavily on Mitchell to put the ball in the hoop, and if he’s not doing that there are not many other players that Utah has on their roster that can create their own shot. Mitchell is impressive but he’s a rookie going up against his idol in the first round of the playoffs. The monster Russell Westbrook will be a headache for Utah to deal with but expect Utah to try and throw different bodies at Russ to give him different looks.

Prediction: Thunder 4-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why the Cleveland Cavaliers Should Keep LeBron James Happy

Why the Cleveland Cavaliers Should Keep LeBron James Happy

Build It They Will Come

LeBron James is coming off his seventh straight Finals appearance three with the Cleveland Cavaliers since returning to the Land in 2015. Cleveland did an outstanding job with setting up their future they were so bad during the years James was in South Beach collecting rings with the guy who runs Miami (Pat Riley). They were able to win the draft lottery three separate times and acquired Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Bennett in 2013, then selected Andrew Wiggins in 2014. 

After 4 seasons with the Miami Heat winning two championships before losing 4-1 his final year against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 Finals, it was time for James to return back home. He had good young talent waiting for him in Cleveland they just needed a leader to show them how to win. His first business of order returning was to get Minnesota Timberwolves Power Forward Kevin Love, before Wiggins even played in a preseason game with Cleveland he was shipped to Minnesota with Anthony Bennett, & Thaddeus Young for Kevin Love. 

bron ring

LeBron led Cleveland to the Finals his first year with their big 3 but lost Love for the rest of the postseason in Game 4 of the opening round against Boston. Then Kyrie Irving went down during the Finals in Game 1. They ultimately lost the series 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors but they knew what they could do with all their horses healthy. 2016 Finals rematch, this time Cleveland had everyone healthy they were ready, but they fell behind in the series 3-1 everyone including myself deemed the series over. LeBron James single-handedly snatched everything from Steph Curry and company, Cleveland rattled off 3 straight wins to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy arguably giving them the best comeback in sports history.

Lions Order

Late January the Cavs suffered their fifth loss in seven games, this time to the New Orleans Pelicans who were without Anthony Davis. LeBron sounded off-putting everyone on notice following the game “I just hope we’re not satisfied as an organization” James conveyed “we’re not better than last year, from a personnel standpoint.” After winning the Finals, Cleveland didn’t resign Timofey Mozgov or crowd favorite Matthew Dellavedova they added rookie point guard Kay Felder, plus Mike Dunleavy (who got traded for Kyle Korver.) 

“It’s great to have bodies,” James explained. “Obviously, in the playoffs, you go down to what, eight max? And if somebody gets in foul trouble, you go to nine. You’re not playing back-to-backs. You have two days in between. You’re able to lock in.” 

NBA teams are playing back to backs plus sometimes four games in five nights. Not to mention getting on an airplane in the middle of the night flying across different time zones not getting into your hotel room until the wee hours of the morning. It’s very taxing also it takes a toll on the body. 

“It’s like when you don’t have bodies. It’s tough,” James expressed. “The f—ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s—. It’s me, Kyrie IrvingKevin Love. It’s top-heavy.”

“We need a f—ing playmaker,” James uttered. “I’m not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn’t say that.” “We got to figure it out,” he said. “It’s been a s—ty 2017 so far.”

confused bron

When the best player in the world makes a statement like that you listen, his frustrations boiled over due to Cleveland losing games, poor defense, injury to J.R. Smith that sidelined him for majority of the season, & veteran point guard Mo Williams not coming to camp. At the time Cleveland GM David Griffin started making roster moves for the ball club, they acquired point guard Deron Williams off waivers from the Dallas Mavericks hoping they would get the Williams from his Brooklyn Nets days that didn’t happen. Then they signed wing man Derrick Williams who they thought would provide them quality minutes coming off the bench, solid defense, along with someone who could shoot the three ball he just didn’t get enough playing time. One of the two last moves the Cavs made was signing big man Andrew Bogut who was traded from Dallas to Philadelphia but agreed with the Sixers to part ways. 

The Cavs weren’t worried about the East at all, they knew they’d meet Golden State in the Finals they had hopes of exploiting the Warriors knowing they were weak inside. Unfortunately for Cleveland and Bogut his tenure was cut short 58 seconds into his debut he broke his fibula, just like that he was done for the year. To replace Andrew Bogut the Cavs reached out and signed Larry Sanders a young center who was up on the rise before having to take a two-year hiatus because of personal issues. The Sanders project didn’t work out forcing the Cavaliers to waive him. 

After all the moves GM David Griffin did post LeBron rant, James was asked if he expected Griffin to be back due to his expiring contract “It makes no sense why he shouldn’t get an extension,” James lobbied to reporters. James continues  “He’s pulled every move—he’s tried to make every move happen—to better this team to be able to compete for a championship. So we wouldn’t be in this position, obviously, without him and without the guys that are here—from the coaching staff to the players to Griff. He’s been a big piece of it.”

Party’s Over

After the Cleveland Cavaliers were virtually swept out the 2017 NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors in the Trilogy. The Cavs had a lot of reflecting to do, LeBron was sensational averaging a triple double for the series practically playing every minute. Kyrie Irving struggled at times but had games where the real Kyrie showed up most notably Game 4 when Irving dropped 40. It was the others that were concerns, Kevin Love was exposed defensively and never really showed up at all. J.R. Smith didn’t start playing basketball until the close out game where he scored 26 points but combined in the first 3 games for 19 points. Channing Fry didn’t get much minutes. Then the 82 million dollar man Tristan Thompson was under/still is trapped by the Kardashian curse. 

bench2

Performances by these players showed LeBron that Cleveland needed another super star if they wanted to compete with these Warriors. The Cavs have been linked to Paul George (Before the Oklahoma City Thunder Trade), Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade. The problem for Cleveland is that they are so much over the salary cap they virtually can’t sign a big name free agent. A deal for Carmelo Anthony or Dwayne Wade in a Cavs uniform would have to come via buyout. I can’t see Carmelo Anthony waving his no trade clause now from the New York Knicks since Phil Jackson is gone, also Melo is dealing with family and personal issues he’s trying to workout. Bulls Guard Dwayne Wade has 24 plus million reasons to stay put in Chicago but maybe he can be bought out if the franchise wants to go in a different direction as the season unravels. 

LALA Land

I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time you’ll be hearing this but don’t count out Los Angeles as a possible destination for LeBron. The Lakers, not the Clippers there’s no way in hell LeBron is considering playing for the Clippers for two different reasons. 1. The Clippers just got rid of a huge attraction for LeBron his best friend Chris Paul, James has been quoted over the years saying he’d love to play with his close friends Paul being one but he’s in Houston now. So that’s out the equation, 2. You remember when the Clippers had that owner by the name of Donald Sterling? I don’t want to even get into his asinine comments, even though he’s banned for life from the NBA his name will always be linked to the team. 

If there’s anyone in position to bring show time back it’s LeBron James, the Lakers have good young pieces in place Brandon Ingram is showing promise and if Lonzo Ball turns out to be as good as Lavar Ball says they’ll be fun to watch. Paul George could potentially return back home to L.A. as a free agent in 2018 if things don’t work out in OKC. George has been on record saying that he would love to be a Laker, still not convinced LeBron will come? Just be patience, James has expressed that one day he would like to be an NBA owner with an addition to that, one of his favorite players of all time was Magic Johnson. Johnson, who’s in the Lakers front office would be the perfect person for LeBron to follow and see how things are conducted. Not to mention James childhood friends, sports agent, business partner Maverick Carter and Rich Paul both have houses out in the Hollywood Hills area of California. Klutch Sports Agency that James is signed too that’s founded by Rich Paul moved their headquarters out to Los Angeles. Before the NBA Finals started James 21 million dollar L.A. home that he purchased was in the news for a cowardly act done by someone, although most athletes love to spend their off-seasons in California for a variety of reasons, most just rent out houses they don’t buy them straight out.  

jay & bron

Unlike the move from Cleveland to Miami that was strictly about understanding how to build a winning culture while getting rings. LeBron came back with a promising goal, he fulfilled his promise to the City of Cleveland he said he was going to bring a title to the Land and he did. He virtually doesn’t owe the Cavs anything. Now the move from Cleveland to Los Angeles won’t be about basketball or winning, if you’re wondering why would he go to the West where the Warriors are? At this point in his career the King has done it all he has 3 NBA Championships, named Finals MVP, multiple MVP trophies, been on multiple All NBA First Teams, countless records that he’s broke, and records that he’s chasing. He’s going to be on Mount Rushmore, he’s going to be a First Ballot Hall of Famer, there’s nothing more James can do to solidify his legacy it’s already written in stone. The only way to open this discussion back up is by him winning another ring then we’ll say how close can he get to Michael Jordan with winning titles? 

The move for James will be about his off the court in devours he will be 33 at the end of the year, he doesn’t have much time left to play this game. Every athlete knows at some point you have to start planning for life after the game. L.A. is the perfect place to do all the things James loves to do when he’s not playing ball. Movies, he has his own media company on the lot of Warner Bros Studio in Los Angeles plus he has starred in a couple of films. Music, friends in the game such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar reside on the West Coast most notably one of his closest friends, Mogul Jay-Z has a house and multiple businesses in L.A. Hov is the same one that convinced Kevin Durant to sign with the Warriors to expand his brand. Fashion, LeBron is easily one of the best dressed players in the league besides NY where else could he go to take part in this? Lastly the brand of LeBron James, it’s already big & world-wide but Cleveland compared to Los Angeles the markets are on two totally different economic and lifestyle depths, LeBron James in the California market would double maybe even triple the sales of a Cleveland market. 

It’s Your World

As long as Dan Gilbert remains the Cavaliers Owner he & LeBrons relationships will always be rocky, due to the way Gilbert handled things the first time he departed.If I’m Gilbert I’m consulting with James about every free agent player he would like, plus changes he wants to the roster. Gilbert isn’t off to a good start, he didn’t give former GM Dave Griffin a contract extension, James wasn’t notified or consulted about the decision he found out like everyone else. This prompted James to voice his feelings about Griffin and the move via Twitter. The Cavs have been interviewing former champion and Hall of Famer Chauncey Billups for the position over the past week. All that is good but they need someone in that role ASAP someone who is going to make roster moves that please James. Next the Cavalier Owner was seen at the White House Celebration with the Chicago Cubs celebrating their World Series win with President Trump who James openly campaigned against. 

This isn’t a good look for the Cavaliers or the owner. So Gilbert can continue to mess around with house money by not putting the necessary pieces around to keep LeBron James but the King has shown his hand before by taking his talents else where, this time it’d be much easier for him to leave the organization that he calls home.