JumpBall

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.

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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.

June 5, 2008

Finals Preview

Filed under: NBA Finals, NBA Previews — siddhant2001us @ 5:44 PM

This is going to be a great NBA Finals. Let’s get straight into the position-by-position breakdown, except with so much switching from offense to defense instead of the usual point guard through center breakdowns, we’ll be using ball handlers, swing men, and big men.

Big Men: This is going to be a fun match up with both teams throwing out some very talented big men on the floor. Starting for the Lakers will be Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and they will use their quickness and speed to cause problems for the Celtics Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins whose forte is strength and power. When the Lakers are on offense, Lamar Odom will be dealing with Kevin Garnett. Odom has to force KG to stay on him at all times, not allowing him to cheat and help on Gasol, Kobe or any other Laker that tries to drive or cut. The best thing he can do is go right at KG every once and a while to keep him honest and then otherwise stay on the perimeter to keep him out of the paint. With KG being occupied with Odom, Pau Gasol must abuse Kendrick Perkins to give the Lakers an advantage. Perkins is much stronger with Gasol, but if Gasol gets any chance to face him up or start off from the high post, he should win that battle every time. Gasol (and Odom if the Celtics switch KG onto Gasol) must get the ball and force the Celtics to double him and open up whenever Perkins is on him to open the ball up for everyone else. When the Celtics have the ball, KG is going to be guarded by Gasol. Gasol will try to use his length to bother KG, but if KG goes right at him, Gasol will quickly find himself on the bench with foul trouble. Luckily, for the Lakers, KG is much more likely to settle for jumpers. Perkins being guarded by Odom is interesting, because there is no way that Odom should be able to guard him in the low post. Perkins isn’t a great offensive talent, though, and won’t get the ball too much. He should still be able to score by getting a lot of offensive rebounds and put backs. Ronny Turiaf (Lakers) and PJ Brown (Celtics) are the primary backups, and both are really only going to play to give the starters a rest and for their rebounding. Speaking of rebounds, the Celtics should get plenty of them as they are stronger than the Lakers and can get better position.

Advantage: Celtics

Swing Men: The Celtics will start Ray Allen and Paul Pierce against the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovic. Allen should start off on Kobe and make him work on defense by going through numerous screens. Meanwhile, Radmanovic will be trying to use his length to bother Paul Pierce, who’ll go right at him, so Radmanovic should only play 15-20 minutes a game this series. Luke Walton will also be mostly ineffective against Pierce, which is why Trevor Ariza might see decent minutes this series. Ariza has the length, speed, and strength to battle Pierce and make him work for his points. The Celtics main back up here is James Posey who won’t contribute much on this end other than the odd three pointer every once and a while. In crunch time, the Lakers will play Sasha Vujacic along side Kobe, so Kobe should also take a turn guarding Pierce during the end game. When the Lakers have the ball, the Celtics have some interesting choices to make. Neither Pierce nor Allen can stay with Kobe, with Allen being much worse than Pierce in that regard now that his legs are shot. The best match up they have here is to have Posey on Kobe because Posey is a good defender who has been to the finals before and thus knows what it takes to win. Another choice they can have is to have Allen on Kobe. Allen is a terrible defender, which is something Kobe knows all about. So why put Allen on the best player in the NBA? Since Kobe understands he can drop 60 on Allen if he tries hard enough, he may be inclined to take a lot of shots and ignore the offense. This throws the Lakers offense off by having the other players mostly just stand around and do nothing. This in turn lowers their defensive intensity, as players tend to slack off their defense and rebounding when not involved in the offense. Therefore, Kobe must keep his ego in check and allow the offense to flow for most of the game before taking over only when truly needed. The rest of the Lakers swingmen must keep their spacing up and be ready to knock down open jumpers or hit the cutters with passes.

Advantage: Lakers, although it’s slight

Ball Handlers: This is a match up between the Celtic’s young Rajon Rondo and the Lakers’ experienced Derek Fisher. In time, Rondo should be an all star. He is quick and supremely talented and should be able to stay with Fisher as long as he stays focused. Luckily, for the Lakers, he won’t stay focused and he can’t consistently knock down his midrange and out jumpers. Fisher, being a savvy veteran, will take full advantage of that. He can back down the smaller Rondo and make him pay for trying to double anyone else by knocking down the three (he’s shooting around 56 percent for the postseason!). Jordan Farmar will come in to give Fisher a rest, and his athleticism should match up well against Rondo. The problem for the Celtics is that they don’t really have a back up for their young point guard. Sam Cassell and Eddie House will give it a shot, but whenever they are on the floor, the Lakers will attack their dribble and force turnovers. Rondo will have to play big minutes and play well to neutralize the Lakers advantage here.

Advantage: Lakers

Coaches: Phil Jackson understands how to use his lineups and make his adjustments. Doc Rivers can’t really do either that well. Both are good at getting their teams to play hard, but there really isn’t much to say here. Phil Jackson is a much better coach than Doc Rivers and has the experience to run rings around him.

Advantage: Lakers

That’s pretty much it. This is a match up between the Lakers’ league best offense against the Celtics’ league best defense. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch but in the end, the Lakers have Kobe and Phil Jackson. That should be enough to win the series.

Prediction: Lakers in 6

June 3, 2008

2008 NBA Mock Draft

Filed under: NBA Draft, NBA Previews — Ankur @ 3:38 AM

Well, Sid and I have finally managed to put together that blog that we’ve been talking about for years. We’ve started the proceedings with this mock draft. Our picks are based on what we think is most appropriate for the team. Expect future iterations to make more sense, but here’s a start…

Team Needs Options Sid’s Pick Ankur’s Pick
Chicago Low Post Scorer, Offensive go-to guy, Team Philosophy Rose, Beasley Derrick Rose: This young team is going through a lot of change right now. Without a coach, you do not really know what the team philosophy is, and thus you might as well take the best player available—in this case, Rose. Michael Beasley: You’ve needed a post scorer for years now…so get him!
Miami PG, C, another forward for the rotation (Hmm, a lot of needs and a team that wants to make the playoffs now? Sounds ripe for a trade.) Beasley, Mayo, Rose OJ Mayo: Miami apparently isn’t sold on Beasley. Mayo on the other hand has been given a bad rap. He wants to win, and is willing to do whatever it takes to do so. The right situation will make him a star. I think this one is it. Derrick Rose: He and Wade form a tandem for years. Not a great outside shooting backcourt, but you can’t pass on the best players in the draft.
Minnesota Forwards to complement Jefferson, Guard to team up with Foye; Jaric, Telfair, and Gomes have all started for this team so getting anyone who can replace those guys and a losing culture is a must. Beasley, Brook Lopez, Bayless, Jordan, Mayo Michael Beasley: The Timberwolves would love for Beasley to drop this far. If it doesn’t happen, look for them to go for Lopez or Jordan and get a big man to complement Jefferson. Brook Lopez: Has the offensive ability to contribute right now, and gives them the ability to put Jefferson back at his natural position of PF. This is high for him, but he fills a need.
Seattle PG who does not need to be in a platoon, SG to allow Durant to move to forward. Any position other than small forward probably is an upgrade. Bayless, Brook Lopez, Jordan, Mayo Jerryd Bayless: The Sonics have drafted more centers than the Detroit Lions have WRs. It is time to give their young big men a chance to do well. OJ Mayo: Great defensive stopper on a team in dire need of one, a good offensive sidekick for Durant, and possesses the PG skills to fill that role.
Memphis A young shooting guard or running center. Jordan, Brook Lopez, Love, DeAndre Jordan: more athletic than Lopez, and with Iavaroni dedicated to running, that should be enough to take him. DeAndre Jordan: Kevin Love is tempting here, but the athletic big man seems a better fit.
New York Defenders, rebounders, players who can play out of position and run Brook Lopez, Randolph, Gallinari, Bayless Anthony Randolph: Long, lanky forward who will rebound and potentially be a great defender? Sounds like a potential Marion for Mike D’Antoni to use in his offense. Danilo Gallinari: D’Antoni’s roommate’s son will be a heady player with plenty of offensive talent, the type of guy who will thrive in this system.
LA Clippers Guards to complement the tandem of Brand and Kaman. Gallinari, Gordon, Brook Lopez, Bayless, Randolph Eric Gordon: Gordon was a top 5 prospect before the coaching scandal at his college. With Mike D’s steady hand, Gordon could team up with Shaun Livingston to form quite the combo. Jerryd Bayless: Combo guard replaces either Shaun Livingston (injury risk) or Cuttino Mobley (declining with age). Either way, he fills a huge need for the Clips.
Milwaukee A low post scorer who can command a double team and create space for their many shooters, defensive wingman other than Mason. Gallinari, Brook Lopez, Love, Randolph Kevin Love: Great passer who will find the open shooter. He and Bogut should wreak havoc together in the post with their vision. His poor defense isn’t a huge problem if no one around him plays defense. Kevin Love: Versatile offensive big man, improving defensively. Can play next to Bogut, making the expected trade of Charlie V that much more palatable.
Charlotte A combo forward, or center who can more Okafor to PF. Brook Lopez, Alexander, Gallinari, Arthur, Randolph, Gordon

Brook Lopez:

They need easier baskets, and he will give them that. A bit of a drop for Lopez, but this is also good fit for him.

Anthony Randolph: Offensive player who can add some much-needed versatility on that end. On the other, his improving defense creates an insurance policy for Gerald Wallace.
New Jersey A forward to back up Jefferson and play some PF, more big men for the rotation. Arthur, Alexander, Gallinari, Darrell Arthur: Look for the Nets to shake up their team further and look to get rid of either Carter or Jefferson. For now, Arthur is more big man depth. Joe Alexander: His versatile offensive game makes it that much easier to trade RJ or VC, and a solid defensive game makes him a steady choice. Sufficient strength to provide minutes at PF, too.
Indiana A replacement for Tinsley is a must, as is the heir apparent to JO. Athletic players would help, but at this point the team wants high character guys. Alexander , Gallinari, Westbrook, Arthur, Augustin, Gordon Russell Westbrook: Alexander would also be a good fit, but Westbrook gives them a young leader for the next decade. Darrell Arthur: High-character guy, and an absolute offensive freak who’s improving defensively. Provides much-needed big man depth if JO is healthy, and an instant replacement if he’s not.
Sacramento With Artest expected to leave they could use a good athletic forward to replace him. PF is also a need. Alexander, Gallinari, Speights, Gordon Joe Alexander: Gallinari would be a nice complement to Kevin Martin, but I think Reggie Theus will emphasize defense. Alexander is a tough player who will get to the hoop and get to the line. Mareese Speights: Intriguing PF prospect who provides some much needed low-post offense. Anything’s an upgrade over Mikki Moore and Shelden Williams…
Portland Maybe another forward, but in reality they have a lot of young prospects and are better suited to trading away the pick or stashing it in Europe. Another big man in the case Oden struggles early could help too. Gallinari, Batum, McGee, Robin Lopez Gallinari: there is almost no chance he falls this far, but if he does then Portland will happily take him. If he is gone, look for Batum to be taken and kept in France. McGee gets taken if Oden has another setback. Nicolas Batum: This is the next great European swingman, but he still needs to develop. That fits perfectly with Portland’s plans. McGee or Robin Lopez are their other options.
Warriors If Davis leaves, they need a PG. Otherwise, they just take the best player available. Batum, McGee, Augustin, Speights, Westbrook, Gordon DJ Augustin: I don’t see Davis coming back after the way the season ended unless he has no other options. Either way, the Warriors might as well replace him or groom his successor to start alongside him. Russell Westbrook: Even if Davis stays, an heir for him is a dire need. Westbrook’s explosive offense and length makes him a great fit as the PG of the future.
Phoenix The bench is very depleted. They need another three-point shooter to turn to, another wingman defender, and a center who can keep Stoudemire at PF after Shaq retires. Batum, McGee, Speights, Budinger, Gordon Nicholas Batum: This prospect seems to have the potential to be a complete player, and all he really has to do is gain some pounds of strength, and continue to work on his game. 3-point range means he could come in right away and contribute. Chase Budinger: High-flying athletic swingman is seen as the next Grant Hill, which is great because the old one is wearing out. Scoring and rebounding ability make him a sure-fire contributer.
Philadelphia A big man to one day take the heat off of the new AI, better shooters to space the floor McGee, Speights, Budinger, Gordon JaVale McGee: Dalembert is too streaky to depend on if the team hopes to make it into the second round. McGee motor is questionable, but his talent is not. This may end up being far too low for him. Eric Gordon: If he really falls this far, the 76ers are doing handstands. Shooting ability allows him to fit in at SG, taking some offensive load off Young and Iggy.
Toronto A back up point guard if Ford leaves, better talent along the wings, another big man to help Bosh on the boards. Speights, Budinger, Hibbert, McGee, Greene Roy Hibbert: Big man will get rebounds and block shots. Him being in the low post allows Bargnani and Bosh to play more from the outside or high post. JaVale McGee: The potential-laden big man fits in at center, allowing Bosh to play in the high post where he’s most comfortable.
Washington This all hinges on Jamison. They have shown they can play well enough without Arenas but no such proof exists for them playing with out Jamison. Depth at big man is a definite need. Speights, Budinger, Green, Augustin

Mareese Speights: talented power forward who replaces Jamison if he doesn’t come back, or has Jamison for a great mentor if he does.

Donte Greene: A SF/PF type, he provides much-needed depth in case injuries plague the team yet again. Eventual replacement for Jamison who can do all that ‘Tawn can, and more.
Cleveland A big point guard to bring the ball up while using his height to keep Daniel Gibson on the floor; a true low post threat; just an all around talent upgrade on offense. Budinger, Green, Douglas-Roberts, Augustin

Chris Douglas-Roberts: solid defender would fit right in with team defense, but he also has the offensive talent to give the team more options on that side of the ball. Can play some point at the next level tho real position is SG.

Chris Douglas-Roberts: Sid’s got this one right. It’s important that CDR excelled in Memphis while in an off-ball, second banana situation like the one he’ll face here.
Denver Another team that can use a bigger point guard to offset Iverson’s lack of height. Good defenders at all positions who can also play solid help defense to make up for rest of teams lackadaisical effort. Budinger, Green, Weaver, Thompson, Robin Lopez, Augustin

Kyle Weaver: a bit of a leap at this point, but Weaver is going to be a good defender if he keeps working hard at the next level and a good passer on a team with many scorers. If not Weaver, look for Robin Lopez to head to Colorado, and help out if the team doesn’t believe in Nene Hilario being the primary big man off the bench.

DJ Augustin: There is no way in hell he falls this far. If he somehow does, Denver grabs him and moves AI back to the more natural SG spot. Alternatively, he reprises Boykins’ role from a couple years back, making this the one team where DJ is actually taller than the guy he replaces.
New Jersey Another swingman to back up Carter and Jefferson, and another big man depending on whom they lose in free agency. Budinger, Green, Thompson, Robin Lopez

Chase Budinger: this team might as well go with the best player available. Budinger fell a bit in my mock, but he can shoot, is athletic, and might be the best rebounding guard in the draft.

Jason Thompson: The solid defense and improving offense of this low-post talent make him the best player available, in my book. NJ seems to like yeoman big guys, so he’ll fit right in.
Orlando Better talent at guard positions, another big man to help with rebounding and shot blocking Green, Thompson, Robin Lopez, Koufos, Chalmers

Robin Lopez: Rebounder who can keep Howard’s minutes down as well as play tough defense. Offensively raw, but has shown flashes that at this point in the draft could make him a steal.

Robin Lopez: This is too easy. Howard isn’t a C, and neither is anyone else of note on this roster. Lopez immediately upgrades the defense, and could in time serve as a secondary low-post threat.
Utah Kirilenko can push the team to a higher level but is wildly inconsistent, and Harpring is getting old, so the team would do itself a favor by getting a good SF. Replacement low-post defense is also a priority. Green, Thompson, Koufos, Chalmers, Rush, Hibbert.

Brandon Rush: Donte Green may be more talented, but is a bit soft for a Jerry Sloan team. Rush brings the defense and rebounding you look for from your small forward. Excellent long range shooter who will thrive receiving kick outs from Deron Williams.

Roy Hibbert: The Jazz are a phenomenal team, but desperately need a low-post defender, especially if they plan to trade AK47. While Hibbert’s lack of athleticism may restrict his ceiling, his defensive capabilities make him a good fit here.
Seattle At this point in the draft, the team might as well swing for the fences with a big man prospect if they do in fact go for a guard earlier in the round. Green, Thompson, Koufos, Chalmers,

Jason Thompson: Didn’t play for a big name college, but does appear to be the type of player with lottery potential. Hard worker and good passer, who will complement Durant well.

Kosta Koufos: Fairly polished, versatile big man fits in well with the run-and-gun style Seattle seems to be edging towards. Concerns about his toughness abound, though.
Houston A big man who can keep Yao’s minutes (read: chances for injury) down. Priority on defense here, as you have to think Deke’s retiring soon. Green,Koufos, Chalmers, Jawai

Kosta Koufos: Rawish talent that well benefit from going at Yao during practice. Good prospect who will play well if drafted by the right situation.

Nathan Jawai: This big man plays solid defense, and has a decent offensive game. Still needs to polish his skills, but learning from Deke and Yao should accelerate that process.
San Antonio Athletic players at the forwards who can replace Bowen, Horry, and Finley. Must get younger fast. With the news about Splitter, big man depth may be a concern, too. Green, Chalmers, Jawai, Jefferson, Lawson, Rush

Donte Green: another player who has dropped in this mock, but a great place for him to go as he will truly learn how to play while practicing with Duncan and company.

Brandon Rush: He’s fallen a bit in this mock, but provides an instant offensive weapon and a strong defensive force. Can step in and do a lot of the things Finley did this year.
New Orleans Pargo was once cut from the Lakers for his lack of talent despite the organization really liking him…he is the sixth man for this team. They need a bench with a focus on the wing positions especially SG. Chalmers, Jawai, Jefferson, Lawson, Lee, Hardin

Nathan Jawai: Must work on his conditioning before he earns major minutes, but his size (6’10’’, 275) will be a huge asset to pair with Chandler for stretches against teams like the Lakers and Suns.

Devon Hardin: This team has no depth at big man. While Hardin isn’t a great prospect, his rebounding ability and willingness to mix it up make him a much better backup big man than their current group.
Memphis A young shooting guard, but with so many young players already, this pick might be better suited for a player expected to stay in Europe for a while. Chalmers, Jefferson, Lawson, Lee, Pekovic

Davon Jefferson: a little old considering he was a freshman, but a nice prospect with solid fundamentals. May have a low ceiling, but could help the team right away.

Nikola Pekovic: Keep him in Europe and let him develop, as his defensive ability will eventually make him a great addition when the team is competitive.
Detroit This team actually has very few holes. Good guards, good forwards, and decent depth after lacking it for a few years. Still, that core is starting to age… Chalmers, Lawson, Lee, Pekovic,

Nikola Pekovic: Solid prospect they can keep in Europe for a few years until their older post players retire and they can then bring him from overseas.

Mario Chalmers: Hunter is getting quite old, and the team needs another backup guard alongside Stuckey. Enter the defensive-minded Chalmers.
Boston They could use an upgrade at the backup 2-spot, but it will most likely come from free agency. Chalmers, Lawson, Lee, Hickson, Dorsey, Asik

Ty Lawson: could serve as a change of pace point guard off the bench. Lightning fast point guard has no problem bringing the ball up something the Celtics struggled to do whenever Rondo wasn’t on the floor.

Kyle Weaver: Versatile guard can come in as a defensive sub or play backup PG. That flexibility is going to be valuable with Tony Allen and Sam Cassell both terrible and both leaving.

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