JumpBall

January 24, 2010

5 Ways to Fix the NBA All Star Ballot

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 6:49 AM

Let’s face it. The NBA All Star game starters were announced last week and it was a huge let down. Allen Iverson made the team after despite forcing his way out of the Memphis Grizzlies. Kevin Garnett made the team despite missing games and being a shell of himself when he did play. Tracey McGrady almost made the team despite not even really playing at all. For what its worth, the only reason Yi Jianlian (the freaking role player on a 3 win team) didn’t make it was because he was purposefully left off the ballot. Basically, the casual NBA fan has for the most part no idea how to properly vote on those who deserve to be in the All Star Game. Here are five ways to fix the NBA All Star Game voting process:

1. Set a Numbers Standard:

Players with good name recognition will always get more votes than lesser-known guys with better stats. The best way to change that would be to the make the greatest offenders ineligible by putting in rules that state that a certain player must play a certain amount of games and accumulate a certain amount of stats. The stats limits don’t even have to be high. Just say that you have to meet the minimum standards of at least one of the following stats: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, or steals. Doesn’t sound like too much, but those limits would have kept McGrady from almost starting for the West this year and would have avoided the embarrassment that it caused when Grant Hill who hadn’t played all year made the all star team a few years back. This is probably the easiest and least controversial change.

2. Change the Positions:

Let’s face it point guard is gaining importance as a position and the center spot is losing it. With all the new rules in place that favor guard play and hamper big men (hand checking and zone defenses for example,) why is the east starting two shooting guards and why is the west pretending Amar’e’ Stoudamire is a center (especially considering the starting power forward on the west—Tim Duncan—is a better center than Stoudamire anyway?) Besides, All Star games are much better when there is a true point guard on the floor anyway. So, why not just change the positions that fans can vote on in order to acknowledge that the game has changed? Let’s have fans vote on one point guard, two swingmen, and two big men. That way only good centers are rewarded rather than the current situation where someone like Chris Kaman may sneak on; there will always be a true point guard voted in and the change isn’t so drastic that one team will be made up of completely different types of players than the other one.

3.  Have Fan voting count only for part of the selection:

This is the way the NFL handles the Probowl. All fan votes only count for a third of the roster while player votes and coach votes account for the other two. This allows fans to still vote for starters while covering up for their mistakes as well.

4. Take Away the Fan Vote:

Let’s be honest here. Fan voting doesn’t really make that much sense anymore. They keep messing up. 40 percent of the eastern conference all star starters have no business receiving that honor, and the fans are directly to blame for this. Plus, these days the vote has become international which sounds great, but in reality has resulted in all sorts of votes coming in for a player simply because he either is from the home country or because he plays with someone from their home country. Clearly, fans are no longer voting for players who are most deserving and as a result should lose their right to vote for at all.

5. Let fans vote on different roster spots:

Alright, the above was pretty harsh, and it has no chance of happening. Still, what about a compromise? Let the players pick the starters, let the coaches pick the first 5 reserves, and let the fans vote for the final two players. This allows fans not only to still be involved in the process, but even makes it more ok for them to pick guys who are perhaps not as deserving because at the end of the day it is still only for the last two roster spots on the team anyway.

Any of these solutions would be a step in the right direction. Make it happen David Stern!

July 8, 2009

Are the Lakers Doomed Already?

Filed under: NBA Previews, Ramblings — siddhant2001us @ 4:58 PM

Laker fans, we need some perspective here.

First, let’s keep celebrating the fact that we won a title, because it is so hard to win one in this day and age that we really need to take a moment to embrace something that other team’s fans would die for.

Second, freak out….now. I’m not saying you should riot in the streets or anything (although some of you already have apparently while you celebrated,) but the fact of the matter is, that championship might be the last one we win in a very long time.

As morbid as it might sound, the death of pop icon Michael Jackson was the greatest thing that ever happened to the Laker front office. That is because while the Spurs, Celtics, Magic, Mavs, and Cavs all stocked up with better players and the Nuggets and Blazers at least kept their core together, the Lakers have done…none of those.

Don’t give me the Ron Artest signing as a good move. It was secretly a “oh my god we are screwed” move. It was done to intrigue Phil Jackson and replace Trevor Ariza.

Ariza by the way was a huge loss. Don’t under estimate that loss for a second. He is young and had a very small basketball ego. Ariza could explode for 18 points once every two weeks which sounds like something small, but remember that the Lakers never ran any plays for him! Those were all huge points scored within the flow of the offense without disrupting anyone else’s rhythm. You think Artest can submit his ego to that?

Don’t get me wrong. Artest has the potential to be great for the Lakers and add an era of toughness to LA, but let’s not pretend he isn’t a huge question mark. With Ariza you knew what you were getting, and you were seeing him improve with every game. He was a great young piece to have as the Lakers tried to return to the finals for a third straight year. Artest on the other hand is not that guy. He can’t defend the quicker swingmen as well as Ariza and he probably won’t get any better than he is right now on offense.

So basically, the Lakers could have gotten a little bit better, a lot worse, or stayed exactly the same. We have no idea right now, but if I had to bet any money on it is that the Lakers probably got a little bit better, but thanks to Artest’s personality, everyone will lie and say they got much better.

Either way, the small forward position is irrelevant if the Lakers cannot resign Lamar Odom. If the Lakers cannot resign Odom, they might as well start planning their vacations for after the second round of the playoffs. That is because it means Josh “The Triangle Offense is Too Hard for Me” Powell becomes the first big man off the bench. If Gasol or Bynum gets hurt (and we all know Bynum has at least 15 games penciled in already that he will be skipping because his ankle will get sprained after he trips over 5 guys or something during some  early season game,) then Powell starts. If that happens, just buy the 2009 Finals on DVD, because the season will then nose dive.

Speaking of the Lakers not resigning Odom; is there anything more ridiculous? Give him a 30 million dollar contract for 3 years. Who doesn’t turn that down? By the way don’t start talking about Odom being inconsistent or his stats sucking. Odom was told during his contract year that he was going to have to come off the bench. He was going to have to sacrifice for the good of the team and check his ego at the door. Well, he did all of that and the Lakers won a championship. They also made a boat load of money along the way so why not give Odom his fair share? Don’t lose him because he wants a contract two million dollars more than you think is fair.

Even if we do resign Odom (and we really better do that,) all that does is return us to the status quo from last year. Last year was not a great year for the NBA. The Lakers won in a year where Lebron James by himself (at least on offense) was able to win 60 games and where the Celtics bench was good enough to get them to the second round. They played in the finals a team that lived and died on the three pointer, but thanks to poor competition were able to live until the finals. So while every championship is precious and awesome, there really isn’t a lot to feel great about in terms of looking forward to defending that championship.

An overlooked disaster was the resigning of Shannon Brown to join the Laker roster. His resigning looks great on paper because he is somewhat young, athletic, and can guard the quicker point guards in the NBA, but what he also does is signal the end of Jordan Farmar ever becoming a decent starter in this league. You think Farmar is going to care about becoming great when he has to fight for minutes just to back up Derek Fisher this year? No, he is just going to try and focus on being good enough to beat out Brown, which basically means that the Lakers won’t have a good point guard for at least the next 5 years.

The worst part of it all is that these are all understandable moves if no one else did anything. Last season all the good teams stood pat and tried to win with what they had. This season everyone has gone out and rolled the dice on someone to try to get them that ring. Despite this, I have to write this type of an article just to plead with my team to hurry up and resign Odom, and all of this is just to return to a status quo that one could argue 4 or 5 teams have already risen about.

To make matters even worse, no one cares because the title of ‘defending champions’ is going to be placed at the start of every article or news feed for the Lakers. So basically, the average (aka not super hardcore) basketball fan will have no idea that the Lakers are in huge trouble.

Now, a case can be made that it is way too early to panic. To all of those people, screw you. I am a hardcore, follow the Lakers every single day, kind of guy. I’m guessing a lot of people who are reading this are too. If we sense that we’re going to be wasting the next 12 months of our lives following a team whose ownership is content with a team that’s secretly screwed, then we have every right to panic. On of the greatest moments for a sports fan is seeing a team full of meh players morph into a championship squads. One of the worst moments is seeing that squad then fall apart.

Well, it feels like it is happening Laker fans. So, celebrate last year as much as you want right now, because we could be doomed.

June 9, 2009

The Magic Can Still Win

Filed under: NBA Finals — siddhant2001us @ 8:05 PM

Los Angeles can sense it. The city’s basketball community knows their Lakers are two wins away from the team’s 15th champiopnship and nothing, not even a sloppy game two win, can stop their excitement. Hell, I am guessing Mickey Mouse and the mayor of LA already have every part of the victory parade planned out.

As for Orlando, their eulogy is being written while you read this. Dwight Howard’s hype train has broken down as the Lakers have double teamed him into near irrelevance on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Stan Van Gundy is catching a lot of heat for giving Jameer Nelson (the team captain and the heart of the squad) a chance to play in the NBA Finals when doing so has disrupted the hot streak and team chemistry the Magic developed without him. Things have gotten so bad that Shaq has probably already learned how to tap so he can eventually dance on the grave of Orlando’s season while probably rapping insults at both Howard and SVG.

Still it isn’t as if too many people actually care about the fate of the Magic. They care more about the future ascension of the Lakers. People seem to want to hear about how a focused and super driven Kobe cements his legacy as an all time great winner or how Phil Jackson finally passes Red Auerbach with his tenth ring. They want to learn about Odom’s winning sugar diet (let’s call it the Milk Dud Diet) and if Jordan Farmar has received a role sans make up in the new The Hobbit movie.

The thing is, the dirty little secret most people have chosen to ignore, the series is far, far from over, and in fact can still go a full seven games which would of course completely change the spin that the major market medias have put on the game.

First of all, the Magic are a young team whose players have little if any finals experience. Thus, their game one disaster should be recognized as a case of the jitters rather than as a preview for the rest of the games. If anything, game one probably helps the Magic more than hurts them going forward because it probably feeds into the Lakers and their history of over confidence.

In fact during game 2, the Lakers responded to their game 1 win by starting the game both sloppy and lazy. They didn’t tighten up their play until the very end of the 4th and overtime. The fact that they got away with it with a win will probably will result in the Lakers getting more over confident and playing with the same lack of intensity for game 3 and possibly the rest of the finals. Thus, if the Magic can continue to play hard, they definitely have a puncher’s chance the rest of the series.

The second factor is that both games took place in LA which in other words means that the Lakers had homecourt advantage. This is huge because it helped cover up any drops in energy that the Laker roles players might have had as the crowd did their best to pump them right back up.

Not only will that not happen in Orlando for game 3, the opposite is true: this time around the Magic role players are the ones who will feed off the crowd’s energy and finally play in familiar surroundings during the finals. This should result in the Magic hitting more open shots and being more focused on defense.

Speaking of homecourt advantage, as long as Orlando takes care of business at home–just as the Lakers did in games one and two–they only have to win one game in Los Angeles. Besides it isn’t as if their isn’t recent precedence for the Magic to take comfort in. In 2006 the Miami Heat came back from an even worse hole (considering how they played the first three quarters of game 3) to win it all–albeit with a little help from the refs (but its not like the refs have improved enough for that to no longer be possible.) So, nervous Orlando fans can feel better by knowing they aren’t for sure goners this year.

Plus, it isn’t as if this Laker team is that rock solid either. Indeed, for all the celebration over Kobe’s hunger and drive to get that fourth ring, this didn’t stop these very same Lakers from collapsing last year to the initially underdog Boston Celtics. It didn’t stop them from squandering a 3-1 lead to the Phoenix Suns in 2006 either. In fact, the presence of the great, clutch Kobe Bryant didn’t stop the Lakers from getting blown out during the final game of either series.

So clearly the Magic are still in it despite the 2-0 lead for the Lakers. However, game 3 is a must win for Orlando. So, what can the Magic do to ensure a win?

    • Return Rafer Alston to his normal rotation minutes from the Cleveland series. If you insist on giving team captain Jameer Nelson minutes, then let him take Anthony Johnson’s minutes alone. Alston is too sensitive to have his minutes tinkered with and play effectively. However, if you keep his well defined role that was established in the Cleveland series, you will see a return of a point guard who at the very least is capable of dominating his match up against Derek Fisher.
    • If Kobe insists of relying almost completely on his jumper than keep Hedo on him during the end game if Pietrus is out of the game. Lee is too small to guard Kobe or affect his shot so limiting his minutes is not a bad thing even if Pietrus is in foul trouble. Kobe is too fast for Hedo but if he simply settles for his jumper over and over, then Hedo has the length and strength to not be posted up and bother Kobe’s vision.
    • Howard must choose if he will pass or shoot quicker once he gets the ball. His habit of dribbling a bit in the post before he chooses an action allows the Lakers to establish their delayed double teams and harass him into turnovers. Elite players, which Howard apparently is based on his 1st team All-NBA status, can handle a double team much better than Howard has so far. For one thing, a double team should not be enough of a reason to constantly pass out of it. If Shaq passed out of every double team given to him, then he wouldn’t have scored once in the NBA. Its time Howard earned his max paycheck this NBA finals.
    • Involve Andrew Bynum in pick and rolls because he over helps and gets exposed once the Magic swing the ball and then hit Bynum’s original assignment.
    • Just do the little things by giving Howard help by rebounding better, chasing down the loose balls, and hitting open shots as Magic players other than Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu shot less than 35 percent in the game.
    • Call more plays for Pietrus and Courtney Lee because the first step to a more open offense is diversification.

If the Magic do enough of that, they will come away with a game 3 win and complete the first step to winning this series.The

June 3, 2009

2009 NBA Finals Preview

Filed under: NBA Finals, NBA Previews — siddhant2001us @ 6:43 PM

Can you feel it? This is the NBA finals match up that we’ve been unknowingly waiting for all our lives. It is the match up that will pit two completely different organizations against each other in a battle for our souls. This is the zen Phil Jackson vs the energetic Stan Van Gundy. Its the clash between a dominant offensive swing player (Kobe) vs a dominant defensive big man (Howard.) This is the series of one foreign sidekick named Gasol going up against another foreign sidekick named Turkoglu. Its the battle where Odom tries to prove that candy is good for you while Marcin Gortat tries to prove he isn’t the evil European guy that chased Bruce Willis around in that one movie. Even more epic, its Disneyland vs Disney World. This is the NBA FINALS! Let’s break it down:
Big Man Breakdown:
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol vs Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis:
I can’t help myself. I refuse to be as impressed by Howard as I am apparently supposed to be based on what ESPN tells me. Listen, Howard is an amazing help defender and I will not argue that. He is also this generation’s greatest rebounder. At everything else, he is just a work in progress.
Still, even I can admit that his progress has definitely been sped up by the Magic making it to the finals. He is slowly getting more comfortable around the basket in terms of establishing position and passing out of double teams. It is this last point that is going to force the Lakers’ hand and most likely they will  single team Howard with Bynum to start the game.
If Bynum wants to make life easier for himself when he is going to desperately try to prevent Howard from getting great position when the Magic are on offense, he has to go right at him on the other end. Howard hasn’t been challenged once by the opposing team’s starting center, and that has made it easier for him to play help defense and still have energy to play offense. Bynum is actually further along offensively than Howard, and should make him sweat a little….you know, before he picks up 2 fouls on the other end 4 minutes in and goes to the bench.
One of the the other reasons you can’t double Howard is because it potentially leaves Rashard Lewis open. This entire playoffs have basically been a showcase for Lewis’s skills on a bigger stage. However despite the fact that he is tall enough to play power forward for the Magic, the basic reason why Lewis has been so dynamic on offense is because he is really just a big small forward. Thus, he has been too quick and too good of an outside shooter to be bothered by anyone trying to guard him.
Still, he is going to have his hands full with Gasol. Gasol can get out and harass his jumper (Gasol tends to be an inconsistent post defender, but he is great against the perimeter orientated power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki or in this case Lewis.) and stay with Lewis when he drives to the hole.
On the other end, Gasol will take Lewis to the post and force Howard to provide help. That should allow room for cutters and spot shooters and really open up the Lakers offense.
Really unless Kobe goes nuts in the 4th quarter (very possible) or the voters just give it to Kobe because he is Kobe (even more possible) there is a good chance that the MVP of this series should be either Howard or Gasol depending on which team wins.
Advantage: Magic because Howard and Lewis are infinitely more consistent than Bynum (who strings together good basketball games as well as Nic Cage strings together good movies) and Gasol (whose own consistency doesn’t deserve to be questioned as often as it does, but what is inconsistent is how often the Laker guards notice him on the block.)
Swingman Breakdown:
Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza vs Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee:
While I am consistently underwhelmed by Howard, I am just as consistently wowed by Hedo Turkoglu. If you ask me, he has to be this team’s MVP on offense. He generally initiates the offense and take the teams big shots when they need one. Listen, about half of Howard’s points every game are created by Hedo. His shot has been very iffy so far this season, but when its on, he is unstoppable. He is also one of the least impressive unstoppable players ever, because every time you watch him you have absolutely no idea how anyone is falling for all of his fakes, and yet, that is exactly what happens every time this guy so much as budges his head.
Trying to stop him anyway will be Trevor Ariza who has become a defensive ace for the Lakers. Ariza has the speed to take away Turkoglu’s drive and ball deny all day long. He doesn’t quite have the length to bother his shot, but luckily Turkoglu hasn’t shot well lately anyway. If Ariza is on his game and shuts down Turkoglu, then the Magic are in for a really short series. They have to provide screens and give him room to operate.
On the other end, Turkoglu is probably best suited allowing Ariza to shoot all day. Ariza has actually vastly improved his jump shot and is also comfortable driving to the hoop, but at the end of the day every shot that Ariza takes is one that Kobe, Gasol, Odom, or any of the Lakers other shooters is not getting.
Of course the best player in this series is Kobe Bryant and he is hungry. There is no way that he wants to lose a third finals in a row and the Magic are going to have to provide a lot of help in the 4th quarter against him if they want to win. Kobe will make life hell for Courtney Lee who just got over having to guard Lebron. Kobe can’t drive anymore the way Lebron can, but Kobe can shoot the lights out with the ball and force Lee to play up on him. Expect half of Howard’s fouls to be a result of Kobe getting past Lee and compromising the Magic defense.
Courtney Lee is basically the shooting guard version of Andrew Bynum in the sense that if he wants to make life easier for himself, he is going to have to make Kobe work on the other end by hitting his jump shots and stopping Kobe from cheating on him and hawking the passing lanes.
Advantage: Lakers because if Ariza can stop Hedo on one end and Kobe is as unstoppable as he can be on the other end, this is going to be a very short series.
Point Guard Breakdown:
Derek Fisher vs Rafer Alston:
If I am Stan Van Gundy, I am shutting Alston in a room and just making him watch clips of Aaron Brooks of the Rockets absolutely manhandle Derek Fisher. Alston isn’t quite as fast as Brooks, but as far as Fisher is concerned its like downgrading from a car to a motorcycle in a race against a bicycle. Sure, the motorcycle that is Alston isn’t as fast as the car that is Brooks, but as long as you’re racing against the cheap, broken down bicycle that is Derek Fisher, you won’t know the difference.
Listen, I grew up watching Fisher on the Lakers, and he is a great role player, team leader, and all of that, but he is in the twilight of his career. If he wants to extend his career, he should be playing off the bench, playing around 15 minutes a game, and then serving as basically an assistant coach for the rest of the game. To trot him out for 25 minutes when he’s too slow to guard any point guard at all is just cruel.
In fact I would go so far as to say that the Lakers are better off putting Fisher on Lee and have Kobe play a step off of Alston. Fisher is strong enough to not get backed down by Lee, and Kobe is smart enough with his length to harass Alston.
If Fisher does stay on Alston, then there is one thing that Fisher needs to do. Listen, Alston will drive past him all day, but when he does and Gasol, Bynum, or Odom has to rotate, Fisher has to also rotate and try to box out the open Magic big man for as long as he can to give Gasol, Bynum, or Odom time to rotate. Against the Magic, there are going to be rebounds landing all over the place because both teams like to shoot three pointers a lot. Thus, the team that wins is probably the one that grabs the most of these stray rebounds.
Advantage: Magic win this won easily.
The Bench Breakdown:
Both teams are going to utilize their benches quite a bit, so they will be vital to the outcome of the series. The Magic will bring Pietrus first off the bench in order to throw someone else at Kobe while also giving minutes to Gortat (whenever Howard is in foul trouble) and Anthony Johnson (because its always nice to have a player that makes Derek Fisher look somewhat fast.) Meanwhile the Lakers are going to throw all kinds of looks at the Magic because they’ll be bringing off their bench Lamar Odom (who will play more minutes than Bynum and can guard Lewis probably better than Gasol,) Luke Walton (because he spreads the offense and runs it better than Ariza,) Sasha Vujacic (the token energy guy who currently can’t hit a three pointer to save his life) and either Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar (depending on who does a better job against Alston.)
The best guy off the Lakers bench is of course Odom. Odom is that rare big man who can get the rebound, run the break, and then make the perfect pass to get his teammate an open shot. He is also the rare big man who can ignore the taunts and physical nature of the opposing team and remain practically invisible through 30 minutes. During the last two games, Odom played like the former, but I’m sure Phil Jackson is well aware that the latter is always just around the corner.
Luckily for Laker fans, Odom has a solid track record when being matched up against small forwards masquerading as power forwards. Any physical advantage that Lewis enjoyed in the earlier three rounds is lost against Odom who by the way has also played small forward successfully in his career.
For the Magic, their x factor has to be Pietrus who is coming off a great conference finals when he consistently made Lebron work for his points. In the end that is all that matters because there is no way that you actually shut down a Lebron or Kobe. Still, if you can get them to score 30 points on like 25+ shots, then your team can take that at least as a moral victory if not just a key factor in a Magic victory.
Advantage: Lakers simply because Odom would be a starter for most teams.
Coaching Breakdown:
Phil Jackson vs Stan Van Gundy:
Stan Van Gundy is a very interesting coach because aesthetically he has created a system built around (at least on offense) simply finding the open man and trusting him. That’s basketball at its purest, which is great except that he does this to a fault. For example, he often ignores certain match up problems for other teams that he should take advantage of such as when he didn’t force the ball to Rashard Lewis when he was guarded by Glen Davis of the Celtics who had no chance of guarding him.
Phil Jackson on the other hand has been to the mountaintop and has won 9 rings in 11 tries. He trusts in his triangle offense for the first three quarters, but is flexible enough to understand Kobe is going to take over in the 4th. He attacks match up problems and generally does a much better job tinkering with his game plan on the fly during the game where as Van Gundy is generally a bit more set in his ways.
In any case, both are very good and this should lead to an evenly matched series
Advantage: Lakers because Jackson just has a wealth of experience over Van Gundy.
Final Verdict: Lakers in 6. The Magic will put up a good fight, but as long as the Lakers play up to their capabilities (never a sure thing, but you have to believe they do it in the finals) this should end with Phil Jackson finally passing Red Auerbach for his 10th ring and Kobe cementing himself as one of the greatest players of all time. Better luck next year Dwight Howard.
Can you feel it? This is the NBA finals match up that we’ve been unknowingly waiting for all our lives. It is the match up that will pit two completely different organizations against each other in a battle for our souls. This is the zen Phil Jackson vs the energetic Stan Van Gundy. Its the clash between a dominant offensive swing player (Kobe) vs a dominant defensive big man (Howard.) This is the series of one foreign sidekick named Gasol going up against another foreign sidekick named Turkoglu. Its the battle where Odom tries to prove that candy is good for you while Marcin Gortat tries to prove he isn’t the evil European guy that chased Bruce Willis around in that one movie. Even more epic, its Disneyland vs Disney World. This is the NBA FINALS! Let’s break it down:
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Big Man Breakdown:

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol vs Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis:
I can’t help myself. I refuse to be as impressed by Howard as I am apparently supposed to be based on what ESPN tells me. Listen, Howard is an amazing help defender and I will not argue that. He is also this generation’s greatest rebounder. At everything else, he is just a work in progress.
Still, even I can admit that his progress has definitely been sped up by the Magic making it to the finals. He is slowly getting more comfortable around the basket in terms of establishing position and passing out of double teams. It is this last point that is going to force the Lakers’ hand and most likely they will  single team Howard with Bynum to start the game.
If Bynum wants to make life easier for himself when he is going to desperately try to prevent Howard from getting great position when the Magic are on offense, he has to go right at him on the other end. Howard hasn’t been challenged once by the opposing team’s starting center, and that has made it easier for him to play help defense and still have energy to play offense. Bynum is actually further along offensively than Howard, and should make him sweat a little….you know, before he picks up 2 fouls on the other end 4 minutes in and goes to the bench.
One of the the other reasons you can’t double Howard is because it potentially leaves Rashard Lewis open. This entire playoffs have basically been a showcase for Lewis’s skills on a bigger stage. However despite the fact that he is tall enough to play power forward for the Magic, the basic reason why Lewis has been so dynamic on offense is because he is really just a big small forward. Thus, he has been too quick and too good of an outside shooter to be bothered by anyone trying to guard him.
Still, he is going to have his hands full with Gasol. Gasol can get out and harass his jumper (Gasol tends to be an inconsistent post defender, but he is great against the perimeter orientated power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki or in this case Lewis.) and stay with Lewis when he drives to the hole.
On the other end, Gasol will take Lewis to the post and force Howard to provide help. That should allow room for cutters and spot shooters and really open up the Lakers offense.
Really unless Kobe goes nuts in the 4th quarter (very possible) or the voters just give it to Kobe because he is Kobe (even more possible) there is a good chance that the MVP of this series should be either Howard or Gasol depending on which team wins.
Advantage: Magic because Howard and Lewis are infinitely more consistent than Bynum (who currently strings together good basketball games as well as Nic Cage strings together good movies) and Gasol (whose own consistency doesn’t deserve to be questioned as often as it does, but what is inconsistent is how often the Laker guards notice him on the block.)

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Swingman Breakdown:

Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza vs Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee:
While I am consistently underwhelmed by Howard, I am just as consistently wowed by Hedo Turkoglu. If you ask me, he has to be this team’s MVP on offense. He generally initiates the offense and take the teams big shots when they need one. Listen, about half of Howard’s points every game are created by Hedo. His shot has been very iffy so far this season, but when its on, he is unstoppable. He is also one of the least impressive unstoppable players ever, because every time you watch him you have absolutely no idea how anyone is falling for all of his fakes, and yet, that is exactly what happens every time this guy so much as budges his head.
Trying to stop him anyway will be Trevor Ariza who has become a defensive ace for the Lakers. Ariza has the speed to take away Turkoglu’s drive and ball deny all day long. He doesn’t quite have the length to bother his shot, but luckily Turkoglu hasn’t shot well lately anyway. If Ariza is on his game and shuts down Turkoglu, then the Magic are in for a really short series. They have to provide screens and give him room to operate.
On the other end, Turkoglu is probably best suited allowing Ariza to shoot all day. Ariza has actually vastly improved his jump shot and is also comfortable driving to the hoop, but at the end of the day every shot that Ariza takes is one that Kobe, Gasol, Odom, or any of the Lakers other shooters is not getting.
Of course the best player in this series is Kobe Bryant and he is hungry. There is no way that he wants to lose a third finals in a row and the Magic are going to have to provide a lot of help in the 4th quarter against him if they want to win. Kobe will make life hell for Courtney Lee who just got over having to guard Lebron. Kobe can’t drive anymore the way Lebron can, but Kobe can shoot the lights out with the ball and force Lee to play up on him. Expect half of Howard’s fouls to be a result of Kobe getting past Lee and compromising the Magic defense.
Courtney Lee is basically the shooting guard version of Andrew Bynum in the sense that if he wants to make life easier for himself, he is going to have to make Kobe work on the other end by hitting his jump shots and stopping Kobe from cheating on him and hawking the passing lanes.
Advantage: Lakers because if Ariza can stop Hedo on one end and Kobe is as unstoppable as he can be on the other end, this is going to be a very short series.

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Point Guard Breakdown:

Derek Fisher vs Rafer Alston:
If I am Stan Van Gundy, I am shutting Alston in a room and just making him watch clips of Aaron Brooks of the Rockets absolutely manhandle Derek Fisher. Alston isn’t quite as fast as Brooks, but as far as Fisher is concerned its like downgrading from a car to a motorcycle in a race against a bicycle. Sure, the motorcycle that is Alston isn’t as fast as the car that is Brooks, but as long as you’re racing against the cheap, broken down bicycle that is Derek Fisher, you won’t know the difference.
Listen, I grew up watching Fisher on the Lakers, and he is a great role player, team leader, and all of that, but he is in the twilight of his career. If he wants to extend his career, he should be playing off the bench, playing around 15 minutes a game, and then serving as basically an assistant coach for the rest of the game. To trot him out for 25 minutes when he’s too slow to guard any point guard at all is just cruel.
In fact I would go so far as to say that the Lakers are better off putting Fisher on Lee and have Kobe play a step off of Alston. Fisher is strong enough to not get backed down by Lee, and Kobe is smart enough with his length to harass Alston.
If Fisher does stay on Alston, then there is one thing that Fisher needs to do. Listen, Alston will drive past him all day, but when he does and Gasol, Bynum, or Odom has to rotate, Fisher has to also rotate and try to box out the open Magic big man for as long as he can to give Gasol, Bynum, or Odom time to rotate. Against the Magic, there are going to be rebounds landing all over the place because both teams like to shoot three pointers a lot. Thus, the team that wins is probably the one that grabs the most of these stray rebounds.
Advantage: Magic win this won easily.

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The Bench Breakdown:

Both teams are going to utilize their benches quite a bit, so they will be vital to the outcome of the series. The Magic will bring Pietrus first off the bench in order to throw someone else at Kobe while also giving minutes to Gortat (whenever Howard is in foul trouble) and Anthony Johnson (because its always nice to have a player that makes Derek Fisher look somewhat fast.) Meanwhile the Lakers are going to throw all kinds of looks at the Magic because they’ll be bringing off their bench Lamar Odom (who will play more minutes than Bynum and can guard Lewis probably better than Gasol,) Luke Walton (because he spreads the offense and runs it better than Ariza,) Sasha Vujacic (the token energy guy who currently can’t hit a three pointer to save his life) and either Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar (depending on who does a better job against Alston.)
The best guy off the Lakers bench is of course Odom. Odom is that rare big man who can get the rebound, run the break, and then make the perfect pass to get his teammate an open shot. He is also the rare big man who can ignore the taunts and physical nature of the opposing team and remain practically invisible through 30 minutes. During the last two games, Odom played like the former, but I’m sure Phil Jackson is well aware that the latter is always just around the corner.
Luckily for Laker fans, Odom has a solid track record when being matched up against small forwards masquerading as power forwards. Any physical advantage that Lewis enjoyed in the earlier three rounds is lost against Odom who by the way has also played small forward successfully in his career.
For the Magic, their x factor has to be Pietrus who is coming off a great conference finals when he consistently made Lebron work for his points. In the end that is all that matters because there is no way that you actually shut down a Lebron or Kobe. Still, if you can get them to score 30 points on like 25+ shots, then your team can take that at least as a moral victory if not just a key factor in a Magic victory.
Advantage: Lakers simply because Odom would be a starter for most teams.

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Coaching Breakdown:

Phil Jackson vs Stan Van Gundy:
Stan Van Gundy is a very interesting coach because aesthetically he has created a system built around (at least on offense) simply finding the open man and trusting him. That’s basketball at its purest, which is great except that he does this to a fault. For example, he often ignores certain match up problems for other teams that he should take advantage of such as when he didn’t force the ball to Rashard Lewis when he was guarded by Glen Davis of the Celtics who had no chance of guarding him.
Phil Jackson on the other hand has been to the mountaintop and has won 9 rings in 11 tries. He trusts in his triangle offense for the first three quarters, but is flexible enough to understand Kobe is going to take over in the 4th. He attacks match up problems and generally does a much better job tinkering with his game plan on the fly during the game where as Van Gundy is generally a bit more set in his ways.
In any case, both are very good and this should lead to an evenly matched series
Advantage: Lakers because Jackson just has a wealth of experience over Van Gundy.

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Final Verdict:

Lakers in 6. The Magic will put up a good fight, but as long as the Lakers play up to their capabilities (never a sure thing, but you have to believe they do it in the finals) this should end with Phil Jackson finally passing Red Auerbach for his 10th ring and Kobe cementing himself as one of the greatest players of all time. Better luck next year Dwight Howard.

May 18, 2009

Ziller vs Gladwell

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ankur @ 12:52 AM

There’s been a recent spate of interest in basketball and risk that seems to be confusing a fair number of people.  Malcolm Gladwell, noted author of  books like Blink and The Tipping Point, wrote an article in the New Yorker recently arguing that underdogs need to use unconventional strategies to have a chance to win.  In it, he talks about the way in which a full-court press might be one of those strategies.  Gladwell also engaged in a lively back-and-forth with ESPN’s Bill Simmons, in which he mentions the way in which the current NBA draft setup creates a “moral hazard” – in other words, there’s an incentive for lottery teams to lose, since losing makes it more likely you’ll win the lottery.

There are a number of objections you can make to Gladwell’s theories.  For instance, longtime readers of this blog will remember that I debunked the “there’s value in tanking” myth, indicating a rational team would NOT try to lose.  Some people, however, have chosen to make less reasonable criticisms.  This includes the usually-sensible Tom Ziller, who recently argued on FanHouse that these stances were contradictory. Basically, Ziller says that the first theory says “teams should try to increase risk,” while the second theory says “we should penalize risky behavior from teams.”  To use his words,

“The draft structure rewards risk. This is bad, says Gladwell. A lack of innovative strategy — seen as risky — is a problem, says Gladwell. Do you want risk, or not?”

Those of you so interested can read my immediate reaction as the second comment on the FanHouse post cited.  I reproduce it here in somewhat lengthier format, so that the point is a little clearer.

There are two basic problems with Ziller’s argument.  First, he doesn’t understand what Gladwell means by risk.  Second, he mixes up a claim about how a team ought to work within the rules with one that’s about how the rules should look, creating a contradiction where none exists.

First, Gladwell isn’t talking about the same kind of risk in each situation.  When talking about pressing teams, Gladwell’s making a really simple argument – let’s say that if both teams play normally, we know that my team will lose.  Why on earth would we play normally?  If the goal of the game is to win, and playing normally guarantees that you lose, playing normally is a really strange decision to make.  Sure, pressing is risky in that it could take us from a close loss to a blowout – on the flip side, it could take us from a close loss to a win.  If you’ve got nothing to lose, give yourself a puncher’s chance!

I don’t think this claim is controversial at all – people who disagree with Gladwell are saying that the press is a bad tool for this objective, not that he’s wrong about the objective.  When Gladwell talks about risk in this context, therefore, he’s talking about a risk that is it’s own reward – a chance to win that you didn’t have before, that comes at the cost of possibly increasing your margin of defeat.

In the argument about the draft, Gladwell is talking about the way in which there’s an incentive to lose more games so that you get a higher draft pick.  Risk isn’t actually a part of his argument at all – it’s mentioned when he makes an analogy to banks, NOT as part of the conversation about teams.  The argument Gladwell is actually making here, if Ziller had bothered to actually pay attention, is about the incentives that teams have.  Gladwell’s point is pretty simple here – we should want teams to try to win as many games as they can.  Therefore, creating a system that makes teams want to lose games is bad.  The current system makes teams want to tank, so they can get a better draft pick…so the current system is bad.  Again, I don’t think this point is very controversial – I think the alternatives he suggests are ridiculous, but the idea that the lottery needs reform isn’t new, and the moral hazard idea is straight out of Economics 101.

Notice, therefore, that risk doesn’t mean the same thing in either example, so trying to strawman Gladwell’s arguments into “risk is good” and “risk is bad” is all kinds of silly.  Even more interestingly, these arguments are operating at completely different levels – one is about a team’s decisions given a set of incentives, and the other is about the incentive structure that team works within.  The first one says that if teams are trying to win, they should take risks like pressing, while the second says that we should encourage teams to try to win.

Let’s use a different example to make this point clearer.  Suppose that Gladwell made the argument “teams that have a lot of money should use as much as they can to make themselves better,” and also the argument “the league should impose an overall cap on how much a team can spend to make itself better.”  In Ziller’s eyes, these would be contradictory – after all, the first one says “teams should spend money,” and the second says “teams shouldn’t spend money,” right?  Any reasonable person can see, however, that this is not the case – the first is talking about what a team should do given the current rules, and the second is about what those rules should look like.  Put another way, the first argument is about strategy, and the second is about fairness.  Since they have completely different goals, any attempt to compare those two is inevitably doomed to fail.

Look, Gladwell’s arguments have a bunch of problems with them, and other people have done a thorough job of exposing them.  Let’s not create some where none exist, yeah?

May 4, 2009

Boston Celtics vs Orlando Magic

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 4:31 AM

This is a second round series hampered by injuries as the Celtics are missing Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe while the Magic are missing their starting backcourt in Jameer Nelson and Courtney Lee.

Big Men: As great as that Chicago-Boston Series was, let’s be honest. It was largely close because Kevin Garnett wasn’t in it. With him, the Celtics suddenly have a great defense again and Derrick Rose and the Bulls aren’t able to wreck havoc by driving in and stretching the aforementioned Celtic defense.

Instead, the Celtics have to start Glen “Big Baby” Davis alongside Kendrick Perkins against Orland’s Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis.

Perkins certainly has improved by leaps and bounds since he first entered the league. He will have his hands full in this series trying to keep the energetic Howard off the boards, but for what it is worth, I am pretty sure he will greatly hinder Howard’s scoring opportunities. To be fair, that’s not all that hard to do. Perkins has the size and length to stay with Howard and keep him from just spinning and dunking outright, and he is a good enough defender that he will prevent Howard from just throwing up that mechanical right hook shot over and over again.

The new starter Glen Davis is not going to be nearly as impressive this series on defense. His generally mediocre defense will get exposed more often by the quicker Lewis who by the way will most likely get more rebounds a game than Davis as well. Still, if it is any consolation, Lewis probably will be too undersized to do anything against Davis when the “Big Baby” sets himself up at any part of the post. So do they cancel out? No, Lewis will get the ball more and make Davis cry at least once this series as he is quickly sent to the bench. Ok, that was probably a low blow so let’s just move on.

Swing Men: Paul Pierce and Ray Allen start and lead Boston against Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu and new starter JJ Redick.

For all the fuss being made about Rajon Rondo becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA (and he probably has,) the Celtics will continue to live and die based on the contributions of Allen and Pierce. This series is no difference as both are matched up against two very mediocre defenders at best.

As long as JJ Redick is in the game to space the floor on offense, look for Ray Allen to dominate him on the other end. It isn’t out of the question to expect the future hall of famer to drop 40 on his Magic counterpart as many as three times this series.

Meanwhile Paul Pierce probably won’t have quite as easy a time against Turkoglu. The Turkish small forward is smart and has long enough arms to make things tricky for Pierce when the Celtics have the ball by backing off of him and daring him to shoot from the outside. Pierce is at his most effective when he is able to get to the right block and act from there. If Turkoglu can back off far enough to bait Pierce into shooting from beyond that block, he will have him right where he wants him. Furthermore, he is a good enough playmaker to force Pierce to work on the other end as well. That being said, the guy doesn’t have the greatest foot speed so look for Pierce to be able to get his fair share of open looks and make the Magic pay.

Neither team really has a significant advantage at the end of the game though. While Pierce and Allen have had their late game heroics highlighted by the media and their recent series with the Chicago Bulls, both Turkoglu and Redick have proven that they can also make big shots when it matters most. Redick of course made most of these in college so it is somewhat questionable if he can do so in the NBA, but it says here that he will be fine. There should be no question of Turkoglu’s clutchness, however. On a team with three other all stars (Howard, Lewis, and the injured Jameer Nelson,) Stan Van Gundy generally designs his crunch time plays for his small forward. Turkoglu hits them too as he did against the Sixers during the first round and multiple times last year against the Celtics in the regular season.

Still, if it is imperative that the Celtics keep it close in their big men match up (and it is,) it is equally imperative that the Magic swing men keep it close against their own counterparts. They have to be willing to attack them at any time and often to tire them out for offense.

Point Guard: Rafer Alston of the Orlando Magic will attempt to slow down the red hot Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics. Rondo who ultimately came out on top in his battle against the highly touted rookie, Derrick Rose, has certainly added a pretty feather to his cap of accomplishments. Still, he has to stay grounded because it is this match up that should swing the tide in favor of the Celtics for good.

Rafer Alston might not make anyone forget about Jameer Nelson, but he also isn’t going to be one to fear Rondo or not make him earn his points. Alston is supremely confident, fairly quick, and a solid enough playmaker. If Rondo sleeps on defense, Alston will be able to easily get into the lane and make the Celtics defense panic. Davis will probably be too slow to help out on Alston, and Perkins helping on Alston frees up the alley-oop loving Dwight Howard so Rondo has to stay in front of him at all times.

Not that Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston is going to have all that much energy on offense. Rondo has the ability to run the Magic point guard ragged. He will explode into the lane early and often and force the Magic defenders to scramble in response. His jumper is streaky at best, but he is so quick that it rarely is that big a deal. You cannot play too far off of him because by the time he meets you when that is the case, he will have too much momentum to stop without fouling. When he does pass, it should be noted that his decision making has been impeccable in the playoffs which is highlighted by his recent game 6 performance when he registered 19 assists against 0 turnovers in 57 minutes.

Coaching +Bench: Doc Rivers who actually once coached the Orlando Magic now returns once more as the ever improving coach of the Boston Celtics.

 At his disposal off the bench will be Stephon Marbury, Tony Allen, Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine, and Mikki Moore. These guys know their roles and stick to them, which is good because none are really talented enough to contribute much more than they currently do except for Marbury who randomly has developed a fear of shooting.

If you thought that Rivers over used his starters in the last series, read the list of guys I gave as primary backups and expect him to repeat his tactics from the first round.

Despite being shorthanded in terms of big men, I think Rivers should single-team Howard and play him largely straight up with Kendrick Perkins. Challenge Howard to beat you via his offense, because quite simply put he probably cannot do that for four games.

On the other team’s side, sits the hard working Stan Van Gundy. He will count on Mickael Pietrus, Anthony Johnson, Tony Battie, and Marcin Gortat to produce off the Magic bench.

Johnson is going to have a tough time keeping Rondo in front of him, but will make the Celtics pay if they leave him open to double someone else. Pietrus can somewhat effectively guard Pierce, Allen, and even Rondo, but is also very likely to shoot a host of idiotic three pointers too quickly in the offense and commit dumb fouls. How well he keeps his play in check will go a long way to deciding how much the Magic will miss the young Courtney Lee. Gortat and Battie are both solid big men who play passable help defense and will not make it significantly easier for the Celtics to hit shots in the lane when Howard rests.

Van Gundy has to make sure that any screens for Ray Allen not involving Howard are switched on to prevent Allen from dominating early and often with his quick release and deadly accurate jumper. At the same time, he has to get his team to be as physical as possible. The Celtic are running on adrenalin at this point after their exhausting series with the Bulls. If the Magic can be physical and lay down hard (but fair) fouls early and often, the Celtics could fold early and concede large opening leads.

Regardless, being physical is the only way the Magic have a chance at containing the lightning quick Rajon Rondo. Turning him into a jump shooter largely curtails his overall effectiveness.

 In addition, Van Gundy has to create ways for the Magic to stay balanced on offense if the Celtics do indeed decide to play Howard straight up. They should feed their big man whenever a dunk opportunity presents itself, but when it doesn’t, they must work it around to their playmakers: Turkoglu, Lewis, and Alston and allow them to create.

To be fair, the Celtics can also counter all of this by playing with the same poise they had when they beat the Bulls in seven games.

Final Verdict: This series will certainly be an interesting one. The Magic had just as tough a time beating the Sixers as the Celtics did with the Bulls so both teams just escaped elimination even if it took the Celtics one more game (and a plethora of overtimes) to do so. In the end, I think the Magic might suffer more from just being happy to be in the second round.

Boston Celtics in 7

May 2, 2009

Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 11:35 AM

This might actually be the match up between the two best teams in the western conference. 

Big men: Los Angeles Lakers start Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom against Yao Ming and Luis Scola who start for the Houston Rocket. This is going to end up being a match up of speed (Lakers) against power (Rockets.) As a result, the Lakers need to abandon any thought of playing Yao Ming straight up and should instead front him at all times and double him after he starts dribbling. Yao Ming isn’t much of a passer off the dribble and this should be a great way for the Lakers to generate some turnovers. At the same time, the Lakers have to either stay at home on Luis Scola or close out on him quickly. The moment you leave him for too long, bad things happen as he will either hit an open jumper, cut to the basket, or simply crash the boards. Speaking of rebounds, the Lakers have to commit as a team to boxing out. During their first round match up, the Utah Jazz averaged 13 offensive rebounds a game which led to numerous second chance opportunities. The Rocket big men have to understand that if they don’t give up on a play then there is a good chance they will be able to score 10-15 points a game just on put backs. When the Lakers are on offense, Scola has to gauge Lamar Odom’s mood. If Odom is playing passive, don’t be aggressive on defense because you risk waking him up and having him do something. Meanwhile, Yao has no chance at keeping up with the much faster Gasol, but he can be physical enough with him to try and intimidate the Spaniard. Honestly, if I was working for the Rockets all I would do is keep showing Yao Ming the picture of Gasol and the rest of the Spanish national team’s offensive Olympic picture. That should motivate him to shut down Gasol. In any case, both sets of big men have their work cut out for them if they want to gain a significant advantage.

 

Swing Men: Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza start for the Lakers against the Rocket’s Ron Artest and Shane Battier. For all the talk about the Rockets having two guys who can potentially stop Kobe Bryant, Bryant did average 28.3 points, 5 assists, and 53 percent shooting against both of them during the regular season. Basically, it doesn’t matter who decides to guard the most skilled player in the NBA; Kobe knows he can get his. Honestly, the best way to guard Kobe Bryant in my opinion is to let him score early and get into a rhythm by the first quarter. You want to turn his teammates like Trevor Ariza into spectators. Once the game does head into the fourth quarter, none of the other Lakers will be in rhythm and Kobe should be exhausted. The Lakers are simply not a disciplined team at times and thus are vulnerable to a strategy like this. Don’t fret Laker fans because thanks to Ron Artest, so are the Rockets. If the Lakers allow Ron Artest to take all the dumb shots that he wants to take, this is going to be a short series as Artest attempts to go 1 on 5 and lose a whole bunch of times. At least when Kobe Bryant decides to take on the world by himself there is a slight chance he goes nuts and pulls it off. Ron Artest has zero percent chance to win a game by himself on the offensive end. Both Trevor Ariza and Shane Battier are guys who will do all the little things on both ends of the floor, be capable of guarding the opposing team’s best wing scorer (Kobe and Artest,) and knock down open jumpers. Both will have at least one game that they will alter greatly without any regular fan knowing.

 

Point Guards: Los Angeles’s Derek Fisher vs. Houston’s Aaron Brooks will finally answer the question: who is faster, a rock or something traveling at the speed of light? Not only is Derek Fisher quite possibly the slowest starting point guard in the league (bottom five for sure,) but Aaron Brooks is probably the fastest/quickest north-south point guard in the league. Look for Aaron Brooks to beat Fisher over and over again and quicken the overall pace of the game…which incidentally plays right into the Lakers hands. The faster the pace is, the harder it is for Yao Ming and Luis Scola to keep up with the Laker big men. Thus, Brooks has to keep his composure against Fisher and pick his spots to beat him off the dribble (generally by either waiting for his entire team to get over the timeline or by having one or two man fast breaks.) Fisher on the other hand should be given a handful of plays where he takes Brooks down low into the post and absolutely hammers him.

 

Coaches/Bench: Phil Jackson and the Lakers bench vs. Rick Adelman and the Rockets bench. Off the bench, the Lakers will play Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum, Shannon Brown and maybe Jordan Farmar and Josh Powell. The Rockets on the flip side can count on Kyle Lowry, Von Wafer, Carl Landry, and Chuck Hayes to play some minutes with possibly some cameos from Brent Barry and Brian Cook. No offense to Rick Adelman who is a nice regular season coach, but Phil Jackson completely destroys him. Phil Jackson and Adelman have met many times in the playoffs, but Jackson has never once lost a series in their head to head match up. In any case Adelman has to figure out how to be more creative in how he uses Yao Ming. Against Portland he either received the ball down at the left block or was too busy setting screens to receive the ball. That can’t happen against the Lakers, because Yao Ming is the most consistent scorer on the Rockets who can’t allow themselves to go on as many scoring droughts as they did against the Blazers and thus they must take advantage of the fact that the high scoring Lakers have even less size than the Blazers at the moment. At the same time, Phil Jackson has to figure out a way for the Lakers to provide help on both Yao Ming and a penetrating Brooks without giving up too many open jumpers to the snipers on the Rockets. That is really where this chess match begins. I will suggest one thing for the Rockets: that they play Von Wafer alongside both Battier and Artest while resting either Ming or Scola for significant stretches of the game. This allows Artest to shut down Odom which he is capable of doing and Battier to face Bryant. This also allows for a maximum spreading of the floor if Yao is the center as he now has four three point shooters he can pass to. The one risk here is that this line up is probably easier to convince to run, and the Lakers have ran all season which gives them the huge advantage if the pace does quicken. Still, this lineup could be the perfect antidote and something Adelman should tinker with, because the Rockets need all the offense they can get. As for a suggestion for Phil Jackson, the Lakers should make sure that they aren’t substituting too many players in at once, because the Rockets will be able to pick that as a perfect time to make a run against cold players.

 

Final Verdict: In the end, despite the Rockets playing good defense, having the best offensive center in the game, and having a point guard that should give the Lakers fits on defense, they simply cannot keep up with the Lakers. The Los Angeles Lakers when clicking have the best offense in the game, and should be able to run away with the score in most cases. Lakers in 5

May 1, 2009

Denver vs Dallas

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 1:21 PM

Finally, after about two weeks, we have reached the second round of the playoffs! Let’s break down the first match up of the second round which pits the Dallas Mavericks against the Denver Nuggets.

Big Men: Denver starts Kenyon Martin and Nene Hilario (I guess now he just goes by Nene) while Dallas begins their games with Dirk Nowitzki and Erik Dampier. Dampier and Nene basically cancel each other out. They do their best to rebound and protect the basket on defense, and not much else. Nene is probably more talented, but that’s not going to make too much of a difference in this series. On the flip side, the other match up has the potential to decide the series. Dirk Nowitzki is just two seasons removed from his MVP and he has been phenomenal this season playing with Kidd. Martin is a player who after both of his knees being repaired by micro-fracture surgery has reinvented himself as a defensive ace. The reason Denver beat New Orleans so easily is probably because Martin shut down David West by himself. Without West creating double teams, the Hornets role players had to take much tougher shots and could never get into a rhythm. Can Nowitzki be bullied like that? Absolutely, he can. Ask him what happened when the Warriors put Stephen Jackson on him two years ago and see how happily he answers that. If Dirk can’t score on Martin, the Mavs could get swept; so as I said before, this is probably the key match up that decides the whole series.

Swingmen: Dallas has a finally healthy Josh Howard and Jason Terry vs. Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and Dahntay Jones.  (Author’s note: Antoine Wright and Jose Juan Barea have both taken turns starting for the Mavs in these playoffs, but since Terry gets more important minutes than either of them, we’ll pretend he’s the starter.) Melo has to shake off his bruises and go right at Howard. Meanwhile, Howard basically has to do the same thing in an effort to slow down Denver’s best scorer by making him work on defense. He also has to push the envelope even more if Dirk is getting killed by Martin. Meanwhile, Terry isn’t going to be able to get Jones off of him on defense. This guy just helped hinder the great Chris Paul all series long, and should do the same to The Jet. Honestly, that’s probably a big storyline here. The Mavs were able to score on the Spur’s overrated defense (overrated for this season) all day long. However, in Kenyon Martin and Dahntay Jones you have two guys who are actually capable of shutting down Terry and Dirk. Stay tuned.

Point Guards: Denver’s Chauncey Billups vs. Dallas’s Jason Kidd: Both of these guys have seen better days, but both of these guys have also clearly rejuvenated their teams this season and led to them to play better than expected. Billups is the perfect match up for Kidd because even if he does occasionally blow by him, Kidd’s help defense will have time to rotate onto him. Expect both to have their clutch moments and get their teammates involved. This is going to be a match up for the ages as these two old timers fight for one last hurrah against each other. There actually is some old history here too. Back when Kidd played for the Nets and Billups for the Pistons, their teams met in 2003 and 2004. In the first series Kidd averaged 24, 10 and 6 while holding Billups to less than 30 percent shooting. In 2004, Billups outscored Kidd 22-0 in game 7. So with both guys getting older, this is probably their last chance to settle their old scores. Either way, NBA fans are going to win.

Coaching + Bench: George Karl and the Nuggets Bench vs. Rick Carlisle and the Maverick Bench: Unless Martin absolutely shuts Dirk down the entire series, this is what will decide the series. Chris Anderson will come off the Nuggets bench to give the Mavericks fits whenever they try to score inside. He’s not a great defender by any stretch, but his blocks have the ability to completely change the momentum of a game. On the flip side, I’m not even sure if JR Smith understands what defense is. There is a 50 percent chance he just thinks that it is his chance to rest in between offensive possessions. As a result, Terry has to attack Smith and make the rest of the Nuggets rotate. I’d tell you what Smith has to do, but I’m not sure it will matter, because there is a 100 percent chance that the only thing going through his head is, “I am JR Smith Mother Fu(I think you get the point; we’ll move on with the same  blank facial expression on George Karl’s face after Smith jacks up another 3.) Another scorer that the Nuggets can utilize is Linas Kleiza who is secretly is the best back up small forward in the NBA. If it wasn’t for Melo, Kleiza would be a household name by now. Anthony Carter will make smart passes, not shoot much, and generally play well enough to give Billups a small rest here and there.

            On the Mavericks side, Jose Juan Barea has to give his team a boost whenever he is in the game and score in bunches. He is this year’s version of Jannero Pargo (who played for the Hornets last year.) That is to say when he scores and is on, his team probably isn’t going to lose. Against a team that has the potential to shut down both Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, that is exactly what Barea has to do. There actually isn’t that much help from the Mavericks bench. Brandon Bass is basically the only other player with a good chance to alter this series by basically being a poor man’s version of Chris Anderson for the Mavs. Rick Carlisle can also count on Antoine Wright to play acceptable defense for 15 minutes a game. Basically that means Carlisle has to hope that his starters have one last great series in them for the year, because Denver has the decided advantage in the depth department.

Final Verdict: Denver can shut down Dallas’s top two scorers in Nowitzki and Terry and is deeper as well. Billups has turned this Denver team into quite the well oiled machine. That being said, I think Dallas puts up a better fight than people expect. Look for Kidd and the Mavs to push Denver to 6 games before losing.  

April 22, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings

Filed under: Ramblings — siddhant2001us @ 6:35 AM
  • I really hope Roger Goodell not only allows Vick back into the league, but that he is given another chance to quarterback in this league. He made a mistake, and he paid the price. Shouldn’t it be over now? It could have been worse. I’m not saying killing dogs isn’t terrible, but at least he didn’t get drunk and kill a woman with his car and then get drunk and drive again. If he did that then he would be named Leonard Little and play for the Rams. Instead, Vick indulged in dog fighting an act so despicable and heinous that he lost a lot of money, went to jail, and was suspended from his job. What more could you ask for in a fair and just society? Let him back into the league under a short leash and see if he can redeem himself.
  • Michael Crabtree has finally ditched his walking boot and is reporting that his foot feels fine according to the AP. He wasn’t fast to begin with so hopefully this doesn’t hurt his stock too much. A lot of teams could and should acquire a talent like Crabtree. Both of the Bay Area teams should really try and go for him.
  • Actually, as good as Crabtree is, fans shouldn’t be too disappointed when their team drafts an offensive lineman. I know they’re not the sexiest pick to hear, but just remember that having these tackles on your team means that your skill position players will have more time and space to play better. The top four tackles this year all have solid chances of becoming multiple-time all stars. If I had to bet on which one will become the greatest, I would bet on Michael Oher who is actually currently ranked as the lowest of the four. Oher has the prototypical body, solid technique, and a better motor than people believe. The man was born to play left tackle in the NFL. He is another guy I would love one of the Bay Area teams to draft.
  • By the way, it is definitely time to lower rookie salaries in football. The NFL should adopt the system which the NBA uses that pre-slots the amount of money that each draft pick can receive. Since NFL draft picks are typically shorter than NBA contracts (and thus the window to make substantial money is shorter in football,) the length of these slotted spot contracts should be just two years with a team option for a third. That way if the player is clearly a bust. He is cheap and easy to dispose of while if he is worthy of a high payment, he can receive it while still entering the prime of his career. The players are going to have to make a lot of concessions in the next bargaining agreement. They might as well concede something that only affects people not yet in the players union. The agents who receive commission on those extravagant contracts are the only ones who will object, but the union is in too tough a spot to argue for people not yet in there.
  •  Moving to baseball, it turns out Elijah Dukes was actually paid for the so called charity work that caused him to be five minutes late at the stadium. Considering that he was never going to get demoted to AAA and that he was fined the same amount that he was paid to attend the little league function that was the reason he was late. Then he was benched for being late. If you ask me, that is completely reasonable for a team to do that wants to create a sense of discipline in the clubhouse and knows its going to lose a lot of games anyway.
  • Here is a tip to all fantasy baseball owners: get Matt Cain onto your team as soon as possible. He has steadily improved his numbers each year, and is finally getting run support (sort of.) Expect him to be a top 10 contender for cy young this year. In fact as long as he stays healthy, that is my stone cold baseball lock of the year!
  • I can’t believe Dwight Howard won defensive player of the year for the NBA. This award officially means nothing. Howard is an average AT BEST man to man defender and only affects so many shots because most of his teammates cannot keep their men out of the lane. Is he getting better? Yes, just like his post moves, his defense has a lot of potential, but he simply isn’t there yet. Howard won the award because KG was hurt and couldn’t be given the award again, Duncan’s Spurs had a poor overall team defense, no one individually stands out enough in Cleveland, and for some reason people are scared to give the award to a swing player. You know who should have won the award? Shane Battier should have been given the award. He guards great scoring swing players, and is a great help defender. He isn’t a so called ‘sexy’ pick, but he is the right one.
  •  Eddie Jordan should be a top candidate to be hired by an NBA team with a vacancy. No offense to Byron Scott who was the head coach at the time, but Eddie Jordan was the brains behind those Nets teams making the finals and his Wizard teams were always fun to watch. When you need to sell tickets, what more could you ask for?
  • The NBA should not be concerned with Erick Dampier’s comments about wanting to put Tony Parker “on his back.” If Parker is going to drive to the hoop, Dallas is well within their rights to foul him—yes, even foul him hard. It isn’t like its going to happen and the referees will ignore it. Parker will pick himself up and get two free throws. If he is scared of getting hurt, he should watch Vince Carter’s tapes from the last few years and never drive in ever. Listen, if Dampier is clearly fouling Parker too hard and trying to actually physically injure him, then give him a flagrant foul or eject him and move on.
  • Ricky Rubio is declaring for the draft! He already was good enough to hold his ground against Jason Kidd and Chris Paul during the Olympics. Sure, he won’t be quite as good early on as he has to adjust to the NBA style and his teammates, but this kid has some great potential. Once he develops a jump shot (probably by his third year or so in the NBA) he will be a top three player in the NBA and a top 20 player overall. He is the type of player who can lead  your team to a championship. By the way, Blake Griffin probably does not have a ceiling that high. That is something to think about for whomever lands the number one overall pick.
  • I made a lot of predictions during these ramblings…It wasn’t my intention, but it happened none the less. Hopefully by this time next year, Ricky Rubio, Michael Crabtree, Michael Oher, Michael Vick, and Matt Cain haven’t become derailed by injuries or revealed to have a lack of talent. Was that enough to reverse jinx them? I hope so…

April 17, 2009

Jumpball’s First Round Predictions

Filed under: Playoff Preview — siddhant2001us @ 3:19 AM

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8):

Why the Cavs will win: This team has the best chemistry and defense in the NBA. This year’s Pistons basically have the opposite of that. I think Moe Williams cannot wait to be guarded by Rodney Stuckey. Be physically with Rasheed Wallace, the last thing you want if for him to get energized or feel like he can punk you. You want to end this series as fast as possible, and rest up for the second round.

Why the Pistons can win: It is a proven fact that if you look Rasheed Wallace in the eye in the wrong way, he can turn you into stone. Cavs fans better hope he doesn’t turn his voodoo onto Lebron James. That is about the only chance the Pistons have of winning by the way. In all seriousness, for the Pistons to win, Rasheed Wallace has to go all out. This has to be his greatest series ever. He has to stop penetration on defense on one end, and start scoring in the paint on the other. He cannot take a game off. The Pistons as a whole have to force James to shoot jumpers and just hope he misses.  

Prediction: Cavs in 4

 

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (7):

Why the Celtics will win: This team was dealt with a huge loss when they found out that Kevin Garnett is most likely out for the playoffs. Even though I’m pretty sure that’s BS and KG will find his way back into the lineup by the second round or the conference finals, this team is going to pretend his loss is a rallying cry, and stomp all over the Bulls. Oh and before you consider the fact that the Bulls are playing well, don’t forget they’re being coached by Vinny Del Negro.

Why the Bulls can win: Because Kevin Garnett is hurt, and the Bulls have been playing well lately. John Salmons and Ben Gordon have bee money since that trade, and Tyrus Thomas has finally started realizing his potential. Just kidding, the only chance the Bulls have is if Del Negro resigns. Still, Bulls fans should just be happy they made the playoffs anyway.  

Prediction: Celtics in 6

 

Orlando Magic (3) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (6):

Why the Magic will win: Dwight Howard plays offense in the post like a man on vacation (the opposite of a man on a mission.) You can stop him with a mildly competent defensive player in the post. However, the Sixers don’t have that, and that’s why despite injuries, the Magic can and will win. Also, the Magic trick teams into shooting three pointers by the dozen. They just leave you so wide open that you cannot help yourself. Anyway, the 76ers best players are terrible behind the line, so if they cannot play at the pace that they want, they’ll probably get swept.

Why the 76ers can win: I’m pretty sure Hedo Turkoglu is the most valuable player on the Magic. If he’s too hobbled, then there is a window for the 76ers to steal some games. It won’t happen in the first round, but the Orlando Magic are a gimmicky team, that will get killed by the Cavs or a healthy Celtics in the playoffs. You live by the three; you die by the three. The Magic aren’t special in that regard.  

Prediction: Magic in 5

 

Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Miami Heat (5):

Why the Hawks will win: For some reason, the Miami Heat are a popular pick to upset the Hawks. That is mostly because of Dwayne Wade. Still, the Hawks are really good at home, have home court advantage, and are playing against a team with Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony playing big minutes. Jermaine O’Neal would be rolling over in his grave if he had to see this team on TV—except he’s too busy dragging his sack of bones up and down the court for this year’s Heat team. Yeah, Al Horford should have some fun with him.

Why the Heat can win: Dwayne Wade…yeah, he’s that good.

Prediction: Hawks in 7

 

Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Utah Jazz (8):

Why the Lakers will win: The Jazz are a physical team. They will foul you and try to get into your head. However, if you wait long enough on offense, you are going to figure out that they are a terrible defense. Also, the Lakers with Odom back on the bench are much deeper, and can afford to wait out the Jazz. This is going to be a short series.

Why the Jazz can win: They can win or at least make the series somewhat interesting, because Deron Williams—my pick for the best point guard in the NBA—is being guarded by Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, and Jordan Farmar. Actually, despite that huge advantage, even Jerry Sloan doesn’t think they have much of a chance, but hell I had to write something…

Prediction: Lakers in 4

 

Denver Nuggets (2) vs. New Orleans Hornets (7):

Why the Nuggets can win: This team is so much more focused than last year’s team that it is ridiculous. Billups has been a huge improvement over Allen Iverson. Carmelo Anthony has to be in the discussion for most skilled offensive player. If this team can get anything from their big men, they will give Byron Scott and his coaching staff fits.  On the other side, help on Paul, and whoever has Chandler has to stay on him and not give up any alley oops. You cannot allow the Hornets to be energized.

Why the Hornets will win: Anthony just hasn’t shown the killer drive that he should have shown by now. Ultimately, that means he isn’t going to give the Nuggets that much more than David West is going to give the Hornets. However, even though I said all those nice things about Billups in the earlier section, Chris Paul is going to absolutely murder him. It isn’t going to be close. If Billups backs down Paul, Paul has Chandler to back him up. Billups is going to have no help as Chris Paul will run circles around him over and over again.

Prediction: Hornets in 6

 

San Antonio Spurs (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6):

Why the Spurs will win: No Ginobili? No problem! Remember when I said Chris Paul is going to run circles around Billups? Multiply that by a thousand and you get Tony Parker vs. Jason Kidd. If the Spurs want to win this, they have to keep it simple. Dribble penetrate and run screens for Parker. When you’re not doing that, get it inside to Duncan. It isn’t just that you expect your stars to carry you either. The Spurs are full of shooters, and they need to exploit the Mavericks help defense to get open. My money is on them doing it well.

Why the Mavs can win: They have the better starting five in terms of talent. If Josh Howard heats up and Erik Dampier slows down Tim Duncan, then this Spurs team is vulnerable. The Mavs have to close out on all shooters, and get back on defense after every basket. If you want to beat the Spurs, you have to stay disciplined on defense, and creative/patient on offense. This isn’t the same Spurs defense that we have come to expect. They are vulnerable this year, and the Mavs can exploit it, as long as they get serious about doing some of the small things consistently.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

 

Portland Trailblazers (4) vs. Houston Rockets (5):

Why the Blazers will win: This team is deep and has home court where they are incredibly hard to beat. Brandon Roy has to create early for his teammates because he’s going to be hounded by Shane Battier and Ron Artest. LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be the key to this series for the Blazers. He’s faster than any of the big men that the Rockets can send his way, and he has to out tough Artest in the post. If he can do that, then the Blazers might even be able to steal a few on the road. As it is they’re biggest advantage is their improved play at home. As long as they can keep the score close at the end of the game, they can trust Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw will take over the game.

Why the Rockets can win: They have a lot of advantages here. They can try to neutralize Roy by sicking Battier onto him, and Aldridge by sending out Artest. On the other side, Blake can’t keep up with Aaron Brooks and no one has the size to keep up with Yao. You have to force Roy to play defense to get him too tired to be clutch once the fourth quarter comes around. This is going to be a great series.

Prediction: Blazers in 7. 

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